Seto Kaiba at ten is an intimidating child.

Pegasus attends a Kaiba Corporation banquet in late September, hosted in a magnificent mansion with acres of woods surrounding it, an ancient pride permeating the stone halls.

Seto Kaiba at ten is a sullen child in a well-fitting tuxedo, his shoulders tense where Gozaburo has a hand clasped across them. His father is showing him off to a roomful of acquaintances and media personnel, but the flattery from the people surrounding him seems to have Seto on edge rather than preening beneath the attention.

Pegasus has never been good with children, but one glance at Seto tells him a myriad of things. He would rather not be here, for one, but there's something despondent to the brightness of his eyes that tells Pegasus there's more at work here than a child's irritation.

He takes his mind off it, as he does with things that don't concern him. As the hour drags on, the martini in his hand empties and he makes his way upstairs, admiring the view from the balcony that allows him to look across the peaceful greenery below. There is a pair of partygoers discussing something over a shared cigarette on the lawn, but Pegasus pays them no mind.

A voice unexpectedly tears him out of his thoughts, but once Pegasus turns, he finds himself looking down into serious eyes, face to face with the Kaiba heir. "Guests aren't supposed to be allowed up here," he informs Pegasus, hands shoved deeply into his pockets.

"Quite right," Pegasus agrees, raising an eyebrow inquisitively. "Are you going to tell on me?"

He had bypassed security to make his way up here, but Seto doesn't seem as if he cares much about that. His little shoulders shrug, eyes downcast. "No," he says as he raises his head, staring at Pegasus as his eyes narrow. "You're my father's rival. You shouldn't be here."

Seto has not yet learned the difference between sounding indignant and righteously suspicious. Pegasus lets out a laugh before shaking his head and it's far from mocking – and yet, Seto's mouth curves into a sneer at the chuckle. "Again," Pegasus soothes, "You're quite right. I have an invitation, however and it would be terribly rude of me not to attend under these circumstances, wouldn't it?"

He can see Seto slowly relax. Odd, Pegasus thinks, that a child – any child – would find comfort in his words, least of all Seto Kaiba. "It was nice meeting you," he says begrudgingly, turning as if to leave.

Something seems to hold him back. Pegasus waits patiently and finally, Seto says "We'll be rivals too, one day."

"I'll be waiting," Pegasus responds, watching Seto walk back inside.

Seto Kaiba at thirteen is a lost child.

Pegasus has had only a handful of interactions with him since the banquet, but each time, something seems to have changed. He marvels at how the outside world seems to miss the obvious, but then again, Pegasus has always been a frighteningly perceptive man.

Seto's father is on relatively good terms with Pegasus, these days, considering that their empires aren't competing for the same business and that Pegasus, as a person, can be charming when he needs to be. As such, it had seemed pertinent to invite Gozaburo Kaiba to his own private island for a tour, but Pegasus had not been expecting his child to come along.

Correction, Pegasus reminds himself, not his child but one of his children. He wonders whatever becomes of Mokuba when his family leaves him behind.

It is almost predictable, the way that Gozaburo receives an urgent phone call at lunch that sends him back to his company. He should, by all means, take Seto along with him. What man would trust a virtual stranger to look after his child for a day, after all?

Pegasus doesn't deny the hastily made request. "He will be in very good hands," he assures Gozaburo and once he's gone, Pegasus takes note of the near-relief in Seto's features.

The silence between them isn't uncomfortable but it is far from relaxed. Seto seems at a loss for what to do now that his father is no longer watching his every move, so he looks to Pegasus as if needing guidance. That, at least, he can offer. "I'm sure he'll be picking you up sometime this evening," he assures Seto, not as bold as to put his hand around the boy's shoulders. It seems to be the last thing that he'd want. "Until then, perhaps a tour until supper is ready? The grounds are breathtaking, I've been told."

"Show me something I haven't already seen," Seto challenges and Pegasus suddenly remembers how little he appreciates being ordered to do something. Seto is a child; Pegasus would not stoop so low as to snap at him, but his mouth tightens before he reaches an appropriate response.

