Dance Without Me
By LuckyLadybugNotes: Eh, as always, the YGO characters aren't mine! (Art Carmichael is.) Also, this is really intended to be rather ambiguous where the romance is concerned. Téa-haters, stay away! There's plenty of stories written for you, so why flame my lil piece just because it's one of the few that's written by a Téa fan? It won't do you any good! Hands Kleenex out to the readers! I apologize for removal of the song, but the site's newly stated policy means that I have to.
The crumbled warehouse was in an out-of-the-way location, in a spot where most people never dared to go. Debris and dust still carried on the breeze, though the building had fallen to the earth many long ages ago now. Death crept closer to the grounds, drawn by the sound of the girl's panicked voice. Someone she cared about deeply was about to feel the sting of Death's scythe.
Téa cradled Seto's injured body in her arms, trying to hold back her tears. The young businessman had been hurt by a falling beam in the old abandoned building they were in. He had been unconscious for quite some time but now had revived . . . at least as much as he could under the circumstances. "Kaiba . . ." she said softly. Could he still hear her? Would he answer? Oh, she couldn't bear this. She knew he was near-death.
The boy smirked in a self-depreciating manner, his blue eyes starting to glaze over. "You know, there's been many times when I thought the end was near and it wasn't . . . but this time, I . . . I think it's the real thing." His head was pounding. He could barely think straight. He knew he had cheated death for the last time. Now Seto Kaiba, famed CEO of KaibaCorp and big brother to ten-year-old Mokuba, was dying. There was nothing he could do about it.
Téa's eyes widened. "Don't say that, Kaiba!" she scolded. She knew it was likely the truth, as Seto did, but she didn't want to accept it. Seto wouldn't die . . . not now . . . not after saving her life. . . .
Seto shook his head weakly. "I'm done for." The very motion hurt and he winced. His body was weak and weary. He wouldn't last.
"Remember Mokuba, Kaiba!" Téa pleaded. She couldn't let him die! Something within her just wouldn't let her give him up. She wasn't certain of all the feelings coursing through her being, but she recognized panic, anguish, and . . . was it her heart breaking? Confusion came over her, but she couldn't think about what she was feeling now. She had to concentrate on keeping the boy alive. If only there was a way she could call for help! But they were completely alone. "You . . . you can't just leave him! You can't leave your brother!" Her voice rose in volume as she became more and more agonized.
Seto looked at her, seemingly emotionless, and his eyes started to close, but he fought to keep them open. "Tell . . . tell him . . ." He paused, struggling for breath. Téa could see sadness flickering in his eyes, an emotion he had struggled for she didn't know how long to keep bottled up. His soul had almost always been a tortured one. Téa had never understood him. Sometimes she had tried to make herself believe she couldn't stand him. But no matter how hard she had tried, in the end she knew it wasn't true.
"Tell him what, Kaiba?" Téa asked shakily, holding on to him tightly as if she could somehow keep his spirit from departing. She felt tears coming to her eyes. She couldn't hold them back now. Her whole body was shaking with the pain coming over her. But why this? Why was she crying over Seto Kaiba? Was it merely because he had just saved her life and now was dying from it? No, Téa knew that wasn't it.
Seto was silent as he tried to collect his words. "Don't cry," he growled. "I can't stand it." He blinked as the tears splashed across his face. Why was she even crying for him? He had always thought she hated him. She had always seemed to give off that impression. Seto wasn't Yugi; he was everything Yugi was not-cold, cruel, ruthless, sometimes unforgiving-and Téa hadn't ever seemed to look beyond it to the hurting human being underneath.
She hadn't ever seen how he suffered from day to day with the memory of Gozaburo often haunting him. She couldn't know how he was trying to sever the chains binding him down to what Gozaburo had been. Most all of Seto's less-than-desirable traits had been enhanced by that man. And it seemed to him that no matter how hard he tried, something reminiscent of Gozaburo would reflect in his words or his actions. There was a part of him that hated how he behaved, a part that wanted so desperately to stop being sarcastic and mean to people. But he never knew how to stop. No one had ever shown him how.
Téa took a shuddering breath, bringing him out of his reverie. "I'm sorry," she whispered, trying to stop the flood of crystalline drops. But she could not.
Seto grunted softly. "Why?" he managed to ask. "Why are you . . . why are you crying? It . . . it's just me . . . Seto Kaiba . . . the one you . . . hate. . . ." He knew Death was upon him, watching him, hearing his every breath and counting it till the last one. But he had to know why. He wanted to know why Téa would care.
Téa gasped softly, her grip on his weak body tightening. "I don't hate you, Kaiba," she said at last. "I . . . I've never hated you." As she spoke she felt a weight being lifted from her. Seto deserved to know the truth. And she had to stop lying to herself. "You . . . you're my friend." But . . . did she love him as something more? Saying "friend" . . . it sounded almost like not enough, not encompassing everything she felt for him. And so she was still perplexed on her heart's feelings. Always she had thought that if she loved someone romantically, it would be Yugi or even Pharaoh Atemu, never Seto Kaiba. Why, she had sometimes cringed at the very name! Seto to her had meant the rude boy who always wanted to defeat Yugi, not someone her heart could ever love. But somehow she felt that her heart did love him and had for a long time. And only now did she realize exactly how much.
"Heh. Friend, huh?" Seto started to cough. "I never thought . . . that you'd call me a friend. . . . Never. . . ." He wasn't sure what to make of this. But he could tell, here in his dying moments, that Téa was being sincere. This was no lie told in an attempt to let him die with the supposed knowledge that he had friends. Téa honestly meant it. And perhaps that only confused him all the more. He supposed that his heart had been closed off to people for so long that he had forgotten how complex they are, how ever-changing and how wonderful. Seto Kaiba had only known and recognized the dark side of humanity since he and Mokuba had been orphaned. It was hard for him to think that people did things out of the goodness of their hearts anymore and that they weren't always just milking a relationship for everything they could get out of it. His trust in people had been broken so many times that he had given up. Only recently had he come to trust one or two other people. He spoke again after struggling to gather his strength. "And I never thought . . . that the only one present at my death would be . . . one of Yugi's little cronies."
Téa bit her lip, running a hand through his dark brown hair. "Is that all I am to you?" she whispered faintly. Not that she had expected anything else from Seto. But what did it really matter if he thought of her that way? He had cared enough to save her life.
Seto grunted weakly. "Would you care?" he retorted, lapsing into silence again. The truth was, he actually did see Téa as her own individual person, though perhaps when they had first met, he had not. But he had seen in the past how much Téa cared about Mokuba and wanted to protect him. In fact, she had been trying to protect him tonight. That impressed him more than any other good qualities he had seen in her. And she seemed to want nothing in return for her efforts. As it happened, she had earned his respect.
But he could tell that his heart's beating was slowing down. He had no time left to ponder on these mysteries. He could only pray that the will he'd written would be carried out to the exact letter. Oh yes, he had already composed a will, though no one but the witnesses at the signing knew about it. Seto had always felt that he would die young and that Mokuba would need to be properly taken care of when that happened. Seto had directed in his will that Mokuba would fall into the custody of the Ishtar siblings. They would take good care of him, Seto knew. Marik always looked after the young boy with wisdom and kindness. And since Mokuba was already friends with him, perhaps the adjustment wouldn't be so hard. That was what Seto hoped.
