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It’d been an accumulation of small comments over the years, especially, but not exclusively, from his father that had caused Jou to keep his sexuality repressed. Growing up with derogatory words uttered in passing towards men holding hands, or guys with feminine traits, made a young boy question whether his gut feeling was wrong. The way his eyes lit up when that cute boy from his Geography class said hello couldn’t compare to how he liked girls. Jou was never shy, and desperately wanted to be his friend, but choked on the words and felt like a silly teenage girl.

It seemed to be a double standard. Girls could like boys. Girls could like girls too. Jounouchi-San would always wolf-whistle if he saw two girls making out in smoke-filled bars that Jou was dragged into, despite being way too young for. That’s where he’d picked up his first cigarette and tasted his first beer.

Jou played straight and thought he’d been doing a convincing job, though the main person to convince was himself – heterosexuality was normal. This should feel normal. Boys got their hands dirty, and weren’t afraid to stand up for themselves. Jounouchi certainly did just that after dusk in the alleys of lower-Domino, hanging out near the docks, acting best as a watchman, but sometimes as a fighter with his broad shoulders and ranged punch, while the other teens, mostly homeless, dealt drugs and engaged in petty theft to keep afloat.

Nobody questioned when he said he’d found a girlfriend at fourteen. Hirutani had all but egged him on when the skinny brunette joined the clique, a piercing in her lip and forest-green eyes. The pair were kindred spirits, and Jou had learned to kiss with her, finding time between shifts in the alleys to meet, and then not months later she ended up at work, with a gorgeous girl hanging off her arm. “Sorry Jou, it’s not you or anything, I think I just like girls.” That twist in Jou’s stomach made him want to feel disgusted but at the time he couldn’t pinpoint why. Retrospectively, he learned it was pure jealousy.

He even had that hot blonde Mai in his sights and thought he was in love. The biggest breasts, the shortest skirts, every man’s pin-up dream. She even cornered him and they made out but that feeling in his gut was there telling him it didn’t feel right. He squashed it away and tried again, even getting their clothes off but in what he could only describe at the time as nerves, he just couldn’t stay hard enough to have sex with her. Mai was surprisingly gentle, despite Jou feeling like she had every right to be frustrated, like he was with himself. She instead, gave a knowing squeeze to his shoulder and parted with “you don’t have to pretend to like girls.”

It blew his mind to think he might just not like girls. He’d absolutely masturbated to them with the dirty magazines he’d borrowed off Honda, but in introspect, he decided it wasn’t the girls he was aroused by, just the concept of having something that he felt like he shouldn’t. His stomach churned again when he thought about his father finding those magazines. He’d probably be proud. His father’s standards were anything with too much perfume, a push up bra, and a bad dye job. He almost felt relieved that wasn’t going to be his fate.

Until he remembered what a struggle being gay was in comparison. The first night he realised that he was gay, he threw up from nerves, excitement, anger, and resentment from ever feeling like something was wrong with him. Exhilarating, terrifying.

Jou’s first boyfriend was a nineteen-year-old fox working in the retail complex his first legal job – a convenience store – was in. Relieved to have ended his stint on the streets beating up punks, and with enough money to eat, Duel, and update his wardrobe. Though careful with keeping his clothes casual and masculine, and covering his tracks with his friends about his weekend whereabouts (having the job was a great cover – it wasn’t in their area of town so the chances of getting called out on lying was slim), the longer he dated the older teen with smoky-eyes, the worse he felt.

In some ways, it was exciting hiding his boyfriend from his school friends. He learned how kissing boys was wonderful, and what real passion coursing through his veins felt like. But it’s not like his friends would have even cared. He could have sworn that whole group was at the least bisexual. Honda and Otogi had been caught out in a compromising situation that they tried to play off as a friendly “wrestling” match, but nobody believed them when they found a pair of Dungeon Dice Monsters boxers hidden in a pile of washing in Honda’s room. But, if they found out, it would only be time before the word would spread around Domino, and despite his shortcomings, Katsuya preferred a roof over his head with his homophobic father.

The relationship with the older boy ended abruptly when he’d tried to push Jou into sex. Jou had felt comfortable with the other ‘stuff’ that had come with the relationship; the intimacy was nice. They had a friendship that was almost skin-deep which had always bugged him just a little but he figured that first loves are meant to feel this way, not that he’d had a solid adult to look up to for how a relationship was meant to be. But as he was still figuring out his sexuality, sex felt so final and he wasn’t sure he was emotionally ready to commit to it yet. He felt stunted having to say no, having to fight to say no. He was thankful when he’d left that night that he was strong enough to push the other boy away.

There had been many times over the three years that had passed where Jou’s eyes lingered on attractive guys in the changing room of gym class, or at the convenience store. He’d been into town on occasion, tempted to head into a gay bar, only to chicken out at the last moment.

He braved up, one Friday night on a rare day off, leaving the house as if nothing was wrong. Fuck it. If Spring was for love, the beginning of Summer was for exploration. He’d have his chance again next season when he was moved out of home and could figure it all out.

The club’s name was “Experience” and it was exactly that. The bouncer didn’t card him, and for the first time in a while, Jou thanked his half-genes. The lights were dim, pulsing purple, and the music was bass-heavy, pounding the floor under his worn Converse that had faded from black to green.

He stood awkwardly around the bar, before a cute boy had grabbed his hand onto the dancefloor. Katsuya couldn’t make out his face, just that he smelled like cheap body spray and martinis. Alcohol free, the atmosphere served to intoxicate him, and he closed his eyes and danced like nobody was watching. Another man in the club, just a little older, recognised Jou from Duel Monsters competitions, and struck up conversation. He wasn’t traditionally attractive, but his voice was kind and calming.

On the outside, all it was, was dancing and chatting to strangers. Nothing unusual, nothing extraordinary.

The hot nights of summer welcomed Jou into the club again, and again. Not worried that his father would find out, he danced into the wee hours of the morning. He’d decided on the second visit that it wasn’t really his scene, but he had no other outlet. There were times that men would grope him, and he would uncomfortably slip away, feeling seedy. But, feeling a little disgusted was better than not feeling at all.

Despite his father’s pachinko habits, Jou ran a gamble deck. He hardly counted dancing in a gay bar a dice-roll, but somewhere along the weeks words had travelled through Domino.  

Jou returned home at six in the morning on Sunday, after his shift at the convenience store to find his father seething, fists clenched and cheap alcohol strong on his breath. Katsuya found his bedroom ripped to shreds by his pathetic excuse of a father.

“W…what’s wrong?” Katsuya asked tentatively, ready to block a punch. He quietly placed his food down at the dinner table and kept his eyes fixated on his father; a survival tactic he learned on the streets. If you dropped eye contact then you dropped dead.

“Get. The. Fuck. Out. Of. My. House. You. Faggot.” The voice was laced in vitriol Jou hadn’t ever experienced on the streets. The drunk towered over Katsuya, despite being shorter he was stouter and held his balance behind his beer-gut.

“W….what do you mean?” Jou asked, holding his breath, feeling his heart pounding in his throat.

“You think you can just” Jounouchi-San spat in Katsuya’s face, blackened teeth bared, “live in my house like everything’s all fine and dandy” the words were laced in a slur “but what a surprise to find out my son’s fuckin’ boys. You’re sick, you’re a maggot. Get. The. Fuck. Away. From. Me.”

“H…how?”

“Get. The. Fuck. Out.”

Katsuya stayed silent, tears pouring down his face. Holding back a hiccup, he said softly “I’ll just get my things if that’s okay.”

“You have two fucking minutes. And then I never want to see you again.”

In a flurry, Katsuya shoved everything he could think of into a backpack with a hole in the bottom, lining the hole with a hoodie. Spare uniforms, three shirts, his duel disk, deck, a spare pair of shoes. That’s almost everything he had in his room. Except.

Where the hell was his money? He’d had almost a hundred thousand yen in a money clip hiding in a magazine on his bookshelf. Almost enough to move out of home.

A smile crept on the lips of the lizard. “Think of it as reparation, you piece of shit. Your two minutes is up. Get. The. Fuck. Out.”

-

Katsuya couldn’t remember much more from the altercation, except the sound of broken glass as he pulled the door shut behind him. The adrenaline and fear pumping through his veins blocked out any more noise, and all he could do was keep his head down and escape before the neighbours came out to dust their noses in gossip.

Katsuya was nineteen, so legally an adult, but with no money except five thousand yen in his pocket, he knew he couldn’t survive on the streets for longer than a few days. Plus, he needed to be able to shower, and get to work, and wash his uniforms. The sticky summer heat was tolerable to exist in, no worse than their unairconditioned apartment, but laundromats were expensive and Katsuya needed desperately to keep his job.

After graduation, his friends had dispersed. Yuugi had ended up in Egypt. Honda on a working holiday overseas. Anzu in New York studying dance. Even Otogi had moved to Tokyo to set up his business away from the overshadowing of KaibaCorp. That was a thought, the only people left in town that he was even remotely close to were the Kaiba brothers. He blew his fringe out of his hair as he contemplated getting on his bike and heading into the valley. He checked his phone, and saw he had six percent remaining, and decided to gamble it on calling Mokuba.

He was relieved that Mokuba picked up in an instant, chirpy voice. “Good morning Jou!”

“Hey Mokuba,” Jou exhaled before remembering he was on borrowed time. “Sorry to call so early. I uh, kinda need a favour.”

“Oh, that doesn’t sound too good. What’s up?”

“Somethin’s happened at home and I just need a place to crash today before I head to work for my night shift. I was hopin’ I could hang out at yours?” he clenched his teeth waiting for the response.

“Well, I don’t see any problem with that. Just buzz the intercom when you get here and I’ll let you in.”

“Thanks, Mokuba, you’re a lifesaver,” he choked back tears as Mokuba hung up the phone, and his own turned off. He wrestled his beat-up bicycle from the shed under the complex, incredibly faded and beginning to rust. And then he set on a thirty-minute ride, hoping the early morning breeze would numb him enough to stop him from bawling his eyes out.

-

Seto Kaiba was surprised to hear Mokuba’s chatter from his room just past eight in the morning. Mokuba certainly wasn’t an early riser without an alarm clock, and as far as he could remember he didn’t have anybody over. Seto exhaled, remembering that Mokuba had just turned fourteen, and almost at the age to be sneaking people over. Seto wasn’t home enough to really prevent it, and he’d awkwardly tried to have ‘the conversation’ which Mokuba had run away from screaming a few years prior, so he’d slid pamphlets under his door and left condoms available in Mokuba’s bathroom just in case.

Braving himself to a tough conversation, he went to knock on the door before his coffee, certainly not caffeinated enough to be having a conversation about courtesies and communication.

“…well to be honest, Mokuba. You can keep a secret, right?” The voice was familiar, and Seto paused in the hallway, just out of sight but within earshot of his little brothers’ conversation through the cracked bedroom door.

“Of course, Jou.”

Jou? What the fuck was that street rat doing in his house at 8 o’clock on a Sunday morning? Seto clenched his fists but held his breath to simmer his rage as the blonde continued.

“It’s not coming as a huge surprise to anybody, but, I haven’ really talked about it yet...” The house was so silent, Seto could hear the sharp exhale of breath before the following words. “I like guys, Mokuba.”

Mokuba laughed lightly. “Nah, nobody’s too surprised. You’ve had plenty of opportunities to date cute girls and you’ve passed them by. Initially we thought you were just a bit socially stupid but when Mai chucked herself at you multiple times and you didn’t take the bait, we sorta, figured it out.”

Katsuya blushed at the mention of her. If only Mokuba and the crew knew that Mai was the antithesis of his sexual awakening, of sorts. She’d not brought it up again, despite running into him annually at the Japan Championships, so he’d assumed she’d also locked that little secret away and thrown away the key.

Seto felt a little weird to be intruding on Katsuya’s confession, even though they’d been close enough at school. Well, depends on your version of ‘close enough’ – their crafted insults and fists to the face certainly did get under each other’s skin. Other than acknowledging each other around the mansion with a silent glare or a muttered insult in passing, and in the Duel Monsters circuit in official tournaments, Katsuya and Kaiba hadn’t had a conversation in around a year despite Katsuya coming around periodically to spend time with Mokuba, mainly leaving the house to hang out at arcades or grab a bite to eat, so listening in all felt a little too personal. But Seto’s inner voice commanded him to stay and continue to eavesdrop.

“Of course I don’t care that you’re gay. It’s honestly not a big deal, right?” Seto heard a pop from the room that sounded like bubble-gum.

“My dad cares. He’s kicked me out.”

“Are you fucking serious?!” it was a jolt to hear his younger brother swear so strongly, and under normal circumstances, Seto would be armed with a scolding, but his fists were clenched white with silent rage, listening to the waiver in the low voice as he began to explain.

“He…I don’t know how…he found out I….he told me he didn’t want a….” Katsuya’s voice began to tremble and hiccup, and Seto realised he must have been crying. “…Threw a broken bottle at me, which missed…” the rest of it was inaudible, drowned in gasps for air.

“Did…that just happen today?”

“Yeah.”

“Do you have a place to stay tonight?” Mokuba asked gently.

“Not yet. Wish I could ask Yuug’ or someone…”

“Well, you can stay here for now…no it’s fine! Don’t worry. I’ll have a chat to big brother about making sure it’s okay if you’re here for a few nights, or at least until you find a permanent place.”

“Thanks, kid. I don’t know what I did to deserve a friend like you.”

“C’mon, I’ll take you to the spare room and let you get to sleep, if you can. We’ll figure the rest out once you’re well rested.”

Seto took that as his cue to leave.

-

Armed with a black coffee, Kaiba retreated to his office, still feeling uncomfortable by what he’d overheard. He wasn’t even friends with Jou, so he couldn’t fathom why he was so deeply angry by the conversation he’d overheard, but he figured it lay somewhere in the spectrum of fucked-up fathers, and society’s belief that being gay was a choice. He still felt like he’d invaded privacy but then, he was Seto Kaiba, and he was entitled to know what was going on in his four walls, and it was one of the few things he’d never consider ammunition.

He settled into a routine of looking over documents, wavering between concentration and distraction. Seto Kaiba does not feel things like anger. It’s not productive, and he couldn’t pinpoint why the feeling lingered. Disappointment was an effective emotion to use at work. He was rarely satisfied, and even when so, would only express so to Mokuba. Anger just wasn’t an emotion that did anybody any good – it left them to act irrationally. And yet.

A soft three-knocks on his door interrupted his internal stewing; Mokuba waited for his brother’s composure before calling him in.

“Hey, Seto, can I talk to you for a sec?” Mokuba’s hair was wild like he’d just woken up, and Seto realised he’d probably not eaten or taken care of himself yet this morning for concern of Jounouchi.

Kaiba nodded, and Mokuba shut the door behind him with a light click.

“So, I just want you to hear me out before you reply.” Mokuba braced himself for a battle but Kaiba just nodded and let him talk. “Katsuya is here. I know you two don’t get along or anything, but he just needs a place to stay for a few nights while he gets on his feet. Something happened at home and he can’t go back. He’s going to start looking at apartments. I’m hoping you’ll be okay with it, and maybe just not antagonise him right now.” Mokuba shuffled his feet anxiously. “I don’t want to go into details because it’s not my place to, but he’s not emotionally doing so well so can you please just be nice.”

“If he cleans up after himself and doesn’t turn this place upside-down,” Seto replied, curtly, staring at his younger brother with an unreadable emotion. “I’ll tolerate him for a week.”

Mokuba had been waiting for a kick-back that never came, and let out a weighted sigh. “I…wait, really? That easy? Thanks, Seto. You’re the best.” Mokuba gleamed as he bounced out of the office with a smile on his face.

It’s not like they’d see each other much anyway, given Seto’s inability to find a work-life balance.

-

Katsuya was too exhausted to stay awake and worry about what came next. Sleep, shower, work. Tomorrow was a day off to think and plan.

Small blessings, like the bed being softer than marshmallows, and the bathroom being crisp and bright, with a basket of KaibaCorp branded hotel soaps and shampoos, meant that Katsuya, for the first time in years, was well slept, and so well showered in almond butter concoctions, that his skin shone. In the cupboards was everything he could think of, combs, razor blades, sanitary items, even condoms, which made Katsuya blush.

Katsuya smiled in the mirror, despite the situation, tell-tale creases under his eye being the only physical indication that he’d been crying early that morning.

Outside Katsuya’s door had sat his work uniform, neatly folded and ironed, and his worn black shoes scrubbed up with nugget. Mokuba had called in to get it washed and Katsuya felt a wave of incredible gratefulness. Unlike hospitality he’d seen in a long time.

“Hey,” Mokuba popped his head out of his bedroom, noticing Katsuya’s scuffling around the hallway. “How are you doing now?”

Katsuya shrugged with a smile. “I’m doing alright. Thank you so much, Mokuba. You’re such a wonderful person.” He bowed and Mokuba shook his head like it was no big deal.

“Oh, hey. Since you’ve got work, I should probably give you a card to the gates. It’ll require a pin and a key card. What number do you want programmed in? I can get security onto that now.”

Katsuya thought for a bit, before saying 1052. His birthday backwards. Mokuba sent a message through a security app on his phone, getting Katsuya clearance to access the mansion after hours. “That way, they won’t call big brother and wake him up.”

“Don’t want to rouse the dragon,” Katsuya mentioned softly, choosing kind words for Kaiba, as it was his hospitality too that let him stay. He nodded to Mokuba, before getting his uniform and getting ready to work; the cleanest and most professional since he’d gotten the uniform brand new.

-

Kaiba and Jounouchi’s mere moments of interaction centred around the kitchen, and Jou’s apparent love for cooking. The first three mornings were a shock to Kaiba, and he was less than thrilled to stride into the kitchen to make his ritual coffee, to find Jou spread out over three surfaces while dressed in his work uniform, ruffled and drenched in sweat from just arriving home. With store-bought ingredients, he was making two bento’s, boiling a pot with hotdog sausages, making tamago-yaki, and eating a piece of toast at the same time. It was, admittedly the best Jou had eaten in a long time, sparing an extra thousand yen for better ingredients, and with permission from Mokuba to use staples in the kitchen such as rice and spices, that made all the difference.

By morning four, Kaiba had resigned himself to a small acknowledgement by nodding at him, realising that Jou was looking after Mokuba by making one of those bento’s for him to take to school, and tidying the kitchen impeccably once he was done.

“Jounouchi,” Kaiba nodded, as he filled his travel mug with freshly ground coffee.

“Kaiba,” Jounouchi nodded back. “I’ll be out of your hair soon, I’m sorry to intrude.” His interaction was demure and quiet, completely unlike the scrappy blonde Seto knew a little too well from the streets. Seto couldn’t quite put down to just being thankful, but he just muttered a “good day” as he grabbed his keys from his pocket and looped them around his fingers before heading out the door. Katsuya frowned to himself that Seto’s diet consisted of what he presumed was 90% caffeine, and considered making a lunch for him to take too, before remembering it wasn’t his place to care and that he’d be out of the mansion within the week if all went well.

Still, he’d felt it unsettling that Kaiba hadn’t resorted to name-calling, not even a nostalgic “make-inu” yet, despite Mokuba assuring that he hadn’t divulged exactly why Jounouchi needed to stay. Being a guest in the mansion and needing a place to survive had restrained Katsuya from making the first jab, but he was almost itching to retaliate if given the opportunity. Their rivalled chemistry was still thick in the air despite lady-luck’s hand, they were both dancing around it. Just a little, after all. Old habits die hard.

-

“Seto Kaiba seen leaving Kaiba Corp with a mystery woman dressed in blue, headed into the French restaurant on West Street. Could this be a potential match?”

What insufferable nonsense. Seto crumpled up the newspaper, throwing it into his trash can with force. “Mokuba!” he shouted into the hall, knowing the teen’s door was open and the teen was busy after school gaming with Jou, who had a night off work.

“Yes, big brother?” Mokuba asked, bright-eyed, popping his head into Seto’s office.

“Why are we still subscribed to this garbage!?”

Mokuba chuckled. “It’s entertaining watching how much it bugs you!” Seto narrowed his eyes and scowled. “It’s also good for lighting the fire with.” Mokuba picked the newspaper out of Seto’s bin. “Oh, the secretary this week? She’s certainly prettier than the Industrial Illusions rep from last month!” He poked his tongue out as Seto fired a pen in his direction.

“You don’t take anything seriously,” Seto growled.

“At least they’re not assuming you’re a virgin,” Mokuba singsonged out, ducking his head back into the office to poke the bear one last time. “Maybe they’ll spice it up with a fake boyfriend sometime!” A book thudded as it hit the door and Mokuba ran away with a cackle back to his room.

“…what was that about?” Katsuya asked, sitting on Mokuba’s bedroom floor, leaning lazily against the bedpost, controller in hand.

“Seto’s pissed off that the press keeps reporting on his abysmal love life. This week it’s the secretary.” Mokuba lay on his stomach, hands hanging over the end of his bed as he joined back in the fighting game.

“Ooh, that’s a bit sexy, while she’s filing he could be defiling,” Katsuya joked and Mokuba howled. “But seriously, I figure none of it’s true anyway.” Katsuya shifted his face into an uncanny scowl not unlike Seto’s. “He seems to only be dating his technology and shit.”

“I mean, that has something to do with it.” Mokuba button-mashed his way to victory and Katsuya cried out in defeat.

“…seriously?” Mokuba asked incredulously, waiting for Katsuya’s response but getting nothing in return. Katsuya looked back blankly, blinking twice. “I mean, his work life is a problem for his overall dating scene but dude? Aren’t you meant to have a gaydar or something?”

“Oh shit, what?! Kaiba’s gay?” Katsuya dropped his controller, gawking at Mokuba, who tapped his nose as to signify it was a secret. What a secret. Katsuya briefly recalled their countless afternoons, hurling insults, some of which riled the other up so much they’d ended up in fist fights, roughed up on the asphalt outside school before Kaiba would brush himself off like nothing had happened. Despite Kaiba’s demeanour, and classist comments, Katsuya realised he truly knew nothing about Kaiba that he hadn’t seen on TV. The guy kept anything personal to his chest, why would this be different?

Katsuya returned to the game, trying to pay attention enough to kick Mokuba’s ass in the next round. It’s almost like karmic retribution for all those comments Kaiba had made about Jou never being in his league, because if Katsuya had to suffer through coming to terms with being gay in homophobic Japan, he was almost pleased to have an unconventional ally.

-

In the week that Katsuya had been vaguely in Kaiba’s space, the two hadn’t interacted again. Katsuya had kept to himself, been well behaved (to Seto’s surprise), and even cooked meals for the trio on more than one occasion. Kaiba had been stuck in meetings late, but appreciated the thought (not vocally, of course) and the home-made meals for the first time in a while. It was better than not eating at all, and preferable to gambling on takeaways.

But the two inevitably ended up together alone, around the dinner table, whilst Mokuba had headed out for a study session at a friend’s house. Katsuya was apprehensive about starting a conversation for fear of having his head bitten off, and he didn’t want to slip up and have the hospitality revoked, so he was shocked when Kaiba opened the conversation.

“So, Jounouchi, why are you here?” Other than what he’d overheard, Seto knew nothing more about the situation, consciously opting to distance himself from the emotions of it all. Mokuba hadn’t said anything more either, sticking to the “if Jou wants to tell you, he’ll tell you,” rhetoric.

The question was abrupt, and took him by surprise. Katsuya blinked a few times, noticing Seto’s powerful stare, and debated momentarily about how to answer.

“Because my dad kicked me out.” The answer was surprisingly honest, and even though Seto knew that much, he took a moment to revel in Jou’s tone, soft but bitter. “Mokuba wasn’t my first port of call, but for various reasons, I couldn’t quite turn to the usual group of friends for somewhere t’ stay.”

Seto mused as he cut into the steak, inspecting it thoroughly before biting into it, surprised at how juicy it was.

“Look, Kaiba, I don’t mean to be in your way at all, and I’ve been saving all my money from this pay for a deposit on an apartment or so I can get on my feet and I’ve been lookin’ at places…”

Kaiba shushed him. “Surprisingly, you haven’t been on my nerves. So, before you dig yourself a hole, just know that this invitation is open a little while longer as long as you respect me and my brother.”

Katsuya nodded thoughtfully, but internally he was jumping for joy. “Of course. An’ if there’s anything I can do for you to repay you for your…uh…hospitality, let me know. I’m versatile, as long as ya don’t expect me to wear a dog suit or somethin’.” Katsuya blushed, bringing up the memory of Otogi’s humiliation.

Seto smirked at the reference too, and fought the urge to make a quip, instead nodding with understanding. He ate the rest of his food in peace, only acknowledging the blonde with not so much as a smile, but an uncharacteristic understanding look of sorts.

-

Kaiba out for dinner with his Secretary for the second time this week. Could our eligible CEO be off the market for good?

Katsuya rolled his eyes as the headline caught his attention, in gauche italics. While waiting for a banana bread to finish baking, Katsuya had taken up residence in the first floor living area, aimlessly channel surfing and perusing a pile of newspapers and various junk mail put aside to be burned. He smirked, recalling what Mokuba had told him, before throwing it aside.

