eternalslacker: (Heartless!Kaiba)
[personal profile] eternalslacker
This fic is both inspired by and a companion piece to It’s in the Look by Note Emmy. All dialogue is hers, most actions are hers. Go read it too. I wrote this on the bus ride back from the Rally for Sanity and/or Fear. Five hours, yeah. XD


A victory was a victory, no matter how small. Against him, I would indulge in every one. The rattles of the media setting up their cameras and sound equipment hardly registered as I watched him. This was hardly Atem’s element, something I was very much aware of. It was part of the conditions of accepting the title of King of Games, something I was fond of reminding him of in the aftermath of our more recent duels. But as I watched him, rivaling me in presence if not height, I couldn’t help but question whether it was really dislike or just another move in the game we play. I haven’t decided yet which would be the greater victory.

He knows I’m watching him. He watches me, after a fashion, and I have to respond. My arms cross easily over my chest, near level with his eyes. Atem does the same, probably without even thinking about it, and I cannot mask the smirk that follows. He doesn’t respond to it at first. It doesn’t matter. I know he will. As if he knows where my mind is going, red eyes tilt upward to meet mine, and my smirk spreads. Play uninterested with me all you wish, Atem, but you still must put in effort to see my eyes as clearly as I see yours.

It was unfortunate we weren’t dueling. Only then could I meet that fire I saw every time he stared at me with the spark he always drew within me. We have only discovered one other place where we might struggle with each other to the fullest extent, but even that isn’t the same as glaring at each other across the dueling field. For now however, I keep the mask my adopted father built firmly in place, the role of indestructible CEO well practiced even while I held the urge to make this a real duel closely. Atem is bound by no such restrictions, and responds to my attention as he always does. His hips shift forward and his arms tighten, all while his eyes never leave mine. The world seems to shrink to nothing around us.

The moment passed by as quickly as it came, as the multimedia systems I had expected to be ready five minutes ago were turned on and camera shutters started going off. He’s gotten used to this, so we don’t break eye contact, but I barely focus on it now. How would the media respond to the new Duel Disk firmware? Should we run our own advertising along with theirs, or should we simply let them do it for us?

Suddenly Atem broke the stare himself, looking over my shoulder instead. I want to take hold of him and force his eyes back to mine. My smirk wavers under the anger flaring in my chest. There was no one else worth paying attention to, now while I stood next to him. Perhaps later I would show it to him, digging my nails in that much harder when I pull him to me. It was unfortunate there was a press conference to finish first.

At least his eyes have returned to mine. He seems to have learned…just not well enough. His arms drop. He’s a fool to think that I’ll simply dismiss it because he has returned his attention to me. I raise an eyebrow, unable to ask him what he meant directly in such a public place, but Atem just stares back. My lips press tightly together. A fool indeed.

Reality breaks in again in the form of a rookie reporter who steps out of line. He’s screamed out a question before any of the older reporters, even dared demand that I ‘tell about the latest Duel Disk release’. It was time for the conference proper to start anyway, so he’ll get out of this in one piece for now. It wasn’t quite my job yet to punish him for his idiocy. It’s just the excuse I use to take the podium. The reporter is eager, beaming like the others, but even he with his outburst won’t get the same focus I reserved for my rival alone. The rabble below me never notices. They’re just happy to be fed whatever I choose to give them, appropriately praising the graphics upgrades and longer battery life while completely ignoring the necessary price increase that goes with them. Is there any wonder why I keep coming back to Domino City for press conferences? They would kneel down at my feet if they thought it would guarantee keeping Kaiba Corporation headquarters here. Even then, it was only Atem’s eyes on my back that I really noticed. He plays at interest in this only because of me, I’m sure of it. It was just another victory, one in a growing tally that meant more than it should. But he’s been doing far too often today. What is he planning?

That same reporter stepped out of turn a second time, yelling out a question in Atem’s direction. I doubted I would ever see the idiot again after this press conference. The local media knows I won’t offer information to people who can’t even follow simple rules. They’re even waiting for the inevitable explosion, the silence stretching for longer than it should. I wasn’t going to intervene…but Atem wasn’t answering either.

