"Let me out of here! Let me out!" Téa shouted, hammering on the door with her fist. She tugged on the doorknob with all her might, but the door wouldn't budge. Frustrated, she delivered one final violent kick to the door. Cursing from the pain of her stubbed toes, Téa decided to temporarily abandon her attempt to escape and focus on finding some other way to free herself from her cell. The small barred window high on the opposite wall was out of the question; even if she could reach it, she'd never be able to squeeze her way through.
What am I going to do, thought Téa hopelessly as she hobbled away from the door. The only small comfort was that it was a clear night, and the light from the full moon provided some illumination in the dark cell. Remembering that she had a small flashlight on her key chain, Téa dug into her pocket until she located it. Please don't let the battery be dead, she whispered to herself as she fumbled with the button on the tiny flashlight. She was rewarded with a narrow beam of light.
At least that's one less thing I have to worry about, Téa thought hopefully as she directed the beam around the cell, which wasn't much larger than her classroom at Domino High.
Shivering at the thought of having to spend the night alone in a dungeon, Téa looked around for anything she could use to make herself some sort of bed. And then, in the far corner of the cell, she spotted something that appeared to be a mound of blankets or clothing. But as she cautiously drew closer, she was able to make out that there was someone in the pile of clothes sitting in the corner.
"H-hello?" Téa stammered, her voice shaking with fear. When the form lying in the corner didn't respond, Téa raised her flashlight, took another tentative step closer, and was able to determine that the person, whoever it was, appeared to be male. A flash of silver caught Téa's eye, and she gasped when she realized who her companion was.
"Kaiba!" Even though his head was turned away from her, she would know the silver "KC" pin that he wore on his jacket lapel anywhere.
Great. I don't know which is worse – being stuck in a prison by myself or being stuck in a prison with Seto Kaiba,Téa thought bitterly. She despised his 'win-at-all-costs' attitude and knew that the dislike was mutual. She had told him off at Duelist Kingdom after he had defeated Yugi in a duel that had left Yugi no choice but to lose or risk harming Kaiba.
"Kaiba?" Téa cautiously nudged him with her foot. No reply.
"Look, Kaiba, I'm not thrilled either about being stuck in a cell with you, but the least you can do is at least acknowledge my presence," Téa said, her hackles rising. His superior attitude was one of the things that irritated her the most. She shoved him again with her foot, a little harder this time. "Kaiba?"
When he didn't move, Téa's anger began to give way to concern. "Seto?" she said in a softer voice, kneeling down next to him. She gently shook his shoulder. "Seto?" When he didn't answer, she sat still for a minute, listening to him breathe.
Maybe he's asleep,Téa thought, although she wasn't entirely convinced. She reached over and carefully turned his face towards her. "Hey, Seto?"
And then she understood why he wasn't answering her. The entire left side of his face was covered with a huge bruise, indicating that he'd been struck – struck hard – by something or someone and was unconscious.
"Oh, Seto," Téa gasped. Even though she didn't like the guy, he certainly didn't deserve something like this to happen to him. She quickly pressed her fingers into his neck, searching for a pulse. She relaxed a little upon feeling the strong, steady beat beneath her fingertips, indicating that even though he was unconscious, he wasn't severely injured.
What am I going to do, thought Téa, staring once more at the ugly dark mark covering the side of her companion's face. But the truth was that she couldn't do anything for him other than keep an eye on him until he woke up.
Not that I'm going anywhere,Téa thought with a grim smile as she sat down next to him.
As the night wore on, Téa kept a vigilant eye on her companion, occasionally checking to see if he was showing any signs of coming around. Even though she had initially dreaded the prospect of being imprisoned with Seto Kaiba, she was secretly grateful to have some companionship in the dark, cold cell they shared. Even if he was unconscious, it was better than being alone.
He's taking an awfully long time to come out of it,Téa thought as she glanced in his direction once more. Disturbing thoughts, intensified by the darkness and the conditions under which they were confined, began to fill Téa's head.
Maybe he's in a coma.
Maybe he's got some brain damage.
Maybe he's not going to wake up.
"Oh, stop it, Téa," she scolded herself. "You're letting your imagination get out of control." She felt Seto's pulse once more and was reassured by the steady beat under her fingertips.
"See? He's breathing, his pulse is good…there's nothing to worry about," Téa reassured herself. Except that he won't wake up.
