Rating: PG-13 / R to R / NC-17
Pairing(s): Seto x Yami, Noa + Mokuba, Jou + Mai
Disclaimer: "Landslide" and "Safe Harbour" are performed and recorded by Fleetwood Mac. 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: It's Mokuba's 18th birthday, and Seto has a difficult time accepting that his little brothers have grown up.
Status: 2 / ?
Archived at: http://www.phenixsol.com/Miko/FF/
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Part 2: Safe Harbour
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Oh, mirror in the sky
What is love
Can the child within my heart rise above
Can I sail thru the changing ocean tides
Can I handle the seasons of my life
- "Landslide," Fleetwood Mac
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They really did end up setting out without a destination in mind. At first that seemed to work okay, but gradually the already stilted conversation dried up and died, so Sugoroku decided it'd be best to stop somewhere, maybe a park or something, so he could focus more on his brooding passenger and less on driving.
While waiting at a stoplight trying to remember where the nearest park was, the elderly shopkeeper heard the low, unmistakable blast of a ship's horn from the harbor. As 15 and 16 year olds respectively, Yugi and Jou had set off for Duelist Kingdom from that same port, desperate to free him from Pegasus' clutches, wanting to save Shizuka's eyesight. They'd returned a lot more mature, with a greater understanding of themselves. And Sugoroku also remembered Yugi telling him about a duel he'd missed during Battle City, where Malik's dark side had used magic to control Jounouchi and turn him against Yugi. That had taken place at this harbor too. It was frightening, even now, to think about the danger they'd both been in. But they'd made it through together, and become even closer because of it.
Maybe there was just something about the place then... something about the endless rise and fall of the sea and the pungent salt scent of the air, that made it easier to look within oneself.
Sugoroku made his decision and hit the turn signal, squeezing in to the turn lane on the left. Seto didn't question it until Sugoroku began pulling the station wagon into the parking lots rimming the marinas.
"The harbor?" Seto asked, looking around. "Why?"
"I heard the horn. It reminded me of some things from the past," Sugoroku explained as he parked the car and turned off the engine.
Now that he had chosen a destination, he had to decide what to do next. They could just stay in the car to talk, but Seto's jaw had already tightened back up. Never mind that if they'd simply wanted to sit in a parking lot, any parking lot would've sufficed. Perhaps they could take a walk around the harbor, maybe find a spot to have lunch later or something...
Sugoroku opened the door and got out to take a look around. Seto followed suit, though he still looked uncomfortable. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and leaned against the car, trying to feign disinterest. Sugoroku studied him a minute, then glanced around again. He spotted a third possible option in the distance and decided to go ahead and suggest it. "Have you ever tried one of those whale watching cruises?"
Seto looked at the sign the old man was gesturing at. "I've been on yachts before," he said. A boat was a boat as far as he was concerned.
"Well... want to go anyhow? Maybe there will be a cruise soon."
Seto shrugged, but at least he looked a little less tense than before. He accompanied Sugoroku to the ticket counter without further comment.
Ten minutes later, they had a pair of tickets for a two hour cruise that would sweep out from the harbor and around the outer edges of the bay. Their timing hadn't been bad; the boat's crew was already busy prepping for the morning's voyage. There were other passengers milling about, waiting to board, but Sugoroku was thankful to see that the passengers were few and the boat large enough to give them some degree of privacy. And no one so far had come up to them and asked why the billionaire CEO of Kaiba Corp. was waiting for a whale watching excursion. It helped a little that Seto had ditched his jacket and tie in the car and rolled up his sleeves. It wasn't exactly a casual look, but it was the best he could manage at the moment.
Seto stayed silent during the wait, through the boarding and the departure from the docks. It wasn't until they had made it out to the open sea that he spoke.
"I didn't plan on being gone for the day," Seto mumbled. He was standing at the rails, squinting at sunlight reflecting off the water.
Sugoroku stared at him. He'd offered to play hooky without really thinking about how it might affect Seto's company. His staff might've been searching for him. They might've had to cancel or reschedule meetings. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to cause you any inconvenience. If you're worried about it... well, I'm not sure if your phone will get a signal out here, but you can try."
