Mokuba meant well. He was certain he did. It was just that his very popular and
outgoing little brother didn't understand he had absolutely no interest in socializing,
much less the mini party the sneaky kid had pulled seemingly out of a hat and had
somehow gotten security to allow to happen in his office. Birthday or not, there was
only so much interruption of his day to day activities, such that they were
according to Mokuba, that he could tolerate.
Now, thanks to that little party and how long it had taken him to shoo everyone out, he was running about two and half hours behind on his work. At least tomorrow was Sunday, so he didn't have to worry about getting up too early. He might even treat himself and allow himself to sleep in till eight.
At least it hadn't been the entire group that tended to cluster around Mutou Yuugi. His office never would have handled it, much less he himself. Ever since their return from Egypt a few months back, the coterie had begun to dwindle. Kujaku was in China last he heard, while Otogi was almost as busy in his business as he was in his own. Bonkotsu's sister lived too far away for frequent visits, and thankfully the Ishtars had remained in Egypt. One of the most interesting fringe members, however, had disappeared almost completely off the radar the minute the plane back to Japan had landed. Even with all the resources at his disposal, he'd only found one blip of information on Bakura Ryou: when he'd withdrawn from Domino High two days after they returned, sold his apartment, and purchased a train ticket to Tokyo.
A tap at the door interrupted his thoughts. He knew that particular knock well; it was Mokuba's, after all. "Come in," he called out.
Seconds later, his little brother popped into the room and bounced into one of the chairs that was in front of his desk. "Did you have a good time, niisama?" he asked without prelude.
He shrugged. "Good enough."
The smile on his brother's face grew brilliantly. "Great! I'll be heading home now. " He glanced at the paperwork piling up, quickly mentally gaging how long it would take to finish. "You'll be home in a couple hours?"
He nodded shortly. "Most likely."
"Come tell me good night when you get home." Mokuba winked at him, and he had to restrain himself from rolling his eyes. "Unless you decide to go out and get lucky tonight." The younger Kaiba laughed. "Yeah, right. Try not to work too hard! And happy birthday, niisama!"
His brother vanished back out the door almost as quickly as he'd come through it in the first place. He had to shake his head in amusement before turning back down to the papers before him. Mokuba really did mean well. Sometimes that's what it took to get him through the day. Only a moment or two later, though, Mokuba's knock repeated itself. What in the world could he have forgotten? "Come in, Mokuba."
"Why, thank you, niisama." That wasn't Mokuba's voice though. It was about five years too old physically and centuries older in weariness. He looked up sharply as the door opened and closed quickly, to see dark brown eyes staring back at him.
"What are you doing here?" he managed to get out through his surprise. Better still, how had he managed to get by security?
The other tsked softly. "For shame, Kaiba-kun. Hard at work on your birthday. Days off are good for you, you know. What does Mokuba-kun say about your workaholic tendencies?"
"He's given up on fighting them. Now, what are you doing here? How did you get in the building?"
"I slipped in when security was letting Mutou and the others out. As for why I'm here," he smiled angelically, a look he'd seen the other do at Yuugi frequently to put the smaller boy at ease, though it did little of that for him, "can't I wish a friend a happy birthday peacefully?"
This whole conversation was just too bizarre. "Why didn't you come with the others then?"
The smile fell hard and fast into a frown. He stalked over to drop in the seat Mokuba had recently vacated. "I said I wanted to do it in peace. There's no way I could do it in the presence of attempted murderers, was there?"
He'd once thought that the other and Yuugi were halfway around the bend into insanity before finally admitting the truth about the Egyptian spirits. Now he had to wonder if he'd gone that far and further with talk like that and the sudden mood shifts. "'Murderers'?"
He waived the question away with a pale hand and a small smile. "That's not very happy talk, especially not for a birthday."
"Where did you go?" He had to ask. He had to know. No one just vanished off his radar like Bakura Ryou had done after all.
"Here and there. Wherever my search took me." He started to question that turn of phrase, but the other held up a hand for quiet, and to his own surprise, he closed his mouth on the inquiry. "That's not the point right now, Kaiba-kun. The point today is, it's your birthday, and you're still not even relaxing. Come with me. There's nothing here that can't wait till Monday."
Was it a sign he was losing it that he immediately stood to do just that? Caution stepped in first, though, and made him ask, "What did you have in mind?"
"Us, anywhere but here -- and preferably somewhere Mutou and his merry band of moronic misfits won't show up."
He paused pulling on one of his many trench coats to look over at the white-haired young man. "You hate them." There was no question in it.
