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Thematically a sequel to "Closing Day," this story, like that one, also follows manga continuity. In the manga version of Duelist Kingdom, Seto and Mokuba's hug on the castle steps is the first time the brothers have been together since Mokuba was abducted by Pegasus's men, and the first time Mokuba has seen his brother conscious in six months, since Seto's heart was shattered by Yami Yugi at the end of their duel at Death-T.
With the helicopter over capacity as it were, Seto didn't risk flying over the city. He brought them down on an empty loading dock in Domino Port, after radioing ahead for taxi service.
From the way his brother glared at the noisy crew piling out of the helicopter, Mokuba knew that hadn't been courtesy so much as guaranteeing that everyone would be gone as soon as possible. Still, after he had waved goodbye to Yugi and his friends and the cabs had driven off, Mokuba climbed back into the helicopter and said, "Thank you, Nii-sama. For letting them come back with us."
His brother shrugged, prepping the copter to resume flight. "Should I take you back to the mansion?" he said as they lifted off.
"Aren't we going home together?" Mokuba asked.
His brother shook his head. "I have to go to headquarters now. There wasn't time before I left."
"Then I'll come with you," Mokuba said, and his brother nodded and circled the helicopter over downtown, heading toward the KC tower.
Mokuba wasn't tired anyway. Actually he was exhausted, a heavy, dragging fatigue that made his muscles ache to move. He had bruises that he didn't remember getting, and others that he did, and his palms were scratched and hurting where he had scraped them on the dungeon's stone floors. But he wasn't sleepy.
And his brother hardly seemed tired at all, even after flying for five hours. With the helicopter overloaded, he hadn't been able to use autopilot on the trip back across the ocean, and now their flight path over Domino was too low for it, but his hands were steady on the stick, smoothly carrying them along.
It was so quiet without everybody's loud conversation, shouting to be heard over the engine. The only sound now was the throb of the rotary blades and the radio's chatter. His brother was silent, concentrating on flying.
His brother. Mokuba looked over at Seto, sitting in the pilot's seat, his posture straight and focused, his blue eyes aware, glancing between the instrument panels and the view outside.
It was so wonderful a sight, so different from the mindless, empty body he had been watching over for the last six months, that Mokuba couldn't look away. Couldn't think of going to sleep, else he might wake up and find this was all just a happy dream, and Seto was still in the coma.
Yugi had promised Mokuba his brother would come back, eventually. Had sworn it to him again at Duelist Kingdom just a couple days ago, but by then Mokuba hadn't quite dared to believe him anymore. He had been waiting for so long already, and all the doctors who had come to look at his brother said the same thing, that they didn't understand the cause of his condition, that they didn't know how to cure it, that the chances were low to nonexistent that he would ever recover. In Pegasus's dungeon he had known that no one would be coming to save him, but he had to hold on anyway, had make it through, with his brother depending on him.
Then Mokuba had awoken from...dreams, nightmares, an impression of terrifying darkness worse than even the monsters of the penalty box; and he hadn't been chained to a stone wall but in a soft bed, and Yugi and his friends were there, telling him it was all right, that his brother was on the island. That his brother was alive after all, and had come for him.
But Seto wasn't with them, and they didn't know where he was. They had all searched for him as they made their way through the castle. Really it hadn't been even an hour before they found him, Mokuba knew, but at the time it had seemed like hours, days. Forever, and he had started to wonder if maybe Yugi was lying. Playing a joke on him, everybody laughing secretly even as they pretended to call out for his brother—not that Yugi, he wouldn't, but the other one might, the one with the sharp eyes that could be ruthless.
Then his brother had been standing there at the top of that flight of stairs, looking down at them, and then his brother had called his name. And Mokuba had seen that Yugi hadn't been lying at all, that everything Yugi had promised had come true, because this was his real brother, smiling at him, like he hadn't in so long. As he hadn't for years, long before Death-T, and Mokuba had flown up the steps, and his brother had opened his arms and caught him, and Mokuba didn't think he had ever been as happy as he had been that moment, so happy he might have cried, smiling so hard it hurt.
