Yu-Gi-Oh! and all its characters, are the legal and intellectual property of Kazuki Takahashi and any entities he has granted legal rights to. I claim no rights at all with my story. I greatly admire Mr. Takahashi for the amazing story and characters of Yu-Gi-Oh!

Adamant Gentleness

It was nothing so obvious as a sound, the creak of the door as it was opened, (for Seto would sack the housekeeping staff if such a thing ever occurred) or the whisper of fabric as it brushed through the narrow opening; yet, he woke instantly and remained still, ears straining to catch even the smallest sound.

The nearly imperceptible widening of the air around him was the only sign that the sanctuary of his room had been breached.

Knowing he wouldn't be able to see anything, nevertheless he opened his eyes as wide as he could, trying to gather all the light in his room to catch a glimpse of the one who intruded upon his sleep. He knew there was no way his brother would let someone -- anyone -- sneak up on him, get to him; so that left only his brother as the one so stealthily entering his room.

"How can I relax, yet become more aware at the same time?" he wondered. But, it was so. It always was, whenever the inner demons his brother struggled with started to gain the upper hand.

Even though he'd been listening as hard as he could, even though his eyes strained to the point of sparking pain and false images in his effort to see, he still nearly jumped when the hand emerged from the darkness and reached toward him. He rammed down on the panicky trip-wire beating of his heart while forcing himself to breathe even and slow -- as if he were still asleep. If his brother suspected he did no longer sleep, he would melt back into the shadows, leave as stealthily as he had entered, and Mokuba would miss...

Seto's hand, Mokuba noted, was invested with a sort of capable, masculine grace. No one had ever rivaled his brother for the deft, arrogant dexterity that was only one of the pleasures of watching Seto duel -- no one except Yugi. Even then, Yugi's shorter stature, similar to Mokuba's own, robbed the first-ranked champion duelist of the commanding, willowy presence his brother possessed, the presence that was only enhanced by Seto's graceful dueling gestures.

Mokuba suppressed a shiver as his brother's hand neared. He knew, better than anyone, the lethal skills Seto had mastered and made his own, the multiple martial disciplines Seto had trained in -- for Seto was teaching each and every one of them to his brother in turn -- adapting the techniques with an enviable effortlessness to Mokuba's significantly different height, strength and ability. Despite this knowledge, Mokuba didn't fear his brother's hand. No, his panic was two-fold: the first, regrettable reason being the memories, edged in terror, betrayal and pain, that had been etched into his mind when a different hand reached out toward him, grabbed him, struck him, beat him... Back then, Seto's hand reaching toward him meant surcease, relief from the pain and terror.

Mentally shaking the effects of the memories of his adoptive father away, Mokuba focused instead on his second reason to panic -- that Seto would realize he wasn't asleep -- and leave. Of the two reasons for him to panic, Mokuba feared the latter more.

"Mokuba." Seto's voice was the whisper of a ghost. "Mokuba." A similarly ghostly touch stroked gently through his hair. "I had that dream again." Seto inhaled, his breath catching softly. "I care. I do. I care!"

Mokuba closed his eyes in pain. Of all the nightmares his brother suffered from, or at least of all the ones Mokuba was aware of, this was the worst. His knowledge of the details had taken years to gather, bits and pieces revealed with an agonizing slowness during many such late night visits, but, as best he understood, the dream initially started out pleasant, with Seto in triumph. His brother had either gained a decisive business victory over a rival company or, finally, won the critical duel from Yugi that earned him his title back.

In his dream, at the height of his triumphant celebration, Seto would look down and see someone broken at his feet. The first time the dream drove him here, the very first time ever to Mokuba's recollection that Seto had visited his room so late at night, Seto had seen him, Mokuba, dead and crumpled at his feet. In his dream, Seto had thrown back his head -- and laughed. Driven by the horror of the callousness of his dream self, Seto had come here to Mokuba's room, to make certain his little brother was not dead -- not broken. That night Seto never touched him, but only paced around whispering as intensely as he dared, that he did care and reminding himself that it was just a dream, as Mokuba was alive, sleeping peacefully before his very eyes --

Since then, over the years, other dreams had driven Seto here, to find the comfort it seemed he could only gain in Mokuba's presence. Mokuba knew why Seto didn't talk with him openly about his dreams. Seto never wanted Mokuba to think that his big brother couldn't handle everything. Seto never wanted him to worry that his big brother wasn't strong enough to protect him. Mokuba sometimes thought that Seto would rather die than to appear weak or helpless before him.

It was an ironic contrast that the dream that always destroyed Seto's equilibrium and drove him here was the one where Seto was acting completely as he overtly claimed he wanted to be. Strong. Commanding. Triumphant. Self-sufficient. Powerful. Cold. Uncaring.

