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: The Kaibas face a breakdown in communication. The silence is deafening.
Status: 6 / ?
Archived at: http://www.phenixsol.com/Miko/FF/

* * *

The Cost of Doing Business

Ch. 6: Reactivate the Body

* * *

It was pretty late by the time Mokuba finally drifted off to sleep by Seto’s side, and even later before Noa joined him in slumber, albeit on the sofa in the sitting nook. But Yami was too anxious and preoccupied to even think about sleeping, even as the hours wore on and late evening rolled into very early morning.

He had thought of a hundred and one reasons not to bother Yugi, or perhaps it would’ve been more accurate to call them what they were – excuses. It had been a Friday night and all their friends would’ve been over at the game shop, and Yami hadn’t wanted to cut into Yugi’s time with the gang. And now that it was so late, Yugi was definitely asleep. Plus it wasn’t his partner’s problem; Yugi hadn’t been involved in taking care of Seto during his illness or anything and hadn’t been around to witness his episodes. But more than that… how would Yami explain what he had done?

But… he was getting desperate for someone to talk to, someone who’d at least hear him out before interrupting, or passing judgement. And if anyone would understand, it’d be Yugi. Even if it was nearly 3 AM.

… Aibou, Yami sent uncertainly, not wanting to startle his other half awake. Part of him almost wished that Yugi wouldn’t hear him or that he’d be too deeply asleep to be able to respond.

Several seconds went by, then a sleepy voice queried, Yami? Mm… what time is…

Yami instantly regretted what he had done. Yugi obviously had been asleep, and now he had woken him… just because he was feeling bad. I’m sorry. It’s… nothing. Go back to sleep.

No! It’s okay, really, Yugi sent back, already sounding a bit more alert.

I shouldn’t have bothered you. I really am sorry, Yami said contritely.

Don’t say that. You’re never a bother, Yugi gently chided, sending a current of warm concern before asking, So how’s Kaiba doing? Everyone’s been worried about him. Some of the gang even talked about dropping over for a quick visit tonight, er, last night, but Jii-chan said he’d probably appreciate resting a lot more than visitors...

Yami found himself nodding in agreement, even as his eyes flickered to Seto’s body on the bed. He… he’s been resting, Yami glumly began, then he swallowed hard before adding, But he isn’t doing well, and I… Mokuba… he’s so mad…

Yugi remained silent while his darker half struggled to compose himself, letting his presence be the support and encouragement that Yami needed. Truthfully, he had been aware that something had gone grievously awry; although Yami’s spirit had been flagging the last few days, he had seemed to be managing okay considering the circumstances, and hadn’t mentioned any specific problems all the times they’d talked. So Yugi hadn’t been overly worried… until that afternoon. That was when Yami’s emotional state had taken a nosedive so abrupt and so jarring that Yugi had nearly fallen off the stool in the shop. He had been tempted to contact Yami immediately after that, but had forced himself to hold off… Yami had the right to deal with his problems on his own terms. Yugi hadn’t wanted to interfere, hadn’t wanted to act like Yami couldn’t be trusted to make his own decisions, so all he could do was to leave the door to his mind wide open, a standing invitation, a reminder of his love and concern.

But hours slipped by with no response. And Yugi had begun to worry, so much so that he had asked to end the usual Friday night gathering early, and had even whispered that fact to Yami. But still, the former Pharaoh hadn’t been willing to step over the boundary that separated their thoughts. So it was a tremendous relief to finally hear from him, even if it was 3 AM.

It’s tough being a parent, huh? Yugi told him, trying to encourage a response.

You don’t know the half of it, Yami sighed, before adding, I did something terrible - that’s why Mokuba’s mad at me… and I’m afraid you’ll be, too.

No, I won’t. No matter what it is, I believe in you.

Yugi… Another sigh, then, This afternoon, something happened… and I ended up using Shadow Magic on Seto. He’s so sick; I know it wasn’t his fault, but still, I Mind Crushed him. He hasn’t moved or anything since. Mokuba says I’ve really hurt him. What if I have? I tried to hold back as much as I could, but… Yami had to pause for several seconds to calm himself enough to be able to finish. Mokuba said he hated me, that he’d never forgive me…

Yugi’s mind raced to process what he was being told. It was almost unbelievable, but it obviously had to be the truth. Yami had Mind Crushed Seto. The last time he had… But things were different now. Yami loved Seto. And Yugi knew, Yami wouldn’t even have thought of doing such a thing unless… he’d been trying to protect someone else. I… you must’ve had a good reason for what you did – actually, I can name two of them. You did it for the boys, didn’t you?

