Merry Christmas, everyone! Five years ago I embarked on a journey with two lovely children, Kane and Yasuo, who became part of the Kaiba family. Due to life's many challenges: school, music, and health issues, I was unable to write for several years. When I began writing again this past year, I considered returning to the Importance of Family. However, my writing has matured, and I found it difficult to continue the story as it was, or to immerse myself in this fandom again. However, Kane and Yasuo remained dear to my heart, as well as their relationship to Mokuba and Seto. As such, while I am abandoning the Importance of Family, please consider this to be its conclusion.

For those who have not read IoF, siblings Kane and Yasuo live in the orphanage where there father left them after their mother's death. Seto and Mokuba Kaiba visit the orphanage after making a donation and discover these two children who remind them so much of themselves many years ago. They adopt Kane and Yasuo into their family. This story takes place 5-6 months later.

This story is dedicated to two wonderful friends: M, who not is only my dearest friend but also a wonderful listener and editor; and Anshu, whose warm messages both brighten my day and nagged me to finish the Importance of Family. I hope this will be acceptable! My love to you both.

As always, I do not make any profit off of this story or the Kaiba brothers.

Please enjoy!

Christmas with Kane and Yasuo

Christmas, Seto wanted to say, was the corporate perversion of a Western religious holiday celebrating the birth of a God he had yet to believe in. Although the experiences of the past five years might have convinced him there were more things in heaven and earth than dreamt by his philosophy, Seto required no less than physical proof to convince him of a divinity's existence. No, Christmas remained a statistic documenting the corporate division's rise from red to black.

Confronted with the eager and expectant look on Yasuo's face in front of him, however, Seto found himself unable to say any of those things. Instead, he removed his reading glasses with a sense of resignation.

"You wish to celebrate Christmas?"

The particular stare Seto directed at his adopted son/brother often reduced grown men to inane babbling, but Yasuo met it with the limitless enthusiasm of his six years.

"Yes!" Yasuo bounced in his seat. "Sensei finished reading A Christmas Carol today. It was so awesome! Onee-chan and I have never celebrated Christmas before. Could we please?"

"May we," Seto corrected absentmindedly as his gaze moved past Yasuo to the young man slouching in the doorway. He wasn't fooled by his brother's nonchalance. No doubt Mokuba was just as enthused by this plan. In fact, Seto would have wagered his beloved Blue-Eyes that any dissent on his part would lead to endless nagging by Mokuba.

"Very well," he said, smirking at the mixture of shock and delight on his brothers' faces. "However, as this is a joint venture, I expect a proposed budget on my desk no later than tomorrow morning, is that understood?"

Yasuo jumped out of his seat, ran around the edge of the desk, and wrapped his arms tightly around Seto, who gasped at the impact.

"Perfectly! Thank you, Nii-san!"

Embarrassed, Seto ruffled the little boy's hair. "Don't you have a deadline to meet?"

Yasuo raced out of the office; Mokuba started to follow, but spun around to face his brother suspiciously.

"You said yes."

"Obviously." Seto rolls his eyes.


"Should I rescind my decision?"

"Of course not!" Mokuba snapped. "I just thought it would take a lot more to convince you."

Seto shrugged. "Consider it an act of enlightened self interest. I might have been able to resist Yasuo's enthusiasm for a few days, but I would never get any work done if you started nagging as well. After all," his voice inflected with only a hint of sarcasm, "we are celebrating our very first Christmas."

Mokuba grinned. "And don't you forget it! Thanks, Seto—you really are the best."

A brief smile slid across his face. "I'm letting you call the shots on this. Remember we do have an image to maintain."

"I don't think austerity and Christmas are really all that compatible, Seto."

He sighed. "Taste. All I ask for is a little bit of taste."

Mokuba drew himself up. "I am an arbiter of taste, Seto! How can you doubt me?"

Seto shook his head. "Easily."

