Title: Taboo
Author: bnomiko
Rating: PG-13
Pairing(s): Main: Noa + Mokuba, Seto + Yami. Minor: Yamato + Kouya, Anzu + Yugi, Mai + Jou, Malik + Bakura
Spoilers: none
Warnings: swearing
Disclaimer: Yu-Gi-Oh! is the creation of Kazuki Takahashi. "Taboo" is from the musical Taboo, by Boy George. "If Prayin’ Were Horses" is from the musical The Civil War, by Jack Murphy and Frank Wildhorn. This is a not-for-profit fanwork and I do not own any of these characters.
Summary: Seto takes Mokie to work; Yami takes Noa for a ride.
Status: 4 / ?
Archived at: http://www.phenixsol.com/Miko/FF/

* * *

Taboo

Ch. 3: If Prayin’ Were Horses

* * *

Yami had a vague, dream-like memory of being kissed on the cheek and having his hair stroked, but when he finally awoke, he was in bed… alone. But at least the slip of paper on the bedside table confirmed that those ghostly sensations were not part of some dream. The neatly written note read simply:

I’m taking Mokuba to work with me today. I’ll see you later.

- Seto

A slight smile creased the ex-spirit’s features, and he felt his mood lighten somewhat. No "I love you" was necessary, for as terse as Seto’s message was, just the fact that he saw fit to leave it meant more than the words themselves. And although Yami didn’t need Seto to confirm what he already understood, it felt good to know that Seto cared despite his mind being on others matters.

Still… he hoped that things would be resolved soon between Seto and Noa, and more importantly, between Seto and Mokuba. It had to have hurt Seto deeply to have Mokuba withhold the truth from him about his relationship with Noa, as if he hadn’t trusted him enough to share that information. Not to say that Seto would have simply accepted it if he had been told the truth from the beginning, but at least he wouldn’t have had to deal with Mokuba’s apparent distrust on top of everything else.

"What a mess," he murmured to himself, scratching sleep-tousled hair, wondering where things would go from there. He supposed he ought to take the opportunity to talk to Noa and get his side of the story while hopefully Mokuba and Seto started working things out on their end. Yami certainly didn’t want the previous night’s sleeping arrangement to become permanent; he hated sleeping alone. And even more importantly, he hated the thought of what this entire… fight was doing to his "family," how this had to be affecting the two younger teens’ relationship with each other, and their relationship with Seto in turn. Most of all, Yami worried about how this affected Seto, who behind his stony exterior was far more emotionally sensitive than the world realized. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that Seto had blamed himself for Yami being injured in an earthquake, and the short duelist definitely didn’t want a repeat of that. Seto had beaten himself up so badly over it: not sleeping, not eating, isolating himself… it still made Yami’s heart ache to think of how cruelly Seto had punished himself for something that he had no control over, and how much worse…

Yami shook his head, trying to derail his current train of thought. Think optimistically… it’s going to work out one way or another, he chided himself. But he wasn’t sure if he believed that even as he repeated it to himself. He glanced at the note on the nightstand again, picking it up to lightly trace his fingertips over the short message. Maybe, hopefully… by that evening, things would be back to normal…

Yeah, right. Who was he kidding?

* * *

Uncertain of how to broach the subject, Mokuba had stayed silent during the entire drive over to Kaiba Corp. He knew why Seto had woken him up with orders to accompany him for the day; he wanted to keep him away from Noa while he tried to figure things out. The danger in that was that while Seto’s logic was near flawless in a business environment, it often wandered down some bizarre pathways when it came to personal matters, and Mokuba didn’t want his big brother jumping to some strange conclusion without him ever getting a chance to explain himself. But… what could he say that wouldn’t sound like a betrayal? He had deceived Seto. Noa had deceived Seto. And Seto ended up sleeping in the hallway because even if they had promised to not do *anything*, he apparently didn’t know if he could trust their word anymore. And that put a knot in Mokuba’s throat. So should he put it all out on the table then? Or would that only make things worse?

Actually, things can’t get worse, can they? the black-haired teen reasoned to himself. Well, of course they could, but Seto had shown a lot of restraint in not throttling Noa in a fit of rage right there in the parking lot, so at least it appeared that they’d all survive the incident with their hides intact. But in a way that worried Mokuba even more. Given how well he knew his brother, he could almost understand it if Seto had just lashed out in anger, but he hadn’t. Which meant that whatever hurt he felt was being all bottled up inside and probably feeding his twisted logic, which could end up pushing him into making a decision that he’d most likely regret.

There really wasn’t any time to waste on self pity, thought Mokuba couldn’t help it. Yes, he knew that he should have come clean with Seto. He felt horrible for not telling him the truth earlier. But he hadn’t known what to say, how to explain how he felt about Noa.

