This fanfic is a one-shot, that is, a single-part story. It will not be continued at any time. I am, however, writing and posting other YGO stories, so if you enjoy this, please check those out!

Because being mean to Seto-sama is fun!

What Doesn't Kill You

"38.1. I win, Nii-sama," Mokuba said, not sounding especially victorious.

"What? Let me see that." Taking the thermometer, Seto squinted at the silvery gray display, verifying the numbers were as Mokuba had read them. He coughed and gave his brother a look that was slightly too mild to be termed a glare. "Mokuba, what did you do to this thermometer?"

"I wouldn't cheat like that!" Mokuba protested.

His brother continued to look at him.

"Well, okay, I would," Mokuba amended. "But I didn't have to. You're really sick, Nii-sama."

"I'm not--" Seto began, only to be waylaid by a coughing fit that took several moments to bring under control and left his eyes watering. When he wiped them and looked up, Mokuba had crossed his arms and was subjecting his big brother to his own look, which was somewhat closer to a true glare. "I've had a cough for the last three days," Seto brushed it off. "It's just a head cold. I'll take a decongestant for it, as soon as I'm up and moving I'll forget about it."

"That's what you've been doing for the last three days," Mokuba said. "Which is why you're really sick now. You have a fever, you have to rest."

"Nonsense," Seto said, starting to climb out of bed. "That's barely above my average temperature anyway. I feel perfectly adequate. I got plenty of sleep last night--"

Mokuba shoved his brother back down onto the bed, rather easier than he usually would have been able to, and pulled up the covers over his legs again. "You went to bed at 11, Nii-sama, and it's 7 now, so you only got eight hours. That's what you're supposed to get normally. You're supposed to get more when you're sick!"

"Sleep patterns vary drastically between individuals," Seto said, pushing the covers down again, only to have Mokuba immediately yank them back up, "there's no absolute normal--"

"I know you're not normal, Nii-sama. But you couldn't have slept very well anyway, I heard you coughing most of the night." At Seto's questioning glance Mokuba stopped tussling with him over the covers to shrug. "I was sleeping on the couch in your study. I was worried, Nii-sama. You never go to bed before midnight."

"I'm fine, Mokuba," Seto told his little brother, gently. "It's just a cold."

"I know it's just a cold. But you're not going to be fine if you let it become pneumonia!"

"I'm not going to," Seto assured him. "I'll take it easy today--there's only the one meeting with the disk development team that I can't miss this morning, and then I can have a long lunch break. I can even take a nap. And if I do start feeling worse we can talk about it when I get home this evening. Now I have to get dressed--the sooner I get to the meeting, the sooner it will be over."

He really must be feeling lousy, Mokuba thought. Usually his brother wouldn't consider trying such an obvious misdirection routine on him. "Nii-sama, that wasn't the bet."

Seto's eyes narrowed, the way they did when an opponent duelist correctly predicted one of his trap combos. "The bet," Mokuba reminded him, "was that if you were running a fever of 38 degrees or higher, you would stay in bed and not go to work at all today. You agreed to it, Nii-sama."

"That thermometer's probably broken," Seto muttered.

"I told you your forehead felt too warm, Nii-sama. And you needed the alarm clock to wake you up this morning--when was the last time you actually let it go off? I bet you were dizzy when you stood up, too, or you wouldn't have let me push you down again. You need more rest."

"Mokuba, this meeting is very important if we're going to be on schedule--"

"I know, Nii-sama, that's why I'm going to it. The developers have all met me before, they're okay with me, it'll be fine." Not everyone in KaibaCorp was comfortable working under a twelve-year-old, even knowing he could speak for his brother, but most of the engineers paid more attention to his words than his lack of stature. "I'll go in and handle whatever needs to be done, you just rest."

"You have classes today," Seto said.

Mokuba rolled his eyes. "I can make them up on Sunday. That's why I got a private tutor instead of enrolling in a school." Standard junior high schedules didn't exactly interface with the duties of a vice president of a major corporation. "Now I have to go get ready if I'm going to be in time for the meeting. So you can stay in bed and go back to sleep, like you said you would, and I'll be back this afternoon to tell you how it went."

