Title: Anytime, Anywhere
Series: Part III-1 of Endless Loop.
Summary: Sixteen years have passed since that day in Egypt. Can Yami keep his promise to return to Kaiba?
Pairings: Kaiba x Yami, Priest Seto x Kaiba, Kaiba x OC.
Rating: Starts off T for language and slanted situations, progresses to M for heated encounters. This means that there will be graphic lemons in later chapters, but I will always post a warning at the beginning to let you know when and to what extent they will be present.
Disclaimer: Yu-Gi-Oh! does not and never has belonged to me.
A/N: Please note that this is an alternative ending to the previous installment, Whenever, Wherever. It can be read in place of Somewhen, Somewhere. They are two separate versions independent of each other about what could have happened that day in the ancient Dueling Arena after Yami and Yuugi's final battle.
While being familiar with the first two stories of Endless Loop would be beneficial, it is not necessary to understand this story.
Part I: Forgetting to Forget
The sound of his intercom distracted Kaiba from his reading. Marking his page, Kaiba pressed the button and asked, "Yes?"
"Isono-san is here to see you, Seto-sama," his secretary informed him in a pleasant voice.
Kaiba's eyes flicked over to his schedule; it wasn't a planned meeting, but he didn't have any other obligations at the moment. "Send him in," Kaiba told her as he set his book aside.
Isono walked in and gave a formal bow before approaching Kaiba's desk. "It's a pleasure to see you looking so well, Seto-sama," Isono greeted him warmly as he respectfully took off his sunglasses.
Gesturing for Isono to take a seat, Kaiba studied the man who had stayed by his side for the past eighteen years. His hair was starting to grey, but that was the only outward indication that time had passed. Isono no longer served as his bodyguard, but he was still in charge of training his personal security team and running it. "What do I owe this visit to?" Kaiba asked, knowing that Isono wouldn't visit him at work unless there was a specific reason.
"I am sorry to have bothered you at work, but I thought you should be aware of an incident that occurred today," Isono told him.
"Incident?" Kaiba repeated, unsure of what that meant. "Did something happen with the new recruits?"
"No, sir. There are no problems to report there. This is an entirely unrelated and slightly more…personal matter," Isono said as delicately as possible once he settled on a word.
Kaiba's curiosity was starting to get the better of him as he ordered, "Explain."
"I decided to do a surprise inspection of the campus security team," Isono started, "and they passed admirably, Seto-sama."
"Good to know," Kaiba commented. He had gotten tired of the negative press that the Dueling Academy had generated from the past principals, so Kaiba had taken a leave of absence from Kaiba Corporation in order to personally restore the school's order and reputation. It also allowed Mokuba the chance to learn how to run the parent company and the school gave Kaiba a new challenge; he had grown bored with the corporate world.
Isono continued with his story, "I was on my way to the main gate when I was stopped by a student."
What reason would a student have to stop Isono? Kaiba wondered. "And?" Kaiba prompted when the older man continued to remain silent.
"He was…unusual, sir."
"Most of them are," Kaiba said dryly, having dealt with his fair share of them in disciplinary actions. "What made this one stand out?"
"He addressed me by name," Isono told his boss. "He called out to me and said, 'So do you still work for Kaiba?' I reprimanded him for his impertinence, but he just laughed it off."
It wasn't a secret that Isono worked for him, but for an average student to know him by name was a bit suspicious. "Then what happened?"
Isono started rotating his sunglasses slowly in his hands, immediately alerting Kaiba that something was definitely going on; the man only did that when he was extremely nervous. "He asked me to pass along a message to you," Isono related, his voice not belying his current unease. "Of course I refused immediately, saying that you didn't have the time to waste with such trivial things, but he countered by saying he knew that it was my duty as your bodyguard to report anything to you."
It had been over ten years since Isono had served as his bodyguard; when he had gotten married and had his first child, Kaiba couldn't let the man put his family's life in danger. So why would a student who addressed Isono by name not know that he had been relegated to security duty? "What was his message? Kaiba finally asked.
"He wanted to challenge you to a duel, Seto-sama."
That caused Kaiba to laugh bitterly as he leaned back in his chair. He hadn't dueled since the Battle City tournament over sixteen years ago and it was common knowledge that he had retired from the world of Duel Monsters. Kaiba had refused to duel—not even for charity competitions—and that had irritated quite a few people over the years. When his rival disappeared, Kaiba no longer had the will to fight another. What was the point?
Save for his Blue Eyes White Dragons, the rest of his deck was in a safe at his house. His three dragons were currently on his desk in the mini projector that he had created for the sole purpose of displaying them. The miniature holograms flew in small circles and preened, roaring silently because he had temporarily muted them. They were always present, but they would never fight again; no opponent was worthy of them now that he was gone.
