Hey ya'll… just a random, rather bitter little one-shot that occurred to me in the midst of the 'Same Time Next Week' madness. lol. Again – no ownage of the Yu-Gi-Oh. But I hope you like it – please R/R!

Damn… late again. It was always something. Today he'd had to drop Mokuba off early at a friend's house and ended up getting a flat tire on the way home. With it being a holiday and all, nobody had been available to fix it. As a result, Seto had been obligated to do it himself, messing up his clothes and staining his hands with grease. When it was finally all finished, he'd driven himself home to fix all of that. That was about the point that he realized that the dry cleaner's was closed and he was all out of dress clothes.

This was not his day.

As Seto rummaged through the spare closet in the guest room, where he stored his extra suits, something caught his eye. With a nostalgic smile, he reached up and retrieved the dusty box. It was more than slightly beaten up, and undoubtedly a few pieces were missing. But it was no less a relic in its own right.

His old chess set.

Seto's parents had given it to him for his fourth birthday, and he'd learned to play it over the years to follow. He'd picked it up quickly enough, but he wanted more than the ability to play well and beat most everyone. Of course, the six-year-old had wanted to dominate. However, something had interrupted his progress.

That something had been the death of his mother.

Frustrated with the game and short on the patience that it required, he turned instead to his school work and the care of his younger brother. This went on in the same way for several years. His favorite game and the refuge of his younger days gained its first coat of dust. Then everything changed again.

His father passed away too.

The days after that were a tumult of confusion and a whirlwind of assorted lawyers and social workers. However, before the week was out, he and Mokuba were completely relocated into the city orphanage…

Seto looked at the clock. He really didn't have time to sit around and reminisce… However, before he knew it, he was lost in his own thoughts again.

As the ten-year-old Seto had packed a few of his belongings into a backpack to take with him when he moved, he couldn't help but notice the old chess set. Feeling a pang of loneliness and a stab of longing for the parents that had given it to him all of those years ago, he placed it in the bag as well. And so it had stuck with him.

When they arrived at the orphanage, Seto realized very quickly that he did not fit in with the other boys. He was not cut out for the rough games that they played and the constant teasing. Instead, he found refuge in the old chess game. Night and day, he sat up late with the game board, planning out moves. King taken by knight. Pawn taken by bishop. The possibilities were endless.

With a quiet laugh, Seto recalled the day that he'd challenged his former stepfather. That certainly was a day to remember. As he thought on all of this, he began to pull some of the pieces out of the box.

There was the black pawn that he used to carry around in his pocket sometimes. He couldn't remember quite why. And the white queen that Mokuba had gotten hold of while he was teething. Seto had been so angry at the bite marks at the time, but now they made it more precious than ever. And he had forgotten about the fate of one of the black knights. One of the boys at the orphanage had stolen it after a fight with Seto, and he'd had to replace it with a crushed bottle cap that he found under his bed.

As Seto set up the board, he thought more on the day with Gozaburo. How had that happened, exactly? Right. He had started the game off strong enough, but a single pawn of Gozaburo's had made it through his barrier. However, Seto would not go into check-mate. There was no way.

For you see, to master a game is one thing. But to master the ways to cheat at said game is another art entirely. And Seto had been given more than enough time to excel at both. He never knew if Gozaburo figured out the slight-of-hand with which Seto's queen had ended up blocking his own. And oddly enough, Seto never cared.

But the games to go on between the two were far from over.

As the years passed, Seto found himself in stale-mate many times to follow. However, he would never let his king be taken. He played the games, fought the battle, but he learned quickly enough that cheating at chess was far more easily accomplished than cheating at life. There was no metaphorical sleeve in which to hide game pieces. There was no strategy.

'It was hit-and-run all the way,' as he had told Mokuba one time. 'Run, or you'll get hit.'

At the end of every day, it was simply an issue of cutting ones losses and moving forward. Every pawn that had been taken away, every line that had been crossed. Seto had suffered many losses over the years.

Down with one rook.

There goes innocence.

Down with another knight.

There went pride.

The queen is taken.

Saying goodbye to the belief that everybody in the world had some kind of good deep within them.

The king?

Despite all of it, damn it, the king would never, never be taken. Because that would be the loss of everything.

This was too much thinking for one day. Especially one where he'd been late when he started. Blinking once or twice and denying that he had shed any tears, Seto pulled an older suit out of the closet and changed quickly. Then he packed the pieces up into their well-used box and put them back on the top shelf for another day.