Title: Le Jardin
Author: Fairly Grimm
Pairing: Seto Kaiba/Yami no Yuugi
Rating: T, PG-13
Feedback: Review on comment on LJ, or just drop me an e-mail
Summary: One-shot with possible sequel, SK/YY. Yami pulls Kaiba out of a river, the typical pointed banter ensues, and then things get a bit more complicated.

(A/N: Sorry to bore you all with long notes to begin this, but I've got a few things, so bear with me:

First off, this is my first fic in the fandom, and if I've screwed something up please, tell me. Really, I'm a big boy; you won't hurt my feelings, and I'd rather know than just get it wrong again. Same goes for spelling, grammar, whatever. Also, if anyone out there feels up to beta-reading for me, I'd love them forever.

Secondly, this is technically AU, but only insofar as it's post-Egypt but Yami hasn't gone to the afterlife. The explanation isn't the best, I know, but I thought it was better to have a vague, half-assed reason than just an "assume that Yami and Yuugi have separate bodies because it's convenient for me as an author" sort of thing. That always feels like a cop-out to me.

Third, a manga vs. dub vs. sub note: this is a jumble, pretty much. Characterizations are based largely on the US dub, but some of the dynamic between the characters is more manga-inspired, and the Death-T storyline from the manga is mentioned once or twice. All you need to know, if you haven't read that part of the manga, is that after Yami first duels Kaiba, instead of what they show in the dub about telling him to "open his mind" so that he can understand, Yami "shatters" Kaiba's heart, sending him into a coma until he can "piece his heart back together." It's not a big deal if you haven't read it.

There. I'm done. Really. You can read the fic now.)

If there was one thing Seto Kaiba did best, out of all the things he so vocally prided himself on, it had to be the art of creating an impression. He was there like the shadow of the moon, all done up in ridiculously expensive silks and PVC, every inch of him defined by sharp angles and sleek lines, nothing out of place except the way his dripping bangs clung to his forehead, and even that looked almost intentional. Hardly the sort of figure one expected to run into just past dawn in a rain-soaked public park, but that was another Kaiba thing; he didn't exist in this garden, with six o'clock rain coming down in a steady grey drizzle, but in defiance of it, and it shouldn't have been surprising that his boots, stunningly white, didn't have a trace of the mud that caked Yami's own plain black ones.

Kaiba didn't turn, or seem to realize that he was no longer alone, and continued on his way, some strange sort of spectre, only half real amongst the lilies. Yami followed, not particularly sure why; he had nothing to say to Kaiba, not really, but all the same there was a sort of…pull. Some people, for good or for ill, were born to be stared at. So he came to the small wooden bridge that Kaiba was crossing, and waited, watched silently as those polished white boots took their clacking steps: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven --

Kaiba stopped, stopped dead in the center of the bridge. Dreamlike, really, the dull look on his face as he stared straight ahead. He didn't seem to recognize his audience even now, eyes focused blankly in front of him. Or maybe he simply saw something that wasn't there. Whatever he was doing, he wasn't watching the little fish swimming in the shallow river underneath the bridge. He was wholly detached, it seemed, and that was vaguely fascinating. Yami stepped onto the bridge after him, feeling the wooden plank give slightly under his weight, and that was the moment that the spectre became solid, as he crossed his arms tightly over his chest and let himself slip over the edge.

It was beautiful, really, the way Kaiba's back, always so stiff, arched so fluidly; his grace was inhuman as his head went back, breaking the surface of the water first, and those pristine boots swung upwards. Then the boots, too, slipped under the water, and this ghost, this strange creature made flesh in a foggy city park just after dawn, disappeared into the river. Fluidly as he'd stepped backwards and into thin air, he sunk, and there was nothing left but soundless ripples and the splish of raindrops misting down.

It took a moment for Yami to realize exactly what had happened, and that Seto Kaiba, ghostlike or no, was underwater, and not struggling back up to the surface again. For an endless instant, he stared, his head spinning around the last ten seconds a thousand times over: Kaiba's emotionless mouth and the rain-soaked hair in his eyes, thin arms crossing defiantly over a slim chest, spine arching bonelessly, the toes of shining white boots sinking, sinking…the raindrops breaking the river's surface, but no air bubbles, and no thrashing, clutching hands.