Seto almost managed an actual glare, crossed his arms but leaned back into the pillows propped around the bed's headrest. Mokuba nodded, pulled the blankets up a little higher and patted the pillows to fluff them. "Good, are you comfortable? Are you hungry? I can ask Amy-san to make some breakfast for you later."

"I'm not so hungry as to eat--that stuff."

"It was just chicken soup. It's what they give sick people in America, she said. Please don't yell at her this time, Nii-sama, she was just trying to help. And don't make her quit, she's our best cook ever."

"Because she makes you hamburgers."

"And pizza! No one here makes pizza like Amy-san, it's as good as real American pizza. I'll ask her to make you leek soup. And ginger tea with honey, that will be good for you. But you should go back to sleep now, it's still early."

"Mokuba, what are you doing with my alarm clock?"

"You won't need it today, Nii-sama." Mokuba unplugged the electronic clock and wrapped the cord around it. Then he drew the curtains tight over the windows, darkening the bedroom. "You promised, you'll stay in bed unless there's an emergency and you absolutely have to take care of it right away. Like if the house is burning down. Right?"

Seto sighed. "Right."

"Good!" Mokuba beamed at him from the doorway, as proudly as if he had won a duel, and saluted him with the disconnected alarm clock. "Sleep well, I'll see you this afternoon."

Seto sighed again as his brother closed the door behind him, shut his eyes and settled back against the pillows, listening to Mokuba's footsteps run down the hall to his own room. He counted to three hundred mentally, interrupted by a few coughing jags, giving his brother enough time to get dressed and come back down the hall. Eyes still closed, he listened as Mokuba cracked open his bedroom door to assure he was still in bed, before proceeding downstairs to eat and be driven to KaibaCorp headquarters.

He counted off another five hundred seconds, then sat up, reached over and took out the laptop locked in his nightstand. Opening it up, he set it on his knees and initiated the wireless connection to check his main business email account. He would have to adjust the date and time settings of the outgoing mail server, in case Mokuba happened to see one of his messages, but at least a day in bed wouldn't be a total loss.

Sometime after noon, the cook decided to bring her employer lunch, whether or not it had been requested.

Akari hadn't actually refused to serve Seto-sama, but after bringing up his breakfast this morning, the maid had returned from his room red-faced and in tears, and for the rest of the day had been muttering about "hazard pay" and "Seto-sama was much nicer in a coma." Amy, who had only been working for the Kaibas for the past five months, opted not to ask.

Though after last night's dinner debacle, she wasn't especially surprised. Being wretchedly ill had a way of stripping the veneer of civilized behavior from even the most courteous of individuals, and in Seto-sama's case that veneer was more like a single layer of shellac anyway. Hastily applied, with an old threadbare brush. His nickname among his business rivals was reputedly "the young dragon," and it wasn't necessarily a reference to either his surname or his favorite cards.

Amy wasn't about to be intimidated by a boy more than ten years her junior, however. Fanning the bracing flames of indignation--she had inherited black hair from her Japanese mother, but her Irish father's redheaded temper had passed down even if the color hadn't--she knocked on Seto-sama's bedroom door. When no reply was forthcoming, she steeled her nerves and opened it.

There was no reaction, explosive or otherwise. Upon entering the room proper she saw why, as her carefully established defensive temper melted away. Seto-sama was sitting up in bed, his computer whirring busily on his lap, but his head was drooping, chin pillowed on his breast and his eyes soundly closed, his breathing slow and even. The brown hair falling over his forehead was tangled and sweat-streaked, and his long-fingered hands rested limp as shelled cuttlefish on the edge of the keyboard.

