A Domino Christmas

Summary: Yuugi throws a small Christmas get-together for his friends. A sudden blizzard hits, and the gang is snowbound for Christmas! 100 percent, unadulterated, Christmassy fluff.

Disclaimer: Yuugi and friends belong to their respective owners, not me.

Note: A little cultural note, because I always like to set my YGO fics in Japan...

Apparently snow in Tokyo is fairly uncommon. Let's just...let that slide...sweatdrop It could be because of El Niño or something... .

And about Christmas in Japan; it's not a national holiday, nor does it have religious significance for most Japanese, because most Japanese are not Christian. Quite a few Japanese have adopted its traditions (trees, presents, etc.), and that's what's happening in this fic. n.n

I got really into writing this on December 20th, because I learned a few important lessons that night from a very close friend, one of the many amazing people in my life. Lesson one – yelling at someone is completely unnecessary, unless you and that someone in question are trying to communicate in the midst of a hurricane. Lesson two – assumptions are bad.

Yes, Malik's birthday really is December 23. I originally read so at "Nameless Pharaoh's Tomb", which can be found at theria (dot) net. And that site's webmistress got her information from the coveted, official, Yuugiou character book. smile-wink

Oh, and 'niisama' is a Japanese word that more or less translates to 'muchly respected older brother'. Tis what Mokuba calls Seto.

So...yeah...enjoy the ficcie, and pwease review!

&&&&

Midnight did not often find Yuugi's living room packed with sleeping teenagers. Neither was it every day that a blizzard swept through Domino. But then, every day wasn't Christmas, either.

It was indeed quite a blizzard that had stranded Malik, Mokuba, Anzu, Honda, and Jounouchi and the Mutou residence for the night. Yuugi had thought a small Christmas get-together with his friends would be an enjoyable way to spend Christmas Eve. They were all quite excited about the party, as snow had been predicted. Some weather stations had been calling for quite a bit of snow, as a matter of fact.

Quite a bit of snow was exactly what Domino City got.

A restless and wide-awake Mokuba sighed, looking around at them all. They'd been rather worried about friends and family who could possibly be stuck out in the snow, and the fact that the power lines were down didn't make things any better. But they knew in reality everyone was probably safe and sound.

A sudden 'thump' noise from outside startled Mokuba out of his thoughts. The noise wasn't terribly loud, but it contrasted greatly with the silence inside the home.

The boy went out to the shop, and opened the front door. To his amazement, a thoroughly chilled and exhausted Seto Kaiba fell inside and dropped to his knees, sighing with relief before passing out completely.

"Niisama!!" Mokuba shrieked, the shrill cry rousing the others from their uneasy slumber.

A few weeks ago...

"D'you think he'd like this one?" asked Mokuba, holding up a video game and turning to his friend.

His friend shrugged absently, turning and staring out the window. "He's your brother...don't you know what he'd like?"

The younger Kaiba sighed. "I dunno....I guess he's just hard to shop for."

His friend nodded vaguely, his lavender eyes still nervously scanning the gray, chilly landscape outside.

Mokuba grinned in an almost conspiring way. "Malik, it really doesn't snow here all that much; you don't have to get so paranoid.

"But it looks like it's going to snow," Malik, Mokuba's best friend, retorted somewhat lamely. "And I don't want to get caught in any snow."

Mokuba grinned even wider.

"Come on, Mokuba!" Malik begged. "There's no point staying here if you can't find anything!"

Mokuba grinned impishly, but nodded. In reality Mokuba hoped it would snow this season; he knew his blond-haired friend had never experienced snow before, and he thought his friend's first Christmas in Domino should be a white one.

Now the two friends were heading out of the store and down the sidewalk to the subway station to catch the subway that would take them from downtown Domino back to the suburban area of the city.

Mokuba sighed, looking around at all the other shoppers chattering excitedly, bags swinging from their hands. He knew he shouldn't be worrying; he knew he had plenty of time, but he had no idea what to get his brother for Christmas.

"Fourteen."

Mokuba blinked, Malik's voice yanking him out of his thoughts. "Huh?"

Malik turned and nodded toward the car driving down the road, a fir tree dangling over the edge. "It was the fourteenth."

