The name of the game when I started this little project is this: experimentation.
I played around with a lot of things when I wrote this, and for the most part, I'm very pleased with the results. Now, what does this mean to you readers? I ask only this: go in with an open mind. There are quite a few things about this story that differ from the anime on which it's based. Personally, I think the story is better for it. I hope that you agree.
I wanted to say something more substantial, but now that it's come time to post, I find myself struggling for words. So, you know what? I'm just going to let the story speak for itself.
I am not here today for him, and I am not here for you.
It might be easy for some of you to believe this, it might be hard for a few of you, but I am here today for myself. For the first time in this second half of my life, for the first time in ten years, I am being selfish.
I know what you think. I picked a horrid time to do such a thing. I should be ashamed of myself. I should think of him. But there is something I intend to tell you, even though I know none of you will hear me. None of you to whom I am speaking right now will hear anything except yet another example of my insufferable egotism.
That is your prerogative. I hope that you are pleased with it.
Nonetheless, I will say this:
Today is not to be celebrated; today is no different from any other day. In a world with six-point-eight billion human beings, the loss of one is inconsequential. The world does not care that a child was lost to one man's brutality, any more than that one man cared. And all of you that are here, you may delude yourselves into thinking that you are any different, but I would ask you, if you intend to respect this boy's death, to be honest with yourselves, if with no one else.
You don't care, either. Or, if you do, you won't care for long. You will move on, and what small, glancing wounds you may have suffered from this event will heal, and you will move on with the world.
You, all of you, do not belong here. You should have stayed home, you should have made blog posts and called your friends, you should have gasped once at the television screen before changing the channel.
The only people who belong here, in this neighborhood we have set aside for the dead, are those who do not intend to move on. A funeral is not a celebration of a lost life, nor a lamentation for the newly dead. The dead are not here to partake in this spectacle. The dead have no need to care about what we remaining idiots do with their remains because we are too symbolically dependent to recognize that the body being lowered into the ground after I am done speaking is no more valuable than the animal bones that we so unceremoniously toss into the trash after finishing a meal, or throw to our dogs as playthings.
What made this child special is gone. What made him important, what made him noteworthy, what made him loved, died the moment his heart stopped beating. Make no mistake; I am no better than anyone else. I would no more discard this body than dig up any other in this cemetery. I, however, admit my own weakness in depending on such a wasteful, superstitious ritual.
If you wish to honor my child, then I ask of you this: do not lie to yourselves.
He is gone. And we have no right to cling to him.
Nevertheless, I will cling to him, because I am selfish. I make no pretense about what happens with my life now. I am the only one who deserves to be here. And the very fact that I do deserve to be here is the precise reason why, were I a better man, I would have stayed away.
Those of you here who have claimed in the past to respect me, I apologize. I am not the strong, willful man you believed me to be. You who believe that I am a soulless, heartless narcissist; you are the ones who have it right. And here is your proof of that.
I am here.
I am here, turning the one person out of six-point-eight billion that I loved, the one person out of six-point-eight billion that loved me, into a shameless spectacle because I am too weak to let him go. I am rightfully disgusted with myself for that.
Those of you who do not share my disgust, those of you who came here today expecting me to give a heartfelt, passionate, teary-eyed manifesto of my brother's innumerable virtues, those of you who came here today expecting me to finally show you that I am, in fact, human…
You're too late.
I am no more human than the corpse rotting in that coffin. I am no more than the walking, vengeful dead, and I will continue to exist only as long as it takes to see justice served. I will continue to live, and I will continue to fight, only as long as it takes for me to see that the man who stole my humanity from me is punished.
Once that is done, I will take my place here. Dead, gone, inconsequential. And if none of you show at my funeral, then I'll have done my job here.
Either you believe as I do, and my brother is gone, in which case he does not hear you, he does not see you, and there is no reason for you to be here wasting your time. Or, you believe that he remains here, in which case you are keeping his spirit tethered here when he should be resting.
Either way, my final words to you are the same:
"I'm surprised he even showed up."