Kane shut her eyes. Opened. The scene remained unchanged. Her bag slipped out of her hand, emitting a loud thud as her ice skates hit the floor. Despite her surprise, she still winced reflexively…her skating teacher was very particular about keeping the equipment immaculate. So this was the motive behind her brother's secretiveness last night. His door had remained strangely closed to her, although she'd spied Mokuba-nii entering after tapping an elaborate pattern on the door.

The grand staircase before her was wrapped in a mixture of evergreens and white lights. Spinning around, she saw two large wreaths adorned with red ribbons hanging on the doors. A peek down one hallway showed decorations before she was distracted by Yasuo's distant voice.

"Kane's home! Onee-chan! Onee-chan!" Her brother skidded to a stop in front of her, panting and covered in needles. He wore a ridiculous red hat trimmed with white fur—faux, most likely—and a wide smile.

"Do you like it?" He asked eagerly.

"What…why…are we celebrating Christmas?" She replied in a daze. Yasuo danced around her.

"Yes! Nii-san said we could! Mokuba-nii and I have been waiting all day to surprise you!"

"Did you skip school?" Kane asked distractedly, her eyes still tracing the new additions.

"No, silly! Well…we left early during independent study." Due to Yasuo's advanced reading and mathematical skills, Seto had placed him at the same private academy where Mokuba studied. At first Kane was angry to be placed in a different school—left behind, as she put it—until she realized how out of place she would have been. Since then, her wonderful Sensei and new friends had taught her to enjoy her new school.

"There are lots of shops in the mall that sell Christmas decorations," Yasuo continued. "Even though it hasn't been celebrated for very long. And we bought the evergreens at a nursery outside of town. Tomorrow we are going to get a tree!"

"That's…great." Kane finally muttered. Yasuo's eyes widened.

"You don't like it?"

"It's pretty. But I don't like Christmas."

"Who doesn't like Christmas?" Mokuba queried as he trotted down the staircase. He kissed Kane's cheek. "How was skating?"

"I don't." Kane pulled away. "It's a stupid time of the year where you are supposed to be happy and spend lots of money on each other."

"Kane—" Mokuba began, but she'd picked up her bag and ran up the staircase, nearly bowling over Seto.

"Mokuba Kaiba!" He shouted, too furious to notice Kane's glistening eyes as she dodged him. Seto marched down the stairs and thrust something in Mokuba's face.

"What is this?" He hissed.

"Mistletoe," Mokuba choked out. He appeared to be struggling not to laugh.

"And why did I find this tacked to my office and bedroom doors?"

"So when Anzu comes you'll finally get the courage to kiss—oww!" Seto had dropped the mistletoe and grabbed his shoulders firmly.

"If I find a single leaf around the rest of this house, I am going to destroy your—Yasuo?"

Their youngest sibling had retreated to the staircase and was fervently trying to erase any evidence of tears.

"Kiddo, what's wrong?" Seto and Mokuba sat down on either side of Yasuo, who was overcome by another wave of tears. In an awkward dance, the two brothers both managed to get an arm around him.

"Kane," Yasuo whispered between sobs, "is a scrooge."


"Scrooge, Seto. From A Christmas Carol. He hated Christmas until the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future helped him think differently." Mokuba said.

"I knowthat," Seto bit back in a whisper. In a more ordinary volume he continued. "Why do you think Kane is a scrooge, Yasuo?"

"She hates Christmas! I wanted to surprise her and convince her that it is fun to celebrate Christmas, but…" He sniffed, accepting a handkerchief from Seto.

Mokuba frowned. "Why should she hate Christmas? The orphanage never celebrated it."

Yasuo shook his head. "Mama died on Christmas, I think. Every year Kane hoped our dad would come to find us then, but he never appeared."

The three of them sat on the staircase in silence. Finally, Mokuba stood up and smiled at his brothers.

"Then it's simple. We just have to make this a wonderful experience that Kane will never forget!"