Watching him fly the helicopter now, Mokuba felt himself smiling again until his cheeks ached. The brother he had missed so badly, the brother he thought he might never meet again. The brother he had feared Gozaburo might have killed, even before Yugi had ever dueled him. But he was awake, and he was alive, and even if Seto's face was now set in serious concentration, Mokuba remembered his brother's arms around him on the castle steps, holding him tight. Just like he had held his hand in the orphanage all those years ago and promised to protect him. Promised he would always be there, and he was.
Mokuba reached up to clasp his fingers over the cool metal of the locket around his neck. He didn't need to open it, not with his brother sitting here before him. Didn't need to compare his brother's smile in the old photograph to the one he had only just seen. Maybe they were different smiles, but they were both real. Nothing like that falsely pleasant, horrible mask Gozaburo had taught him. Nothing like that blank emptiness that had been his only expression for the last six months.
If Mokuba spoke now, his brother would hear him. Knowing that was enough; he didn't need to say anything.
But his brother did anyway. "Mokuba," he said, just loud enough to be heard over the propeller. Without looking from the instrument panel, he remarked, "You're very quiet." He hesitated, almost as if he were trying to remember the right words. "Is anything the matter?"
"No!" Mokuba shook his head hard. "Nothing, Nii-sama."
His brother wasn't looking at him—they were approaching the KC Tower, he was focused on maneuvering the helicopter—but he must have heard the happiness in Mokuba's voice, because he nodded, and his mouth curved a little, a small smile, but still real.
Mokuba radioed in contact as Seto brought the helicopter down in the precise center of pad. Two men in suits rushed up to meet them as they disembarked, not waiting for the helicopter's blades to slow, the wind whipping their hair into a mess.
"Seto-sama, welcome back, sir," they said formally, bowing, and bowed to Mokuba as well, "And you, Mokuba-sama."
Mokuba nodded greeting. Isono and Fujita had both helped him in the past months; they were loyal to Kaiba Corporation, not Pegasus or the Big Five.
Seto surveyed them, straightened to his full height—he had grown; at Death-T he had been their height, and now he was taller than both of them. Mokuba grinned proudly as he saw the men realize it as well, that his brother now surpassed them in everything but age. "I want the Big Five's accounts frozen, and all their network access banned, immediately," his brother ordered. "And select a secretary fluent in English for negotiations with Industrial Illusions tomorrow morning—business law experience preferred, contract out if there's no appropriate employee."
The two men looked at each other. "Seto-sama, it is going on nine at night—" Isono began.
"I'm aware of the time," his brother said. "The calls will wait until tomorrow, but we can start strategizing now." He leveled a vivid blue gaze on them, asked, "Well, what are you waiting for?"
Mokuba watched in some wonder. It had been six months, but his brother's tone hadn't been blunted; if anything it had sharpened, refined into deliberate, incisive command. He sounded older than the adult men, somehow, and more confident than before. And the smile was gone from his face like it had never been, but what had replaced it wasn't Gozaburo's fake mask, not that courteous, cruel parody of feeling; but a wholly different look. A new expression that reminded Mokuba more than anything of the other Yugi, that unshakeable resolve that requested and gave no quarter; that made promises and kept them, even when they should be impossible.
Isono and Fujita exchanged glances again, and Mokuba wondered if they noticed the difference. Then they both nodded and bowed again, saying, "Yes, sir," and Isono added, "It's good to have you back, Seto-sama."
Seto said nothing, just nodded curtly. Mokuba wondered if his brother heard the sincerity in Isono's voice. The men turned and hurried off, and his brother looked down at him, met his eyes and said, "Come on, Mokuba. Let's see what Kaiba Corporation looks like these days."
"Yes!" Mokuba said, grinning, and followed his brother.
Late as it was, there weren't many people left in the building besides security and a few programmers, and most of the latter were so intent on their work that their bloodshot eyes barely registered the return of their president. Seto didn't particularly call attention to himself, stalking down halls at random and looking over various desks and into sundry offices, noting the changes in arrangements made in the past six months.
