Aftershocks

Chapter Two

This time, he was woken when a fist connected once more to the side of his head.

The cut above his eyebrow that had stopped bleeding, forming a crust of what was most probably a disgusting powdery brown that stuck his hair to the side of his face, reopened. Hot liquid dribbled sluggishly down his cheek after pooling at the corner of eyelid for a moment, a little bit entering his eye and burning it a little.

He was trying to blink it away when he was pulled by the chains that surrounded his wrists again to the center of the room. Once more, he was hung to the hook from the ceiling, dangling helplessly from it. His legs felt too weak to hold him up, yet his broken wrist was too painful to let his arms bear his weight.

Against his will, tears of pain slid down his features unchecked.

"Are you ready to sign the papers, Seto…?" one of them asked.

He was ready to die if it meant the pain would stop, he thought to himself…

"He's already in tears. Of course he is ready to sign the papers…" another one was saying, delighted apparently.

Whatever weakness he was feeling was buried behind the anger and humiliation the words stirred up within him. He wished he could just let go. He wished he wasn't that kind of person. He wished he wasn't a stupid extremist who went all the way without caring if all the way meant, like in this situation for example, his death. He wished his pride didn't flare at some petty, stupid comment. He wished he could just give in.

It was innate, however. Sheer power of will, stubbornness and pride made him dig up whatever remaining strength he had, forcing him to stand and raise his head. He stared as coldly as he could into their eyes.

"Probably not…"

He didn't know what they had in store for him. He couldn't trust himself to think about it. He was afraid if he went that far with his thoughts, he would falter and his determination would fade. He couldn't afford thinking of what awaited him for his refusal.

He wasn't kept waiting for long.

A loud crack was heard behind him. His heart stopped at the sound of it. He wasn't stupid or uneducated. His mind made a connection. And even if there was an ounce of uncertainty regarding the source of the crack, one of the suited men stepped from behind him, confirming what he dreaded. He was holding a whip, flicking his wrist in an expert motion. He held his breath in terror that he was sure moved unhindered to his eyes, as the motion traveled along the relatively flexible shaft of the whip, transmitting to the lash which coiled like a serpent, then uncoiled, somewhere along the process the loud crack resounding in the dark, damp cell once again.

The man was smiling. It was apparent he found great pleasure in what he was about to do. It was also apparent that he was experimentally trying the whip in front of him on purpose. It was a form of psychological torture. He knew this. Logically, he shouldn't let the frankly horrifying sound get to his head…But it was futile.

It didn't just get to his head…it terrified him.

He was too scared to even breathe. A part of him knew that if he could, he probably would have begged them to stop and that he was going to sign whatever they wanted him to sign. The bravado was all gone now. He didn't think he even had it in him to hide the fear written clear as day on his features.

They were laughing at him once more. He couldn't bring himself t care about that, either. He wasn't ready for this… oh God, he didn't have the strength to deal with this. He couldn't…His breath quickened painfully as his panic increased tenfold.

He couldn't remember the first kiss of the whip's lash to his back. He could only remember that it was painful enough that he passed out once again. And when he came to once again, he could feel the lingering pain. The blow had torn the shirt he was wearing. Apparently, it also tore skin. It felt like a flame ran across his back. And he wasn't given time to adjust. The moment they were sure he was aware once again, the second blow came and it was, if possible, more painful than anything he ever felt.

He didn't pass out again, which led him to believe that it was just the shock that caused the loss of consciousness that first time. He was painfully aware of every crack of the whip and every lash to his back. His shirt was hanging off his torso, useless as the very thin end of the lash cut through it like a sharp knife, leaving his skin unprotected and open to each blow delivered with expert precision.

His legs no longer had the strength he managed to scrape together just a little while ago. Uselessly, they crumpled and faltered beneath him. He was dangling useless by the arms from the ceiling. Once more, his eyes had slid shut at the pain and he buried his face into his upper arm, openly and shamelessly crying and not bothering to try and stop his cries of pain at the agony that he just couldn't deal with in any other way. He couldn't breathe. He couldn't speak, he couldn't even think of anything other than how much pain he was currently experiencing…

Time once more stopped… he couldn't decide if this was worse or having his head dunked in water was. There was no pattern to the blows. Sometimes the man behind him paused for too long. Sometimes the lashes came continuously one after another until he was sure he had passed out again.

