Disclaimer: "Landslide" and "Love Shines" are performed and recorded by Fleetwood Mac. Yu-Gi-Oh! is the creation of Kazuki Takahashi. This is a not-for-profit fanwork and I do not own any of these characters.
Part 3: Love Shines
The worst thing about being the shortest one in the house was what was easily accessible to everyone else always ended up just out of reach. Yami was up on tiptoe, his fingertips brushing maddeningly against the canister that he needed, thinking to himself that he ought to lower the shelf an inch, if only he could remember to get around to doing so.
A hand suddenly landed on his shoulder and a voice asked, "This one?" and Yami turned his head to see Mokuba standing behind him, the teen's long arm easily reaching over Yami's head to grab the item he'd been struggling with.
"Yes, thank you," Yami said as he accepted the container, putting it down on the kitchen counter.
Mokuba took a step back so that he was standing at Noa's side and reached out for his boyfriend's hand, squeezing it, as they both stared at Yami, waiting to see if he'd say anything about… well, that.
Yami folded his arms across his chest. The teens weren't kids anymore, but at the same time, they looked so young, as if awaiting a parent's scolding for forgetting their homework or something. Yami felt his lips twitching into a smile. "I admit, I went riding this morning after Seto left for work, because I didn't know what to say when you finally came down. I guess it helped clear my head though, 'cause I realized, there was only one thing to say. Happy birthday, Mokuba."
The black-haired teen blushed a little. He hadn't expected Yami to be so laid back about it. Despite Yami's short stature, he sure looked authoritative when he crossed his arms just so. "You're not going to lecture us?"
"You kept your promise and waited," Yami pointed out. "And I've never had objections to your relationship anyhow, so this doesn't change anything for me. Besides, Seto and I weren't much older when we started dating. I don't think we really have the right to say anything if you think about it that way."
"Yeah, but…" and Mokuba and Noa quickly exchanged looks, "Seto didn't take it very well."
"I don't think either of us were expecting you to, um… celebrate your birthday in that manner," Yami said.
"It would've helped if he knocked at least, maybe," Noa said. "Not that you two have a clue what doors are," he added, almost out of habit.
It was Yami's turn to flush red. "Well…" he mumbled into his hand.
Mokuba frowned. While he was glad that Yami seemed okay with everything, he still wasn't in the mood for jokes. "Is Nii-sama okay? Is he… mad? You've been checking in on him, right?"
Yami took a moment to think of how to best answer. "He's not mad, not at you. He's just… I think it's just hitting him hard, that you're both adults now. And yes, I've been keeping an eye on him. I was worried too, when he left this morning in such a hurry. But he's not at work though."
"Huh? Then where?"
"He went out with Jii-chan."
"Why?" Mokuba's eyes narrowed slightly. "Are you really sure he's okay?"
Yami patted Mokuba's shoulder. Actually, he wasn't sure how okay Seto was at the moment, but he trusted that his grandfather could deal with it. "He'll be fine. It's a good thing, I think. He needed someone to talk to, and Jiii-chan understands what it's like to be a parent."
"Even if you put it that way, I would've thought he'd just talk to you, because you understand too," Noa pointed out.
"That'd be true, but this… is a special occasion," Yami said, gamely grinning despite the sting he felt from the reminder. He knew it wasn't fair to expect Seto to confide in him and only him, but feelings and logic didn't always coincide. And it hurt to have been pushed aside and left to deal with the teens by himself.
Mokuba wasn't convinced by the grin, nor by Yami's assurance that everything was all right. But there wasn't anything he could do at the moment, unless he wanted to call Seto and potentially worry him into running home. "I guess…"
Noa looked at Yami, then Mokuba, then back at the ex-spirit. Like Mokuba, he knew something was up, but at the moment he was more concerned about Yami than Seto. Seto was with someone who'd look out for him, who'd talk him through whatever issues he was having; Yami had been left behind. And he didn't want to make Yami feel worse by making more snide comments. So instead, he fixed his attention on the mixing bowl and foodstuffs on the counter. "So, uh, what are you working on?"
Yami relaxed a little. "I thought we could have a light lunch together. It's nothing fancy, I know, but I thought it'd be nice. I was going to make those croquettes that you guys like."
