SUMMARY: Kaiba learns that inconsequential sex can have consequences and Yami tests out the idea that his heart really isn't measured by his size. Starts out Kaiba/Shadi. Implied, eventual, Yami/Kaiba. Definitely AU. Set after Battle City/Alcatraz; ignores the DOMA and Ancient Egypt/Memory world arcs.
CHAPTER 1: A ROOM WITH A VIEW
"Change him back!" Mokuba ordered, trying to sound as tall and as intimidating as his brother.
It made sense that Mokuba would have been the first one to notice what was going on. After all, not too many people voluntarily spent much time with Seto Kaiba, except his employees – if you could call that voluntary, considering how well they were compensated – and they were probably too grateful for the change to ask questions.
It had started in America, after Battle City, Mokuba decided. The flight itself had been great. Kaiba had been excited. For once, he'd been the more talkative brother.
"I've finally got it figured out, Mokuba. You ready for another fresh start? This time I'll get it right. We're going to build Kaiba Land. That was the dream wasn't it? I've let so much time slip through my fingers, chasing ghosts. It's time to get back on track. It's my future. It's our lives. It's time to rebuild – and this time, the foundation's going to be as strong as I can make it."
Mokuba knew his brother wasn't just talking about a theme park for kids, even before his Nisama added, "That's the real way to beat him."
Yugi Mutou, or whatever version of him appeared when he dueled, had been Kaiba's main rival for two years. But there was only one "him" in Kaiba's vocabulary – and it wasn't the King of Games.
Kaiba had talked – really talked – to his brother more on that flight than he had in their lives together, had talked in that feverish, intense way he usually reserved for thinking through his systems designs. That he was talking about himself and his dreams and hopes was new – but the way he was doing it was familiar. He was throwing himself into his next project, never once stopping to consider that the assignment he had taken on was the recalibration of his own soul.
Mokuba was proud of his brother. That was hardly news. He approved of his brother's current obsession as well. Kaiba wasn't sleeping or eating any more regularly, but he'd started taking the occasional day off; it seemed he considered spending time with Mokuba to be another way to beat him. Mokuba agreed. Of course he would have agreed with anything that gave him time with his brother – and time that didn't revolve around Kaiba Corporation or duel monsters was icing on the cake.
Not that the elder Kaiba quite knew what to do with "free" time. Even Mokuba conceded his brother would probably never see the purpose of going to an amusement park he hadn't designed himself. And Mokuba had stopped pointing out to his brother that providing an ongoing critique of the special effects wasn't an obligatory part of watching movies – mainly because he realized that to his brother, the effects were the story.
In a surprisingly short time though, it had all settled into a routine, like molecules spinning in a centrifuge until they found a new equilibrium. For Mokuba was too young and too pleased with the results to question the means. And Kaiba was too stubborn to realize – much less acknowledge – that reorganizing his soul as if it was his latest business project, was neither possible nor wise.
Shadi's first meeting with Kaiba didn't break the new pattern of Kaiba's life – not that Mokuba knew anything about that visit until much later. That Shadi chose to appear in Kaiba's bedroom late at night was surprising. Kaiba's reaction, however, was typical for the tall duelist.
After Alcatraz, Kaiba had locked his deck in the vault; he'd refused to compete in the tournaments he'd organized. For four months he'd tried to write his future line by line as if he was fixing a faulty piece of coding, ruthlessly deleting whatever items he'd decided no longer fit the program. But Kaiba had never been able to tolerate constraints, even when they were self-imposed.
Shadi had had 3,000 years to pick his moment. Unintentionally, he'd found the perfect one.
"So… it's the ghost those idiots kept going on about on the Battle Blimp. And here I was thinking you were an urban legend." Kaiba said, as if Shadi was just another hologram, and a not particularly entertaining one at that.
"You have no memory of me?" Shadi asked sadly.
"Since this is the first time I've ever laid eyes on you, it would be hard for you to hold a place in my memory. And unless you get a lot more interesting, fast – I'll probably forget you the moment you leave," Kaiba answered.
"You have seen me before – in your previous life."