Seto shut his eyes for a moment, then said, "Yami said he'd call my secretary, to let her know, just in case. I guess... he's not at the house either."
For a moment it looked like Seto wanted to say something else, but then he pressed his lips tightly together and stopped himself. Sugoroku swallowed a sigh. He didn't want to force Seto to talk, but the brunette clearly had a lot on his mind. And although Yami was obviously the one Seto confided in, maybe there were some things even Yami couldn't help with.
"If there is ever anything you want to talk about, I will listen, no matter what it is," Sugoroku reassured him.
Seto's back stiffened. His eyes narrowed slightly, and he took a quick glance around before giving Sugoroku a good hard look. In a strained voice he said, "Everyone says Yugi and Yami are almost like brothers, right? What if... there was more to it than that?"
Well that was out of left field. Sugoroku rubbed his chin. "What do you mean?" Was Seto jealous of Yugi in some weird way? He was awfully possessive of Yami after all... unreasonably so at times. Sugoroku tried to think back to the last time Yami and Yugi were together, tried to think if anything had happened...
Seto sighed. "If they had wanted to date one another, would you have been okay with that?"
"Date?" The two of them were very close, yes, but it was a brotherly bond. Even if Yugi's preference had matched Yami's, Sugoroku couldn't imagine them together. That wasn't the sort of relationship they had. But he couldn't just dismiss Seto's question either. He had to be asking for a reason.
"Well, I don't know. I'd like to say I'd be okay with it, but it would take some getting used to."
"Are you just saying that because you couldn't imagine Yugi being gay?" Seto frowned. He was getting off topic himself, but he couldn't help but probe for an answer. Was Sugoroku only okay with him and Yami being together because Yami wasn't really his grandson?
"You have to understand, it's not something my generation really grew up thinking about. It wasn't something that ever occurred to me," Sugoroku carefully explained. "But I wouldn't love Yugi any less if he were gay. It would have surprised me, yes. It would've taken me some time to think it over, to get used to it. But in the end, as long as he was happy and safe, that's all that's ever mattered to me."
Seto grunted. The conversation was veering further and further off course, though he didn't know how to get it back on track, or if he even wanted to.
"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't shocked when Yugi told me he was setting Yami up on a date with you. I think my first comment was, 'But they're both men,'" the elderly shopkeeper continued on to say, sighing at himself. "I was stereotyping, I know. Yami is a bit... flashy, but he doesn't lisp or cross-dress or do any of the other things I assumed all gay men did, so I hadn't considered the possibility... And you, you were impossible to read. Not that I was willing to get close enough to try at the time."
Seto's only response was a slow nod.
Sugoroku stared thoughtfully at him. "I'm curious... why did you ask me this?"
Given that Sugoroku had honestly answered, Seto felt obligated to respond in kind. But it still wasn't easy; he wasn't sure what the old man's reaction would be when faced with a real life scenario. "What if it weren't Yami and Yugi..." he tried again.
It suddenly sunk in. "... Mokuba and Noa?"
Seto nodded again.
Sugoroku stared at him, his face now slightly pale, as if he'd just heard a tasteless joke. "I thought they had girlfriends..."
A shake of the head.
"And you're okay with that? Why didn't you stop them!?" Surogoku blurted out, his eyebrows knitting together. He expected teenagers to be reckless and naïve, but Seto should've known better...
"I see. So it's okay as long as it's your grandson, but not Mokuba and Noa?" Seto hissed back. He never should've brought it up. He'd known it was too good to be true. It had all been lip service, when Sugoroku had said he'd done well raising his brothers, when he'd said he'd listen to whatever Seto had to say.
Seto started to stalk off, but Sugoroku quickly grabbed his arm - probably not the wisest move given Seto's legendary temper. The tall duelist went to jerk himself free, but managed to stop himself mid-motion before turning back to glare at Sugoroku. As agitated as he was he didn't want to accidentally hurt the old man by physically pushing him away - Yami would never forgive him if he did that. So all he could do was stand there and glare daggers at him.
