A/N: I updated! *faints from shock*
Across the water, lights flickered on one by one. The darkness was slowly fading and the city was once again waking from its slumber.
Seto gave no notice as he let his gaze trail away from the view to the girl standing by the rail. Bathed in moonlight, she gazed out over the water, her white dress billowed around her as she gingerly pushed a stray lock of hair behind her ear. She must have sensed him watching, because she turned her head towards him, and their gazes locked in the lingering darkness.
She hesitated momentarily, before whispering softly. "It's beautiful, isn't it?"
Holding her gaze, Seto answered. "It's artificial."
Her eyebrows knitted together in a frown. That was the first thing he had said to her since they left the party, and slowly Tea turned her head towards the heavens.
"That's not artificial."
Seto followed her gaze to the star studded sky. Despite himself, he felt a corner of his lips quirk up in amusement as her characteristic stubbornness returned .
"For throwing up all over you in the car," she blushed, indicating the ruined dinner jacket draped over the stone bench.
She tipped her head to the side, causing soft brown curls to fall back against her cheeks. "You're not mad?"
"You're a mystery, Seto Kaiba," she murmured softly.
He lifted an eyebrow, amused. "So are you, Tea Gardner."
Tea moved towards him, closing her eyes momentarily as her world swayed with each step. There seemed to be a film covering everything she saw. Did Seto look concerned or was it just the influence of the alcohol? Sliding to a sitting position next to him on the cold stone, Tea wrinkled her nose at the smell. "I can wash this if you want, or I can buy you a new one."
Seto refrained from commenting that she probably couldn't afford it.
Tea sighed. She had begged Seto to drive her to the harbour instead of her room when they left the party. In the last couple of hours that she had spent with the enigmatic CEO, she had become accustomed to these abrupt silences that characterized Seto so well.
"Why are you here, Gardner?"
Tea looked up in surprise. She had always been the one to initiate a conversation, not the other way around. "I like the ocean. It's--"
"Why are you here with Gozaburo?"
Tea squeezed her eyes closed. Her headache returned with a vengeance as the night's event came tumbling to the forefront of her mind. "Because I'm an idiot." The note of bitterness was unmistakable.
The autumn wind picked up, its cold fingers brushed past Tea's face in a gentle caress. "And...and because I want to dance."
Tea had expected him to scoff at the idea of a career in dance, to tell her the impracticality of such a desire. He remained silent, and Tea suddenly felt a need to elaborate, to show him what dance was capable of, and to obtain the unexplained yearning for his approval.
"I don't know why I want to dance. I just had this want--need ever since I was little," pressing her lips together in a tight line, Tea wracked her brain for a better explanation.
"It's been a dream of mine since my parents took me to my first ballet," she laughed suddenly, causing Seto to cast a startled look her way. "It was funny, because I was six at the time, and it was just a ballet put together by the local ballerinas at the community theatre. My mom knew the cast and we were let in through the back stage area. Everything looked so interesting, so beautiful...so pink." she laughed again, "I got sidetracked, and imagine my parents' horror, when I wandered off...on to the stage"
Seto couldn't help a small smirk at the thought of a six-year old Tea, wide eyed with curiosity and excitement, running onto center stage, disrupting the entire performance.
Tea could feel the blush that crept up her cheeks as she cast a look over at Seto. She had never seen him smile like that. It transformed him, making him more than handsome. She suddenly had the need to see him smile again. The way he was looking at her was so intimate.
"The theatre was packed, and I'd never been so scared in my life. I started crying. One of the ballerinas took me to the side to calm me down. She was so beautiful in her costume. I thought she was a faerie princess. And what six year old girl wouldn't listen to a faerie princess?
"She got back on stage, and I was in the first row watching her dance. I was so happy and captivated to just watch her...and I wanted to be like that. To be so free on stage. It's been a dream of mine since."
Seto's smile dropped as he watched Tea reminisce. She looked so happy and blissful. A sense of envy wrapped around him. It was silly, he sneered. Dreams were not practical. Even as a kid, he was taught that.
Maybe it was the after-effect of the alcohol or even her weariness over the night's event, but against her better judgement, Tea turned to him shyly and asked. "What about you? What are your dreams, Seto?"
Looking her straight in the eyes, he said, "I don't believe in dreams."
As soon as the words escaped his lips, he wished he could take them back. The thought suddenly angered him. It was his belief, why should he retract it? Silence settled over them, and unlike the previous ones, he could feel the tension, pulling and stretching, threatening to tear him apart.