It was still face-up in the pile when Katsuya went into the kitchen to check on the oven, and Seto had quietly appeared out of nowhere in the lounge. Upon his return, Katsuya jumped a little, not realising anybody else was home. The maids seemed to be on a schedule and weren’t here every day, just twice a week to tidy after weekends and take clothes to the drycleaners, unless otherwise called on.

Greetings weren’t Kaiba’s strong suit, Katsuya was learning. Just a “really?” in an exasperated voice, as Kaiba picked up the newspaper and snarled, throwing it in the fireplace.

“Hey now, this grainy photo of you is perfect, I don’t know what you’re complaining about,” Katsuya jested, trying his luck. The air seemed light enough with the scent of banana bread floating in the room that Seto had no real reason to be mad at him. It was after all the weekend. Katsuya had already been here for a week. “It makes you look like you’ve been working out. Look at those guns!” Katsuya winked and Seto’s scowl etched itself deeper in his face as he threw a pillow at Katsuya.

“I’m sorry I know it’s a sensitive subject. You just gotta remember these people are morons.” Seto’s stiff frame softened before Katsuya added “I’m sure you ya don’t have th’ time to be dating. You’re married to your job. How would you report on ‘moody CEO wines and dines his laptop?’”

“Don’t be pathetic, Jounouchi. I could date a real person if I wanted to.”

Katsuya smirked, feeling Seto ready to snap, but he couldn’t help himself. “With a heart colder than your ice-blue eyes, I’m sure you’d win your way into anybody’s heart, prince charming.” Katsuya threw himself dramatically backwards into the plush couch, hand clutching his heart.

“You don’t know anything about me,” Seto growled.

Katsuya rolled his eyes at Seto’s seriousness. “Come off it man, I’m just jokin’ with you. Ya know, like the old days.” He sat up straight again, letting Seto feel powerful standing above him. “I suppose I have it easier than you.”

Seto’s eyes narrowed, a small crease making itself prominent between his arched eyebrows.

“If somebody wants to date me, it’s not for financial gain or anythin’. Hardly a spare cent to my name. I’m sure you hav’ta watch your back. Everyone has a motive, huh?”

Kaiba silently nodded.

“I’m sure you have to consider how people would react if you came out.”

“Excuse me?” Seto said with a hiss.

“Mokuba told me.”

“You better not utter a word to anybody about this,” Seto threatened, leaning in towards Katsuya. “I’ll destroy you.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Katsuya shrugged. “It’s not my place to out you. You’re an asshole but I’m not set to ruin your life and I hope you’ll spare me the same courtesy.”

Seto raised one eyebrow, inviting the blonde to keep talking.

“I guess you deserve to know the reason I’m here is thanks to my dad finding out I was gay and that’s why I was kicked out of home.” Katsuya sighed and his exhale blew his hair out of his eyes. “I’d had enough money to move out of home but he found it and told me it was “reparation”” his expression darkened, “like the garbage he is. So, I’m back to square one. But, by being here, I’ve got enough to leave whenever and survive okay, and a few more pays I’ll able to pay the first month of my rent upfront and set up utilities. I appreciate you lettin’ me stay. It means more than you’ll ever know.” He blushed after his ramble, letting his vulnerability slip out.

Kaiba mused for a minute. “You have a month here, okay? I trust that’s enough time to get on your feet.”

“Are…you sure?” Katsuya’s eyes were wide and thankful. “Thank you, thank you. Who would have thought I’d ever be thanking the great Seto Kaiba,” he stopped when Kaiba glared at him and he could feel the icicles piercing his heart. “What can I do to repay you?”

Kaiba just waved his hand dismissively. Katsuya learned he was also bad at goodbyes, as he left the room without further conversation, trudging up the staircase and into his office. Seto shut himself in his office before exhaling his frustration into the room. After all, Katsuya was now the third person, after Mokuba and Isono, to know about his sexuality. He’d planned to keep it under wraps for longer, possibly forever, he hadn’t decided yet. But, with having an ally living under the same roof as him, struggling to save money to leave an abusive household, he counted his blessings that he was strong enough and powerful enough to never have to worry about trivial things like key money.

-

A bit of soul-searching made Seto’s homosexuality make a lot of sense, Katsuya had decided. He smirked, watching the slim teen layer up before work with padded shoulders and boots with a solid heel. His fashion sense screamed ‘fabulous,’ and if it had been anybody else in this city it would have been obvious that they were gay. But, there must have been some grey where rich and flamboyant intersected, and that line was Seto Kaiba, a man who flew a plane in the shape of a Blue Eyes White Dragon.

So, maybe Seto Kaiba was gay, but he was also an attention seeking rich asshole. Only one of those was a choice.

Seto Kaiba had never been seen dancing with girls at soirees, and at school, Katsuya remembered the Valentine’s Day he received sixty-five chocolates and cards from girls in the school, all of which he binned. At the time, the group had mocked him, calling him a frigid bastard, but now, Katsuya wondered if Seto knew much earlier than he did.

There were also options in KaibaCorp RPG’s to date same-sex characters. Katsuya had played many of them, KaibaCorp was after all one of the best game developers. Katsuya had a save file on his memory card that he’d boot up only when his father wasn’t around and date the boys. There were boy on boy kisses and non-graphic sex scenes that made him blush. His other playthrough, when his friends were around, he was dating the girl with a pixie haircut. He had assumed the choice was only there to appease the fujoshi crowd. But maybe in a way, it was Kaiba’s subtle nods to the community without ever having to say it.

It was also within the clothing line; KaibaCorp had released Duel Monsters merchandise, including shirts, boxer shorts, hoodies, and more. Almost everything was sold in Unisex sizing, with a slim fit and normal fit available. Signed off by Seto Kaiba himself.

It was little words, like the way Seto Kaiba had said in interviews that he’d never had a partner, and that there was nobody he was interested in at the time. He never used gender-specific language, and the same was in all his media documents, too. All his tournaments had a “junior” and “pro” division with no other barriers than age or rank.

Katsuya smiled, wrapping his index and middle fingers between his Red-Eyes, KaibaCorp branded lanyard from his last tournament, as he sat on the semi-firm bed. It had been years since he’d woken up so consistently well-rested, without stiffness in his shoulders from his lumpy futon. And now, he could be here an entire month? A month rent-free, and well-slept where he could get on his feet, find a nice apartment in a reputable part of the city, and from there look at what kind of a future he wanted to build from himself. Never being able to sleep a full six hours left Katsuya fuelling himself on energy shots and naps once his father had gone out to gamble for the day.

And he didn’t have to deal with the stench of cheap beer being masked by cheap body spray. No more beard-shavings in the sink once a week, or unflushed vomit in the toilet. No more being a maid to a man in exchange for shelter that was hardly legal to call accommodation.

It was just little things, like sleeping well, having a few days off, being able to shower in luxurious body washes that left his skin looking healthy, and being able to understand an underlying layer of your greatest rival that made Katsuya feel like this was heaven.

-

Week three bought the biggest improvement in Katsuya’s and Seto’s relationships to date, though it was gradual and they hadn’t seen it sneaking up on them.

A change in Katsuya’s work schedule meant that he was leaving for work mid-morning, and making dinner around ten o’clock, when Kaiba was usually coming home from the office. Mokuba had been staying at friend’s houses semi-frequently, or was awake on a different schedule to them due to the mock exams for the National Centre Test he was taking this year. Katsuya had been making reheatable dinners for the pair, bento’s for Mokuba, and simple tuna mayo rice balls for Seto. Both of which were going missing out of the fridge, to Katsuya’s relief.

The talks around dinner were often slow or shallow; talking about the weather, about Mokuba, about Duel Monsters news. But, from what started out as a few words, turned softly into sentences, and then conversations. Kaiba found himself much less wound-up by Katsuya’s presence as the time went on, almost thankful that he was being forced to eat well and socialise, though he’d never admit that to anyone.

It was almost a mutual understanding that they’d warmed up to each other enough to make light quips and not ignite the other into a fury. Through experimentation, they’d silently agreed that some lines weren’t to be crossed. Mokuba had gently told Katsuya to never mention their adopted father, for example.

There were also conversations blossoming in doorways as they passed by each other. Kaiba even learned how to say “good morning” and Katsuya nearly fainted! He’d also learned through Mokuba’s patterns that when Kaiba’s office door was left ajar, he could be up for some light conversation. Despite the negative press, and previous impressions, Seto Kaiba wasn’t as cold as he’d made out to be.

“Kaiba was seen with a tall blonde woman today leaving the Kaiba Corp building shortly after 1pm,” Katsuya leaned on the doorframe of Kaiba’s office, freshly washed hair hanging in front of his eyes and an impish smile inviting Kaiba to relax for a moment. Seto paused his typing to hear Katsuya out, but glowered behind his desk. “I see you’re not just settling for the secretary now, but you’ve worked your way up to the development team too? What a stud. An accomplished woman would do you well!”

“They’re more persistent than when you were hounding me for a duel,” Kaiba smirked, pushing his computer glasses back up to the bridge of his nose.

“One of us had to make it our mission to get on your nerves,” Katsuya replied with a flirty wink. “Which, if I recall, was something I was very successful at.”

“You still are,” Seto mumbled, barely loud enough to register a reaction.

Katsuya whistled as he hiffed the newspaper towards Seto and headed back to his room with a grin.

-

Katsuya was pottering around the kitchen, cooking rice and making a Japanese curry, while baking muffins for later. It was an odd mix of smells, Kaiba thought, as he placed himself at the kitchen counter and pulled his laptop out, continuing to type uncharacteristically in the presence of Jou.

“Whatcha doing?” Katsuya asked, as he plated up the curry, making sure to leave a third plate aside for Mokuba for later.

“This report is due tomorrow morning,” Kaiba replied, staring at his screen while absently accepting the food, letting it cool beside him as he typed vigorously. Katsuya made a bit of noise as he cleaned up his pots and wiped down the benches, before settling beside Seto for dinner, clasping his hands together and saying grace before digging in.

“Boring. I hope you’re not working too hard.”

“No more than usual.” Seto saved the document and placed his laptop to the side, no longer able to ignore the spicy curry beside him.

They ate in relative silence, but Seto kept bouncing his foot absentmindedly on the barstool. Katsuya had never seen Kaiba experience anything like this kind of distractedness, and cleared his throat before asking. “What’s on your mind?”

Seto looked at him inquisitively, before realising that his emotions must be all over his face. He straightened himself up, and muttered a “nothing” before eating some more curry, blowing on it softly to stop himself from burning his tongue.

“That’s not a ‘nothin’’ face, what’s wrong?”

Seto shook his head and continued to eat in silence, merely thanking Jou at the end, and taking a brewed coffee back up to his office. Katsuya sat there in silence, picking at his food and wondering what had crawled up Seto Kaiba’s ass and died for such a switch in personality.

Back in his office, Seto sat down with his laptop, screen open to a business proposal that wasn’t sinking in. No matter how many times he typed words and deleted them, he wasn’t making progress. He kept glancing over to the rubbish bin, article still sitting on top, screaming at him in gauche italics.

“For fuck sake,” Seto seethed, setting the newspaper on fire in the metal bin using a lighter stashed in his top drawer. He felt a sense of relief seeing the words crumple into nothing before exploding into orange flames.

Two knocks on the door followed a “Th’ fuck are you setting fires in the house for?” Katsuya popped his head in, despite the door being closed. He looked at the flaming rubbish bin, and Seto Kaiba leaning back with his socks on the desk. It was surreal, watching the flames come to life and Kaiba giving zero fucks.

“C’mon Kaiba. What’s got you so rattled?” Seto looked through Katsuya before catching his eyes. “Look man, I’m not gonna judge you. Are you okay?”

Kaiba shrugged. Katsuya considered feeling his forehead for a fever.

“Well, I’m here to talk about it if you want. Please don’t burn the mansion down though.”

A silence filled the room, minus a few dying crackles. The smoky smell was overpowering the room and Seto merely got out of his chair to open a window, and sat back down to keep writing.

“Having you here is causing me to question a lot of things,” Seto finally said forcing a calmness in his voice.

“W…what kind of things?” Katsuya stepped into his room and shut the door to stop the smell from spreading down the hall.

Seto screwed his face up before regaining composure. “I haven’t been made to think about my sexuality for a while.”

Katsuya laughed out loud before covering his mouth. “I’m sorry it’s just ahh…” he trailed off. “I’m sorry. I know it’s not a joke. Comin’ out is fuckin’ hard.” Seto glared at him for the swear word. “I mean, you don’t have to or anything, but there are other opportunities if this is shakin’ you too much.”

“Such as?”

“I dunno,” Katsuya mumbled. “Got any girls that’ll pretend for a while?”

“That’s just offensive, Jounouchi. I expected a better suggestion from you.” Kaiba reached into his drawer and pulled out a cigarette, lighting one before tilting the packet towards the dumbfounded blonde. He hadn’t been expecting an offer to stay, let alone a cigarette from Seto Kaiba. He didn’t even know he smoked, but then, he’d never tried to pay much attention before now, accepting his bravado as one of only few layers.

Katsuya pulled a stick out from the packet and leaned in to Kaiba giving him a light. “Don’t tell Mokuba,” he added quietly and Katsuya nodded. He was still thrown back by watching Seto Kaiba’s minor nervous breakdown and candidness to even consider Mokuba.

“I’m sorry. I just…wouldn’t know how to handle it if I were you.”

“Well then, you’re lucky you’re not me with a stupid suggestion like that.” Seto leaned back and blew smoke up to the ceiling. “Doesn’t it set the gay community back twenty years every time somebody hides their sexuality behind a girl like that? Homosexuality isn’t illegal anymore.”

“It wasn’t even illegal here for that long. Everyone was doin’ it right up to the Edo period,” Katsuya replied, smoking his first cigarette since he’d been in the household. He hadn’t really been much of a smoker, but he also sunk into that familiar feeling of a headspin when things got too hard to handle.

“If I, “played straight,”” Seto scowled at the phrase, “that’s still one more person that could use it as blackmail. The more you pay the worse it looks, right? If I’m paying for her nails and tanning and whatever shit it just looks like I’ve got something to hide.” He flicked his feet off the desk and leaned in, pulling an ashtray from under his cubby out. “I don’t have anything to hide, I just don’t have anything to show.” He tapped the end twice on the ashtray, before taking a loud inhale into the deathly silent room.

“Is it bothering you?” Katsuya asked gently, to which Seto shrugged.

“It’s complicated,” Seto’s voice was lower through the smoke. “I don’t care about the risks, but this shit is getting ridiculous.” He gestured towards the smouldering rubbish bin.

“Well, you can come out if you want to. If you don’t think it’ll make a difference then why not just pull the bandaid off?”

“But if I come out, I need to have a reason to come out. A relationship.” Seto mused, twirling the cigarette between his long fingers, watching the smoke twist into the darkly lit room.

“Why? Y’can come out without having a boyfriend.”

Seto raised his eyebrow and just took another drag, and Katsuya followed suit. “Because that’d go down fucking well, wouldn’t it? Every male I ever interact with from now would be subject to scrutiny. Every business deal would be questioned. It’d be worse than girlfriend watch, and I don’t feel like being examined microscopically.” Seto laughed twistedly. “Oh, look at this slight cape flick. Oh look, my security and chauffeur is a male, I’m sure he gets compensated with favours. We hardly live in a culture that embraces homosexuality.” Seto dragged his cigarette so long his head spun quickly with the lack of oxygen.

“The only way I can control this is to come out with a purpose.”

Katsuya remained silent, letting the cigarette burn at his fingertips, feeling almost sorry for the CEO. Jou had it bad, getting kicked out of home, but Kaiba was right. It wasn’t worse than having everything about his life picked apart.

Maybe that’s why he was an asshole 120% of the time in public. It was much safer than being vulnerable.

Everything made sense. And in an instant, nothing made sense again.

Seto looked at Katsuya’s soft expression, brain working at lightning speed and before he could catch the words he found them spoken into existence.

 “You’re the perfect candidate for a fake boyfriend.”

“I’m…wait, what?!” Katsuya exclaimed, before taking a long drag of the remaining cigarette, staring at Seto like he’d grown a second head. He pointed at himself a blinked twice.

“Jounouchi, you are single, right?” It was more of a statement than a question, and Katsuya wondered if Seto inherently knew every detail of Katsuya’s life, or if it was just obvious through his comings and goings in the mansion only ever being while dressed in a convenience store uniform.

“Well, yeah…” Katsuya shook his head. “This is too weird man, even for you.”

Seto stood up, and leaned into Katsuya’s personal bubble. “Hear me out.” His breath was strong with cigarettes and coffee and Katsuya’s heartbeat was somewhere in his throat, his head spinning again and he was sure it was no longer the cigarette. “I need a boyfriend. You need a place to stay. I can make your life easier in exchange for a simple favour.”

“Because that doesn’t sound prostitute-ish,” Katsuya huffed, quipped with a mixture of astonishment and humour.

“I’m not paying you for sex, Jounouchi.” Seto’s voice was considerably rougher, sexier, post-cigarette, and Katsuya blushed, thankful the lighting was dim.

“Yeah, but why…me?” Katsuya’s voice cracked.

“This whole arrangement is not so convoluted. Anybody who knew us at school knew we fought incessantly. Surely, if we came out with a relationship, they’d just put “two and two together” and assume our most heated of arguments were secretly us pining for each other or some sappy bullshit like that. And…I…never mind. You’re right. This is utterly ridiculous.”

“No, say it.” Katsuya stood his ground, buying into the ridiculous things spilling out of Seto’s mouth.

“I…if I even remotely fathomed the idea of having a fake boyfriend for the press, I can’t ask anybody else. Others would just take advantage. Blackmail, expensive gifts, and god forbid what if somebody fell in love with me or something? I…this feels inherently wrong to say this but I trust you more than most, Jounouchi. I trust you with my brother and I trust you’re not going to try and overthrow my company.”

“Nah,” Katsuya agreed. “Too much effort. Plus, I like having everything intact.”

Kaiba smirked.

“Hmm…” Katsuya was lost in thought, processing the proposition. “How long d’ya wanna do it for?”

“I mean, I hadn’t thought specifics, it was just an idea that came to mind now. A few months? Obviously, I’d make it worth your while. We’d sit down, discuss rules and boundaries. You’d have free accommodation while you were here in exchange for a few public dates, and some basic public affection. Enough time to make it look like it wasn’t staged, and for the media to realise I’m not just being tacky about coming out in an ‘over the top’ Seto Kaiba kind of way.” Seto sighed uncharacteristically. “For anything else in my life I wouldn’t care, but because of the way…our… community gets treated, I don’t want to add fuel to flames.”

Katsuya thought about it more. “Obviously I can’t give you an answer right now, but maybe? Can I think about it for a bit?”

“Certainly, you have until Friday to consider it.”

“Oh jeez, okay. Way to put the pressure on. I’ll come back tomorrow to talk about it after work?”

“Fine.” Seto pulled himself away from the blonde’s personal bubble, and sat back in front of the computer. “I’ll be home around ten.” Katsuya stood up without another word, and clicked the door shut the door softly behind him.

What an utterly preposterous proposition, Katsuya thought as he paced around the halls of the mansion aimlessly, still a little floaty from the cigarette. Or maybe the conversation. Or maybe both?

So, why did Katsuya say maybe?

-

Anxiety filled Katsuya while he paced around the empty house, waiting for Seto to turn up. A night of do’s and don’ts, pros and cons, and he hadn’t settled at a decision. He also wasn’t sure that twenty-four hours on, Seto would still be on board, although a Kaiba never makes a business proposition that he won’t follow through on.

But he was incredibly curious, in a socially experimental kind of way. Not only was he interested in getting under Seto’s skin, and making an impact on his life, he was a little bored too between all his friends being busy with their post-high school lives, and figured this might be the way to distract from the daily grind of work and feeling like shit about his father who still hadn’t called – not that Katsuya had expected so, but miracles can happen…

So, undoubtedly, on the night where Katsuya was alone and bursting with anxiety, would be the night that Kaiba would have to be at work until almost midnight, and Katsuya had spent the hours from when Kaiba had prescribed he’d been home until now, pacing while debating the scenario awkwardly.

Katsuya had almost given up when the back door opened to a visually worse for wear Kaiba, who threw his keys haphazardly on the kitchen counter and began to rifle through the refrigerator for something to eat.

“Hey,” Katsuya greeted him softly from the doorway.

“Hey.” Kaiba found the Tupperware of pasta salad that Katsuya had prepared just a few hours earlier, and leaned against the kitchen counter as he opened it and attacked it with a rogue pair of chopsticks.

“Long day?”

“Bunch’o’idiots,” Seto said between mouthfuls. “Fired the lot.”

Katsuya stifled a laugh. “You really haven’t changed, have you?”

“I’d like to think I’ve become a lot more mellow,” Seto quipped back, twirling a piece of capsicum between his chopsticks. “It wasn’t a brash decision, but something I’d actually spent time thinking about. I don’t have the time or energy to be cleaning up incompetence, let alone to such a degree.”

“Speaking of brash decisions…” Katsuya came and sat down on the bar stool opposite where Kaiba was leaning, grabbing an apple out of the fruit bowl.

“Yes, I suppose we did say we’d talk tonight.” Kaiba pulled up a bar stool, and sat down while finishing the last of the pasta Katsuya had made. “I’m assuming by the way you’re not still hiding in the doorway that you’re not entirely opposed to the proposition.”

“I’m almost curious,” Katsuya admitted, as he crunched into the ruby-red skin.

“If you’re comfortable, and if this goes ahead, we’ll agree on a timeframe, and the method in which we’ll “split up” as well as the “dates” and physical contact required in public. I won’t do anything that makes you inherently uncomfortable, but you’ll have to put in some effort.” Seto put down his chopsticks neatly, and interlaced his fingers, resting his chin on them as he stared intently at Katsuya.

“Of course. If I’m going to play pretend, I’m gonna be a great actor,” Katsuya replied, staring back with determination. “It’ll almost be like a game that only we get to play.”

“A competition to see who’s more convincing,” Kaiba added.

“Exactly! We’re both competitive, and especially with each other. I actually think it could be the most fun either of us have had since we last fought in the school playground.” Katsuya’s eyes glinted with a hint of mischievousness.

“Theoretically, we should leave with less bruises too,” Kaiba snickered. “If you don’t mind talking details tomorrow, I’m really tired. But, if you’re in, I’m in.”

Katsuya felt his guts twist as he nodded, extending his hand. “I’m in.” Seto reached out to firmly clasp the blonde’s.

Game on?

-

Kaiba and Jou had briefly mentioned the next morning in passing that their first step was to tell Mokuba. Settling on a mutual time that Mokuba would finally be home from school at, Katsuya popped his head into the teen’s room to find him lying on his bed reading a manga, dangling his feet off the end.

“Hey Mokuba, you got a minute?” Mokuba nodded, and put a bookmark in his page.

“Sure, what’s up Jou?” he smiled and hopped off his bed. Katsuya was always taken back with how tall Mokuba was getting, standing less than ten centimetres shorter now.

“Kaiba and I just wanna have a chat to you in his office. Nothin’ major.”

“Oh jeez,” Mokuba huffed nervously. “I don’t know what’s scarier. My brother alone or the pair of you. If it’s about the birds and the bees I’ve already checked out all of that.”

Katsuya laughed. “Not quiet the birds and the bees, Mokuba.” Mokuba followed Jou down the hall to Seto’s office, and Katsuya noticed the room had been thoroughly cleaned, smelling like oranges. He dwelled briefly on the idea that Mokuba must have no idea of the things his brother truly wanted hidden.

Katsuya took a seat in Seto’s office, and Mokuba stood there, looking bored. “Yo, big bro. What do you want?”

Seto began to speak, and paused before beginning again. “Mokuba, I’m going to be holding a press release tomorrow.” Katsuya bit his tongue, watching Seto be nervous of his younger brother.

“And?” Mokuba shrugged, unsure as to why he had still been called into Seto’s office. It obviously wasn’t work related or Seto would be talking in a different tone.

Seto didn’t answer, so Katsuya butted in. “Kaiba and I are going to be faking a relationship.”

“Uh,” Mokuba looked at his brother whose demure reaction confirmed what Katsuya had said. “Why though?” He looked perplexed, but didn’t seem to be worked up by an otherwise preposterous statement.

“I’m sick of these tabloids. It’s been every single day recently that they’re pinning me with a secretary, a business partner, all that bullshit. So, I figured I might as well just come out of the closet. Naturally, I’d rather not have a fake relationship, but I figure it’ll be easier than them trying to pair me with every male business associate. So, until they get over the news that I’m gay, I figured staging a boyfriend for a medium-term length of time would be the easiest way to get around it.”

“What’s in it for you, Jou?”

Katsuya shrugged. “Free rent. A bit of entertainment. A way to screw with Kaiba almost consequence-free.”

“Do it and I’ll make you pay, idiot,” Seto cut in abrasively.

Katsuya poked his tongue out at the frazzled CEO.

“I…guess I can be on board with it,” Mokuba shrugged. “It’s a lot less ludicrous than some things you announce, bro.”

“Thanks, Mokuba. Do you have any questions?”

Mokuba shrugged. “I’m sure you’ll fill me in. I know the drill, not my place to comment until you give me further details.” He headed out the room before popping his head back in. “I worry about your sanity is all.”

Katsuya laughed at the nonchalance of the raven teen, wondering just what else Kaiba had dragged the poor boy through over his years.

