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Printed from https://www.Writing.Com/view/2206773
Rated: GC · Fiction · Erotica · #2206773
Romance blossoms! Warning: more white lightning a.k.a. semen
Illustration Credit: Sincity2100 on DeviantArt

Technically this illustration is for Chapter 25, but the Chapter 27 illustration may be too risqué for a cover and I really like this one. Anyway, here's where you can find a larger version of it and thank the artist: https://www.deviantart.com/sincity2100/art/Commission-for-happyare-814745875?ga_...

Author's Note: Fluid bonding is a term I've seen frequently in the polyamory community but never outside it. I'd like to take a moment to define it here just in case. Here's the definition: "Fluid bonding refers to the decision to stop using barrier protection during sex and exchange bodily fluids with your partner. During safer sex, some barrier methods, such as a condom or dental dam, reduce the chance that you and your partner will share fluids." You can go read the full article if you like.

Chapter 26: Donations

As soon as Joan and the Kaiba brothers had seated themselves in the limo, Roland snapped on a pair of latex gloves. "Mrs. Kaiba, may I?"

"Sure." Joan held out her finger and received a lancet prick. Roland prepared the HIV test strip and opened a fresh kit for Seto. Both of them continued chatting as Roland took Seto's sample and unwrapped a third kit for Mokuba.

"Is this really necessary?" Mokuba asked when Roland beckoned for his finger.

"You never know," Seto replied, "and the sooner you find out, the sooner we can secure the gene therapy to stop it."

Mokuba held out his finger and let Roland prick him.

"I thought the gene therapy was still in the experimental phases," Joan said.

Seto threw back his head. "Ha! Dozens of rich bastards like us have already been cured. Those of us with more active sex lives have been funneling private donations into the research just in case. It's a well-kept secret because nobody wants the public to know about their disease. The researchers can't publish their findings until some nobody consents to release his records to the public."

Joan's eyes widened. "So if you discovered you had it . . ."

"I'd be next in line for the cure," Seto finished.

"And if I happened to get it . . ."

"I'd see to it that you get bumped to the front of the line as well."

"OK, what if Michael or Marc got it?"

"Since we've already established that you're not going to stop fucking them, fine."

Joan squealed, threw her arms around Seto, and kissed him. "We've got to tell Michael about this."

"Why?" Seto's eyes roamed hers.

"Because if he's all right with this, I can show you how I fuck him. I have an IUD by the way."

Seto nodded but cursed silently. He should have known a smart whore like her would have an IUD.

Joan dialed Michael's number and put him on speakerphone. She spilled everything to him while Seto squeezed her hand and Mokuba rested his head on her shoulder. She even mentioned the part about the Kaibas wanting an heir and moving in together.

Michael paused a long time before responding. "Joan, I'm glad you told me, but I need to think about this. Can you hold off on the fluid bonding a little longer?"

"All right," Joan conceded, "but can they at least cum in my mouth?"

"Yeah, sure."

"We'll talk more on Monday."

"See you then. Love you."

"Love you," Joan echoed.

Seto looked out the window at the setting sun. Now that everything was out in the open, he felt so exposed, so vulnerable. She loved him, she'd even told her husband, but was love enough? A heaviness he couldn't explain settled over his heart. Was this a step forwards or a step backwards?

"Negative," Roland declared as he read the test strips. The limo came to a stop in front of the Hyatt.

As soon as they stepped out of the limo, Seto took Joan's hand again and held it all the way up to the suite. Eyes followed them and cameras flashed, but the bodyguards deterred approaches.

Upon entering the suite, they dismissed Tamara for the evening and released Mokuba's bodyguard to roam the hotel. A bottle of champagne in a bucket of ice rested upon the dining table. Three crystal flutes with twisted stems stood in a row.

"Roland, what's this?" Seto asked.

Roland uncorked the bottle and began pouring. "I had it delivered to the room. I thought you might like to toast to . . . whatever this is."

"Thanks Roland," Mokuba said before Seto could find a way to ruin the moment.

"Thanks," Joan echoed.