"If there's a point to this conversation, get to it quickly," Kaiba snapped. He couldn't believe it. He'd been wrestling with the future for months… and here the fucking past had just barged into his bedroom, unannounced, and apparently under the mistaken impression he wanted to chat.
"You know those visions you saw of your life as the pharaoh's high priest were real," Shadi insisted.
"I know that the past doesn't matter," Kaiba snarled.
"It does to me. Our past does," Shadi said quietly.
The softness of his voice caught Kaiba's attention. The past had never sounded so deferential before. He looked more closely at the figure standing so incongruously before him.
"We were friends once… close in body and soul," Shadi continued. "Seeing you at your tournament, even in the distance, reminded me of that… reminded me of how much we had shared, of how much was left incomplete… of how much I want…"
Shadi lowered his eyes at that, and Kaiba decided he liked the sight of the other man's downcast face. Kaiba was sincerely trying to throw of Gozaburo's influence. But that didn't mean he no longer enjoyed the feeling of power… or of danger. And this whole encounter was so weird, so disturbingly eerie, it excited him – especially when combined with Shadi's masked eyes and shallow breathing.
Kaiba had been planning to go to bed, and he considered sleep to be a waste of time. He wouldn't have bothered going out to hunt down a trick, sex had never been that important… but he wasn't about to throw out one that had literally popped in of his own accord. And he couldn't help but note that it would be convenient to have a fuck toy who could disappear the same way. Besides, Kaiba had been itching to screw the past for years, and he figured he'd never get another chance to do it quite so literally.
But Kaiba also had a reluctant respect for fair play, which led him to say, "You want to have sex with me and pretend I'm your mummified friend." He shrugged. "I couldn't care less. You can even shout out his name at all the appropriate moments, since it's my name too," he added, remembering the stone carving he had seen with Isis in the Domino Museum basement. "Just don't expect me to play along. Don't forget that I'm not him. Your fantasy ends in your head."
"If you remember nothing, and are uninterested in exploring our past, why are you agreeing? What are you seeking?" Shadi asked.
"A blow job at the very least. Do we have a deal or not?"
It was entirely in character that Kaiba gave no further thought to Shadi on that night, or any of the ones that occasionally followed, except to note that black hair unwinding from a white turban made for a nice effect, and to idly wonder whether to somehow recycle the image into his upcoming role-playing video game.
And Shadi lived up to his end of their unspoken bargain, never mentioning their shared past, never trying to revive it. In fact, to Kaiba's relief, they didn't talk much. He preferred it that way. Kaiba was a man (at least he considered himself fully an adult, whatever his birth certificate might've said) who liked his sex life as emotionless as the rest of his transactions. And it made their encounters more charged, more surreal, like the kind of kinky virtual reality game he would never have wasted his talents designing.
It was Mokuba who noticed the change in Kaiba first. It wasn't a big deal. One morning, soon after their return to Domino, Kaiba was a little more cheerful at breakfast. It didn't last long. By midday he was his usual snarling, over-competitive self. But a week or so later, when it happened a second time and then for a third, Mokuba was curious.
It was perhaps a function of Mokuba's age (he was only twelve, after all) that he didn't think of sex – at least not in connection with his brother. But Mokuba was the one person Kaiba trusted. And that made it easy for Mokuba to bug his Nisama's room. And easy to shrug the information off, afterwards. His brother was getting laid occasionally. He was a little more relaxed afterwards. Mystery solved; case closed. And since Mokuba really didn't want to think about his brother screwing anyone, much less some freaky guy who seemed to appear out of thin air, he was only too happy to drop the matter from his thoughts.
Until the headaches started.
One day, Kaiba's unaccountably good mood had lasted past his arrival at the office; it even lasted past his heading home at the end of the day (or night). It wasn't anything you could put your finger on. Kaiba was a little more abstracted, a little more relaxed… and a lot less angry.
It hadn't been anything dramatic, until the next day when some misguided fools had attempted the hostile takeover of Kaiba Corporation. Mokuba had been in the office when the news broke. Kaiba's hand slammed down on the desk. He had started pacing… plans to thwart the attempt and wreak vengeance on its perpetrators mingling as he talked, his words getting wilder and his voice getting louder with each turn around the room. It was business as usual.
