I'm so sorry for how late this update is! I went to visit my dad for a week and didn't realize he didn't have any internet. He lives up in the mountains of Coos Bay, Oregon, you see, really secluded. I couldn't even really call anyone. . But here it is! The ending! Please forgive me.
And thank you guys so much for telling me what you think and hanging out with me!
Chapter Six: A Snow White Dawn
There came a painful thump in the darkness and Seto found his hands, which were once pressing against the constricting darkness, pressed against the satin cloth of his sheets. Through them he could just make out the sunlight from his bedroom and a distinct chill that told him his window had been left open.
Heart thudding, face flushed, he untied himself out of his sheets and blankets to stare with childlike wonder at the white winter sunlight pouring into his room. Besides him, the digital clock said seven thirty-three. He had slept in. Some habitual part of his mind told him he was late for work, but he ignored it as he pushed himself to his feet and made his way to the open window, skin bursting with goose bumps. Outside the world glowed with white icing. He had his hands on the window sides for a full few minutes before he realized the painful smile that had broken across his face and closed the window.
"Look at me," he muttered, "you'd think I'd burst out singing like some corny Disney rerun."
But no, that couldn't be the case. He was Kaiba, Seto Kaiba, he was late for work.
And for the first time that he could remember in a long time, he didn't care.
Tearing out the first thing he saw in his closet that wasn't a suit or garishly mismatched, he changed, brushed his teeth with a foaming fervor, and strode out into the hall where he ran into his brother, who stopped rubbing his eyes to stare.
"Seto? What are you doing here?"
"Call up a car."
"Scratch that, I'll drive myself. You coming?"
"Coming?" Mokuba blinked hard. "Nuh uh, I've spent enough time in the mothership. I got plans with Kristy."
Seto flinched. Kristy. That had been the name in his dream thing too. Had it been a dream? Well, there was one way to tell.
"Why didn't you tell me you were thinking of proposing to her today?"
Mokuba flinched back so hard, he nearly crashed into the doorway, eyes wide. In that instant the past ten years vanished and he was his ten year old little brother caught with his hand in the cookie jar. The next minute he was eighteen again, eyes narrowed dangerously.
"Who told you?"
Seto smirked. "Call her up for dinner first. Honestly, thinking you can get a girl to marry you without even introducing her to your brother, I'm hurt. What's her favorite food? Pass it along to the kitchen, we'll have that tonight." he walked past him, inwardly pleased at the flabbergasted look on his brother's face. "Oh, and we'll be needing a tree. If you're not coming with me, do you think Kristy would mind helping you get the house decked out for tonight?"
"Decked out?" asked Mokuba, as though about to faint.
"You know, tinsel, holly, that sparkly crap that makes a mess on the floor—the usual Christmas stuff."
"No. Not at all. She's been wanting to see where I live for a while now."
Seto was half-way down the stairs, calculating in his head what he would do first, when Mokuba caught up to him.
Seto turned expectantly. His brother wore a strange look on his face, as though he had just see Big Foot walk through his front door. On meeting Seto's eye, his awestruck surprise increased.
Seto shrugged, putting a hand on the railing. He didn't move, as his brother didn't seem to be finished yet. He lifted a finger to his chin, dark eyes confused.
"You're not going to work...are you?"
Seto just smiled, said, "Tell the kitchen to have dinner ready by five, sharp. I'll see you then," and continued down the steps. In the mud room he stared at the knob that, just the night before, had twisted into the garish face of his step father as he threw on his usual trench coat and a scarf. He almost forgot to put on his boots in his rush to the door. His heart pounded in an excitement that he hadn't felt since the last time he had dueled with Yugi. The kid always had a way of bringing out the best of him. He came up with strategies and thought in ways he had never even dreamed of until faced with the challenge Yugi always presented to him. Some of his greatest inspirations came from his desire to compete against the boy, and yet Yugi had never held his victories over Kaiba's head. Rather, he had respected him, seen him as a friend. How had he ignored him so blatantly over these years? Sure he hadn't trusted him, sure he had thought his friendship meaningless, but how could he have been so blind? Hadn't he seen the ferocity of Yugi's loyalty to his other friends? Seen the power it lent him?
