I recently got some fan-art for this project, as well as its sister story, "Blue Eyes, Violet Eyes." Suffice it to say that it made my night. I also received a very constructive review recently, and while that didn't quite send me over Cloud Nine into Happy-land, I do believe that it will make this story, and all of my stories, better in the long run. Much better. I sincerely appreciate the help, and everyone who sends feedback to my stories. You guys rock, and you're the reason I'm still here.
Let's get the party started, shall we?
Sotaro sat at Mokuba's desk, in his chair, shuffling his Magic & Wizards cards, and every so often drawing a hand and musing over it. He smiled at one card in particular, before slipping it back into the middle of the deck and drawing another.
Mokuba had just woken from a nap, and was watching his houseguest with a strange look on his face. Only one eye was open. He said, sounding slightly delirious, ". . . People are calling you 'Sotaro.'"
The brown-haired, blue-eyed boy who was so heartbreakingly familiar looked up, surprised to hear Mokuba's voice, and shrugged self-consciously. "It would get confusing, since your brother has my name, too."
"Nobody calls him 'Seto,'" Mokuba replied slowly. "Not 'cept Detective McKinley. They're always sayin', they say, 'Mister Kaiba.' And 'Kaiba-sama.' And 'Kaiba.' Like all he is, is the name. The label."
Mildly, Sotaro said, "'Niisama' is a label."
"No." Mokuba shook his head and made a sour face. "'S not."
"Okay." Sotaro went back to his cards.
"I don't like lying about my brother," Mokuba mumbled, staring up at the ceiling now. "Ever'one else lies about my brother. I don't wanna. 'F I call you 'Sotaro,' I'm lying about my brother. Don't like it. Nope."
A smile sneaked onto Sotaro's face. "Technically, I don't think I'm your brother, Mokuba-kun."
"Pffft." Mokuba waved his hand, like he was waving the idea out of his face; like he would with a persistent insect. Sotaro smiled, then giggled. Mokuba blinked, stared at the younger boy like he'd just cursed in Klingon, then smiled himself.
"Your brother works a lot," Sotaro said after a moment. "He's important, at his job. Like a manager? Right?"
"CEO," Mokuba replied slowly. Each syllable seemed to tax him. He closed his eyes against what looked like a headache. "President. He—Niisama owns the Kaiba Corporation."
"He . . . owns it?"
"Mm-hm. Big boss. Head Honcho. All those . . . words people use. Inherited it. From Gozaburo. I guess nobody told you this stuff."
"I mean, Mister Ackerman, he told me something. He said Gozaburo Kaiba killed himself. That's how you and your brother got this house. Right? He adopted you, and then he killed himself."
The way he said it was so slow, perfunctory and nonchalant, that it took the smile off Mokuba's face quicker than an electric shock. He sat up, fatigue and sickness disappearing from his grey-violet eyes in a hot flash of anger. ". . . He told you . . . what?"
Sotaro stared blankly at his companion. ". . . Mister Ackerman said Gozaburo Kaiba committed suicide. That means he killed himself. He jumped out a window, on purpose, and he died. Father was worried, because he thought maybe your brother was a bad person. He thought maybe your brother pushed Mister Kaiba. I don't know. That doesn't make sense to me. I wouldn't do that. So I don't think your brother would, either. And he didn't, so it's okay."
The black-haired boy threw off his blankets. "Adults are stupid," he snapped. "Stupid, stupid, stupid!" He pulled on a robe over his pajamas and stalked out of the room.
He walked like his brother did, with long and decisive strides.
By the time he made it downstairs, Mokuba looked like a Kaiba for the first time any of the Yagamis had ever seen; he looked so angry that nobody made mention of the fact that his hair was a veritable lion's mane after doing battle with his pillow for the entire morning.
Standing in the doorway between the kitchen and the front parlor so that he could alternate between glaring at his brother and at Sotaro's parents, Mokuba crossed his arms and let out a loud huff of a breath.
"Up and about, I see, my young lord and benefactor," Seto said idly, tossing a pinch of seasoning into the pot of soup and stirring. "How might we be of service to thy glorious and . . ." he turned and cast a slow sort of glance at his brother, ". . . less than impeccably presented person?"
"Tell Roland the next time he wants to go and talk about suicides, make sure it's where the seven-year-old kid can't hear it!"
The wooden spoon fell into the pot, from Seto's suddenly still hand.
Mokuba whirled on the Yagamis. "And the next time you want to accuse my brother of murder, make sure it's where his seven-year-old self can't hear it!"
Seto retrieved his spoon and set it aside, turning down the heat. This he did in perfect silence. He picked up a dish towel, wiped down his hands, and stepped into the front room, where he eyed the Yagamis with the blankest of expressions.
"Mokuba," he said slowly. "Unless I miss my guess . . . Sotaro will be wondering if he's made you angry. I'm sure you'll want to tell him that that's not the case. Then I want you back in bed. I'll bring you up a bowl of soup, since you seem to be feeling better."
Mokuba's anger vanished in a flicker.
". . . Um . . . thanks. Niisama."
Turning his attention on the Yagamis, who had devastated looks on their faces, Seto said, "I'm not going to ask which one of you discussed my predecessor's death with my head of security. I'm not going to ask which one of you . . . accused me of murder. I'm not even going to ask you why you thought these were acceptable topics of discussion in the company of a seven-year-old boy. I don't know if this has upset your son to a degree that concerns you." The man's eyes turned suddenly hard. "It has upset my brother to a degree that concerns me. So. I hope you will understand when I request that you refrain from making such a decision again."
Mokuba stared up at his brother with wide, flabbergasted eyes. Then the world realigned itself, and he had to fight to keep a smile off his face when Seto added, in the kind of voice that dropped temperatures:
"Are we . . . perfectly . . . clear?"
When is a Kaiba not a Kaiba? Well, apparently the answer isn't when they're sick, because it looks like Mokuba's got just as much tenacity when he's laid up with the flu. Now, I'll be honest with you: the fact that Mokuba seems gratified that his brother is threatening people? Not sure what to make of that one. But, I do think it fits. There are other aspects of this chapter that make me wonder, but that one pops up to me. Maybe because it's right there at the end, or maybe because it was one of those things that I wrote instinctively, and didn't really notice it until later.
Either way, I hope you enjoyed this installment. And for those who may be wondering . . . yes. There is, in fact, a plot. It's slow-going, I know, and I'm sure I've said this a few times now (maybe more than a few times), but trust me when I say the payoff will be worth it. It has been for me.
'Til next time, folks.