The cook clucked her tongue. Asleep now, he looked even more miserably exhausted than he had at dinner the night before. Mokuba-sama would likely not be happy about the computer, but it was difficult to get upset with a Seto-sama looking so atypically, vulnerably young. Tiptoeing across the room, she put the tray of soup down on the nightstand, then studied the precariously balanced laptop, wondering how to remove it without disturbing him. He would rest easier lying down.

As she reached out, he coughed and mumbled something that sounded like, "No, I can't..." with one hand twitching as he shuddered. She drew back, but whatever he had said was too unintelligible to be a proper reprimand, and his eyes were still closed when she checked. He looked so uncomfortable, stiffly propped up by the pillows, with his brow furrowed like a frowning little boy's and a touch of a wheeze in his chest as he breathed. A sick little boy, with his wan, damp face, shivering and feverish.

Automatically she put out a hand to check his temperature. But before she could touch his forehead, Seto-sama's hands tightened spasmodically around the computer, and his head lifted. Amy jumped back as if avoiding a spring trap, before common sense overrode her self-preservation instincts.

He had come awake so suddenly she wondered if he might be starting from a nightmare, but there was no sleep-induced panic in those sharp blue eyes, which fixed on her with the spellbinding ferocity of a dragon awoken to find a thief pillaging its hoard of gold. "S-sorry, Seto-sama," she stammered, from her safe distance several paces from the bed, "I thought you were asleep."

As Seto-sama continued to glare but otherwise didn't attack, she collected herself and pointed to the nightstand. "I brought lunch, sir."

Those blue eyes finally broke from hers to glance at the nightstand, freeing her to breathe. Seto-sama eyed the tray of soup with grave suspicion, then asked, "Is it lunchtime already?" His voice was a little hoarse but calm enough. Before she could answer he looked to the clock on his laptop and nodded. "Ah, I see."

Pushing aside the blankets, he climbed out of bed, wavering a little on his feet and steadying himself with one hand on the nearest bedpost, before heading for the closet.

"Seto-sama?" the cook asked. "What are you..."

"Have something to take care of," Seto-sama said, hiding a cough behind his fist as he opened the closet door.

"Mokuba-sama said you would be staying in bed today--"

"Is Mokuba back yet?" Seto-sama asked.

"Not yet." Though he should be home shortly, hopefully was on his way now. "But I'm sure he'll be wanting to see you." Before letting Seto-sama leave, she should probably call ahead and ask Mokuba-sama about this. She was fairly certain he had mentioned that barring unforeseen emergencies, his brother had no plans for the day. "Seto-sama, you shouldn't be going out, you're quite sick..."

"As I'm aware," Seto-sama said, with a harsh smirk. "So this can't wait." His face was quite as white as one of his dragons, but for the two hectic spots of red on his cheeks, and he had one hand gripped tightly around the edge of the closet door, apparently relying on the sturdy wood to support most of his weight. But his voice was as assured as ever, and there was no way to tell if the burning brightness in his eyes was a delirious glitter or simply confident resolve. Either way it was blinding, impossible to look away from once she met it, trapping her attention like a candle catching a moth.

"Are you planning on watching me dress?" Seto-sama inquired.

The cook blinked, realized he had taken a pair of black jeans and a shirt from the closet and was unbuttoning his pajama top with no regard for her stare. Color rose to her cheeks, hot enough to match his feverish flush. "Excuse me, sir!" she squeaked, spun and fled the dragon's den.

The chauffeur had always feared this day would come to pass. He had pondered the dilemma before, but never come to a satisfactory conclusion. At times he had considered asking other Kaiba employees, but had never gotten around to it. Stupid of him, maybe, but it was only human, to try to put off one's deepest apprehensions by never speaking of them. Now, though, he was caught at the crossroads, without any recourse but his own meager character.

It wasn't that he minded working for the Kaibas, far from. The pay was excellent, and as short-tempered as Seto-sama could be, he was still a far sight better than most of the driver's previous employers. Oh, he had that fundamental air of believing himself superior to nearly every other being on the planet. But it was understandable in his case, because one: what teenager didn't believe that; and two: in Kaiba Seto's case it was pretty much true. His uncanny genius was as conspicuous and impressive as his trenchcoat collection; and every yen of his vast wealth he had paid for himself, you could see it in his eyes. It would be more difficult not to respect him. Keeping up with that intellect and the intense personality behind it could be a challenge, but it was as much a matter of pride as fear of being fired, to follow Seto-sama's orders immediately and without question.