Mokuba nodded, smiling slightly, remembering how they'd began counting how many cars they saw with a Christmas tree on top.

Malik had been so surprised to see the trees attached to cars. "What are they doing with those?" he asked bluntly.

Mokuba had turned to Malik staring in shock. "You've never seen a Christmas tree before?!"

Malik had shrugged, looking a bit awkward. "Well...no..." He cleared his throat, and the subject was changed.

"Niisama's gonna pick me up at the station," Mokuba said to Malik a while later, the two sitting on the nearly empty subway. It would be full of holiday shoppers soon, which was another reason Malik had wanted to leave. "And then we're gonna go do something together," Mokuba added quietly, swinging his legs back and forth.

Malik cocked his head. "You make it sound like that's a bad thing."

Mokuba shrugged. "I...well, I don't know, maybe it is." He sighed. "See... Well, you kinda know Niisama, and you know he doesn't talk to people much."

Malik nodded.

"H-he doesn't even talk to me much," Mokuba continued. "He got so used to hiding from Gozaburo that now he hides from everyone..."

His shoulders drooped. "I love Niisama, but...sometimes I think I don't know him at all."

But when they got off the subway at the station, Seto Kaiba was not in sight.

"I guess he's running a bit late," Malik commented. "Want me to wait with you?"

Mokuba nodded, a nagging feeling growing in the pit of his stomach. 'What if Niisama doesn't come?'

And half an hour later, Kaiba was still not there.

"Maybe you should call him?" Malik suggested, gesturing to the telephone booth off to the side.

Mokuba nodded, swallowing the lump in his throat, and dug a few coins out of his pocket, and walked into the booth. Malik stood outside, casually leaning to one side, trying to listen at the same time. He was sure Kaiba hadn't forgotten, and therefore wondering what had happened.

Mokuba dialed the number and held the phone to his ear, bouncing impatiently on the balls of his feet.

"Hi, Niisama!" he said, finally. He paused. "I'm at the subway station with Malik." He listened for another moment, and his face fell.

"Oh," he said softly. "Yeah, I was just wondering if maybe you'd forgotten." He swallowed and sighed heavily. "I-it's ok. I know."

"I-I.....I'll see you later." Mokuba chewed his lip. He had barely begun lifting the phone back in its hold when he seemed to change his mind.

"Niisama!" he cried suddenly, and Malik jumped. "I love you," Mokuba said softly, looking crestfallen, and Malik realized that Kaiba must've already hung up.

Mokuba walked out of the booth, his shoulders slumped, and looked up at Malik. "Niisama got tied up at the office, so he couldn't make it," Mokuba said heavily.

Malik nodded, putting his arm around Mokuba's shoulder. "Don't worry," he said. "I'm sure there'll be another time."

"That's just it!" Mokuba cried, blinking away tears. "This was the first day in weeks that we were gonna do something together, and I don't know when we'll get another chance!" He sighed. "It's really annoying... I want to spend time with him, but then I don't..."

Malik tightened his grip around Mokuba's shoulders. "But you know..." he began softly. "You know he loves you more than anything."

Mokuba sighed. "I guess so."

Malik sighed too. "You want to go somewhere else?" he asked, thinking of ways to pull his friend out his slump.

Mokuba shrugged. "What about your thing with snow?"

Malik stared out at the slate-gray sky. "I can deal with it," he said resolutely, his face solemn. Mokuba had to smile.

"Oh, c'mon, it's not like we're warring against them or anything," he said, nudging Malik.

"Seems like a war to me," Malik muttered darkly, in the all-too-serious tone he used when he was joking.

A few days ago...

Malik stood at his locker at the end of the school day on December twenty-first, deep in thought, when Yuugi approached him.

"Malik-kun? Helloo, anyone home?"

Malik jumped, turning to face the shorter boy, who handed him an invitation to a party, to be held Christmas Eve at the game shop, six-thirty in the evening.

What Malik didn't know when Yuugi handed him his invitation for the party was that the group had planned for the Christmas party to also serve as a surprise birthday party for the Egyptian, who would be celebrating his birthday on December 23rd.

But when he received his invitation from Yuugi, Malik's thoughts were far from his coming birthday.

