A/N: Written for a 78 Tarot LiveJournal writing challenge community, using 08 – Strength as a prompt. Concrit is greatly appreciated.

Warnings: none, this is 100 percent worksafe.

Disclaimer: Yu-Gi-Oh! is the intellectual property of Kazuki Takahashi and all associated companies. No ownership claim is being implied with this, no profit is being made from this, and all the creative rights to the characters depicted herein belong to their original creator.


It was a given that practically everyone mistook Mokuba Kaiba for a happy-go-lucky kid. He certainly was upbeat and cheerful most of the time, and rarely had gloomy spells. From this also stemmed the belief that he was extremely air-headed and naive, and not all that smart, being raised in a world where he needn't take care of anything. Some considered him a stupid rich kid, some – a spoiled brat. One would think that all those kidnappings he'd gone through, all the Kaiba Corp. misfortunes would have left a mark on him, made him more down to earth, more aware of the goings on around him. People thought that it should have changed the boy, given him a rude awakening. And the fact that he'd remained the same didn't – as they liked to assume – bode well for the future of the youngest Kaiba.

Yet none of them were right. None of them was even close to the truth. Mokuba had changed. He'd changed early on – soon after the adoption into the Kaiba family. After seeing what Gozaburo's upbringing was doing to Seto, how it changed him - broke him, Mokuba decided to never change. He decided to be the safe haven for his brother to return to; the stable ground he could always go back to.

Therefore, throughout all the misfortunes, all the kidnappings, he had remained cheerful, struggling with himself to remain strong and keep faith in Seto. He'd told himself that breaking down was unacceptable. That showing his pain and tears to Seto was unforgivable. Being weak and becoming a burden when Seto had already been burdened with too much was unacceptable. Because Mokuba was supposed to be the safe haven: the one thing that never changed.

Sometimes Mokuba cried at night, first making sure that Seto couldn't hear him. (Most of the time he couldn't: all holed up in his study or his underground computer lab, working on new projects until exhaustion and reviewing new ones in a mad run to just stay on top.) Sometimes Mokuba couldn't sleep at all, well-aware of some new threat arising because Kaiba Corp. was again making great prowess and opponents couldn't fall behind, no matter what measures they would be forced to utilize. Mokuba couldn't sleep, trying to think of all the possible ways he could come under yet another assault when somebody decided to use him as a bargaining chip again. The last thing in this world he wanted was to be used against his brother, again.

And some other times Mokuba fumed because Seto was incredibly stubborn, refusing to admit the obvious – although quite unrealistic – things going on around him. But as soon as the morning came and as soon as Mokuba stepped out of his room, the mask of the worriless child was firmly back in place. During the years he'd brought this art of pretence to the highest perfection, certain that no one could read him. He'd kept the 'my big brother will show you!' attitude from the days of sandbox games because that was what Seto wanted. What he apparently needed – someone to protect, someone to whom he could prove his own power, his ability and superior skill. Mokuba believed that Seto needed someone strong by his side and was determined to become that person. He'd be someone his brother could always rely on, aside from himself; someone who would always be by his side.

Mokuba wasn't aware of the vicious circle he'd trapped them both in. He hadn't realised that, by remaining unchanged, he would do more damage to his brother than if he'd shown his true colours from the very beginning. Seto had become dependant on the little brother who needed saving and protecting from all their companies opponents; he'd always had Mokuba to account for, to calculate attacks aimed at him long before they could happen, and factor in time for saving him.

But there would inevitably come a day and time when Mokuba would grow tired of waiting on his big brother and take care of everything all by himself just because he could. And one day Seto would realise that his little brother didn't need to be saved from every corner's thugs, that he could fend for himself. And on that day Mokuba's biggest strength would become his greatest downfall.