Title: Universal Language
Author: Nietzsche's Itch
Characters: Kaiba, Roland
Genre: Friendship, Family
Status: Oneshot, Complete
Disclaimer: I do not own Yu-Gi-Oh!
Summary: Roland has never been just his right hand man. Definition of Universal Language from dictionary . reference dot com - any kind of expression that is used and understood everywhere
That first evening, after he and Mokuba had arrived at their new 'home' and were rolled out to be put on display, cleverly disguised as a way to meet their new 'caretakers', gave new meaning to the saying 'You and whose army?' Because that's what it was, an army, comprising of one smug faced butler, legions of chambermaids, red faced chefs and kitchen staff and a line of black suited men standing properly to attention.
It was a show of strength, however subtle, and it was one against too many for him to fight.
Then he realised one of the security men was standing slightly apart from the others, not enough to be called in on it, but far enough so as to distance himself from the throng assembled to intimidate them into stunned submission. He caught his eye as Gozaburo addressed the room at large and the man gave him a nod of acknowledgement, letting his dark glasses slip slightly to that Seto could see his eyes, and winked at him.
It would be another week before he could put a name to the face.
Mokuba was afraid of the dark, and in the orphanage and even before, he would demand for a light to be left on, and when it got to be too much, he would crawl into his brothers bed and allow his presence to soothe away the fear.
Their bedrooms were on separate floors, and this was now out of the question. It was a blow to his pride when he was forced to ask for help to ensure his brothers comfort, but Roland was mercifully professional about the whole matter, and personally made sure that Mokuba had a nightlight in his room.
He was drifting off to sleep himself, exhausted from the days exertions, when the door to his own room creaked open, and he looked up only to find Roland setting up a light for him as well. When he protested, he was told that Mokuba had asked for him to have one too.
The next day Mokuba told him rather bewilderedly that he had asked for no such thing.
He had to finish his assignments, all of them, before tomorrow morning when he would be called to present them to his tutors. The punishment for failure would be the same as always, and he wouldn't get to see Mokuba for another week.
Seto let his head fall down to rest on the book he was supposed to be reading, and closed his weary eyes. He was so tired, and the letters were moving around the page, evading his grasp. He couldn't concentrate, he would never finish, and he would have disappointed his brother yet again. Miserable as he was, he didn't notice Roland enter the room, nor hear him stride toward him until a gentle tap on his shoulder brought him back to reality.
"It's time for you to go to bed Master Seto" he said quietly, eyeing the towers of paper with contemptuous distaste. He shook his head wearily.
"No Roland, I've got to finish this or our father won't let me see Mokuba" he replied blearily, though the underlying resentment and anger came through clearly. The man regarded him silently for a moment, and then sat down beside him. Seto eyed him quizzically.
"Two heads are better than one Master Seto" he said simply, before he took up a book and began to list the most pertinent points on a loose piece of paper to spare him from having to read through the entire chapter. Seto returned to what he had been working on prior to the interruption, and over two hours later, when they had covered everything he needed for the morning lesson, he murmured quiet thanks, and promptly passed out from exhaustion.
He thanked Roland again, at least in the safety of his own mind where he couldn't be overheard, when he woke up the next morning in his bed with his assignments stacked neatly on the side table. He did it a third time when Mokuba ran into his arms at the end of the day, laughing joyfully, and he mouthed the words to him when the despots back was turned.
Seto didn't often have nightmares, his waking hours could be accurately described as befitting the definition more fittingly than anything his sleep deprived mind could concoct, but five months into his sentence in the prison he was forced to call 'home', he woke up crying out for help.
He dreamt that he had failed all his lessons, and Gozaburo had made good on his word and decided to send them back to the orphanage. It was all for nothing, the pain and the misery, because they were going to land right back where they started. And it was all his fault.
The climax of the dream came when his little brother looked up at him with impossibly wide, watery eyes, and whispered 'you promised...'
Seto woke up alone, awakenened by his own scream of agonised misery, and lay in bed with his heart beating wildly and sweat beaded across his brow. He couldn't remember Roland entering the room, but he did remember him taking hold of his limp hand, and wiping his sweaty brow with a damp cloth, murmuring soothing nonsense all the while. He was tired of having to be the strong one all the time, and he relished the comfort and concern. He would again don the mask of cold apathy when he awoke, but right now, he would allow himself to be weak.
He awoke the next morning to find himself snuggling up to a blue stuffed dolphin with 'Daphne' stitched in faded lettering along one fin. It bore all the signs of being well loved, and as he hid it away from prying eyes in the back of his closet, he wished futilely that he was half as loved by someone other than his devoted brother.