They each took a glass and held it aloft.

"To our shared future," Mokuba proclaimed.

They clinked their glasses together and took a long sip. Butterflies filled Mokuba's stomach as he remembered what he was getting himself into and he drained the glass. Roland filled it again while Joan and Seto savored theirs.

Joan noticed Mokuba's nervous expression and put a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "Relax. It's just live porn. You have watched porn before, haven't you?"

"Well, yeah," Mokuba replied, "but . . . you're sure about this?"

"One hundred percent," Joan assured him.

"You can even join in," Seto smirked.

"But you don't have to." Joan took hold of a chair and dragged it into the bedroom. Mokuba followed. She positioned the chair at the foot of the bed and guided Mokuba into it. She then grabbed a box of tissues from the adjoining bathroom and tossed it to him. "Just in case," she said with a wink.

Seto stood leaning against the door frame. "Ooooh, smart whore."

Joan walked up to Seto and took both of his hands in hers. "Honey, I love it when you talk dirty, but consider our company."

"If I can't talk dirty," Seto ran fingers along her neck and kissed her, "I'll simply have to do all sorts of dirty things to you, Mrs. Kaiba." He stepped fully into the bedroom and shut the door behind himself.

A shiver of excitement coursed down Joan's spine as he toyed with her dress and traced the outlines of her panties. She slid her hands under Seto's trench coat and peeled it off, letting it fall to the floor. She then hooked her fingers around the belt at Seto's waist and pulled him to the bed. She tried to take off his shirt, but the belts on his arms hindered her progress. "Why do you wear all this weird crap?" she asked as she tugged one loose.

"Why do you wear this vile contraption?" Seto deftly unsnapped her bra with one hand, through her dress.

"I don't always," Joan countered.

"Neither do I," Seto smirked, "but you never know when they might come in handy."

Joan giggled. "You'll have to show me what you mean by that another time." She finished unstrapping his arm belts and got his shirt off, then stripped off her own dress and bra. Seto pressed his lips to hers and ran his hands over her supple body. Joan's fingers wandered through the valleys of the hard muscles he'd started building back up since he met her.

Seto drew her panties down and she stepped out of them, moving backwards onto the bed afterwards. She watched Seto unstrap the belts around his shins as she played with herself. She snuck a glimpse at Mokuba and caught him unbuckling his own belt. Her lips spread in an uncontrollable smile as she looked back at Seto.

Seto pulled down his pants and his erection jutted from his body. He picked up a condom from the side table, unwrapped it, and examined it for defects before rolling it over his shaft.

"Bury that inside me," Joan demanded. She grabbed a pillow and rolled onto her knees, lifting her shapely rear, inviting him to enter. Her cheek pressed into the pillow as she gazed at Mokuba. Just as she'd hoped, he was stroking a cock that rivaled Seto's.

Joan moaned as Seto's first powerful thrust drove into her. She kept her eyes on Mokuba, clenching the pillow for support as Seto's balls slapped against her clitoris. The stronger Seto's rhythm grew, the more her flesh burned for Mokuba. "Hold my hand," she pleaded, holding one out to him.

Mokuba stood and walked to her, still rock-hard as his gaze passed from Joan to Seto. He took her outstretched hand and continued stroking himself with his free one. Intense pleasure shot through Joan's arm as Mokuba made contact, and her moans rose to screams.

Seto felt the walls of her vagina convulse around his cock and the sensation sent him over the edge. With one last, hard thrust, his white lightning surged into the condom.

Joan felt hot semen splash her face immediately followed by an, "Oh shit, sorry!" from Mokuba.

Joan collapsed and rolled onto her back, giggling hysterically.

"No really, I didn't mean to do that. Did I just ruin everything?"

"Nope!" Seto pulled off his condom and proudly dangled his considerably large load.

"I think . . ." Joan breathed as she recovered.

"You came again," Seto confirmed.

"And I got cum up my nose," Joan added. She jumped up to grab some tissues.

"I'm so sorry!" Mokuba gushed.