“I’m sorry,” he finally said, “could you repeat the question?” I turn towards him, hiding none of my displeasure. He looked as incompetent as the reporter who had questioned him. The man who was capable of defeating me at Duel Monsters should be better than that. What the hell had he been distracted by?

The reporter spoke again. I didn’t pay attention to the question. But his tone, the speed of his speech…he was daring to mock my rival in the middle of my press conference. No one was allowed to do that except for me. It took away from the whole purpose of the event. But before I was able to signal Isono to start herding the reporters out for the transgression, Atem spoke up. The answer wasn’t important, not when Atem was mocking right back. He drew chuckles from the other reporters and even I couldn’t suppress the twitch of my lips. It just wasn’t enough to make up for the mistake.

The crowd didn’t seem to notice, thankfully. The rest of the conference went as smoothly as it could, Atem and I pulling off the demonstration portion easily and with much praise from the audience. Anyone else would have been happy with it.

Of course I wasn’t. Atem’s comments were still going to be put right next to the details of the Duel Disk release, if not above them. There was little I could do about that now. I could keep it from happening again. If I found out what was so interesting to Atem that he was disregarding contractual obligations, so much the better.

“Atem!” I hissed as the press separated and dispered around us. It was a good thing. His eyes were fogged and distant. With a shake of my head, I turned to leave. Kaiba Seto did not repeat himself, nor waste his time. After only a few seconds, I heard footsteps coming along side with me. Atem was lucky. Isono hadn’t pulled the car around yet. Being able to leave this foolishness behind me with no trouble would have been just too convenient, I suspect.

“What’s wrong with you?” I had to ask. He had been staring off into space more than once today. It never boded well for me when he did. At the very least, he had disrupted my press conference over it. I deserved to know.

“What are you talking about?” he replied quickly, perhaps trying to mirror my tone. I couldn’t care less. I stare him down, my shoulders already rolling pack, posture shifting into the one I use for firing people. He’s not going to lie to me today.

As his eyes waver, I know I have him. “I was just thinking,” he finally admits.

“There are many other times and places to ‘think’, Atem. My demonstration is not one of them,” I pointed out. When he doesn’t respond, I approach, trying to press for more as I stare down my nose at him. He simply stares back at me, stance as irritatingly….and rightfully proud as usual. Abruptly his eyes shift just slightly, his attention moving somewhere beyond me. I have to grit my teeth to stifle the growl.

“Going back to work?” he finally said, his tone light for reason I couldn’t explain.

“You were expecting something else?” I snap back. His attention is still elsewhere. Look at me. Look at me. There is nothing else here worth your time. You are mine. No one else is doing anything that impacts you.

His shrug draws my attention in a way his eyes refuse to. “I guess not,” he said, seemingly uninterested. Fine. If that’s the game he wants to play, I can do nothing but take his move and exceed it. As rival or lover, he cannot do anything that I cannot do better.

I allow a little of my anger to seep through, my body shifting so I can stare down at him just a little bit more dangerously. I know he can recognize what it means. My lips curve into a smirk and his attention is brought back to me. Everything was as it should be.

“You better not pull this bullshit at my next one,” I said, my smirk spreading as a brief flash of pain appears in his eyes. Good. He needs to remember how I can hurt whenever I please. I know he saw the promise of blood in my eyes, just as I saw the defiance in his. Nothing ever changed.

As if it happened to prove my point, the car pulls up to the curb, but I wait knowing that retaliation was coming. Atem’s words could be just as barbed as mine when he wanted them to be. I’d much prefer them to the staring he had been doing all afternoon. But as time went on and he remains quiet, it becomes clear that he has nothing to strike back with. He shrugged again, the move meaning nothing. I didn’t want to let him go then. I wanted to pull him into the car and rip him apart, break him down until he was acting like the man I knew, the duelist and rival and lover I knew.

In the end, though, I have no time for someone who will not defend himself. Atem knows that. So with one last look, I slam the car door in his have, and we’re off across town. Good riddance. He was acting half drunk anyway. With the way he was staring, had been staring at me…

Look at me.

LOOK AT ME.

I reach for my cell phone and dial his number. Yuugi had taught his other to use it well enough. I’m confident it will pick up soon. The phone rings once, twice, three, four times-

He doesn’t pick up.
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