Lyrics are from Ty Herndon's 'I Have To Surrender'
He's always so quiet, so shy, so…content with his lot in life. He isn't the smartest, like me, or the strongest, like me, or the best duelist, like…Yami. And how it pains me to admit that, but one day I will beat him.
He isn't the most handsome, like…well, half the girls in school think I'm the most handsome, but the other half are evenly divided over Yugi and Wheeler, of all people.
He is who he is, and he's happy with that. I have everything everybody supposedly wants, and yet…I'm not happy. All the money in the world, a successful business, fame…and I'm not happy. Maybe that's because I hide who I really am behind a mask; I am almost never wholly myself. Like he is.
There's something eerily attractive about a man who doesn't conform, and is willing to be true to himself despite what others might think.
Maybe I could learn something from Ryou Bakura.
Ryou looked up from his book and smiled. "Morning, Kaiba-kun," he returned pleasantly.
Seto's forehead pleated in a slight frown. He couldn't very well strike up a friendship with someone who addressed him so formally. "You don't have to call me that, you know," he said as if idly, sitting down in his customary seat by the windows. "You could call me Seto."
Ryou started. "I…well, no one except Mokuba calls you that; I thought maybe you didn't like it."
"I like being called Kaiba even less," Seto grumbled, setting up his laptop and calling up a file he'd been working on.
"But…that's your surname, isn't it?" Ryou asked, confused. "I mean, until Bakura got his own body, and started using my surname as his name, people used to call me that occasionally."
Seto thought for a moment. He'd never told anyone about this, but then he hadn't really had anyone to tell. "Kaiba was my foster father's name; I kept it because I couldn't very well run KaibaCorp without it, but it will never be my name, it will always be his." He tamped down his anger and turned away, staring out the window. He hadn't meant to get so worked up over this.
"What is your name?" Ryou asked quietly, as if sensing this was important.
"Ai," Seto said softly. It was a very…telling name, and most people wouldn't think it fit him.
But then, most people didn't know him from Adam.
"Ai," Ryou repeated, as if tasting the word and finding it sweet. "Seto Ai. What does it mean?"
"Kaiba means 'turmoil'," Seto answered, as if misunderstanding the question and then paused for a moment before adding softly, "Ai means…love."
Ryou blinked and his eyes widened. "No wonder you don't like it. Especially since your real surname fits much better. Turmoil…it's very antagonistic. Why haven't you told anyone?"
Giving Ryou a deprecating smirk, Seto asked, "As far as most of the people in Domino City are concerned, I am turmoil, and the word 'love' will never be associated with me. Besides, I don't talk to all that many people, and out of the ones I do talk to, you're the only one who's ever bothered to try and find out more about me."
Blushing, Ryou looked down at his book. "Well…isn't that what you're supposed to do with your friends? Get to know them better, I mean?"
A small, almost nonexistent smile gracing his lips, Seto said, "I think you're the only person in this whole town who would claim me as a friend."
Ryou looked startled at this pronouncement. "Well, I mean, surely…Mokuba…"
"Is my brother," Seto interjected. "No one besides him even really gives a rat's ass about me."
"Well, I do," Ryou said softly. "And…I'd be pleased if you'd consider me your friend."
"I think I'd like that," Seto said warmly.
Ryou smiled and went back to his book, leaving Seto to his thoughts.
All of my life I've fought hard for things that I have wanted;
caught up in blindly believing the strongest survive.
But here in your eyes I see everything I ever dreamed of and I am afraid.
If I rush in; if I move too fast I just might frighten my one chance away.
If there is one thing my life, which even Gozabura taught me, it's that the strong survive…and the weak don't. I don't consider my brother weak, not by any means, but I am not sure he would be alive today if I hadn't protected him.
The problem is, no one was there to protect me, and I am afraid that I am too broken to be of any use to anyone. Too broken to be loved by anyone.
But the look in his eyes when he said he wanted me to consider him a friend – he was completely and utterly sincere. And that scares me more than Yami's hate, Wheeler's anger, Yugi's pity or Bakura's studied indifference. Because I have no clue how to be friends with someone.
What if I move too fast? I've been told that I sometimes rush into things without thinking them through; and if I do that here, with Ryou's friendship, I might frighten him away.