Of course he didn't not call attention to himself, either, with his blue eyes piercing and his burnished trench coat sweeping around him, Mokuba jogging to keep up with his far longer strides. Upon realizing who it was, employees scrambled to present themselves, gasping out deferential greetings to "Seto-sama," or "Kaiba-sama," depending on whether they had served Gozaburo before him. A couple newcomers didn't know him, but recognized Mokuba and deduced the rest, falling over themselves to introduce themselves to their legendary president, flushed and flustered.
It was pretty funny, really, how close to terrified they all looked in their surprise, and the way they stammered. Mokuba nearly cracked up a couple times, but his brother's expression never wavered. Though when they were alone, taking the elevator back up to his office, he smirked, remarking to Mokuba, "Not like any of them have that much to worry about; they're the ones pulling overtime, after all. That's proving their dedication right there."
"We have a lot of good people working for us in KaibaCorp," Mokuba said. He had met many of them in the last six months.
His brother nodded, watching the floor numbers blinking by as the elevator rose. "Your office is just as you left it," Mokuba said. "The Big Five wanted to put somebody in it but I wouldn't let them, I took it for myself." The elevator chimed as it stopped on the top floor, the doors sliding open. "But I didn't change anything, except upgrading the computer to keep it up to date, and getting rid of the bugs that Pegasus got planted. The ones I could find, anyway," he went on, as they got out and headed down the corridor to the office. "There might be more, but..."
"I know," his brother said. "I read your report."
The report. Mokuba winced. He hadn't had time to edit it, and he knew he had screwed up some of the kanji, he always did, even when writing on the computer. Really he shouldn't have written it in Japanese at all; English would have been better for the sake of secrecy. Or, since Pegasus had known English, an even more foreign language, like German or Arabic, that few people in Japan would have been able to read. His brother often kept his notes in three or four different languages. But Mokuba's German wasn't very good, and his English spelling was more atrocious than his kanji. Besides, he hadn't been meaning to make a report at first, he had just needed a way to keep straight everything that was going on, since he couldn't keep it all in his head without forgetting things.
When Pegasus's men had come for him, he hadn't had time to look over his scattered notes, had just printed everything out and given the folder to Akari. If something happened to him, at least his brother would have had an idea of what was going on, once he woke up. But Mokuba wished he had thought of organizing everything sooner, so it could have been any good. "I'm sorry about that report, Nii-sama—"
"Why should you be?" his brother said, surprised. "It was thorough and accurate. And needed; I certainly couldn't trust anyone else to explain the situation honestly."
Accurate, maybe, he had tried. But incomplete. He had been a couple months late in starting to record it, and while later he had gone back to fill in some details, other things he hadn't gotten around to writing up. Some things he never would have. He hadn't been brave enough to think about them.
But his brother was awake now. Had returned, was here, walking beside him, and he didn't have to be afraid of anything now. "Nii-sama, about Death-T..."
Seto stopped, long strides cut short, his swirling coat settling around him. "Yes?" he said evenly, not looking down at Mokuba.
Mokuba swallowed. "You—remember it, right?" The doctors had told him that a degree of memory loss after a prolonged coma was to be expected. But they hadn't properly understood his brother's condition anyway. "Your duel, and...everything?"
His brother nodded. "I remember Death-T," he said, still not looking at him. "I remember its design and construction; I remember the day it opened. And the duel. I remember losing to Yugi—I suppose this makes three times I've lost to him, now," he murmured, almost to himself.
Mokuba frowned. Three? He only knew of two duels—unless they had fought again at Duelist Kingdom? And he had never seen any of them. Though having played Yugi himself, he understood how even his brother might lose to him.
His brother had lost, and yet he lived. Was living again, after Mokuba had thought that he might never have his brother back. If he hadn't dueled against Yugi...
No, Mokuba couldn't hate Yugi for winning. Even if it meant his brother had had to lose.
"After Death-T," Mokuba said, "when it was all over, after Yugi and his friends and everyone else was gone—I had it taken down. All of it but T-5..."
T-5, the Duel Monsters stadium, where his brother had battled, and lost, Mokuba had had closed off. It was taking up most of the four floors below the CEO penthouse office, the power disconnected, seating covered and electronics wrapped in plastic, a sealed dark cavern in the skyscraper's core. "It's still there, Nii-sama. It could be opened again, you could still play there, if you want."