Yami hesitated again, unable to decide how much to reveal. Finally, in a bare whisper, he said, I think Seto’s medication has been causing him to hallucinate. He’s been getting really confused. Then, this afternoon… he suddenly attacked Noa. We couldn’t get him off him. Noa was really in trouble, and… I did what I had to. I know I did the right thing. I’d do it again, if I had to. But… that doesn’t make it any easier for me – or Mokuba – to accept.

The violet-eyed duelist sent the equivalent of a hug to his crimson-eyed look alike. You *did* do the right thing. Kaiba would agree, I’m positive. It’s what he would’ve expected you to do.

You’re not angry with me? Disappointed? Maybe it’s just in my nature to…

Don’t even! I mean, I am a little surprised, Yugi admitted. I didn’t expect anything this bad, but no, of course I’m not angry. If anything, I feel for you – I know how much you love Kaiba. I can’t imagine how hard it was for you.

What if Mokuba’s right, and I wasn’t careful enough and hurt him? It wasn’t like I had much time to think about it… Ra, I couldn’t live with myself if I’ve harmed him in any way!

You didn’t. You know how tough Kaiba is; even sick, he’ll pull through.

Last time, he was in a coma for nearly a year! Yami blurted out, frustrated.

Last time, you were forced to shatter his heart and he had to piece it back together. But he has never held that against you, has he? Because you did what needed to be done.

That’s why I know he’d understand. But Mokuba… if Mokuba can’t forgive me, then Seto…

Mokuba will come around. He said that last time too. But right now, he’s scared and upset and probably won’t be willing to listen to reason until Kaiba wakes up. I bet this dredged up some bad memories for him too, seeing Kaiba out of control, seeing you use your magic on him. But no matter what he says, he needs you. He needs to know that you care, that you won’t abandon him or his brother. I mean… he’s just never had anyone else that he could really rely on, right? It was just him and Kaiba for a long time…

Yes… yes, I guess you’re right, Yami said slowly. He had said those same things to Noa hours earlier, but in the stifling silence of the night had begun to doubt his own words so much that it took the weight of Yugi’s conviction to sink them firmly back into his heart.

… Sometimes it’s hard to look at the big picture when you’re in the thick of things.

Yes, that’s true. And I do love those boys as if they were my own little brothers. But sometimes I think I forget… they’re both Kaibas. Seto’s not the only one in the family that's seen difficult times… nor the only one that needs to be reminded that there’s other people that care.

Yugi gave his darker half a small smile, an encouraging one. Mmhmm.

Thank you, Aibou. I’m always grateful that I have you. And… I am sorry that I woke you up. I should have talked to you sooner. I just… I didn’t know what to do. Maybe I’m a bit difficult too.

It’s okay, really! Because you’d have done the same for me. Besides, when you’re worried, I am too. I wasn’t sleeping all that well before you woke me anyway.

Heh. Yami finally returned the mental hug Yugi had sent him earlier. Good night, sweet dreams.

Same to you.

* * *

It was the somewhat clumsy petting of his mane of hair that woke Mokuba the next morning. At first, it didn’t really bother him at all; his sleep addled mind told him it was just Noa – who else could it be? – but the weight of the hand and the way it moved didn’t feel quite right, though there was something very familiar about it…

The black-haired teen reached up and rubbed at his eyes before blinking at the person on the bed beside him, and then all at once it hit him.

"Seto!" Mokuba was so relieved that he could barely breathe. He flung his arms around his brother, squeezing hard, as if he needed to feel the shifting of his body in order to truly believe that he was awake.

The brunette had apparently been staring off into the opposite direction, but at the sound of his whispered name, he turned slowly to give Mokuba a faint, shaky smile. But the teen wasn’t reassured just yet. He pulled back just enough so that he could see Seto's face, his eyes searching frantically for any indicators of improvement in his brother’s mental state. He looked weary; he was obviously still very sick. But his eyes were clear for the first time in days, and now that he had caught the worried look on Mokuba’s face, he looked concerned as well.

"What’s wrong?" he rasped, his normally deep voice sounding almost brittle. He coughed, trying to work some moisture into his throat, but his mouth was so dry… had they not been able to wake him to get him to drink something? Was that why Mokuba had that look on his face?

"You’re… you…" Mokuba began stammering, then he stopped to let his brain catch up to his mouth before continuing. It wouldn’t do to scream, "You’re alive!" in Seto’s face since that would most likely just alarm him, so he settled for asking, "What’s… the last thing you remember?"