"Christmas trees." Kane said flatly.

"Christmas trees!" Yasuo echoed, too excited to let his sister's tone affect him.

"Mokuba, for all our sakes, please show some intelligence and refrain from simply repeating everyone." Seto said tiredly as his brother looked ready to bounce in his seat as well. He looked out his window apprehensively at the muddy lot he'd pulled into. Yasuo had insisted on an authentic Christmas tree experience, meaning Seto was unable to fly a tree out from North America as he'd originally planned. No, he (meaning his secretary) was forced to call every nursery on the island in search of one that catered to exotic tastes.

Seto would hardly apply that description to this bleak little plot, but Yasuo and Mokuba flung themselves out of the car as if they'd arrived at an ancient temple in the jungle.

"I suppose I'm not allowed to stay here?" Kane asked, resigned.

He looked at his younger brothers darting between the evergreens. "They'll be happier if you're having fun with them."

Seto was answered with a huff, but Kane removed her seatbelt and drew her hood over the short bob she'd copied from A—Mazaki.

"Are you sure you want to risk the mud?" She smiled, indicating the pristine white coat Seto usually favored. He looked down and frowned. What an uncharacteristic lack of foresight. As he began to slide off the trench coat, anticipating an afternoon of sodden misery, he felt a weight drop onto his arm.

"I packed us all extra coats for this rain," Kane explained. The glow that spread throughout Seto could only be attributed to fondness.

"Whatever would you do without me?" She teased as they exited the automobile, accepting his slight gesture of thanks.

"Ah," he smirked. "But did you remember this?" Seto pulled a hatchet from the trunk. Kane clapped her hand to her forehead.

"Ropes." Seto obliged her by briefly waving a set of ropes.

"What a state we would have been in if we'd trusted everything to Yasuo and Mokuba," He remarked dryly. Kane couldn't help but laugh, a sound hardly heard in the last week and thus all the more welcome to her older brother.

There was a particular finesse required to work with Christmas lights, Kane decided as she tangled yet another strand. With the tree erected and decorated inside, Yasuo had announced that the many maple and plum trees lining the property would be wrapped in lights, and the gates in garlands and red ribbons. While she might not be a genius like her brothers, Kane intuitively recognized Yasuo's desire to establish a family tradition after so many years without. And there lay the dilemma. She had no desire to celebrate the time of year that tore her family apart, to create a new tradition without her father. While she remembered her four-year-old-self lighting sparklers with her mother and father, there was no memory of Christmas.

However, Kane couldn't bear making Yasuo unhappy. A quick glance to her left revealed Yasuo and Mokuba at a distance, dragging something into place under a maple tree. Had they acquired reindeer? Kane shook her head. Yasuo must have researched a traditional English Christmas after reading Dickens rather than their countrymen's customs, or he would have known that Hoteiosho travels only with his sack of presents.

In an attempt to avoid the sad pile of electrical wires at her feet—how was she supposed to turn it into an artistic statement? Yasuo had a much better eye than she—Kane looked towards the main gate where several workers were wrapping garlands and ribbons around the poles. A man stood a few segments of fence away from her, his head buried in a paper.

Probably a reporter trying to catch a glimpse of the famous Kaiba family decorating for Christmas, Kane decided. Let him take a picture. Perhaps the rest of Japan will become excited to celebrate Christmas and the economy will improve as a result. She snorted. She sounded exactly like Seto!

The workers took notice of the reporter, waving their arms and shouting. The paper dropped a foot or so as he turned towards the noise. Kane squinted. From a distance he reminded her of Yasuo…

Kane left a trail of broken lights as she flung her work aside and ran towards the gate. "Wait!" she cried, although whether it was directed at the workers or the reporter was indeterminate. Eyes fixed on the man who returned her gaze with a look of wonder, Kane slammed into the fence. Hesitantly, his large hands wrapped around her own curled fingers.

"Papa," she whispered.