Malik and Mokuba, as strange as it may seem to some, were nearly inseparable. It was strange; they'd never come out and really said to each other or anyone else that they were close. But it was quite obvious to all around them that the two cherished their newfound friendship deeply.

So it was really no surprise that Malik found himself thinking about what Mokuba had said about his brother. What could tear down the wall between the brothers? he mused to himself.

What could build a wall between brothers, or family in general, for that matter? The answer to that question, Malik thought wryly, was one he knew very well. The hatred and pain that he'd once harbored, the emotions that had pulled him further and further from his own siblings... He could remember it all clearly, as much as he wished he didn't.

He could identify with Mokuba's situation, and it made him all the more determined to try and help his friend.

"Yuugi..." he said slowly, as the two boys left the school and were walking across the expansive lawn. "Do you think...maybe... we could possibly invite Kaiba?"

Yuugi blinked up at him. "You want Kaiba-kun to come?"

"Well...yes," Malik chewed his lip. "But mostly for Mokuba's sake."

"I see," Yuugi answered, using a tone that suggested he didn't fully understand what Malik was talking about. But the sincerity in the Egyptian's eyes was enough for Yuugi, and so invitations were sent out to both of the Kaiba brothers.

&&&&

"Please, Niisama!"

"No. I'm not going to Yuugi's stupid Christmas party."

"Niisama, it's not just a Christmas party! It's Malik's birthday party, too! Puh-lease, Niisama!"

Uh-oh. The lower lip had been extended, and the eyes widened. Seto was in trouble now.

That was how Mokuba somehow managed to persuade Seto to agree to come to the party on Christmas Eve.

"I'm not staying long," Seto scowled.

"That's okay," Mokuba shrugged, triumphant that his brother had at least agreed to come.

&&&&

The morning of Christmas Eve was the first day of winter break for the gang.

Most other 12-year-olds would take the opportunity to sleep in, but Mokuba did not. He rose fairly early, in order to join his brother for breakfast. He'd persuaded Seto to meet him in the mansion's smaller kitchen; the one not run by Seto's army of servants.

"So, what are you going to do today?" Seto asked. Mokuba swallowed a bite of cereal and shrugged.

"Probably hang out with Malik."

Seto nodded approvingly. He couldn't be sure why, but he found he assented Mokuba and Malik's friendship completely. He was the best out of Yuugi's little group, in Seto's opinion. He wasn't uncouth like that monkey Jounouchi, and he didn't preach endlessly about friendship as Yuugi and Anzu did. And then Malik wasn't involved with anything he wouldn't want Mokuba mixed up with.

"Don't forget the party, Niisama," Mokuba reminded seriously, pulling Seto from his thoughts.

"I know," Seto replied, somewhat impatiently. He stood up and set his coffee mug in the sink. "See you later, Mokuba."

"Bye," Mokuba waved, setting his own bowl in the sink.

After retrieving his coat and money for the bus fare, Mokuba hopped onto the city bus and got off near Domino Museum.

He scuffed at the sidewalk as he walked toward the familiar building, thinking about his brother's reluctance to attend Yuugi's Christmas party and hoped he came anyway. He sighed and looked up at the gray sky, a single white flake drifting downwards to land on the boy's nose.

His blue-gray eyes widened to the size of saucers.

It was snowing.

He broke into a run, dashing into the nearly-empty museum and straight down the stairs to the basement, where he found all three Ishtars.

"It's snowing!" he burst out, grabbing Malik's wrist and pulling him along. "C'mon!"

The excited boy exploded from the museum doors, and suddenly his legs flew out from under him and he landed hard on his backside.

"O-ow," he mumbled suddenly, looking down at the icy patch of sidewalk he'd slipped on with contempt.

Malik blinked. "Are you okay?" he asked, gingerly stepping on the ice to Mokuba. He reached out a hand and Mokuba grabbed it.

Malik intended to pull the other boy up, but somehow that wasn't what happened – what happened was that Malik ended up landing hard on the icy sidewalk as well.

He stared incredulously at the ice, slightly stunned. And Mokuba couldn't help it. He broke into peals of laughter.

Malik was shaken out of his stunned silence, and he broke into a grin. "Hey, it's not funny!" he exclaimed in mock-anger, shoving the raven-haired boy. Mokuba shoved him back.