It occurred to Mokuba in the midst of all these thoughts that he had probably hurt Noa as well by not wanting to tell Seto the truth earlier. Noa had wanted to get things out in the open, but Mokuba never felt ready and had made lame excuses one after another, trying to delay the inevitable. In forcing Noa to be his co-conspirator, in making him hide their relationship as if he were ashamed of it… what did that say about how important Noa was to him? Didn’t both of his brothers deserve better than that?

Disappointed with himself, Mokuba glanced up from the pile of homework he was supposed to be working on and cautiously studied his older brother as he sat silently at his desk, staring at his computer with his brow wrinkled in concentration, as if he were reading the world’s longest email. Mokuba bet if there was actually an email open, Seto had already reread the same line a dozen times.

He desperately wanted to talk to Seto, but once again… he failed to find the words he needed to start the conversation. So they both continued to pretend to work in silence.

* * *

When Yami finally wandered down for a late breakfast, he found Noa in the family room slouched on a sofa flipping through various TV programs. The green-haired teen grunted a greeting in response to Yami’s carefully neutral "Good morning" but didn’t bother looking over at the former Pharaoh, instead focusing his attention on the mindless jiggling of the dancers in the music video that was currently playing on the channel he had stopped at.

Yami pursued his lips. Obviously Noa wasn’t in the mood to talk, probably figuring that anything that he said would instantly get relayed back to Seto. But Yami had no intention of doing that. He wasn’t some sort of spy, and Seto wouldn’t want him acting in that capacity anyway, but perhaps that could explain why Noa was a bit reluctant to talk to him.

No point in guessing when I have him sitting right there in front of me, Yami figured, pushing aside thoughts of breakfast as he went to perch himself on the arm of the sofa Noa was seated on. After a long minute passed, Yami dove in with a soft, "So, did you sleep alright last night?"

Noa stared at the television for a moment longer until a commercial came on, then finally sighed and gave in, seeing that he wasn’t going to deter Yami so easily. He couldn’t help but wonder if Seto had left Yami with instructions to keep an eye on him, or maybe to pump him for information. But all right, he was game. Turning off the TV, he gave Yami an assessing look before responding. "I’m fine."

Yami cocked his head a little. "Really? I slept horribly."

"No sex, huh?" Noa blurted out reflexively, ducking his head in embarrassment as soon as the words were out.

"It’s not about…" A slight blush crept over Yami’s cheeks, but he figured if he wanted Noa to be truthful with him, he had to return the favor. "Well, that’s part of it," he murmured. "But mostly… I just missed having Seto there beside me."

The younger teen thought about it, then nodded in agreement. "I missed Mokuba too, even his snoring," he divulged after some hesitation. He wasn’t exactly sure of what Yami thought of their relationship, but he didn’t seem mad… In a sudden rush, he threw in, "We really haven’t been doing anything, you know? Not like you and Seto I mean."

"I’m glad to hear that."

Noa just nodded, not sure of what else to say. What he really wanted to do was just throw everything at Yami and see how he would judge him, to find out whether he was friend or foe. He would have done so, but he didn’t know exactly how much of the conversation was being shared with Seto, and he didn’t want Mokuba stuck answering questions that he had brought up. And poor Mokuba… he was probably getting grilled by Seto that very minute. Noa wished he could be there to lend his support at least, but he was stuck at home with Yami for the time being, so all he could do was grit his teeth and deal with it.

Yami grimaced as his younger companion lapsed back into silence. He was hopeful for a minute there that Noa would keep talking and maybe open up a bit more to him, for the more he understood the more able he’d be to find a resolution that would work for all of them, but Noa looked tense. Reserved, stiff… uncertain.

Well, if nothing else his relationship with Seto had taught him a few things about getting people to loosen up, which in turn made them more receptive to talking. And he saw no reason why Noa wouldn’t respond to similar stimuli as well. So Yami hopped to his feet with aplomb and said, "I have an idea. I want to grab something to eat first, but after that, do you want to go riding with me?"

Noa began shaking his head, but then he reconsidered. Maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea after all. It certainly beat moping around and feeling like he was under house arrest or something. "Guess so."

Yami beamed, pleased with the answer, and Noa suddenly found himself questioning whether or not he had made the wisest choice given the circumstances. House arrest was starting to sound appealing now he had just agreed to face the inquisitor.

* * *

From his vantage point, Seto noticed that Mokuba was watching him every now and then, but since he wasn’t choosing to start a conversation, Seto hadn’t started one either since he was at a total loss of what to say. At least he found some comfort at his brother’s attempts to peep at him from behind a book, because that assured him that Mokuba was still himself. As much as he hated to dwell on the past, he couldn’t help but think back to when they were trapped in Noa’s virtual world, and Mokuba had been turned against him. Never again did he want to see such a blank, lifeless look on his beloved little brother’s face.