For the first time in forever, he prayed. He prayed for death. He prayed so fervently for death, for the darkness that he would never wake from ever again. It would be so much easier than this hell he was going through. He was paralyzed with the pain so he couldn't even chicken out and say that he would sign over the Corporation to the Big Five. He was bound so he couldn't escape the whip's lashes. He knew if he passed out, they would wait for him to wake up to continue. The man behind him was too much of an expert; he didn't stop. He didn't tire out, each time laying the whip on an untouched part of his back. In short, the only reprieve he was going to get was if he finally died.

He continued praying as the man behind him continued tirelessly to lash at his back. The first time the whip made a cut across one that was there already, the pain was phenomenal. He cried out with his hoarse voice, following it by a sob of misery… everything blended together and he no longer could decipher the difference between moments where the whip didn't touch him and the moments that it did.

In the middle of the red haze of pain, however… he noticed suddenly that the room, previously loud and raging with laughter and jeers at his pain, suddenly fell silent. Thankfully… the whip master's hand stilled as well and he no longer delivered his blows.

Seto didn't know what was going on, but he was grateful nonetheless for the break. The only sound he could hear for now was his violent breaths as he tried to regulate his oxygen intake amidst the terrible amounts of pain he was experiencing.

Amongst the miasma of pain and the smell of blood and the vertigo of lack of oxygen and the nausea of this cocktail of unpleasant feelings, however, he heard a familiar voice. A familiar voice, loud and baritone; so righteous and so shocked…

"You… You monsters!"

Seto's eyes flew open in shock.

The first thing he saw was a pair of familiar crimson eyes staring into his own in fear, distress and anger. It was then that all hell broke loose.

The man holding the whip screamed suddenly from behind him. Seto wasn't sure what happened to him, but the sound of the screams that followed after that was something out of a horror movie. He could see the other people in the room yelling and screaming, moving away from their comrade who was still screaming in complete agony behind him.

"Who the hell are you? Stop it, stop it right now!" someone was yelling. Seto couldn't tear his eyes away from Yugi—no, the other Yugi. His darker, much more mysterious part. This one had darker eyes, they were scarier too, he could see. But the scary expression in them was disappearing, slowly replaced by fear that he had seen in them once before. "Stop it or we blow his brains out…"

There was a click next to his ear and he understood.

With utter difficulty, he turned his head slightly towards the source of the sound. Just as he expected, one of them stood with a gun held to his head. He turned to look at Yami, trying to convey the longing he felt burning deep within him. He hoped he understood.

He did.

Something unreadable flashed in the crimson eyes. Then, it was replaced by even more anger.

"Don't shoot him," he said, raising his hands in a placating gesture, showing the Big Five that he was surrendering himself to them. Seto almost groaned at Yami's stupidity. Of course. The self-righteous little shit, he thought angrily. Why couldn't he just continue whatever the hell he was doing so they would just shoot him in the head and put him out of his misery.

He watched in defeat as one of the large men grabbed Yami by his skinny upper arm and pulled him closer. Seto didn't tear his eyes away from him. He was trying to tell him how stupid he was. He couldn't speak for the moment and even if he could, his mind, which was previously paralyzed with the intensity of the pain, started working at full speed once more.

The gun was moved away from him. Soon, the chains on his wrists were also released.

And that was where he realized his predicament. He was crumpling to the floor like a lifeless doll. He closed his eyes and waited for the pain of the collision to come.

It never did.

Instead of the cold floor colliding with his weakened, injured form, arms slipped around his waist. His head was cradled against a shoulder and a part of a choker-clad neck. His journey towards the cold stone floor continued, but it was slowed down considerably. His knees bent beneath him and the surprisingly solid body that cradled his own broken one close, lowered him gently to the ground. Soon, he found himself propped against that wonderful, comforting, familiar warmth with one leg bent beneath him and the other dragging on the floor next to him.

