Ties of Blood

by WSJ

Well, I've had this idea for about a week, but it just took on a whole new meaning for me. See, it is currently December 23 (happy birthday Malik!), and I am at my friend Kat's house. It snowed 20 inches last night, and since Kat lives ten miles from the middle of nowhere, I'm stuck. Here's hoping I can get home for Christmas!

Summary: Four stories squished into one. When Seto is too busy working to celebrate Christmas, Mokuba decides to take matters into his own hands. Shizuka can't come to Domino for Christmas, so Jou is determined to get to her, no matter what. Christmas brings meloncholy for Ryou, whose little sister died around this time of year, but a Christmas visitor could change everything. Back in Egypt, Malik is pouting because he was looking forward to his first white Christmas in Japan, and Isis decides to make up the difference.

Disclaimer: I don't own YGO, and the song belongs to Faith Hill and whoever owns the Grinch. Dr. Seuss, I guess. Wait... He's dead, so does he technically own the new Jim Carrey Grinch? 0.o; Nevermind, my head hurts.

Enjoy!

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Mokuba rolled over in bed and stretched like a cat, yawning widely. He blinked in the morning sunlight, and an instant later he sat straight up. It was Christmas Eve!

Rolling out of bed, the twelve-year-old grabbed his slippers and hopped down the hall, pulling them on as he went. He stopped outside his brother's door, pausing to finish putting on his slippers before he burst through the door.

"Seto! Seto! It's Christmas Eve!"

His shoulders slumped, then. The bed was empty. Seto must already be at work. Turning, Mokuba trudged downstairs for breakfast. Seto was working on Christmas Eve? He did have a company to run, but couldn't he just take a day off to be with his brother?

The cook already had Mokuba's breakfast on the table, and was clearing away Seto's place when the younger Kaiba came in. "Seto already left?"

The cook nodded sympathetically. "You just missed him, Master Mokuba. He said not to expect him for dinner, and that he'll be up early and gone tomorrow."

Mokuba clenched his fist around his fork, staring down at his breakfast. Seto was working Christmas day too?! It wasn't fair! The younger Kaiba stabbed at his eggs, wishing it was his brother's face instead.

Then he paused. There had to be a way to make Seto come home for Christmas! He just needed to find it. Abandoning his breakfast, Mokuba raced for the stairs and took them two at a time on the way to his room. He'd bring Seto home for Christmas, if it was the last thing he did!

Where are you Christmas?
Why can't I find you?
Why have you gone away?

Jou stared at the phone in shock. "What?!"

There was a sigh on the other end of the phone. "I'm sorry Jou, but I'm not going to be able to make it to Domino for Christmas."

"Why not?"

Shizuka sighed again, leaning against the kitchen counter and playing with a strand of her hair. "Mom has some party to go to, or something, and the trains are all shut down because of the snow. I'm sorry, niisan..."

Jou sighed too. The disappointment was clear in Shizuka's voice. The siblings hadn't gotten to see each other since that summer, and had really been looking forward to spending Christmas together. He glanced over at the meager Christmas tree in the corner of the livingroom. There were only a few small presents underneith, including one for Yugi and another for Mai, but one of them was also marked to give to Shizuka. Jou had saved up forever to buy her that present, and now it looked like she wouldn't be getting it for awhile.

That sucked.

"It's okay Shizzy," he made himself say, swallowing his own disappointment. "Maybe we can get together for New Years."

"Yeah... maybe. I'd better go, I'll see you later Jou."

"Later Shizuka."

The two hung up their phones, and for a long time Jou leaned against the wall and thought. There had to be a way to get Shizuka her present by Christmas. The mail was out, it was already Christmas Eve. And he couldn't take it to her, he had no money for bus fair or train fair, even if they were running.

...Or could he?

Suddenly determined, Jou grabbed his coat, sliding Shizuka's present into a backpack, which he then slung over one shoulder. Pausing only to make sure he had his house key, he left the apartment and started walking north.

He'd get to Shizuka by Christmas, whatever the cost.

Where is the laughter
You used to bring me?
Why can't I hear music play?

Ryou brushed his hair out of his eyes, then shivered slightly and stuffed his hands into his pockets. It was cold, but at the moment he didn't care. It was also snowing, and he cared slightly more about that, but not much. Mostly he cared about the snow because it was currently soaking through the knees of his jeans. "Hi Amane..."

The little girl in front of him didn't answer. She couldn't. He sighed softly, shaking his head and making his snow-laden bangs fall in his eyes. "I miss you a lot, you know. Especially around Christmas. It's not the same without you..."

He seemed to remember something, and dug around in the pocket of his parka. "I brought you something, look." He pulled out a small stuffed doll, and dangled it in front of her eyes. "I know it's not much, but it's all I could afford this year. I'm sorry."

