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Getting in the New Year's Spirit

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Bakura held his gut, his riotous laughter cutting clear through the pop version of some holiday song wavering out from the jukebox at the other side of the bar.

“Okay...okay...” he panted as he caught his breath. Nodding to a dark-haired woman in her late-thirties, who was chatting up her group of friends as they waited to get waited on, Bakura said, “Do her next.”

“Hm…” Marik considered the woman’s knee-length, sleek black dress--elegant, yet cut low enough to show off breasts that were still pretty perky.

“Married young, recently divorced with one--no, two kids at home. She’s looking to reclaim the glory days she gave up in order to start a family.”

Bakura snorted and sipped his rum and Coke. “And that young blonde hitting on the bartender?”

“Daddy issues, flunked out of college, and has three tattoos: a peace sign on her foot, an inspirational quote on her upper shoulder, and a chinese symbol as a tramp stamp that she thinks means ‘beautiful angel’ but that actually means ‘duck sauce’.”

Bakura choked on his drink, wheezing as his lungs objected to the carbonation and alcohol. Other people glanced toward them briefly before losing interest and returning to their own conversations.

“You’re bloody ridiculous!”

Marik grinned, sipping his own whiskey sour.

“You’re just jealous I’m better at this game than you.”

“You caught me,” Bakura grunted, downing the rest of his drink and managing to spill the last bit down his front. “Oh, for fucksake…”

“I swear, I can’t take you anywhere.” Marik shook his head and managed to finish his own cocktail without dumping it on himself.

Dabbing the wet spot on his shirt with napkins, Bakura shrugged. “You’re the one who decided to go out tonight.”

“Only because I knew if we’d stayed home, Ryou would’ve dragged us to the stupid party. I don’t see the point in ringing in the new year surrounded by people we barely tolerate on a good day.”

Bakura nodded, looking around at all the other people crowding the bar. “Although, I'll bet it's more exciting than this crowd--Kaiba's hosting it after all.”

“Yeah.” Marik sighed, fiddling with the “realistic” centerpiece, comprised of genuine rubber holly, authentic plastic pine, and magical sparkling snow that never melted.

“You want to just head home? We can get plastered much cheaper there.”

Marik sighed again, tearing off a small bit of fake tree and methodically shredding it needle by needle. “I don’t know. I don’t want to go home, but this place is fucking dull. I was hoping for a wild night.”

“If we go home, we can get as wild as we like,” Bakura purred. “And I can personally guarantee you won’t be bored.”

Marik caught Bakura’s eye and grinned. “As intriguing as that proposition is, I really feel like doing something--other than you.”

Bakura huffed and slumped back in his chair, arms folded. “Well, what did you have in mind?”

Marik shrugged. “We could try another bar.”

“I'm sure most of them are going to be just as crowded as this. We'll be lucky to find standing room, nevermind a table.” Bakura sighed in dismay at his empty cup. “Perhaps we would have been better off going to that party after all--at least then Kaiba’d be footing the bill for our drinks.”

Marik perked up, his eyes glinting like polished charoite. “Yes! Let’s do that!”

Bakura raised a less-than-enthusiastic eyebrow. “What, go to the party that we came here to avoid going to?”

“No-- crash the party that we came here to avoid going to.”

Bakura snorted. “You do realize the party is at Kaiba’s mansion , right? He’s probably got every millimeter of that place under surveillance. Breaking in--especially while tipsy--would be ill advised.”

“I thought the great Thief King could break in anywhere undetected?”

Bakura frowned. “He could, back when he could still summon his Ka.”

Hearing the petulant undercurrent in Bakura’s voice, Marik relented, “Well, I’m sure given ample notice you could still do it, but it doesn’t really matter. We were invited, so we wouldn’t have to break in.”

“Is it really considered ‘crashing’ the party if you were invited to it?”

“Look, do you want to go get wasted at the party and scandalize all of the goodie-two-shoes or not?”

Bakura considered. “Alright, but if we’re hanging around all those tossers after all, I need another shot or two first.”

X

It was nearing ten o’clock when Marik and Bakura--the latter in significantly better spirits than he’d been an hour ago--were waved past the security gate to the grandiose Kaiba Manor.

“Damn, this place is swanky,” Marik said as they dismounted his motorcycle.

Bakura snickered, stumbling a bit when he touched down. “It’s Kaiba’s . What did you expect?”

Marik looked around at the uncharacteristically bland courtyard. Aside from the marble pillars framing the entrance and the trees and shrubs dotting the lawn, there really wasn’t much in the way of decoration.

“Honestly, more dragon statues.”

Bakura giggled, then giggled some more, leaning on Marik’s bike to keep mostly upright.

“Maybe those last few shots weren't such a good idea,” Marik considered.

“Too late now.”

Pushing roughly off the bike--and earning a disapproving glare from Marik--Bakura began weaving a path between the other vehicles toward the front door. They’d just topped the steps when the door swung open, Kaiba’s right-hand man greeting them.

“Welcome. Mr. Kaiba and the others have been informed of your arrival and are waiting in the parlour. Please, follow me.”

Marik and Bakura shared a is-this-guy-for-real look, and Bakura snickered as the man lead them through the manor.

“Jeez, this place feels even bigger on the inside,” Marik commented.

“Maybe it is,” Bakura considered. “Maybe it’s like the Tardis, and Kaiba’s actually an alien.”

Marik cackled. “That would explain so much! Actually, now that you mention it, Kaiba does resemble David Tennant…”

Marik trailed off as they rounded a corner and the sound of music and laughter floated to their ears. They stopped at the large threshold, and Kaiba’s manservant announced their presence.

“Marik Ishtar and...uh…” The man glanced uncertainty between Bakura in the doorway and Ryou a few feet away. “And...his guest have arrived.”

Bakura rolled his eyes and walked past him, making a beeline toward Ryou, who looked thrilled and a bit inebriated himself.

“Marik! Bakura! I’m so glad you guys decided to show up. I stopped by your place, but you weren’t home.”