He closed his eyes, his good hand rising to hold on to Yami's top in a fearful, almost childish manner. Immediately, Yami's hand rose to the back of his head, gently pulling him closer, cradling him so softly as if shielding him from what was happening. He could just imagine the glare Yami was directing at the group of men standing with them in the room, but he couldn't open his eyes yet. Another tiny sob of pain left his mouth unchecked at the feeling of safety that suddenly surrounded him. maybe if he opened his eyes…maybe they would be gone and all of this would be a terrible nightmare that thankfully passed?

It was a futile thing to wish.

There was some commotion and he opened his eyes just in time to see one of the larger men grabbing Yami by the upper arm once again, jerking him away from him with violence, leaving him unsupported and separating them. To his mortification and horror, he body couldn't hold itself up and fell once the solidity that was holding it up disappeared.

"Who the hell are you, brat?" they were asking.

Yami kept silent. Seto raised his head to watch, praying that whatever was done to him wouldn't happen to Yami. To his dismay, it was the man holding the gun who was asking the questions. Through hazy eyes, he could see him raising the gun, before lowering it down quickly, efficiently pistol-whipping Yami on the temple and throwing him to the ground.

"Seto…" they were addressing him now. He was more terrified than ever now as he watched the man grabbing a handful of Yami's hair, pulling hard to raise him up from where he fell. "You know this little shit?"

"L…Let him go…" he wanted to yell. To his mortification, it came out as a hoarse whisper, barely even heard.

"So you do know him?" he asked, eyes brightening suddenly. "Well since trying to persuade you to sign the papers didn't work the way we tried before…let's try something else, then shall we?"

Before his terrified blue eyes, he raised the gun. He wanted to slap himself for his stupidity.

"Either sign the papers, Seto…or your little heroic friend here dies right before your eyes."

He struggled to keep his head up. It was phenomenal effort that he didn't think he ever had to do any time before in his life. It was such a simple act as well, to take such effort out of him. But he wanted to meet Yami's eyes. He wanted to say he really was sorry for this. In spite of all of their differences, Seto did not wish him to get involved in this.

Yami's eyes were shadowed by the blond bangs of his hair. He did not raise his head up; maybe he couldn't, with the way it was held so brutally. It was either that or that pistol-whip left him unconscious. Either way, he couldn't continue staring at the sight before him, the gun held so close to Yami's head. Too dangerous, too real…

"What will it be, Seto…?"

He almost sobbed once again. All the efforts he spent, all the sleepless nights. All gone. But he couldn't let Yami die. Not like this. Not for him.

"I'll sign them," he whispered out in defeat.

He was going to avert his gaze from the sight before him. He couldn't keep his head up any more. There was no point. He was just about to close his eyes and lie there on the ground waiting for his fate when his eyes caught it.

At first it was a little faint. A golden light. It was coming from the strange ornament that Yugi wore everywhere, even to school. He blinked a few times, thinking that his mind finally broke, playing tricks on him, but realized that what he was seeing was no hallucination. The pyramid-like ornament was glowing and the glow was increasing dramatically with every passing moment. He also realized that Yami's eyes, previously shadowed, were now glowing as well.

He frowned in confusion.

Before he could puzzle over things any longer, he noticed that the man holding the gun was also aware of what was happening. A sharp yell of surprise, followed by a jerk of the hand holding the gun and Seto held his breath in horror, realizing that the man intended to pull the trigger and end Yami's life.

However…something wasn't right.

The cell turned very dark suddenly. The minimal light entering through the cell's bars disappeared. Everything turned very cold, very suddenly. Seto could feel himself shivering violently. He raised himself so he could properly see what was going on. The man holding the gun had a look of complete terror on his features. The hand holding the gun was moving, pointing it away from Yami.

A sickening crack was heard, followed by a loud scream of pain. The man let go of the gun and fell to his knees, holding his wrist in agony.

