Warnings: Character death! I warned you! Also lots of
psychological stuff

Disclaimer: I know I'm bad influence on them...I know I treat them
badly...I know they aren't even mine...but can't I please borrow
them, just for this little one-shot that didn't leave me alone until
I wrote it down?

Summary: Mokuba is in a coma, most likely won't wake again, and of
course Seto stays by his bedside day and night. There he meets
death. Literally, because Death has blood red eyes and spiky hair...

Author's Notes:
This is an AU, in a way. Seto's character is more or less original,
except that he never met Yami, because obviously Yami is not the
spirit of the pharaoh in this story.

Le seigneur du sommeil éternel (The Lord of Eternal Sleep)

"How is he?"

"We are sorry, Mr. Kaiba, but we can do absolutely nothing. Your brother is in a state of vegetative coma. We will give him a room here in the hospital, you can see him. But we can not give him any medical help. We can not make any promises either. We suspect the brain damage is very serious. We do not know if he will ever wake up again."

"Mokuba…..He won't……No, that…that…Mokuba!"

Beep…

Beep…

Beep...

He groaned, his fingers dancing over the keys of his laptop. The beeping was driving him crazy. After so many hours one should think he would have gotten used to it. It had been bad enough, listening to it all day long, with only small interruptions by doctors and nurses all in white, telling him to eat and sleep. But when night had fallen the beeping had worsened. To his sleep-deprived mind it seemed to have increased, now ten times as loud as during daytime. Finally he had not been able to stand it anymore and he had opened his laptop, pulling up files and pages, mechanically going through well-learned motions, movements that had been trained into him, that he didn't need to think about anymore. Unfortunately that left room for lots of other thoughts.

Beep…

'Why? The day has 86.400 seconds, an average of 28 800 spent with sleep. There remain 57 600 seconds of waking life, for everyone of us to spend in whatever way we deem right. So many accidental, unnoticed actions, so many decisions and every single one could lead us down another path. But a cruel fate or coincidence made that car come your way that day. Made it arrive at the artificial lights at exactly the same of those 57 600 seconds as you did. And didn't make it stop. Hell, why didn't that car stop? Why? Why?'

Beep…

'Dear little one….I am so sorry…..I couldn't protect you. And now you're lying here, white as your blanket, machines attached to your body. I used to love machines for the absolute trust you can put into them. I hate them now, because of their imperfection. In truth they are nothing, hold no power at all. They can't save you. And I can't either. I wish…I wish I could leave this world together with you, little one…'

Beep…

With a soft sound the door to the hospital room slid open. Seto's body tensed when he felt the new presence in the room, but he didn't turn around. He knew the one who had come.

A young doctor entered the room, bluntly, without bothering to stop to watch Seto apprehensively, like the others did, without showing the usual sympathetic distance, without a greeting, without a clipboard in his hand. Only the commonplace long white coat gave him the appearance of a medical man.

"You have no power over him", Seto growled out.

The other man didn't answer but shook his head slowly. His blood red eyes were fixed on the one in the bed.

"You cannot take him with you", the older Kaiba brother hissed.

Again, the shake of a head, a glorious mop of blonde, black and crimson moving as if a gust of wind was sweeping through it.

Seto inhaled shakily, then buried his face in his hands.

"It is all dark", he whispered almost inaudibly, voice broken, "Death is darkness"

And for the first time the man answered. The tone of his voice was low, melodious. It made Seto feel like he under water, floating, dark blue waves rippling through him, carrying him. It made him feel like the ground underneath him was shaking, it made something inside his chest vibrate with its deep flow.

"To you people, everything you don't understand is darkness. But you seem to recognize me, I am flattered."

"How could I not?", Seto mumbled.

"Our encounters were very short till now. The fleeting moment when your mother told you to take care of your little brother, lying there in front of you, stroking your cheek with a trembling hand. The second they told you at the hospital your father had died too. Finally that fool of a step father jumping out of the window when you defeated him."

"You came always very fast. But not this time."

"No, not this time."

"But eventually you will take him"

"Yes"

The resignation in Seto's voice turned to helpless anger.

"Why! Why take him of all people! He's so young, he never did anything bad. You don't have any reason to take him!"

The other moved to sit down on the bed. Seto flinched but didn't stop him, only grabbed Mokuba's hand protectively.

There was a mirthless smirk in those bloody eyes, as their owner observed the movement before answering,

"Death is above human reason"

Seto snorted. "And whose reason does it represent? God's reason?"

The other's lips curved up into a brief smile. A pale hand was lifted and lingered over the joined hands of the Kaiba siblings, but not touching them. Seto's skin tingled, shivers running up and down his spine.

