Title: Aftershocks
Author: bnomiko
Rating: PG-13
Pairing(s): 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: Sugoroku reveals a secret from the past and Seto makes a decision that impacts the future.
Status: 6 / ?
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. 6: Past, Present, Future

* * *

As tempting as it was to spend the entire day in bed hiding from reality, Yami knew it really wasn't helpful in the long run, so he forced himself to get up and carefully made his way down to the kitchen. The Kaibas weren't going to subsist off of ramen, pizza and TV dinners if he had anything to do with it. Unfortunately, they were running quite low on groceries, so it looked like he was going to have to go out and take care of that problem. He knew that the members of the security team stationed at the house would be willing to take him, but after Isono lost his job, Yami was reluctant to involve any more employees. And of course the house phone was still blocked so he couldn't easily contact his friends in Domino, though at least Seto hadn't thought of blocking calls to America. So at least he could still talk to Valon, Rafael and Amelda, not that they could help buy groceries. At least Yugi was as always readily available via mind link. But in order to talk to anyone else, he had to pass his messages on through Yugi, which was inconvenient and annoying. And he hated being a bother.

Still, an empty fridge was an empty fridge. Yugi?

Hey Yami, how are you doing?

I'm… okay.

Kaiba's still not talking to you huh?

I think it was better when he wasn't talking to me. We got into a bit of a fight, if you can call it that.

Oh no… Yugi groaned. What happened?

He… well, never mind that. I need a ride to the grocery store.

The grocery… Wait, what do you mean never mind?!

Yami winced a little at Yugi's shriek of alarm. Aibou, don't worry about it. Do you think you can find someone to give me a ride? I don't want to get anyone else at the mansion involved, or Seto might decide to fire his entire security team.

A sigh. I can skip class if you really need…

No, please don't. Maybe I should take the bus or call a cab. You think a cabbie would help me carry things into the house?

I don't know. And there's no way you can take the bus - the nearest bus stop is like a mile away from the mansion! Do you know how long would it take you to hobble to the… Wait a sec… Yugi faded out, then came back on. Jii-chan says he can take you if you don't mind waiting another hour.

Won't he have to close shop for that? It's all right… I'll just call a cab.

No!

Yes.

Yami! Besides, he said he needed to grab a few things too. Really. He insists.

It really was easier than taking a cab. Defeated, Yami gave in. Oh, all right.

* * *

An hour later, the station wagon pulled up the driveway and soon Yami and Sugoroku were on their way. Yami was rather quiet on the way there and throughout the brief sojourn, prompting a few worried glances from the old man. So since Yami wasn't going to start up conversation about what had happened, Sugoroku finally decided to take the initiative as they headed back to the Kaiba mansion.

"So, Yami… how are you holding up? Yugi seems to think there's some problems at home," the game shop owner began.

Yami gave him a sideways glance. "It's nothing. Please don't worry about it."

"Oh, I see." Getting the crimson-eyed teen to answer would be a bit of a challenge, but Sugoroku knew what would get him to talk, even if it was a bit underhanded. "Well, while I have no intention of forcing you to respond, there was a time when we were like family and you and I talked quite frequently. Then you ran off to be with Kaiba and things just haven't been the same, have they?" Hmm, I could have phrased that a bit better…

Yami turned, looking a bit startled. "I'm… sorry. I do still think of us as family. It's just… I guess I always think I can handle things on my own."

"Hm. While it is admirable that you are so self-reliant, especially at your age…"

"I'm a lot older than you," Yami pointed out wryly.

"Bah, all that time in the Puzzle doesn't count since you don't remember a bit of it. Besides, I look at you and I see a teenager, and since I'm an old man, you're still a child to me."

Yami couldn't help but grin slightly at Sugoroku's logic, though the smile didn't quite reach his eyes. "I suppose. But Seto and I aren't quite like other people our age."

"Oh, definitely. You're both very unique."

"Unique? Unique good or unique bad?"

"Just... unique. I don't know of another 3,000-year-old former Pharaoh or another 19-year-old self-made billionaire CEO. Speaking of whom, you certainly did pick a difficult person to love."

"He's not difficult to love," Yami instantly responded, on the defensive. "He's just… complicated."

