Welcome all to my newest fanfic! And thanks to Rekall for suggesting the title! Everyone go read her story Time Crisis!
Disclaimer: I don't own Yu-Gi-Oh. Or the Joseph Conrad novel Heart of Darkness.
A blinking black line on my computer screen hovered patiently on my unfinished document, waiting for me to finish the command I'd begun typing half an hour ago. The blinking line hadn't moved for that entire period of time. Of course, this might have had something to do with the fact that I was currently staring idly out the window instead of working.
When had my life gotten so boring? Once, I was Seto Kaiba, teenage prodigy, Duel Monsters champion and CEO of a billion-dollar corporation; bringing down my opponents without breaking a sweat. Well, I was still a CEO, and at eighteen was probably still considered a prodigy, only now everything felt a lot more…flat.
Perhaps that was because I didn't really have any opponents anymore.
Pegasus, the Big Five, Noa, Gozaburo- everyone who had come against me and tried to harm my little brother and me; they were all dead, or at least close to it. I had Kaiba Land up and running, and there were only so many ways I could improve Duel Monsters technology; plus I barely played the game anymore, confining my duels to instructional sessions with Mokuba.
The last time I had dueled and meant it had been against an old rival on top of a tower, two years ago.
Since then, I focused on work- pouring all my energy into building my company into something well-oiled and prosperous, and I was successful. Together, KaibaCorp and Kaiba Land filled children's hearts with joy and my bank accounts with money. Plus, I had finally weeded out the treacherous employees, until the new trusted, competent individuals could run the company without me, except for the most complicated issues. I had succeeded in everything I set out to do.
But now I was bored.
I saved and exited my computer program, deciding that I wouldn't accomplish anything else today, and leaned back in my leather executive's chair, musing. Maybe a vacation would do me good…but I couldn't really go anywhere, since it was the middle of the term and Mokuba had school. A new project might be interesting…but then, I was sick of work. So what was left?
Nothing. I had no hobbies, or friends to speak of, and nothing to occupy my time except for work. Of course, this was exactly how I wanted things, and friendships would never cross my mind if I weren't just so bored. A friendship with someone interesting might at least help pass the long, dull hours of my current life; but I needed a rush, some death-defying, nerve-chilling feat to send the blood pumping through my veins once again.
Maybe I could go jump off a cliff.
A frustrated ache developed behind my eyes and I pinched the bridge of my nose to banish it. Making friends was at least a better idea than killing myself, though it was definitely harder to do (for me at least). But who should I deign to spend time with? None of my employees would be suitable, since I couldn't afford to lose my strict supervisor's persona with them; plus they all surpassed me in age by at least fifteen years.
In fact, I hardly associated with or even knew anyone my own age. Often I felt myself burdened by youth as others found themselves burdened with old age; for I was a teenager in a world of paunchy old businessmen who all thought their years gave them power over me. It was a nuisance, to say the least, though I certainly wasn't stupid enough to wish my youth away.
But that's of no consequence. Returning to the issue of my new 'friend,' I pondered the criteria. I needed someone my age; someone who was intelligent and creative enough to capture my interest, but also someone who wouldn't annoy me. That narrowed my options quite a bit.
I sighed. No one came to mind, though in the course of my business career I had encountered more people than I could possibly remember. The fact remained that I just didn't know anyone who commanded my attention for more than a few minutes without boring me or annoying me, if they garnered a reaction from me at all. The only person I'd ever spent any effort whatsoever in pursuing was—
My eyes widened. Of course! Why didn't I think of him before? He still crossed my mind occasionally even though I hadn't seen him in almost two years, so surely he could keep my attention for the week or so that I would need to distract myself from work with my new 'friend,' and he was such an accepting goody-goody that he certainly wouldn't refuse my offer of friendship.
I picked up the phone and pressed the button to speak with my assistant. "Linda, tell Mr. Stevens that I won't be in for the next week or so, so he and his colleagues will be in charge of the company. I'm taking a vacation," I said.
"Y-yes sir, Mr. Kaiba," she stuttered in obvious surprise, no doubt since I was a notorious workaholic, and hadn't taken a vacation the entire time she'd worked here. I hung up the phone and grabbed my briefcase, stalking from my office with the hint of a smirk playing around my lips.