His brother shook his head, eyes narrowed, staring ahead down the corridor. "No. I lost enough there already. That will never be a fitting place for a victory. And the rest of it's already gone?"
Mokuba nodded. "We converted the lower levels for Kaiba Land, and the other two got turned into useful stuff." T-3 was now being used as a game testing lab; T-4, his CapMon platform, had been remodeled into a conference room. "Most of the equipment was taken apart and the parts got reused, the rest of it is in storage. Except the penalty boxes," and Mokuba swallowed. "I—I had those destroyed. And the prototypes, too. Everything."
The penalty boxes had been the most expensive part of Death-T, some of the most advanced technology Kaiba Corporation had ever developed, utilizing his brother's Solid Vision technology to its greatest potential. So Mokuba had been told repeatedly by the men on the project; so he had already known, having been there for their development. His brother had worked harder on them than anything, testing and perfecting their function in the weeks before the opening.
Mokuba had had to fight hardest to get rid of them, over anything else of Death-T. But he had succeeded, had purged the computer data himself and overseen the demolition of the penalty boxes in person, less than a week after Death-T's opening and closing day.
It hadn't stopped the nightmares, but at least when he woke up alone in the middle of the night, he could tell himself they were gone. The worst nightmare had been the waking one anyway, his brother's empty, sightless stare, and that one was over. The illusionary monsters that had him screaming in his sleep would be powerless now, when he could call for his brother.
"So the penalty boxes are gone," his brother said, slowly, but there was a forced note to his calm, some strong feeling barely, barely reined in.
"Yes, Nii-sama," Mokuba said, looking down at the patterned carpet, bracing himself for his brother's temper
"Good," Seto said, sharp and short and fiercely satisfied. Mokuba looked up to find his brother's eyes watching him intently, and whatever feeling was restrained in his voice was burning in that blue, too, but it wasn't anger. Mokuba didn't know what it was, but it didn't frighten him.
Nothing could frighten him. Not with his brother at his side.
Running ahead to the office, Mokuba unlocked the doors and flung them open, switching on the lights as his brother entered. Seto gave it all a single pointed look over, taking in the couch and chairs, the shelves of books, the television screen, all exactly as he had last seen them six months ago, and nodded once with a satisfaction that made Mokuba's heart swell with pride. His brother's strides didn't falter as he approached his desk and set his briefcase down on top, though he paused before sitting, looking down at the chair thoughtfully, his figure mirrored in the dark window behind him.
The phone on the desk rang. Mokuba jumped as the trill pierced the quiet. Still standing, his brother hit the speaker button, said calmly, "Kaiba Seto."
"Oh, Seto-sama!" a female voice sounded over the speaker. Mokuba recognized their maid. "You are back! Is Mokuba-sama with you?"
"I fail to see how that concerns you," Seto said. "If not for the household's incompetency he wouldn't have been abducted to begin with."
"I'm right here, Akari," Mokuba said, before his brother could get any angrier. "We're both fine."
"Oh, thank goodness!" she said. "Should I send for Dr. Tanaka, Seto-sama? He was very concerned that he didn't get a chance to examine you before you left, he wanted to see you as soon as possible. And have you and Mokuba-sama had supper yet? Should we make anything? When will you be coming ho—"
His brother punched another button, ending the call with a click. Then he looked at Mokuba, muttered, "No time for that nonsense."
Mokuba shrugged. It wasn't Akari's fault that Pegasus's men had grabbed him, but he would be able to reassure her of that in person soon enough. She knew he was okay now, so she would have no reason to worry. And she would have already known his brother was all right; she must have seen him after he woke up, to give him Mokuba's report. What she had said about the doctor worried him a little, that his brother's health hadn't been fully verified. But then the doctors hadn't been able to help any before, and his brother seemed perfectly well now. Looking at him, Mokuba could see no weakness.
Still, it would be best to be sure. "Maybe you could make an appointment with the doctor for tomorrow, Nii-sama." But not now. Now they had a lot to do now, before they could think about going home.
