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Losing to Win

ADULTS ONLY

Contains explicit male/male sex.

Pairing: Jounouchi/Kaiba

Summary: Jounouchi goes to visit a troubled Kaiba, and tries to get him to have fun. Sequel to “Blue Eyes,” and takes place about a month after the events of that story.

8/11/03

Disclaimer: Yu-Gi-Oh! belongs to Kazuki Takahashi. Just borrowing!

Acknowledgment: Thanks to Yami Czarina for beta.

* * *

Jounouchi turned the page in his textbook, looked at Yugi’s clock for what seemed like the millionth time, and sighed. Still over an hour and a half until Yugi was finished helping his Grandpa in the store, and an hour and a half before Jounouchi could stop studying and have some fun with his friend.

He rolled over onto his back on Yugi’s bed, holding the book in the air above his face. History. They were being tested on it this week, and if he didn’t pass, he’d be in trouble. Well, more trouble, anyway. His grades were so bad, he was in danger of losing his special permission from the school to hold a job. And if he couldn’t work, he couldn’t pay his tuition, and he’d have to drop out of school.

Jounouchi loved school. He didn’t particularly like homework, and he didn’t get good grades, but he loved going to classes and learning the things he could stuff into his head while he was there and hanging out with his friends. He’d always thought he did badly on his homework because of the noise and tension at home—which was why he was here at Yugi’s, studying in Yugi’s bedroom while Yugi was downstairs in the shop—but unfortunately it seemed that peace and quiet wasn’t helping him keep his mind on the Tokugawa era any better.

Math. Maybe he’d try math for a while. He thought he was getting better at that anyway, on account of having to keep score while playing Duel Monsters. Well, it didn’t help much with algebra, but at least he wasn’t making careless addition errors any longer. Jounouchi reached for his math book, and was turning to the appropriate chapter when the phone rang.

Jounouchi hesitated. It was Yugi’s phone, and he probably ought to just let it ring… but what if it was important? The caller might not think to try the game shop number if Yugi didn’t answer.

It didn’t really take much to talk himself into it. He picked up the receiver. “Moshi moshi,” he said.

“Um, is this Yugi?”

The voice sounded familiar but Jounouchi couldn’t quite place it. “No, it’s Jounouchi. Yugi’s downstairs working. Who’s this?”

“Oh.” The voice sounded very small and disappointed. “Hi, Jounouchi. It’s Mokuba.”

“Hey, Mokuba! What’s up?” It had to be about Kaiba. What else would Mokuba be calling Yugi about, especially with such a worried tone in his voice? Kaiba was the only thing Mokuba ever really worried about. And Jounouchi knew that Kaiba had been having a hard time lately. Yugi’d told Jounouchi something about what had been going on and, well, Jounouchi thought it was all pretty creepy, but he could see Kaiba getting obsessed with his little brother to the point where it turned into some kind of weird sex thing. Creepy, but kind of understandable, and really sad.

“I… I just wondered if Yugi could come over. But if he’s working….”

“If it’s important, he could probably get out of it. Is it your brother?”

“Mm….” Mokuba sounded hesitant. “I shouldn’t really….”

“It’s okay, Yugi told me all about it.” Stupid. Yugi’d asked him not to tell Kaiba that he’d told him. And here he’d spilled the beans to Mokuba. Who would naturally tell Kaiba everything. “Damn. I shouldn’t have said that. Don’t tell your brother I know, okay? He’ll kill me. He’ll kill Yugi, and then Yugi will kill me. I’ll be dead, anyway.”

Mokuba chuckled sadly. “It’s okay, he won’t even talk to me right now.” Mokuba sighed. “I don’t know what to do. I was trying to make things better, but….”

“Well, let me go get Yugi. I’m sure he’ll want to help. I can help Grandpa put out the stock, and everything will work out fine.” And Jounouchi would have a good excuse not to do any more homework, which would also be just fine.

“No. No, Nii-sama wouldn’t like it if….” Mokuba paused, then suddenly said in a rush, “Jounouchi, would you come over?”

“Me?” Jounouchi heard his voice squeak. “Mokuba, you know your brother can’t stand me.”

“That’s not true,” Mokuba insisted. “You could talk to him, I know you could. I mean, if you wanted to.”

“Hey, it’s not that I don’t want to. But he’s not going to want to see me. I’d just make things worse.”

“No, you wouldn’t. Please, Jounouchi. He’s really upset. I’ve never seen him like this. I’m afraid.”

“Yeah, but….” Really upset, huh? Even Mokuba was afraid of him? Yeah, that really made Jounouchi want to go over there.

Jounouchi sighed. How could he say no? It would be a catastrophe for sure, but he wasn’t going to be able to convince Mokuba of that, and he couldn’t just refuse. “Are you sure you don’t want me to go and get Yugi? I mean, he’s talked to Kaiba before. I’m sure he’d do a lot better.”

“No, I want you to come. Yugi’s great, but he still makes Nii-sama feel bad about losing the Battle City Tournament.”

“Well, I never beat him in a duel, anyway.”

“I know he hasn’t always been very nice to you,” Mokuba said, “But you’ve always helped us whenever you could. He really needs you now.”

Jounouchi groaned inwardly. “Okay. I still don’t think he’s going to want to see me, but I’ll try.”

“Thank you, Jounouchi.”

“I’m on my way.”

He left his books in Yugi’s room, thinking that he’d probably be back before Yugi was finished working, and stopped downstairs in the shop on his way out to let Yugi know where he was going.

Yugi, the eternal optimist, was predictably enthusiastic. “I’m glad you’re doing this, Jounouchi-kun! Kaiba-kun needs more friends.”

Jounouchi just smiled and squeezed Yugi’s shoulder. “I don’t think I’m exactly what he had in mind, but I promised Mokuba I’d try. Maybe yelling at me will get his mind off his troubles, anyway.”

* * *

Jounouchi had never been to the Kaiba family mansion before, but like everyone in Domino, he knew where it was: on a huge estate surrounded by a tall white ironwork fence, on the edge of town past the Kaiba Corporation tower. Despite his determination not to be intimidated by Kaiba’s wealth and power, he couldn’t help the quickening of his heartbeat, the nervous prickles of sweat under his arms as he approached the front gate. What if Mokuba hadn’t told the gatekeeper to expect him? What if they insisted on checking with Kaiba before letting him in?

Well, then, I’ll just go back to Yugi’s, Jounouchi told himself firmly. I didn’t want to come here in the first place.

But—what if Kaiba told them to let him in, then turned the dogs loose on him just as he got halfway to the front door? A place like this, there were always dogs. And Kaiba—

Wouldn’t do anything like that. He was a stuck-up, prissy, arrogant jerk—but not a sneaky one. He’d face you straight on and beat you himself, never come up behind you and trick you.

Jounouchi took a deep breath. There was some kind of hi-tech gadget on the side of the gate: a computer screen with a keyboard, speakers, what looked like a camera lens. He stared at the keys, wondering what he was supposed to do, and was about to reach for the keyboard, when the screen suddenly lit up, displaying the Kaiba Corp graphic, and a synthesized voice said, “Please state your name.”

Jounouchi cleared his throat. “Jounouchi Katsuya.”

The computer screen pulsed quietly for a moment, then the voice announced, “Welcome, Jounouchi-san. Please come in.” The gate clicked and swung open.

Okay, so far so good. Jounouchi entered the gate and headed up the walk toward the mansion, thinking that it must have been Mokuba who programmed him in—Kaiba wouldn’t have let the computer call him “Jounouchi-san.” If he’d have programmed the computer to let him in at all.

When he reached the broad double front doors, which were painted shiny white, he wondered if he’d be inspected by another computer screen. He was looking around for cameras when the front door swung open. Jounouchi jumped back, startled—but it was only Mokuba, looking sad and worried. “Jounouchi, thank you for coming.”

Jounouchi shrugged, running a hand through his hair. “I still don’t know what I can do. Kaiba’s going to take one look at me and tell me to get out.”

Mokuba just looked up at him, pleading. “Please. Just talk to him.”

Jounouchi shrugged again, tried to smile reassuringly, and followed Mokuba into the mansion.

By the time they reached the game room where Mokuba said his big brother had been holed up all afternoon, Jounouchi had a headache and a fervent hope that someone would be around to help him find his way out of the place when he left—which he still believed would be thirty seconds after Kaiba saw him. The mansion was huge and elegant and screamed money. But there was something hard and unfriendly about it, as if it were judging the people who passed through its halls, and finding most of them unworthy. Jounouchi was sure there were ghosts there. Did Gozaburo haunt the place, still angry at being maneuvered out of his company? Did Noah still search for his father? Jounouchi shivered. He was quite sure none of the Kaiba family ghosts would want him there any more than Kaiba did.

“So, Mokuba, you want to tell me what set Kaiba off?”

Mokuba’s cheeks turned pink, and he stared uncomfortably at the floor. “I… it was my fault. But I didn’t mean to make him angry. I thought he wanted to….” Mokuba turned and hurried away, leaving Jounouchi more sure than ever that he’d gotten into something where he didn’t belong.

Still. He’d promised Mokuba. He was going to make an honest effort, hopeless as he was sure it would be.

Jounouchi took a deep breath and tapped on the game room door.

“Mokuba, I told you I didn’t want…,” came Kaiba’s voice from inside the room.

Jounouchi eased the door open and stepped inside. “It’s not Mokuba. It’s me. He wanted me to….”

He stopped. Both of them stood staring at each other—Jounouchi just as stunned as Kaiba. He’d never seen Kaiba like this—not at Duelist Kingdom, when his desperation to win his duel with Yugi forced him to threaten to jump off the tower of Pegasus’s castle, not when Noah had taken Mokuba away from him, not when he lost the Battle City semi-final to Yugi. His face was blotchy and red from crying, he was bone-thin, and there were dark circles under his eyes. He looked fragile and empty, as if someone had stuck a pin in him and let all the air out.

Jounouchi took a step backward, wishing like hell he hadn’t come.

“What do you want?” Kaiba demanded, his voice rough.

Kaiba wasn’t just upset. Kaiba was in deep, deep trouble. Jounouchi shifted uncomfortably. He was way out of his depth here, and he knew it. But he’d made a promise to Mokuba, and here he was, so he’d better say something. “Mokuba called me. Well, he didn’t call me, actually, he called Yugi, but I answered and Yugi was working…,” and I’m babbling, he finished to himself. Jounouchi stopped and took a breath. “Mokuba asked me to come. He was worried about you.”

Kaiba turned away, to stare out the floor-to-ceiling window. They were on the third floor; the room looked out over a narrow balcony above a huge expanse of lush green lawn. “I’m fine.”

Jounouchi couldn’t help a short, uneasy laugh. “No, you’re not. Jeez, Kaiba. Look at you.”

“It’s none of your business.”

“You’re right. But Mokuba asked me to talk to you. Wouldn’t take no for an answer. You don’t think this was my idea, do you?”

Kaiba whirled on him, a little of the old fire in his eyes. “Mokuba made a mistake. Whatever made him think that you….”

Jounouchi shrugged. “That’s what I thought. But he was desperate. And I didn’t want to disappoint him. So….”

“I’m not going to talk to you.”

“You talked to Yugi.”

Kaiba reared back as if struck. His eyes narrowed. “What… what did Yugi tell you?”

Jounouchi hesitated. If he told Kaiba that he already knew what was going on, maybe it would be easier for Kaiba to talk about it. But he’d promised Yugi he wouldn’t tell. Still, he’d already admitted that Yugi had told him something.

“He said you kissed him.” It was the first thing that popped into his head after He said you wanted to screw your brother. Probably not the best thing to say.

Kaiba drew himself up, and folded his arms across his chest. He’d stopped wearing the white duster, with all the straps and studs, after Battle City. He was back in the dark blue and green he’d worn during Duelist Kingdom, but the clothes hung on him. Already lean, he was now almost skeletal. But he was still imposing, standing tall, with one hip jutting forward, peering out from under long dark bangs. “Are you jealous?”

Jealous? Jounouchi thought of the many times he’d lain in bed at night, the image of Kaiba and Yugi grappling on the couch playing across his mind, lit up with every detail he could cajole from Yugi, stroking himself, picturing himself on that couch….

Sometimes he pictured himself with Yugi. But just as often, he imagined himself with Kaiba. “Jealous of you, or of him?”

“Hmph. I’m not going to kiss you.”

“What about Mokuba?”

They both froze. Jounouchi wanted to kick himself. A few hundred times. Damn his big mouth! It had just popped out, same as it always did whenever he and Kaiba started sniping at each other. He just wasn’t used to trying to be nice to Kaiba.