Seto shrugged, silently cursing the soreness that had invaded every muscle in his body. He hated feeling weak and helpless, but more than that, he hated the fact that his memory was hazy and disjointed. The fact that Mokuba was asking him a question like that told him that something bad must’ve happened, but he couldn’t for the life of him think of what that could be. Did it have something to do with Noa or Yami? The two of them were sleeping in the suite’s sitting area, with Noa on the sofa and Yami slumped in a chair, which was just… weird. Why had Mokuba been in bed beside him instead of Yami? At the edge of his recollection, he could sense that there was something that he ought to remember… but he couldn’t make heads or tails out of the faint images that slipped by him like thin tendrils of fog. Unable to think of anything to say, he merely shrugged again, then with a bit more embarrassment, whispered, "Hafta use the bathroom."

That seemed to snap Mokuba out of the stupor he was in. "Oh! Right, uh…" He quickly rolled out of bed and offered a hand to Seto. The young CEO frowned at the assumption that he needed help, but… truth be told, he wasn’t sure if he could get up on his own. Sitting up was enough to make his chest tighten intolerably, and getting onto his feet set the entire room spinning, making him want to vomit.

Clutching Mokuba’s arm a little more tightly than he had planned, Seto finally stumbled into the bathroom, where he managed to grab on to the wall for support before shooing Mokuba out.

"Other than water or tea or whatever, is there anything else you need? Something to eat maybe?" Mokuba asked from around the corner. Seto may have wanted his privacy, but Mokuba wasn’t going to risk him just passing out in front of the toilet either.

There was just a muffled grunt, then a moment later, "Meds?"

Mokuba nearly responded, "I’ll go get them" but suddenly remembered, there weren’t any more pills, well, no more oseltamivir at least. Yami had dumped those down the toilet, had said something about delirium being a side effect of those pills. Was that why Seto was more lucid than he had been in days?

"… Mokuba?"

"Huh? Oh, um, you should eat a little something with the antibiotics. Is there anything you want?"

"Don’t care," Seto answered, starting to sound noticeably more winded already. Then the toilet flushed. "I… could you…"

Not wanting to hear his brother beg for more assistance, Mokuba hurried back to Seto’s side, trying his best to sound encouraging as he walked him back to bed and helped him to settle under the blankets before excusing himself for a quick run down to the kitchen.

Seto might not have been hungry, but Mokuba knew he really ought to eat something. He was weak enough as it was, and it hadn’t helped that he’d been out since the previous afternoon… So the teen hurriedly heated up a can of soup and grabbed a box of crackers – not great, but they’d suffice – and rushed back up to Seto’s bedroom.

The brunette was staring off into space again by the time he got back. A little disconcerted, Mokuba got in front of Seto to force his brother to focus on him, then helped him to sit up before plying him with water and pills and food. Seto reluctantly nibbled on a few crackers dipped in soup and took the offered medication, though he still seemed distracted. Mokuba almost felt like Seto was trying to look through him, though he wasn’t sure…

Ah. He had forgotten that Yami was still in the sitting area, asleep. Noa too. He wasn’t sure how all of that had slipped his mind, but he’d been so focused on Seto’s needs…

Mokuba sat back, feeling confused, almost frustrated, all of a sudden. Here he was doing his best to look out for Seto’s health, but Seto would rather stare at Yami than take care of his own needs. But… he couldn’t say that that really surprised him. Seeing that distracted look on Seto’s face reminded him of something from a few years back…

It had happened just after Noa and Yami had been brought out of their respective "prisons." Not surprisingly, the shock of suddenly being alive again had been enough to knock both of them out seconds after they had regained their physical forms. Since no one had had a clue if any complications would arise from what had happened, they’d been taken to a hospital, just as a precaution.

While Yugi-tachi had maintained a vigil over Yami in one room, Mokuba of course had stayed by Noa’s bedside, along with Seto, who, although he hadn’t said a word about it, clearly didn’t trust even an unconscious Noa alone with his little brother. And the black-haired boy had been okay with that, except for one thing…

Seto had spent most of his time leaning against the back wall of Noa’s room, staring out the door and across the hallway to where Yami’s room was. He had spent hours like that. Then Yugi had stuck his head in to see how Noa was doing, and to let them know that Yami had regained consciousness. Seto had shown no visible reaction, but Mokuba had known… he obviously wanted to see Yami.

"Go on… go see how he’s doing," Mokuba had encouraged his brother once Yugi had left.

Seto had looked at him, clearly considering it, before looking down at Noa’s still form. His expression had darkened, just slightly, when he realized that Mokuba intended to stay behind with Noa. "No… there’s no need," he had murmured, even as his eyes traitorously darted back towards the doorway.