She didn't answer, didn't stir, and never did. He stayed a while longer, talking to the air, then whispered a faded "I love you" and laid the doll against the headstone of the grave. He wiped wet eyes with the back of one snowy glove, and then got up to leave, blending into the snow as easily as a ghost.

Behind him, a little girl cocked her head, eyeing him. Then she hopped off her seat on the gravestone and followed him.

My world is chaning
I'm rearranging...
Does that mean Christmas changes too?

Isis sighed, exasperated with her teenaged brother. "Malik! Would you stop laying around and go do something constructive? Or even destructive!"

An invitation like that didn't come very often, but for once Malik didn't take his sister up on it. He just stuck out his lower lip, which looked rather strange since he was currently sprawled out across the couch with his head hanging off the edge. "Dun' wanna. It's Christmas Eve, Isis! Aren't we supposed to be with family and friends at a time like this?"

Isis sighed again, wiping her hands off on a dishtowel. "Malik, we've been over this. We can't go back to Japan. We owe Yugi-san at least that much. And we're the only family we've got. Besides, you'd never even heard of Christmas this time last year."

"Yeah, well... Sis, they have snow in Japan! You know, that weird white stuff Ryou tried to explain to me? I want it to be a 'white Christmas'!"

Isis just shook her head, turning back to attend to their dinner. "I'm sorry Malik, you'll have to settle for a sandy one."

And since her back was turned, she didn't see the look of disappointment that crossed her brother's face. But he didn't see the secret smile that crossed hers, either.

Where are you Christmas?
Do you remember
The one you used to know?
I'm not the same one
See what the time's done...
Is that why you have let me go?

Seto scrubbed at his eyes with the back of his hand, and opened his mouth to call for his secretary to get him more coffee. After a moment he snapped it shut again. It was nearly midnight, the secretary had gone home hours ago.

Grumbling quietly to himself about the incompetence of some people, he saved what he was working on and got up from his desk. He stretched, wincing when his back cracked loudly. Still muttering, he headed for the door to his office, intending to get coffee and then dive straight back into his work. Maybe if he worked until one or two he could get home before Mokuba's bedtime tomorrow.

Seto opened the door of his office and stopped.

Mokuba was curled up in the secretary's office chair, head pillowed on the desktop, fast asleep. One hand rested on top of a piece of brightly colored paper that hadn't been there earlier. What was Mokuba doing here?! He should be at home, in bed! How long had he-?

Seto's mind flashed back to earlier that afternoon, when his secretary had buzzed in and told him he had a visitor, and he'd brushed it off and told her to make whoever it was wait. Guilt flooded Seto's concious. Mokuba had been here all that time, waiting on his big brother to finish working and come home for Christmas...

Stepping over to the desk, Seto picked up the paper that Mokuba seemed to be guarding. It was red construction paper, and drawn on the front was a picture of a certain kid with messy black hair, and a trenchcoat-wearing figure nearly twice as tall. Swallowing more guilt, Seto opened the card. In Mokuba's handwriting, the inside simply read 'Merry Christmas, niisama'.

For a long moment Seto just stared at the card. Then he turned on one heel and returned to the office. Leaning down to reach under his desk, he snapped off his computer, not even bothering to shut it down properly. He grabbed his coat from where he'd thrown it over the back of his chair and returned to the outer office, snapping the light off as he went.

Leaning over, he wrapped his coat around Mokuba and then lifted him into his arms. He smiled as Mokuba mumbled in his sleep and wrapped his arms around Seto's neck. The teen CEO kicked the door closed behind him and took the elevator down to the first floor. He only paused long enough to snitch a marker and some paper from the front reception desk, and then to hang a sign on the front door.

'Closed for Christmas.'

Christmas is here
Everywhere, oh
Christmas is here
If you care, oh

The doorbell rang, and Shizuka blinked, putting aside the book she'd been reading. It was Christmas Eve, and snowing. Who in the world...?

Curious despite herself, Shizuka uncurled herself from where she'd been sitting and went to peek out the front window. Her eyes widened when she saw who it was, and she quickly yanked open the door.

Jou was standing in the snow, looking bedraggled and worse for wear. His clothes were muddy and torn in some places, and he looked about ready to fall over and die. Over one shoulder was a muddy backpack. His eyes brightened immediately upon seeing Shizuka, however. "Hi imouto..."

"Jou!" Shizuka grabbed him by the arm and dragged him inside, her eyes wide. "What happened to you?!"

Jou's eye twitched slightly. "You don't even want to know. I got chased by a Rottweiler, nearly eaten by a rabid skunk, hit on by a waaaay over-enthusiastic Duel Monsters fangirl, and hitch-hiked with an old lady, another fangirl, a gothic guy, and a man I swear is related to Edward Scissorhands, all in quick sucession. But hey, I got here."