Maybe he's hurt worse than I thought, Téa wondered as she brushed aside a lock of brown hair that had fallen across Seto's face. Her eyes widened as she uncovered a scar several inches long. Seto normally wore his hair long in the front of his face so Téa had never noticed his scar before.
Wonder where that came from,Téa thought as she lightly traced the scar that ran almost the entire length of his forehead. It didn't look like a recent injury.
Suddenly, Seto began to stir. He jerked his head away from Téa's touch and emitted a low groan.
Téa became frightened as Seto's breathing started coming in rapid, panicked gasps and he began writhing agitatedly.
"Seto…Seto, what's the matter?" Téa asked, reaching for his arm. Téa watched, horrified, as Seto's body then began jerking uncontrollably.
Oh no, he's having a seizure, Téa panicked. What am I going to do?
"No…stay away…leave me alone…don't…!" Seto moaned. By now the boy's heart was pounding so rapidly that Téa could see his shirt jump with each beat.
And then Téa understood. Seto wasn't having a seizure – he was having a nightmare. And a pretty bad one, too.
"Gozaborou…" Seto uttered through clenched teeth. He made a motion to fend off his invisible attacker.
Téa, who was worried that Seto would cause himself further injury, reached over and grabbed him firmly by the shoulders.
"Kaiba…Kaiba, wake up! It's Téa."
Seto flinched at her touch and tried to pull away. "No…leave me alone…"
Téa shook him harder, hoping to snap him out of his distress. "Seto, wake up! Wake up! You're having a…"
Before Téa could finish her sentence, Seto suddenly shot up and pushed her away with all his strength, sending her tumbling to the floor.
Her cry of surprise caused Seto's eyes to open. He blinked in disbelief at the brown-haired girl who was lying on the floor next to him. "Téa?"
Téa slowly sat up and the two stared in wide-eyed surprise at each other before Seto clutched the left side of his head and began to moan. Téa quickly scrambled to her feet and grabbed Seto's arm as he began to sink back down onto the floor. "It's okay. I've got you."
Seto continued to clutch his aching head and tried to fight off the nausea rising in his throat.
"You got hit pretty hard," Téa informed him. "Maybe you'd better lie back down."
"Damn ear," Seto muttered. The ringing in his left ear was so loud that he could barely hear her.
Téa gasped when she saw the blood trickling from his ear. "Oh no! Seto, lie back down and…"
"Quit getting hysterical, Téa," Seto said harshly, pressing his hand to his ear to slow the flow of blood. "It's not the first time I've been hit in…" He glanced at her evasively and quickly shut his mouth. "Never mind." Then he realized what she had just said. "Did you just call me 'Seto'?"
"That's your name, isn't it?" Téa replied, a bit irritated at being rebuffed in her attempt to help him.
"So where are we?" Seto said, gazing around their cell. He quickly shut his eyes as another wave of dizziness overtook him.
"I don't know," Téa replied. "One of the Rare Hunters captured me and threw me in here with you."
"The last thing I remember was being attacked by a pair of those goons. I was in the middle of fighting them off when a third one joined in and threw something at me." Seto groaned and gingerly rubbed the left side of his head. "Feels like he hit me with a boulder."
"You've been out for a long time, Set…Kaiba," Téa said. "Maybe you should rest until you feel better."
"We don't have time to rest," Seto said, shakily getting to his feet. "We've got to find a way out of here." He turned his frustration at being imprisoned out on her. "How come you didn't find a way out of here while I was out?"
"Because I was too busy sitting with you, making sure that you were okay and weren't going to do something like die," Téa shot back.
"Never mind. Let's just find a way out of here," Seto said. He tapped his lapel pin and cursed when nothing happened. "Damn it, the comm link to Kaiba Corp is broken. The company satellite would've picked up our location if this were working." Frustrated, he tore the broken pin off of his lapel and threw it aside. "I should fire all those idiot engineers." Another wave of dizziness then sent him to his knees.
"You're not going anywhere right now, Kaiba," Téa ordered, taking his arm. "You need to lie down and rest until you're feeling better."
Seto rudely pulled his arm out of her grasp. "Leave me alone. I don't need your help." He leaned against the stone wall of the cell and closed his eyes until the dizziness passed.
"Yeah, well, it doesn't look that way to me. Will you quit being such a stuck-up jerk and let someone be nice to you for once?" Téa said. "Because like it or not, we're stuck in here together. We're going to have to rely on each other if we're going to get out of here."