Then, one of the very first things that any employee of the Kaiba family learned, was that as lightning quick as you were to jump at Seto-sama's instructions, you were to be that much quicker to respond to Mokuba-sama's. At first one would do so because Seto-sama commanded it; insolence to his brother was the greatest offense to him, and he would not stand for it, nor hesitate to punish. But it didn't take long to discover that Mokuba had his own ways of earning respect, entirely different from his brother's, but no less deserved. The driver never hesitated to obey either of them.

That was usually straightforward enough, because their commands never conflicted. If they had disputes like ordinary brothers, they were in private, never played out before the help like other families'. Thus the driver had never figured out which brother actually had precedence. He had never had reason to ask.

But Mokuba-sama had left strict orders this morning. Extremely clear orders, that Seto-sama would not need to be taken anywhere today.

And now Seto-sama was standing before him, telling him to start the car.

The driver had asked himself so many times before, if it came down to the two of them, what would he do. As a servant, as a professional, as a man, where did his ultimate loyalty lie? He had previously speculated that in the end it would be to Mokuba-sama. Younger though he might be, Seto-sama's blanket orders did specifically demand deference to Mokuba-sama. And Mokuba-sama's requests were unfailingly direct and sensible, as mature as his brother's, if not more so, and unambiguously forthright.

Not to mention, for all his usually upbeat, friendly nature, Mokuba-sama could be scary as hell. Anyone who thought he was just a cute kid hadn't worked for the Kaibas for very long.

But Seto-sama was...taller.

Much taller.

And glaring down at him from all those elevated centimeters, blue eyes stark in his pale sweating face.

"Of course, sir, where do you want to go?" the driver asked, swallowing, and opened the door for his boss.

School being out for the day, Yugi, Jounouchi, Honda, and Anzu were gathered around a table at the ice cream shop next to their preferred arcade, lazily contesting the merits of staying for another round of games Yugi would soundly trounce them at, or going to karaoke. The debate was evenly split two to two, but Jounouchi was considering changing his vote when he happened to glance at the entrance. And looked again. "Hey, is that Kaiba?"

It was.

"Hey, is he coming over here?"

He was.

The four friends observed this abnormal event with interest, as Kaiba stopped a few paces before their table and regarded them, his white trenchcoat flaring around him. "Yugi," he said.

Jounouchi and Honda both shifted so as to put themselves somewhat between Kaiba and the target of his glare. Not that Kaiba was exactly an enemy, but if looks could kill...and Kaiba's eyes were burning even hotter blue than usual.

"Yes, Kaiba-kun?" Yugi asked, not discomfited by that stare, but a touch hopefully. He had invited Kaiba to join them at the arcade on more than one occasion.

"Yugi," Kaiba repeated, and for an odd moment a blank look crossed his face, like he had completely lost his train of thought. He shook his head and re-assumed his usual supercilious mask, raised his arm to show off the duel disk strapped there. "We're going to duel."

"Now?" Yugi asked, blinking. "I don't have my duel disk with me--"

"Now," Kaiba said.

"Well, I can run home and get it..."

"Forget the disk," Kaiba said. "It's the duel that matters."

Jounouchi, observing this exchange intently, frowned and elbowed Honda in the ribs. "Hey, does Kaiba's hair usually stick up like that?"

Honda nudged him back. "No...Is his voice usually that raspy?"

"I thought he just was extra pissed."

"Oh. The bad hair day, you think?"

"Kaiba-kun," Yugi said, cautiously, "is anything the matter? You're looking a little pale..." Yugi was too polite. In truth 'a little pale' was Kaiba's normal complexion. Presently his face almost matched the bleached white leather of his trenchcoat.