“So, Rich Boy, how are we gonna do this?” Katsuya asked, distractedly twirling a pen that he’d picked up off the mahogany desk in his fingers.

“I’ll schedule the press release for 6pm. Prime time news hour. I don’t expect you to even come up, nor will I name you. Might as well give the press something to do with their time while they figure out who the mystery man of the hour is.” Seto leaned back in his office chair, lacing his fingers together.

“So, I guess this is happening then,” Katsuya blushed slightly, realising that his whole life was about to change. Not only with Seto be out of the closet tomorrow, but Katsuya would officially be out, too. There was something incredibly liberating about knowing that your secret was no longer an unspoken taboo, but he wasn’t sure who in his outer circle would come to have an issue with it.

Support in numbers though, right? Yuugi had found out that Jou was gay within the last year. He’d found it much easier to confess over the phone because he could escape the fallout easier, not that Yuugi cared anyway. He just smiled, as if he’d known this whole time. But, he was going to be ‘dating’ Seto Kaiba. If there was a more public way to end up coming out to the whole world at once, he couldn’t tell you what it was.

The only person he considered he’d have problems explaining this to would be Shizuka. He knew she’d just be happy for him, but probably pissed off that he’d kept it from her for so long. He had the gut feeling she’d always known, with the types of comments about cute boys while they’d spent time at the mall together, but he’d danced around it and always tried to distract her.

“If your geek squad ask, this is an organic relationship,” almost as if Seto had read his mind.

“Naturally. They’d believe it in a heartbeat,” Katsuya quipped back, noting that he’d better call Yuugi tomorrow when Seto dropped the news, and that the others would find out in time. “That’s why you chose me, right?”

“And then, sometime this week, we should probably go on a date or something,” he continued. “And figure out what people do when they date.”

“I have some ideas,” Katsuya replied with a blush. “Dinner, movies, walks in the park. I don’t know what your schedule is like, but I guess I probably should get that info off you sometime so we can have our fake-dates.”

“Maybe I’ll leave some of that sappy shit to you then,” Kaiba reasoned. “I’ll worry about the dinners, after all, it’ll be customary that I’ll pay for anything extravagant. And, obviously, a new wardrobe for you while you’re doing this, because you’ve come with about three sets of clothes and I’d rather be tortured than photographed with you in your ragged shirts.”

“Jesus Christ Kaiba, no need to be so rude,” Katsuya huffed. “I mean, I’ll take a free wardrobe but I was kicked out of home for chrissakes.”

“If you’re that quick to get riled up,” Kaiba threw back, with a hint of glee. “I think the next few months are going to be fun.”

Katsuya threw his middle finger up. “This’ll all be more tolerable if you don’t act like an ass.” Seto snickered, and the pair realised they were being ridiculous. “So, how long do you want me to be your toy…boyfriend?”

“How long’s believable? Three, four months?”

Jou shrugged in indifference. Three months wasn’t a huge amount of time, but certainly enough to be able to move into a nice apartment, pay first month rent in advance, connect power and internet, and still have money left over to fill his pantry. “Sure. And these dates? Like, once a week or…?”

“That seems reasonable,” Kaiba grabbed his phone out and scrolled through his calendar. “Give or take, I think I can fit one or two in a week or so without reorganising my schedule.”

“Expectations?”

“Courteous and polite conversation. Basic body language that indicates some form of romantic interest. We’ll communicate about our boundaries as other problems arise.”

“And, our backstory?”

Seto furrowed his brows. “What do you mean by backstory?”

“Well,” Katsuya clicked his tongue. “When you tell everyone tomorrow, it’ll be assumed we’ve been at this for some time for you to feel like you need to come out about it. How long have we been ‘dating?’” He framed the word in air quotations.

Seto thought for a bit. “We reconnected through Mokuba sometime in Spring. We’ve been dating since April.”

“Do you want me to sign a contract?”

Seto laughed uncharacteristically for a while rolling his eyes. “The last thing I want is written proof of this being an arrangement. You’re a man of your word, aren’t you?”

Katsuya nodded.

“Then I’m a man of mine.” Kaiba looked at Katsuya with a degree of what Katsuya could only describe as excitement. “You scared?”

“No. You?”

“No.” Kaiba handed Katsuya a silver card. “This is for your clothing and other such expenses. If you present this card at any of the listed retailers, they’ll put it on my account and I’ll worry about it later. Consider updating your casual wear, as well as some formal wear and things for our dates.”

Katsuya nodded. “Anything else, boss?”

“Just…try to look good and not be a blithering idiot. I’m going to get back to work.” Kaiba looked down at his laptop. “Oh, I suppose you don’t have a cell phone, right?”

“Well, just an old one,” Katsuya admitted, sheepishly, pulling one out of his pocket that had cost no more than 5,000Y.

Kaiba slid him a box with the latest Kaiba Corp model and Katsuya gasped at the idea of holding a phone that was worth more than a month’s rent. “Have a good night, Jounouchi.”

-

Katsuya spent his afternoon, once he’d woken up, playing with his new cellphone and installing apps. So many apps. Music players, games, internet! Hours passed as he procrastinated, losing time in creating a social media presence and following all his friends, until he heard a knock on the door. He blushed, realising he was still hanging out in his underwear. “Just a sec!”

Standing outside, tall and in a sleek silver coat was Seto, frowning as Katsuya emerged with scruffy hair. “What kind of time do you call this?”

“Screw off, Kaiba,” Jou yawned. “I had work last night.”

“You got home at three. It’s now four in the afternoon.”

Katsuya rolled his eyes, figuring Kaiba had checked the security gate logs, and ran his fingers through his hair. “Okay, and? Are you my mother?”

“No, dumbass. But I’m leaving in half an hour for the press release.”

Oh yeah. Katsuya’s heart did that thing, where it felt like it was melting into a puddle of embarrassment, and his hands felt clammy. It was still going ahead. Yup.

“Cool,” Katsuya said, pretending he wasn’t bothered at all, and Seto tried to keep a straight face while watching him unravel. “I guess I’ll come watch it all go down. Gimme a moment, I’ll sort my life out.”

“You’ve only got half an hour, not twenty years.” Kaiba’s joke was hidden behind a deadpan stare, and Katsuya flipped the bird at him. “I’ll be in my office.” Kaiba left and sighed, wondering if they were making a huge mistake. But when Katsuya turned up only three minutes later, eyes bright and hair somewhat tamed, with a goofy grin, Kaiba threw those thoughts away.

Mokuba was meeting them at the hall after school, turning up in a light blue pinstriped shirt, and navy slacks. “What?” Mokuba asked, as Jou stared at him all prim and proper. “A guy’s allowed to experiment.”

Katsuya could have died there and then; that was the moment he realised Mokuba was bisexual.

The sea of paparazzi that could appear after just one call to Kaiba’s publicist made Katsuya feel uncomfortable. How was it that one person could have such media momentum? He hung on the sidelines, watching the crowd gather, heavy cameras and microphones in tow. Seto stood backstage, looking in the mirror, touching his eyes up with some concealer to rid his bluish rings.

“Maybe he’s born with it…” Katsuya quipped, and Seto lightly hummed a “fuck off” right back.

Mokuba grinned. “You’ll soon learn how bright lights and camera flashes can make you look like a vampire. This is the only way Seto looks like he’s got a soul.”

“Don’t encourage him, Mokuba,” Seto growled, blotting his face.

“You look handsome enough to me,” Katsuya added, trying to play the part, sounding oddly honest even to himself. But, when he looked hard enough, Seto was a handsome man with a fantastic jawline, and gorgeous cobalt eyes, marred with rings under his eyes from a messed up sleeping pattern that the concealer was starting to hide.

“Thanks…” Kaiba stood back and looked once more in his reflection and then down at his platinum watch. “Well.” He stood in front of Katsuya for a moment and stated “I’ll be back in a minute.”

Katsuya grabbed him by the shoulder gently and gave it a squeeze. “Have fun messing with them.” Seto stiffened a tad, before relaxing and merely giving a nod.

In a whirlwind, Kaiba stormed out onto the platform, dressed in a long trench coat with sharp embellishments, including the belts around his thin biceps. Katsuya held his breath as he waited for Kaiba to say the words he was both excited and nervous for. Once they came out, it was game on, and he was ready to play.

“I’ve gathered you here today as I wanted to announce something that doesn’t directly affect Kaiba Corp’s trading, but I don’t want a single one of you getting an exclusive story because you’re all bottom feeding scum.” Kaiba’s tone was flat, with a low rumble etching his words. There was a murmur in the crowd.

The flashing of cameras in the background annoyed Kaiba, and he scowled at the photographers.

“This is about my relationship.”

The room buzzed excitedly.

“I might be a public figure and you might think everything about my life is your business, but the man I am dating is absolutely off limits and you are to respect his space or there will be consequences.” Seto walked off stage, heart beginning to pound in his chest once the words had fallen out of his mouth, leaving media scrambling to follow him, where his bodyguards held them back.

“And that’s how you do it,” Mokuba muttered, while Katsuya reeled in the aura that was Seto Kaiba, a man to be respected.

-

“Hello?”

“Yug, it’s me.”

“Oh, hey Katsuya. Long time no talk. What’s up?” The video adjusted on the other end, and Yuugi was standing in front of a pyramid, drinking a bottle of water. He was certainly more tanned than the last time Katsuya had seen him, and the golden hue looked great on his skin.

“Just thought I’d better check in with ya. And now I can call ya with this fancy phone.”

“Finally brought yourself into this century,” Yuugi ribbed.

“How’s Egypt?”

“Fantastic!” Yuugi beamed, as he switched the camera around to show Katsuya the sights. “Check out what we’ve managed to dig up this week. These hieroglyphics look like the ones we’d found concerning…him. Which is incredible, because maybe we can find out what happens next if we can piece them together.”

“That’s great Yuugi! I’m hoping you’ll make some more cool discoveries.” Yuugi flipped his camera back around to talk face-to-face with Katsuya.

“What’s new with you?”

“Uhhh… where do I even start, Yug?”

Yuugi laughed. “Just start at the beginning. For you to be nervous, it’s something kind of big, isn’t it?”

Katsuya laughed along with his spiky-haired friend. “Yeah. So. A few weeks ago, pops kicked me out of home because he found out I was gay.”

Yuugi screwed his face up in disgust. “Are you okay? Do you have somewhere to stay?”

“Yeah, I’m staying at the Kaiba mansion,” Katsuya admitted, flipping his camera around to show the expansive kitchen Yuugi knew from the times they’d been there for Mokuba, and to harass Seto from time to time. “It’s pretty weird but it’s alright.”

“Is Kaiba treating you okay?” Yuugi asked tentatively.

“Okay, yeah, so like, funny news, haha.” Katsuya giggled crazily, flipping the camera back around. “So like, I’m just stayin’ here, savin’ a few paychecks to get a new apartment, and get this? Kaiba’s like, stay a bit, it’s no big deal and I’m like are you sure?” Katsuya was getting nervous, and his sentences began to mash together incoherently. “I mean, did you see Kaiba’s big announcement yesterday?”

“He came out, right?” Yuugi asked hesitantly. “Was this something to do with you?”

“Yeah, so like, over the last few weeks we’d been hittin’ it off and we got into a conversation about liking guys and turns out he likes guys and then like haha yeah we decided to give this dating thing a try.”

Silence, followed by a quizzical look from Yuugi. “This isn’t a joke?”

“Nope,” Katsuya laughed into the silence and then screwed up his face in fear while Yuugi gathered his thoughts.

“Well, honestly, I can’t say I’m overly surprised,” he scratched the back of his head. “You both did seem relatively attracted to each other in some sense, I just hadn’t thought it was romantically. But then, when you’ve been through what we have, being together isn’t a concept that I find completely out there.” Yuugi smiled, seeing the creases disappear from Katsuya’s face. “If you have found some common ground and can make each other happy, then that’s what matters, right?”

“Thanks for understanding Yug, you’re the best!”

Yuugi shrugged and smiled. “You’ll always be my best friend, Katsuya, and I just want you to be happy. If that means dating Kaiba, then so be it! Hey, my break is over so I better get back to it, but thanks for telling me first. It means a lot.”

“Thanks for listening, and good luck. Call me soon!”

“C’ya!” Yuugi smiled as the screen went blank, and Katsuya smiled to himself, glad to get the words out.

It’s not like coming out to Yuugi was a first-time occurrence, but Katsuya felt comfortable being able to say that he was gay anyway. He hoped, that like anything else, with practise it would get easier. It wasn’t without its problems, and he knew there’d be tough times ahead, but he’d get there. He always did. His father kicked him out and he ended up happier. He got second place in the last Duel Monsters championship which came with a booster pack subscription. Life just wasn’t that bad, really.

Although, Katsuya was mildly irritated that Yuugi had just accepted their relationship was indeed organic. As if!

-

Katsuya knew his next phone call was a lot harder to make. Shizuka, bless her soul, was feisty and fifteen. Growing into her own, she was the only person able to make Katsuya feel guilty.

And boy, did he feel guilty that he’d kept such a secret from her.

“’Zuka!” Katsuya said with a grin as the gorgeous redhead connected on the other line. It’d been almost a year since he’d seen her face in real-time, only seeing pictures on her Social Media feed whenever he’d been able to use a computer.

“Katsuya!” she grinned, as she lay on her bed. “How are you!?”

“I’m doin’ alright.” Katsuya sat down on the edge of his bed in his temporary bedroom. “You?”

She giggled. “Nothin’ ever changes with me. School’s doing well. I got an A in biology last semester, and I’m on track to score well in the Centre Test.” She chattered about her schoolfriends for a while, without giving too many boring details, knowing that Katsuya would begin to fade in and out of the conversation. “Wait, Katsu, are you in a different room? Where are you?”

While initially calling to talk about the Seto thing, he’d forgotten that she didn’t know that he’d been kicked out of home. “Are you, uh, alone?”

Shizuka nodded, knowing that their mother didn’t approve of their contact much.

“So, it’s a long story and I wish I’d told you sooner.” Katsuya shook his nerves, remembering this was his baby sister, who loved him unconditionally. Yuugi had been a different conversation, but Shizuka hadn’t spent enough time with him to get that same intuition. “Dad kicked me out.”

“Oh my GOD!” Shizuka clasped her hand over her mouth. “Are you okay?!”

Katsuya nodded. “I’ve got a pretty sweet place to stay now. It’s a bit complicated, so I’ll try and start from the beginning.

“Dad kicked me out because I like boys.”

Shizuka looked at Katsuya through her camera lens, processing the news, before shrugging softly. “You’re gay?”

“Yeah, I am.”

“How long have you known?”

“Truthfully,” Katsuya thought about it for a moment. “I probably knew when I was about twelve or so. Maybe earlier.”

“But you dated Mai.”

Katsuya laughed. “Yeah. That really didn’t work out. I don’t want to go into details and scar my poor sister!” Shizuka poked her tongue out but smiled. “So, Dad found out I was gay and he, pretty much told me to leave then and there.”

“I’m so sorry mama left you with that monster,” Shizuka said in disgust. Over the years, between Katsuya’s subtle hints and their mother’s stories about why she got a divorce, Shizuka had become at peace with not knowing her father anymore. But she was too young to talk sense into their mother to plead her for custody. “You wouldn’t understand, you’re just a child,” she would patronise.

“Kaiba and I are dating,” Katsuya blurted out, and Shizuka gasped again.

“Shut up. No you’re not!” Her eyes were almost popping out of her face.

“I swear.”

“Wait. Wait. That whole, thing yesterday? Was that because of you? Tell me everything!”

Katsuya shared their concocted details. How they’d supposedly reconnected through Mokuba. How their relationship started off small and now they were beginning to get alone well. She swooned, hearing Katsuya’s softness in his voice.

“As long as he makes you happy!” she exclaimed at the end, echoing Yuugi’s sentiment.

“Thanks, Zuka, you’re the best!” Katsuya’s heart was warm, knowing that his sister was so kind.

A knock at the door on Shizuka’s end brought the call to an abrupt end, with Shizuka hanging up before saying goodbye, firing a message that just said “mama got home. Didn’t wanna make you deal with that.”

It’s all good, I love you! Talk soon.

Love u 2 ^_^

-

So, the hard part was over, right? Katsuya had told Yuugi (and upon relaying the conversation, Seto reacted similarly to Katsuya at Yuugi’s reaction), and had also finally called Shizuka and outed himself. The whole world was on boyfriend watch. Seto was being photographed from every angle more intently than last week, which was to be expected.

It was time to step things up a notch.

“Where are we going for our first date?”

Katsuya pondered for a while, serving the pair up a homemade Katsudon. He cleared his dishes, cleaning them before joining Seto on the other side of the bench. “I guess that we don’t really need to ‘get to know’ each other or anything, but a classic would be dinner, right? It’s an easy way to have a conversation without any real effort.” He poked the runny egg on top of his chicken, letting it spill through his rice.

“Is there anywhere you want to go?”

“Why don’t you wine and dine me, rich boy?” Katsuya poked his tongue out before shovelling his food down. “I have zero fine dining experience. I’m sure they’ll be itching to photograph us somewhere fancy.”

“Well, what’s your favourite food?” Kaiba asked, as he sipped on his Miso soup that Katsuya had also hand-made, using his chopsticks to fish out the tofu and green onions.

“Steak, burgers, somethin’ like that. Nothin’ so fancy that you’re done in like, two bites.”

Kaiba screwed his face up at the idea of something so lower class. “A fine steak will be appropriate,” Kaiba mused, pulling out his phone to search a venue, prodding the mobile in Katsuya’s direction. “Does this look satisfactory to you?”

Katsuya grinned “yeah, but at those prices, you’re paying.”

“As per our agreement,” Seto muttered. “Just be home by seven, dressed nicely. I trust that you’ve sorted yourself with some new attire.”

“That’s tomorrow’s job,” Katsuya admitted. “I have a day off. But, Mokuba has agreed to go with me since it’s the weekend, so he’ll be able to tell me what he thinks, and what he thinks you’ll like.”

“Excellent.” Kaiba finished his Miso, putting the bowl by the kitchen sink. “If you don’t mind, I have some emails to follow up on. I’ll see you tomorrow evening.” He took his yet-untouched Katsudon with him, and Katsuya smiled to himself, glad that Seto’s diet was now only about 70% caffeine.

-

The shopping trip with Mokuba was successful. The kid had style and taste, and it was the first time Katsuya had ever considered dressing well. Scared to jump right into the waters of fashion, he merely dipped his toes with some well fitted shirts, and skinny jeans that made him look slimmer and taller. When he was dressing himself that evening, he certainly felt like he looked a little more the part. Maybe it was his attitude? Maybe it was his first ever public date with a guy?

Promptly at seven, Seto and Katsuya met in the kitchen, Seto leaning over the kitchen counter, idly twirling his car keys around his fingers in the most relaxed pose Katsuya could recall ever seeing him in.

He almost seemed human.

“Hey.”

Seto looked up at the scruffy blonde, whose hair had been tamed a little without losing his signature mess. A slimming black buttoned shirt with red stitching accentuated his chest, and black skinny jeans tucked neatly into his new Chucks.

“I see you heeded my advice and decided to dress appropriately.”

Katsuya modelled his jeans with a wink. “Mokuba’s got fashion sense. Well, I also have fashion sense, but no money. What a difference a proper pair of fitted jeans makes. Does my butt look big in this?” He twirled around, before pulling a peace sign.

Seto ignored his comment, standing up straight and smoothing out his clothes. Katsuya slyly checked out Seto, who wasn’t donning his extravagant trench coat, but rather a sleeker navy double-breasted coat over a white button-down, and black slim dress pants. A bit of subtle makeup framing his eyes and cheeks that Katsuya caught only as he squinted his eyes.

“It’s for the press, if you must know,” Seto sighed, almost as if he could read Katsuya’s thoughts. “It’ll stop me from looking ghastly.”

“Oh, yeah. I remember you putting some on when you...”

Seto grabbed his phone out of his pocket, and scrolled for a bit before pointing at two magazine photos, and Katsuya noted the difference in complexion. “I’m guessing that one is without makeup?”

Seto nodded. “You want me to put some on you too?”

Katsuya shrugged. “Well, if it stops me from looking like I’m only here to haunt your ass, sure.”

Seto nodded thoughtfully, and leaned over, pulling a few small tubes from his pocket, before deciding on Katsuya’s skin tone match. “Don’t move, and I won’t smudge this.”

Katsuya melted into the soft touches he wouldn’t have expected from the cold and calculated CEO, feeling a weird sensation around his eyelids of the eyeliner lightly pulling his skin with it. “This is much easier to do on somebody else,” Seto murmured. “Plus, your western facial features aren’t difficult to work with.”

“I didn’t realise you had to think about things like this all the time,” Katsuya muttered, as mascara was applied to his lashes.

“Celebrity men use makeup on the regular. I’m high-profile enough for it to matter.” Seto stepped back and looked at Katsuya’s face. “I think that’ll do.”

Katsuya pulled out his phone and had a look in the selfie camera. “That doesn’t look bad,” he admitted.

“If you ever need, I can show you how to cover bruises.”

Katsuya crinkled his face. “Why would you ever need to cover bruises.”

“Dumbass, we got in so many fights at school. Did you think I didn’t bruise or something?”

Katsuya poked his tongue out at the smirking brunette. “Shall we go?”

“Naturally.” Katsuya followed Seto out the kitchen door and to the garage at the back of the property, gawping at the vast number of sleek sports cars and the like.

“No limo today?” Katsuya jested.

“I’d rather take you in style,” Seto replied, picking a two-door black Maserati and gesturing for Katsuya to get in. “It is a date after all.”

“So then, are you not going to open the door for me?”

“Fuck off,” was Seto’s curt reply.

-

Awkward at first, Katsuya sat at the table with too many forks and knives and whatever was going on in front of him. The menu in front of him had words in languages he didn’t quite understand, and he just felt uncomfortable, like he was being scrutinised for every motion he was going to make.

After all, they were out to get noticed, right? There were at least twenty other couples in the restaurant, but they’d managed to get ushered into a small private table in the corner with gorgeous Western art. A waiter bowed and handed them the drinks list, before politely bowing and leaving the pair to be.

Seto raised one eyebrow, watching Katsuya squint at the menu. “Are you alright?”

“I can’t read this garbage,” Katsuya huffed. “Why didn’t this place give me a normal Japanese menu?”

“You can’t read English?” Seto asked. “I thought you were half.”

“I’m conversational,” Katsuya quipped back. “I did all my schooling here though. I can’t read or spell well in English though. Plus, lots of this shit is French or whatever.”

Seto thought for a moment, passing his own Japanese menu over. “Since you’re uncultured…new to all this,” he corrected, “I figure we’ll just get something easy to share, like this.” He pointed out the set menu “Steak for Two” set, with different cuts of meat, with seasonal vegetables, and a dessert at the end. “It’ll give you lots of things to try.”

“Yeah, that looks nice,” Katsuya muttered, choosing to ignore Seto’s unnecessary comment, closing the menu and handing it back. “I’ll follow your lead.”

“And for a drink?”

Katsuya thought for a moment. “I guess I’ll just have some tea.”

“You’re welcome to get a beer or sake,” Seto replied.

“I’m nineteen,” Katsuya mentioned softly.

“I’m Seto Kaiba,” he replied, staring at Katsuya, til they both laughed. Did Kaiba just make a joke? He must be dreaming.

“Nah, if you’re drivin’, I won’t drink either. We can make that for when we’ve got transport.”

“Fair.” Seto motioned for the waiter to pass by their table. “Good evening,” Seto said smoothly. “I’d like to get the Kobe Steak for Two with the seasonal vegetables.” The waiter nodded and murmured a few words, where Seto nodded along. “And a pot of green tea to share.”

Katsuya looked in disbelief at the stark difference between Seto’s inhouse manners, considering he was usually an asshole in public. He pinched his arm under the table to make sure he wasn’t dreaming.

“And anything for you?” The waiter asked in English to the inattentive blonde.

“Uhhh…I think we’re sharing dinner,” Katsuya said with a little shock.

“Certainly,” the waiter breezed off.

“Do they often talk to you in English?” Seto asked.

Katsuya rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I guess I get a lot of English. I don’t really look Japanese at all so I assume they think I’m some military brat or something.”

“Does it make you uncomfortable?”

Katsuya thought for a minute; he’d never really been asked that before. “I guess it does and it doesn’t. Like, sometimes foreigners stop me on the street not knowin’ who I am from the Duel Monsters scene and it’s nice t’ help them. But then also I’m much more fluent in Japanese obviously so it can get frustrating, and when you reply in Japanese sometimes they don’t acknowledge you’re talking Japanese to them and they’ll reply back in English.” Katsuya took a deep breath. “I wouldn’t change it for the world but yeah.”

“Do you have dual passports?”

“Yeah,” Katsuya replied. “Dad’s American so he’s kept my American passport up to date but did you know you have to choose when you’re like, 21 or something?”

“I’d heard that was the case.” Seto nodded at the waiter as he set down the teapot, placing two cups in front of them. “Have you decided what you’ll do?”

“If I get put in the position to choose, I’ll probably keep my Japanese passport,” Katsuya said, as he watched Seto carefully pour the tea. “My sister is here and she’s the most important person to me.”

