AUTHOR'S NOTE: We're finally at the last chapter. I'd love to know what you thought of the story.
CHAPTER 16: SO HERE WE ARE…
I was finishing the pre-production work on 'Dragonflight' when Mokuba came in. I looked up, ready to show him the latest revisions. Mokuba and work. They were the two constants in my life. It was only now that there was no possibility of it happening that I freely admitted how much more I'd wanted.
Then I saw Mokuba's face. It hadn't seen him look this nervous – frightened, even – since… not in a while.
"Mokuba, what's wrong?"
He took a deep breath.
"Atemu's been here every day. He's been trying to see you… to tell you that he loves you and that he was wrong."
"What?" I said, feeling as if the breath had been knocked out of me.
"He tried calling you, emailing – he's even come to the mansion."
"No he hasn't," I contradicted.
"Yes he has. I blocked your calls and emails, and instructed the security staff to turn him away."
I couldn't help being proud of how efficient he'd been, even though nothing was making sense. I'd always scoffed at people who don't want to know exactly what's going on. Now I wondered if I was among their number. But Atemu had come to see me. Of course I wanted to hear more.
"It gets worse," Mokuba warned. "I almost killed Seto. I tried to trick Atemu into ordering Seto to see Yugi. I figured that's what it would take for you to forget him."
I searched for Seto in my mind. He was still there, peacefully asleep as far as I could tell. I looked at Mokuba, shaking my head in confusion.
"I hated Atemu for what he did," Mokuba continued, the words coming out in a rush, now. "I mean, I didn't like you being with him, but I could stand it while you were happy. But then you were hurting and pushing it all aside, and it was all Atemu's fault. I didn't want Atemu to say he was sorry. I wanted him to pay. I didn't know that what I was doing could have hurt Seto." Mokuba took a deep breath and straightened up, his face set in adult lines. It looked horribly familiar. "No… that's not the whole truth. It wasn't just ignorance. I didn't even think about what could happen. I didn't care as long as I got back at Atemu."
"I know what that's like." I hung my head. "I wanted more for you."
"Stop it! This was my doing, not yours!" he yelled.
"Was it? Would you have even thought of doing anything remotely like this if you didn't have a brother who…"
"Who did what? Who did everything to make me feel loved? I feel bad enough for what I did – for letting you down. If you start blaming yourself…" He broke off, trying not to cry.
"Seto seems to be okay," I said.
"I know. But that doesn't change anything. What I did was horrible. You should all hate me."
"I couldn't. Don't ask me to be mad at you. It's the one thing I can't do."
"I'll remember this forever. I swear it."
I nodded. "I know."
"Atemu and Seto are okay with me too. Part of me wishes they weren't. Getting forgiven sucks."
I nodded again. "I know."
"Except by you," he flashed a grin at me. "That's okay."
"It's time to tell me the rest," I said. "How did Seto survive?"
"Atemu didn't take the bait. He said to tell you he'd been stupid, but that he cared. He always cared."
"Why did you do it, Mokuba?"
"I wanted to prove that Atemu didn't love you."
"Why?" I asked. "I thought you liked Atemu."
"I wanted you to forget about him and find a real person. Atemu's a ghost, and ghosts don't count."
"Because they're not real," Mokuba said impatiently.
"Aren't they? Mokuba, you know just how real ghosts can be. How many years have I spent fighting one?"
"How many years are you going to waste loving one?" Mokuba answered.
"Except for the time I'm with you… or when I'm designing things… the time with Atemu is the only thing that doesn't feel like a waste."
"I wish to hell you wanted more," he said. "But you don't."
"If my being with him bothered you this much, why didn't you tell me? You know I would have…"
"Broken up with him even if it tore your heart out? Yeah I know." The puzzled look on my face must have shattered the last strands of his temper, because Mokuba suddenly screamed, "I swear Nisama, sometimes you are so fucking stupid! I wish you would just look at him and think, 'Atemu, you're a nice guy, but let's face it, you're a spirit with four hours a day to spend with me. I'm sorry, but I deserve better.' But you won't say that, any more than…" Mokuba swallowed, then straightened, and looked me in the eye, just like I'd taught him, as he said, "Sometimes, I wish, back at the orphanage, that you'd said to me, 'I'm sorry Mokuba. I'll do my best, but I can't promise to be your father. I'm only 10 years old.' But you wouldn't say that either. So I figured it was my turn to protect you. It was stupid."
"Not stupid, Mokuba. Just futile. You can't protect me. No one can. And if you try, you'll destroy yourself. I tried to protect you – and look what happened. I almost killed you and you blame yourself for it."
"Atemu's still waiting to see you," he said, trying, as he always did, to steer the conversation into safer waters.
"How can I see him if it makes you this unhappy? I promised myself never to hurt you again," I asked.
"You're my Nisama. You can do anything you put your mind to. Please. You have to try." He looked down. "I really am sorry about… everything,"
"No," I answered. "Don't say it. Not unless you're ready to let me apologize to you. Mokuba…"
He looked at me, eyes dark and intense. I swallowed. We had never spoken of that day.
