Disclaimer: I don't own Yugioh, not making money off this, you know the drill...

A/N: Just a plot bunny that occurred to me a while ago. Imagine this takes place after Season 5, when Kaiba has experienced as much personal growth as can be reasonably accepted from him. Also imagine that he'd in a particularly generous mood.


At one time Seto Kaiba would have balked at the idea of apologizing for anything. Gozaburo had made it clear that regrets were for the weak, and by the time he'd taken over Kaiba Corp, his ability to feel sorry for even the worst of his crimes had evaporated completely.

Then he lost to Yugi for the first time and something changed. It felt as though his twisted, blackened heart had been splintered into pieces that could eventually be reconstructed into something human.

The process had been a long one and he'd faltered more times than he liked to remember. Sometimes he'd wondered whether he wanted to bother humanizing himself at all, but then he'd see the hope in his brother's expression – the light that shone there whenever Kaiba showed a flash of being Seto – and he knew that he had to continue trying if only so that he could love Mokuba the way the boy deserved to be loved.

Now he was something like the person his brother needed him to be. No one would ever describe him as affectionate and he was still almost as unapologetic as always, but his icy exterior had thawed just enough to allow a limited number of things to affect him.

Among those things were wrongs of his past, and among those wrongs, one particular instance lingered at the forefront of his mind.

Looking back, Seto could not understand why he'd acted as he had. His behavior had been senseless and pathetic, serving little purpose no matter how he looked at it. His only defense was that it had been at a dark time in his life and he hadn't been thinking clearly, but lack of sensible thought was indefensible in of itself. He'd not only hurt others with his stupidity, but he'd made an ass of himself and destroyed something precious. For all the mistakes he'd made in his life, the pointless vindictiveness he'd displayed that particular afternoon bothered him in a way little else did. He had a feeling it would continue to do so until he rectified the matter.

It said a lot about the changes he'd gone through that he only hesitated a moment before convincing himself to act.

With all the somberness of a man prepared to sacrifice a dear treasure, Kaiba pocketed his deck and called for his driver.

"Kame Game," said Kaiba neutrally, his voice not betraying any of what he was feeling.

He couldn't believe he was doing this. At the same time, he was relieved to unload the guilt that had settled over him after he'd regained enough of his humanity to begin regretting what he referred to simply as 'The Incident.' He felt the debacle deserved the title over all others in his life because of how terribly he'd acted with little chance for personal gain. Most of his heartlessness had either been directed against his employees (and could be considered necessary from a business standpoint) or against people who in some way deserved it.

After all, Seto Kaiba hated bullies. Exerting power was fine. Doing so against those who couldn't fight back was not.

Solomon Muto had not been able to fight back.

The limo pulled to a stop in front of the shop. Kaiba took a breath to steel himself, hating that he was nervous enough to feel the need to do so, and climbed stiffly from the vehicle.

The door jingled when he entered the shop, the sound annoyingly cheerful in light of the circumstances. Shoulders pulled back, head held high with confidence bordering arrogance, Kaiba surveyed the small space. It was early morning still and the aisles were empty. The only occupant was the old man squatting in front of one of the displays, arranging cards so that they were shown to their full effect. He started slightly when he heard the door open, but finished tilting the Buster Blader he was working with just so before he stood and turned to face Kaiba.

Surprise flitted across his face when his eyes met Kaiba's, but it was quickly suppressed in favor of a neutrally polite expression that gave nothing away. Kaiba knew enough of Yugi's grandfather to recognize that he was generally an open person. The cool mask suggested that he was hiding nervousness at the very least, although Kaiba suspected the man felt some amount of dislike and suspicion as well.

"Seto Kaiba. Can I help you?"

"No." He bristled at the suggestion that the old man could possibly help him. It wasn't until the word was out of his mouth that he realized it was a lie; in a way, he had come for Muto's help. Frustrated at his lack of composure, Kaiba gritted his teeth and forced himself to amend his initial response. "I mean yes," he corrected crisply. "I wanted to speak with you."

"About…?" asked Muto, and though he appeared to attempt a neutral tone, there was no hiding the suspicion in his voice.

Last time you were here, you kidnapped him, destroyed his most precious card, and sent him to the hospital, Kaiba reminded himself. He has a right to be suspicious.

"About our past dealings. Namely, our first meeting," said Kaiba. Muto's eyes widened, but the billionaire continued speaking in his coolest, most composed voice. "I will not deny that I behaved abominably. Looking back, I realize that everything I did that day was inexcusable, and though I cannot make up the loss of your friend's card, I can replace it to the best of my ability."

Without looking at the old man, he slid the topmost card off the deck in his pocket and held it out in front of him, hand trembling just slightly, gut twisting at the reality that he was giving away something that had been a part of him for so long. He could still remember a childhood spent pining for a single Blue-Eyes, the hope that'd overcome him when Mokuba snuck him those cards – the handmade dragon the most memorable of all of them – and right at that moment, he thought chopping off his right arm and handing it over would have been easier. After everything he'd been through with that card, willingly giving it up felt as though he were betraying the spirit he tried not believe dwelt within it.

But gifting Muto with the card was no more a betrayal to the Blue Eyes than tearing the old man's copy had been all those years earlier. It was actually vastly preferable, as at least this was a gesture done out of desire to make amends, rather than one done out of blind hatred.

God, he hated to even think of it.

What madness had possessed him to destroy a Blue-Eyes?

In light of that sort of absurdity, it was almost fitting to lose one of his creatures as a form of penance. Obviously he did not deserve to wield all three.

Muto took the card from his hand, and the now empty-fingers curled uselessly in on themselves. Seto's arm flopped to his side, feeling strangely weightless with the Blue-Eyes gone.

"You would be surprised," said Muto, eyes fixed on the card, "at the things my grandson has told me about you. The sacrifices you have made for your brother, the trials you faced to maintain your success, the risks you have taken to protect what you care about, and the heroism you have shown when it was least expected. I cannot say I know anything about the man who harmed me and stole my card, but I can say with certainty that you are not him."

Wrinkled hands reached out and opened Kaiba's fingers, settling the Blue-Eyes against his palm.

"You do not deserve to pay for the sins of the person you once were." He smiled sadly. "In fact, it seems that you have paid more than enough in some ways."

Kaiba blinked.

"Listen, old man. I don't want your pity. This was supposed to be- "

"An apology. I do not accept. The heartless creature I met five years ago is no longer with us, and it is not necessary for you to apologize for something you never would have done."


"But there is nothing to forgive, Seto Kaiba," said Solomon Muto. "And I certainly do not want your card. I never used the Blue-Eyes I had, and I couldn't have used it with the skill you show in wielding your three." His eyes twinkled. "In any case, I could not bear to watch you duel without the excitement of wondering whether your ultimate dragon would make an appearance. Accepting the card would accomplish little more than depriving myself of a good show."

This was not how Kaiba had expected their meeting to go. From the moment the apology had fallen from his lips, Muto's defenses had evaporated and genuine good-humor had overtaken his expression. It was as though his willingness to apologize meant more than the apology itself, and as soon as the existence of his regret had become apparent, whatever bitterness Muto had once felt for him seemed to have fled.

And he still had his Blue-Eyes. That was the important thing.

He had not lost the card.

"This is your last chance," Kaiba warned him. "Take it."

"No," said Muto. He nodded to the door. "You need not apologize again. Go, Mister Kaiba."

Kaiba turned on a heel to leave, but at the last moment he stopped himself and faced Muto once more, bowing his head in a rare show of respect.

"Thank you," he said.

The old man smiled, and Kaiba fled the shop before he became tempted to mirror the expression.