Chapter 28: Belt

Chapter 28: Belt

Joan and Seto woke to Mokuba bouncing on the bed. "How are you two still asleep? Roland was worried about you but didn't want to disturb you."

Seto groaned and sat up, rubbing his head. He pointed to a pile of spent condoms with his other hand. "I'd like to see you pull that off and try waking up at a reasonable hour."

"Mmmmokuba!" Joan sat up and flung her arms around Mokuba. She pulled him down to the bed with her, snuggled into his chest, and attempted to fall back asleep.

"Come on Joan, what about that hike you wanted?" Mokuba persisted.

"Coffee," Joan mumbled.

Seto grumbled, got up, and stumbled to the kitchenette while Joan continued to restrain Mokuba. Seto returned a few minutes later with a cup of shitty hotel coffee and even shittier condiments.

Joan thanked Seto and sat up. She held the ceramic mug between two hands as it cooled and adjusted to the fact that morning had come too quickly. She'd been having an intense lucid dream about two brothers . . . and they were still here. Joan poked Mokuba to make sure he was real.

"What?" Mokuba asked.

She contacted a solid object, but that in and of itself wasn't enough evidence. She slid her hand around his bicep and palpated it before releasing a satisfied sigh.

"What!" Mokuba repeated.

"I've never woken up to brothers before."

Seto and Mokuba exchanged glances. They hadn't planned on falling in love with the same woman, but neither saw reason to deny the other happiness.

"Get used to it," Seto said, as much to himself as to the other two. He left to take a quick rinse in the shower and Joan followed suit while Mokuba ordered breakfast.

Joan dressed in her hiking boots, cargo pants, and a red T-shirt printed with "I'm with them" and two hands pointing fingers to each side. It had been a gift from her husband when they had a joint Valentine's Day dinner two years ago with her boyfriend at the time. Joan had taken it along as a backup in case something happened to her other clothes, but it turned out to come in handier than she initially anticipated.

Seto rummaged through the wardrobe and picked out the most casual clothes he could find. Mokuba had already borrowed his Kaiba Corp T-shirt and hadn't bothered to return it yet, so he settled on a plain white button-down shirt.

Seto finished buttoning his shirt and looked up at Joan. "Something's missing. Where's that belt we gave you?"

Joan blushed. "Sorry. I forgot to bring that back."

"Sorry?" Seto grabbed another belt out of his suitcase, pulled her close, and slipped the belt through the loops of her cargo pants while staring into her eyes. He secured the buckle. His hands lingered on her hips. "Now you own two. Don't wear pants in public without one."

Joan sensed that the KC belt was his way of stamping ownership on her, both for himself and for Mokuba: an inclusive form of ownership rather than an exclusive one. She allowed him to claim her mouth as well, her surrender genuine this time, responding to his probing tongue with equal curiosity.

Mokuba cleared his throat. "Breakfast is here."

Joan drew away from Seto and kissed Mokuba on her way to the dining table. She found Roland, Tamara, and Mokuba's bodyguard there, going over the day's itinerary. "Good morning, Mrs. Kaiba," Roland greeted. Warmth filled his voice, so different from the detached, professional demeanor he'd previously addressed her with.

"Good morning," Joan replied. She took a seat at the table and the brothers joined her. They ate while Roland outlined some basic safety protocols for hiking and informed them which supplies would be in which bodyguard's backpack. Joan offered to carry a backpack as well, but neither Roland nor the Kaiba brothers would hear of it.

After breakfast, everyone piled into the limo for an hour-long ride to Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Joan settled comfortably between Seto and Mokuba while the bodyguards watched and listened from the opposite side.

"So I talked to Michael," Mokuba began.

Seto tensed. "What did the wage monkey say?"

"OK, that's not cool," Mokuba said, "You seriously need to start calling him by his name."

"Since he doesn't care if I fuck his wife, why should he care what I call him?"

"Maybe you'll have to test that theory," Joan challenged.

"Why, so he can fling feces at me?"

Joan rolled her eyes. "Whatever you say, princess."

Mokuba sighed. "If we're really in this for the long haul, we'll need to be civil to him at the very least. Can you at least use his last name as a sign of respect?"

"Depends on what it is," Seto replied.

"Wurzel," Joan said.

"Sounds like weasel. No wonder you rejected it."

"I actually like it. It means root in German. Ancient healers used a lot of roots, so we suspect his ancestors were healers."


Joan decided to taunt Seto. "Maybe I'll hyphenate after the wedding. Wurzel-Kaiba-Aurelio."

"Do that and I'll sue you for every penny I've paid you thus far."

"Good luck with that. I already know Mokuba is going to take my side in the case."

Seto's glare shifted from Joan to Mokuba.

"She's right. Give it a rest, Seto. She has every right to go by whatever name she wants, with or without a wedding."

Seto's hand snaked around Joan's waist and clutched it. "Not when I'm paying her."

