A/N: A kind of a tribute to the Thomas Godoj's song Uhr Ohne Stunden (or in English – A Clock Without Hours). It's a beautiful song. And I find that it fits this pairing exceptionally well. Also, this is a kind of a comeback for me, as I haven't written anything for this pairing in years, despite this being one of my all-time OTPs. Which I abandoned because, well, let's not dwell on it. I'll just say that shit hit the fan big time and I came to hate them and the way they were being written. Two years down the road, and I come crawling back, hoping that it'll accept me once more.
Disclaimer: Yuugiou is the intellectual property of Kazuki Takahashi and all associated companies. No claim of ownership is being made with this, no copyright infringement intended with this, and no profit is being made from this. Please support the original creators by buying their production.
Time, for him, had stopped. Somehow, someway, it didn't want to move from a certain point in his life. There seemed to be nothing awaiting him in the future. He thought he'd be able to move on, to put the past behind him. He'd been an idiot, Amelda decided. Idiot as big as on the day when he thought that changing world through killing people was the best course of action to take. He was a living testimony on how well that worked out, he noted with derision, as he reached up to push the hair out of his face before looking up at the clock on the opposite wall. He still had a few hours of work to do. The past shouldn't be haunting him anymore – not in this new life he was trying to lead.
That being said, he couldn't just go back to his previous life as if nothing had happened, and neither could he build a new life on nothing to base it. Too many things had changed about him, about the world, about everything he'd once known to be true. His old hometown, for example, was not accepting of new beginnings, as it clearly testified, having been left to rot in its decaying state. Whatever survived of the main city had just moved away from the ruin and rebuilt itself anew, not even attempting at restoring the old houses. Fitting into this new lifestyle wasn't hard for Amelda – the hard part was living with it. His past in this country, as he discovered on the day when he set foot on the soil of his childhood, was neatly compiled onto one large slab of granite in the form of names. He spent something close to twenty minutes going over all of the inscriptions until he found the ones of his family – including his own. Then and there, his past turned around and spat him in the face, telling him with all the compassion of a cold stone that he didn't belong in this world anymore. He was just a number and a row of letters now – a shadow walking this Earth.
His reaction was to laugh. Just laugh in the face of the sadistic preciseness of life. Then and there time stopped for him all over again. Then and there he buried himself under the silence and weight of the granite, fingers tracing the letters of his name, engraving his very soul into it. He might have cried; he didn't remember clearly, but he knew he'd had tears in his eyes.
It wasn't him walking away from that memorial stone that day – not anymore. He'd found the closure with his past which he'd been too small and powerless to protect, but he hadn't gained the will to move on. He hadn't yet found anything worth living for, and just existing was dreadfully empty, but he was willing to face that too. After all, there was one more closure which he needed to reach. Slow in coming, that one, he noted, but time should be running in his favour now. Forwards, not back; moving, not standing.
By the time when he finally realised that that, too, was an illusion, he'd already wasted too much effort to give it all up at the flick of a hand. He'd been building himself up anew – brick by brick, shard by shard, just to get some semblance of himself. Just to create something he could live with for the rest of his life. He was moving onwards, but time stood still, and life drifted by him. It was a safe world – the one he'd built as a replacement. He had a job; he had neighbours whom he greeted when meeting on the staircase, but never on the streets; he'd managed to gain a few good acquaintances, though mostly work-related with the exception of some store clerks from the places he frequented. It wasn't much, but it was calm and peaceful, and just the thing he'd missed all those past years.
Or so he'd led himself to believe. He'd tricked himself into this status quo of silent happiness with excess nothing where things held the certainty of a routine. He'd tricked himself into it so far, that he ignored the silent courtesy he'd been offered years ago, and encouraged by his slowly growing ego, made a mistake. He decided to pay back an old debt which the other party had written off as forever lost and insignificant. He'd become haughty, lulled in by his new life, and perhaps regained a bit of that old righteousness and black-and-white judgement because his current existence allowed room for it to develop again.