Sugoroku shook his head. He hadn't meant to sound so shocked and upset but he'd never suspected anything like that. It was amazing how well the teens had hidden it. Yes, the two of them had always been very close, but now that he thought about it, they hadn't called one another "brother" in a long time... They were smart kids though, and headstrong. So maybe he was being unfair, questioning Seto's role in it, when he didn't know the whole story. "Please, wait. I want to understand... What happened? And how did you find out?"
Seto looked away for a moment. He didn't want to admit that Mokuba and Noa had hooked up without him ever noticing. And he didn't want to explain the whole shocking scene from prom night, when he'd caught the two of them kissing in the back of a limo. "I gave them permission to date, because that's what they wanted. Because that made them happy. I had restrictions, but now..."
"But now...?" Sugoroku asked, then he held his hand up to stave off a response as he thought better of it. He didn't want to know, if Seto was alluding to what he thought he might be alluding to. "I have to assume Yami knows about all this?"
"What do you expect from a guy who died 3,000 years ago, back when it wasn't unheard of for siblings or other family members to intermarry to preserve the royal line?" Seto grumbled. He shrugged again, though the gesture was jerky from the tension in his muscles. "You know how he is... he believes in destiny. He thinks this was inevitable. I don't always agree with him. But Yami's a part of the family too. I know he'll always look out for my brothers' best interests, no matter what."
Sugoroku wanted to point out that even without Yami's input Seto should have known better, but he didn't. Seto wasn't wrong to consult with his boyfriend... it was just that Yami didn't have the experience needed to give out good advice in a situation like this. He hadn't grown up in the modern world; he didn't even have his memories from his past life.
But maybe that wasn't a bad thing after all. Yami accepted the teens' relationship. And didn't Sugoroku just say he would've worked on accepting it if it'd been Yugi and Yami? So he knew he ought to give Mokuba and Noa the same consideration. It was just hard thinking of them as adults when it seemed just yesterday they were 12 or 13.
"I'm sorry. I promised I'd listen and instead I ended up being critical of you. I'm sure this wasn't easy to deal with when it first came up. It'll just take some getting used to, I guess." Sugoroku exhaled and tried to put on a reassuring smile. "Noa and Mokuba are smart, mature young men. I'm sure they thought this over very carefully."
Seto frowned. Truth be told he didn't know how much thought the teens had put into their relationship before diving into it. He hadn't asked. It wasn't like he'd spent time carefully analyzing his feelings for Yami - in fact, he'd pretty much pushed them aside until the day they'd been set up. It had all snowballed from there. Wasn't that how love was supposed to work? At least that's what he'd been told.
"This has been on your mind a while, hasn't it?" Sugoroku asked carefully.
The brunette was uncertain whether or not he wanted to answer, but at least his head had cleared up enough for him to realize that he couldn't just walk away either. They were stuck on a boat with nothing but ocean all around. And he was tired of trying to dodge questions anyhow. Figuring he had nothing left to lose, he lifted his chin and said defiantly, "Maybe I did fuck up. But I'm not going to go back on my word either. If this makes them happy, I'm not going to stop them."
Sugoroku swallowed a sigh and sat down on one of the benches ringing the deck of the ship. He'd been happy that Seto had come to him for advice, had confided in him... but he'd forgotten just how sensitive the young man was to criticism, especially when it came to anything Mokuba related. He tried to be more agreeable. "You're right. It is ultimately their decision." He finally released the sigh he'd been holding in. "I hope it all works out for them."
"Why wouldn't it?" Seto volleyed back.
"They'll face a lot of hardships, moreso if anyone ever finds out. Plus, they're just so young... and teenagers are a bit capricious by nature."
There was so much there that Seto disagreed with that he barely knew where to start. His eyes narrowed as he zeroed in on a particular point. "Why, are you planning on telling everyone?"
"No, of course not!"
Seto growled loudly enough to drive off a group of passengers that had made the mistake of wandering over towards their side of the ship. He might've believed Surogoku's assurances earlier in the day, but now he didn't know what to think. "Mokuba's stronger than you think. And much more loyal. After all, despite everything, he's remained by my side."
"That loyalty was something he learned that from you, I'm sure."
"What the hell?! I tried to kill him. You couldn't have forgotten that, or have you gone senile?" Seto spat out.