"Please… I know you've forgiven me for Death-T, but you've never let me tell you…" I said, a little desperately.
"You're my Nisama. There's nothing to forgive," he said. "Do you think I don't know what you did – all of it? What it cost you? God, Nisama – how do you forgive someone for giving up their very soul for you? I'm sorry, Nisama – I have forgiven you, but if you ever apologized to me, then I'd have to admit it had been real – that it hadn't all been a bad dream. And I'm not ready to do that. Maybe when I'm 20 – it can be like a coming of age present. We can apologize to each other."
"I don't blame you… about Atemu and Seto, I mean," I said.
"Hell, I know that. Within a day you'll probably have figured out why it was all your fault in the first place."
What if I promise not to?" I said, knowing it was a promise I'd never be able to keep… but for once that didn't matter.
Mokuba shook his head, but he was smiling as well. "You know Nisama – you really are changing, though not always fast enough, or in the direction, I'd expect." He saw the troubled look on my face and held up a hand to stop whatever I was about to say next. "No, Nisama – that's my problem to deal with – not yours," he laughed, "You have enough problems of your own without adding my stubbornness to them. And as for promising not to blame yourself for everything you can't control – that's one promise you're never going to keep. Just promise to listen when I tell you it's not your fault."
We hugged each other.
"Damn," he said. "I promised myself not to cry." His words were muffled against my chest.
"That's okay," I told him. "You can cry for the both of us."
I would have added that I was glad we'd made up – except how could we, when there'd never been anything broken between us?
I was surprised to get Mokuba's call, although nothing could have kept me away. Yugi almost pushed me into control of his body. Neither of us pretended his eagerness to have everything resolved was for my benefit alone.
Mokuba answered the door.
"No tricks this time," he promised before letting me in, and adding, "You look like shit."
"How's Kaiba?" I asked.
"You can see for yourself. I told him how often you've been here. He's waiting in his office."
"This isn't what I wanted for him," Mokuba said. I nodded again. He had been saying that from the beginning.
"I know. This isn't what I wanted for him, or for any of us, either."
Mokuba nodded. "But I shouldn't have butted in. I won't do it again. From here on out, whatever happens is between the two… or the four of you."
"That's the problem, isn't it? I love your brother, but it will always be the love of a spirit."
I walked to the door. I knew Mokuba's feelings. It was time to learn Kaiba's. I knocked on the office door.
"Come in," Kaiba said.
It hurt to look at him. His eyes were as bleak as at our first duel, in the moment when his Blue Eyes White dragon had destroyed itself; as blank as after Death-T. He looked he didn't believe in my presence, although I was standing in front of him.
"I deserve your hatred," I said.
"According to Mokuba, that's not what you're hoping for," he observed.
I nodded, even as I said, "I know what I've done is unforgivable."
Unexpectedly, Kaiba's lips quirked in his half smile at that. "Then I guess we're finally even. And I'm damned if I'm going to prove myself any worse at forgiving than you." He gave a choked off laugh, and murmured almost too quietly for me to hear, "And I think I truly would be damned then… because that is what the last week has felt like."
"Kaiba…" It was all I could say. I remembered that touch had always told him more than words. I climbed on top of him as he sat in his chair by his desk, took his face in my hands and kissed him as if I could transfer my feelings to him only through our lips, our tongues. I could feel his pulse jump, but he remained unresponsive. I realized that the last time I had kissed him this passionately, I had abandoned him a moment later.
"If I could undo this all, I would. I think I've done nothing but harm the people I love. If I could free Yugi, give him his life back I would."
"Yugi assembled the puzzle," he answered. "I claimed the Rod. I didn't think Yugi was worse than I at living with his actions."
"He's not! Yugi would never shirk a responsibility," I yelled.
Kaiba smirked at me, "You're slipping, Atemu, if I can bait you this easily."
"I know. I may be 3,000 years old, but when I'm with you, I'm reminded of just how few of those years I've spent walking this earth. I wasn't supposed to care for anyone… to want to protect anyone… like with Yugi. And yet, what I feel is different. I was confused. I ran."
"Is this an apology?"
"I don't know. How does one apologize for doing something unforgivable? I tried to see you as soon as I realized what I had done, though."
"I know. Mokuba told me. He told me everything." Kaiba looked at me, utterly serious. "You must forgive him."
It wasn't an ultimatum. It was a statement of fact.
I nodded. How could I do anything other than forgive the crimes Mokuba had committed in defense of his brother?
"He wanted what's best for me," Kaiba laughed softly, I almost leaned into the gentleness of the sound. "At least he's not following in my footsteps any more… he's making his own mistakes now."
"Haven't you always wanted what was best for him?"
"Not really. I wanted him safe. I wanted him strong enough to handle whatever life threw his way. Maybe my wishes are just less extravagant."
Kaiba knew what his brother had done. He knew how Mokuba felt. And yet, against expectations, Kaiba was open to the idea of continuing. I wondered what had happened between them. I didn't ask. Kaiba would tell me (or more probably not) in his own time and for his own reasons. I would accept it. It was hard, learning this thing called privacy.