Realizing that he had yet to respond, Kaiba sarcastically said, "He's about a hundred years too early to even think about challenging me."
Arching an eyebrow when he realized that the teen had correctly predicted Kaiba's response, Isono told Kaiba, "He actually said that he was about sixteen years too late."
"Where the hell did he come up with that figure?" Kaiba scoffed, figuring it had more to do with wishing to be born during a time when he used to duel.
Shrugging, Isono added, "I of course informed him that you no longer compete, but he was confident that you would agree to a match."
"Based on what?"
Frowning, Isono related the most cryptic part of the conversation, "He said you would know in two days."
"What's the significance of Friday?" Kaiba wondered, failing to find an answer. Other than the fact that there was going to be the annual Halloween party, there was nothing else significant attached to that day.
"He did not answer that, other than to say that you would understand on that day."
Kaiba's mind was already trying to mull through the possibilities. It was probably nothing, but he still wanted to know. "Did the brat have anything else to say?"
"He wanted you to know his name," Isono told him, the confusion evident in his voice.
"As if I would bother to remember it in two days time?" Kaiba replied with a snort. If nothing else, it would be useful information so that he could reprimand the presumptuous teen for his blatant disrespect.
"He was rather insistent about the fact that you needed to know his name. And yet he said his family name wasn't important, only his given one," Isono said, still puzzled by that. "He said that if nothing else, he wanted me to tell you that."
Unsure of the reason behind Isono's build up, Kaiba asked, "What is it?"
For a moment, Kaiba almost thought his heart would stop. To suddenly hear the name he guarded so close to his heart, it was too much to hear when he was completely unprepared. "What?"
Isono misunderstood Kaiba's initial reaction and started relating his own thoughts, "It sounds foreign, but I don't think he was. I mean he was tanner than a normal Japanese person, but he didn't speak with an accent or anything. Although he did have me repeat his name several times to make sure that I didn't mispronounce it. Atem…it's a strange name, isn't it?"
If Isono said anything further, it was lost on Kaiba. All he could hear was the echo of that name and everything that started to stir in response. He had spent years trying to forget, trying to move beyond what had happened, and he would not allow himself to lapse because of something as ridiculous as a name. But if no one other than him and the Yuugi-tachi knew of the former pharaoh's true name, how could another call himself by that sacred name?
It was perhaps one of the cruelest twists of fate. The former pharaoh has been forgotten in his own time, obscured by memories until not even his name remained. And in the present time he had been condemned to thoughts that were too painful to speak of, his name no longer uttered by the few who knew it; he had not been forgotten, but he would never be anything more than a buried memory.
"He was wearing our uniform?" Kaiba finally managed to ask, feeling stupid for doing so.
"Yes, Seto-sama," Isono answered promptly, not showing his confusion over the question.
Kaiba wasn't sure what possessed him to ask, but he had to know, "What color were his eyes?"
"His eyes, sir?" Isono repeated, not sure if he had heard correctly. "I'm sorry, but I don't know. He was wearing reflective sunglasses and I was unable to see them clearly."
Deciding to dismiss his most loyal employee before Kaiba said something even more stupid, he told Isono, "Thanks, that will be all for today unless you have any other business."
Something had changed in Kaiba's demeanor, but Isono didn't know what. Even after working for Kaiba for almost two decades, the man's emotions were still a mystery to Isono at times. "If you would like, I can have the security team find Atem and bring him here," Isono offered.
Everything inside of Kaiba protested, "It's not possible," but he said nothing of the sort. The way Isono had phrased it made that irritating voice inside of Kaiba argue that if such a thing were possible, he would have ordered it done sixteen years ago. And somewhere closest to his repressed pain, there was a whisper that Kaiba would never have let him go if he had the chance to do it over again. "No," Kaiba refused, keeping his voice neutral so as not to betray what was starting to simmer underneath his calm exterior.
"Then if you'll excuse me," Isono said as he stood with another bow, not wanting to take up anymore of his employer's time. "Have a good day, Seto-sama."
"Thank you, Isono," Kaiba replied, waiting until he was alone in his office to do anything.
Only then did he turn his chair toward the window to vacantly stare out over the campus. Why was his heart racing? How could hearing a mere name make the Kaiba Seto react so poorly?
Because it was that name, his mind pointed out, although that did little to help him. If it had been any other name, Kaiba wouldn't have given it or the teen another thought. And yet because it had been that one, Kaiba was coming dangerously close to the barriers he had erected to protect himself from such things.
When Kaiba realized it had been over sixteen years since that day in Egypt, he suddenly felt much older than his thirty-two years. Had it really been that long?
How many years had it taken to perfect the blockades that held back his thoughts and emotions about the only person who had even managed to defeat him? And yet the mere mention of a name from his past caused an ache deep inside of him that he had once tried to delude himself that he was free of such a weakness.
