Title: Aftershocks
Author: bnomiko
Rating: PG-13
Pairing: Seto + Yami
Spoilers: some reference to Pharaoh’s Memory / Ancient Egypt arc
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: Yami and Seto reach a new level of understanding.
Status: 12 / ?
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:

* * *

Aftershocks

Ch. 12: Three Little Words

* * *

Seto stared at Yami for a moment in sheer disbelief. He's still here… he thought, relief flooding through him at the mere sight of the shorter duelist standing there. Without even thinking about it, he rose to his feet and began approaching Yami cautiously, almost afraid that he was just an illusion. But the body that he wrapped his arms around felt warm and solid, and best of all, it embraced him back with one arm.

"You're here," was all the brunette could think of saying. He wasn't even sure if he ought to be hugging Yami, but for some reason he just wasn't able to convince himself to let go. And then Yami's words finally sunk into his mind. Did he… say what I think he said? He couldn't have…

Feeling quite uncertain about everything, Seto finally released Yami and took a few steps back, trying to figure out what had just happened. He had been talking to Mokuba, who had only managed to confuse him with talk about blame and forgiveness and other things. And then Yami, with his always-impeccable timing, walked in and forgave him for something that he didn't deserve to be forgiven for. In response to his thoughts, Seto's eyes unconsciously traced a path down Yami's neck, zeroing in on the raised pink lines that reproached him for his loss of control.

Seto sighed. There was no way that Yami had forgiven him; he must have heard wrong. All he could do now was to face whatever Yami threw at him. With reluctance, he lifted his gaze to meet those familiar crimson eyes, bracing himself to see the burning anger and accusation that he knew would be there, but instead, there was acceptance. Affection. And no small amount of exhaustion as well.

Meanwhile, Mokuba looked back and forth between the two older teens. They weren't really saying or doing anything, but he had a gut feeling that the worst was over. He believed in the undeniable strength of Yami's love for Seto and knew that Seto's unacknowledged affection for Yami was just as strong. He just hadn't admitted it to himself yet. But at least Mokuba had done his part in breaking of Seto out of the mindset that he had trapped himself in, and that in and of itself was one hell of an accomplishment. The black-haired teen couldn't help but be a bit proud of himself.

"Pssssst!"

Mokuba's brows beetled in confusion until he realized that it was just Noa trying to get his attention. "What?" he mouthed silently at the green-haired teen.

"Sleep. Downstairs."

"Ah, okay." Mokuba cleared his throat to get everyone's attention, then announced, "You two stay here and… talk. And I don't mean body language, at least not in my bed. Noa and I have school in like three hours, so we want to go back to sleep. We'll be downstairs, okay?" He began following Noa out the door.

The ex-spirit frowned slightly in disapproval. "But this is your room…" he called after them.

"Yami, we're gone," Noa's voice replied. "And it doesn't matter. Good night!"

Seto watched his brothers leave, then sighed again, turning his head and dropping his chin a little to peer at Yami through the thick fall of his bangs. Was Yami just putting on a pleasant face for Mokuba and Noa's sakes? Was he going to get upset now that they were out of the room? But Yami's expression didn't sour… in fact, if anything, his eyes were even softer than before.

"Seto…" Yami whispered, taking a hopping step towards the taller duelist.

The brunette shook his head and backed away, much to Yami's dismay. "So, you were eavesdropping then?" he ended up pointing out. It was a relatively safe thing to say even if it had almost nothing to do with what he was thinking.

Yami cocked his head in thought. "Sorry. I didn't mean to, but…" He gave a slight shrug with one shoulder. "We should talk."

Seto paled a little. Didn't he already do enough talking for one night? He wasn't even sure if he was ready for a discussion yet, his thoughts spinning chaotically in all directions.

"Sit down, Seto. You look like you're going to collapse."

"You too," Seto said, sitting down, looking the former Pharaoh over. Yami's hair was mussed up, spikes going wildly in all directions, and his eyelids were a bit puffy, but even so, the young billionaire couldn't help but drink in the image, as if it were some sort of mirage. I can't believe he said he forgives me. I didn't ask for it. I don't deserve it.

"Mmm," agreed Yami, hobbling the few extra feet to Noa's bed, propping the crutches against the nightstand before gracelessly dropping onto the bed, flopping down on the mattress in exhaustion. The bed felt really good and he was so tired and sore, plus the medication in his body demanded that he just shut his eyes and sleep, but he didn't want to give in, not yet. "Kai-baby…"

The young CEO simply grunted, though he couldn't help but feel a pleasant twinge at the way Yami mumbled that ridiculous nickname.

"If I fall asleep at any point, I'm sorry. Meds."