I'm not exactly sure what I feel for him – it's more than friendship, but I don't know how to love – romantically, anyway. Ryou is the only person in my seventeen years of life who's been willing to be my friend. He is, quite possibly, my last chance to fall in love. Because, if I fuck this up, I don't think I'll have the strength to try again.
They always ended their conversations when they heard someone else coming down the hall, though. It was as if neither of them wanted the outside world to intrude upon their relationship.
Seto normally spent his lunch hour in the empty classroom so he could get some work done, but one day Ryou asked him if he wanted to eat lunch outside with him.
"It's a beautiful day, Seto," Ryou said. "And you could work just as easily there as here – I know a place no one ever goes."
"All right," Seto agreed.
And that started another new tradition. Once or twice a week, if the weather was nice and Seto didn't have a lot of work to do, he and Ryou would go outside, eat lunch, and talk.
And Seto, for once in his life, was happier than he'd ever been. Mokuba was his brother, and Seto would always love him…but sometimes you just need a friend. And for him, it was Ryou.
It's easy to be strong; I've done it for so long,
but this time I have to remember…
This time to get what I want, I have to surrender.
I think he's interested. Even before I started spending time with him, he was never as judgmental of me as the others. He's more willing to accept that I have to work a lot, and don't always have time to attend school, more willing to accept that though I may not always be a nice person, I have changed.
Our morning talks and our lunches together have been…wonderful. I've never had a real friend before, but I'm glad Ryou is mine.
I've noticed something lately, though. I find myself thinking about him when we're apart, and wanting to see him smile; I want to make him happy, to be the reason he smiles. Since I've never had a friend before I first dismissed this as just platonic thoughts, but… Every time I get near Ryou lately, I get…tingles all over my skin. And last night…I had this dream…and in it Ryou and I were kissing.
Seto sighed and thought back to the dream. Ryou's lips had felt so warm, and he'd tasted so sweet, and felt so good…
Do I really want Ryou like that? After careful consideration, I can honestly say I do…but I don't even know if Ryou feels the same way.
And even if he did, how do I start a relationship with him? I've pretty much been adlibbing my way through this friendship, and a romantic relationship has got to be more difficult to keep on track. What if I screw it up?
Seto groaned and flopped back onto his bed, scrubbing his hands across his face.
But if I don't even try, I could miss out on the best thing to ever come my way. Before, I've always been able to get what I want through hard work. But this time, to get Ryou's heart…I'll have to surrender my own.
Here I stand helplessly willing and waiting for your love.
When want became need, my heart had no choice at all.
What will you do now? It's up to you now.
It's so hard to wait but I will.
God give me wisdom; God give me strength,
and the courage to simply stand still.
Seto started out of his daydream involving his current lunch companion, himself…and very little clothes. Inwardly thanking Ra for being able to control his blush reflex, he said, "Why would you think that, Ryou?"
Ryou shrugged uncomfortably. "You've just been rather preoccupied lately, is all. Is something wrong with Mokuba? Pr your company?"
His heart warming at the thought that Ryou knew he considered his brother more important than his business, Seto said, "No, everything's fine with them. I've just…had something on my mind."
"Oh, really? Anything I can help with?" Ryou asked earnestly.
Seto had thought long and hard about how to broach this subject with Ryou and had finally hit upon a way; he knew Ryou cared deeply for his friends and would go to almost any lengths to help them out. And if acting concerned about Moto could get him the answers to his questions, well… "I've noticed…ever since the whole Egypt thing, Yugi and Yami have been…acting a little different. Is everything all right with them?"
Ryou looked confused. "I haven't noticed anything different…except…oh." He looked slightly taken aback. "Well, there is something different between them, just not…wrong."
Raising one eyebrow, Seto said, "Different but not wrong? What's different?"
Ryou blushed and lowered his eyes before flicking them back up to meet his friend's. "Ah…they're…together."
"Together," Seto said slowly, as if he didn't already know. "You mean…romantically?"
Ryou nodded vigorously, obviously relieved that he wouldn't have to spell it out. "Yes."
"Ah. I wondered." Seto fell silent then, knowing that Ryou's own worry about his reaction would leave him to ask.
"Seto? Are you…okay with it?" Ryou asked hesitantly.
Right on cue, Seto thought fondly. "I'm fine with it. Why wouldn't I be? Just…it does make me wonder…"
Ryou's eyebrows knit together. "Wonder what?"