"'Hate' is too mild a word for this feeling. 'Detest' might even be an understatement. 'Loathe'? Yes, 'loathe' might work." It should probably be disturbing that he sounded so bland about the whole thing, but it wasn't all that long ago that he'd had murderous thoughts about Yuugi and, more specifically, the other Yuugi.
Bakura climbed to his feet and made his way to the door before replying. "Like I said: attempted murder. Do you eat Chinese, or would Italian be better? Is there something else you'd prefer? It's your birthday after all."
"Italian's fine. You are going to explain what you mean by that, right?" The other beamed too innocently, so probably not. "And are you going to wear a jacket? It's turning into winter out there."
"My last stopover was a lot colder than this, and my next one will be a lot warmer. I'm fine." Bakura cut himself off as he dropped one of his suit coats around his shoulder. "Or I'll wear a jacket. You live to get your way, don't you, Kaiba-kun?"
"Of course." Of course, if he really got his way, he probably wouldn't be going out at all right. He'd be finishing up the last of the paperwork he had here at the office then going home to put Mokuba to bed, before finishing the bit of his work he'd taken home last night. He did have a tad bit of curiosity to assuage as they headed to the elevator and started down. "Were you still in Japan?"
Bakura laughed. "No. I've been everywhere except Japan lately: America, England, Europe. I was in Russia before I came here."
Russia? "So when did you come back to Japan?" The elevator dinged and its doors opened almost silently to the ground level floor. One of the security guards sitting at the main desk glanced at him and Bakura then at the clock, a pointed reminder that he was leaving about three hours earlier than he normally did and that this was the first time he'd ever left with someone other than Mokuba.
"About three hours ago. And my flight to Baghdad leaves the day after tomorrow at noon, before you ask."
"So you came back..." He trailed off, both unable and unwilling to put his thoughts to words.
"...just for your birthday? Yep." The air outside the building was brisk, a sure sign that real winter wasn't long from arriving. He could see breath puffing out before their faces, and that didn't really matter because Bakura had just grabbed his hand and grinned broadly. "I think I remember where there was a good Italian place near here."
With no small amount of private amusement, he let himself be pulled along by the other. The cold really didn't seem to bother Bakura in the least and it seemed likely he could have gone without the extra layer of his jacket. Coming from the climate-controlled Kaiba Corp building and especially his warm office, though, he had to admit he was a bit chilled. Thankfully it wasn't very far to the restaurant Bakura had in mind. Him stepping in the door was all that was needed to get them seated almost immediately far away from the rest of the crowd, which brought a laugh from the other. "Well, that's useful" was all the white-haired man said, though.
He waited till the waiter (who looked suspiciously old enough and nervous enough to be the owner or maybe the manager) had left with their orders to speak again. "So what is it you're looking for that you have to go all over the world to find it?"
The one word answer was so simply stated that he almost wasn't sure he'd heard it right. "Magic?" He nodded. "For what?"
"Now that is a secret, Kaiba-kun." There was a faint twinkle in his eyes that he was beginning to understand meant a subject jump was on its way. "I hope you realize I'm getting you dessert too. Sweets are good for you, and my other always said you're too skinny."
He shook his head, almost giving into the urge to laugh that wasn't maniacally or at the other Yuugi. "Bakura..."
"Call me Ryou, Kaiba-kun. It'll be less confusing."
What was confusing were statements like that! "Fine. Ryou, what are you up to?"
He hadn't seen a smirk like that in nearly seven months, since that rather fateful trip to Egypt. It was vaguely reminiscent of the other Yuugi, but there was something else, something he hadn't seen since a night on the roof of the Kaiba Corp building... and on another version of the person in front of him. "Well, since you're on to me, my ever so nefarious plot was to have a good time with a friend before I head on to the Middle East."
"I wasn't aware I was your friend."
"Now that was just mean, Kaiba-kun." He was still smirking though. How interesting. "So, do you have a curfew, birthday boy? Will I get you in trouble with your brother if I keep you out late?"
He chuckled in vague amusement. "Mokuba would probably give up the internet for a week to get me to have even a social life for one day."
Bakura -- No, Ryou laughed. "I'd hate to cut off the boy's 'net. It'd be like a fate worse than death."
"He wouldn't mind too much. He gets to stay up till I get home either way."
"So his big brother gets a social life that doesn't involve signing autographs or paperwork, and he gets to stay up late. I should have tried a deal like that with Amane." Ryou laughed again. "It probably wouldn't have worked on her though. Maybe my other, but not Amane."
The first course came out then, and he waited till the waiter was gone to speak again. "You talk about your other a lot more than Yuugi does," he commented quietly. "I would have thought it'd be the other way around."