Seto slid into his favorite, sleek silver-blue Porsche and slid out of the garage, hands shaking. He would see to Yugi, but there was someone else who needed him first.
And it was with that person in mind that he found himself in a neighborhood he never would have before caught dead in. It was the section of the city dedicated to the projects, white trash, and the general population of drug dealers and gang bangers in ever sense of the stereotype. It was also where 35th Martin St. was.
It didn't take him long to find him. The street ended in a culvasac of sorts and wasn't very long. He knew the pile of dirty jeans and ratty blond hair the moment he saw them. Swerving besides the curve, he left the engine running and threw himself out. Still, seeing the dog right as he said he would be sent a shock through his system once more. What was it exactly that he had experienced last night?
"Oy! Wheeler!" When the body didn't respond, he dropped down to his knees in the dirty, black snow besides him. "Get off the ground, mutt." When Joey still didn't respond, a spike of fear ran through his heart and he reached out for his neck, which felt like ice to the touch. How long had the kid been out here? Had he been out here all night?
Before he even felt the first beat of his hear, Seto had Joey scooped up into his arms and was sliding him into the passenger side of his car. A shady, seedy looking man in a bright orange beanie watched from an alleyway across with the remains of a cigarette in his fingers. Seto only had to take a glance at him for his ire to rise to a broiling fury.
"You there!" he shouted, making the man jump. "How long have you been there? Have you just staring at this guy all morning?"
The man muttered something that sounded like, "I hadda jump." Before Seto decided he had more important things on hand and that he could run the tramp over later. He'd have to take Joey to the hospital himself. No saying when an ambulance would be able to get here, and traffic would be minimal on Christmas morning.
So, twisting on the heat to full blast, ignoring the film of sweat that beaded on his forehead, Seto stepped on the gas and wheeled out of there. Besides him, Joey's head flopped lifelessly to the side, his lips an awful shade of grey-blue. Two beautiful black eyes were already half-way formed and Seto could make out a dried line of blood on the other side of his face and matted in his blond hair. The kid looked worse for wear, that's for sure.
"Don't you dare die on me, mutt. I still got a score to settle with you for dropping me on my face."
As well as a debt that Seto had every intention of paying, even if the trash didn't remember.
The nurses did plenty of staring when he stumbled in with a grown man in his arms. It only took them a second to snap out of it before they were rushing about for a stretcher and a doctor. Seto explained the situation, lowering Wheeler onto the bed they brought to him, and demanding they take ever care to make sure he lived. He himself would be paying the bill, so they had no need to worry about the expense. Reassuring him that Joey would be in the best of hands, all the while packing him within heated blankets and putting a breathing mask to his face, the nurses asked him to sign some papers and carted him away. Once he had the papers filled out, Seto turned on his heel and almost ran to his car. Bringing Joey to the ER, possibly saving his life, brought a thrill to him he couldn't understand, especially giving the fact it mixed in horribly with the worry that he had been too late anyways.
Next stop was the Domino Psychiatric Hospital. On his way he popped in his bluetooth and dialed up Mr. Whitaker to tell him to take the day off. The prototype could wait till Monday, even the end of the week, if he had to. The man was, needless to say, speechless with surprise, but very grateful. When Seto hung up, he already had plans set in place to figure out a way to find his wife's medical information, privacy laws be damn. Mr. Whitaker may have to wait on the crappy medical system of Domino for his wife's life, but Seto had no such limitations. Money was a beautiful thing. Strangest thing was, he never realized it until now. What was he doing with the billions of dollars he had anyways? Mokuba and him should go to Hawaii, or Tahiti next week. Hell, why not Russia? He had always wondered about that place himself.
