Yes..I cracked. I started a new fic again. Hangs head in shame I know that it won't be updated very frequently (though I'm nearly finished with the second chapter…) Anyway – the next chapter of In the Limelight IS coming along, I promise. But this started because I don't always have a computer since I'm on holiday and I've had to settle for a notebook. Oddly enough, I started this while I was sitting in an IHOP. Don't ask me how pancakes make me think of this pairing…
Kaiba Seto had long since been forced to accept the fact that one of the few things he couldn't control in his life was whatever his subconscious dragged up whilst he was asleep. During the daytime (and often most of the might as well) he was resolutely in control, quashing whatever notions his psyche came up with. The business world was no place for foolish imaginings or fuzzy and sentimental memories, so he suppressed them. Viciously.
It was common knowledge that Kaiba worked long hours, impossibly long hours. Up with the sun and not asleep until long after it had sunk below the horizon, people puzzled over how the young man managed to survive on so few hours of rest, while various coffee manufacturers routinely begged with him to represent their product (not that they ever got any further than pre-dictated refusals sent through a secretary.)
No-one worried more than Mokuba and it was a common occurrence for the younger Kaiba to fall asleep on a chair in his brother's study after an effort to stay awake with him, but to no avail. It was a rare time that Mokuba actually ever caught a glimpse of his brother sleeping (and only then because he always checked Seto's room after tottering down to the kitchen for a glass of water.)
Just like any dutiful younger brother should, Mokuba had always and persistently pestered Kaiba about just why he refused to ever get a good night's sleep. And, just as persistently, the young CEO would insist that it was work. It was work, but it was work that could be done in daylight hours by employees, not by the head of the company.
So why did Kaiba avoid sleep like the plague? Well, for all that he remained focused and controlled in the day, at night, his subconscious came back with a vengeance. At night, he dreamed of her.
For all his exalted position, Kaiba was still an adolescent boy and adolescent boys were expected to dream of women. But, as always, Kaiba had to be different. The dreams he had, while they caused him to often wake drenched in sweat, were nothing to do with over-active hormones or libidos.
No, the reason that Kaiba eschewed sleep was because, every night since he was young, the dreams would be of his mother.
Dreaming of the deceased is never fun…
The dreams themselves weren't the reason that had him constantly reaching for a cup of coffee in the early hours of the morning. Laughter like clouds running races across the sky, milky breath and a perfume he couldn't place, but made him think less of any other scent; none of it was actively tormenting, but it was the waking up and not having it that made it so painful.
He sometimes envied Mokuba for never having known her and therefore missing out on the bittersweet pain of missing her and then hated himself for wishing such a plight on anyone.
The why's of the matter weren't of much consequence anymore (the sleeplessness had been going on long enough for his body to automatically accept it.) It was established that he lived and worked and didn't sleep and people accepted that, if grudgingly on some people's part. The doctors thought that he was working himself into an early grave, but since they couldn't actually find anything wrong with him, they kept their opinions to themselves. Mokuba continued to persevere in nagging him to relax more, but the kid never really expected his demands to be met. Yuugi looked reproachful every time the two were in a room together, but Kaiba had never listened to Yuugi, so that was alright.
So life went on as always, with only the occasional end-of-the-world situations and those were always easily averted. But then fate had to go and fuck everything up once again because fate, nasty meddling bugger that she is, had the audacity to change what it was that Kaiba dreamt about.
Even the unfazeable Kaiba was surprised when, after a particularly hard day of fiddling with tricky algorithms for his latest VR game (for some reason, the right foreleg of the programmed Blue Eyes White Dragon hung limp and still so that was a problem for the next day) what visited him in his sleep wasn't the haunting and painfully comforting vision of his mother, but someone else altogether.
"Who the hell are you?" he asked bluntly, arms folded across his chest in the customary and expected 'I'm Seto Kaiba so mess with me at your own peril' look. Even in his dreams, Kaiba was obnoxious.
"You know who I am…" the woman replied with something that looked suspiciously like a yawn. Kaiba's eye twitched.
"Do I?" The woman nodded sleepily, rubbing at her eyes with her left hand. Her right arm, Kaiba noted dispassionately, hung loose at her side in the sleeve of her rough white dress, a garment much worn and torn over the years, but neatly patched enough. On a whole, the woman did look rough – her sheet of silvery-blue hair was matted and tangled; sleep mussed was the best word he came up with. Half-hooded eyes looked sleepily up at him, half obscured by the squinched fist rubbing at them. A peasant then…The thought came unbidden to him, a strange and unfamiliar terminology he wouldn't use, so he shoved it aside, fixing her with an icily cold glare. "What did you d to your arm?"
