Pairing/Characters: Ryuuji Otogi x Seto Kaiba; other characters mentioned.
Rating: PG-13 for mild violence, language, rather a lot of snogging, and an unhealthy model for relationships.
Word Count: c.3300.
Spoiler Warning: Implicit spoilers for Otogi's role in the comics.
Summary: In which Ryuuji is persistent and Kaiba is a dick, or In which Otogi is obnoxious and Seto is put-upon. Also, they play cards.
(For fickle_goddess, who bid for this on help_haiti—thank you so much! ♥)
"What makes you think you're worth my time?"
Ryuuji huffed. He'd have pouted if Kaiba were even looking at him to see it. "I've been practicing with Yugi."
Kaiba arched his eyebrows over the top of the book which Ryuuji was clearly distracting him from. "And?"
"He said I'm at your level," Ryuuji said, flipping his ponytail over his shoulder. Actually, Yugi had said almost—and Ryuuji was pretty sure he'd just been being nice— but that was close enough.
Kaiba snorted faintly, settling back in his chair and looking down at his book. "I'm not going to waste my time on second best, Otogi. Come back when you're better than Yugi."
"As if you're better than Yugi," Ryuuji said, and grabbed impulsively for the spine of Kaiba's book; Kaiba jerked it out of range and grabbed his wrist—squeezing it hard enough to bruise, for fuck's sake—but then at least he was looking at him. "What are you, scared?" Ryuuji demanded, squirming and dragging against Kaiba's grip. "Look, I need someone to duel who's on my level!"
Kaiba let go of his wrist (Ryuuji rebounded gently off the back of his chair) and leaned back again; he was watching Ryuuji now, but he looked less convinced and more annoyed. "If you're desperate to lose, Otogi."
"Yeah, I am," Ryuuji managed, rubbing his wrist. "Great. Your place or mine."
Kaiba paused for a split second before he said, "Mine."
Well, he'd played right into that one.
Later, it occurred to Ryuuji to be vaguely flattered (flattered and confused) that Kaiba knew his name.
Of course, Kaiba's place was nothing more sensual than Kaiba's mammoth duel dome—which Ryuuji really should've expected.
Ryuuji had dueled in a lot of places, and watched Yugi duel in a lot of places, but he had to admit that the duel dome was up there with the best of them—at least up there with the blimp, and that was one of Kaiba's creations too. Kaiba's attitude made it hard to appreciate anything he'd done, though; he treated Ryuuji with glassy indifference for as long as possible, only addressing him—reluctantly—when directing him to his side of the field. They exchanged decks and shuffled each other's cards before departing to opposite sides of the dome. Trust Kaiba to devise a field where he barely even had to see his opponent.
The duel dome was immense and empty, just a big, white, steely wasteland for the monsters to occupy; no cheerleaders, no friends, no commentators. Ryuuji couldn't remember the last time a game had felt so remote. He'd gotten kinda used to watching Yugi duel, actually, and Yugi didn't tend to duel quietly.
Though, honestly, neither did Ryuuji.
"Eat shit," he yelled, smacking his hand down on the display as another of his monsters splintered, cracked apart and burst into sparks; the Blue Eyes White Dragon snarled at him, and when he squinted, he could have sworn that Kaiba was smiling.
He was sweating—and part of that was the lights, the heat, but part of it was the game, the intensity—but that had to mean that Kaiba was, too.
"Fuck," Ryuuji snapped, slamming his fist down on the display. He threw his hand of cards atop his deck—he'd been so close to that combo. And now Kaiba was—
—well, to his credit, Kaiba wasn't actually laughing. Maybe because they'd been at it for three hours and Kaiba had to be sweating more under that coat than Ryuuji was under his t-shirt, but Kaiba was just staring at him across the field, across the fading holograms.
"Good game," Ryuuji said, and the words tasted so bitter he could have spat them in Kaiba's face.
Kaiba gathered up his cards and slid them neatly into his pocket; Ryuuji had to squint to watch him do it, and wasn't sure why he bothered. "Yugi underestimated me," Kaiba said, but he sounded more satisfied than annoyed. "As usual."
"You got lucky, Kaiba," Ryuuji said, sliding his hands into his pockets with more confidence than he could have felt. He felt like fanning himself—the heat wouldn't leave his face, even as he stretched and put his deck away.
…they will not deal with the "truth" in order that it may "please" them, or "elevate" or "inspire" them…
"Hey," Otogi said.
Seto lifted his eyes from the page.