“We pre-gamed,” Marik said, joining them. Glancing around the parlour, he asked, “So, did we miss much?”

“Not really,” Ryou admitted. “We’ve mostly been playing games, drinking, and chatting. We’ve been trying to get Kaiba to join us, but he’s been as distant as usual.”

“He’s not a very good host, then.” Bakura winked. “Maybe you should teach him a thing or two, eh, Ryou.”

Ryou smiled. “Actually, it’s Mokuba’s party really. He’s the one who organized everything. I think Seto’s just here because Mokuba guilted him into making an appearance--that, and to make sure the party doesn’t get out of hand.”

“Funny, we came to ensure it does,” Marik said.

Ryou’s brow furrowed. “Please don’t go causing too much trouble or Kaiba definitely won’t host another party, and hosting’s the only way we could even get him to come, seeing as how he lives here.”

“Challenge accepted,” Marik said, a conniving smirk stretching his lips.

“I--what?” Ryou asked. “What challenge?”

Marik caught Bakura’s eye. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

Bakura matched Marik’s mischievous expression. “Get Kaiba drunk and see how wild this party can get?”

“Umm, guys, I don’t think--”

“Absolutely,” Marik agreed. “I bet we can get him plastered before midnight hits.”

Glancing around, Marik noticed Joey and Tristan playing darts off to one side while Yugi, Téa, and Mokuba played some sort of game with playing cards at a poker table. Seto, as Ryou had said, stood off to one side, far away from the rest of the party and glowering at everyone. His melodramatic duster coat and belts were missing over his tight black turtleneck and matching slacks, making him look like a particularly grumpy granite statue.

Nodding to himself, Marik said, “Follow my lead,” before walking over to Yugi, Téa, and Mokuba.

Yugi was the first to glance up from his hand. “Hey! Glad you could make it.”

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Bakura drawled.

Ryou bumped his arm. “Be nice.”

“So,” Marik said, directing his attention to Mokuba. “We hear your brother's being a wet blanket--we’d like to help with that.”

Laying down his full house, Mokuba gave them a suspicious once-over. “Really? How?”

Bakura draped an arm around Marik’s shoulders. “We were thinking a competition of sorts.”

“What kind of competition?” Téa asked.

“A drinking games relay,” Marik said. “I’m thinking Flip Cup, Quarters, and Beer Pong.”

“We don’t have a ping-pong table,” Mokuba said.

“Seriously?” Bakura asked. “Kaiba owns half of the fucking city but doesn’t own a ping-pong table?”

Mokuba shrugged. “We have an actual tennis court out back.”

Bakura just glowered at him.

“Okay, well, we can still play Flip Cup and Quarters,” Marik said.

“Actually,” Yugi said with an apologetic smile, “they only have real glasses, no plastic cups, so Flip Cup is out.”

Marik huffed and placed a hand on his hip. “Fine! Quarters it is.”

“I don’t know about this,” Téa hedged. “I mean, Kaiba probably won’t go for it.”

“He will if Yugi challenges him,” Mokuba said with a smirk.

“Well,” Yugi considered. “I suppose it would be nice to get him to actually join us.”

“Get who ta join us in what?”

Having finished their round of darts, Joey and Tristan joined the others.

“We’re trying to get Kaiba to mingle,” Ryou explained.

“Psh, good luck,” Tristan muttered.

“We figured he might loosen up if we get him drunk,” Bakura said. “Care to help?”

Joey laughed. “Ya wanna get Rich Boy drunk? Now that I gotta see. Count me in.”

“What the hell are you all blathering about?”

As if summoned from his solitary corner, Kaiba came over, arms folded and looking about as happy as a wet cat.

“We were just considering playing a drinking game,” Yugi said, “and we wondered if you’d like to join.”

Kaiba snorted and cocked a hip. “Why, so I can make a fool of myself like the rest of you? No thanks.”

Mokuba sighed. “See. I told you he would say no.”

“Well, I guess that’s to be expected,” Marik said, a challenge in his eyes as he met Kaiba’s. “You probably couldn’t keep up with us anyway.”

Seto smirked. “Nice try, Ishtar, but I’m not falling for that.”

“Yea,” Joey dismissed. “Besides, drinkin’ games are for people who’re actually capable of having fun .”

Kaiba glared at him. “I know how to have fun.”

“Aw, yea? Prove it!”

“Yeah,” the others prodded.

“Come on, Seto,” Mokuba pleaded. “It’s New Year's Eve!”

Kaiba’s scowl turned thoughtful. “...Alright,” he agreed, “but if we’re playing a game, we’re keeping score.” He smirked, meeting Yugi’s eyes. “I want a record of how badly I beat you all.”

Marik turned to Bakura and they traded victorious looks. “Got a quarter on you?”

X

A few minutes later they were all squeezed around the circular card table, a drink in front of each of them. Kaiba had managed to conjure up a whiteboard from somewhere, and Mokuba sat closest to it, the designated--and reluctant--score keeper. Despite his protests and pouting, Seto had flatout refused to let him join in in the drinking, making him stick to water or soda.

Once everyone had settled, Marik sat an empty glass in the middle of the table.

“Okay, so this is how this works. We each take turns trying to bounce the quarter off the table into the glass. If you miss, you take a drink and the person to your left goes. If you succeed, you get a point and can make anyone else drink, and you get another turn. If you manage to get the quarter in three times in a row, you can make up a rule that the group has to follow until play comes back around to you, then play passes. Anyone who breaks a rule takes a penalty drink. Everyone follow?”

There were nods all around.

“Good.” Marik slid the quarter across the table to Mokuba. “Since you’re keeping score, why don’t you start, Mokuba?”

“Okay.”

Aiming carefully, he tossed the quarter, which bounced clear over the glass and rolled off the other side of the table.

“Awwww. I don’t think I’m going to be very good at this game.”

Mokuba took a sip of cranberry soda, and Bakura--who sat opposite him--retrieved the coin before sliding it over to Kaiba.