He came back to the present abruptly when he felt oblivion clawing at him. He couldn't go yet. There was still the message he needed Téa to get to Mokuba. With his last breath he had to tell her. "You'll . . . you'll make it out," he muttered before Téa had a chance to reply to his previous statement. "Tell . . . tell Mokuba . . . I . . . tried. . . . Tell him . . . I'm . . . sorry. . . ." He groaned, his body starting to go slack in the girl's arms. Yes . . . Death was here, waiting to claim him. He felt its claws raking into his chest, about to stall his heart. It was harder to speak now, as the rest of his strength was draining away.
Téa felt her heart drop. "Hold on, Kaiba!" she begged, terror sweeping over her. "Please! . . . We'll get out of here yet! Just hang on a little longer and . . ." She knew her words were empty. They wouldn't get out. At least . . . never in time to save Seto's life. She knew he was going to die. There was no hope left for him.
Seto coughed again, his breathing slow and raspy. "I don't say this . . . very much, but . . . I wanted to thank you for . . . for trying to look after him," he choked out, surprising Téa. She had never thought he would thank her. "I . . . I love him. . . . More . . . more than . . . anything. . . ." He moaned, his head falling against Téa's shoulder as he drew his final breath. "Tell . . . tell him. . . . I don't want him to forget. . . . Everything I did was for him." His eyes closed and he slipped into Death's embrace. The scythe had fallen.
Téa was dumbfounded as Seto went limp in her arms. "No . . . no. . . . Kaiba, wake up! Please . . ." She trailed off, knowing in her heart that he had passed on. Sobbing again, she held him close and laid her head against his. This shouldn't have happened. How could it have happened! How could Seto Kaiba really be . . .
This wasn't real! Seto wasn't dead, Téa told herself; he was only unconscious, and she could revive him. Shakily she laid the boy's body down on the floor and knelt next to him, listening for any signs of life. Seto wasn't breathing, and his heart had stopped beating, but . . . but surely . . . surely she could do something!
Téa choked back another sob and bent over him frantically. Gently she placed her mouth over his and began artificial respiration, stopping every few seconds to see if he was breathing on his own. "Oh Kaiba, please!" she cried at one point, but in vain. She also tried pressing on his chest as a method of CPR, but that didn't work either. Nothing she did worked. Seto had sacrificed his life for her and now she couldn't bring him back.
"No . . . no. . . . Kaiba . . ." Tears cascaded down Téa's face and she hung her head sadly. Now she was lost in the middle of nowhere, her only companion tragically dead. She didn't know what to do. In such a short time, everything around her had crumbled and fallen-physically and emotionally.
How had all this come about? What events had united to create this horrid scene? A trip into the past reveals the answers. This had all started only a few short hours before, but it may as well have been in another lifetime. . . .
The prison break made news all over Domino City. Art Carmichael, imprisoned and on his way to death row for treasonous acts against the government and the attempted murders of Yugi and Seto, had escaped earlier that day and vanished somewhere into the nearby forest.
"He'll probably come after all of you," the police officer told Yugi and his friends gravely when he came to warn them about the escape. "After all, you were all instrumental in his capture. If it wasn't for your intervention, he would most likely still be committing those evil acts against our government."
"Hey, we'll be careful," Joey grinned, flexing his muscle. "Carmichael won't stand a chance with all of us! He couldn't defeat us the last time, and he sure as heck can't now, not with me around to deal out his fate!" He was his usual cheerful self, even about this possibly bleak situation. Not much could get Joey down.
"Reality check, Joey," Téa sighed. "This is a dangerous criminal who was never afraid of you before and I doubt he will be now." She crossed her arms, shaking her head in disbelief. Sometimes Joey really didn't know his own strength.
"Would Carmichael really try coming after us?" Yugi asked, his violet eyes wide. "Even with all the people looking for him?"
The officer sighed. "These types do the unexpected. Frankly, I think Carmichael is more than a little crazy and there's no telling what he might try. I have my men combing this entire area for him, but I strongly advise all of you to be on your guard. This is very bad." He remembered only too well what the man had done before he was arrested, and he knew Yugi and his friends did too. They just didn't want to really believe that their nemesis would cause more trouble.
After the policeman left, the teens continued to talk amongst themselves.
And if the music stops before I get there,
Dance without me
You dance so gracefully
"I don't think Carmichael would come after us," Tristan said with a shrug. "He'd know the police would check around our places first and catch him right away." Perhaps this was only wishful thinking, though.
"I don't know," Yugi said slowly. "Guys, I'm worried about this. We're probably all in really big danger! After all, nobody could find Carmichael before until we realized he was involved in our mystery. We're the ones who finally outsmarted him." The memories tumbled over and over in the young boy's mind. He winced as he recalled the pain of being shot down by Carmichael's laser gun. And Seto had nearly perished then as well.
"That's true," Bakura nodded, his silvery hair flying slightly with the motion. "He must be quite angry with all of us. I'm afraid I don't doubt that he would want revenge." He bit his lip, the soft brown eyes shining with worry.
Marik, who hadn't been involved with the others at the time Carmichael had struck, frowned in concern. "From what you've told me about the man, and from what I read later in news reports, I think it's foolish to believe he won't do something. Maybe he won't come to your homes, but he might try to get at you when you're outside." He crossed his arms, leaning back into the soft couch.
"Hey, if he tries anything, I'll knock him into next week!" Joey announced, demonstrating with a karate kick he learned from a Jackie Chan movie.
"Be careful, Joseph!" Solomon scolded, entering the room. "Don't use karate in my house unless it's absolutely necessary!" He couldn't forget how Joey had knocked down half the furniture last time. At first it had only been a lamp. But that had caused a domino effect on everything else.
Joey grinned sheepishly. "Eh sorry, Gramps. But hey, it won't be necessary. There's nothin' to worry about!" If only that had been true.
Mokuba ran into his brother's home office, his gray eyes wide and frightened. "Seto! Big brother!" he screamed. His heart was racing after the news he had just heard coming home from school. It all seemed too nightmarish to really be true.
Seto looked up from his computer, surprised. "What is it, kid?" he asked. Mokuba didn't usually come in looking as though he'd seen a ghost. Seto knew something must be drastically wrong.
Mokuba went over and hugged him tightly, trying to catch his breath. "I . . . I had to make sure you were still okay, Seto," he whispered.
Seto was concerned. Quickly he pushed his chair back and looked down into the little boy's eyes. "What do you mean?" he asked. "Why wouldn't I be okay?"
"Because that Carmichael guy's escaped from prison, Seto!" Mokuba cried. "You know how angry he was with you for finding out all his awful secrets!" Every horrible memory from that day swirled through his mind. He had thought his brother had been killed. Mokuba couldn't remember ever being so frightened before. The last thing he ever wanted was to lose Seto. His brother was the only family he had and the first best friend he had.
Seto tenderly took his younger brother into his arms. "It's alright," he said softly. "Carmichael won't come here, not with the police looking for him. They'll catch him before you know it." He honestly believed that, too. He couldn't imagine that the guy would ever dare try coming into his or one of the other's homes-it would be much too risky. But he, also, shared the suspicion Marik had. Carmichael could do something to someone and that someone would probably be he himself. Seto just didn't want Mokuba to worry about it.
