Contest Fic, Season 9.75, Third Round (adoption fic): Powershipping (Seto KaibaxMarik Ishtar)
"You shouldn't let your father find you here, Master."
Marik jolted, his head snapping up to look at the voice's owner. Shadows obscured his face so it was barely visible in the muted light, and his eyes widened with the apprehension of someone suffering from a guilty conscious. His shoulders tensed with fear of being caught as Rishid's warning echoed across the spacious chamber, and he glanced back at the tall teenager standing in the corridor, lit by a flickering torch.
Sighing in relief when he realized it was only his brother, Marik glanced back down and resumed trailing his fingers across the ancient tablet. He frowned slightly as they brushed over the Pharaoh, and his nails scraped angrily across the man's stone features. He'd spent the last eleven years confined to the underground, sacrificing any life of his own to wait for the dead king's return.
The scowl transformed into a curious stare; however, as his fingers moved to the man carved next to him.
"Tell me the story about the priest, brother?" Marik asked, ignoring the words of caution and stubbornly maintaining his cross-legged position in front of the tablet.
Lowering his hands to trace the uneven stone floor, he jumped when a black spider darted over his fingers. His lips pulled down into a pout, but he clenched his fist in his lap, squinting in the dim light of the underground. The priest's Millennium Rod caught his attention, and he smiled slightly as he peered down at it with admiration. Sometimes in secret, he used an unlit torch as his own imaginary staff, wielding the stick as he pretended to be his favorite hero.
"Again?" the servant asked, walking across the chamber to look over the smaller boy's shoulders. "We should not dawdle here, unless you have your father's permission."
The young tombkeeper glanced up from the tablet, his mouth turned down in a silent plea. He knew the story by heart, but he liked it best when Rishid told the tale.
His brother sighed at the obstinate response, but kneeled down next to him, placing his large hand on the carving over his brother's smaller one. Marik grinned, knowing his companion did not understand why he idolized the ancient priest, but also knowing that the teen would humor him regardless.
"Many years ago, there was a Pharaoh," Rishid began, receiving an impatient huff. His lips twitched into a bemused smile, but he skipped ahead without comment. Marik listened with rapt attention, fidgeting as he waited for his favorite part. "The Pharaoh had a court of wise magicians, one of whom was the High Priest."
"But the High Priest wasn't always part of the royal council," Marik interjected, his eyes bright with childish excitement, even in the dark. Rishid sent his brother a pointed look at the interruption, but continued with a patient smile, although they were both aware that the Egyptian boy knew the story word for word.
"The High Priest was originally a peasant," he continued. "But he defied his low standing and honed his magic and mind, becoming so powerful he joined the Pharaoh's council."
"He chose his own path," Marik recited, an almost envious tone in his voice. "Even though he should have grown up trapped in a poor village, he escaped and lived a life as a respected ruler."
Rishid turned to him with an unfathomable expression, as he always did whenever the younger boy spoke so reverently of the priest. The child didn't see the look, however, as he stared at the inscription with a yearning deference. The priest defied tradition and made his own destiny, and Marik wished he had the strength to do the same, to defy his role of tombkeeper.
"That's right," the older boy finally agreed, a hint of reluctance in his tone. "But if you know the story so well, I don't see why you need me to tell you."
"It's better when you tell it," Marik protested, shaking his head. He turned back to the stone, completely content, but his brother hadn't finished the story. His smile slowly faded as he listened to the end.
"The priest was loyal to the king," Rishid said, transferring his brother's unwilling hand from the priest to the Pharaoh. "And he fought with him in the final war against darkness. When the king fell in battle, the priest became the new ruler."
Marik scowled and jerked his hand away from the Pharaoh's carving and beneath his brother's hand. He never understood why the priest had served the king so faithfully, when all the king had done was follow the path set for him at birth. The priest had deserved to become the Pharaoh from the start, without being required to serve a man who had never known any hardship.
Of course, what he couldn't see, as most twelve-year-old boys couldn't, was his jealousy. The instinctive desire to keep his favorite person to himself, combined with the hatred of his duty to await a king he had no desire to serve. The same man responsible for his confinement worked alongside the priest, but Marik would never even meet the Pharaoh's companion, regardless of his admiration.