"True," Joan rubbed Seto's knee, "and you can always call me your whore. You'll never have to call me Wurzel, but I might hyphenate on paper. I'll have to think about it."

"Fine," Seto growled. "Mokuba, what did Wurzel say?"

"He said first of all that if an heir means that much to you, you could just buy some of Joan's eggs, use in vitro fertilization, and hire a surrogate to carry it to term," Mokuba said.

Seto blinked. Part of him felt stupid for not considering it earlier, but another part of him needed to see Joan swell with his child. It had to be inside her. "It wouldn't be the same."

"That's what I explained to Michael," Mokuba continued, "and he feels the same way. He also told me . . ."

Seto's jaw clenched and his head spun. He didn't catch Mokuba's next words but heard a soft. "Oh," from Joan.

"He wasn't quite sure how to approach you about it," Mokuba said.

Seto leaned his head back and rubbed his temples as he tried to catch back up to the conversation. Something was off. Joan's attitude had shifted dramatically.

"I don't blame him," Joan said. "It's hard to figure out how to break the ice on these things, but hearing it from you makes it not even seem real."

"Yeah, you two definitely need to talk on Monday," Mokuba agreed.

Seto's world dropped from under him. Joan's hand retracted from his knee and wrapped around Mokuba's body. "I just didn't see it coming," she said.

Seto leaned over Joan, blanketing her back with his body. He couldn't let her go, not so soon after finding her. Not ever.

Author's Note: I lost the side job that was funding my illustration budget, so I am dropping it for now. I have a few commissions I already paid for that should still be coming in, and I'll do what I can to get the other chapters illustrated, but no guarantees.

If you would like to support more illustrations for this story, you can pledge to my K5Rakitan Patreon. I'm offering a wide range of support tiers with various rewards including editing, jewelry, early chapter releases, and more. All donations (minus shipping costs and materials for jewelry) will go toward commissioning artwork for this story.

If you cannot contribute financially, I completely understand. I would really appreciate it if you could spread the word, though 3

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Chapter song: Giants by Lights

Chapter 29: Brain Fart

"I know Linda already has a kid, so I didn't think she'd want another," Joan continued.

"Who's this Linda bitch?" Seto blurted.

Mokuba groaned. "Seriously, Seto? I just told you. She's Michael's girlfriend."

"Yeah, did you have a brain fart?" Joan asked.

More of Seto's weight pressed on Joan as his body sagged with relief. "Seto Kaiba doesn't have brain farts."

"Did your neural implants malfunction again?" Mokuba asked.

"No." Seto fell silent for a moment. "I thought I heard something else."

"What did you think you heard?" Joan pressed.

Seto sat up straight and pinched the bridge of his nose. His other hand intertwined with Joan's. "Just tell me again what the deal is."

"Michael and Linda want to have a baby together," Mokuba repeated. "Now here's the part I didn't get to yet. Michael still wants to have a baby with Joan, hopefully before he gets Linda pregnant, so he'll take you up on that four-month offer."

A little squeal of excitement escaped Joan. Seto looked up and saw sheer joy on her face.

"Here's Michael's stipulation, though," Mokuba went on, "he's not going to stop trying after four months. He says that if you're still serious about this in four months, may the best sperm win." Mokuba paused and ran a hand over Joan's cheek. "And that includes mine."

Joan gasped and kissed Mokuba. She then rattled off a few dozen potential baby names that had been rolling around in her head since her teen years. "What do you think?"

"As long as you don't name it something stupid like Joey or Téa, I don't care," Seto replied.

Joan figured those were people from Seto's past he wanted to forget for one reason or another and decided not to press him for details.

"I never gave it much thought," Mokuba said, "but choosing sounds fun."

"Of course if it's Michael's, you two won't have much of a say," Joan reminded them.

Seto caught Joan's jaw and glared into her eyes. "If it's a Wurzel, we're putting a Kaiba in you immediately after it's born."

Joan wanted to explain a few technical aspects of childbirth and how lactation could inhibit ovulation but instead flashed a grin. His kiss came in powerful and ravenous. Joan's face came away from his glowing with excitement.

"Roland, schedule IUD removal for Mrs. Kaiba tomorrow," Seto said.

"Already managed, sir."

"Yeah, we set the appointment while you were sleeping in," Mokuba added, "but it's still up to Joan if she actually wants to go."

"And the student loans?" Joan asked.

"Cleared this morning," Roland confirmed.

"Damn, you rich boys work fast. Are you sure you sent the money to the right place?" She pulled out her phone and logged into her bank to check.

"Mr. Wurzel gave clear instructions," Roland said.

Joan saw that it checked out. "All right. What else is hiding up your ass?"

"Michael told me your ring size and his birthstone. Expect delivery on Thursday," Mokuba said.

Joan's jaw dropped. "Holy . . ."

"Whore, what did I say about the religious crap?" Seto warned.

"I say that from a spiritual standpoint, not religious," Joan clarified.

"Whatever," Seto grumbled.

