Consider this the epilogue. This is the endgame, folks. This story is now at its close. I sincerely hope that you enjoyed reading it. I think I learned a lot in the course of writing Fall/Rise. This is only the second time I've tried writing Older Mokuba, although he's only about four years older than I usually write him. There's still a rather huge paradigm shift at work, and it was interesting to explore.
And so you can also consider this a return to the status quo.
It was past midnight.
Seto Kaiba sat in his old sickroom, and for the first time his laptop computer was actually in his lap. He concluded that in a few hours he would find a new center of operations and furnish it properly. Looking around at his current surroundings, he realized that they felt…cheap.
And in these surroundings, he felt cheap.
He set the computer down, stood up, and left the room. Walking down the hall and slipping inside through the open door into the room that had been his own, he somehow managed to be unsurprised when he saw Mokuba awake, staring at the paperwork sprawled over his desk. Several cans of Mountain Dew were scattered on the floor.
Hip-hop music blared out of the boy's obscenely expensive stereo system, making the floor shake. "I hate finals," the young Kaiba muttered when he sensed his sibling's presence.
Seto smirked. "I thought I made myself clear, Mokuba," he said.
"Niisama, I can't. Not now." He looked up and there actually seemed to be tears in his eyes. "I'm sorry, I really am. I know what you're trying to do, and I…I appreciate it. You have no idea how much. I want to just…let you take over for a while. But right now, I just…I can't…"
"Sleep, Mokuba," Seto said, gesturing to the bed. "I'll hear no argument. Do you understand? Sleep. You don't have to do this alone anymore. I refuse to allow you to do this alone anymore. We'll handle this in the morning."
"But I have a conference in the morning and—"
"How can you possibly expect to focus on studying with that mentality?" Seto asked shortly. "You're a Kaiba. If you need time, take it. If you need leeway, make it. If you need help…I'm here. You go to school. Focus on your exams. Leave the rest to me."
"I can't do that."
Seto raised an eyebrow. "I do not recall making a request, Mokuba." The boy blinked, staring. "I am your guardian. I am responsible for you. If I don't want you doing something…you don't do it. And if I want you doing something…you do it. Now. Go to bed. We'll work this out in the morning. Have I made myself perfectly clear?"
He didn't seem to want to admit just how relieved he was to be saying those words again. He stood up, walked over to his bed, and began to lift up the covers.
"Brush your teeth," Seto said without looking at him. "Brush your hair, and dress in something suitable. Do I have to remind you of everything? Ah—no argument, Mister. Let's go. Chop-chop. I'll make breakfast in the morning, then we're both going to that conference and I'll show you how it's done."
Mokuba slunk over to the adjoining bathroom, trying to hide a grin.
He shut the door.
Seto reached over and shut off the music as he waited for his brother. He stood, quiet and contemplative, for fifteen minutes, his thoughts surprisingly, surreally slow. Dressed in his old clothes, standing in his old bedchamber, reclaiming his old role, the elder Kaiba found himself slipping oh-so-seductively into his old thought patterns.
He stopped himself.
He could no longer afford to think like a sixteen-year-old child with a God complex. He was a twenty-four-year-old adult, and no one was going to have sympathy for his seven years outside of his own body. If he was going to reclaim his life…he had to adapt. He had to fight. He had to scratch and claw and bite and force his way back to the top.
Where his brother stood, resolute and tired, battered and alone.
It struck him that Mokuba was more of an adult now than he had ever been.
"The dawn of a new age," Seto muttered.
Mokuba came shuffling back into the room with his hair sopping wet under a white towel, dressed in blue silk pajamas. He sighed, glancing at his desk. Seto raised an eyebrow, and the younger Kaiba stepped over to the bed, climbing inside. "I can't afford this," he said softly.
"Quiet. You sound like me."
"When I fail my History final, I'm blaming you."
"You do that."
Seto walked over to his brother's side, tucked the covers around him, brushed his wet black hair from his forehead and kissed him. Mokuba squirmed away from him. "Niisama! I'm not a baby anymore!"
"An adult wouldn't be embarrassed," Seto said. "Now shut up and sleep. I love you."
Mokuba smiled, and for a moment he looked like the tiny boy that Seto remembered.
"…I love you, too, Niisama."
Yes. I'm an out-and-out sap. What can I say? I like happy endings, even now. Like "Twist of Fate," the first story I ever put a substantial amount of work into writing (not that it shows) so many years ago, I knew when I started the story that things weren't going to stay like this. However, where Twist took a cheap way out, I like to think that this piece followed a logical progression.
I knew Seto was going to come back.
For those of you who have been wondering over the course of this story who put Seto through this, and why it happened, your guess is as good as mine. I don't actually know. I have a couple of theories, but nothing concrete, and I'm going to keep it that way.
Let me know who you think is responsible for this. And whether or not, in the long run, it was worth it.
I had a lot of fun writing this, and thoroughly enjoyed sharing it with you.
Yet again, I appreciate you letting me take time out of your schedules to share my musings on a couple characters that continue to fascinate me, nearly a decade after I first met them.
'Til next time, take it easy, everyone.