"Why does the Pharaoh get to come back, but not the priest?" he finally asked sullenly, his arms crossed in petulant protest. "I wouldn't mind waiting if it was for the priest instead."
"The Pharaoh sacrificed himself for his people, Marik-sama," Rishid sighed, having heard the question many times. "He was an honorable ruler."
"The priest was better," he muttered under his breath, earning a stern look which made him fidget with a pang of guilt.
He knew his brother disagreed with his resentment toward the Pharaoh, but he was also aware that Rishid kept his discontent a secret from his father. He even humored his fascination with the priest, never once scolding or growing impatient whenever Marik pestered him for more stories.
"Just don't let your father hear you speak that way." Rishid didn't argue, instead frowning concernedly as he worried for his brother's safety. And perhaps his own, painfully aware of the consequences if the Ishtar clan leader learned his servant allowed his son to complain about the role of tombkeeper.
Marik turned back to the stone, staring for a long time before he paused, biting his lip. "...Rishid?"
Clenching his fists, the child silently imagined his priest, fighting against thieves and demanding entrance to the palace. Feeling braver, he took a deep breath before making the request he had wanted to ask for a long time.
"Can I go to the surface?" Marik blurted, before continuing quickly when he noticed his brother's shocked reaction. "Ishizu could come with me, and you could make sure father doesn't notice! Just for a couple hours, he won't even know-"
"It's too dangerous," Rishid shook his head immediately, placing a hand on his brother shoulder with a sympathetic but stern touch. Marik felt a pang of disappointment and defeat, but refused to give up yet. "I can't agree with it."
"Please, brother," he begged, looking back at the tablet with watering eyes. But he couldn't cry, not when the priest was always so strong. Successfully holding back his tears, he stuttered only slightly. "I- I just want to see-"
"You'll have to talk with your sister," Rishid finally said with a sigh, his shoulders slumping minutely. "Perhaps after the initiation ceremony, if she agrees."
The future tombkeeper flinched at the mention of the dreaded ritual, but when he realized what the reply had been, he stared at his brother, stunned, before breaking out into a large smile.
"Thank you, Rishid-"
"I didn't say yes," came the grumbled reply. "Now come. We'll be caught if we stay any longer."
Taking one last peek back at his beloved priest and hated Pharaoh, Marik reluctantly allowed his brother to gently tug him away from the tablet and out of the room.
Standing before that very tablet, he stared with glassy eyes as he remembered that night so many years ago. Instead of the cold stone beneath his feet, polished tiles reflected back the bright lights, and fluorescent bulbs destroyed his brief memory of a lightless tomb. Rather than his brother's patient murmur, he was met with the silence of an empty museum, visitor's hours having already past.
He would be returning to Egypt soon, with Rishid and Ishizu. But before he left, he had wanted one last look at ancient priest's carving. Priest Seto, he now knew. With a tired sigh, he recalled his idol, the magician he had worshipped as a lonely child when he'd had only his siblings and stories of ancient Egypt to entertain him. He realized that despite his childish complaints so many years ago, the priest had returned, after all.
"Seto Kaiba," he spoke the name out loud with a tinge of irony. He'd identified the priest's reincarnation too late, his darker personality having already won over by the time he'd recognized the man. The name floated across the large room, and Marik shivered, disliking the echo of his darker personality's former evil he'd heard in the sound.
"What about me?" a voice demanded behind him, and he spun around, eyes widening when he verified the owner. Neither of his siblings would have been surprised by the coincidence—Ishizu probably would have said it was destiny, and Rishid would have greeted the appearance with his usual acceptance—but Marik couldn't help but stare at the CEO standing in the doorway, briefcase in one hand and his younger brother peering around the other.
"What are you doing here?" he asked in shock as Kaiba strode into the room, pausing a few paces away. Mokuba—he recalled the brother's name after a moment of pondering—watched him uneasily, memories of his infamous Battle City appearance doubtlessly haunting his thoughts.
"What am I doing here?" Kaiba repeated incredulously, his eyes narrowing with anger and a hint of suspicion. Marik, as the target of the glare, held his head high, although internally he winced. "Your sister said to meet here, insisting that it was infinitely more important than the board meeting I had scheduled."