"Kaiba," Jounouchi said, "could you stop swaying like that? You're making me dizzy."

Kaiba leveled an uneven but scorching glare at Jounouchi. "Get your inner ear checked. I'm not swaying," he said, in a tone that would have been petulant if used by anyone but Kaiba Seto. Then his focus returned to his primary rival. "Yugi," he said, "I am going to..."

But Kaiba didn't complete the thought, unless he was intending to say 'fall over on my face,' which is what he promptly did. He almost caught himself on the edge of an unoccupied cafe table, but the base wasn't heavy enough to counterbalance his weight and it tipped over, knocking over a chair and sliding Kaiba to the floor.

Occasionally a happenstance is so completely unexpected that one's body and brain need time to adjust to the shift to a new, different reality. Yugi and his three friends stared, motionless.

"Kaiba?"

"Um, Kaiba-kun?"

"...Maybe it's a trick?" Honda suggested.

"What kind of trick would that be? Kaiba-kun, are you okay? Jounouchi, stop poking him with your soda straw." Anzu slid out from the booth and touched Kaiba's shoulder. "Kaiba-kun?"

He didn't answer, but coughed once, proving himself alive and breathing, and the four of them started breathing again as well.

In a minute they had Kaiba wedged sitting in the booth, propped up between Yugi and Honda while Anzu fetched a cup of ice water. "Here, Kaiba-kun." She put it in his hands and his fingers wrapped around the glass, though he didn't raise it to his mouth, and his head stayed down with his eyes mostly closed.

"You should drink, Kaiba-kun," Yugi told him, "it will help you feel better." He brushed aside Kaiba's thick bangs to put the back of his hand to his forehead. Kaiba twitched his head away blindly, like he would shake off a fly, but didn't even snarl anything. "He's burning up," Yugi said worriedly. "He could be really sick. Maybe we should take him to the hospital."

"There's the clinic down the street," Anzu said. "We could walk him over..."

Meanwhile Jounouchi and Honda were mulling over other important questions. "So what do you think, Honda? Stars or spirals?"

Honda considered. "Whiskers," he decided. "Around his nose."

"Excellent. And let's see...oh, I got it. Anzu, you're good at English. Is 'jerk' spelled J-A or J-I?"

"Give me back my marker, Jounouchi." Anzu plucked it out of his hand. "And the red one, too. You are not going to write 'jerk' on Kaiba-kun's forehead."

"No, I'm not, if you keep taking the markers!"

"I don't believe you, Jounouchi, Kaiba-kun is this sick--"

"It's Kaiba. Kaiba doesn't get sick," Jounouchi said. "Only human beings get sick. And anyway, he can't be that bad off, if he came here. I mean, if the guy were on his deathbed, his driver wouldn't have taken him for a ride around town. He probably just took some cold medicine that knocked him out. Right, Kaiba?"

"But he's got a really high fever," Yugi said. "I've never felt anyone this hot. Maybe he didn't know how sick he was when he decided to go out."

"Why'd he come here, anyway?" Honda asked. "He never wants to hang out with us, but if he's feeling this lousy, he's obviously not up for dueling."

"Maybe he thought he'd play better if he's delirious? It's not like he's had much luck beating Yugi when he's in his right mind."

"Jounouchi!" Anzu paused. "Though that does sound like Kaiba-kun..."

"Kaiba-kun," Yugi said, concerned by the way Kaiba was letting all of this pass over his head without responding, not even to his own name, "do you feel any better? Do you want to go to the clinic? Should we try to call Mokuba-kun?"

At the mention of his brother, naturally, Kaiba finally reacted, raising his head with visible effort. "Is Mokuba here?"

"No, Kaiba-kun," Yugi said, patting his arm soothingly, "he's not here now, but we could call--"

"Er, check that," Jounouchi said, and aimed his thumb at the door, where people were frantically dodging out of the path of the meter-and-a-half-tall, black-haired, gray-eyed tornado bearing down on them. At his heels a chauffeur with a silver KC logo pinned on his lapel attempted to bow and run after him at the same time, apologizing to him profusely all the while.