Without a word, Kaiba bounced the quarter in the cup. Smirking, he said, “Yugi, take a drink.”

Smiling, Yugi lifted his glass in a salute and drank.

The second toss hit the edge of the glass before falling in. “Make that two.”

Yugi sighed and took another drink.

Bakura huffed and frowned as Kaiba made his third shot as easily as the first two. “Perhaps we should have gone with a different game.”

Kaiba flicked the bangs from his face, shooting Bakura a cocky grin. “It doesn’t matter which game you chose--I’d win regardless.”

Joey snorted. “Do you even listen ta yerself when ya talk?”

“More often than I listen to you when you do--by the way, Mutt, take a drink.”

Joey grumbled under his breath at the nickname, but took a gulp from his cup.

“What rule are you choosing?” Marik asked.

Leering at Joey, Kaiba said, “Everyone has to insult Wheeler before starting their turn.”

“Oh, fuck you, Kaiba!”

"I'm not that desperate, and you're not that lucky."

That makes it my turn, I believe,” Ryou said before Joey could retort. “Um…” He hesitated. “Do I really have to insult him?”

“Or you can just take the penalty drink,” Yugi reminded him.

“Oh, right. Sorry, Kaiba.” Ryou smiled at Joey and took a drink. Kaiba rolled his eyes, but said nothing.

Ryou got the coin in on his first try, assigning the drink to Kaiba, but overshot his second, taking a drink for the miss.

Marik grabbed the quarter and sent Joey a smirk. Joey glared back.

“So? Ya gonna insult me?”

“I would,” Marik said evenly, “but nature already did that.”

Bakura snorted. “Was that really the best you could do, Marik?”

Marik shrugged. “It fit with the setup.”

Taking his turn, Marik got the quarter in twice, doling out one shot to Kaiba and the second to Bakura.

“I thought we were trying to get Kaiba drunk?” Bakura questioned.

“I’m trying to get everyone drunk, including you,” Marik said, sipping from his own glass for his missed last shot.

Bakura chuckled. “I’m already drunk, but whatever. If we’re going that route...” Rather than insult Joey, Bakura took the penalty drink. Then, quick and deft, Bakura bounced the quarter in once--“Drink to Kaiba.”--twice--“Drink to Téa.”--three times--“Drink to Tristan. Annnnd starting Joey’s turn, everytime one of us is supposed to take a drink, we all take a drink.”

“That’s absurd!” Kaiba protested, and Bakura sent him a challenging grin.

“Would you prefer I make it so just you take a drink every time someone else does? Because that was my original plan.”

Kaiba’s frown deepened. “Why is everyone so hell bent on getting me drunk?”

“‘Cause yer wound tighter than an eight day clock,” Joey said. “We’re jus’ tryin’ ta get ya ta loosin’ up a bit.”

“Besides,” Marik added, “the whole point of a drinking game is to get shitfaced and have fun--and we think it would be fun to see you get shitfaced.”

“Whatever,” Kaiba muttered. “It’s Wheeler’s turn.”

“Uh, so, wait. Am I supposed ta insult myself now?” Kaiba smirked, and Joey huffed. “Well, fuck that! I’ll take the penalty, and I’m draggin’ ya all down with me.”

Everyone took a drink.

Joey got his first attempt in, then frowned. “Well, it’s a bit less fun now that we’re all drinkin’ each time anyone gets it in, but fer the sake ‘a formality, I’m still assignin’ the shot ta Kaiba.”

Taking his drink with everyone else, Seto sneered at Joey. “Wow, for a second there you almost sounded intelligent.”

Joey growled. “Shuddup! I ain’t an idiot, so stop treatin’ me like one!”

“I’ll stop treating you like an idiot when you start proving me wrong.”

“Will you two cut it out? Man, you argue more than we do,” Marik commented.

“And that’s saying something,” Bakura agreed. He grinned at Marik. “Maybe we should grab some mistletoe so they can kiss and makeup.”

“Wheeler’s got as much of a chance of getting a kiss from me as he does winning a duel against me--that is to say, zero percent.”

Ignoring Kaiba, Joey focused on the game, managing his second and third attempts, both of which he arbitrarily claimed were to Kaiba. “And I'm makin’ it a rule that ya have ta make an animal noise before ya drink.”

Mokuba laughed. “This place is going to sound like a barnyard.”

“Appropriate, seeing as how we're drinking with swine,” Kaiba drawled.

Mokuba smacked him on the arm. “Can't you be nice for a few hours, Bro?”

“I am being nice. I haven't kicked them out yet, have I?”

“Before I start my turn, I need a top-off,” Tristan said.

“At the rate we’re drinking, you’d best bring the bottle,” Bakura advised.

“Good idea.”

Grabbing a two-liter of Coke and most of a fifth of Crown Royal, Tristan returned to the table so everyone could refill their glasses.

“I may have to switch to plain soda and water with Mokuba soon,” Téa said. “You can all compete for who has the worst hangover in the morning, but I’d rather not spend the night hugging the toilet.”

They all took a moment to refill their cups before Tristan took his turn.

“Uhhhhh, seeing as how we’re already drinking so much...Joey’s a real Don Juan with the ladies--because they Don Juan anything to do with him.”

“But sluts love me--just ask yer ma,” Joey shot back with a grin, and Tristan lost it.

“Joey!” Téa scolded. “There are young ears here.”

Mokuba snorted. “Please. Like I haven’t heard worse at school. Hell, I think I’ve heard worse from Seto.”

“Alright,” Tristan said once he’d composed himself. “Here goes.” He bounced the quarter. It hit the edge of the glass and ricocheted toward Bakura, who caught it on reflex.

“Nice catch!” Yugi complimented.

Bakura smirked and rolled the coin over to him.

A series of animal sounds filled the air, followed by laughter as they all took a drink with Tristan.

Joey narrowed an accusatory look at Kaiba. “I didn't hear you make an animal noise.”

Seto glowered at him. “Woof,” he deadpanned.

