From Days Gone By
written by Atlantis
Yes, this chapter has been a VERY long time in coming and I do give you permission to throw veggies and the like at me. It has actually been written and edited for quite some time now but between school and finals and work over the holiday break, I simply didn't have time to actually post it. But its here now and that's all that matters, right?
For anyone interested, I just want to get the word out that my fic, Riddles of the Heart is –NOT- finished. I simply had to put it on hiatus for a time because I had no time to write, no matter how much I wanted to. I'm hoping that will change this semester as I have been working on the next chapter. This makes me very happy and if makes even one of you out there happy, then my day has been made.
Please enjoy this chapter. It is dedicate to all of you who believed that I was not dead and would continue with this fic. Much love!
Disclaimer: It's really not mine. But the story is. Steal it in any part and I shall send my Panda after you!
Rating: PG-13 (Yet another clean chapter though, making it PG)
How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights.
Seto ran a hand through his thick hair and looked down the hall once again, knowing that on the far end his betrothed was in her new room. He didn't know why it bothered him so. Perhaps it was the way she had looked when she had gone up the stairs, lacking the life and spark he had seen vibrate in her presence since he had met her. Or perhaps it was because he didn't think she was far enough away from his quarters. Whatever it was though, Seto was literally pacing back and forth just inside his door, debating with himself over whether or not he should intrude on her obviously desired solitude.
Well, his conscience argued, she is your intended. Don't you need to be comforting her if something is wrong? Protecting her if she is afraid, even if that includes your own mother? That seemed to be enough to convince him and so he left his room, walking quietly down the deserted hall until he reached Téa's room. He rapped on the door softly several times but with no response. Perhaps she's sleeping. But if not, it was his duty to make sure she was all right. So he turned the latch of the door and pushed it open.
"Would you please stop fussing over me? Honestly, I can take my bath alone. I didn't ever need help at my own home and I don't need it here!" Téa's frustrated voice rang out from the adjoining chamber before she burst through the drawn curtains clutching the neck of a dark robe to keep it closed. Her wet hair was in wavy disarray and Seto could see the shadow of a bared leg. The implication that the rest of her was just as bare made him bite his lip. Rolling her eyes in exasperation, Téa turned and noticed Seto standing in the doorway, tilted her head as though not startled at all, and her mouth tipped up at the corners in an amused grin.
"I'm sorry m'lady, I truly am but I'm on'y doin' what the lady of the house..." the maidservant replied timidly as she came through the curtains just seconds later, then stopped abruptly as she saw Seto. "Young master! You should'na be here! Out! Out I say, 'tis not proper you see the lady this way!" she exclaimed, making sweeping motions with her hand and taking a hold of the door.
"Oh, let him be," Téa said as she broke eye contact with Seto and sat down on her bed after grabbing her brush from an unpacked trunk. Seto and the maid both turned surprised eyes on the young woman as she pulled through a knot in her hair.
"M'lady, 'tisn't right," the maid chastised, still trying to close the door through the shock of her reaction. "'Tisn't proper!" she added.
"And what is proper in this household? I'm living in the home of my intended and he sleeps just down the hall from me. What's to keep me from a midnight tryst to his room?" Téa asked from behind the veil of her hair. The maid gasped, scandalized. Téa looked up and set her brush in her lap. "Do you not have a sense of humor? Out. Both of you," she said flippantly, crossing her legs and baring more skin as she resumed brushing her hair. Seto was so dumbfounded that the maid was able to push him aside easily and shut the door behind her, biting her lip as she looked at the door and then shaking her head at her young master before trotting off down the hall, brimming over the top with fresh gossip.
Seto couldn't stop a chuckle from reverberating in his throat and walked away from Téa's door, hands in his pockets and a lightening of his steps. She was a firebrand, that one, and it would be more than fun seeing her try to have her way in his household. Fun, indeed.
Dinner was not long in coming and Seto found himself waiting outside Téa's door to escort her down to the dining hall, leaning casually against the wall with his arms crossed. When her door opened, one of Seto's eyebrows arched up in amusement when he heard low curses and watched as the girl slowly made her way out of her room, tugging this way and that at her dress. He nearly choked on his own air.