Therefore, it wouldn't be far off the mark to say that Seto Kaiba was extremely surprised to receive a large sum of money in his account labelled as 'damage fee' – what that was, he didn't know and didn't care to find out, assuming that somebody in the system had made a mistake. That is, until he saw the name attached to the payment. From that point on, a more accurate description would state that he was livid, and whoever happened in his path that day felt sorry for their own existence. Of course, he sent the money back to right where it had come from, only to receive it back in two months, doubled. He sent it back once again, using all possible levers to block his account from receiving such payments, but to no avail. One and a half month later it bounced back, increased again.
Seto was angry. Calmer than before, but still angry enough to move mountains with a single glare, and now he also had a growing plan. Admittedly, he couldn't plan anything while he didn't know what kind of game his opponent was playing with him now, but it clearly was a game. He wasn't certain of the rules yet, and truthfully – he wasn't actually interested in finding them out. So he opted to set his own, and as a result one cloudy October afternoon found him standing in front of Amelda's apartment door, a silvery metal briefcase in hand – exactly like the one in which he used to carry his rarest cards, but he wasn't here to duel. He'd pulled all the levers at his disposal, called upon favours long-unsettled, and had gotten all the available information on this man whom he'd thrown out of his life the same way he'd gotten rid of that ruined plane's scraps. Unlike the plane, though, Amelda had chosen to not remain in the discard pile.
Seto rang the doorbell even though his inner self would have been far more content if he could just kick that door out of its hinges and punch the man living behind it in the face. Preferably several times. And while he waited for Amelda to answer, he unloaded all of his silent loathing onto the door. It didn't have a spyhole, therefore the inhabitant wouldn't have any other choice but to open it. The key turned in the lock.
"How dare you waltz back in my life?" was Seto's greeting of choice. Just at the look of the redhead he felt his fists clench with violent intentions. But he wasn't successfully running a huge company with brute behaviour alone – far from it –, and his self-control didn't do as much as slip, even if he really was ready to murder him.
Amelda, though obviously surprised, calmly looked him over before meeting his glare with indifference.
"Right now you're the only one who has waltzed somewhere."
"You know what I mean," Seto ground out through gritted teeth. And God help Amelda if he decided to deny it.
Amelda made a noncommittal sound that could have been derision as well as amusement, and quite possibly a variety of other things.
"Why are you here?" he asked. His hand was resting on the door handle, ready to slam it in Kaiba's face any time he deemed it necessary.
"To return your money."
Even though Seto said it, he didn't extend the hand holding his briefcase. He made no unnecessary gestures, ever, and Amelda didn't even regard the object which had become the main reason of this ridiculous encounter. Instead, he shrugged.
"I don't need your money."
If Seto had wanted to strangle him slowly before, now he wanted to maim him terribly and then strangle him slowly.
"Just who do you think you are?" he spat, not finding anything more useful to say, all the bile and loathing put aside.
"And who are you?"
That did it. Seto Kaiba had limits to his patience and this was it. With a furious growl of Amelda's name he slammed his fist sideways into the doorway. The fact that Amelda didn't even flinch or look startled was an unsettling truth which left a bad taste in Seto's mouth. Well, worse than it had already been, courtesy of him having to cross half of the world to return the money which he didn't need and give a piece of his mind to, perhaps, the biggest moron he'd had the misfortune of knowing. No, even Jounouchi didn't qualify for that title anymore. Amelda wasn't giving the mutt a run for his money. Oh, no. He'd taken the money and ran with it.
"I'm not here to play games, Amelda."
"No," the redhead elaborated dryly on the entire situation, "you're here to damage furniture."
Seto's next move was to try and force his way into Amelda's apartment because – no matter what the situation – he found it below himself to stand on anyone's doorstep arguing; and even more so if the anyone of choice happened to be Amelda. The door in the redhead's grip held fast and the opening wasn't quite enough for Seto to push through, and his already chipped dignity found it smart to end this tug-o-war early.