Joan gave her nose a long, loud blow. "It happens." She blew again. "I kinda liked it. Sure you could have had better aim, but that was fun."

Seto watched Joan wipe his brother's semen off her face. Strangely, it felt like a tiny victory to see her like that, smiling over a few gobs of goo. He knew this smile was real, not contrived to please him or Mokuba. Not wanting to smell the remnants of Mokuba's jizz, Seto fought the urge to kiss her.

Closing Note: In practice, I find that many people don't take unprotected oral sex as seriously or don't consider it part of fluid bonding at all because of the much lower transmission rates. Condoms also taste terrible. Flavored condoms are OK but more expensive. It all boils down to what people are comfortable with, but fluid bonding is a useful term when one wants to hold a conversation about boundaries.

Illustration: May be found on Wattpad or here: https://www.deviantart.com/alicekurocross/art/COM-Relax-time-819770980

Chapter 27: Jewelry

"Let's get cleaned up." Seto grabbed Joan's hand and headed for the master bathroom. Joan grabbed Mokuba's hand, and the three of them walked as a chain.

In addition to a ridiculously oversized shower, the Hyatt's master bathroom sported a four-seater Jacuzzi. Seto started running water for the whirlpool bath and then turned on the shower. After letting the water heat up for a minute, they all piled inside. Water rained down from a central fixture embedded in the ceiling, dousing Joan and splashing the brothers as they flanked her.

Seto unwrapped a bar of soap and lathered it on a cloth before passing the soap to Mokuba. Seto caressed her face with the cloth and then kissed her, the overdue contact alleviating his consistent ache for her.

Mokuba slipped another soapy cloth around her breasts and kissed her shoulder as he played with them. They moved on to more general scrubbing before ditching the shower for the Jacuzzi.

Joan let the relaxing hot water sweep away tension she hadn't even realized she'd been holding. She'd been afraid that Mokuba would back out and run for the hills. She'd been worried that since she'd found what she'd most desired, it would be fleeting, or worse, that she would have to choose between the Kaibas and her husband, though Marc's position seemed secure either way. Still, she knew loss and she knew how much it cost on an emotional level. One less experienced in love might be apt to discard it more quickly. She felt the pressure of being the only member of the Kaiba family with experience in these matters. The Kaiba family. Was she even technically engaged to them, or was the wedding talk merely spur-of-the-moment speculation?

As if Mokuba had read her thoughts, he said, "We need to get you a ring."

"No conflict diamonds," Joan blurted before she could decide if she could even accept such a gift.

"How about lab-created diamonds?" Seto asked.

"Or white sapphire?" Mokuba asked.

"Uh . . ." Joan sank lower in the water. "What if I lost the thing? I mean, glass would be fine."

The brothers gaped at her as if she had grown a third nostril. "Is that why . . ." Mokuba began cautiously.

"Why you don't wear a ring?" Seto finished.

"Michael's grandmother gave me her ring, and my ex-boyfriend stole it to pay for drugs. We told her that it went down the garbage disposal."

"The . . . garbage disposal?" Mokuba asked.

"Oh right. You rich boys don't do dishes. Well, it grinds up food scraps that go down the kitchen sink so they don't clog the drain."

The brothers stared dumbfounded before Seto spoke. "OK, no more druggie boyfriends for you, and no more dishes either."

"But I like cooking," Joan protested.

"What does cooking have to do with dishes?" A little smirk played over Seto's lips. "Can't your wage monkey handle those?" Seto wrapped a strand of her damp hair around his finger.

Joan rolled her eyes. "He's my husband, not my butler. Seriously though, I don't want the burden of something expensive. I'm already a target enough as it is. If you guys are going to insist on this, make it something pointless to steal and easy to replace."

"My marketing director and her wife got really cool matching rings with the names and birthstones of their kids. How about something like that but with our names?" Mokuba suggested.

"Maybe. How much do those things cost?"

"I don't know. Seto's birthstone is opal and mine is ruby," Mokuba stroked her thigh, "but we can get synthetic corundum and whatever opal is made of so you don't have to worry about what kind of mine the stones came from. We can even make a public statement on the ring so people know there's no point in stealing it."