Otogi was leaning across his desk, wearing a thoroughly unbecoming smirk. "Ready for a rematch?" he asked, toying with the miniature die which hung from his ear. Seto prided himself on paying attention to detail—he couldn't avoid noticing.
"A rematch?" he asked, lining his voice with scorn. A flicker of tension ran across Otogi's brow. "You really think it's going to end differently this time?"
"Hey, you don't know what I had in my hand last time," Otogi shot back, leaning across the desk. Seto leaned back in reply, a negative magnet, allowing for the fact that his companion appeared to have no notion of personal space. "If I'd had one more turn—"
"That's what they all say," Seto informed him.
"Yeah, well, maybe they're all faking it. I'm for real." Otogi's eyes narrowed into shadows, deep ones, when he smiled like that. "And I'm taking you on, Kaiba."
This was doubtless meant to be impressive, but Seto was well accustomed to the theatrics employed by Yugi and his friends. "Congratulations," he drawled. "I have time on Saturday. Be at the duel dome at 6:15."
"Seriously?" Otogi smacked his hand on the desk. A few pencils jumped. "No, wait. Last time we went to your place. It's my turn to host."
Seto thought about that for a few seconds. It didn't make any difference. "Fine."
Otogi twisted away from his desk and spent a few moments scribbling; Seto managed a few more lines of Nietzsche before the other young man returned, slapping a scrap of paper down in front of him. "My address. Be there at 6:15." He was trying to imitate Seto, and doing it badly, but it didn't merit pointing out.
"Fine," Seto said again, so he'd go away. Otogi made it somewhat impossible to focus on the words.
He made use of the address as a bookmark.
"You live here?"
Ryuuji understood, And you expect me to play here?
"It's what I can afford," Ryuuji said coolly, "on my own."
Kaiba spent a moment longer looking around Ryuuji's apartment, and Ryuuji imagined his eyes lingering on every crease, stain, and crack, every frayed strip of cloth on the leg of the couch, every dent in the single chair by the kitchen table, every scratch or streak of strange color on the walls.
"This place isn't worth my time," Kaiba said, in derisive monotone, and grabbed the doorknob. Ryuuji started, outrage sparking in the pit of his stomach, but Kaiba looked at him over his shoulder—a solid, intentional look. "Come on."
"Come on where?" Ryuuji demanded, the back of his neck prickling faintly.
"I don't know why we should play here," Kaiba said, "instead of somewhere—" Classier, Ryuuji thought indignantly, cleaner—"better," Kaiba finished, and turned his back. "Are you playing?"
"Yes," Ryuuji said, and savored the edge to his own voice. Was it his imagination, or did Kaiba's back stiffen?
"Good," Kaiba replied shortly, and lead the way out to the car. Ryuuji assumed they were carpooling, since Kaiba only scowled when Ryuuji slid into the passenger seat. The car was a gorgeous, shiny black except for the KaibaCorp logo on the door; it was silver inside, lacking even the warmth of an off-white, and the seat molded lovingly against his back when he settled against it. Ryuuji felt it in his soles when Kaiba revved the engine, although the car was almost unnervingly quiet and enclosed, humming across the asphalt in such a way that dulled all white noise from the city. It smelled leathery and new and sort of like paper money; Ryuuji added 'wealth' to the list of things he disliked about Seto Kaiba. He had to wonder why he hadn't thought of that one sooner.
Probably because he had a long list.
It was so cold outside that his hands were pale and clammy, but the breath of air-conditioning that met him at the door of the KaibaCorp headquarters was only scarcely warmer; Ryuuji grumbled under his breath as they crossed the lobby, stuffing his fingers deeper into the thready lining of his pockets. The room was swarming with security—and that was only the security he could see.
The elevator was cold and still and bright; it barely seemed to be moving at all, but Kaiba was standing there like he knew what he was doing, so Ryuuji didn't speak. He leaned against the wall of the elevator and tried to act casual, tried to focus on the faintest specks of dust on his elbows.
He didn't know how Kaiba could wear the same school uniform he did, go to the same classes that he did, and still be so weird.
The second game was even closer than the first.
They duked it out with spell and trap cards in the last round; Kaiba had 500LP and Ryuuji had 200. The last card in Kaiba's hand sent Ryuuji's monitor blinking down to zero again.
Ryuuji would have thought he was getting better, except that when he considered it, Yugi always came close to losing too.
When Ryuuji asked for a second rematch, Kaiba sighed audibly and asked if he had a masochistic streak.
"Uh," Ryuuji said. "When've you ever hurt me?"