She shrugged, eying the dead limb with a look that was almost surprise, as if she hadn't noticed it before. "It was like this when I woke up." Those blue eyes of hers suddenly looked a lot more alert as they met his blank ones. "Shouldn't you be more worried?"
"About what?" Well, wasn't Kaiba unusually full of questions? Evading answering though was clearly enough t aggravate her slightly because she rolled her eyes ever so slightly.
"I tell you that you know me and you don't remember?"
She was rewarded with a wintry smile hovering over his lips. "Fantasy doesn't worry me – this is a dream. You're not real."
The silence stretched between them…wherever they were. The woman looked strangely sad, using her good arm to tuck a loose strand of silver blue hair behind an ear. "Do you really believe that?"
Kaiba sent her a pitying look. "Dreams are your subconscious amusing themselves while you sleep." He eyed their surroundings with a disdainful eye, taking in the black void they seemed to be hovering in. "A prime example of why I sleep as little as possible."
She followed his eye line, cocking her head to one side in an action that made her look animal-like. "You don't like this place?"
The young man's glower only increased. "It's black," he said flatly. "If this is the best my subconscious can come up with, I'm worried."
It was her turn to glower, though it came out as more of a pout. "So change it if you don't like it."
It was like a tennis match – he shot something, she hit it back at him and they kept up a fast, hard rally. A sneer from Kaiba this time. "You can't control dreams. That's the point of them."
The silver haired woman sighed, still absently trying to twitch the tangles out of her mane. "Maybe it's not a dream. If this is real, you could change it."
That was easy enough to rebuff. "It's not real," he told her, eyes glinting like agates in the abyss that was somehow dark and light at the same time.
"It is real," she said with a certain degree of impatience, turning around, away from him. When she turned, her long hair turned with hair, swirling around her like a cloak. "Watch." A look of concentration on her face, she lifted the index finger of her left hand and frowned at it. Kaiba blinked – was there a firefly on the tip of her nail? No, it was just her finger glowing. The brunet blinked again. Glowing? "I like stars myself," the woman said for no particular reason as she touched her finger to the air around her and there, surprisingly, was what looked like a star with the same glow as her finger. She turned proudly back to him, hair once again filming like wispy threads around her, now glowing hot silver in the light of the 'star.' "It's prettier this way."
"It's not real," was his stubborn reply and he saw her face fall into a half-hearted pout.
"But you saw me change it…"
Kaiba shook his head, more than a little irritated with the situation now. "I saw a fiction of my imagination change a world that's also a fiction of my imagination. It's not real."
Once again, he saw just how much he'd hurt her, but he felt no shame. This woman in this dark place with a single star wasn't real – he wouldn't feel shame if it were a real person, let alone a fragment of his subconscious. Suddenly moving with a quiet dignity, the woman lifted her head, staring at him with old, old eyes. "If I'm not real, does that make your mother any less real when you dream about her?"
The shock of that statement, so close to his own heart, was enough to wake him up.
"What are you doing here?" Angry blue eyes met sleepy blue ones in irritated confrontation.
"Hmm?" The woman gave a smile, only half-awake. "Oh, I never leave here…"
"That's not that I mean," Kaiba snapped, running a dream hand through his dream hair. "You're not real, so why are you still here?"
The woman shrugged, once again running her good arm through her messy hair. Her right arm still lay motionless at her side. "Recurring dream?" she asked with the air of one who was humouring someone else.
Kaiba growled at her (and received no reaction as she started to finger comb her hair.) He was going to have to have serious talks with his own subconscious. The strange dream had left him ratty throughout the following day – he'd barely gotten any work done and none if it on his game. Then, when he'd finally fallen asleep after mentally plotting out Kaiba Corp's financial status on the ceiling, he was startled to see the women again, as well as her still glowing star and the black void around them.
Kaiba was not a happy bunny.
"You're not taking this seriously," he told her flatly, but he bristled when she sent him a sleepily serene smile.
"You take things too seriously," she replied glibly, still sorting through the ends of her silver-blue hair. "I'm happy to see you if it's any consolation."