No matter how hard Kaiba tried to pretend that he wasn't affected by the disappearance of the former pharaoh, it would never be true. He had lost a lot more than just a single person that day and he would never be able to gain it back again. Kaiba had lost so much more than he even realized and he closed his eyes to the world. It was just too much sometimes. How could someone as powerful as himself still be brought to a stop by something that had happened so many years ago? Why did it hurt so much? Then again, had it ever really stopped?
No, he honestly admitted, loathing the weakness in himself. The constant reminders, the continual attempts at repressing everything, the residual void he felt never let him completely forget. Even the names of the different houses at the academy served as a daily reminder of his failure. If he hadn't lost that duel during the Battle City finals, if he had kept Obelisk and gained Atem's Osiris, the spirit would never have been able to depart from the world. Kaiba would never have accepted Atem as he was, but it would have been better than losing him completely.
The more Kaiba tried to actively forget Atem, the more it forced him to remember exactly what he was trying to bury in the past. Avoiding the memories was easy enough, but it was impossible to escape the late night dreams that forced him to relive the most painful moments. Although it had never been a conscious connection, every lover he had taken had been compared at some point to the amorous dreams of Atem that left Kaiba frustrated in more ways than one. Not once had any met or surpassed such an unrealistic standard and Kaiba had been with numerous lovers over the years.
He had thought women to be safe since they were unlike Atem in any way, but it was for that singular reason that they failed to satisfy Kaiba. Well, that and their needless and ever present emotions disgusted him. They all seemed to be under the impression that they could heal him and that was the point where Kaiba showed them the door.
Men weren't much better; there was unnecessary drama and he disliked competing with their egos. Inevitably he found them to be largely unfulfilling, but there tended to be fewer emotional attachments overall.
There was no comfort to be found in the arms of another, but Kaiba refused to remain celibate for someone who didn't exist. Being with someone hurt him deeply in a lot of ways, but being alone was a pain far greater that that. He simply sought release, nothing more; even then, the reminders remained.
Kaiba had learned early on that there was no way of replacing Atem and it was pointless to pretend otherwise. Even when he had found someone with a similar build or a vaguely reminiscent demeanor, it just wasn't the same. No one could inspire the same passion, the same desire in Kaiba and he had given up looking. The few times he had pursued someone like that had ended badly at the end of the night for Kaiba because it always left him with a hollow ache and a painful longing for the scarlet gaze that haunted his dreams.
"Shit," he whispered softly as he opened his eyes to the bright sunlight of a fading afternoon.
He had never allowed himself to be deluded into believing that Atem would somehow return to him in this lifetime. There was no point in wasting his time waiting for something that would never happen, but Isono's words had breathed life into all of those what if's that Kaiba thought he had left back in the hotel room in Egypt so many years ago.
Did Kaiba dare to wonder about what if Atem had managed to do the impossible and return? Kaiba had never held much faith in reincarnation, but the priest had worn him down over time; his connection with the ancient Egyptian priest was yet another thing he couldn't deny or write off as simple psychosis. Was it truly beyond the realm of possibility that Atem had successfully reincarnated? It was a dangerous thought to entertain, but Kaiba's mind was unable to leave it alone. He tried to derail such ideas, especially since even if it were somehow possible, Atem would still be a mere boy. Kaiba preferred his lovers to be talented and at the very least legal. There was enough risk to his reputation when his lover was a male, but to take on an underage boy would be a public relations nightmare.
No, Kaiba refused to allow himself to think about such impossible possibilities; he would not get his hopes up for something that could never happen. There was a simple way to prove Isono's words were false and Kaiba turned away from the window to face his computer once more. It was with a slight feeling of trepidation that Kaiba opened the school's student registry to put an end to his sudden onset of foolishness.
Typing in, "Atem," yielded no results and even though it was the expected outcome, it still hurt to see, "Zero matches," on the screen. Unable to stop himself, Kaiba entered in every variation he could of, everything from, "Atemu," to, "Atum," but it all ended with the same blank screen. Disgusted—although whether with himself or the program was still up for debate—Kaiba exited out of the registry, doing his best to ignore the whispers of, "I told you so," from echoing inside of his mind.
Hoping for a way to silence such damaging thoughts from continuing, Kaiba reached over and unmuted his Blue Eyes White Dragons. Immediately the sounds of quiet roars and wing flaps filled the silence and Kaiba watched the symbols of his pride flying around in all of their miniature glory. It was a small comfort to Kaiba and he welcomed the distraction. He just couldn't afford to let himself want Atem again—or was that still?