"All right, all right. Spare me your self-righteous lectures and help me lie back down before I throw up," Seto replied, holding out his arm to her.
"You're something else, you know it?" Téa fumed as she seized his arm. "You're rude even when someone's trying to be nice to you. Is that how you got that scar on your forehead…from being such a jerk?"
Seto's eyes shot open and he glared at Téa. "How do you know about that?"
Téa was momentarily taken aback by Seto's reaction. "When I was checking you to make sure you didn't have any other injuries, I saw the scar on your forehead. I was wondering if whoever gave you that bruise on your face gave you that, too."
Seto brushed aside his brown hair to make certain that it was covering the scar in question. "They didn't," he replied brusquely. "And forget that you ever saw it. Now help me lie back down."
"I'm not one of your servants, Kaiba," Téa replied angrily as she roughly pushed him down. "You can't just boss me around like you do them. 'Please' and 'thank you' will get you a lot farther with me."
"Téa, if you want to help me, then stop torturing me with your holier-than-thou attitude," Seto said, leaning back on the floor and shutting his eyes. Téa's lecture was making his headache worse.
"Me…? Holier-than…?" By now, Téa was so furious that she couldn't even see straight. "You should talk, Kaiba! You're the one who's always acting as if you're better than everyone else -- like you're too good to even associate with us! You know, when I saw you lying in the corner when I first got here, I actually felt sorry for you, believe it or not! But I see now that I shouldn't have wasted my time feeling any sympathy for you! You're not worth it!"
"I don't need your pity!" Seto replied angrily, opening his eyes to glare at her once more. "I don't need anyone's pity!"
"You don't need anyone, is that it, Kaiba?" Téa shouted. "Man, I was so stupid to think that you might actually be grateful to me for taking care of you! That you might actually say, 'thank you, Téa, for taking care of me while I was lying half-dead, bruised, and bleeding on the floor'! That I cared enough to wake you up from that nightmare while you were screaming about someone or something named Gozaborou…!"
The mention of that hated name had an immediate effect on Seto. Stunned, he sat up so fast that he nearly fainted.
"Don't ever say that name in my presence again," Seto said in a threatening voice once the wave of nausea had passed, and he felt certain that he wasn't going to pass out.
"Who is he, Kaiba? Is he a monster? Someone who defeated you?" Téa goaded, relishing in the pleasure that she had struck a nerve. "Because whoever Gozaborou is, he had you so scared that you were writhing on the floor whimpering like a cowering puppy, begging for him to stay away from you!" Téa couldn't resist throwing in that last dig as revenge for Seto's insulting Joey with the same remark at Duelist Kingdom.
"He was a monster…he was the man who adopted me and my brother," Seto replied angrily, embarrassed at Téa's having seen his vulnerability exposed.
Téa was shocked into silence by Seto's revelation. "He…Gozaborou was your father?"
"He was never my father," Seto replied coldly. "He was the man who adopted me and Mokuba. And he taught me how to run KaibaCorp. But he was never my father."
Stunned, Téa sank down on the floor next to Seto. She now regretted having taunted him. "Oh…oh, Seto…I'm so sorry. I didn't know."
"No one does. And no one else is going to know about this, understand?" Seto glanced threateningly in her direction once more.
"Seto, I'd never tell anyone about this!" Téa insisted.
"Why? I imagine that you'd enjoy telling Yugi and your little friends about how you saw me whimpering on the floor like a 'cowering puppy'," Seto mimicked sarcastically.
"Look, Seto…even though I don't like you very much, I'd never tell Yugi or Tristan or Joey about what your fath…Gozaborou did to you," Téa said, moving a little closer to him. "He hit you, didn't he?"
Seto said nothing, but the look in his eyes told Téa that her hypothesis was correct.
"Was he the one who gave you that scar on your forehead?" Téa asked.
"I don't want to talk about it, Téa," Seto replied, turning away.
"Maybe you'd feel better if you did talk about it," Téa continued. "Everyone says that I'm a good listener."
"Leave me alone, Téa," Seto said, lying back down and rolling on his side away from her.
And then Téa understood. It all made sense now. The reason why Seto was so cold and aloof wasn't because he thought he was better than everyone else – it was because he didn't trust anyone. The man who had adopted him – the man who was supposed to take care of him – had instead beaten him and shattered any trust Seto had in people.
He doesn't want to let himself get close to anyone,Téa realized, staring at Seto's back. Because he's afraid to.
And the dislike that Téa had felt towards him began to fade and was replaced by sympathy.
