Title: The Cost of Doing Business
Author: bnomiko
Rating: PG-13
Pairing(s): Yami + Seto, Noa + Mokuba, Jou + Mai, Yugi + Anzu, Malik + Ryou, Rafael + Valon + Amelda
Spoilers: none
Warnings: swearing
Disclaimer: Virus Buster Serge is the creation of Masami Obari. 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 finally understands... Yami's not such a bad guy after all.
Status: 12 / 15
Archived at: http://www.phenixsol.com/Miko/FF/

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The Cost of Doing Business

Ch. 12: To Have and To Hold

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Mokuba paused a brief moment before he finally turned the knob and opened the door to the master bedroom suite. It wasn't because he had changed his mind... he was sure he wanted to apologize to Yami. But he didn't know if Seto was asleep or awake, and part of him almost wanted to put things off if it turned out Seto was still out, because he wanted him to hear it too. He wanted to put his brother's mind at ease as much as he wanted to make amends with his brother's lover. But he figured Yami deserved better than to have to continue to wait, whether it be a day, an hour... even a minute more. And when he thought a little more about it, that was what mattered most... anything less would've meant he wasn't ready.

Decision made, Mokuba stepped into the room without any further hesitation, with Noa just a half step behind, lending him his silent support.

Just as Mokuba had figured, Seto was still sleeping. Yami had wrapped his arms around the taller man and was cradling him like he was a little child, but upon noticing the two younger Kaibas entering the room, he lifted his head off the pillow and greeted them with a quick nod.

"Things have improved between you two," Yami commented softly, smiling as he took notice of the teens' joined hands.

Noa followed the direction of his gaze, and returned the smile. Mokuba couldn't help grinning as well, but the grin faded as he remembered why he'd come into the room in the first place. "I need to talk to you."

Yami took in the serious expression on the teen's face. "I see." He gave Seto's head an extra pat. "Well, I guess Noa can sit with..."

"I'd like for Noa to hear it too, because it's a family matter," Mokuba quickly replied. "We'll just have to keep our voices down." He looked down at Seto, feeling a twinge of guilt - it didn't feel right to be carrying on such an important conversation without him. Being in the same room with him only sort of counted, but he'd have to accept that. His brother needed to rest more than anything.

Yami took a moment to consider Mokuba's words, but eventually he nodded before gesturing at the bed with one hand. He couldn't really scoot over further, but it looked like there was enough space on the edge of the mattress for both of the teens to sit down. "So what's on your mind?" he queried as the pair settled themselves across from him.

Mokuba jumped right in, his words falling out in one huge rush. "I'm sorry about the things I said to you. I was wrong. I know you love Seto. That should've been enough - hell, that's all I ever wanted for my brother. For someone to love him and understand him and accept him for who he is. But the moment your magic struck him, I forgot about all of that. I hated you. I felt like... you betrayed him. Like you betrayed me. All I wanted to do was to hit you where it'd hurt most..."

Yami gave a slow nod. "I know. And I do understand why you reacted the way you did. That's why I'm not angry with you."

Mokuba eyed his guardian carefully. He really has changed a lot, he thought to himself. There was a time when it seemed that anger was Yami's only setting... back then, he only appeared to deal with threats, handing out harsh penalties to his vanquished opponents. But back then, anger was all Seto had felt as well. Mokuba had understood and accepted that aspect of his brother. So why was he still holding it against Yami? "I realize you were only trying to help Noa. You weren't acting out of malice. And it wasn't like you had time to try and figure out other options, or to consult with me. You did what you had to, knowing I'd be pissed, but also knowing... it was the right thing for you to do."

"But even knowing all of that, it doesn't absolve me, does it?"

Mokuba let out a heavy sigh. "It's not that. I just... I keep thinking of Seto slumped in his chair at Death-T, completely unresponsive. I know you're not the same person you were back then. You'd never do that to him again. So why can't I forget it?"

"Because you can't deal with the past by trying to bury it."

"I know that. But I just don't get... how do you and Nii-sama..."

"We haven't forgotten about the things that we've done to one another. We've simply learned to accept them. We've turned what could've been a weakness into a strength. That's the only way to move forward - to have your feet firmly planted on your foundation, to rely on the support of those around you, even as you strive to reach the stars."

Mokuba exchanged glances with Noa. Their resident motivational speaker was waxing poetic again. But Mokuba had to admit, he was liking the mental image Yami had created.

Then the former Pharaoh shook his head. "But, at the same time, that doesn't mean that we shouldn't apologize when we've wrong each other. I've never made amends for the things I've done to you. I've been thinking about it the past several days... and I realize I've been assuming that things between us were fine just because Seto and I have accepted each other for who we were, and who we've become. But you're not him, and I shouldn't have assumed you'd react like him... especially when the situation isn't the same between you and I."

