I don't want you to like Yutou. That was never my aim. I'm not condoning any of his actions; they were wrong, certainly. I simply want you to understand him, to understand that people aren't inherently evil, that something happens to make them the way they are. Everyone's a product of their past, like it or not.
All Seto could hear was Jou's ecstatic babbling and someone chanting what sounded like a slurred "hikari" over and over again while questioning hands roamed his face and shoulders like the hands of a child, or of a blind man. And he was laughing, smiling like he never had before, because all of a sudden he could feel, and he realized just what he would have been giving up if he'd…if he'd stayed the way he was.
It was hard to believe, here in this room, surrounded by his friends, people he loved, that he would have ever wanted that. To never feel again, to be dead to the world. Would it have been worth it? He shuddered as he clamped a hand over the ugly scar below his navel. Jou, in either an act of extreme insensitivity or incredible intuition, pulled his hand away and kissed the palm, tracing spirals on the inside of Seto's slender wrist.
"Karikarikariiii…" Soft lips on his throat, nuzzling under his chin like a kitten, and Seto was staring down at hair he'd never seen before. "Kari…" It was pretty, a striking, almost unnatural auburn colour, and soft when Seto rested a hand on the top of the head. And when the face titled up to his, he couldn't stifle his cry.
"The hell?" He shoved the thing off him and scrambled back, away from the tangle of arms and legs that struggled to sort itself into his friends. "What the fuck is that thing, and why dos it have my face?"
'That thing' blinked sadly at him and reached for him, but despite its best efforts, didn't seem to be able to hold onto him. It gave a low, keening cry and tried again, but its elbows buckled beneath it and it collapsed face-first on the bed, yelping in surprise. Yami slid his hands under its arms and pulled it upright, brushing reddish hair out of blank china-blue eyes. "This is Seth," Yami said quietly, stroking its hair until it nuzzled at Yami's throat, like a child in desperate need of attention.
"Why's he—what's wrong wit' 'im?" Jou asked, still clenching Seto's hand in his own. "He wasn' like that before, what happened?"
"We all went through this," Marik said with a sympathetic glance at the former high priest. "He's completely unused to the motor skills in his new body. He can't see anything, and he can't control his movements very well, but he should be okay in about a week."
"So what, we treat him like an oversized kitten for a week?" Yami flushed and pried Seth away from where he was blindly fumbling at Yami's shirt.
"I don't see that you have much choice."
"Hey, I think he's dead."
"Don't be stupid, he's breathing, isn't he?" A sharp voice, a woman's voice, and it made Yutou wince, driving straight into the heart of his headache. He groaned, reaching one hand up to shield his eyes from the harsh florescent lights of the hallway and wondered dimly how he'd gotten here.
"Wha..." His tongue was thick in his mouth and he blinked dazedly at the figures around him, watching as they slid in and out of focus. There was quite a lot of golden hair and large purple eyes staring straight at him.
"Are you alright?" He shook his head and blinked again, squinting into the lights. "We're getting you to a hospital."
"No," he whispered, hauling himself upright and supporting himself on shaking elbows. "Fuck you, no."
"Excuse me?" It was a woman, an extremely pretty blonde with a body any girl would have envied and the clothes to show it off. She looked vaguely familiar, although with his mind half-fuzzed out, he couldn't quite remember where he'd met her.
"Leave me here," he croaked. "Please, leave me here."
She scowled at him. "Do you want to die? 'Cause after losing this much blood, you're going to if I don't get you help."
"Well, that settles it." She pulled a cell phone out of her pocket and stabbed in the emergency number. "Sorry, not today."
The spiky-haired man next to her gave him a pitying glance. "Hey, Mai, maybe we should listen to him. I mean, he's probably got a good reason–"
"Don't give me any of your bleeding-heart psychotherapy shit. I'm so glad you didn't become a psychologist. He needs help and he's getting it, Varon. This isn't open for discussion."
With all the energy left in his body, he reached out and grabbed hold of her ankle. "Please don't...I don't want help..."
"Too late. Yes, I need an ambulance–"
Otogi snagged the phone before it could wake Mokuba up. The younger Kaiba was curled up like a cat on his lap, fast asleep–it had been a rough day for all of them, and Otogi was fairly certain he was the only one awake. 'Course, it was almost seven in the morning...he would never be able to sleep, not with the sunlight streaming through the curtains.
They were all in Seto's room still, dozing on his over-large bed and on the couches, in chairs and on the floor. No one wanted to be separated, not tonight, not after everything that had happened. Otogi could understand that–it was almost as if it were too good to be true, everything was finally over...