Sugoroku took a deep breath to steady himself in the face of Seto's rage as the tall billionaire loomed over him. It seemed no matter what he said, Seto was determined to throw it back in his face. "I haven't forgotten. But despite some missteps, you're a good person. No matter how hard things got, you really tried to do the best you could for him."
"Trying doesn't count! He should've been safe. I betrayed him."
"But he forgave you. You must know that."
Seto couldn't argue against that. Mokuba had told him he'd forgiven him, more than once. To deny that would be like calling him a liar. But to this day, he couldn't fully understand it. Mokuba was a better brother than he deserved.
"He deserves to be happy," Seto snarled, as if he expected Sugoroku to disagree with that as well. "Whatever I can do for him, I will. And I won't let you interfere with his relationship with Noa, no matter what you think of it."
"I promise, I won't interfere."
Seto's expression hadn't softened at all. Sugoroku sighed. It was tiring, this conversation. He was rightfully worried that they'd spend the rest of the cruise talking in circles, with Seto assuming the worst about everything, and him trying to keep up, trying to patch up each misunderstanding. It couldn't keep going on like this. He had to clear the air. "Seto... please, I never meant to hurt your feelings..."
"As if anything you say matters to me."
"It does. I know it does. That's why you keep arguing, because you want me to convince you otherwise," Sugoroku insisted. Seto shook his head, but Sugoroku kept going. He even reached out to grab Seto's wrist again. "You confided in me. I was happy to have your trust. I wanted to help you. But then I spoke without thinking and made it sound like you did something wrong, when you didn't. It wasn't something I was prepared to hear. But I shouldn't have lashed out at you for it."
Seto looked away, at his feet, at the deck, at the railing... anywhere but in Sugoroku's direction. Still, the elderly shopkeeper could see the mask cracking, the rage replaced by confusion.
"Sadly there's no guide to being a parent. Even an old man like me still makes mistakes."
"Your mistakes couldn't have been bad as mine."
"I suppose not, but..." Sugoroku sighed deeply and hesitated a moment before going on. "I'm not sure even Yugi knows this, but I think I was a terrible father."
That brought Seto's eyes up. Sugoroku found it was now harder for him to meet Seto's gaze, but he soldiered on. "I never laid a hand on my son - I don't remember ever even scolding him, but I also wasn't around much. I loved adventure and gambling, perhaps more than I loved my family. By the time I decided I wanted to settle down, to be a husband and a father, my wife had left me and my child was grown up and long gone. I never managed to mend those rifts; within 10 years, I lost them both."
"Why... are you telling me this?"
"I thought you might understand. And I didn't want you to think you were the only one with secrets."
Seto shifted a little uncomfortably. "These are things you should be telling Yugi, not me."
"One day, when he's a little older... when he's at that point in his life where this will all make sense to him, I will tell him." Sugoroku smiled thinly. "Isn't that why you came to me? It takes a parent to understand what a parent goes through."
"Hn," Seto grunted, but Sugoroku could see in his eyes that he understood.
"I'm grateful for Yugi. Not only did it give me a chance to make amends, but he gave me a reason to go on when I thought I had nothing left to live for," Sugoroku added.
Seto nodded. If it weren't for Mokuba, he would've never survived. He would've been swallowed by despair after losing his parents, after being discarded by his relatives, after enduring Gozaburo's punishments. He would've never been able to piece together his heart after Death-T.
"But, as nice as it was having Yugi with me, I'm glad it's not just the two of us anymore," Sugoroku continued. "Now there's Yami, you and your brothers... I never thought I'd want a big family, but it makes me happy to have all of you around."
Seto thought about it. Once upon a time, "family" had been a dirty word. "Family" had been the parents who'd died and left them behind. "Family" had been the aunt and uncle who'd sucked them dry of their inheritance and then discarded them like trash. "Family" had been the brutish man who'd adopted them, who'd punished him because he wasn't perfect enough, wasn't agreeable enough... or simply because he could.
It had taken Yami and Death-T and a coma to shatter his conceptions of "family." After that, "family" was him and Mokuba, standing together against the world. He'd thought they'd be okay like that. But then Noa had landed in their lives, and Yami had landed in his lap, and he'd learned that it wasn't a bad thing, having people other than Mokuba around, being cared for and caring for them in return. He couldn't imagine life without his new family now...