"Just for the three of us?" Noa asked.
Yami nodded. "I think Seto and Jii-chan will be out for a while - don't worry, I'm sure Jii-chan will make sure Seto eats something. But in the meantime, I wanted to make sure both of you are taken care of too."
Despite the fact that Seto was still foremost on his mind, it meant a lot to Mokuba to hear that. Yami cared, not just about Seto, but about him and Noa as well. He'd known that for a while now, but it always felt good being reminded of it.
The black-haired teen finally smiled and stepped forward to hug Yami. "Thanks. Lunch would be great." He found it funny that he often forgot to hunker down to hug him; Yami's presence made him seem so much bigger than he was. Mokuba didn't think he'd ever get used to the fact that at full height, his chin now easily cleared the top of Yami's head.
"Hey, me too!" Noa chimed in, jumping in to hug them both. He was relieved to see Mokuba cheering up a bit. The younger teen had been feeling stressed since Seto had barged into their room that morning – that's why they'd hidden in bed for so long – but Yami had help alleviate a little of that. Noa was grateful. "So you need a hand, Yami?"
Yami tilted his head back as he got sandwiched in the middle. He was grinning again, but this time it was genuine. "Thank you, but it's Mokuba's birthday. So just relax, kick back, and I'll call you down when it's ready, okay?"
They'd just sat down to eat when Yami lifted his head and turned towards the direction of the front door. The teens, already swallowing their first bites of lunch, noticed his sudden distraction, glanced at each other, then looked back at their guardian once more before putting down their forks and staring expectantly in the same direction.
Seto walked into the kitchen a minute later, stutter stepping to a halt in the doorway at the sight of the seated trio. No one said a word for a moment, then Yami finally broke the stalemate with a slight smile and a soft, "Welcome home."
Seto stared at him. Even though Yami hadn't seemed angry at him earlier, he really hadn't expected to be welcomed home either, not after what he'd done that morning.
"Have you eaten yet?" Yami asked, pushing back from his place at the table. Seto shook his head briefly. "I made a bit extra, in case you were hungry."
"… I'm not," the taller duelist mumbled.
Yami sighed and got up anyway, heading over to the oven to plate up some croquettes for Seto. He handed them to his boyfriend then pointed at the table, effectively silencing any further argument on the matter.
Seto obediently took a seat, though he still had no interest in eating. He pushed his food around the plate for a few moments like a hockey player toying with a puck, then put his fork down and turned to Mokuba and Noa, who both stared at him, their own meals forgotten.
The young CEO worked his jaw around while he tried to think of what he needed to say and how to best say it. But he didn't want to force his family to sit there in uncomfortable silence while he fumbled around for the right words. So he went for the obvious. "I'm sorry. About this morning," he clarified. "I don't know what I was thinking."
Mokuba's face turned pink. "You weren't… I mean… uh, um… Are you still mad?"
Seto blinked. His face paled a little. "No! I'm not… I wasn't mad, not at you," he immediately insisted.
Mokuba released the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding in. Yami had said the same thing earlier, but it was a relief hearing Seto confirm it. No matter how happy he was that he'd finally consummated his relationship with Noa, it wouldn't have been worth it if it made Seto mad at him.
"And no, I'm not mad at Noa either." Seto quickly added, glancing at the other teen. He exhaled, then ran a hand through his hair. "I don't know what I was expecting. For you to be sleeping, I guess, not… well, you know. I just wanted to surprise you."
"Well, we were surprised all right," Noa muttered.
Seto and Mokuba both frowned at that, but the brunette managed to hold his tongue and didn't snap back at the green-haired teen.
"It's just… you ran out really quick. I mean, not that we were expecting you to hang around the bedroom to talk to us or something…" The pink blush turned red at that. "But I was worried. And then you… well, where did you go, anyhow? Yami said you weren't at work…" Mokuba trailed off as he took in what his brother was wearing. He must've been planning on going to work but for some reason, never made it there.
Seto grunted affirmatively, but didn't volunteer more information. He didn't want to worry Mokuba by implying he'd been disoriented and wandering about in a fog; he didn't want him to know that he'd been unsettled enough to seek advice from Sugoroku. If Yami had made no mention of where he'd been and who he'd been with, then he wouldn't bring it up either. But as he glanced at Yami he wondered, just what had the former Pharaoh told his brothers?