"Do you believe in God?", the deep voice wanted to know. "Because if you do, you should be convinced God only wants the best for his people."

"And what about their friends and relatives? Are they not his people? Is it just to take away from them what they love most?", the young businessman asked, his eyes staying fixed on his little brother.

The pale hand was hovering above Seto's arm, travelling upwards, towards him, increasing his shivers.

"If they believe in God they should be celebrating, since God will take their loved ones to paradise"

Seto jerked his hand away, jumping up from his seat, and again the flicker of a smirk showed on the ever indifferent features hidden by tricoloured hair.

"Sarcasm is not something I appreciate right now", he hissed in anger.

"Who said I was being sarcastic? I was perfectly serious."

Another violent shudder ran through Seto's body. "No, you are making fun of me, you are relishing in my despair!"

Bloodstone eyes met his blue ones and held them for a long time, until Seto fell back into the chair, grabbing his hair again.

"I am not mocking you", the deep voice assured him, speaking the truth so plainly that even Seto Kaiba couldn't deny it.

"How? How could they bear it?", Seto whispered. "How could they bear a loss so great?"

His interlocutor stood up and walked about the room, returning with a blanket and placing it impassively around the taller boy's shoulders.

"Some", he then replied, sitting down again, "find a distraction. Some still have something or someone else to live for. Some just have faith."

Seto pondered those words, then sighed, "Faith in a god that allows such suffering?"

"Faith in a god that would reward them for their suffering."

"But why does he make them suffer!", the taller boy cried. "Why is it so painful?"

The other's voice was still calm, as if talking to a frightened child.

"Why is fire painful to the touch? Why does the dragon have claws, the snake have venom, the rose have thorns? Why is there evil in the world? Is it God's fault or is the human race to blame? Do those questions make any more sense than yours?"

Seto remained silent, watching his brother again.

"I didn't give the rose its thorns", he finally murmured.

"So you believe in an evil god?"

The young businessman huffed. "I don't believe in any god"

The bloody-eyed man stood up. "I certainly am not the one to make you believe in God"

Seto didn't look at him, as he walked away from him. He didn't hear the door sliding open, neither the sound of it being shut, but he felt the other's presence leave the room.

On his bed Mokuba made a small movement in his deadly sleep.

Beep…

Beep…

Beep…

"Mr Kaiba….You….you have to eat…."

He didn't look up as the young nurse entered the room, stood in front of him helplessly.

"Mr Kaiba…..It's been two days now. You have to eat….I brought you some soup in that little bowl….there is omelette underneath the aluminium foil….and pudding in the little box next to it….And…and some coffee. I….will leave you now. E..enjoy the…."

She didn't finish the sentence, but hurried out of the room as fast as possible.

He sighed, liking it better that way, wanting to be alone.

Beep…

Automatically, his gaze shifted towards the tray, but he wasn't looking at the food. The only thing that caught his eye was the small knife lying next to the plate covered with the aluminium foil. A metal knife. Nowhere near sharp, of course, but still a knife. Could it leave wounds? What kind of wounds? How much blood would flow out of them? Was it the easiest way to leave the world? Or was it safer to use razor blades? Would they give him one if he told them he just wanted to shave?

Suddenly he felt the darkness approach from somewhere beside the window, coming to stand behind him, the feeling covering his neck in goosebumps.

"There you are again", he muttered. "One little look at a knife and you're standing ready to do your job. Doesn't take much to call you."

"Indeed", the melodious, low voice answered, "it doesn't take much in your situation. Human beings in that kind of mood seem to become strangely enamoured with death. They build up far too deep a connection."

Once more a violent shudder shook Seto's body. Annoyed, he turned around.

"Can't you call yourself something else? You don't need to remind me all the time."

A delicate eyebrow arched. "Getting cocky with death already?" Upon seeing Seto shiver again, he sighed, "Now, really, it's not like you could forget with me standing right beside you. But if you insist…you already gave me a name. 'Death is darkness' you said. That is 'Yami' in your language, I believe"

"Yami then", Seto grumbled. "What made you appear? My little suicide trip?"

"Among other things, yes. But you also know your brother has gotten worse"

Once again the brunet grabbed strands of his hair, trying to hold back the physical reactions to the emotions that leaked out of his eyes.

"It is not fair that it has to be him"

He could feel Yami's hands moving over his shoulders, mimicking a gentle massage without touching him. It resulted in lingering shivers and violent pounding of his heart.

"Life is never fair. You yourself always dwelled on that point of view. Death is only the last step in life"

"But what comes afterwards? Can't you tell me?"

Yami gave a harsh laugh, making Seto jump at its sound.

"Me telling you what comes after death? I really cannot do that. What if it was horrible, would you want to know?"

