Title: Aftershocks
Author: bnomiko
Rating: PG-13
Pairing(s): Seto + Yami
Spoilers: none
Warnings: swearing
Disclaimer: 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.
Summary: Mokuba gets to the root of the problem.
Status: 11 / ?
Archived at: http://www.phenixsol.com/Miko/FF/

This is a SHONEN-AI fic (male + male romantic relationship). If you are offended by homosexual relationships, please do not read this. Flames will be disregarded.

Setup for this fic:

* * *


Ch. 11: The Heart of the Matter

* * *

"Nii-sama! Nii-sama, what the hell did you do!? Come on, I know you're in there! Nii-sama!!" Mokuba continued to yell and pound on the bathroom door despite the fact that Seto had locked himself in and refused to respond. But at least they knew for certain that he was in there since he had flushed the toilet shortly after Mokuba began screaming at him.

"Forget it Mokuba, he's not coming out."

The black-haired teen sighed and looked over his shoulder at Noa. "This is stupid. He's acting like a brat. Do you hear me, Seto? A BRAT!" He kicked the door in frustration.

Noa could only shrug. Neither one of them had expected to see come home and see Yami sitting curled up in a miserable little ball on the sofa, fighting to keep himself from crying, his crutches nowhere in sight. How he had managed to make it all the way downstairs on one foot was a mystery. He wouldn't tell either one of them what had happened, but once they convinced him to unfurl himself Mokuba had noticed that his ever-present collar was missing and that his neck was scratched. Those two things, plus the fact that Seto's sportscar was parked under the porte-cochere, could only mean that something really bad had happened, and Seto was likely the one responsible for it. Which was probably why he had barricaded himself into the bathroom across from his office.

"Aw, forget it. Let's go find Yami's crutches at least and bring them down to him," Mokuba snarled in a very Seto-like manner, stalking into the office with Noa close behind. "They're probably in here… yup."

The green-haired teen watched as his brother picked up the crutches, then took a glance around the room, catching sight of a familiar object in the trashcan. "So what do you think really happened? They got in a fight and what, Seto tore the collar off of Yami's neck? Yami pulled it off himself 'cause he got mad?" He fished the collar out of the trash and dangled it from his fingers for Mokuba to see.

"Onii-chan…" Well, that at least confirmed that the altercation between Seto and Yami had involved the collar somehow. "I know Yami wouldn't have thrown that away no matter how bad things got, but I can't believe… God, why is Seto acting like such a jerk?!" Mokuba sighed and cast his eyes skyward. "I really don't understand him sometimes. I thought I did, but… no. If this all somehow makes sense to him, I don't want to understand because I never want to think like that."

"Mokuba, you don't really mean that."

"But he's driving everyone nuts and he doesn't even realize it!"

"Maybe you should tell him that."

"Maybe. But I'm tired of talking to a door. Come on, Yami needs these back." He held up the crutches a little and nodded his head at the collar. "Seto can't stay in the bathroom the rest of his life, so once he comes out I'm going to make him talk, and that's that."

* * *

Perhaps Seto couldn't remain in the bathroom the rest of his life, but he certainly was doing an admirable job of holing himself up in there. Afternoon passed and became evening, and he still wouldn't open the door. It got to the point that they all started worrying that Seto might do something rash, so Mokuba began checking on his big brother every fifteen minutes or so, telling him to knock on the door to prove that he was alive or else they were going to break the door down. At least Seto complied with that reasonable request, though he didn't touch the stew and coffee that Mokuba left by the door.

As the night rolled on and the entire household sat in tense silence, Yami gave up on waiting for something to happen and went to bed, though he did take the precaution of moving into one of the downstairs guestrooms in case Seto still felt like throwing a fit when he left the bathroom. Mokuba watched as the ex-spirit left the room, then announced loudly, "This truly, utterly… sucks!"

Noa yawned and glanced at the clock. "Are you really planning on staying up?"

"Yup. All night if that's what it takes."