Tomorrow I would pay a visit to my old rival, Yami Mutou.
I tugged nervously on the collar of my white turtleneck sweater and straightened my already perfectly crisp black slacks, and the thought briefly crossed my mind that most people were more comfortable in their casual clothes. Of course, this was the first time in over a year that I'd gone out in anything besides a long, sweeping trench coat, or at least a business suit. Sighing to myself, I ceased my agitated adjustments and pushed open the door to the Kame Game Shop.
A cheerful-sounding bell over the door tinkled as I stepped inside, and a short old man with spiky gray hair and huge violet eyes eyed me curiously. "Kaiba? What are you doing here?" he asked in surprise.
"Mr. Mutou," I nodded curtly. "I need to speak with Yami. Is he here?"
"He doesn't live here anymore," the old man replied. "Yugi and the rest started college a few months ago, and when Yugi left Yami moved into his own apartment."
"Why didn't he go to college, too?" I asked, curious, though I didn't let the old man see that.
"He couldn't, since he has no real education to speak of," Mr. Mutou answered. "It was hard on Yami when Yugi moved into the dorms, I think, probably because the two of them had never really been separated before." The old man sighed and began to add something else, but a customer distracted him.
I silently pondered this news as Mr. Mutou helped a little kid build his first Duel Monsters deck. I suppose it shouldn't surprise me that Yami was gone; it had been two years since I'd seen him, after all. But for some reason I was truly disappointed that he wasn't here.
I must have been really bored.
"Can you tell me where he lives?" I asked suddenly. The old man looked up at me in surprise.
"Well, yes. He lives in apartment 6F in the apartment complex on Twentieth Street," he replied. "Do you need to talk to him about something important, because I can give him a…message…" the old man's voice faded away uncertainly as I whirled on my heel and swept out the door without bothering to say goodbye.
The cheerful bell tinkled happily behind me.
I parked my sleek silver car on the curb under a graffiti-laden apartment building. Teenage wannabe street thugs crossed their arms menacingly at me, eyeing my expensive vehicle, but I gave them my iciest blue death glare and they cowered. I pulled open a rickety door hanging pathetically on one hinge and stepped gingerly into a dark, smelly staircase.
Resisting the urge to cover my nose at the smell of mold and decay emanating from the dank staircase, I climbed the stairs until I emerged in the hallway of the sixth floor. I found 6F on the far edge of the hallway, overlooking the littered street where I had parked my car. Yami lived here? Surely I had the wrong building.
With a strange sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, I knocked sharply on the apartment door. A rustling sound came from the inside of the apartment, and a deep, familiar voice called, "Who is it?"
Well, I had the right building, all right.
"Yami, it's Seto Kaiba," I replied in my usual toneless drawl. "I wanted to talk to you about something; and Mr. Mutou said I could find you here." Now that I'd actually found him, I was beginning to feel a bit nervous. What was I supposed to do now?
"Kaiba?" Yami gasped in surprise, and I heard the sound of several locks being turned before the door finally creaked open.
I stared in surprise at what I saw. Instead of black leather and boots, like he had worn when I saw him last, Yami was barefoot in a pair of worn jeans, torn at the knee. He wore a tight black undershirt which emphasized the sickly pale hue of his skin, and dark circles faintly showed under his crimson eyes.
"Kaiba, I can't believe you're here! Where have you been for the last two years?" Yami asked, and a smile spread across his wan, tired face. "Come in!" Yami gestured excitedly into the apartment and I stepped hesitantly over the threshold.
Although shabby, Yami's apartment was thankfully free of the stink and decay of its neighborhood. He obviously worked hard to keep it clean, and the scantily furnished living room where I now stood reflected the personality of its owner- a worn blue sofa and two high-backed chairs stood proudly against the white walls in the tiny living room. Vaguely I wondered how furniture could be proud. But it was.
Or maybe I was just crazy.
"Sit down, Kaiba," Yami told me, gesturing toward the couch, and I reluctantly obeyed. He sat beside me expectantly while I silently observed the apartment, but after a long moment, Yami shifted slightly and I realized I hadn't said a word since I entered.
