Disclaimer/Note: I do not own Yu-Gi-Oh!, or any of the characters in this story. They are the property of Kazuki Takahashi, and who ever he sold his soul to. I am not making any money off this story; it is being written solely for my own amusement, and the amusement of others who like this pairing. This story and all original concepts within it are original (duh) and therefore belong to me. If you steal anything, I will sacrifice you to ancient Shadow Gods. This story takes place sometime after the events of Alkatraz (apparently, no DOOM or Grand Prix). For the KaibaxIshizu group on DA.
He was not an optimist, nor an idealist, nor was he naive. No, the young man sitting at the cafe table was more of a fatalist than anything else, though he preferred the term 'realist.' The 'reality' of the matter, however, was that there was no real distinction between the two. One was simply more polite, and he was probably the last person to give a damn about that. He was rude, shrewd, and cruel, and he did not mind. Apathy always felt good; like treating oneself to ice cream after a car-wreck. He looked to the woman across from him, noted the shapeless, off-the-shoulders dress and realized he had never seen her in anything that was not white. A small sigh escaped him, sounding so much more irritated than he actually was.
She was not the woman of his dreams—she was not even close—and for some reason, that bothered him. There were some qualities, certain characteristics that he liked, that he wanted, but she just was not the one. She fell frighteningly short of his ideal, and his attempts at comparing the two were pointless. So he found himself watching her in a different way, examining her as though she were art; something to be haggled over and placed in an elaborate collection. Not that he had such a collection—of either people or art—but caught himself wondering if perhaps he should. It might be interesting to start with her.
Currently, she was lost in thought, brows furrowed ever so slightly as a small frown tugged at her lips. She had such sharp features, and he assumed it was the result of hundreds of years of careful breeding; high cheekbones, the planes of her face defined but somehow still soft, the faint downward slant of her eyes, the prominent bridge of her nose. Those almond eyes—such a brilliant dark blue, it made him wonder how that color had made it into her genetics—were outlined with black kohl that came out farther in a style long dead. As far as he could tell, it was the only make-up she was wearing. Near her mouth, he saw a few vague lines, as if perhaps she did not get around to smiling enough. She reached out to touch something then, and he allowed his gaze to flick down to the table for a moment before he caught her hand in mid-act, their eyes meeting.
He first noticed the skin's odd texture, the way it had been weathered by heat and old air. She had a small callous on the ridge of her palm, the pads of her fingers rough. He had imagined his ideal woman differently: pale and almost petite, not at all like this dark foreigner before him. The muscles in her hand tensed, and he understood that unique texturing of the skin. Oils. She used hand-oils in an attempt to cover that underlying coarseness, to create a smooth illusion. It did not quite work. He regarded her as one might regard a good painting, or statue; a beautiful masterpiece of cool stone and lapis, flawed perfection. A living goddess. It seemed to him, though, that the artist in charge was dangerously close to overstepping that thin boundary between faultlessness and disaster—a single brush stroke more or last lingering touch, and she and her image would shatter like so much glass. He smirked. She was not the woman of his dreams.
"It would be best if you didn't do that," he spoke in a low voice, dangerous; almost threatening and completely private. She did not seem worried.
"And why is that?"
"Because I'll destroy you if you do."
"It's chess, Set, not patricide," she rolled her eyes when she said it, taking her hand back from him and moving her queen to its newly designated square. "Check. Your move."
"Women. . ." he grumbled, his bishop rising to the occasion and taking out her queen. She sent a thoughtful glare in his direction before her attention returned to the board in front of them. His attention, on the other hand, returned to her. "Feel free to dazzle me with you skills, Ishuza; perhaps you can tell me how this game ends, hmn?"
"Certainly," she snipped back in good humor, beginning her turn slowly as she spoke. "I will win this game and you will be quite irritated with me, for I have already witnessed my victory and the means of your demise."
"Well, that sounds familiar. . ."