Roland never did retrieve the toy, and it was a humbling experience when he discovered, quite by chance, the name of his bodyguards eldest daughter.
Gozaburo was heavy handed at the best of times, and thought nothing of landing the occasional slap or two to motivate his young investment into performing better, faster, more efficiently, but it was still a shock when the man stormed in from work one day, having made a rare blunder and antagonised a prospective client to the point where they decided to take their business, and their lucrative arms deal elsewhere, and upon spotting his adoptive son, dealt him a vicious backhand across the face.
Once he had started he couldn't be stopped, and Seto was beaten, punched and kicked to within an inch of his life before a pale servant told him he had a business call waiting for him in his study.
He lay there, whimpering in pain and bleeding out over the polished floor, hoping desperately that if he did die here, someone would be kind enough to clean him up so that Mokuba's last sight of him wouldn't be of him bloodstained and brutalised like a common animal. He flinched when the sound of quick footsteps penetrated the haze of pain that suffused him, and feigned unconsciousness, afraid it was his tormentor back to finish what he'd started.
"You're just a child" came the anguished mutter from above, and he gasped with relief. Maybe he would live to see another day.
"Roland" he croaked "help me up?" The next moment he was cradled in the mans arms and briskly heading for his room. He laid him carefully on the bed while he ran a bath, and was fastidiously gentle as he removed his ruined clothing. In the back of his mind Seto knew he should feel frightened by this, vulnerable as he was, but he couldn't be anything but grateful as he was lowered into the bathtub and the warm water soothed his tender flesh as Roland quickly rinsed the blood out of his hair.
Afterwards, when he was bandaged up and dressed in loosely buttoned pyjamas, he thanked his rescuer, feeling as if he were making a habit of it, and he was surprised by Roland hugging him as tightly as his injuries would allow, with a whispered plea to try and stay out of his attackers way. He acquiesced, and was regretful when he had to return to his duties. He tucked Seto in before he did, ruffling his hair gently before leaving.
And despite it all, Seto fell asleep with a smile on his face, knowing that he was cared for.
Anxiety was his constant companion, when he was separated from Mokuba, especially when their beloved father was also out of his sight, and the thought that he might be poisoning his brothers mind or worse distressed him to the point of feeling physically ill. It was a relief to him when he realised that Roland made a habit of arranging his shifts so that he was the one that the brothers saw most of, and the only person they respected in the cavernous mausoleum masquerading as a house.
He kept him safe from Gozaburo and some of the other, more malicious staff, who were of the opinion that children should be seen and not heard. It was an immeasurable ease to him knowing that his brother was in good hands.
And as long as Mokuba was safe, his determination to win this war was absolute.
One of the first things he did after his takeover of the company and Gozaburo's subsequent suicide, was to fire every single employee in the mansion. They begged and pleaded, grovelling and trying to appeal to his largely annihilated better nature but he gave them no quarter. They had already had their chance to redeem themselves, and every sole, solitary on of them had either watched him suffer without trying to help him, or had contributed to his torment.
And then the only one left was Roland, sitting expressionlessly in front of the desk that he had inherited from his late abuser.
"Do you know why you're here?" he asked coolly, inwardly admiring the mans composure, and wishing he didn't have to do this. But it had to be done. He couldn't afford any more mistakes.
"I have an idea Mr. Kaiba. And if I'm correct in this assumption, let my extend my deepest apologies for not performing to your expectations before I take my leave" he said solemnly. Silence reigned for a moment, and then Seto smirked.
"Now what gave you the idea I was going to fire you Roland? I'm promoting you" he said placidly, sliding a file across to the desk to his stunned companion.
"Why?" Roland asked dazedly.
"Because you've proven your loyalty" he replied promptly. 'And its time I gave you the same privilege' he thought.
They talked for a few minutes more before Seto started shuffling papers in a gesture of dismissal. Roland stood to leave, but was called back at the door.
"Oh, and Roland? See about hiring new staff won't you?" he ordered flippantly.
Life used to be, if not simple then logical before Yugi and his dark counterpart insinuated themselves into his life. He knew what his goals were, and he knew what he was fighting for, Mokuba's happiness and security. All their nonsensical prattle about magic, and reincarnated priests and dragons that used to be women played havoc with his carefully planned life.
And when the duelling arena was submerged in shadows, when bipolar teenagers with delusions of grandeur attempted to take over the world with some knockoff jewellery and a fistful of playing cards and when everybody might have been speaking Norwegian for the amount of sense they made, and ancient Egyptian for the sense it shouldn't have made, Roland would never gave any indicator that there was anything abnormal about the insanity that played out before him.