“I see,” Seto picked up his cup and motioned for Katsuya to do the same. “Let’s make a toast.”

“Okay.”

“To this preposterous position we’re in, and to not killing each other in the last few weeks.”

“I’ll toast to that,” Katsuya laughed, clinking his teacup against Seto’s, laughing. If his seventeen-year-old self could see him now, he’d pass out.

“So, you mentioned your sister. Where is she living?”

Katsuya clutched the teacup, warming his hands. “Her and ma live near Tokyo. My parents got divorced when I was about eight. Ma took Shizuka-Chan, and left me with my father. I survived. I got here. I’ve seen her a handful of times but Ma doesn’t make it easy. I think I remind her of him.” Katsuya clammed up, not really wanting to talk about it anymore. Seto didn’t quite understand, though his story was similar enough. At least he got to stay with his brother through the abuse and shitty upbringing. He daren’t say anything though.

Seto acknowledged the waiter who put down some pickles and other pre-meal snacks at the table.

“I’m sure she knows you care about her.”

“Right. Yeah. Sure.” Katsuya picked up his fork and stabbed at the pickle, squinting his eyes at it suspiciously as if he felt like it was out of place. Or maybe he felt a little out of place, holding a fork instead of chopsticks and feeling a little like the foreign stereotype he looked, but not acted like.

“Are you okay?” Seto narrowed his eyes.

“Yeah, sorry. I’m just uncomfortable, ya know? I haven’t been on a date in a while and nowhere this fancy.”

Seto sighed and leaned back in his chair. “If it was too much you should have just said something.” Katsuya shook his head in dismissal and smiled, wondering where this kindness was coming from but he chalked it down to show, knowing that cameras would be waiting around the corner to photograph them. He wondered if he was truly ready for the storm that was brewing, but shrugged off the feeling when the steak came out in front of him, glistening with glaze and smelling like heaven.

“Dis looks incredible.” Katsuya’s eyes widened, and Seto could tell he was salivating at the light sizzle of the hotplate, popping sounds overflowing the light classical themed ambience. He made a mental note that Katsuya’s mood could change in an instant if given a snack. He thought of a quip about how it was much akin to a puppy, before scrubbing that from his thoughts. He had to remind himself that those kinds of jokes weren’t who they were anymore, no matter how much his reflex told him otherwise.

“A change of heart now that the food is here?” Seto hid a smirk.

“You know they say a way to someone’s heart is through their stomach!” Katsuya grinned, and Seto rolled his eyes before clapping his hands together and saying ‘Itadakimasu.’ Katsuya followed with his grace, and Seto gestured for Katsuya to take the first bite of the carefully marbled steak.

“Oh my God Kaiba, this is so good.”

“Seto,” he whispered softly.

Katsuya looked up, perplexed.

“We’re in public, Katsuya. You should call me Seto.”

“Right,” Katsuya nodded and ate the steak in relative peace, feeling a little uneasy using Seto’s first name, and uneasy hearing Seto say his.

“Everything fine, gentlemen?” the waiter passed by the table, bowing deeper to Seto than Katsuya.

“Everything’s fine.” Seto replied. “Oh, that reminds me. I wanted to leave a tip.” He smirked as he indicated for the waiter to lean in. Whatever Kaiba whispered into his air caused him to bow with a red face, and apologise before scampering off.

“What was that?” Jou hissed, and Kaiba raised his eyebrows.

“Just told him that he shouldn’t assume his customers know English.”

-

Seto Kaiba out for dinner with newly-announced boyfriend. Insiders share the gossip.

Katsuya picked up the paper, and read out the first paragraph, clearing his throat before launching in.

“After a dramatic coming-out announcement, Kaiba-San wasted no time wining and dining his new boo at Steak House Yamasaki last night. Insiders have confirmed the identity of the mystery hunk as Katsuya Jounouchi, who to readers will be most recognisable from his time in the Duel Monsters arena, placing second to Seto Kaiba himself in the Spring Grand Prix. While the pair looked a little icy over dinner, insiders say this relationship has been a longstanding one of rivalry from Domino High. We can’t wait to find out what sparked this rivals-into-lovers story.” Katsuya threw the paper joyously at Seto as he walked in the door after work. “Babe, they called me a hunk!”

“You can’t pick up emotions through a single picture sent from an outdated camera phone,” Seto scoffed, throwing the paper in the trash bin.

“Hey, hey! Don’t you want to keep that for the scrapbook. We can tell our great grandchildren about our first date.” Katsuya sighed dramatically. “Maybe if you looked like you were into dating me, the media would believe it.” Katsuya leaned back into the bar chair, eating his homemade dumplings carefully, save burning his tongue.

“Contrary to belief, I was enjoying myself,” Seto replied coolly. “We conversed for a while and I learned a lot about you.” Seto grabbed a dumpling off the side of Katsuya’s plate as he passed through the kitchen.

“Enough about me to keep this going for another eleven dates?” Katsuya asked as he scowled at his stolen dumpling going down the hatch.

“I’m a man of my word,” Seto said simply, choosing to linger in the doorway twirling his car keys idly in his fingers. “I don’t think it will be so difficult, I guess we just have to look like we’re more into it, but that will also come in time as long as I don’t slaughter you while you’re living here.”

“What is this, a personal best of five weeks where we’ve seen each other consistently and we haven’t resulted to name calling or fist-fights?” Katsuya goaded.

“Minimal name-calling. I can start again if you so please, dumbass.”

“Hey, fuck you!” Katsuya poked his tongue out and Seto pulled his middle finger childishly as he sauntered up the stairs to his office.

-

“Jounouchi-San!” a reporter jogged by Jou’s bike as he slowed down before getting to work, a hoodie covering his uniform. “Do you mind answering a few questions?”

Katsuya blushed, not yet encountering anybody publicly asking him about their relationship, choosing to purely speculate.

“Sure. I guess.” He shrugged, not seeing the harm. Seto had said to act normal, and Katsuya was a personable guy who liked to talk. No reason to clam up. He was also relatively comfortable to shoot down any questions that were too far, politely, of course.

“So, Kaiba-San and you have a history dating back to high school. What kind of relationship?”

Jou hopped off his bike, and walked beside the reporter, thinking. “We were mainly rivals, as you would have seen through the KaibaCorp Duel Monsters Tournaments. I have a short temper, and he used to get under my skin.”

“And, how did you reconcile that?”

Jou shrugged. “I’m friends with Mokuba. We kept bumping into each other, and then ended up building a conversation after a while. I don’t really have an incredible story about confessing our love to each other, it just happened.” While the timeline was a lie, it was technically true if you stripped it back. They went from incommunicative, to becoming friendly enough.

“What’s your favourite thing about Kaiba-San?”

Jou smiled. “He’s hardworking. He’s earned everything he has. He’s unapologetic.”

“And the one thing that drives you crazy?”

Jou laughed. “He’s stubborn. I wouldn’t expect anything less from him. But, if he’s got his mind set, it takes a lot to sway him. I haven’t quite mastered that technique yet.”

The reporter bowed, thankful to get an interview with Jounouchi, and left him in peace.

-

“Jounouchi-San. My office, please.”

Jou looked up from unpacking the shipment of ready-to-eat meals, organising them neatly in the chiller. “Sure,” he said, packing the box away neatly and sliding the craft knife into his pocket. A feeling of dread washed over him, and he shut the door lightly to his manager’s office.

“Jounouchi-San, I just wanted to talk about your performance recently.”

His boss was a short man with grey eyes and a distinct lack of personality. Jou made sure never to stick out and to always take feedback at work with stride. He said yes to shift covers whenever he could, and didn’t complain when he was stuck on night shifts. After all, he needed his job and it’d proven to be more secure than the first convenience store he’d worked at during high school.

“Sure,” he said demurely.

“I know you’ve been doing your best recently,” his boss looked some paperwork on the desk and Jou noticed his name written at the top. Fear washed over him. “Don’t think we haven’t noticed a change in attitude.”

Jou’s eyes widened. This wasn’t how the conversation was meant to go, and he breathed out, not realising he’d been holding his breath the whole time.

“I’d like to offer you a promotion and a pay rise.”

Jou stared at his boss in disbelief. He didn’t believe it, as his boss slid a new contract towards him, and marvelled at the words like they weren’t in Japanese. A 300 Yen per hour pay rise. Alternating weekends off. All shifts started no earlier than 6am, and ran no later than midnight. No more graveyards. Jou nearly shouted in excitement before reading the job description.

Day shift manager.

“Are…are you sure?”

His boss nodded roughly, and pushed a pen his way. “You’ve been with us for almost two years now. Your dedication and commitment to the job has really helped us out. You deserve a little more structure.”

Surely this month couldn’t get better, could it? A free place to stay. A liveable wage for when he found his apartment? Even though it took getting kicked out of home, it was certainly nice that life was starting to fall into place. Jou considered it no more, scrawling his name on the line. “Thank you. Thank you so much.” Jou bowed deeply.

“Thank you so much, too.” His boss bowed back. “Off the record, but I believe your newly public relationship with Seto Kaiba is doing you some good.”

Jou blushed. “Ah, thank you. Thank you.” He bowed as he left the office, a blush on his cheeks.

-

Katsuya, with a change in hours, was home three days a week now. Weekends were a little emptier with Mokuba spending more time involved in school activities and friends his own age, and nights spent helping Seto with various KaibaCorp projects. Seto seemed to be letting his younger brother slowly in on more meetings and business proposals, but he was thankful to see the kid could still be a teenager. He’d dwelled on where Seto’s lack of a social life had stemmed from, considering his younger brother was so well looked after.

He’d found himself curious for more interactions with Seto, ironically at the time Seto was the busiest at work. They’d found themselves comfortable with dinnertime chatter, a little bit of office banter, and Seto had even learned, even though sparingly used, what jokes were. Nothing substantial though. Jou merely figured his crave for more interaction came from the fact that he was winning in a sense. Breaking down Seto Kaiba’s ice-sculpture of a personality was an accomplishment.

Katsuya assumed Seto had gotten home a little after 1am, as he hadn’t heard from him before he’d slid into his too-comfortable bed, but had noticed light coming from his cracked office door around 5am when he’d gotten up to take a leak.

Dressed in only his boxers, he slinked down the hall of two minds to check in on the over-worked CEO, and decided mid-bathroom break that he’d gamble it. It’d been three days since he’d last seen him; and Katsuya was sure he’d not even been home in that time.

He cracked the door open slowly a little more, and bespeckled eyes rose from the glowing computer with a slight frown.

“It’s five in the morning Jounouchi. What do you want?”

Katsuya yawned and stretched a little before letting himself in. “I needed to pee. Noticed ya door was open.”

“Charming. So, you barge into my office without pants on for what reason?”

Katsuya blushed, remembering he was only being covered by minimal clothing. “Just makin’ sure you’re okay.”

“Thanks mom,” Seto rolled his eyes and Katsuya scowled. “Next time I need you to check up on me though, I’ll ask for it.” Whether it be worse from the blue glow of the screen though, Katsuya could tell Seto was incredibly fatigued, blinking a little longer than normal each time.

“Go to bed,” Katsuya pleaded.

“I have work to do.”

“It can wait til ten,” Katsuya argued. “You’re tired as fuck man.”

“The world doesn’t wait for me to get beauty sleep.”

“The world will wait on you,” Katsuya hissed. “You’re Seto fuckin’ Kaiba and if you want a meeting you call the press and a thousand people turn up. If you need another five fucking hours for a deadline, then take that damn time.”

Seto sighed, and pressed a few more buttons until his screen went black. “Fine. I’ll sleep. For three hours.”

“I’ll counter. Don’t set your alarm and sleep as much as you need.”

“Why do you care anyway?”

“Because your brother loves you and you’re being an idiot.”

Seto wheeled back from his desk and got out of his chair. He stood in the doorway eye-to-eye with Katsuya and sighed. “I’m not going to make a habit of listening to you.”

“I wouldn’t steer you wrong, jackass,” Katsuya mumbled, leaning into Seto’s bubble. “You need to live a little.”

“You need a work ethic.”

“Hey, fuck you,” Katsuya said softly. “I got a pay rise and a promotion, not that you’ve even been around to talk to me, and I’ve saved enough to move out once this stunt is over.”

“Hit a nerve?” Seto smirked, and Katsuya pushed himself away from Seto’s personal space with a scowl.

“I’m too tired to deal with you.” Katsuya pulled a peace sign and sauntered back to his room, yawning as he shut his door and slid back under his covers.

It took him a while to sleep though, thinking about Seto’s conviction. He knew that he was mainly working hard for the betterment of Mokuba, but he still couldn’t help but be wound up, despite being unable to pinpoint why.

-

To his surprise, and even more so Mokuba’s, Seto didn’t appear until around half-nine. The kitchen counter was stacked high with freshly made pancakes and berries, maple syrup, and bananas. Mokuba’s hair was unkempt and he was still in pyjamas, but he was digging into his plate stacked six-high with glee. Katsuya’s plate rivalled, although yet untouched as he cleaned up his dishes. The third plate, which Seto assumed to be his, had two neat fluffy circles in the centre, with the word “workaholic” arranged with blueberries on top.

“Mornin.’” Seto said, ruffling Mokuba’s hair and taking a seat, noticing the arrangement. Katsuya looked behind him to notice Seto’s scowl.

“C’mon, don’t be like dat,” Katsuya poked his tongue out. “I’m just messin’ with ya.”

Seto just shook his head but his left cheek twitched like he was supressing a smile.

“Have you been alright?” Seto asked to Mokuba.

“Yeah!” He grabbed another mouthful, maple syrup dripping off his fork onto his chin. “Katsuya’s been lookin’ after me!”

“Have you done your homework?”

“Mmm!” Mokuba went to speak with his mouth full until Seto gave him a glare. He washed it down with a glass of banana milk. “Yeah, everything’s done. Katsuya checked over some of my Art homework.”

“What are you trusting him for?” Seto reached over to the coffee pot and poured himself a coffee.

“Ruuuuude,” Katsuya spoke up. “Art’s my strong point.”

Mokuba giggled. “You sound like a married couple.” Both teens glared at the raven teen who laughed more. “It’s true!” Mokuba jumped off his seat, successfully demolishing the pile of pancakes. “Thanks for breakfast, Kats’!” He bounced up to his room to get dressed for the day.

Katsuya came and sat beside Seto who was taking his first sip of coffee for the day. “How’s it going?”

“Fine.”

“Sorry about last night. Just worry about you sometimes.”

“I can handle myself,” Seto snapped, and then took a deep breath. “I appreciate the concern though,” he added softly.

“What’s the agenda for the day?”

“Just some reports and things to catch up on. If I can get it all done today then I can spend some time with Mokuba tomorrow.”

Katsuya poured syrup on his pancakes, letting it pool around the edges. “Y’know, with the crap I give ya, I do think you’re such a great brother to Mokuba.”

“I’d do anything for him…” Seto trailed off into thought and the room was silent for more than a few moments.

“Oh hey,” Katsuya spoke to break the silence. “Should we go on another date sometime soon?”

“Probably.”

“Where do you want to go? Dinner again? A movie?”

“We can’t just go on a normal movie date,” Seto replied, spinning around on his chair so his body language indicated he was open to talking. “Who’s going to believe that we’re dating when I could rent everything on catalogue at home?” Katsuya looked a tad crestfallen until Seto finished musing. “However, we could go to a premiere, and I do have an invite to one next week that I was otherwise going to decline.”

“A…premiere?” Katsuya’s mouth gaped and Seto reached over his pancakes and pushed it closed with his right index finger.

“The world already knows your name now, my dear.” Seto said and then rolled his eyes. “It could be a place we debut our relationship, rip the plaster off, and enjoy snacks you can’t pronounce.”

“What movie is it anyway?”

“Dragon Blaster.” The series had become a huge hit after the KaibaCorp company had bought the studio and injected cash into it, hence his name on the Guest List.

“Oh my gosh Kaiba really?!”

Seto raised an eyebrow.

“Fuck yeah, that’d be wicked!”

“Fine. It’s on…” Kaiba grabbed his phone and scrolled through his event planner. “Thursday night. It’ll be relatively formal so you’ll need to dress like you’re not homeless.”

“Screw off,” Katsuya jested. “I got a suit and shit.”

“I’d appreciate you toning down your swearing around this house, Jounouchi,” Seto scolded, finishing his first coffee and refilling his cup. He left his plate on the counter and Katsuya grabbed it to begin cleaning up. “I’ll send you the event details so you can familiarise yourself later.” Without a goodbye, Seto slunk back upstairs to his office and left Katsuya who was hiding a big smile.

-

Katsuya felt uncomfortable dressed in a fitted black suit, lined in gold and accented in red, but had been well-assured by Mokuba he looked dashing. Seto had merely hummed, without outright commenting that he approved. Seto’s hand brushed his neck gently as he straightened his collar, and Katsuya darted his gaze away, feeling his cheeks flush.

“Are you ready for this?” Seto wasn’t half-bad looking either, with slim black glasses framing his bright blue eyes. Katsuya hadn’t considered glasses to be conventionally attractive, but he certainly wouldn’t be mad if Seto wore them again.

“It’s just a movie,” Katsuya replied, poking his tongue out before falling into a laugh at Seto’s eye roll.

Seto hesitated, before stepping out his limo, holding his hand out to invite Katsuya. “It’s not just a movie,” he muttered under his breath.

Katsuya stood beside Seto, watching the flashes of the paparazzi come in heavier than when Seto announced his sexuality on live TV. “Pretending to like you is a piece of cake.” Hand in hand, they walked into the theatre, the flashes of light illuminating the red carpet. Katsuya felt like it was gauche for an action movie, but he also felt a little bit Rockstar.

“Welcome, Kaiba-Sama,” a man bowed his head, extending his hand to shake Seto’s. Seto slipped his hand away from Katsuya and into the firm clasp.

“Sato-San.” Seto pulled his hand away quickly. “I trust this sequel will impress me.”

“I certainly hope so.” The man darted a gaze to Katsuya, before reacting with a slight nod.

“Why so cold?” Katsuya muttered.

“He’s the script writer.” Seto darted his eyes around. “His first proposal was garbage.” He grabbed Katsuya’s hand again, snapping his attention away from the crowd and back to the pair. “Shall we find our seats?”

“I’m just here as your accessory,” Katsuya quipped, as he got gently tugged towards the seats. Seto stopped momentarily to greet somebody else in the aisle, and Joey looked around the crowd noticing the jewels on the ladies whose hair was scooped up high, and the men who looked like the opposite of the target audience, with hair slicked back. Even in his suit he felt underdressed. Waitresses came down the aisles handing out champagne and hors d’oeurves.

They settled into their seats, with space either side, and as the lights dimmed, Katsuya relaxed into his seat. Rather than diving into the movie, the night started with a speech about feeling thankful for being able to finish this project just a month later than initially planned, and a big thank you for the KaibaCorp. Seto gratefully accepted a flute of champagne from a girl who looked barely old enough to be employed but was dressed in a skirt that barely hit her thighs, and he leaned into Katsuya to make a remark about “being able to see what people are really like by the types of events they hold.”

“Straight people,” Katsuya muttered back, and Seto fought back a choke on his champagne.

About fifteen minutes of pleasantries later, the speeches and back-patting subsided, and the movie began to play. The cinematics were breath-taking, and Joey was instantly absorbed, feeling the explosions through incredible audio choices.

Unconsciously, he stretched out and brushed his hand against Seto, who didn’t react immediately, but rather slyly interlaced his own fingers between Katsuya’s.

Katsuya felt his face flush, even though there wasn’t an ounce of romance in the movie. He continued to look forward like it was no big deal, but for some reason, he felt those fingers wrapping around his core.

-

The crowd after the movie ended raved about the movie, and the growing crowd poured over Seto, demanding his attention. Katsuya felt uncomfortable for a while, watching people grabbing at his date and excluding him from private conversations, until Seto made his way hastily to the balcony to escape the buzz, locking fingers with Katsuya in a defiant move that signalled ‘this is our time now.’ On their way out, he grabbed two glasses of champagne, though truth be told, Katsuya couldn’t tell the difference between that, or normal wine.

“So, you mentioned you’d been on dates with other people,” Seto mused, as he leaned on the rail and overlooked the lights sprinkling the cityscape. The cool air pressing against his cheeks reminding him that summer was over.

Katsuya looked at Seto, surprised. “Yeah, a few.”

“Tell me about them.”

Katsuya was taken aback, but the champagne made it easier to part with his thoughts. “Well, uh, I kissed a girl a few times when I was fourteen. Turns out she was into girls. Then I dated someone a bit more seriously when I was sixteen. She uh.” Katsuya blushed, and Seto kept staring. “Let’s just say, she was sympathetic when it didn’t work out. Then I dated a guy, a little older than me.” Katsuya looked around to make sure they were still alone. “He got really pushy and tried to push me into things that I didn’t want to do.”

“Sexual?”

Katsuya blushed at the word. “Yeah. Once you’ve been around the gay community for a while you can understand why girls find dating so hard. Some guys think they’re owed sex. I’m strong enough to have gotten myself out of that situation, but since then, I’ve been single.”

“I’m sorry that happened to you.”

Katsuya shrugged. “It is what it is. How about you? Dated anybody before?”

“When I was about fourteen I was “seeing”” Seto used his free hand to mark air quotations “a daughter of a business partner’s, but I was too busy looking at her older brother than her.”

Katsuya laughed lightly. “I can’t imagine you ever being romantically interested in anybody.”

“On the contrary, I think once I find a partner they’ll be a partner for life.”

Katsuya looked his glass, watching the bubbles rise and pop, before taking the rest of the glass in one go, leaning in on the railing too, brushing his arm against Seto’s. “I think, if you can show this side of you, and not just the rich asshole that everyone else sees, then you’re gonna make someone very happy.” Katsuya’s words came with a slight slur, and he smiled impishly at Seto whose eyes were fixated on the overconfident blonde.

“I’m almost flattered you think so.” He put his hand beside Katsuya’s, brushing his pinky softly along the side of Katsuya’s hand. “It’s getting late, I’m bored. Let’s leave.”

“Okay.” Katsuya pushed himself off the rail, and spun to face the crowd, before linking his hand in Seto’s confidently. They pushed through the crowd that murmured about them like they hadn’t quite believed the tabloids and Seto couldn’t help but smile to himself that they were all a gullible bunch of idiots.

Isono had brought the limo around, and they’d slid into it with cameras flashing in the background, but as the pair hit the back seats they didn’t adjust their distance. Whether it be because of alcohol, or progress in their friendship, they absently stayed with their hands linked in silence as they were driven back to Kaiba’s.

-

“Hey, lovebirds,” Mokuba mocked as he passed by the kitchen, dropping the newspaper in front of them. A photo of them from last night, holding glasses of champagne and leaning in adorned the gossip section. “I’m going out today to study at a friend’s house. Thought I better give you some space.” He winked.

“Get out of the house before I decide to ground you, brat!” Seto shouted after him, and he heard a click of the back door behind him. He picked up the paper and read the article aloud. “Dragon Blaster a hit with fans. But if you were left hanging for a romance plotline you would have to wait until the credits rolled and the after party started. Spotted, a fresh romance heating up on the second-floor balcony as Seto Kaiba and Katsuya Jounouchi ditch the crowd to get lost in each other’s eyes. But alas, no lip-locking. Who’s going to be the one to get the first photo of them kissing?”

Katsuya spluttered as he choked on his cereal. Friendship seemed achievable - they’d made a lot of progress recently. But there was no chance in hell that he’d be kissing Seto. Basic, believable affection was in the terms and conditions but no tongue-hockey. Ew.

Seto looked at Katsuya, concerned, until he’d gained composure. “Don’t die.”

“Cheers for the concern,” Katsuya mumbled, avoiding Seto’s gaze, his face hot with embarrassment.

“What do you think?” Seto threw the newspaper down in front of Katsuya, and poured himself a second coffee.

Katsuya stared blankly at the photo. “It’s all whatever, isn’t it? They got a photo of us lookin’ cozy. Job done.”

Seto cleared his throat but didn’t follow through with any words.

“Oh what? About the uh…” Katsuya trailed off. “That’s uh…a bit weird.” His hands felt clammy. His life decisions flashed before his eyes; how did he end up having a conversation with Seto Kaiba about kissing?

Seto stared into his black coffee, stirring twice before adding another teaspoon. Head filled with a headache that certainly wasn’t a hangover. “Understood.” His aura darkened, and he left without saying goodbye, before holing himself up in his office.

He absently stared at the article on his computer for a while, before attempting to dive into editing a product design that was due on Wednesday morning. But nothing came to his fingers, mind still cloudy. Even his coffee couldn’t force his brain into work mode; he just became agitated.

He felt like he needed a cigarette again.

-

After Kaiba’s unexplained standoffishness, Katsuya gave him some space. He wasn’t avoiding him, but he wasn’t going out of his way to be around either. Katsuya thought of himself as an affectionate guy, and nothing from the date made him feel weird, but he tried to see it from Seto’s point of view; having never dated before. Having never had a friend before.

Having never kissed anybody.

And Katsuya had never considered that they’d be expected to be anything but a little cuddly. He could fake the rest, especially with a little wine. He could be friendly, they could be in on the façade together. But, he couldn’t fake Seto Kaiba kissing him because that meant Seto Kaiba kissing him.