She reached over and gently shook his shoulder. "Seto? Hey, Seto?"
Frowning, he slowly rolled over to face her. "What?"
"I don't think it's a good idea for you to go to sleep. Not with a head injury. You might not wake up again," Téa said, concerned.
"So what do you suggest we do now?" Seto scowled.
"We could talk," Téa suggested. "After all, since we're stuck here together, we might as well try to make the best of it."
Seto rolled his eyes in frustration. "I don't feel like talking, Téa."
"Like I said, Seto, it might make you feel better to talk about what happened to you. And I promise that I won't tell anyone," Téa said.
Realizing that Téa wasn't going to stop nagging him about his abusive past, Seto decided to take the bull by the horns.
"Fine, Tea. If you want to play therapist, then why don't I tell you about some of the things Gozaborou did to me? You were asking about the scar on my forehead, so I'll tell you about that first. One morning I was doing some calculations for Gozaborou, and he didn't think I was doing them fast enough. So he pushed me into a marble-topped desk. When I came to, there was blood everywhere and I ended up with seventeen stitches in my forehead. Nice guy, huh?"
Seto smiled inwardly at the horrified expression on Téa's face. He was taking perverse pleasure in shocking her and her goody-two shoes, everything is peachy-keen attitude. The girl needed a reality check.
"Oh my gosh, Seto," Téa gasped once she had gotten her breath back. "I can't believe that…that your father would…"
"I've got other scars to go along with the one on my forehead," Seto announced, pushing back the sleeve on his jacket to reveal a small circular scar on his forearm. "Gozaborou burned me with his cigar when I accidentally mispronounced the name of one of our main customers. And I've been beaten so many times that I think I've had every bone in my body broken at least once."
"Oh…oh, Seto…" Téa said softly, lightly touching the ugly-looking burn mark on his arm. Seto quickly pulled his arm away.
"Anything else you want to know, Téa?" Seto said, pushing his sleeve back down. "Want to hear about the time Gozaborou locked me in a closet for three days straight without any food and water just because I made an 'A-minus' instead of an 'A' on my science test?"
"Seto…oh, Seto…" Téa's eyes began to fill with tears. "I had no idea that you…did Gozaborou do the same stuff to Mokuba?"
"No," Seto answered firmly. "I put up with everything Gozaborou did to me so he wouldn't do it to Mokuba. I swore that I'd kill him if he ever laid a hand on my little brother."
And as far as Seto was concerned, he had killed Gozaborou. When Gozaborou had announced that Seto's training was over and that he was going to start "training" Mokuba, Seto had snapped. All the rage, all the hatred he felt for his adoptive father finally exploded. And during their argument, Gozaborou had fallen out of the window of his penthouse office to his death.
"Oh, Seto…" Téa was crying openly now.
"Save your tears, Téa," Seto replied harshly. "I don't need your sympathy. I did what I had to do to protect Mokuba. And I survived. Survived and became the head of my own company. I have wealth and power beyond my wildest dreams. And because of that, I'll never have to put up with anyone doing anything like that to me again. Never."
"S-Seto," Téa sniffed, "To endure all you did just so you could protect your little brother…" Overcome by a wave of sympathy for Seto, she reached over and gave him a hug.
Startled, Seto immediately stiffened at her touch. "Téa, what the hell are you doing?"
"It's okay, Seto. Don't be afraid," Téa said sympathetically, drawing him closer. Now that she knew the truth about Seto's past, she felt nothing but compassion for the boy who was too afraid of being hurt to allow himself to get close to others. Téa couldn't stand to see anyone in pain, and her instinct was to provide consolation and comfort to the boy who had been so brutally abused.
"Téa, have you lost your mind?" Seto tried desperately to pull away from her.
Téa could feel his heart pounding wildly against hers. "I'm know you're scared, Seto," Téa said in a voice that one would normally use to calm a frightened child. "But don't be afraid to open your heart to someone. Don't be afraid to trust other people. Not everyone is bad."
Seto continued to stare at Téa with terrified eyes; all the while his adoptive father's words kept racing through his head:
Trust no one. Let no one get close to you. Never let down your defenses.
"Téa, let go of me!" Seto ordered, trying to squirm out of her grasp.
But Téa held him even tighter. "Seto, I'm not going to hurt you. I want to help you. Trust me. Please trust me."