Joan leaned into Mokuba. "As long as it's less than a thousand dollars, I guess."

"Whore, you do realize those pants you splooshed on earlier were easily more than that, right?"

Joan propped her feet on Seto's lap. "And that's your fault for wearing them to impress me." She settled against Mokuba's chest and relished the warm water. "You might be able to talk me into more jewelry later, but this is already moving way too fast. I mean, seriously. I've known Marc longer than you two and he wants to be a dad too, but he's dead set on getting Laura pregnant before he so much as considers that with me." Joan sighed. "I guess since I'm your first, you don't have that same sense of restraint."

"Are you saying you have to make a baby with the wage monkey first?" Seto asked.

"Maybe. Procreation hasn't been a priority for us with our financial situation, but if you keep paying me like you have, I can pay off my student loans this year and we could take out my IUD and start trying."

Seto rubbed Joan's feet while he contemplated this. Forcing her into things she didn't want never worked. Throwing more money at her only seemed to work half the time, so he had to play his cards right. "You and the wage monkey start trying Monday."

"What?" A torrent of tingles surged through Joan.

"I'll pay off your student loans tomorrow, and first thing Monday morning I'll pay a doctor to remove your IUD."

"Seto . . ." Joan's eyes bulged. "What's the catch?"

"If he doesn't knock you up in three months, I get to have my way with you."

Joan's ovaries quivered. "Six months."

"Four."

"And no visits to Japan during my fertile window."

Seto stopped rubbing her feet. "Fuck."

Joan crossed her arms. "You trying to pull a fast one on me?"

"Just hoping to get lucky," Seto mumbled.

"All of this is subject to Michael's approval anyway," Joan said.

"Including the ring?" Mokuba asked.

"Well . . . yeah," Joan replied. "It would be pretty weird walking around with your names on the ring but not Michael's."

"Would it be weird if I texted him about this stuff?" Mokuba asked.

"No. It's a good idea, actually. Don't forget to include nudes."

"Uh . . ."

"Marc and Michael send each other photos of me whenever possible. They make a game of it."

"It's true," Seto confirmed.

"Maybe we can take some pictures tomorrow." Mokuba nudged Joan off himself and got out of the Jacuzzi. "I should be getting home soon." He toweled off and Joan rose to give him a parting kiss.

Joan turned back to Seto. "So . . . ready for round two?"

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."

"Whatever."

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 *Heart*

If you're an artist and interested in illustrating a chapter or two at a discount, please let me know! I'll promote your art wherever I can in return.

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.

Chapter song: "This Land is Your Land" by Woody Guthrie

Song Note: There is ongoing dispute over whether this song should be released into the public domain, but for now I'm leaving out any lyrics.

Chapter 30: Hiking

Seto shook off thoughts of God as they approached a seemingly endless expanse of forest, but his secret insecurities lingered. His imagination went haywire the moment they stepped out of the limo. These weren't just trees with red bark; they were giants. Some of the trunks could easily encompass the six of them, perhaps even the entire limo.

Joan winked at the American bodyguards while Roland and the Kaiba brothers lost their heads in the canopy. When their eyes finally returned to her, she led them over to a large educational plaque with statistics on how tall redwood trees could grow and how long they could live. Meanwhile, Roland snapped a constant stream of photos.

They headed down the Sequoia Trail with Roland in the lead and the other bodyguards bringing up the rear. The trail was well-worn and easy, lined with mossy rocks and ferns. The brothers' sense of wonder grew with each passing step as they immersed themselves in the forest.

Other groups of hikers they passed displayed mild surprise at Roland and Seto's pretentious attire but no sense of recognition at their identities. The lack of attention initially irked Seto, but after some time, he realized that he was out of his element but at the same time free. Free with the people he treasured the most. His soul grew lighter with each step.