It was humiliating that the warmth of a single early morning as a teenager, the feeling of that body pressed so close to his own, the phantom caress in an ancient tomb were the most satisfying experiences that no lover had ever been able to top in all of the years since. How could his dreams still be better than the comfort and reassuring presence of a real flesh and blood lover? Because they're not him, Kaiba grimly reminded himself before pushing the thoughts back behind the walls where they belonged. Such things were more damaging than productive and dwelling on them changed nothing. He may not have actively believed in Atem's promise to return, but that never stopped his heart from longing, never stopped his soul from waiting.
Struggling to get back in control, Kaiba vowed to punish the teen who contacted Isono. Friday was still two days away, so that gave him plenty of time to come up with suitable ways to make the kid pay for subjecting Kaiba to such emotions and thoughts. "Bastard," he swore, the dragons growling threateningly in agreement.
Kaiba's thoughts were interrupted by his phone for the second time that hour and he said nothing as he picked it up to hear what his secretary had to say. "Your four o'clock appointment is here to see you, sir," she informed him without prompting.
Glancing over at his calendar, Kaiba sighed when he saw who it was; he just wasn't in the mood to deal with him. "Send him in," Kaiba told her as he held back a sigh. As much as he wanted to be left alone, there was work to be done.
Unaware of Kaiba's mood, Yuugi happily greeted him as he walked in with a bright, "Good afternoon, Seto-kun!"
"Mm," was all Kaiba replied with as Yuugi took a seat in one of the chairs in front of the desk.
Yuugi immediately took notice of the strained look in Kaiba's eyes and became concerned. Choosing not to comment on it yet, Yuugi handed over the paperwork he had brought with him. "I figured you would rather deal with me than Miranda-sensei," Yuugi explained with a grin. It was no secret amongst the staff that the woman had her eyes on Kaiba; the woman didn't exactly understand the meaning of the word, "subtle."
Scowling at the thought of the overly friendly and highly flirtatious female from Hawaii, Kaiba accepted the proffered papers with a gruff, "Thanks."
"You're welcome," Yuugi replied as he leaned back in his seat and got comfortable. "How's Mokuba-kun been? I haven't seen him around recently."
"Busy," Kaiba replied, although his expression softened slightly. "He's back in America trying to organize a tournament, but the normal arena is under construction and that's causing some issues."
Even though Yuugi still dueled regularly, there was just something that was thrilling about competing in a tournament even after all of these years. "Are you going to go?" Yuugi asked, earning a look that clearly told him that he should know better than to ask such a question. "I meant to go visit Mokuba-kun."
"Maybe," Kaiba finally said with a shrug. "It's still about two months away."
Yuugi glanced over at the miniature Blue Eyes White Dragons and he had to refrain from laughing when they temporarily joined into their Ultimate form in order to send an Ultimate Destructive Burst Stream in his direction. He was a little surprised to hear that the sound had been left on; Kaiba only did that when something was really bothering him. The last time had been when Kaiba found out that Mokuba and Anzu had started dating when they reconnected in New York five years ago at one of her Broadway shows. "It might be good for you," Yuugi commented once the dragons separated into their three bodies once more.
There was nothing to say to that and Kaiba found himself studying Yuugi despite himself. Even though he had grown taller and matured, he was still distinctively Mutou Yuugi; there was no mistaking him from the Atem that had haunted Kaiba's dreams for years. Then again, the former pharaoh had never lived beyond his teenage years so it wasn't a surprise that he didn't resemble Yuugi anymore.
Kaiba almost wanted to talk it over with Yuugi, to ask the one person who wouldn't think the stress of life had finally taken it toll on him. Over the years he had begrudgingly learned to trust Yuugi, but Kaiba still found it impossibly hard to completely open up to anyone. Besides, he still couldn't trust his own reasons for his tolerance toward Yuugi; sometimes Kaiba wondered if it was because the man was the closest he'd ever come to Atem again.
"Seto-kun?" Yuugi asked, a hint of concern in his voice. He got the feeling that Kaiba was looking through him rather than at him and it was a little disconcerting.
It seemed to bring Kaiba back to the present and his expression hardened considerably. At first he had hated being addressed in such a personal manner by Yuugi, but he soon realized that he preferred it. He would never admit it, but it had been painful to hear the person who so resembled Atem calling him, "Kaiba." Even though his given name was something he associated with the priest, for some reason that didn't bother him as much. "Yes?" Kaiba finally responded when he realized he hadn't.
Yuugi knew how much Kaiba hated the question, but he still had to ask, "Is everything okay? You seem…distracted. And since I saw Isono-san on my way over here—"
"When?" Kaiba demanded, his voice sounding harsher than he had originally intended.
Clearly confused, Yuugi answered, "Just now. He said that he had met with you and—"
"Oh," Kaiba said, needing no further explanation. He didn't think that Yuugi would say anything to Isono about Atem, but his mind couldn't help but be suspicious. It needed an answer, but Kaiba knew it wouldn't be that easily found.