Then the numbness of the steady rain and the mist rising off the water had worn off, and he moved, for the first time without feeling the strange clumsiness of being in a body that was not quite his own. The water was an icy shock at first, and burned in his nostrils, stung his eyes as he searched frantically for a sight of the other boy's body, but necessity had made him numb, and Yami didn't allow himself to be distracted. There! -- blurry tendrils of chestnut hair turned a ghastly blue by the murky grey-green water.

He reached out frantically for the pale face he saw, sinking almost teasingly slowly towards the gravel bottom of the stream, but the tips of his fingers brushed an icy cheekbone and that was all before Kaiba was out of his reach and he was kicking back to the surface. It almost hurt to breathe again, and then once he'd gotten the oxygen in his lungs he didn't want to go back under, but he forced himself, and this time he managed to get straight to the bottom. Kaiba was still, deathly still, but at least he didn't fight his rescuer, just sort of falling bonelessly through the water; Yami seized hold this time, catching him around the waist and fighting his way back to the surface with the body in tow. It took some doing, as Kaiba was half again his size, and the heavy jacket and boots weighted him down, but he made it, choking for air and shivering with the cold.

He shoved Kaiba onto the riverbank without the luxury of gentleness, thinking only of getting him out of the water and not particularly caring what that entailed. The boy was like a broken puppet, the strings snapped and limbs limp and hopelessly tangled; it took some work for Yami to get arms and legs sorted. Then he was hoisting himself out, scrabbling at the muddy edge with his fingernails. It'd been much easier to push Kaiba up than to pull himself out, but he managed it, although he was filthy now, mud smeared all over his borrowed shirt and pants, as well as caked under his fingernails. He didn't mind it, having seen much worse, but a nagging guilt reminded him exactly what borrowed meant, and that he'd have to explain to Yuugi that he'd ruined his clothes.

Funny sort of thing to focus on when Kaiba still hadn't moved, not even to shiver. It froze in his mind again, that image of him careening so smoothly backwards, and then he was near to panic again, instinct taking over. "Kaiba!" He shook the boy's shoulders hard, but got no response. "Seto Kaiba! Kaiba, get up!"

It shouldn't have worked; Kaiba was surely too far gone, and he'd hesitated too long before jumping in after. But Kaiba stirred, his eyes flicking open after a moment; Yami moved to help him sit up, but was shoved back quickly. He understood why a second later as Kaiba rolled onto his knees and started coughing up water, all that boneless grace gone in an instant as his shoulders jerked and his whole body shuddered with the retching. But in inimitable Kaiba style, a moment later he'd wiped his mouth delicately with the back of his hand, and was fixing Yami with the hard glare that had become his most neutral expression.

"I thought you were drowning," he offered by way of explanation, still a little fazed. Kaiba's eyes narrowed to slits, but he said nothing, which was hardly unusual. "Thought you had drowned, actually. I'm glad you're all right."

He spent a moment digesting that, but then his face relaxed slightly, changing from visible hostility to something more bland, a carefully detached mask. "I've already died in your arms once," Kaiba said, with a bitterness in his voice that belied the softer expression that was coming onto his face. That moment, that duel, had been one of the few times they'd been allied in all senses of the word. But the momentary deference to past events was gone an instant later. "I wasn't planning on a repeat performance."

"Are you all right, then?" It felt strange to ask that of someone so viciously self-sufficient, but Kaiba looked so pale, with his lips a shade of frightening lavender, and it needed to be asked.

Surprisingly, Kaiba just inclined his head a fraction of an inch in a nod, letting the question pass. Instead, he looked oddly quizzical himself, as if there were something on the tip of his tongue he was trying to puzzle out. "It's you, isn't it? The other one. Why're you out? I'd have expected that if it were anyone, it would be him. The whole compassionate hero piece is more his style than yours."

Yami scoffed; the words weren't meant to hurt, and he could ignore the edge on them. "Our rivalry hardly means I'd let you drown."

Seto Kaiba could be scathing when he wanted to be, but this wasn't it, not by a long shot. This was the sort of annoyed hiss a cat gave when it was sunning itself and someone jostled it. Cats though, they tended to change course quickly, to begin nuzzling up close in hopes of petting and rewards even as one was still spooked by their hissing, and Yami wasn't sure how far that comparison carried. He wasn't sure he even wanted to think about it.