"Mokuba, seriously… we should do shifts. If you stay up the entire night you'll never make it to school tomorrow, and then Nii-sama will probably flip out on you too."

Gray eyes focused on the green-haired teen. "You and I both know that I'm the only person who can get him to talk, and even then, it's like pulling teeth. So if he sees you waiting for him in the hallway, he's going to be mad PLUS he won't want to talk."

"Geez, give me some credit. I'd wake you up of course."

Mokuba shook his head. "Nah. I figure even if I fall asleep it'd be right in the doorway, then he'd have to trip over my body to get out of the bathroom. So either way, I'll be the first thing he sees when he steps out."

Noa sighed and leaned back on the sofa, lacing his fingers over his stomach. "I hate this. Reminds me of when my mother and father would get into a squabble, and he'd slap her and call her a… uh… er, nevermind."

Mokuba cocked an eyebrow and gave his brother an assessing look. "No, go on. I don't mind."


"Onii-chan, it's okay. Besides, look at Seto… he never wants to talk about anything and now he's hiding in the bathroom. Do you want to be 19 and spending your night in sitting in a dark… wait, he's almost 20 isn't he?" Mokuba took a look at the clock and realized that it was seconds past midnight, then sucked in a deep breath. "He'll be 20 tomorrow… oh God, I feel terrible! I've totally forgotten about his birthday!"

"Maybe we should bake Yami into a cake," Noa said with a snort. "He doesn't deserve much else."

"Maybe we should bake them both into a cake. With handcuffs so they can't escape. Argggghhh! Man, this is SUCH a mess. We've GOT to get them back together before his birthday, or I'll… I'll… I'll be really pissed off! And I'll probably cry, and it'll all be Seto's fault, and I think I'm about to cry right now…" The younger teen blinked rapidly, finally resorting to rubbing at his eyes to get rid of any evidence of tears.

Noa frowned and quickly got up to find a box of tissues. "Here, Mokuba… "

The black-haired teen grabbed a tissue with a slight nod of appreciation. "I think I should go back upstairs and resume my watch."

"Okay. But really… don't stay up waiting for him to come out. At least take a pillow and a blanket if you're really planning on sleeping there all night." Mokuba looked a bit skeptical at that, so Noa quickly threw in, "Please. Do it for me."

"Oh… all right."

* * *

Seto wasn't sure how long he had been sitting on the bathroom floor, though he knew it was night, and pretty late at that. His back and neck hurt from the position he had assumed on the tiled floor and his butt had gone numb a long time ago. But that discomfort paled in comparison to what he was feeling inside. He thought he'd feel relieved once he drove Yami away, but he didn't, not that he had done it for the purpose of making himself feel better. But shouldn't there have been… something? He felt so uneasy about the whole situation. Did he really do the right thing?

It was stupid, second-guessing himself like that. He attributed it to his own weakness, his selfish desire to make himself happy, Yami be damned. But it didn't matter anymore. What was done was done. It wasn't like Yami would want to be with him after he lost his temper and attacked him. It was inexcusable, what he had done. Why didn't Yami just accept that it was over and leave on his own? It never should have ended like that. The entire scene played over and over again in his mind in slow motion. He had grabbed Yami's arm hard enough to bruise, thrown him up against the wall while he teetered precariously on one foot, nearly strangled him trying to get the buckle of the collar undone, and then clawed his throat while removing the collar by the nameplate. Yami had cried out in protest, crimson eyes flickering in hurt and accusation. He had to hate him by now, even though Seto hadn't meant to do any of those things in the first place… he only wanted to get the collar because he thought that would be enough to convince Yami to leave, but somehow had gotten angry and frustrated and taken things too far. It was going to be Death-T all over again if Yami stuck around and he couldn't rein in that temper of his.