"Jou!" Shizuka threw her arms around her brother, hugging him tightly. "You went through all that trouble, just to see me?"

Jou smiled lopsidedly, hugging his little sister in return. "Well, family should be together for Christmas. Besides, I wanted to make sure you got your present by Christmas."

Shizuka blinked, pulling away from him slightly. "You didn't have to get me anything."

"Sure I did, you're my sister." Jou grinned and pulled away from her, taking off his bag and pulling out a wrapped present that was still more or less intact. "Merry Christmas, Shizzy."

Shizuka's eyes widened as she took the present, tearing the wrapping paper off with the enthusiasm of a child. She opened the lid of the box, and her face fell slightly. "Oh Jou..."

Jou looked upset, and for a moment Shizuka swore he was going to cry. The beautiful angel statue he'd bought her had been smashed by his long, cross-country trek to give it to her. "....I guess it didn't survive the skunk attack..."

Shizuka put the box down and hugged her brother again, mud and all. "Jou-san, I told you you didn't have to get me anything, and I meant it. Just having you here is present enough."

Jou smiled and ruffled his sister's hair. "I love you Shizzy."

"I love you too. Merry Christmas, Jou."

"Merry Christmas."

If there is love in your heart and your mind
You will feel like Christmas all the time!

Ryou whimpered in his sleep and rolled over, curled into a ball. A tear trailed down his cheek, and the little girl that had followed him wished she could wipe it away, but she couldn't.

She reached out, softly touching his hair with a hand as fragile as an angel's wing. "Ryou..."

Ryou sat up, panting slightly, his eyes wide. They darted around for a moment, as if he feared an attack, before they finally settled on her. He went paler, then, as if he had seen a ghost.

In fact, he had.

"A-amane?" he asked, his voice hushed, as though he were afraid she were only a dream that would be destroyed upon waking.

The little girl smiled at him, brushing her pale hair back from her face. "Hai, it's me, oniisan."

Ryou only stared at her. "How..."

She shrugged. "It's Christmas. You're all by yourself. It shouldn't be like that."

He looked down, picking at a bit of fuzz on his blanket. "...It's all right. I really don't mind."

She snorted, putting her hands on her hips. "Bullshit!"

Ryou looked up, his eyes wide at hearing language like that from his younger sister, who'd died when she was six. Seeing his expression, Amane broke down into giggles. "Purgatory is rather less than innocent, Ry."

"...I guess so. That explains mou hitori no boku, then." He paused. "I wish you were here to stay, 'mane."

"Me too," she said, her smile fading. "I miss you."

"I miss you more." Ryou said, looking down again.

Amane smiled and climbed up onto the bed next to him. "But I'm allowed to stay with you for tonight, niisan."

Ryou looked up. "Really?"

She nodded. "Really."

He smiled at her. "Then I guess that's enough."

And it was.

I feel you Christmas
I know I've found you
You never fade away!

Malik grumbled to himself, burying his head under his pillow to avoid the early Christmas morning sunlight. What was the point? He wasn't gonna get to see snow, whatever it was. Heck, here in Egypt, where the majority of the population was Islamic, Christmas wasn't even really a holiday. He was probably the only person in the whole country who even knew today was something special.

Finally he heaved himself upright with a sigh, and then nearly fell out of bed in surprise as he looked out the window.

It was snowing outside!!

Malik threw his covers aside and sprinted for the front door. He threw it open and ran outside, clad only in a pair of boxers and a tanktop and not really caring. It was snow! Cold, wet, tiny, and white, just like Ryou had said!

But this was Cairo, Egypt. How in the world...

A steady hum met his ears, and he turned to see Isis and a man he'd never seen before standing next to a huge machine that was spitting snow across their front yard. "Isis! What is this?!"

She smiled at him, her eyes twinkling. "It's snow, Malik. Merry Christmas."

"I know it's snow!" he said. "How is it here?"

"Snow machine." she said simply, grinning at him. "I pulled a few strings and shipped it in from a Greek ski resort. I now owe a lot of people favors, but I thought it would be worth it."

Malik just stared at her for a few moments, and then surprised himself by running across the snowy front yard and throwing his arms around Isis. Her eyes widened, Malik hadn't actually hugged her since he was seven! After the moment of shock wore off, she wrapped her arms around him and hugged him back. But Malik had one more surprise in store.

"Thank you Isis. I love you."

Isis blinked back sudden tears and hugged him tighter, silently blessing Yami Yugi for giving her her brother back. "I love you too Malik."

The joy of Christmas
Stays here inside us
Fills each and every heart with love
Where are you Christmas?
Fill your heart with love...

Ties of blood, ties of family, are the most important of all.
Especially at Christmas.

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So what do you think? Reviews please, and merry Christmas to all!!

God bless minna-san!