The door to Seto's office slid open forcefully, revealing Mokuba in a rare state of fury.

"Seto," he shouted. "Are you out of your mind?"

"Having undergone that particular experience, I can assure you that is not the case." Seto replied as he folded the newspaper before him. "However, you are not speaking loud enough."

With an unarticulated snarl, Mokuba began to pace the length of the desk. "You gave her permission? After he went and left them—"

"Mokuba!" Seto interjected. "Would you have hated Gozaburo Kaiba if he'd denied you a chance to reconcile with your family?"

"But our relatives were horrible!" Mokuba protested. "You hated them, too."

"This isn't about us." Seto said firmly. "I cannot deny her happiness."

Mokuba resumed his pacing. "We know nothing about Isamu Hasegawa. What if his only goal is extortion?"

"I ran a background check to be sure, obviously. Kane will be with an escort, and I've impressed on her the dangers of interacting with strange men. Believe me, Mokuba, when I say that I've thought this through."

At that, Mokuba slammed his hands on the desk. "Have you really? Because you obviously missed the expression on Yasuo's face when he realized his father only had eyes for his sister."

Seto had noticed Yasuo's imperceptible retreat into his former reserved self. Years of running a corporation had left him finely attuned to the faintest of expressions. No one could have missed Kane's brilliant smile as she watched her father, but Seto was willing to gamble that only he had detected the subtlest hesitancy on Isamu Hasegawa's face, the sense that one was holding something incredibly precious and fragile.

Mokuba was correct, of course. Seto had finally discovered the paradox of parenthood. Was protecting Kane and their family from the unhappiness that would undoubtedly follow these meetings worth the pain caused in denying Kane's wish? A lesser man would be paralyzed by such a choice, but Seto Kaiba was a man of action—even if it meant embracing intuition, rather than logic, as his source of strength.

Yasuo scrutinized Isamu Hasegawa as he ate his soba noodles, although there was little need to be subtle. Hasegawa-san—for Yasuo couldn't think of him as Papa—was listening attentively to Kane as she explained her love of ice-skating. He didn't know if he was relieved or disappointed to note that he'd inherited his hazel eyes from Hasegawa-san.

He let out a huff, but the only one who noticed was their escort sitting two tables away. Why did Seto insist on his participating in this bonding experience? Yasuo had plans to bake Christmas cookies today with Mizuki-san, the head chef, and discuss the nature of the traditional Japanese Christmas cake. He'd been mildly interested in Hasegawa-san's career as a software engineer, as he hoped to be an architect when he grew up, but he clearly was superfluous in this conversation.

"What was our mother like, Papa?" Kane asked. Their father smiled.

"Would you like to see her picture?"

Kane gasped in delight, and Yasuo leaned over the table to see the small picture Hasegawa-san pulled from his wallet.

"She looks like you," Yasuo said dully to Kane. They had the same eyes and face shape. Yasuo was surprised to see tears in his father's eyes.

"Your mother was the most beautiful woman I'd ever met." Hasegawa-san said wistfully. "She had a stubborn streak as well. Mariko defied her family's wishes of medical school and instead studied opera and Kabuki. They disowned her before I knew her, but she was strong and independent."

Like Onee-chan, Yasuo thought. He no longer was jealous of the attention Hasegawa-san paid to her; instead, he felt curiously empty. At the orphanage, he'd always had Kane to run to when the loneliness became overbearing. Sometimes Yasuo would ask her to tell stories of their parents, although her own memories were vague at best. When Kane didn't remember a particular detail, they'd imagine a replacement.

Yasuo realized that for him, his past family would always be a fantasy.

Kane still couldn't believe that her father—her father!—strolled beside her in the park. It was extraordinary: while on his first business trip to Tokyo in years, her father just happened to pick up a tabloid and saw the covert picture taken of Seto and herself laughing at the Christmas tree nursery. Perhaps the tabloid deserved a fruit basket, she mused.