Katsuya found it lucky that Seto was always so busy; never home before nine on a weeknight. He’d made sure to have dinner ready and cleaned up before Seto returned from the office, and had holed himself in his room on nights where Mokuba wasn’t home.

Mokuba obviously wasn’t helping the situation, asking Jou whether it was in their terms and conditions, ribbing him when he’d gotten all awkward. “Do you like like my brother?”

“No way in hell. It’s like dating an icicle.”

“At the rate you’re rubbing off on him, he’ll be down to a cuddly ice-cube in twenty years!” Mokuba poked his tongue out and Katsuya smacked him with a pillow. Katsuya didn’t expect their friendship to last past the three-month expiry date.

Deflecting the conversation, they’d picked up their racing game and continued to smack talk each other. Mokuba’s insults were carefully crafted, and Katsuya could see the cheeky teen picking up his brother’s bad habits. He was lucky he was so personable.

Seto’s sinking himself into work must have caused Mokuba concern in the following days, mulling over whether to interrupt him.

“Jou, I gotta ask you a question.” Mokuba sat cross-legged on his bed, flicking through a magazine while Katsuya lay on his floor, playing a pre-release copy of Dragon Blaster, courtesy of Mokuba, which was set to launch in a week with the official screening of the movie.

 “Sure,” Katsuya paused the game, and spun around, resting his hand on his right hand. “What’s up?”

“Is Seto doing okay?”

Katsuya shrugged. “What do you mean by that?”

“I just…he’s been really weird this week. I haven’t been around much but, he seems distracted.” Mokuba sighed, absently twirling a strand of his raven hair between his fingers.

“I’m sure it’s just work, kid. I haven’t seen him at all.”

“Really? Huh.” Mokuba looked back down at his magazine. “It just seems a bit unlike work stress. He’s a bit of a hard-ass normally, but he seems a lot less present. Work doesn’t seem to bother him like this, he’s pretty good at making decisions and keeping to deadlines. Maybe I should just ask him what’s up.” He hummed absently, staring at the page but not taking in any words. “I just don’t want to interrupt him, he’ll tell me everything’s fine and nothing will change.”

Katsuya dwelled on Mokuba’s words, “well, I suppose I probably need to talk to him soon. Do you want me to just check in with him and see if everythin’s alright?”

Mokuba smiled. “That’d be great! You’re the best Katsuya. Maybe I should ask Seto if I can keep you.”

“I’m not a cat, Mokie. I don’t need adopting.”

“Nah, from what Seto says, more of a puppy.” Mokuba shielded himself with a pillow as Katsuya threw a pen at him, dissolving into a fit of giggles at Katsuya’s screwed up face. “I’m just messing with you. Seto hasn’t referred to you as a dog for years. At least,” Mokuba’s eyes glinted “not in public anyway. Dunno what kind of roleplay you do when I’m not around.”

“Excuse me?!” Mokuba howled as Katsuya tormented him with tickles.

-

I’m just going in to figure out our next date and check up on him for Mokuba, Katsuya reasoned, knocking on Seto’s office door, but hearing no response. He braved it anyway, pushing Seto’s door open gently. Behind the desk, Seto was drawing on a tablet using a monitor to the side to display a creation that Katsuya couldn’t quite make out, but looked like a prototype for a new Duel Disk model.

“What’cha doing?” Seto didn’t acknowledge Katsuya at first, finishing a few more lines before setting his pen down.

“A handstand.” Seto’s deadpan response hit Katsuya unexpectedly, causing the blonde to laugh.

“Cool. Do you mind if I barge in? Actually, I’m just going to barge in anyway.” Katsuya recovered himself, pushing the door shut, and sat down opposite Seto before he had the chance to deny entry. Seto’s desk was covered in piles of paperwork, and Katsuya noticed a glass filled with amber liquor set to the side.

“What do you want?” Seto asked sharply, before closing the program on his computer down, swivelling to face Katsuya face-on.

“I just…I haven’t seen you around. Figured you’ve been busy but it’s been a week now so I thought I better make sure you hadn’t died or something.”

“You’d know if I was dead,” Seto replied, placing two piles of paperwork neatly to his right, and the rest to his left. “What really brings you in?”

Katsuya shrugged. “Mokuba asked if you’re doing alright. Reckon’s you’re all distracted and stuff.”

“I’m fine.” Seto replied, still unusually cold. “We just have a lot of deadlines coming up that he can’t help me with yet. He needs to concentrate on his studies.”

“Yeah, but he’d still like to see you once every now and again,” Katsuya replied softly.

Seto reached for his glass, drinking to fill the awkward silence.

“Look. I’m sorry shit got awkward the other day,” Katsuya bargained. “I’ll leave you alone if you…”

“Care for a drink?” Seto stopped him midsentence. Katsuya blinked and nodded, sort of confused. Seto pulled another glass from his cubby and an ashtray. “Whisky okay?”

Not much a connoisseur, but Katsuya was enthralled to explore this side of Kaiba, so he nodded and Seto poured himself another glass, and then Katsuya, pushing it towards him. The bottle looked expensive, with leaves engraved in the glass on the sides and a fifties-style label. Katsuya bet it was worth more than a week’s salary to him. “This for special occasions?”

“You could assume that.” Seto took a sip from the top of his glass, before pulling a packet of cigarettes out again, putting one in between his lips, before handing the packet to Katsuya, who grabbed one out too.

The last time Seto and Katsuya had shared a cigarette, he’d encountered an entirely different side of him bordering on a mental breakdown.

Katsuya tasted the Whisky first, the smoky undertones soft. Not much of a spirits drinker, he found it burn his lips until they numbed, before gliding smoothly down his throat. “This ain’t bad!” he exclaimed, before Seto offered to light his cigarette. Seto sat back in his chair, alternating between a drag on his and a sip of Whisky. Katsuya was enchanted by how elegant he looked, carefree.

Katsuya followed his pattern, finding the smokiness of the Whisky blending with the cigarette, and a sweetness following through, and he began to understand why people at bars, who didn’t smoke during the daytime, lit up at night. Katsuya liked the taste of cigarettes, but never wanted to get addicted to them, seldom buying his own packet, but could appreciate the finger-numbing high when things were stressful.

Or the conversation starter, like now.

“So, Mokuba’s worried about me, huh?” Seto said, as he exhaled after a moment of comfortable silence.

“I told him I was sure it was just work, but I also haven’t seen much of you so I think I was just trying to comfort him,” Katsuya admitted, before finishing his glass. A little sensitive to alcohol, his face was already warm. Without asking, Seto poured another glass for Katsuya, finishing his own off before diving in.

“Jeez, you out to get drunk tonight?”

Seto shrugged, before curling his long fingers around the crystal glass. “Maybe. Haven’t been drunk in a while.”

“Neither,” Katsuya hummed, cigarette only half-finished. “I don’t drink often at all. I’ve been drunk maybe twice?”

“I doubt that. Coming from a street rat like you.” Seto smirked, leaning in only to flick his cigarette on the ashtray.

Katsuya shook his head, as he finished another glass before launching into conversation, face feeling contently numb. “Dad’s an alcoholic. I’ve always been a little bit scared of it.” Seto watched as Katsuya looked away for a while, staring at the ceiling as the smoke curled off the tip of his cigarette. “I’m trying to be mindful.”

“Is there a reason why you’re drinking with me then,” Seto asked, watching Katsuya’s body language shift.

There was a moment where he could pinpoint that Katsuya was indeed starting to fall drunk that preceded the sentence “I think I’m just comfortable around you.”

“Any reason why?”

Katsuya shrugged, smiling as if he couldn’t help it. “There’s just been something nice with us. We’re learning to be friends, Seto. It’s cool. I’m glad you finally stopped being such an asshole and just let me be your friend this whole time.”

Seto let out a laugh, before forcing it away. “Is that why you always got under my skin at school?”

“Maybe.” Katsuya shrugged, before stubbing his cigarette out, head feeling like it was floating away in the plume of smoke. “I just knew we needed to find common ground. You were just being a jackass.”

“Because insulting me is really helping your case,” Seto growled, and Katsuya laughed again.

“Hey, we’re here, sitting at your desk, getting drunk. Did’ya think six months ago this could have happened?”

“Not in my wildest nightmares.” Seto’s face was lighting up with the freedom the alcohol, two glasses further in than Katsuya, had given him. “But, you’re here and I’m not exactly displeased by it.”

“Aw, Kaiba’s admitting he likes me,” Katsuya swooned. “My irresistible charm worked. If I can conquer Seto Kaiba, I can rule this world.”

“Third in command to me and my brother,” Seto retaliated. “I hardly think you could stay professional enough to get anything done.”

“Hey, fuck off,” Katsuya exclaimed. “I told you I got a pay rise. Should probably thank you though. I guess it’s your fault.”

“How is it my doing?” Seto laughed at Katsuya’s expressions. “I hardly bribed your boss.”

“Apparently, I’m getting enough beauty sleep to stop being a useless pile. Not that I wanna stay at the convenience store forever. But, money’s money. Dunno what I wanna do with myself yet.” Katsuya smiled to himself. “I’m so thankful to this ridiculous situation. I don’t know what woulda happened if I’d ended up out on the streets.”

“You could have survived. After all, you’re Katsuya Jounouchi. King of the underdogs.”

He chuckled. “I could have. Wouldn’t have been as comfortable though. Woulda taken me a hell of a lot longer. I’ve been saving all of my money except what I’ve been spending on food, so I’ll be able to pay rent for three months.” Katsuya’s voice started slipping on words as the alcohol pumped around his body. “I shoulda considered prostitution earlier.” He cackled.

“You’re not a prostitute, Katsuya,” Seto screwed his face up, and shook his head. “I mean, you can do what you want in your spare time in another few months if you want. I don’t think you need to go down that route though.”

“Just gotta,” Katsuya reached for another cigarette, which Seto followed, “keep pretending to like you.”

 “You like me,” Seto teased with an obvious flush that Katsuya hadn’t noticed between his vision fading in an out of focus. “You admitted it before! You wouldn’t be trying so hard if you didn’t.”

“You,” Katsuya pointed his cigarette at Seto, “just make it difficult. Remember, we said this was a game. Katsuya never backs down from a challenge.”

“You’re losing, Katsuya. You liiiiiiiike me.”

“Ha!” Katsuya threw his hands in the air. “You caught me. I’m even finding myself enjoying this whole fake-dating thing. Can you believe they want us to kiss? Ridiculous.”

Seto took a drag of his cigarette before clearing his glass again. “You chicken?”

“Me? Are you issuing a challenge?” Katsuya’s eyes widened.

“Maybe.”

Katsuya could describe the feeling that twisted in his stomach, unsure whether Seto was drunk or cocky. Maybe they weren’t mutually exclusive. “Jeez. You sure? I mean.”

Seto leaned into the desk, lowering his voice. “It doesn’t have to be much.”

“Have you even kissed anyone before?”

 Seto shrugged, avoiding confirming what Katsuya had assumed. “Can’t be that hard though, right?”

Katsuya hid his face in his hands, before shaking his head. “Nah, we’re not having our first kiss in front of the camera, hel-lo! That’d be so obvious.” He smiled slyly. “We could always practise now.”

“Excuse you?”

“C’mon. We both know it doesn’t mean anything. Just a good old smooch. Just good enough to keep the gossip section at bay. We can laugh at them looking for hidden meaning between our kisses.”

“This is just the alcohol talking.”

“Maybe so, but can you think of a reason why it’s a bad idea?”

Seto shrugged. Fuck it, yeah. Why not? The only people who knew any different were them, and Mokuba. Who was surely going to give them shit once that photo was snapped.

“Alright, you got a sofa or somethin’ somewhere we can relocate to?” Katsuya threw the rest of his glass down his throat, feeling lightheaded as he stood up.

“There’s one in my room. No danger of the brat finding us in there.”

“He’s out,” Katsuya confirmed, pouring himself another glass of whisky sloppily, chucking it down in one go. That should be enough to make it tolerable.

The lights in the hall were brighter and the air wasn’t marred with smoke. Katsuya blinked, looking at Seto’s face, soft and flush. Human. He followed Seto a little further down the hall to the last room, pushing the doors open to a simple room with a large bed, and a sofa in the corner beside an understated bookcase. Seto flicked on just one set of lights that dimly lit the corners of his room, creating an almost romantic ambience.

A kiss under any other circumstance.

“Alright. Sit down, face me.” The pair sat uncomfortably, with alcohol twisting their expressions into reactive giggles. The ridiculousness of it all. “Katsuya’s Kissing Class is now in session.”

“Way to make it cringeworthy,” Seto pouted, and Katsuya pushed him back into the couch until they laughed some more.

“So, there’s like, different types of kisses. Just like, pecks on the cheek like you’d kiss your grandma or whatever. A dry kiss on the lips ain’t anything special. It gets a bit more interesting when you start gettin’ into open mouth kisses. From there, you get intimate and can add tongue but that’s super weird if you’re not like, ya know, wanting to fuck someone.” Seto blushed at Katsuya’s drunken ramble, realising his American accent started coming through his Japanese once he was flush.

“So, like. When you kiss someone, you lean into each other and close your eyes, and the rest just kinda happens. I can’t explain it. I can show you.” Seto blushed, but sat back up, head spinning as he closed his eyes. “And then you tilt your head a little to the right to avoid each other’s noses.” Seto giggled, before gathering his composure, feeling Katsuya’s lips on his.

“Man, your lips are too dry,” Katsuya said, pulling off Seto’s, searching his pockets for a rogue lipstick. Seto’s eyes widened, watching Katsuya in what felt like third-person, realising that he’d just kissed him. He’d just kissed him. And it hadn’t felt like that cliché fireworks thing that he’d read about. Katsuya dragged the strawberry scented balm over his slightly plump lips, and motioned for Seto to do the same. “Okay, this time, just like,” Katsuya cleared his throat. “open your lips just a little bit. It’ll feel a bit nicer. Probably.”

Seto did as he was asked, realising that even if he’d wanted to say no, his mind wasn’t keeping up with what was going on. He pressed his lips against the blonde’s, who weaved one hand through the soft brown hair, pulling Seto a little more into him. Katsuya pulled away lightly after the kiss. “Seto,” he whispered, and Seto fluttered his eyes open. “Don’t forget to breathe for gods sake.”

Seto exhaled, unaware he wasn’t breathing in the first place, before leaning in off his own accord, pressing his parted lips softly on Katsuya’s momentarily, before pressing his weight against Katsuya’s face. Seto’s face felt hot, but he blamed the alcohol. He was certainly drunk. And Katsuya up close smelled a little like vanilla under the alcohol and smoke, and it felt a little comfortable.

“Was that okay?” Katsuya asked softly.

“That was fine,” Seto said, slightly frazzled, not feeling fireworks, but like a box of sparklers lit in the backyard after dusk.

“Do you want to try leading this time?”

And softly, Seto pressed his lips again to Katsuya, putting his hand in the others’ hair, pulling him in for a kiss. He licked his bottom lip lightly to make the kiss softer. And with a few moments of a parted-lip kiss, they both had their hands in each other’s’ hair, along each other’s back, and Katsuya was pushing back, pinning Seto to the couch, breathing deeper than before.

Neither boy pulled away, until Katsuya’s conscience got the better of him, knowing that he was starting to fall into a grey territory with each moment passing. They didn’t feel that way about each other. It was just practise, it was just alcohol, and it wasn’t fair to tease each other. In any other situation, this kind of kissing – making out, even, would have lead to sex, which made Katsuya feel a little frustrated, but a slight bit aroused. And he could have sworn he’d heard an undertone of a breathy moan but he couldn’t pinpoint who it’d come from.

Okay, more than a little aroused. He needed to retreat.

“And that’s how you kiss.” Seto noted the heavy breath following Katsuya’s words.

“Noted…”

Katsuya smiled, hopping off the slimmer brunette with eyelids a little heavier. “I’m gonna head off for a shower. You let me know when we’re next going out for dinner and I’ll wear something nice.” He winked as he slunk through the door, stumbling a little before regaining his composure.

Seto sunk into the couch, and laughed uncontrollably to himself before heading to the bathroom, washing his face in the mirror above his sink that stretched the width of the room. What he saw and what he was doing was so out of sync, he couldn’t help but laugh more. He was so fucking drunk that he’d made out with Katsuya.

And it had felt pleasant.

-

They were kissing on the couch again, ‘for practise’ they’d both said, but the way their hands were travelling down each other’s backs said otherwise.

Hands began undoing Seto’s tie, lips dragged along his collarbone and then down his chest as his shirt was unbuttoned painfully slow.

Dragged from the couch and pushed on the bed, they made out some more. It all seemed so fragmented, with Seto only realising what was happening in stages and as his brain followed the actions. His hands moved without command, pulling the blonde into his body harder, lifting his shirt from the bottom and pulling it over his head. He swore he wasn’t that drunk, but there was no other explanation.

Pants off, face heading south. A smouldering stare from fire-specked eyes asking permission to oh god he’s doing that. Seto’s breath caught in his throat as he tried to supress voiced approval, but, they’re both playing a game, they agreed this was a game, and it’s a battle of willpower that Seto’s starting to lose. He wasn’t aware there were no rules anymore but then he wasn’t sure he cared. Regardless of his brain, his body craved the touch, and he finds himself jutting forward and begging for more, while pretending that this doesn’t faze him at all. It doesn’t.

It’s just a physical reaction to feeling lips dragging along his stomach and around his thighs without going straight for the heat between his legs, and he’s jutting forward because he’s just so sensitive to these touches and he feels like he’s going to unravel at any moment.

And, even if it does faze him, it doesn’t mean it means anything. He might be a little behind on the dating scene, but he knows this is normal and natural and what he’s feeling is just a physical reaction to something that should feel good and he’s Seto fucking Kaiba and he deserves to be pleasured.

It’s not that he has a thing for the blonde. It’s just sex.

It’s not that he has a thing for the blonde. It’s just sex.

And it just feels damn…

*beep, beep, beep*

-

Seto was sitting at the kitchen table stewing over his black coffee, wondering if his brain was turning to mush from the physical contact, the light hangover, or possibly both. His stomach twisted as he recalled his dream, and for a moment he felt nauseous. Though he’d brushed his teeth and showered for longer than normal, he could still taste smoke and whisky on his breath like it was permanently etched there.

“Morning.” The single word cut through the silence and made the hairs on Seto’s neck stand up. He peered up at the bashful blonde, smiling hesitantly.

“You’re up early.”

“I’ve been called into work at midday. The girl who takes the afternoon shift needed to swap today to attend her sister’s wedding out of town this weekend.” Katsuya also looked worse for wear, with bags under his eyes and a yawn on his face. He started by grabbing water out of the purifier, and popping two painkillers before grabbing a banana out of the fruit bowl.

“I see.” Seto was hardly in the mood for conversation before coffee, and even less so this morning, but Katsuya wasn’t taking the hint, sitting himself down at the kitchen counter beside Seto.

“How are you?”

Seto stared into his black coffee. “Fine.” He didn’t really know how to react. Was Katsuya okay with what had happened last night? Had the alcohol pushed them past an invisible boundary that would now make it awkward?

“Why don’t we go out for dinner?” Katsuya continued through the icy response.

“When?”

“Tomorrow night?” Katsuya shrugged, though his heart was racing at the spontaneity. “What time do you get off work?”

“Never,” Seto said.

“Asshole. You know what I mean.”

“Name calling is absolutely going to get you a date,” Seto said, dripping in sarcasm, throwing back the last of his black coffee. “I get off... I finish around eight,” he switched his prose mid-sentence, deciding his choice in phrasing might be off-colour after last night’s dream. “What did you have in mind?” Seto asked, resigning himself to the date although his stomach twisted.

“It doesn’t need to be too fancy. Ramen or something?”

Seto thought for a moment and just shrugged. “That sounds fine.”

“’C’mon man, we’re Japanese. Ramen is the best!”

“I can’t say I’ve eaten it for a while.”

Katsuya stared, mouth agape. “If you go more than two weeks without Ramen, I hear they revoke your citizenship!”

“I can buy it back.” Seto flicked his hand as if to shoo him away.

Katsuya sauntered up to Seto. “What a shame. All this money doesn’t show you culture.”

“You think you’re the epitome of culture?”

“I think you’re the epitome of boring.” Katsuya shot back. “I’d rather be poor and eat Ramen for dinner.”

“Classy.”

“And yet, you’re still dating me.” Katsuya batted his eyelids. “They say opposites attract.”

“The heart wants what the heart wants,” Seto said, deadpan, staring blankly into Katsuya’s golden eyes.

Katsuya laughed and pulled out of Seto’s face. “I’ll meet you at work tomorrow at 8pm if I don’t see you before then. Might as well be seen in your neighbourhood. I finish work a bit earlier than that, so I can come into town.”

“Sure.” Seto replied, rising out of his chair, leaving before his stomach knotted itself completely.

-

It seems awfully presumptuous that Katsuya could march up to KaibaCorp, and demand to be let into Seto Kaiba’s office, but that’s exactly what happened, according to Seto Kaiba.

Really though, Katsuya barely went up to the reception and asked if he could get up there without an appointment, and the girl behind the counter shrugged and said, “as long as you keep the face-sucking to a minimum during business hours. After all, Kaiba-Sama asks us to do as he does on business time.”

If Seto had heard her, she’d probably have been fired, but he laughed and hit the elevator to his office on the top floor. What an antithesis to what Kaiba stood for as a person.

Just like himself.

Katsuya even gave enough respect to be early, but by only by ten minutes. He didn’t want to seem overly keen, but he didn’t want to seem disrespectful. After all, he was so forward asking Seto to dinner without a premise. They’d made out two days earlier and the tension over breakfast yesterday was a little strange. Katsuya wasn’t sure if it was the hangover or Seto’s regret.

Katsuya didn’t regret the kissing – he’d made peace with it, and didn’t count it as that much of a big deal. Nobody had to know about it. If they decided to kiss for the press, they’d done their prep work. And with that recollection, Katsuya swallowed a lump in his throat, feeling a stir in the pit of his stomach. He closed his eyes and willed the feeling away.

“What are you doing in my office?” Seto asked abruptly, as Katsuya strolled in. “I need to upgrade security.”

“Hi honey,” Katsuya replied, ignoring the tone. “It’s only natural for me to intrude, and even attempt to be a little early. Gotta keep up appearances, right?”

Seto rolled his eyes, and finished writing rapidly on his keyboard, before a few clicks signified him saving his work and closing his laptop down. He slid it into his laptop bag beside his desk, and rose out of his chair majestically, stretching his arms above his head. “Where are you dragging me?”

Katsuya pulled the finger. “I’m not dragging you anywhere. I don’t know what your problem is? I can go for dinner alone and leave you to die here in a pile of paperwork.”

“Don’t be so dramatic,” Seto waved his hand, as he slid into his trench coat. “I’m assuming you’ve picked a place.”

“Yeah, it’s got a broad range, not just Ramen, since you’re not really Japanese.”

“I’ll order a ramen if it’ll make you happy.” Seto grabbed Katsuya’s hand and pulled him into the elevator, clicking his office door behind him firmly.

“I just want you to enjoy yourself, too,” Katsuya held onto his hand a little too tightly, but didn’t relent when they hit the ground floor and strolled out the front door. Katsuya had always imagined Seto just teleported into work, or at least had his own entrance via a helipad, so seeing him waltz out of KaibaCorp like a normal person was still strange, even though he’d been photographed doing so.

“The uh, Ramen shop is about two blocks away,” Katsuya piped up after a thick silence. “Just follow me.” He couldn’t place why Seto was being unresponsive, or why he was even having trouble initiating contact, but hoped that a warm and filling meal would loosen him up. He considered the kiss again, but dismissed Seto being shaken by something so trivial.

Incorrectly. Seto was incredibly shaken by the kiss, the dream, and his thoughts that kept dancing through his mind so much so, that Seto had needed to take time to himself during the day. It’d been a long time since Seto’s sex drive had fired up, and he felt disgusted.

Sliding into a dimly lit hole-in-the-wall establishment, Katsuya dragged Seto to a small booth, within sight of the door but still tucked away enough to prohibit eavesdroppers. The booth was stocked with a menu and drinks list, and Katsuya poked them towards Seto who had been spacing in and out of the room.

“Babe, are you gonna order or is thin air sufficient?”

Seto snapped back to the golden eyes staring him down, head crooked and resting in his left hand.

“You seem distant. Do you want to talk about it?”

“I’m fine.” His reply was anything but.

“Okay. Well. Please try and enjoy yourself, right? If you’re mad at me about something can we handle that at home.”

Seto’s eyes flickered up to the concerned blonde’s, and he relaxed infinitesimally. “I’ll grab a Tonkotsu Ramen.”

“Okay. Excuse me!” Katsuya called out at the chef, who was throwing noodles in pans, and frying pork as if he had twelve arms. The chef nodded, and Katsuya called out their order, complete with starters.

The waiter stopped by the table, smiling at the pair, and placed warm towelettes down. Seto wiped his hands methodically, hoping that he’d begin to feel more relaxed soon with food to distract them from honest conversation.

“So, how was work?” Katsuya asked, as he fixed the pair a green tea from the hot tap embedded in the table, stirring the matcha powder in slowly.