"Mutou had a choice about his other leaving. I didn't." He sighed harshly, stirring his spoon around his soup idly. "I get a little tired of everyone close to me being taken away. Mutou should have considered that."
There was silence till the main course was almost over. It rather amazed him. He'd seen how much the white-haired man could eat on Battle Ship. It was slower now, but the food was still vanishing in amazing quantities. "You need to eat more than just that, Kaiba-kun. We're teenagers; we're supposed to eat like vacuum cleaners, you know."
"I think you're managing that well enough for the both of us," he put forth diplomatically. In truth, Ryou ate more like someone was going to take it away from him. After a moment's debate, he said as much.
The other shrugged, obviously not taking offense. "It's something I picked up from my other, I guess. Apparently that was a real possibility for him. And you never saw my sister eat. You think I'm bad? Wow." There was a wistful expression on his face. "Bakura Amane, the amazing human trash compactor." Another pause, then, "What kind of dessert would you like, Kaiba-kun? It's your birthday. Cake is in order, right?"
"You were serious about that?"
"Absolutely. There's a lot of things I don't joke about. Food is one of them. I saw one cake on the menu that had seven different kinds of chocolate. How does that sound? Or tiramisu maybe?"
What was even weirder than actually going out, weirder than having a good time of it, and even weirder than ending a meal with sugar... was the rather novel experience of not having to pay for it, for once not because of the restaurant forgoing the bill but because someone else did. That amount of money coming out in cash, though, made him wonder how much Ryou had learned from his spirit. The other Yuugi had mentioned vaguely in passing that the other Bakura was a thief or a tomb robber or something like that, if he recalled correctly. Of course, given that the source was an amnesic three thousand year old spirit, he wasn't exactly naming it the most reliable one. All he was really certain of when it came to the spirits was that, from at least as far back as Battle Ship, the two others had a real hate on for each other.
The restaurant was empty except for them and the waiter/manager, who didn't seem too terribly inclined to remove them. Smart man, he thought to himself. Who wanted to remove the man who controlled more than half the city, after all? And Ryou didn't exactly seem broke either. It made sense. To stay off the radar all this time, he must have been paying for everything in cash. He certainly wasn't about to question where he'd gotten hold of all of it. Why make waves now, after all? This was the most fun he'd had in months, not to mention it being the most relaxing time he could recall that didn't involve Mokuba in years. Dueling, while fun, was rarely very relaxing, especially not if the other Yuugi got involved; then there always seemed to be some sort of world threat involved somehow. What was it he'd written into one of his games: "The presence of a hero character creates villain characters"?
"So what do you want to do now, Kaiba-kun?" Ryou's voice interrupted his thoughts. "The night is still young, and we should enjoy it."
"I wouldn't know how to." Had that just come out of his mouth? He hadn't meant to just blurt that out.
Thankfully Ryou didn't laugh at his admission. "Well, let's see. No offense, Kaiba-kun, but you don't seem like the type for clubbing, so let's rule that out. There's some parks around here, or we can catch a movie. The cab driver from the airport said a couple theaters around town are marathoning horror movies all weekend."
How had he known Ryou would be a horror movie fan, with a Duel Monsters deck like he had? "I'm not that much of a movie person either."
"Can we just stay here?" Had that just come out of his mouth?
Well, if it bothered Ryou, it certainly wasn't showing. "That's fine too. I was just thinking the manager there would like to go home tonight and brag."
He glanced over his shoulder to observe the other man. "I think he's too busy trying to figure out how to use me eating here on my birthday in an ad campaign."
A soft growl drew his attention back over to his dinner companion. A hard look resided on the other's face where it was locked on the manager, dark and determined -- and vaguely familiar. "That happen often?" He shrugged, and it was like flipping a light switch as quickly as the white-haired man's expression changed. "Guess it's a good thing I didn't ask him to sing then, isn't it?"
He couldn't help the small chuckle that arose from within him and so let it out. "He'd have probably gone into shock."
"You're almost smiling there, Kaiba-kun," Ryou teased. "Fun thought?"
"Just imagining him falling over in shock if you'd asked him." Predictably for him, a darker line of thought chased the image. "Of course, if you had and he'd passed out, he would have likely hit his head on the way down and sued me."
"Pessimist." Again he shrugged. There was no point in denying it. Mokuba told him often that he'd made a profession of it. "You worry too much, Kaiba-kun. You're going to have a heart attack before you're thirty."
"That's better odds than what Mokuba gave me: he said I'd only make it to twenty-five." But then again, Mokuba knew better than anyone that he didn't exactly separate home and work. He'd called him an equal opportunity stressor as he recalled it.