The email that he must have read a hundred times already seemed to go blurry for a moment, and Seto squinted and scowled, reflexively lifting a hand to rub at his temples. Damn stubborn headache! Why did he bother coming to work when he couldn’t concentrate? For a moment he wished for Yami and a soothing massage, which always helped to get some of the tension out of his muscles, but then he chided himself for thinking about Yami and his damn talented fingers when the LAST thing he ought to be longing for that moment was his lover. So even as miles away, Yami started to respond to his need, his concern seeping into their link… Seto held his ground insistently until Yami backed off, leaving behind a trace of disappointment.

He felt bad for Yami, but in spite of what his boyfriend thought, it wasn’t his problem to deal with. Noa and Mokuba were Seto’s responsibility. Besides, Yami in a way was sorta part of the problem. He was always running around and getting Seto to try all sorts of bizarre sexual things, which really had to be giving the impressionable younger pair the wrong type of ideas. Most kids probably didn’t have to see their parents having sex on *their* beds, or running around naked on the stairs in nothing but a pair of bunny ears and a fluffy bunny tail butt plug, but then again… I’m not his parent, I’m not Noa’s parent. I’m their big brother, and I’ve fucking failed at it.

He still didn’t know what to do about Yami. The crimson-eyed teen had promised to never leave his side again, and Seto knew that he’d stick to that no matter what. And that gave him a spark of hope at least, knowing that whatever decisions he made that Yami would continue to stand by him, for he couldn’t bear to lose his boyfriend again. But that didn’t necessarily mean that things could continue on merrily as they had before. He had to be more responsible, he had to remember his priorities!

Mokuba was looking at him again. Seto stared back a bit dazedly. The black-haired teen’s mouth opened slightly, as if he wanted to say something, then just as quickly he shut his mouth and went back to his homework.

I hope he’s not expecting me to start the conversation, Seto told himself, though by that point he wasn’t sure if anything would ever get resolved at that rate. But what was he supposed to say anyway? "So, you and Noa are an item." "So, you and Noa have seen Yami and me in compromising positions a few too many times." "So, you’re sleeping with your brother…" HELL NO. That sounds awful, and do I really think that they’re…

Seto growled, earning him a startled look from Mokuba. Immediately the young CEO felt his chest tighten. Was Mokuba so scared of what he might do that that was why he hadn’t told him about Noa? He couldn’t really blame Mokuba for thinking that way… he knew he was infamous for his temper and his overreactions. But this was Mokuba. Of all the people on the planet, he was the one that shouldn’t…

The brunette barely managed to hold in a shudder that seemed to ripple down the entire length of his spine. He was such a hypocrite for even thinking about being upset at Mokuba for betraying him when he was the one who drew first blood at Death-T. Mokuba had told him that he forgave him, that he could never hate him despite what he had done, but it was so devastating a treachery that Seto wondered how much of Mokuba’s unconscious mind still feared him because of it. He really couldn’t blame him for not trusting in him if that was the case, for he knew where the blame truly lay.

His eyes flickered to the magazine covers that graced the wall above the project table where Mokuba sat doing his homework. Yami had taken great pride in assembling the images, supposedly intending for them to be inspirational reminders of all that Seto had accomplished. But at the moment, all the tall duelist could think of was that it was like looking at a series of mug shots or wanted posters. Yes indeed, he knew where the blame lay.

* * *

Noa and Yami headed out to the stables and fetched their respective mounts. The six stall barn, a Christmas gift from Seto to Yami, had been finished very early in the spring and had been quickly filled with a quartet of carefully selected sportshorses, all of whom were named after dragons from an online fantasy game Mokuba and Noa had been playing. So there was a chestnut mare named Ysondre and a bay called Emeriss, and a pair of geldings, the black one being Ebonroc, and the gray, Azuregos. But although a horse had been purchased for each member of the household, Seto and Mokuba rarely rode despite receiving schooling from a private instructor, and usually only went along at Yami and Noa’s urging. Not that they found it unpleasant, but they didn’t have the sort of love for it that the other two had.

But it wasn’t love of riding that drove Noa and Yami out of the mansion that day. Both of them wanted something to focus on other than their current problem, something that didn’t make them think of Seto and Mokuba. And what better than the horses that the other two barely rode? So they brought out their tack and their respective horses and groomed them in companionable silence.