"The Queen's Sacrifice," the term slid easily off her tongue, and she moved her pawn into position. "Checkmate. I win, Set."
"What? When did that--?"
"About eight turns ago. You might have noticed if you'd been paying more attention to the game." He felt that hint of color rise to his cheeks and knew that she could see it, could tell that he was embarrassed. Another irate sigh, his hand coming up to pinch the bridge of his nose between thumb and forefinger. She was right, of course; he had not been paying attention to the game and if he had he probably would have won in five turns or less. But at first he had wanted to drag the game out, and after that had simply become bored. He was at his most careless when lost in thought.
". . .What?" he snapped, and glared over at her expecting to see. . .well, he was not sure, but she was never what he expected. She had her elbows up on the tabletop, leaning forward with her chin resting on her hands. It was the smile that seemed out of place, for he did not think it belonged there. She did not smile; not like that, not at him. It was soft and made her look almost childish but for her eyes and what they held, that normal calm replaced by a drowsy intimacy; the look one might give a lover. But they were not lovers. Hell, they were not even friends.
"Nothing," she murmured, and looked away, vision going to the window and passing outside. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat, checking his watch for what seemed like the millionth time in the past half hour.
"Do you ever play games without the intention of completely humiliating your opponent?"
"Do you ever win games in which you don't completely annihilate yours?"
He had to think about that for a moment, running old plays by himself in quick succession, one game after another; from boards to cards to dice and politics, but could not come up with a single instance where he had not absolutely murdered his opposition. Seto shrugged. "No. Again?"
"Alright. I play white this time."
"I'm not surprised."
"You got it last time," she was defending herself, playfully indignant, as if she realized how young she sounded as she said it. He chuckled, more to himself than anything else.
"You just want to go first."
"Oh yes, because I'm sure that getting the first move will decide my fate in this match. . ." Sarcasm looked lovely on her, and again he smirked, this time into his coffee mug as he took a drink. The board was reset, and she moved her farthest pawn on the left up one square. He raised a brow, looking at her strangely for a moment. Why did she have to make the stupidest, most pointless move in the entire game during the first turn? What a waste of opportunity. . .
"Set," she paused after the name, glancing up at his face. It was now several turns into the game, and he looked to her for the first time since they started. "Why aren't we friends? It's not like we can't get along—"
"Because I don't have friends. Besides," he spoke harshly, knocking down one of her knights with his bishop. "You're a brainwashing cultist bitch."
"Excuse me? I'm a what?" the temperature in her tone dropped several degrees, and the look in her eyes was one of pure anger.
"You heard me," he sounded so bored, leaning back and finishing off his coffee. Seto did not even notice the hurt look that followed, the way she trembled and her mouth worked silently. "It's your turn, by the way."
". . .Is that how you see me?"
"That's how you are."
She went very still at that, taking her king in hand, running her fingers lightly over the white plastic. He was watching the street outside when she threw her king at him, and it was only then that he turned back to her. "Ow. What was that for?"
"You, Mistah Kaiba, are an unmitigated ass."
"What? I tell you how I feel, and suddenly we're no longer on a first name basis?"
"You insulted me and my religion in the same five wor—"
"Wait," he raised one hand for silence as he realized something, and she complied, fuming. "Ishuza, did you just call me an ass?"
"I fail to see where you're going with—"
"I think that's the first time you've ever been blatantly rude to me," he was smirking again, bending down to pick her king up off the floor and handing it back to her. Her confusion showed on her face as she took her piece, his touch lingering on her skin. "It's good to know we're making progress."
". . .You said that just to get me to curse at you, didn't you?"
"Absolutely." The word sounded all too intimate, a dirty secret between them, some hidden euphemism that only they were party to. She dragged her eyes away from him, placing her king in its rightful square on the board. Isis was quiet for a long time, before finally she took his bishop with one of her own.
His queen moved across the board, taking her rook from the diagonal. She blinked, already looking for her piece's escape route, but it was not there; she had blocked herself off when she'd taken his bishop. A heavy sigh, and she tapped her fingers on the tabletop, eyes on his queen. "Checkmate."