By now, the two elder Ishtars had emerged from the museum and were standing on the steps, watching amusedly as the pair of younger brothers broke into a mock-fight.

&&&&

It snowed on and off the rest of the day, and by the time 6:30 rolled around quite a bit of snow had accumulated on the ground.

So, what did the partygoers do as soon as they arrived at Yuugi's?

They waged a snowball war, of course.

At first, they ganged up on Malik, but when Yuugi forced his other side into control of their body, the Pharaoh found himself scrambling for shelter, a very un-Pharaoh-like thing to do. But then, he learned to fight back.

The 'war' was so much fun, in fact, Mokuba almost forget his brother had yet to show up.

&&&&

The group had finally trooped inside, wet and cold, and Yuugi and Anzu feverishly mixed mugs of hot chocolate for everyone.

Then the phone rang.

"Can somebody get it?" Yuugi called from inside the kitchen. Ryou reached across to the coffee table and grabbed the phone.

"Mutou residence," he answered. He paused. "Mokuba-kun, it's for you," he said, handing the phone to the raven-haired boy.

Mokuba blinked, knowing only one person who would be calling him at Yuugi's house. "N-Niisama?" he asked slowly. He listened.

The others watched, wondering if Seto had bad news.

That was indeed the case.

"No, it's not okay!" Mokuba shouted suddenly in protest. "You always cancel on me!" His voice quivered. "I don't mean a thing to you," he accused, "it's always just about Kaiba Corp.!" With that, he shut the phone off and dropped it on the coffee table, turning on his heel and running down the hall.

An awkward silence followed.

"Kaiba's a jerk," Jounouchi said simply, as Malik got up and walked after Mokuba.

&&&&

Mokuba had taken to hiding in the second-story bathroom, and he was easily located as Malik simply followed the sound of muffled sobs.

Malik couldn't help but feel rather guilty as he turned the doorknob. After all, it had been his idea to invite Seto, so didn't that make him partially responsible?

He opened the door and Mokuba impatiently wiped his face.

"I'm sorry things aren't working out," Malik said sympathetically, ruffling Mokuba's hair. "He can't make it at all?"

Mokuba shrugged and sniffed. "He's got a meeting in a little while... He said he'd try to come when it was over, but he's not sure if he can..."

There was a pause. "I hate him," Mokuba scowled, his shoulder drooping.

"Mokuba..." Malik crouched down in front of them so they were eye level. He put his hands on Mokuba's shoulders. "You know you don't hate your brother."

Mokuba sighed. "You're right," he admitted finally. "I don't hate Niisama...I guess I just hate Kaiba Corp. Sometimes, I think it's the only thing he cares about...

"But he wasn't always like this. I'd hoped that we'd have a good holiday together. B-because... I don't think we've ever had a good holiday together. See, I...I wish I could remember them."

"Remember what?" Malik asked, cocking his head.

"Not 'what'," Mokuba corrected, "but 'who'. And I mean Mom and Dad. Niisama never talks about him, but he must remember..."

"I bet it's painful, to remember," Malik said softly.

"It is," Mokuba swallowed. "'Cause I still remember when we weren't the Kaibas. I-I hate Gozaburo, too," he burst out, blinking away tears. "It's all his fault."

Mokuba sighed. "I don't even know what to do anymore."

Malik smiled. "It'll be okay, Mokuba. I'm not all that experienced with Christmas, but from what I can tell, it's full of surprises. You just have to keep up hope."

A tiny smile tugged at the corners of Mokuba's lips. "Yeah, I guess so." His friend could be so wise... Perhaps it was all he had been through. Or perhaps it was simply because he was older; indeed, he'd turned seventeen yesterday.

"Thanks, Malik," Mokuba said sincerely, throwing his arms around the other boy's neck.

&&&&

The meeting adjourned at ten o'clock at night, and Seto was none too pleased at what had been discussed. Kaiba Corp. often enjoyed heightened sales around the holidays, but this year sales had not quite reached what had been expected.

About half an hour after the meeting was over, Seto sat in his blue sports car, stuck in traffic. He impatiently drummed his fingers on the steering wheel, trying to cook up a marketing campaign to boost sales.

