Title: Sympathy for the Devil
Author: bnomiko
Rating: PG-13
Pairing(s): Yami + Seto, Noa + Mokuba
Spoilers: none
Warnings: swearing
Disclaimer: "Sympathy for the Devil" is performed and recorded by The Rolling Stones. 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: Having an heir should have allowed Gozaburo to transcend death. But it was no longer his office, his company, his life…
Status: 1 / 1
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:

* * *

Sympathy for the Devil

* * *

Please allow me to introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste
I’ve been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man’s soul and faith

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game

- "Sympathy for the Devil," The Rolling Stones

* * *

He didn’t have to go. He’d had the option to refuse. But like all humans, he was swayed by emotions and driven by an innate curiosity for the unknown. Just how had things turned out, ever since that boy wrested control of his company away from him, ever since he’d been betrayed by his own son…?

Besides, there was no other way of knowing whether or not he’d been successful unless he went and saw for himself. Oh certainly, Seto had won the last few battles… but that didn’t mean Gozaburo had lost the war, not yet. He’d done everything in his power to ensure that he’d have an heir that would be as ruthless as he had been, to carry Kaiba Corp. on to even greater prosperity. As long as he’d accomplished that much, then all wasn’t lost. At least some part of him would continue to exist, immortalized, through Seto. It wasn’t nearly as satisfying as being able to take over the boy’s body and assume his life, but at least some of his desire for vengeance would be slaked.

Once the decision had been made, he found himself standing in the foyer of the Kaiba mansion – it was that quick, that direct. He took a moment to orient himself, surprised at how simple it was to come back, even if only temporarily, then lifted his chin and walked up the grand staircase as if he still owned the place. He already had a destination in mind…

He wasn’t surprised to see that Seto had indeed taken over the mansion’s lavish master suite. He would’ve done the same if their roles had been reversed. But what was unexpected was the other man in the room, the one lying in the large bed with his arms around Seto’s shoulders. He looked familiar; perhaps he’d been one of the teens from the virtual world five years prior…

So Seto was a fag. Gozaburo hadn’t known that. He didn’t remember the boy lisping or flouncing around with a limp wrist. He never would have taken him in if that had been the case. Then again, he supposed it didn’t matter… it didn’t matter what the hell the boy wanted to fuck, provided he kept it a secret. He could only imagine how that’d reflect on Kaiba Corp.’s image if news got out, and he didn’t want HIS name tarnished by that sort of reputation.

Seto and his bedwarmer were still awake, though they were clearly on the verge of falling asleep. The lights were off and they were curled up together under the bedsheet, their eyes fluttering closed. Seto’s head rested on the other man’s bare chest and he seemed to be, for lack of a better word, purring, as the other kneaded the muscles on the back of his neck.

"Mm, Yami…" Seto murmured sleepily. His mouth curved into a slight smile as the shorter man kissed the top of his head.

Yami didn’t say anything in response. He could barely stay awake enough to continue with his massage. But still, he smiled contentedly against Seto’s hair.

It was all very sweet, like a scene out of a romance novel or a movie. It made Gozaburo wish he had his riding crop on hand. Nothing had made him angrier than checking in to see how Seto had been doing on his lessons, only to find the boy asleep. And now he was lazing around in bed, not even sleeping – at least that served a purpose – but being affectionate with some spiky-haired punk instead.

Almost unaware of his own actions, Gozaburo reached out to hit the brunette on the arm to wake him, but his fist passed right through instead. Seto unconsciously shivered as his skin registered the sudden drop in temperature and Yami shifted his hand down to warm the spot, but other than that the pair did not register the specter’s presence.

Gozaburo silently ground his teeth in frustration. If all Seto was after was sex, he could accept that. But clearly that was not his only interest in this Yami fellow. That single utterance Gozaburo had caught, the whispered sound of a name, had been laced with so much affection… He couldn’t recall ever hearing Seto speak like that, not even to that little brother of his.