"Do you think Industrial Illusions will deal with us fairly, now?" he asked instead. His brother would have to come to some sort of arrangement about ownership of the dueling box technology, at least. Though that might be more difficult if Pegasus weren't around—what had happened to him after he lost the tournament? Yugi and the others had been talking like they didn't know.
"And we'll have to hire some new directors, I could start putting together the job postings," Mokuba continued. With the Big Five out of Kaiba Corp there were important vacancies to fill, and some employees more loyal to them than to the company would have to be terminated. "And there's the new projects for you to approve. And the dev teams' updates, the Duel Disk project needs your help, they're stuck on getting the new disks to network right. I tried to help but I don't know enough. And there's the tech left over from Death-T, I didn't know what to do with all of it, but you would, that's why I had it put in storage, because you could figure out the best way to use it. I knew you'd be able to make everything work out, Nii-sama, when you came back..."
"Mokuba," his brother said, interrupting him, and Mokuba looked up to find his brother standing before him, looking down at him with a frown, maybe disapproving.
His face was blurry, and Mokuba rubbed his eyes, realizing that they were wet for some reason, that he was tearing up, which was weird, because there wasn't anything like smoke in the air to make his eyes water. But he couldn't be crying. He hadn't cried almost at all in the last six months, not awake, not since the first night after Death-T. Not after all the different doctors from around the world had examined Seto and pronounced him a hopeless case, not when the Big Five had come and he had realized he had no way of stopping Pegasus, not when he had been in Pegasus's dungeon and had felt the darkness closing around him that had torn his soul from his body. He hadn't cried then, and now he had no reason to cry at all.
"Mokuba," his brother said again, kneeling down so they were eye to eye, and his brother put out one hand and touched his shoulder, gently, tentatively, and asked, "What's wrong?"
His frown wasn't disapproval after all, but concern, and Mokuba heard something in his voice, in that question—that question which his brother never asked at all, not since the orphanage.
Only a few days after they had first arrived at the Kaiba mansion, Mokuba had thrown a tantrum at dinner, in front of his brother and their new stepfather. He didn't remember why anymore, only that his brother, who always before had comforted him when he cried, had just told him to be quiet, and out of shock he had, going silent like he had been slapped.
Later that night, his brother had snuck into his bedroom, had given Mokuba a hug and told him it was all right, told him he could cry if he wanted, but that his brother wouldn't ask him why if he did, because he couldn't, not anymore. Because asking, showing that he cared, would look weak to their stepfather, and his brother had to look strong; that was how he would win.
After that Mokuba had tried not to cry, so his brother wouldn't have to care, wouldn't have to be weak. When he couldn't help himself and sniffled anyway, if his brother were there, he wouldn't say anything to Mokuba at all. But Seto would always look away, and that was how Mokuba would know he did care, because even when he had to be strong, his brother still noticed his tears.
Except Mokuba was crying now, even for no reason, and his brother was looking right at him, asking him that question he couldn't ask anymore. But Gozaburo was dead and his brother had returned and there was worry in his blue eyes, though it didn't make him weak, could never make him weak because his brother was stronger than anyone.
"Nothing's wrong," he tried to say, but when he tried to take a breath it caught in a sob instead. Then his brother reached out and put his arms around him, caught him as closely as when they had embraced on the castle stairs earlier today.
Before Gozaburo, before the orphanage, Mokuba's first real memory, the first one clear enough in his mind that he knew he wasn't just imagining it from things he had been told, was being at his father's wake. He had been in an uncomfortable suit with a tie that chafed his neck, and all these tall strangers were murmuring around him in low choked tones of grief, and his father wasn't there. He had started to wail, loudly in the quiet room, and the people pointing and whispering had only made him cry harder. Though he knew they were angry with him, he couldn't stop.
Then his brother had knelt down, but not to scold him. His brother had put his arms around Mokuba, and held him, Mokuba crying into his shoulder, tears soaking the black suit, while his brother had stroked his hair and rubbed his shaking back slow and soothingly and hadn't said anything at all, until his sobs finally stopped. Then his brother had smiled at him, sad and gentle, and taken his hand, and they had walked to the front of the room together to take their seats.
A long time after that, Mokuba had realized that his brother's shoulders had been trembling then, too.