For once, it didn't sound as though Joey Wheeler was criticizing his rival. He was still subdued—still in what Kaiba might have called "mourning mode" if he had been in any shape to comment on it—and he was simply saying aloud what all of them had been thinking ever since Seto Kaiba had arrived, swathed in purest black cloth, at his brother's funeral.
Perhaps it would have been seen as respect, that Kaiba would wear an all-black suit for this specific occasion—and of course his brother would be the only person for which Kaiba would make such a gesture—but Yugi Mutou wasn't sure that was the case. Yugi thought, rather, that he had worn black as a sign of bitter mockery, directed at the nameless, innumerable throng of people that had shown up at a ten-year-old boy's final resting place on the off-chance that anyone might care. In all honesty, Yugi was only slightly surprised that Kaiba hadn't worn pink, just to prove the point a little bit better.
They were all numb. They none of them knew what to say, what to think, or what to feel.
They had gone because it had seemed like the right thing to do at the time, but after hearing Kaiba speak—in what was perhaps the final public announcement of his career, and his life—they all doubted that sentiment. They doubted it quite a lot.
"He didn't," Yugi murmured cryptically.
"Huh?" Tristan asked, and it sounded like he just felt like that's what he was supposed to say; he wasn't actually interested in an explanation. Yugi looked back, and saw that same kind of resigned apathy on Joey's and Téa's faces, as well, and he'd expected to see it.
More to keep the silence from driving him crazy than anything else, Yugi took the question as an excuse to explain, anyway, and he said, "He didn't show up. Did you see his eyes? There wasn't anything there. His eyes, his face, his voice…even the way he moved. It was all…wooden."
"Mechanical," Téa put in automatically.
Yugi blinked, then frowned. "Yes. Yes, that's it. Mechanical."
"Goin' through the motions," Joey said now. "He's got one more job, that's it. After that, he's dead. Said it himself. Once he finds the guy who killed Mokuba…Kaiba's gonna kill himself."
They didn't want to admit it. They didn't want to admit to themselves that someone they knew (not a friend; no one but Yugi had ever even entertained the fantasy that Seto Kaiba was a friend) was planning to commit suicide, and that there wasn't anything they could do about it. Kaiba wasn't like most people. He hadn't used it as a threat. He'd made a promise, and they all knew that once Seto Kaiba made a promise, no matter what it was, there wasn't a single force on God's green earth that would stop him from seeing it through.
A part of Yugi, which he very much didn't want to think about right now (it felt disrespectful), felt sorry for whoever had murdered Mokuba Kaiba. Because another thing they all knew was what Kaiba had meant when he'd talked about justice, and punishment.
Life shall go for life. Eye for eye. Tooth for tooth. Hand for hand. Foot for foot.
Another part of Yugi, directly opposed to the first part, was laughing.
"Whichever god governs the dead in your society…I approve of its sense of humor."
Yugi didn't get up from his bed. He did, however, take the stereo remote from his tiny end table and turn down the music. There was no point in trying to drown him out. The spirit of the gambler did not suffer being ignored.
"…Not now, Yami. Please."
Yami's translucent eyes did not soften, but the manic glee in them abated the slightest bit. He said, "Your friends are interesting creatures, Aibou. Fascinating how they sympathize so easily with Kaiba now that the person who wanted them to sympathize with him—"
"Yami. Shut up."
"Am I wrong, then? You can't lie to me, Aibou. You'd have better luck trying to lie to yourself, and we both know how bad you are at doing that. You've felt it, too. That disgust Kaiba talked about. Beautiful speech. So impassioned in its bitter neutrality. Ah, but the man is a master. We could learn from him."
"Well, we didn't."
Yami flashed his signature glinting sickle grin and hopped down from the desk where he'd been perched. The spirit began to pace about the room, just barely visible even though the desk lamp was still on. He sent a coin dancing through the fingers of his right hand. "You always did feel sorry for him, didn't you? Always felt like maybe if he had a friend, he would be happier. Did you want to be that friend, Aibou?"
Yugi grunted. "I was an idiot. Kaiba had a friend. He's dead."