What a fool… The only love that mattered was the love of prestige, of success… of power. Love anything else and you were bound to be disappointed. Gozaburo had loved his first wife, his son, but the bitch had run off with another man, and Noa… Noa had died on him. Even then, he had still loved him enough to cling to him, to use of all the money and resources at his disposal to keep his boy alive. And how had Noa repaid him? Why, by turning on him, letting his only chance at revenge slip through his fingers.

Speaking of Noa, Gozaburo spared a moment to wonder what had happened to his son. He must’ve somehow escaped death once again because he hadn’t seen him in the afterlife, or whatever the hell this existence was meant to be. It was probably for the best though. He wasn’t sure if he’d ever forgive him for the betrayal.

The bed creaked softly as Seto and Yami shifted a bit, recapturing Gozaburo’s attention. The sheets had slid down a few inches. He looked at Seto again, at the young man’s now exposed upper back, at the tacky tattoo of a dragon and a sorcerer inked on one shoulder. Gozaburo didn’t approve of tattoos at all, but at the same time he felt some satisfaction that even that couldn’t disguise the proof of his existence that had been etched into the expanse of skin. Some people would’ve considered that cruel. They would’ve said he had stepped over the line, had gone from strict to abusive...

Gozaburo snorted. Nonsense. Not that he’d expected anyone else to understand. Seto, for all his natural intelligence, had been undisciplined and unfocused; he’d been a dreamer, wasting his time and talents thinking about childish toys and games. He hadn’t been pushed hard enough before. Gozaburo had been quick to remedy that.

Besides, if the boy had fragmented that easily under the weight of his training, then that would have been fine too, because Gozaburo had no time to waste on trash like that. It just meant that he and his brother would’ve gone right back to the orphanage and that he would’ve had to find a more suitable candidate.

When he’d first seen the boy, he’d been a little surprised by his chance resemblance to Noa. Not that it had mattered at the time; Seto had had an interesting proposition for him, a bold one, and he wasn’t going to let some unwanted kid push him around. But during that chess game, all he could think of was what a perfect rabbit the boy would be to drive Noa to excel even more. He seemed to be fairly smart and best of all, expendable.

Everything would’ve gone according to plan, but then…

He had grieved for the loss of his son immediately following the accident but quickly came to realize there was no point in wasting his time on that, not when he had a perfectly good body to house Noa’s soul. A little hair dye, and who would’ve noticed? Who would've cared? Though at the time, there hadn’t been a way to transfer Noa’s digitized mind into Seto’s body…

But as Gozaburo had impatiently waited for his development team to find a way, he’d stumbled upon a new solution. Why throw away Seto for Noa when Noa was faltering, his mind crumbling in the virtual world?

He’d decided then that the important thing was having the strongest possible heir, and it looked like Seto fit the bill. He couldn’t even say he’d been disappointed when the boy turned on him – it was the same as taking a feral dog and beating it to make it more savage, until it turned into a killing machine. Of course he’d eventually bite the hand that held his chains.

But now, it seemed his prized fighting dog had been domesticated by something as simple as warm hands and a gentle touch. What a waste… if he’d known Seto was that weak, he would’ve never bothered taking him in! Disgusted, Gozaburo looked away from the bed and noticed something on the right nightstand. There was a leather collar there with Seto’s name on it. Apparently the boy had become used to being on a leash… or was the punk the one wearing it instead? Maybe Seto needed to mark his territory as much as Gozaburo had needed to mark what belonged to him as well.

That explained the changes made to the bedroom… and the changes to the rest of the house too. Gozaburo found himself shaking his head as he left his old master suite and began wandering through a few of the rooms he’d once been familiar with. His cigar lounge was now a game room; the grand ballroom had been turned into some sort of dueling arena. Why, when he'd been the master of the house, the mansion had been immaculate, sophisticated and refined. It had been furnished with only the finest antiques, the most luxurious fabrics and woods and stones. But those things were now gone, replaced by sleek, modern furnishings in a subdued palette, none of which was to his standards or expectations. He wondered if Seto had gotten rid of them out of spite, or was the boy’s taste just that bad?