He started as a warm hand touched his shoulder. It took a brave person to touch him, and that usually consisted on one person. But even Mokuba generally said something before he laid a hand on him. "Kaiba Seto, you're one big knot!" Was he being... scolded? How odd. "Do you ever take a second to relax?"
He started to reply that relaxing was what he was currently doing, but that's not what came out. "I run a very successful international business, raise a preteen, and still go to high school. When do I have time?" He had to resist the urge to eye the hand still resting lightly on him.
"Make time!" Ryou looked a bit like a... pissed off white kitten when he was angry. Interesting. It was everything he could do not to laugh. "If you don't take care of yourself, the rest won't matter." Almost faster than he could follow, the other was on his feet and behind him. "Now sit still and try to relax."
He started slightly at the feel of the other's hands below his jacket, fingers digging into his shoulders, expertly finding the knots and working them out, till he felt like he was about to melt into the chair. "I'm going to have to hire you on full time for this."
He could almost hear the smirk in Ryou's voice. "Keep up with my room and board, and you won't even have to pay me." A soft laugh escaped him. "Though paying me might be more cost efficient in the long run."
It was on the tip of his tongue to say he didn't care, but he bit it back with some effort, instead offering "It's not like the house doesn't have plenty of spare rooms." He frowned very faintly as another thought occurred to him, looking up at the other. "You do have a place to stay, don't you?"
Ryou shrugged. "I was just going to rent a hotel room. I mean, I sold the apartment, and there's no way I'm staying with Mutou or the other morons."
"Then stay at the house. We'd be glad to have you." Where was all this coming from? It wasn't like him to be this nice normally.
"If you're sure." The white-haired man smiled. "So how do you like your birthday present from me, Kaiba-kun? The dinner was okay?"
"I like the massage." It was a tacit way of saying he'd had a good time. He shifted before speaking again, almost nervous about saying what he was thinking. "Maybe when you find what you're looking for, you can come back and stay with us."
Ryou... looked a tad nervous himself and maybe a bit on the guilty side. "If I find the magic I'm looking for, Mutou isn't exactly going to want us in Domino at all." He glanced away, not meeting his eyes. "Domino probably wouldn't be a very safe place for us to stay."
Why did he feel vaguely sad at the sound of that word? "'Us'?"
The other shook his head, fingers stilling inside his jacket. "I can't say it here, Kaiba-kun. It's too open. Maybe when we get to your house, if I'm still invited, I mean."
The silence was a little awkward, and he really didn't like the idea of that. "It's getting late," he finally stated. "We should start heading to the house." He toyed briefly with the idea of calling for his car to come get them, but he wasn't going to mention it just yet.
Ryou tried for a grin. "Nowhere else you want me to take you for your birthday, Kaiba-kun?"
"To bed." One white eyebrow shot up to the other's hairline. He thought over what he'd just said, and when he figured out the other connotations, he felt a faint heat touch his cheeks. "No! I mean... It's been a really long day, and no offense, but I could use some sleep. Nothing like that."
This time the smile and the laugh were completely genuine. "Well, if you insist. I can behave."
Now what exactly did that mean, he had to wonder. He spent most of the cab ride back to his house thinking about that while Ryou stared blankly out the window, looking like he was anywhere but there. In fact, if he didn't know better, he'd think the other was in a deep conversation with someone, only he didn't hear anything. The longer he was around him, the more mysterious the white-haired man became. Normally he didn't enjoy mysteries, but this time... he wanted to know more.
The taxi pulled to a stop in front of his house and he stepped out. It took a moment, but Ryou followed. "Do you have any bags or anything?"
"My bag is in a locker at the airport. I didn't want to be too loaded down today." He shrugged and smiled self-depreciatingly. "And they got kind of heavy after the flight. You're still waiting on me to spill the beans, aren't you?"
That had to take some kind of a prize as an utter non sequitur, but it was a perfectly valid point. He was curious about what was going on. He paid the cab driver and waited for him to drive away before he answered, "I am." He glanced around at the empty streets and the closed gates. "Is this private enough?"
Ryou followed his action, looking back and forth as well. "It'll do." And then something changed in the other's face: the brown eyes narrowed slightly; the edges seemed to sharpen just a tiny bit, defining his features just a bit more distinctly; and maybe it was the night breeze, but his hair looked a bit wilder. "It's time for my present to you."
He blinked. This... wasn't Ryou. No, this had to be Bakura, the thief. No wonder Ryou had said to use his given name... Now this was the person he recognized from Battle City, the one he had dueled on the rooftop of Kaiba Corp, the one it had been so hard not to think about in the time leading up to Egypt, the one who was... supposed to be dead. "How?" That was good; his voice sounded steadier than he felt.