"Hn." So he probably doesn't even remember what he said earlier.

Yami took a breath and casually said, "That doesn't mean I don't know what I'm saying. I do forgive you for what you did, even if you didn't ask for it. Even if you think you don't deserve it." Seto shifted nervously at that. "Mokuba was right, you know."

That cryptic remark got Seto's attention. "What?" There were so many things that Mokuba had been right about…

Crimson eyes focused sharply on startled blue ones. "You don't deserve to go through life alone. None of those things that happened were your fault. I wish… I wish I knew you felt so strongly about that earlier, but even when we were linked," and Yami swallowed, still feeling the loss of that bond acutely, "even then, you always kept so many things to yourself. I respected your desire for privacy; you know I always will. I respected the fact that you didn't want to talk about a lot of things, that there were aspects of yourself that you did not wish to share, that there were things you didn't think you were ready to hear, but now I think… perhaps I was doing you a disservice."

"I don't know what you're talking about," Seto said defensively without even thinking about it, though he knew that Yami would be able to see right through his lie.

"I should have said it a long time ago. Seto, I…"

"Don't. Just… not right now, Yami. Please." At Yami's doubtful look, Seto added wearily, "I'm still… I'm not sure that Mokuba was right about that. And if he was wrong, and you say it…"

"He wasn't wrong. In your heart, you know that."

"Then… promise me… you won't die." You don't know what it would do to me if that happened… God, Yami…

Yami sighed and reached out for one of Seto's hands, which felt cold and clammy to the touch. "I… can't do that," Yami began. Seto looked so stricken that he quickly added, "I can't see the future, Seto. But I'll promise you this - I'll make every effort to take care of myself and stay alive."

"Then lie to me, damn it! I'll believe you…"

"… I can't lie to you."

"You're just going to do it again, aren't you?" Seto asked bitterly, but he was too wiped out to truly sound angry about it. Yami blinked in confusion. "Some crazy fucker like Dartz will threaten the world again, and you'll decide it's your job to save everyone and end up sealing your soul in the Puzzle once more."

"What?"

"I saw it," Seto admitted, frowning deeply. "When you were… after the quake, I had a… vision. Dream. Recollection. Whatever you want to call it."

Yami considered that revelation carefully, then began testing out his mind link to Seto, hoping to be let in but not really expecting it. He couldn't help it; he had always been curious about his long-forgotten past, and even if something horrible had happened… It must have been really awful and he… did he have to watch it happen? Oh, Seto… It made sense though. If Seto's previous incarnation had watched him somehow get trapped in the Puzzle, the sense of loss he must have felt… and then seeing Yami injured and hospitalized… I wish he'd share the memory with me, not for my sake, but his. I don't want him to suffer alone. This is hurting him more than he realizes.

Seto was hard pressed to ignore the prodding at the back of his mind, but he still couldn't shake the feeling that it wasn't worth the gamble to let Yami him back in. The vision of the Pharaoh's soulless body crumpling to the ground still haunted him, the thought that he had been trapped, alone, for 3,000 years, until he lost his mind and his memories…

"Please," Yami said, his eyes searching over Seto's face. "Let me in. Even if you don't want me to see what happened, I feel incomplete without our link. I miss feeling your presence so much."

Seto just nodded. He couldn't deny that. It almost hurt, going around without the familiar tickle of Yami's consciousness in the back of his mind. He felt so empty and alone without it. But if he let Yami back in, would he try to steal a glimpse of those scenes from the past? They would be more harmful than helpful… there was nothing positive about anything that had happened, but still… He said he respected my privacy. He won't push for more than I'm willing to give. He's never done that to me.

As if they still were mentally linked, Yami added, "I won't push for more than what you're willing to share with me, you know that. Besides… I think… you must miss me too."

Seto wondered if he were that easy to read. How did Mokuba and Yami always seem to know what was on his mind? But he knew Yami's word was good; he wouldn't try to pry, and Seto did really, really miss being able to feel Yami's presence, and if Yami already knew what he was thinking anyways,then there really wasn't a logical reason to keep him out. So with that decision made, Seto simply threw his end of the link wide open… and gasped at the thoughts and sensations that hit him full force.