Kaiba had shrunk in on himself, his face pinched with pain, and for once, he looked his real age, no older than the rest of them: he was a scared, miserable kid.

“Damn! I’m sorry, Kaiba. Really.” Jounouchi took a step towards Kaiba, reached his hand out tentatively, then ran it over his hair. “That was the stupidest thing to say! I didn’t mean it. I’m really sorry.” Well, no point now pretending Yugi hadn’t told him everything.

Kaiba’s eyes filled with tears. Oh, please, don’t cry! Jounouchi begged silently. He didn’t think he could handle it if Kaiba cried. Why had he let Mokuba talk him into this? He stepped back again, and protested weakly, “I told Mokuba I was just going to make things worse!”

Kaiba struggled to pull himself together, taking deep breaths, squaring his shoulders. “I’m fine,” he said, jaw clenched, obviously even less fine than the first time he’d said it.

“Okay, look. This was a mistake. I thought so all along. I mean, it’s not that I don’t want to help, ’cause I do, but….”

Kaiba glanced meaningfully at the door.

“Um, yeah, I could go, but then there’s Mokuba.” Kaiba’s eyes narrowed, and Jounouchi hurried to continue. “I promised him I’d do my best. And he’s so worried—if I just take off now, he’s not going to believe I really tried to talk to you. And I don’t want to leave both of you feeling worse than when I came.”

If you wanted to get through to Kaiba, using Mokuba was the way to do it. Kaiba gave the barest nod of his head. Encouraged, Jounouchi went on, “So how about this? We give it half an hour, and then I’ll go. We don’t have to talk. We could….” Jounouchi looked around the room. It was a game room, after all—”We could play a game.” Jounouchi reached into his pocket for his deck. “How about a duel?”

Kaiba turned back to the window. “I don’t duel any more.”

“Not at all? Not even for fun?” Jounouchi stared at the deck in his hand, and tried to imagine it. He’d come in second at Duelist Kingdom. Fourth at Battle City. To just stop because he didn’t win? He loved playing Duel Monsters.

“No,” Kaiba said bitterly.

“I suppose you think having fun’s a waste of time.”

Kaiba crossed his arms, and looked over his shoulder at Jounouchi. “I have fun,” he said stiffly.

Jounouchi couldn’t help giggling. “Yeah? Doing what? Planning corporate takeovers?” He gestured around the room. “You’ve got this great game room here. Do you ever use it to play games?”

Kaiba looked around. There was deep pain in his eyes. His mouth tightened. “I used to.”

“But you had to stop because you lost one duel?” Jounouchi shook his head. “Kaiba, when you built Kaiba Land, did you think all the kids who went there were going to have fun? Or just half of them?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, every game has a winner and a loser. Did you think only the kids who won their games would get to have fun, while all the losers had to go home crying and swear never to play again?”

Kaiba shook his head impatiently. “You know it’s not like that. But it’s different for me.”

Jounouchi sighed. He did understand—probably a lot better than Kaiba would ever believe he did. Kaiba’d lost his parents, been dumped in an orphanage with a little brother to take care of, then been adopted by a horrible man who only wanted to steal Kaiba’s body for his dead son to use. Who wouldn’t be a little different after a childhood like that? But Jounouchi didn’t want to bring up any of that. They weren’t supposed to be talking about Kaiba’s trauma, they were supposed to be having fun.

Had there been a touch of wistfulness in Kaiba’s voice? Something in him had to want to be able to play like the other kids. He just didn’t know how. “So… what do you want to do?”

Kaiba shrugged.

Jounouchi turned his deck over in his hands. There had to be a way to make it okay for Kaiba to play. “Okay, I’ve got an idea. How about we switch decks? That way, it can’t possibly matter who wins and who loses.”

“Switch decks?” Kaiba’s voice was scornful, but there was a spark of interest in his eyes.

“Yeah—then if I win, you get to tell yourself it was your deck that won, so it was really your win anyway. And if you win, you tell yourself you’re such a great player you can even win using my crummy deck against the best deck in all of Duel Monsters. See? Either way, you win.”

Kaiba didn’t say yes. But he didn’t say no, either. Jounouchi grinned, “I’ll even wear gloves, if you want. So I don’t get my fingerprints on your precious Blue Eyes White Dragons.”

The corner of Kaiba’s mouth twitched into a reluctant smile. He went over to a large tansu chest, and opened the door to the top section. His deck was stored in a clear crystal box with a Blue Eyes White Dragon carved onto the lid. He brought it over to a parquet dueling table, with dueling fields inlaid and lacquered to a high-gloss shine.

Kaiba stood for a long moment with his hand on the crystal Blue Eyes, stroking it lightly with his fingers, staring at the box holding his deck with a heart-breaking mixture of longing and pain. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea asking him to switch decks. Kaiba dueling without his Blue Eyes? It seemed unnatural.

Then Kaiba opened the box decisively, took out the deck and handed it to Jounouchi. “Please be careful with it.”

Jounouchi smiled. “I will.” He handed Kaiba his own deck. “It will be good to you if you’re lucky. You have to believe in the cards.”

“You sound like Yugi.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“Let’s see if you can play like him.”

Jounouchi sat down and began to look through Kaiba’s deck. “We’re having fun, remember,” he told Kaiba. “Doesn’t matter who wins.” He separated out the fusion monsters to put in the fusion zone. And there it was: the Blue Eyes Ultimate Dragon! Attack 4500, defense 3800. Jounouchi never thought he’d hold that card in his hand, much less have the chance to actually use it. Kaiba’s other fusion monsters were the XY Dragon Cannon and the XYZ Dragon Cannon. Neither was hugely powerful—at least, compared to the Blue Eyes—but you didn’t need a Fusion card to summon them, and they both had good effects. If he could get one of those out, he’d be in good shape.

“You can’t seriously expect me to believe you’re not going to try your hardest to beat me.” Kaiba was likewise going through Jounouchi’s deck, curling his lip distastefully at most of the cards.

“Of course. I always do my best.” He grinned at Kaiba. “And you’re going to try your hardest to beat me. But you’re going to have fun doing it.”

Kaiba nodded, and began to shuffle Jounouchi’s deck, his long-fingered hands moving with quick grace. Jounouchi watched for a moment, fascinated—he’d never seen Kaiba work his cards from such a close-up vantage point before. He was precise and elegant even in the smallest of his movements. Control freak, Jounouchi thought.

Kaiba finished shuffling and placed Jounouchi’s deck in his deck zone. “Let’s rock-paper-scissors.”

Jounouchi nodded. Kaiba was all about power. What were the odds he’d choose rock? They shook their fists three times, and on the third time, Jounouchi displayed scissors with his hand. Kaiba was rock. “You win,” Jounouchi said with a smile. Might as well give the guy one victory. “Start with eight thousand points each?”

“Yes. I’ll go first,” Kaiba said.

Jounouchi nodded. That was also predictable. Kaiba always wanted to be first, even though it didn’t necessarily give a player an advantage. They both drew their first five cards and studied their hands. With unfamiliar decks, they both needed to consider their strategies carefully.

Jounouchi had drawn Lord of Dragons, Flute of Summoning Dragon, Graceful Charity, Change of Heart, and the Crush Card. All right, with both Lord of Dragons and the Flute of Summoning Dragon in his hand, all he had to do was draw a Blue Eyes White Dragon, and he could special summon it to the field without having to sacrifice any monsters. But Lord of Dragons was the only monster he had. He might have to play it to defend himself. It wouldn’t last long on the field, though, with only 1200 attack points and 1100 defense. Better to hang onto it if he could.

Kaiba was frowning at his hand, blinking the bangs out of his eyes. Jounouchi found himself looking closely at Kaiba’s eyes. Somehow, he’d always assumed they were brown, like his own, but now he could see that they were really a deep sapphire blue. Pretty.

Kaiba glanced at Jounouchi over his cards. “What are you looking at?” he asked, with a hint of irritation.

“Nothing.” Jounouchi shifted his gaze back to his cards, feeling his face heat. What the heck was he doing staring at Kaiba’s eyes, like he was a pretty girl or something? Jounouchi didn’t think about Kaiba that way. Well, he did, kind of, but—he thought about the stuff Yugi said he and Kaiba had done—making out on the couch, rubbing off on each other, touching each other with their hands—it was all so unexpected and weird and kind of hot—

And there was that VR game Yugi said Kaiba had created, with its “Special Attack Monsters” that had sex with the players. Yugi said Kaiba’d done it with the Dark Magician, and Jounouchi thought about that a lot. And the Blue Eyes White Dragon—Yugi said Kaiba dreamed about the Blue Eyes fucking him. Kaiba was definitely one kinky guy—not even considering the whole wanting to do his little brother thing—and Jounouchi had no problem supplementing his own fantasies with some of Kaiba’s, and, well, he had imagined himself as the Flame Swordsman in Kaiba’s VR game a few times, doing some Direct Damage to a bent-over Kaiba….

“Yugi told me about that VR game you made.”

Kaiba stiffened. “Did he,” he said flatly.

“Sounds like fun. You really deleted it, huh?”

Kaiba’s scowl deepened. “Yugi has a big mouth.”

Jounouchi swore under his breath. When was he going to learn to keep his mouth shut? “He was worried about you, so he talked to me about it. He was only trying to help. Don’t be mad at him.”

“I don’t need his help,” Kaiba growled. “And I certainly don’t need your help.”

You sure need somebody’s help, Jounouchi wanted to say, but he decided not to push it. Fun, he reminded himself. They were having fun. “Your turn, Kaiba.”

Kaiba glared at him for a moment, then muttered, “Draw,” and drew a card. He didn’t seem to like this one any better than any of his others. He stared at his cards, frowning, then finally said, “I summon Axe Raider in attack, and end my turn.”

Axe Raider was a Level 4 monster, with an attack of 1700 and defense 1150. A perfectly respectable monster, although you wouldn’t know it to see the curl in Kaiba’s lip. Equip a Lightning Sword on him and he could chew through nearly every other Level 4 monster out there.

And he was way stronger than Lord of Dragons. Come on, Blue Eyes, Jounouchi thought, as he said, “My turn. Draw,” and drew his next card.

Harpie’s Feather Duster. Damn. Well, it was a good magic card, destroying all of the opponent’s magic and trap cards on the field, but of no use to him at the moment. Kaiba didn’t have any magic or trap cards out, and what Jounouchi really needed was a good monster to defend himself with. But he did have Graceful Charity, which gave him another chance to draw a monster. “I play Graceful Charity and draw three more cards.” He drew Magic Jammer, another Graceful Charity, and Goblin Attack Force. All right!

Now he had to discard two cards. He definitely wanted to keep Lord of Dragons and the Flute of Summoning Dragon. He needed that Goblin Attack Force. He also wanted to keep Harpie’s Feather Duster. Change of Heart could really come in handy, too. And the Crush Card—you could destroy an opponent’s deck with that one, if you got the chance to use it. “I discard Graceful Charity and Magic Jammer, and summon Goblin Attack Force.” Goblin Attack Force was a Level 4 monster with an attack of 2300. But its effect required it to switch to defense position after attacking, and it had a defense of 0, making it a sitting duck for any monster its opponent drew. Still, it was great for that one attack.

“Battle Phase,” Jounouchi continued. “I attack your Axe Raider with Goblin Attack Force.”

Kaiba disdainfully swept the Axe Raider off the field into his graveyard. “Minus six hundred to me.”

“Goblin Attack Force goes into defense. Turn end.” Jounouchi was very pleased with himself to have done the first damage, but he tried not to grin too widely. It was only the first round, and his Goblin Attack Force would be toast on Kaiba’s next turn, leaving him in the same position as before, without a good monster to put on the field.

“My turn. Draw.” Kaiba drew and frowned intently at his cards. Now that he’d suffered Battle Damage, he’d suddenly gotten serious about wringing some winning combinations out of Jounouchi’s cards.

Kaiba really was an amazing guy, Jounouchi thought. Life had screwed him over in some pretty horrible ways, and he never let it beat him. No matter what cards he was handed, he always managed to come out a winner. Well, nearly always. Trouble was, he couldn’t deal with it when he ran across one of those rare problems he couldn’t fix by sheer determination and force of will. And now here he was, designing elaborate VR games to distract himself from wanting his little brother, and refusing to admit that he needed help.

Still. Jounouchi could only wish he had the brains and the resources to build VR sex games to get his mind off his troubles.

“So, Kaiba, about that VR game….”

Kaiba flinched, but only the tiniest bit. If you weren’t watching for it, you would have missed it. But he didn’t say anything, so Jounouchi continued, “What was it like?”

