Disclaimer: YuGiOh doesn't belong to me, says the author.
Author's Note: This is for the S/Y Christmas challenge fic which stated fluff, fluff, and more fluff. Fun stuff, though I definitely won't be doing present tense again for a while.
Bakura is Ryou here since Yami Bakura doesn't make an appearance.
Many thanks goes to Moe for beta-ing, and Merry Christmas y'all.
Where Hope Lies
Seto hates the crowds. He hates the lack of space whenever people converge in one single spot, a single area that surrounds him like a cage. He hates it, so he tries to push them away with cold looks and frosty eyes. His glares and scowls were deadly, Mokuba had joked, and he had agreed. There is always a reason for his words, for his actions, and he doesn't give a damn if no one else understands. In fact, he prefers their cluelessness, their lack of insight. Their disadvantage is his strength.
They wonder why he's invited them over to a party. A Christmas party at that, which has Seto incredulous even though he was the one who issued the invitations. They suspect it's Mokuba who's behind it all, and he reluctantly gives them their credit. Not that they deserve much, considering the fact that one has to only look into his scowling face to see their welcome's end.
He opens the door anyway because he made a promise to not shut it in their faces and walks away, leaving the thoughtful Yugi to close it after everyone has come in. Yami is beside him, walking and looking around the newly decorated room, full of red and green and white, and Seto takes the time to wonder at the little details of his body. He's been getting stronger since his collection of the Millennium Items grew, and now he can solidify his spirit to that of a boy with old, violet eyes. He knows this because Mokuba has been keeping him briefed on the most recent news of Yugi and company, and he doesn't have the heart to tell Mokuba that he can care less about the state of their affairs -- though, even then it isn't true, is it?
He curses himself again and says, "Mokuba will be here in a minute."
He nearly takes a step when a certain voice with that annoying tang calls out, "Hey, where are you going? I thought you're our host or something."
That voice never fails to rankle, and that tone never fails to irritate. "Think of something to do while I'm gone. Or can't you think that far ahead, mutt?"
Jounouchi sputters as he only knows how, and they follow their routine of angry insults. It's almost a comforting routine to Seto, who prepares for the worst while wanting the best, and maybe their party tonight won't be too bad.
"Bastard! Don't insult me! Just 'cause you're a no-fun know-it-all doesn't mean you can lord it over us."
Seto glares. "I don't need fun," he says, that last word dripping with contempt.
"I feel sorry for you then," Jounouchi says, his anger suddenly gone. "At least I have that, second-rate duelist that I am."
He's proud of it too, Seto thinks with some confusion. Proud of the fact that he indulges in things he has no need for, and Seto fights the urge to leave this room at once. Seto Kaiba does not run from some long-haired puppy.
"Come on, Seto. Why don't you stay?" Yami tries to intervene, a leader's peace-keeping ways. "This is meant to be in good spirits, right? And I have to admit, this Christmas thing has my attention." He looks admiringly at the Christmas tree right in the corner, tinsels and lights and a large star at the top.
"Ha. Like he's going to hang out with us, right? Let him go, Yami." Jounouchi turns his face away.
Seto glares at him again, feeling the unmistakable need to beat him soundly -- with fists or not, he doesn't quite know.
"I don't know. I think he fits in more than he realises." It's Yugi's turn to pipe up. He says mischievously, "Doesn't he, Yami?"
Curious, Seto watches the silent exchange between Yugi and Yami with rapt attention. There's something there he isn't getting; something that has Yami looking almost embarrassed and Yugi laughing behind his hand. He wants to ask them about it, but bites his tongue at the last minute. It's always difficult for him to concede defeat, and he doesn't think he can join in their intimacy at the moment -- he's already decided to stay; he doesn't want to belong.
When he walks over to the couch and settles down, Yami and Yugi are the only ones not surprised. They follow his lead, Yugi grinning brightly as he beckons the others to come, and then all of them are lounging at one place or another, laughing and pointing at the presents under the tree.
