Yu-Gi-Oh is the intellectual property of Kazuki Takahashi and Konami, and is being used in this fanfiction for fan purposes only. No infringement or disrespect is intended by this fanfiction.

.

This story is the fourth in an alternate-reality series about the shattering and eventual re-integration of Kaiba's persona through his often-antagonistic friendships.
As a sequel to KP Duty and Coming Clean, this story references non-canon fictional events from those two stories, and though it certainly can be read without them, having read those two stories will give the characterizations of this story the setting that the author intended.

.

.


Face, Voice, Hands: 1
by Animom


.

If he'd thought about it at all—which he hadn't—he wouldn't have expected it to begin that way, standing in the rain at the annual memorial service for Mokuba, years after he'd given up hope.

~ : ~

This year, the four of them were gathering, as usual, to share the ride to the cemetery. Riding together was part of the ritual, as were the orange lilies that they would put in the mausoleum's stone vases after they saw Kaiba leave.

Last year it had been sunny. Two years before it had snowed. This year it was raining hard, and Jounouchi's umbrella fought him, tilting up maliciously to let the rain in, trying to pull him off the curb into traffic. As the other three converged on the Game Shop he closed the useless thing, black fabric and metal ribs flapping like gargoyle wings.

"Who's driving?"

Anzu held up her keys.

"Posh." He wiped the rain from his face.

"You smell like wet dog." Honda murmured.

"Love you too," he said as he got in the back seat.

.

"I wonder if he'll postpone going this year? Didn't he just get out of the hospital?"

"He'll be there," Anzu said. "Even if he's on a gurney with an IV attached."

"The car accident he was in was that bad?" Jounouchi asked. "What happened?"

"Who knows?" Yuugi spoke in a monotone, staring out the car window. "Depending on which gossip you read, he was drunk, or he was high, or a tire blew out, or the road was wet, or he was trying to kill himself." After a pause, he added softly, "It's not like any of us called him him to find out."

Guilty, Jounouchi thought. They had once had a tenuous connection with the older Kaiba as a result of the adventures they'd all shared with him and his brother—hell, Shizuka had been on the verge of dating Mokuba—but that had all been shot to shit when the Rain Forest Studies Institute plane Mokuba had been flying went down somewhere in South America. They had all called Kaiba, of course: between the four of them they tried dozens of times in the first weeks after the tragedy, made calls that were never picked up, left messages that were never returned. After a few months Kaiba withdrew entirely from public life, stopped dueling, and ran the company (or so the occasional magazine article said) via phone calls and email.

The four of them had talked about him now and then over the years, Jounouchi had to admit that they'd stopped trying to get through to him.

"Look, we were never friends with Kaiba," Honda said finally. "Mokuba was the human one."

.

It was always awkward when they got there.

The first year news of the private ceremony had leaked to fan sites, and so the clearing surrounding the secluded mausoleum had been packed with people: an outer ring of paparazzi, trampling each other in their eagerness to snap just the right photo of the handsome grieving genius billionaire; the general public, gawking without cameras; then the genuine mourners; and then half a dozen bodyguards surrounding Kaiba at the center of it all, his grief so intense that it kept everyone who had known Mokuba at a distance, miserable and inarticulate.

Every year the mob had been smaller and less rabid, until the outer rings finally became bored and fell away. Even the mourners had dwindled: last year only Ryou and Otogi had joined the four of them. Then as now they stood under the trees at the very edge of the clearing, showing Kaiba their support, giving him privacy, though they knew he would never acknowledge them.

The suit he wore was perfectly tailored to accommodate the casts on his arm and leg. The cane was discreet. The bodyguards who stood at the other side of the clearing held umbrellas over a wheelchair.

At precisely noon there was, as there had been every year, a recording of a piece of music that always made Jounouchi picture a trapped bird desperately beating its wings. By the end, this year as every year, Anzu and Yuugi were sobbing.

But this time something … maybe it was so many years of hearing that song, or the rain's sudden increase in tempo, or something in the way Kaiba stood, so isolated and unmoving in the downpour, or the thought that, of all of them, Kaiba's life had changed the most since high school … or perhaps it was just that he hated to see people in pain, no matter who they were, but whatever it was Jounouchi found himself handing his umbrella to Honda and walking across the sodden grass to Kaiba's side to put an arm around him in comfort.

Kaiba didn't react at all, and so Jounouchi stayed. He wondered if Kaiba was crying but he didn't dare look: all he did was keep his arm firmly around the brunet's back (he could feel some sort of rigid brace beneath the fabric: how badly had he been hurt in that crash?). He stared straight ahead at the mausoleum, blinking the rain out of his eyes as he watched his friends come into view and place the orange lilies. They glanced curiously at him before they finally walked away.

Long minutes after the sound of Anzu's car had faded, the bodyguards approached. When Jounouchi said, "Let's get him home," no one objected.

.

~ to be continued ~

.

.

AN: The musical piece referred to is "Fratres" by Arvo Pärt. It's a beautiful piece of music, simultaneously hopeful and sad, but heart-wrenching either way.

P.S. Sometimes which "he" is meant is ambiguous. This was deliberate. :p

(14) 26 September 2013.