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How (Not) to Court your Rival

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It starts little, but don’t most grand things?

Yugi wakes up one morning, and there’s a bundle of flowers sitting on the stoop when he opens the front door. They’re pretty, dark purples and blues with smaller white ones littered throughout. There’s a card attached, but the only thing printed on it is ‘S.’ One letter, a period, that’s it.

He shrugs his shoulders, takes the flowers inside, and finds a vase for them. They sit in the kitchen for a week or two before they finally die and he has to throw them out.

oOo

The next set of flowers to show up are really similar to the first batch. Only…fake. Yugi’s not sure what they’re made of exactly, but the petals are a soft, gleaming fabric that’s incredibly thin. It feels like satin between his fingers, luxurious and beautiful. Again, the card is signed only ‘S.’

After some brief research, he finds out satin flowers can actually be super expensive, especially ones as life-like as these, so he goes door to door to make sure none of his neighbors are missing them. Maybe somebody’s secret admirer left them in the wrong place? Everyone exclaims over how beautiful they are, but nobody claims them.

Secretly pleased, Yugi takes them home, cleans out the vase he’d used before, and this time sets them up on his dresser.

oOo

A couple of days later, a bakery delivery truck shows up in the game shop’s parking lot. The delivery guy is jovial as he has Yugi sign for this enormous, and he means freaking massive, cake box.

“I took your guy’s order when he came in. Good looking and rich!” the delivery guy says as he hands the box off, then winks. “Nice going, catching that.”

Yugi takes the cake inside in a complete state of confusion. His guy? What guy? Who caught anything here? What in the world is going on!?

The cake turns out to be like, four layers of chocolate and crème, and Yugi has to call all his friends over just to make sure it gets eaten. There’s no way he and grandpa could finish that, no matter how much Yugi loves chocolate.

oOo

Things start to piece themselves together when he sits down with the three notes from each gift. All are signed mysteriously with ‘S.’ But Yugi doesn’t know many guys whose names (first or last) start with S, and of those there’s only one he’d consider to be ‘good looking and rich’. The others are mostly acquaintances, people he met back in school or while dueling, and all highly unlikely to be sending him gifts.

More unlikely than Kaiba though? ‘Cause that seems...doubtful. Unless there’s some kind of agenda or plan here that Yugi isn’t seeing. Does Kaiba want to buy the shop again?

oOo

It takes gift number four to finally get Yugi to take action. Surprisingly, number four is a discrete jewelry box tucked into the mailbox, long and thin and black. He takes it inside and then nearly drops it on the kitchen floor when he opens it.

Nestled within the velvet is a necklace with a simple golden chain, adorned only with a tiny eye of Horus, it’s lines strong but delicate, the pupil a single amber jewel. It’s absolutely beautiful, breathtaking in its simplicity, and when he lifts it from the box he finds the chain surprisingly short, designed to fit like a choker.

There’s no way in hell he can accept this...whatever it’s meant to be. A gift? A bribe? Some kind of compensation? He has no freaking clue.

Very carefully he places the necklace back in it’s box, then marches all the way to Kaiba Corp’s HQ. Or, well, he takes a cab. But the frustration and confusion fueling him are definitely still there!

Luckily, Yugi’s distinctive enough he makes it all the way up to the penthouse office before he’s stopped at the door by Kaiba’s personal secretary.

“Mr. Kaiba doesn’t have any appointments right now, and he’s not seeing anyone,” she says primly.

But Yugi’s on a mission here. He crosses his arms over his chest and tells her, “Call him. He’ll let me in.”

She looks a little conflicted, and also kind of confused on how Yugi got up here in the first place. But she asks his name and presses the button for the intercom. “Sir? There’s a Mr. Mutou here to see you. Should I send him away?”

She takes her finger off the button, and there’s a brief moment of silence where they just stare awkwardly at each other. Then the intercom crackles and Kaiba’s voice comes through; “No, send him in.”

The secretary looks surprised, her painted lips pinching a little, but then she seems to shrug her shoulders in defeat. “Go on in whenever you’re ready,” she says, and goes back to whatever she was doing on her computer.

Whatever frustration Yugi was using as momentum seems to abandon him the moment he hits those double doors. The office is huge, with three walls made entirely of windows that look out onto forever. There are some bookcases by the door, but the room is dominated by the giant, wooden desk Kaiba is currently sitting behind. There are no chairs in front of it.

Cool. It’s always the first word that pops into Yugi’s mind whenever he looks into Kaiba’s blue eyes. Cool like ocean water. Cool the way distant, icy mountain tops are cool. Unreachable, that’s another word. As much as they’ve been through together, Yugi has rarely if ever seen a crack in that rock-solid composure.