He felt a pang of guilt mixed with a bit of panic; he'd run off like a coward and left Yami to deal with his brothers when he should've stayed and faced the situation himself. Not only had he failed Mokuba and Noa, but he'd let Yami down too. He felt like an asshole and an idiot. Gingerly, he searched for Yami's mind, wanting a glimpse of his general mood. He'd figured he'd be doing a lot of apologizing once he got home, but the vibe he got was surprisingly quiet and calmer than expected. Seto breathed a sigh of relief as he pulled back, and shook his head.
"I don't know why he puts up with me," Seto grumbled to himself.
Normally Sugoroku would've pretended he hadn't heard anything, but this time he couldn't help but answer. "Because he cares for you that much."
Seto glanced at him, then looked away. "I don't know why you put up with my shit either," he muttered in the same low tone. "It's because of Yami, right? If it wasn't for him..." His voice trailed off momentarily, then he became visibly angrier. It had always bothered him that Sugoroku insisted that he liked him for who he was, just as he was. He'd never been able to understand, despite all his promises to try and simply accept it. It wasn't his style to go by faith alone. It was a good thing too; he couldn't begin to count all the times he'd been stabbed in the back... "If it wasn't for him you wouldn't be here right now."
Sugoroku shook his head slowly. "Yami may have been the bridge in the beginning, but I believe there's a bond between you and I that goes much deeper than that. So no, I'm not here because of Yami. I care about you, Seto, because of who you are. Because you're family."
There was that word again. Seto frowned as he tried to figure out what it meant in this case. Did he really think of Sugoroku as a grandfather? Did he truly want one? Although he called the old man "Jii-chan," then again, so did everyone else. It was practically his name. And on the flip side... what did Sugoroku see him as? A grandson because he was Yugi's age, even if he'd never felt like it? Or something more distant... But even a passing thought in that direction rankled.
The younger man shrugged as if he didn't care, but Sugoroku looked straight at him and said, "'Family' isn't something I take lightly. It's not a word I throw around just for show. When you're as old as me, it really is the only thing that matters." Seeing Seto blinking at him, he added, "I had to be blunt. I didn't want you to misinterpret what I was trying to say. There's been enough of that today."
Seto's mouth opened as if to answer, then shut. He repeated that several more times before finally saying, "I don't know how to just 'accept it.' I've tried. I keep thinking about it, trying to understand, but my brain's just not buying it. I keep waiting for the inevitable... for you to decide it just isn't worth it."
"Betrayal isn't inevitable." The elderly shopkeeper sighed. "Seto, I'm not that kind of person."
"How the hell would I know? There's no guarantees!" Seto snapped back. "Even things like money, like blood, isn't enough!"
"... You're right. It's a lot for me to ask for trust when all I can offer you is my word. But I believe in you. Even if you can't do it today, I believe someday you'll understand... and you'll believe in me too."
Seto stared hard at Sugoroku for a good long minute, then he turned his back on the other man as if the conversation had finally pushed him too far. A stifling silence settled around them, heavy as the scent of salt in the air.
Sugoroku's shoulders sagged. It was tiring, going around in circles, trying to make a breakthrough when it felt like he was talking to a wall. But just as he began wondering if he ought to steer the conversation to safer waters and bide his time until Yami could sit down with them, Seto suddenly turned back to him and asked in a smaller voice, "If it's not everyone else, then is it me?"
"What do you mean?"
The brunette exhaled. "What did I do wrong? Why didn't they..." He bit his lip, essentially locking away the rest of what he might've said.
But the old man knew what Seto had wanted to ask. Why didn't they want us? There was no right answer for that. He didn't know why, either.
"It doesn't matter anymore," Seto said wearily. "I can't complain. After all, I have my brothers and I have Yami... and I'm filthy rich and famous for doing exactly what I like to do. Heh, I bet a lot of people would kill to be me."
"Perhaps. But as you said, money can't buy everything."