“It was fine.” Seto looked at the cup suspiciously for a moment before adding “you?”

“Work’s whatever,” he shrugged. “It’s hardly a career but it’s enjoyable enough.”

Seto nodded, bringing the green tea to his lips, letting the water burn just a little. “What are you going to do for a career?”

Katsuya pondered for a moment, stirring the tea absently with his pinky. “I hadn’t really gotten much further than seeing where duelling takes me. Possibly a trade of some sort? I’m very good with my hands.”

Seto blushed, and Katsuya blushed at his reaction, realising the innuendo that Seto had taken from the conversation without intention.

“Ahh, I mean…”

“Here’s your gyoza,” the waiter interrupted, sliding the pan-fried pork dumplings in front of them. “Enjoy.”

“I know what you meant, Katsuya,” Seto said, plucking one between his chopsticks, and blowing on it lightly before dipping it in the vinegar dressing. “I could see you in such a career.”

Katsuya smiled, before saying itadakimasu, biting into the first gyoza and burning his tongue, “Shit!”

Seto rolled his eyes as Katsuya recovered ungracefully.

“I think I’d like to be an architect, but it takes years of training and an artistic eye, so I think I’ll get into construction or somethin’.”

“I think you could do architecture,” Seto mused, pondering his second gyoza between his chopsticks. “You have a self-proclaimed expertise of the arts, and I know when you set your mind to something you can achieve it, so the mathematics papers wouldn’t be enough to deter you should you pursue it.”

“That’s gotta be the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me,” Katsuya grinned, trying a second time to successfully eat a dumpling.

“It’s only because we’re in public.” Seto’s stoic face remained unmoved, until Katsuya grinned and coaxed a small smile out of his face.

“Whatever. You’re starting to like having a friend. You admitted so on Saturday night.”

“Don’t flatter yourself with such a word.”

The waiter slid the two bowls of Ramen between the pair, bowing to not break the flow of the conversation. Katsuya nodded his head lightly back.

The smell of the spicy miso hit Katsuya quickly, and his stomach rumbled excitedly. “I mean, you can decide that we’re still mortal enemies, but we’re doing pretty alright. A far throw from where I thought we’d be when we were at school.” Katsuya stirred his chopsticks around the Ramen bowl, poking his egg under the broth to let it warm.

“Anything that’s a step above murdering each other in a grimy hallway is a step above what we used to have.” Seto looked down at his ramen, steam rising. He primly gripped his chopsticks and picked off a few bamboo shoots from the top.

“You hav’ta eat faster than that, slowpoke,” Katsuya prodded him. “Th’ noodles get limp after too long and it ruins the ramen.” He grabbed a few between his chopsticks, slurping them up loudly, and Seto recoiled at the unrefined noise. “Oh, come off it, Seto. You’re not better than me.”

Seto rolled his eyes, but picked a few noodles out of the broth, letting them cool in the air for a moment before slowly slurping them up with as little noise as possible. He had to admit, the Tonkotsu broth was warming him from the inside and was almost comforting. Over the hustle and bustle of the restaurant, Seto could only hear Katsuya’s enthusiastic slurping and when he caught eye contact, Katsuya smiled with his eyes.

Katsuya finished his ramen in record time, and ploughed into the leftover gyoza, sitting there with oil on the surface. Seto slowly continued with his ramen, much bigger than his appetite. He picked at the green onions once the bowl was only half-full, and decided that he’d had enough.

“You want me to finish it?”

Seto shrugged, and pushed the bowl towards the human garbage compactor. “I’m impressed that you’re so slim yet can eat so much.”

“You lose a lot of weight when you’re chasing dreams and hustling.” Seto rolled his eyes and Katsuya laughed lightly. “Nah man, I bike to work from your house. It takes me a bit more effort to keep it off being half to be honest.” And in moments, the ramen was no longer in the bowl.

“I hope you enjoyed that.”

Seto nodded, relinquishing his rights to say that Ramen wasn’t a good meal. It certainly had its place in the throes of winter. “It was acceptable.”

“Would you come again?”

“If you asked me I’d be inclined to say yes.”

Katsuya smiled at his victory, and reached for a napkin to wipe his lips. Seto watched him intently as he did, noticing that he’d missed a drop on his cheek that had settled into his dimple, so without warning, he reached over the booth and smoothly wiped it off. Katsuya pulled back from the soft touch and looked into Seto’s narrowed gaze.

“Are…are you alright?”

Seto nodded, with stoic expression, and stood from the table with empty bowls and scrunched up serviettes.

Katsuya’s stomach did that thing again, as he stood up and followed Seto, falling in line with his steps out the building. In the alley outside, Seto stopped for a moment, surveying his surroundings.

“You all…?”

Seto grabbed Katsuya’s face softly and before he had time to finish his sentence, he felt soft, warm lips on his own, so he closed his eyes and let it happen. Oh god, he wanted to let this happen and it felt so real. It was only for seconds, but Katsuya felt lost in the kiss for hours, and was pretty sure he moaned softly onto Seto’s, who shivered at the vibration.

Seto pulled away quickly again, regaining his composure, and feeling a flush dance on his cheeks. “Sorry,” he mumbled, and put his hand in Katsuya’s, dragging them out onto the main street again. For almost a block back towards Seto’s work, they didn’t talk. Until Seto just softly explained it with one word. “Paparazzi.”

Katsuya deflated without realising it. “Oh.” As they were walking though, Katsuya thought about the kiss and how it didn’t feel wrong or out of place. It felt nice. Right. Sweet.

Fuck. Katsuya was catching feelings. Not strong ones, but still, feelings.

The mood in the car as they headed back to the mansion was thick; and Seto could hear every rise and fall of Katsuya’s chest. He turned on the radio to distract him and to fill the silence but it was nothing like filling the void with Katsuya’s constant babbling that he was getting used to, if not even finding it endearing.

Shit.

-

“I didn’t know you’d taken your relationship that far,” Mokuba said, deadpan.

Seto blinked and looked up from his coffee, finding his gaze lost in Mokuba’s scraggly hair. “Excuse me?”

“Don’t play dumb, Seto. You knew a photo of you two would end up in the paper.” He threw the newspaper onto the kitchen counter, open to a candid photo of the pair close and personal, lips clearly defined.

“It was for the press,” Seto replied stoically. “You know we got criticised after the premiere for not giving them enough ‘romance.’” Seto sipped again at his black coffee, avoiding his brother’s disapproving gaze.

“Sure.” Mokuba clicked his tongue and put bread in the toaster. “You’re either good at photo ops, or I’d wager that this wasn’t your first kiss with Jou.”

“Mokuba,” Seto growled, not wanting to take the bait.

“You’re ridiculous, you know that, right? You’re so blind to what’s going on.”

“And what exactly do you think is going on?”

Mokuba’s toast popped, and he reached for his spreads. “One, or both of you, have realised that this isn’t just a game or a means to pass the time.”

“And what do you know about love?” Seto chided, glaring at his smirking little brother.

“One. I never said love, you did. Two. Everything I learned from love I learned from you, and you’re not as bad as you think at it.” Mokuba popped his toast in his mouth, throwing the knife in the dishwasher before a dramatic exit.

-

It wasn’t that Seto was intentionally avoiding Katsuya, he was in fact drowning in product launches leading up to Christmas. While not a family holiday here, in the West it was a huge commercial success to have products release in November for the holiday period, so all scheduling for printing and delivery had to be finalised mid-October.

Time zone differences leant a hand to Seto’s fucked up work schedule. Asleep at 5am, up at 8am. He kept chanting to himself it was only two weeks of it, and that everything was under control. After all, it wasn’t any harder than last year. But it also made the aftermath of the ramen date easier to deal with; simply not having time to process feelings made it easy to avoid, and never seeing Katsuya’s face around the mansion, despite still leaving him with homemade meals in the refrigerator, meant that he could write off any residual feelings as teenage hormones.

Katsuya noticed the absence around the dinner table, but did notice dinner being eaten regardless. Even Mokuba was at work after school, helping his brother with product distributions, and sitting in on board meetings. The nights where Katsuya was home alone were eerily silent, and he couldn’t help but feel incredibly uncomfortable in the mansion, that echoed with every step he took in the marble halls.

Sometimes, he saw the glow down the hall under the study door, but the door was shut and Katsuya knew better than to interfere. On the one occasion he’d seen Seto in passing, he hadn’t even acknowledged him, just passed by with a briefcase in hand, and his phone glued to his ear.

Katsuya gathered that it was to do with work, but always had that wrenching feeling that he’d done something wrong.

It was day ten when Katsuya held his breath, and knocked on the study door, at midnight, armed with a black coffee, no sugars like he likes it, and some savoury snacks from the convenience store.

A voice never answered, but Seto appeared at the door, looking like shit.

“Hello,” Katsuya said softly, thrusting the coffee and bag towards Seto. “I just wanted to make sure you’re still functioning.”

Seto blinked twice, and muttered a ‘thanks’ expressionless. Katsuya could tell that he was purely exhausted, and felt bad.

“If you need anything, just let me know.”

“I’m appreciating your meals,” Seto replied simply, voice past tired. Katsuya stood there quietly. “I’ll be done with all this by Friday.”

“What’s got you so stressed?”

“Christmas. Product launch.” Seto shifted his weight to lean on the doorway, looping the plastic bag over his wrist, holding the coffee mug in the other hand. “It’s a global launch so my biggest market, America, is awake now.”

“They should be on your time,” Katsuya said gently. “As long as you’re okay though I’ll leave you to it.”

Seto did the closest thing to a smile he’d done in almost a fortnight. “Appreciated.”

-

Katsuya’s mouth dropped when Seto dragged himself through the kitchen door, looking like the epitome of hell.

The clock had only just flashed 9pm, Friday, signalling the end of Seto’s two week working blitz, and his face was etched in exhaustion, barely strong enough to carry his briefcase, arms drooping lazily from his coat that was hanging around his lithe shoulders.

“Holy shit Kaib’ are you okay?”

Seto looked away from Katsuya, almost embarrassed to be showing such a sign of weakness. “I’m fine.”

Katsuya jumped out of his chair and grabbed Seto’s briefcase, and pulled his coat off his shoulders. “No you ain’t man. You’re so fuckin’ tired I thought a zombie had just walked in.” He ran his fingers through Seto’s hair, brushing the overhanging fringe out of his eyes. “You’re going the fuck to bed.”

“I’m fine.”

“Fuck off you’re not fine,” Katsuya growled, noticing the layer of foundation blended around his eyes. “I don’t know how much shit you’ve got caked on your face but I can still tell you look like hell.”

Seto looked down at the ground to avoid Katsuya’s stare. “Fine. I’ll go to bed.” He went to reach for his briefcase but Katsuya snatched it back.

“I’ll put you to bed if it means you’ll finally sleep.”

Seto exhaled, too tired to argue, and Katsuya trailed lightly up the staircase behind him. He hadn’t had chance to check out Seto’s sleeping quarters, and was mildly intrigued, but the worry overrode that idea quickly, as Seto stumbled on one of his steps and Katsuya caught him.

“I’m only like this once a year Katsuya. Don’t worry about me.”

“Sure, once a year around Christmas. I’m sure you’re like this at the end of the financial year, before a major tournament, before an opening of KaibaLand. Face it, Seto, you’re a control freak and I don’t want you killing yourself.”

“This is why we wouldn’t work as a couple,” Seto sighed. “You’d be constantly worried about me.”

Katsuya recoiled at the words, momentarily. “I’d have every right to be. You’re allowed to marry your job, you dipshit, but your job isn’t meant to kill you.”

Katsuya blushed as he re-entered the room for weeks ago, glancing over at the couch. Nothing was out of place. The room was too clean, the bed was made, and the room smelled faintly like

Seto lazily kicked his shoes off and threw himself lazily onto his bed without taking off his clothes. “You can leave me here.”

“Get out of your clothes, Seto. I don’t want you sneaking back into your office when you think I’m not looking.”

“You’re just looking for an excuse to undress me,” he replied, face muffled by obstruction.

“I’m not sexually attracted to a zombie, try again next week, sugar,” Katsuya retorted, opening his closet to hang his coat. Everything in Seto’s closet was neat and arranged by style and shade, even his washing pile was neatly organised by type of material.

“Fine,” Seto sat on the edge of the bed and threw his buttoned shirt towards Katsuya. “I’m not taking the pants off around you though.”

Katsuya blushed as he faced the closet, throwing the shirt into the pile, knowing that it’d wind Seto up to find it crumpled later. “Whatever princess. Just get comfortable and close your eyes.” Katsuya closed the closet doors and looked once at Seto, thin with just a shadow of ribs poking out of his chest. “Rest well.”

As Katsuya pulled the door behind him, Seto kicked the rest of his clothes off and crawled into the bed, falling asleep to the thought that maybe having Katsuya around wasn’t so bad, even when he was being annoying and bossy he was still pretty alright.

-

Katsuya hadn’t heard a peep from Seto, and the light in his office remained off around ten in the morning, which led him to believe that Seto had finally gotten some much-needed sleep.

Katsuya was sitting in the kitchen, over a plate of half-finished pancakes. Mokuba had been and gone, demolishing his before bouncing out the door to join some school friends for arcade games. Katsuya had smiled at his fleeting innocence and childlike behaviour, which was opposite to his mini-Kaiba business ethic that shone when product launches, such as the push just been, required his care and attention.

He wondered if his sister Shizuka was doing well, and noted that he should probably call her tonight.

He hardly even noticed the reborn Seto saunter into the kitchen, stealing a half-eaten pancake off Katsuya’s plate, dripping maple syrup over the counter and a little on his chin in the process.

“I can make you some too, if you want,” Katsuya scowled, and Seto laughed, stealing another one before having his hand batted away. He pushed himself away from the counter and grabbed the leftover mixture from the bowl in the refrigerator. “I hope this means that you’ve slept well.”

“I slept fine,” Seto replied, pouring an already-brewed coffee from the pot.

“I’m glad to hear it,” Katsuya said, pouring batter into a pan. “Two or three?”

“Two.” Seto grabbed the discarded newspaper from the middle of the counter. “What are you doing today?”

“Ah,” Katsuya flipped the first pancake. “I figured I better start looking at apartments or something.”

“Why?”

Katsuya blinked, “well, our three months is almost up, and by the time I pay key money it’ll be time to break up with you.”

“It’s been that long…?” Seto mused, looking at his phone, not returning his gaze as if he was avoiding eye contact.

“Yeah, apparently so. I’m sure you want your space back.” Katsuya slid the first pancake onto the plate and poured the mixture a second time.

“Do you want to leave?”

Katsuya let the room fall silent, save the light sizzle from the frypan. It hadn’t been a question he’d ever contemplated, because their agreement was dated, but if he was being honest…no? He was comfortable. They’d found a good, friendly rhythm with a dash of somehow managing to care for each other in a platonic way.

“I’m just following the rules,” Katsuya finally answered, dancing around the question.

“My offer doesn’t have a set expiry,” Seto said as the plate got awkwardly thrust in front of him. “You don’t have to leave on the three-month mark.”

“Oh.” Katsuya poured the rest of the batter into the pan to replace his stolen pancake. “I just thought…y’know…maybe you were wantin’ to look at datin’ someone for real, or wantin’ your house back.”

“Your presence isn’t a nuisance, Jounouchi,” Seto replied, drizzling maple syrup and cutting a banana onto his pancakes. “And I’m not looking to date anybody outside of this.”

“Are you asking me to stay?”

“I guess in so many words, I’m inviting you to do as you please.”

Katsuya flipped his pancake. “Well, I’ll stay if I’m welcome. I like it here. I can do more around the house or whatever to repay you.”

“This is sufficient,” Seto replied as he sipped his coffee. “We’ll revisit this periodically and continue as we have been. A few more dates and things, if that’s okay with you?”

“That’s fine,” Katsuya said, face feeling hot as he plated up his pancake and put the dishes in the sink. “Thank you.”

Seto just shrugged non-committedly, even though he was almost happy inside that Katsuya had resigned himself to staying. “If you change your mind just tell me.”

“Sure, yeah okay.” Katsuya turned around to put the syrup back in the refrigerator, smiling when Seto couldn’t see. “So, a date on Friday night? It’s the next night I’m not working.”

“Sure. That sounds fine.”

-

“About time I got you out for another date,” Katsuya grinned, meeting Seto once again in his office. The same secretary winked and let him up without question. Katsuya leaned on the doorframe, and Seto took his glasses off as he looked above the computer screen.

“What’s in store tonight?”

“There’s a wicked Izakaya a few blocks away. Isono is also going to pick us up later because I figured we could have a few drinks because I’ve got tomorrow off work, too.”

“Sure,” Seto said, packing his computer away in his computer bag. “You lead the way.”

Katsuya grabbed his hand softly and pulled him into the elevator, pressing the button to the ground floor. His face was covered in a grin with how easy it’d been to get Seto agreeable compared to their last date.

“So, how’s your week been?” Katsuya asked, as the elevator dinged onto the first floor. As they walked past the reception, the girl behind the desk raised her eyebrows suggestively when Seto wasn’t looking her way, causing Katsuya to blush. “I hardly feel like I get to see you these days.”

“It’s been busy,” Seto admitted, following Katsuya’s tug to the left of the entrance. “All the work I spent time on over the last few weeks is paying off. All but one shipment is ahead of schedule, which means we should have a stress-free launch season.” Seto’s eyes followed the alleys that Katsuya was pulling him down, noticing an increase of neon signs and lanterns the further from the main road they travelled. The smells were overpowering him, and his stomach unexpectedly rumbled.

“I’m happy to hear it was all worth it,” Katsuya said softly, finally settling outside a small, wooden establishment with a sliding door. He slid it open and poked his head in, surveying before pulling Seto inside and sliding the door behind him.

“Welcome, table for two?” the waitress said, hair pinned back with chopsticks and heavy makeup around her eyes. The ambience was light and quiet, with many private booths around the perimeter of the restaurant hidden by a curtain with traditional art.

The pair slid their shoes off in the hall and climbed into their booth, with a sunken floor covered in soft tatami. The waitress left the pair with menus and drinks menus, and the dim lighting was only just enough to read the menu from. Seto shrugged off his coat and perused the drink menu first, before the snacks menu.

The night started slow, deep fried chicken, and pickled vegetables going down between the Sake they split. Meals coming out hot and smelling like heaven. Katsuya had opted for the Osakan-famous Okonomiyaki, and Seto had gone with a simple Gyudon.

Katsuya wondered whether to be bothered by drinking with Seto, considering how it’d ended the last time, but after all, the kiss had brought some reprieve. The tabloids had started to settle and the paparazzi weren’t in droves, hiding around every corner or camping outside his workplace. That’d unsettled him for a while following the first interview, where he’d confirmed that he was indeed in a relationship with Seto, until he’d learned to ignore them.

Katsuya learned a few things about Seto tonight. He preferred his Sake the opposite temperature to his meals. He was coding a huge secret project that not even Mokuba knew about that would blow everybody’s minds. His favourite genre of music was ElectroChill, and he knew how to play six instruments, but specifically, he played the piano.

Katsuya’s biggest regret was not calling his sister often enough. He secretly loved Disney movies but had never told anybody else. Once, when he was thirteen, he lived at Yuugi’s house for a month because his father just disappeared. Seto screwed up a napkin as Katsuya recalled the time with an air of carefreeness.

“I hope he wakes up and regrets what kind of a relationship he missed out on experiencing with you,” Seto said, seriously.

Katsuya shrugged. It wasn’t really a big deal anymore, especially after being kicked out of home. He could hardly believe three months had more than passed. His sexuality wasn’t hidden and he felt free, despite only fake dating Kaiba. Being able to have a partner in crime, despite their arrangement was liberating. And Seto Kaiba struck enough fear into everyone else’s hearts that they dare not utter a negative word to Katsuya, even when he was alone. Hell, he’d gotten a promotion.

“Well, if we aren’t the most messed up friends-with-benefits scenario,” Katsuya laughed into his drink, shooting down the small cup before refilling it. Hours had passed, but the two were comfortably spread over the table, with snacks being refilled periodically, and their fourth order of Sake sitting half-drunk between their chatter.

“Friends-with-benefits?”

“Yeah, yeah, I know that’s used for people who are fucking but like, it’s just strange how this all happened, right?” Katsuya rambled, grinning, and Seto watched incredulously as the alcohol unravelled him. “We hated each other. We learned to get along. I’d even call you a friend now. The only thing we haven’t done is fuck.”

“Are you trying to tick off a bucket list, Katsuya?”

“With you?” Katsuya narrowed his eyes and laughed. “God, in another timeline, yes I would fuck you. Who wouldn’t though?”

“What’s stopping you now, Katsuya?” Seto’s brain said before his mouth could catch the words. He noted that his mouth was getting him in trouble, and that maybe drinking with Katsuya was not safe.

“You’re not interested, it’d be weird. Probably just that.” Katsuya’s eyes twinkled and he threw his next cup down. “In an alternative timeline, would you let me?”

Seto sipped on his cup while thinking how to say it, only being able to come up with a small “yes.”

“Aw man, I hope in that timeline, we’re having fun.” Katsuya yelled his drink order at the waiter.

“I think we’re having fun in this timeline too, aren’t we?” Seto asked, watching Katsuya grin with a pink tinge on his cheeks.

“Yeah, I’m having fun with you.”

-

Isono had been professional, picking the pair up from the backstreets of Domino Central. He watched in quiet amusement, as he held the door open for the pair that were stumbling out of the bar in the early hours, Seto’s tie hanging around his mid-chest, two buttons undone. A far throw from the Seto Kaiba not four months prior, with a glowing smile on his face. Isono felt proud.

The two giggled and chattered in the backseat of the limo. Seto had made the mistake of popping open a small fridge between the two backseats, opening a small bottle of wine, and drinking straight from it. Katsuya scowled, and snatched the bottle from him, finishing it in one bravado chug.

The pair loudly crash into the house, before hissing at each other to be quiet. Seto drags Katsuya into his room, before pulling another bottle out of his coat that he’d snuck in from the limo. Katsuya howled in laughter, watching Seto loosen up more, throwing his shoes in the corner of his room and hanging his coat loosely on the back of his chair. His hair was ruffled and he looked so relaxed, closing his eyes and tipping his head backwards as he tried to mimic Katsuya’s chug, to Katsuya’s surprise, finishing the whole 350ml in one breath.

“Hey,” Katsuya slurred. “Y’greedy.”

“Th’s moer in my office,” Seto said, standing up and feeling the alcohol hit him like a train, stumbling out into the hall, catching himself on the doorframe for a moment before disappearing. He reappeared, with a full bottle of wine and two flutes a few moments later, as Katsuya let himself slide onto the floor and get comfortable. “C’n’t finish th’ night herr.”

“A’ight.” Katsuya popped the cork, which flew into Seto’s ceiling, just hard enough to leave a mark. They giggled looking at it, realising there was always going to be a memory of this night in the room. He sat up straight, resting his back against the couch, and took a deep breath before trying to carefully pour the glasses.

“F’k it. Less just drink from the bottle,” Seto said as Katsuya spilled wine in a tiny puddle on the floor. Seto looked at it dumbfounded, and pulled his tie off to mop up the mess.

“What are y’doin?!” Katsuya exclaimed before Seto launched into another fit of laughter. They were so far gone they couldn’t comprehend much more going on. They continued to drink, though their memory and body autonomy was fading fast. Katsuya kept dashing every five minutes to pee, having recently broken the seal, grinning in the bathroom mirror, as he dropped his belt on the floor and left it there, finding no need for it anymore.

-

Seto stirred, though his body felt heavy. A glance over to his alarm clock showed the numbers 11:30AM in bright red, as if it was screaming at him.

He steadied himself on his elbows, before noticing blonde hair out of the corner of his eye. He looked over to find Katsuya tangled in the duvet, a mess of limbs, and clothes strewn over the floor.

A moment of panic washed over him, until he realised he was still wearing his boxers. After joking about sex the night before, which is one of the last things he could immediately recall, he’d feared the worst but been pleasantly surprised.

But my god. His head was banging. He’d never encompassed such a hangover before.

Katsuya’s breath was laboured between snores. He’d wondered what time they’d passed out, as he surveyed the room. There was a puddle in the corner where the wine bottle had been lazily thrown. His tie from the day before was snaked in a puddle, and he found a sock hanging off the bedpost at the end.

Mokuba would have hell to pay. He prayed that the kid had already left for the day.

Slowly rising out of bed and finding his footing, he shuffled quietly to his bathroom. His hair was a mess and his eyeliner from the night before had smudged just a bit so he had light panda-eyes. He sighed, finding a glass under the cabinet and downing water and paracetamol, before turning the shower on hot and letting it ready.

Seto Kaiba stood in the shower, inattentive for fifteen minutes, letting the water hit his throbbing headache, numbing it slightly, before he managed to motivate himself to wash his hair and body. He tried to remember anything else from the evening, and managed to recall tripping over his chair in his office while fetching the last bottle of wine, but nothing else came to mind. He drip-dried in the shower, remembering that he hadn’t taken clothes in with him, sighing as he ran the towel lazily through his hair and over his shoulders before tying it tightly around his hips.

Katsuya had stirred in the meantime, but hadn’t bothered to move or open his eyes. Still somewhat unaware to the time or surroundings, he only opened his eyes when he heard a door open and shut again softly. He rubbed his eyes before looking up, realising he was sleeping tangled in Seto’s bed.