When he stepped through the glass doors of Domino Psychiatric Hospital, all personnel within sight froze. Even a helpful burst of winter air added to the drama as it set his gravity-defying trench-coat into many much furies. He was sure the smirk on his face didn't help.
"I'm here to see Yugi Motou."
The secretary or whatever she was fumbled pointlessly with the papers in front of her. Her colleagues behind her did plenty of piteous staring. They didn't have to know Seto Kaiba personally to feel the brunt of his intimidating air.
"I'm sorry, but you will need signed consent from his guardian."
Seto scowled. "He's twenty-four years old, I highly doubt a grown man needs a guardian."
This flustered the poor girl even more. "I'm sorry, it's with the case of his condition-"
"He has no condition."
"I don't believe that's up to you to decide."
"Then let me talk to his doctor, where is he?"
"He's out for the day, it's is Christm-"
"I don't give a damn if it's his freaking wedding day, get me in contact with him, now, or I'll buy out this place and have you all fired."
Her face paled and the corner of her mouth twitched, as though she weren't sure whether to laugh or be angry. "Who exactly are you, sir?"
Her eyes popped. "The Seto Kaiba?"
"Did I stutter?"
Five minutes later he had a phone in his hand and a very flustered psychiatrist on the other end. He learned from him that they hadn't been able to verify any of the symptoms that Mrs. Motou had turned him in for, or at least no current symptoms. It was clear that, whatever Yugi had, he had gotten over it or learned to deal with it in his teenage years. However, the doctor couldn't discharge Yugi without the consent of his mother, who had been the one to admit him in the first place. It all had to do with laws and policies that the psychiatrist had no power in changing, and the man apologized profusely before Kaiba hung up on him with an annoyed snarl.
Stupid fucking politics.
While he waited for her, terrifying the nurses and dropping the temperature of the hospital out of sheer impatient will, he called up his Human Resources manager for the number of a certain white-haired, blue-eyed, ex-employee of his.
Mrs. Motou was a slight, dark haired woman, who came in with as much dignity as a woman who had essentially just sold of her son could do. The nurses and orderlies that had filed in to watch the drama did plenty of whispering as she signed the necessary papers, accepted the check from Seto, and walked out without a glance back. Seto just snorted to himself. It would be hard to believe for any normal person that people like this woman existed, but Seto knew far better.
Seto didn't have to wait long. Yugi didn't have many personal belongings with him, and when his rival came out, the CEO was horrified to see big, fat tears welling up in the guy's eyes. The overwhelming shock at seeing Seto was the one who saved him did nothing to dissipate them and, if possible, made it worse. Without warning, Yugi ran forward and threw his arms around his much taller rival with a barely contained wail like a child. Changed man or not, Seto was no one's sob rag.
"Stop your sniveling, Motou, you're a grown man!"
"I thought I'd never get out of there! I was just beginning to think I really was insane!"
"I don't care, just get your snotty face off of me so we can go already."
As requested, Yugi let him go, wiping his face furiously with the long sleeves of his purple shirt. It made him look ever more like a child. "Go?"
"Yes. Those mindless drones told you the conditions your mother released you on, right?"
Yugi gave him a weak, watery smile. "You make it sound like she threw me in jail, and yeah, they did. But that doesn't mean you have to help me out or anything, I know you don't, you know, like me much and all."
Seto crossed his arms with a heady scowl, ignoring the nurses who had started fanning their faces in romantic ecstasy. "I just spent fifty thousand dollars on you. Do you think I'm going to let that much money end up in the drain because you die in the street?"
Those big purple eyes almost exploded out of their sockets. Yugi started wheezing something that could have been 'fifty thousand,' but Seto had already gone on his merry way out the door. The not-so-silent squealing of the nurses were getting far beyond his nerves. What had they to be so excited about anyways?