Casting an apologetic glance at Ryou, Seto said, "Whether or not all yamis end up with their hikaris."
Flushing slightly as Seto's implication became clear, Ryou said, "Ah…no. Bakura is a bit different from Yugi's yami."
"He doesn't hurt you, does he?" Seto asked worriedly. This had been picking at his brain for some time, but since he'd never seen any real evidence of it, he'd not asked.
Ryou shook his head and Seto breathed a silent sigh of relief. "No, it's just…we may be light and dark, and we are connected, but we don't really share a soul – just the ring. Besides, Bakura has something going with Malik."
Seto nodded and tried not to shiver at the thought of those two doing anything together, let alone having sex. It was enough to give a man nightmares. "Is it just that you didn't click with Bakura or…"
Ryou grinned slightly. "Trying to find out if I'm gay, Seto?" he asked teasingly.
Apparently not as subtly as I thought, the CEO mentally confirmed. "Well, it does seem to be a prevailing trend as of late," he pointed out.
Ryou flopped back on the grass and let out a gusty sigh. "I don't really know what I am," he said finally. "I don't really know all that many people well enough to be attracted to them…and I don't think I'd really rule anyone out just because of their gender…so I guess, for the moment, I'm bi-curious."
Well, at least he's not against the idea, Seto thought optimistically.
"What about you?" Ryou asked, snapping Seto from his thoughts.
The truth, or something vague? Hmmm… "Well, I'm pretty much in the same boat," Seto said softly. Looking at Ryou from the corner of his eye, he said, "You are aware that you're the only person I know well enough to even be considered a friend, right?"
Ryou blushed slightly. "Ano…I wondered."
Seto chuckled quietly and nodded. "Yeah, so…I guess I'm bi-curious, too. Not that a chance to find out one way or the other will present itself any time in the near future," he said cynically.
"Yeah, same here," Ryou said sheepishly, then a look came into his eyes, one Seto knew well. It was the look Ryou got whenever he was about to say something extremely funny. "Well…we could always try dating each other," he teased, before bursting out into giggles.
Seto's laughter was strained, and not nearly as intense as his friend's; that was all he wanted at this moment in time – a chance to be Ryou's koibito, his lover. His disappointment caused him to be rather reckless with his next words. "Well, some people would say we already are."
Ryou's laughter broke off rather abruptly and looked at Seto with shock. "What?"
Maybe he'd made a mistake saying that, but he wasn't going to back off now. "Well, we've pretty much kept our friendship from your friends, and we spend a lot of time alone together. No one knows we know each other, so to an outside observer it might look like we're carrying on a secret affair."
Ryou slumped back against the tree and appeared to give that some thought. "I…you have a point. But…does that mean that we've been dating without even realizing it?" He appeared completely befuddled. Seto thought it was cute.
"I think we could only have been dating if we found each other attractive," Seto pointed out. And I do find you attractive – but I don't know if you feel the same way.
Ryou gave him a measuring look, seeming to see straight into his soul, before saying hesitantly, "Seto…do you…I mean, do you find me attractive? Is that what that whole conversation was about?"
Inwardly, Seto sighed, while outwardly his face was a passive mask. I should've known that he'd figure it out. He's almost as smart as I am, after all. "It's been on my mind lately," he said truthfully. "Mokuba was the one who brought it to my attention – he said that I was spending so much time with you it was as though I was in love. He was joking, but it made me think."
At that moment the bell rang, signaling the end of lunch. They both started and then quickly gathered their belongings together, both knowing that this conversation wasn't quite over.
The next two weeks went by pretty much the same as the last few months had. They talked in the mornings and occasionally ate lunch together. But Seto could sense Ryou's gaze on him at other times, watching him as if he were wondering the answer to a question only Seto had the answer to.
Seto, for his part, wondered if Ryou had figured out his little ploy. If Ryou did realize that Seto had feelings for him, he would most likely be trying to figure out how he felt about it. Ryou was a very methodical person; he wouldn't approach Seto about his feelings until he knew his own.
By Tuesday of the second week Seto was pretty much certain that that was what Ryou was doing; they had gym class together and Seto had caught Ryou watching him in the showers, before blushing hotly and turning away. He probably would have fainted if he knew that Seto had seen him.