“What the fuck?” he mumbled incoherently.

“’Morning,” Seto said slightly above a whisper. “Sleep well?”

Katsuya leaned up, watching Seto rifle through his closet for a pair of pants. “Wait. Why am I in your room?”

Seto said with a deadpan face, turning to face Katsuya, “we got drunk and had sex last night.”

Katsuya gasped, running his hands down his naked body. “What the fu…oh.” Katsuya realised he too was still wearing underwear. “Fuck man. You’re an asshole.” Seto turned back to his closet, laughing lightly at Katsuya’s anguish.

Katsuya stood up slowly, surveying the room. “Geez. Didn’t realise you were such a party animal.” Katsuya didn’t seem as worse-for-wear as Seto, but still opted to grab his clothes and retreat to the guest bathroom, pulling his pants on over his boxers temporarily for Mokuba’s sake. “I’ll go freshen up. I feel like I smell like garbage.”

Seto smiled as Katsuya pulled his bedroom door closed, getting dressed methodically, trying not to move too quickly, pulling a loose-fitting shirt and comfortable jeans onto his body. He wouldn’t be going out for a while.

Mokuba poked his head out the hallway as Katsuya tried to sneak past. Drat, the squirt had decided to stay in. “That looks like a walk of shame,” he cackled, as Katsuya threw him a glare.

Katsuya took much longer to appear in the kitchen than Seto, who had managed to brew a coffee and had rehydrated beforehand. Mokuba had slunk downstairs once they’d gathered, preparing a sad attempt at breakfast. Seto had cracked some eggs into a pan with milk, and feebly tried to scramble them.

“So, a good night then?”

Katsuya scowled, staring into a glass of water. “All we did was get drunk, you gossip.”

Seto silently glowered in the corner as he buttered toast. Mokuba laughed, scooping his long raven hair behind his shoulders, before bouncing out of the room with a mischievous grin on his cheeks.

“That kid’s gonna age me twenty years,” Seto complained, his voice a little gravelly. Katsuya laughed as Seto’s limp looking eggs were plated up, but he was too hungry and hungover to make a snide comment.

-

“Hey Jou,” Mokuba indicated for the passing blonde, fresh from work, to stop by the kitchen for a quick talk.

“Hey kid,” Katsuya smiled at the teen, chowing down on an after-school snack of a melon bread and green tea. “What’s happenin?”

“Do you have any plans tomorrow night?”

Katsuya tilted his head in thought, before shaking it, hair falling into his eyes. “Nah, not that I know of yet anyway. Why?”

Mokuba paused for a moment. “Figures Seto hasn’t told you tomorrow’s his birthday.”

Katsuya gasped, completely unaware. “His twentieth?!”

“Nah, he’s only turning nineteen. He’s younger than the rest of your friends.”

“Oh, phew!” Katsuya felt relieved. Coming of age was a huge deal in Japan, and he’d hate to have missed Seto’s birthday. Now, he had a whole year to consider what he could do. Not that Seto didn’t have everything available at his fingertips regardless of age. “What are we doing?”

Mokuba shrugged. “I usually take him out for his birthday but since you’re dating him now, maybe you should?”

Katsuya shook his head. “I’m not really dating him. I can’t take that time away from you, who cares about the photo opportunity. Life is more than what we’ve been doing this whole time.”

Mokuba smiled. “Well, if you don’t want anything out, we could always do something nice together here.”

“That’s a great idea!” Katsuya exclaimed. “I finish work at six tomorrow, so I can get a birthday cake baked and cook us all a meal around eight if that’s okay?”

Mokuba beamed. “That’d be awesome.”

Katsuya thought for a moment. “Oh, hey, Mokuba?”

“Hm?”

“I’m sorry I haven’t spent too much time with you here.”

Mokuba laughed. “Are you kidding? I’ve seen you so much here. Plus, you being here has really started to open Seto up. It’s been what we’ve both needed.” Katsuya couldn’t look at Mokuba like he was a kid anymore, knowing he was a mature, sensitive fourteen-year-old with a lot of personality and a strong work ethic that rivalled Seto’s, in its own way. “Seto’s been busy. Seto’s even been spending his free time with you. But what I’ve seen of him has been much…” Mokuba searched for a word. “…much freer. He’s learning to love himself. I wish he could have sooner.”

Katsuya was lost for words.

“I don’t think at-work Seto is going to change. I don’t think it needs to. To be successful, you need to have people respecting you. Seto’s approach is very no-bullshit, no-emotion. Mine is pretty much the opposite. I don’t think he knows any other way to run KaibaCorp. He’s still like that at work, but he’s learning to separate his personal life. I’m thankful you’ve been changing him.”

Katsuya shook his head. “It wasn’t as hard as it seemed. We both needed something from each other.” Katsuya fidgeted with a seam on his uniform that was beginning to fray, thinking back to how easy it had been considering what he had to start with. Seto only needed somebody trustworthy with patience, or stubbornness, to open him up. “I was lonely. I was a lot more immature and needed somewhere safe to be. What he’s given me is beyond civil pleasantries. I think it’s been more mutual than either of us will admit to each other.”

Mokuba smiled as he finished eating his Melon Bread, feeling Katsuya’s words resonate in his heart. “Alright. I better get to my homework, but I’ll be here tomorrow. I’ll make sure Seto’s home by dinner.”

Mokuba spent his evening distracted from his homework, thinking about the relationship Katsuya and Seto had stumbled into. If they didn’t want to label it as so, that was their business. But, Mokuba noted nothing but kindness in Katsuya’s eyes as he talked softly about Seto. He just hoped they’d get together before one of them gave up.

-

Seto, to Mokuba’s pleading, was home from work at Seven-Thirty, bursting in the kitchen to a sweet smell of fresh baking and a hotpot simmering on the bench with an assortment of meats and vegetables carefully cut.

“Happy birthday, princess!” Katsuya said, throwing his arms around Seto, who stood bewildered while Mokuba cackled in the background. He let go, giving Seto time to compose himself while returning to his prep.

“Oh, uh,” Seto put his laptop case and coat down carefully on a spare seat. “Thank you.” Mokuba was helping Katsuya ice the cake in blue and white, before placing nineteen candles in the shape of the kanji on top.

“Did you have a good day?” Katsuya asked, as he flicked the hotpot up to a hotter heat and poked some root vegetables in to begin cooking.

“It was just a standard day.” Seto shrugged. “I don’t acknowledge it at work, it’s not productive.”

Katsuya laughed at Seto’s petulance. “You’re still allowed to celebrate surviving another year around the sun. It’s taken you, more than anybody else I know, more effort to get through their teenage years.”

“You do what you have to do. I’ve still got one left to fu…mess it all up.” Seto made a mental note that Katsuya’s potty mouth was rubbing off on him. Mokuba looked astounded at Seto’s almost-slip of tongue.

“You’re making me feel like a cradle-snatcher. I always assumed you were older than me.” Katsuya grasped his chest dramatically.

“Why? Because I have more class and maturity in my pinky than you do in your body?” Katsuya pulled the middle finger, causing Mokuba to snort. “Hurry up, dig in,” Katsuya said, prodding Mokuba to go sit by his brother while he continued tidying.

“Okay, okay!” Mokuba barely had time to say grace before vacuuming the food up. Seto sat in his chair, wrapping his ankle around a bench leg, before gingerly adding some strips of beef to the mix. The brothers spent time finally catching up with each other after a long month of work, school, and messed up sleep schedules. Katsuya opted to just stand back and watch them for a while, letting them get absorbed in each other in a way he knew their souls needed more than the other would ever say.

“Jou,” Mokuba said between chatter. “Join in!” Katsuya didn’t need more time to be coaxed, adding cabbage and meat to the hotpot, scooping it out when cooked and digging in. It was more of a family than he’d been treated to since the divorce, and it made him miss his sister even more tonight. Thankful that she knew he’d loved her this whole time, Katsuya made a point to send her a message as the brothers were distracted in each other.

Love you. Hope you’re doing well. Don’t grow up too fast!

Shizuka replied with a ‘I’m fifteen, Katsu. I’ll grow up however fast I damn please~ kidding! Love you too!’

If she was here to share this with them, it’d be perfect. But for now, he felt loved in this house anyway.

-

Katsuya hated autumn almost more than he hated Winter. The autumn leaves were falsely gorgeous, falling to the ground in rich hues of golds and reds. The air wasn’t quite cold enough to complain, but still frosty enough to need a pair of thick socks. He was thankful the threads he was wearing were no longer ripped.

Seto hadn’t brought up the concept of moving out, and Katsuya was too comfortable to do so either. He seemed to be paying his dues fine, keeping the household fed, and providing company to both brothers. Mokuba had begun to spend most free nights with Katsuya again, albeit fleeting as KaibaCorp’s work schedule was in the throes of ramping up for the final Christmas marketing release.

Seto had asked Katsuya to dinner, using a new restaurant opening as premise. He knew the place would be jam-packed with paparazzi, and a fantastic marketing opportunity for KaibaCorp’s Winter Line of clothing. He’d had Katsuya’s sizes, courtesy of Mokuba, sent off to be tailored, ready for the Friday night reveal.

Katsuya had all but blushed when presented with the slim-fitted coat with custom Red-Eyes lining. “You can’t buy this exact off the rack,” Seto had said, before thrusting it towards the confused blonde, who hadn’t expected anything so nice. It was soft to touch, and had been widened at the shoulders especially for Katsuya. It was nerdy, but endearing, to have a custom jacket in his trademark monster.

Katsuya, at that point, had no choice but to agree to be Seto’s model. Seto had called him into the office beforehand, dressing him from waist up, and softly brushing more makeup than before onto his face, with a navy-blue eyeliner giving his golden eyes an extra pop. “These’ll be the most professional looking photos you’ve ever had taken,” he’d explained. “You’ll be expected to ham it up a little. Seto’s own eyes were a little smokier too, encompassed with a subtle gold eyeliner.

In the limousine, they talked about dull topics. The drive was only twenty minutes, and Katsuya couldn’t wait – he was hungry, even though he knew that it’d be well over an hour until they finally got to eat after pleasantries.

Stepping out of the Limousine together, hands interlocked, they made their way through the fancy front doors of the Michelin Starred restaurant, through swarms of photographers and guests that Seto seemed to recognise. The chef was one that had personally catered many times for KaibaCorp sponsored corporate events, and was thankful that Seto’s presence on the guest list brought so much free publicity.

The tables were set immaculately, the room was brightly lit under chandeliers, but dimly lit in the private booths. There were seats in rich purples and dark wooden tables. The whole place looked the part, even fancier than the first date Seto took him on. Truly a taste of the rich life.

“If everybody can take their assigned seats, the waiter will be out with refreshments. You will all get to sample a full course of my menu, and I look forward to hearing your feedback.” The chef bowed deeply, and Seto found Katsuya and him seated nearer the back in a two-person booth.

A sake tasting had been set up through the night, with dozens of small cups lined up along their tables with facts about tastes, ages, and where in Japan they were from. Seto explained a little more about some of them, including what they paired best with, clearly versed in intricate details of fine dining.

Only twelve items were on the menu, seemingly getting more delicious as each plate was passed out. Katsuya thought it couldn’t get better than the fresh tuna sashimi, until the wild venison medium-rare came out and knocked it out of the ballpark.

“Are these the usual dish sizes?” Katsuya hissed, looking at the menu on display, noticing some items well above 30,000 Yen each. Seto nodded, before sipping on a sake. Katsuya nearly died when a plate of Wagyu beef, beautifully marbled but no more than a hundred grams, came out in front of them. It was possibly the most delicious thing Katsuya had ever tasted.

The chef personally passed by each table before the dessert menu came out, consisting of two specially made desserts for the event; a strawberry sundae with artesian chocolates, and a chocolate cake with handmade cream.

“I hope that everything has been to your liking, Mr Kaiba, Mr Jounouchi.”

Katsuya blushed at the formality. Seto responded with a soft “everything was delicious, thank you.” Katsuya had to snap himself out of gawking, to reply with “the best food I’ve ever tasted.”

The chef bowed with a soft smile on his aging face, and moved quietly onto the next patrons.

“How was it?” Seto asked, touching the corners of his mouth with a napkin and washing down the dinner with a dessert wine that had been passed around.

“Incredible. I’ll date you forever if these are the benefits.”

Seto laughed. An honest, contented laugh. His blue eyes lit up and he replied with “I knew all I needed to do was keep feeding you.”

“And all I need to do is keep you out of direct sunlight and away from garlic.” Seto snorted, unable to keep his composure. He wished he could blame the alcohol, but he truly just liked being around Katsuya.

Desserts came, which tasted so good that Katsuya thought he might have died and this could be heaven.  

The night wrapped up, close to midnight, and the pair stepped out into the streets, photographers clicking their every move. Hands wrapped in each other, before they slid inside the limo, Katsuya whispered in Seto’s ear “should we…kiss?” and Seto blushed, before grabbing Katsuya’s face and planting a candid, strawberry flavoured kiss square on his lips.

In the limo, the pair laughed at another convincing job well done.

-

Hey, you free for lunch today? I’ve got a half day at work. Can meet anytime after 12?

Seto felt his phone vibrate in his pocket during a conference call. Putting his desk phone on silent while they droned on about Christmas sales budgets, he pulled out his phone to read Katsuya’s text, looking at the time before replying.

I’ll be finished with this drivel by one.

Cool. I’ll come to you. If they’re annoying, fire them.

Seto smirked, unmuting himself as the investors got off topic to put them back in their place, between highlighting a planogram for an afternoon meeting and making neat notes in blue pen. These phone calls always ran the same. Nobody would come to a resolution. One of them would send an email filled with pointless shit that Seto would have already have outlined. He’d considered sending them blank documents to prove a point but couldn’t resort to insolence.

The meeting droned on in the background as Seto finished sending his planogram to the marketing team, and finalised a set of initial designs for Spring’s fashion line, asking for samples to be delivered next Friday.

The time flew by, and before Seto had known it, Katsuya was standing in his doorway, wearing his work uniform, covered by a grey coat that Seto had recognised from the winter collection. “Like it? Mokuba added it to my wardrobe without my knowledge. Cheeky shit.”

Seto cracked a smile, gesturing him into the office as he sorted his afternoon work into an order, checking what time his next meeting was. Just after two.

“Where are you taking me for lunch?” Seto asked, sliding his coat draped over the back of his chair over his shoulders, wrapping a cobalt pashmina scarf around his neck. His weather alert on his desktop said it was in single-digits outside.

“I thought we’d go somewhere close,” Katsuya replied, adjusting his shoulder-bag. “There’s a café that does coffee that would pass even your high-class standards.”

“I doubt that.”

“Try me.”

The pair headed out into the cool streets of the city, walking through the bustling crowd for about five minutes before the sweet smell of a small bakery drifted towards Seto, whose stomach let out an uncharacteristic rumble.

Katsuya opened the door for Seto, who stepped in. The café staff bowed deeply at his presence, and Katsuya just smiled at them sweetly. Katsuya ordered for the pair as Seto sat in the window, watching people pass by, absorbed in their phones.

“I got a bit of everything for you to try. I thought we could split everything in half. I stumbled on this place a while ago.” Katsuya grinned.

“Why did you finish work early?” Seto asked.

“Ah, they need me in tomorrow afternoon to induct a new staff member. No big deal.” Katsuya unbuttoned his coat, relaxing as the strong coffees were placed in front of the pair.

“I didn’t know you’d started drinking coffee,” Seto commented.

“Ah, it’s not black like yours. But, I dunno. I like the smell of the kitchen in the mornings after you’ve already left work. I guess it feels like home.”

Seto lingered on that sentence as he looked out the window again when Katsuya left momentarily to use the rest room.

The pair chatted over what Katsuya described as “the world’s best curry buns,” and even Seto could admit it was a quaint place with charm, and food to hold its’ reputation. More than full, Katsuya let out a small burp, leaving Seto disgusted. Katsuya merely grinned.

Katsuya walked Seto back to the front of the KaibaCorp building at quarter to two. With a smile on his lips from a lunch date well done, he leaned in and brushed his lips lightly on Seto’s, causing his face to heat up despite the icy air. “Ah, someone was watching,” Katsuya reasoned at Seto’s stunned expression.

“Oh, true. I’ll see you tonight.” Seto nodded before heading back into the building.

Kaiba strode back into his office, greeting his secretary and letting her know he’d be ready for meetings again in ten minutes. He shut his door to his office in the meantime, and stared out at the grey skies of Domino, while pressing his hand to his tingly lips.

Oh yeah, this was all for the press. Wasn’t it.

-

The nights were noticeably colder now, and the sun was going down before five. Even though Katsuya worked during the day, he was biking home in darkness, scarf wrapped around his neck and gloves on his fingers.

Unusual for snow to fall before January in Domino, winter surprised the city early, blanketing the city in white before Katsuya had finished at work. The trains were stopped and the buses didn’t run far enough into the valley where the Kaiba mansion was. Figuring his only real option was to trudge his way through the city centre to KaibaCorp, he sent Seto a message.

Hey, it’s too snowy for me to get home can I come to KC?

Five minutes passed without response, where Katsuya thought “fuck it” and headed that way anyway. The snow was almost up to his knees and traffic was at almost a stand-still, with neon signs pointing out diversions. It looked like the whole city was going to be out of action tonight.

Sure.

Snow settling into his hair, he trudged a little damp into KaibaCorp, where he made his way to the secretary beside the elevators, who just shrugged and pointed upwards. He assumed it’d be fine. He wondered why she hadn’t headed home yet, but figured, despite Kaiba’s work personality, he wasn’t that mean. Or at least, not these days.

Seto was sitting at his computer, visibly on a call, with a headset on. Katsuya entered with a soft click, and sat on the other side of his desk, just waiting patiently, between playing a time-wasting mobile game.

Seto excused himself harshly from the call after a while, telling whoever was on the other end to come back when he’d “learned not to be an imbecile.” Seto closed his laptop, and let out a frustrated noise, leaning back into his chair before regaining composure.

“Sure is comin’ down out there,” Katsuya said softly, getting up from the chair and looking over the city, rooftops piled in white. Visibility was low, and he could only make out a few lights moving through the streets of city workers doing their best, but failing, to keep the roads accessible.

“We’re stuck here for now. Isono can’t get to us, even with the chains on.”

Katsuya sighed, looking out into the city again, hoping the weather would give out. His weather app did nothing to ease his concerns, saying it wouldn’t settle down til morning.

“Do we at least have anything to eat around here?”

Seto shrugged. “There’s food on site. There’s a cafeteria downstairs with some vending machines but almost everybody has gone home so nothing warm.”

“Well, there was some restaurants open,” Katsuya said. “I don’t mind heading around the corner before they close and getting us a hot curry or something for now.”

“That’d be nice.”

Katsuya went to leave before asking a question. “Hey, why’s your secretary still here if nobody else is?”

He shrugged. “She lives a block away in one of the KaibaCorp apartment buildings. She said she didn’t mind hanging around.”

“Oh.”

Seto stretched, getting out of his seat. “I’ll come with you. I’ll send her home, and you’ll need access to get back into the building.”

They headed downstairs, where Kaiba stopped by his Secretary’s desk, dismissing her for the day. She bowed and grabbed her things, leaving with the three of them before heading in the opposite direction.

“She seems nice,” Katsuya said.

“She’s been with us for three years. She’s friendly but can be a bit of a hard ass.”

“Sounds like someone else I know.”

There were two restaurants still open the next block from KaibaCorp. One of which had an apartment upstairs that Katsuya figured the owners lived in. Serving hot curries to stranded city folk, Katsuya and Seto decided to grab two from the elderly couple, who were welcoming. They sat to the side as it got cooked in a flurry, with complementary miso soups handed to the two.

“Stay warm, hunnies,” the old lady croaked, with a beaming smile on her face.

“What are we going to do with ourselves tonight?” Katsuya asked. “Sleeping in a chair doesn’t seem too appealing.”

“I have a room at KaibaCorp,” Seto said, like it was the most obvious thing in the world.

“Of course you do.” Katsuya followed Seto back into the building, lit now only by security lighting in the foyer and eerily quiet minus an electrical buzz in the background.

“It’s on the floor below my office,” he said, before pressing the button, tapping his key card against the reader, and scanning his fingerprint. The ride up in the elevator was always quick, with the vertigo making Katsuya’s stomach feel all light and floaty. “The only thing is,” Seto said as the door opened to his room, taking his shoes off in the genkan, “there’s only one bed.”

“We’ve already slept together,” Katsuya jested, and Seto stiffened out of embarrassment. “Nah, I don’t mind taking a couch.”

The apartment was like an entire house. The kitchenette looked unused, and there was a flat screen TV with a games console and a small lounge suite in the corner near the window that outlooked East of the building. Katsuya could make out the harbour from there. Attached to the west was a bathroom, and what Katsuya assumed was a bedroom.

“How often do you come here?”

“Often enough,” Seto admitted. “I have a full wardrobe here, so sometimes if I’m heading straight to the airport, or on occasions where I’ve done all-nighters, I have a shower here. I’ve been known to sleep here when Mokuba and I have been doing all-nighters, but he’s slept in the bed more than I have.”

Katsuya placed the curries on a small coffee table, and Seto set the heat pump, before turning the TV on to the news. The snowstorm was so bad that flights had been cancelled and thousands were stranded at the Domino City airport, the bus exchange, the train stations.

“With this weather set to continue for the whole night, we recommend everybody stay at home tomorrow until the roads have been cleared.”

Katsuya sighed, but grabbed the spare chopsticks in the takeout bag. “Six months ago, if I was stuck in a room with you overnight I’d probably have murdered you by now.”

“Six months ago, I would have jumped.” Seto suspiciously stared at the curry, before turning to Katsuya, whose bewildered face caused him to laugh. They ate their curry while watching the news, before channel surfing for a while to fill a comfortable silence, as Seto headed upstairs and retrieved his laptop, before settling into a small desk to continue with some work.

“I don’t mind if you want to work upstairs,” Katsuya said, but Seto dismissed the suggestion.

After a while, Seto took a break, as Katsuya chilled on the couch playing a video game from the small pile of ones that Mokuba had clearly chosen. “I suppose you have no other clothes with you.”

“You’d suppose right,” Katsuya mumbled, remembering that he was in his work uniform, and a feeling of uncleanliness washed over him.

Seto checked his phone for a while, without finishing his thoughts before leaving. Katsuya shrugged and continued to pay attention to the game. Fifteen minutes later, Seto returned, with a small pile of clothes, thrusting them towards Katsuya. “For you.”

Katsuya blushed. “I don’t expect you to give these to me.”

“I’m Seto Kaiba. I can steal my own company’s resources if I want to.”

“Alright, well, uh. Thanks!” Katsuya blushed, and looked through the small pile, figuring that somewhere on Kaiba’s phone there was Katsuya’s measurements. A bit creepy, really, he thought. “Hey, do you mind if I have a shower? I’m a bit gross from the snow and from work.”

“Towels are in the cupboard beside the bathroom door.”

Katsuya grabbed a plush towel from the cupboard, before locking the bathroom door behind him. There were already body washes, different from the ones he used at home, sitting on a shelf in the shower. He looked first through the cupboards for a spare razor blade to neaten his patchy facial hair though.

The body wash and shampoo smelled exactly like what Seto wore on the regular, Katsuya decided. As he cleaned himself, he posed in the shower, pretending to be staunch and angry like the CEO, sending himself into a giggle. He could admit, it was a nice scent, which just smelled clean and fresh.

He drip-dried for a while before towelling himself off. He didn’t know how he was going to return to normal-thread towels once his time was up in the mansion. He’d been too pampered, his skin was too soft, and he was so happy. Surely, he wasn’t lucky enough to keep this streak going.

Dressed in KaibaCorp threads from head-to-toe, (he’d lamented in Seto providing him with obnoxiously printed Blue Eyes boxer shorts – in which he’d decided was a conscious choice to rub his constant defeats in his face) he headed back into the lounge, where Seto was lightly typing away. He’d not acknowledged Katsuya further, finally absorbed in his computer work. Katsuya chucked on a film, and entertained himself in the meantime.

Seto noticed the room go quiet once the credits had finished rolling, save for some loud and short breaths. Katsuya had fallen asleep during the movie, curled in a ball with his lips slightly parted, and fluffy blond hair grown long enough to cover his eyes. Seto wanted to wake him so he could get comfortable, but just stared at him, peaceful and soft.

He looked so kissable. And Seto felt a heatwave roll over his body.

Seto had grown comfortable enough to admit that Katsuya was attractive, and wouldn’t have a problem finding a boyfriend when the time came. He softly glided in his socks back to his computer to keep working for a few hours until Katsuya stirred, sitting up, rubbing his eyes.

“Good morning, sugarplum,” Seto acknowledged his movements, saving his document and shutting his laptop quietly.

“How long was I out for?” Katsuya stretched, and grabbed his phone. Just a little before midnight. “Oh. Why aren’t you sleeping yet?”

Seto shrugged. “You know I don’t sleep before midnight. I was going to turn in soon though.”