Mokuba was out in the schoolyard the next day, waiting for the chauffeur to come get him, when a gun suddenly poked in his back. The boy's blood went cold.
"Don't move," a familiar voice hissed. Mokuba's eyes flew open wide. It was Art Carmichael! He'd recognize that man's diabolical voice anywhere. This was the man who had tried to kill Mokuba's brother.
"What's going on?" Mokuba demanded, finally finding his voice. "You can't just come in here and take me like this! Someone'll see you!" He felt anger surge within his heart, as well as panic. What would he do! It had never occurred to him that Carmichael would come after him. If it was any of them, he had thought sure it would be Seto!
Carmichael sneered as he looked at the small boy. Mokuba could see a wild, crazed look in the man's eyes and knew that he was in serious danger. "I can do whatever I please," Carmichael hissed then, cursing at Mokuba. "And you're my ticket out of here. The cops will never shoot when I have a hostage." Plus, this'll give me the chance to put my worst enemy through some more anguish, he added silently, his eyes narrowing evilly.
"You creep!" Mokuba declared. "You'll never get away with this!" He spoke bravely, but inwardly he was terrified. There was no one around who would hear him if he screamed . . . and Carmichael still had the gun in his back. . . . The man had gone insane. There was no telling what he might do.
"Watch me," Carmichael replied.
Suddenly Mokuba felt something sharp poke in his neck.
"What did you do!" he cried, feeling himself growing weak. "My big brother will stop you! He will! And Marik will too!" With that Mokuba slipped into oblivion and Carmichael took the boy into his arms, smirking wickedly. This was an isolated part of the schoolyard and everyone else had gone home by now anyway. No one had seen this abduction.
"Once you've worn out your welcome, I'll get rid of you . . . permanently," Carmichael hissed, completely covering the boy's limp body with a blanket and carrying him off the grounds. "That'll give my enemy Seto Kaiba somethin' to think about! I'll do it right in front of his eyes." His hatred for Seto ran deep. The boy had forever been ruining Carmichael's plans ever since he had first found out about them. Carmichael wanted to see him suffer now. He wanted to see him suffer and die!
He never noticed the high-school age girl watching him from around a corner. Téa, on her way to her after-school job, had seen what Carmichael had done to Mokuba and wasn't about to let the evil man out of her sight. Her heart pounded as she ran along after him, keeping a distance of about half a block. She knew that if Carmichael saw her the results could be disastrous, but she couldn't let him get away with Mokuba!
Carmichael must be insane! Téa thought to herself. Walking right onto the school grounds just so he could take Kaiba's little brother! It didn't make sense to her; he could take anyone in the city for a hostage and yet he had gone to all the trouble to make certain it was Mokuba! Why?Eventually she got close enough to hear what Carmichael was muttering. "What would be a fitting thing to do to torture my worst enemy? Maybe I should climb to the roof of his company's building and threaten to throw this brat over the edge!" He laughed wickedly and Téa realized in horror that this man cared less about having a hostage than he did about hurting the Kaiba brothers. She hadn't thought about it before, but now she realized that Seto was the person Carmichael hated the most out of all of them Seto had found out about Carmichael's crooked schemes first and then had been beaten badly by the man's henchmen as punishment. Seto had bounced back quickly, however, and though he had endured temporary amnesia for a while concerning the events, he eventually did remember that Carmichael was guilty and then he and the others had all gone after him. Carmichael had obviously taken Mokuba to get back at Seto, and Téa knew with a sinking heart that it wasn't likely that the evil man would let the boy live long. She couldn't let that innocent little boy suffer. Somehow she had to get him back! Maybe if she could somehow create a distraction and bring attention to Carmichael before he could try anything . . .
Before she could make up her mind, Carmichael suddenly whirled around and sneered at her. "I know someone was followin' me," he declared, advancing on her steadily.
Téa backed up against a tree, her heart pounding. "You should be ashamed of yourself!" she said hotly. She knew there was nowhere for her to run. Carmichael would likely wind up getting her as well. But . . . someone would have to notice she and Mokuba were missing! Téa's only worry was, Would it be in time? What if Carmichael killed them both? No . . . he wouldn't hurt Mokuba until Seto was there, Téa determined. He, at least, should be safe until then, and Seto would surely be able to help him, even if Téa could not.
"Should I be?" Carmichael slung Mokuba's little body over his left shoulder and reached out to grab Téa with his one hand while pulling out his gun with the other. "I don't feel the least bit ashamed! You underage brats put me in the slammer and you deserve to suffer for it! Especially Seto Kaiba!"
"You were doing evil things!" Téa cried, trying to dodge him. "And if you do anything to any of us again, you'll get the death penalty for sure! There'll be no chance for you to appeal for parole in fifty years! You'll have no hope of ever getting out of prison!"
Carmichael growled angrily and grabbed Téa's arm in a binding grip. "There was no chance of that anyway," he told her as she struggled in vain to pull herself free. "The police didn't want this to leak out to the press, but I was gonna be executed tonight."
Téa didn't respond to this as she again tried to free herself, but she was a bit startled by this revelation. If this was true, why didn't Carmichael simply run for his life? Why did he keep staying here? But then he revealed the disturbing answer.
"At this point, I don't care whether I die or not," Carmichael growled, "only that before I do, I want Kaiba to suffer for all his meddling." His eyes were filled a deep hatred, one that Téa had only before seen in the being known as Yami Marik.
"You're demented!" Téa cried. "You can't do anything to hurt his little brother!" A cold shiver went up her spine as the enormity of what was happening flooded over her. This man only wanted to bring grief upon Seto Kaiba. He didn't care if he died doing so-he just wanted to make sure Seto felt anguish in any horrid way possible. Somehow she had to stop this.
"Why can't I?" Carmichael sneered. "You're both my prisoners now and I'll do whatever I want. Of course, you're just a bonus, girlie. I really only wanted the kid." As he spoke, his grip on Mokuba's little body tightened.
But at that moment, Téa heard a welcome call. "Police! Freeze!" Several officers were gathered at the head of the alley where Carmichael and his hostages were. Surely now they would be safe, Téa hoped.
Carmichael didn't look fazed by the police's sudden intrusion. "Don't be so hasty," the crazed man yelled. "I have two hostages and I won't hesitate to hurt either of them!" He paused, his lips curling into an evil grin as he partially uncovered Mokuba from the blanket, letting the officers see he wasn't lying. "Tell Seto Kaiba that I have his precious brother in my grasp!" With that, he fired the gun in warning and the officer only barely ducked out of the way in time to avoid being shot. "And as long as I have him and this Gardner girl, you can't lay a finger on me!" He turned and ran through the alley, dragging Téa with him.
"Where are you taking us?" Téa demanded, forced to run with him. She looked back at the police longingly, her heart pounding. There was nothing they could do.
Carmichael only laughed as he dove into a building's basement, unseen by the police. "Somewhere they'll never find you," he replied. "But of course Seto Kaiba will. I'm counting on it." He took a needle and plunged it into Téa's arm, though she tried to break away. "But your incessant chatter bores me. I can't have you continually struggling to get free. Take a nice nap."
Téa felt very dizzy. "Kaiba," she found herself whispering, "save Mokuba. . . ." The room spun and then went black.