Now that made him a bit curious. Yami did leave, didn't he? Maybe Mokuba had said something about it, but honestly, he had been a little too preoccupied at the time to listen to all of his little brother's rants. And Mokuba must have gone to bed already since he hadn't heard a knock on the door in a while. But he really needed to know. Yami should have left, but the former Pharaoh could be amazingly stubborn at times. The more he thought about it, the more he was convinced Yami was still around, and against his will he could feel his ire rising at the mere thought of it.

I need to make absolutely sure he's gone. I bet he's all curled up in my bed right now, the crazy fucker. Why won't he just leave? Seto wondered as he opened the door slowly.

As he went to take a step forward, he thought he heard the faint sound of breathing and looked down just in time to keep himself from stepping on Mokuba's hair. The younger teen was stretched out across the doorway, cocooned within a thick comforter. The sight was comforting and sad at the same time… Seto was glad that his little brother chose to wait for him, but to see him resorting to sleeping in the hallway…

With a soft sigh, the brunette bent down and scooped his brother up easily, carrying him to his shared bedroom and carefully depositing him on the far bed. Mokuba didn't stir at all the entire time. Seto wished he could sleep like that. All he was able to do nowadays was pass out in exhaustion, and even that wasn't enough to assure him of a dreamless sleep.

Speaking of sleep, it sure sounded good, even if he had to deal with the stress of having Yami in bed with him. So after making sure that Mokuba was tucked in, he wandered back into his bedroom, turning on the lights, knowing that…

Yami? He wasn't in the bed. In fact, the sheets looked undisturbed but in his shock, Seto stupidly lifted the covers as if Yami could somehow flatten himself out enough to be undetectable under the blankets. Where did he… Did he leave?

The sense of relief that he thought he'd feel at Yami's departure never came. Instead, he felt a terrible pain that sent his heart racing until his chest ached from the pounding. He was confused. Wasn't this what he had hoped for? Wasn't that why… Oh God, where is he?! He suddenly had visions of Yami getting run over by a car, being buried under debris from another quake, falling off a cliff, all sorts of ridiculous things. No, no no no… I have to find him!

In about as much of a panic as he had ever been in, the brunette went running back to his brothers' room. "Mokuba, Noa, wake up!" he yelled as he burst into the room. When the two younger teens didn't immediately respond, he began flicking the lights on and off.

"Huh? Wha…" Noa's eyelids fluttered momentarily before he slammed them shut again. "Seto, stop playing with the lights! You trying to make me have a seizure or something?" Seto snorted in displeasure and left the lights turned on.

Mokuba groaned and blearily blinked at the clock. "Seto? It's 3:00 in the morning…" The black-haired teen frowned and sat up slowly, rubbing at his eyes. "How did I get in… oh. Well, I'm glad you're out of the bathroom at least."

"Where the fuck is Yami?!" Seto demanded.

Noa scowled, upset at Seto's general rudeness and the fact that he had been awakened so abruptly. "He's…"

"Why don't you just mind link him and find out?" Mokuba said, his yawn softening his tone. But he squinted irritably at his brother to make up for it.

"Don't start with me, Mokuba!" The initial panic had faded away and was replaced by vexation. He wanted a response and he wanted it now. The young CEO folded his arms across his chest and straightened himself up to his full height, as if that would make an impact on Mokuba.

"Why are you being so pissy? It was a reasonable suggestion."


Sensing an argument brewing, Noa frowned deeply and looked over at Mokuba, then at Seto, then back at Mokuba again before mumbling, "I'm so out of here. I'm going to sleep downstairs." Although he really intended to go and wake Yami up, he wasn't going to reveal the fact that the crimson-eyed teen was asleep in a guest bedroom. So Noa slowly got up and slunk past Seto, careful to not bump against him on the way out lest he set off the alpha male in his brother.

As soon as the green-haired teen was gone, Seto stomped over to Mokuba's bed. "Well? Where the hell is he?"

Being younger and shorter sucks, Mokuba thought, forgetting that Yami had no problems dealing with both those things, but then he got the idea of standing on top of his bed to give him a lot of added height. Looking down at his brother for once, he simply asked, "Why do you want to know? He's not your boyfriend, remember?"