Anzu grins and prods one messily-tied present. "Am I the only one who can wrap?"
"Hey! It took me ages to tie that stupid knot!" Jounouchi frowns and then perks up. "It's better than Yami's at least."
"Really?" Tristan says doubtfully, poking at a neatly boxed present, quirking one brown eyebrow at Jounouchi.
"What? That can't be his." Jounouchi quickly looks at the tag and scowls.
"Afraid it is." Yami's smug, but Seto thinks it's less annoying when it's aimed at somebody else other than him.
"What'd you do? Bribe someone? Let me guess -- Yugi helped, right?"
Yami narrows his eyes. "Are you implying that I didn't wrap that present myself?"
Jounouchi opens his mouth to speak, but shuts it again. He thinks for a moment and then laughs nervously. "No, no. I'm sure you're a great present-wrapper. The best."
He nods enthusiastically as Yami brightens, and then hits a snickering Tristan on the arm. Bakura laughs softly.
"Thank you. That's a very nice compliment."
"Hey guys! Sorry I'm late!"
Seto turns to watch Mokuba running into the room, tugging a large sack behind him.
"You want some help with that?" Yugi asks, concerned at the size of said sack.
"Nah. It's not heavy at all." He waves them away as he reaches the tree and begins to empty the contents, pushing an assortment of boxes into the nest of presents. "I'm used to carrying Seto's briefcase anyway."
"Wow, Mokuba. That's a lot of presents." Yugi's staring, wide-eyed.
"Uh huh. I think I went a little overboard."
"You think?" Jounouchi teases, and Mokuba sticks out his tongue. "For that, you won't get the extra two I got for you."
"No, no. I'm good. I'm nice. See?"
Jounouchi's face falls and everyone laughs. Seto even smirks a little.
"No?" He gives Mokuba a sad look.
"All right, all right. Yes." He goes over to Jounouchi and pats his head. "I forgive you."
Seto somehow manages to hide his smile as the image of Jounouchi wagging his tail while Mokuba pats him enters his mind unbidden and doesn't leave at all. Soon though, Mokuba turns his attention to him. He grins and rushes to his side, looking happier than Seto's ever seen him be.
"You're staying?" he asks, bouncing lightly.
"Yes," Seto answers as a smaller hand curls around his own. He knows he doesn't have to say anything else when Mokuba sits beside him on the couch, leaning against his side, one small hand wrapped with his.
They unwrap their presents in a whirl of laughter and light. Jounouchi is teased incessantly as his presents are revealed but he's laughing with them. Yami thinks the sight of Yugi's friends -- his friends too, he reminds himself -- being this happy is the best sight he's ever seen since he realised he can, in fact, see. This warm feeling, this light contentment -- surely it will not last. If he's ever experienced such happiness, he can't remember; it doesn't matter as much as it usually does in this moment. Yugi told him a long time ago that memories are made; Seto showed him that while one can not forget the past, one does not need to live in it to see the future. The future is what he wants it to be, and for this softly, singing night, Yami has hope. He remembers nothing of his past, he doesn't know what the future brings, but he's in the present right now with company he will not forget -- he has hope.
He stares at the only silent figure in their company. Seto's not talking to anyone; he's sitting stiffly on the couch, watching Mokuba rip open present after present with relish. His face softens when he thinks no one notices but Yami does, and Yami knows. He thinks he is not the only one with hope this night, and once again, he thinks of Christmas with awe. What is it about this occasion that causes people to leave behind their darkness? What is it, that causes even the most loneliest of souls to reach out to the light? What is it, about this occasion, that makes Yami forget he doesn't have a past?
His smile is bittersweet but happy. He fiddles with the package just underneath his coat, a rectangular and slim parcel, wrapped with as much care as he could. He wonders if Seto will accept it. He wonders if Seto won't. He thinks Seto will though, but not right now. Perhaps later, when the night deepens to a midnight black, and Seto allows himself a taste of what he doesn't need. Perhaps later, when they are alone, and Yami allows himself to ask for what he can't understand.