And now I couldn't think of anything to say.
"So…" Yami said, slightly awkwardly. "How are you and Mokuba?"
I blinked, and could suddenly talk again. "He's fine. He started junior high this fall, and I think he's starting to look at girls," I replied, shaking my head. Mokuba would probably be a notorious flirt, and he was only thirteen. I still hated flirting, and I was five years older than him.
Yami laughed. "I can just imagine! That must drive you crazy, worrying; I know when Yugi first dated Anzu…" A pained look crossed Yami's face and he trailed off.
"What's wrong with you?" I asked curiously, though it came out sounding harsher than I'd intended.
Yami frowned deeply. "Nothing," he retorted sharply, but almost immediately the pleasant expression returned to his pale face and he changed the subject. "So, what did you want to talk to me about?" he asked.
"I wanted to…" I began, but found myself unable to finish my sentence. Now that I was talking to Yami again, face to face, I couldn't go through with my plan. Sure, spending time with Yami would easily distract me for a week or so until I was ready to face work again; but it just seemed wrong to build a temporary friendship with this tired, proud creature merely to entertain myself. He was acting like we were already friends; and it would surely hurt him if I suddenly spent all my time with him only to ignore him completely the next week…
But when had I started worrying about things like that?
"I just wanted to say…" I began again, and happened to catch Yami's scarlet gaze. His eyes seemed dull and listless, as if he'd been dealing with something for a long time, until he couldn't even bring himself to care about the problem anymore; but when his eyes met mine I saw a spark flash briefly in their depths.
"What is it, Kaiba?" Yami asked with a note of eagerness.
"I came here because I wanted…" I began for a third time, but instead of telling him whatever I had planned to say, I found myself suddenly unburdening all my problems in a rush of words and relishing the cathartic release.
"Yami, it's just- my life is so boring; so empty. Mokuba doesn't need me as much anymore, and I've accomplished everything I could have hoped for at work. Suddenly I've found myself without any more goals, and my goals and promises to my brother were what I built my life on. Now every day is so dreary and pointless that I dread getting up in the mornings, and I can't face work anymore, since there isn't anything important for me to do or anything new for me to accomplish. I really just needed to talk to someone; to see someone outside of work and family…and the only person I could think of was you," I told Yami.
I took a deep breath; surprised by my own honesty- I hadn't even really admitted some of those things to myself yet.
Yami furrowed his brow thoughtfully. "Well… I'm surprised you thought of me at all, but I'm glad you did," he said slowly. "I'm not sure how to help you, but I guess sometimes it's a relief just to tell someone your problems." Yami raised an eyebrow and smirked at me. "And knowing you, Kaiba, you've never told anyone in your whole life that you had a problem, let alone what it was, so I'm strangely flattered."
I scowled and would have argued with this, if it weren't completely true.
Yami grinned at my expression and changed the subject to lighter things. I found myself listening with actual interest to his stories about Yugi-tachi and the various things they'd been up to since I saw him last, at the end of my Battle City tournament, and before I realized it the sky had grown dark outside.
"…so Jou opened the door, and when he saw Honda kissing his little sister on the doorstep he fainted in shock!" Yami finished his story, laughing merrily, and I allowed myself a vicious grin at the mutt's predicament.
Yami glanced at his watch and blinked. "Oh, no, I've got to hurry or I'll be late for work," he sighed, and stood, stretching lazily.
"Where do you work?" I asked curiously.
"The First National Bank downtown; I'm a nighttime security guard," he replied. Well, that definitely seemed like the sort of work Yami was suited for, although judging from his apartment it didn't pay much.
"Do you want a ride?" I found myself offering, and Yami smiled tiredly.
"Yes, that would be wonderful; that way I wouldn't have to take the bus." He motioned for me to wait on the couch and disappeared into the other room, emerging a few moments later in a guard's uniform. I smirked at the sight of Yami in the crisp blue outfit.
"You look ridiculous," I informed him snidely.
"Seto Kaiba, polite as always," Yami quipped sarcastically. "They were going to make me wear a hat, but nothing would fit over my hair," he told me, laughing a little. "Thankfully they didn't make me cut it." He patted his unruly spikes and I rolled my eyes.