Yami wasn't the gambler's real name but right now, Yugi thought the name fit him better than it ever had. He was dark. The epitome, the pinnacle, the essence of dark. All the proof he would ever need shone in his ancient partner's twinkling crimson eyes.
Yami was enjoying this.
"Such a shame," the spirit mused, staring now out of Yugi's window. Yugi thought he felt a speech coming on. Yami often did this, just to showcase his superior ability to read people. It was like a game to him. Just like everything was a game to him. "That boy did bring out the best in him. Almost as though they were one person split into two bodies. As though in order to survive in this world, Kaiba took all that was good in himself, all that was trusting and loving and feeling, and removed it, set it aside to let it grow beside him, instead of within him. And now that that is gone, he has become that which he always meant himself to be, whether he knew it or not: the perfect machine."
"You don't have to sound that excited about it," Yugi all but snarled. "Mokuba was a person, you know, and he didn't deserve this. What do you think he must have felt, Yami? Right before the end? Knowing that he was going to die? Without his brother beside him?"
Yami turned now to face his host, and there was a haunting quality to his expression now, so much like the expression Kaiba had worn at Mokuba's wake that for one wild moment, Yugi wondered if it had actually been a mask, and Kaiba had lent it to the gambler afterward.
"I think that he must have felt as if all light had gone from the world," Yami said softly. "I think that he cursed the gods. That he feared the pain of death but, more than that, I think that he feared the pain his beloved brother would feel, desolate and abandoned. I think that Mokuba knew full well that he was all that kept his brother human, and that without him, Kaiba would have no choice left to him but to follow him to the last judgment of Mayet in the Hall of Two Truths."
Whenever Yami spoke of his archaic peoples' beliefs, of his gods and his goddesses, Yugi couldn't help but think that he did it to mock them, much as Kaiba did whenever he spoke of religion. Yami no more believed in the divine than he believed in Santa Claus.
"You really think Kaiba's going to...kill himself."
"I am shocked that he hasn't done it already."
Truthfully, Yugi was surprised as well that Kaiba had made it this long. He, more than any of his friends, had seen just how fundamentally dependent his rival had been on his little brother, for comfort and love and just a reason to keep going. It had been his most endearing quality, his single shining virtue, but it had been—as everything else involving Seto Kaiba—sad as well.
Yugi had simply been hoping that Yami, who understood Kaiba better than anybody else, who knew his mind and his heart as well as Mokuba ever had (who else but an enemy would look into him so deeply?), would say differently. No such luck, of course. Yet another trait Yami shared with his embittered, misanthropic compatriot: he was absolutely nothing if not honest.
Yami was speaking the truth.
He was shocked.
It just...it wasn't...
"The gods do not abide by what is fair," Yami said, interrupting his host's thoughts as cleanly as if he could read them (and Yugi had had more than one reason to believe that he could). "Humankind invented the concept of fair play as a coping mechanism. It is, perhaps, the cruelest lie we tell to ourselves."
No, Yugi thought.
The cruelest lie was that life should be fair.
Yami started to chuckle.
Yugi turned onto his side, away from his other self, and closed his eyes.
Natsumi Mutou watched the news often enough to know what was bothering her son. He was at the age that he no longer talked to her about his emotional problems anymore, but he didn't have to tell her. Yugi had always been sensitive, and death had always bothered him, whether he knew the person or not.
She didn't try to cheer him up when he half-walked, half-shuffled into the kitchen. He grabbed a box of cereal and almost threw it onto the dining room table, then turned to the dishwasher and retrieved a bowl and spoon. He sat down before realizing he had forgotten the milk. He sighed, and stared down at his breakfast as if contemplating whether or not he wanted to get back up.
Natsumi sighed and opened the refrigerator, took out the carton and placed it onto the table for him. Yugi gave a somewhat fake smile and thanked her quietly, but it took him a long time before he picked it up and poured its contents over his cereal. If she didn't already know what was wrong, it would have worried her to see him like this. But, of course, she did.
And so, it would have worried her if he weren't acting like this.