“Yer s’posed ta do it before ya drink,” Joey muttered, which Kaiba ignored.

“Question,” Ryou said. “If Kaiba chooses not to make a noise before he drinks, and instead takes a penalty drink, does he wave the rule for the penalty drink as well, or do they stack? Because that would be, like, infinite drinks.”

Bakura chuckled. “You're overthinking it--although in that case, I'd say he should have to do a straight shot of something for being a party pooper.”

“Reminds me of my Revival Jam, Slifer combo,” Marik reflected.

“Only I think Kaiba would die of alcohol poisoning long before he ‘decked out’,” Yugi said. “I'm sure there's way more alcohol in this place than there were cards in your deck.”

Opting to drink the penalty rather than insult Joey, Yugi breezed through his turn--to no one's surprise--easily pulling off a hat trick. Everyone whinnied, barked, mooed, and cawed as they took their four drinks.

“Alright,” Yugi said when they'd quieted down. “By Royal Decree, starting Téa's turn, all players are banned from saying drink, drank, drunk, or any variation on those words.”

“Oh bloody fucking hell,” Bakura grumbled.

Kaiba snorted. “By Royal Decree?”

Yugi grinned and shrugged. “King of Games. Any rule I make is automatically a royal order.”

“Oh, are we role-playing now?” Ryou asked, sitting up straighter.

“Hell no!” Joey shouted. “I ain't playin’ no more RPG’s with dis guy,” he added, gesturing to Bakura, who rolled his eyes.

“S’not like I can make it a Shadow Game without the Ring,” Bakura slurred.

“Don't care. I ain't takin’ any chances.”

“Okay, my turn.” Téa retrieved the quarter from the glass. “I’ll also take the penalty, so dr--uh, bottoms up!”

“Man, that’s gonna be a hard rule,” Joey commented.

Téa missed her shot, and the quarter bounced to a stop between Bakura and Marik.

“Next time that comes over here, I'm keeping it,” Bakura said, sending it over to Mokuba after they all made noises and drank.

“It was your quarter to begin with,” Marik reminded him.

“Oh yeah.” Bakura giggled, and Marik took in his flushed appearance.

“I think after this glass you should switch to water.”

“Psh. I can drink any of these losers under the table.”

“If we all started out sober, probably, but we drank before coming here, remember? You more than me, since I drove.”

“Mind your own glass, Marik.”

“Penalties to both of you,” Yugi said.

Marik rolled his eyes as they both polished off their cups and poured refills, the others following suit. “Fine. But don't expect me to hold your hair for you later.”

“You can borrow a hair tie if you need it,” Ryou offered, holding up his wrist, which was striped with a multitude of colored bands. “I brought extras just in case.”

Marik frowned at Ryou. “Don't coddle him. If he refuses to listen to reason, he deserves puke in his hair.”

Bakura scoffed. “You mean if I refuse to listen to you .”

Marik grinned. “Same difference.”

“Okay,” Mokuba announced stepping back from the scoreboard. “The ranking stands: Seto, Bakura, Joey, and Yugi are tied for first with three points, Marik’s in second with two, Ryou’s third with one, and me, Téa, and Tristan are in last with big old goose eggs.”

“At least I’m in good company,” Téa commented, sending Mokuba a sunny smile.

“Not for long, if I can help it,” Mokuba said. Picking up the quarter, he sent Joey a devilish grin. “The only difference between your face and a joke is that jokes can be unfunny, but your face always makes people laugh.”

The group broke out in a round of giggles.

“I'll admit,” Joey said, “that one was pretty good.”

Mokuba made his first attempt this time, also managing a second before flubbing his third. “Well, at least I'm no longer at zero.”

Another chorus of animal sounds accompanied the three drinks.

Accepting the coin from his brother, Kaiba met Joey's expectant glare with a trademark smirk.

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again--which explains why your parents had a second child.”

Joey’s eyes narrowed further. “Ya know, I could say the same about you.”

“Well, that goes without saying,” Mokuba said with an impish grin. “I mean, I'm way cuter than Seto!”

“Yea, and just as humble,” Joey muttered. “Big egos must run in the family.”

Kaiba gave a snort, his smirk edging dangerously close to a grin.

Marik heaved a loud, put-upon sigh, stirring the ice in his glass with a finger. “Kaiba, will you take your turn already?”

He did, landing all three attempts in quick succession. More drinks. More noises.

Setting down his glass, Joey pointed an accusatory finger at Kaiba. “Yer still not making animal noises.”

Seto dismissed him with an eye roll. “I told you I wasn't going to make a fool of myself like the rest of you.”

“Yet you expected everyone else ta follow your rule and insult me.” Joey looked around the table at the others. “That ain't fair! He should get a penalty or somethin’!”

“Joey's right, Kaiba,” Yugi said.

Kaiba's smug grin collapsed into an irritated grimace. “It was a stupid rule.”

“Stupid or not, ya still have ta follow it,” Joey argued. “You should have to make up for all 'a them penalty drinks ya didn't take.”

“Speaking of,” Bakura said, pointedly raising his glass and taking a long sip. He belated made a sheep noise and giggled.

Everyone else copied, accept Kaiba, who held Joey's gaze as he took a long, silent drink.

“If ya ain't gonna play by the rules, then why ya botherin’ ta play at all?”

“To win. Why else?”

“Ya can't win if ya cheat.”

Kaiba gave a lazy shrug, and Joey got to his feet.

Gaze still fixed on Kaiba, Joey grabbed the Crown from the table’s middle and topped off Kaiba's glass, which went from one-third full to brimming. He capped the significantly lighter bottle and set it back with a thump .

Down it .”

Kaiba raised an eyebrow. “Excuse me?”

“Ya heard me.”

“Joey, I don't think--” Téa began, but Joey interrupted her.

“Either he drinks it, or I say we start deductin’ points. Yer call, Moneybags.”

Everyone was quiet, waiting to see what Kaiba would do.