"I'm in no mood to argue with you about this! Just…"

Mokuba pulled away as Seto's hand closed around his arm. "Why should I tell you? You're the one who broke it off with him! So why do you care where he's at right now?"

"I can't believe you're taking his side on this!" Seto yelled in exasperation.

"What? There's no… I can't believe there's even a side to take!" Mokuba yelled back. He took a deep, shaky breath and lowered the volume of his voice. "Honestly… Nii-sama, what's happened here? I don't get it… Yami saves my life in an earthquake and in the process gets a concussion and a broken leg, and all of a sudden you decide he's not good enough for you or something?"

Seto flushed at the accusation. "Of course not. I'm grateful that he… Look, it's not that simple; you wouldn't understand…"

"Try me." The younger teen placed a light hand on his brother's shoulder, keeping it there even as Seto tried to shrug him off. "Nii-sama... obviously something is really bothering you, and you keep trying to hold it in, which isn't working. You're a wreck. Yami's a wreck. And since you won't talk to Yami about it, well, I guess that leaves me. So start talking."

Seto automatically did the exact opposite, clamming up as Mokuba wrapped his arms around him. But Mokuba, knowing that his brother would do just that, refused to give in. They had given Seto enough space to work things out on his own and he had only managed to make things worse, so now it was time for a new approach.

"All right, if you won't talk, I know that you'll at least listen." The black-haired teen got off the bed and sat down on the edge of it, motioning for the brunette to sit down next to him. After a moment, Seto grudgingly sat, so Mokuba plowed ahead. "Although I haven't figured out all your reasons, I've been thinking about it a lot. I do know that you're trying to push Yami away even though you don't actually want him to leave."

Seto stiffened slightly at the statement, which Mokuba interpreted as a sign of agreement. "And I know you didn't mean to hurt him this afternoon," he continued. Seto looked at his little brother in alarm. "Oh, he's not badly hurt or anything. He has some scratches on his neck and his arm will probably bruise a little, but that's it. Nothing as bad as the broken leg or anything. Speaking of which, I guess it was pretty scary when that earthquake hit and you found out that both Yami and I were missing. And then to have both of us land in the hospital… Maybe you started wondering about the what-ifs and your thoughts went too far, and you started worrying about what you would do if Yami… well, you know."

Perhaps it was because he was physically and emotionally worn out, but Seto's jaw muscles loosened and he mumbled, "I don't want him to die."

"'Course not. I was really worried about him too. But earthquakes happen. It wasn't like we could have known that the building was going to fall apart on us. And Yami did his best to protect me; you can't fault him for that."

"No, never."

"That's good. Because it'd be dumb if you somehow blamed him for that. So let's see… you don't want Yami to leave, but yet you're trying to make him leave. And I'm not certain why. Yami's a great boyfriend for you. Noa and I like him a lot. He's smart, funny, loyal, takes good care of all of us, is apparently hot in bed," and at that Seto gave Mokuba a disapproving look, "puts up with your shi… uh, crap, and brings out the best in you. Heck, I don't think you could ever find someone that'd be a better match."


Wow, we're getting close to making actual conversation! "But I know you aren't looking for someone better. Yami is the only one you want and…" Dare I say it? Mokuba took a deep breath, looked his brother in the eye, and plunged in. "He loves you. And you love him."

Seto's eyes darkened while at the same time, the color began draining from his face. "I don't love him," he quickly snapped. Don't say that, you don't know what you're saying.

"Oh, come on. Of course you do. You love him as much as you love me."

"I don't…" Seto caught himself and shook his head. He was about to blurt out something which he would regret, but hopefully Mokuba hadn't picked up on…

The black-haired teen turned his head slightly. "Nii-sama?"

Seto swallowed harshly. "I didn't mean… never mind. Forget it."