"Was it…peaceful?" she asked, eventually, trying to keep the conversation going. She didn't like it when Yugi was silent. It never meant anything good. She had originally thought to ask if the funeral was nice, but of course that was a stupid, and offensive, question.
Yugi shook his head. "…No. Kaiba managed to make everybody who showed up feel horrible." Natsumi frowned. "The worst part about it is…he's right. He was right. Mokuba never…knew many people. He always said Kaiba was his best friend. And maybe he thought of us, me and Joey and Tristan and Téa, maybe he thought we were friends, too. But…that was all. But there were so many other people there that I'd never seen before."
"He was famous," Natsumi said. "He was bound to have fans."
"I guess. But…it felt…wrong. I mean, aside from Kaiba, we spent the most time with Mokuba, ever since the whole Duelist Kingdom…thing. And it felt like even weshouldn't have been there."
"Why would Mister Kaiba have a public service, if all he intended to do was tell everyone they shouldn't have come?"
Yugi smirked bitterly. "To prove a point."
Natsumi had never had much of an opinion on Seto Kaiba. Yugi was a teenager now (almost an adult), and the whole "come meet my family" ritual with every new friend had pretty much passed by now. Every teen needed one or two friends his parents didn't know, right? Wasn't that part of what independence meant?
So, she had never pried.
But now, she wasn't sure that she liked the head of the Kaiba Corporation very much.
This must have been clearly stamped on Natsumi's face, because Yugi's smile softened, and he said, "Kaiba's grieving, too. More than any of us. If he needs to lash out at us," he gestured around himself as if to indicate all of society, "to feel human again, then I think we should let him. We owe him that much, at least."
Natsumi raised an eyebrow. "He's never struck me as the sort of man to grieve."
"I'm sure that's what he wants you to think. Kaiba never shows weakness, ever. Mo—Mokuba used to…tell us that…" But he couldn't finish the sentence. He took a bite of cereal, chewed slowly, stared at the table for a while, before he finally just started over. "When you're as close to somebody as Kaiba was to Mokuba…there's no way you don't grieve. Even Kaiba can't take that kind of—that kind of…"
Yugi was gripping his spoon so tightly that Natsumi half-expected it to snap in half. He cursed under his breath. She said, tentatively, "Were they that close? It never seemed like…"
Yugi gritted his teeth, and barely got the words out.
"…Kaiba lived for him."
The days passed, and in the recesses of his host's darkest, most private thoughts and desires, the gambler spirit who called himself Yami sat, watched, and brooded.
He knew that he only existed through the boy with whom he shared a body on increasingly frequent intervals, and thus he knew the benefits of keeping that boy happy. Content. He had seen how the spirit of the ring handled Ryou Bakura, and knew the folly of it. Reigning in a slave was far more difficult than appeasing a companion, and Yami was a pragmatic man.
So he thought, long and hard in the place Yugi called his "soul room," about how to handle this situation. It wasn't just Yugi. Everyone in the Inner Circle was mourning the loss of their newest member. Yami could not say with complete confidence that he had liked the young Kaiba nearly as much as Yugi seemed to have liked him, but he did admit that Mokuba had been interesting.
Téa Gardner, the eternal cheerleader; Joey Wheeler, the right hand; Tristan Taylor, the second lieutenant; they all three had reacted to the presence of the Kaiba family entering into their lives with clear-cut, honest hostility. And this was not surprising. But Yami, Yugi's shadow, had welcomed them with open arms. Here was something different. Something fascinating. A challenge he could sink his teeth into. Seto Kaiba was as close to an equal as Yami thought he would ever find, and it made his blood sing.
So that was the heart of the matter. Why Yami himself felt affected by this.
The last piece of the puzzle fell into place.
Without the boy, Kaiba was far from a perfect machine; he was a broken, battered relic. Gone was the equal. Gone was the challenge. Gone was the thrill that Kaiba brought to the arena. Without an heir, and without the will to find another, the Kaiba legacy had ended. And Yami was insufferably bored.