"Ishizu?" he exclaimed in mild surprise, knowing she had left an hour ago to meet with someone. With a nagging suspicion, he had a feeling he now knew who. Or rather, who she had given up on.
"No, your other sister," Kaiba drawled sarcastically, not rolling his eyes, but the action strongly implied. His echoing footsteps came to a halt as he paused, and his coat fluttered to a standstill while he spoke. "Where is she?"
"She probably left some time ago, while you were in your board meeting," Marik replied with a shrug, snorting. Ishizu no longer held the Millennium Necklace, and she would not have foreseen whether Kaiba would arrive. He assumed that she had merely grown tired of waiting. Either that, or she had intentionally left her brother at this man's mercy.
Turning back to the giant stone in front of him, he peered at the other man from the corner of his eye. Comparing him with the carving, he quickly understood why he hadn't identified Seto Kaiba when he first saw him. The inscription was impressively done, but no stone carving could capture the man in front of him so easily, not with this level of detail.
"She should be flattered I bothered to come at all," the duelist snapped, not denying the veiled accusation. The Egyptian was no longer listening, however, his attention temporarily caught by the young boy who cautiously inched in front of him. The kid was staring at the tablet intently, his eyes wide with surprise.
"Is that Yugi?" Mokuba asked dubiously, pointing at the rock in disbelief. Absently, Marik noticed that he seemed to have been dubbed safe to approach, the raven-haired youth standing directly next to him without his brother between them. Marik shook his head, thinking the boy wasn't unlike Yugi, deciding to trust him so easily when he had tried to kill them all.
"That's the Pharaoh, actually," he answered, watching the CEO from the corner of his eye. The man had an unpleasant scowl across his features, clearly skeptical. "Standing next to his High Priest."
Mokuba's mouth hung open almost comically, and the older teen hid his smile at the awed expression. "Is that...big brother?" he asked at last, his eyes lingering on the Blue Eyes White Dragon depicted above the priest.
Marik didn't answer, following the boy's gaze. The dragons had been what tipped him off initially, as well, when he'd seen the mighty beasts hovering behind Kaiba in his duel with Ishizu. Of course, he had been too preoccupied with escape, watching from Anzu's eyes on the sidelines and calling out to his sister to save him.
The clues had certainly been there, however. Seto had fought alongside the Pharaoh when the former ghoul had sent the Masks of Light and Darkness against them, a pair of his many mind slaves. And even then, he'd felt the irrational hatred for the Pharaoh, thinking the tyrant didn't deserve such a powerful ally.
"That tablet is over three thousand years old. That's impossible, no matter what bullshit these people tell you," the brunette scolded his brother, sending the Egyptian a pointed glare, daring him to argue.
Marik offered no immediate reply, a pensive silence falling as he wondered if the reincarnation was at all similar to the priest. And if he would have still admired the priest as a child, if he'd known about the former.
"Whether you're a reincarnation or not," he finally said, reaching out to feel the stone, ignoring the 'do not touch' sign. Before Ishizu had donated the stone, he'd done the same countless times, and the habit was one he hadn't yet broken. "You might be right. It's impossible to say if you're really the same person, or just an echo. Maybe not even that."
"I'd say that you're more reasonable than your sister," came the muttered reply. "But given the mess you made out of my tournament with your magical nonsense, I have my doubts."
"The priest rose to greatness on his own power," he ignored the jibe, hiding the guilty downturn of his mouth. He disliked reminders of that time, though he figured he deserved them. "Ishizu would tell you that it was his destiny. That it was yours, when you defeated her with your dragons."
"I make my own destiny."
Marik glanced over at the comment, a trace of a smile on the edge of his lips. "Yes, I always thought that about the priest, too."
"Who was the priest?" Mokuba spoke, gazing up with bright eyes reminding him of his own, younger curiosity when he'd asked Rishid about the skilled magician. He felt a strange sense of nostalgia, but he shook his head to clear away the memories.
"The priest decided his own path, entering the royal court instead of living the life of a simple merchant, and escaping his unwanted past," the blond recited, hesitating before continuing with something he'd barely admitted to himself. "Back then, I- I wanted to be like the priest, and make my own destiny. I-"
Mokuba looked up at him questioningly, but he stumbled over the words, the intense guilt of nearly destroying so many lives overwhelming him. But he needed to tell someone, someone who wouldn't blame themselves as Rishid would, if Marik was to ever confide the thought.
