IT was Seto's job to do the dishes.
This was to be done every morning, regardless of anything. No ifs, ands, or buts. The dishes were to be done before his "parents" got home at noon from…whatever it was that they did. Seto didn't know, didn't bother to ask, and frankly…he didn't care.
He supposed he didn't hate his father's sister or her husband…but he didn't like them, either. If the choice had been given to him, he'd have rather stayed in his old home, fended for himself, instead of being put here. He realized that such a scenario was illogical; of course, he did. He had a three-year-old brother to think about, after all, and there weren't many businesses that would take a child - no matter how smart he was - so he had no way to make money.
That didn't mean he was grateful that his aunt and uncle had taken him in, though. He knew why they'd done it. Money. It was always money. They knew that adopting children always netted money from the government. That's what they were after. He knew this was the truth because, if they had taken him and his young brother in because they loved their nephews, they wouldn't spend every waking moment reminding Seto - in subtle and not-so-subtle ways - what they had sacrificed for the two boys.
They hadn't sacrificed anything. They'd gained a maid. They didn't do anything for Seto or Mokuba. Seto was the one in charge of his little sibling, and that was all there was to it. Seto was in charge of feeding him, bathing him, putting him to bed, dressing him in the morning, changing him (when he had "accidents"), and everything else that came with raising a toddler.
On top of that responsibility, Seto was expected to do chores around the house. Why? Oh, because "your mother has a headache, Seto, so I'll need your help."
Uh huh. Whatever.
His uncle couldn't fool him. His aunt (he never called her "Mom" because that title was reserved only for his real mother, dead or not) always had a damn headache…it never stopped her from shopping or yelling or chatting with the neighbors…why did Seto always have to take care of the house? Why was the eight-year-old the one who cleaned everything? Wasn't that at least partly a responsibility for the adults of the household?
But Seto didn't complain. It was useless to complain. They wouldn't pay attention, they wouldn't change. This was his life. He wouldn't waste his breath whining about it. Better just to endure it for as long as he had to. In ten years, he thought, he'd be able to leave. He'd file for legal guardianship of his brother and take Mokuba with him. Then they would be free.
So Seto did the dishes every morning.
Usually he managed to get this particular chore out of the way before Mokuba woke up, but today he'd woken up with a headache of his own. He knew he couldn't just sleep it off like his aunt did, but he just couldn't get out of bed.
It was going to be a terrible day...
He slumped into the kitchen at nine in the morning, thankful at least that he was on vacation. Sure, that meant more chores, but it also meant more time in which to do them. No school pressuring him to get up at five in the damn morning.
Of course, by nine, energetic Mokuba was up and jumping around the house. He was a good child, though, and unlike most his age he wasn't prone to touching everything. He knew what he could play with and what he couldn't.
Seto was able to focus on his task, keeping an ear out in case his brother hurt himself. He opened the rickety, untrustworthy dishwasher and looked at the full load of dishes ready to be put away. Everything was mismatched, quite a few glasses and plates were chipped, but everything was clean. This time, at least, the dishwasher had done its job. Seto was thankful for that. More times than not he had to take out the "clean" dishes and wash them by hand.
The noise caused by taking the dishes out of the device evidently had caught Mokuba's attention because, when Seto turned around after putting a glass into the cupboard, there the boy was, looking at the plates and glasses and silverware as if they were the most fascinating things in the world.
Mokuba looked at him. "What doing, bwudder?" he asked.
Seto smiled. "I'm putting the dishes away, Mokie. Go on and play, huh?"
Mokuba regarded the dishes thoughtfully for a moment. "Put dishes 'way?" he repeated, then proclaimed: "I hewp you, bwudder."
"No, no, Mokie, that's okay--"
Mokuba held a glass out to his older brother. "Here go," he said.
Seto smiled, taking the offered glass and putting it in the cupboard. "Thank you, Mokie."
"Welcome, bwudder," Mokuba replied as he offered a plate.
It went on like this, Mokuba taking random dishes from the dishwasher and handing them to Seto. Seto would have liked to do things in some semblance of order, but Mokuba evidently had some pattern in his little head that decided proper dish etiquette required opening a separate cupboard for each one. So it went: plate, glass, bowl, fork, plate, spoon, glass, butter knife, plate, and so on.
After the dishwasher was empty, Mokuba went about the laborious process of shutting the door.
"No, no, Mokie," Seto said, opening the door again. "Now I have to fill it."
"Put more in?" Mokuba asked, a strangely gleeful expression on his face.
"I do it, bwudder."
"No, no, it's my job. How about you just help me some more, huh?"
"'Kay. I hewp you."
Seto chuckled, knowing this would take much longer than usual. Mokuba's peculiar pattern of putting dishes away extended into putting them into the dishwasher. Glasses went in a haphazard design all about the rack, plates on top of them and silverware stuck anywhere in between. Some of the glasses went in upside down, like they were supposed to, but some of them went right side up, causing more than a little frustration for the three-year-old boy. Once these glasses were set up correctly (in Mokuba's mind), they became dispensers for the silverware. Some held a lot, some held a single spoon.
"I nee' knife, bwudder. Gimme knife."
"No, no," Seto chuckled. "You might cut yourself."
"I no cu' mysewf."
"You might. Just let me handle the knives, huh?"
"Oh, awwight. You do knife."
"Thank you, Mokie."
Seto took the knives and put them in their proper place. Then, knowing full well that the dishwasher would most likely break if he left the rest of the dishes where they were, he set about organizing.
"No, no!" Mokuba cried, pushing Seto's hand down as he tried to lift a glass. "No, bwudder! That no' wight!"
"Mokie, it won't work this way. I need to fix it."
"Mokie…come on, little guy. Let go of my hand."
He did, but with obvious displeasure on his elfin face.
As Seto put the dishes into the dishwasher the correct way, Mokuba pouted. "That no' wight," he repeated sulkily.
"Yes, Mokie. It is right."
Seto chuckled, shaking his head. "You're silly, Mokie."
"I no' siwwy," Mokuba said, crossing his arms. "You siwwy. Siwwy bwudder."
Seto laughed. "Oh, okay. I'm silly."
"Yeah. You siwwy."
Mokuba continued to pout and say, "Siwwy bwudder," as Seto finished the job and shut the dishwasher. He tried to turn it on, but Mokuba protested yet again that "that no' wight" and proceeded to show his brother the correct way to press the button.
It was half past eleven by the time Seto finished with all his chores, mostly because he had to go back and fix the things his brother did, but he didn't mind. He knew Mokuba was trying to help him. And, to be fair, he was doing a decent job of it…when one considered his age.
When Seto finally sat down on the couch in front of the small television and Mokuba hopped on his lap and said, "Weed this, bwudder," as he handed him a book, he thought that sometimes, at least, a little headache made the day better.
I wrote this little story because it seems like everyone, including me, always focuses on the bad parts of Seto's past. There had to be some good times in there, right? So, I thought one up. It's short, sure, but it works. This was also inspired by my little sister, who decided this morning that I needed help with the dishes, too.