He supposed that he had to give his rival credit, though, for going out with all the bitter confidence he had ever had. Kaiba hadn't slinked away into obscurity, or ended himself the very instant his baby brother's breath had ceased; no. He had come out into the open, he had met his final challenge with his head held high, and Yami knew that if Kaiba did intend to die after finishing this final task (and Yami was sure that he did), it would be done with style. It would be explosive. It would be bloody. It would be historic.
And it would, in Joey's immortal dialect, "fucking suck."
Yami wondered if this was what it meant to love someone. If this was what Kaiba had felt for Mokuba. Somehow he doubted it, but he thought that it must be close. The very concept of Seto Kaiba dying was abhorrent to him. Of course Yami knew that it would happen eventually, but the idea that it was imminent...
He would not allow it.
Yugi spent Saturday morning talking to his mother. But by the time he went back to his room, he couldn't remember a single thing about the conversation.
Yami was unusually quiet, and Yugi was bothered by the fact that he didn't appreciate it. Every so often, when he couldn't take sharing his body and mind with another person (insomuch as Yami could be called a person), he simply took the Millennium Puzzle from his neck and set it aside. Most of the time, though, he kept it on. It had become a calling card of sorts, and he'd grown used to it. He'd grown used to Yami's constant presence, used to the gambler's questions and observations, and Yugi was now legitimately worried when the spirit backed off, even when it should have been a relief, like today.
When Yami was silent, it meant that he was concentrating on something.
And when Yami concentrated, it was never a good thing.
Sometimes, the spirit liked to discuss his schemes with his host, and Yugi would have been a lot less nervous if it had been one of these; generally, if Yami brought in a committee, the plan was relatively safe. When he played his cards close to his chest, however...
Yugi thought of his plans for today as he threw himself onto his bed again. He thought about how fun it would have been to go to Kaiba's new amusement park with the others, about how Mokuba would have been giving a presentation on his brother's latest Magic & Wizards holographic arena, and about how Kaiba had openly challenged Yugi (Yami, actually, but of course Kaiba didn't know/believe that) to a duel in order to test it.
He didn't have to ask if these plans had been canceled.
Even if Kaiba's challenge was still on, Yugi was in no mood to let Yami answer it.
You do know, Aibou, that if I wanted to come through badly enough, you would be hard-pressed to stop me, Yami's voice pierced his mind, and Yugi flinched. The voice was just as sardonic, just as sharp, as ever, but it was also distracted, the comment offhand.
"Whatever," Yugi mumbled.
They had all expected Seto-sama to shut down.
Bocchan had always been the driving force behind Seto-sama's ambition. Every member of the Kaiba Estate's staff, who had held a position for longer than a month, knew that much. Why did Seto-sama work as often, and as hard, as he did? Bocchan. Why had Seto-sama stolen the Kaiba Corporation from his predecessor? Bocchan. Why had Seto-sama suffered so much abuse at the hands of that predecessor? Bocchan. Why had Seto-sama become Seto-sama in the first place? Bocchan.
All of it centered around that small, excitable, raven-haired boy who had somehow managed—in ways nobody would ever understand—to wrest the buried humanity out of the machine that Kaiba Gozaburo had built.
Seto-sama's personal servants knew just how important Bocchan had been to his stability, and the stability of the mansion in general, and so they all figured that, without that oh-so-vital cornerstone, the entire thing would crumble.
Nobody had expected Seto-sama to go into hyper-drive.
But that's precisely what he had done.
For a while, it seemed that Seto-sama had learned more from his father than he'd ever let on and—now that Bocchan wasn't around to tell him to slow down—he was just doing what he'd always intended to do. For a while, it seemed as though Seto-sama had lost a burden, had broken out of his shackles and was now simply living up to his potential.
Akiko had hoped this wasn't the case.
So even though it was horrible, she was more than a little relieved when she realized what this actually was. Even though it haunted her, because she knew how it would inevitably end, she was glad.
Seto-sama wasn't living up to his potential.
He was running himself straight into the grave.
