Twilight of a Friend
Notes: The characters are not mine and the story is! This takes place deeply in my post-canon Pendulum Swings verse. Seto and Téa are very close by this point, although they aren't actually in a romantic relationship (yet). This is written for Azure Week 2021, using the prompt In the Land of the Twilight. It's meant to be a missing scene from my crossover fic And in the Darkness Bind Them. It is not necessary to know about YGO 5Ds to read this story, if one can accept that the Classic characters know and have made friends with many 5Ds characters. Any unfamiliar names are 5Ds characters.
It was all too quiet in the cold castle room. It wasn't supposed to feel like a castle room; the fire was roaring and flames were dancing across the floor and walls. But the chill of the stones permeated every attempt to make the space more palatable. In one way, maybe she preferred that. To feel warm seemed almost wrong in light of what had happened.
She had broke down sobbing on Seto's shoulder when she had seen their savior fall from the castle ledge, sacrificing himself to end their enemy's attempt to kill all of them with carefully placed Blast Spheres. The only way to turn them off was to defeat the man in a duel, so the hapless biker had done what he had to do and broke the spell by dragging the sadistic duelist into the ocean with him.
She had held out hope until his body had washed ashore some time later. Now his best friend, agonized with grief, had locked himself somewhere in one of the castle's many rooms with the body. Some of his closest friends and Yugi and Solomon were still looking for him.
Others were struggling with their own grief. Joey and Tristan were off somewhere, still feeling badly that they had distrusted their friend due to lies and half-truths told by the enemy. They had not had the chance to repair the damage, nor had they even known for sure that they wanted to, until it had been too late. Bakura was silently sorrowful in the corner, holding his cat Oreo for comfort. Mokuba was with the twins and Crow at the moment, but he would come for his brother soon, no doubt.
"No friendship speeches tonight?"
She looked up at Seto's voice. He was standing nearby, somewhat awkwardly running his hand over his injured arm—clawed by a mind-controlled lion Duel Monster. But as soon as he consciously realized his actions, he stopped.
She didn't even have the strength for a weak smile or a clipped retort. She just shook her head. "For once, I don't even know what to say," she said. "All the things I usually say when friends have to go away—that they're still in our hearts and our memories and love will always bring them back—it all just sounds so wrong right now!" She blinked back tears, but they only came back. "Poor Radley. . . . Poor Kalin. . . . Kalin was just feeling better about himself, finally, and he was so happy. . . . And Radley didn't want to die! There should have been another way out of this mess!"
"Radley did the only thing he could do to save us." Seto spoke flatly, matter-of-factly. He had put an arm around her when she had cried and had glared off into the distance. She hadn't seen the actual sadness come into his eyes. He certainly sounded like his usual self now, unmoved by the plight of another.
She clenched her fists at her sides. "Why was it the only thing?!" she spat. "I know Lawton gave us a fifteen-minute window, but there should have been something else we could have done during that time!"
"We were all trying," Seto reminded her. "He forced us to all split up with his magical barriers. Radley was the only one who got to him in time."
"It shouldn't have been that way." The tears were falling again now, splashing on her dark blue skirt. Her shoulders were shaking, wracked with her sobs. She once never would have thought of crying in front of Seto Kaiba. They had been through so much over the past couple of years and had started to grow so close that she had realized her life's dreams had changed. She no longer wanted to go away to New York to study dance, at least not now. She preferred the thought of taking local classes from a former Broadway star. It wouldn't be the same, but it would allow her to work on her ballet dreams and stay with her loved ones at the same time. Tonight, that felt more important than ever. She never wanted to let them go.
"No, it shouldn't be that way," Seto growled. "But that's what life mostly is—a bunch of things that shouldn't be that way. All we can do is refuse to be dragged down by it and fight tooth and nail to keep our heads above water until we can get our footing and really rise above it."
". . . That almost sounds hopeful," she noted.
"You're hopeful in your way, I'm hopeful in mine," Seto replied.
". . . Do you see any hope in this situation?" she finally asked.
"For most of us, yes. Radley died that all of us would live. The irony is that he wanted to save Kalin most of all, but his death has finished off Kalin too." Seto looked away. "I see it in his eyes—that emptiness of soul. That's how I felt without Mokuba. That's how he would feel without me. We can't make it without each other."
A cold chill went up her back. ". . . Do you think Kalin will . . . ?!"
"I think he'll try to go on because he knows that's what Radley wanted. But he'll be a shell of a man now. There won't be any healing from this."
That brought the tears again. "No. . . ."
"Is there anyone you feel that deeply about? Can you understand his feelings?"
It was a surprise to hear such questions from Seto. And yet, perhaps it really wasn't. They were always challenging each other with their different viewpoints. She frowned as she pondered.
". . . To lose anyone I love will leave a hole I can't fix," she said at last. "I always thought I could carry them in my heart and it would be okay. But . . . it isn't. It really isn't." She started to get up from the couch. "I didn't even know Radley well, compared to Yugi and Joey and Tristan." And you. "But I feel like I've been seriously gut-punched anyway. He died for me, for us! I can't imagine how I'd feel to lose any of my closest friends . . . or how I'd go on from it."
Seto looked at her. "I don't think you could. All your little preaching about carrying on with them in your heart is meaningless when it comes right down to it. It doesn't replace the actual person."
"No, it doesn't," she said softly. "You're right; it's stupid to say things like that. Whoever came up with it must have not really lost someone. Or losing them didn't mean much." She sighed heavily. "But . . . of course the lost ones want their loved ones to go on . . . to try to find happiness again. . . ."
Seto gave a cool nod. "Mokuba's and my parents were like that."
She bit her lip. Of course Seto meant their real parents. He only rarely mentioned them, if at all, and never voluntarily. ". . . Do their deaths still hurt you?" she asked.
"Yes." A quiet, simple answer, and yet it said so much.
"I'm sorry," she said softly.
Seto didn't meet her eyes. "I tell myself that had they not died, Mokuba and I wouldn't have ended up in a situation where we could actually rise to power. I tell myself it had to be that way. Sometimes I believe it."
". . . And other times?" she prompted.
". . . Sometimes I don't."
She walked over to Seto, standing in the shadows, and reached to put her arms around him. He slowly drew her close with his good arm and they stood there, looking out at the stillness of the night.
There was no true comfort from a loved one's death. But sharing the grief was better than going it alone.