“It was based on the Legendary Heroes game. Some of the monsters were modified so that their attacks were… special.”

“Which ones?”

“What?” Kaiba stared at his cards, refusing to look over them at Jounouchi. But there were spots of color on his cheeks.

“Which monsters? Yugi said Dark Magician, and there was a Blue Eyes… ?”

“Not the Blue Eyes. Another dragon. Harpie Lady. Witty Phantom. A few others.”

“Harpie Lady, huh?” Jounouchi grinned. “Spikes and claws—I bet she was fun.”

Kaiba laid down a card. “You’re trying to distract me so I’ll make a bad move. But it won’t work. I summon Rocket Warrior, and attack your Goblin Attack Force.”

Jounouchi moved the Goblin Attack Force to the Graveyard. No Battle Damage was done, since the monster was in defense position, but now his field was empty again.

“Turn end.” Kaiba sat back in his chair, the slight flush gone from his face.

“My turn. Draw.” He drew a trap card, Negate Attack. That would protect him against one attack, but he still had no monsters he could use. Rocket Warrior’s attack was 1500, higher than Lord of Dragons. If he played Lord of Dragons, he’d lose it. But he did have Change of Heart.

“I play Change of Heart to steal your Rocket Warrior.” Kaiba’d get it back at the end of the turn, but Jounouchi could hit him once with it. “Battle Phase. Direct Attack with Rocket Warrior.”

“Minus fifteen hundred to me. I have fifty-nine hundred life points.”

“I set one card,” Jounouchi said, playing Negate Attack face down. “And end my turn. Rocket Warrior goes back to you.”

“My turn. Draw.” Kaiba drew his card, quietly fuming. They both knew it was early in the game and things could easily turn around, but Kaiba clearly didn’t like taking Direct Damage. At least, not from monsters he hadn’t programmed to do it….

“So, Kaiba, how did it work?”

“What?”

“The game. How did the Special Attack Monsters, you know, attack? Was it every time they did Battle Damage, or… ?”

“It was complicated,” Kaiba said shortly. “It depended on the points, and the level. And the way the monster was programmed. And… other things.”

Jounouchi giggled. “Count on you to make getting laid complicated.”

Kaiba peered haughtily over his cards. “Just making it interesting.—I sacrifice Rocket Warrior to summon Legendary Fisherman in attack.” He paused for Jounouchi to use his trap card, if he was going to. Jounouchi shook his head, and Kaiba continued, “Battle Phase. Direct Attack with Legendary Fisherman.”

“Negate Attack,” Jounouchi responded, turning over his trap card. His life points were saved again, but once again, he was now defenseless. If he didn’t draw a monster this time….

“Hn. Turn end,” Kaiba muttered.

“My turn. Draw.” This time, Jounouchi drew a monster, but not a very useful one. Z Metal Caterpillar was only 1500 attack and 1200 defense, and its effect was useless without an X Head Cannon or Y Dragon Head on the field. He studied his hand. He still held the Lord of Dragons and Flute of Summoning Dragon, Harpie’s Feather Duster and the Crush Card. He couldn’t use the Crush Card trap without a Dark monster to sacrifice, but he could set it and have it ready in case he drew one. Or risk having it destroyed on the field before he could use it. Better hang onto it. Kaiba didn’t have any magic or trap cards out, so there was nothing to use Harpie’s Feather Duster on. And he was still waiting for that Blue Eyes so he could use the Lord of Dragons and Flute of Summoning Dragon combination. There was nothing to do this turn but set the Z Metal Caterpillar in defense and keep hoping for a better draw next time.

“You really must have put a lot of work into that game,” he said, as he laid the monster face down on the field. “I set one monster in defense and end my turn.”

“My turn. Draw.” Kaiba drew his card and said, casually, “Couple of weeks, off and on.—I play Graceful Charity and draw three cards.”

“Couple of weeks, huh? Too bad you had to delete it. I mean, I get why you did it, but it seems like a shame to waste all that work.”

“Discard Swordsman of Landstar and Skull Dice.” Kaiba put the two cards in his graveyard.

Jounouchi could see discarding the Swordsman of Landstar—with only 500 attack points and 1200 defense, and no effects, he was a pretty weak monster. Yugi sometimes teased him about keeping it in his deck, but it had been one of Jounouchi’s first cards, and he liked it. Sometimes, having a familiar friend pop up was as important as playing that killer combination. At least as far as Jounouchi was concerned. And Kaiba—he could go on about how the cards were all about power as much as he wanted, but even he had an emotional attachment to his Blue Eyes White Dragon.

Skull Dice, on the other hand, was a useful trap card. If Kaiba was throwing that away, he must have some pretty good cards in his hand.

“Next, I play Reinforcement of the Army.” This magic card allowed Kaiba to add one Level 4 or less Warrior-Type monster from his deck to his hand. Kaiba picked up the deck and began looking through it for a monster.

Jounouchi had some good Level 4 monsters in his deck. The one with the highest attack was Goblin Attack Force, but its effect meant it didn’t last long. The next most powerful monster was Gearfried the Iron Knight, with 1800 attack. Which would Kaiba go for, high attack or staying power?

“I add Goblin Attack Force to my hand and shuffle.”

He went for the attack points, of course. Jounouchi smiled to himself.

“Then, I summon Goblin Attack Force. Battle Phase.”

But Kaiba didn’t attack right away. He stared at the field with a distant look in his eyes, his game face gone. “I have a backup,” he said quietly.

“A what?” Jounouchi had forgotten, momentarily, what they were talking about.

“Of the game.” Kaiba looked up, smiled a brief, wry smile, then lowered his eyes back to his cards. “The system is set up to make nightly backups and keep them for two months. It’s not the final version, of course, but it’s close enough. I could restore it easily. I think about it…. Every day, I’m on the verge of going through the backups and deleting all the copies. Every day I’m on the verge of restoring it and using it again. And every day I leave it there—

“I attack your defense monster with Legendary Fisherman.”

“Wha—? Oh, Z Metal Caterpillar.” Jounouchi turned over his monster card and put it in the Graveyard. “It’s dead.”

“Then Direct Attack with Goblin Attack Force.”

“Minus twenty-three hundred. That takes me to fifty-seven hundred life points.” Now Kaiba was ahead by 200 points. His Goblin Attack Force was in defense position for the next turn, but he still had Legendary Fisherman ready to attack. Jounouchi really needed that Blue Eyes White Dragon….

And he needed to breathe. Kaiba—Kaiba had talked to him. About actual stuff. What was he supposed to do now? Say something sympathetic? Give him advice? Just keep on playing and pretend it hadn’t happened? Damn it, Jounouchi didn’t know what to tell a guy who was in love with his little brother and didn’t know how to make it stop.

“Turn end,” Kaiba said.

“M—my turn. Draw.” Okay, just play the game for now. Jounouchi drew a magic card, Premature Burial. Good, he could get a monster back from his Graveyard. It wasn’t quite as good as Monster Reborn—it cost 800 life points to use, and then became an equipment card on the monster it brought back, making the monster vulnerable to attacks on the equipment card as well as itself, but it was still a lifesaver when, as now, he still didn’t have a decent monster in his hand.

“I play Premature Burial. Minus 800 points to me. I bring back Goblin Attack Force.” Now, he could attack Kaiba’s Goblin Attack Force and get rid of it, or attack the Legendary Fisherman, which was still in attack position, and take a few life points. Goblin Attack Force would have to stay in defense position for one more turn, so he’d have another chance to attack it—if he could draw another monster. But if he didn’t take out Legendary Fisherman, it would definitely hit him again next turn. “Battle Phase. I attack Legendary Fisherman with Goblin Attack Force.”

“Minus four-hundred fifty to me. That takes me down to fifty-four fifty.” Kaiba moved the Legendary Fisherman to the graveyard.

“And me to….” Jounouchi had lost whatever ability he ever had for doing math in his head. He’d had 5700 points before, and paid 800 to use Premature Burial—come on, it wasn’t that hard—”Four thousand nine hundred. Turn end.”

“My turn. Draw.” Kaiba looked a little calmer since he’d made his little confession. Some of the strain around his eyes had eased. Maybe this talking about stuff was really doing him some good. Or maybe he was feeling better about his increasing lead in the duel. Or maybe he was just having fun. “I set one card face down, and play Graceful Charity to draw three cards.” Kaiba inspected his hand.

“So, Kaiba….” Jounouchi hesitated for a moment. He still wondered if he should say something about what Kaiba’d said, but he really didn’t know what. Sorry your life sucks? He was pretty sure that wouldn’t be very helpful. Instead, Jounouchi stammered the first thing that came to his mind. “That game… was it multi-player?”

Kaiba’s hmph was almost a laugh. “Discard Insect Queen and Dark Hole.—I suppose it was. Legendary Heroes is multi-player, and I didn’t bother to change it. Not that it mattered.”

“Could a player be one of the monsters?”

“What… ?” Kaiba paused, card in midair above the duel field. He blinked, then quickly averted his eyes, dropping his card awkwardly to the field. “I play Warrior Returning Alive, and bring Axe Raider back from the Graveyard.” He shuffled quickly through his Graveyard to find the card, then placed in on the field in attack position. “Battle Phase. I attack Goblin Attack Force with Axe Raider.”

“He’s gone,” Jounouchi said, moving Goblin Attack Force to the Graveyard.

“Turn end.”

“My turn. Draw.” Jounouchi drew Y Dragon Head. Damn, another of these useless Union monsters. If he could get a few more monsters in his hand and keep it until he had an X Head Cannon to play it on, it would be a powerful card, but by itself, it was just another weak 1500-attack monster. But it was all he had, except for Lord of Dragons, which was even weaker, and he had to get rid of Kaiba’s Goblin Attack Force this turn, or it would be able to attack him again next turn.

“I play—”

“I didn’t program it that way,” Kaiba said in a rush. Jounouchi held his card back, looked up at Kaiba, and waited. Kaiba glanced around the room, then tried to force a smile—not a good idea, it just made him look pained—and continued, “I just made the monsters to be monsters. But it wouldn’t be that hard. You’d have to swap out the core personality engine for the player plug-in… make sure all the nerve simulations have something to connect to….” He’d lost his hesitation, and was in full hi-tech mode now. “The humanoid monsters would be pretty straightforward, but you’d have to be careful connecting up the bodies of monsters like dragons to the players, with their wings and tails. It would be fascinating to leave some of the monster’s programmed behaviors in, and see how they interact with the player’s inputs. Especially some of the really complex monsters, like Dark Magician—the player might find himself doing things he wasn’t expecting….”

Jounouchi laughed. “Man, you are such a geek.”

Kaiba stiffened, frowning. Jounouchi reached across the table to slap him gently on the arm. “Relax. I meant that in a nice way. I mean, here you are with all these really big… thoughts, where most guys would just be thinking, ‘Wow, I could be a monster and have a really big dick.’ ”

“Make your play,” Kaiba said gruffly. But there was an amused glint in his deep blue eyes.

Jounouchi looked down at his cards and started—he’d been about to play Y Dragon Head, forgetting all about the trap card Kaiba had on the field. Now would be a really bad time to get hit with a Trap Hole or Magic Cylinder. Damn, talk about getting distracted! He chuckled to himself. Kaiba had really saved his butt by interrupting him before he could play his monster. Wouldn’t old Blue Eyes love to know that!

“I play Harpie’s Feather Duster and destroy your covered card.”

Kaiba hmphed and turned over the destroyed card—it was Trap Hole. Whew! Disaster averted.

“Next, I summon Y Dragon Head in attack mode. Battle Phase. I attack your Goblin Attack Force with Y Dragon Head.”

Kaiba moved Goblin Attack Force to his Graveyard. Jounouchi said, “Turn end.”

“My turn. Draw.” Kaiba only took a moment to look at his cards before decisively snatching up Axe Raider and throwing down a new monster. “I sacrifice Axe Raider to summon Jinzo. Battle Phase. I attack Y Dragon Head with Jinzo.”

“Minus nine hundred. That takes me to four thousand.” Damn, Jinzo was one of his best monsters! An attack of 2400 and you couldn’t activate any traps while he was on the field. Jounouchi needed to draw that Blue Eyes White Dragon soon.

“Turn end.” Kaiba sat back with a small, satisfied smile.

“My turn. Draw.” Jounouchi’s next card was Witch of the Black Forest. A weak monster as far as attack and defense, but its effect would allow him to add one monster with a defense of 1500 or less to his hand from his deck when it went to the graveyard. It wouldn’t get the Blue Eyes for him—Jounouchi couldn’t remember what its defense was (who would play a Blue Eyes White Dragon in defense mode?), but he knew it was more than 1500. But at least it would guarantee him another monster to defend himself for another turn. And anyway, he didn’t have any other spare monsters, or any other cards he could play.