"What is so amusing?" Her father inquired gently.

"Fruit baskets," Kane replied absentmindedly. She was delighted to hear a deep laugh.

"Your mother used to say things like that."

Kane grinned and laced her fingers through his. "Tell me more," she begged.

Her father took a deep breath. "Let's see. Have I told you that your mother had a mischievous streak? Most of the time she seemed very sweet and serious, but she was always the mastermind behind the best pranks."

"Like Yasuo!" Kane chimed in. Her father looked at her in surprise. "He is so clever and rarely gets caught. Except one time when he raided the cookie jar one too many times."

"Ah. Your mother wasn't particularly fond of sweets, but she loved fresh fruit. She'd take you to the market every week and buy strawberries for the two of you to snack on."

"I wish I remembered," mused Kane as they continued along the path. "I imagined so many things," she confessed. "What our home was like, what Mother wore, how we spent our weekends. But this is so much better."

She thought of Yasuo, growing up listening to her mixture of constructed and actual memories. Over the past few days he'd distance himself, she realized. Retreated into the shell Mokuba and Seto drew him out of, and Kane barely noticed. In her own excitement she'd barely attempted to include Yasuo in their conversation at the restaurant. Perhaps she should encourage Yasuo to meet with their father without her in order for the two of them to get to know each other, she considered as she said goodbye to her father at the gate.

Kane finally found Yasuo and Mokuba in the kitchen.

"Wow!" She breathed as she took in the sight of the gigantic castle emerging from the counter. Mokuba's head peaked around the side.

"Kane! What do you think?" She walked around the perimeter of the castle, admiring its construction.

"It's amazing! But what is it made out of?"

"Gingerbread," Yasuo explained as he squeezed icing out of a tube along the battlements. "It is a German tradition. Would you like to help decorate?"

Kane felt much more charitable towards Christmas since Yasuo's schemes had led to reuniting with their father, and happily took the bowl of candies proffered.

"How long have you been working on this?" She asked as she dipped each candy in some icing and stuck it to the walls.

"I've been working on the designs in independent study, but didn't start baking until yesterday. We've been here all afternoon trying to keep it from falling apart." Yasuo indicated the copious amounts of icing holding the walls together.

"Nii-san wasn't in his office," Kane commented after a while.

"He said he was working from headquarters today," Mokuba reassured her. "How was your walk?"

Kane beamed, and launched into a recount of the afternoon's events. She stopped abruptly when she noticed Yasuo's stony expression.

"Oh! I almost forgot–I wanted to apologize, Yasuo, for monopolizing the conversation at the restaurant the other day."

"It's fine," Yasuo replied sullenly.

"No," Kane insisted. "It isn't. He's your father, too. I was thinking that the two of you should go to the museum or something, so that you can get to know each other–"

"No!" Yasuo shouted suddenly. The others looked at him in surprise as he forcefully pressed pieces of candy onto the sides of the castle. "I don't want to know him! He's not my father–"

He let out an inarticulate cry as one of the walls broke under his hand. Spinning around, Yasuo fixed Kane with a face full of rage.

"You've ruined everything!" He hissed and ran out of the kitchen. Mokuba immediately followed, looking back to see Kane, stricken, her bowl of candy dangling precariously from her hand.

Mokuba paused outside Yasuo's room before knocking twice. He was met with silence. Considering the absence of a refusal more auspicious than the lack of an invitation, Mokuba slipped inside the bedroom. Yasuo sat at his desk under the large window, his back to the room. His fingers traced the light lines that formed his castle's blueprints.

"How are you feeling?" Mokuba asked softly. Yasuo shrugged and made a note on the blueprint.

"We have some dough left over, but I don't know if it's enough to make a new wall. I'd hate to scrap all our work, but I'm afraid the icing won't come off easily."

Mokuba sat down on the bed. "You're avoiding the question, Yasuo."