The outside of the property hadn’t been spared either. There was a giant topiary of a dragon – was Seto obsessed with dragons or what? – standing in the front yard looking over the driveway, greeting all guests with its absurdity. And in place of the beautiful formal gardens with sculptures and fountains stood a stable and paddocks and a covered riding arena, total eyesores in his opinion. He didn’t like that there were animals on the property, especially noisy, filthy, smelly ones… and were those ponies sleeping by the kitchen entrance?! There was good reason why Noa’s riding lessons had taken place offsite.

And where were the maids and butlers, the chef and the chauffeur? The servants’ quarters were now a bank of guestrooms. And the guesthouse had been turned into housing for the security force on the premises. But here was no sign of the army of domestics that was required to keep up a house of that size. Had Seto decided he’d prefer living like a commoner, like that bedmate of his?

But it was during his second round through the interior that Gozaburo made the most surprising discovery of all. In Seto’s brother’s room, in his bed, he finally found the answer to the one thing that had left him stumped for five years. Noa was very much alive. And in bed with Mokuba, sleeping with both arms extended over the covers as if he’d simply thrown himself onto the bed and dozed off.

Why is he… alive? How did he manage to escape when I couldn’t? And why is he here, in bed with… So many questions tumbled around in his mind.

To think that his son, his only child, could betray him so easily, and all because of the influence of a little, insignificant boy… What was it about Mokuba that he hadn’t understood, that he had so underestimated?? Torn between anger and confusion, Gozaburo reached for his son’s arm, wanting to pull him away from Mokuba, but once again his hands sunk all the way through to the mattress.

He had always given Noa the very best money could buy – renowned tutors, exotic vacations, riding lessons and music lessons and every other opportunity a child could want. He’d been treated like a young prince. Never had Gozaburo raised a hand to him, or even his voice. He hadn’t needed to. His son had always been wonderfully eager to please. Where had things gone so wrong between them?

* * *

The night passed with the solitary specter not getting any closer to finding answers to his burning questions, and the morning brought about even more.

Not surprisingly, Seto was the first one up. Gozaburo watched as the brunette batted at the alarm clock, then leaned over to lightly press his lips against Yami’s cheek before heading to the closet to select his attire for work. He pulled out a seemingly random assortment of clothing: a cream-colored dress shirt and a brown tie with a delicate green-tinged blue pattern, a lightweight steel blue suit, almost metallic in finish, along with a navy blue trench coat in a cotton sateen. Gozaburo wondered if he was colorblind.

After pausing to fuss over the covers on Yami’s side of the bed, Seto disappeared into the bathroom before coming back out several minutes later fully dressed. Amazingly the "random" pieces of clothing he had chosen somehow worked on him, as if he was able to pull the outfit together through sheer willpower and presence. Gozaburo thought the boy would just head out the door after that, since he’d already wasted enough time lollygagging, but Seto stopped by the bed again for another kiss… and that one finally woke Yami up.

"Didn’t think that would wake you," Seto murmured as he lightly traced a finger along the curve of Yami’s jaw, down the slender throat and over a collarbone. It was hard to tell if he was actually sorry about waking him or not.

Gozaburo studied the spiky-haired man more carefully as he blinked up at Seto. Yami looked even wilder now that he was awake, his thick shock of gold, scarlet and ebony hair sticking up like quills on a porcupine. And those blood red eyes! The boy certainly did have unusual taste in partners…

Yami turned his head enough to kiss the pad of the finger now brushing over his lips. "Mm… i’z okay. Need somethin’?"

"No," Seto responded, even as he peeled back the covers a little to nibble on Yami’s neck.

"Nnh, Kai-baby…"

Blanching, Gozaburo decided it would be wise of him to go elsewhere for a while. He couldn’t imagine anything more repulsive than seeing two fags calling each other pet names while jerking each other off or whatever it was that they did.

He ended up back in Mokuba’s room for lack of anywhere better to go. The alarm clock was already beeping by the time he got there but his son and the other boy were only just beginning to wake up. He frowned as they lazily rolled out of bed, their hair all rumpled up, and dragged themselves through the process of getting ready for the day.