Finally Tea broke eye contact. Turning she looked towards the water, where the sun was slowly rising, the top peering over the waves. "I shouldn't have expected you to have one." Her voice was bitter once again. Bitter and sad.
Taking one last look at Tea's face, Seto also turned away. Maybe this was a dream. The sun's rays reached for him, waking him. But dreams disappear with the first ray of sunlight. Despite himself, Seto turned back to look at the spirited brunette beside him. Why then did this dream seem to be just beginning?
Tea groaned, and pulled the cover over her head. But the incessant pounding did not stop. Her eyelids felt as if they weighed a thousand tons as she squinted through the darkness of her cover. Faintly she could make out the sounds of bickering from outside.
Sighing in resignation she pushed her comforter away, and almost groaned aloud at the bright sunlight that filtered in through the open blinds.
What time was it?
It didn't matter, Tea decided. She hardly managed to get any rest after Seto had dropped her off, and she was in a decidedly foul mood. All she cared about was silencing the loud commotion that had so rudely awakened her. Hair still tousled, dressed in her pink cotton pyjamas, her mind dizzy with sleep, Tea marched towards her door to give the occupants on the other side a piece of her mind.
She froze at the sight of an all too familiar blonde. Her hair coiled atop her head in another elaborate bun, sun glasses perched upon her nose, a cigarette in one finely manicured hand, her red lips smacked together in annoyance as she lashed out verbally at the motel's manager.
"Oh. My. God."
Tea's surprised groan alerted them of her presence, and the manager turned an angry glare her way. "Gardner, who the hell is this?"
"Such awful manners," Lola interrupted with a click of her tongue. "Well, good morning darling. What took you so long to answer the door? The heat is just awful out here; I hope there's air conditioning in this poor excuse of a living quarter."
The manager's face had gone scarlet with anger. "This woman has been disrupting--"
Walking past Tea, Lola slammed the door in front of the still gawking man. "I don't know how you can live in such a wreck, darling."
Tea winced at the angry protest from the other side.
"What an obnoxious man." Lola took off her sun glasses and twirled it around her fingers. Her lips turned down in disapproval as she assessed Tea's appearance. "What are you wearing? You look awful, darling."
Tea gritted her teeth in annoyance. "I like what I'm wearing," she narrowed her eyes at Lola's skin tight outfit. "It's comfortable."
"Well, we can't have you going out like this now can we?"
"Going out?" Tea sputtered as she regarded the blonde that was casting disapproving glances all around her room. After last night, she had hoped to forget about everything that had happened. Once she left the party, she had promised herself never to get associated with that group of people again. Thus the young brunette couldn't help but turn an annoyed frown at Lola. "Why are you here? How did you get my address anyway?"
Lola paid her no heed as she shoved open the door to Tea's closet. She tsked, "Such awful taste."
A strangled sound escaped Tea's lips. "How did you get my address Lola?"
Lola clucked her tongue once again as she held up a thin top to Tea's figure. "Orange really isn't your colour, darling. I much prefer the white, you almost had every man drooling after you last night. Almost. But with my help--"
"Lola!" Tea's hand shot up and pushed the top away from her body.
Lola had the audacity to shoot her an irritated look. "What?"
"How did you get my address?"
"Is that it?" The blonde looked bored. "It's easy to find anything if you have money and connections. Now come along darling, the day is wasting."
Tea threw her hands up in defeat as the women continued to rummage through the contents of her wardrobe. "Why do you care what I do with my day?" Tea mumbled more to herself than anyone.
Lola paused in her action and took a slow drag of her cigarette. "Don't tell me you don't know, Tea Gardner." Tea sucked in her breath at the sly way Lola said her name. "You've been the talk of town ever since you came into the party last night with Gozaburo, and then left in the arms of the oh so elusive Seto Kaiba."
Tea's face drained of colour as the implication of Lola's words sank in. "But...but nothing happened. I swear."
Lola shrugged. "It doesn't matter to me one way or the other. But I do pry myself on being well informed and connected with the happenings of the world. And right now you are it, darling. So hurry and get dressed."
Tea made a frustrated sound. That group of people had caused her nothing but grief.
Pulling another dress out of Tea's closet, Lola tossed it casually onto the bed. "Despite how much you despise what we think of you right now, you will come to realize that there are benefits for you too," Lola's voice was seductively sweet, like a siren luring her victims to their doom. "All you need to do is learn how to exploit it."