Then Kaiba had doubled over, hands pressed to his temples, as if fighting off a blinding headache… or something much more dangerous. After a moment, Kaiba had forced himself to stand up straight, and had gone on issuing instructions as if nothing had happened – but his face remained ashen, and his orders were issued through teeth tightly clenched against the pain. Life had gone on like that for the rest of the day, with Kaiba alternating between an unreal serenity and a pain infused rage. With Kaiba refusing to acknowledge any weakness, even a purely physical one, and with Mokuba pretending that nothing was wrong. Then that falsely cheerful vacantness had vanished, taking Kaiba's headache with it. And Mokuba's Nisama had been, once again, his usual bad-tempered, driven self.
Until Shadi's return, two weeks later.
Mokuba wasn't the genius his brother was, but he could recognize a pattern when he saw one. And he was certainly quicker than his brother at realizing that a man who can walk through solid walls is best avoided.
In Mokuba's experience, what he had come to think of as this kind of freaky shit usually meant that Millennium Items were involved. Did Shadi have one? If anyone had ever said so, Mokuba couldn't remember. But all the same, he was willing to bet that Shadi was packing.
None of this meant that Mokuba was anywhere near ready to ask for help. Although he could plead very effectively when he had to, he hated it almost as much as his more ostentatiously recalcitrant brother. What he needed, Mokuba decided, was information. The other Yugi, the one Mokuba had heard was now being called Yami, would have been the logical person to approach, especially now that he seemed to inhabit his own body.
Mokuba was hazy on the details of that transaction, too. The gang hadn't said much on the few occasions where he'd seen them – and Mokuba hadn't asked. They had taken an unexplained trip to Egypt, Yami firmly ensconced in Yugi's puzzle. They had returned as two separate people. Mokuba had been curious, but he was wary of asking personal questions; the idea that they might expect some answers in return bothered him.
Mokuba frowned. Yami had told them once, during Battle City, that he'd been some kind of nameless pharaoh or something. Yami probably knew all about Shadi and whatever powers he had, but something in Mokuba squirmed at the thought of telling Yami that his brother was screwing Shadi. He could go to Yugi, but of all of them, Yugi was the one he knew the least. He'd mostly seen the gang at duels, which meant he'd seen a lot more of Yami. He didn't even bother considering the rest of the crew. He could picture their reaction if he said that he was worried because Nisama was acting nicer than usual. Jonouchi would probably offer Shadi champagne – or at least a six-pack.
That left Anzu. The more Mokuba thought about it the better he liked the idea. She would listen. She wouldn't ask any awkward questions. And even if she couldn't help, talking to her would make him feel better. Of course tracking Anzu down meant seeing the rest of the gang. But Mokuba had that covered. They'd assume he wanted her for some kid thing. They should have known better, but Mokuba had lots of practice looking deceptively innocent.
"Anzu," Mokuba said when he was seated across from her in a booth at the burger place where she used to work. They were ignoring the noisy bunch seated in the back of the shop. "Do you know anything about Shadi? Can he like… do stuff to people's brains?"
Anzu paled. "Why are you asking?" she said urgently. "Has he come near you?"
"Not me. Nisama."
He saw her shoulders relax. It almost made him shut up then and there, and walk out of the restaurant.
"What's happened?" she asked, and the concern in her voice settled him back in his chair.
"Well, Shadi's been coming to the mansion at night to see Nisama," Mokuba said, hoping she didn't ask, "Why?"
"What?" she yelled instead.
"He thinks Nisama's his friend… or something. You know, that whole past life thing."
"Your brother didn't kick Shadi out?" Anzu asked incredulously.
Mokuba shook his head, avoiding her eyes. "He let him stay," he finally mumbled. Mokuba knew Anzu had figured it out when she looked down and bit her lip.
"Shadi's very dangerous," Anzu warned. "He can go into people's minds and change them, just like you'd rearrange the furniture in your bedroom. If Kaiba's attracted his interest," she blushed faintly at the word, "your brother could be in real trouble. How has Kaiba changed?"