"I'm not letting you into my life any further than this," Amelda informed him coldly, looking amused, tired, and annoyed all at once. To him, this conversation had lasted for far too long already.
"You have no right to say that to me," Seto snapped, regaining his composure. "Not after you barged back into mine. And definitely not after I've crossed half of the world to return you your goddamn money."
Amelda's eyebrow shot up and he pointed out with a rather tired cynicism, "You didn't have to come all the way here. No reason other than you wanted to come. And keep that money. I owe it to you."
Seto laughed. "You? Owe me? You'll be paying those debts off for the rest of your life."
Amelda shrugged one shoulder. In his mind, this was a settled deal. And he didn't earn as little as Seto obviously thought he did. Although, he paused on that thought, if Kaiba was here, he'd definitely gathered all the possible information on him. The corner of Amelda's lip twitched in something akin to amused disgust. Seto Kaiba was a thorough man in everything he did – he'd allowed himself to forget that, but not anymore.
"And is that really any of your concern?"
"Look. Kaiba Corp. was also at fault for everything that happened to you. I saw the ruins. I wrote the plane and all your other idiotic moves off because of that. You owe me nothing."
Amelda laughed. Right in Seto's face and with a derision that called back the image from their first encounter when he'd been all that: bitter, broken, and vengeful.
"So you saw it, huh? And now you think you know everything?" An askew sneer settled on the redheads lips and he shook his head slightly before looking Seto square in the eye. "Did it ever occur to you that maybe I'm trying to repent too?"
Seto looked like he was about to say something, but he wasn't given the chance.
"You have already exceeded your welcome, which, in fact, you never had. Good day, Kaiba."
The door slammed shut. The key turned. And Seto was left fuming on the doorstep. He wasn't going to ring the bell again – that was something his pride wouldn't allow – and he already knew that Amelda wouldn't answer. Banging on the door was also not an option unless he wanted to lose whatever was still left of his dignity. And he definitely wasn't going to just dump the briefcase on Amelda's doorstep. He didn't do charity work, for one, and leaving it sitting there would definitely constitute as that, considering the neighbourhood. And secondly – he wasn't giving up on the main idea behind this rather pointless travel. He still hoped to shove that money down Amelda's throat and watch him choke on it. It was, Seto figured, the least thing he could do right now to make him pay for everything he'd put Mokuba through, as well as for choosing to ignore the courtesy of him not pursuing a lawsuit for abduction and property damage. Well, and that one medical bill which Seto had covered for him because he had been stupid enough to feel sympathy for a man who'd lost his little brother and couldn't find a way to cope with it. For a moment, Seto had seen himself in that broken man, and after almost losing his brother, had thought to have at least an inkling of what was going on in the other's head. He could relate just by imagining the hell his life would have become without Mokuba. He would have been the same. Maybe even worse off.
Whatever remained of that brief episode of compassion, however, had long since died out, and the pathetic leftovers had been trampled all over the moment he'd received the money in his bank account. For years, Seto had been certain to having left that one unfortunate part of his life buried in the past. Apparently, Amelda didn't want to stay in the past, and definitely didn't want to accept that small show of Kaiba goodwill which everyone else would sell their mother for.
As Amelda leaned back against the door of his apartment, almost feeling Kaiba's gaze through the painted wood, he tried to recall when exactly he'd decided that this status quo life was fit for him. Because one encounter with Kaiba had made him realise that the life he'd led ever since stepping his foot back onto his homeland had been bland. Stale. A lie. And the time, he glanced at the clock on the wall, the time wasn't standing still. He was. The time was just moving too fast for him to catch up with it.
A/N: And I'm back with them right where I left off – this fic wrote itself. And it wrote itself in a different direction than I'd intended it to go. But such has always been the case with this pair for me.