Slowly, cobalt eyes locked with amber, Seto lifted the glass and drained it.

“Happy now?” he asked, setting the glass back down before refilling it, this time with a ratio of alcohol and Coke that favored the latter.

Joey nodded and sat back down.

“We all need to take a--a sip--for Joey,” Yugi pointed out. “You used one of the buzzwords again,” he explained.

“Ah, right.”

“Wait,” Kaiba said as everyone reached for their cups. “For my rule I'm negating all previous rules. This is getting absurd.”

“I would argue that that's not really a rule,” Marik said, getting up and grabbing a couple bottles of water from a mini fridge behind the bar, “but I actually agree with you. I can't even recall how many drinks I've taken.”

“Same,” Tristan agreed, and the others nodded.

“Yer all a bunch'a wusses,” Bakura slurred. He polished off his own glass, and Marik swapped it for one of the waters as he reclaimed his seat. Bakura frowned at the plastic bottle. “I don’ wan’ that.”

“You’ve had enough. Any more and you'll be ringing in the New Year doubled-over in the bathroom.”

Bakura grunted and, after a short struggle with the cap, took a swig from the bottle.

The game resumed. Ryou bounced the quarter a bit too enthusiastically, and it bounced clear over the glass in the middle to land in Joey's cup across the way, splashing him with whiskey and Coke. The others laughed, but Bakura nearly fell out of his chair, hysterical with giggles, before Marik hauled him back into his seat.

“Ummmm, does that count?” Ryou asked hopefully.

“Unless ya were aimin’ fer my drink, I'd say no,” Joey answered, picking the quarter from his cup. He dried it on his pant leg before rolling it over to Marik.

Yugi sent Ryou a sympathetic smile. “Sorry, Ryou. Drink up.”

“Thank God we ain't doin’ that ‘drink, drank, drunk’ rule anymore,” Joey commented. “I purposely avoided talkin’ fer a bit so I wouldn't accidentally break it.”

“If I'd known that,” Kaiba said, “I’d have kept that one in play just to shut you up.”

“Will you lay off me, man? I mean, what's yer fuckin’ problem, anyway?”

I'm taking my turn, now ,” Marik announced loudly, glaring between the two. He bounced the quarter in the cup before the argument could escalate. “One to Joey, because you need to chill.” Second shot in. “One to Kaiba for being a dick.” And a third. “And one to me because I'm getting sick of you people already.”

That said, he downed half his glass, hoping to join Bakura on whatever level he had reached that seemed to make everything so damn funny rather than irritating.

“What's your rule?” Yugi asked.

Marik thought for a moment, then shook his head. He turned to Bakura, who was slumped on the table, humming to himself and peeling the label off of the bottle of Crown.

“Bakura, what rule should I make?”

Bakura tried to loose a devious chuckle, but it ended up more of a drunken cackle. “Make everyone tell a secret before they drink--something most people in the room won't know.”

Marik raised his eyebrows and grinned. “That's a good one. Okay, that's my rule.”

“So, if you take the penalty you just take double drinks, right?” Ryou asked. “We never really settled that before.”

Mokuba nodded. “That seems like a good rule.”

“Says the kid that's not drinking,” Tristan pointed out.

“You can always switch to water or soda, too,” Téa reminded him.

“True.”

“Here,” Marik said, passing the coin to Bakura.

Rather than bounce it off the table, Bakura flicked the quarter off his thumb. It missed the glass by a long shot and pinged off the scoreboard, narrowly avoiding Mokuba.

“Hey!” Mokuba yelled.

“Sorry,” Bakura said, grinning and not looking remotely sincere.

“Drink your water, Bakura,” Marik ordered as Mokuba fished around under the table to track down the runaway coin.

“I'm trying to think of a secret first.” He frowned in thought for a moment, then snapped his fingers and grinned at Marik. “Did I ever tell you about the time I turned Ryou’s Monster World dice into loaded dice?”

Marik chuckled. “No. I don't think you did.”

“That's funny,” Ryou said, sounding far from amused, “you never told me either.”

After the second it took for that to sink in, Bakura cackled. “You never figured it out?! Hahaha! You've been using loaded dice all this time!”

Ryou frowned at him. “Damnit, Bakura! Now I need to buy a new set! When did you fix them?”

“A few sessions ago after you and Marik passed out.”

“Got it!” Mokuba announced, resurfacing from under the table, quarter in hand. Taking up his seat in triumph, he passed the quarter to Joey. “Here. Try not to take me out with it.”

Joey snorted. “Believe me, my aim ain't that bad--and you ain't the one I'd be aimin’ ta take out.”

Kaiba's eyes dared him to try it, but despite his talk, Joey ignored him and aimed at the glass. He was starting to feel the alcohol hit him, and figured this would be his last productive turn.

One…two...miss.

“Well, damn,” Joey sighed, sitting back.

“Too bad, Mutt. You were so close to keeping up with me.”

A muscle ticked along Joey's jaw as he grit his teeth. “I can still drink ya under the table. One shot ta you, one ta Yug’, and one ta me fer the miss.”

“Okay, so who's going first?” Yugi wondered.

“Oh yeah, the secret thing...” Joey said, scrunching his brow in thought. “Huh. Nothin’ comes ta mind--least not stuff half the people here don't already know.”

“I think I’ll take the penalty this time,” Yugi said before sipping twice from his cup.

“The first porno I ever saw, I stole from a gas station,” Joey confessed.

“Joey!” Téa admonished, flicking a meaningful glance toward Mokuba.

“Eh!” Joey waved her off. “Mokuba’s almost fifteen. He knows what’s what.”

“I’m alright with not hearing details though,” Mokuba put in.

“And you have no problem with him hearing stuff like this?” Téa asked Kaiba.

Seto, who had been seemingly fixated on a spot over Joey’s shoulder, came back to himself when he realized Téa had been addressing him. He blinked at her. “What?”

Téa groaned and threw her hands up in surrender. “Forget it.”