Clearly it wasn't because Kaiba sent her a withering look. "Am I supposed to be flattered that something my subconscious created when it was clearly suffering from a lack of creativity is happy to see me?" The woman frowned, shoving her hair over her shoulder with her good hand. "You're not real."
"We've been through this." Kaiba didn't like the patient tone she took with him. "This is real."
Kaiba's jaw clenched perceptibly – the conversation was rapidly degenerating into a childlike argument. With an act of will, he shoved away the instinct to carry on with the retort match and just turned away, walking away. It was a shame he didn't seem to be able to get anywhere. Looking down at his feet, he saw them moving, but the glow from her little star never seemed to get less and when he looked back over his shoulder, he didn't seem to have moved anywhere. "Why won't you leave me alone?" he snarled through gritted teeth.
She shrugged, fingers reaching out to stroke the little ball of glowing light as it bobbed at her side. "I can't." At her disbelieving look, she gestured around them. "This world – it's tied to you." A blank look from Kaiba. A sigh from her. "Where you go, I go."
Great, just great. He must have looked annoyed because when she spoke again, it was in a far too innocent tone of voice. "You know…if I'm not real, you could just erase me. Like changing the world around you."
Kaiba glowered at her, ignoring the star at her side or her halo of blue hair. "You can't change dreams." He turned away again.
"So I'm real then?" she asked and he could hear the mischief in her voice.
"No." He spat that out, still stubbornly not looking at her. "You're a pest my subconscious has come up with." My god damned subconscious…
Behind him, she paused and he could hear her hair moving slightly in a wind he couldn't feel, but there was sadness in her silence. "Is your mother a pest of your subconscious?"
Kaiba twitched – why did she insist on harping on about his mother. "That's different," he said and he was surprised to hear how emotional his tone was (blame it on dreaming, blame it on dreaming…) "My mother's dead."
This time he felt her sad, old eyes on his back and was it his imagination that the light from her bright little star dimmed ever so slightly? "And? So am I…"
Fantastic. He had a dead, imaginary ghost on his hands when he slept. Just fantastic.
Kaiba opened a crack of an eye to a concerned looking Mokuba and he felt a hot little hand on his forehead. Trying to speak, he found his throat hoarse, as if he had talked all night. Coughing slightly, he sat up onto his elbows, looking at his younger brother with a jaded eye. "Who died?"
"Niisama!" Mokuba wailed in protest, stamping a foot in irritation. "I don't think you're well!"
Kaiba crooked an eyebrow in silent question, humouring Mokuba's melodramatic mood. "And why would that be?"
"Because," the kid said emphatically, gesturing at a window, "It's already nine in the morning!"
Now that made Kaiba sit bolt upright, azure eyes suddenly razor sharp. "No."
"Uh-huh." Mokuba was practically bouncing with anxiety now. "Niisama, you should go back to bed if you're not well…"
Kaiba brushed it off, already out of bed and looking for clothes. "I'm not sick, Mokuba."
"So why where you asleep so late – your alarm went off, I heard it!" Mokuba's young face was screwed up with concern. "If you're not sick, why did you not hear it?"
Kaiba paused in front of the mirror by his wardrobe, a duster in his hand. Blue eyes looked out at him from the reflective surface, but it was another pair of azure rounds that had kept him asleep. "I was dreaming. Hard." He didn't need to look to see Mokuba's confusion – his own was enough to handle.
"You look tired. Hard day at work?"
Kaiba just glared at her. She was still here.
"Not in a talking mood?" Apparently, the woman had been making some changes since he'd last seen her. Right now, she was hovering in the air and hovering was the right word for it. As usual, her little star was bobbing happily beside her. What Kaiba recognised and didn't like was how quickly he'd come to accept that she had a gaseous ball with her at all times – it smacked too much of treating her like she wasn't a figment of her imagination. Why she was hovering though, that was harder to comprehend. Why was she fiddling with a substance that looked like moon glow?
Kaiba stared at her back for a while, using his patented look of doom, but to no avail. She just carried on stretching the stuff, bending it and releasing it back into the air. With a silvery sheen like her hair, the mist that wasn't quite mist held wherever she left it, shifting ever so slightly like foam on the top of an invisible ocean. Finally, he cracked and shifted irritably from foot to foot.
"What are you doing?"