"Nii-sama. Are you sure you're really all right with this? With us?" a voice asked softly. Carefully. For a moment Seto thought Mokuba had said it, because it sounded like something only Mokuba would ask, but this time, it was Noa who issued the quiet query.
Seto was suddenly grateful for the time he'd spent with Sugoroku. Even if he wasn't sure about anything else, he knew the answer to that at least. If this is what Mokuba wants… "Yes, I am."
Noa inhaled, the soft sound audible in the silent room. He was surprised to get a definitive response so quickly… but he also knew with something that important, Seto wouldn't have just blurted out an answer without thinking, without meaning what he was saying. And there was no mistaking the honesty in his voice, in the directness of his gaze. Noa couldn't help but sigh in relief. Last night had been the best night of his life. He wanted it to happen again. And he knew, even if he hated to admit it at times, Seto's approval mattered a lot to Mokuba. He was glad it wasn't going to become another hurdle.
The green-haired teen looked over at his boyfriend and flashed him a small smile, and Mokuba nodded back, exhaling in relief before shooting back a grin of his own. Feeling the mood in the room lifting, they both found themselves with an appetite again and started digging into their lunches after a few moments.
Meanwhile, Yami was watching at his lover but didn't say a word. It was good to see Seto settle things with his brothers, even better that he didn't have to run interference. He could only hope that it'd be as easy to set things straight between the two of them as well. Yami took a bite of his food, chewing slowly, deep in thought…
With three-quarters of the kitchen's occupants now eating, Seto looked back down at his plate. He figured he should eat, at least out of courtesy, though he still wasn't hungry…
Apologizing to Mokuba and Noa, assuring them that he wasn't mad – that had brought Seto momentary relief – but right on the tail of that came a renewed wave of guilt for letting Yami down, for running away to leave the younger man to deal with the aftermath of Seto's own cowardice…
The brunette sighed and refrained from resuming his hockey game with the croquettes. His boyfriend would be even more offended if Seto didn't eat his cooking. He could do this, he knew he could.
Almost mechanically, Seto sank his fork into his food, lifted it to his lips, and began chewing. Nope, still not at all hungry, though his mouth at least remembered what to do with food and continued the process for him. He couldn't help but glance at Yami for his reaction. Their eyes met for a moment, and the ex-spirit gave a small nod of approval before going back to his own lunch.
After the teens finished cleaning off their plates, Mokuba announced that he wanted to go to KaibaLand for the rest of the afternoon and promptly disappeared with Noa. Yami couldn't help but wonder if that was something the birthday boy had thought up over lunch, to give the older pair a chance to talk without fear of intrusion. Either way, he was grateful for it.
Yami rose gracefully from his seat, picking up his plate to take to the sink. Seto caught the movement and pushed his plate forward an inch or two as well. He'd only eaten half of his lunch – a clear sign that he was still stressed - but Yami was still pleased he'd managed that much, given the circumstances.
"I'm sorry, I couldn't finish," Seto murmured when he noticed Yami assessing his plate. He folded his hands and primly placed them on the table.
"It's fine. You're just saving your appetite for dinner," Yami said with a touch of humor in his voice.
Seto shook his head. "Yami, I…"
"Come on, let's go talk in the family room instead," Yami suggested.
Seto took his lover's proffered hand and allowed him to lead him to the sofa. Yami sat down in one corner and pulled Seto down next to him so that he could drape his legs over the taller man's lap. Yami wanted to do whatever he could to make Seto feel at ease; they needed to talk, but he didn't want things to blow out of proportion. He just wanted to give both of them a chance to express how they were feeling. He'd already forgiven Seto hours ago, even though the other man hadn't asked for it yet.
Seto glanced at Yami. The younger duelist still didn't look upset but he wasn't saying anything either, so Seto figured that meant the ball was in his court now. He was suddenly glad he'd had the chance to apologize to Noa and Mokuba earlier… that let him clear his head so he could now focus on Yami like he needed to. And now that he thought about it, his earlier concern was overblown; things really would be all right between him and Yami, wouldn't they? The ex-spirit understood him better than anyone… maybe even better than Mokuba did. And Seto understood Yami too. He wasn't the type who'd throw a fit or run away or give up just because his boyfriend had been an unreasonable jerk hours earlier. But that didn't mean Yami would passively put up with bullshit either. He was smart enough to know when to give Seto his space… and when to stubbornly stay at his side, offering support even when Seto didn't deserve it.