Carmichael slung her over his other shoulder and carried the both of them into a truck he had waiting just outside. The police would think he was holed up in one of those buildings-they would never be expecting him to pull a stunt like this. After shoving them in the back, he started the engine and drove off. He never noticed that Mokuba's bandanna had fallen to the ground.
Seto was working hard in his office, concentrating hard on what he was writing. He hated these blasted deadlines. But as CEO of KaibaCorp, he had to meet them. It would look bad business-wise if he didn't. Often he stayed up long into the wee hours of the night, struggling to complete this project or that. It drove Mokuba crazy. He was always telling Seto that he would get sick if he didn't have more sleep.
Mokuba . . .
Idly he wondered where Mokuba was. The boy was supposed to have come straight to Seto's office once school was over. When Seto glanced at the computer clock, he discovered that it was almost six. A mixture of emotions ran through him-irritation, worry, panic-before suddenly he felt a sharp pain in his heart. "Big brother!" he heard Mokuba scream in his mind.
Seto sprang up, gripping the edge of his desk. "Mokuba!" he cried. His brother was in trouble-he knew it! Their mental bond only worked in times of danger. But what could be wrong?
The telephone rang and Seto answered, his hand shaking as he lifted the receiver. "Kaiba," he said, sounding occupied, which he was.
"Sir, this is Officer Boyd from the local police department," the voice on the other end informed him.
Seto found he wasn't really surprised. "Something's happened to Mokuba, hasn't it?" he demanded instantly. Why else would the police be calling him? And especially right after he had heard Mokuba cry out for him!
"Well . . . yes," the policeman admitted finally after a long silence. "Art Carmichael has taken him hostage. I heard him say so myself. And I saw him holding your brother."
Seto sank into his chair, dazed. No . . . no, this can't be real! There's no telling what that snake might do to him! He stared ahead blankly, his stomach twisting in knots. Why hadn't it occurred to him that Carmichael might take Mokuba? As far as he knew, the man didn't know Seto had a brother, but it would have been easy enough for him to find out. And now Mokuba had been taken. Seto had to get him back!
"We're looking everywhere," Boyd told him. "We haven't had any luck yet."
Seto wasn't listening. Carmichael! Mokuba had been taken by Carmichael! That snake . . . that infernal, conniving, evil snake! He had to find his brother! He had to! He couldn't sit idly by and let the police search and search and not find anything . . . or worse, find Mokuba's body laying somewhere. Mokuba was counting on him. He couldn't let his brother down-he had to find him and get him away from Carmichael's evil clutches.
"Don't worry, Mokuba," Seto vowed, leaving his office and going downstairs after hanging up with Officer Boyd. "I won't let anything happen to you. I won't!" He had made a promise so many years ago to always be there for his brother and watch out for him. He wouldn't let that promise be broken now.
Seto had been driving through the city for ages and had found nothing. He had discovered the area where Carmichael had been seen, but no one was there now. It was in the worst part of Domino City and wasn't even inhabited anymore. He poked through the old buildings and houses, looking and praying frantically for a clue, any clue. "Mokuba, where are you!" he said in despair when he had no luck finding him. This was agonizing!
He wandered on ahead for what seemed like ages more and then suddenly he stopped the limo, which he had been driving himself for once in order to save time. He had seen something. Getting out, he bent down and picked up his brother's blue bandanna. "Mokuba," he gasped. Looking ahead, he saw tire tracks. Mokuba had been here, and if he followed the tracks, perhaps they would lead to him! "Hang on, kid," Seto whispered. "I'm coming!" He clutched the cloth tightly in his hand as he spoke. He couldn't know that he was driving to his doom.
Téa woke up uncertainly, feeling a cold, hard floor underneath her. What had happened? Where was she? At first she couldn't recall anything whatsoever. It seemed that she should be back home, in her own bed, waking up after a nice, restful sleep. But she couldn't deny the nagging feeling that something was extremely wrong.
Slowly she rose up, looking around. The room she was in was bleak and bare and looked like an old storehouse. It also looked like it might fall apart any minute. It made her uneasy just looking at it.
Suddenly she remembered Mokuba. He had been abducted, as Téa had been! Where was the child now? "Mokuba!" she called, her voice quavering a bit. Then she heard Carmichael's evil laugh.
"He's right here," the man said. Téa looked up to see him standing near the edge of a catwalk high above, the little boy held tightly in his grasp. Mokuba was fighting and kicking to get free, but to no avail. "Now I have you both exactly where I want you," Carmichael sneered. "And Seto Kaiba is on his way here, just as I predicted." He had heard on the news that Seto was looking everywhere for the boy. And Carmichael knew Seto was smart. He would find his way to this location.
"But why would you want him to come here?" Téa demanded. "It doesn't make sense! He could stop you if he comes!" And she was certain he would. One thing Téa knew Seto possessed was a ruthlessness when it came to his enemies. Since Carmichael had the one person Seto cared about dearly, the young businessman would show him no mercy.
"Ah, but my dear, it makes perfect sense," Carmichael hissed. "Kaiba destroyed everything I was working for! He deserves to suffer! And what better way than for me to hurt his brother right in front of his eyes?" His eyes flashed as he smiled in a sickening way.
Téa backed up in abhorrence. How could anyone be so evil! "You won't get away with this!" she cried, though inside she wasn't at all sure of that. But Carmichael couldn't win! He simply couldn't!
"Oh? And who will stop me?" Carmichael's eyes narrowed wickedly. Téa couldn't. And he'd see to it that Seto Kaiba couldn't, either.
Everyone looked up. Seto was standing silhouetted in the doorway, outrage and fury in his eyes as he entered. "If you do anything to Mokuba, it'll be over my dead body!" He looked strong and bold, his blue trenchcoat sweeping out. He almost appeared as a warrior, coming to fight another victorious battle.
Téa relaxed, relief washing over her as she saw the familiar form. Mokuba would surely be safe now! Seto would die before he let Carmichael do anything to the child.
"Big brother!" Mokuba screamed, his eyes widening. He smiled. He knew Seto would come. Seto always came. But then he swallowed hard, remembering what Carmichael's plan really was. "Seto, he wants to kill you!" the child sobbed, kicking and flailing about. "He's gonna kill you. . . ."
Rage burned within the teenager as he saw Carmichael holding Mokuba up on the catwalk. Yes, he understood very well that Carmichael wanted to kill him, but he didn't fear for his life. "Mokuba, are you hurt?" he called up, starting to head for the stairs. He wanted to scream a few choice words at Carmichael and order him to set Mokuba down safely, but before he could, the villain threw another monkey wrench into everything.
"Stop right there!" Carmichael growled. "Take one step more and the boy gets it." He sneered. "Finally, Kaiba. . . . Finally you will suffer for what you've done to me!" He held the struggling Mokuba out several more inches.
Seto stopped, clenching his fists. "If you want to be rid of me, just kill me now. Shoot me, stab me in the chest, or hit me with a blunt object. Do anything you choose . . . but don't bring my brother into this!" He took a step forward again. His eyes were dark and almost murderous. Mokuba was innocent. Seto was tired of his brother always being used in order to get at him. It was unfortunate, he thought, that everyone knew that the best way to hurt Seto was to hurt his brother. He was going to put an end to this.
Carmichael tightened his grip on the boy, his hand straying to Mokuba's neck. "But what good would that really do, Kaiba? Certainly I want to be rid of you . . . but first you must suffer! You must feel anguished and helpless! The best way to torment you is to torment your brother!"