The Domino High school uniforms they were pulling from the closet were as much a surprise as anything else he’d seen; why were they attending a public high school? Mokuba might not have been a genius, but Noa… Noa at the very least was far too intelligent to waste time at a regular school. Was Seto so cheap or indifferent that he couldn’t bother providing a proper education or even a few maids to make sure Mokuba’s bedroom didn’t look like a pigpen? No, that couldn’t be it… even Gozaburo knew now that he wouldn’t do that to Mokuba at least. But then why…?

Despite the rather chaotic state the room was in, it didn’t take the teens too long to find everything and get ready. Noa at least cleaned up decently, looking like a serious student with his dark blue jacket buttoned up and a book bag that resembled a small briefcase.

As for Mokuba… well, Gozaburo had to admit, he only remembered him as a cowering little mop of black hair hiding behind his brother. The kid was a lot taller now, taller than even Noa, but he still had all that hair, though at least it was now brushed into some semblance of order. He wore his uniform jacket open, like some delinquent, and had an old messenger bag slung over one shoulder for his things.

Mokuba unsuccessfully fought against a yawn. "Why do I keep thinking today’s Monday or something? It feels like a Monday."

"Whaddya mean?" was Noa’s intelligent response. Gozaburo eyed his son, convinced that the public education system was to blame for teaching him to speak like some sort of hoodlum.

"I dunno. Like I have a whole bunch of stuff I need to do this week… and it feels like I wasted all of yesterday and didn’t get anything done."

"Ah. Well, anything I can pitch in on?"

Mokuba just smiled, then reached out to take Noa’s hand in his own, thoughtfully stroking the back of it with his thumb. "Nah, you have your own stuff to worry about. You have another Development meeting this afternoon right?"

Noa nodded slowly. "Uh, yeah… we’re finalizing the mount graphics." It was funny how even the little things could still turn his brain into mush. Well, mushier than usual. It was still early in the morning after all so that couldn’t be helped.

Mokuba’s grin broadened, as if he knew exactly what effect he had on Noa. He topped it off with a quick kiss before the two of them left the room.

Gozaburo remained behind a moment, feeling confused, almost… frustrated by the exchange he’d just witnessed. Seto may have been smarter, more quickwitted, more authoritative… the consummate businessman, but Mokuba was the one with a leader’s charisma. How had he missed that? As much as he hated admitting to making mistakes, in hindsight he realized he should have focused on Mokuba as well, educated and trained him like Seto… and let the two of them vie to be his heir. It would have broken the bond that had allowed them to revolt against him, or at the very least would have pushed them to excel even more, like what he’d originally planned with Noa. Then he could have gotten rid of the loser, thereby making it even easier to fully mold his heir into exactly what he wanted, since he’d obviously failed with Seto.

… Speaking of whom, Gozaburo had no idea if Seto was done with his pet punk or what and didn’t want to find out for himself. So instead of going back to the master suite, he decided he was better off following Noa and Mokuba downstairs, although he wasn’t quite sure where they’d be, or if they’d already left.

He found the two of them in the kitchen along with, surprisingly enough, Seto and Yami. The younger pair were devouring mouthfuls of cereal at the island in the middle of the kitchen while chattering about meetings and games and history tests. Seto silently stood by the counter, nursing a cup of coffee. He was in his suit and coat and looking as unruffled as could be, as if Gozaburo had only imaged seeing him pawing at his boytoy earlier. But on the other hand Yami was clad only in a light robe and looked both shamelessly mussed up – Gozaburo would have never let either of his wives wander about the house looking like that! – and half-asleep. So Gozaburo knew he hadn’t been hallucinating…

"Wait…" Yami suddenly interrupted, pushing away from Seto just long enough to give the teens a look. "You two promised you’d clean your room last weekend, right?"

Mokuba frowned a little. "Um, I guess…?"

"You know the deal – you only go to work as long as you keep your grades up, and as long as you do your chores."