His brother's arms were around him now, but he didn't rub his back, just held him, still and solid while Mokuba shook against him. He couldn't stop, anymore than he had been able to at three; when he tried to gulp back the sobs they just choked him. Something inside him had broken, whatever he had been using to dam them back for the last six months had shattered and now he was going to drown in his own tears.
Except his brother was here and his brother would never let him drown. He couldn't be washed away with his brother holding him, sheltering like a mountain above the flood, that safe and absolute.
"Mokuba," his brother said. But while his shoulders were still solid, still steady, his voice was not, tremulous and faltering, as his brother's voice should never sound like. "Mokuba, for Death-T, for Pegasus, for all of it, I..."
"No," Mokuba said, because he knew what his brother was about to say, and he shouldn't. He shouldn't apologize, his brother never apologized, his brother was never supposed to apologize, because he never made a mistake. Never lost. It hadn't been his brother before, the one who had lost to Yugi, lost to himself. Not really. His real brother never would. And his real brother had returned now. "Don't say it." His brother didn't need to do anything except hold him, be something he could hold onto, until Mokuba could stop up that hole inside of him that everything was draining out of.
"All right," his brother said, "I won't."
His brother had heard him. His brother had answered him, when he hadn't for so long, and Mokuba didn't know why he started to cry harder, hearing that answer, when he truly wanted to smile.
Seto didn't try to say anything else, not about Duelist Kingdom or Death-T or the six months between that didn't matter anymore. Mokuba didn't need his brother to tell him that they wouldn't be separated; his brother had already made that promise, and kept it, and even if it had taken him this long, Mokuba didn't need to wait anymore. His brother didn't need to apologize, because the brother who had come back to him now would never have done those things, wouldn't ever do anything like them. His brother was here with him and Death-T might have never happened at all.
And if his brother apologized for it, Mokuba would have to forgive him, and he didn't know if he were strong enough to do that.
He wasn't even strong enough to be able to stop crying, but finally he wore himself out. "Nii-sama," he said, when the sobs had at last slowed to intermittent hiccoughs, pushed away from his brother's shoulder to bring up his arm and wipe at his face with his sleeve, too ashamed to meet his eyes. "I—I'm sorry, I know we have a lot to do—"
"Mokuba," his brother said, and he had let go enough for Mokuba to pull away, but his hands were still resting on Mokuba's shoulders. "Let's go back to the mansion."
"But all the—"
"Everything will have to wait until tomorrow. It's too late, everyone's left anyway. And I'm tired."
"You are?" Mokuba looked at him, startled; his brother didn't usually admit things like that.
But his brother nodded. "It's been a long day."
"Was it too awful for you?" Mokuba asked. "When Pegasus...whatever he did to me, I don't really remember it, but..." There had been darkness, but it was so unclear in his thoughts that it felt like it had happened to him a very long time ago. He wondered if it were the same for his brother. And if those six months too felt like nothing to him at all.
His brother's hands on his shoulders tightened, just a bit. "No, I don't remember. We're probably better that way." Seto grimaced. "Besides, being cursed into a card couldn't be nearly as bad as spending hours crammed together with Yugi and those earsplitting idiots."
But his brother had still helped them, when Mokuba had asked. He smiled to remember that, and his brother, watching his face, nodded in a satisfied way, then stood.
Mokuba didn't mean to reach out as his brother's hands left his shoulders, he just did it without thinking. Then before he could lower his arm, his brother caught his outstretched hand, curling his long fingers around Mokuba's smaller ones, clasping for a moment before he let go and picked up his briefcase.
"Let's go home," he said.
"Yes, Nii-sama," Mokuba said, and if there were any sobs still lodged in his throat, he was smiling too hard to feel them.
As they walked together out of the office, he reached up to the locket around his neck, making sure it was still there, like he did every night as he left. But he didn't have to repeat his promises, not tonight, and tomorrow when he awoke Kaiba Corporation would still be here, still be theirs. There was going to be a lot of work, but he wouldn't have to do it alone, tomorrow or any day after that.
"Mokuba," his brother said, and without looking he reached under his coat, lifted out his own locket and showed it to Mokuba. "Thank you," he said, and that was all, and all he would ever need to say.
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