Mokuba wondered who Seto had seen dead at his feet this time. He had once worried that subconsciously Seto wanted to see him hurt -- rather, that Seto wanted to be out from under the responsibility of caring for him. But, he soon reasoned that if that were the case, Seto would not be so disturbed by the nightmare that he had to see his little brother, even though it was the dead of night, to shatter the lie the dream insisted was reality and prove to himself that he did care.

Then, Mokuba had been insulted that it wasn't always him in Seto's dream. Seeing Yugi, Joey, Noa -- once even Roland, dead at his feet in the moment of his triumph also brought Seto seeking the comfort of Mokuba's sleeping presence, as if to remind himself that no matter how his own dream portrayed him, he wasn't cold. He wasn't uncaring, no matter what face he had to present to the world. To Mokuba's way of thinking, Seto's worst fear was that he would become what the world thought he was, as that dream, no matter who else was in it, always brought a surreptitious visit.

As startling as these past-midnight visits were, for they gave him a glimpse into the naked soul of his brother, Mokuba treasured them. Seto was a colossus among men, possessing intelligence, skill, ruthlessness -- indeed every trait necessary to crush his enemies beneath his feet and confidently stride away without even a backward glance. To the world his brother was adamant, a substance so hard and unyielding that tried-and-true titanium warped before it and diamonds were crushed into dust.

But here, in the soft darkness of the depths of night, Mokuba knew of the other side of his brother -- the one Seto refused to admit existed, and expressed only when the stress of containing it overwhelmed even his adamant resolve. Mokuba knew his brother was concerned, kind, sympathetic, gentle -- adjectives, words, states of being -- that others would scoff if he ever claimed Seto possessed them.

Mokuba wished he dared to take Seto's strong, graceful hand and hold it -- embrace it to his cheek -- to somehow, without words, show his brother it was all right, even if the world never knew and never understood, he, Mokuba, knew that his brother was adamant and gentle, both together, forever entwined -- and it was okay, Seto didn't have to sacrifice one side of his being to embrace the other; he could be both and Mokuba would never, ever think less of him for that. He wished he could openly tell his brother how much he cherished these unguarded nighttime visits when all the walls and all the shields around his brother's heart dropped and Seto was not the CEO, or a champion duelist, or a martial arts master, but, simply...

...his big brother.

All he dared to do, as he lay unmoving beneath Seto's hand as it stroked gently through his hair, was let his trust, and admiration, and gratitude, and so many more fiercely tender emotions he could not so easily name, spring and well in his heart and hope that, in the open, unguarded state Seto always found when he visited Mokuba's room so late at night, his big brother could somehow directly sense the love he felt.

"Such a paradox, little brother," Seto's softest voice whispered in the midnight-still room. "Why does indulging in being gentle and -- weak -- here, with you, give me such strength?"

Mokuba wondered if indeed Seto could sense his love, since he was feeling his love for his brother so deeply right now.

"I wish..." The whisper held immeasurable longing. "I wish things had been different. I wish I could be..." The hesitant brokenness Mokuba could hear behind Seto's words tore at him.

A soft touch, still gentle, but entirely new, brushed across his brow before Seto, without a sound, melted back into the shadows. A brief sense of airy openness passed and Mokuba knew he was once again alone in his room.

Mokuba turned, huddling in on himself, letting the tears welling in his eyes fall, crying for himself, crying for Seto; for he realized, as he touched the spot on his forehead that had been graced with his brother's unexpected touch, that for all of Seto's power, wealth, ruthlessness and skill; that his big brother was held captive in the person his own past forced him to be.

Such had been the knowledge passed to Mokuba with Seto's simple, gentle kiss.

- end -


Author's notes

I have no idea how old Mokuba is in this piece, or when it takes place. I have always had the impression that Mokuba is incredibly smart, so I'm sure some of that came forth in some of the word choices for his internal dialogue. I hope it didn't jar anyone too much.

I'm not sure if it is expressed in canon or not -- that Seto has some sort of trained combat skill -- but there is a scene in the non-dubbed anime where Seto uses a Duel Monsters card (his Blue-Eyes White Dragon, naturally) to jam the firing action of a gun. Later, he uses a card to prevent someone from firing on another character by burying the edge of the card into the man's hand holding the gun, forcing him to drop it. ::yeouch!:: Since both times he threw the card, it made me think he possesses some skill with shuriken (throwing stars), and this being Seto, he probably has mastered a few forms of unarmed combat. It makes sense to me, since he is the CEO of a successful company and would have to have a mind to his own safety in that position. I can't see Mr. Control entrusting his own safety (or Mokuba's) entirely into other people's hands, even if they are the security people he hired.