Mokuba was terrified now. "Seto," he cried shakily, feeling the rough, callused hand wrapping around his throat. He struggled to pry it away without luck. What was he going to do! And what would Seto do? Mokuba didn't want to die, but he wanted Seto to die so much less. He wanted them to be able to go home and be happy and not worry about enemies attempting to cause anguish for them.
Seto looked at his brother tenderly, then back at Carmichael with the cold eyes of an angry, outraged brother. "You are the most satanic person I have ever met," he declared. "Let Mokuba go now or I will drop you where you stand!" Somehow he would make good on his promise, too, no matter the distance between him and his nemesis.
Carmichael was unfazed. "You won't lay a finger on me as long as I have your brother in my grasp," he replied evilly. "I could do away with him right now and you couldn't do a thing to stop me!" His demonic fingers went tighter around Mokuba's throat. All of them had forgotten about the presence of the fourth person.
"Stop!" a female voice said forcefully from the shadows. Both Carmichael and Seto started. Téa stood in front of the evil man, her eyes narrowed in righteous outrage. She had no weapons with her; her sole intent for her move was to distract Carmichael long enough for Seto to get the drop on him. When she had seen the scene before her, she had known she had to do something. This was all she had managed, but she knew Seto would take it from here.
And that's exactly what happened. The teen tackled Carmichael from behind, and Mokuba, released from the man's infernal grip, tumbled onto the floor. "Big brother!" the child screamed in panic, watching Seto and Carmichael fall down the stairs. Téa rushed to comfort the boy and also stared in shock, praying that Seto would get the upper hand.
"Mokuba!" Seto cried as he was pinned to the floor by Carmichael, "Run, kid! Run away from here!" He couldn't allow the possibility of Carmichael somehow getting his brother again! If Mokuba were gone, such a thing wouldn't be able to happen and Seto could concentrate more fully on overpowering this demon without worrying about Mokuba getting hurt.
"But Seto, I can't leave you here!" Mokuba wailed, watching the fight with horror. If he could, Carmichael would kill Seto. Mokuba knew this without a doubt. How could he possibly leave if that were going to happen? Perhaps he would be able to prevent it if he stayed!
"Kid, go for help!" Seto pleaded, suddenly lashing out and flipping Carmichael over. "I can't let anything happen to you! Go! Go while you still can!" He looked at Mokuba with the urgency he felt. "Go to your friend, Mokuba. Go find Marik." The Egyptian boy was someone Seto trusted with Mokuba's life. The two had become friends after Marik had rescued Mokuba-and Seto as well-from a certain death. Marik, like Seto, would fight to the death before he would let something happen to Mokuba.
But Mokuba stood, trembling, unsure of what to do. He could see his brother wanted him to leave, but he didn't want to. How could he possibly go? Seto might die!
"Mokuba . . . do it for me," Seto said softly, just as Carmichael attacked him again and sent him to the floor.
A tear fell from Mokuba's eye. "I'll go, Seto," he said finally, running down the stairs. He paused when he reached the door and turned back. This was the hardest thing Seto could ever ask him to do.
"Get out of here, Mokuba!" Seto yelled.
Mokuba turned and dashed out the door, sobbing. Something told him that he would never see his brother alive again.
Seto finally overpowered Carmichael and sent the man flying backward into a wall, where he lay in a daze. Then Seto leaned against the banister, trying to catch his breath. That wouldn't keep the man down for long, Seto knew. He would be back on his feet again in no time at all. Seto only prayed that Mokuba would be safe and that he could find Marik.
Téa hurried down the stairs to join him now, and the boy looked at her, confusion written in his eyes. "Where did you come from, Téa?" he asked. It seemed almost that she had appeared out of nowhere when she had come to distract Carmichael. But Seto had been grateful for her intervention, though it was a move that he felt could have been foolish.
Téa shook her head. "I was trying to save Mokuba," she told him softly, "but I got captured too." She had been trying to stay out of the way once Seto and Carmichael had started fighting, feeling that her presence might only cause more problems. Now she looked at Seto with, admittedly, a bit of concern. He was roughed up, but he had also done a number on Carmichael. That was Seto for you.
Seto merely grunted at this, but then finally said, "I see."
Carmichael staggered to his feet, looking even more wild and vicious than before. "You know," he said, "this building is very old and rickety. It's been considered a safety hazard for years. One wrong step and the whole thing could come crashing down!" There was a specific reason why he had brought his captives out to it and had lured Seto here. One way or another, he would have Seto dead. If he couldn't cause it directly, he would let the building do it for him.
Seto had expected as much, however. "We won't make any wrong steps," he said stonily, glaring up at Téa as if to say, Don't move anywhere without my consent! If the building collapsed around them, neither would likely manage to escape. But Seto had to get out to go to Mokuba. And he didn't especially want an innocent person to die here. Téa shouldn't really have gotten involved anyway. But that was how Yugi and his bands of friends were-they were always getting involved in things over their heads. And yet . . . Seto wasn't really angry at Téa. After all, she had been trying to save his precious brother, even if her attempt hadn't worked all that well.
Carmichael smirked. "Maybe not, but I wonder what would happen if I did . . . this!" He kicked out at a very loose beam and struck it hard. With a horrible groan, it tore nearly completely free of its foundation and a terrible shake rumbled through the entire building. He hadn't been exaggerating about the "one wrong move." It wouldn't take much to make the warehouse fall apart. He only wondered why it hadn't happened sooner, especially during the fight he and Seto had been having.
"What's happening!" Téa gasped. She was thrown forward abruptly into Seto and she grabbed onto him almost subconsciously, not wanting them to meet their ends here. Plaster rained down on them both, along with rotting chunks of wood and old nails. Téa closed her eyes tightly, feeling the objects bouncing off her back. Seto stood coldly, allowing Téa to embrace him but not really seeming to notice or care about the falling particles.
Carmichael laughed maniacally. "Perhaps I can't do exactly as I wished, but I can still get rid of you, Seto Kaiba!" he screamed, preparing to give the beam another well-placed kick. "I tried to be rid of you twice before, but each time you returned, you pesky teenager! This time you won't be so lucky!"
Instantly Seto dove at him, knocking him away from the wobbling beam. "Don't you even think about it," he growled.
Carmichael didn't look fazed. "I don't have to," he replied with a nonchalant wave of his hand. "The damage has been done." Seto could attack him all he wished now. It wouldn't change what was about to happen.
"Kaiba, the ceiling's caving in!" Téa screamed. Panic rose within her breast as she realized this only barely in time. How would they get out? It didn't seem that there was any way. Carmichael had known exactly what he was doing.
Seto looked up and dashed out of the way just as beams rained down in the spot where he'd been standing. Dust and plaster rose into the air and the boy coughed, waving it away with his hands. Now all was silent again, the building taking a momentary break from disintegrating. But it wouldn't last.
"Carmichael must have been under that," Téa said shakily as she approached Seto. Was it over? she wondered. Would she and Seto be able to find an exit before there wasn't any hope left for them? If they ran straight ahead and didn't stop, they might be able to reach that door. . . .
But their nightmares were not over yet. "Not quite, my dear." Carmichael rose up from the debris, plaster coating his form so strongly that he resembled a ghost. "I cannot die until I have defeated my worst enemy."