"I seem to recall a time when you would've been quite happy to see me dead," Kaiba said softly, layering the tiniest bit of venom into his response as he saw his first barb hadn't gotten the desired response. This time it worked; Yami could feel his eyes narrowing in irritation as despite his best efforts, the hook sunk in and stung a bit. "And vice versa, of course. But I suppose we've all learned to let bygones be bygones…. Why was it you, and not him?" There was an oddly genuine curiosity in his voice.

Then it clicked, and the irritation faded. "You were never told, were you?" Kaiba just shook his head, looking impatient. "In Egypt," he explained slowly, "I was given a choice: either to seal away the Sennen items for good and to go on to the afterlife and my memories, or to live out the remainder of my life first, and then die as any other mortal, leaving the past behind entirely…. I'm a different person than who I was when I entered the puzzle, so I had to choose to live out this life, really. My memories aren't mine anymore, you understand; they belong to who I was. Yuugi and I are separate now."

Kaiba rolled his eyes. "Things never stop with you two. Pharaohs, spirits, puzzles, all of it. And now you have two bodies. Which one of you do I have to beat to get my title back, then? Or do you only function as one person, still?"

Funny, how easy it'd become in the past months to ignore Kaiba's sharp tongue. What once would've been a biting insult was at best a small annoyance now, although it was slightly frustrating to see every word so easily rebuffed. Yami just brushed it off, not even needing Yuugi's calming influence to help temper it. "You've changed, too, you know," he said seriously. "You're not who you were at Death-T, or even at Battle City. You might start a new life, too, if you let yourself be forgiven."

That bit into him just as deeply as Kaiba had hoped he could get into Yami; his blue eyes flashed for an instant, lips pressing together in a tight line, but then he relaxed slightly, although it was clearly forced. "You only have one life," he answered slowly. "And there's no changing who you are. You can't start over without burying everything you've ever known."

"But you're trying, all the same, aren't you?"

Kaiba said nothing this time, glaring again, and Yami pushed himself up onto his feet, wiping some of the mud off of his knees. He washed his hands in the river, casting a glance up from the water at the other boy, to ascertain that he really would be all right if left alone, and then realized that with Kaiba, that sort of assurance wasn't necessary, and certainly wasn't appreciated.

"Enjoy the rest of your walk," he said softly, standing up again and turning away to head off on his own. "I wouldn't advise going diving again, though. I'd say it's a bit cool for that, really."

Kaiba surprised him, though, just when he thought he'd figured things out. "Wait."

He did pause, feeling oddly hopeful, and turned to see a slim pale hand, still gleaming wet, reaching up for his. It was surreal, to see Kaiba, Seto Kaiba, asking for anyone to help him up, but there it was, long fingers and nails slightly blue from the cold. Maybe things had changed after all. Yami took his hand immediately between his own -- he knew better than to try to lift Kaiba with just one hand -- and pulled Kaiba to his feet. This was turning out to be a strange morning all around, really, as the boy drew himself up to his full height and nodded at Yami with the closest thing he'd ever seen to gratitude on Seto Kaiba's face.

"Walk with me," Yami asked after a moment, when he realized that that one word was all Kaiba was going to venture, that the silence meant he was supposed to give something, too. So like a promising young CEO, to make everything into a boardroom comprise. "It's been a long time; I'm sure we have lots to talk about."

Kaiba gave a noncommittal grunt in response, apparently having exhausted his vocabulary, but he gave that tiny nod again, the slightly inclination of his head. With a half-smile on his lips, feeling oddly encouraged, Yami returned the nod and started walking, deliberately pacing himself slowly. After Kaiba's stunning display of coordination during that little swim, he couldn't help but feel that he should move very carefully, although the likelihood that Kaiba would suddenly find himself sprawled again like a broken doll was about the same as --

"No, left."

He stopped. "Excuse me?"

Kaiba jerked his head to the left impatiently. Yami didn't understand, so he explained, looking quite like the exasperated school teacher of a slow child, "If we turn right here, we'll wind up back where we started. You've got to take only the lefts if you want to get through the whole maze." He snorted like this was something everyone should know.