"I thought I was clear enough downstairs." His architects' pencil slashed angrily across the page.

"Yes," Mokuba said. "You were. Now, are you angry that Kane spends her time with her father?"


"No?" He repeated, surprised.

"He's not my father. We have no interest in each other. Kane can see him if she wants."

Mokuba sighed. "Then this is about Christmas."

Yasuo dropped his pencil. "Yes! This is about celebrating Christmas as a family. A family Kane doesn't want to be part of," he added bitterly.

"Hey!" Mokuba protested. "Don't say stuff like that! Your sister loves you."

Yasuo looked at him finally, and Mokuba saw the tear streaks his brother had tried to conceal. "Not as much as her dad."

Mokuba fell silent, thinking of his own insecure childhood. How his brother hardened his heart in order to protect them.

"We don't have very good experiences with family, don't we?" He finally began. "My relatives drained our will and dumped us in an orphanage. I only knew my parents for a little bit before they died. If I had a chance to see my parents alive again, I think I would take it too. This was Kane's dream, but you are her family. As are we. I don't think Kane would leave without you after years of refusing adoptions."

Yasuo's shoulders slumped, and he threw his arms around Mokuba. "But I don't want to leave you and Seto-ni!"

Mokuba blinked, willing the sudden moisture in his eyes to disappear. "Then we have to trust that Kane will treat us as family. As to your other concern," he continued more normally. "I've neglected to give this to you."

He grabbed the large book sitting beside him. "I've marked the appropriate sections. If you are going to celebrate Christmas with all its bells and whistles, you should understand why your are celebrating it, understood?"

Yasuo giggled at the mock sternness in his voice. "Perfectly, sir!"

After an hour or so, Mokuba trotted back down the stairs to check in on the kitchen disaster. He found Ms. Mizuki washing their decorating bowls.

"I'm so sorry we didn't clean up," Mokuba apologized.

Ms. Mizuki waved a sudsy hand at him. "I didn't trust you to remember where everything went in the first place. You just missed Kane-chan. She finished about fifteen minutes ago."

"Finished?" Mokuba queried, and the cook gestured to the castle. He walked around the counter to see the damage and stopped in surprise. The wall was restored and covered with frosting and candies.

"She glued all the pieces together," Ms. Mizuki explained. "I haven't seen that sort of patience from her before."

"A gingerbread castle?" Her father repeated. The two of them were walking along the street, admiring the Christmas displays in the shop windows. Although the sidewalks were crowded, Kane was very conscious of her escort walking several paces behind. "Gingerbread houses are very popular in America. In the city where I live, famous architects design elaborate structures every Christmas to be put on public display."

"How long have you lived in America?" Kane asked.

"About seven years, but I often travel to other states on business."

"What is your home like?"

Her father gave a self-deprecating shrug. "It is nothing much. The Americans call it a 'condo', which means it is like an apartment, but I do not pay rent. It is not what I dreamed of living in, but it suffices."

"What is your dream?" Kane asked curiously as she fiddled with her charm bracelet. It was a gift from her brothers, but Anzu-san had gifted her the little heart charm that hung alongside a pair of ice skates, a dragon, and an onigiri.

"A house near the ocean," her father replied, his eyes alit. "A music room with the grand piano we've always wanted. Plenty of books and window seats. A large garden, Mariko, with cherry trees. A smallish kitchen—"

He stopped as Kane mouthed her mother's name with a growing sense of horror. As her father, looking both shocked and guilty, reached for her, Kane whirled and ran into the crowd. She heard Akita-san call her name, but ignored her escort as she dashed between shoppers, trying to escape the name echoing endlessly in her head. It was easy to lose them in the crowd and she continued on blindly.