What the hell? Chores?? That punk actually thought common household chores were more important than Kaiba Corp.? The very thought was laughable. But Yami seemed to be dead serious.

"But I have a meeting today!" Noa protested. He turned to Seto, ready to plead his case, but the elder Kaiba merely shook his head.

"A deal’s a deal. Just give me a quick briefing on what needs to get accomplished," Seto mumbled over his coffee. He didn’t share Yami’s views on the importance of chores but it was something they’d all agreed upon.

Mokuba thought quickly. He really only needed to win over Yami; Seto was the easier one to convince under the circumstances. "Well, I guess it is pretty messy. But it’s my mess. So I’ll clean it up."

"You will?" Noa squawked.

"Yeah. So I’ll take care of that and you go to your meeting and everything should be fine, right?"

Yami blinked a few times, then looked back over at Mokuba. He cocked a half smile. "You’re sneaky…"

Mokuba put on his best "Who me?" face and even pointed at himself to emphasize it.

Yami sighed. Maybe he was as much a sucker for those wide eyes as Seto was, even though Mokuba towered over him now. "I mean it. I expect it clean, Mokuba."

"Yup. No problem."

Yami just shook his head at himself, then stepped forward to pat Mokuba on the shoulder a few times. In the back of his mind, he could feel Seto’s amusement at his being such a pushover but at the same time, he knew his lover approved of how he had handled things.

Gozaburo was shaking his head too, but for a different reason. He was amazed anything ever got done around the house or at Kaiba Corp. if that was how things were handled. Who did that punk think he was anyhow? Just because he was staying at the mansion didn't make him a Kaiba! And the flip side to that… why had Seto just stood there, letting his boytoy call the shots, letting him make decisions that affected Kaiba Corp.? It made no sense!

There was the soft scrape of furniture being moved. Gozaburo looked over to see Noa pushing his stool back from the counter. The green-haired teen took two empty bowls to the sink while Mokuba went to retrieve their book bags from the other room. "All right, I’ll see you later, Nii-sama," Noa said as Mokuba handed him his bag. Seto nodded in return.

Nii-sama? He was supposed to be Seto’s better, and yet he’s calling him big brother? Gozaburo fumed. Noa had once addressed his father with respect and adoration. It made him sick to think of Noa giving Seto even a tenth of that same consideration. What had Seto done to earn it? Did Noa really so easily forget that Seto had taken his place, his life? Why didn’t he hate him for stealing everything away?

Again, he was missing something. Five years had changed a lot of things. It was unfair, he thought, that he’d only have one day to try and figure it out.

Unlike his adoptive father, Seto was satisfied with how his morning was going. He’d gotten off earlier and Yami was warm at his side, and their little scheduling issue had been smoothed over without him needing to interfere. He had a slight smile on his face as finished off the last of the coffee in his cup, though only Yami caught it as Seto turned away to fill a travel mug for the morning commute to the office.

Yami grinned, then turned back to Mokuba and sweetly reminded him, "And I’ll see you later, Mokuba."

The black-haired teen chuckled. "Can you pick me up then?"


With that settled, the three Kaibas double-checked that they had everything they needed for the day then left for the garage together. Gozaburo had already examined the cars parked within several hours earlier, so although he found it distasteful, he was not at all surprised to see Noa and Mokuba jump into the horribly garish neon green safari buggy with the N KAIBA plates. They waved at the two ponies who had wandered into the garage, bade their big brother a good day at work, then bounced and clattered down the driveway before disappearing through the gates.

Seto remained behind a minute longer to pet the ponies, ruffling their manes slowly, thoughtfully… almost as if he were savoring his memories of the morning, then got into his car, a small smile still gracing his face.

* * *

In the end, Gozaburo opted to follow Seto to Kaiba Corp. Noa, in his very normalcy, had lost his interest completely. And it almost felt like Seto’s bedwarmer had taken control of the house and turned it into his domain, to the point where Gozaburo couldn’t even label it the Kaiba mansion anymore.