So, now that Ryou knew, it was up to him to bring it up. And hopefully Ryou would have decided that he returned Seto's feelings.
All Seto could do was wait. Wait to find out whether or not his love was returned.
I have never felt so helpless in my entire life, Seto thought anxiously. Ryou had left a note in his locker, asking to meet him at their lunch spot after school. Seto knew that Ryou had made his decision – but what had he decided?
Right now Seto was waiting by the tree they normally ate under, pacing back and forth. Seeing Ryou in the distance, he forced himself to stop and stand still. Silently, he prayed to Ra to give him the courage to find out what Ryou was going to say.
Ryou came to a stop a few feet from him and said, "Thanks for meeting me here. I – I've been thinking about our conversation a few weeks ago – you remember the one?"
At least he's not insulting my intelligence by acting as if I'd deny remembering. "Yes, I do," Seto returned, not giving anything away. He'd already pretty much put his heart on the line; the next move was Ryou's.
Ryou looked apprehensive, but that didn't stop him from asking, "Did you…want to try? Dating, I mean? I'd…never really thought about it before, but ever since it came up, I've been doing some thinking, and…I like you, Seto. I think, if you're willing to try, we could be more than friends."
A great weight seemed to lift from Seto's shoulders and he gave a small, but genuine smile. "I'd like that, Ryou. I really would."
Ryou broke out in a grin of his own and they just stood there, smiling goofily at each other for several minutes before Ryou lowered his eyes and said, "Okay. Um…how does this work, exactly?"
"How does what work?"
Ryou blushed. "Dating. I mean…we've pretty much agreed that's what we've been doing so far, but…"
"Well, maybe we could spend time together away from school," Seto suggested. "I mean, maybe go to a movie, or you could come over for dinner some night."
"That sounds nice," Ryou agreed. His hands were clenched together, climbing over each other like a pair of anxious kittens. "Ano…are we going to tell your brother? It'd be kinda hard to hide our relationship from him if I'm going to be coming over on a regular basis," he pointed out.
"Yeah, we probably should. Why don't you come home with me tonight, and we can tell him after we eat? I normally fix dinner for the both of us and it would be no problem to make extra," Seto offered. He wasn't worried about what Mokuba would think – he hadn't been lying when he'd told Ryou that his younger brother had encouraged his feelings for him.
"All right, sounds good," Ryou acquiesced, and they headed for the parking lot and Seto's car.
The dinner went extremely well; Mokuba was very happy for his brother, and immediately accepted Ryou as part of their unconventional little family.
The next few weeks both Seto and Ryou were slightly tense as they felt each other out and tested the bonds of their relationship. Neither had any idea of how a romantic relationship was supposed to go, so they decided to take things slow and talk to each other whenever they felt there was a problem.
Funnily enough, there weren't any, really. They still had their morning talks, though they ate lunch together more often than not. Ryou came over for dinner at least twice a week, and he and Seto hung out around the mansion, occasionally doing stuff with Mokuba.
Yugi and the others never noticed how much time Ryou and Seto spent together – which was, all things considered, a good thing. Neither of them really wanted to explain their relationship to outsiders; it was very complicated.
Especially since, after spending a month officially 'dating' they hadn't even kissed yet.
It's easy to be strong; I've done it for so long,
but this time I have to remember…
This time to get what I want, I have to surrender.
It's so hard, harder than I thought it would be. I've spent the past twelve years taking care of Mokuba, and caring about only him. It's hard now, to try and care about somebody else.
No, wait – that's not quite it; it's not hard to care for Ryou, it's hard to express it. I want to kiss him. I'm been literally dreaming about kissing him, the kind of dreams that have me waking up the middle of the night, flushed and panting…and achingly aroused.
But it's so hard to let down my guard; every time he gets close to me I just want to pull him closer, but I end up pushing him away. I know he's starting to worry about it; I've been strong for so long, letting myself relax is almost anathema. I wish I could just let myself enjoy his presence without letting worries intrude on our time together…
There's a wall between us, of my own making, but it's keeping us apart, when all I want is for us to be together. Those walls have kept me safe for so long… But if I want things to work out with Ryou – and I do – then I have to surrender, and tear down the last barrier between us.
Here I am; take me. Somehow you save me
from a lifetime of not being all love could make me.