Tea couldn't believe she was here. She couldn't believe she was here with that woman beside her. She couldn't believe she was wearing what she was wearing, sitting across the table with that pushy excuse of a woman, in a haughty upper-class café, while people not so discreetly whispered around her-- About her! As if she was some idle piece of clothing being displayed on a sales window.
Tea gritted her teeth as another whispered, "Is that her? The Kaiba girl?" drifted past her ears.
Once again she wondered why she let herself get dragged into these situations. Possibly because Lola was more stubborn than a brick wall and the only way to get her out of her room was to agree to her terms.
"Enjoying yourself, darling?"
Tea gave Lola a sour look but the woman didn't seem to notice as she rose from her seat to wave at a passing couple.
"Darlings?" Her manicured fingers grasped the couple's hands and she took turns kissing the air beside the male and then the female's cheeks. "Both of you look so lovely."
"Lola, forever the flatterer," the male laughed. He looked like a foreigner, yet he spoke Japanese with acute accuracy. He turned his gaze down at Tea, and lifted an eyebrow. "Who is this enchanting creature?"
"She, my darlings, is Tea Gardner."
A resounding "ah" echoed from the beautiful female. At her companion's confused expression, she whispered as if Tea wasn't there. "The Kaiba girl." Before turning a pitying gaze Tea's way. "We've heard quite a few things about you and the Kaibas, Miss Gardner."
Tea almost chocked on her water.
Lola laughed in delight.
Tea narrowed her eyes as her patience was pushed to the limit. If this group of pompous upper-class imbeciles wanted to amuse themselves at her benefit, then she would definitely give them something to be amused about.
Tea smiled sweetly. "You may be acquainted with my name, but unfortunately, poor little ignorant me has not had the honour of being introduced to you."
"Silly me," Lola introduced. "This is Miss Kiko Wazari and her French fiancé Jean-Pierre Levee."
"Kiko?" Tea was shocked. "The Kiko Wazari?"
Kiko's ego swelled like a balloon. "I see you are acquainted with my name after all, Miss Gardner. I am quite well known. After all, I am indeed the representative super model of Jap--"
Tea shook her head in denial. "No, no, Miss Wazari. That is indeed not how I came by your name. You see," Tea cast a look around them and after a brief hesitation stood up from her seat to lean in conspicuously. "You were right. I am quite well acquainted with Seto." Tea practically purred his name. "And well he has mentioned your name quite a few times." Tea winked suggestively.
Lola raised her eyebrows in amusement.
A flush rose high on Kiko's cheeks. "He has?" she sounded breathless.
Tea tried to contain her contempt. It seemed that Seto was quite popular amongst the ladies.
"Yes he definitely has," Tea smiled encouragingly.
Leaning in eagerly, Kiko whispered. "What did he say about me?"
Tea moved back suddenly and clucked her tongue. "Miss Wazari, I would never have guessed that of you. You look so modest."
Kiko frowned at Tea's words. "What are you talking about?"
Tea dropped her voice to a whisper, knowing full well that the people around her was hanging onto her every word like bees to honey. "I had no idea that you were into that kinky stuff." Tea winked again. The flush on Kiko's cheeks turned from delight to embarrassment.
"What are you talking about?" she demanded.
"No need to be embarrassed, Miss Wazari. Seto told me you were quite talented in the--" Tea coughed. "Arts."
"What?" Kiko screamed as a low growl emitted from Jean Pierre.
"Well, I'm sure Seto would be happy to have your service yet again. Give him a call sometime, Miss Wazari."
Brushing past the sputtering Kiko and her angry fiancé, Tea smiled openly at the people that quickly averted their heads. Miss Wazari would be very well known indeed.
As soon as she was out of their sights, Tea's shoulders slumped with relief. She should feel exhilarated for her comeback, but unfortunately she was born with a conscience the size of Jupiter. And even before she managed to leave the café, her conscience had already pounced onto her like a pack of starving wolves and was gnawing at her whole being.
Humiliating Kiko Wazari and shocking those conceited fools was not the reason for her guilt, it was rather her method for humiliating them. She had brought a third party into their quarrel that had nothing to do with the issue in the first place. Seto.
Well, actually Seto had everything to do with the issue at hand. If it wasn't for him taking her away from the party she wouldn't be in this predicament in the first place. But he was helping you, her conscience countered. He saved you from Gozaburo.
Tea's features twisted in dismay. Saved wasn't nearly the word she would have liked to use. And besides, she just started a rumour that he and one of the hottest super models in Japan did kinky stuff together. That would probably sky rocket his popularity with the women. So technically, she did him a favour.