Even after all the years the route to Kaiba Corp. headquarters remained familiar, so even though he stayed on Seto’s tail, it wasn’t really necessary for him to follow the Ferrari as it sped down the road like a silver bullet. The exterior of the building was pretty much the same as well, save for the ubiquitous dragons, four of them this time, standing guard outside the main entrance. To Gozaburo, it almost felt like a homecoming of sorts.

Seto parked his car in his reserved spot and got out, his game face set. That too was familiar – and yet surprising as well. Surprising because Seto had looked so at ease at home that Gozaburo had thought the boy had gone soft, too laid back to be effective as a CEO. And he’d been sorely disappointed…

But now Gozaburo nodded to himself, just a little. This was more in line with the Seto he'd expected, the one he’d trained… standing with his chin up and shoulders back, like a good little soldier. After all, the boardroom was as much a war zone as a battlefield: a matching of strategy, intelligent leadership, and determination. People chose sides; the winner was the one who drummed up the most support, who brought in the biggest guns, firing their ideas in salvos until they won. As for the loser… if they were lucky, they’d be allowed to crawl back into the trenches and nurse their wounds, living to fight another day. If not…

… Well, hadn’t he made the consequences perfectly clear when he’d gone through that window?

Seto was now striding with purpose through the lobby, briefcase in one hand and coffee in the other. His shoes tapped crisply against the stone tiles. A few people greeted him with, "Good morning, Mr. Kaiba," to which Seto responded with a slight inclination of his head.

He only finally came to a stop when he reached the executive’s elevator, which was deliberately located behind the most heavily staffed section of the long security desk. It took both the keycard in his locket as well as a passcode just to activate it; a fingerprint scan or security officer’s approval would be needed as well to make the elevator move.

Security precautions or no, Gozaburo could have easily followed of course, but he found himself coming to a standstill as he took in the changes to the lobby. The space was surprisingly busy considering it was very early in the workday. The aforementioned security desk spanned the length of one wall from the side entrance to the elevator banks. One set of elevators were reserved for Kaiba Corp. usage – security was obviously a huge concern for Seto – while the other set provided access to the lower floors, as there were other companies renting out office space. Nearby, large screens on a long wall ran promotional videos for the latest shows KC cable had to offer. The waiting area in front of that featured a variety of small holographic projections set on pedestals between groupings of padded chairs, depicting everything from the KaibaLand theme parks to Duel Monsters, and there was even an enclosed area with game systems and samples of their newest titles. And towards the back, spilling up onto the second floor, there were a cluster of shops – a dry cleaners, a small sundries shop, a copy and mailing service - as well as a cafeteria that was being remodeled and expanded.

It seemed like too much, on the verge of being chaotic, and yet there was just enough restraint to keep the space professional while still promoting the company. And although the new layout wasn’t to Gozaburo’s taste, he recognized that change itself was necessary. A company couldn’t survive without reassessing itself regularly, without taking risks. And Seto was definitely not afraid of gambling. But if memory served, that was never Seto's problem. If anything, his flaw lay in his sheer recklessness and overconfidence. It never seemed to occur to him that he couldn’t always win. It would be his downfall someday…

But for now, Seto was still riding high on his success. Surely he was doing something right to be able to pay for the large security force, the maintenance of such a huge building, the ever outward expansion of his business.

With that on his mind, rather than going straight to the executive offices, Gozaburo took a bit of time to snoop around the various departments. Some of the floors were still minimally lit with auxiliary lights; the workday had not yet begun for the bulk of the employees. But there were just enough workaholics there to give him some sense of how the company was being run.

As much as he disapproved of the direction Kaiba Corp. had gone in, it really did seem to be doing well. Seto had his fingers in a lot of different pies, though the common thread with all his ventures was the focus on fun and games. Perhaps humans liked entertainment as much as they lusted for war, even in times of economic uncertainty.