Joan paused to point out a bright yellow slug by the side of the trail. Seto found the creature revolting but oddly fascinating. He wondered what purpose a nasty little banana slug could have amidst towering redwoods and began contemplating other seemingly inconsequential things. Mokuba's words from the previous day reverberated in his mind. Come on Seto, it'll be awesome. We haven't just gone out and done something new like this in forever. Perhaps it wouldn't kill him to show a little enthusiasm.

A little farther down the trail, Joan burst out singing "This Land is Your Land" in a bright and cheery voice. The American bodyguards exchanged glances and joined in at the same time. Roland and the brothers stopped in their tracks and turned to stare. The Americans stopped walking too and continued singing until they finished.

"What?" Joan said innocently. "Every American learns that song in grade school. I'll teach it to you and we can sing it together."

"All right," Seto said.

Mokuba's jaw nearly fell off his face. It was one thing to sing a song they'd both handpicked for their game, but agreeing to sing an American peasant ditty with no argument whatsoever? Something had clearly gotten into his older, previously colder brother.

Joan led them through the song line-by-line, and soon the entire group of six could sing it from start to finish. They went through the whole thing three times before exhausting their interest in it. Mokuba's bodyguard unzipped his backpack and passed around water bottles so they could refresh their throats.

The trail opened out onto a road and they crossed it. Wooden rails lined the trail on the other side and steps had been embedded in it to prevent erosion. A platform at the bottom of the steps looked out upon a veil of water cascading into a turquoise pool. To the side, hand-sized ferns dropped their fingers all over the face of the adjoining cliff.

They all gazed at the waterfall for a full minute before Mokuba requisitioned a group photo. Roland snapped a few dozen pictures of the Kaibas (amongst which he now counted Joan) before getting in some shots with the bodyguards for good measure. He sent them all to the social media manager to decide what to post, what to quarantine, and what to frame for Mokuba to put on his desk. Perhaps prints for Joan and Seto would also be in order.

Mokuba's phone dropped to half battery and Roland handed it back to him, switching to his own phone for photographs. Roland knew from his own marriage that such photos could serve as important reminders of the good times when challenges arose. Though he hoped against all odds that his bosses would be happy like this forever, his upbringing told him that this could never last. They'd need all the help they could get.

On the way back down the trail, they stopped for a picnic lunch. The bodyguards laid out a large picnic blanket in the center of a redwood family circle – where its parent tree once stood centuries ago. The Kaibas leaned against each other on the picnic blanket while Tamara passed out sandwiches.

Roland took several more photos before realizing his phone battery was far lower than he initially calculated and that he would need to conserve it in case of emergencies. However, before he put his phone away, he spotted a message. The genius hacker that the Kaibas kept on staff known as Rebecca Hawkins, or "that cyber geek" as Seto liked to call her, had refused to cooperate. Seto Kaiba would have to do the task himself or find someone else, risking exposure. Rebecca had signed a nondisclosure agreement, but if she decided to go rogue, the repercussions might drive Kaiba Corporation into the ground. Not wanting to ruin their perfect day, Roland held his tongue as he watched them carefreely consume their avocado and turkey-laden bread.

After their meal, they finished their hike. Seto noticed Mokuba humming the tune they'd learned earlier and decided to add his own lyrics. "This whore is your whore, this whore is my whore."

Mokuba rolled his eyes. "You just had to ruin it, didn't you, Seto?"

"No no," Joan said, "I like where he's going with this. Let's see what else we can come up with."

They played around with the lyrics while Roland took notes but never reached any conclusive favorites.

On the ride back to Mokuba's condo, they discussed what-if scenarios about how and where to raise kids, about Joan and Michael moving to Japan or Seto and Mokuba becoming permanent residents in America. Mokuba had already filed for a green card just in case his work visa expired before he was done with Super Kaiba Megacorp, but it would still take some time to process. They could speed the process along with money, of course, but for the foreseeable future, Seto's connections in Japan as well as the somewhat more agreeable legal status of prostitution in Japan would mean easy travel on Joan's part.

Author's Note: Do you have any fun ideas for alternative "This Land is Your Land" lyrics? Please comment!

Part 7 is available here: https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2209802-Kaibas-Prostitute---Part-...
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