He should be grateful.
And she should be happy.
Then why oh why was she frowning at the thought of Seto with half a dozen women hanging off his arms?
The question brought Tea out of her reverie, and the brunette blinked at the familiar voice calling her name.
"Tea!" Tea turned, her eyes squinting against the sunlight before lighting on the unmistakable mop of messy black hair.
"Hey," Mokuba cast an irritated look Tea's way as she ruffled his already tousled hair. "What are you doing here?"
He gave her a funny look. "Eating."
"Riiiight," Tea laughed nervously. She was happy to see Mokuba, but it was to her knowledge that when one Kaiba brother was around, the other one was bound to be close. She honestly did not want to bump into Seto right now. Tea winced inwardly. Especially not after the rumour she had just started.
"You don't have to worry, Tea, Seto isn't here."
Tea did a double take. The kid was always too perceptive for his own good. "Who said I was thinking about him?" She lied.
His eyes stared into hers, reminding Tea of Seto's stony gaze. Tea blinked again, feeling uncomfortable. 'What was wrong with her today?'
Mokuba shrugged before giving her a slight smirk. "You just look nervous, and well...Seto tends to make people nervous."
Tea couldn't agree more. "So why isn't your brother with you?" she asked. "I'm surprised his overprotective self would let you out of his sight."
Mokuba's smile dropped and he turned away. Tea instantly felt a twinge around her heart. Mokuba always had that effect on her. "I'm sorry," she put a comforting hand on his shoulder.
He shrugged her off. "He had to fly to Hong Kong this morning."
Tea had a hard time containing her surprise. "Hong Kong?" But he stayed up with her the whole of last night. The idiot probably didn't get any sleep. Tea couldn't understand the warm feeling that suddenly spread through her. "Are you okay with that?"
"Of course I am. Why wouldn't I be?" He sounded offended.
Tea smiled sadly, "Just wondering."
For a moment Tea thought Mokuba would walk away, instead his features slowly softened. "I-I just wanted to spend some time with him that's all." His voice was meek. "But he's busy. He's always busy..."
Mokuba lowered his head, letting his long bangs shield his eyes.
Tea brushed his long tendrils away from his face. This time he didn't push her away. "Hey, you want to do something for the rest of the day?"
Mokuba gave her a suspicions look. "Like what?"
"I dunno," Tea smiled. "We'll think of something. It'll be fun. C'mon? We'll--"
"I don't know..."
"C'mon Mokuba," Tea insisted. "I'm all alone here in Tokyo, and I honestly don't know the difference between this street and the next. It'll be fun to go exploring. Please?"
"Well," he looked at her earnest face. Seto wasn't here, and it wasn't as if he had anything better to do. "Alright."
"Yay." Tea pumped her fist in the air.
"You are such a child."
Tea laughed. 'Someone has to be.'
Tea was awestruck. She was already impressed when Mokuba described his home to her during the limo ride to the outskirts of Tokyo where the Kaiba mansion was located. Though Mokuba's description was grand, it didn't give the mansion nearly the justice it deserved.
Standing on the stone steps, Tea beheld in apprehension the thick stone walls that soared high over her head, seeming to reach the sky as it blocked out the sun. It was like the castles depicted in gothic tales. The ones where stone gargoyles fanned either side of the entrance and roof, their features twisted into expressions of agony and madness, warning visitors of the horrible beast that dwelled within.
"What are you waiting for?"
Tea looked at Mokuba standing expectantly in the door way. She shuddered. The place was captivating in its morbid beauty.
Mokuba rolled his eyes and disappeared behind the door. Fear latched onto Tea's chest, and she ran forward. "Mokuba, wait up!" She stopped as soon as she entered the doorway, paralyzed by the sight that met her.
Unlike it's gloomy exterior, the interior of the mansion was blinding in its intensity. Two white marble columns rose straight into the air to connect to a ceiling that was higher than the empire state's building. Multiple chandeliers hung precisely over their heads, their light scattered around the room like a shower of diamonds. A giant staircase spiraled towards the heavens before splitting into two different paths. A Victorian art piece hung over the stairwell. The woman in the painting seemed to bear down on Tea. Her eyes casting disapproving stares where ever it touched.
"Welcome to my home." Mokuba's voice echoed in the room, lonely and sad as it faded into the wide expanse of space.
Tea could only stare in shock. "Mokuba..." This wasn't a home, it was an overpriced showroom. Tea bit her lip as remorse swelled within her.
