Title: Sixteen (Going on Seventeen) Series
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: 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's finally grown taller than Seto, but he'll never outgrow his need for a big brother.
Status: 4/?
Archived at: http://www.phenixsol.com/Miko/FF/

Setup for this particular fic:

* * *

At the Height of the Growing Season

Sixteen (Going on Seventeen) Series

* * *

Sometimes Mokuba felt more like an administrative assistant than Vice President. Despite his age, he was capable – very capable – but half of the employees at Kaiba Corp. seemed to forget that on a regular basis. It was frustrating. He’d been at the helm of KC on and off since he was ten. So why’d they keep thinking he was just an ordinary kid?

He and Seto had just finished wrapping up a meeting that hadn’t gone as planned. Apparently the Web Development team had taken exception to the fact that they had to go through Yami to get final approval on the layout and functionality of the Legends of Duel Monsters web portal, and had become quite vocal about it. It had been the same old arguments – Yami wasn’t an employee, he didn’t have experience, how could he possibly tell them what to do, blah blah blah – and Mokuba had been sick of it. He’d thought that every person in the entire damn company knew better by this point! But it wasn’t until Seto had finally made an appearance that the stalemate was broken… or maybe it had been the way he’d thrown empty boxes onto the conference table to drive home the point that anyone complaining would be escorted out long before Yami’s advice would be disregarded.

Mokuba could only shake his head from his vantage point behind Seto as the chastened Web Development team hastily picked up their things and scurried from the conference room. They reminded him of his pet rats during feeding time.

"Thanks. Sorry I had to drag you into this, Seto," Mokuba said when the room was finally empty.

The young CEO waved off the apology. "Is that all? No other meetings or anything?"

"No, that was it. The last one of the day," Mokuba sighed. It had been a long afternoon. Funny how a full day at Kaiba Corp. felt so much longer and more draining than a day at school, plus a few hours in the office. But since it was summer, there was no reason to not work full time, so he and Noa had both been putting in a good 40 hours a week as of late. It was convenient timing too… they were hoping to release their MMORPG by the start of the holiday season.

The corners of Seto’s mouth lifted slightly. "For you maybe. But I think my last one will be quick… and if it’s not, I’ll make it quick because I want to get out of here on time."

Mokuba nodded. "I know." Yami was one hell of a magnet for Seto, that was for sure.

"Let’s get going then," Seto said. He picked up a copy of the documents from the meeting for further review, tucked them under his arm, and began striding off quickly as Mokuba turned to follow.

The black-haired teen found it amazing that he still had to struggle to keep up with his brother. Amazing because he was now as tall as – no, taller than – the elder Kaiba, and his legs were just as long. But Seto had always seemed driven by some invisible force, one that was powerful enough to propel him forward like a jet. Not that Mokuba was a slacker, but he just didn’t feel that same sense of urgency.

By the time Mokuba got to the elevators, Seto was already standing in one and holding the door open. Mokuba hurried in and as the doors slid closed, went to lean against the back wall for the duration of the trip…

Seto looked over. "Please stop slouching."

Mokuba didn’t see why that mattered while they were riding in an elevator, but he didn’t protest. He straightened himself up a little, glancing at his reflection in the mirrored doors in the process. He didn’t think his posture had been all that bad, but next to Seto, he practically looked hunched over. He wondered if Seto’s back ever hurt from standing so straight, with his shoulders back. If it did, he didn’t complain, but that was par for the course.

And then there was the matter of their overall presentation… Mokuba rubbed his chin as he furtively studied himself. Like Seto, his cheeks and chin were naturally smooth… he rarely had to shave. But sometimes he wished that weren’t the case. He didn’t like that he still had a kid’s face, with eyes that still seemed too wide. He didn’t like that his hair wouldn’t settle down. And while Seto always looked amazingly composed, somehow managing to stay wrinkle free even in a fitted silk dupioni suit, Mokuba felt a bit like an ugly duckling even though his clothes were carefully selected and just as well tailored. But his tie didn’t seem to want to sit right, and his jacket felt like it was pulling, and…

"What’s wrong?"

The teen quickly fixed a smile on his face and shook his head as the elevator came to a stop and the doors opened. He walked out, thinking his big brother would let the matter drop, but after they’d checked in with their respective secretaries, the elder Kaiba trailed him into his office instead of disappearing into his own.

"Mokuba, what’s wrong?" Seto repeated in a low voice.

The black-haired teen sat down at his desk and picked up some papers, ducking down behind them. "It’s nothing."

Seto stepped away for a moment, shut the door, then came right back to the other side of the desk. With a finger, he bent back the top of the papers in front of Mokuba’s face and peered at him. "Why won’t you tell me? Are you really that upset about that meeting? Or did I do something…"

"No, of course not!" exclaimed Mokuba. "It’s just… it’s just that it’s stupid."

"It isn’t, not if it’s bothering you."

Mokuba put the papers down and looked up. Oddly, he felt more comfortable now that he was sitting and Seto was standing, leaning over the desk, towering over him as if he were eleven again. That made it easier to say, "I wish you were still taller than me, Nii-sama."

"Huh?" Seto blinked – he hadn’t been expecting that. What was he supposed to say in response?

Mokuba sighed. "I remember telling Noa that I liked that I was getting taller, that it didn’t bother me. But I guess I was wrong. It does bug me, a little."

Seto slowly straightened up, running a hand through his hair. "Well, from what I remember, Tou-san was pretty tall. So I guess it’s in our genes. And you’re a teenager now… you are growing up…"

"I know. But I don’t feel grown up. And I don’t look it either. Maybe that’s why no one take me seriously."

"So you want to grow up faster, but shorter?" Seto asked, baffled.