“I set one monster in defense.—I guess I shouldn’t be giving you ideas about redesigning your game, though. Sorry. Turn end.”

“My turn. Draw.” Kaiba drew his card and looked at his hand, a slight smile on his face. “It doesn’t matter. I have no interest in actually programming a multi-player version of the game. Who would I play it with?”

“Me! You’d play it with me!” Jounouchi exclaimed. Then he stopped, and sheepishly added, “Not that I want you to start working on the game again, or anything.” And then realized he’d more or less told Kaiba he wanted to have sex with him. In VR, in the body of a monster, but still….

Jounouchi peered at Kaiba from under his bangs, checking for his reaction. Kaiba was still looking at his cards, stone-faced as ever. But at least he wasn’t glaring. “Of course, you wouldn’t really need VR to play the game like that. You could just do a ‘winner fucks the loser’ kind of thing.”

“I summon Axe Raider in attack.—Are you suggesting… ?”

He shrugged. “You said you weren’t going to kiss me.”

“Never said I wouldn’t fuck you.” There was a hint of a sly smile on Kaiba’s face.

Jounouchi grinned. “Only if you win.”

“Hmph. Battle Phase. I attack your face-down monster with Jinzo.”

“Witch of the Black Forest,” Jounouchi said, turning over the card and putting it in his graveyard. “Let me go find a card.” He picked up the deck and started thumbing through it. “The game’s not over yet, Kaiba. And I’ve got the best deck in Duel Monsters here.”

“I thought it wasn’t supposed to matter who wins.”

“Doesn’t matter to me,” Jounouchi said. “I’d have fun either way. Anyway, you’re the one who designed that VR game so you’d always be on the receiving end. I’d think you’d want to lose.”

“That’s different,” Kaiba protested.

Jounouchi glanced up. Kaiba was looking tense and troubled again. Jounouchi sighed. “I didn’t mean—I just meant, if I like it either way, and you like it either way, it doesn’t matter who wins.”

“Pick your card.”

Jounouchi held up the Vorse Raider. Its attack was 1900—good for a Level 4 monster, but still no match for Jinzo. Still, it was the best he could do. He added it to his hand, and shuffled the deck. “Anyway, I was just fooling around. We don’t have to play the game that way if you don’t want to.”

“Direct Attack with Axe Raider.”

“Minus seventeen hundred to me,” Jounouchi said. “That brings me down to… to….”

“Twenty-three hundred,” Kaiba smirked.

“Yeah, yeah. You still haven’t won yet.”

“Turn end. You’re on.”

“My turn. Draw.—Huh?” Jounouchi paused with his hand on the deck. Kaiba’s blue eyes had darkened to pools of jet, and small beads of moisture formed on his upper lip.

Kaiba was turned on. Or scared. Or both. And he’d just agreed to have sex with Jounouchi after the game was over. Winner fucks the loser.

And yeah, he’d said it didn’t matter who won. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t going to try even harder to win this game. Jounouchi grinned and nodded.

He’d drawn Pot of Greed. All right, two more chances to come up with that Blue Eyes White Dragon. “I play Pot of Greed and draw two more cards.” The first card was Polymerization. No good. Jounouchi took a deep breath and drew one more card.

Bingo! Dark Hole. It wasn’t the Blue Eyes just yet, but it would clear the field of monsters and even things up a bit while he waited for that elusive dragon to show up. “I play Dark Hole and destroy all the monsters on the field.” And, since he didn’t have any monsters on the field himself, he didn’t lose anything.

Kaiba grunted his displeasure as he swept Axe Raider and Jinzo to the graveyard.

“And you know what’s coming next,” Jounouchi said, unable to keep himself from gloating just a little. “I summon Vorse Raider in attack. Battle Phase. Direct Attack with Vorse Raider.”

“Minus nineteen hundred to me. That brings me to thirty-five fifty.”

“Show-off,” Jounouchi said, smiling. “Turn end.” It probably wouldn’t last, but it was good to wipe that smirk off Kaiba’s face, at least for one turn.

“My turn. Draw.” Kaiba busied himself staring intently at his cards. “I set one card,” he said, placing a card face-down in the magic and trap zone. Some trap card he’d been saving, Jounouchi thought, that he couldn’t use while Jinzo was on the field. Then he frowned at the rest of the cards in his hand, shifting in frustration. Obviously didn’t like what he was holding.

“I summon Wyvern Warrior in attack mode,” Kaiba said, placing the card on the field. Wyvern Warrior had only 1500 attack, far short of Vorse Raider’s 1900. But he wouldn’t have played it in attack if he didn’t have something up his sleeve. “I play Graceful Dice and attack Vorse Raider.”

So that was it. Kaiba hated leaving anything to chance. He wanted to crush his opponents with powerful cards, not gamble on magic cards that could save or destroy him. But this time he’d had no choice. “Okay, roll the die.”

“Shit,” Kaiba said. “I don’t have any dice. I can’t play this card.”

“That’s okay. You tear up a piece of paper into six slips and write the numbers one through six on them. Then I’ll mix them up and you draw one, and that’s your roll. That’s how we play it at school when nobody has dice on them.”

“Oh.” Kaiba got that look on his face—the one he got whenever anybody tried to be nice to him. The one that looked like he was chewing on lemons. “All right. That would work.” He laid his cards down, and got up to find a piece of paper. “I don’t know how you can play with cards like these. You can’t count on them.”

“They work for me. I’m lucky.”

“But there are equipment cards that will add six hundred points to your monster’s attack, without having to take the chance that you might end up with only a hundred. Why bother?”

Jounouchi shrugged. “I like them. They make the game more exciting. It would be boring if you always knew exactly how each card you played was going to come out.”

Kaiba had taken a sheet of paper, and was folding it into precise sections, as carefully as a piece of origami. Then he held each fold over the edge of the table and tore the paper into straight-edged strips. “I like knowing how my cards work.”

“That’s cool. You do what works for you, and I do what works for me. Not everybody can have a Blue Eyes White Dragon in his deck.”

Kaiba took a pen and began inscribing the numbers in neat characters onto the slips of paper. “Nobody can have a Blue Eyes. Except me.”

“Yeah, yeah, Kaiba, I know. But even the Blue Eyes doesn’t win every single time.”

“It wins… ,” Kaiba was beginning to look pained again. This time, Jounouchi kept his peace and let Kaiba work through it. Someday, Kaiba was going to have to deal with the fact that Yugi had beat him. Twice. “It should win. It’s the most powerful card in the game.”

Even that wasn’t true any more. There were cards with higher attacks than the Blue Eyes White Dragon. But sometimes power meant more than attack points. “Remember what Yugi said after your duel at Battle City, about why he won?”

Kaiba handed Jounouchi the six marked slips of paper. “He said he didn’t win because he had powerful cards. He said he won because he had the power of his friends.”

“That’s right. Having friends behind you makes a big difference. You should try it sometime.” Jounouchi held the slips of paper under the table to mix them, then held them out in cupped hands for Kaiba to draw one. “And I win because I get lucky. Maybe this time some of my luck will rub off on you.”

Kaiba reached into Jounouchi’s cupped hands, and drew out a slip of paper. He looked at the number written on it and smiled. “Five.”

Which increased Wyvern Warrior’s attack by 500, to 2000. One hundred more than Vorse Raider.

“Damn. Minus one hundred to me. I’m at twenty-two hundred.” Jounouchi moved Vorse Raider to the graveyard. “I’m taking my luck back now.”

“Turn end.” Kaiba smiled.

“My turn. Draw.”

And there it was—the Blue Eyes White Dragon! Jounouchi had his luck back, all right. Finally! He laid down the Lord of Dragons card with a flourish. “I summon Lord of Dragons in attack. Then, I play Flute of Summoning Dragon. You know what’s coming next, right?” Jounouchi placed the Blue Eyes White Dragon card on the field. “I summon the Blue Eyes White Dragon.”

Kaiba’s face had gone white. “My… Blue Eyes….”

“Battle Phase. You okay, Kaiba?”

Kaiba looked up, startled. He swallowed, then nodded.

Jounouchi wasn’t too sure about that. But he continued his turn. “I attack Wyvern Warrior with the Blue Eyes White Dragon.” Whatever Kaiba’s trap card was, he couldn’t use it on the Blue Eyes, not as long as Lord of Dragons was on the field. “Then, Direct Attack with Lord of Dragons.” He might use the trap card now. Or he might take the hit and save the trap for next turn, after he’d had a chance to take out Lord of D, so he could use it on the Blue Eyes. Or the set card might be something else entirely that he couldn’t use anyway. Jounouchi waited.

“M—minus twenty-seven hundred. That takes me to… eight-fifty.”

Kaiba must really be shaken, if he had to hesitate over his math. Jounouchi felt bad now, which was a shame—he’d really been looking forward to using Kaiba’s own dragon on him. But Kaiba wasn’t taking it well at all.

But the game wasn’t over. Kaiba could draw Raigeki on his next turn and wipe the Blue Eyes off the field. Or any number of other plays. “Turn end. Sure you’re okay, Kaiba?”

Kaiba nodded. “Best deck in Duel Monsters, right?” he said, a little shakily. “I win either way.”

“Yeah, that’s right.”

Kaiba gave himself a little shake, and reached for his deck to draw a card. “My turn. Draw.” His hands trembled slightly as he inspected his cards. “How can it matter? Having friends…. Cards are cards. They don’t change, just because someone shouts your name at a match.”

“The cards don’t change. It’s how you feel about yourself that changes. Your friends keep you going. They give you confidence and encouragement. They keep you from giving up. And when you do lose, they tell you it’s okay and they buy you sodas and listen to you tell them what a jerk your opponent was, and it doesn’t feel quite so bad.”

Kaiba smiled a very sad little smile. “Not for me.”

“Kaiba, you have friends. You have Yugi, and me. And Honda and Anzu, and Bakura and Otogi—we’re all here for you. All you have to do is let us in.”

Kaiba looked at his cards and didn’t answer.

“Anyway, you have Mokuba. He loves you so much.”

Kaiba laid down a card. “I play Baby Dragon in attack. Battle Phase. Attack Lord of Dragons with Baby Dragon.” The two monsters’ attack points were equal. Neither player took any damage, but the monsters were both destroyed, and Lord of Dragons was off the field. Jounouchi moved the card to the graveyard, and Kaiba did likewise with Baby Dragon.

“Turn end.” Kaiba’s voice was quiet and final.

“My turn. Draw.” Now Jounouchi drew Raigeki—when Kaiba had no monsters on the field. The Blue Eyes White Dragon was poised to attack.

But there was that trap card. What was it? Could it save Kaiba’s life points? Jounouchi tried to remember what traps Kaiba had already played. There was the Trap Hole Jounouchi’d destroyed with Harpie’s Feather Duster. And Kaiba had discarded Skull Dice. Jounouchi’s other trap cards were Graverobber, Kunai with Chain, and Magic Cylinder. If it was Graverobber, it wouldn’t help Kaiba. Even if there had been a magic card in Jounouchi’s graveyard worth stealing, Kaiba couldn’t pay the 2000 life points it cost to use it. If it was Kunai with Chain, Kaiba could use it to shift the Blue Eyes into defense position and save him from its attack this turn, and give him one more chance to draw a winning card.

But if it was Magic Cylinder, it could deflect the Blue Eyes White Dragon’s attack back onto Jounouchi. He couldn’t take the 3000-point hit from the Blue Eyes any more than Kaiba could. If it was Magic Cylinder, Kaiba could win the duel.

Well, never mind. Whatever the trap was, whether he won or lost, it had been a good game. They’d talked about some stuff, and if Kaiba was still up to it, they’d be having sex in a little while. And at least Jounouchi had gotten to play the Blue Eyes White Dragon.

Jounouchi was about to announce Battle Phase, when Kaiba spoke.

“He said I could do it.” His voice was flat and empty.

“Wha… ? Who said you could do what?”

“Mokuba. He said… he told me, if it would make me feel better, he’d let me… you know.”

“Oh. Jeez. Jeez, Kaiba, what did you do?”

“Nothing. I came in here and… I couldn’t talk to him. What could I say?”

“You could tell him no, it wouldn’t make you feel better! Jeez, Kaiba, the poor kid’s freaking out because you won’t talk to him. He thinks he did something wrong.”

Kaiba’s eyes grew shiny with tears, but he swallowed and fought them back. “What have I done to him?”

“You haven’t done anything.—Have you?”