Joan rubbed her cheek against Seto's bicep. "Anybody ever tell you how sexy that cold and distant act is?"

Seto couldn't stop his scowl from twisting into a smile. No whore had ever put it so frankly. Sure they'd gush about his "aura of mystery" or use some other poetic terminology, but it had always struck him as clingy and pathetic, an all-too-obvious attempt to break down his walls. Now with Joan inviting him to keep his walls up, the need for them vanished.

Mokuba again saw magic happening. He passed his phone to Roland and signaled him to take a picture.

The camera flash jolted Seto from the moment. "I don't recall scheduling a photo shoot."

"Sir, this was your brother's request," Roland said.

"Yeah," Mokuba chimed in, "it's not every day I get to see you . . . you know . . . happy. Roland, keep taking pictures. Have our social media manager pick out the good ones."

"Yes sir."

Seto sighed. "Fine. Maybe this will shut up the gold diggers."

Over the past few days, Seto's panicked social media manager had repeatedly asked Roland whether she should update Seto's profiles or not, and Roland had to keep telling her to wait a little longer to see how things progressed. After all this time, he'd finally found the right opportunity to ask. "Relationship status?"

"Engaged," Seto stated.

Joan remembered that they had her password too and spoke up before Roland could send out any instructions. "Hold up. Don't take Michael off my page. Last time I checked, Facebook only allowed one relationship status. It's not like Fetlife where you can have as many as you want."

"Roland, have that cyber geek we keep on staff hack Facebook. Replace Facebook's relationship status code with whatever this Fetlife thing is using," Seto ordered.

"Sir," Roland cautioned, "if you're the first ones to take advantage of the new statuses, they'll suspect Kaiba Corporation's involvement, especially with all the publicity as of late."

"Hack now, change the statuses after the chatter dies down," Seto clarified.

Roland pulled out his phone and sent the order.

"My . . ." Joan stopped herself from saying god for Seto's sake. "Sounds like I'll get to be Marc's girlfriend on Facebook too."

"Yeah, well I talked to Marc too," Mokuba said.

"And?" Joan asked.

Mokuba's hand ran down his face. "He sent me blueprints for the poly house."

"So that's happening too?"

"Yep. It will take a lot longer to get everything set up, but I got the ball rolling. With any luck, you'll be moving in before you give birth."

"Well, I'm not pregnant yet, but yeah, that sounds good. Let me guess: you already bought the land for it."

Mokuba laughed. "Roland and I can't cover that much in one morning."

"That's good because I have a request."

"What's that?"

"Keep it within twenty minutes' walking distance from a BART, Caltrain, or Amtrak station. I don't drive, and I want to make sure I can get out and go places when needed."

"Already making plans to leave us?" Seto growled.

Joan rolled her eyes. "It's not about leaving you. I'll need to get to an airport if I'm going to Japan every week. Besides that, I have friends to visit up near Sacramento, and I'm volunteering for an event in Pennsylvania on Memorial Day Weekend. I have a life, you know."

Tamara's eyes went wide at the mention of Pennsylvania, but she held her tongue.

"What is this volunteering you speak of?" Seto asked.

"It's a thing peasants like me do when we believe in a cause but don't have money to throw at it," Joan said.

"I don't live under a rock, whore. I mean what cause?"

"It's an international creative problem-solving competition called Imagination of the Mind. Students of all ages compete in it. Sometimes they build robots and sometimes they make art out of trash. Then they present everything in a ten-minute play with costumes and a script they write themselves. Parents don't get to help with any of their stuff – only take them to stores so they can grab what they need."

"Sounds complicated," Mokuba said.

"It is, and that's the beauty of it. There's no one right answer, so each team forges their own path." Joan grinned as she recalled how the program had helped build her confidence in high school. Even with her traumatic internship experience at twenty, she'd refused to cave into the pressures of society, doing what worked for her instead of following the models others had set. "The students also learn teamwork, budgeting, and lots of other skills not taught in most schools."

"How about fellatio?" Seto asked.

Joan's laugh came out with a cough. "OK, not that, but the program as a whole gets them excited about learning, so yeah, maybe in the long run it could lead to them being more curious about things like that."

"So that's how good little Christian girls like you get corrupted," Seto teased.

"Yep. That's how it happens, and that's how I'll be raising my kids, so be prepared for them to turn out ten times as wild as me."

A wave of doubt passed through Seto's mind. Joan seemed on top of her game, but what if he was a horrible parent? His childhood had been fraught with hardship, and he'd come out stronger because of it, but there were still so many social experiences he'd missed. Though he would never admit it aloud, the wage monkey might make a better father. There was something about him, about how quickly he'd responded to Marc's playful threat and how equally fast he'd calmed down that demonstrated resiliency. The world was not only a magical place but a safe place to people like Michael and Joan, people who had always known love from parents who had never failed them, even when said parents coerced their children to believe in an imaginary friend. Perhaps there was some merit to this God concept after all, even if it was purely a figment of human imagination.

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