It was more tempting than ever to just punch the boredom off of Kaiba's face, but—save that for the game, he thought.
"Saturday," Kaiba agreed finally, "at 6:15."
That made three times.
Seto began reassembling his deck, barely bothering to look at Otogi; Otogi was panting. Seto might have done the same—they were both sweating, of course—if he'd also chosen to abandon all dignity. When he looked up, however, Otogi was staring at him in a particularly fixed way; he hadn't even picked up his cards. "What?" Seto demanded.
"Let's play again," Otogi snapped, flushed beneath the lights. After a moment of scrutiny, he dropped his eyes, glaring down at his defeated cards.
Seto looked at him from across the room, far across the field. Otogi scrunched up his eyes at him.
"I've got better things to do than humiliate you," Seto said finally, derisively.
"Oh, fuck you," Otogi yelled, a bit louder than he meant to. "I'm getting better, you asshole, it's only a matter of time—"
"That's enough," Seto snorted. "I've already won. I'm always going to. You just won't admit it."
Otogi appeared to be grinding his teeth; Seto couldn't decide if it was satisfying or obnoxious. "One more game. Right now."
"Fine. One more."
Otogi gathered up his deck and stalked around the edge of the arena to exchange decks with him.
Seto noted the warm ghosts of Otogi's fingers on the back of the cards.
One more became several more within a matter of weeks, and eventually Kaiba stopped bothering to protest it.
Ryuuji just wished they could play for something.
It felt anticlimactic every time—Kaiba wasn't winning anything from him, but Ryuuji wasn't winning at all, so the victory hung in the air between them without meaning. It pissed Ryuuji off almost as much as losing did; he would've accepted just about any price, at this point. He'd have bought Kaiba coffee. Bought him cards, not that Kaiba couldn't afford them. Done his homework, not that Kaiba needed help with his studies. He'd have done anything so long as he didn't feel like he was racking up a deficit.
But he didn't know how to say that, and moreover, he was pretty sure Kaiba didn't give a shit what the game felt like to him.
For his part, Seto was particularly preoccupied with the way Otogi's hair slid over his shoulders when he turned his head.
And when he complained of the heat in the duel dome and yanked his jacket off, and the definition of his shoulders was—honestly. Seto didn't know whether to throw him out or beat him again, or really beat him, or adjust the thermostat.
He was tiring of it all. Otogi's bravado, his temper, his spirit, and the scent of sweat that clung to him when they met to exchange cards on the edge of the field. He couldn't seem to win a decisive victory; he couldn't crush Otogi, but Otogi wasn't crushing him, either.
The sensible response would have been to stop.
They kept playing after school let out; it got even hotter in the duel dome, the summer heat seeping through the walls from the pavement. Ryuuji stopped wearing his jacket at all, but Kaiba never stripped down, never wore less than full-length sleeves and high collars. Ryuuji felt repressed just looking at him. Kaiba's temper seemed to be worsening, and Ryuuji couldn't blame him—the games were practically an occupation, an obligation so frustrating that everything else became desirable by comparison. Hell, they could've stood around and shouted at each other all day and Ryuuji would've called it an improvement.
It was a particularly hot day, and Ryuuji had been sort of considering punching Kaiba out for weeks, when Kaiba snapped.
They were between games, meeting on the outskirts of the field, and Ryuuji's hand had curled into a fist of its own accord at the sight of Kaiba's face; he took an aggressive step forward, thrusting his deck out for Kaiba to shuffle, and it must have been too offensive because Kaiba was on him.
Ryuuji swore, or tried to, but Kaiba slammed his palm into his gut and drove the breath out of his lungs as he shoved him back; Ryuuji's felt his back stutter against the wall before Kaiba pushed him up flush against it. His gasp fell against Kaiba's cheek, and there was a terrifying pause before Kaiba bent his head down, hesitated—kissed—then bit—his throat—"Fucking asshole," Ryuuji spat—or panted, his voice cracking on anger, before it sunk in what Kaiba was—was still doing, biting and sucking his neck, down to his shoulder. He grabbed Kaiba by the collar and couldn't decide whether to shove him off or—and Kaiba's fingertips dragging up the hem of his shirt decided it. Ryuuji sucked in a breath, yanked Kaiba back from his neck, and kissed him as hard as he wanted to.
Which was pretty hard, considering it was Seto Kaiba, and biting his lips was almost as satisfying as punching him would have been.
Except that it was—it was too something, too close or too intimate, and a second later Kaiba was recoiling, shoving Ryuuji into the wall and shoving himself away.