Yugi was there, though, when Seto turned the ignition in his Porsche and had buckled up by the time Seto had pulled out of the parking lot.
"Not to sound ungrateful or anything, but why did you do so much to get me out of there? Not to mention that I'm not entirely sure how you knew I was there in the first place."
Seto felt instant discomfort. That's right. He had just swooped in a saved Yugi after almost five years of ignoring him. And just wait till he found out about his best mutt friend.
He kept his eyes on the road as he answered as honestly as he could.
Yugi blinked. "Is it that bad?"
"No, it's just—look, I can't change overnight, so don't make me answer stupid questions like that."
"But I was just wondering why-"
"Because you're not crazy, okay? Now just be grateful, come to Christmas dinner with us, and then go on your merry way. Think of it as repayment for all those times you helped me keep my brother safe and...stuff."
What was the world coming to? Seto Kaiba, multi-billionaire and genius extraordinaire, staying 'stuff'?
When he returned back to the mansion, his secretary had already texted him Kisara's number and what had to be the tallest Christmas tree that he had ever seen inside a house could be seen through the tall, front window. Yugi's mouth hadn't closed since they had pulled in.
"I don't believe this," he kept muttering, probably not even thinking that Kaiba would hear him. "I don't freaking believe this..."
"Get out already, Mutou."
Yugi flinched and eased out of the Porsche as though it were suddenly made of glass. Seto rolled his eyes and pointed out the garage door to Yugi.
"You can take off our coat in there. Mokuba will set you up with a room."
His rival's big eyes were bigger than ever. "My—my what?"
"Room, nimwit. You're mommy's not letting you into the house after all."
"But, Kaiba, you don't have to—I don't have to stay with-"
Seto cut him off with an annoyed slam of his car door. "Just take it before I reconsider. And I'll be expecting you to repay the favor soon anyways. Having the King of Games in the developer department will make the advertisement and resource departments wet themselves with joy." Ignoring how Yugi's flabbergasted look was melting into a far too corny smile for Seto to handle, he snapped out his phone and shooed him with a hand. "Go on. I got a call to make."
Yugi nodded and headed inside, his hands held aloft at his sides as though he walked on air. Though Seto could have laughed, and inwardly he did, it just made the strange, giddy fluttering in his stomach all the greater. Knowing Yugi, he'd still see him as a friend, though, for the first time in his life, Seto had to agree with the Wheeler mutt: who'd want to be his friend?
Shaking the thought off, he carefully dialed the number his secretary had sent him and listened to the ringing on the other end. Each bring was offset by a heavy pound of his heart. What would he say? No, Seto never wondered that. He never had to. He always knew what to say, and she would be no exception.
But it was her answering machine that answered.
"Hiya! Sorry I missed your call, I'm probably caught up somewhere in my stupid hair or forgot my phone was on vibrate for the millionth time, just leave me your name and number and I'll get back with you!"
At the beep in his ear, his mind went completely blank. Mouth dry, hand suddenly clammy, he dropped the phone and hung up. For a long moment he just stared at his garage hall, feeling the winter air sinking in through the open garage door. It felt surreal, the cold, and for a moment he couldn't tell the difference between Jack Frost's bite in reality and in the strange vision from the night before.
Then, with a hot flash, he remembered the petal touch of her lips and redialed the number.
This time, when her mailbox intro came to him, his stomach had withered into something akin to a prune, but his diaphragm still worked all right, and he managed to push enough air up for words.
"Kisara, I am calling to invite you over for Christmas dinner. I don't expect you to be there, but it would be...beyond what I..." God damn it, say it man, "what I deserve if you were. Either way, there'll be tapioca on the table. Dinner's at six. Don't worry about dressing nice, it's just Mokuba and I." And, unable to think of any sort of closing to that, and already red in the face with humiliation, he hung up and proceeded to slam his face into the top of his sports car.