"And difficult." Yami made a face, but didn't argue back, so Sugoroku went on. "I must say, I never really did approve of your choice… until I realized how well you two complimented each other. Before that, even though I didn't say anything to you about it, I was very uncomfortable with you dating someone like Kaiba, and I didn't approve that Yugi had a hand in setting you up with him. Don't misunderstand; whether you like girls or boys doesn't matter to me. I just wanted what was best for you, and Kaiba struck me as being bad news. I thought I understood your initial attraction to him; after all, Kaiba is wealthy and intelligent and has a certain brash charm. And he knew how to get your attention. I used to be a teenager myself you know, though it was a long time ago, but I still remember how things could get a little crazy when hormones came into play. But well, I'm just glad I was wrong. I should have never thought that you would be so shallow."

"You weren't entirely wrong, Jii-chan. There was the physical attraction at first, but then I remembered a bit of my past, and Seto began to open up to me, and one thing led to another in quick succession. I don't know… once we gave it a chance, the pieces just fell into place."

Sugoroku nodded. "Hm, yes. You've said that this was a relationship destined to happen, but even so, all relationships have their ups and downs."

Yami let out the breath he was holding and began to spill as the car made its way down the street leading to the mansion. "I knew that going into it, but… I just wish he'd talk to me about whatever it is that's bothering him so much. And I wish he'd reestablish our link just enough so that I could sense him; he knows I wouldn't invade his thoughts, so I don't understand why he's severed the connection. I really, really miss just… feeling him more than anything else. It's hard to describe, but it's… it's like a comforting warmth, always knowing that someone cares and never having to feel that you're alone. And I know I still have Yugi to rely on, but without Seto I feel… incomplete. I'm glad I wasn't conscious during my 3,000 year stay in the Puzzle… it would have been so cold and lonely."

The old man couldn't help but reach out to place a comforting hand on the ex-spirit's shoulder. Poor boy. At times like this, I'm glad he doesn't remember anything. "Well, while I can't say I have any experience with the type of bond you share with both Yugi and Kaiba, I do know this: anything worth having is worth fighting for. So don't give up, Yami. You have the patience and generosity of spirit already. As long as Kaiba sees that you're willing to be there for him no matter what, he'll eventually come around, I'm sure. Now then…" Sugoroku pulled the car up to the single spot beside the kitchen door. "Would you like some help with bringing in the groceries?"

Yami was about to say no on reflex, but quickly realized that he really couldn't manage on his own. "Please. And Jii-chan? Thank you. I'll always be proud to call you my grandfather. Maybe… we could start alternating Friday nights again? And you should come to the mansion once in a while as well… the invitation still stands."

Sugoroku beamed and nodded. "I'd like that very much. And I'm proud to call you my grandson as well, Yami. But remember… if you need anything, just call. Yugi and I… we'll never say no to you."

* * *

After helping Yami with carrying everything into the house, Sugoroku headed back to the game shop to find that Yugi and Jou had already returned from their classes and opened the shop back up. But it was a quiet day and there really weren't any customers, so the two teens had started playing a friendly duel to pass the time.

"Hey, so how's Yami doin'?" Jou asked as soon as the shop owner returned from putting away his own groceries.

"He's… well, I certainly have no doubts about how Yami feels. I just hope Kaiba figures out whatever is bothering him sooner rather than later. Even though Yami is a strong person, he's quite depressed and not doing a terribly good job at hiding it, even though he's trying to. But I'm glad I had a chance to talk to him… sometimes I forget about how much he's been through."

Yugi cocked his head. "What do you mean, Jii-chan?"

The old man sat down on a stool. "Did I ever tell you the story of how I found the Puzzle?"

"You sure did. You were a regular Indiana Jones back then!"

Jou looked baffled. "He was Indiana Jones?"

Sugoroku chuckled. "I went to the Valley of the Kings and braved a perilous trek through the tomb of the nameless Pharaoh in search of the legend of the Shadow Games. That's how I got the pieces of the Puzzle."

"Really? Wow, that's cool!" Jou gushed. "But uh… I can't really imagine you doing somethin' like that…"

"I wasn't always old!" Sugoroku bellowed. The brown-eyed blonde ducked his head, embarrassed. "Anyways, Yugi… did I remember to tell you what happened when I walked into the final chamber where the Puzzle was held?"

Jou grabbed a seat on another stool. "Oh, oh, tell me!"

Yugi tried to remember what his grandfather had told him. "Well, let's see… I remember you said that the guide who led you to the tomb betrayed you and shot you in the back when you were crossing the bridge that led to the Pharaoh's treasure. Then a monster sprang out from a carving on the bridge and killed the man and that's how you were able to retrieve the Puzzle."