Ryuuji was too confused and pissed off and turned on to do anything but gape, at least until Kaiba turned his back on him. "Hey," Ryuuji managed, belatedly.
"You can see yourself out," Kaiba said, in deliberate monotone.
Ryuuji stared at his back; Kaiba was already walking away.
Otogi was at school when the next term began in the fall, but he didn't speak—he didn't speak to Seto, anyway. He came in every day, sat in his desk, and Seto stared at his back. Otogi's performance in school had never been exemplary, Seto realized, but he had never been quite this—distracted before.
Which Seto understood.
Their arrangement had clearly, somehow, gone beyond its appropriate limits. Seto had to wonder if Otogi had planned it, or if it had all been some cosmic accident. Not that it mattered. It had been, and was, idiotic.
And there was nothing particularly fascinating about Otogi's back, except that it kept drawing his eyes.
He happened to be in his office on Saturday evening when his secretary announced, via intercom, that there was a Mr. Ryuuji Otogi to see him. Seto considered breaking something. Then he considered calling security. Then he considered locking his door and pretending he wasn't in.
Then he called down and told them to let Otogi in.
There were a lot of elevators between Seto's office and the lobby, which gave him time to clear his desk, stare blankly at his reflection in the TV screen, look out the window, and wait until the knock came.
Otogi didn't knock.
"I guess this's as good a place to duel as any," he said, kicking the door shut and walking in past the giant television set on the wall. Seto stood out of habit, but Otogi didn't seem to notice, sprawling into the chair across from him. His hair fell across his green, green eyes, and it was familiar but long estranged and Seto found it impossible not to watch. Otogi tossed his deck, secured by a rubber band, onto his side of the desk.
"You didn't say you'd be coming," Seto said. If he said it with enough detachment, he almost managed to sound angry. "I'm busy."
"So what," Otogi said.
"So get out," Seto said, before he had to think.
Otogi looked at him from beneath his hair. Seto wished he wouldn't. "Okay, how about this," Otogi said slowly. "You want me to leave, you beat me first."
Seto's fist clenched before he could process exactly what Otogi meant. Otogi leaned forward, tugging his deck free of the rubber band and beginning to shuffle the cards. Just the sight of him fed the tension in Seto's shoulders, the growing ache in his temples.
Seto sat down, drew in his chair, and reached into his pocket for his deck.
It took longer than Seto had time for.
Either Otogi was improving or Seto's headache, his headache and the setting, was dulling his skills; either way, each time he scored some victory in the game, it felt like he was wringing it out of Otogi with his bare hands. Otogi's mouth was set in a hard line; he looked angry, but he didn't say so, for once. He played. Seto's spine was rigid with stress by the time Otogi's LP ticked to zero; it didn't feel like winning.
He stood, anyway, so that he could at least look down on him. "You've wasted enough of my time, Otogi—get out."
Otogi stared up at him, his eyes narrowed. Testing his patience.
Seto didn't have any patience left. He stalked around the desk and grabbed Otogi by the arm, dragging him bodily out of the chair. "I said get out—"
Otogi stumbled for an instant on his feet before seizing Seto by the lapels of his coat, pushing his foot in between Seto's, shoving him bodily against the desk and
—a heartbeat, just breathing
—and kissing him.
A painful thrill shot through Seto's stomach, the ache of the impact with the desk reverberating through his legs, and Otogi fisted one hand in his hair, jerked a few threads from their roots. Seto doubled back so he had enough room to grab Otogi by the shirt, and squeezed his arm until he could be sure it bruised. When Otogi gasped, swore, Seto jammed his fingers beneath the band holding Otogi's ponytail in place and jerked it free. Otogi's breath huffed on his neck as his hair splashed down his back, black ink over Seto's hands; his teeth closed on the sensitive skin beneath Seto's ear, vengeful, and Seto yanked on his hair out of reflex. The sound Otogi made was either pain or desperation, and either way—
It felt like victory.
Otogi's hands clawed through his hair and dragged him back to the moment, to Otogi grinding impatiently against him, to cards slipping and scattering on the floor.
Otogi's hair was a mess. He was playing with his earring, a smirk as wide as a cat's stretched across his mouth.
"Saturday," he proposed.
The title of this piece comes from the song Wood by Second Person.
Seto is reading Beyond Good And Evil, by Friedrich Nietzsche. I know he's canonly seen reading one of Nietzsche's other works (Also sprach Zarathustra, maybe?), so it's not much of a stretch. Oh, YGO…