"It's okay. I never brought it up either. I guess... Truth be told, I didn't really want to think about it. It's funny... you let me off easy compared to Seto. But it was still a little scary."

"You were so little back then... I didn't really want to hurt you. But at the same time, you were a threat to me and my friends. So I gave you punishments which, at the time, seemed appropriate." Yami's mouth twisted slightly in distaste. "Looking back on it now, I realize how little restraint I showed. There was no need for many of the things I did. And I am sorry, Mokuba. I don't want you be frightened of me."

"I'm not. At least, not any more," Mokuba assured him, though his expression was one of relief, as if he'd been waiting a long time for Yami to acknowledge what he'd done. "Because it was never about us in the first place."

Noa looked between the two, realizing that here was another thing he'd been left out of. But he held his tongue, not wanting to interrupt, figuring that he'd be better off asking for clarification later if he needed to.

However, Mokuba saw the confusion on his boyfriend's face, and decided to clear things up right away, though he didn't want to waste time on details. He'd just have to explain those later. "I've played penalty games with Yami in the past. I kinda mentioned it before... those were the times I challenged Yami behind Seto's back. Now that I think about it, Yami had tried to discourage me... but I wouldn't listen to him. I didn't want to. So I guess you could say I got what I deserved." He shrugged one shoulder, then turned back to Yami. "But just so you know Yami, even if I could go back in time and undo things, I wouldn't. It's not that I don't realize that what I was doing was wrong. But everything I did, I did for Seto - that was all that's ever mattered."

A hand suddenly touched down on Mokuba's shoulder, squeezing it. The black-haired teen gasped at the unexpected contact, but he quickly realized it was just Noa, trying to show his support. There were still questions swimming in his blue eyes, but he didn't voice them. He wasn't going to pass judgement on either of them. He was going to believe in them both.

It was better than Mokuba felt he deserved. He had always done whatever he could for Seto, and everyone else came in a distant second. He had always figured that, if it came down to it, he and Seto could only really rely on one another. But Noa - and Yami - were sitting there with him, listening to him, offering their encouragement, accepting him for who he was...

Mokuba suddenly laughed, though it came out half sounding like a sob. "Heh... damn it. Why couldn't I see it before? That's how you and Seto feel, right? You both know you can't change things, no matter what. But you're okay with that. That's the acceptance you were talking about." He paused, suddenly feeling absolutely wretched. "But... you still said you're sorry..."

"Because I am. I'm not proud of the things I did to you. I wish we could have met on better terms. But at the same time, I'm not hopelessly wishing to change the past, because even if I have regrets, there's nothing I can do to undo what's already been done. I can only apologize, and hope that you'll understand."

Mokuba began chewing on his lower lip a little as he took a moment to digest Yami's words. Then in a softer voice he asked, "Have... you and Nii-sama ever apologized to each other?"

"No, not really. But that's different. Just rest assured that we understand each other, and that we don't hold our past actions against one another."

"You'll never try to hurt him again." It was a statement, but the tone of Mokuba's voice made it sound more like a question.

"Not deliberately. Not like before. But, as I've already told you, I can't promise that I won't ever hurt him again. Because I'd do anything to protect the two of you. And I'd expect the same from Seto if our roles were reversed."

"You guys... really are too much," Mokuba mumbled, choking out the words with some difficulty. Why was it getting so hard to breathe? He almost felt like he was being smothered by Yami's gaze, and Noa's hand on his shoulder suddenly felt too heavy. He swallowed hard. He didn't want to cry... he couldn't afford to, not if he wanted his words to be taken seriously. "I don't... want that. I don't deserve it. I don't want to be the one that everyone else has to take care of. Seto's already given me all of himself. And Yami... you're not any better. You're always trying to save everyone. Hell, you nearly died trying to protect me during that earthquake last year. I don't get you guys at all."

"I think you do, actually. Because you've done it yourself. As much as Seto's taken care of you, you've done the same for him. You took care of him after Death-T and even kept Kaiba Corp. going, and you were only what, 9 or 10 then?"

"But... I failed him this time. I knew Nii-sama was going to overwork himself in America, and now look how sick he's become! It's because I didn't do enough to help him, and I didn't do a good job looking out for him. Because I didn't go along with him even though I should've. If I had been there to insist on it, he would've gotten more rest. He would've remembered to eat."

"Mokuba... none of that is your fault. It's really up to Seto to take care of himself."

"Well, he sucks at it. We all know that." Yami was quick to nod in agreement. "I knew he'd push himself too hard. He doesn't know when to stop..."

"That may be true, but Yami's right. It's not your fault, Mokuba," interjected a hoarse, weary voice.