"He's just… not mad," Mokuba said somewhat helplessly. "He doesn't pace around his office yelling at the phone or the computer. He doesn't throw things. He smiles."
To her credit, Anzu didn't laugh at Mokuba's disclosures.
"That must be pretty upsetting for you," she said as carefully as she could.
Mokuba appreciated what Anzu was trying to do. He could hear Jounouchi's howls of laughter in his head, if the blond duelist had been the recipient of his confidence instead of Anzu. But there was also a challenge in his voice (after all he was a Kaiba) as he said, "I know it sounds dumb. It's everything I wanted for him. But he's the one who's got to make those changes in his life. Otherwise it's all wrong. When he's like this, he's not my Nisama. And I want my brother back. After everything that's happened, I can't lose him. Not now."
"You said the changes are only temporary," Anzu said reassuringly.
"For now. But how do I know that Shadi won't decide to rearrange things permanently one day?"
"Shadi definitely has the power, although it sounds like he's moving much more carefully than usual. He's never really used his powers for… well, for himself before… at least I don't think so…" Her voice trailed off. Then she nodded and said decisively, "The person who needs to know about this is Yami."
For the first time, Mokuba squirmed.
"Why don't I talk to Yugi?" Anzu suggested. Mokuba didn't look at her as he gave an infinitesimal nod. "And don't worry," Anzu added. "I won't say a word to the gang, and neither will Yugi. We'll figure something out. You just go home and look after your brother."
Mokuba gave her his first real smile of the night and left.
"So what'd the kid want?" Jounouchi asked as soon as Anzu joined them. "It can't be to invite us to Kaiba's next tournament. We're signed up already. Or does he have some new equipment or some crazy rule change?" Jounouchi asked.
"Nothing like that," Anzu said.
"What then? C'mon, spill it! Is Kaiba having a party for the tournament? That'd be cool."
"Yeah, right. Kaiba's having a big fancy party – and he wants to invite us. Get real," Honda said.
Jounouchi lunged across the table at his friend, sending drinks and food flying.
"You better tell us before they kill each other and we all get kicked out," Yugi said.
That got Jounouchi and Honda to stop wrestling and look up.
"It's nothing really. It was… personal," Anzu said, blushing a little.
"Mokuba's got a girlfriend… Mokuba's got a girlfriend!" Honda and Jounouchi chorused.
"I can't wait 'til the next time I see him," Jounouchi added.
Yugi took a look at Anzu's face and said, "Lay off Mokuba. How'd you like to be teased about your first crush?"
It was only after the group had split up, and Yugi was walking Anzu home that he said, "It's not a girl, is it?"
Anzu bit her lip. Mokuba hadn't made her promise – in fact he obviously wanted Yami to know. But Anzu didn't see what Yami could do. He was human now. It made him less mysterious… and in some ways even more unapproachable.
It was easier telling Yugi.
No more than Anzu, did Yugi doubt that Yami would want to know. It was Yami's reaction that Yugi feared. Nor did Yami fail to live up to his trepidations.
"Where are you going?" Yugi asked, knowing the answer.
"Where else? To the mansion."
"But Yami," Yugi protested. You're not a pharaoh anymore."
"Maybe not, but I'm still the King of Games."
"I'm serious, Yami. You gave that all up to stay here. You're going to be a sitting duck. You have no shadow powers. You're not a god."
"What's in the hearts of men can surpass even God," Yami quoted. "Kaiba said that. It's what allowed him to beat Isis that day, just as the modern world has replaced the ancient one. You're right. I have no special gifts beyond gamesmanship… no mystical abilities, no Millennium Items. But I will not accept that that makes me powerless, that I am unable to defend those I care for. My life is meaningless, then. I will test the boundaries of this new existence – and I will not be found wanting."
Yugi nodded and watched Yami walk out the door without protesting further. It wasn't that Yugi agreed. But he understood that Yami needed to do this – for his own sake as well as Kaiba's. Yugi couldn't help shaking his head though, and wondering why Yami's battles always seemed joined to Kaiba's.