"Mmm. I guess I didn't tell you." Sugoroku nodded sagely, then leaned forward to finish his story. "When I was shot I fell off the bridge, and barely managed to save myself by grabbing the lip of it. But I couldn't hold on for long with only one hand. Just when I thought I was going to lose my grip and fall to my doom, I saw him."

Violet eyes widened dramatically. "Him… Yami?! You saw him back then?"

"Not really Yami I suppose, but the Pharaoh he once was. He knelt down to grab my hand and told me, 'I've been waiting a long time for you, Shimon.' I must've passed out right after that, because the next thing I knew, I was lying on the bridge and there was no sign of the Pharaoh."

"Wait, wasn't Yami just a spirit back then? So how could he physically manifest himself and pull you up? And who's Shimon?" Jou asked.

"I don't know. And Yami doesn't remember any of it, so even if you ask him, he won't be able to tell you. But it's probably better that way," Sugoroku said.

"He wanted his memories back though. It's the one thing we were never able to give him," Yugi reminded his grandfather, who just gave him a sad look in return.

"Though I can't be certain, I suspect perhaps part of the reason that he's unable to remember is because the memories of his time alone would drive him mad since he was obviously conscious on some level during the thousands of years he spent alone in his tomb. Even though he was just a spirit, it must have been unbearably painful to spend day after day, year after year, alone. Today while I was driving him home, he told me he was glad he wasn't aware of anything during the time he was trapped in the Puzzle… I wasn't going to tell him otherwise, but it just made me think... perhaps there is such a thing as divine mercy..." Sugoroku's voice dropped off, and the trio sat there in silence for a good minute.

Yugi shut his eyes and concentrated on the link he shared with Yami. Though they weren't actively communicating as much as they used to, he could always feel his other half's presence at the edge of his thoughts at a respectful distance. It was something they were both so used to that it was distressing to think of what life would be like without it. If Yami was so lonely during all those years that he somehow forgot everything rather than face those memories, how hard must it be for him now that Kaiba's cut their mental bond? Granted, the link thing is still kinda new to them, but I bet Kaiba doesn't understand how important it is to Yami at all!

Finally, Yugi said, "Maybe I should try talking to Kaiba myself. If he heard this story, maybe he'd show a bit more compassion, and try to work through his problems a bit faster."

Jou snorted in disbelief. "If he wanted to show compassion, he'd have visited the hospital while Yami was there. But if you think that will help, Yug… maybe I should come with ya and all…"

"I don't think that would help matters any, Jou. You'll just get into a fight with him."

The blonde thumbed his nose. "Well then, maybe he'll listen better if I pound his face in first."

"Jou!"

Jou scowled and unconsciously made a fist with his right hand. "It just makes me mad. I mean, here we are trying to be nice and friendly and all with Kaiba, thinkin' that he's good for Yami, and he's acting like the world's biggest fuck up. That rich bastard doesn't deserve someone like Yami. Does he really think he could find someone else who would put up with his brand of shit?"

"I agree with you Jounouchi, although I would've phrased it a bit differently. But keep in mind how Yami feels about Kaiba. If you overreact and hurt Kaiba badly and Yami finds out about it, he's going to feel responsible since you were acting on his behalf," Sugoroku pointed out. "Don't make him divide his loyalties."

That seemed to put out some of Jou's fire, and he sat back down. "I guess you're right. Damn… I hate this."

"I just hope Kaiba will listen to me if I pay him a visit," Yugi sighed.

"It's certainly worth a try, but make sure he understands that he isn't to tell Yami any of this," Sugoroku warned. "And be careful. Kaiba's extremely unpredictable right now. Remember what happened that first night in the hospital?"

An involuntary shudder ran through Yugi's body at the memory of how Seto had tried to attack him while protecting Yami. But at least he had cared then… Yugi would've been happy to go through a scare like that again if that would confirm that Seto still loved Yami. "Mm, don't worry, I will. But I have to do this for Yami."