"That's not going to happen," Seto said angrily. He clenched his fists tightly, seeing in this man almost an extreme version of himself. It haunted him to realize it, but he had also been willing to go to all measures to defeat his arch-rival Yugi. Of course, though, Seto had not instigated a fight to the death between them for the sake of seeing Yugi get beaten that way. He had only wanted to see Yugi defeated in a game, not in life. But Carmichael carried the same sort of obsession that Seto himself had possessed.
"I'm afraid I must differ," Carmichael smirked. The teens realized only too well why he was so cocky.
"The entire building's going to collapse!" Seto growled, hearing the creaking start once again. Carmichael had delayed their leaving right to the point where it was too late.
"That is correct, and I do believe this young lady will be right in the thick of it!" Carmichael lashed out, grabbing Téa tightly. He was doing a bit of foreshadowing on his part, certain that he knew what would happen next.
"Let me go, you jerk!" Téa screamed, kicking wildly. Her heart raced as she couldn't manage to get his grip loosened. He wasn't going to let her go, either, unless . . .
"Oh, I'll let you go alright," Carmichael said agreeably. Seto suddenly realized what the madman was up to. Just as another huge part of the ceiling caved in, Carmichael shoved Téa forward directly in its path. There was no time for Seto to do anything but act, though he had a feeling he, also, knew what would happen.
Abruptly Seto snatched Téa away-and barely in time. Heavy beams, powerful enough to kill, hit the floor not even a second later. One of them slammed Seto in the head and he dropped to the ground with a moan, laying still. His world darkened. There was no time for him to even think of a last thought or word.
"Kaiba!" Téa shrieked in disbelief, at first too stunned to really realize what had happened. But as everything settled down again and Téa saw Seto laying amidst the debris, she knew. That should have been her laying there, she thought shakily. And it would have been, if Seto hadn't . . . if he hadn't saved her. . . .
The cold realization struck her suddenly. Carmichael had known it would happen this way. He had planned it. He had used Téa as unwilling bait to get rid of his most hated enemy. Seto could have figured that there was nothing he could have done to save Téa and just allowed her to be struck. But that wasn't who he was. He had known he could do something and he had done it. Téa fell to her knees next to the boy's body, tears falling from her eyes. "Oh, wake up, Kaiba!" she cried, shaking him frantically. He couldn't be dead! No! He . . . he had just saved her life.
Carmichael sneered down at them, no trace of remorse in his eyes at all. "He's gone. He's truly gone. Don't delude yourself, girlie." At last his hated nemesis was dead-killed because he couldn't stand by and watch Téa die. In spite of all his wickedness, Carmichael had seen what not many others had-Seto had a decent heart deep down. "You served a purpose after all. Because of you I was able to destroy the great Seto Kaiba. You helped to kill him."
Téa looked up, fire in her eyes. "You . . . you're the most vile, horrible person I have ever met!" she cried, her hands shaking. No . . . she wasn't responsible for Seto's death. She couldn't believe that. Carmichael had used her. Seto would tell her that. She could just imagine him telling her that she was a fool if she accepted Carmichael's words as fact. "I sacrificed myself. No one made me do it. Don't undermine it. Don't be a fool, Téa. Just be grateful."
Carmichael kicked at Seto's body hatefully and laughed. It was a wicked sound. And suddenly, while he was laughing, another beam tore loose and struck him hard. With a gasp, the man fell backwards and was soon buried in another mound of debris as the rest of the ceiling collapsed on top of him.
Téa saw the horrid sight for only a moment and then she turned back to the boy, feeling desperately for a pulse. "He's still alive," she gasped as she found it. It was very weak and almost nonexistent, but it was still there. Choking back a sob, Téa struggled to pull Seto's body onto her lap. It wasn't easy, as Seto was quite a bit taller and weighed more than her, but she somehow managed. She held him gently for she didn't know how many hours, praying for him to awaken and talking to him quietly.
"I am grateful, Kaiba," she whispered, thinking back to the lecture she imagined Seto giving her. "More grateful than . . . than you could know. I think . . . no, I know . . . that you're not what you seem to be." Throughout the misadventures that she and Seto and all of the others had had together, Téa had seen only glimpses of what had molded Seto into the cold, aloof person he was now. She could never know how deeply Gozaburo had carved his teachings into Seto or how hard Seto fought against them. Occasionally she saw Seto's true spirit shining through. When she did it usually only lasted for a moment and then he was back to being his sarcastic, often rude self-Téa being left to wonder if what she had witnessed a moment before had been real.
She told him all of this now. She didn't know if he could hear her or if he did, if he would care, but she wanted to get her real feelings out. For once she wanted to tell him everything.
"Sometimes I have despised and resented you. I hated what you did to Yugi at Duelist Kingdom. I couldn't understand your need to beat him at Duel Monsters or why you were even willing to sacrifice yourself to do it." Téa swallowed hard, the memories of Seto standing on the castle ledge at Pegasus' castle haunting her again. "It was only later when I realized the truth. You did it all for Mokuba, didn't you, Kaiba?" A tear slipped from her eye. "All you wanted was to save him. That was all you ever wanted." She brought Seto's head to rest on her shoulder, laying a hand in his cropped hair. She could hear him breathing softly, the only thing that gave her comfort in their woebegone situation.
"I don't know when it was that I started seeing your true self. But after a while . . . I realized I didn't despise you anymore. I . . . I feel different about you now . . . but you know . . . I'm actually not sure what it is I'm feeling." Her voice had dropped to practically nothing with these words. Did she love him? Was that possible? She didn't know. After everything that had taken place, Téa was really too shaken to even think. But if she did love him, she knew she must have for quite some time and just have never acknowledged it, not even to herself.
It must have been far into the early morning hours when the boy finally aroused, moaning softly. Téa perked up, looking down at him worriedly. "Kaiba?" She prayed he would be alright now. . . . He had to be! Maybe . . . maybe he hadn't really been hit as hard as it had seemed. Maybe if he was waking up now, it'd mean he was recovering. Oh, but Téa knew these thoughts were really only wishful thinking. Seto had been gravely hurt.
Seto's eyes opened halfway and he looked back up at her. "Téa . . ." he said weakly, his vision focusing. He remembered something of what had happened, but most was a fog in his mind. He wasn't entirely certain why Téa was cradling him close or why his head was aching so badly. It had all had something to do with Carmichael abducting Mokuba. . . .
"Kaiba, you saved my life," Téa said shakily, trying not to cry. "I know this seems really inadequate, but . . . thank you," she finished finally. Inadequate . . . what an understatement! Seto was dying because of what he'd done for her. Téa didn't know how she would make any of it up to him.
Seto drew a raspy breath and didn't reply. Ah yes. Now he remembered the rest. That was why he felt like he'd been hit by a truck-he had performed one of his rare acts of open kindness. Finally he managed to ask, "Is . . . is Mokuba . . . safe?" He recalled yelling at Mokuba to leave the building and go find Marik. Hopefully that had happened. He prayed it had.
Téa's heart caught in her throat. She didn't know where Mokuba was. It had been hours since he had ran out the door in tears, but she could only hope that he had gotten back to Domino City-wherever it was-safely. She did know, however, that it would be very unwise to upset Seto in his delicate condition, so she nodded and said, "Yes . . . yes, Kaiba, he's safe."
