If there’s one thing that Joey hates, it’s Seto Kaiba.
Okay- Joey hates tons of things, too many things, but Kaiba just kind of hits the mark, takes the game, bats it out of the ball park and then some. He’s just that kind of arrogant, self-important prick that sometimes you just gotta punch into the ground, fists and all- if not for, you know, morals, and all that shit (that and Kaiba’s a fucking blackbelt or somethin’ and he’d pound Joey to the ground- but never mind that).
It’s not like Joey hasn’t tried to play nice, anyway. It’s not like he wanted to try, either (as far as he was concerned, Moneybags wasn’t worth the effort), but Yugi made him- and Yugi’s just the kind of guy (man his eyes are just so huge and they kind of sparkle and then he says please, Joey? and- damn) that you can’t say no to, not even if you tried. Yugi always talks about how Joey shouldn’t hate him that much, that deep down in Kaiba’s foul and rotten soul he has a good heart.
Joey nods along and changes the subject, but at the end of the day he knows Yugi’s just too nice of a kid. It’s all fucking bullshit, and if there’s any kindness in Kaiba’s stone-cold heart it’s surrounded by a great wall of china with armed outposts every ten feet. If the bastard, y’know, has a heart at all.
Okay, so he’s seen the guy with his kid brother. The first time Joey saw it he couldn’t believe his eyes- it was kind of creepy, fucking jarring, like the all-dependable “Kaiba-will-always-be-an-asshole” cornerstone of the universe got pulled out from beneath him and jammed into his mouth. It wasn’t Kaiba, it was- some kind of an impostor, some guy in a costume, because he was so warm, so gentle, so disturbingly concerned and kind and Joey would’ve never thought Kaiba was capable of facial expression at all if he hadn’t seen that slight, worried frown for himself. He had no idea what was up with the guy’s brother, and it wasn’t any of his business, but when he saw it he had to stop and stare, because- even if it’s his little brother, it was really fucking weird, and it took him a minute or two before his thoughts gathered enough for him to think, Huh- now that’s somethin’.
At the time he still couldn’t quite believe it until the guy saw him, turned around and smirked, “What are you looking at, mutt?”
“What makes ya think I’m lookin’ at you?” Joey had snapped back, leaving before the guy had the chance to throw in a few more insults (yeah, definitely Kaiba).
‘Cause in the end it didn’t matter if Kaiba was a nice guy to his brother (man it still feels weird to think that)- it’s like he’s a whole other person everywhere else, and that one is the Kaiba that Joey’s had the pleasure of getting to know. Mr. Bigshot, KaibaCorp CEO, one of the best duellists in the world and all that kind of stuff- Yugi’s ultimate rival, general all-around asshole, guy-with-an-ego-the-size-of-an-airship (he’s got a few to compare sizes, right?), Mr. I-am-too-good-for-you-losers, go-away-you-dumb-mutt-and-let-me-duel-Yugi, man-I-need-a-new-hobby.
Joey remembers watching Kaiba duel- especially against Yugi. It doesn’t matter how or when, they end up duelling really damned often, some way or another. He’s with Yugi one hundred percent, duh, and always does a fist-pump and leaves Kaiba a few choice words whenever the guy inevitably pulls through with a win, but a lot of the times- he’s keeping an eye of the game, but he isn’t watching. He’s listening to them talk, threats and insults and the kind of vicious banter that always goes around heated competition- but he looks at Kaiba and he isn’t watching Kaiba play some card game. He’s watching Kaiba duel.
Kaiba always looks the same. Perfectly groomed brown hair and giant billowing trench coat, and this permanent angry twist to the corner of his mouth- but Joey’s come to realize, Kaiba always looks around at people with disdain, like they aren’t worth his time, but when he duels- when he duels someone like Yugi- there’s just this look in his eyes. Focused, determined, like there was only one thing that mattered- seriously, the concentration was crazy, and it was like the roof could fall down on them for all he cared and he wouldn’t give a shit until the duel was over and he’d won.