Yuugi recognized the vacant look in Kaiba's eyes all too easily and it troubled him. He didn't see that expression very often, but he could always tell when Kaiba was thinking about Atem because of how distant he seemed. But what would cause him to think of Atem now? Yuugi wondered, trying to figure out what he might have said that would have triggered that reaction. It wasn't the kind of thing that Yuugi could just ask about, though.
Once Yuugi had made the mistake of pushing Kaiba on the issue of Atem and he had vowed never to do it again. He had mentally prepared himself for the anger he knew he would be facing, but the amount of pain and confusion Kaiba had been unable to hide amongst all of his rage had completely startled Yuugi at that time. It was still puzzling to him even after so many years, but Yuugi had learned what he could and couldn't talk about with Kaiba; Atem was definitely in the latter category.
"Well, if you want to talk about it…" Yuugi offered, although he knew Kaiba would refuse.
"There is nothing to discuss," Kaiba said flatly, his gaze straying to his dragons that were still playing in the air.
"You know that if you change your mind—"
Kaiba interrupted him with a firm, "I won't."
Smiling sadly at his friend, Yuugi softly said, "I know, but sometimes I wish you would."
"Don't be foolish," Kaiba muttered. It was a mystery to him why Yuugi had continued to stay by his side and offer him friendship despite how many times he had rejected him. Kaiba had quit resisting it years ago, but he still found it awkward to rely on the other man.
"Take care of yourself, Seto-kun," Yuugi said as he stood up to leave, realizing from the darkening expression on Kaiba's face that he was retreating deeper into his thoughts.
Kaiba hadn't meant to say it, but he couldn't stop himself when Yuugi turned away from verbalizing a thought that would have been better left alone, "What would you do if you saw him again?"
Yuugi almost thought that he had imagined it, but Kaiba had actually mentioned Atem, even though he never mentioned him by name. Turning around to face Kaiba once more, Yuugi's heart went out to the other man and his sad expression. "I don't know," Yuugi answered honestly, "I never really thought about it. Why?"
"Forget it," Kaiba brusquely commanded, embarrassed that he had asked such a thing. Weak, he reprimanded himself.
Yuugi could already tell that Kaiba was starting to wall himself off, so he took a chance and spoke his mind. "I'd want him to meet Mi-chan," Yuugi said with a small smile at the thought of Atem meeting his two year old son.
"That would just confuse Minoru," Kaiba predicted with a short laugh.
He could clearly picture the puzzled look on his son's face and it made Yuugi chuckle to himself. "Probably," Yuugi agreed before becoming serious once more. "I'd like to watch the two of you finally have your rematch."
The small trace of good humor that Kaiba had found disappeared at Yuugi's words. It showed on his face and Yuugi hastened to clarify, "I've always wanted to watch you duel again and he really is the only—"
"Was," Kaiba reminded him flatly, vaguely aware of his dragons sending little Destructive Burst Steams in Yuugi's direction.
"I would ask him if it was worth it," Yuugi softly added, finding it difficult to meet Kaiba's gaze. Sometimes he caught glimpses of the depths of Kaiba's private pain and Yuugi wondered how he managed to continue on with a heavy burden. He desperately wanted his friend to be happy, but Kaiba seemed determined to stay as he was; even when he was with others, he still managed to seem so alone. Yuugi knew that Kaiba had taken several lovers over the years—he had even met a few of them—but he could tell why every relationship ultimately failed. He had a sinking suspicion that unless Atem managed to miraculously return to the land of the living, Kaiba would never truly be happy. Kaiba needed his formal rival in order for that to ever happen and it wasn't for the first time that Yuugi questioned Atem's decision to leave.
Kaiba was uncomfortable with Yuugi's appraising gaze and he made a quiet, "Hn," in response. "Of course it wasn't worth it. The fucking coward took the easy way out. What good is it to be dead?"
The venomous anger was impossible to ignore and Yuugi took particular care to not reveal his feelings to Kaiba through his expression; that would only antagonize him further. "I wonder if he ever regretted it?" Yuugi accidentally said out loud, wincing at the harsh and bitter laughter his words caused.
"Doubtful," Kaiba spat. "The only thing he might have regretted was not going sooner. That fucking bastard was just waiting for the chance to show him that he made the right decision."
Yuugi was momentarily confused about what Kaiba was referring to until he realized, "The priest?" If he had been shocked by Kaiba voluntarily bringing up Atem, Yuugi was beyond stunned that the ancient Egyptian priest was being openly discussed.
Sneering, Kaiba repeated, "The priest," in a tone that sent a shiver of fear through Yuugi.
Unsure of whether or not he should continue, Yuugi decided that he might as well since Kaiba had yet to stop him like he normally did. "I saw him sometimes," Yuugi hesitantly admitted, still nervous about Kaiba's reaction.