Seto looked relieved and lapsed into another silence. Then he smirked weakly and remarked, "You know, this is why I don't do this sort of thing very much. It tends to cause me a lot of pain." He tried to relax but found it impossible. There would be no rest for him-only an eternal rest of death.
It was only shortly after this that the boy's eyes closed and his body fell lifeless in Téa's arms. Seto had sacrificed himself to save his brother and Téa from the demented and evil Carmichael.
Mokuba had been running down the deserted country road for hours, searching for someone, anyone who could help. He didn't know if he would ever find Domino City or Marik. He had no clue where he even was, but he knew he was in the middle of nowhere.
Suddenly a terrible pain ripped through his heart and he staggered forward, falling to his knees. "Seto!" he cried, but he could no longer feel his older brother's presence. His premonition had been correct-Seto was gone. His brother was dead.
"No, Seto! No!" Mokuba wailed, collapsing into the weeds by the side of the road. "Seto . . . it's not possible! It's not . . ." He didn't know what to do now. What could he do? He couldn't go back and try to find out if it really was true, that Seto was dead. He didn't think he'd be able to find the way back. And everything looked so deserted. . . . so devoid of life. . . . Mokuba wanted someone, anyone, to be there. But he was alone.
If anyone had overheard the heart-broken boy's sobs, they would have declared that they had never heard any cries so pitiful and chilling.
Sadly Téa slipped Seto's trenchcoat off of his limp body and laid it across him like a quilt, smoothing the boy's bangs back. "You were so brave and selfless, Kaiba," she whispered. "I'll never forget what you did." She couldn't bear to pull the material over Seto's face, so she did not. Instead she studied him, emotions running rampant through her soul. He looked weary, but not at peace. In the dim moonlight Seto looked as though he had been carrying the weight of the entire world on his shoulders-and in actuality, all of Seto's world had been upon him.
Téa realized now that perhaps one reason Seto had never hung out with Yugi and the others was that he simply felt much older than the rest of them and that he didn't think he really fit in with the often just plain fun things that they did. He once had told Joey that he didn't have fun. Téa didn't doubt that was true. Though Seto was only sixteen, he had probably felt as old as a middle-aged man. This, Téa found, made her sad.
She didn't know what caused her to do what she did next. But she leaned down, softly kissing Seto's cheek. Then, as if afraid of being caught in the act of something she shouldn't be doing, she immediately straightened up, brushing her hair behind her ears. "I don't know," she mused quietly, a wistfulness in her voice. "I think . . . I think maybe I did love you, Kaiba." She swallowed hard, her eyes shining. "I . . . I only realized it too late." And she doubted that Seto would have ever felt the same way about her. It never would have worked between them.
She looked around at the skeleton of a building she was in. It had been many hours, but it felt more like years. An eternity had passed since things were normal-and now she knew that they would never be normal again. Especially not for Mokuba. What would happen to him now?
She knew that somehow she had to get Seto's body back to Domino City for a proper burial. It was the least she could do. But she didn't know how she would ever get out of here. What if Mokuba couldn't find help? What if he was still wandering somewhere, all alone? And . . . how would Téa tell him what had happened? How could she ever tell him?
Téa covered her eyes with her hands, crying as she never thought she could. She cried for the fallen boy, for his brother Mokuba, and for the times they would never share now. It wasn't fair! she thought. Seto's little brother still needed him; how could Seto just be taken away from him like that!
She cried because Seto was too young to die. He had only been high-school age, as Téa herself was. And perhaps . . . perhaps she cried because she held a special place in her heart for Seto Kaiba, a place that would never be filled now.
Seto had been gone now for ages, Téa knew, and his skin was cold and clammy. She couldn't bear to look at his body. Only hours before he had been alive and well, and now . . . now he was so still. . . . So still, never to move again. Never more to gaze at her with those cold blue eyes, flickering every now and then with emotions Téa once had doubted he even had. . . .
Somehow Téa must have fallen asleep, because now she found herself rousing up leaning against the wall. Had it all been just a nightmare, perhaps? Oh! if only it could be! She had been dreaming that Seto was still with her and that they had managed to escape the collapsing building before time had run out. . . .
But no, there was Seto's body laying on the floor, just where Téa laid him. "Kaiba," she sobbed, unable to control her tears. "You can't be gone!" She had hoped so desperately for a fleeting moment that it had only been a dream, but it was real. Seto Kaiba was dead.
Téa turned away. How would she tell Mokuba? How could she possibly go back and tell that ten-year-old boy that his brother had departed from this life? She couldn't. She knew she couldn't.
A low moan interrupted her thoughts and the girl leaped a mile high, her heart pounding. What was that! Could it have been. . . . No, that was impossible! Still, she slowly turned around and looked at Seto's body. "Kaiba?" she whispered cautiously. The boy was still laying motionless on the floor, pale and cold. Of course Téa had only been imagining things. The dead didn't just come back to life.
Suddenly Seto's eyes fluttered open and he blinked in confusion. "Where . . . where am I?" he asked slowly. He had been immersed in the black oblivion for so long. He didn't understand what was going on now. Had he reached whatever sort of afterlife there was for him now? It . . . it didn't feel like any sort of afterlife that he had imagined. And there was pain. . . . So much pain. . . . He hadn't thought pain existed after death. Maybe . . . maybe this wasn't death at all. Maybe . . . somehow . . . he was still alive.
Téa was frozen. This was impossible! She must be dreaming-she must! Seto couldn't be alive. He had been dead for ages! She knew he had been. She had struggled to revive him, had talked to him-she had kissed him!-but never had he responded to any of it. But out of the blue he had opened his eyes, looking up at her with nothing more than sheer confusion written in them. She had never seen him look at her that way before. But it didn't last long.
"Téa. . . ." Seto's eyes focused on her and his lips curled into a smirk. "You look like you've seen a ghost." Now he remembered. It was all coming back. And he knew he had to still be alive. After all, Téa hadn't died . . . or even seemed to. He had been the only one to suffer that fate.
Téa snapped out of her trance. "I . . . I think I did," she replied softly. She wasn't dreaming! Seto was alive-he was really alive! Her own eyes brightened and without thinking about it, she embraced the boy warmly. "Kaiba! You . . . you came back!" She spoke softly, almost reverently, not seeming to want to let go. "I thought . . . I thought I'd lost you. . . ."
Seto didn't return the hug, but he didn't look angry about it-only puzzled. "'Lost me'?" he repeated. This all seemed strange to him, especially Téa's behavior. She acted as if . . . no, that was ridiculous. Téa didn't care about him, certainly not that much.
"Kaiba, you were dead!" Téa cried, leaning back. Hadn't he been? There was no way he could have still been alive but seemed dead . . . was there? "I tried artificial respiration, but I couldn't get you to revive. I didn't know what to do. . . ." She trailed off, shuddering. "I didn't know how I was going to tell Mokuba . . ."
Seto, now more aware of his surroundings, noticed his trenchcoat draped over him and looked quizzically at Téa.