Opening the door, Seto smiled as he saw his anticipated guest waiting for him. "Hey, Ryou, come on in," he said.
It had been raining all day, and though the precipitation had slacked off, Ryou was still a little damp. He smiled back and stepped inside, brushing droplets of water off his jacket. "Hey, Seto. Got anything planned for tonight or do you want to just hang out and study?"
Now or never. Seto took a deep breath and said hesitantly, "Actually, there's something I needed to talk to you about. Come with me to my room?"
A little surprised, Ryou nodded. "Sure. If you need to talk, I'm always here."
I know, Seto thought warmly as he led the way down the hall. "Thanks, Ry."
When they were both settled on Seto's king-sized bed, Ryou asked, "What did you need to talk to me about?"
Seto looked down at the bedspread, seemingly very interested in studying the pattern. "I…we've been 'dating' for about a month, now right?"
Ryou nodded, his brow furrowing. "Yes, I suppose so."
"And I know that aside from location and the amount of time we spend together, our relationship hasn't really changed. And…it's partly my fault; I keep holding you at arm's length," Seto said honestly.
Ryou sighed and locked eyes with his boyfriend. "I've noticed…that you don't seem to be very comfortable, the closer I get to you. I wouldn't say that you've pushed me away, you've just kept me from getting any closer. I was wondering about that, but…I wasn't sure I wasn't just making a mountain out of a molehill."
Seto grinned wryly. "You weren't, Ry. There is a reason…I just…I've never told anyone. I never wanted to tell anyone, and I don't really want to tell you, but…I need to."
A concerned look entering his eyes, Ryou asked, "Seto? Are you okay? I mean, whatever it is, I want to help…"
And Seto knew Ryou did want to help. That was just the way he was. "It's just…hard to talk about it."
"You take as long as you need; I'll be listening," Ryou assured him.
Nodding, Seto broached the subject hesitantly. "You knew Mokuba and I were adopted, right?"
Ryou nodded. "Hai, I'd heard something like that."
"Gozabura Kaiba was…not a nice man," Seto said softly.
"I get the feeling that's an understatement," Ryou said, his gentle voice belying the hardness in his eyes.
Seto nodded. "It is. I…before my parents died, and even after, when Mokuba and I were in the orphanage…I was different then; more open, nicer…happier. But after only a few months with Gozabura…all that changed."
"Changed?" Ryou prompted after Seto remained silent for a few minutes.
His eyes going hazy as he remembered, Seto revealed, "I could never let on how much I cared about Mokuba. As long as my brother was never brought to his attention, Gozabura left him alone; so I could only show Mokuba I cared when I was sure Gozabura wasn't watching – which wasn't often. By the time the bastard died, I was used to never expressing my emotions, and never letting anyone close."
"But Mokuba…" Ryou asked.
"It was…hard…to let Mokuba in after that, but I managed," Seto said haltingly. "I just…never learned how to do it with anyone else." His eyes snapped back into focus and he turned away. Baring his soul had been hard, but he had yet more to reveal. And he couldn't bear to look into Ryou's eyes as he waited for the other boy to either accept him…or reject him. "And now…I want to let you close, but aside from Mokuba, anyone who's ever tried to touch me, has hurt me. And I'm…afraid," he ended on a whisper.
"Seto," Ryou murmured, his voice edged with compassion. He inched closer to his boyfriend and gently pulled him into a hug, not letting up even when Seto stiffened. After a few moments, Seto consciously made an effort to relax into the embrace, and just enjoyed being held. It was…nice. Nice as not much in his life, aside from his brother, had been.
Seto sighed and cuddled closer to Ryou, breathing in the scent of his shampoo – apples and cinnamon. He'd longed to be this close to the other boy for so long, but fear kept him from giving in.
They rested there for a few long moments, just breathing together and enjoying the longed-for closeness. Ryou was the one who finally broke the silence.
"Seto," he whispered. "I know it's hard…to change, to grow. But…while I'm not sure I'm in love with you, I know that you are one of my dearest friends, and do I love you. No matter what happens, I'll be here for you, to show you how to love, how to open up. I'll help you learn how to express all those feelings that I can sense bubbling beneath the surface. Just…promise me that you'll let me help, all right?"