"Yes, I would."

"No you wouldn't. It would be deadly for your kind. They would be so afraid they wouldn't be able to live anymore."

"So it is something to be afraid of?"

"I didn't say that." Seto felt locks of his hair being twirled by the tiniest breezes seemingly emerging from the other boy's colourful hair.

"But if there is a wonderful life after death, why shouldn't we know?"

"I didn't say it was wonderful either."

"So is it horrible? Or just like the one we are living right now?"

"Maybe. Maybe not.", there was a smile hidden in the way he shrugged his shoulders.

Seto made a frustrated little noise, again hiding his face in his palms. Yami's hands continued tracing patterns only centimetres above his shoulders.

"You are infuriating, you know that?"

The other sounded unimpressed. "Of course, I am told that all the time. Infuriating, confusing, unfair. To think there are cultures that actually see my appearance as redemption! Hinduism for example – they try to reach a state of never being reborn again. Life is suffering, what comes after this world is pleasure. Interesting, isn't it?"

Seto thought about it. "What more is there?", he wanted to know.

"There are so many different opinions on life after death. The Greek underworld, a scary place of shadows and dread. The Egyptian afterlife with its long journey, culminating in the weighing of the heart against a feather. The Norse father of gods, Odin, picking up the fallen warriors and carrying them to Walhalla where they awaite the final battle of the Aesir against the Giants. Christian paradise is actually one of the places mankind has the least information on. Shouldn't it be easy for you to pick one of those options?"

"Far too easy actually", Seto muttered, standing up and taking a few steps towards the window. "They all sound to me like futile attempts to give comfort."

Perhaps there was curiosity in the other's gaze when he looked at the blue-eyed man in front of him. "And what do you believe? That there is nothing after death?"

"No", Seto replied, "I do not know. I only believe in what I can see and touch."

"Oh?", Yami lifted an eyebrow, "So you can see and touch power? You believe in power, don't you?"

"I always did" Wistfully, Seto looked away, "Now I'm not so sure anymore"

"Do you think all that you have built up, your power, your knowledge, your character, can vanish in the second your body dies?"

After a second of silence, Seto finally answered, "There is a saying that some part of you lives on for as long as you are remembered. It sounds reasonable. Sometimes at night I feel the demons of my past coming back to haunt me. As long as I remember them they will continue doing so."

"You think the worst that can happen to the dead is being forgotten?"

"How should I know?", Seto mumbled, looking out of the window into the night.

"You do not know", Yami said, and negligently busied himself at Mokuba's bed, tugging the blanket around his shoulders, letting the same gentle swirls of air that had previously tousled Seto's hair gust over Mokuba's pale skin now, moving strands of his black hair.

Tensely, Seto watched him from the other side of the room, as if he expected Yami to lung forward and suddenly take his brother away from him. But the other did nothing of that sort, only looked at the little boy a while longer, eyes showing no emotion.

"He stirs sometimes in his comatose state", the older brother whispered. "I get hope again when he does that. I think any moment his eyes will fly open and we will be able to go back to our peaceful life." As if in a trance, Seto then walked over to the window, leaning his forehead against the cool glass.

"I promised I would be his father. But I never had time for him, I couldn't give him all the love I hold for him. I wish I had a second chance to do so."

Yami watched him with a curious kind of mild interest in his eyes, combined with an offer to listen without commenting on what he had heard.

When Seto fell silent, dwelling in a memory world of guilt, the other stayed where he was, giving him privacy. Only when the silence stretched over more than five minutes, Yami walked up to the boy at the window, stood behind him again. He moved a bit closer to the taller man and whispered into his ear, "Humans are not meant to be perfect. Angels are meant to be perfect, but humans are no angels"

"My brother is", Seto replied softly. "Why does he have to leave this world so soon? He is so young."

"There is always a reason why someone shouldn't die. Either he has just married a wonderful wife, or he has children to take care of, or he hasn't yet reached his goal in life. Only the old men and women believe there is nothing more that life has to offer for them. Old has to make room for new. That is a logic you understand. But life isn't logical and neither is death. From time to time young life has to wither and die with its first winter. I cannot give you a satisfying answer to why that is so."

Seto continued to stare into the night. The lights of the city made it impossible for him to see the stars. He would have liked to have a look at them now, they sometimes made him feel close to his mother.

"Nothing in this life can be eternal"

"I would not say that", Yami murmured, and Seto felt him resuming his caresses somewhere above his shoulder blades. "A circle is eternal, it doesn't have a beginning or an end. Nature is full of eternal circles" The massaging hands above Seto's back traced long, elaborate circles. It was soothing and for the first time in three days and four nights, Seto felt truly tired. He closed his eyes as the other's melodious voice and caresses covered him in small shudders but lulled him further. "Things are appearing one day and vanishing the next, only to reappear on the third. It is a constant exchange, giving and taking, high tide, low tide, sun and moon. The world is spinning, spinning, spinning,…."