Téa was suffering from having a dress that was much too small for her. The simple grey gown cut much lower than she was obviously used to and she kept trying to situate her hair in such a way as to cover the skin that was uncovered, a healthy swell of breasts that Seto appreciated far too much. The sleeves, though they would have looked silly on some other women, didn't look terrible half way up her forearm but it was apparent that Téa had torn off some sort of frill that had been sewn along the cuff because there were stray pieces of thread she was trying to tuck away. She had a beautiful proportionate curve to her body, just under what Seto guessed was average and the cut of her dress and flare at her waist only added to the pretty picture she created. But there was nothing to do about the length of the dress which was floating several inches above the floor.
"Damn this dress, damn having to wear it..." she swore, still tugging here and there and not noticing Seto's presence at all. It was only when he cleared his throat as a mask to his laughter that she looked up, a blush spreading from her chest up her neck and over her pretty cheeks. Téa shut her eyes and rubbed her temples with gloved hands, shaking her head and mumbling incoherently to herself. Then, as if there was nothing out of the ordinary about her dress, she stood up straight and held her hand out, saying quite curtly, "Shall we?" Seto took her hand and bestowed a kiss upon her knuckles before tucking her arm through his and pulling her to his side.
"Indeed," he chuckled, enjoying the way Téa flushed again and pressed her lips together in an embarrassed fashion. "It's not that bad," he whispered down in her ear. "We'll have some new clothes made for you as soon as we can get the seamstress here."
"I haven't worn an evening gown to dinner for several years and didn't realize how much I'd grown since then. This is embarrassing. Will your mother think badly of me? We didn't get off to what I would call a good start this afternoon, first with the horse and then the interrogation..." Téa trailed off, clutching at Seto's arm. Seto repressed the urge to feel warm at her words and unconscious motion, content with the fact that she trusted him enough to speak of her thoughts without repercussions.
"It will be all right," he assured her, laying his hand over hers comfortingly. She looked up at him, not sure if she should trust his words or not. "Mother is still in what Mokuba and I call her recovery period. For nearly two weeks after going to an event, she acts like the women she plays the fool for before becoming the strong individual my father goes to for advice and support. When she comes back into her own I'm sure you'll love her." Téa looked a bit more reassured and gave a slight nod and a smile.
Within moments they were entering the dining hall and sitting next to each other, Seto on his father's left side with Téa next to him and his mother and Mokuba on Mamoru's right. Despite his size and the fact he was a bull of a man, Mamoru did his best to keep dinner a jovial matter, laughing loud and often at his own jokes and stories Mokuba told about his time being sick with the mumps. Téa enjoyed the meal and the wine, often reaching for Seto's hand beneath the table for a boost of confidence before smiling sheepishly and going into a diatribe of her own of how her mother's stable hands had never been able to handle her horse. Mamoru, Mokuba, and Seto were all fascinated by the subject and though Marie looked uneasy, she didn't say anything and merely grasped at her husband's forearm while she sipped at her glass.
Even after the plates and food had all been cleared away, the small family kept talking until a yawn from Téa had the Kaiba patriarch adjourning the meal and sending them all off to bed. Seto escorted Téa back up to her room and bid her a good night before pressing a light kiss to her brow and leaving for his own chambers. He didn't know that Téa peeked out of her closed bedroom door and watched him until he disappeared behind his own.
Sighing, Téa turned into her room and immediately began pulling at the ties that held her dress together at the back and let it fall to the floor, not caring particularly if it wrinkled. Left in her shift, Téa pulled her hair to the side and braided it loosely, tossing it back over her shoulder when she'd finished. Grabbing a pillow from off her new bed, she held it close to her chest and sat on the wide bench built into the window, pushing the glass open and staring out over the expanse of what would be her new home. It was odd being so far away from home, so far away from the memories of her father. Of course she would always carry a part of him with her, she thought as she fingered the key hanging about her neck, but it just wasn't the same as walking through the same halls her father had walked and sitting in the chairs he'd spent so much time pouring over ancient scripts in.
The breeze picked up and Téa could smell salt on it and realized, a bit belatedly, how close the manor must be to the sea. No more than a few minutes, a quarter of an hour at most, thought she could not see it. Téa had seen the sea several times, but only at the port as she watched her father leave on different excursions, new fact-finding missions and breakthroughs. He'd been a genius, a quiet man who reserved his true self for his family and his work, cheery and optimistic and entirely too giving of himself. He had no qualms helping in the field when harvest time came or when it was time to plant again or even when it was foaling season. His workers and servants had all respected him, looked up to him and gone to him with any and all troubles knowing that if anything could be done, Christopher Gardner would do his best to see it done. His death on a ship headed home due to a sickness he'd acquired in the East had been a blow to everyone he'd ever met, he left such an impression.