Yami couldn't help but laugh, crossing his arms over his chest. "I wasn't aware that this was a game." Only Kaiba, only Seto Kaiba, would turn a relaxing morning stroll through the rain into some sort of cutthroat competition involving an imagined maze. And there weren't even real opponents!

Kaiba responded in deadly earnest: "Everything is a game. You should know that."

The look on his face was enough to sober Yami entirely. He'd learned very quickly that to know an opponent was essential to understand their game, and Seto Kaiba had been a difficult rival to fathom. Yami had never actually completed that particular puzzle, finding it ultimately something he could only win if the victory were handed to him by Kaiba himself, but he'd gotten far enough in understanding his nonverbal cues to recognize that he was deathly serious.

"A thousand lefts only wind up being a few hundred rights," he offered lightly, trying to turn the situation back into a gentler game, one of sheathed claws, not true intention to hurt. Things between them always seemed to turn into matters of life and death, and he didn't want to even start in that direction, not again. Better to make this all a joke.

"A thousand turns in any direction is a circle," Kaiba countered, eyes beginning to narrow. Yami could see the unspoken question: What are you playing at? But his gambit was a success, and Kaiba was distracted, being pulled into the game.

"If it's a maze," Yami said wryly, knowing he'd gotten his hooks in, "we're probably going in circles anyway."

Now Kaiba's eyes were now dark and alive with suspicion, but there was the tiniest hint of a jackal's smile on his lips. He'd seized on to the fact that this, too, was a competition, and that particular glow he got when he was playing to win was coming on. So much better to see that on his face, the vibrant look he took on when he was fighting for something, than the deadened one he'd worn previously.

"In some mazes," he said softly, nearly whispering despite the intensity of his words, "that's the point."

Yami didn't have anything to respond with, but a move straight out of left field always worked well with Kaiba; he was brilliant at dealing with anything that came his way, but it always threw him, if just for an instant. That instant was always crucial in turning a game around. "Very well, we'll take the left. But why this maze? You do seem out of place in a public park."

Kaiba didn't hesitate a moment to lead him down the proper path, and that little half-smile, cold as it was, definitely wasn't Yami's imagination. "True, but it's my park. I like to see that my things are in proper order."

Yami had nothing, but he didn't mind it, really, falling into step beside Kaiba. These not-quite games were inconsequential, and if it meant losing to see that comfortable, almost contented expression on Kaiba's smug face, to efface the memory of those lidded eyes and cold lips set in a mask like death, it was worth the price.

"Your park?" he asked, bemused.

"It's reparations, you see."

The game was over now, and Kaiba was looking at him as they walked with eyes perhaps even more intense than they were during a duel. It was strange, how Kaiba could be so keenly focused during a game, but twice that during a conversation. Perhaps, though, conversation was just a game of even greater importance -- or was it simply one with much more at stake?

Yami found himself matching that gaze. "For the weapons," he suggested.

Kaiba's face darkened, the smile gone as if it had never been there, but he didn't look hurt or upset. Kaiba Corporation's past -- and by extension, Kaiba's -- was an ugly truth, but one he'd never run from or tried to hide. It was a rather rare and attractive brand of honestly. Kaiba simply nodded, making a sweeping gesture to encompass their surroundings as he explained, "For the missiles, for the dead, for the lives Kaiba Corp ruined. It's a small start, of course, but -- "

"It's an admirable one," Yami interrupted, and he meant it.

Kaiba blinked at him, not understanding. "That wasn't what I was going to say."

"It doesn't matter." And it didn't. This was backsliding; they were no longer making progress. The vibrancy, the white hot life in him, was fading back out again, and Yami wasn't going to let it go easily. He had a duty, really; he'd broken Seto Kaiba once before, left him with nothing but shards of the person he had been, and he could see now that even with all those pieces collected up again, he'd left Kaiba with one thing that couldn't be changed: his heart had once been shattered. It would always be scarred, but Yami wasn't going to let the cracks widen, if he could help it.

"You're right," Kaiba said distantly. The intensity was gone; his eyes seemed more gray than their usual vivid blue, although Yami was willing to blame that on the clouds. "It's too small a scale. I'm going to do more." He said this like he was sharing a secret confidence, a sudden resurgence in his focus, something like emotion, like he was trying to convince himself of it more than Yami. "I'm going to pay for everything."