* * *

Seto's secretary tapped her nails nervously on her desk while she tried to make a decision that had the potential get her fired. Her boss had made it clear that neither Yami nor any of his friends were allowed to see him, but security had conveniently turned a blind eye and allowed Yugi Mutou up to the 70th floor. And she wasn't ignorant; she knew there was something wrong with Seto's relationship with Yami, but it wasn't her business to ask about it or interfere. Still, this was one thing she could do, simply by doing nothing at all…

"Look, it's all right. If you really can't let me in, I'll understand," Yugi said, anxiously toying with the Sennen Puzzle. "Lord forbid that Kaiba fire you the way he fired Isono.

"Oh, poor Isono. I can't believe that happened," Ms. Nozaka agreed, recalling the way the former chief of security had left Seto's office in tears after being fired. And if her boss had been willing to fire the one man who was more loyal to him than any other employee, it meant that he would have no problem looking for a new secretary as well. But with the way he was acting, reverting to his old schedule and his sour attitude, perhaps being forced to find a new job wasn't such a bad prospect after all. Too bad no one else could match the salary she was earning from Kaiba Corp.

Ms. Nozaka rose to her feet, decision made. "I need to go run some copies," she declared, picking up a stack of random documents and walking away from her desk.

"Thanks," Yugi whispered as he turned to watch her go. Taking a deep breath, he approached the doors to Seto's office and walked in without announcing himself.

"I told you, I don't want any interrupt…" Seto's eyes widened marginally as he realized it was Yugi walking into his expansive office, and his typing faltered. "What are you doing here?" he asked brusquely, wondering if perhaps he should just call in security and let them deal with the situation. Then again, it wasn't as if Yugi had snuck in unseen. Seto idly wondered how many more people he would have to fire.

"Kaiba." There was a wealth of emotion in Yugi's single utterance.

With a sigh, Seto saved the file he was working on and peered over the top of his laptop, eyeing Yugi warily. "What?"

"Are you busy? Can we talk for a minute?" Yugi pulled out one of the guest chairs and sat down.

"Yes I'm busy. No I don’t want to talk," the brunette ground out, glaring daggers at the shorter duelist. "Do you want to leave on your own two feet or should I have whatever remains of my security force drag you out on your sorry ass?"

Yugi frowned and sucked in a deep breath. I suppose I should just go ahead and start talking and hope he doesn't really kick me out on my butt. "First of all, don't tell Yami this no matter what 'cause he really shouldn't know, but Jii-chan told me a story today about how when he found the Puzzle he saw Yami and Yami saved him. Okay, so it wasn't Yami Yami but the Pharaoh, you know, and Yami called Jii-chan 'Shimon' and said, 'I've been waiting a long time' which means he was awake and aware that time had passed while he was alone and trapped in the Puzzle. And he must have been awfully lonely so maybe that's why he doesn't remember anything so please don't be an ass and…"

Seto put a hand to his head and began rubbing the bridge of his nose in frustration as Yugi talked as fast as he could. What the hell is he babbling about? Yami was aware of his 3,000 years in the… oh God… The young billionaire suddenly felt the urge to throw up again, but he held it down by sheer willpower. I spared myself the agony of going through the rest of my natural life alone, but Yami was doubly cursed. And it was my fault! Fuck! He should never have sacrificed himself, and I'm not letting it happen again! After calming himself enough to know that he wasn't going to vomit just by trying to speak, he snapped, "Just shut the fuck up, Yugi. You're not making any sense."

Large violet eyes narrowed in an approximation of Yami's own glare. "I'm trying to tell you that what you're doing to Yami is almost as bad as trapping him in the Sennen Puzzle! Do you know how upset he is over the way you're ignoring him? I swear, how can you act like you don't care about Yami at all after the two of you have built up such a special relationship?"

I do care, much more than I should. And that's my problem to deal with. Even if Yami's unhappy, at least he's alive, and that's all I can do for him now… you think I want to see the misery in his eyes and know that I'm the cause of it? You really think I'm not dying inside thinking of what this must be doing to him? But at least this way he still has a chance to find happiness elsewhere, something that wouldn't be possible if he were dead. But Seto knew he couldn't let Yugi find out about any of that, because then he'd tell Yami and then Yami would never leave him. "Maybe I don't care," he lied casually, hoping his face wasn't betraying any emotion. "You know where the door is; don't let it smack your rear on your way out."

Yugi jumped to his feet but made no move to leave. "Are you breaking up with him? Is that it?" he yelled, his anger making him much bolder than usual.

"Perhaps." It'd really be for the best, wouldn't it? Why don't I just make it official then? But even as he considered just doing it and getting it over with, another part of him said, You're a selfish coward and you don't want him to leave you, so you keep making excuses and putting it off.