"Nii-sama!" It took all of Mokuba's willpower to keep from throwing himself on top of his brother. But when Seto rolled over and reached an arm out towards him, Mokuba immediately caved, grasping onto the hand that was offered, letting it pull him down into an embrace. He barely registered Noa joining in beside him. He didn't know why he felt so relieved... he had known Seto was okay - he'd only been sleeping. But it felt like something had broken in him, and he couldn't hold it back any more...

"Mokuba..." Seto whispered, his fingers combing through the teen's tangle of thick hair. "I'm sorry..."

"Wha... why are you sorry?" Mokuba cried incredulously, hiccuping between sobs.

"I've made you worry," Seto said simply. He paused a moment to lightly rub away the moisture gathering on Mokuba's lower lashes, then posed a seemingly random question. "Mokuba, do you remember when you were little how I'd carry you on my back when you were sleepy or too tired to walk?"

The black-haired teen wasn't sure where his brother was going with his question - it seemed so haphazard - but he certainly remembered all the times Seto had carried him home or put him to bed, never once complaining about having to do so, no matter how tired or weary he was himself. "Yeah..."

"I haven't had to carry you in a long time, literally or figuratively. If anything, I've been leaning on you, relying on you, when I've faltered. I used to be ashamed of that, thinking that it was a weakness. It took me a long time to understand that I should've been grateful instead, for your strength. So don't be so hard on yourself. You've never failed me. You've always taken care of me, even when I didn't want it. Even when I didn't deserve it."

"Nii-sama..." Mokuba breathed. He had always known that Seto needed him. But he never felt like he'd done enough, no matter how hard he had tried. So to hear his brother say that he was strong, that he had never failed him... it was unreal. He almost wanted to ask Seto to repeat himself; surely he hadn't heard right?

But as he began replaying Seto's words in his mind, he came to another realization. I didn't want it. I didn't deserve it. Those were the same things he'd said earlier, about himself. "How... how long have you been awake?"

Seto managed to crack a small smile. "Long enough to realize that the two of you were working things out okay without my interference," he said, tilting his head back slightly to catch a glimpse of Yami nodding at him.

Mokuba grimaced, feeling guilty for having wished that Seto be awake for the conversation. Maybe that had made him unconsciously raise his voice or shift his weight on the bed or something. He quickly finished wiping off his face on the back of his hand, then straightened himself up slightly. "I'm sorry we woke you."

"Don't be. I've gotten a lot of rest the past week or two... it won't kill me to stay up a little bit more today."

"See, you're doing it again," Mokuba complained.

"Maybe we should leave," Noa suggested, although he didn't really want to go. He had just made up with both Seto and Mokuba and was basking in the sense of togetherness that went along with it. But it was hard to tell if Seto was doing as well as he claimed, and he didn't want to see him collapse or anything.

Predictably, the young CEO waved away their concerns. "No."

Mokuba sighed. "Nii-sama..."

Seto shrugged one shoulder. "If you and Yami still need to talk, just keep going. Pretend I'm not here."

"What else is there to say?" Mokuba asked, directing the question inwards even as he turned towards Yami. "We're not... well, I'm not mad at you anymore, I mean. Not that I could blame you if you had gotten angry. But you didn't. Instead of yelling at me, you were patient with me. You gave me my space but didn't let me forget that you were still there for me..." He shook his head. "I never thought we could rely on anyone else. But I was wrong. You care so much about us... not just Seto, but me and Noa too... When did you become such a nice guy?"

"There's many people responsible for that, including yourself. Being a part of Yugi, being surrounded by my friends... being loved by Seto and being accepted as a member of this family... all of those things gave me a new perspective on life. They gave me a reason for being, one that had nothing to do with dueling or fighting endlessly for a glimpse of a past that's no longer really mine. I'm grateful. I feel blessed."

Mokuba's lips pursed slightly. He had come to apologize to Yami, but Yami had turned the tables on him and apologized to him as well. He couldn't let things end like that. Surely, there was something more he could say, or do...

The black-haired teen suddenly rolled off the bed and stood up, then, much to everyone's surprise, he bowed deeply. "Yami, I not only insulted you and your relationship with Seto, but I degraded our relationship as well. Please forgive me. I won't ever doubt you again," he said earnestly, his voice steady despite the rapid beating of his heart.

Yami was equally quick to slide out from under Seto and hop to his feet, a warm grin lighting up his face. "Of course I forgive you," he assured Mokuba as he walked up to him and hugged him tightly. "I've forgiven you from the start. But thank you... you've made me feel a lot better. I'm very proud of you."

As Seto and Noa looked on with approving smiles, Mokuba released the breath he'd been holding and hugged Yami back, pressing his cheek against the spikes of hair, laughing both in relief and the sudden realization of the height difference between them. Either he was growing obscenely fast, or Yami was shrinking. But it didn't matter how tall he got. Yami would always be both older and wiser. And he wouldn't have it any other way.

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Author's Notes:

August 27, 2008