“No! But… that he would even suggest such a thing! It’s my fault. All I ever wanted to do was protect him, and now he’s… corrupted by my….”

“He’s not corrupted.” Jounouchi squirmed a little. He so did not want to talk about Kaiba’s freaky obsession with his little brother. Still, he supposed this was why he was here, no matter how hard they both tried to pretend it wasn’t. “Listen, Kaiba, take it easy. Mokuba’s just trying to help.”

“I know, but—it’s hard enough… without that temptation. Knowing he’d….”

“That’s why you have to talk to him, and tell him you don’t want it. Tell him to smack you a good one if you ever try anything!”

“He’s too young to have to deal with this. I’ve tried so hard to take care of him, to shield him from everything—losing our parents, the orphanage, Gozaburo—I never thought I’d have to shield him from me.

“Kaiba, he’s not that young. He’s older now than you were when your parents died and you took on the whole world to protect him. He’s old enough to take on a little responsibility himself. He’s growing up, you know.”

“Not yet. Not if I can help it.—It’s different for me. I took on the responsibility because I had to, because there was no one else. I did it so he wouldn’t have to. He was supposed to be the one who had a normal childhood….”

“While you sacrificed yourself? Don’t you see, Kaiba, you sacrificed too much. That’s why you’re in the trouble you’re in now—you won’t let yourself be human. You try to make yourself into some perfect machine, but it doesn’t work—the loneliness and pain, it all comes out somehow.”

The hardness in Kaiba’s eyes had turned brittle, there were spots of red on his face from the tears he was fighting back, and he hunched in his chair like a little kid expecting a beating. “But Mokuba….”

“Mokuba’s fine. He’s a great kid, Kaiba. You did a good job with him. You are one seriously screwed up guy, but Mokuba’s okay.”

Finally, it was the right thing to say—and surprise, surprise, it was all about Mokuba. Kaiba sort of melted down in his chair, looking ragged and beat up, but not nearly so brittle, and there was a fragile smile trying to break through on his pale face.

Jounouchi thought he’d better quit while he was ahead. Let Kaiba pull himself together, and then—well, they’d see what happened. Absently, Jounouchi picked up his cards. Raigeki and the Crush Card were all he had left in his hand. A couple of big monster-killers—but Kaiba’s monsters were all dead. And the Blue Eyes White Dragon stood alone on the field, facing its master. Did it want to attack? Or was it resisting, not wanting to destroy its owner? Kaiba dreamed about the Blue Eyes attacking him, but probably not like this. But would he fight it if it attacked? He still had that trap card on the field. Graverobber, Kunai with Chain, or Magic Cylinder? The game still wasn’t decided, but Jounouchi wasn’t going to push if Kaiba didn’t want to play it out.

“It’s your move.”

Jounouchi looked up, startled. And there was Kaiba, all tough and in control again, holding his cards in his hand and ready to play. Jounouchi chuckled under his breath. He should have known Kaiba wouldn’t fall apart that easily. He’d been through a hell of a lot worse than a hard talk with someone who was trying to be his friend. He nodded. “Battle Phase. Direct Attack with the Blue Eyes White Dragon.”

Kaiba flinched. Two fingers tapped slowly on the covered card. He bit his lip, and drew several slow, deep breaths.

Then he pulled himself up, and laid down his cards. “Minus three thousand.” He swallowed. “You win.”

* * *

I just beat Seto Kaiba! Jounouchi had to stop himself from pumping his fist in the air and shouting. All right, it didn’t really matter. It was just for fun, they were using each other’s decks, and Jounouchi had half a notion Kaiba’d thrown the game there at the end, either because he didn’t want to use a trap on his Blue Eyes, or—

Or because he wanted to get fucked.

So, okay, it did matter. Because, yeah, he’d told Kaiba he’d be happy either way, and that was true—but he was more happy to be the one doing the fucking. And not because he wanted to see Kaiba’s snooty nose pushed into the mattress instead of stuck up in the air—although, he had to admit, there was a certain satisfaction in thinking of Kaiba being the one on his knees for a change. No, Jounouchi just liked fucking. He liked to be doing something. He had too much energy to just lie there and take it.

And Kaiba, obviously, liked being fucked. So it worked out great. Grinning, Jounouchi got up from the table and walked around it to Kaiba, who was still sitting with his hands on the table, staring at his cards.

Jounouchi held out his hand. “Game over,” he said, softly.

Kaiba sucked in air, nodded once, and stood up, ignoring Jounouchi’s hand. “Let’s go.” He strode out of the room without looking back, and Jounouchi had to half-run to catch up with him.

The bedroom Kaiba led them to was twice the size of Jounouchi’s entire apartment. But it was sparsely furnished and strangely impersonal, holding only a four-poster canopied bed and night stand, a large chest of drawers and dressing table. There was no ornamentation, no wall decoration, no rug. Maybe it was a guest room, Jounouchi thought. Kaiba didn’t want to get his own bed messy. “Is this… ?”

“My room,” Kaiba said shortly. Then, off Jounouchi’s look, “Something wrong with it?”

“No, it’s great, I just… I guess you keep all your toys in the game room.”

Kaiba looked around, seeming to notice the room’s emptiness for the first time. “I… don’t spend much time here. I’m too busy.”

Jounouchi nodded. “Um… do you have something to use for lube?”

Kaiba’s face flushed. He didn’t answer.

“Guess you don’t use it in VR. Hey, that’s okay. We don’t have to….”

“No, I’ll….” Kaiba looked around, as if expecting a bottle of lube to just appear, perhaps on the pristine surface of his dressing table.

“You could send one of your minions out for it,” Jounouchi suggested.

“Shut up,” Kaiba said mildly. “I don’t know. What can we use?”

“Let me check your medicine cabinet and see if I can find something.”

Kaiba nodded towards a door at the side of the room—of course, he’d have a private bathroom. Jounouchi went to it, turning with his hand on the doorknob to ask, “I don’t suppose you have condoms, either, then.”

Kaiba turned even redder. “No. Do you think… ?”

“It’s okay, I’ve got one.” Grinning, Jounouchi slipped into the bathroom.

Jounouchi expected to regret not having the time to really rifle through Kaiba’s bathroom, but sadly it seemed as bare and impersonal as the bedroom. It was huge and bright and luxurious—the bathtub was big enough to swim in, and looked like it had a whirlpool, and there was a stone fountain in one corner shaped like a big frog with water pouring out of its mouth—but the medicine cabinet was nearly empty, containing only a large container of aspirin, toothpaste, a hairbrush, bandaids and antiseptic, and a bottle of lotion. Jounouchi sniffed the lotion, and read the label. What was it you weren’t supposed to use with condoms? Damn, if Kaiba wanted to get fucked, why didn’t he keep some lube handy? Oh, right, because he only did it with VR monsters. Obviously, Jounouchi needed to start carrying lube around with him, along with the condom he kept tucked away in his wallet for luck.

Well, they could go with the lotion and hope. Or he could insist that Kaiba come up with the real thing. Or they could forget about fucking for now and do it some other time. Jounouchi took the lotion and went back into the bedroom, where Kaiba was sitting primly on the edge of the bed, looking like someone about to get a doctor’s exam.

He handed the bottle to Kaiba. “Here, Mr. Genius. Read the label and tell me if this is okay to use with condoms.”

“It’s water-based… no oils.” He handed the bottle back to Jounouchi. “It should be okay.”

“All right. We’re good to go.” Jounouchi put the lotion and the condom on the nightstand. “Next time, get the real stuff. You can afford it.”

“Next time?”

“Hey, I’m being optimistic, here.” Jounouchi sat down beside Kaiba and put an arm across his shoulders.

Kaiba was a knot of tension, a rubberband stretched to its breaking point. Was Kaiba that nervous about having sex? Jounouchi supposed that being confronted with the little practicalities of having sex with real people instead of computers had shaken him up a bit. He rubbed Kaiba’s shoulders with his fist, but had no effect on the knotted muscles. Kaiba’s eyes were wide, and his mouth a tight line rimmed with white. He wasn’t just nervous, he was flat-out terrified.

“Relax,” Jounouchi said, rubbing harder. “I’m not going to hurt you.”

“Why not?”

“What do you mean, why not? Why would I want to hurt you?”

“Why wouldn’t you? Come on, you can spout that nonsense about friends all you like, but you and I have never been friends. I’ve treated you with contempt, and you’ve hated me for it. Don’t tell me you don’t hold any grudges, because I don’t believe it.”

Jounouchi let his hand drop. “If you really think that, why did you agree to this? Do you want me to hurt you?”

Kaiba just glared at him. Jounouchi was once again struck by how thin and battered Kaiba looked: a man who’d been eaten up by guilt and shame. A man who hated himself for what he was feeling. Maybe he did want to be hurt. “Don’t ask me to punish you for the way you feel about Mokuba,” Jounouchi said. “I’m not going to play that game.”

“Then why?” There was a note of desperation in Kaiba’s harsh voice. “Why did you agree to it?”

Jounouchi didn’t know what to say. It was sex. Why wouldn’t he agree to it? But he knew that wasn’t going to do it for Kaiba. He pulled Kaiba to him, stiff and unyielding as he was, and held him, stroking his hair. “I like you,” he said, a bit tentatively, then, “And before you ask why, I’m thinking about it.”

He thought about Kaiba fighting with Noah to get his brother back. That was the Kaiba he liked—the one who’d do anything for his little brother. “I like the bond you have with Mokuba,” Jounouchi said slowly. Kaiba shifted in his arms, with a coughing sound that was halfway between a laugh and a sob. Jounouchi held him tighter. “I know it’s pretty messed up right now, but I know you’ll work it out. I’ve seen you stand on top of a tower and threaten to throw yourself off to save him. I’ve seen you risk your soul for him, your body and your life. You always do whatever you have to do to protect him, no matter how hard it is.” Jounouchi smiled and gave Kaiba’s back a brisk rub. “Even if it means talking to a ‘mediocre duelist’ like me.”

Kaiba sucked in air, then let it out. His hands, pressed flat against Jounouchi’s chest, tightened for a moment, gathering up folds of Jounouchi’s tee-shirt, then moved apart a little, almost beginning to return the hug, rather than staying ready to push Jounouchi away. All right, Jounouchi thought, they were getting somewhere. Jounouchi cast about for something else to say, and the image that came into his mind was Kaiba standing tall, facing the monstrous adopted father he’d thought was dead and gone, refusing to budge an inch. Still so proud, Seto, Gozaburo had said. And Kaiba had been hard as nails.

“I like the way you stood up to Gozaburo,” Jounouchi said. “You never let him beat you down. That’s pretty amazing, Kaiba. You were just a kid when he adopted you, but you kept your fighting spirit no matter what he did to you.”

“It was Mokuba,” Kaiba said quietly, voice muffled against Jounouchi’s chest. “I couldn’t have done it without him.”

And what was this? Kaiba actually admitting he needed someone else? Sure, it was Mokuba, but even so…. “That’s the way it’s supposed to work, Kaiba. Brothers look out for each other.”

Kaiba pulled himself up, rubbing his eyes as if he’d been crying. Which he hadn’t, but Jounouchi thought he must be drowning inside from all the unshed tears. “I’m the older brother. I’m supposed to protect him.”

“And you do.” Hadn’t they had this conversation already? Jounouchi sighed. Kaiba’s head was hard as nails, too. “You do. You think I don’t understand what you’re going through? Maybe I don’t understand all of it, but I get more than you think. We’re not so different, Kaiba. I know what it feels like to lose my family, or most of it, anyway, and to be left behind with a dad who—well, my dad’s no Gozaburo, but he’s no picnic, either. I know what it feels like to have a little sister who depends on me, and to want to protect her, and I know how rotten it feels when I let her down. I know… I know how it feels to think you always have to be the tough guy who never needs anybody, because nobody ever took care of you the way they were supposed to. And I didn’t even have my little sister to stand by me, because my mom took her away from me, too.”

Jounouchi paused a moment and took a deep breath, a little embarrassed to have said so much. It was Kaiba’s problems they were supposed to be working on, not his.

But he supposed it was fair. Kaiba’d done his share of spilling his guts, and now it was Jounouchi’s turn. But if Kaiba said one word….

But Kaiba wasn’t talking. He wasn’t smiling his usual condescending smile, either, or making derisive noises in his throat. He was just sitting there, blinking and listening.

So Jounouchi plunged on. “It was Yugi who stood by me, and said we were friends, even though I was mean to him and teased him and even stole a piece of his puzzle and threw it into the pool. I said I was teaching him to be a man, but really, I was just trying to make myself feel stronger, picking on somebody who was weaker than me. So… I guess I know what that feels like, too.”