But he couldn't concentrate on his company's problems right now. Right now, Mokuba's angry, tear-filled voice was the only thing on his mind. He sighed, rubbing his temple. He couldn't stand it when Mokuba was crying; especially when it was in some way or another his fault.

"You're so cold, Seto Kaiba," he said to himself.

'You weren't always like this, though,' a voice in the back of his head told him. 'You weren't always Seto Kaiba. Do you remember when you weren't? Do you remember them?'

"Of course I remember them," he gritted his teeth.

He was so preoccupied he didn't even notice the snow was falling faster and harder.

He noticed the snow not too much later, however. He sighed. Would he ever get to Yuugi's? Did he even care about getting to Yuugi's?

No, not really, Seto admitted to himself. This was so pointless, sitting in traffic like this... As soon as he got a chance to, he'd turn around and head straight for home.

But when still more time passed and the line of cars had barely moved at all, Seto turned on the radio, skipping station after station to find the traffic report.

And then he landed on some talk show, and a phrase jumped out at him.

"The true meaning of Christmas –"

He paused and listened, a very un-Seto-like thing to do.

"- so, always remember to be grateful for your family and those close to your heart, because spending time with those we love is truly what the season is about."

Seto snorted derisively. What a load of bull.

It popped into his head before he could stop it – there is no one close to my heart.

And then he froze, gripping the steering wheel, remembering in a flash someone taking him onto their lap, smiling and ruffling his hair. He laid his small hands on the person's swollen stomach, and the person laughed affectionately.

That laugh... He would never forget it. He would never forget his mother's laughter.

She loved him dearly... He remembered that. He looked most like her, but their personalities could not be more different. He was a quiet child, preferring a book to an afternoon in the park. His mother couldn't stand being cooped up inside, spending as much of her time outdoors as possible.

Thus, Seto never understood for the life of him why the baby made his strong, beautiful mother so sick.

The doctors warned her constantly of the danger in having her second child, but she waved them all off. She was determined to have this child.

"Are you excited about your little brother, Seto?" she'd arbitrarily ask her first-born son. Perhaps he'd answered yes, he didn't remember; he had been very small at the time, no more than four years old.

He did remember, however, his father asking his mother how she knew the baby would be a boy. She'd smile and pat her stomach, telling him she simply knew. "And he's going to look exactly like you," she'd tell her husband, lovingly tugging his raven locks.

But the birth...It made her so sick. She took Seto on her lap one last time and held him close. "Will you always look out for your brother?" she asked him quietly.

"O-okay," he answered, somewhat reluctantly.

"That's my Seto," she smiled, pushing his bangs away from his face.

When she died, Seto remembered the one thought that controlled his mind – I don't want him.

I don't want a brother. I want Mommy back.

When was it that his point-of-view on Mokuba changed? He wasn't sure; perhaps it was when his father died three years later.

In the present, Seto was gripping the steering wheel so hard his knuckles were stark-white.

If she saw him now...she would be so disappointed.

The honking of a car horn behind him startled Seto, yanking him rudely from his reverie. That was when he noticed the cars in front of him were moving. And so he put his foot on the gas. He was going to get to his brother, dammit, even if it took all night.

&&&&

Nearly one hour and an assortment of four-letter expletives later, Seto had finally reached Domino's suburban area.

And it wasn't plowed yet. Seto gritted his teeth.

He opened the door and stepped out, locked up his blue sports car (although it was under so much snow one couldn't tell it was blue or a sports car), fastened his trench coat tight around him, and started walking down the sidewalk.

Eleven thirty p.m.

He was close to Yuugi's house now. Only a little walking to do...

Half an hour later...

A sudden 'thump' noise from outside startled Mokuba out of his thoughts. The noise wasn't terribly loud, but it contrasted greatly with the silence inside the home.

The boy went out to the shop, and opened the front door. To his amazement, a thoroughly chilled and exhausted Seto Kaiba fell inside and dropped to his knees, sighing with relief before passing out completely.

"Niisama!!" Mokuba shrieked, the shrill cry rousing the others from their uneasy slumber.