Apprehensively, the young boy beside him glanced back at Seto, who was watching the Egyptian with an inexplicable expression. Almost curious, almost sympathetic—except that Kaiba would never care so much about someone who had endangered his younger brother and the closest people he had to friends, and his frown was more one of dull interest.
"If I had just followed my destiny like I was supposed to," he finally whispered, his voice sounding almost broken. "If I'd never relied on others to help me escape- Maybe I wouldn't have ended up like I had."
He didn't need to specify, distorted memories from his darker half flickering across his vision. Mokuba peered up at him, seeming concerned, but the tombkeeper didn't dare meet the gaze of the tall brunette next to him. Seconds ticked by in strained silence, quiet as only a museum could achieve.
"Looking back on the past is pointless," Kaiba eventually stated matter-of-factly, still scowling at the tablet when the teen next to him glanced over in surprise. "If what you did in the past was so unforgivable, then do something useful instead of moping around, and make up for it in the future."
The brunette redirected his piercing stare at Marik, unflinching. "Let's go, Mokuba. We've wasted enough time here."
Turning on his heel, his coat billowed behind him as he turned away from the hieroglyphic inscriptions. His brother followed after him automatically, but when he peeked back and saw the broken duelist still standing frozen in front of the tablet, he hesitated. The older Kaiba walked out the door, but Mokuba ran back, his mane of black hair bouncing with his hurried steps.
"You know," Mokuba said in an apprehensive whisper, but nonetheless sincere. "Big brother did some things in the past he regrets, too, but Yugi gave him a second chance. I think-" he glanced over his shoulder in a paranoid check to make sure his brother hadn't returned. "I think he bets that you have a second chance, too, and that's why he gave you that advice."
Marik peered down into the young but surprisingly deep eyes, unsure whether he was more surprised at the boy's message or the fact that he was even giving it. The dark-haired boy broke into a mischievous grin at the stunned expression he received, offering a friendly shrug.
"What, did you think my brother gives advice to just anybody?" he asked, taking on a superior tone reminiscent of the man in question. "Normally he wouldn't have bothered to even listen to you-"
"Mokuba, what are you doing? I said we're leaving." Kaiba's voice came from the corridor, watching the two with narrowed eyes. "And tell Ishizu that this is the last time I make time in my schedule for her," he added coldly, glowering at Marik, but the comment went unheard by the startled teen.
"I'm coming," Mokuba replied, turning to give one last piece of profound wisdom to the silent Egyptian next to him. "Remember," he told the older boy in a severe whisper. "My brother will be really mad if you don't listen to him, so don't mess up."
Jogging away to join his brother, Mokuba trailed after the CEO as he strode for the exit. Unexpectedly, however, the taller man paused, and the kid narrowly avoiding crashing into his briefcase. Kaiba didn't turn around or take notice of his brother's minor problem, instead waiting a moment before speaking over his shoulder with his head half-turned.
"Are you going to stare at that rock for the rest of the night, or are you going to do something worthwhile?"
The blond gaped for a moment, uncertain if he'd really been addressed. When the other man's eyes narrowed impatiently, he jolted in surprise and shook his head, though that wasn't his answer. An inexplicable emotion flooded through him, something he hadn't felt since he'd left his tomb back in Egypt. A feeling not unlike the hopeful admiration he'd felt for the priest, only this time, he was determined not to lose. He failed the first time, but maybe his second chance wasn't doomed from the start.
His destiny wasn't set in stone.
"I'm coming," he answered, offering a small but genuine smile. The brunette nodded briskly in approval before turning away, starting forward again.
Keeping his eyes focused on the man in front of him, he left behind the tablet he'd unlikely see again. The priest stood frozen in time, accompanied by the legends that had fascinated a depressed, lonely boy beneath the sands of Egypt so many years ago. The legends that he'd read countless times, inscribed on a tablet he'd watched disappear around the corner as his brother dragged him away, allowing him only a longing glance. He left behind the carvings, and the story of a man who had given him the courage to defy his destiny.
Seto Kaiba strode forward, giving him the choice of whether or not to follow.
This time, Marik didn't look back.
Reviews are loved, and I'm cool with concrit. Be brutal, if you want. :P