It's getting late, Seto thinks. He's aware that they've been here for at least a couple of hours now, but he isn't sure how quickly those hours passed by. And even more surprising, he doesn't want to leave. Just his presence alone had made Mokuba happy -- he isn't so selfish as to take it away, though he does regret not getting him more presents. The look on his face is enough to last Seto his life time, and when the end comes, he knows it is all worth it. His soul, his body, his very spirit is worth Mokuba's happiness.
They're taking a break now. Food is the incentive, from the way Jounouchi's making appreciative noises at the plates. Christmas food, specifically, and a type of substance called eggnog Seto's a tad reluctant to try, but it was Mokuba's idea in the first place so he can't refuse. He walks over to the large table, wondering if he's actually doing this right, but before he reaches for his own plate and napkin, a plate full of food is thrust at him.
"What?" He looks at the plate in front of him as if he'd never seen one before.
Yami raises his eyebrow. "You can't tell when someone's being helpful?"
Seto snorts. "I don't need your help. Getting food on a plate is not some gigantic task the last time I checked."
"No, it's not." Yami pushes the plate at him and smiles. "Take it anyway."
"You can't order me around." Seto looks at him with annoyance. "I'll do what I want."
"You want to fight Jounouchi over the last piece of that chicken?"
They turn to stare at the blond haired youth who's busy glaring at everyone suspiciously, one hand holding onto his plate of chicken with a claw-like grip.
"I see your point," Seto says, turning back to Yami before taking the plate of food.
"I knew you'd see it my way."
"Don't be smug," a dry tone accentuated his words.
"You don't think I have a right to be?" Yami smirks, then orders, "Now eat. You need a break."
"I'm eating. Fine. But not because you told me to."
Seto dares him to just try and contradict this.
"Of course not," Yami just says insincerely, and Seto really, really wants to strangle his guest. Unfortunately, bodily harm to any guest is still a big no despite his attempt to persuade his little brother that a little punch or kick won't hurt anybody, so Seto has no choice but to be nice. His version of nice, of course. As if there is any other version.
"What do you want?"
"Why do you think I want something?" Yami asks, honestly confused.
"Everybody always wants something," Seto answers with hooded eyes. "You're no different."
"Then perhaps you don't know me as well as you assumed."
"Perhaps I don't." Seto looks at him steadily. "Should I want to?"
"Yes," Yami says, staring back at him with as much intensity as he is facing.
Seto is the first to turn away, jaw clenching with unspoken and unwilling words. Yami gives a tight sigh and moves further away, not the least surprised that they had closed in on each other while talking. Personal space is never an issue with them.
"Perhaps later," he says, looking away. There's a wry tug of his lips, and then he gives a nod of farewell.
"Perhaps later," Seto echoes flatly as he refuses to watch Yami leave.
Seto's taking his breathing space -- or so Jounouchi says -- but that's pretty much close to the truth. Yami can't think of any reason why he is outside on his balcony when he should be inside, right among friends. Or is he being too optimistic? Yami muses inwardly. He probably is, knowing Seto, but still, tonight is after all a good enough excuse to be too hopeful for his own good. He's very aware of the one present that hasn't been opened yet, though he's not sure he can go through with it now. Their encounter has made one thing adamantly clear -- Seto wants later to never arrive, and Yami isn't sure he thinks any differently.
On the other hand, Yugi will be most displeased if he finds out Yami haven't done what he had said he will do and at that point, Yami can be assured of Yugi's interference. He pats his left side abstractly, mind whirling as he trains his eyes at Seto's back. Why not give Seto his gift? It's not as if he can't brush it away if Seto refuses. When did Yami have so little courage? He's faced worse foes than rejection -- he has, indeed -- and surely tonight Seto isn't as wound up defensively as he usually is.
Later is now if only Yami's willing, and after all, he is the King of Games. He's always willing for a challenge.