Gozaburo didn’t realize how much he’d missed the simple routine of a day at the office until he was on his way out of a Marketing meeting discussing the redesign of the company logo. After the departing managers finished grumbling about needing Yami’s approval before continuing – was that punk forcibly inserting himself into Kaiba Corp. matters too?! – talk to turned to lunch. Gozaburo looked at the nearest clock, aghast. It was nearly noon already, and he hadn’t even noticed the hours flying by!

He had no intention of ending his day bogged down with the petty matters concerning middle management. So he simply willed himself upwards until he reached the 70th floor, landing in a surprisingly empty section. Come to think of it, the 69th floor had been just as empty…

Where were the executive offices? The boardroom, the conference centers, the lounge? It wasn’t until he passed through the elevator shaft that he found the miniature lobby that served the floor. Beyond that was a spacious room occupied by a pair of secretaries, with a hallway on one side leading to the bathrooms, a copy / storage room, and a small break room. There were also two large offices on the other side which were definitely being used, but at the same time were so minimally furnished it was as if the occupants were only there some of the time. Which meant those were Noa and Mokuba’s offices. And of course the heavy mahogany doors in the back led to the President’s suite, the one that had once been his.

The ding of the elevator turned him around just as he was about to float into said office. He had figured it’d be some executive or maybe an assistant running up a few documents, so when an elderly man stepped out, it was not at all what he expected.

"Good morning, ladies. You both look lovely as usual," the old man said with a bright smile on his face. Gozaburo disdainfully sneered at him. He was extremely short and dressed like a beggar, with unruly hair jutting out from under a cap. There was a KC keycard with the name "Sugoroku Mutou" hanging by a lanyard around his neck but there was no way he was an employee. Gozaburo had no clue what a person like this would be doing coming up to Seto’s office, unless he was looking for a charitable handout.

The secretaries returned the smile and even giggled a little at the harmless flirtation. One of them, the more vivacious woman with dark blue hair, told him, "You can go right in, Mr. Mutou. I kept his calendar clear for you as usual."

The name was vaguely familiar, even the face…but Gozaburo couldn’t recall ever meeting this "Mr. Mutou" before.

Sugoroku thanked the woman and walked to the door of Seto’s office, rapping on it lightly before opening it and strolling on in, all without asking permission or even announcing himself.

"Are you ready?" the old man asked, ignoring the fact that Seto was still seated and working.

The young CEO grunted a greeting without even looking up, his fingers flying over the keyboard. "Let me just finish this email. I’m almost done."

"It must be important…" Sugoroku sighed, an amused chuckle softening what would’ve otherwise come across as exasperated.

Blue eyes glanced over. "Of course it is."

There was another chuckle, then the elderly man wandered over to the padded bench next to a gigantic metal dragon sculpture and sat down, picking up a magazine to flip through.

A minute passed in near silence. Then Seto’s typing began to slow and he paused, chewing thoughtfully on his lower lip. "Okay, maybe I’m not almost done," he finally admitted.

"I don’t mind waiting…"

The brunette sat back in his chair a bit, a slight frown on his face. He knew he was being inconsiderate, thinking only his time mattered. He looked at the email again. Half his brain was screaming that it was urgent, that Kaiba Corp. took priority over everything, but the other half more reasonably pointed out that he always thought everything was urgent, even when it wasn’t. An hour’s delay on responding wouldn’t be fatal. "Nah, it isn’t that big of a deal, I guess."

Sugoroku smiled. He understood how hard it was for Seto to tear himself away from his work, even though he’d known to expect him; they’d been having lunch every Tuesday for several months now.

Decision made, Seto finally looked up, leaning back in his chair the rest of the way. He looked a little more relaxed than he’d been just a minute or two ago, when Sugoroku had first made his appearance. "Where do you want to eat, Jii-chan?"

Jii-chan?? First Noa calling Seto "big brother" and now Seto calling some slovenly old man "gramps," and not as an insult either? He could have at least chosen a more suitable looking grandfather figure if he just had to have one. Gozaburo couldn’t even pretend to understand what sort of relationship could’ve developed between the two, but part of him felt some weird sense of satisfaction that the boy hadn’t grown beyond his need to be parented.