Disregarding him, Hurricane Mokuba blew into the space before their table, planted his hands on his hips and pronounced, "Nii-sama! This wasn't the deal! You cheated!"

"I didn't cheat," Seto explained, "emergencies were an exception to the rule."

He thought he was talking to Mokuba, but couldn't be entirely positive. Mokuba might be Yugi at the moment, or possibly Yugi had turned into Mokuba. Things were rather inconsistent at present, reality having attained an unnatural fluidity. At least from his perspective, which, he had reason to believe, was somewhat distorted by what Mokuba was telling him was a 40.1 degree fever. If that was actually Mokuba talking.

It had been Yugi talking before, he believed; he recalled the noise of all of them, Yugi and his friends, jabbering around him, but then their ruckus had, relievingly, all rolled up into his brother's single voice, which was much easier to understand. The bright pastel space of the cafe had also transformed into the closer, darker quarters of the back seat of his limo, where Mokuba had stuck the thermometer in his mouth.

There had been walking somewhere in there, too, with Mokuba holding onto his hand, and someone on his other side pushing him back upright when he stumbled, a someone who was too tall to be Yugi and too short to be his driver; Jounouchi, if he had to hazard a guess. Very confusing. He couldn't get the chronology of those events sorted out, however; the walking should have happened before the sitting, but the logical flow of causality was disturbingly uncertain now. Unreliable. Like going blind while pacing at the edge of a cliff, he could fall off and wouldn't even know it until he hit bottom.

"Nii-sama," Mokuba was asking, unless he had already asked this question, which would explain why he had been trying to answer it, "what was the emergency here? I didn't guess you'd be here, I had to call the driver to find out where you were. You knew you were sick, and now you're even sicker. You're going to have to stay home for a couple more days at least now to get better. They didn't invite you out or something, did they?" Usually his brother encouraged Seto to accept the various propositions and challenges of Yugi and the others, but right now he sounded like he might get extremely angry with them, had they done so.

Which they hadn't. "No, I had a good reason." Of that Seto had no doubt. He just couldn't remember what it was.

He had known he was sick, of course. It was hard to mistake. He had been this sick before--almost; 40 degrees, when he was twelve. That point one degree made all the difference, apparently. At 40 degrees, his head had hurt and he had been so hot he had thrown all the covers off the bed; at 40.1, time slipped and rational existence disintegrated into premature dementia. No wonder Gozaburo had called in that doctor with the chill prodding hands. A dead or a mentally and chronologically unstable heir hardly would have suited his purposes.

He had challenged Yugi to a duel, but there hadn't actually been a game, had there? Unless time had cycled through it fast enough that he had utterly missed the loop. He hoped he hadn't won, in that case. Another loss would be damned depressing, but missing an honest win would be unbearable. "Did I win?"

"Win what, Nii-sama?" Mokuba asked, fretfully.

And now he was making his brother worry. Or he had been worried already. "Never mind." Maybe he should stop talking, until he could be more sure his words would come in the correct order. Or at least until the world stopped rotating, though that was unlikely, astronomically speaking. While intellectually he knew that the Earth had to spin to maintain its proper orbit, generally he remained appreciably unaware of that cosmic action on the level of physical perception. Now it was all too sickeningly noticeable.

That dizziness was unpleasantly like intoxication. They had given him a cold full glass in the cafe, but he hadn't drunk from it. Seto remembered Gozaburo pouring the crystal tumbler up to the rim, pushing it at him. 'You have to know your limits, boy. Alone do whatever you like, but you need to know how much you can handle in public and still keep your wits. Scrawny thing like you will be a lightweight. Drink it, boy, it's not poison.' Of course alcohol actually was a poison, but socially and physically acceptable in limited doses. He'd been thirteen. The whiskey had been sour and bitter and he had forced it down. He didn't clearly recall that lesson, only that he had been so irritated by his inability to keep his balance that he quite forgot whether time distortion had also been part of the experience.