"Do we really want to get into that right now?" the other practically purred, stalking closer to him. Automatically, he fell back a matching number of steps till his back was pressed against the iron gate, his breath catching in his throat as Bakura moved up flush against his body. "Ryou got to spend the last few hours with you, and the dinner and the massage were his gifts. I don't have that much to offer -- I don't even have my own body, yet -- so this will have to be my present to you."
He opened his mouth to ask what Bakura meant by that curious statement when the white-haired man moved impossibly closer, a hand moving up to brush softly up the side of his face around behind his neck, inexorably drawing him down closer. The first taste of Bakura's lips reminded him of the bites of cake Ryou had stolen from him, sweet, light, and a little chocolate-y, but then it changed as much as the man before him had; it got darker and more sensual as the kiss deepened, Bakura's tongue invading his mouth and wiping away all thought, leaving only feeling.
It didn't even enter his mind what anyone would say if they saw him, Kaiba Seto, making out up against his own gate well after midnight with a white-haired man. The only people he answered to, after all, were himself and Mokuba; what did he care what other people said? And... how long had it been since he let himself go and just feel? When was the last time he just went with the flow? Had he ever?
All too soon for his taste, Bakura pulled back, resting his forehead against his. It was a little hard to tell unless one was as close as they still were, but Bakura was definitely breathing hard. Was--? He was too. This was.... Well, for lack of a better word, this was nice. Enjoyable. Something he'd like to repeat on a frequent basis. The sooner the better too, for that matter.
Were they still going to leave on the day after... well, tomorrow? It was after midnight now, after all. Were they still leaving on Monday? Well, if he was following what hints he was picking up here and there from them, the magic they were looking for was to separate them. The thought of both of them was almost enough to make his eyes glaze over. Were they both... interested in him? There was no disputing Bakura, but Ryou? He did make that face at his little verbal faux pas, and he seemed pretty determined to make him start taking better care of himself, and he had made that comment about moving in. Maybe it was safe to assume Ryou was as well. He... would not be unhappy about that.
Maybe they were still going to leave on Monday, but in the meanwhile, he had both of them till then, even if he wasn't too sure what he was going to -- or even could! -- do with both of them, especially while they were still in one body. (What was he going to do when they were separate! He sincerely hoped they had the imagination to make up for what he lacked in this area.) Whatever happened today, he'd put them on their plane on Monday, call to Bagdad and get them the best hotel available... and worry till they were here with him again. And something told him that they wouldn't be back till either they'd accomplished what they had set out to do -- separate themselves from each other -- or this time next year. Somehow he got the feeling that might be like a little slice of hell for him.
Bakura seemed to have his breathing under control once more because he leaned up to press another kiss, this one more tender and briefer. A warm hand brushed against his cheek, pushing his hair back away from his eyes.
"Happy birthday, Seto."
He glared at his cell phone, halfway hoping that if he looked angry enough, it would give up and ring. It was overdue in ringing, by a week. One or the other, Bakura or Ryou, called every Sunday like clockwork at or nearly five in the evening. Mokuba had even quit reaching for the phone at that time of the day on Sundays. But the phone had been silent last Sunday, and it was approaching six now.
Something had to have happened. There was no way they'd miss today. The last time he'd spoken to them, Ryou had promised that if they didn't show up for his eighteenth birthday, they would call, if nothing else.
This might go down in some record books, at least according to Mokuba, as the weirdest relationship ever. It amused his brother to no end that he'd gone from no social life to being in a long-distance relationship with two people in one body. No one else could brag to that, he supposed. He wasn't too fond of only getting by on a phone call a week for the last year, but their search seemed to have hit a snag in the Middle East. But no phone calls... That was cause for concern.
He started and jumped to his feet when the doorbell rang, but Mokuba was already running to the door to get it. He paced the room a second or two more then grabbed the phone and stalked into the hall. Maybe whoever was here to see Mokuba could entertain him for a few minutes...
"Hi, Kaiba-kun," a sheepish voice said from the doorway. And that wasn't one of Mokuba's friends. None of Mokuba's friends had white hair, and anyway, no one looked quite like Ryou except...
Muscled tanned arms wrapped around him from behind, and a slightly deeper version of Ryou's voice whispered in his ear, "Happy birthday, Seto."
25 October 2006
This was something of a challenge to me. Originally, it was going to be a novella (over 15,000 words), but then I decided I wanted it finished before or on Kaiba's birthday, so I had to trim it down to 5,000. And let me saying that trying to get that from 3,000 words in one day while working and trying to do household chores is not fun. But I'm rather proud of it.