Yoshimi Akiko had worked for Seto-sama longer than most of the others, so she knew the estate better than she knew her own home. She knew every corner, every hall, every room. She knew how this mansion was supposed to feel. And she knew it didn't feel right anymore.
She'd used to think of this place as a museum.
Now it felt like nothing so much as a funeral parlor.
Silence still reigned here, order and routine still made the rounds and kept the peace, and to an outsider, it would have seemed as though nothing at all were out of the ordinary. The staff kept things clean, Seto-sama barked orders when he wasn't in his office, and nobody said anything about it.
It was just that now, there wasn't a little voice piping up after him, telling Niisama that he shouldn't be so bossy. Nobody asked Akiko if there was anything he could do to help out so that he could earn his allowance that week; nobody asked Connolly about the recipe for supper last night because it was really good and he wanted to learn how to make it himself; and nobody patrolled about the mansion on the sparse handful of times that Niisama took an afternoon nap to make sure everybody was quiet. In short, nobody was around to breathe life into the place anymore.
And so everybody was in a kind of stupor, numb and mechanical and only performing their duties because even though Bocchan wasn't around to keep up morale, Seto-sama was, and he kept them moving even when they didn't want to move.
For that, Akiko was more grateful than she could ever express in words.
And she seemed to be the only one who was.
"Grateful?" Lilly had asked once, after Akiko had served Seto-sama his afternoon meal (and been ordered out of the room almost before she'd even set down the tray). "Kiko, not that I'm criticizing you, but are you a masochist or something? How can you be grateful?"
Akiko had just smiled. A sad smile, but a smile nonetheless; and those were pitifully rare on the Kaiba Estate during the best of occasions. "Seto-sama is grieving more than any of us," she'd said, "and if he can work through it, then so can I."
"Grieving," Lilly had echoed, scowling. "I doubt that."
Akiko's smile hadn't faltered. "It will catch up to him eventually. Right now, he's trying to ignore the pain. That's why he's so much angrier than usual. He's trying to forget that Bocchan is gone, and once he remembers that, once he has to face that, he's going to crumble. I intend to be here when he does. If he calls for me, Bocchan would never forgive me if I didn't answer."
Lilly's scowl deepened.
"Enough people have abandoned him already."
The whole of the world was grey.
The music wove itself into the tired tapestry of the room like a lethargic snake, and its occupant registered none of it. It was playing because that was the routine, and routine had always been important to th—to him.
To the untrained, all was as usual. His fingers attacked the keys with their usual speed and precision, borne from years of constant training and muscle memory. His eyes drank in information like bitter, burning liquor from the unblinking, overbearing flat-screen. To the untrained, it was the usual staring contest between man and machine. To the untrained, there was nothing out of place.
To those who knew better, all was broken.
He would have seen through it, but of course He wasn't here anymore, and that was the source of the break in the first place, so what did it matter? He forced the fanciful musing from his mind. He had a mission in this new world to which he'd been born. This mocking grey purgatory. This desolate husk. This goddamned game-board.
He no longer worked. He no longer expected his servants to work.
They did, of course, because it was all they knew to do. They were all, in their own ways, grieving. He had been the favorite. He had been the prized one. But the servants did not understand. Except perhaps Yoshimi but, then, she had always been more attentive than the others. She had always been the most competent. The one of which he approved.
The one He had liked.
She entered the room (not his office, no; the very idea of entering that room sickened him) with food and drink. She set it down, bowed, and left. No pretense. No attempts at conversation. No "cheering him up." She knew better. She understood better. And he ate, and he drank, when he would do neither for any of the others, even though he tasted nothing.
He had to fuel himself. He had to keep himself alive.
He had a mission.
He had been awake for thirty-six hours now. Sleep had never been easy for him, and he had only kept up the façade of a regular schedule for His benefit. So he only slept now when it came up from deep within him and dragged him down, forced him into the obliterating darkness with all the gleeful cruelty of an overzealous slave-driver.
His eyes burned. His muscles ached. His mind was slowing. He knew soon that he would fall unconscious, and briefly considered rising from his chair and finding a bed. His sleep, such as it was, would be less hindered, and he would be better able to think. It would be efficient. It would be wise. It would be prudent.