"Hello?" he whispered and the boy in his lap gave a displeased moan and snuggled deeper into his stomach.
"Otogi? What're you doing at Kaiba's house?"
"I was sleeping. What're you doing calling Kaiba's house?"
"I ran into someone in my apartment building today. Tripped over him, actually, and he was pretty badly beaten up. I got him to the hospital, and the only thing I could get out of him was Kaiba's name."
A cold dread settled into Otogi's stomach. Damn it.
"Did you get his name?"
"No," Mai said. "He's pretty messed up though, his face is all slashed and–" Otogi could hear her shudder. "It's bad, Otogi. I couldn't just leave him there."
He scrubbed a frustrated hand through his hair. "I know," he said. "I know you couldn't, but...damn, Mai, Seto doesn't need this right now."
"Too bad," she said with an edge to her voice that Otogi was all too used to. "This guy needs him." And then she hung up, leaving Otogi with a buzzing phone and a pounding headache.
"Time to rouse the troops," he muttered to himself as he shook Mokuba's shoulder. "Hey, wake up. We've gotta get to the hospital."
The first thing Yutou noticed was that he was alive.
Despite his best efforts, here he was, breathing and staring up at a florescent light that was too damn bright for its own good. His entire body ached, his head felt as if it was being crushed, and he was tied down.
There was a moment of panic as the helplessness roiled through him and he cringed against the memories, but they passed as quickly as they had come, almost as if they were bored with tormenting him after so long playing with his sanity. He was grateful, he supposed, as he struggled to keep a rein on his breathing.
No, he thought, checking his wrists and ankles. Not tied, strapped, because this was a hospital, and they couldn't make anything easy for him. Rope he could have gotten out of, but not these fucking buckles. He wriggled a little, only succeeding in sending lances of white-hot pain into every nerve ending.
He was stitched and bandaged all over–his face was a mass of band-aids and gauze pads, and from what he could see, the more severe wounds on his torso had been closed, turning his body into a Frankenstein-like tapestry of sutures. Had he been able to move, he would have ripped them all out–he deserved the pain.
He eyed the slumped figure in the plastic chair next to his bed. He'd never seen him before, hadn't even noticed he was here until he gave a loud snort and flopped his head to the other side. Who was he? Yutou furrowed his brow and tried to remember if he'd ever seen the man before, but the face didn't look familiar, and he doubted he could have forgotten that hair.
Okay. Calm. There had to be a good reason he was strapped to a bed with a strange man in the room. There had to be, right? Because if...if someone was planning...well, they wouldn't have bandaged him up, right? So that meant everything was going to be okay.
If only he could move!
The door opened then and his head snapped around, every muscle tense. Of course, there wasn't much he could actually do, seeing as he wasn't really able to even sit up, let alone run or defend himself. But he breathed a little easier when the figure stepped into the room and he realized it was a woman.
Women always went easy on him. For most, violence just wasn't in their nature–all they saw in him was a lost, scared little boy, not something to abuse. And yeah, he was being stereotypical, but he didn't care–he could count the number of women he'd had that actually hurt him on one hand, and when compared to the men...well, it was a shame he wasn't straight.
She was pretty, even he could tell that. It was easier to see now, with nothing obscuring his vision. She had a sweet, kind face, and although her eyes were sharp, there was a spark of something in them that made him relax and drop his head back down to the pillow. Something like kindness, pity maybe, and while that normally would have made his pride prickle, it wasn't a condescending sort of pity. Long golden hair was pulled back into a ponytail, and she'd changed out of the outfit he remembered from earlier into jeans and a soft grey T-shirt. She smiled in response to his questioning look.
"You got blood all over my other clothes."
He looked away. Worse and worse–he just kept on being an inconvenience, didn't he? Why the hell had she saved him? She obviously didn't know who he was. If she had, she'd have saved him the trouble and killed him herself.
She should have.
"I'm sorry," he muttered.
"For what? You couldn't help bleeding."
"For making you come all the way out to the hospital."
"You were dying." She gave him a bewildered look and sat down on the foot of his bed. "It's not a problem, really." She held out a slim, manicured hand. "I'm Kujaku Mai." And then she realized he couldn't shake, looked startled and withdrew it quickly.
He didn't really want to look at her. He hadn't wanted anyone to see him like this, why had he staggered out into that damn hallway in the first place? He couldn't remember, everything had been all fuzzed out with pain and blood and that awful noise banging around in his head and telling him to let go.