"Talk to me some more", Seto mumbled, already half asleep.

There was a smile on Yami's face as he drifted away from the other boy without making a sound.

Beep…

Beep…

Beep…

"Mr Kaiba. You don't look well. Why haven't you eaten what the nurse brought you? Look you are not helping your brother in any way by starving yourself."

"Please, leave me alone"

"Mr Kaiba. I can understand how you feel, especially since the state of your brother is constantly worsening. But he wouldn't want you to do this to yourself."

"Leave."

"But Mr Kaiba…."

"I. Said. Leave. You could not help him. No one can. Go."

Beep….

The doctor left the room in frustration while Seto never took his eyes away from Mokuba's face. He held the other's hand very gently in his, thumb lingering over the pulse point, wanting to feel the life that was still running through his brother's veins.

Beep…

'Mokuba…Mokie…Can you hear me? They say coma patients can hear you when you talk to them. He is so close, I can feel it. I cannot let him take you away, I cannot. I will fight him. I will not give you up, never. You have a right to live, more so than I have. You will have to take the company, little one, I know you can do it. You learned so fast, you are already as smart as I was at your age. I am so proud of you, my little one. I would love to hear you say my name once again….Forgive me for all I did to you. Forgive me. I love you, Mokuba'

Beep…

As he leaned down and kissed Mokuba's forehead, the sudden sound of steps was reverberating in Seto's mind. They were soft at first but steadily coming closer. Mokuba's pulse slowed. The door didn't open when he finally stepped into the room. His boots didn't make any sound as he moved over the wooden hospital floor. He was not dressed in the sterile white coat this time. It was like a veil of shadows and flexing patches of light was drawn over his body.

Seto stood up and pushed his chair back. Arms spread wide he positioned himself in front of his brother's bed.

Death halted before him. Not that the simple gesture would have stopped him. It was rather the unquenchable spirit the mortal boy showed in the face of one of the oldest forces in the world.

There was no pity in Death's eyes, neither joy, neither malice.

"You cannot take him", Seto said calmly, "I cannot watch you take him away. I cannot. I love him too much."

Death watched him silently. He wasn't in any hurry.

"I know", Seto continued, "that one life comes at the exchange of another. That is the circle of life, as you told me the other day. I offer you to take my life instead of his."

Death's blood red eyes were fixed on him, but he didn't move. "You are right in what you assume", he said, "I will take a life today"

"Then take mine. He is too young to die."

Still Death didn't move. He didn't force willing victims, he merely opened his arms to show this one the way.

"I hope you realize", he said, "that I am not going to persuade you to live. That is a mere human trick to get attention or pity. Death doesn't feel pity."

Seto looked back one last time, looked at his brother. His face was peaceful now, still unearthly pale, but the traces of illness were gone. They were both floating somewhere between life and death, in a place where everything was surreal. But Seto had told his brother everything there was to tell. He would be able to get along by himself, he had a lot of friends. It was a good feeling to know that he would give his life to save this untainted one, full of possibilities and pleasures.

He smiled. And with that smile on his face he took the last crucial steps and embraced Death. Seto gasped. The sensation of that deadly embrace was indescribable and so overwhelming that he buried his face in the other's hair. Death didn't yet hug him back. It was his last chance to renounce his decision and live. He stayed where he was, uncontrollably shivering.

There was a sparkle in those blood red eyes, that couldn't be clearly defined.

Was it excitement? Was Death greedy? Did he want this tall, beautiful man? Yet he waited a second longer, a last moment longer. Then his arms shot around the other man, forcefully pressing him to his body of swirling shadows and light. Seto moaned and looked over Death's shoulder at the window, and through his blurry vision it seemed to him he saw the stars there, shining for him. No one can say what was on his mind in those last minutes. Did he see his whole life, like a movie, running past him? Or did he only see the stars and the faces of the ones he had already lost to death? Did he see a sunrise in the middle of the night? Or a dark hole he was preparing to step into?

Death smiled. A smile that couldn't be described, that didn't hold any emotion known to mankind. No matter how violent his embrace had been, Death was gentle as he took Seto's lips, as he sucked the very breath out of the other's lungs. When Death opened his eyes, Seto Kaiba's were closed, hiding frozen blue that would never melt again to the colour of the ocean or a river in spring.

Beep….

There was a movement on the bed and a small voice, whispering, "Ni…sama….I …..I had ….the most….pecular….dream….."

Fin