Only when the sounds of the crowds and automobiles faded did Kane realize she was standing in the park on the edge of town. Except for a few outdoor enthusiasts, the park was quiet. She wandered until she found a bench to sit on and stared at the bare trees around her. The silence was too lonely, and it easy to slip into the whispered wave, Mariko, Mariko, Mariko

The phone was in her hand, and Kane quickly hit her speed-dial. Before the phone had rung twice, Seto answered.

"Kane! Are you all right?" Although she had never heard this particular tone from him before, Kane recognized it as frantic.

"I—I—" How could she vocalize the anguish inside? "I need you, Ni-san."

"I'm here." He said firmly, and Kane whirled towards the sound of his voice. He was striding towards her, and she jumped off the bench and was soon in his arms. Suddenly it was all too easy to cry.

Seto simply stood there and wrapped his arms tightly around her. The panic lurking beneath the surface of his determined façade finally dissipated, and he let himself feel the rage and helplessness he'd locked away as soon as Akita's call had come in. When the sobs quieted as to become infrequent, he led Kane back to her bench.

"How did you find me so quickly?" Kane finally asked. She didn't like Seto's tortured gaze.

"Did you think I would allow my own family to go off with a stranger without personally overseeing the operation?" He smirked, and she released her breath in a choked laugh at his choice of words. "Technically, I have been working, but I've always been only a block away in case…"

He trailed off, and reached down to enfold her hand in his. "You'll not take advantage of me if I tell you your bracelet contains a tracking device? I've always been close by."

Kane leaned onto his arm, and the two of them watched the breeze rip a few reluctant leaves from their branches.

"We always spoke about the past," Kane said abruptly. "Perhaps I was avoiding considering what would happen to our family; he never promised anything for the future. Do you know I look exactly like my mother?"

"Yes," Seto replied, thinking of the closed file in his desk.

"He called me Mariko today." Kane looked at him with a deep hurt. "It was accidental, but now I can't help but wonder if he's ever seen me instead of my mother. Yasuo was right; he wasn't acting like a father should."

"Your mother," Seto began, but stopped. Kane gave him an encouraging nod. "I put out some inquiries after you were adopted. Your father loved your mother immensely, but when she died he was left the sole parent of an infant and young child. He blamed Yasuo for his wife's death and began to drink heavily. Soon, he was in danger of losing his job, and the government was beginning to investigate complaints that he was neglecting his children. Your father was a talented engineer before his alcoholism, and his company agreed to transfer him to America if he enrolled in a treatment facility. Your relatives were not in the position to take care, or did not know about his two children, so you were left in the care of the orphanage."

Kane's eyes were wide. "You knew this and still let me see him?" She asked after a long pause.

"I–" Seto began, and rubbed his face in his palms. There was a reason he left emotional speeches to Anzu. "By the time I was thirteen, I had destroyed a company in order to ensure my brother's safety. Children shouldn't have to be placed in those situations.

"I knew this would place you in a position where you–our family would be inevitably hurt. Reuniting with your father was important to you, and I…I loved you too much to protect you."

Kane wrapped her arms around him. "Thank you."

"For what?" His voice was incredulous.

"For trusting me…loving me. I'm sorry I caused you pain." She whispered.

"The only pain I'm concerned about is yours, and whether I need to rectify that situation." Seto quipped, more than half serious. Kane looked alarmed.

"Please don't!" She exclaimed. "I think–I know need to speak with him."

Still angry, Seto was very inclined to refuse. However, he'd already entrusted Kane with the decisions of an adult.

"Very well," he conceded reluctantly. "But you understand Akita will be chained to you this time."

Kane laughed ruefully. "He must be spitting mad. He won't be very likely to carry my Christmas packages anymore?"

Seto stood. "I could order him to, but it would be best if we went and apologized first."

Smiling, Kane followed.

As Seto paced the length of his office, he once again questioned his decision to let Kane see Hasegawa again. It took every effort to keep his promise and not attack the man himself. No one hurt his family and escaped free of punishment. Seto also knew Kane's inability to hold a grudge for longer than a few hours, and recognized the likelihood of her father being forgiven.