He's focused entirely on Seto, true, but he still takes the time to glance at his friends. He doesn't want any interruption if he can help it, though it doesn't seem likely at the moment. Mokuba's busy giggling at Jounouchi's antics and Tristan's jokes, and Anzu is chattering enthusiastically with Bakura, who's looking wide-eyed and slightly terrified. Yugi's snickering next to Bakura and adding his own commentary, which further serves to redden Bakura's cheeks, and Yami smiles.
His attention is back on Seto now that he's assured of privacy, so he walks to the balcony casually until he's shoulder to shoulder with Seto. He's surprised Seto doesn't move away, but then again, Seto has always been unpredictable and Yami likes the contact. They don't move.
"What are you doing here?" Seto says, not turning to look at Yami, still facing the dark sky.
"I thought you needed the company."
Seto snorts and waits.
"I thought I should give you this," Yami says, voice calmer than he would have thought as his hand leaves the inside of his coat with the slim package. He holds it to Seto, who finally looks at him and his present with unreadable blue eyes. Yami watches Seto take it carefully, eyes not leaving his, and slowly but methodically open it. He's careful not to rip the glossy silver-blue wrapping paper, pulling the creased sides open with a gentle strength. With deliberate movements he has the present unwrapped in no time, and when he sees what's inside, he stiffens.
"Where did you get this?" he says with wonder. His fingertips traces the photo within a silver frame, patterns of dragons just on the edges, and Yami knows he's not looking into his own youthful face in the photo. He's looking at Mokuba's grinning, happy expression.
"Mokuba provided me with an old photo. I just enlarged it and framed it," Yami says quietly. "I think it's a good reminder that the past shouldn't be forgotten."
Yami moves closer to touch Seto's smiling, upturned face on the photo. It doesn't surprise him that even when they were young, Seto only smiles when he's looking at Mokuba.
"You don't look as serious then."
"The photographer caught me in a rare moment," Seto just says.
Yami looks up to see Seto staring at him. He feels the adrenaline rush through his body -- so much like the beginning of a duel -- that he catches his breath. They stare at each other, unmoving until Yami shivers and Seto breaks the silence.
"We're under a mistletoe."
"Mistletoe?" Yami blinks.
"A mistletoe, yes. We should uphold tradition, don't you think?"
Seto moves closer and leans down; Yami feels the warmth emanating from Seto before he feels the gentle press of his lips, and for a second, the whole world stills. Yami is nothing but this -- he doesn't want to be anything but this -- and it ends all too soon. Much too soon for his liking. He licks his lips as Seto moves back a bit, opening his eyes -- and when did he even close his eyes? -- to stare into Seto's hot, blue gaze.
"I lied," Seto says, lips tugging upwards.
Yami is annoyed that he's the only one in a daze and blames Seto for causing his mind to shut down.
"Yes, I lied," Seto repeats with amusement. "There's no mistletoe. I just wanted to take advantage of you."
"Huh. That's very dastardly of you," Yami says, smiling despite himself. His annoyance disappears as quickly as it arrived, and he's only left with this bubbling, intoxicated feeling.
"I know. I'm an evil genius too set in my ways."
"Is that so?" Yami grins. "Does your evil genius ways include evil plans for me?"
"Many evil plans," Seto says, brushing his lips against Yami's. "Many."
"Mmm, Seto?" Yami tilts his head back. "What's a mistletoe?"
Seto's eyes widen and he looks incredulous before he chuckles. Yami looks on, slightly amused and slightly in awe at the sight of an actual, laughing Seto Kaiba; he thinks that there's nothing more pleasant than this, and when Seto stops chuckling, blue eyes looking so soft, he knows it's true. It will always be true.
"We should go back," Seto says, ready to move away.
"We should," Yami concurs, though he's staying still. "But I don't want to. Not yet."
"Okay," Seto murmurs and settles against Yami again. He's holding the framed photo in his hand tightly, so Yami encircles his wrist, just a reassuring touch, just a soft pressure. It takes a while, but Seto's hand soon relaxes, and they're leaning against each other, watching the dark, dark sky.