"Why did you do this?" Her fingers were on his arm and he bit his lip. It hurt, but he had no right to complain. How many times had he watched Seto sitting gingerly in his chair, wincing as he tried not to jostle the bruises Yutou had given him? How many times had the boy worn long sleeves in summer, to hide the marks? Too many times, too many times for a child to have to pretend everything was okay. It wasn't fair. Why was he alive?
"I deserved it," he said simply.
"No one deserves death."
He met her eyes then, and his hazel orbs were so cold, so dead, that she almost believed for a second that maybe she'd done him a disservice by saving him. "I do," was all he said.
"What have you done that's so terrible?"
He laughed, and it wasn't a happy laugh by any means. It made her skin crawl, all cynical and self-depraving and twisted. "I raped the person I love."
Ooh, there it was.
He'd never said it out loud before, had he? Never even let himself think it–he didn't know how to love. Just look at Shoji, the poor man, he'd given his heart to Yutou, only to have it broken and thrown back at him. But he did, in his own sick, twisted way, care for Seto. Love, he wasn't really sure–the kid meant a lot to him, but...
Fury and then disgust passed over her face, but she was right. He was sick, he was disgusting. Look at what he'd done!
"Oh, and this is the best part–he was only fourteen when I did it." He laughed again and turned his head to the side so he didn't have to see her face and she didn't have to see his. "So why the hell did you save me?"
"After that," she said stiffly, "I think you deserve to live. It's the most fitting punishment I can think of."
"What?" That took him by surprise. Life, a punishment?
But it kind of made sense, didn't it? After making Seto live with so much pain and so many terrible memories, didn't Yutou deserve to have to live with his? Yeah, maybe she was right–he should have to deal with the nightmares and the panic attacks and the waking up at three in the morning crying for no reason. He deserved every moment of anxiety, every fear, and the knowledge that he was always, always going to be alone, because seriously, who could love something like him? Who could even stand to be around him once they knew what he'd done?
"It was Seto, wasn't it? You're Yutou? The one they were talking about on the news?"
His heart dropped into his stomach and he flinched. "Yes."
She slapped him, hard, and he cringed, trying to burrow back into his pillows as self-defense. No, no this wasn't right! Women were nice, soft, kind...his mother...oh God, how had she survived what he put her through...? Women were so fragile, his mother had been so fragile, she'd needed him to protect her, but he'd been so small...and then she'd left him, left him because he couldn't take care of her...he didn't want a woman angry at him!
"I'm sorry!" he burst out, and she stopped, because he obviously was. Tears poured down his face, he grabbed desperately at her sleeve, barely managing to catch the edge of it in his bound grasp. "I'm so sorry! I didn't want to hurt him, I never meant to!" She tried to pull away but he was adamant in his apologies, holding on for all he was worth. In the chair behind her, Varon jerked awake.
"Nice of you to join us," Mai snapped.
"What's wrong with him?"
"This," she said with a pointed glance at her boyfriend, "is Yutou."
Varon blinked a few times, uncomprehending, and then somewhere in his sleepy mind the neurons connected and he did a double take. "Shit! That Yutou? The one that ra–" Mai clapped a hand over Varon's mouth.
"Yes. That Yutou."
Varon examined the pitiful creature in the bed again. "Shit," was all he could think to say.
"Can you give us a few minutes alone?"
Ths door clicked and Seto half-turned to face Jonouchi. "I'm sorry to put you through all of this." His pale hand reached hesitantly for Jou's and he squeezed it gently. "I wouldn't blame you if you left, you know. This is like a bad soap opera."
"Except worse, 'cause it's your life." Jou squeezed back and slid soft fingers under Seto's chin, forcing him to turn around and meet those amber eyes. "I'm not going to leave you." His voice broke and Seto was startled to see the tears streaking Jou's cheeks, because he was still smiling, that sad, understanding smile he'd been wearing so often around him. The next second Jou was in his arms, clinging to his neck and kissing every bit of exposed skin. "I was so worried about you, koi..."
"Sorry," Seto said automatically.
"Stop doin' that. I don't want you t' apologize for nothin'. I love you, that's all. I love you so freakin' much, I was worried I'd never get to see you again."
"He didn't hurt you, did he?" Typical Seto–just snapped out of a self-induced coma, and he was concerned for Jonouchi. They'd filled him in, of course, and he hadn't gasped in horror, even made any indication that he'd heard what had been said, but Jou had seen the tightening of his jaw, the furious glint of icy steel in his eyes and known that this was something else to keep Seto up late at night, something else for him to blame himself for. "Tell me he didn't...rape you."