Seto entrusted Kane's care to Akita, who was more than willing to regain status as an effective bodyguard, primarily because the only thing separating Hasegawa from pain was about five kilometers. However, his intuition suggested that the man had not escaped.

His office soon became too small for effective pacing, and Seto sought out his brothers, who were doing dangerous things with hammers and nails.

"Are these lanterns?" He examined a tin can adorned with what could only have been an attempt at a stylish array of holes.

"Yep!" Yasuo replied cheerfully. "Mokuba-nii and I want to give the orphanage a real Christmas too."

Seto felt an inordinate amount of pride swell in his chest. "That's an excellent idea. Just make sure you two humanitarians watch where you swing those tools."

Mokuba groaned. "A little warning earlier would've been appreciated," he indicated the bag of ice wrapped around his hand.

Seto smirked in reply, but his attention was quickly diverted by the sound of the front door closing. He made his way quickly to the entryway, trying not to seem like he was hurrying too much.

To his surprise, Kane's eyes sparkled with excitement. "Nii-san, we need to go! Where are Mokuba-nii and Yasuo?"

Bewildered, they allowed themselves to be nagged and herded to the waiting car outside.

"We're ready, Akita-san!" Kane called, and the car took off through the gates.

Seto was used to hostage situations, but never had he been coerced so easily, and by a smile of all things. "Kane, where are you taking us?" He demanded.

She held a finger to her lips. "It's a surprise."

They drove through the town and out into the more rural outskirts. Akita turned onto an uneven side road, approaching a grove of trees. It was a gravesite, Seto realized, and he looked sharply at Kane. She smiled back, and he saw the glistening of tears in her eyes.

"Will you hold these, please?" She handed him a bouquet of blossoms, and jumped eagerly out of the car. Mokuba, Seto, and Yasuo followed more slowly as she began scanning the memorials.

"Here!" Kane waved. They found her kneeling in front of a small stone.

"Mama," she said conversationally. "This is my family."

They stayed at Mariko Hasegawa's memorial for an hour, laughing and shedding discreet tears. Kane and Yasuo had many years worth of stories to share with their mother as well as the task of introducing their brothers, which Mokuba joked felt like meeting the in-laws.

"Is it time?" Seto asked softly when he noticed his family shivering.

"Yes," Kane replied. "We'll be back next year, Mama." She promised the stone, made cheery by the blossoms strewn around it.

"What about your father?" Mokuba asked.

"We said goodbye, today," Kane confessed. "Isamu-san promised to write yearly so that I'll know he's well."

Seto and Mokuba exchanged glances. "Will you be all right?" Seto inquired worryingly.

"Of course," Kane replied as Yasuo slipped his hand into hers. "My family is here. But," she pulled a photograph from her coat pocket. "He gave me this to remember them by."

Seto and Mokuba peered over the small picture, where a young man and woman laughed, arm-in-arm.

"The best way to remember them," Mokuba commented.

"Yes." Putting the photograph gently into her coat, Kane spun around to walk backwards. "Now," she said mischievously. "There are only two days until Christmas. What nefarious plans must be completed?"

Suggestions filled the air as they clamored into the car. Seto's spirits were so buoyant he felt like agreeing to them all, although he knew he'd regret it later. His family was whole and healthy, and most importantly, together.

-The End-


Mokuba's teasing Seto about Anzu is based on the idea that a young woman spends Christmas with the man she is romantically interest in, and considers marrying.

White cake with strawberries is a traditional Japanese dessert served at Christmas.

Hoteiosho is a one of the seven gods who brings luck, and is considered to be the modern-day Santa Claus for Japanese children.

Kane's charm bracelet is a tribute to: Seto's Blue-Eyes White Dragon, Kane's (and my own) love of figure skating, Anzu's friendship and loyalty, and Fruits Basket (a particular love of mine since junior high, and a manga I'm sure Kane would read).