"I can see that."
". . .One last game."
Seto nodded his consent, and again they reset the board. She chose to be white again, brushing a few loose strands of black hair away from her face as she took the first turn. He did not care what she was doing on the board; he was confident that he would beat her in this match as well. So, instead, he watched her again: captivated by the changes in her expression as she moved each piece, contemplated every move. He noticed that she sometimes chewed her lower lip, and she would follow the paths of his pieces ever so carefully with her gaze. She was truly a work of art, exquisite in her simple elegance. . .but nothing more.
Because, if she were to be something more—a friend, a lover. . .no. No, he could never have her as anything more. He was afraid really, worried of the consequences of such a decision. Relationships were not his strong point. This—whatever it was that they were to each other—would have to be enough, simply because anything else would only end in disaster. So. . .so she was just art to him; beautiful, something that he wanted but did not have the means to acquire. People did not fall in love with art. Not like that.
"Bad move, Ishuza," their eyes met when she looked up from the board, and she smiled at him as if she knew what he was thinking. It had never occurred to him that she might feel the same. Could she? No, it was not possible. . .or was it? He moved his queen to take her knight, trapping her king. "Checkmate. I win."
A small nod of acknowledgment and she stood, straightening the folds in her dress. She lowered her gaze to the floor, and he also rose to his feet. He reached out and grabbed her by the arm, just above her elbow, pulling her back to him so that he could whisper in her ear.
"Where are you going?"
"I told you, 'one last game.' I still have business to take care of," Isis made no move to pull away, trying to avoid his eyes when he sought to look into hers.
"With Yuugi?" he could not help it: he knew he sounded angry, bordered on jealous. Silently he cursed himself, annoyed that she made him so easy to read. Perhaps she noticed because she finally met his gaze, that raw lover's need so obvious it made him want to scream. Made him want to cry, want to hit her, hold her, release her, never let her go. It confused him beyond words or understanding and he stared, wondering if he might love her the way she loved him and if it showed.
"It is my duty."
"Not more of this nonsense, Ishuza. He's a Japanese highschool student, not your long dead king," he spat the words out as if they were burning a hole through his tongue. "Isn't it about time you started living in the real world?"
"I can assure you, Set," her anger was beginning to show, and as soon as she realized it that cool mask of polite diplomacy slipped into place, protecting her. "That I will take your suggestion into deep consideration. But right now I need to go."
"And if I don't let you?"
"For what purpose would you keep me?"
He hesitated, surprised by her question. What would he keep her for? The beginning of an extensive collection? He was not a particularly aesthetic person; she would be the only display he would ever own. His mouth tripped over some excuse or reason, but looking at her he soon fell silent. She touched the side of his face with her other hand, and he tilted his head towards it without even thinking. They started to come closer together; he bending down to her, and she rising on tiptoe. A critical pause, both uncertain, and she bypassed his lips to bestow a small, chaste kiss on his cheek.
They jerked away from one another, trying to read each other's reaction while hiding their own. She looked between Seto and the door for one frantic moment, before leaving the cafe at a quick walk. His fingertips brushed the skin her lips had touched, eyes studying the tiled floor. What had just. . .?
He shook his head, muttering darkly and snapping his hand back to his side. It did not matter what that had been about. A quiet part of him tried to speak up against that thought, but he quickly banished it to the back of his mind. He would not consider it as an option, would will himself not to want her because, in the end, he could never have her. She belonged to Egypt and her dead traditions.
But perhaps there was still a chance that Isis would learn to understand how ridiculous their situation was, and she would realize that it was only old superstitions and words that kept her locked away from him. It was an unlikely possibility, a dim hope, but a hope nonetheless. He allowed himself the ghost of a smile, looking back to the chess board.
She was not the woman of his dreams, but perhaps it was for the best. After all, he had never dreamt of falling in love.