Gawd, how many times did he hesitate? Stutter? And was that an 'um' he heard? No, he was just being paranoid. Gozaburo had knocked out any 'um' from him by the time he was ten.
It took him a full fifteen minutes before he felt presentable enough to start walking towards the door, but then he remembered, hand on the door, that he hadn't even bothered to buy anyone, let alone Mokuba, Christmas presents. Even the worst of Scrooge's had Christmas presents, right? Coal, even. Damnit, how could he have forgotten about the whole point!
Cursing loudly, he slipped back into the Porsche and zipped away.
He returned three hours later with a grumbling stomach and an armful of wrapped presents to find the inside of his mansion transformed. Pine and holly tinsel wrapped every banister, wreaths on the doors, bells in the corners, and that monster of a tree glittering like a god unto its own in the window.
On finding himself gawking, he snapped his jaw closed with a click. Where were those three?
"Oh, hey Kaiba."
Walking towards him, with a Santa hat awkwardly squashed over his crazy hair, came Yugi. Seto couldn't understand how the guy couldn't look as awkward as Seto himself felt. Hadn't the kid been a shy, anti-social geek?
"Do you need any help with those?"
"I can handle it," Seto said, adjusting his hands on one of the gifts. "Where's Mokuba?"
His rival's face cracked in a smile no one would have expected his face to be capable of. "Oh, they're just putting up some last minute decorations in some hall back there. Something with white berries."
Delicious smells filled the house to the brim and Seto felt his stomach grumble. He looked at his watch: 5:23.
"Dinner should be soon." He hefted up a box he thought he could feel slipping. "Could you-"
The box dropped. Yugi shot forward and caught it by the tips of his fingers, unsettling his Santa hat.
"Go fetch them? Yeah, and do you want these under the tree?"
Despite all the awkwardness, the lung crushing warmth Seto had been struggling with since that morning had expanded to fill the whole house and, for once, Seto found himself not wanting to leave his home ever again. The warmth wrapped up the air in peace and gave the impression that if one were to curl up in the middle of the walkway on the carpet, they'd be able to fall asleep without a problem.
Dinner came with much pomp and circumstance. Mokuba (red faced and with his lips a bit swollen), properly introduced Kristy, who was all aflutter and shy before his big brother's intimidating air. Though Yugi talked more with Mokuba, the three of them made enough noise to make up for Seto's quiet awkwardness, though he interjected here and there with his usual sarcastic remarks, although they didn't sound as sharp as they should have been, even to Seto. Seto's and Mokuba's personal guard joined them for dinner, and my what a spread it was. It even impressed the snobbish, rich Kaiba's. Eyeing the ham and plates of five star vegetables, Seto was reminded of the cornucopias about Joey as he sat reading his Catwoman comics and couldn't help but smile. He found the muscles in the back of his head hurting before long, though, as his brother and Yugi bantered back and forth with jokes, laced with the bell-like laughter of Mokuba's girlfriend.
Half-way through, the bell rang and Seto got up to answer it.
At the door, a ragged, far-too pale and bruised lost puppy stood, tail between it's legs.
Seto didn't know who was more surprised. Him, or Wheeler.
Joey was the first to speak.
"Look, they told me you took me to the hospital."
"What about it?" Seto growled.
What part of Joey's face wasn't purple, blue, or bandaged flushed red with fury. "Look, I don't need your charity. Tell me how much I owe you for-" he broke off in a dry, hacking cough. Seto frowned.
"How long were you out there?"
"For once in your life, turn on your brain and answer the damn question: how long were you laying in the street like that?"
Joey blinked blearily. "I don't know, maybe a few hours."
Seto sighed heavily, hand to his brow. "Go back to the hospital, mutt."
"Joey? Is that you?"
Being filthy rich, Seto's front door was rather large, so it didn't take much for Yugi to peer around Kaiba and see his black and blue, ratty clothed friend on the door step. His loud gasp was to be expected.