Seto resumed chewing on his lower lip a moment as he tried to make a decision, then he blurted out, "I never told Mokuba about this. Or Yami." He turned slightly to see Sugoroku's startled expression, then looked back out over the endless expanse of sea as he continued on to explain, "My uncle had the nerve to contact me shortly after I took control of Kaiba Corp. He said he saw my photo in the paper and read the accompanying article. He said he was glad to see I was doing well, and that he was sorry for what had happened, that he wanted to make amends. He hadn't wanted to put us in the orphanage, but my aunt had been ill, and he hadn't been able to handle taking care of us too..."
"What did you do?"
"I deleted the email of course. It was the biggest load of shit I've seen in my life. Maybe he hadn't thought about me in so long, he forgot I'm not stupid." But even uttering such harsh words, Seto sounded more tired than angry now. He sighed, then added, "Even Gozaburo was capable of being honest at the very least."
Sugoroku couldn't think of a single useful thing to say. Perhaps Seto's uncle hadn't been completely deceptive when he'd said he hadn't been able to handle two children while caring for a sick spouse, but at the same time, Sugoroku didn't believe that that excused him from his responsibilities to said children. So instead the old man walked up to Seto and lightly touched his elbow before resting his hand on the younger man's arm. If there wasn't anything he could say to make things better, he could at least remind Seto that he was no longer alone... he did have people now that he could rely on.
Seto absentmindedly went to pat Sugoroku's hand, then stopped abruptly at the realization that the man standing beside him wasn't Yami. The touch had been so gentle that he'd reacted without thinking. He stared at the hand on his arm a second longer, then, leaving it where it was, muttered, "I don't know why I'm even thinking about it. It doesn't matter anymore. I don't care."
Knowing what a struggle it must've been for Seto to open up to him again, Sugoroku let the last few statements go unchallenged. Instead he gave Seto's arm another light squeeze before saying softly, "Thank you for confiding in me again."
Seto frowned slightly, though he still hadn't pulled away. He turned his gaze back to the sea. A minute passed, and then another. Sugoroku silently stayed by Seto's side, not pushing for anything more, wanting to give the brunette the time he needed to gather his thoughts.
Finally Seto took in a deep breath, then he reached over and carefully peeled Sugoroku's hand off his arm, though he held on to it for a second before letting go. He sighed. "You really aren't going to give up, are you?"
"I'm not a quitter."
"Neither am I," Seto automatically threw back.
A small smile touched Sugoroku's lips. "You really are 'worth it,' despite what you may think."
Seto flushed slightly, but instead of ducking his head and letting his hair drop into his face to hide it, he lifted his chin and looked Sugoroku in the eye. "I'll keep trying to accept it then, even if it seems futile. I've never let anything stop me no matter how impossible it seems," he announced, reinforcing his promise with newfound determination.
He was still a difficult young man. He was still going to be haunted by his past, tripped up by his doubts... But Sugoroku believed Seto would keep struggling towards his future, as he promised. "I know. Thank you."
They fell back into silence, though it was a far more comfortable one this time. If anyone were to happen by and see them, they really would likely assume they were seeing a grandfather and grandson on an outing together. But no one else was around anyhow. A slight commotion on the other side of the ship reminded Sugoroku what the cruise was for in the first place - it was likely the other passengers had spotted a whale or something.
"So when is this ship due back in port?" Seto asked as he rested his chin on the palm of his left hand. He could care less about sightseeing. But at least he seemed a little more relaxed, despite the faint tension that still carried through in his voice.
Sugoroku ruefully shook his head at the thought of Seto storming onto the bridge and demanding the captain head for shore. "An hour perhaps? It's on a set schedule, but I admit, I didn't really look at it when we bought the tickets."
"I want to go home. I... need to talk to them."
"I know. But it won't be too long."
Seto drummed his fingers on the railing. "...I bet I can make them head back a lot sooner."
He was probably thinking he could just buy the boat or that failing, the entire cruise company if needed, all so he could get back to his family an hour sooner. Sugoroku's smile broadened. "I wouldn't doubt that. But they'll be okay. Your brothers have each other, and they have Yami too."
Seto was about to stupidly blurt out that he needed them too, but he glanced at Sugoroku, and snorted. He had the old man with him. He couldn't discount that, not after all they'd talked about, not after the promise he'd made. And a little extra delay couldn't hurt. At least it'd give him some time to think about what he needed to say when he got home.
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February 2, 2012