Katsuya trudged into the kitchenette, grabbing a glass of water before peering out the window at the neon lights sprawling the city, visibility still low from the snow coming down rapidly. “I thought it was meant to slow down by now.” He tilted his head back and drunk the water, Seto watching him in silence, his hair dishevelled, lazily framing his sharp jawline. “Well, I’m gonna try and sleep now. Are there any spare blankets in the cupboards?”

“Just sleep in my bed,” Seto said, yawning as Katsuya let one out too.

“What are you going to do?”

“As you said earlier, we’ve already slept together.”

“I don’t mind sleeping on the couch.”

“Mokuba says it makes his back feel stiff in the morning,” Seto said. Not entirely untrue. Katsuya was also a little too tall for the couch, having to bend his knees to sleep awkwardly. Plus, there was only a spare sheet and summer weight duvet in the cupboards on hand, and Seto couldn’t be bothered trying to source the rest within the building now.

“If you insist. Just a warning though, I might snore.”

Seto shrugged, and resigned himself to heading to bed at the same time to not wake Katsuya at two or three in the morning. “Mokuba chatters in his sleep.” He pushed the door open to the bedroom, before heading into the bathroom to brush his teeth, noticing Katsuya’s used toothbrush sitting neatly on the benchtop. Domesticated. A strange feeling to have after his space had only ever been shared with his whirlwind of a teenage brother.

Katsuya was already under the covers, with his pile of clothes laid neatly beside the bed, phone plugged in beside him. The bed was a slight smaller, but not unlike the one in Seto’s room in the mansion, with an abundance of pillows for decoration that he’d hiffed on the ground. Seto meticulously hung his coat in the wall-length closet, and threw his worn clothes in a hamper tucked behind the door, before pulling out a small pile of fresh clothes and sitting them on a chair in the corner of his room. Katsuya watched inconspicuously, noting that Seto’s frame was slimmer than he’d expected, and when he lifted his arms up he could see a clear outline of his ribs before his waist pulled in. But, dressed in just boxers, he was a lot less intimidating, with luminescent skin and an indescribable softness.

Katsuya closed his eyes and willed those thoughts away, feeling weird about the running commentary in his head.

Seto muttered a ‘night’ as he slipped into bed, lying on his back aware of Katsuya’s presence, and his body’s movements as he tried to get comfortable.

After a while of silence, Seto heard a small “can’t sleep?” from Katsuya.

“I don’t know,” Seto breathed out slowly, figuring that he was just not used to sleeping so early at all. Desk work was exhausting but not exerting.

Katsuya rolled to lie on his back, looking up at the ceiling. He was comfortable, and somewhere between sleep and consciousness, but hadn’t quite succumbed.

“I don’t mind sleeping on the couch,” he said.

“It’s not that,” Seto said.

“What’s on your mind?” Katsuya rolled to his left to face Seto, who was staring up at the ceiling, not blinking.

“Are you sure you don’t mind being here with me?”

Katsuya smiled. “I don’t mind being here with you. I mean, I’d rather be back at home cooking you dinner and things but this is a good way to get to know you.” He yawned into the pillow he’d pulled under his neck. “I know I need to go and make it on my own soon but it’s been fun, and it’s gone quick. And I’m glad I’ve gotten to know the real you.”

“Is there somebody you’re interested in?”

“Nope, I like the boyfriend I’ve got.” Katsuya grinned toothily. “But, I don’t want to overstay my welcome.”

“I’d tell you if you were.” Seto rolled over to meet with Katsuya’s stare, smile still on his face. “But, tell me something, is it normal for friends to spend this much time together?”

Katsuya shrugged. “I don’t know, probably not, but when were we ever normal? In another life, we’re probably soulmates.”

“You keep saying this ‘in another life’ thing. What’s wrong with the one we have right now?”

“I’m sure Seto Kaiba doesn’t believe in Soulmates.” Katsuya laughed, eyes barely making out Seto’s expression in the dark. “You couldn’t believe in tangible magic, even when it was happening in front of you.” He pinched Seto’s cheek. “Who is this and tell me where the real Seto Kaiba has gone?”

“It’s nonsense, you’re right. In eight billion people, who would think your soul was meant to be shared with just one other.” Seto rolled away from Katsuya, and tried to ignore the thoughts in his guts, letting Katsuya stew in the silence before he’d eventually fallen asleep.

-

The morning after was awkward. Seto had naturally awaken first after a night of broken sleep, to Katsuya still snoring, tangled in the sheet. He’d taken more than a few moments to take in the angelic sight, with the slight glow of sun behind the curtains lifting the darkness off the room. Despite his past with gangs on the streets, his personality was so pure, and even if he couldn’t get behind the notion of soulmates, he knew there was nobody else he’d rather be sharing a snow day with.

He snuck out and into the bathroom, grabbing the pile of clothes that he’d set aside the night before, shutting himself in the bathroom, turning the water on hot. He’d not processed what he was feeling emotionally, but he was hard. And, not ignorably so.

Arousal was natural, he reminded himself. He’d not paid attention to himself recently, and was so tied up in work that his stress sometimes presented itself in strange ways. This had nothing to do with Katsuya. He tried to distract himself as the hot water scalded his shoulders before cascading down his body, but his hands unconsciously wrapped around his dick and he tugged, feeling a tenseness working itself out of his stomach. His lips parted as he let out the softest moan, body jutting towards his hand, falling apart as the water curled around his fingertips and he came, panting as he rolled from the high.

He kept the water running over his body as he drifted in and out of thoughts he couldn’t align, despite them being crystal. He cleaned himself, dried himself, dressed himself, and made himself a coffee, actively disrupting his train of thought whenever it wandered back to Katsuya, peacefully sleeping still. Everything in the room distracted him though, and he needed to escape upstairs for a while if he was to get any meaningful work done.

-

Katsuya found himself tangled spectacularly in the sheets, and had to work to get out of bed. The other side of the bed was folded up nicely, and it felt cold so he’d assumed Seto had been up for hours. Checking his phone, he realised it was past nine, and he should be up by now.

It was still snowing outside, although lightly, with gave the city ward enough reprieve to make tracks on clearing the roads for when it stopped. But businesses in the central district were still largely without more than security lights, so he assumed the roads and trains were still not running.

He had everything he needed in the apartment; entertainment, water. Nothing to eat, but he figured he’d be allowed access to the vending machines downstairs if he asked. He merely settled for grabbing a glass of water, noticing Seto’s note about being upstairs, and settling on the couch in front of an anime.

His conversation last night with Seto was strange; for someone who was adamant this was only for the press, and even with a natural friendship forming on accident, they were spending an odd amount of time together. Seto’s barriers hadn’t been as hard to break and become friends with once Katsuya stopped treating every interaction as an excuse to fight, but Seto was still so different around everyone else, including his soft but firm demeanour with his secretary. He was still stern and no-nonsense on TV, and conference calls. Katsuya almost felt guilty that he’d intruded in his life and messed it up, before remembering Seto was the one with the ridiculous proposal in the first place. He wondered why Seto had played so nice from the get-go considering he was the instigator in their fights as often as Katsuya. Mokuba swore he hadn’t told Seto anything.

Katsuya sent Seto a message as his stomach began to rumble. What’s for breakfast?

I can take you downstairs in a while.

Seto wasn’t talkative when he arrived, tiredness on his cheeks, and Katsuya didn’t press the issue, feeling guilty for that too. He’d not wanted to cause any issues by being here.

“Isono said he will be allowed access to the business district a little after lunchtime,” Seto said, breaking the silence, watching Katsuya purchase a muesli bar from the machine.

“Are you going to head home, too?” Katsuya asked, and Seto shook his head.

“I’m meant to be heading out on business so I’ll leave when the airport opens again. I probably won’t be home until Saturday.”

Katsuya felt crestfallen, but nodded in understanding, hoping that Seto’s trip would help him to simmer down before things went back to being light and carefree.

-

Almost five months had passed, Katsuya realised, while out shopping with Mokuba for Seto and Shizuka’s Christmas presents. It’d been late June that he’d ended up asking for a few nights of refuge, that had somehow turned into the end of November. Seto had just come back off his business trip, but had holed himself back up in his office. Mokuba explained that it was due to complications in a vital piece of tech that was due to release for alpha soon, and that Seto was busy coding, and probably not sleeping again. While understanding, Katsuya expressed concern that Seto was falling back into habits he’d promised to break.

“So, tell me,” Mokuba said, over a hot chocolate in a café on the top floor. Unlike his older brother, he enjoyed being out at the mall, and the celebrity status it came with, even stopping to take photos with adoring girls his age. “What is going on with my older brother and you?”

Katsuya looked confused. “How much has he told you?” Katsuya didn’t want to say too much, in case Seto was being coy.

“That you’d come to an agreement that you’d leave if you found someone to date, but in the meantime, you were comfortable enough.”

Katsuya shrugged. “I don’t know what else there is to say. I feel like I’m inconveniencing him by being around, and I’ve done what he initially asked me to do. But, the times I’ve brought up leaving he’s dismissed it, just saying if I find someone else to leave, but otherwise he doesn’t mind me being here.”

“So, why haven’t you just left anyway?”

Katsuya shrugged, drinking a dirty chai, considering he’d only started on coffees since he’d kissed Seto, blushing and throwing that thought aside. “When Seto’s not being incredibly emotionally stunted, he’s really great company.”

Mokuba hummed for a moment. “If I ask you a question, will you be honest with me?”

“Sure.” Katsuya blinked, and tilted his head to the side, letting his hair flop over his eyes. He brushed it away with his left hand.

“Do you have feelings for my brother?”

Katsuya paused, not expecting that. “I like being his friend and stuff, yeah.” Mokuba kept staring, and Katsuya clicked. Oh, he wasn’t getting out of it that easily. “I don’t know. I hadn’t given that much thought.” Great, he was bound to dwell on it later though, having pushed that thought from his mind a while ago.

“Do you think Seto’s keeping you around because he likes you?”

“I think he’s lonely, sure.”

Mokuba sighed, exasperated. Once thinking Seto was the emotionally stunted one in the pair, he decided they were both on par with each other. “So, how many times have you two kissed?”

Katsuya clammed up. “Uh, like, three? Four? Not sure. What is this, twenty questions? Haha.” He drunk the rest of his Chai in one go, spluttering at the end as he inhaled. “C’mon, I need a haircut. Let’s go get that sorted,” he said, changing topic, but Mokuba kept the conversation tucked in the back of his mind.

-

“I feel like I haven’t seen much of you,” Mokuba said, meeting Seto in his office at KaibaCorp with a coffee in tow, from the same wee bakery Katsuya had taken him to – though Seto hadn’t told Mokuba anything more than he’d just “discovered it” and that it was “acceptable quality.”

Seto made a sound in agreement, thrusting some paperwork towards Mokuba to check for prose. “Once you’ve finished with school, I’ll be thankful to have your help around here. Everybody’s hopeless.” While Mokuba went through with a highlighter and pen, Seto kept working on some coding, sipping the coffee between writing lines, deleting them, and exasperated sighs.

“You know,” Mokuba said, between sheets. “It’s been five months now. Why is Jou still around?”

“Do you have a problem with it?” Seto asked simply, ceasing his typing mid-line.

“Not at all,” Mokuba said. “I like Jou, he’s a great guy. I’m just curious. You’ve managed to become pretty good friends. I was wondering if you were still sticking to your deal, or if something more was up.”

“What do you mean by something more?”

Mokuba hid a smirk. He knew he was stirring, but he was also sure there was an underlying reason after the way Katsuya had clammed up. “Do you have feelings for Jou?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Seto shot back, too quickly. “We’re just friends.”

“Okay. If you say so.” Mokuba nodded, and looked back at the paperwork in front of him, feigning innocence. Seto glared at him. “It’s just a bit odd that you’ve been spending so much voluntary time with him…” he trailed off, planting the seed in Seto’s head again.

For the second time Mokuba was questioning their relationship, and Seto narrowed his eyes back to his computer, distractedly typing code while pretending like Mokuba’s comments hadn’t bothered him. He’d first mentioned his doubts before Seto’s birthday, and again now. Coupled with the conversation about soulmates that he’d had with Katsuya before falling out of contact again, he was starting to wonder when they’d crossed the line from friends into something more.

-

Hey! Long time no talk ^_- you free for lunch?

Katsuya sent the message, almost two weeks since they’d gotten stuck in the snowstorm. Seto had not been home, and hadn’t made contact, and it was nearing Christmas. It was a time of limbo, Katsuya not sure whether he’d done something wrong, and not sure whether Seto even had time. Mokuba’s comments had crawled into his brain and nested, and Katsuya needed to reconcile them before he knew what to do next. He was certain anything extra, if anything at all, was one-sided. But, there was still that voice that chanted “you don’t know that.”

I was going to ask you the same thing.

You at work?

Yeah. I can meet you around 2. Sorry it’s so late.

All good. I’ll come to you. Anything you want to eat?

I’ll leave it up to you – you haven’t steered us wrong yet.

OK!

Katsuya threw his coat on and biked to the train station, five minutes from the mansion before catching the express into the central station. The streets were teeming with people, buying gift-wrapped chocolates and monogrammed scarves; things with extra touches. He’d managed to secure something small for Shizuka with Mokuba’s help – a handbag custom made for her from her favourite designer. Costing a week’s worth of pay, he’d seethed before paying; it’s not like he didn’t have a spare fifty thousand yen with the rent money he’d saved.

In Japan, Christmas was a couple’s holiday. Katsuya had been mindful to avoid anything romantic when shopping for Seto, opting to settle for something simple; after all, he could buy anything he feasibly wanted. It was just a new desk lamp that would change dimness and would filter blue light with time. He hoped that it would help Seto Kaiba fall asleep with his work and settle into a routine that would be better for his body.

He’d gotten to KaibaCorp a little early, and lingered outside for a moment before heading inside. The first floor was crowded, with a pop up shop in the foyer with last-minute Christmas ideas. Katsuya noted that he was wearing his Red-Eyes jacket, and the purchasable standard one was on display, selling out fast. He’d made eye contact with Seto’s receptionist, who just shrugged, and he took the elevator to the top floor, knocking lightly on Seto’s door, before hanging out in the waiting area.

“Hey.” Seto was wearing a navy coat to his knees, and had pre-emptively wrapped himself in a scarf and gloves.

“Hey. How are you?” Katsuya noticed Seto’s hair was a little longer than normal, brushing his forehead gently, and he’d opted to keep his glasses on. Seto looked handsome, and Katsuya’s heart did that jelly thing, before he shushed it.

“I’m fine. How are you?”

“I’m good, yeah.” Seto pulled his door shut and led Katsuya into the elevator.

“It’s pretty insane downstairs,” Katsuya warned. “Your shop’s almost sold out.”

“I only opened it at midday,” Seto admitted. “That’s why I’ve been so busy.”

“Well, congratulations on your success,” Katsuya said.

“It helps that you’re wearing your jacket,” Seto commented, running his hands over Katsuya’s arms to straighten out the crinkles, causing him to blush. Seto was also wearing a simple Winter coat from the collection, and when they’d left the building after an excited murmur from the crowd, Seto rolled his sleeve up just a little to show Katsuya that his coat had a Blue Eyes lining.

“We’re just a bunch of nerds,” Katsuya laughed, grabbing Seto’s hand and dragging him through the backstreets near KaibaCorp. “How long do you have? An hour?”

“If I’m late back, I don’t really care.”

Katsuya beamed. “That’s the Seto Kaiba I know and love!” He tripped on the word, before continuing. “Then, let’s get something warm. There’s some decent Yakiniku a little closer to my work.”  

The bar was small, seating just ten, and everyone sat around the grill where the chef placed their orders in front of them. Hot miso and rice were complementary, and Katsuya ordered the lunchtime special for the pair. It smelled incredible, and Katsuya was itching to chow down, salivating at the sticks of beef and pork.

“What’s your favourite Yakiniku?”

Seto thought for a moment. “I’m partial to a liver.” Katsuya got the attention of the chef and passed that along, the chef smiling as he placed two on the hotplate in front of them, the sizzle adding to the ambience.

“So, I’m glad to see you’re still alive.”

“Unfortunately so,” Seto said, biting into his first stick, before accepting that Katsuya did just love good food. His hands were warming up between sticks, cupping the miso soup. “This will all be over for another year soon.”

“You said that back in October. I told you that you would always have that excuse.”

Seto shrugged, bringing the miso to his lips, letting it fog up his glasses. It tasted like what he imagined happiness did, especially in the depth of winter.

“What are you doing for Christmas, Katsuya?”

“You,” Katsuya slipped out, before covering his mouth and going beet red. “Ah, I’m probably just going to be around home. I was hoping you’d be around to exchange presents with Mokie and me in the morning.”

“I’ll be home for Christmas.” Seto pretended to ignore the faux par. “You didn’t have to get me anything.”

“It’s nothing much, really,” Katsuya blushed, before shovelling his face full of Yakiniku, hoping to avoid another embarrassing comment. He couldn’t pinpoint why he was acting lovesick, but Seto’s mannerisms were starting to crawl up under his skin. The way he meticulously wrapped his teeth around the meat before dragging it off the skewer. The careful way he sipped on his miso like it was slightly too hot. How he smiled lightly between their special brand of joking together, eyes creasing softly. He ate slowly, hoping that this wouldn’t end because something in his gut told him things weren’t going to be the same after today.

Conversation remained light despite Katsuya’s inner dialogue. And when they’d exited the restaurant, Seto told Katsuya he’d be better to head back to the train station from there since it was only a block away, rather than have to walk him back to the office and through the crowds for no reason.

Katsuya agreed, parting ways with Seto, but before Seto stepped away, he grabbed his face and kissed him, pressing in for a long time.

-

Katsuya’s heart sat in his throat, and he felt like he wanted to vomit.

He’d kissed Seto because it felt like the right thing to do. He was sick with fear of Seto’s reaction. He swore Seto had pressed back a little, but fought with his brain. There’s no way.

He’d sacrificed a home by getting in too deep. By pushing boundaries.

He was so attracted to the moody brunette, who’d managed to unravel in front of him. He wanted to spend his waking hours with him, no longer out of necessity but purely out of selfish want. He wanted to kiss him. He wanted more than just kisses, and he felt sick that he was lusting over Seto like a piece of meat.

Katsuya spent time considering if it was a proxy kind of love; the first safe place Katsuya had lived, the first friend he’d made in a long time. A comfortable rhythm where he exchanged home-cooked dinners for human glimpses through Seto’s eyes.

Fuck, it would break Seto to know that he’d exposed his soul for no reason. Somebody else was just going to leave him. Like when he’d been at the orphanage.

Can we talk. Katsuya sent the message after lingering on it for an hour. He daren’t interrupt Seto if he was still busy, despite knowing that Seto had come home. He’d already caused enough damage.

A knock on his door softly followed a minute later. Seto pushed it open, closing it behind him and meeting Katsuya in his room for the first time.

“You look like you’ve been crying.” Seto’s face screwed up into concern, wondering what had flipped in Katsuya’s brain.

“I’ve gotta move out,” Katsuya said, holding the tears behind his eyelids.

“Why?” When Katsuya didn’t answer, Seto sat on the edge of his bed tentatively. “Did you find somebody else?”

Katsuya shook his head, tears bubbling out of his eyes. He really felt like he was going to break in two.

“C’mon Katsuya. What’s happened? Did I do something wrong?”

“I did.”

Seto furrowed his brows, unable to calculate what was going on. If it wasn’t someone else, and if it wasn’t Seto, then what could Katsuya possibly be thinking?

“I’m not psychic, Katsuya. I don’t understand this.” Seto reached his hand out to Katsuya’s, who pulled it away and crumpled into a ball. Trying to lighten the mood, Seto followed with “well, when you texted me saying you wanted to talk, I expected Japanese, not incomprehensible sobs. I haven’t learned how to interpret those.”

“I….” Katsuya wiped his tears on his tee, unable to stop from sobbing for moments. Seto moved closer, putting an arm around him despite his recoil. A tremble came from the ball before a barely understandable mumble. “I accidentally fell in love with you.”

Seto paralysed, not expecting Katsuya to say anything like that. At all. “What do you mean?”

“There was nobody watching us.” Seto threw his mind back to lunchtime, and the feeling on his lips afterwards. “I. I need to…”

Mokuba had been right. And he should have seen it coming.

“Katsuya,” Seto said, after finding his voice again, pulling Katsuya’s arms away from his knees and unravelling the ball of a human that was heaving from sadness. “Katsuya. Please listen to me.”

Katsuya held his breath as he tried to calm the overwhelming sadness that blanketed his body.

“I’m not asking you to leave for that. I don’t want you to leave.”

Katsuya paused, before feeling Seto kiss him. Alone, in his room. It was gentle, and Seto laced his fingers through Katsuya’s messy blonde hair, pulling him closer.

“No, I don’t want you to leave,” he repeated, feeling at peace, hoping that Katsuya would come down from hysterics. “I want to figure this out with you. I don’t think I want to do this again. And I don’t want to do this with anybody else.”

Seto looked defeated, watching Katsuya slowly cease his sobbing. “Despite what I thought four months ago, we’re going to be okay, Katsuya.”

-

They’d spent time just cuddling on Katsuya’s bed, leaning against the headboard and talking it out. They discussed about how they proceeded from here, though nothing much needed to change, it was an unspoken invitation for a little more intimacy around the home.

Seto also apologised for his lack of communication, especially after they’d ended up snowed in together. In not so many words, he admitted it was then that he thought he’d accepted he had feelings for Katsuya.

Mokuba didn’t find out the easy way, accidentally walking in on a heavy kiss over breakfast as Seto was on his way out to work. Katsuya blushed when the teen walked melodramatically into the kitchen, covering his eyes with a screech. “Get a room you whores!”

“Mokuba!” Seto exclaimed, but Katsuya couldn’t help but laugh, silently thanking the teen for being so pushy.

Mokuba obviously had questions, and felt more comfortable talking to Katsuya than Seto about them. How did it happen? Who kissed who first. There were details that Katsuya kept close to their chest out of respect, but he spilled more than Mokuba needed to know. Mokuba grinned slyly, hinting that he’d give the pair more space, and that he was glad the walls were soundproof. Katsuya nearly died of embarrassment.

It’s not that he wasn’t physically attracted to Seto, he’d all but admitted so when he’d asked Seto if they’d fuck in another life. But, being confronted with that as a tangible possibility

Oh dear, he nearly fainted in the kitchen while making a bento.

Dating Seto Kaiba wasn’t without it’s hassles. As the pair became more intertwined at home, Katsuya saw a little more of the rough and moody side of him post work and stressed, and he continued to hole himself up in his office for days at a time without communicating. Katsuya put that on the medium-term project list, adding his work schedule to Seto’s calendar without being asked as the first subtle hint.

Christmas crept up, and despite Katsuya’s prior thoughts about it only being a couple’s holiday, he was now officially a couple with Seto in private. He felt a little silly when he handed over his gift, but Seto smiled and said he’d use it. Seto had also gotten Katsuya something small (Seto’s version of “small and inexpensive”), a new bicycle to get to work. Katsuya was blown away.

Mokuba slyly grinned as he handed over a small and flat gift to Seto and Katsuya, a joint gift. Katsuya opened it slowly, howling in anguish at Mokuba’s scrapbooking ability. Every article, published photo of the two was documented, with dates and locations.

“Why did you…?” Seto asked, gobsmacked.

“I had a hunch,” Mokuba giggled, and Seto threw a pillow at him.

-

Despite having done so, they were awkward about sharing Seto’s bed – Seto’s excuse was that he’d wake Katsuya up, and Katsuya’s unvocal excuse was that, after months of refusing to think about Seto as more than a little attractive, wouldn’t let him sleep.

It took longer than he’d thought before their kisses would heat up, taking a bottle of alcohol to loosen them up from the barriers they’d kept up for the previous months. With Mokuba on a school trip, one Saturday night they finally cracked open a bottle of wine together and smoked cigarettes while chatting into the small hours of the morning, before relocating to the very couch in Seto’s room that they’d first made out on. But this time, the making out was hot, and hands were everywhere, and clothes were in piles on the floor.

Inexperienced, they spent the weekend exploring each other’s bodies, and their own likes and dislikes. While not working themselves up to sex – they weren’t patient enough, really - blowjobs and making out migrated from just Seto’s bedroom to his office, and even the kitchen (after Seto had sneakily confirmed that Mokuba wasn’t expecting to be home from his school trip til Tuesday, just to make sure). After all, they were teenagers, and this was Seto’s first time in a real relationship, and he wanted to selfishly experience everything a normal teenager did, including the sneaking around.

Seto was surprised that Katsuya wasn’t a cuddler in bed. Katsuya was surprised that Seto was. He was also unimpressed at waking up on days where he didn’t have to head to work until nine, that Seto’s alarm went off so goddamn early.

“’T’fuck.” Katsuya grumbled, throwing a pillow at his other half. “It’s five fuckin’ thirty.”

“You chose this life,” Seto said without sympathy, before turning on the light. Katsuya held a pillow over his head and groaned. “Why do you get up so early?!”

“I shower and check emails before you usually found me downstairs.” Seto laughed, excusing himself to the bathroom, wearing nothing at all. Katsuya couldn’t help but let his eyes follow his boyfriend, that feeling stirring in the pit of his stomach.

And it’s true. Katsuya did choose this life. And he couldn’t imagine living a different one now.