"Hmm… That bakery we tried last week wasn’t bad," Sugoroku answered after a moment’s thought.

Seto nodded in agreement and rose to his feet. The old man put down the magazine and followed suit. Together they headed out the door, Seto falling in just behind Sugoroku as he shut and locked it behind them.

The boy looked like a docile puppy, Gozaburo thought as he phased through the door only to see the two disappear into the waiting elevator. A Great Dane puppy on his long legs, trailing obediently behind… a midget. They didn’t match at all, just like Seto and that punk he was sharing a bed wi…

He scowled as it finally clicked into place just who the old man was. The hair was a dead giveaway – still spiky, though coarser and grayed with age – as was the man’s height. He should have realized it earlier, but he hadn’t thought that the boy’s relationship with his boytoy had progressed to that level. Or maybe he just hadn’t wanted to accept the truth, that he’d made the mistake of choosing an unsuitable heir.

He found himself drifting back into Seto’s office – his office, he tried to remind himself; it had once been his! – to stare out the windows at the view below. He thought he spotted Seto and the old man getting into a car and driving off, but from that distance, he knew he couldn’t have seen it, that it had all been an illusion.

A lifetime ago he had been the lord of this domain, ruling from this eagle’s nest above the city. And just like the vainest of kings, he had wanted his legacy and lineage to endure forever, for that was what it took to transcend death. When his life had ended on the sidewalk 70 stories below, he had gone with the knowledge that he had achieved just that.

He turned away from the window and looked around the office slowly. His gaze fell on the collection of photos on Seto’s desk...

What had begun as a small cluster of framed photos of Yami, Mokuba, and Noa had evolved into a collage with those same snapshots surrounding a digital frame with various pictures of the Kaibas and their friends from different events. Of course Gozaburo hadn’t seen the collection develop, hadn’t witnessed Yami sneaking in photos of himself and Noa to join the one Seto already had of Mokuba, or Mokuba later bringing in the digital album as well.

The image currently shown in the digital frame was of Noa standing in front of his hideous safari bus, with Mokuba and Yami to his right and two of their "buddies" standing by the hood. Seto presumably had taken the shot. The green-haired teen looked overwhelmingly happy and was holding up his temporary license as well as the car keys. It was one of those moments that all teens lived for… and Noa had celebrated his with his odd, cobbled together… family.

For a moment, Gozaburo wondered who had mourned him at his funeral, save for the people on his payroll who may have felt obligated to go. He’d lost contact with his first wife, outlived his son and his second wife, had little other family to speak of… He had thought he had plenty of acquaintances around him, but now that he thought about it, they’d all been business associates. Still, that counted for something, didn’t it?

He looked around the room again. The walls, the windows, the door… those were the only things that were familiar. Everything else, every last item in the room and on that floor, had been changed… even the carpet. It wasn’t his office anymore, he realized. It looked like it had never been his. It was all Seto’s.

The company too… It was still Kaiba Corp., but no longer recognizable as what it had once been. They were now in the business of making games and toys and providing entertainment to a huge range of customers. Nothing more than the headquarter’s street address remained untouched from Gozaburo’s days as lord and master.

And Seto was no longer his shadow or even a cheap knockoff of Noa. He’d become his own person, one that Gozaburo hardly recognized save for the same determined burn in his eyes that he’d had since their first meeting. The one that had made him decide maybe there was something worth testing in the brat, if only for the satisfaction of slowly snuffing that fire out.

Having an heir should have at least allowed part of him to transcend death. But it was no longer his office, his company, his life. The only thing of his that truly remained was his name, Kaiba, but that was now uttered in conjunction with "Seto" instead of "Gozaburo."

There was no longer victory to be grasped; not even a battleground upon which war could be waged. He had lost. He couldn’t even lie to himself and think, Well, at least Seto doesn’t realize he’s won, because the moment the boy had turned away from their fight, it was over, as if it had never been there at all.

… As if he’d never existed at all.

* * *


Author’s Notes:

November 8, 2009