Yami could only shake his head. He'd been naïve, when he'd started out, thinking so much in terms of black and white. Those who were evil had to be punished; those who were not evil were flawless. This shattered boy had been the first grey person he'd met, and even then, he'd thought that simply breaking him down would allow him to become light. He couldn't help but feel he was responsible, one out of the many people who'd contributed to this strange amalgam of flaws and flawlessness.

"You take it too far, Kaiba. This isn't all your fault."

That just seemed to irritate Kaiba; he was always taking everything, even compliments, as belittlement and insults. "I'm making amends," he said passionately, his eyes lighting again. "Even someone like you, who's never had to apologize for anything in his life, should be able to understand that."

Yami just shook his head again, feeling like this was all futile. "I can understand a memorial garden. But what you -- "

Kaiba's whole body language changed in the instant those words came out of Yami's mouth; he straightened up, tensed, stopped walking, drew back. His eyes had something of the expression of cat, startled and afraid and ready to bolt, but momentarily holding his ground. It was a warning glance: go no further, or this ends. Three hastily considered words and their implications had shattered whatever rapport they'd been building, and Yami was quick to backtrack, "It's not that I've never had to apologize; it's that I've been forgiven, and moved on."

They'd come to a bridge not unlike the one Kaiba had…not unlike that one, except that it had a handrail, and Yami realized that only as Kaiba turned on him and walked to the opposite side. He placed his hands on the rail and seemed to shudder a little, his shoulders gone rigid. His gaze was fixed intently on the water, informing Yami plainly that he was being ignored. And then --

"You think I haven't tried?" Kaiba sounded more exhausted than upset. "The only people who could release me are dead. I can't forget, not until all of this is buried. I'm going to wipe out every trace of what he -- of what I did."

Had it been anyone else, Yami wouldn't have hesitated to close the gap and lay a hand on Kaiba's shoulder, say something comforting. But it was him, and so Yami stayed on his side of the bridge, allowing Kaiba his space. "You can't bury the past," he said softly, the closest thing he had to reassurance. What he meant was You don't have to try what's impossible, but what Kaiba heard….

"I can, I intend to, and I will," he said fiercely, hands clenching on the railing. His head was bowed, but his voice had more conviction than Yami had ever heard in it. Still, his shoulders seemed frail, despite the dramatic coat he wore over them, and it was almost painful to watch.

Yami paused, inwardly sighing, then hesitantly began from a new angle, trying to be comforting: "Seto…."

Kaiba glanced over his shoulder at that, seeming to have no words. His cheeks had still not regained the small amount of color they'd begun with, and he looked almost dead, a statue with rain running off its sharp marble cheekbones and wetting its lifeless pale lips. More than pallid, more than cold, more than tragic, more than dead, he looked defeated. It was only the strange intensity of his ice blue eyes that made it clear that this was the indomitable Seto Kaiba.

"You want to know why I did it."

Kaiba's voice broke the silence, broke into his thoughts, so softly and matter-of-factly that for a moment Yami wasn't sure what he'd heard, if he'd heard anything at all. His voice felt grey, strangely, and if a voice could be a storm than surely his was this weary drizzle, wet and without feeling. Kaiba had looked down again, eyes trained on the water, and Yami couldn't tell what exactly that must mean, but he didn't like it.

"What?" he asked quietly, after a pause.

Kaiba stopped watching the river, turning to him with eyes narrowed like a reptile's into cold little slits. It was the same face Yami had stared at across an arena countless times: emotionless, calculating, and forbidding. But he'd long since gotten over the momentary chill of Kaiba's icy blue gaze, and considered the other boy's words without any distress.

"You do; it's all over your face."

Yami didn't say anything, and then the blank look became something more irritated, a mouth that was still slightly bluish from cold twisting into a sneer. That was another expression he was used to, and it meant that Kaiba wasn't liking the direction their interaction was taking.

"Well, I wasn't going to, if that's what you think. I wasn't about to off myself," he spat, "so you can stop looking at me like that!"