He pulled Kaiba back to him, and this time Kaiba wasn’t nearly so unyielding. He wasn’t exactly falling into Jounouchi’s arms, but he let himself be held, hands limp at his sides, and even rested his temple lightly against Jounouchi’s shoulder. “I don’t hate you, Kaiba,” Jounouchi said. “I get mad at you sometimes, but I don’t hate you. We’ve been through a lot together.” He remembered what Yugi had said to him, and how it had changed his life. “Like it or not, you’re my friend.”

Jounouchi didn’t really know what he expected to happen next, but what he got was Kaiba pulling himself up, sliding his arms around Jounouchi’s back, and planting a wet, awkward kiss on Jounouchi’s mouth. Jounouchi wanted to giggle—more in pleasure than amusement—but he knew Kaiba wouldn’t see it that way. So instead he wrapped an arm around Kaiba’s skinny shoulders, grabbed a handful of Kaiba’s hair, and proceeded to show him how it was done.

And man, he was a fast learner! Before Jounouchi knew it, he was on his back, with Kaiba half on top of him, tongue down his throat. Must have been all that practice in VR, Jounouchi thought, then remembered he’d practiced on Yugi, too, and the image of Kaiba doing this to Yugi gave Jounouchi a jolt to the groin that had him moaning into Kaiba’s mouth. And hadn’t Kaiba said he wasn’t going to kiss Jounouchi? Not that Jounouchi minded, no, not at all—the guy was certainly free to change his mind. And the way they were going—oh, man—Kaiba working one hand under Jounouchi’s tee-shirt, long fingers on the bare skin of his ribcage, then one thigh between Jounouchi’s legs, rubbing him there, making him arch up off the bed, hooking one leg around Kaiba’s and grinding his crotch into Kaiba’s leg—it looked like Kaiba’d maybe changed his mind about losing the duel, too, but here again, Jounouchi didn’t mind. For one thing, Kaiba was wary enough about the whole thing that any arguments about who’s doing who were likely to bring the activities to a screeching halt. And anyway, he’d told Kaiba he’d be happy either way, and he meant it. Just getting high-and-mighty Kaiba Seto into bed with him was enough.

This time, Jounouchi couldn’t help the happy chuckle that bubbled out of his throat. And sure enough, Kaiba stiffened, pulled away, and glared down at Jounouchi with all his haughty disdain intact. “What?” Kaiba demanded.

Jounouchi hooked an arm around Kaiba’s neck and tried to pull him down. Nope, stiff as a board. “Relax, Kaiba. I’m just… do you have any idea how many of the kids at school would love to be where I am right now?”

Kaiba started, haughty look replaced by one of confusion and a little embarrassment. “I… don’t think about things like that.”

“Oh, yeah? All those studs and straps and tight pants and long sexy coats and you never once thought about what you were doing to everybody who looked at you?”

Kaiba looked like he didn’t know whether to be offended or flattered. Or both. Jounouchi decided to take advantage of Kaiba’s confusion to see if he could get things a little bit back on track (all right, he couldn’t help feeling that he really ought to be on top, because after all he won the damn duel), so he took Kaiba by the shoulders, braced one foot on the mattress, and flipped Kaiba onto his back, thigh pressing between Kaiba’s legs.

He felt Kaiba’s cock twitch against his thigh, and fingers dig into his back. Yeah, all right, Kaiba wasn’t minding that at all. And just to make things perfectly clear, Jounouchi took Kaiba’s face in his hands, and said, punctuating each word with a big wet kiss, “You… are… one… gorgeous… sexy… hunk.” He grinned down at Kaiba, who was beginning to look deliciously ravished—hair mussed, eyes heavy-lidded, lips wet and parted—and added, “I might not have mentioned that before, when you asked me why. But it’s definitely up there.”

Kaiba’s “hmph” was a little breathless, on account of Jounouchi’s thigh rubbing between his legs. His cheeks were pink. “Less talk,” he said. “More kissing.”

Jounouchi was fine with that. He let things get a little rough, because after all, Kaiba liked getting done by monsters. He tightened his fist in Kaiba’s hair, and Kaiba moaned, and he nipped Kaiba’s neck (remembering that slinky Vampire Lord card Kaiba had, and wondering if that was one of his Special Attack Monsters), and Kaiba twisted Jounouchi’s shirt in his hands, and he pulled up Kaiba’s shirt to pinch his nipples, and Kaiba squirmed under him, nipples hardening into tight little buds.

He was busily driving Kaiba insane, not to mention himself as well, when he decided it was probably about time for them to get naked, before they got carried away and it was too late. Jounouchi threw his leg across Kaiba and sat up, straddling Kaiba’s hips, and started unbuttoning Kaiba’s shirt.

Kaiba grabbed Jounouchi’s wrists. “I can do that.” He was starting to go tense again—Jounouchi could feel the muscles bunching under him.

“I know you can,” Jounouchi said. He looked Kaiba in the eye, and waited. He wasn’t going to fight him; Kaiba was going to have to decide for himself how he wanted it.

Kaiba stared back. His breath was coming in short, shallow gasps, and his eyes were a little wild. Abruptly, he let go of Jounouchi’s wrists, turned his head to the side and closed his eyes.

Jounouchi waited a moment longer. It was kind of freaky the way Kaiba did that: all fire and fight one minute, and passively accepting the next. But was he really accepting it? Or was he forcing himself? It was weird to be with someone who wanted it, but didn’t want to want it. It made Jounouchi want to be very careful, gentle and slow, but on the other hand, Kaiba liked the rough stuff, and so did Jounouchi, and anyway, he had a feeling Kaiba’d get even more freaked out by gentleness. He reminded Jounouchi of the temple cat he sometimes stopped to pet on his way home: purring contentedly under his hand one minute, then suddenly whirling around and slash him with its claws. He never knew what set it off.

It was something he liked about it. Jounouchi brushed Kaiba’s cheek with the back of his hand. Kaiba’s skin was soft and nice, and he bent down to kiss it. Jounouchi felt the pulse of Kaiba’s cock under his hips. Very nice. Then he unbuttoned Kaiba’s shirt, letting his fingers caress Kaiba’s stomach and chest as he did so.

And then he’d gone about as far as he could go in the position they were in—Kaiba on his back on the bed, with Jounouchi straddling his hips. Jounouchi sat up, shrugging out of his jacket and tossing it to the floor, then lifted his arms to pull his tee-shirt over his head.

Kaiba looked up, finally opening his eyes. There was a strange expression on his face as he studied Jounouchi’s chest. Jounouchi looked down at himself. Nothing wrong as far as he could see. “What, do I have a zit?”

It took a moment to figure out that that funny little noise coming from Kaiba’s throat was a laugh. “No, I….”

Jounouchi grinned. “Not the same as VR, huh? Guess you didn’t program any regular boys into your game.” Jounouchi slid his leg across Kaiba’s hips—letting his knee stroke Kaiba’s groin as he did, to send a satisfying shudder through Kaiba’s body—then scooted back off the bed. “Well, get ready, ’cause here comes the rest of it.” Jounouchi quickly pulled off his jeans and socks, and dived back onto a waiting Kaiba.

Who was, Jounouchi couldn’t help noticing, still fully dressed. And still lying on his back, arms at his sides, waiting for Jounouchi to undress him.

It was a little overwhelming, all of a sudden. This was Seto Kaiba. The same guy who’d done nothing but pick at Jounouchi from the day they’d met, insulting his dueling abilities, calling him a loser, refusing any kind of help or support from him. Lying here passively waiting for Jounouchi to undress him and fuck him. It was… unbelievable wasn’t the word for it. Jounouchi didn’t know what to think. Things had really changed.

Or had they? Jounouchi had a feeling the old Seto Kaiba was still there, ready to whirl around and slash him with his claws at a moment’s notice. Jounouchi didn’t kid himself that Kaiba really liked him. Kaiba was miserable and desperate, willing to do anything to stop the hated attraction to his little brother. He’d tried fucking VR monsters and that hadn’t worked, so now he was going to try it with someone real. He didn’t care one bit about Jounouchi, and tomorrow he’d probably be insulting him again.

Jounouchi grabbed Kaiba by the arm and pulled him up, so he could get his long coat off of him. It was twisted under him, and Kaiba ended up having to get up off the bed so Jounouchi could strip him of his coat and shirt. He shivered a little with his upper body exposed, although the room wasn’t cold. Probably because he was so skinny. Still looked like he had plenty of muscle. Jounouchi thought again of temple cats before gently pushing Kaiba down onto the bed to start working on his trousers.

It would be nice to think they’d be friends after this. Or at least not enemies. Yugi’d thought so, too, after his first time with Kaiba, but it hadn’t worked out so well for them. They’d seen each other a few more times, but then Kaiba’d eventually clammed up again, and started putting Yugi off whenever he asked to get together. Well, it was hard for Kaiba, Jounouchi could see that. The sad thing was, Kaiba didn’t want to make friends for himself. He was only forcing himself to do it for Mokuba’s sake, because he thought it would make things better between them.

But he kept trying. He was willing to try, and Jounouchi respected him for that. And Jounouchi was willing to help, even if all it got him was a night of sex (which was plenty, after all) and everything went back to status quo tomorrow.

Jounouchi slid up beside Kaiba and kissed the side of his mouth, one hand playing in Kaiba’s hair while the other slid down Kaiba’s front. Kaiba’s skin was hot, and beads of sweat were forming in the hollows of his throat and chest. Jounouchi could feel the thump-thump of Kaiba’s heart beating, and the quick rise and fall of his breaths. Nerves or arousal? Both, probably. Jounouchi paused to give Kaiba a long, leisurely kiss before letting his fingers trail along the waistband of Kaiba’s trousers. He began to work at the fastenings, thinking maybe a little fantasy would help Kaiba get over his nerves.

“So what’s it like, doing it with a dragon?” Jounouchi breathed into Kaiba’s ear. “I bet they’re hot, from all that fire inside.” He felt the jump of Kaiba’s cock beneath the fabric. Okay, that was working. “Do they mate in flight, like eagles?” He wasn’t expecting any answers, just spinning tales. “That would be something to see, wouldn’t it? Couple of your Blue Eyes, way up so high all you can see is the flash of sunlight off their scales.” Slowly, he slid the zipper down. Kaiba groaned softly, his hips arching slightly off the bed. “Then, as they fell, you’d see them tumbling through the sky, claws clinging to each other, tails wound together.” Kaiba’s eyes had closed, and one hand twisted in Jounouchi’s hair.

Jounouchi bent to kiss Kaiba’s throat before he moved down the bed, pulling Kaiba’s trousers down, slowly. Kaiba lifted his hips to let it happen. “Maybe it would be the Blue Eyes and the Red Eyes, huh? Black and white, all swirling together as they cartwheel down.” Kaiba moaned at that—or maybe it was the waistband of his underwear catching on his cock as it flipped free. “Wonder what their baby dragons would look like? Gray, I guess, or maybe shiny silver, with deep purple eyes.” Jounouchi tossed Kaiba’s trousers onto the floor, and his socks after them, then moved back to Kaiba’s side, one hand trailing up the inside of Kaiba’s leg, tickling his thigh, letting the backs of his fingers nudge Kaiba’s balls.

“Guh…,” Kaiba moaned, one foot digging into the mattress, his head tossing back and forth, hands grasping at the air.

Jounouchi was feeling pretty hot by now, too, and he let his erection slide along Kaiba’s hip as he took Kaiba’s straining cock into his hand. “Mm… what would you call it?” The offspring of the Blue Eyes and the Red Eyes… not Jounouchi’s to name, not yet—not while his Red Eyes Black Dragon still lived in Yugi’s deck. But Kaiba could. ” ‘Purple Eyes’ doesn’t sound quite right.”

Kaiba’s breath was coming in short gasps, each punctuated by a wheezing grunt. Jounouchi didn’t even expect him to be able to talk, but, “Dark Eyes,” he managed in a sharp whisper. Kaiba’s eyes squeezed shut, and Jounouchi didn’t know whether the drop of moisture on his temple was sweat or a tear. “Dark Eyes… Silver Dragon.”

Kaiba flung his arms around Jounouchi, pulling him on top of him. Something had broken loose inside him, and he went wild—he clawed at Jounouchi’s back, making growling noises deep in his throat, grinding himself on Jounouchi’s hip. “Do it,” he was muttering under his breath, “Do it.”

Kaiba’s wildness was contagious—Jounouchi kissed him roughly, swallowing his groans, pushed Kaiba’s legs apart with his knees, got one hand between them and squeezed their cocks together in his fist. Kaiba shuddered and squirmed and thrust beneath him, and Jounouchi figured he’d better get this show on the road fast before they both lost it.