He did not move.
There was no one now to worry, no one now to reprimand him. There was no one to whose happiness he needed to adhere, no one for whom to set a proper example. Let his performance be less than optimal. Let his mind slow and his body suffer.
What did it matter?
He had a mission, yes, but was there any passion in it? Was there any point? No. Only symbolic dependence on a final promise, and if it turned out that he could keep it, that was fine. But if he could not, if he failed in his mission and died in the dirt like an abandoned dog, that was fine, too.
Let that nameless, faceless monster have what it wanted from him.
Let it win.
He had a mission, but whether he won or lost, succeeded or failed, it didn't matter.
Because the world was grey.
And there was no one to make him care anymore.
Yugi shut off his stereo and pitched the remote across the room.
"Someone's in a bad mood."
"No way. I don't believe it. Really?"
Yami smirked, and Yugi wanted to punch him. He was not a violent person, but...
"The little Kaiba did make an impression on you, didn't he, Aibou?" the spirit asked musingly. "One would almost think he was a member of your family. Is this the 'anger' stage?"
"Yami, I swear to God, if you don't shut your insufferable trap, I'm going to take this puzzle and melt it into a can opener!"
It did no good.
Yami just laughed.
Yugi reached around his head, grabbed his pillow, and slammed it over his face as if he planned to smother himself. It didn't help. The gambler's mirth echoed in his head, completely unfiltered even though his ears were covered.
You feel guilty for this sorrow. You feel as though you haven't the right to grieve, when it is Kaiba who has lost here. Not you.
Yami's voice came in over his laughter, which did not stop. The sound unnerved Yugi, and he lowered the pillow to stare at his partner, who was jarringly stone-faced now. Crimson eyes flashed.
Yami shrugged. "You're right. Mokuba belonged to Kaiba alone. There is no point in denying it. The boy himself knew it. Reveled in it. We? You, I, all the others; dirt beneath Kaiba's pristinely polished shoes."
"How is it that you even manage to make brotherly love sound evil?"
Yami didn't answer. This was no surprise, and Yugi hadn't expected one, anyway.
He knew that this kind of thinking, this wallowing he had been doing ever since the funeral, wasn't doing anyone any good. And he didn't have any right to be doing it, anyway. It's not like he and Mokuba had really had time to become friends. Yami had saved the boy's life once, sure, but that...
It didn't matter.
This wasn't right.
If Kaiba could pick up the pieces, even if it was just for vengeance, then Yugi didn't have any excuse. But that was something else that was worrying him: Kaiba. He was still alive, and from what Yugi'd heard from Kaiba's maid, he was working as hard as ever (though Yugi doubted this work had anything to do with Kaiba-Corp), but there was no question that he was going to break. Soon. That he hadn't already just proved how little Yugi had ever known about the man.
But he did know that it was going to happen eventually.
"...Unless, of course, you can fix it."
"That's what you're thinking," Yami elaborated. "He's going to break, unless you can fix it. Fix him. That's what you want to do. You want to fix him. You want to help him live again." The gambler sighed. "There's only one way that's ever going to happen, at this stage. He's still too dependent. Mokuba is the only key to his survival."
Yugi scowled. "Mokuba's dead."
Yami smirked again, but this time, it didn't seem as dark as before.
He said, "That didn't stop me."
The scowl dropped from Yugi's face.
"...Are you saying...?"
The laughter didn't sound as mocking as before.
"Yami, do you...? Can you...? You can't...!"
The eyes didn't look as evil as before.
A few of you are probably wondering what the hell possessed me to kill off poor little Mokuba. The horrid truth is that I didn't have a particular motivation for doing it; the story just came out that way. But before you gather up your weapons and start lighting torches to come sacrifice me to the Old Gods, I beg that you give me some time. Trust me...I'm not done just yet. There's more, much more, to come. Like the title says...this is only part one.
I have—or should I say, Yami has—a few tricks to play.
Should be fun...don't you think?