"Téa, no…no! Stop it!" It had been so long since anyone other than Mokuba had hugged him or expressed any kind of sympathy for Seto that the boy didn't know what to do. And the uncertainty frightened him.
Seto felt the nausea suddenly rising in his throat once more. Oh God, he was going to throw up. He roughly thrust Téa away from him and began to retch.
Seto quickly turned away from her and vomited in the corner. He wasn't certain if it was his head injury or the terror that he had felt when Téa had embraced him that had made him sick.
"Oh, Seto…oh…" Téa reached over and began to lightly rub his back while he threw up once more.
By now, he was too weak to resist her efforts to provide comfort to him. Dizzy and sick, he felt himself sinking down once more. But this time, a pair of hands caught him before he collapsed and before he knew it, Seto was lying with his head in Téa's lap.
"It's all right, Seto," Téa said softly. "Just rest now. I'll take care of you." Too exhausted to resist, Seto closed his eyes and less than a minute later he was sound asleep.
While he lay in her lap, Téa found herself imagining if this was how Seto looked after he had been beaten by his adoptive father. She gently brushed aside his hair to reveal the long scar on his forehead once more.
Oh, Seto. It must've been so horrible for you growing up,Téa thought as she lightly traced his scar with her fingertip. To suffer the way you did just so you could protect Mokuba.
The pale, injured boy lying in her lap looked so young and much more vulnerable than the Seto Kaiba Téa knew – or thought she knew until now. And she spent a good deal of the night weeping for the injured boy lying in her lap – the boy who had been hurt so many times and had had no one to comfort him.
She had sat up with him for most of the night watching him sleep, listening to him breathe, and occasionally checking his pulse until she was certain that he was all right. It was only then that she had gently laid him on the floor and stretched out next to him. She then continued to lightly stroke his head until she too had fallen asleep.
When Seto awoke, the sunlight was streaming in through the small window of their cell. He slowly opened his eyes and was surprised to find himself staring into the face of Téa Gardner. She was lying asleep next to him, her fingers still twined in his hair.
"What th'…?" And then he remembered. He had been sick, and he had fallen asleep in Téa's lap.
He carefully removed her hand from his head and slowly sat up.
The rest had helped. His head still throbbed painfully, but it wasn't as bad as it had been earlier. And as long as he moved slowly, he didn't feel too dizzy or nauseous. He stared at the sleeping girl lying next to him and tried to recall what had happened between them the night before.
What in the world had possessed her last night? Téa had actually hugged him, for crying out loud.
He knew that Téa didn't like him very much, and the feeling was mutual. He had found her rather annoying with her self-righteous lectures and goody-goody attitude.
So why was she now being nice to him?
Seto recalled his adoptive father's words:
When someone is being nice to you, it means that they want something from you. They don't really give a damn about you.
But as Seto recalled their conversation last night, he realized that Téa hadn't asked for anything from him. Anything other than for him to trust her.
But Seto wasn't sure he could trust anyone ever again. He had been hurt so much by first his parents' deaths and then by his adoptive father had shattering any trust he had felt towards others, that the truth was that Seto wasn't able to love anyone else except Mokuba. And he didn't want to take a chance of opening his heart up to someone, only to have them either die or betray that trust. He doubted that he ever would get close to anyone ever again. It hurt too much.
Lying in Téa's arms he had been surrounded by a warmth and comfort that he hadn't felt since his mother had died. And last night's sleep had been the most peaceful one that he had had in years.
"I thought I had you figured out, Téa Gardner," Seto whispered to the sleeping girl. "But maybe I don't."
He studied her in silence for a few moments, then slowly stood up. He had already wasted enough time sleeping -- he had to find a way out of their prison.
But at the same time, part of him didn't want to leave her side. He glanced down at her once more and then his face hardened.
"Wake up and smell the coffee, Seto," he told himself harshly. "As soon as we're out of here, she'll go back to Yugi and her loser friends."
Seto turned his back on her. I don't need her. I don't need anyone.
But one thing he couldn't deny was that even though he had at first been embarrassed at Téa's seeing him at his most vulnerable, telling her about some of the things that Gozaborou had done to him had been cathartic. He had never been able to discuss the abuse he had suffered at the hands of his adoptive father with anyone – not even Mokuba. (He had thought that it would've upset Mokuba too much to learn about the things that Gozaborou had done to him.) And then there were some things that Gozaborou had done to him that Seto would never be able to tell anyone about.
He glanced down at Téa once more.
But maybe someday he'd tell her.