Nor did I ask Kaiba if he would forgive me. I knew he wanted to. But forgiveness and trust were not Kaiba's strong suits. All I wanted was the one thing I could not give in return: time.
"You'll never really trust me again," I murmured.
"Probably not," Kaiba answered, and I realized I had spoken aloud. "But I don't know that I would have in any case… trust you, I mean," he continued. "I don't know that I'll ever really trust anyone but Mokuba. I've learned to live with that." He looked me in the eye. "Can you?"
"Yes," I said without hesitation. I could live with it, if I had to, but that didn't mean I accepted it or that I had no intention of trying to change his mind. "I can accept anything that allows us to continue."
"That sounds like a rationalization."
"Maybe. Do you care?" I asked.
"Not in the slightest," he said with a smirk.
I grinned back. Then something caught my eye. I had once asked Kaiba why he spoke so seldom, why he never talked about his feelings. He hadn't answered me with words. Instead he had layered colored liquids in a glass, creating a vision of the sun setting on the ocean. Then he had deliberately stirred it up, temporarily destroying its fragile beauty.
Now I saw that Kaiba had carried the glass to his office. The liquid had evaporated a little, but its sunset pattern was still intact, still beautiful. I wondered if it proved my point that even in the midst of confusion, some things are unchangeable – or Kaiba's, that things inherently unstable are best left unshaken.
I smiled. Possibly equilibrium had been restored.
I kissed him, gently this time, and swore, "I will not make the same mistake twice. I can not shatter your heart again, without breaking my own."
He pulled me to him then, finally returning my kiss with a matching passion.
I was leaning into him, testing the limits of how far back the chair would go. I lifted my head from his and smiled, "I've always wondered if your desk would serve as a bed."
"Me too," he grinned, flipping me onto its surface.
I shook my head in wonder, as I unbuttoned his shirt, as I slipped out of my own. "Have we somehow, through all of this, managed to reach a happy ending?"
He shrugged his shoulders, even as he shrugged out of his pants. "How the hell should I know? You must really be fucked up, if I'm suddenly the happiness expert around here." He looked at me, realized my question was a serious one, and said. "Most mornings, the best choice you can make is to face the new day, whatever it brings. I'd just as soon it brought the knowledge I'll be seeing you each night." Although his next words were flippant, his tone was as thoughtful as I could wish as he added, "Is this a happy ending? No. Because it's not ending, and that makes it happy enough for me."
Thanks to Clarity for all your help on this story.
REVIEW NOTE: I reply to all signed reviews or reviews that have an email address directly. I reply to all unsigned reviews and post a summary of all replies on my LJ. The link is the first one on my Biopage.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Part of what attracted me to writing 'There's no such flavor as Kaiba Light' was the whole metaphysical thing; the whole debate what makes a soul and a persona. Probably my favorite part in the story came early, when Seto says, "Are Seto Kaiba and I the same person? I suppose it depends on whether you think that the soul is not only something unique, but something immutable, unchangeable. Then Seto Kaiba and I, despite the span of years that separate us, are indeed one person. Or do you believe that we are unalterably changed by the people we meet, the experiences we undergo, as we undertake life's journey? Then Seto Kaiba and I – for all that we share a soul – are two separate people."
Ironically, the other thing that attracted me to writing this was that I love screwball comedies and stories that revolve around twins and that have people running in and out of the wrong rooms. And the thought of two Setos in the same body was just too slapstick funny to be resisted.
So of course I decided combining metaphysics and slapstick comedy was a good idea.
In a way this story gave me a chance to explore some things that I've wondered about, and that oddly came together here. I found myself intrigued by the whole time-sharing aspect of Yugi and Yami's relationship. The only other examples in Yugioh area decidedly hostile ones, (yes, I know the even-eviler Malik is not a spirit, but a personality disorder, but the time sharing aspect still applies) so I wanted to think about what a model that was equitable and yet didn't have the cozy friendliness of Yugi and Yami would look like. And Seto was a High Priest, and I can't imagine him not fulfilling his responsibilities whole-heartedly. In other words, if he was a priest, I bet he was devout in his beliefs, because it's not in his nature to hold back. So I found myself interested in what would happen if he was in a world where he was the only one holding those beliefs. And Kaiba always looks so hard to the future, that I wondered how his past self would reconcile that past with suddenly being in the future.
In a way this story was a bit of a departure for me in that it focused so exclusively on how these five people were muddling through their lives. It ignored the other characters and played with canon and set limits on its scope as if there was no world beyond what these five people were experiencing. To me, it ended up being a story about compromising with life and just continuing whether or not everything is the way you'd ideally want it to be. If the story started out being about the wishes of the heart, it ended up being about the idea that it might be best if those wishes aren't too extravagant and come with plenty of caveats.
I enjoyed writing Kaiba Light. If it was a bit of a roller-coaster, veering from humor to angst and from character to character, I hope it was an enjoyable ride.
Thanks for reading.