He doubts he could interest Seto in the paintings lining his hallways, but perhaps –

"If you'll follow me," Pegasus muses, "I think we might be able to do that."

He is surprised to realize that the day has passed in hardly any time at all. Dusk has settled and there is still no word from Gozaburo; a man with his intellect would hardly forget to send someone to collect his son, so Pegasus comes to the conclusion that Seto has been left here by Gozaburo deliberately.

Unsettling as the thought is, the company hasn't been terrible. "I suppose you'll be staying for a sleepover, then," Pegasus informs Seto, smiling as the boy's mouth curves downwards. He has no interest in the juvenile, Pegasus has learned, despite his being in early adolescence. "Not to worry, there's a perfectly habitable guest room for you. Would you like some privacy, now?"

Seto stands in the middle of the lounge, glancing uncertainly around himself before his gaze finally settles on Pegasus. He looks shockingly vulnerable. Pegasus hadn't expected that.

"I can't sleep," he eventually seems to force himself to admit, "Anywhere but at home."

Ah, yes – Pegasus has no children and he'd forgotten how horribly large and frightening the world could seem at Seto's age. He should have taken that into consideration.

He meets Seto's gaze evenly, wondering what he's meant to do. Seto might take offense to soothing words and comforting reassurances, but the need for it seems to far outweigh his reluctance to allow it, presently and Pegasus has never, despite claims made to the contrary, been heartless. "I see," he replies, standing to beckon Seto to follow him. "Why don't we retire to the library, for now? You can read anything you like."

Night is upon them in what seems like no time at all, but after hours of pages rustling and the occasional exclamation from Seto, there is a sudden stillness that hangs in the air when Pegasus blinks and peers around the edge of a bookcase.

He finds Seto slumped forwards and fast asleep, a hard-backed book dangerously close to being crushed in his grip. "Foolish boy," Pegasus murmurs, the words not absent affection. He could ask one of his men to bring Seto to his bedroom. He could ask them to clean up the mess, but Pegasus forgoes that option.

It is a strange thing to cradle Seto's body in his arms and it is stranger, still, to have him breathe soft and even in sleep against Pegasus' neck, so deeply asleep that Pegasus doubts the racket from the kitchens could wake him. Up the stairs they go until Pegasus has to resort to working the doorknob with his elbow until it gives, the door swinging open with a creak.

The bed is far too large for a boy of thirteen, but Pegasus does a valiant job of settling Seto beneath the covers. He asks the kitchen staff to bring a glass of water to Seto's bedside in the morning and dismisses them, afterwards – the night is his alone, now, to do with as he pleases.

Seto sleeps. Pegasus resists the urge to check in on him more than once; eventually, he too sleeps.

Seto Kaiba at fifteen is many things – misguided, sharp-tongued, but above all else, Seto Kaiba at fifteen is a hopeless child.

He doesn't respond well to being called a child. He responds even worse to being treated as one, but of the many things that Pegasus is, condescending isn't one. Their time together is limited, of course, seeing as how Seto has already risen dramatically as the leader of Kaiba Corporation, but despite his complaints and retorts, furious as they are, there is no denying that he remains a child.

A child with a mind perfectly suited towards mastering chess, indeed, but a child nonetheless.

There are times when he requests to see Pegasus for reasons he isn't willing to give. He flies out at late hours and stays the night, but never once does he say that he considers their odd friendship enjoyable or a friendship at all. A boy like Seto has himself convinced that he doesn't need friends, but Pegasus doesn't contradict him. A day will come when the truth is laid bare before him and Pegasus doesn't care to be the bringer of bad news on this particular day.

Seto Kaiba is no one's fool. He says as much as Pegasus is reclining on the sofa with a tumbler of brandy open nearby, his glass half-empty. His spirit has never been an optimistic one.

"Indeed," Pegasus agrees, but it only seems to infuriate Seto further. He might have grown taller and haughtier and somewhat crueler, but there's a gleam of horrible greed behind his eyes. Greed might be too strong a word, so Pegasus reconsiders; longing seems far more fitting.