Seto sighed softly at his own paranoid foolishness, then took a breath and rested his hand on Yami's knee. "Yami, I'm really sorry. I wasn't being fair to Mokuba and Noa this morning, and I definitely wasn't being fair to you. You were only trying to help and I ran like a coward and left you to deal with everything when… well, they're my brothers. My responsibility."
Yami gave him an understanding smile, and placed a hand on top of Seto's. "You're not a coward. I know this has been hard on you. But you need to remember… even though they're your brothers, they aren't your responsibility alone."
Seto almost wanted to argue the point out of habit, but Yami was right. He bobbed his head in agreement before asking, "What did you tell them when they finally came down?"
"I told Mokuba Happy Birthday. And that I supported them. Mokuba was worried about you of course. I told him you were with Jii-chan and you'd be okay…" Yami trailed off a bit uncertainly.
"Jii-chan was… I had to tell him about Mokuba and Noa. He wasn't very happy about it. But… well, it sounds a little crazy, but maybe I needed someone to tell me I was wrong to convince me it really is all right. Talking to him forced me to make up my mind and take a stand."
"It's not crazy at all. Having to defend your position can really strengthen your resolve."
Seto grunted in agreement. "I guess in the end he was okay with it. And I ended up telling him something that I hadn't even told you or Mokuba. I didn't mean to withhold it from you. I guess… I didn't want to think about it. But that's no excuse. You ought to know, because I have nothing to hide from you."
"Thank you. But you need tell me only if you want to, not because you feel you have to."
Seto nodded. He'd tell Yami later, about his uncle. The secret Sugoroku had shared with Seto would stay confidential though; it wasn't his story to tell. It felt a little weird to have a connection with the old man that no one else did, but it kind of felt good too.
But for the time being, Yami was the only thing Seto wanted to focus on, nothing else. He relaxed and let himself slide down into a bit of a slouch, then leaned over so that he could rest his cheek against Yami's. He smiled a little and felt Yami's facial muscles move to match the expression.
"I think this is the first time I've been able to think about us - just the two of us, without having to take Mokuba into consideration," Seto said thoughtfully. "Before… I didn't have the luxury to consider anything but my goal. Mokuba was the only thing that mattered. I didn't care about my wants or needs or even if I survived." He reached up and began toying with a strand of blonde bangs. "You coming into my life was an aberration. You made me want something solely for myself. I never thought it'd last. But yet, here we are."
"I knew we could make it work." Hearing Seto snort at what probably sounded like overconfidence, Yami quickly added, "We had our differences, yes, but I believed in you - your strength, your will, your undeniably loyalty to Mokuba. All together they made for an irresistible package."
"Funny, I thought you were after a different package."
Yami poked his lover, but he was grinning broadly. "Yes, I like that part of you too."
"Even when…" and Seto looked down, making a face at the memory, "it's not working as intended?"
Yami's smiled softened. He nuzzled his boyfriend, enjoying their closeness. "Honestly, it was probably the stress getting to you. I know you deal with stress on a daily basis – sometimes I think it's what you have for breakfast – but work stress and Mokuba stress are totally different things."
Seto shut his eyes. He found himself practically willing it to get hard, just to see if Yami was right, that it'd only occurred because he'd been thinking so much about Mokuba's birthday. Much to his disappointment, nothing was happening so far. It'd probably help if they were naked, he supposed. "What if… you're wrong?"
"Then I'm wrong. And we'd figure out what to do about it later." Yami paused, then added, "I wouldn't leave you, Baby. You know that."
"I guess I should be glad you're rarely ever wrong," Seto said gruffly, though he was busy rolling around the latter half of Yami's statement in his head. They'd joked around before about only wanting the other for his body, but that had never been the truth. So why did it feel good to hear Yami's reassurance?
Suddenly, the brunette felt his lover's lips brush against his, and he automatically opened his mouth to deepen the kiss. And although he definitely didn't believe in stupid things like fairy tales, he felt something in his body stirring, responding to the kiss, as if Yami were the prince waking it from a deep slumber.