"I . . . I thought you were gone," she said softly, brushing away a tear, "for good." But now that she knew he wasn't, what now? She didn't feel that she could tell him what she believed she had finally realized. Maybe she had been wrong. Maybe it was only all brought on by the helpless hysteria that had overwhelmed her. Did she love him? Could she say, without a doubt and for a surety, that she loved Seto Kaiba? She bit her lip. No, she couldn't. Not yet. She would give it some more time and see how she felt later. But . . . even if it were true . . . even if she did love him, it wasn't likely that anything would ever happen between them. Seto had no place in his life for such a relationship. He would never trust anyone that deeply. If, indeed, Téa loved him, she knew it was most likely a hopeless, unrequited love.
"I did too," Seto admitted grimly now, bringing Téa out from her tumble of thought. He tried to rise up slowly, rubbing his head, but fell back down again. He had a very bad headache, and he had just discovered he was dizzy, but he wasn't about to say anything. "What happened to Carmichael?" he asked, wondering if he could attempt to get his trenchcoat back on. It didn't seem too hopeful, if he couldn't even manage to sit up.
"He . . . he got buried when the ceiling caved in," Téa told him. "But Kaiba, you should stay down!" she scolded. He surely must be badly hurt. . . . I can't let anything more happen to him . . . not now . . . not when he's come back. . . .
Seto grunted and didn't answer. "We have to find Mokuba," he declared instead, his voice cold and leaving no room for arguments. "I had him run for help . . . but maybe he still hasn't found his way to Domino City. And maybe Marik hasn't found him either." He could just imagine how Mokuba was probably feeling now-cold and alone and scared. And he couldn't leave his brother out there. He had to go to him!
Téa bit her lip, knowing that she wouldn't be able to keep Seto laying down for very long unless he really was extremely hurt. But she didn't see how he could not be. "Kaiba, you have to stay alive," she said finally. "It would be much worse for you to really . . . die than for Mokuba to have to be alone for a little while longer." She choked out the word "die" as if she could hardly bear to. But it was true, what she said. If Seto really died, then Mokuba would be alone not just for several more moments or even hours. Without his brother, Mokuba would consider himself alone.
"You don't understand, Téa," Seto retorted, looking at her blearily. "If I can't find Mokuba right away and show him that I am alive, he'll most likely die." He sensed that his brother was in agony right now and that he had to get to him. Seto couldn't wait to do so, even though he was hurt. Yes, he admitted to himself that he was hurt.
Téa stared at him, her heart racing. Seto seemed to almost be pleading with her to help him. He knew he was injured. He wouldn't be able to get to Mokuba without assistance. At last she swallowed hard. Seto had helped her . . . had risked his life for her. She had to help him now.
And so she nodded and looked at him worriedly. "But you're in no condition to drive," she remarked, reaching down for him. She draped his arm around her shoulders and took hold of his other with her hand, hoping to help him rise.
Seto sighed, allowing Téa to help him get into a sitting position and then to stand. Normally he would try to protest, but he did still feel weak, and he might only get them into an accident if he attempted to take the wheel. "Fine then," he consented in his normal, cold tone. "You can drive. I'll give you directions." As soon as he stood he immediately longed to get into the limo and recline the seat. The dizziness was almost overwhelming, causing him to crash against Téa. He growled in irritation. It was embarrassing enough to be half-carried without nearly knocking them both over. But he would force himself to go on. He had to get to Mokuba.
When they reached the limo, Téa struggled to open the door and then to get Seto situated in the passenger side. Seto eased himself down into the soft seat, leaning back against it and shutting his eyes in pain. Téa knew she could never get him to tell her verbally how badly he was injured, so she simply sighed and shut the door, hastening to the driver's side and getting in.
The ride back down the road was in silence. Seto didn't feel like talking, obviously, and Téa decided not to bother him. Instead she concentrated on looking around for any sign of Mokuba. She prayed he wasn't hurt.
They had been going along for quite some time when Seto gasped suddenly. "Pull over," he ordered.
"Huh? What is it, Kaiba?" Téa demanded, slamming on the brakes. What had he seen!
"It's Mokuba!" Seto told her. "He's laying at the side of the road!" He had been afraid of this. When he had been hit with the beam, Mokuba must have felt that Seto was hurt-or dead-through their mental bond and then had had a mental breakdown, thinking his brother was gone.
Horrified, Téa watched as Seto pulled off his seatbelt, opened the door, and rushed unsteadily to his brother's side, nearly collapsing multiple times. Quickly she undid her own seatbelt and followed.
Seto knelt next to the little boy, noticing with relief that Mokuba was still breathing. The boy didn't seem to have been run down by a car or anything like that, but Seto could see that he had been crying. "Mokuba," he said softly, touching the younger boy's shoulder.
Mokuba stirred. Had he heard his brother calling to him? No . . . it was only wishful thinking. But he decided he would just stay in this fantasy world with Seto, because he couldn't bear to return to the harsh reality that his brother was dead.
"Mokuba! Wake up, kid," Seto pleaded, gently taking the boy into his arms. He blinked away the black spots clouding his vision, mentally ordering himself to stay conscious.
Mokuba felt so peaceful, so warm, so loved. . . . He felt like his brother had come back to hold him one last time. He snuggled in closer, wrapping his arms around the older boy's body. "Seto," he whispered. Happy memories came to him then, of when Seto had watched over him in the past and had vowed to always be there for him. Seto hadn't left him. It was ridiculous to think he ever would.
"I'm here," Seto told him tenderly. It seemed so real. . . . So very real. . . . Was it possible . . . could it be . . . that this was reality?
Mokuba's eyes opened slowly. "Seto?" He looked up at his beloved brother in wonder and then suddenly broke into a smile. "Oh Seto, it's really you!" He wasn't dead! Seto was here, right here, with him! It was a miracle.
"It's me," Seto said lovingly, brushing the dark bangs out of Mokuba's eyes.
"I thought I'd never see you again!" Mokuba cried.
Seto pulled his brother into a tight hug, his blue eyes shining. "It's alright," he whispered softly. "We'll always be together."
Téa smiled joyously. Everything was alright. Evil hadn't been able to prevail, and now they would all be going back to Domino City-alive. Thank You, she prayed fervently. Oh thank You!
By the time they finally arrived back in the city that morning, the police had been looking for them for ages, along with Yugi and the others. And they were all basket cases.
"Man, we thought you guys were dead or somethin'!" Joey declared.
"Joey!" Tristan sighed. His blonde friend always blurted out exactly what was on his mind, especially when it was probably a bad idea.
Seto shrugged and didn't give an answer to Joey's comment. He was sitting in the limo still, refusing to get out and show the others just how weak he actually was. "Carmichael is dead," he said, explaining about the cave-in to Officer Boyd through the window. The policeman nodded and wrote the information down in his notepad.
"We were so worried," Yugi said softly, and Bakura, Joey, Tristan, and Mai all nodded in agreement. "Are you really all okay?" He glanced into the limo, where Marik was sitting and talking softly to his young friend. The news of the abduction had hit the Egyptian boy very hard, of course, and he and his siblings had joined in the search for those missing. Now he was relaxed again, finding Mokuba safe. And Mokuba was happy to talk to him for a bit before leaning against Seto and starting to unwillingly doze. He was so tired. . . . So very tired. . . .
Téa followed Yugi's gaze and looked over at Seto, who was now holding Mokuba tenderly. "Yeah," she said finally, "we're all okay." And as she said it, she knew it was really true. Perhaps her heart was still confused, but she would worry about that another time. The important thing was that Seto was alive and would recover and that Mokuba still had his brother.