There was a phantom thrumming of physical discomfort which centered on his back and lower right leg, but those were dull in comparison to the emotional thunderstorm that poured down on him. Yami's confusion and disorientation at waking up alone in the hospital, his shock and sadness over the way Seto had treated him, the way he had told him to get out, it was over, that he hated him… There were tears of pain there, along with several fleeting moments of doubt. But at the same time, Seto could feel Yami's overwhelming concern for him, colored by trust and devotion and… dare he admit it? Yes, an all-consuming love as well. It had always been there, but Seto had always turned away from it, skirting it as if it were a deadly trap. But now… he was almost fascinated by it…

Just as Seto was sucked in by the reconnection of their bond, Yami too was pulled in without warning. At first, he felt like he was drowning in waves of exhaustion and misery. He had no idea how Seto could function under such self-inflicted corporeal and emotional punishment. But when he learned to stop fighting against the tide of thought, when he allowed the unhappiness and shame to drag him down and peered behind the walls of self-denial, he could feel the power of Seto's heart, and he knew he made the right decision. Seto had done what he had to try and protect him in his own bizarre way, even though he had been devastated by his own course of action. He had tried to sacrifice his own happiness for Yami, just as Mokuba had said. That selfless love… how could Seto deny the existence of something that burned so fiercely? Did he fear himself so much that he was blinded to the truth? It made Yami angry for a second, but then that morphed into a sort of determination. He wanted Seto to see himself the way that he saw him. The way Mokuba saw him. Whatever it took, he wanted to make that happen.

That determination was enough to allow Yami to draw himself out of the stream of thought until he was mostly back in his own mind so that he could start clamping down on the link, bringing the flow of emotions and thought down to a manageable level. But he had to smile even as Seto blinked rapidly, trying to reorient himself. It was nice being warm and whole again.

"God…" the brunette finally moaned, frowning slightly as he realized his mistake. I… shouldn't have done that, huh?

Probably not. But it's okay, I'm sort of glad that you did. Not that I should need confirmation of how you feel about me, but… it was nice seeing it.

The faintest amount of pink colored Seto's face. After weeks of denying himself the pleasure of allowing Yami into his mind, the light buzz of the younger teen's mental voice felt a little strange, as did the idea of baring himself to anyone to that degree. But it was "nice," for lack of a better word. I missed you.

I know.

I'll never shut you out like that again.

Yami felt the cold shudder that rippled through his boyfriend at that thought, and responded with warm affection. I know you won't. You need it as much as I do.

Seto wasn't going to acknowledge that even though he knew Yami spoke the truth. However, he couldn't help but finally reply with, But you need it because you worry about me. I only want it because I'm selfish.

Selfish? How so? You're one of the most selfless people I know. Why do you always think so badly of yourself?

I keep making bad decisions. I have a short fuse and a bad temper. I don't know how to handle it when you want… to tell me how you feel.

You're human. You're allowed to make mistakes. You're allowed to react…

Yami, I attacked you!

And I forgave you.

Seto huffed, frustrated. Yami was so damned stubborn! I won't do it again. You did nothing to deserve it. And… I really am sorry.

I know. And it won't happen again because you don't make mistakes twice, Seto. Besides, I understand… even though you made a decision which ended up hurting both of us, you were trying your hardest to do the right thing. And that's what matters to me. By the Nile, Baby… you were willing to sacrifice yourself to protect me!

There was that word again. Better that I be the sacrifice. I couldn't let you do that again.

Yami grew silent for a moment, then came back on. I won't ask you to show me, if you really think I shouldn't see it. But… I want to help ease your mind, and I can tell, its got one hell of a heavy burden weighing it down right now. If there was something bad that happened in the past, well, it's not something that we can change anyways. But if we ignore the past, pretend it never happened… how are we to learn from our mistakes?

Seto mulled that over. He knew it made sense logically, and he could feel Yami's desire to understand, to help, and… he did say that he wouldn't ever shut Yami out again, hadn't he? Lying down, he wrapped his arms around the younger duelist, and asked, Are you sure?

Yami kissed him. Of course. But as Seto gradually unveiled that corner of his mind, Yami's own buried memories suddenly surfaced and mingled with Seto's, flooding the former Pharaoh's mind with images from the past.

* * *

There was pain, so much of it! Was it possible to hurt this much and still be conscious? It flowed through his veins and out his pores in rhythmic pulses, surrounded him like sand in a desert. His body trembled and shuddered and he struggled for breath. He felt like he was choking on… blood? It had to be blood, the metallic tang sharp on his tongue.

A familiar voice cried out suddenly, and though he couldn't quite understand what was said, Yami wrenched his eyes open, wondering if he were hearing things. Surely his High Priest, his lover, hadn't come to stop him, had he? He had been vehemently opposed to Yami's decision to seal away the shadowy forces that threatened to consume Egypt by using himself as bait to draw the darkness away. Yami remembered that he had even taken the precaution of changing the time and location of the secret ceremony, but… he really was there, guards all over him, on his knees even as his eyes blazed with defiance, rage, fear, hurt…

Yami wanted to go to him. Wanted to reassure him that this was the right decision. Wanted to hold him one more time, run his fingers through his hair, whisper that he was his beloved. He could feel his lips parting to tell him, "I love you," but before he could utter those words one final time, he caught sight of his elderly advisor's horrified eyes and realized… it was too late for that. The ceremony had to be completed!