Noa was done first, swinging up onto Ysondre with practiced ease, working her in slow circles outside the entrance to the covered arena while Kuriboh trotted over briefly to see what was going on. The pony eyed Noa, looked around for Seto, then gave up and ran off again. Yami finished double-checking the girth on Ebonroc before following Noa’s lead, and the two headed into the enclosure.

The gentle rocking motion of the horses’ bodies and the steady beating of hooves on the packed arena floor quickly worked their magic on the pair of riders. Noa began relaxing into his seat and even took a few low jumps while Yami contented himself with maintaining a slow trot around the ring, glancing over at the younger teen every now and then, catching his gaze a few times. Noa seemed to be mulling over the possibility of riding over to talk, but couldn’t make up his mind.

Knowing that there was nothing to be gained by continued silence, Yami waited until Noa rode by once more and told him in a low voice, "While Seto and I are linked at all times, that doesn’t mean that we automatically know what the other is thinking. We always respect one another’s privacy."

Noa risked glancing at Yami over his shoulder as he considered what was being said, then slowly began reining Ysondre in until Yami caught up. It wasn’t so much the words themselves that convinced him, but more the sincerity of the tone and the bare honesty in Yami’s eyes that did it. And he had to admit, he was curious as to where Yami stood, even though he noticed that the older teen hadn’t promised that the information wouldn’t end up getting back to Seto at a later time. But he was willing to take the risk.

"You don’t…" Noa bit his lip, then continued. "Do you think it’s weird? Or uh, wrong?" He couldn’t help but wince at how odd that sounded.

"Weird?" Yami shrugged. "Depends on what you mean by that. If you’re referring to the fact that you and Mokuba are ‘brothers’…"

"But we’re not! I mean, not really…" Flustered, Noa looked away. "I don’t really think of him that way; maybe I did once, but… it’s hard to explain." Seeing the confusion in Yami’s eyes, he quickly added, "But I’m not using him, or manipulating him, or anything like that – this isn’t a game to either one of us. I… I’ve wanted to be with Mokuba for a long time."

The crimson-eyed teen couldn’t help but smile in relief. He had wanted to believe that whatever was going on between the two was mutual, that this wasn’t some sort of repeat of their time in the virtual world, so it was good to hear confirmation of that.

Seeing that Yami seemed to be accepting his explanation so far, Noa asked again, "Do you think it’s wrong for us to be together?" He held his breath as Yami stopped his horse to think the matter over. He wanted to tell himself it didn’t matter what Yami’s answer was since HE didn’t think it was wrong, but it had been something that had bothered Mokuba, so he couldn’t resist asking.

Yami pondered the question carefully. Was it wrong? Most people would probably say it was. But he didn’t feel in his heart that it was wrong; it occurred to him that in his ancient past, incestuous relationships weren’t exactly taboo, so perhaps that had a little to do with it. Or perhaps it was simply because there was something… inevitable about it. In Yami’s eyes, Mokuba and Noa seemed to fit together as flawlessly as he and Seto, so who was he to deny such a bond?

"I… don’t think it’s wrong; in fact, if this is what makes you and Mokuba happy, then great, I’m fine with that, but… it’s not something that a lot of people would approve of I’m afraid."

"Like Seto," Noa retorted, unable to hide the slight bitterness that crept into his voice. He hadn’t thought it would be so hard to sleep alone last night, but it had been, and he couldn’t help but be a bit annoyed by it.

Yami caught what was left unsaid and frowned. "The two of you should have come out and told him. The deception is what is upsetting him most."

"I told Mokuba we ought to tell him, but he didn’t want to!" Noa argued back. Ysondre danced beneath him, unhappy with the sudden outburst. He spared a moment to get her back under control, then he added, "I knew something like this would happen." But what do I do now?

"So what will you do now?"

Noa jerked his head up as Yami echoed his thoughts. He wished he had a suitable response, but if he had the answer, then there would no longer be a problem. And quite frankly, he wasn’t sure if there really was anything that he could do to make things better, at least not while Seto was this upset. Part of him almost wanted to just shove the problem off onto Yami, but he had a feeling that in this case, even that would only go so far. And it wasn’t Yami’s deal anyhow. It wasn’t even that Noa was afraid of facing Seto, because he assured himself that he wasn’t, but… as always, his thoughts drifted back to Mokuba. And that’s where his fears lay… he was afraid that Mokuba would have to answer for anything untoward he might say.

He spent so much time thinking about it that they ended up making another circuit around the arena, but he wasn’t any closer to figuring out a solution. From the slightly worried look on Yami’s face, the ex-spirit wasn’t sure either. And Noa wondered, just how much of Yami’s question had been directed at him?

* * *

TBC

Author’s Notes:

If prayin' were horses, all of us would ride
And ever I'd be by your side

May 5, 2006