He was a bastion of sensibility in the midst of the madness, and he didn't know what he would do without that stability.
He was not a kind man, and quickly established this as part of his image, knowing that it he were seen as selfish and uncharitable, it would be harder for his enemies to find a weakness in him to exploit. Mokuba was his sole exception, and he made him stronger by staying at his side.
He treated others how he had come to expect being treated himself, with resentment, anger, contempt and disregard. He didn't want kindness for himself, and had long since given up expecting anything but cruelty.
There is an exception to every rule however, and the omnipresent cup of steaming coffee on his desk when he entered his office in the mornings was one kindness he could tolerate.
He had never been prouder of his little brother than when he successfully flew the pilotless plane during his duel with Alister. It might have been the only time he seriously considered a forfeit, nonsense about his defeat meaning the loss of his soul notwithstanding, Mokuba was on his own, and he needed help.
But this was not an option, and the seal kept him caged as his brother frantically followed the directions of an air traffic controller to steer the plane away from the peak of the mountain in its path. He later claimed that if it weren't for Roland's words of praise and calm, he might have broken down and killed them all.
Seto disliked being in debt to anyone, but he had long since come to realise that no matter how rich he became, he would never be able to pay Roland back for everything he had done for them.
He had felt hollow, more so than he had ever done after Dartz succeeded in achieving what Pegasus had failed at, taking over KaibaCorp. All he had worked so hard for was gone in an instant, and his means of taking care of Mokuba along with it. He had nothing, or so he thought.
He mightn't have been the first one to jump up and proclaim his loyalty to him, but both he and Roland knew the words didn't need to be said.
Whatever else Yugi and his friends might say about him, they had never accused him of protecting Mokuba with anything less than every iota of determination he possessed. There was no room in his life for anyone else, and he loved him bitterly and dearly.
He was forced to recalculate the dimensions of his heart the moment Roland placed his day old son in his arms. The child was sleeping, swaddled in a blue blanket with wisps of flyaway raven hair peeking over the top of the bundle.
"Will you be his godfather?" Roland asked solemnly. All the times that he had seen him prove himself to be nothing if not ruthless, without conscience or mercy for anyone that got in his way, and he was still willing to trust him with his infant son?
There was only one answer to that.
He liked to imagine that the cries of the awakening babe were cries of approval.
Mokuba did not have many friends. This was not due to any fault on his own part, more of the tendency of people to ingratiate themselves with the wealthy, and Seto's own paranoia as to his safety. Understandable, after his numerous kidnappings, but detrimental to his social life. It was one of the few instances where he was grateful for Yugi's persistence at trying to make him his friend, because even if he wouldn't give in to his pleas, Mokuba was another thing entirely, and he needed someone outside of his brother to interact with.
But he would see them at the arcade tomorrow, and tonight they would have a quiet family dinner, just the two of them.
It was difficult to tell who was more surprised by Seto's request for Roland to join them when he entered the room to deliver a message, Mokuba, Roland, or Seto himself.
Well he was a teenager, spontaneity was his prerogative. Mokuba just grinned as if he'd been given a most wonderful gift, invisible to all but him.
It was a policy of his that all his employees attended regular health checks. He had the best of everything, and he expected his staff to be in top condition to carry out his commands.
That six letter word in capitals printed on stark white paper had never seemed so mocking. Cancer.
They had caught it early, he was told, and with the proper course of treatment and extensive convalescence, this particular duel wasn't over yet.
"You didn't have to do all this" Roland croaked from his hospital bed, giving a weak wave that encompassed the private room, with an adjoining suite for his wife to stay while he recovered and all the little idiosyncrasies that made it as close to home as he was going to get for a long time.
"Yes, I did" he said evenly, trying vainly to keep his gaze on tired eyes, and not allow it to stray upwards where rapidly thinning hair was the order of the day.
Daphne came in then and sat beside him, bumping his arm in a friendly gesture like the older sister he'd never had, Roland's wife sat on his other side, their younger daughter on hers and finally Mokuba sat beside her. His godson bounded in and raised his arms to be picked up, grinning toothily all the while. Seto complied, and for a blissful moment he allowed himself to imagine that he belonged here with them.
Then the patient coughed, and a flurry of worried exclamations drove the image out of his head. But all families have their ups and downs, and perhaps he could still pretend.
He gave Roland the day off on Father's Day to spend time with his children. He didn't expect to be invited along too.
Family was indefinable, and not confined to those with bonds of blood. They were both men of few words, and neither needed them to tell the other what they already knew.