That caught Kaiba's attention despite his seething hatred of the man in question. "How?" Kaiba demanded to know.
"I would occasionally hear a stray thought or see a random memory from Atem about him," Yuugi explained. "But mostly I know of him because of the time we spent over there."
"Explain," Kaiba coldly commanded, despite knowing that he would probably hate the answer.
Taking a deep breath, Yuugi tried to figure out the best way to relate his experience from back then. He had never openly discussed it afterward—not even with his friends that had shared in it with him. "I don't think you'll believe me, but…when Atem returned to ancient Egypt through the Duelist Stele, we managed to follow."
"Myself, Anzu, Jounouchi-kun, and even Honda-kun were—"
Kaiba narrowed his eyes dangerously at the names mentioned. Logically he understood why Yuugi would have gone, but the others had no place or connection in the past. He may have tolerated Anzu for Mokuba's sake, but Jounouchi and Honda were unacceptable witnesses to something so private. "Why them?" Kaiba growled, more concerned with that issue than some bullshit magical time travel story.
"I'm not really sure, other than we had all gone to the museum that day. We eventually realized that we were supposed to help him discover his true name."
The information was slow in processing for Kaiba. There were so many questions he could ask, but he finally settled on muttering, "Why is this the first I'm hearing about it?"
"Would you have ever accepted it in the past?" Yuugi questioned gently, even though they both knew the answer. "Besides, it took awhile to be able to even think about it, let alone talk about it."
Sometimes it was easy for Kaiba to forget that others had a reason to feel pain and regret for Atem's untimely departure. "Oh," was all Kaiba managed to say, his emotions split in entirely too many directions at once.
Yuugi felt awkward standing in the middle of the room having such a delicate discussion, but he feared that if he returned to his seat, Kaiba would lose his willingness to talk. He got the feeling that it was only because he had started to walk away that the question had been asked at all. "Physically we only spent a day over there, but we lived out several weeks in that world. It probably would have been even longer, but it took us awhile to figure out how to get out of the Millennium Puzzle."
Kaiba watched as Yuugi instinctively touched the place where the Millennium Item has once rested so predominantly and it made him feel a little strange. "Your point?"
"The first time we saw the priest, we all thought that you had somehow managed to join us," Yuugi continued with a sad smile and a shy glance in Kaiba's direction. "It didn't take us long to figure out the truth. No matter how alike you looked, the priest wasn't you."
It was pointless to question whether or not it would have been possible to join the Yuugi-tachi back then, but that annoying traitorous voice that sounded suspiciously like Seto's questioned if it would have made a difference. "That was kind of the point, wasn't it?" he muttered.
Knowing better than to comment about Kaiba's question, Yuugi chose to lose himself in his reminiscing. "There was the physical resemblance between you, of course. Both of you were proud, stubborn, and loyal to a fault, but there were more difference than similarities in my opinion. Still, it was odd seeing him, especially when he was around Atem."
"Odd, how?" Kaiba asked, curious despite his discomfort.
"I guess I was just so used to see the way you and Atem interacted," Yuugi commented with a shrug. "Seeing him be subservient without complaint was almost surreal."
Yuugi paused for a moment to collect his thoughts and figure out how to best phrase what he wanted to say next. "But Atem…it was almost like he couldn't be himself around the priest. Sometimes it seemed like it hurt Atem to be around him."
"What makes you say that?" Kaiba questioned, straightening a random stack of papers on his desk to mask his interest.
Blushing slightly, Yuugi confessed, "I got lost one night while trying to find Atem and…and I saw something I wasn't supposed to see."
Based on the bashfulness and slight color on Yuugi's cheeks, it wasn't hard to figure out what he had witnessed. Kaiba's words sounded particularly vicious as he sneered, "Let me guess? They were fucking."
The acidic way the last word was said made Yuugi wonder just how much Kaiba actually knew and how he had acquired such knowledge. He sounded far too angry about it, like the pain cut deep with the knowledge he had lived with over the years. "Uhm…yeah," Yuugi awkwardly confirmed, unsure of how to interpret Kaiba's expression. "I was…uh, surprised, to say the least."
"Hn, and what did the bastard have to say for himself?" Kaiba asked, glancing over at his dragons when they ferociously roared.
The dragons' response made Yuugi question whether or not Kaiba had programmed them to respond to his tone of voice. Dismissing the random thought, Yuugi returned his attentions to the previous conversation. "Before then, I figured that Atem was glad that he had finally returned to the place that he had belonged. It had never occurred to me that he might not have been happy there."
"He was obviously happy enough," Kaiba angrily retorted, realizing too late that he needed to rein his emotions back in before he revealed anything else.
There was nothing that Yuugi could say to that comment that would help, so he finished his previous train of thought. "We talked for a long time that night about him, about everything. It was one of the first times I really saw him as someone outside of myself, if that makes any sense."