"All these years," Seto begins, white-knuckling his own glass – far more than half-empty, but considering that Pegasus had only allowed him little more than a sip, that's nothing to be concerned about. Seto won't tolerate being treated as a child and Pegasus has indulged him for a very long time now – he can indulge this stubbornness, too. "You've looked at me."

He has rarely managed to strike Pegasus speechless, but tonight, Seto takes aim and fires in exactly the right place. He hits home.

Pegasus' mouth is dry despite the remaining liquor that he knocks back, desperate to calm the trembling in his fingers. There has never been any hope of denying this. He is not a good man.

"I have eyes," he evades despite the certain end waiting ahead of him, a mouth wide open with sharp teeth, eager to devour him. His sins are nothing. His sins are quiet thoughts and empty yearning. "Was I not meant to?"

Oh, but Seto's fury pales in comparison to his sudden defeat, eyes softening in the light that the chandelier throws across the room. "Don't play stupid," he snaps, "Despite what you may think, it doesn't suit you."

A silence settles heavily across them. "You know what I meant," Seto goes on, words low, teeth gritted. "Did you ever want to be my friend?"

He may not be wrong about his observations, but Pegasus refuses to entertain that notion – that he'd take advantage of a child entrusted to him and yes, they have never been more than civilly polite towards one another, but to imply that Pegasus would cross that grievous line-?

Seto doesn't care to have friends, but the accusation has Pegasus straightening up on the couch, looking right at him.

It would be a lie to say that he was inclined to befriend a boy already so jaded at the tender age of ten, but Pegasus had never intended to let himself become a monster. "No," he tells Seto, fingers reaching for the brandy. "But don't you dare accuse me of that. Don't insult me in my own home."

He doesn't expect Seto to rise to his feet and approach him and even then, Pegasus is expecting something akin to a punch, or a bout of shouting, but not this.

Seto comes close enough that Pegasus is tense with anticipation, never once lowering his eyes from where they're looking right into Seto's. A boy, Pegasus reminds himself, despair eating him alive. He is only a boy.

"I'm not a child," Seto says, as if he hopes to convince them both of that fact as his hands push Pegasus against the couch, his back resting stiffly against it. "You've never treated me like one."

It would be useless to argue that point, considering how firmly Seto seems to believe it, but Pegasus has not given into weakness, yet. He will not give in, now. "There is a great difference," he informs Seto, "Between childhood and maturity. You may not think of yourself as a child, but you are far from an adult."

He doesn't ask Seto to remove his hands and Pegasus realizes, in that moment, that he's been doomed from the very start. What kind of man lies awake imagining the taste of a boy's mouth or the fragile spaces between his fingers? A twisted desire has always lived inside of him and there is no hope of banishing it, now.

Seto stares right at him. Pegasus wonders why he isn't demanding anything – for all of his flaws and all his convoluted thoughts, Seto should rightly be asking Pegasus to never come near him again. "Kiss me," he says, a shadow passing across his face. "I want you to kiss me."

No, Pegasus thinks, because the confusion is written all across Seto's face and he cannot – will not – take advantage of a boy that's scarcely aware of what he wants. "I know you want to," Seto persists, as if he can see inside all of the empty spaces within Pegasus, greedy to fill them up. "Why won't you?"

Why haven't you, yet?

"I will not be that man," Pegasus insists, but his voice is considerably softer, now, the brandy gone to his head. He should not. He is already damned, but thoughts are private things; nobody need ever know, but to put his hands on Seto's bare skin and give him what he thinks he wants – it would be one sin too many. It would be his downfall.

"I want you to be that man," Seto whispers, Pegasus' shoulders slowly – unconsciously – relaxing beneath Seto's hands, his grip looser, now. "Please."

Years ago, Seto had said Show me something I haven't already seen with the fierce conviction of someone who had nothing left to gain.

I will, Pegasus thinks, fingers carefully carding through Seto's hair. I'll show you why they call men like me evil. I will hang myself for your sake.

"I won't say a word," Seto hastens to tell him when the silence has stretched on for a minute, his composure suddenly uncertain. "Not to anyone. You have my word."

He will do what evil men have always done.

Seto is a master manipulator. Pegasus is almost frightened to imagine what he might become once all that misplaced, jagged emotion has dulled down. He has seen what Seto is capable of.