Mokuba had sighed. "Nii-sama…" His brother was a lousy liar. But Seto’s refusal to go had put him in a bit of a quandary. Mokuba hadn’t planned on leaving Noa’s side since no one else had volunteered to sit with him, and he didn’t want him waking up alone. But at the same time, it had bothered him to see Seto pretending like what he wanted didn’t matter, though at the time, Mokuba hadn’t fully understood why Seto would want to see his rival so badly. He had always known there was something between the two of them, some sort of connection…

Is that what he wants, even now? Even after what happened? Mokuba wondered, then he shook his head at himself. Seto obviously didn’t remember what had happened. He didn’t know what he had done, or what Yami had done to him in return. For a split second Mokuba considered that maybe they ought to not tell him at all, since he hadn’t been of sound mind when he had attacked Noa, but that wasn’t right either… Yami was supposed to be Seto’s boyfriend, and Seto deserved to know what he had done.

Mokuba cleared his throat to get his brother’s attention back on him. "You want me to wake him?"

Predictably, Seto replied, "Don’t. Let him sleep."

"He’d want to know that you’re awake. I know he would."

Seto slanted a look at his younger sibling. There was definitely something amiss. He just wasn’t sure what it was yet… and he wasn’t sure if he had the energy to spare to figure it out for himself. But it was still early in the morning, and Yami usually didn’t wake until much later. He supposed he could just ask if something had happened, but since Mokuba wasn’t simply telling him up front and was in fact, fidgeting in his seat, maybe he’d be better off talking to Yami. He just didn’t want to wake him…

Mokuba suddenly stood up, intent on making the decision Seto wouldn’t. "It’s okay, he’d want me to wake him," he said with forced brightness before turning and walking towards the attached sitting nook.

Seto opened his mouth to stop him, but then reconsidered it. Mokuba wasn’t a little kid anymore… he couldn’t force him to talk. Maybe Mokuba was hoping Yami would be able to voice his concerns for him instead…

Yami must’ve been pretty deeply asleep, for it seemed to take Mokuba an eternity to wake him. As seconds ticked by and pooled into minutes, Seto could feel himself beginning to drift off, but he fought against it out of habit, determined to stay awake so he could at least greet his boyfriend properly. But his body was working against him, demanding yet more rest, and just as he felt himself starting to lose the battle to remain conscious, Yami was there at his side, crimson eyes awash with relief, holding his hand and kissing his forehead.

"Seto…" the ex-spirit murmured, shifting to press his cheek against his lover’s. "Thank goodness…"

"What… happened?" Seto mumbled, his head rolling a little on the pillow as he tried to look up at Yami, who was practically on top of him like a blanket. Looking out over Yami’s shoulder, the brunette could see Mokuba hovering anxiously nearby, almost like a chaperone, and a barely awake Noa standing even further back, looking even more uncertain.

Something was definitely very wrong. He wanted to know what had happened while he was asleep… he had to know. But he was so tired already... He grabbed Yami’s arm and looked at him expectantly, hoping for an answer.

"Don’t worry about it right now. You’re okay, that’s all the matters."


"I’ll explain later, I promise. But right now, you need to rest."

"But… I don’t wanna…" Seto protested as Yami resumed peppering his face with kisses. It felt good, but he wanted answers, not more endless hours of sleep.

"I know. But you need to. Please…"

Seto tried to think of a valid argument, but his mind was shutting down on him, and he could barely remember what it was that was bothering him in the first place. So instead, he settled for slurring, "You’ll stay… ‘ere?"

"Of course. Whatever you want," Yami told him as he rhythmically stroked the back of Seto’s hand with his thumb. He could hear Mokuba shifting somewhere behind him, probably displeased with the thought of the former Pharaoh stationing himself at Seto’s bedside, but he remained silent on the matter. Since Seto wanted Yami by his side, he wasn’t going to argue against it.

Satisfied with Yami’s response and completely oblivious to everything else going on, Seto smiled slightly and shifted himself close enough to Yami to rest his face against his thigh. Yami automatically reached down to finger the damp strands of brown hair that fell against his leg, and Seto closed his eyes and sighed, falling asleep almost instantly.

Minutes ticked by. Yami continued to stroke Seto’s hair, letting the simple task mollify the troubles in his mind. Seto seemed to be okay despite everything that had happened, despite what Yami had done. He was still sick of course, but lucid now. Sane. And not comatose! He didn’t call Yami Yugi again, he didn’t think he was fighting against Gozaburo or one of his cronies… Yami was relieved. And Mokuba wasn’t kicking him out of the room either, probably because of Seto’s request… but for right now, he figured that was good enough.