Soon, his screams of pain were joined by cries of terror and agony from everyone else in the room. Seto felt himself hyperventilating as he looked around him. He couldn't see what was happening. He could only hear the men who had been torturing him for the past God knows how long, screaming as if they were having the pain they inflicted upon him happen to them, only a million times worse. The darkness was now all around him, enveloping each one of his tormentors in its grasp and hiding them from his view.

Throughout it all, Yami stood unmoving in front of him. He was still as a statue, eyes glowing quite disturbingly in the dark. His hands were cradling the golden pyramid hanging from his neck, which continued glowing as brightly as Yami's eyes in the absolute shadows surrounding them. It floated above his cupped hands ominously and the eye etched on it was mirrored in the same golden light on Yami's forehead. He was completely silent yet anger emanated all around him in palpable waves that quite honestly scared Seto and he wasn't even going to deny it, his eyes fixed in morbid horror at the intimidating figure Yami presented, standing there as he was.

The screams were dying down. Seto did not know if he should be glad or alarmed at that fact. He couldn't see what was causing these men to screech the way they were currently. And although he wasn't exactly very happy with what they've done to him, his lack of knowledge of what was going on prevented him from feeling any kind of satisfaction at their pain.

Soon, one by one, their voices died down. And with the increasing quietness of the place, the darkness started fading. The cell's bars became more prominent, the light sifting through them brighter. And slowly, the bodies of the men who were standing all around them reappeared from behind the curtains of the dark. Only piled in heaps where they had been standing previously.

Seto's eyes were fixed on them in shock. He didn't notice at first Yami moving towards him. Only when a hand touched his hair gently, he flinched, jerking his head away from the touch and trying his hardest to get away in an instinctual, purely unconscious gesture of self-protection after what he just witnessed; after what he saw Yami was capable of.

Immediately, he regretted the action. He had pulled on his broken ribs, agitated his back… the pain from his broken hand joined in and flared up, as well as each and every little bruise on his body made itself known to him. Unheeded, a whimper of pain escaped him and he clenched his eyes shut against it.

"Shhhh…" the soothing sound broke through the throbbing pain and reached his ears. As if by magic, his heart rate started calming considerably. "You're safe now…"

Once again, he raised his head just as Yami sank down to his knees next to him. Slender, strong hands were on his shoulder and his upper arm, slowly and carefully helping him into a more upright position. Seto sucked in a breath in pain when Yami's fingers accidentally brushed one of the gaping-open wounds on his upper shoulder and immediately, his rival was apologizing, removing his hands from where they were apparently causing him extra pain.

"What are you doing here?" he bit out, voice rasping and throat aching. He managed to pull himself into a semi-seated position, his mind adamantly refusing to dwell on the fact that he was using Yami as support so he wouldn't topple over once again. The pain in his back was maddening… he almost missed Yami's answer.

"I thought it was a bit obvious," he was saying, allowing him to lean his head against his shoulder once more and bending forward just a bit so he could stare at Seto's back. Seto could see the tightening of his lips, the way his eyes narrowed ever-so-slightly and the deep flush that spread across his features as he hissed in anger, "I should have killed them…"

He wanted to give some kind of witty comeback. Perhaps tease Yami for the badass display. He couldn't though. He averted his eyes from Yami's face; looked away from the bleeding cut on his temple, a result of the pistol's butt colliding with it and buried his face in the black fabric of the top Yami was wearing and allowed his eyes to close, hoping that this really meant that this ordeal, too, was over.

The last thought he had before drifting off the blessed unconsciousness was the observation that the ornament Yami wore around his chest had strange patterns on it from this close angle. He made the realization that the pyramidal shaped object must have been made of many parts; a puzzle, which was now put together to form this strange artifact. He didn't know why the thought brought him the peace needed to completely let go of consciousness and embrace the darkness with calm and welcoming arms.


The police did not suspect that he was the one who crumpled all of those men to the ground. He had played innocent, saying that he arrived to find them all unconscious as they were. Only one man had been awake, hit him, but he managed to fight him off.

Yugi was grateful –and just a little angry—at the policemen's naivety. He could understand why Yami did not want to idle around waiting for them.