Mokuba casually flung his clothing onto a straight back antique chair. His jacket slid down its wooden arm before hitting the floor with a dull thud.
"I'll be back. Just give me a few minutes to get my bag and then we can go, 'k?"
Tea nodded numbly as the boy disappeared beneath the stairs to a room that only gods knew led to where.
Tea turned in a circle, looking for any sign that this was a living space for humans and not just a storage room for inanimate objects. But no matter where she looked, everything was impeccably clean, impeccably organized, and impeccably cold.
Walking over to Mokuba's fallen jacket, Tea picked it up off the floor. Her reflection stared back at her from the linoleum. Two large pools of sapphire quivered within their depths. Clutching Mokuba's jacket tighter against her chest, Tea turned away.
"Mokuba?" She called.
She knew she was supposed to wait there for the youth, but Tea couldn't stand to be in that room anymore. It was just too lonely.
"Mokuba?" she called out again as she headed in the direction that the boy disappeared in.
Tea held her breath as she entered a long wide hall. On both sides, paintings were hung systematically on the walls. Even to an amateur like Tea, she knew the general theme to the displays. Anything that was expensive was worth being shown.
Tea sneered at a painting to her left. She didn't know why she chose that painting in particular. She just hated it. The man stood in the middle of the road, his coat flew around him in the wind. His eyes were shielded by his hat as a smile graced his lips. Tea knew. She didn't know why, but she just knew, the man's eyes were just as cold and calculating as his smile.
As cold and calculating as the owner of this mansion.
Tea turned away when a whoosh sound echoed down the hall.
Heading to the end, she turned to the right as another loud creek, whoosh and splash reverberated around her. This time there was an accompanied groan.
Tea's heart flew to her throat. Was Mokuba hurt? In a giant maze like mansion, it would be nearly impossible to locate the kid.
More desperate now, Tea broke into a run. Her sandals slapped loudly against the wooden floor. She ran straight, then left, and then, Tea screeched to a halt in front of the glass screen.
Behind the glass, powerful muscles tensed with strength as his arms hauled himself over the brink. Water rained down his toned torso to drip over the cold hard stone as he hauled himself purposefully up the ladder. With his eyes closed, he stood there in the light, his body taught with suppressed power.
Placing her fingertips to the glass, Tea counted. One. Two. Three.
With heart wrenching suddenness, he hurdled forward.
Tea almost screamed as his body pivoted downwards in a straight position. The springboard fluttered wildly in the air before quieting along with Tea's heart as his body twisted gracefully in space in a free combination before entering sleekly into the water. There was hardly any splash.
With bated breath, Tea emerged from behind the glass screen as she stared at the place where he disappeared. The water glimmered a light blue, it rocked back and forth in a slow rhythm, synchronized with the beating of her heart.
That was amazing.
The sudden cough brought her admiration to a halt and Tea felt the colour drain from her face.
Once again, he hauled himself over the brink of the pool with finite control. Wet dark hair clung to his cheeks as he wore an expression that Tea couldn't quit decipher. Raising her eyes from his dripping wet torso, Tea had never wished so hard for the world to open and swallow her up.
Tea was about to explain, but one look into Seto's amused blue eyes was enough to snap her out of her chagrin and into annoyance.
It was her eyes, she had a right to stare at anything she wanted!
In the still rational part of her mind, Tea knew that statement didn't quite make sense. Sniffling in indignation, she was about to retort, when Seto raked his fingers slowly through his hair. Droplets of water rolled down his cheeks to dash onto his sculpted chest. The bead of liquid marked a visible path down his smooth skin as it trailed teasingly lower, past his toned stomach and...
Despite herself, Tea snapped her gaze away as the temperature in the room rose to a sweltering warmth.
His chuckle taunted her, and in two long strides he reached her side. Tea could feel his breath fan across her face, imagine the devious smile on his lips as he whispered, "Care to join me, Miss Gardner?"
A/N: Wow, eleven months...I'm soooo sorry for taking so long. Honestly, one thing led to another and before I knew it, almost a year had past. I know I should offer a better explanation but I don't want to bore you with the details of my life. If there are actually any people still reading this fic, please do leave a review! You can scream at me all you want ^^
On a side note: My friend asked me this question a couple of days ago, and my reaction after he asked me was o.O (he says the most random things). So I'll leave you with said question to ponder over before my next update. Have fun!
Conundrum: What came first? The chicken or the egg?