The last two words were whispered, shameful, as if saying them too loud might make them come true. Jou shook his head quickly and a relief washed over Seto's face. "Thank God," he whispered, burying his face in Jou's hair, inhaling the sweet, soapy smell of the blonde's shampoo. "Thank God."
"Seth saved me."
"Did he? I'll have to thank him." Again, calm and controlled, but Jou could read between the lines and he knew Seto well enough to understand what he was really saying–I'm sorry I couldn't be there for you. Jou merely sighed and leaned his head into Seto's chest. He wasn't sure how long they sat there like that, in complete silence, just holding each other. It wasn't an awkward silence by any means; it was filled with relief, a quiet joy that, at least for the time being, they were both alive and okay and together, that was the most important part. They were together.
"Are you sure you wanna do this?"
"I can't just leave him there." Seto heaved a sigh. "I mean...you were right. What you told Mokuba? You were right. He's just as messed up as I am. I think...I think maybe he needs help as much as I do. Did," he corrected a second later.
Seto smiled and touched his nose to Jou's. Jou couldn't help smiling back–it was so rare that Seto's icy facade dropped, and he treasured each real expression the brunette allowed him to see. It made him all warm and fuzzy inside, like he was the only one, the only one Seto trusted enough to let close, and he liked that feeling. Okay, yeah, so he was a little possessive. And a little needy. But who wasn't?
"I've got you now," Seto said gently. "That's all I need."
Jou was either about to burst into tears or blush to death, he wasn't sure which. Since when was Seto so...so nice? He had to admit, he didn't mind hearing it. Seto wasn't one for flowery declarations. Sometimes Jou wondered if the man had a romantic bone in his body, but this...God, it was so sweet.
"I think I can help him."
"Yeah?" Jou's brow furrowed for a moment. "How?"
"I'm going to get him help, first of all. He'll probably have to spend some time in an institute, just to be sure he doesn't try to kill himself again. But maybe, maybe after that...well, he needs a family, right?" His arms tightened around Jou's waist. "How would you feel about that?"
Jou wasn't sure. The man that raped his koi, his love, his lover, living under the same roof? Half of him hated the idea, would have broken Yutou's neck before he so much as took a step into this house, but the other half...it understood. It wouldn't be fair to leave Yutou all alone like that, with his demons and nightmares just because they were happy now. If Seto could forgive him, then so could Jou.
And he had to admit, it made him cringe, imagining Yutou as a child, a young, scared teenager, selling himself on streetcorners and...well, he wasn't entirely sure what had happened to Yutou, but he was willing to bet it wasn't a coincidence that he murdered his father. And if it was his father abusing him...well, it would have gone on his whole life, wouldn't it? From the time he was a little child, he wouldn't have any memories of a normal family.
That was...so...so sad. Even Seto had vague memories of his mother–he was fairly sure her name was Natsuko–and even though Jou's mother had walked out on him, he could remember the happier times, before the divorce, when his family would sit around after dinner and watch a movie, or play a board game. To not have any of that...what must it have been like? To come home to terror every day of his life, to be so desperately alone that he couldn't even trust the people who gave him life...Jou couldn't imagine it.
"Yeah. Yeah, I think I could live with that."
Seto smiled. "Could you?"
"Good." Seto bent his head and kissed Jou softly.
"You know," Ryou said, breaking the silence. They were in Seto's living room, waiting for Seto and Jou to finish up...whatever they were doing upstairs. Everyone was so tired that Bakura hadn't even been able to make crude joke about that, merely flopped down on the couch and promptly dozed off again. Now his ice-blue eyes fluttered open, focusing on his hikari. "There's something I've been wondering," Ryou continued, flushing slightly when he realized that everyone was staring at him.
"What?" Bakura's voice was heavy, his tongue thick with sleep, and he yawned.
"Well, I'm assuming that Yutou had to have a private therapist–it's what the court ordered, after all."
"Yeah," Malik blinked sleepily at the white-haired hikari, completely oblivious as to where the conversation was heading.
"And he did live here, right? I mean, he's Seto's adopted brother."
"Yeah?" Yami, this time, and usually he was so quick to pick up on everything. Ryou clenched his fists and told himself that they were just tired.
"I was just thinking...what if his therapist's still here?"
That got their attention. Eyes snapped open, heads swivelled around to look at one another, jaws dropped.
"You don't mean..."
"You don't think–"