"Hmm?" Kaiba growled slightly – she always seemed to do that. He'd dreamt of her three times since the night she had made him oversleep and each night, they'd talked each other around in circles (I'm real – no you're not – am so – are not!) Her hair shifting again, she turned to face him with a smile, gesturing to her handiwork with a hand. "Look…"
More to keep her quiet than anything, he did so. The mist was diaphanous and hard to see, but when he squinted at the shapes they almost looked like letters.
"Kisara?" he read, looking at her with sceptical eyes. She nodded mutely, still idly twining a wisp of moonshine between her hands, weaving a web and then dissolving it into a new one. "What's that?"
"Who's that," she corrected meticulously, still not looking towards him. "And it's me. My name I mean."
So, his phantom had a name after all. Kisara…it wasn't a practical name (if names could be practical at all) being far too flouncy and whimsical. Kaiba just sniffed, dismissing it as he often dismissed her. "Any reason you felt the need to leave your name hanging around this dismal place? It's like carving it on a tree and just as tasteless." Kaiba's feelings on those who did that were cutting – leaving a tattoo of your name to prove you had been there in no way made you a better person.
Kisara (he really didn't like her name) shrugged once more, tucking her hair behind both ears at the same time. "It's not important."
"Humour me then," he told her, fixing her with a stubborn glare. It may not have looked it judging from the unfriendly glint in his eyes, but this was actually the CEO in one of his better moods. Work had been efficient today and once through with all the necessary and often tedious daily ministrations a company like Kaiba Corp needed, he'd been able to spend a good six hours fiddling with his newest creations and he'd finally been able to fix that annoying glitch on his dragon. Six hours of frowning over a large computer and translating programs into pure binary – now that was the closest thing Kaiba did that could be considered relaxation.
For the first time that night (though in this void, there was no distinction between night and day) Kisara's eyes and his own met. There was resistance in those irises of her, but there was also a grudging acceptance as she blinked slowly, severing the link of wordless communication they had shared. With a slow, heavy gesture of her hand, she traced the name in the air. "I made it because I'm worried I'll forget it."
It was such a simple statement, hanging in the empty air. Then Kaiba had to go and ruin the brooding silence. "Forget it?" His expression was sceptical. "Are you so mentally unhinged that you worry about forgetting your own name?"
Again, he saw the flicker of unease cross her ageless features before she smoothed them into serene calm. "I've been here a long time. Longer than you can imagine – I've already lost more than I ever though I could lose. Of what's left to me, my name is probably next to go." Again, a fleeting look of weariness. "And I don't want to lose that."
It was with callous intent that Kaiba shrugged at her heartfelt words. What other reaction could he give? His mind and his pride told him that this woman, this world; they weren't real, so there was no empathy towards those that possessed no substance. Despite Kisara's continuous insistences that, yes, she was real and that he really did know her, once he had made a decision, his pride refused to let him revoke it. So, once more, Kaiba denied her reality. "Whatever your name is or whatever you remember, it doesn't matter." He felt her twitch this time and could see her crumple slightly as his words hit her. "You're not real."
He felt rather than saw her turn away, only getting an eyeful of that silver tinged sheet of hair, the blue sheen dulling slightly as she moved away from her light. "Why do you have to be so stubborn?" The question was asked without hope of an answer and she was right in not seeking one. "It's because you insist on believing that that I'm stuck here."
Kaiba scoffed at Kisara's words. "So I'm the one keeping you here? I doubt that – nothing would make me happier than if you went away."
"I can't go away!" The thick pain in her voice could hardly be heard through the irritated sharpness as she rounded on him, hands on her hips in the gesture all indignant women seemed to use. "If I could, I would because if I'd had any choice about where I'd spend my afterlife, I wouldn't have chosen for my spirit to be tied to a man who refuses to treat me as a real person and whose denial keeps me in a place like this." Her voice dropped a few decibels, but her eyes showed a feral fire that Kaiba half recognised, but in no person he could remember. "I had faith in you – I'm close to forgetting who I am myself, but I know I'd never forget you." It was the sincerity in her cerulean eyes that kept him silent more than anything else. "Now I wish I could…"
Heh – this is a different style for me. I normally write about one continuous event throughout a chapter, but I'm trying a style where I incorporate smaller, quicker snippets into a larger chapter. That which is unsaid is often more powerful after all. Anyway…it's an experiment, so I'd be interested to see what you guys think about it (besides, I've been itching to write something with Kisara in for a while…)