His eyes shut in dismay. He had to finish the ceremony; it was his duty. But he couldn't concentrate. He should have been praying for the safety of his people, for the prosperity of his country, for the gods to banish the darkness that lingered over Egypt like a shroud of death. But his mind could only think of a pair of brilliant blue eyes and memories of warm summer days and a hot mouth enveloping his. I'm sorry, I love you, and… I wish I could be with you forever, he thought as his mouth moved on its own accord and uttered that last syllable. Immediately the pain increased tenfold, and he screamed in shock as breath and life were torn from his body as the whole world seemed to explode in a brilliant burst of light.

* * *

Several minutes passed by in near silence, punctuated only by the sounds of breathing. Seto was pretty sure that Yami had passed out from the stress brought on by Seto's recollections and the memories that they in turn had inadvertently dug up, and he was now pissed at himself for giving in to Yami's cajoling. He knew he shouldn't have let him in… he had only managed to hurt him again. He couldn't seem to do anything but bring Yami more pain. But... he had given his word and had every intention of keeping it, so he kept the connection alive and stayed in bed with his boyfriend, gently smoothing down the blonde bangs that framed Yami's face, running his thumb over Yami's cheekbone...

Finally Yami's breath hitched, and his eyes fluttered open. "Seto…?" he called out hoarsely.

"I'm right here." He couldn't have left even if he had wanted to, and it hurt to feel the tiny flicker of doubt that flared up in Yami's waking thoughts. He'd make it up to his lover somehow, even if it took the rest of his life.

The crimson-eyed teen took a few more moments to compose himself. It was weird, remembering the way his soul had been torn from his body, seeing it from his own point of view and Seto's as well. At least it looked like he had been successful in shielding Seto from the worst of the painful physical sensations, but emotionally…

Seto… no, not Seto, but the priest he once was… so wounded that a year couldn't begin to help him recover from his loss, so broken up that he took a dagger to his own heart…

Yami didn't trust his voice to hold, a lump forming in his throat. You… killed yourself.

… Yes. Seto could still feel the sensation of the blade cutting into his chest.

I'm… sorry. I won't ever leave your side again.

Seto slid both of his arms back around Yami's body, trying to convey with his actions what he could barely admit to himself. Don't apologize. I was the one who messed up this time. I'll never give you reason to doubt me ever again, and I'll never shut you out again… He sighed and nuzzled the nest of spiky tri-colored hair under his chin. God, Yami… how'd you do it?

Hmm?

You know what I'm talking about. How'd you... find a way to... I thought... it really shouldn't have happened...

Yami smiled against Seto's shoulder. You were so busy ensuring that the door to your heart was locked and barricaded shut that you forgot to check the windows.

Seto couldn't help but roll his eyes at that. That's cheesy. So you're into breaking and entering…? You're a regular criminal, Yami-kins.

Yami chuckled, his mental laughter rumbling in the back of Seto's mind. I missed that too.

It's just a stupid nickname.

It is. But you came up with it, Kai-baby.

Hn.

Yami smiled mysteriously and tilted his head back as he mulled over something. Finally, his mind made up, he whispered aloud, "... Seto?"

For some reason, every hair in the brunette's body stood on end, as if an electrical spark had suddenly jumped across the room. Unable to think of anything more eloquent to say, he only managed a weak, "Hm?"

The crimson-eyed teen kept his eyes trained on his boyfriend's. "... I love you."

Seto's throat went dry, but he didn't break eye contact as he simply said, "I... you didn't have to say it. I already knew."

Yami shrugged and snuggled up against Seto once again, stroking his arm until he began relaxing against him. "I know. But... I wanted to."

They just lay in companionable silence after that, simply enjoying being next to each other, physically and mentally together once again, their thoughts intertwining harmoniously around the bond they had forged. But as the minutes slowly ticked by, Seto could feel his boyfriend's breathing evening out, his mental pulses becoming sluggish, his body pressing heavily against Seto's. Well, Yami had warned him that he was apt to fall asleep at any time… and it really was for the best. He needed the rest, and as for Seto… he needed to time to think. Where were they headed? Was there really a better future out there to strive for? Hell, did it even matter? As long as he had Yami by his side…

"Good night," the brunette whispered into the air. "I… love you too."

Against Seto's arm, Yami's lips curved up in the barest of smiles.

* * *

TBC

Author’s Notes:

November 28, 2005