Yami just shrugged at him, not breaking eye contact. It was tempting to ask just what he had been doing, if not that, but he kept his silence. Kaiba crossed his arms tightly over his chest, eyes flashing a bit defiantly. "I would never do that to Mokuba," he said fiercely, voice gone slightly hoarse.

Kaiba was always so quick to assume he was being attacked, so ready to go on the offense in return. For all the brave faces and the defiant set of his sharp chin, so much of him seemed to be consumed with the possibility, the fear, of attack. He bristled at the slightest word, but just as he was in the dueling arena, he never really had a good defense to fall back on, and had to go straight to striking back. And unfortunately, he couldn't see that Yami wasn't a threat.

"Kaiba," Yami sighed, feeling more drained than impatient. He'd come to believe he had infinite patience. "I wasn't suggesting that you…."

"Save it!" Kaiba spat bitterly, starting to walk again with a reined anger almost visible in his footsteps. The moment was broken, and whatever had kept him still and conversational for so long was gone. He looked back only to say sharply, "You didn't have to."

This was about the point that every time before Yami had turned his back on Kaiba, decided to let the boy stalk off on his own, knowing there was no point in trying to argue. When Kaiba was determined to cut himself off -- indeed, when he was determined to do anything -- he always succeeded. This time, though, watching the tight fury in his body language, the sharpness of each step, Yami wasn't so sure that it wasn't worth trying at least once to reach out. Besides, he'd never been one to give up easily, and the marked exception to the rule "when Kaiba plays, Kaiba wins" had always been where he was concerned.

Yami started off at a half-run, careful not to slip on the wet path, and caught up to the other boy before he'd gone too far. "Look, Kaiba," he said, trying to be conciliatory without seeming either condescending or complacent, "You can make your excuses to me, but I'm not asking you to."

"Oh, don't patronize me," Kaiba muttered, a good imitation of annoyed disregard, but his voice lacked the note of disdain that always flavored it when he spoke to Jounouchi. The fact that he didn't try to go off on his own again stood out rather conspicuously.

Yami fell into step beside Kaiba, not really caring where they were going; he doubted the other boy even knew, anyway. What mattered was the fact that Kaiba was, for the first time in his experience, actually allowing someone to correct him, albeit not happily. Either the quick plunge into icy water had slowed Kaiba's head down enough that he didn't realize what was happening, or he was really changing.

He had to go with the ice water theory, as before he could say anything, Kaiba's mind seemed to have thawed, and he interrupted, "Yu--Yami, whoever you are, just -- quiet, all right? I didn't ask you to stay because I wanted your advice; you help just by…."

Or maybe something else entirely was melting now. They both stopped walking, so suddenly that it was hard to tell who'd paused and who'd followed, but Yami was too busy staring at Kaiba to be bothered by the logistics. He wasn't sure what exactly Kaiba had meant, had started to say, but they both knew, from their identical expressions of surprise, that it hadn't been supposed to come out, and it meant something neither wanted to think about. Kaiba had lost his sense of self entirely, his mouth parted and his cracked lips slack, and that was what convinced Yami not to demand an explanation. For the first time that morning, his eyes weren't narrow, but wide with shock.

Then Kaiba recovered himself, clearing his throat quietly. He glanced slightly to the side, breaking eye contact in a way that seemed entirely out of his character, and said softly, "Just be here, all right? And be quiet." With just those words and the signature swish of his coat, he walked on as if he'd said nothing at all, leaving a bewildered Yami staring at the space where he'd been.

Again he found himself running, short legs pumping to compensate for Kaiba's long stride. His head was bursting with questions now, and the desire to shove Kaiba up against a wall, wrinkle that slick coat of his and demand the answers that were just out of his reach, the words that should've been his to -- but he respected Kaiba's request, holding his peace. The most important lesson to be learned about Seto Kaiba, aside from "He is dangerous," had to be "No one can force him to do anything," and even Yami wasn't about to try, not yet.

So, they walked in silence, two of Yami's light steps for every one of Kaiba's, and the silence was conspicuous until the rain began to come down harder, a haze of white noise that enveloped them so much as it soaked them. Kaiba's sleek trenchcoat hummed a bit with the little half-metallic plinks of raindrops wicking off it, but Yami didn't mind that his own jacket, thin and worn and cotton, was sopping, because the rain was warm, or warmer than the river at any rate, and it was interesting, after a fashion, to feel the drops.