“If it bothers ya that much, I’ll keep it PG-13, from now on, okay?” Joey asked. Switching his attention to Kaiba he said, “Okay, what's yer secret?”

Kaiba smirked and lifted his glass. “I think I'll keep my secrets to myself.”

“Aw, come on!” Joey shouted.

“Lame!” Tristan accused.

“Lay off, you guys,” Téa scolded. “He doesn't have to share if he doesn't want to.”

“Just take your double drinks so we can move on,” Marik drawled.

Frowning at them, Kaiba set his glass back down.

“When I was really young,” he said slowly, “I remember watching Star Trek for the first time, and being blown away by all of the amazing technology--flip communicators, interactive holograms, voice interface software. That's why, when I took over Kaiba Corp., I converted it into a tech company; I wanted to make those things a reality.”

Everyone just stared at Kaiba for a long, silent moment before it was broken by Mokuba.

“Psh. No offense, Bro, but that wasn't much of a secret.”

“Yeah,” Tristan agreed. “I mean, I guess we never knew you were a Trekkie, but it's not exactly a revelation either.”

“Does make all ‘a them times ya’ve nerd-shamed us seem hypocritical though,” Joey added.

“Oh, fuck all of you,” Kaiba grunted, taking a drink.

“But we appreciate you sharing, right guys?” Téa said, giving everyone else a warning look.

“I thought it was an interesting secret,” Ryou said, shrugging.

Kaiba gave a dry snort.

“Okay, here goes.” Tristan grabbed the coin and made a half-hearted attempt to bounce it in, which missed. “Eh, I was only in this for the drinking anyway.” He paused a second to think. “When I was a kid, I didn’t understand that clouds occurred naturally. I would see smokestacks billowing out those huge plumes of white smoke, and I thought they were cloud factories.”

Unexpectedly, Kaiba burst out laughing, his face flushed. He made a futile effort to smother the sound with his hand.

“You alright, Bro?” Mokuba asked when the laughter didn’t stop.

“I think someone finally caught up to Bakura,” Marik said.

“Not surprising,” Yugi commented. “I didn’t see Kaiba eat much earlier, and we’ve been drinking pretty steadily.”

“Not to mention that he downed an entire glass of basically straight whiskey,” Téa said, shooting Joey a look.

Marik held out the second bottle of water he’d grabbed earlier. “Here, Kaiba. I think you need it more than I do.”

Kaiba accepted the bottle as the laugher began to subside. He wiped at his cheeks and guzzed half of the bottle in one go before coming up for air.

“I’ll be back,” he slurred, getting to his feet. Mokuba and Ryou each held out a hand to steady him when he almost fell back into the chair, but he managed to catch himself before heading off down the hall.

“Wow. I’ve never seen Seto drunk,” Mokuba said.

“Maybe now he’ll be less of a prick,” Joey said.

Tristan scoffed. “Doubt it.”

“You know, you guys really aren't helping with that,” Mokuba said, frowning. “Especially you, Joey. Seto says a lot of things he doesn't mean. And yeah, sometimes he crosses a line, but he's making an effort to join in, just like you guys wanted, which is more than I expected. So could you cut him some slack?”

“Sorry, kid,” Joey said, rubbing his neck. “Didn't mean ta upset ya, but yer brother knows exactly which buttons ta push. Ninety-nine percent 'a the time he starts it.”

“I get that. I'm just asking you to try and not rise to his bait every time he goads you.”

Joey heaved a heavy sigh. “I'll try.”

Mokuba sent him a thankful smile as Kaiba staggered back in.

“Were you pissing or puking?” Bakura asked.

“I can handle my liquor,” Seto said, avoiding the question and reclaiming his seat.

“Okay, whose turn was it?” Tristan asked.

“Think it was Yug’s,” Joey said.

Yugi took his turn, managing to get all three attempts in despite the flush on his cheeks.

“How drunk do we have to get you before you start sucking?” Kaiba grumbled.

Yugi shrugged and sent him an easy smile. “Would you rather I let you win?”

Kaiba's pout deepened to a scowl. “No.”

“Then quit yet bit--uh, stop whinin’, Moneybags,” Joey corrected himself, glancing to both Téa and Mokuba.

“You people talk too much,” Marik complained. glaring down at a game on his phone. He'd pulled it out a bit ago out of boredom.

“You missed the coin,” Bakura slurred, pointing at Marik's screen as he slumped against Marik's shoulder.

“Stop backseat gaming, Bakura.”

“Stop sucking.” Bakura cackled at his own rebuttal; Marik ignored him.

“I'm assigning two of my drinks to Bakura and Kaiba so they'll drink more water,” Yugi announced, “and the last one to Mokuba, so you're not left out.”

Mokuba rolled his eyes, but he gave Yugi a grateful smile. “Thanks.”

“Don't forget,” Ryou said, “you get to add another rule.”

“Oh, yeah. Umm…” Yugi lifted his index finger and placed it on his nose. “How about anytime you speak, you have to hold your finger to your nose?”

Kaiba heaved a heavy sigh. “Why do you people insist on establishing such asinine rules?”

Joey lifted his finger to his nose and said, “If ya spent as much time just rollin’ with it as ya do complainin’ about it, maybe ya'd find yerself actually havin’ fun.”

Kaiba glared at him for a long moment before letting the look drop with another sigh. He pointedly held Joey's gaze as he lifted his finger to the tip of his nose.

“Once, for an April Fool's prank, I sent a memo around Kaiba Corp.--anonymously--that warned about a terrible virus infecting computers, but all of the warnings were the less ridiculous lyrics from Weird Al's ‘Virus Alert’ song. Apparently, most of my employees didn't get the reference, and I kept receiving panicked calls from my head's of departments about the memo. Eventually I sent another memo around with a “patch” for the virus, but all it did was link them to the music video on YouTube.”

Mokuba burst out laughing. “ You sent that out? I thought it was someone from the IT department who you ended up firing?”

Kaiba sent Mokuba a conspiratorial grin. “Well, I needed a cover story.” His eyes flicked to Joey again. “Can't have people thinking I know how to have fun.”