They were at the hospital now.

He and Seto were taken to the same place. There was a large sign with a white background with TRAUMA written on it in large bold font which was, unsurprisingly, red in color. Yugi could feel Yami's fear at the alien place and realized that his Dark feared this place more than he feared walking alone into hostile territory to save Seto.

The protectiveness and unease that rolled off him ever since the paramedics arrived at the scene made his heart clench and bled through their link. The pain from the cut on his forehead forgotten, Yami hovered nervously over their shoulders as syringes were loaded, cannulae inserted and vitals measured. He didn't understand the need for all of this and Yugi had to sternly ask him to let them do their jobs and not interfere when he wanted to just grab a dressing and start tending to the wounds that littered the older Kaiba's back.

Yugi was feeling ill at the sight. Seto had to be transported lying on his stomach as the paramedics applied temporary dressings to his back. They had ushered Yami inside the ambulance as well so they could provide first aid to his bleeding forehead. Yami stoically kept still, still watching their treatment of Seto like a hawk, obviously not trusting them or the process going on before him.

Yugi was trying to calm him down. He felt exhausted suddenly. He was trying to let the day's events sink in as well as deal with the pain that was making itself known. At the same time, he was trying to stop Yami from attacking the paramedics because he didn't trust them or what they were doing. He was also trying not to think too much of why and how Yami was so clueless about health services. He was used to his Dark enquiring about simple things that came to people so naturally. Yugi would explain everything patiently to him. But Yugi honestly didn't know what to make of his lack of knowledge of one of the most basic information in the world; that sick and injured people received care at a hospital.

He pushed all of that to the corner of his mind for now. They were sitting in the trauma room. The two doctors present were both working with Seto. They had taken him to have X-rays done and Yami paced the area while waiting for them to return. He refused to sit. Mokuba had arrived fifteen minutes ago with Sugoroku. Jonouchi, Honda and Anzu arrived five minutes later.

Anzu was sitting next to an ashen-faced Mokuba, holding his hand and trying to calm him down. Jonouchi and Honda were standing next to the wall, twin concerned looks on their face. Sugoroku was at the cafeteria, getting them all some water.

There was absolute silence surrounding them for a long while, until Anzu got up suddenly. They all looked up at her questioningly. She had a determined look in her eyes and she was staring directly at Yami.

"Yugi, come with me," she said and he stayed still for a few moments. Then, he got up, following her silently. When they were out of earshot, she muttered, "Your hands are covered in blood. Mokuba probably didn't notice yet, but that's his brother's. We need to wash it off."

Yami stared down at his hands. She was right. Yugi felt sickened. He was glad Yami was the one who was taking over his body right now because he was quite sure if their positions were switched, he would be throwing up the meager contents of stomach right now at the sight. It made him wonder what kind of strength Yami had to face what he did earlier and stare at the sight of that much blood and not react except by humming in agreement to Anzu's suggestion, getting inside the restroom while she waited for him outside.

Yami stood in front of one of the sinks silently, looking down absentminded at the porcelain edge. He kept absolutely still for many minutes. Yugi's worry increased tenfold.

"Are you alright, Yami…?" he asked timidly over their mind link. Yami stood in front of the sink, staring at it in silence. "Yami…?" Yugi tried once again. His Dark wasn't moving at all, staring in mesmerized fascination at the crusted blood on his hands. He was observing every little detail, Yugi was disturbed to see, as he made note of the blood that seeped under his fingernails. "Yami!" he called once again, this time more forceful and assertive.

To his relief Yami blinked and acknowledged him, finally. He straightened and swallowed, looking ahead into the mirror. "I am fine, Aibou…" he mumbled in low tones, flicking the water on.

Yugi knew that he was anything but. He was sure of it when Yami placed his hands under the water and the powdery, crusty brown turned red and swirled down the drain. He was watching it in fascination that implied that he really wasn't fine.

"Yami…he's alright…" Yugi said. Yami agreed via their mind link. "You've done well, Yami. Who knows what would have happened to him in there? Do you understand me? It's over now. He is going to recover and he'll be back to annoying the hell out of you again."