Joey knows what that’s like- he feels it every time he duels. He’s not the best with words, but he can understand it- because when he’s up there in the arena with nothing but his wits and his deck the only thing that matters is there, then, the duel, the thrill of the competition and the desire to win. It’s kind of like- kind of like everything just crumbles, everything just falls apart, until it’s just two people staring each other down and that’s all that matters- except you know, for Joey, for Yugi, they always have each other, they always have their friends. Kaiba, the lonely, miserable bastard, doesn’t have that. That’s just his damned fault, obviously, but Joey feels kind of bad for him (he still downright hates the guy, duh, but y’ can feel bad for some guy you hate, right?). ‘Cause it’s kind of scary, really, to be standing up there, but when it happens- when that world and everything just sort of crumbles and falls apart and it’s just cards and strategy and duelling- Joey always feels better because he knows his friends have got his back.
But Kaiba- that guy just isn’t afraid of anything, is he? Too stuck up, too much in his own world- he doesn’t need anyone, just himself and his fucking gigantic ego. Joey knows that look in his eyes- but he’s gotta admit, when it’s on Kaiba, it’s really kind of scary.
And there was that one time they duelled, right. Joey hadn’t fucking cared how unlikely he was (he knew had no chance in hell, he wasn’t stupid- he’s kinda forgetful sometimes, a little headstrong, but he isn’t stupid, okay), because all that mattered was Kaiba was an asshole and he needed to be taught a lesson. Needed to learn that even if the people around Mr. KaibaCorp were too stupid to be worth his time or whatever, he didn’t need to be such a colossal dickhead, didn’t need to be so goddamned high-and-mighty- and because when you mess with Joey Wheeler’s friends, you mess with Joey Wheeler, and no one- fucking no one messes with Joey Wheeler.
Joey had lost, and it was humiliating, embarrassing, horrifically degrading, but losing wasn’t what ticked him off (not all of it, anyway). What did, was that when they duelled, he could see it- Kaiba wasn’t duelling. He was just humouring him, playing along, laughing and toying with puppy and he wasn’t even bothering to hide it. What set him off wasn’t that he lost, but that Kaiba didn’t take him seriously- because he’s seen Kaiba duel, seen the way he looks at Yugi across the field, and when they duelled it was nothing like that. Joey takes every damn duel seriously, no matter who he faces, because that’s just what it is- no matter how much of a steamroll the game might or might not be, it’s just a matter of fucking respect- and Joey was duelling. Because Kaiba didn’t even think Joey was worth a bit of his attention, and Joey was duelling, but Kaiba was playing some card game.
He knows people might think its stupid, but screw’em. There’s a difference, and Kaiba wasn’t duelling.
Yugi could tell, Yugi could see it, but no matter what the little guy said about it- yeah, Joey appreciated it, but Kaiba could duel Yugi just fine. And every time those two duel Joey’s yelling and rooting away- one day he’d get Kaiba to take him fucking seriously, he will, but for now watching him get crushed by his best buddy was a satisfying placeholder. Kaiba pulls the weirdest faces when he duels- it’s a refreshing change of pace, he’s like a wooden plank with a mean face on it everywhere else- and that look he gets when he loses is priceless. Joey’s memorized it, line for line, and one day he’d be the one holding the cards and grinning in triumph when Kaiba puts on his oh-shit-I-lost-my-immearusably-huge-ego-is-collapsing-in-on-itself-I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening face on.
But seriously, it looks fuckin’ weird. Maybe Kaiba needs practice with facial expressions.
The mental image of Kaiba sitting around in some bigshot office pulling faces at a mirror is enough to make Joey laugh in the middle of class sometimes, and it’s one of the innumerable reasons he spends so many of his schoolday afternoons in detention.