Yugi opens his mouth, closes it, considers what the fuck he’s doing here. Then he gathers up what’s left of his confusion and marches up to that giant ass desk and holds out the jewelry box.

“What is this?”

One slim eyebrow arches. “A jewelry box, I’m assuming. Why do I care?”

“Because you gave it to me.”

This time both eyebrows go up, but still Kaiba doesn’t move from his safe spot behind the desk. “I hate to break it to you, but no.”

“You did!” Fishing in his pocket, Yugi finds the three loose notes, and pulls them out and waves them in the air. “S, see! I don’t know anyone else whose name starts with an S.”

“I didn’t send you anything.”

But there’s a flash of something across Kaiba’s face. Yugi isn’t sure what it is, can’t identify it, but he knows .

Without missing a beat he goes around the side of the desk, and right up to Kaiba in that fancy leather chair of his. Since Kaiba’s sitting, it puts them at almost even height, which is rare for them.

“Why are you lying to me?” he demands, trying to be as stern as he can.

But Kaiba doesn’t budge. Doesn’t turn towards him, doesn’t even glance over. He’s got his elbows on his desk, hands loosely clasped in front of his face. “I think it’s time you leave,” he says.

Yugi narrows his eyes, but he knows a losing fight when he sees one. As much as he’d love to badger an answer out of Kaiba, it simply isn’t going to happen today.

So he leaves. He doesn’t say a word, just walks out of the office and doesn’t attempt to slam the doors behind him because they’re huge and he’d probably just hurt himself. And he’s completely intending to march right past the secretary’s desk too when she calls out to him.

“Mr. Mutou?”

He stops, turns. She’s smiling at him and holding a small wrapped...something. “Here. I remembered that I was supposed to have this sent to you tomorrow, but it saves me some work if you just take it now.”

Yugi can feel the surprise on his face. “For me? Are you sure?”

She nods. “One Mutou, Yugi, right?”

Well, that is him.

He takes the bundle from her and unwraps it while the secretary tells him, “Mr. Kaiba gave it to me the other day. I already have your address on file from a few other deliveries, but it’s honestly kind of an unusual request. Kaiba Corp doesn’t make deliveries normally, we have subsidiary companies that do that for us.”

But Yugi isn’t listening. The little package turns out to be five duel cards, each in their own plastic casing. It’s Exodia.

Yugi throws his hands up in complete exasperation, startling the secretary, and storms off.

oOo

If you count the Exodia cards, the next gift makes six. It comes in the mail, a mundane white envelope with a couple of plastic cards within. They turn out to be some kind of lifetime passes for Kaiba Land that include unlimited food, drinks, and games.

On a whim, he looks up exactly how expensive the passes are, and then nearly falls out of his chair because goddamn . And Kaiba is just giving these to him, for free? He has to put his head down on his desk for a little to contemplate that. He doubts even the necklace was that expensive, or Exodia for that matter.

On an even bigger whim, he decides to actually use the passes. He won’t wear the necklace, and Exodia has been set aside instead of being put into his deck but...maybe he can give this a try. It’s similar to the cake, right?

It’d probably be more fun with friends but now that he actually knows who his mysterious gift giver is...well, he doesn’t really want to share it. Lord knows Joey would be completely against the idea in every regard.

So he stuffs his hair into a hat as best he can, dons a pair of sunglasses, and goes to the amusement park. It’s kind of ridiculous the looks the workers give him when he pulls out the passes, like they’ve suddenly realized he’s royalty or something. He’s never gotten such preferential treatment before. Not even as the King of Games, and that was a pretty good deal. All the workers fall over themselves to help him, even above a couple of other people Yugi sees with similar passes. Maybe his are special somehow?

But besides finding a little cafe with amazing burgers, Yugi gets no closer to understanding just what in the world Kaiba is up to.

He spends some time playing a few games, wins a little Kuriboh plushie (looks sadly at the giant one he really wanted) and then goes home.

oOo

Number seven is the huge plushie he hadn’t been able to win. It’s just kind of…there, one morning, when he opens the front door. Sitting on his stoop, taller than he is, and so fluffy and soft that he just wants to use it as a bed. Instead, he lugs it inside (really, what are the neighbors going to think?) and stares at it for like an hour. When that gets him nowhere, he decides to write down everything he knows for certain, and see if that helps him paint a more coherent picture.