The corner of Yami's mouth twitched up ever-so-slightly in amusement. Yugi was glad to see that he reached for the soap, pumping several dallops of it from the dispenser on his palm and starting to wash his hands properly. When he was done, he splashed his face with water, washing some of the blood off as well. He grabbed some paper towels and dried his face and hands and reemerged from the bathroom.

Anzu smiled encouragingly at him. "C'mon…let's get that cut looked at. Kaiba is alright and they moved him to a private room. Mokuba's already with him. We can visit once we get your own cut looked at."

Yami followed her silently.

He had to get seven stitches to close the wound on his temple. He had a CT scan done first to make sure no internal bleeding was caused by the blow and that there weren't any fractures to his skull. Luckily, there wasn't any. He sat stoically in a perfect display of bravery while the doctor anesthetized the cut and started stitching it closed. Yugi offered to take his place but Yami adamantly refused, even though he was clearly terrified of what was going to happen. It was obvious to see that this was unfamiliar to him. The instruments looked too intimidating, the purpose of the procedure unknown to him. Yugi kept up a calm conversation to explain why this was done. He knew his words would help soothe the worry Yami felt and it was something he was eager to do.

With his head wrapped securely with bandages, Yami softly entered the private room where Seto had been moved. Jonouchi, Honda and Anzu had taken his grandfather home and gave Yami directions where Seto's room was. They promised to return in the morning. They had tried persuading him to go home for a couple of hours, change and return with them later in the morning, but Yami refused.

He found Mokuba seated in the chair beside the bed, face blotched with tears and face too pale. Seto was asleep on his right side. Apparently, they placed him that way to avoid disrupting his torn back. Small lines of pain marred his features even in slumber. Mokuba was holding his good hand and Yami's gaze lingered on the cast surrounding his left hand. There was an IV line attached to the back of his right one and, to Yugi's surprise –and Yami's horror—another IV line was placed at his neck.

Yami controlled himself enough not to reach up and touch it to investigate and make sure that no harm was coming to the brunet. He dragged a chair nearby and sat beside Mokuba.

"Why didn't you go home?" the kid asked, taking a deep breath, wiping his face on his sleeve and trying to pull a brave face on.

"I'll stay with both of you, it's alright," Yami replied quietly. He reached over and placed a hand on Mokuba's shoulder, squeezing it comfortingly. "I'm here with you, Mokuba. Don't worry." Mokuba's fragile strong façade crumpled and tears rolled down his cheeks again. He looked away, trying to hide his features.

Yami almost smiled in fondness at how alike Seto and Mokuba were. He averted his eyes, staring at Seto's still form while giving Mokuba time to get himself under control once more. The silence stretched for a longer while, then Mokuba broke it once he was sure he wasn't going to start crying once again.

"Did you see what they did to him?"

It was quiet. Almost a whisper.

Yami looked at him for a few moments, then looked away once again. "Not all of it."

"Are you going to tell me?"

Yami was silent for a long while. Yugi wondered how he was going to respond to that. His Dark sighed and turned to face Mokuba. He smiled tightly, an apologetic look on his face. "I am sorry, Mokuba… I believe you will have to ask your brother about it. If he wants to tell you then he will."

Mokuba looked disappointed. "He probably won't."

Yami did not comment. Yugi knew that he understood why Seto wouldn't want to share what happened with his brother. It left Yugi feeling apprehensive that Yami was keeping things from him to protect him. Like Seto was doing with Mokuba…

His mind was going in circles. He was tired but stayed awake. Mokuba's tears and worry and the fact that he was now sure his brother was safe with him once again, caused him to fall asleep in his chair.

Dawn had broken through the darkness of the sky which was still grey and covered in a thick layer of clouds that promised more rain to come. Yami got up and closed the curtains so that the light wouldn't disturb Seto or Mokuba. Then, he moved the younger boy from the uncomfortable chair to the little sofa placed against the wall of the room. He covered him with an extra blanket and returned to his seat beside Seto.