He reached out blindly for the lotion on the night stand—nearly knocking it onto the floor, but leaning to catch it just in time, elbowing Kaiba in the ribs as he dragged it onto the bed. “Why don’t we… ?” he began, but Kaiba, his mouth a determined line, tightened his arms on Jounouchi’s shoulders and hooked his legs around Jounouchi’s back, and so, “just do it like this,” he finished agreeably. It wasn’t exactly what he’d had in mind, but if it was what Kaiba wanted, Jounouchi wasn’t about to argue. He flipped the cap off the lotion bottle one-handed, and managed to turn it around to squeeze some of it into his palm. “If I get this all over the bed, on account of you won’t let go of me long enough to get both hands on the bottle, you’re not going to get mad at me, are you?”

“Just do it,” Kaiba growled.

Jounouchi kissed him hard, just to remind him who was on top, then slid his slick hand down between Kaiba’s legs, flattening his palm over Kaiba’s asshole, rubbing the lotion in with the heel of his hand.

Kaiba sounded a little like he was drowning. His heels dug into the small of Jounouchi’s back. Jounouchi had pushed up onto his knees so he could reach down between them, and his own cock was hard as a rock and dripping with need, rubbing tantalizingly against Kaiba’s thigh. He should take it easy, he told himself. He was pretty sure Kaiba was a virgin, or close to it, and he didn’t want to hurt him. But Kaiba kept muttering, Do it, when he wasn’t making little animal noises—obviously, he didn’t want to take it easy. So Jounouchi pushed two fingers in, and Kaiba came halfway up off the bed shouting.

Jounouchi worked Kaiba’s ass for a while with his fingers, watching Kaiba’s face, eyes all screwed shut and sweat dripping, and yeah, he was getting off on it, his cock standing right up and poking Jounouchi in the belly, so Jounouchi just kept going. Kaiba felt tight down there, but he wasn’t that tight, and Jounouchi could feel him opening up still more, and after a while he pulled his fingers free to Kaiba’s protesting groan and reached for the night stand to grab the condom he’d left there. “Kaiba—” he said, ripping open the package with his teeth, “I gotta—” no way he was going to get it on one-handed, he was awkward enough with the damned things, but Kaiba showed no signs of letting go. “Just for a minute, okay?”

Kaiba abruptly unwrapped his arms from Jounouchi’s shoulders, and Jounouchi sat back on his heels with Kaiba’s legs still around him, now pressing against his butt. Then Kaiba snatched the condom out of his hands and reached for Jounouchi’s cock, and—

Jounouchi let out a shuddering, pleasured laugh. Oh, damn that felt good—Kaiba’s hands on him, rolling the condom on, smoothing it down, a look of intent concentration on his face, biting his lip, his blue eyes glinting darkly—

He was almost disappointed when Kaiba let him go. But then Kaiba took him by the shoulders and pulled him back down, and kissed him fiercely, arms and legs wrapping tightly around Jounouchi’s body.

So far so good. Jounouchi hoped that whatever had sparked the collapse of Kaiba’s resistance (dragon sex? it figured) would hold long enough to let Jounouchi get his cock into him. He leaned down and murmured “Destruction burst stream”—the Blue Eyes’ battle call—into Kaiba’s ear, as he reached his hand down to position his cock.

Kaiba’s response was part choked laugh, part startled moan, as Jounouchi’s cock nudged into him. His fingers dug into Jounouchi’s back. Then, with a strangled cry, he thrust up onto Jounouchi’s cock.

Jounouchi tried to slow things down, he really did, but Kaiba clearly didn’t want to slow down, he wanted to be fucked now, and Jounouchi wanted to fuck him, and he could manage no more than five easy, shallow thrusts before frustration overcame them both, and Kaiba growled “Do it!” and Jounouchi slammed into him.

Kaiba’s fingernails raked his back. “Jounouchi!”

Jounouchi paused for a moment, cock up Kaiba’s ass, smiling to himself—if this was what it took to get Kaiba to call him by his name, he’d be happy to do it more often—then settled in to fuck Kaiba senseless.

And Kaiba went wild under him—growling, scratching, biting like an animal. He dug his heels into Jounouchi’s back, and he lifted his hips and slammed back, arms like iron bands across Jounouchi’s shoulders. He was all bone and hard muscle, slick with sweat, breath rasping in Jounouchi’s ears. And he was tight and hot and Jounouchi was pretty sure he had to be feeling some pain down there, but he either didn’t care or he wanted it that way, because he was throwing himself into it with all he had.

And Jounouchi let him have it. One hand twisting in Kaiba’s hair, the other gripping Kaiba’s thigh, one knee drawn up to steady himself, he fucked Kaiba’s ass as hard as he could.

It was too good to last for long. The pleasure built quickly to an amazing peak, then suddenly he thrust hard into Kaiba, hips straining, as his cock spasmed in release. His knees had turned to jelly and he wanted to collapse, but Kaiba was still struggling beneath him, almost whimpering with need, so he gathered himself up and kept on until Kaiba finished, teeth in Jounouchi’s shoulder, semen pumping hot between their bellies.

They lay in a heap for a little while, both gasping for breath, bodies gradually unwinding and sliding apart. Jounouchi unrolled the condom and turned over to toss it into the trash, reaching to switch off the bedside lamp. When he turned back, Kaiba had curled up on his side, facing away from him. Jounouchi spooned around him, arm around Kaiba’s waist. Kaiba was nice and warm, and settled back against him, and he drifted off to sleep.

Jounouchi wasn’t sure how long he’d dozed, but he woke up sticky and shivering and needing to pee. And still wrapped around Kaiba, who was sound asleep. He snuggled a little closer, trying to soak up some of Kaiba’s heat, and wondered what time it was. He really didn’t want to move. It was nice here, and he didn’t want to wake Kaiba—the guy was a wreck, and could probably use all the sleep he could get. But he really had to pee, and it would be nice to get under the covers. He wondered if he could manage to sneak off to the bathroom and then pull a blanket up over them without waking Kaiba… ?

The pressure in his bladder was becoming painful. He was going to have to get up. Carefully, he slid his arm from around Kaiba’s waist, and shifted onto his back.

No good. Kaiba moved, moaning softly, then peered at Jounouchi over his shoulder. “I suppose you’re leaving now?”

“No, Kaiba, I just gotta go pee. Go back to sleep. Or, get under the covers first—it’s cold in here.” Jounouchi suddenly noticed the harshness in the clipped tones of Kaiba’s voice. “Um, unless you want me to leave.”

“Do what you like.” Kaiba turned away.

Jounouchi paused helplessly. Man, Kaiba was worse than a girl. Why couldn’t he just say what he wanted? Jounouchi was no good at stuff like this. “Okay, that either means ‘get out of here now’ or ‘don’t you dare go’, I’m not sure which. Help me out here, Kaiba.”

Another pause. Hurry up, Kaiba, and make up your mind, Jounouchi thought. I really have to pee.

“Will you get in trouble if you don’t go home?” Kaiba asked.

Aha. So he did want him to stay. “Nah, my dad won’t care—if he even notices I haven’t come home.”

Kaiba turned again and sat up, arms around his knees. “What time do you need to get up in the morning?”

“Oh… I don’t have to work tomorrow morning, so just in time to get to school. I don’t know how long it’s going to take me to get there from here… I left my books at Yugi’s… I guess I can call him in the morning and ask him to bring them for me.”

“You can ride in with Mokuba. I’ll have the driver drop you off at Domino High.”

“Oh. Okay, thanks.” Jounouchi smiled. A chauffeur-driven limousine to school! That would be fun. He reached over to kiss Kaiba on the nose, then scooted off the bed to head for the bathroom, giggling over the affronted look on Kaiba’s face.

When he got back, Kaiba had gotten under the covers, and was watching Jounouchi inscrutably from under his bangs. Jounouchi climbed in beside him. “Do you want to turn off the light?” The bedside lamp had been turned off, but there was still a soft glow illuminating the room from somewhere.

“There’s a control over here,” Kaiba said, reaching across Jounouchi for the night stand.

Jounouchi took the opportunity to put his arms around Kaiba and pull him on top of him. Distracted, Kaiba looked down at him with a hint of a smile. “The light….”

“Want to go again?” Jounouchi asked. He could feel Kaiba’s erection poking him in the thigh.

Kaiba abruptly reached for the night stand, to a keypad of controls mounted on the side, and touched a button that turned out the room light.

It wasn’t completely dark. Moonlight—and probably some outdoor lighting, too—filtered through the filmy curtains covering Kaiba’s windows, throwing the room into shadows of gray and blue. “I… I’m a little sore.”

“Oh. Sorry, Kaiba. I know I was kind of rough, but….”

“I’m fine. Just….”

“Just not ready to get fucked again right away. I gotcha.” Jounouchi gave Kaiba a squeeze, then rolled them both over onto their sides. “How about this, then?” He slid down the bed, running his hands down Kaiba’s body, which twitched and shivered at his touch.

“What are you… Oh!” Kaiba exclaimed, as Jounouchi took his cock into his mouth. Kaiba’s hands tightened in Jounouchi’s hair.

Jounouchi was too busy to answer. He sucked Kaiba’s cock, working it with his tongue, one hand curled around the base, the other playing with Kaiba’s balls. He wished he knew how to deep throat—have to learn it one day—but Kaiba seemed to be liking this well enough, squirming and making funny little noises in his throat. Jounouchi liked that—making somebody get excited, making them lose control—it got him excited, too, and his own cock was hard and needy, so he threw a leg over Kaiba’s, and rubbed himself against Kaiba’s shin.

Kaiba was too sore to fuck—and they didn’t have any more condoms, anyway—but maybe he’d still like to be touched there. Jounouchi moved his fingers down behind Kaiba’s balls, between his buttocks, sliding them lightly over his asshole, still slick with lotion. Kaiba groaned and spread his legs, lifting his hips a little to let Jounouchi touch him. He was soft there, still open and a little swollen. Jounouchi would have loved to take him again, but this was good, too—playing with Kaiba’s just-fucked asshole, sucking his cock, making him squirm. It wasn’t long before Kaiba arched and cried out, and Jounouchi’s mouth filled with come.

Jounouchi swallowed, wiped his mouth, and swallowed again. He stroked Kaiba’s still-hard cock with his hands, and moved back up on the bed. “So how was that?”

Kaiba was still breathing hard. “Good. It was good.—Do you want me to… ? What should I do?”

Kaiba hated owing anybody anything. Jounouchi supposed that applied to blow jobs, too. “Do what you want, Kaiba. Hands, mouth… just let me rub off on you,” he snuggled up to Kaiba, stroking his hard cock against Kaiba’s hip. He still had Kaiba’s cock in one hand. “Whatever makes you feel good. We’re still having fun, remember?”

“Fun…,” Kaiba said, as if the word was unfamiliar to him.

“Or do nothing,” Jounouchi said. “Go to sleep, Kaiba. I sucked you off because I wanted to. You don’t owe me anything.”

“No, I want to, I just… don’t know how.”

Of course. Kaiba’d never given anybody a blow job—probably not even in VR. And he couldn’t stand being anything less than perfect at anything he did. “Want me to show you? It’s not that hard. I mean, I can do it.”

Kaiba stared at Jounouchi for a moment, then nodded once. “Mm,” he said, and, quickly, as if afraid of losing his nerve, moved down the bed.

“Don’t worry, Kaiba. Far as I’m concerned, there’s no such thing as a bad blow job.”

Kaiba, hands on Jounouchi’s hips, contemplated Jounouchi’s cock. Jounouchi ruffled Kaiba’s hair. “Just don’t bite,” he added.

Kaiba chuckled softly. But still made no move to continue. The moment stretched out unbearably, until Jounouchi finally took Kaiba’s jaw in his hand, thumb stroking Kaiba’s cheek, gently urging his lips open, then took his cock in his other hand and slid it into Kaiba’s mouth.

Kaiba’s eyes widened, then fluttered closed. His mouth closed over Jounouchi’s cock, covering it with wet heat. In spite of himself, Jounouchi thrust, the head of his cock hitting the back of Kaiba’s throat. Kaiba flinched and gagged.

Jounouchi stroked Kaiba’s hair. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to do that. Here, try it this way.” He guided Kaiba’s hand to the base of his cock.

As with the kissing, Kaiba was a fast learner. It didn’t take long before he was driving Jounouchi insane, making him writhe on the bed, fists pounding the mattress. His tongue swirled around the head of Jounouchi’s cock, lips slid up and down its sides, while his hand worked the base. Jounouchi wanted it to last, but he knew it wouldn’t. Have to teach Kaiba to pace himself, he thought. Some other time….