Well, he had been a pharaoh at one point… That wasn't too far off.
Seto broke the kiss to let loose a short bark of laughter. It was too corny to think of things that way. He didn't need a king on a desert born steed to rescue him. He didn't care about what they'd been in the past. But he also couldn't deny that, like magnets, he and Yami had been inexorably drawn towards each other, as rivals, as friends, as lovers... Soulmates even, though that was something Seto never thought he'd have.
What's so funny? the ex-spirit asked. His eyes were bright in answering amusement.
God, it felt good having Yami's mental voice sliding through his head. It was sweet as honey and seductive as the promise of power. Oh, nothing… Seto purred back.
He liked the way Yami's legs were now rubbing against his, the way Yami's hands stroked his arms and his side. Seto leaned in for another kiss, relishing the way Yami's tongue slid between his lips to tease his own tongue. It was getting hard to think about anything besides the body pressed against his. He felt wonderfully, vibrantly alive…
Yami's laugh rang through their shared link as he reached a hand down to loosely cup Seto's crotch. The young CEO groaned into his boyfriend's mouth. Well, it looks like someone's ready for action, Yami gleefully informed him.
Seto smirked, feeling truly relieved and relaxed for the first time in days. So let's give it some action then…
(lemon deleted for ffnet, full version is on my site)
Yami sprawled bonelessly where he sat, feeling exhausted but very, very good. Judging by the look on Seto's face, and by the pleased purr rolling through his mind, his boyfriend felt the same. Then Seto reached out and lowered Yami down onto the rumpled throw before surprising him by climbing back up onto the sofa to collapse on top of the slighter duelist, a sticky, warm weight. Tall though he was, Seto made for a lousy blanket. But Yami had no complaints… Seto was back to normal, and any mess they'd made was contained by the blanket, and it was a nice summer day, and the teens were out of the house, and… everything was all right in the world again. He suddenly laughed, purely for the pleasure of it, and when Seto gave him a questioning glance, Yami just grinned broadly and snuggled down into the sofa cushions, intending on napping for a bit.
Feeling lazy and rather sleepy now as well, Seto reached up and gently carded his hand through Yami's thick hair, teasing the strands from scalp to tip before flattening down the spikes, only to have them spring up again. It was a huge relief to Seto that his own body was equally resistant to staying down. Actually, now that he thought about it, that was pretty much his philosophy on life in general. He'd never stay down, no matter how many punches he took, no matter what obstacles stood in his way. That wasn't going to change, even with Mokuba grown up, even knowing that Noa was looking out for him too. Seto was still the big brother, the head of the family, the CEO. But for the first time in a long time, he felt the chains of responsibility slacken from his shoulders…
He'd done it. He'd accomplished what everyone claimed was impossible and seen his brother to adulthood, fulfilling the promise he'd made to his mother – and himself. And he'd survived, even though he hadn't considered that essential. But more than that, he'd even recaptured the things he'd sworn off as luxuries he couldn't afford, like family and friends, happiness and affection…
Mokuba may have been the last piece of the puzzle to his heart, but Yami was the heartbeat that had brought it back to life. "Yami, thank you."
Yami blinked at him, satisfied and somewhat sleepy. "Mm?"
"I just love you, that's all." Seto smiled and kissed his boyfriend on the forehead. He was glad they'd ended up on the sofa. They had a few hours before they had to meet up with everyone attending the birthday party, and considering how poorly he'd slept the night before, a little nap sounded perfect.
~ OWARI ~
- And thus ends the penultimate arc. Stay away plot bunnies! Seriously… I don't want to shove in yet another diversionary arc somewhere between here and the final one.
- I hope the resolution to all of Seto's issues in this story didn't feel too abrupt. I think if this were a younger version of Seto, like the 19 year old version from "More Than Words" or "Aftershocks," he'd have spent many days hiding in his office and sleepless nights fretting and messing everything up in his head. But he's 23 here… he's been with Yami through thick and thin for five years. I think even someone as difficult, high strung, and thick headed as Seto would've figured out after five years that he's found a keeper in Yami.
– Thanks to Nenya85 for beta work and to everyone for reading!