"Whatever. Just come on," I drawled, and stalked out the door, tapping my foot impatiently as Yami slowly locked the many bolts on his apartment door. He followed me to my car and slid in beside me, carefully pulling the seatbelt over his small frame. Then he leaned back against the leather interior and closed his eyes, yawning softly.
"I'm so tired," he murmured. "I hate working at night- though you'd think with all my experience in the Shadow Realm I'd be used to it," he chuckled softly at his own joke. I didn't. It wasn't funny- or maybe I just didn't get it.
"Then work somewhere else," I replied simply.
"That would be easy if I were a genius, like you," Yami sighed. "But I was originally an ancient Egyptian spirit, so I technically have no education or even legitimate ID. I only got this job because I know the owner."
"Not that Egypt malarkey again," I groaned.
Yami snickered. "Malarkey? Kaiba, sometimes you're too smart for your own good."
"Shut up," I sulked, but a grin tugged at my lips. In spite of (or maybe because of) our half-serious banter, I was enjoying myself with Yami. Maybe I'd been right to choose him as my 'friend'; maybe it wouldn't hurt to spend a little more time with him after all- as long as I didn't make any promises.
When I parked in front of the bank and Yami opened the car door, I stopped him with a word. "Wait…" Yami turned expectantly, examining me with his piercing scarlet eyes, and I hesitated. "Never mind," I muttered. He just grinned.
"Thanks for the ride, Kaiba," he said and climbed from the car, waving as he shut the door. I watched him disappear inside the building and sighed.
"Well, it was probably a bad idea anyway," I muttered to myself.
"Seto? What are you doing?" Mokuba asked curiously. I lifted my head an inch or so from where it lay buried in my arms, which were stretched across the kitchen table. The posture matched my current mood perfectly, though it most likely looked rather odd.
"Nothing," I informed my little brother, and dropped my head back onto my arms.
"Why are you just laying there like that?" he persisted.
"I'm using my body weight to calculate the density of the table and compare it with that of the human form," I answered quickly, trying to confuse him.
Mokuba mumbled to himself for a moment and I pressed my nose flatter against the tabletop. "Wait, that doesn't make sense!" Mokuba finally cried, and I started lightly banging my head against the table. "What are you doing NOW?" Mokuba asked shrilly- his adolescent voice had risen an octave or two in worry.
I abruptly ceased my head-pounding and sat up straight in my chair. "Mokuba, what would you say if I wanted to be friends with you? If you weren't my brother, that is; would you do it?" I asked seriously.
Mokuba's eyes widened in surprise. "Seto, of course I would! Why, did someone say they didn't want to be your friend?" His expression darkened in a glare strangely reminiscent of my own. "Who was it? How dare they upset you; I'll kill them!" Mokuba threatened.
I smiled indulgently at my little brother. "No one did; I was just wondering, that's all," I assured him.
Mokuba scrutinized my face. "Seto… You do want to be friends with someone, don't you? It's about time you paid attention to something other than work!" he exclaimed cheerfully.
"That's not…" I began, but he cut me off.
"I wouldn't worry about it; he already likes you. You don't have to try so hard to impress everyone," Mokuba said knowingly.
I mulled over his words silently. Ever since I had dropped Yami off at the bank, I had been torturing myself mentally, because I realized that, to my surprise, I wanted to be around him, and not just to entertain myself for a little while. Something about Yami had always drawn me to him, and after today I had to admit that it felt really good to see him again; when I unburdened my problems to Yami I felt happier than I had in a long time. But, I couldn't help worrying that he wouldn't want to be my friend after all. It was strange, how when I planned to use him I was so confident that he would accept me, but when I actually was sincere…
Well, then I took to banging my head on the kitchen table.
Mokuba observed me curiously, and when I glanced into his dark blue eyes, his first sentence suddenly registered in my mind. "Wait, what do you mean 'he already likes me'?" I asked in surprise.
Mokuba shrugged. "Yami's always wanted to be your friend," he replied matter-of-factly.
"WHAT! How did you know?!" I cried, too shocked to deny it.
Mokuba just smiled mysteriously and ran up to his room.