And, again, there was something almost touching about the way Kaiba went about it. So serious and intent; so determined to do it right, following Jounouchi’s guidance with exacting precision. Again, Jounouchi had to wonder—was Kaiba really enjoying this? He wanted to do it, there was no doubt about that. He was getting off on it. But was he having fun? Jounouchi still had the feeling that Kaiba’d put “get fucked” on his list of Things to Do for the day, along with “make another million” and “invent another gadget,” and was methodically checking it off. And that when they were through, he’d sigh with relief that he’d done his duty and wouldn’t have to go through that again.

Which was too bad. Because he was good, and he was sexy, and Jounouchi was actually beginning to really like him. There was a decent guy underneath all that stiff pride and fierce distrust and screwed-up sexuality. But he was never going to get over wanting his little brother as long as he couldn’t let anybody else in. Just getting fucked wasn’t going to do it. He had to open his heart as well as his legs.

— And his mouth. And oh, man, what a mouth! Kaiba was sitting on Jounouchi’s legs, holding him still, bending down to suck him relentlessly. Nothing fancy, no tricks, just good hard cocksucking. Kind of like the way he played Duel Monsters, Jounouchi thought, as the sweat dripped down his chest and his hips bucked helplessly under Kaiba’s iron grip. Pulled out his big guns and powered you down.

Jounouchi came with a gurgling shout, hands gripping Kaiba’s hair. He wanted to tell Kaiba he didn’t have to swallow it, but by the time he found his voice, Kaiba’d already gulped it down. He only gagged once.

Jounouchi took him by the shoulders and pulled him up, kissing him wetly. Kaiba seemed a little surprised, but Jounouchi didn’t mind the taste of his own come. “You didn’t have to swallow it,” he told Kaiba, pulling him into a warm hug. “I don’t mind if you spit.”

“I wanted to,” Kaiba said. But he was still wiping his mouth, over Jounouchi’s shoulder.

Jounouchi gave Kaiba a snuggle, then let him go. “Get yourself a glass of water.”

Again, Kaiba seemed a little startled, but he took the advice, crawled out of bed and headed to the bathroom. Jounouchi shook his head. Hadn’t anyone ever been nice to him before? Not that he made it easy to be nice to him—he’d rejected any attempt Jounouchi or Yugi or anybody else had ever made to be friends with him. But he supposed Kaiba had good reason to be suspicious of kindness.

Kaiba took his time in the bathroom. Jounouchi wouldn’t have been surprised if Kaiba’d stopped to take a shower—and sure enough, when he came back into the bedroom, carrying a full glass of water, his hair was wet and he was pink-skinned from hot water.

He offered the glass to Jounouchi, who took it with thanks and drained half of it before setting it on the night stand.

Kaiba smiled faintly and climbed back into bed.

Jounouchi plumped up the pillows so they could sit side by side. “So, Kaiba… what was that dragon you were talking about? Dark Eyes Silver Dragon?”

Kaiba sat with clasped hands on drawn-up knees. “It was in the game. I couldn’t bear to use the Blue Eyes that way, so I changed the color, and called it the Dark Eyes Silver Dragon.”

“So it just looked like a different-color Blue Eyes? Not a cross between Blue Eyes and Red Eyes?”

“Mm. But if the Blue Eyes and the Red Eyes did mate, I’m sure the Blue Eyes would be dominant.”

Jounouchi was about to protest that the Red Eyes was just as dominant as any other dragon, when he noticed the sly smile on Kaiba’s face. Kaiba was teasing him. Well, Kaiba always teased him, but this seemed to be friendly teasing, not his usual go-for-the-jugular style. Jounouchi smiled. “Did you play the game with it?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

Kaiba shrugged. “I randomized the attacks before I went into the game, and it was the Dark Magician who attacked me. After that, I deleted it.”

“But you dream about the Blue Eyes.”

Kaiba nodded.

“Are they bad dreams?”

There was a long pause, while Kaiba picked at a thumbnail. Finally, he said, “I dream that the Blue Eyes White Dragon is angry with me for losing Battle City, and wants to punish me.”

“Punish you how?”

Kaiba slid down and curled up onto his side. “He fucks me.”

Jounouchi moved behind Kaiba and put his hand on Kaiba’s shoulder. “Um, excuse me, but how is that punishing you? I thought you liked that.”

No answer. “Look, Kaiba, I know it’s your dream and everything, but I think you’ve got it all wrong. Blue Eyes is your friend. He wouldn’t be mad at you for losing. I think he feels bad for you. He wants to make you feel better, that’s why he’s fucking you. If it’s kind of scary, well, that’s because he’s a dragon. He doesn’t mean to hurt you.”

Kaiba’s response was a bitter laugh. “He should. I deserve it.”

Jounouchi rubbed Kaiba’s back. “No, you don’t,” he said. He knew he wasn’t going to be able to convince Kaiba just by saying it. But he had to say it anyway. “You’re not a bad guy. You haven’t done anything wrong.”

“No? What about Mokuba?” Kaiba’s voice was hoarse with bitterness.

Jounouchi moved closer to Kaiba, kissing his shoulder softly, putting an arm around his waist. “Kaiba, you really have to give yourself a break. I know you hate the way you feel, and you’d do anything to stop it, but it just doesn’t work that way. You feel the way you feel. But you’re not a bad person—just a screwed-up one. I’m not saying you shouldn’t keep trying to fix things. Just try not to hate yourself so much while you’re at it, okay?” He ruffled Kaiba’s hair. “Mokuba loves you. Blue Eyes loves you. I—I think you’re okay.”

Jounouchi couldn’t tell whether Kaiba’s choked gasp was a laugh or a sob. Maybe both. Jounouchi gave him a squeeze. “Am I getting through to you at all?”

“Mm,” Kaiba said. Then he turned and folded himself into Jounouchi’s arms. “It hurts.” He buried his face in Jounouchi’s neck.

Jounouchi held him tight. “I’m here,” he said. “I’m here.”

* * *

“Ohayo, Nii-sama!—Oh!”

Jounouchi groaned and shifted, rubbing his eyes. What in the world… ? It took long moments for him to orient himself: He was with Kaiba. Kaiba’s mansion. Kaiba’s bed.

And Mokuba, standing at the foot of the bed, grinning sheepishly, one hand over his mouth.

Jounouchi grinned back. “Good morning, Mokuba.”

“Jounouchi! You stayed over.”

Jounouchi sat up and stretched. Kaiba lay still at his side, pretending to be asleep. “Yeah. We were up late… playing. Kaiba said I could catch a ride to school with you.” He yawned widely, then began to look around for his clothes. “Do I have time to take a shower?”

Mokuba ran to the bathroom, then returned with a blue and white yukata, which he gave to Jounouchi. “Yes, there’s time. I’m early. I wanted….” He glanced worriedly at his brother.

Shrugging into the yukata, Jounouchi slipped out of bed and began to gather up his clothes. “Thanks. I won’t be long.” He paused to look at Kaiba, who was lying on his back, watching him warily from slitted eyes. Jounouchi offered a smile. “Good morning, Kaiba.”

Kaiba didn’t smile back. “Good morning.” Finally, he turned toward Mokuba.

The look that passed between the brothers was indescribable. Silent apologies flew back and forth between them, pain and longing and regret. And love—so intense it nearly seared the air. Jounouchi stood rooted for a moment, then turned and fled to the bathroom, embarrassed to be caught in the crossfire of their private moment.

As he closed the bathroom door behind him, he couldn’t help but glimpse Mokuba launching himself onto the bed, flinging himself onto his brother. He leaned back against the door and took a deep breath. Nothing he and Kaiba had done last night had come even close to the white-hot fire of that single look between the brothers.

Kaiba had a long, hard road ahead of him.

* * *

When he came out of the bathroom, freshly showered and dressed, Kaiba and Mokuba were sitting on the bed in quiet, earnest conversation. They looked up at him and smiled. Kaiba’s eyes were red, and he looked drained, but calm.

Jounouchi smiled back. “I’m ready,” he said to Mokuba. “Is it time to go?”

“Mm,” Mokuba nodded. He hopped off the bed and came around to stand by Jounouchi.

“Give me a minute with your brother, okay?”

Mokuba glanced at Kaiba, then nodded, and left the bedroom.

Jounouchi went over to Kaiba. “You okay?”

Kaiba nodded. He smiled awkwardly, as if not quite sure how to make his face form the expression. “You?”

Jounouchi grinned. “I’m great. I had a good time, Kaiba. I hope you did, too.”

“It was… fun.” Kaiba’s smile had a hint of a tease in it.

“Good.” Jounouchi sat down beside him and gave him a one-armed hug. “Now, remember to get the good lube for next time. And stock up on condoms, too.”

“There’s going to be a next time?”

“You bet.” He leaned in to give Kaiba a quick kiss, which, to his pleasant surprise, turned out to be a long, wet kiss. “I don’t have to go to school,” he murmured into Kaiba’s ear.

Kaiba pulled away. His face was red. “Mokuba’s waiting for you.”

“Damn.” Jounouchi reluctantly stood up. “See you later, Kaiba.”

“Bye.” Kaiba was smiling thoughtfully as Jounouchi left.

* * *

They’d only taken a few steps down the hallway when Jounouchi remembered. “Hey, Mokuba, I left my deck in the game room. Can we stop and get it?”

Mokuba looked up at him with a delighted smile. “You guys dueled?”

“Yeah. It was just a casual game, no big deal.”

“Nii-sama hasn’t dueled since Battle City! Not even with me! You see, Jounouchi, I told you you would be good for him.” Mokuba began to lead them to the game room, nearly running in his excitement.

“Yeah, I guess you were right.” Jounouchi still barely believed it.

The cards were just as they’d left them: the Blue Eyes White Dragon standing alone on his side of the field, one trap card still face down on the other.

“Nii-sama won,” Mokuba said proudly.

Of course, Mokuba didn’t know they’d been using each other’s decks. Jounouchi leaned down to pick up his cards, casually flipping over the trap card.

Magic Cylinder.

“Yeah, he did,” Jounouchi said.

They’d both won.

end.

dark eyes silver dragon

Dark-Eyes Silver Dragon by Cyrus

NOTES ON THE DECKS: The decks Jounouchi and Kaiba used were based on Edo’s Character Decks. You can find them on Edo’s Yu-Gi-Oh! Page.

I did some minor tweaking to fit the story (for example, I removed Obelisk from Kaiba’s deck, since the story is set post-Battle City), but mainly used Edo’s decks as is. All of the cards have been used by the characters on the show or in the manga (with the exception of Magic Cylinder—that was one I added strictly for story purposes).

I played four or five test duels between the decks to get some idea of how they played and plan out the duel for my story—and Jounouchi’s deck won every time. Kaiba’s deck depends way too heavily on getting a Blue Eyes White Dragon on the field (a Level 8 monster, it requires two sacrifices to summon, and it’s not easy to get two monsters on the field at the same time you’ve got a Blue Eyes in your hand) or playing the X-Y-Z monsters in order. Jounouchi’s got weaker monsters, but a lot of equipment cards and traps to power those monsters up, and they’re mostly Level 4, so they’re easier to get on the field.

For the story, even though I was using the Japanese names of the characters, I decided to use the US names of the cards. Most readers know that Joey is Jounouchi; probably not that many would recognize the “Deck Destruction Virus of Death” as the Crush Card, or “Chained Boomerang” as Kunai with Chain, and so on.

The duel was played by the rules of the real card game, not by the anime rules, which are inconsistent anyway.

{ 2 } Comments

  1. Animom | February 23, 2010 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    I’m sure what I’ll be saying here has been said to you many times in the past, but that’s not going to deter me.

    Even after so many years, this is still the one of the most memorable stories in the fandom (and I’m glad I was able to track it down again). You took a difficult combination and did a brilliant job of keeping everyone in-character while getting them to do “out of character” things. ~ The pacing is superb, and the dueling – well, few YGO authors (then or now) ever bother to include this essential element. You not only did it but did it well, in a way that grounded the conversation and added even more depth to the characterizations. ~ And oh yes, the sex was delicious, but it was the fact that you’d already sketched them so well that gave the lemony bits such depth.

    In short: a superb story that is one of the very few I expect to read again and again (despite having left the fandom years ago).

    I will be pointing people to this archive, and this story in particular.

  2. galeaya | July 11, 2017 at 12:50 am | Permalink

    Again, I realize that it’s been years since you wrote this, but I still just had to tell you how awesome this piece and the prequel are. Damn. Definitely on the rec list. 😀

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