This list goes something like this;

  1.    Kaiba is sending him things. Expensive things.
  2.    Kaiba also lied about sending him these things.
  3.    There must have been someone watching Yugi while he was at Kaiba Land, because how else would Kaiba know that he wanted the plushie?
  4.    Several of the gifts could be considered overtly romantic.
  5.    Other gifts, like Exodia and the plush, were more personal.
  6.    He’s not even sure if they’re actually gifts.
  7.    Honestly Yugi’s not sure he wants to give them back. He will, if necessary but…he kind of likes them. Especially the flowers and the plush. Plus, he technically can’t give the cake back.

The list doesn’t really do anything but make Yugi more confused, so he switches to Google instead.

A quick search of ‘What does it mean when someone sends you expensive things?’ brings up…not quite was he was expecting.

Well, not that he wasn’t expecting it or anything, because he was…kind of. Kaiba sent him flowers and chocolate and jewelry after all, he’d be an idiot not to notice the connotation. But even without mentioning those things the results are overwhelmingly romantic in nature.

Sometimes men just aren’t able to express their emotions openly, one blogger writes. They do quirky little things instead to try and show us they care, or even just to grab our attention. Sending us random gifts, texting us stupid things throughout the day; often they’re just trying to let you know that you’re on their mind.

In response to a question on some kind of dating site, another person says, If a guy is sending you lots and lots of stuff, but isn’t talking to you, he might be trying to court you! He’s probably really nervous about how the gifts are being received, so he’s reluctant to see or hear from you. I suggest taking the initiative here. Go right up to him, and tell him how you feel!

How he feels? He’s…not entirely sure how he feels. Curious despite himself, Yugi scrolls down the page and finds that the girl who had originally posted the question had written a reply.

Thank you so so so much for the advice! He was totally shy and nervous and turns out he was too scared to actually ask me out! Hence all the weird gifts. I’m so glad I listened and asked him out. He said yes immediately and we’ve been together ever since! <3<3<3

Yugi puffs his cheeks up and then lets the air out slowly. It’s a cute story actually, but that couldn’t possibly be what’s happening here.

No way in hell.

oOo

The next letter, gift number eight, has a single ticket to a movie theater near where Yugi lives. It’s walking distance actually, so he’s been there a lot over the years.

The ticket the movie is to is one he’s never heard of, but a little research proves it to be some kind of animated story about duel monsters.

He’s a little disappointed, honestly. If it was to a romantic movie at least he’d feel a little more confident about his whole ‘courting’ theory. And maybe he’d be able to figure out how he feels about said theory.

Not that the movie doesn’t look cute or anything. Actually, it’s right up his alley. Weird. Since when does Kaiba know him well enough to pick out a movie he’d like?

Coincidence, or more weight to the courting theory?

oOo

When the day finally comes Yugi spends a long time deliberating on whether or not he’s actually going to go.

It’s one ticket. He could ask his friends to come with him, they’d be more than happy to. But what if Kaiba is there? Maybe he wanted to go together? Not that he’d been at Kaiba Land when Yugi had gone…

Mentally throwing his hands up, Yugi decides to just risk going by himself. It might chase Kaiba off if Yugi shows up with all his friends, and the worst that can happen if he goes alone is that he sees the movie by himself. As much as he loves his friends, Yugi’s spent more time by himself than hanging out with others; he doesn’t mind being alone.

The day is pretty grey and overcast on his walk to the theater. The clouds sit low and dark in the sky and about halfway there, Yugi realizes he probably should have brought an umbrella too. But he makes it all the way without getting rained on and figures he’ll just have to hope for the best once the movie ends.

He hands his ticket to the lady in the booth, and her eyebrows arch as she reads it.

“Oh,” she says, tearing part of it off and then sliding it back through the little slot, “this is the one that got bought out by one guy.”

“What?”

“Yeah, some guy came in and bought out every seat for this showing. We told him it’s probably cheaper to use one of our party packages if he needs the whole theater but…” she shrugs and pops her gum.

A little dumbstruck, Yugi takes his ticket and blankly follows her directions to find the right theater.

Every seat? Really?

But...why? Is Kaiba actually hosting a party of some kind, and he invited a bunch of different people?

Somehow, Yugi just can’t see it.

But the other option is that he bought it out just for Yugi.

And himself, apparently. Yugi’s jaw nearly hits the floor when he sees Kaiba standing outside the theater, tapping away at his phone and looking rather pissed at it. He’s dressed fairly casually, jeans and a turtleneck sweater, no leather armbands or dramatically flaring coat. His boots look worn and scuffed, comfortable, instead of the shiny pair he usually wears in public, or the loafers that go with his business suits. Yugi doesn’t think he’s ever seen Kaiba this laid back, even glaring at his phone like it’s severely insulted him.

Suddenly feeling shy, Yugi clears his throat.

