He wasn't quite sure when it had started. A part of his mind mused with languid detachment that it had been going on for quite some time and for no time at all. For now it was merely enough that it happened. Kaiba thought it might have started with a duel. In his life so many things began and ended in the same undying cycle of dueling.
A duel with a woman, some obscene oracle and medium, casting her prophecies through illusion and necklace rather than a proper crystal ball. She gave him visions. The first, at the museum, crashed pointlessly against his stubborn reality. Tiny insignificant cracks it left behind, so true, but nothing that dogged reality couldn't repair and deny.
But the duel... That vision nearly undid him. Kneeling before the grand image of his dragon, a girl hanging limply from outstretched hands. Stare into the infinite past, his own reflection staring back. It faded, certain, leaving him with only the magnificent echoes of his most faithful servant.
Dreams of monsters, dreams of death, every night they haunted, never did they cease. That first fitful duel against the boy who would call himself pharaoh and still the punishment lingered. It was no wonder Kaiba sought to banish them to the real world. Bind them with strings of code, restrict them with programs and holograms. Force them out and stare at them until the nightmares lost their potency, dreams indistinguishable from daylight.
But not this last vision gifted upon him by the woman. Not the familiar stranger with eyes of azure flame, skin darkened by the touch of the sun, hair an ebon brown. This stranger, almost as alien as Kaiba was to himself.
Now the vision changed. He walks in the place of the stranger. No girl dangles helpless from his grasp; far more precious, his brother sleeps in his arms. The tablet rises as a monolith to eclipse the sky. A dragon curves and curls upon its surface, an ouroboros chasing her own tail through future and past. Falling to his knees, sand scraping at his cheeks, Mokuba clutched protectively close.
The tablet is as smooth as a mirror. The familiar stranger stares back at him from its surface. Sacred burden of brother and sister laid to rest in front of the dragon's mark. Watch them curl instinctively towards one another, as though separated merely by a plate of glass than the weight of millennia. They know their own echo. Kaiba reaches for his own. Falters.
Wait. Somewhere on the other side, beyond Kaiba and Mokuba, beyond stranger and maiden. No more nightmares. No more dreams and deaths and dreams for an eternity of nights. Only the stranger as familiar as himself and that precious, sacred other. Maiden or brother, the other keeps his heart.
But what of the rest of him?
His open palm presses against the tablet, fingers splay wide. Only cold unfeeling stone. Kaiba clenches his fist, head hanging in defeat, protective grasp about his brother. One more second. If only, if only. One more second. One more second and he might have passed. He might drown in this reflection. Mirror mirror on the wall, and not a drop to drink.
Kaiba clung to that nightly vision above all others. It was rare, those times when he woke up with the uncertain promise of life rather than the gruesome reminder of death. Woke up gasping, sweating through sheets, clutching at blankets. It always shook him, shattering however briefly the restraints he willingly wore. Enough that he could approach a mirror and stare back at himself. Close his eyes and reach for the echo and falter.
One more second.
Warm palm beneath his own, fingers curled tight about his own. Hold his own echo crushingly, greedily close. Breath was soul and soul was life, devour both with hungry lips. Blood thicker than water and desire thicker still. Bind them, ghost and walking shell.
Kaiba found his Narcissus.