Class is boring, and while he’d much rather talk to Yugi and the gang or something, there was no way he’d get away with it- so he just chews on the end of his pen and blows the fringe out of his face, drums his fingers along the table and makes faces whenever Tristan catches his eye. The thing is, Kaiba doesn’t sit too far away from him at all, and it just- bugs him, someway, somehow, does it really matter why? The guy’s got some kind of aura, some kind of gigantic force field- probably his ego- and it kind of tingles his skin, agitates him, irritates him, pisses him off. He has gotta get out of there, but most of the time he can’t and so he just grapples with wanting to throttle the life out of him- for no reason, does he really need a reason, it’s Kaiba. Joey would find himself glaring at Kaiba out of the corner of his eyes (goddamned Kaiba, always picture-perfect, perfect posture and everything- but he was never looking at the teacher, just writing away, he isn’t paying attention he’s never paying attention why doesn’t Kaiba ever get in trouble, damnit?), willing him to go away. This never worked, but it didn’t really stop him from trying.
Sometimes- nowadays, more often than not- Kaiba would catch him looking. Kaiba would barely move, his head wouldn’t even turn, he’d be looking back out of the corner of his eyes, too- and Joey would jump a little, maybe bite his lip, and he’d refuse to turn away, just glare back (what’re you lookin’ at?). Kaiba would just smirk- man that guy was a smug bastard- and look back at whatever the heck he was writing, and Joey would blink, stare for awhile, then go back to fidgeting and twitching in his seat, muttering under his breath.
Sometimes, though, Joey would just be glaring, and Kaiba would look at him, and Kaiba would smirk- and he wouldn’t look away. Kaiba would just match his gaze calmly, mouth twisted into that same smirk- the guy always had the same look in his eyes, when he wasn’t duelling, blank and unreadable but sort of intense, and Joey could practically feel it, practically hear him sneering (what’re you looking at, dog?). And Joey would take it as a challenge, refuse to look away, and they would just glare back at the guy he could just see right at the edge of his eyes- he tried to smirk back, but it didn’t really work, came off as more of a lopsided grin. But somehow, someway, Joey always ended up looking away- maybe because he just had to fidget and move and he couldn’t sit still, maybe because he couldn’t stand looking at Kaiba for that long (ugh), maybe because there’s just something about Kaiba’s eyes that does something to him that he doesn’t like.
It’d happen once, twice, a few times, and when school was over they’d be sitting around playing cards- playing cards, not duelling, see again with that difference, they’re just playing around- and he’d be busy with his game with Yugi when he’d notice Kaiba. Kaiba was usually standing around somewhere, leaning against a wall, watching- he’d leave eventually, usually within a couple of minutes with a dramatic coat-swish and all that. Joey guessed he had to be watching the game, trying to figure out Yugi’s hidden weakness or something, but he could feel that tingle creeping up his spine and Joey was convinced that Kaiba was watching him. Probably mocking him for his performance against Yugi, something like that, but Joey could always see him behind the shock of Yugi’s crazy, crazy hair, and it took all of his willpower to stop walking over there and just kicking him in the shin, let alone not looking at the guy.
Sometimes Yugi would notice, and as much as Joey loved the guy, Yugi had this habit of inviting Kaiba to things. Or at the very least, saying hi. You don’t say hi to Kaiba, you ignore him and will him to go away with all of your earthly power- but Kaiba would only sneer, the asshole, couldn’t he even act decent since Yugi was being such a nice guy- and look down at him. And whatever he said, he always managed to make at least one comment about how he didn’t have time for losers like them or some shit like that, make one reference to his ultimate rivalry with Yugi, and turn to leave- but not before calling Joey a mutt, a puppy, a dumb dog, these are your options select one and maybe even two.
And eventually, when Joey reached home, when he was sort-of-doing homework or lazing around on the bed, he’d decide, over and over again, that Kaiba was an asshole who wasn’t worth his time, and damned one day he’ll beat the guy to pulp. Or in a duel. Whatever works.
‘Cause if there’s one guy that Joey hates, it’s fucking Seto Kaiba.