Kaiba’s head snaps up so fast Yugi is amazed it doesn’t hit the wall behind him. The angry glare in those blue eyes fades bit by bit, until Kaiba’s expression is blank and flat. Without saying anything, he pulls off the wall and nods towards the theater’s door.

Yugi opens his mouth, but then realizes he doesn't actually know what to say. He goes inside.

The theater is still lit up, and Yugi stares at the rows upon rows of seats trying to figure out where he should sit down. This is too much power for two men, really, having the entire theater to themselves.

After a brief second, Yugi goes about halfway up and then spends a second trying to find the exact middle of the screen.

Silently, Kaiba follows and then claims the seat to Yugi’s right.

And then they just sit there. In silence. The screen is filtering through those pre-preview ads that don’t have any sound.

“Sooo,” Yugi starts, drawing the word out and staring resolutely ahead.

But out of the corner of his eye he can see Kaiba lift his hand and snap his fingers impatiently. Almost immediately the theater dims, and the screen flickers as the previews start. Then it flickers again, and jumps straight to the opening credits of the film. Talk about perks, goddamn. That had to be expensive. And illegal.

But Yugi can never just leave well enough alone, it’s just not who he is. If he did, Atem would still be trapped in a dusty old puzzle.

So he leans over and murmurs, “Are you done pretending you’re not the one sending me gifts?”

Even without looking, Yugi can feel the way Kaiba stiffens next to him. But there’s no reply, not a single peep out of the other man.

Yugi tries again. “I really liked some of them, you know.”

That seems to lessen some of the tension, but then Kaiba’s head snaps down and even in the semi-dark that blue gaze is intense.

“What do you mean, some of them?” Kaiba hisses quietly. “What didn’t you like?” Then he shakes his head, a jerky movement, and goes back to glaring at the screen. “Nevermind. Don’t answer that.”

Yugi rolls his eyes and slumps back in his seat. This is going to be a long day.

oOo

About thirty minutes into the movie, when Yugi has really gotten into the animated Dark Magician’s plight, Kaiba’s hand settles over his on the armrest between them.

It startles Yugi and he looks down. Kaiba’s hand looks huge covering his own, the fingers much longer, the palm wider. It’s just plain weird too, because it’s not like Kaiba’s actually trying to hold hands or anything. His hand is just...on top of Yugi’s.

He glances at the man, and in the flickering of the theater he thinks he can see a faint flush on Kaiba’s cheek. But Kaiba isn’t looking at him or acknowledging him in any way.

Yugi frowns and, leaving his hand where it is, goes back to watching the movie.

oOo

The moment before the credits start to roll, Yugi decides to take his chance. He’s not letting Kaiba get away without a straight answer, okay? So he turns his hand over and quickly threads his fingers through Kaiba’s, causing the other man to jump.

The lights come up and Kaiba turns to look at Yugi, his eyes a little wide, cheeks still kind of flushed.

Yugi glares resolutely back.

“We need to talk,” he says sternly, and watches those blue eyes flicker down to their hands and back. Damn straight Kaiba, you just got yourself trapped. Were they dueling Yugi would be activating his game-winning trap card and Kaiba would be cursing and yelling.

Instead they sit there, alone in the theater, the screen gone dark.

“What,” Kaiba finally rasps out, the word so toneless it’s not even a question.

“How long are you planning on doing this?” Yugi asks.

The hand in his is warm, distracting. He wants to squeeze it comfortingly but the slightly panicked-expression on Kaiba’s face says that might be going a touch too far.

“What do you mean?”

Scratch that, he wants to squeeze hard enough to hurt, because obviously Kaiba needs the incentive.

“The gifts!” Yugi exclaims.. “All the stuff you’ve been sending me, the necklace, the stuffed animal, this,” he waves his free hand to indicate the theater and then throws it up in exasperation. “Eventually you’re going to have to tell me what’s going on here! What the hell are you trying to do?”

He huffs out a breath and tugs on Kaiba’s hand a little, making the man look up and meet his eyes again. More quietly, Yugi asks, “What do you want from me?”

They stare at each other, Yugi beseeching, Kaiba shuttered and closed off. The palm against Yugi’s is growing slick with sweat and despite the man’s non-expression, Kaiba’s cheeks are starting to flush even worse than before.

Why, oh why, is he so fucking difficult?

“Are you trying to court me?” Yugi finally asks.

Kaiba lets out a huffy kind of breath that could be considered nervous laughter. “Court?” he echoes, his eyes flickering everywhere but Yugi.

“Yes, court,” Yugi says slowly. “You know, date, woo, charm, chase, pursue, seek my hand in marriage, I can go on all day here!”