"No! That’s not… ugh, I’m not making any sense, am I?" He almost wanted to add, "It sucks being a teenager," but realized that Seto had never faced the sorts of issues that a typical sixteen-year-old faced. He’d never had the time or luxury to worry about his looks or his height, or to indulge in feeling sorry for himself. He’d been too busy trying to survive...

Mokuba paused to take a better look at Seto. There was another thing he hadn’t considered before. More than being taller, he was heavier than Seto too. Not by much, but he was broader across his shoulders and chest. And he was a normal, healthy weight, whereas his brother couldn’t seem to keep weight on. Seto was much more wiry, like a distance runner, his skin taut over hard muscle. Mokuba remembered that when he was younger – and significantly shorter – he’d occasionally borrow casual shirts from Yami. It had been easier than going out and getting new shirts every month or two. But he’d never borrowed anything from Seto’s closet; by the time he’d gotten tall enough, he’d lost a lot of that teenage growth spurt skinniness as well, thanks to a steady diet of Yami’s home cooking.

"I just can’t help but think of how different things might’ve been… if it weren’t for me," Mokuba said awkwardly. He didn’t really know how to phrase it, how to avoid saying the wrong words, but he felt obligated to try and explain. "If you hadn’t been looking out for me, I mean. Maybe you’d have gotten more sleep or… at least have taken better care of yourself."

Ahh, so it wasn’t about their heights at all. "Haven’t we been through this before? Raising you was my privilege, the best thing I’ve ever done. Where would I be now if it weren’t for you?"

"But I feel like… like this extra inch should’ve been yours. Like I stole it from you."


"Because you had to deal with Gozaburo! And… and then there was…" Mokuba took a deep breath. "If you hadn’t been in that coma, who knows how much taller you would’ve gotten?"

Seto fell silent. Mokuba looked away. He’d known he was taking a risk with the subject matter, but he'd had to say it. It was something that had been bothering him for a long time now, and now that Seto was a little more open to talking about things… But maybe it’d been a bad idea. Or maybe his timing had been off. It didn’t look like his brother was going to continue the conversation…

But then Seto exhaled and said, "There’s no point in looking behind us at something like that anyhow. And it doesn’t matter to me if you’re a little taller. It doesn’t change who you are, or how I see you," His voice grew soft. "You feel the same; if you weren’t worrying about it so much, I think you’d come to that same conclusion."

Mokuba just stared at his brother for a minute. That last statement… Seto had almost sounded like Yami… not his voice, but in his words. It was just as familiar and comforting as seeing Seto standing tall before him. But his brother was right; he did feel the same. Just because he was now taller by a scant inch didn’t mean he felt differently about Seto. He loved him, respected him, looked up to him… just not physically anymore.

"I wonder why it’s been on my mind so much lately, when all I want to do is grow up as fast as possible, so I can help you out."

"Don’t. Just…" The brunette shook his head in frustration. "You’re already a big help. Don’t ever think you’re not. I couldn’t do this without you. And you’ll be grown up soon enough. Don’t rush it."

"I know. It’s okay, Nii-sama," Mokuba quickly reassured him. He was a little surprised that such a relatively innocuous comment had been the one that Seto reacted most strongly to, but now that he thought about it, he should’ve known better. As much as Seto tried to hide it, it was no secret that he was having a hard time dealing with the fact that his little brothers were growing up and spreading their wings.

Mokuba wished he’d chosen his words a little more carefully, but he couldn’t take them back now. So he tried to explain. "I’m not trying to rush things, not like that." He took a deep breath. "I guess I just gotta try harder to stand up for myself so I don’t have to call you over every time things aren’t going my way."

"I don’t mind…"

"I know. But I gotta do this for myself too, you know? I can’t complain about people not taking me seriously and not do a thing about it myself."

Seto straightened up as a small smile spread across his face. "You really are growing up…" he said softly.

"I guess. But… it’s at my own pace. One that I’m comfortable with." Mokuba paused a moment, then looked back up and nodded. "Thanks, Nii-sama, for listening. I feel better now."

"Mm. So… you still wish you were shorter than me?"

Mokuba laughed. The sound seem to relax his brother a little. "Well… yes and no. But I guess it doesn’t really make a difference. You’ll always seem taller."

"That’s because I have good posture," Seto replied airily.

The black-haired teen smiled to himself. He thought it looked more like Seto had a stick up his ass, but at least nowadays he was only that stiff while at work. "I don’t slouch that much, do I?"

"You do."

"Ugh." Slowly, the younger Kaiba rocked forward in his chair and straightened himself up until he was sitting straight and proper on his seat. "Better?"

"Yeah. But…" And Seto took a step back, cocking his head. "Now that I think about it, it doesn’t really suit you."

Mokuba grinned and relaxed a little, though he didn’t completely flop against the backrest either. Halfway seemed like a good compromise. He looked back up at Seto and caught his brother’s nod. It looked like Seto approved as well. The young CEO had even relaxed a little in his own stance, though the shift was so slight that only those who knew him well would notice.

... They could’ve stayed there several more minutes, agreeably smiling at one another, but they were at work and things needed to get done.

"Well, you better get going. You have a meeting soon," Mokuba finally said, folding his hands on his desk and trying to sound as professional as possible even though he was sure he was still grinning goofily. Normally he hated to remind his brother of his duties, but this was just a more subtle way of letting Seto know… everything was okay once again.

Seto glanced at his watch. He still had 20 minutes to go – and true, he always liked being early, but the conference room was just down a few floors. But he understood what Mokuba was telling him. It was with pride that he said, "Ah, yes. Thanks for the reminder, Mr. Vice President."

* * *

Author’s Notes:

July 3, 2010