Disclaimer: I don't own "Yu-Gi-Oh!". Luckily there is plenty of episodes and manga for me to watch and read. And people say smoking is addictive. Not as addictive as Kaiba, I think.

Which is who this fic is about. Specifically, it occurs on the rooftop of Pegasus' castle, where Kaiba has just defeated Yugi in the duel before "Champion vs. Creator". Kaiba may think he's won, but he hasn't defeated all challengers yet…


At the End of the Day


"He's got a heart, and friends who love him, which is more than you've got. What do you have at the end of the day, Seto Kaiba?"

The words shock me. Before this moment, I've never heard Tèa Gardner say anything remotely interesting.

I'm still standing on the edge of the rooftop, the sea spinning below Pegasus' castle with its arms open to me. I have to force myself to step down from the ledge, back to safety. If she says something else along those lines to me, I just might lose it. I just might jump.

Yugi's on his hands and knees, eyes wide and unseeing. You could frame his face and caption it "grief", paint his stance and name it "defeat". He's a broken man. There's nothing left to destroy, nothing left to protect, and still Tèa stands between him and me, as if our battle is still going on. But she's wrong. My battle with Yugi is finished. It's my battle with her that's just beginning.

Tears are falling down her face like fairy dust, but there's nothing weak about her stance. She's rock steady on dancer's legs spread slightly to anchor her, a human shield between me and Yugi. Before today, I'd have described Tèa as dainty, petite. How could someone so small, so delicate, look so utterly immovable?

She's like the Empress Judge, standing with an arm extended towards me, finger stabbing the air between us accusingly as she waits for my answer. She won't be satisfied until I give it, and so she repeats the question, a note of warning anger rising in her voice like the howl of the winter wind. "What do you have at the end of the day? Tell me!"

It's a demand. I can't believe what I'm hearing. This is not the girl who nervously bites her nails on the sidelines during the duels, who weeps as she worries for her friends. The tears that glitter on her face are full of anger, nothing more. Somehow I feel as if I wiped them away, they'd scald, leave blisters on my hands. Who is she now? Where did this new Tèa come from?

"Tell me!" she shrieks, and it's no longer a demand but an order. She remains standing proud as a queen against the sky. Challenge sings through her stance, her words. This girl couldn't scare a paranoid schizophrenic, and yet she's challenging me. Not with cards, but with something worse—the truth.

"I have all that I need!" I yell it, so everyone will hear, pronouncing each syllable clearly so there might be no mistake. Her blue eyes narrow to dark slits. They're full of rage, but not surprise. She looks as though she expected the answer.

"Get out of my way," I snarl at her, and she doesn't move, but when I push past her she makes no move to stop me. All she does is hiss in my ear as I pass, low and only for my ears.

"I hate you."

Her voice is low and flat with the effort not to scream, and I stiffen. She throws the words at me like stones, the full force of her anger behind them. The world spins for a minute, sky and sea. I can't tell where one ends and the other begins.

I realize dizzily that no one has ever said those words to me.

I'm sure people have thought it, of course, have felt it for me, but no one has ever actually said to my face, "I hate you", and meant it. Tèa means it. Looking into that flushed, bloodthirsty face, I believe—no, I know—that she means it.

"I hate you."

I can't tell if she's said it again or if my mind is echoing it back to me. I want fiercely for a second to hold her and make her listen to me; I want to fall at her feet and tell her everything—Pegasus, Mokuba, the souls, the deal—but I don't. I can't. What do I care what she thinks?

I realize with a start that I do care what she thinks. I want to explain everything to her, make her understand why I've done what I've done. Anything to get that look out of her eyes. I don't want her to look at me like that, with that horrified hatred in her face. It hurts me to see that look in Tèa's eyes.


I say nothing. I don't have time for sentiment. I have ten star chips now, and Pegasus is waiting for me. Mokuba is waiting for me.

As I walk away from them, I look back only once, and Tèa's gathered Yugi in her arms, cradling his head against her heart. She's murmuring soft words of comfort to him, but her eyes are locked on me, wary, watching. Tèa Gardner, a soldier of love.

Perhaps that's what I am too. I flip open the card-shaped locket around my neck, brushing my fingertips over the picture of Mokuba inside it, trying to drown out the voices in my brain.

What do you have at the end of the day?

Mokuba's waiting for me. I'm the only one who can help him. He's counting on me. He's all I have.

He has a heart, and friends who love him.

Mokuba lying on the floor of the cell in Pegasus' dungeon. "What have you done to him? Tell me."

Ten stars. Enough to get into the castle, to get my brother back. One duel away.

What do you have at the end of the day? Tell me!

I have ten stars.

He has a heart.


I hate you.

Unable to help myself, I look back again, but they're gone. She's gone.

I keep telling myself that she's justified. She doesn't know any better; she doesn't know that Pegasus is dangling Mokuba's soul above my head like a carrot on a string. How could she know? I wouldn't tell her...

She has every right to be angry. If Tèa hurt Mokuba, I'd hate her too.

But you wouldn't do a thing like that, would you, Tèa? No, not at all.

I don't hate you, do I, Tèa?

No, not at all.


Author's Note:

There are a lot of Tèa-haters out there. I am not one of them. I find her speech to Kaiba to be one of the most chilling and accurate out of all of her speeches. It doesn't contain any of her usual frilly gooiness about friendship, and it gets the job done right as well as fast. Kaiba pretends to ignore her, but as he walks away, you are positive he has heard her, and will remember it. No matter what else can be said about Tèa, she loves Yugi, and that episode lets everyone know it.

When I watch that episode, that section, really, I get a very strange energy from Kaiba. To me, he is not exactly regretful that he's won in such an underhanded way, and why should he be? He must get to Mokuba, and that is perfectly understandable. However, as he hesitates before answering Tèa, I can see in him the wondering, the slight wishing that it could have been different. He's not sorry for hurting Yugi, exactly, but he's sorry he's ended up in this desperate position.

At least, that's the way I see it *^_^* And this is my fic. And I hope you liked it as much as I liked writing it. If you did, can you click the little button down there and let me know? Thanks! *^_^*