Mokuba touched his nose, tapping it as he thought. “Okay, let's see…something Seto doesn't know.”

Mokuba giggled. Than his cheeks reddened and he mumbled something.

“Didn't catch that,” Tristan said.

“The first girl I kissed was Rebecca Hawkins,” he repeated louder, his face bright red.

Kaiba's eyebrows rose and he paused in the middle of drinking water. “You had your first kiss? When?”

Mokuba played with his hair, using it like a curtain so he didn't have to look at his brother.

“At your KC Grand Prix.”

Joey busted out laughing. “Little Becca was jugglin’ Yug’ and you? Way ta go, girl.”

“Can we move on?” Kaiba asked. “I really don't need to hear details. I'd like to maintain the illusion that you're still a little innocent.”

“That ship sailed a long time ago,” Joey said, winking at Mokuba and making him laugh again.

“What about you, Bakura?” Ryou asked. “Any other secrets I should know about?”

“Get the green guy,” Bakura told Marik, fixated more on the phone game than the drinking game.

“I think he'll just take the penalty and drink more water,” Marik answered for him, smirking when he cleared the level and Bakura cheered for him.

“I guess that makes it my turn then,” Téa said, accepting the quarter from Yugi.

She bounced the coin and it pinged off the edge of the glass and back at her. Sighing, she stopped it before it could roll onto the floor again.

“Annnnnd miss. Oh well.”

“Alright,”  Mokuba said, palming the quarter in one hand and touching his nose with the other, “since the round is over, I'll tally up, but it's clear who's in the lead. Do we want to go one more round?”

“Think I'll sit out,” Joey said. “I'm too far gone ta aim properly.”

“Count us out, too” Marik said. “This game got boring.”

“I think we're all done,” Yugi agreed. “Most of us keep forgetting to follow the nose rule, and I don’t think our concentration is going to get any better.”

“But we're still tied,” Kaiba protested.

“Then I guess we're both winners.”

Seto returned Yugi’s easy smile with a frown.

“Hey!” Bakura said, then interrupted himself with a giggle as he fell against Marik’s side. “We should all play strip poker next!”

Mokuba scrunched up his face. “Ew. If anyone starts making out or the clothes start coming off, I’m going to bed.”

Psssh !” Bakura flapped a hand at him. “I ran around half-naked all the time when I was your age.”

Marik snorted. “Alright, Old Man.”

Bakura chuckled. “And I walked around like that up sand dunes both ways, under the blistering desert sun--and I looked good doing it!”

“Uh-huh,” Mokuba said, unimpressed.

“Kaiba, grab the cards,” Bakura said, pointing behind Seto to the deck Yugi, Téa, and Mokuba had set on the bar.

“I’m not playing strip poker,” Téa said, “but I’ll happily watch.”

“But then it’s just a bunch of guys stripping,” Tristan complained.

“Good,” Marik said.

“Forget that,” Kaiba said. “Even if Mokuba weren’t here, I don’t want to see most of you naked. Besides, I’d just win that too.”

“How do you win at being naked?” Ryou wondered.

“I think he meant the poker part,” Tristan pointed out. “And what do you mean by ‘most of’ us?” Tristan directed at Kaiba.

Ignoring Tristan, Seto turned to Ryou. “Because I win at everything.”

“Yea, ‘cept duelin’ Yug’,” Joey pointed out.

“Okay, yeah,” Kaiba slurred after a pause, “but he’s an anom-imal--an anon-imal…” Kaiba frowned as Joey cracked up. “Fuck, he’s not normal.”

Yugi snorted, sipping water. “Gee, thanks.”

Bakura heaved a dramatic sigh. “If we’re not playing strip poker, I’m going to the toilet. Be right back,” he told Marik before stumbling off down the hall.

“To be fair,” Marik said, “most of us in this room aren’t normal.”

“Within the paradigm of abnormality,” Seto said, slow and careful, “we would be considered normal.”

“Uh, I think ya should drink more water, Moneybags,” Joey said, eyeing the empty plastic bottle lying knocked over on the table. Rising from his seat, he grabbed another water bottle from the bar’s mini fridge. Walking it over to Kaiba, he held out his other hand for Kaiba’s glass, which had gotten refilled at some point. “Here, trade ya.”

Kaiba took the water but kept the Crown and Coke out of Joey’s reach.

“Don’tcha think ya’ve had enough?”

“S’my house, and you all wanted me drunk.”

“Careful whatcha wish for,” Joey muttered, plopping down on one of the bar stools rather than return to his seat.

“What’d I miss?” Bakura asked as he reentered.

“Absolutely nothing,” Marik drawled, making the quarter spin on its side repeatedly. “Honestly, this lame party is killing my buzz.”

“Hey, guys,” Mokuba got the group's attention. “We've got, like, twenty minutes before midnight. Do you guys have any New Year's resolutions?”

“I don't see much point,” Marik said, smirking. “After all, you can't improve perfection.”

Bakura rolled his eyes.

“I do,” Yugi said. “I want to cut back on tournaments this year and focus more on the game shop and making my own game.”

Kaiba frowned. “What do you mean you're not doing tournaments? You can't just give up dueling.”

“I'm not quitting dueling,” Yugi placated, “but I don't want to be constantly traveling for tournaments either.”

“I'll host another tournament here,” Kaiba said, as if that solved everything.

Yugi held back a sigh. “I just need a break. Grandpa could use more help since business has picked up at the shop, and honestly, I really want to focus on other things--but that doesn't mean we can't still duel for fun every once in a while.”

Kaiba huffed and crossed his arms over his chest. “Whatever.”

“Eh, don't pout, Rich Boy,” Joey cut in. “It ain't the end 'a the world.”

Kaiba sneered. “Of course you'd say that. You might actually have a shot at a championship with Yugi out of the picture--provided I decide to bow out too.”

“Oh fer the love 'a--what the fuck is your deal, Kaiba?”