As soon as they were awake enough to comprehend what had happened, they'd led Seto into the living room where he'd collapsed on the couch. "I'm fine," he scowled, shrugging them off. He peeled off his soaking trench coat, and the others noticed that at the clothes he'd been wearing underneath the coat were at least relatively dry.

"H-how long were you walking?" Yuugi asked slowly.

Seto shrugged. "Not long. There were just a couple streets that hadn't been plowed yet."

"N-Niisama..." Mokuba quivered, "you should lay down."

Seto looked at him and slowly complied, lying back on the couch.

"I...I thought you weren't coming," Mokuba said softly, cautiously sitting next to his brother, as if he moved too fast Seto would disappear.

"I had to," Seto sighed. "Because I remembered something she said, before she died...She told me to take care of you, and I realized I had to do a better job of that."

"W-who said that?" Mokuba asked, even though he had a good idea who it was.

"Our mother."

That was the others' cue to back out of the room and leave the brothers alone.

"Niisama..." Mokuba bit his lip and buried his head in Seto's chest. "I'm sorry."

"Why?" Seto asked, his voice so uncharacteristically soft. "I'm the one who should be sorry."

"B-but I was so angry at you," Mokuba explained. "I was thinking such bad thoughts, and you were trying to get to me... What if there'd been an accident? What if you got hurt, or worse? And all the time I would've been mad at you..."

Seto stared at him. "But it didn't happen that way, kid," he said, reaching out and ruffling his brother's hair.

And that was how the Kaiba brothers were reunited for Christmas.

&&&&

The next morning, Seto was back to his usual aloof self. It was almost as if nothing had occurred the previous night, but Mokuba knew it had, and he kept the memory close to his heart. And somehow, he knew his brother was doing the same.

The roads were plowed early that morning, and so at about nine o'clock, the doorbell rang, and in blew the two elder Ishtars.

"Neesan, Rishid!" Malik cried in relief, jumping up and running to the landing, pulling both of them into a hug. "You were okay last night?"

"Of course we were," Rishid said, smiling one of his rare smiles.

"I tried to call you, but-"

"The power lines were down," Isis finished. "I know. We tried to call you too."

"Come on in, we're making breakfast!" Yuugi called happily from in the kitchen, where he and his grandfather were flipping pancakes like crazy.

"Oh!" Jounouchi cried suddenly, jumping up as well as the Ishtars dragged a few more chairs to the already-very-crowded table. "Besides pancakes, we've got something else..." He reached into a nearby cabinet and pulled out a large plate. He turned around and faced the others, and Malik's jaw dropped.

It was a large birthday cake, the top crowded with seventeen candles. Jounouchi turned to Yuugi and his grandfather, and grinned. "You guys can keep working on those pancakes – it's gonna take a while to light all of these."

So while Jounouchi struggled with the lighter, and as Yuugi and his grandfather made enough pancakes to feed an army, Malik looked around at the table, and realized that he needed no Christmas presents – he already had the greatest gift anyone could ask for, and that was friendship.

"But how did you guys know it was my birthday the other day?" Malik asked slowly.

"Things just get around, you know?" Jounouchi grinned, winking at Isis and Rishid.

Jounouchi finally finished lighting all seventeen candles and set the cake in front of Malik, who took a deep breath and blew.

&&&&

Ending notes: It's 3:30 in the afternoon on Christmas Eve, and I finally finished this story, only both my cable and Internet are dead, so I can't get on and post this, and I am reeeeeally pissed. glares at computer

I wrote a TON of this today. u.u Let's see, basically I wrote everything that occurred on the 24th and 25th. I've been writing like all morning.

I called my friend 'cause I had no one to talk to and had been writing the last few paragraphs. And then I wrote the cheesiest line I ever wrote – "Malik looked around at the table, and realized that he needed no Christmas presents – he already had the greatest gift anyone could ask for, and that was friendship." I read it to my friend, and she positively cracked up. XD;

Yeah, the ending was almost disgustingly happy. But then, in my opinion, the world needs a lot more happiness.

So, merry Christmas. Or happy Christmas. Or happy Hanukah. Or joyful Kwanzaa. Or whatever you happen to celebrate. (Of course, if you don't celebrate Christmas, I'd be really surprised that you're reading this fic. :P)

- Author 282376