Pulling back slightly so he could look into his boyfriend's eyes, Seto vowed, "I promise, Ryou," before bringing their lips together in a hesitant, almost chaste kiss.
It's easy to be strong; I've done it for so long,
but this time I have to remember…
This time to get what I want…
this time I have to be tender.
This time to get what I need…
I have to surrender.
A shaft of sunlight pierced the fog of sleep, and Seto blinked owlishly as his eyes became adjusted to the change in illumination. A weight was on his chest, and looking down, he saw Ryou curled up against him, making soft snuffling sounds in his sleep.
It all came back to him then: his confession, Ryou's promise to help, and the subsequent kiss. They'd ended up just lying there on his bed, watching the flames flicker in the fireplace for long hours, and must have fallen asleep. Seto couldn't help but notice that Ryou fit perfectly in his arms.
Craning his neck to the side, Seto saw that the clock read 6:14. They had a little while before they had to get ready for school, so he would just let his koi sleep.
When the clock said 6:38, and the sun was shining brightly, Ryou began to stir. He gave a soft moan and his eyelashes fluttered, before revealing sleepy brown eyes. He appeared disoriented at first, but once he saw Seto, his gaze cleared. Noticing their positions, he blushed and smiled slightly.
"Morning," he murmured, carefully shifting off of his boyfriend.
"Good morning, Ry," Seto returned, rising to sit next to him.
"We fell asleep last night?" Ryou guessed, rubbing the back of his head in embarrassment.
"Mm-hm," Seto confirmed. "Would you like to stay for breakfast? We have almost an hour before we need to leave for school. We could swing by your house on the way so you could change into your uniform, if you want."
"That would be nice." Ryou smiled.
A little over an hour later, Seto pulled into the school parking lot. He parked the car, and removed the key from the ignition before getting out. Ryou joined him and they walked towards the school together.
"I'm really glad Bakura spent the night at Malik's last night," Ryou said. "Otherwise he would've been there this morning, and he would've asked questions."
"You don't want to tell him about us?" Seto asked, trying to keep the hurt out of his voice.
But apparently he wasn't all that successful, because Ryou shot him a soothing look. "Of course I do, I just thought you wanted to keep things quiet, and I'm not as good at misdirection as you are. Bakura always knows when I'm lying."
They fell silent for a moment as Seto tried to shape his thoughts into some semblance of order. "If…if I stopped wanting to keep things quiet…would that make you happy?" he asked quietly.
Ryou stopped walking and turned to face his boyfriend. He just looked at Seto for a moment, studying him, before finally saying, "Seto, I don't want to push you. I'm fine with not telling anyone. I would be fine with telling everyone. But if you did it only to make me happy, then neither of us would be happy." Stepping into Seto's arms, he said, blushing, "I…I love you, and I don't want you to ever do anything you don't want to do just to make me happy. All right?"
Stunned from hearing Ryou say those words – to him – Seto still managed to pull himself together enough to nod jerkily. "I understand. And Ryou…"
Ryou waited patiently as Seto trailed off. "Yes, Seto?"
"I… I…" Sighing, Seto finally gave up on words and tried action. Cupping the back of Ryou's head, he brought the other boy towards him for a kiss.
It was sweet, and short, but no less heartfelt for all that. When they pulled apart, they just looked at each other for long moments, until a shocked voice broke them out of their reverie.
"Oh…my…God!" Joey squeaked. He, Yugi, Yami, Téa and Tristan were standing a few yards away, staring at them in astonishment.
Seto sighed and looked down at Ryou. "I guess the secret's out," he said, stating the obvious, but not entirely displeased. He knew the others wouldn't broadcast their relationship to the general public, and it would be nice not to have to hide. Ryou was the best thing that had ever happened to him, and he wanted people to know that…even if those people did get on his very last nerve ninety-nine percent of the time.
In his worry, Ryou didn't notice that Seto wasn't overly upset over this turn of events. "Are you going to be okay with this, Seto?" he whispered anxiously.
Giving his love a reassuring smile, Seto said softly, "I can do anything as long as I have you."
And as the horde of teenagers descended on them, babbling out questions, he thought wryly, Even answer Joey Wheeler's questions about my love life.
After all, even though he couldn't say it yet, Ryou was now right up there with Mokuba as one of the only people Seto Kaiba loved.