Just minutes later, the brunet started waking up.


Waking up this time was no less painful than the last few times.

He didn't want to open his eyes. He didn't want to wake up. Waking up meant they had something new to do to him. Waking up meant more pain and he was having trouble dealing with the agony rushing through every corner of his body right now.

Something was different this time, though. His bony hips did not scrape against cold stone. His head was cradled by something soft. The pain was there but it was different. It wasn't as sharp. It dulled to a maddening ache. He could feel his face scrunching up in discomfort and he tried moving only to regret it seconds later. Against his will, a pained groan escaped his mouth unchecked.

He was trying to control the pain surging through him anew when he felt someone placing a steadying hand on his shoulder. "Don't move," a soft, familiar voice commanded, forcing him to open his eyes to take a look around him to see what the hell was going on.

He almost sighed out in relief when his gaze was met by a white and grey furnished room instead of a dark stone cell. Instead, the sigh somehow became a gasp that he couldn't hold in. it was as if he had been deprived of air for a very long while and was now allowed to breathe. It was partially true, now that he thought of it and memories of cold, dark water surrounding him came rushing back. Once again, he gasped before he could exhale the air he had taken in just seconds ago. He was panicking and he didn't even know why. He tried pulling away from unknown danger, blinded by panic and fear. He cried out once more when his back protested loudly.

The familiar voice was back again, "Calm down. You're safe. It's over."

Seto's eyes shifted up towards the source of the voice. His heart, previously hammering loudly in his ears, started calming considerably when he found a pair of concerned crimson eyes staring down at him. Everything rushed back to his mind and he started calming down, succumbing to Yami's steadying hands. He looked around him, the panic lingering just a little bit. It was obvious he was in a hospital room. It really was over.

His eyes fell on the form huddled under a blanket on the sofa against the wall. Whatever traces of fear that still lingered within him completely faded as he recognized the mop of dark, unruly black hair and the striped, long-sleeved t-shirt his brother was wearing last time he saw him. he settled against the pillow, not taking his eyes off his brother, gratefulness making his chest tighten unbearably.

"Is Mokuba alright?" he couldn't help asking. His voice was rasping, almost unheard with how his scratched throat was suffering, unable to carry out its function properly. He cringed slightly at the sound.

"Yes, he is. He just fell asleep…" Yami reassured him.

At that, Seto stared up at him. his eyes fell on the bruised side of Yami's face…the bandages that surrounded his head. He frowned.

"I didn't mean for this to happen," he felt the need to explain. He wanted to apologize. He wanted Yami to understand. He didn't mean for anyone to get hurt.

"Shhhh…" the sound was so familiar. He had already associated it with safety once before. It calmed his agitation. Yami sat down in the seat next to the bed and tilted his head slightly. "Don't worry about anything right now. Just focus on getting better. Nothing else matters now."

A part of him wanted to protest at being told what to do. Some stubborn, stupid part of him. but he was still too tired and in pain to argue so he decided that maybe, just this once, he wouldn't disagree. He allowed his body to relax as much as it could into the soft mattress, half-burying his face into the pillow. He paused, though, when he felt something tugging at the skin of his neck. He raised his hand to it, touching the strange thing attached to it tentatively.

"Don't touch it," Yami admonished, grabbing his wrist and gently pulling it away.

It was obviously something important. Seto let him place his hand back on the bed. He looked at him, frowning slightly. "Does Mokuba know…?" he asked in a small voice.

"He asked," Yami answered him. "I didn't tell him anything. I told him to talk to you about it. if you want to tell him, you will."

Seto closed his eyes, the relief at Yami's maturity and good sense of judgment causing his body to relax fully. He could sleep now. Mokuba's questions would be a battle he would have to fight some other time. For now, though, he surrendered to the pull of sleep at his tired body.

"Sleep. I will not leave you both alone," Yami urged and Seto imagined a hand running through his hair.

It was a very soothing sensation and, for the first time in the past few very, very long weeks, he felt safe. He was asleep again within just a few minutes.


the end