Mokuba thought quickly. "I know you love me, even if you don't say it. Same with Yami. And he understands and accepts that. Love, it's… well, that's just a word. It'd be nice if you could say it, I mean, I uh… well, I'd like to hear it, but we already know. In heart, thought and action, you've shown us that you love us a hundred times over."

The young CEO quickly pulled away, every muscle in his body tightening up as if he were preparing for a physical confrontation. He had no idea where Mokuba had pulled all this stuff from, but he had to grudgingly admit, his brother was good at reading him. And he hated it.

Mokuba looked Seto over, noting the tense way he held himself, the small distance he had put between them as telling as a flashing neon sign that read, Leave me alone, I don't want to talk about this. "Am I wrong? Tell me I'm wrong about Yami, and I'll drop the whole thing." I swear Seto, if you tell me I'm wrong…

The brunette dipped his head so that his already long bangs shielded his eyes completely. "You're… not… it's just that…"

Mokuba adopted his most innocent look, put a plaintive tone into his voice, and whispered, "Please, Nii-sama… I need to know. Why aren't you with Yami anymore? What changed?"

Seto's only response was the sound of his ragged breathing, but Mokuba sat patiently and didn't push him, and gradually the older teen lifted his chin just enough so that he could glance at his brother, who tried to convince him of his sincerity with wide, attentive eyes.

"I don't want him to die," Seto finally responded in a very low voice, repeating what he had said earlier. "I didn't mean to hurt him… I didn't want to, but…"

"I know."

Seto inhaled sharply, then blurted out, "No, you don't. If he stays, he'll die. Because of me."

Mokuba remained silent for a moment, piecing together what he knew about his brother with the little bits of information he had so far revealed. Then, very cautiously, he said, "When Tou-san died in his car accident… that wasn't something anyone could have prevented. The police report said that he hit a patch of water on the freeway and lost control." Seto's nostrils flared at that, so Mokuba went on, seeing that he was on the right track. " Sometimes bad things just happen. Doesn't mean someone's to blame for it. But if you really wanted to look to place the blame on someone, well… it's my fault that our mother..."

"It's not!" Seto insisted, suddenly angry. "Don't ever say that!"

Mokuba looked up, his face pale. "You should hate me for it. But you don't. Why do you blame yourself for things you couldn't have prevented? Do you blame yourself for Jii-san's heart attack too? Or our aunt's lung cancer?" Seto looked away once again, suddenly subdued. "None of that was your fault! He had a pre-existing condition, and she was a heavy smoker, you told me that yourself! So how could you feel responsible for what happened to them?"

"Mm." The brunette gave the slightest shrug of his shoulders. He didn't know how to explain it. When it came to such things, words didn't seem adequate.

"Does this mean that you're afraid that something will happen to me as well?"

"I've nearly lost you already, Mokuba." He didn't elaborate, but Mokuba could feel the unspoken words hanging heavily in the air. Death-T. Duelist Kingdom. Noa's virtual world.

It was the opening Mokuba had been looking for, but he wasn't sure if he ought to take advantage of it. An angry Seto was a more talkative one, but was he really willing to pry open that can of worms? If he didn't, would Seto ever open up? Finally, he made his decision and brought up the taboo topic. "Death-T?"

Mokuba could see every muscle trembling in his brother's body as his face reddened in anger, then he exploded like a bomb. "Fuck, Mokuba! That… you should have never been involved in the first place! How could you want to stay with me after that?"

"Because… I love you. And you would have forgiven me if our roles were reversed."

"You would never have made that mistake. You would not have become consumed like that. You would have found another way. You should have hated me." Seto fell silent at that, but his mind continued to whirl with a torrent of thoughts. It should have never gotten so out of control, but I couldn't resist pushing you away. I wanted to convince myself that you didn't matter, so much so that you nearly died at my hands. But you wouldn't leave my side, no matter what I did. Why?

"I could never hate you, Nii-sama, no matter what. Did you honestly expect me to? Did you think I would give up on you... leave you?" Mokuba asked, his question hitting uncomfortably close to the heart of Seto's thoughts.