Yami was surprised to be ushered into Mokuba's bedroom upon his arrival at the mansion. Mokuba was pacing the floor, looking remarkably like a miniature version of his formidable brother. Yami caught sight of the earpiece to a headphone peeking out from beneath Mokuba's hair.
Mokuba held up his hand. "Keep your voice down," he whispered. "Nisama and Shadi are right next door."
"What are you doing?" Yami asked.
"Listening in," Mokuba said as though that was obvious. He looked at Yami, and added, "You know?"
"Anzu told Yugi who told me. Why didn't you come to me yourself?" Yami's voice was as calm as ever, but Mokuba was experienced enough to catch the note of hurt.
"I didn't want to look in your face while you told me that you thought what Shadi was doing was right," Mokuba said.
Yami stared at him. "How could you think I would condone such a violation?" he asked.
"How's it any different from what you did at Death-T?" Mokuba shot back.
"There's every difference! At Death-T, your brother was a danger to everyone around him. You know this to be true. And Kaiba himself was trapped by the darkness he had been unwise enough to let into his heart." Yami held up a hand to stop Mokuba's protest. "I know why he did it. But even if his reasons started out being honorable, he was wrong. But there's a difference between my actions and Shadi's. I broke Kaiba's prison. I broke his soul back to its foundation. But I did not dictate the terms of its rebuilding."
"And what if he had chosen to be just like he was before?" Mokuba challenged.
"If necessary I would have killed him. But I swear to you, I would not have changed him against his will."
Mokuba chewed his lip. He was a little chilled at how casually Yami could speak of killing his brother, but he knew Nisama would approve. Then again, Mokuba disagreed with his brother more often than anyone knew.
"Mokuba," Yami said, "If I said that your brother and I were friends – would you contradict me?"
Mokuba thought about that. Yami had shattered his brother's heart, had put him in a coma, but his Nisama had come back to life with his rival's name on his lips. Mokuba thought of Duelists' Kingdom and Battle City and DOMA… how Yami and his brother always seemed to wind up on the same side; how they always seemed to be there just when the other needed to be yelled at. It wasn't friendship as Yugi and Jonouchi defined it. But Nisama had never set much store by other people's definitions.
"Let me help," Yami said.
"What do you think you can do?" Mokuba asked.
For the first time Yami looked hesitant. "I don't know," he said, finally. "But doing nothing is unacceptable. I want Kaiba to grow and change as much as you. But it must be on his terms and of his own volition."
Mokuba nodded again. "I'm not letting go of Nisama without a fight. As soon as Nisama's asleep, I'm going to confront Shadi."
"I'll come with you."
"No," Mokuba said. "I want to see if I can settle this first by myself. You know how Nisama is. But I wouldn't mind if you had my back."
"Of course," Yami assured him.
Mokuba nodded. "It's quiet in there. I'd better go before Shadi disappears."
Mokuba walked into his brother's room, leaving the connecting door open. He looked at the bed and froze. His brother was asleep. Shadi was dressed in his usual robes. He was leaning over the bed, smoothing the hair from Kaiba's face. There was no mistaking the soft expression on Shadi's own. Whatever motives Mokuba had assigned to Shadi's intrusions, tenderness had not been one of them.
Shadi looked up, and his movement freed Mokuba from his sudden stillness.
"Change him back!" Mokuba yelled.
Thanks to Bnomiko for betaing, and thanks to her and Kagemihari for letting me endlessly bounce ideas and for more encouragement than anyone deserves.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I've often thought that is someone cared about Seto Kaiba, and had Shadi's power to rearrange soul room, the impulse to do a little redecorating on Kaiba – to take out some baggage, so to speak – would prove almost irresistible… even without Shadi's added incentive to turn the person he's with into the person he wants. This story is fairly short for me; it'll probably end up being four or five chapters. It feels a little odd to be working on something that feels complete with so few chapters, and that's considerably lighter in tone. To add to the internal confusion, I've been working on a longer story on virtual worlds at the same time, and it's definitely been interesting shuttling back and forth between the two. I write with the same basic cast of characters, but I try to write something new each time, and each story feels like a new beginning. If you've started this new trip with me, I hope you enjoy the ride.
As always, comments would be adored…