"You foolish little boy," Pegasus sighs, but before Seto can snap at him for the sentiment, Pegasus raises himself until his lips touch Seto's and if he were any man but himself, it would almost be innocent.

Seto Kaiba at eighteen is no longer a boy.

He seems more childish than he ever did at ten, thirteen or fifteen. There is something starved and beaten down within him that Pegasus only catches glimpses of in the early morning or late at night with his hands on Seto's bare back, his mouth on Seto's naked shoulder.

He has been doing this for far too long; he has been indulging his own perverted nature for far too long but Seto has yet to leave him and until he does, Pegasus will not be the one to walk away.

Their meetings are rarer, now, but nothing has changed. Seto has grown taller and more prone to anger, but he is the same boy that Pegasus met eight years ago. He is, despite Seto's insistent protests, still the same child that Pegasus first laid eyes on across a vast banquet hall, shrunken beneath the shadow of a deep-seated self-loathing.

"Why don't you stay?" Pegasus murmurs, pressing his lips to Seto's spine in a chaste kiss. The morning light has already broken through the window, but Pegasus is in no rush. He lets himself trace the all too prominent curve of Seto's ribs, feeling him inhale sharply at the caress. They have had years to know each other, but Seto is ever-changing; he is sharp and thin and very beautiful where Pegasus has him pinned against the mattress, his hands exploring lands already conquered.

Seto has never stayed the night in the sense that matters. He will let himself arrive at odd hours and he will let Pegasus devour him but he will not stay in the same bed as Pegasus, despite his own exhaustion. It is early morning, now. Seto arrived minutes past midnight and already he is aching to go.

Seto Kaiba is a man that cannot be possessed or owned. He will not be a plaything any more than he will be a prized possession, but Pegasus has never intended to keep him. "I can't," Seto tells him, an air of reluctant breathlessness to his voice, one hand white-knuckled where it hangs on tightly to the sheets. "You know that."

Pegasus only hums, allowing a smile to be hidden against Seto's wild hair. "A shame, as always," he murmurs, one hand traveling from Seto's ribs to his hip and lower, lower. "You do so love to deny me."

This has never been an easy thing, what they have between them, but Pegasus has stopped expecting Seto to walk away entirely. He leaves, now and then, for weeks or months at a time, but despite his tantrums, he returns.

He returns.

"Not now," Seto tells him, voice low and hoarse, his fingers encircling Pegasus' wrist to draw his hand away from Seto's body. He might not stay but Pegasus comforts himself with the inevitable fact that Seto will be back, hollow-eyed and hungry, asking for Pegasus to take away all the things he hates about himself. "Not – not now."

Pegasus sighs, but he's obedient when he withdraws from the heat of Seto's body, watching as he rises to get dressed. He is beautiful, has always been beautiful, the bones in his spine showing as he bends forward to reach the coat thrown haphazardly to the floor. He is sharp and he is vicious but there are moments when he is more than his own tangled resentment.

Pegasus would never go as far as to call Seto fascinating, but sometimes, there's an air to him that makes Pegasus thinks he could be made of gold. A false idol to some and the one true god to others, but Pegasus has never been a particularly religious man. Whatever else Seto Kaiba may be, Pegasus sees him for what he is. He is a boy.

The years have sharpened him but he is still a boy and Pegasus is still not a good man.

"Until next time," Seto says and as always, he is gone without waiting for a reply.

There are many things that Pegasus would like to tell him – I'm sorry, to start with. You made me do this, maybe, but above all other things, Pegasus wants to say you are nobody's fool but I am nobody's pawn. You can't use me anymore.

The sun rises. Pegasus rises with it, leaving behind an empty room. There is something inside of him that wants to despair and bleed as punishment for the countless atrocities committed inside this house, but that part of him has been long since silenced.

Seto Kaiba at eighteen is not his, but upon reflection, he never has been.

- end -

"He could build a city. Has a certain capacity. There's a niche in his chest

where a heart would fit perfectly

and he thinks if he could only maneuver one into place -

well then, game over."

- Richard Siken