At the very least, Kaiba is no longer trying to play it cool. His expression is one of vague horror and he makes a strangled noise that Yugi thinks might be the word ‘marriage’.  Then he splutters, says “That’s not,” stops, tries again, “I’m not trying to-”

“Then what are you trying to do!?” Yugi interrupts, perhaps a touch angrily.

Kaiba’s whole body seems to deflate. His shoulders slump, his head hangs low, brown hair now concealing most of his face.

“I’m not trying to marry you,” he grumbles, and despite the way he’s not meeting Yugi’s eyes Kaiba’s voice is petulant, but at least it’s clear now and not garbled.“It’s too early for that, idiot.”

Yugi lifts his eyes heavenward and prays for perseverance. “So you are trying to court me, then?”

“I wasn’t just trying ,” Kaiba snaps, and oh Yugi’s never quite seen fire like this in those blue eyes before, not even while dueling. “I was courting you! And then you went and ruined it.”  

“Kaiba, you can’t court someone if the other party doesn’t know what’s happening!

If it’s possible to look smug and angry at the same exact time, somehow Kaiba manages to pull it off. “Too bad I already did.”

This time, Yugi throws both hands in the air in exasperation, thus releasing Kaiba. Luckily, he doesn’t take his chance for freedom and just continues to smirk, the asshole.

“You could have told me! ” Yugi practically yells. “Don’t you think it would have been easier! Just ask me out next time you giant dick.”

Kaiba frowns and crosses his arms defensively over his broad chest. “Would you have said yes?” he asks, quiet and serious.

In a heartbeat Yugi opens his mouth to say yes obviously but then snaps it closed as the implication sinks in. Would he really have, if Kaiba had come to him a month ago and asked him out? Completely out of the blue, with no warning or explanation? Probably not. He would have been too suspicious most likely.

Hell, he’d originally thought the gifts were some kind of bribe to get him to sell Kame Games.

“Exactly,” Kaiba huffs.

“You still could have made your intentions more clear,” Yugi insists.

“I sent you flowers .”

There’s a blush on Yugi’s cheeks now, he can feel it. “You’re the one who denied even sending them in the first place! Why would you bother lying about that? Your receptionist ratted you out like, two seconds later I hope you know.”

Kaiba mumbles something unsavory about said receptionist under his breath. Then he sighs and looks up, though he doesn’t seem to be looking for patience but rather bracing for something.

“I was angry, okay,” he admits. “You weren’t wearing the necklace. I thought you would...I just…” With a huff, he runs a hand through his hair and seems to give up.

Yugi can’t decide whether it’s freaking adorable or fucking annoying. “You decided to be petty because...I didn’t wear the necklace,” he deadpans.

Kaiba averts his gaze and that’s about as much confirmation as Yugi needs. With a long, drawn out groan he drops his face into his hands and contemplates all of his life choices.

“Why,” he mumbles into his fingers.”Why are you making this so difficult. Why am I making this so difficult. Why does it even have to be difficult in the first place!?”

A small touch on his shoulder surprises him into silence. Kaiba pats him awkwardly and then kind of clears his throat. “Everything about us is difficult?” he offers rather timidly for Seto Kaiba.

But it makes Yugi laugh anyways. “You’re not wrong,” he tells his lap and then finally looks up again.

Kaiba doesn’t look angry anymore, or even all that embarrassed, though his cheeks are still flushed. Instead he looks almost...hopeful. It’s a good look on him honestly, softens the lines of his face and thaws the chill of his eyes.

“So,” Yugi says, leaning forward just a touch. “Are you going to ask me out or what?”

The breath Kaiba sucks in is audible. For a moment Yugi thinks he’s going to run away, shrink away and hide behind a wall of anger and heat. But he mimics Yugi instead, leaning forward a little. “That depends,” and oh his voice is strangled, Yugi’s really starting to find that adorable, “will you wear the necklace?”

Yugi rolls his eyes but grins. “Yes, I’ll wear the necklace.”

“Then go out with me.”

“That wasn’t a question.”

It’s Kaiba’s turn  to roll his eyes. “Fine. Will you go out with me?”

“Yes,” Yugi says primly, then stands and offers Kaiba his hand. “C’mon, I’m sure the staff is getting ready to grab brooms and start shooing us out of here.”

The motion is a touch hesitant, but Kaiba takes his hand, twining their fingers together. They leave the theater like that, Yugi leaning into Kaiba’s larger, taller presence as they walk through the lobby towards the exit.

Despite his fear of rain earlier, the sky is bright and sunny when they step outside. Yugi lifts his face to the warmth, smiling, and can feel Kaiba’s gaze on him, even warmer.