The young CEO grunted, though his anger was slowly beginning to dissipate at the passion in Mokuba's voice. "I would have given you money. I would have given you the house, or bought whatever else you may have wanted. I could have bought you a new life."

"You think those things matter to me? I wouldn't have wanted any of that! Money can't buy happiness, Nii-sama. You're living proof of that. But you know what does make me happy? Being with you is what makes me happy... that's why I would never leave you, no matter what!"

Seto stared at his brother, shaken. Mokuba sounded so sure of himself. Did he even realize what it was that he was promising? I made a vow to to Kaa-san before you were born that I'd always take care of you. She told me that I'd never be lonely thanks to you. I believed her. But then she died, and everyone else followed… and I realized what a lie that was. I was destined to be alone. But I had promised to take care of you, and I had to make sure you found a proper home to grow up in... It didn't matter what happened to me in the end. It still doesn't...

"Nii-sama. I meant what I said. I won't leave you, ever, if that's what you want."

The older teen broke out of his reverie and considered his brother's quiet declaration, then softly replied with uncharacteristic openness, "You will someday, Mokuba. You're growing up. And the best outcome I could ever hope for is that you'd stay until you were 18, and then you'd go to college abroad. Find a nice girl, marry, settle down. I didn't plan on you coming back to me. Maybe there shouldn't be anything to come back to."

Tears sprang into Mokuba's eyes and immediately started rolling down his cheeks. "Nii-sama! What are you saying?!"

"I can't hate you, Mokuba. I can't even not care. But for your sake…"

"For my sake you BETTER not think of doing anything stupid! I don't know what I'd do if something happened to you! I can’t believe… I mean, I always knew you were unhappy. But I never realized…" Mokuba tried to wipe his face off with his pajama sleeve, groaning at his own behavior. He was so tired of crying, but he couldn't stop himself. "Nii-sama, no one deserves to go through life alone. That's the future you saw for yourself, wasn't it? But then Yami came along and…" and his throat went dry at the thought, "I won't let you sacrifice yourself for me, or for Yami. What will it take to make you realize that? You always worry about everyone else so much that you don't realize… your concerns are ours as well. Yami has shown you a better future, a different one than that which you imagined. But you're so worried about what might be that you're unable to see what is, and what could be. What you have with Yami is so special and unique... neither of you would be complete without the other. Does it matter if you both live to 105 if you're both miserable? What kind of life would that be?"

"Yami could easily find someone else. He doesn't need someone fucked up like me." He'll find someone better. He deserves someone better.

"He doesn't WANT anyone else. He's stuck with you through this entire mess because he loves you and wants only you! The worst thing you could do is to make him go on without you, because you know he's not going to go and just hook up with someone else. He's loved you for over 3,000 years. Are you going to make him wait another three millennia before you'll acknowledge that you love him too?"

Seto looked confused, wavering in his stance. Had he been wrong? Was this really a chance to make up for their past lives that had been destroyed? Had he been looking at it from the wrong angle, thinking of his recollections as a warning of doom, instead of the heralding of a second chance?

"You said you don't want Yami to die; you want him to live. But do you just want him alive, or do you want him to actually enjoy living? I know you'll protect him, so I'm not worried about his safety, but there's so much more to life than just… breathing. He loves you so much. And I know you love him too, regardless of what you claim."

I… do, don't I? But… "It might not matter, after what I've done. I've treated him like shit. It could have been Death-T all over again."

"No. You would have stopped yourself long before things got that bad. You don't make mistakes twice, Nii-sama."

Seto shook his head. He couldn't believe he was actually considering Mokuba's rationale, but it certainly was far more appealing than his take on things. "He won't forgive me. I can't even forgive myself," he mumbled, his heart sinking at the thought.

"Baby, I already have," said a deep voice from the doorway. Both Mokuba and Seto looked up to see a tired looking Yami on his crutches, standing next to Noa.

* * *


Author’s Notes:

November 20, 2005