"Oh my—gawd, Joey, what happened?"
But Joey's swollen eyes had widened to almost normal width and his legs had started to shake.
Yugi had slipped past Seto and was fluttering about Joey like a mother hen. "What are you doing out here! You should be in the hospital—you look like you got hit by a train! How are you even walking?"
"And what are you doing here? Did Kaiba invite you too? Aw, gawd, Joey, you're burning up."
"Yug, shut up."
"I said shut the hell up."
Yugi and Seto stared. But before either of them could think of what to say, Joey had thrown himself around Yugi's neck, which was no small matter, seeing as Joey was almost twice the little guy's size. Seto felt his neck grow hot and, dare he say, his eyes prickle as Joey continued standing there, clinging to Yugi as though afraid to let go. Feeling as though he might throw up (or maybe do something really unmanly and humiliating), Seto turned around.
"There's food on the table when you're done with your little scene, mutt. If you keep quiet I won't kick your sorry ass back to where I left it."
Joey did not answer, however, and Seto was left to return to the dining room.
No sooner had Yugi and Joey come in, Joey shuffling awkwardly and squinting out at everything through his black eyes, when the doorbell rang yet again. Mokuba was too busy gawking over his friend, Joey, while exclaiming his delight to hear and Seto was able to slip past to the door.
What he found on his doorstep the second time made all blood flow in his body come to a complete halt.
In shades of blue, with skin as white as the snow behind her, she had her hands tucked deep within her coat and her eyes to her feet. Even on the cold whiff of air, and with the thick essence of the feast behind him, Seto could still pick out her scent.
"Um," she tucked some of her silver hair behind her ear. "I heard you had, um...tapioca?"
And all at once his blood went racing, white hot, expanding a balloon within him.
"I already told ya, I got in a fight with a gang boss and five of his goons. They all had tasers, whole nine yards." said Joey's loud voice from behind him.
"How'd you get this though?" asked Yugi.
"Oh, this? They threw me into a shark tank when I proved too much for them."
Yugi and Kristy laughed as Mokuba exclaimed, "Now really!"
Kisara was still standing on his wide welcome mat, an angelic image of bundled up furs and pink scarf.
Seto finally breathed.
"Yeah. I got tapioca, figgy pudding, any Christmasy pudding you can think of."
The shy, sweet little grin she gave him made him beam.
"For your sake, it better be good."
And whatever happens after that is details. Seto stopped working as much, Mokuba and Kristy waited a year or so before finally getting married, Yugi became, not only a world-renowned gamist, but the personal game-tester of Kaiba corp, and Kisara eventually forgave Seto for being an emotionless asshole. Joey and Yugi had weekly James Bond nights where they ate superfluous amounts of popcorn and made sure to invite Kaiba along, still unable to believe that the workaholic, people-hating CEO would actually come without the coercion of Mokuba. The two boys even swore to hearing Seto laugh once without a drop of evil overlord intention. Mrs. Whitaker made a full recovery, thanks to Seto funding a personal search for a matching heart donor, and the Kaiba manor was no longer as quiet as a place as it use to be.
And Seto never had to deal with another ghost in his room again, Christmas or otherwise.
Lowe Here! Just to let you all know, I'm working on publishing my debut novel. Unlike my fanfiction stories, I've actually invested into a professional editor and have rewritten it several times. It's a beauty, let me tell you. Not perfect, because that's impossible, but it's the best I've made yet. When it comes out, I'll keep it at a really low price so, if you all are interested, you can have it for pocket change, really. ^.^ Because I want you guys to enjoy it as much as I have in writing it. I'll have a synopsis of it on my profile, and when it's published, I'll also let you all know on my updates as well as my profile where to find it.
And I'll also have a few free hard copies to mail out to anyone willing to help me spread the word. ^.^ Because, really, who doesn't hate marketing? Blegh.
Anyways, I'll stop blabbing now. Enjoy your weekly update!