“Here we go again,” Mokuba sighed.

“I'm sorry, Mokuba, but I ain't gonna jus’ sit here an’ be insulted!” Shifting on his stool to glare at Kaiba, he said, “You think yer hot shit, always walkin’ around like you own the place--”

“I do own the place,” Seto pointed out. “This is my house.”

Joey dismissed that with a wave of his hand. “Yeah, okay, whatever. That still don't give ya the right ta be a total ass ta me.”

Kaiba's eyes narrowed. “Watch it, Mutt.”

“Watch what? It's the truth!”

Kaiba arose from his seat and in two long strides stood in front of Joey. “ No one disrespects me in my own house.”

Joey stood up, getting in Kaiba's face. “Oh, but ya think yer allowed ta disrespect me ? I don't think so!”

“Joey, maybe we should just go,” Yugi cut in, but Joey shook his head.

“Naw, I ain't finished,” Joey told Yugi, his eyes never leaving Kaiba's. “Yer always lookin’ down on me like I'm worthless, but I ain't!”

“Hard not to look down on you when you’re so far beneath me.”

“That a jab at my duelin' skills or my height? What? Am I s’posed ta be intimated jus’ ‘cause yer a few inches taller than me?”

“Hmph.”

Kaiba’s normally piercing blue eyes were dulled from the liquor. He leaned in closer and rested his hands against the bar, caging Joey in. Joey's body coiled, ready to strike back if Kaiba tried anything.

Whispering in Joey's ear so only he could hear him, Kaiba said, “You might be surprised how big of a difference a few inches can make.”

Joey’s brain froze.

“I-I...Wha--? Did you jus’...?”

Kaiba snorted and pushed away. Ignoring the looks Yugi and a few of the others were giving him, he grabbed his glass and drained it before slamming it back down on the card table with a muffled clunk .

“You really are an idiot,” he muttered, more to himself than Joey, before striding out of the room.

Joey came back to himself with a jolt as Kaiba’s steps began to fade down the hall.

“Hey--Hey, wait! Rich Boy, get back here!”

He ran after Kaiba’s retreating form and caught up to him halfway down a hallway.

“Hey! Hold on, Kaiba! Fer fucksake, will ya stop fer a second?”

Kaiba did, halting in the hall leading to the foyer. When he turned, Kaiba's expression was closed-off once again.“Go back to the party, Mutt.”

He turned to walk away, but Joey grabbed his arm and held him in place.

“Aww no ya don't, Kaiba. Ya can't just shrug this off like it was nothin’!”

Seto twisted out of Joey's grip and glared at him, which Joey found had noticeably less impact suddenly.

“I was messing with you, Wheeler. Now, leave me alone before I have my security throw you out.”

He tried to walk off again, but this time when Joey grabbed his arm to stop him, he was prepared and slammed Joey hard against the wall.

“Don't test me, Mutt,” he growled.

“So go ahead and do it! Call yer security. But before ya do that, answer me somethin’.” He paused, waiting for a response. When Kaiba merely raised an impatient eyebrow, Joey held his gaze and asked, “Were you comin’ on ta me just now?”

Faster than Joey’s inebriated mind could react, Kaiba closed the gap between them, their faces inches apart.

“...Do you want me to come onto you?”

Joey tried to swallow past a sudden case of cottonmouth. “U-u-um…”

Seto’s fingers slipped beneath the back of Joey’s t-shirt before continuing past the waist of his jeans. Joey’s breath stuttered as Seto teased the dimples on the small of his back. Seto’s hot breath was rank from the whiskey, but Joey found he didn’t mind as it played over his lips.

“I can if you want,” Seto whispered after a long silence. He licked his lips and leaned closer, teasing them against Joey’s. “Although,” he added, his fingers dipping down to tease the top of Joey’s crack, “I’d rather come inside you.”

Joey’s breath left him in a rush as Kaiba breached the space between them with a kiss.

Joey buried a fist in Seto's hair, the other anchoring in the front of his shirt, holding Seto in place as Joey kissed him back. As Joey’s lips pulled against Seto’s, Seto couldn’t help but think that Joey kissed much like he dueled--no finesse, but with more than enough passion to make up for it.

Joey groaned as Seto sucked on his bottom lip. Their lips parted with a smack, and Joey felt him try to pull away.

“Don't run away again,” Joey protested, tightening his grip on Seto's turtleneck.

“My bedroom is upstairs,” Seto explained.

That took a second to sink in, but when it did, a large grin split Joey's face. “Oh. Right.” With a nervous laugh, Joey released his hold on Seto so he could step back. “Lead the way, Rich Boy.”

X

“Do you think they're coming back?” Mokuba asked, flipping over a card from his stack as he and Yugi played war.

Bakura snorted. “Doubt it.

“Uuugh, I'm fucking bored ,” Marik complained.

“We could play a different game and deal you in,” Yugi suggested.

Marik sent him a less-than-enthusiastic look.

“We could always explore this place,” Bakura suggested. He was still drunk, but he was getting his second wind.

“I don't think Seto would like that,” Mokuba said.

“Well, what he doesn't know won't hurt us,” Bakura said, shooting the kid a wink.

“He's far too busy giving the dog a bone to care what the rest of us are doing,” Marik muttered so only Bakura could hear, and Bakura laughed heartily.

Mokuba sighed and collected his prize cards from the table. “This wasn't exactly how I expected the party to go. I just wanted everyone to get along for once and for Seto to join in on the fun.”

Everyone else shared a look, but Téa spoke up first.

“We're having fun. And I think Kaiba was having fun too.”

“If he wasn't, he certainly is now,” Marik whispered to Bakura. “And speaking of…”

Bakura caught Marik's devious look and smirked, instantly ignoring the other conversation.

“What did you have in mind?”

Marik shrugged. “Walk around and see what we can find. If nothing else, I'm sure there's a spare bedroom or twelve we could borrow.”

Bakura glanced at the others, who were busy trying to cheer Mokuba up. “Alright, let’s go.”