"None of it makes any fucking sense," Kaiba grumbled, crossing his arms over his chest as he leaned back in his chair.
Ignoring the comment, Yuugi proceeded, "I didn't fully grasp what he was trying to say back then. He just kept shaking his head and sighing, 'I'm supposed to want this, I'm supposed to want him,' and I just couldn't understand. I think we just made it worse when we arrived because it reminded him of everything he was missing."
Kaiba was becoming increasingly uncomfortable and he asked, "Why are you telling me this?"
"Because what he actually wanted and what he thought he was supposed to want were two separate things," Yuugi answered softly, surprised to discover that Kaiba was adverting his gaze again. "He thought that he could never have what he truly wanted, so—"
Kaiba coldly interjected, "So he gave up," even though he knew he should stop the conversation with a far more effective, "I don't want to hear anymore about it."
"No!" Yuugi vehemently denied. "He never gave up, he just—"
"He just didn't want it badly enough to—"
"He wanted you!" Yuugi blurted out in his frustration, stunning them both, albeit for different reasons. "He never wanted the priest, only you. But he thought that you would never see him as more than just a rival and—"
Yuugi's words struck deep, far deeper than he could possibly know. "Enough," Kaiba commanded, although his voice sounded like a strangled whisper.
Realizing that he had gone too far, Yuugi immediately started trying to apologize, "Seto-kun, I—"
"Don't," Kaiba warned, his voice sounding marginally stronger.
Still, Yuugi persisted to absolve his guilt, "Seto-kun, I didn't mean to overstep my—"
"It changes nothing," Kaiba harshly interrupted, glaring at Yuugi with an anger that was aimed more at the person being discussed. "Absolutely nothing!" No, nothing could change the fact that Atem had chosen Seto in the end. If anything, the revelation made him feel worse. He obviously didn't care enough to stick around, Kaiba thought bitterly, his chest tight with unacknowledged emotions. How long would it continue to hurt?
Looking down at the floor, Yuugi whispered, "I'm sorry," as he cursed himself for not maintaining better control over himself in such a delicate situation. He should have taken more care since Kaiba had trusted him enough to talk about it, but he couldn't unsay anything now.
"That is not necessary," Kaiba informed him. In the past he might have thrown Yuugi out for daring to speak in such a way, but age and experience had tempered Kaiba's reaction somewhat. He would not act out against Yuugi for speaking on a topic that Kaiba himself had initiated. Besides, putting an end to their tentative friendship would only prove to Yuugi that he had successfully gotten to Kaiba and that just wasn't going to happen.
Looking up at Kaiba once more, Yuugi wasn't surprised to see that his expression was a blank façade that revealed nothing. "Okay," Yuugi replied a little weakly as he tried to regain his composure.
Knowing that Yuugi was the type of person who would incessantly worry over what had just happened, Kaiba felt compelled to alleviate such things. The longer Yuugi concerned himself with it, the longer it would continue to affect things; the sooner he got over it, the better off Kaiba would be. "Will Rebecca be joining you at the Halloween party on Friday?" Kaiba asked in a forced conversational tone.
Yuugi knew better than to question Kaiba about whether or not he was mad, so he answered, "Yeah, we finally managed to convince Arthur-san to watch Mi-chan. She's really excited, although Mi-chan is still pretty upset about it."
"He'll get over it," Kaiba said, but his voice had lost its earlier hard edge.
"I'm sure, but in the meantime we have to listen to him cry that everyone else gets to see his, 'Jiji,' but him," Yuugi teased, feeling a sense of relief when Kaiba smiled faintly.
Yuugi's son was safe territory and Kaiba forced himself to relax. "Your kid needs to quit calling me that," Kaiba commented, but it was obvious that he was still amused. "I'm not that old."
"You are to a two year old," Yuugi said with a laugh. "We all are."
"He doesn't even call Arthur that and he is the grandfather," Kaiba continued to gripe.
Chuckling, Yuugi explained, "Arthur prefers, 'Grandpa,' anyway. So it could be worse, right?"
"I suppose," Kaiba agreed, "but he needs to stop eventually."
"I doubt that will be happening anytime soon," Yuugi said with a laugh as he remembered previous failed attempts at training Kai out of it. "Maybe he'll grow out of it."
"Doubtful," Kaiba said with a quiet laugh. As much as he protested against it, Yuugi's son could be impossibly cute at times and it was utterly disarming even against someone like himself. Sometimes he reminded Kaiba of Mokuba when he was younger and that was the excuse he used to blame how soft he was when it came to the boy.
Yuugi still wasn't sure where he stood with Kaiba on the issue of Atem, but at least he knew that they were okay for the moment. "You should come over for dinner sometime," Yuugi suggested, already hearing his wife's excitement in his mind. "It's been awhile and I know both him and Becca would love to see you again."