He could handle how the world was spinning around him, as long as he didn't look out the moving window of the limo, but the way time was cartwheeling made concentration difficult. It would have been hard to duel, if he couldn't tell if it were his turn or his opponent's. Would be difficult to take a test, how would he know which question he was answering? This was stupid; he should be better by now. "I have to get up," he said, trying to, though the seatbelt was holding him down. He fumbled at it, his hands clumsy. Drunk. "There's an exam tomorrow, I have to study--" History, or was it English language? Maybe both. English history. Charles the First was--what was the word? Not zanzai, not uchikubi, there was an English word, points off for using Japanese--decapitated, that was it, decapitated in 1649--

"Nii-sama." His brother's voice, though Mokuba wasn't allowed in his bedroom, not when he was studying, even if he was sick--"Nii-sama, there's no exam. Not anymore. You don't need to study anything, you just need to rest, Nii-sama," Mokuba said, calmly. He knelt up on the seat to take Seto's face in his hands, and turned his head so their eyes met, calm gray eyes steadier than everything else around them, the fixed axis of the rotating planet. "I'll take care of Kaiba Corporation until you get better. You just rest, Nii-sama." Usually Mokuba's small hands were warm, but they were soothingly cool on his cheeks now.

Seto allowed himself to relax back against the seat, blinked his eyes shut and time skipped again, only a few seconds, he thought, but Mokuba was talking on his celphone, saying, "Thanks, Dr. Takada, we'll see you at the mansion."

"Don't need the doctor," Seto said, prying open his eyes. "Just need to rest."

Mokuba made a sound that could only be fond exasperation. "I know, Nii-sama, but Dr. Takada will help you get better sooner. So you can go back to work, right?"

Seto coughed once and shivered. The AC in the damn limo must be broken, he was freezing. Before he could have it turned down, Mokuba snuggled closer against his side, wrapped his arms around him. Mokuba had been cool before, but now Seto leaned into his brother's warmth.

"It's okay, Nii-sama, it's only a bad cold." Mokuba sighed, very like an adult would. "You just aggravated it, going out today."

"Had to," Seto said. He remembered now, time turning back and then forward again, in the proper order. It had been important. "Haven't beaten Yugi yet."

Seto felt his brother's shoulders move under his arm in another sigh. "That's what couldn't wait? You went there to challenge Yugi to a duel? Nii-sama, haven't you told me before that a duelist has to be in top condition physically, if they're going to play their best mentally?"

Had he said that? It sounded reasonable enough. Certainly it would be easier to play if he could concentrate on the cards, rather than on standing upright and keeping his eyes open. But he hadn't had much choice about it. Couldn't wait. "Not gonna die of some damn fever without beating Yugi."

Mokuba stiffened. Then he said, quietly, "That's stupid."

Given reality's incomprehensibly fluctuating state, he very likely was right, so Seto didn't try to disagree. "Even you couldn't beat Yugi, playing with a fever this high," Mokuba told him. "I don't think he'd have dueled against you anyway, he doesn't like easy wins any more than you do. So you have to rest and get better before you challenge him again. You didn't need to come find him today, you won't need to tomorrow. You just have a cold, and Yugi will wait for you. It's not like he's going to let anyone else beat him.

"And besides," Mokuba added, almost angrily, his embrace tightening around Seto, securing him in place before centrifugal force could throw him off, "you're my big brother. You're never going to die."

It seemed like there was something illogical about that, but Seto couldn't figure out what it was. He was exhausted, and time kept spinning like the automobile wheels under them and the planet under the wheels, and Mokuba was right, as usually he was. Yugi and their challenge would wait, until time rolled forward to when he was more fit to duel. Mokuba was here to handle anything in between. And he was going to live forever, apparently, stupid aggravated cold or not. "All right," Seto agreed, and closing his eyes on the whole whirling world, he balanced himself against his brother's warm stability, and went to sleep.

the end