As they crossed another bridge, another near match for the one Kaiba had stepped off of, their footsteps echoed, loud thumps against light wood, and Yami began to wonder if anything else would be said at all. He wanted to break the silence, of course, but as he thought about it more, he realized that there was nothing really to talk about, and that this sopping wet silence sort of suited Seto Kaiba, in a way. It was something like the way his bangs clumped so messily in his eyes, dripping, but still seemed deliberate and purely intentional, as if Kaiba wouldn't allow his hair to get out of place unless he wanted it just that way.

They crossed the bridge, echoing footsteps gone and replaced with the slight crunch of boots on gravel as they walked down a pebble strewn path and -- to the brick wall enclosing the limits of the park, and the wrought iron gate to the street. Domino Memorial Peace Garden read the bronze plaque above the gate's latch. They'd finished their trip around the garden, then. Yami glanced at Kaiba questioningly -- Another go round, or not? -- but got nothing in response. He looked back at the plaque, noticing for the first time the tiny subscript: Kaiba Corporation Reparations Fund. Then he stared at the hinge, shining new and bright even in the dreary rain; Yami wanted to look anywhere but Kaiba's face. Inwardly he berated himself for not having something to say, but for some reason nothing brilliant was coming to mind and

"Oh, fuck it," Kaiba said sharply, not quite at his most conversational. "Just come here."

And with that, he pulled Yami close and kissed him quite soundly.

It was strange, that was the first thing that came to his mind: a shallow sort of boyish kiss, a little clumsy like Kaiba was only sure enough of himself to press mouth-to-mouth, but nothing beyond that, and like he expected nothing at all in return. His lips were still cold from his swim and his face was wet with rain; he smelled vaguely of the lilies and wet grass and river weeds all tangled up in mud and a crisp cologne and the taste of rain, if a taste could smell like anything.

Kaiba pulled back an instant later, staring down at him in the haze, and the world needed to be reevaluated starting from the beginning. Time might've been frozen, but then again, the rain was still running through Kaiba's hair in slow rivulets, so perhaps not. Either way, Yami was frozen, and Kaiba did nothing but blink, either waiting for a response or trying to gather himself. It wasn't shock, though, because he didn't seem surprised until a moment later, when Yami shoved him back up against the wall and returned the favor, and this kiss was just as clumsy, perhaps, as he leaned up on tiptoes to reach, but it was electric.

Distantly he figured this was probably all going to be hard to explain later, and that he really should've thought about this more, and all the other sorts of concerns that usually would've bothered him, responsibility and the fact that this was Seto Kaiba and that however peaceful things were now, they were rivals and Kaiba would always push him and he would not lose, not even to someone who felt so perfect under him and always had, and that later this would be impossible to sort out, and Kaiba wouldn't ever change, and he wouldn't want him to, and it would cause all sorts of problems that he couldn't know would be worth it but --

His tongue was in Seto Kaiba's mouth, and his fingers twined in soggy, tangled hair, and Kaiba tasted like rain and salt and flesh, nothing really pleasant at all, but satisfying all the same, and he held on to Yami awkwardly like he'd never been kissed before, hands gentle and slightly nervy, and that silence that had been so oppressive before was broken by the softest of little noises, something warm and shy in the back of Kaiba's throat that he was sure no one had ever heard before, that begged for more, and Kaiba, moaning, that was just perfect and it made his breath catch and Yami had to have Kaiba, had to take him, had to claim him, had to possess him, had to pin him here against this wall and keep him here and he, he was making that sound, the softest little groan and

For the first time, Seto Kaiba was shivering, and that was enough.

So, the verdict? Was my first attempt any good? I would beg and make puppy eyes, but I think I've got a better plan for convincing you to review. I've got a sequel in mind, to the tune of 30,000+ words or so, and if there's interest, I can have the first chapter up by, say, a week from today? On the other hand, if you don't review, you might just crush my poor, insecure male ego, and cause me never to update again! How would you live with yourself after that? (Okay, okay, just kidding. But, seriously, I'm rather proud of this piece, and I'd love to hear what you think, and if you'd read a long sequel. And, again, if I screwed something up, tell me.)