"But… why?"

Seto sneered. "Why what? It's none of your business, shrimp." Sorry Yugi, but you're not making this any easier for me. Why can't you take the hint and leave?

"You can insult me all you want, but it IS my business and I'm not leaving until you make up your mind. Do you want to be with Yami or not? Yes or no, Kaiba? It's unfair that you're toying with him like this!"

The brunette didn't respond. He couldn't answer that with another lie. Of course he wanted to be with Yami. It just wasn't an option anymore. Someone like Yugi, cheerful and optimistic and lacking any true responsibility to anything or anyone, would never understand.

But Yugi was determined to get a definite answer one way or another. He couldn't remember the last time he had been this angry. In a helpless fury, he picked up the phone that sat on Seto's desk and held it up. "Go on then, call him and tell him it's over! Just do it, you… you selfish jerk!"

Seto took the handset, but he wasn't sure he was ready to do it even as Yugi began dialing the number for him, punching the speaker option as an afterthought. Just holding the phone in his hand made Seto feel sick, however he found that he couldn't put it down either. He really ought to just get it over with. While he wavered the phone began ringing, and before Seto could force himself to hang up, Yami picked up, sounding a bit breathless but with a hint of excitement in his voice. "Seto?"

"Ya… mi." Yugi was giving him a murderous look. Just say it… say it and be done with it. This is for the best for everyone. "I…" Let Yami get on with his life. If you value him at all, you'll do this. "What's today, Thursday?" His throat was going dry. "I expect you to start packing up your things tonight night, because I want you out by the end of this weekend." There, you did it. Congrats. Don't you feel wonderful now?

He felt like complete and utter shit. If it were physically possible to drown in misery, he was at the bottom of the deepest ocean trenches by now.

Yami was silent on the line for a long moment with nothing but his labored breathing proving that he was still connected. Finally, in a low voice, he murmured, "Baby, don't do this to me…"

It was so wrong to hear Yami on the verge of begging, so Seto quickly cut him off. "It's over, sorry you didn't manage to figure that out on your own." What am I doing? Tell me you won't leave, Yami! Tell me I'm full of shit. Don't take this crap from me.

Another long silence, this time punctuated by a soft choking sound. But it wasn't coming from the phone. The young CEO looked up to see Yugi quickly swiping the back of his hands under his eyes.

"Seto."

He nearly jumped at the sound of Yami's voice on the phone. "What?"

"Seto, I lo…"

"I don't want to hear it!" Seto yelled in a panic, slamming the handset down so hard that the plastic cracked. Damn it! Yami, I'm sorry… I wish I could tell you, but… He leaned back in his executive's chair and shut his eyes. Then he remembered that Yami's other half was in the room with him, and had been privy to the entire conversation. "Satisfied?" he asked, opening his eyes to meet Yugi's teary gaze, proud that his voice at least held steady even though he felt like he was falling apart.

Yugi didn't say a word and just stared back at Seto with accusation in his eyes. It was rather unnerving. Seto fought the sudden desire to sink into his seat and stood up instead, walking around his desk to tower over Yugi. "I hope you're happy. Now get out. I've wasted enough of my time on this as it is."

The spiky-haired teen lowered his eyes momentarily, then without warning took a step forward and drove his knee up hard into Seto's groin. The brunette made a choking noise and instantly dropped to the ground as pain shot straight up his spine, eyes watering and bile rising in his throat as he cradled his balls protectively. Through the haze of agony, he heard Yugi's voice coldly cursing him out with a string of words that he thought he'd never hear coming from Yugi, of all people, and then the shorter duelist stormed out of the office.

When Seto was finally able to gather his thoughts together many minutes later, half-crawling and half-bracing himself against his desk to get back into his chair, he almost wished Yugi had kneed him harder. He had deserved worse. And even though his balls hurt like hell, his heart was aching even more.

Forgive me, Yami. I never wanted to hurt you, never, he thought, knowing that the other teen couldn't hear his thoughts anymore, not that Yami would care to after what had just transpired. But it had to be done. At least now Yami would have a chance at living the life that was so cruelly stolen away thousands of years prior. Seto tried to seek as much solace as he could with that thought; it would be the only comfort he could rely on to get through another lonely evening.

* * *

TBC

Author’s Notes:

October 25, 2005