"Maybe," Kaiba told him, even though they both knew he would eventually visit.
It was more than Yuugi knew he could hope for after everything that had just happened. "Becca will probably ask you on Friday, just so you know."
"I'm sure," Kaiba replied, although he didn't sound anywhere as close to annoyed as he wanted to portray. "I'll…consider it."
Smiling brightly at Kaiba, Yuugi decided that it would be okay to leave. "I'll see you later, Seto-kun," he said warmly, but he was still concerned about his friend.
"Mm," Kaiba acknowledged the man as he left, sighing heavily once he was finally alone again.
He knew that Yuugi meant well, but most of the time Kaiba wished that he would just leave things as they were. Yuugi had never really outgrown his do-gooder habits and Kaiba knew that he should be grateful for having so little of it aimed at him.
Kaiba didn't know what to do with the new knowledge that Yuugi had just revealed to him. Dwelling on it would only cause him unnecessary angst and there were far better uses for Kaiba's time than such wasteful emotions. He just couldn't let himself think about Atem anymore and he once again cursed the unknown teen for stirring up so much trouble.
He knew that he was stronger than that and Kaiba forced everything behind the walls where they belonged. There was no place for Atem in modern times and Kaiba couldn't afford to let himself think otherwise. The past belonged in the past and that was how it should be. Despite that, the hollow feeling remained, just as deep as always.
In an attempt to distract him, Kaiba looked back to his Blue Eyes White Dragons and observed their interactions with each other. There was something reassuring about the sound of their wings flapping softly as they flew in circles and dove randomly. Two of them seemed to be racing each other, but Kaiba's attention was drawn to the one that was sitting on the base. He reached over and gently poked the dragon in the stomach and it growled in response, causing Kaiba to chuckle to himself. When Kaiba moved his finger closer to the dragon's head, it bowed slightly and allowed its master to pet it.
Even though Kaiba had programmed the codes originally, the intuitive AI that he had developed over the years had pleased him; the interactive technology was also something he was particularly proud of and he hoped one day to make the Blue Eyes White Dragons solid to the touch.
When Kaiba's attention started to wander, the dragon quietly roared to regain his attention and butted against his hand once he succeeded. He smiled down at the symbols of his pride and he smirked when one of the other dragons fired a Destructive Burst Stream attack that caused the other two to scatter. The littlest dragon returned to him and Kaiba held his hand in front of it palm up and watched as it cautiously walked onto his fingers. He wished that he could feel it for real and suddenly he was struck by how apropos it was regarding Atem.
Almost as if sensing his mood, the dragon in the palm of his hand made a mournful noise that cut through Kaiba for some reason. Even though he knew they would never be able to answer, Kaiba murmured, "Do you miss fighting?"
The other two roared emphatically, but the one closest to him was strangely silent as he hung his head at the reactions. When the two dragons resumed chasing each other, Kaiba continued watching the one who refused to leave him. Instead it walked up to the center of Kaiba's palm to lie down and yet it still felt like he was maintaining eye contact. As Kaiba pet the dragon's head and ran his fingers along its back, he accidentally whispered, "Or do you just miss him?"
The dragon once again made a sorrowful noise and the other two paused in what they doing to echo the smaller dragon's response. For some reason Kaiba felt like they were expressing something that he was no longer capable of—if he had ever been capable of it in the first place.
A/N: Everyone should thank Bahen and Elirian for their persistence in convincing me to post this today. Much love and appreciation to you both for all of your encouragement about this project (and all of them, really).
I won't be able to post this one on a weekly basis, but I will do my best to do at least two posts a month, but it might just be one post depending on time constraints. The chapters will be longer as a result, though. So it's a trade off of sorts, I guess. Hopefully everyone will continue to support this story despite the slightly slower pace! It exists because everyone wanted to see a proper conclusion and I just can't leave Kaiba that miserable in good conscience.
I'm looking forward to hearing everyone's reactions and I'll do my best not to leave you hanging for too long. There will also be a Kaiba/OC pairing and Seto/Kaiba one as well in a few chapters, but please don't let that scare you off of it. It is Prideshipping at its heart and I want to see our boys as happy together as the rest of you. They just serve to highlight the importance of the Prideshipping pairing, promise.
I feel like I should add more, but I'll let the intro speak for itself. XD Feel free to ask any questions in your reviews and I'll answer to the best of my abilities without spoiling anything, as always.
Part II: Untitled
Two days later at the Halloween party. Will the person claiming to be Atem reveal himself, or will Kaiba have to continue to wait? Just like always…
If you want to know when updates go up, I'll still be making announcements in Another Lesson or you can add this to your alerts. I can't wait to hear what everyone has to say and thank you for making this possible!