A weight settled on the bed a few feet away, and Yami turned, surprised, thinking that it was Mokuba, but it wasn’t. "Noa."

The green-haired teen peered doubtfully at Seto as if he were playing possum, though he couldn’t really see much from his vantage point at the foot of the bed. "I guess… he’s okay now, right? He woke up. And… he didn’t have that crazy look…" he muttered, as if trying to convince himself of it. It was probably going to take him a while to feel safe enough to get within arm’s reach of Seto again.

"Yes, though we won’t know for certain until he wakes up again. But if I was correct about the role his prescription played – and I’m pretty sure that I was…"

"Yami," Mokuba called out suddenly. He was still standing on the same spot as before, still shuffling his feet on the carpet. Noa and Yami both turned to give him their attention. "I… I…"

"I’m staying by his side until it’s time to wake him again," Yami firmly told the stammering teen.

"Huh? Uh, okay… guess that’s what he wants."

Yami considered that. Mokuba didn’t look mad anymore – really, he just seemed terribly confused – but Yami didn’t want him "giving in" just because of what Seto had said. Strange how moments earlier, he had thought the complete opposite… that the only thing that mattered was that he was able to remain by Seto’s side. But that was before he'd seen the conflicting emotions in Mokuba’s eyes, and suddenly that wasn’t enough… "Mokuba, come here."

The black-haired teen ducked his head a little, his bangs swinging down to shadow his eyes, but came forward as asked to sit beside Yami on the bed, pointedly turning away from Noa. He reached down to touch Seto’s hand lightly as he struggled for something to say.

Mokuba wasn’t ready to apologize yet, clearly. He probably wasn’t even ready to talk to either of them. And Yami wasn’t sure if there was anything he could say that’d make Mokuba understand why he’d done what he’d done. But it was uncomfortable for all of them to be sitting there with those sorts of expectations poisoning in the air.

"It doesn’t matter right now," Yami ended up saying, ending the stalemate. "He pulled through it, that’s the important thing."

Mokuba nodded slowly, sliding a glance at Noa, who simply shrugged at him, his expression rather blank. The younger teen sighed inwardly. He had a lot to think about. But Yami was right. At least Seto had come through it okay… At least he didn’t have to worry about that anymore.

Feeling tired all of a sudden despite the fact that he too had just woken up a short time ago, Mokuba looked back at Yami, who had settled back against a pillow, obviously in for the long haul. He couldn’t bring himself to ask, but at the same time, it seemed too presumptuous for him to just plop himself back on the other side of the bed…

"I’m sure he’d appreciate having you here as well," Yami told him, seeing the unasked question in wide gray eyes. "Noa too…" he deliberately added as Mokuba quickly clambered onto the other side of the bed. Yami didn’t want the other teen to feel left out because despite what had happened between him and Mokuba and Seto, he was an integral part of their family as well and deserved to be treated as such.

But it didn’t surprise him when Noa shook his head after a moment’s consideration. He wasn’t comfortable around Seto yet, and now that Seto had regained consciousness, it was only magnifying the issues he had to deal with.

"I… have work I need to finish," Noa explained, going for the obvious out, sounding so much like Seto that Yami couldn’t help but wonder what it would take to finally repair the rift between them. But now was not the time to press the issue. Seto didn’t even know the truth yet about what had happened. That’d be the first step. Then after that… God, Noa and Seto making amends might almost be the easy part, considering the sort of things Noa had said about Seto to Mokuba, and the cruel, cutting remarks Mokuba had threw out in return… Would they be able to forgive one another for having done that? Noa maybe, but Mokuba… Yami knew Mokuba could hold a grudge forever if it concerned his big brother…

Yami nearly groaned aloud. He was getting ahead of himself and giving himself a headache. One step at a time, he told himself, watching as Mokuba burrowed himself back into bed. He was exhausted thanks to his sleepless night; maybe Mokuba had the right idea.

Yami held an arm out, offering Noa a hug before he’d agree to let him go. He wanted Noa to know that he was concerned about him as much as he was about Seto; he wanted to remind him that he was family. "All right."

Noa accepted it, giving Yami a slight smile as they parted. "Thanks," he whispered, grateful that Yami understood and remained willing to stand by him. But his good mood was short-lived when he realized Mokuba still wasn’t going to acknowledge him.

Using work as an excuse to get away was cowardly, but Noa suddenly couldn’t stand being in the room a second longer. He spun on his heel and left in such a rush that he didn’t even notice Mokuba gazing surreptitiously in his direction…

* * *


Author’s Notes:

January 21, 2008