A shift of the breeze brought her thoughts back to the present, settling on the young man who'd come into her life so suddenly and was already someone she leaned on. He was so much like her father that she couldn't help but trust him, to be comforted knowing that he would be there to get rid of her fears and nightmares. But he was handsome, strikingly so, and she couldn't help but blush every time she realized he was near her, staring at her in that quiet, unsettling way. It was a miracle that she managed to keep her wits about her when he smiled at her or laughed. It was warm, like honey drizzling into steaming tea, and the tilt of the corners of his mouth when he smiled was just as sweet. Briefly, she wondered if he would taste the same.
"Stop that," she scolded herself, pounding the pillow she held. Leaning back heavily on the wall, she took a deep breath and let go of those thoughts. It wouldn't do to think about something that wouldn't happen. They were both victims of circumstance and had no choice in the matter. Love couldn't blossom in that type of environment. It was a fact. Wasn't it? Téa found that the more she thought about her intended the more questions formulated in her mind and the more confused she was about the whole matter. Téa sat up suddenly when the faint sound of a piano ghosted through the air and she stood, tying an evening gown over her shift and slipping on a pair of warm shoes before deciding to search out the source of the music.
The sound led her down the entire length of the hallway to a door that was only slightly ajar, the notes drifting out like a new songbird singing his first song, smooth and sharp and dancing on the air. She pushed at the door a bit and it swung open a ways, and she stepped through the door, noticing that a golden light shone out of an adjoining room to the left, spilling onto the carpeted floor like a bolt of gold material, fading at the edges. Being as quiet as she could, Téa tiptoed towards the doorway of the room and peeked around the corner, her expression softening at Seto's form, sitting relaxed in front of his piano, eyes closed, and fingers drifting over the keys as though he were Poseidon controlling the waves.
Her eyes shut and she felt her body swaying slightly to the music, utterly relaxing in its simplicity. When she opened her eyes again, she was surprised to see Seto staring at her over his shoulder, his fingers still coming down on the keys in an increasing cadence. He turned back to the piano, finished with a royal banging of keys and then turned on the stool so that he sat astride it, setting his palms on his knees.
"Can I help you?" he asked quietly, his eyes looking like liquid shadows in the room. Téa fiddled with the tie on her robe.
"I heard the music and came to see who was playing, that's all," she admitted under his careful scrutiny. "I don't believe I'll have much luck in sleeping tonight," she added. Seto nodded.
"That is to be expected, being in an entirely new place. I can only guess the creaks, groans, and windy whispers of this place will keep you up for several weeks," Seto told her with a smile. When he noticed how her gaze kept straying to the large piano he sat at, he patted the bench between his legs and she went to him, standing before him unsure what to do. Reaching up, Seto took her smaller hand in his and he pulled her down onto the cushion, grinning when she touched the keys with tentative fingertips and jumped when she pushed one just a bit harder and a sharp note rang through the air.
"I love it," Téa declared with childish delight. She turned and smiled at Seto who gave her an odd look.
"Have you never played before?" he asked.
"Oh, no," Téa shook her head. "Nobody in my house knew how to play. The only time I ever got to hear the piano was when I went to parties and the first time I heard it, I fell in love with the sound."
"Truly?" Seto prodded. Téa nodded her head and looked away as though embarrassed. "And here I thought all beautiful young maidens spent their youth learning to play for their future husbands. Croquet is also a prerequisite to matrimony. The gossip, of course, comes naturally and doesn't need to be worked at," he winked at her. Téa smiled and then laughed, her eyes squinting because of her grin. "Pray tell then, what did you do as a child to supplement those necessary lessons?" Seto pulled the cover over the keys and then leaned his elbow on it, watching Téa closely as she lit up.
"My father was adamant about my horsemanship. And my education. He said he'd seen too many children in his travels who were uneducated, not by choice, and he wouldn't see his own daughter let such a valuable tool pass her by. I am proficient in mathematics and matters of finance, well-versed in the writings of the Greeks and Romans, and can read in seven different languages," she added with a somewhat haughty tilt of her chin. Seto found his eyes couldn't stray from that lovely expanse of neck she'd exposed to him and he fought the desire to gather her into him and suck at the skin there. But he couldn't stop from raising a hand to stroke along her smooth cheek. It was quite apparent that in the course of several hours his fatherly affections were not quite as fatherly as he had planned.
With a fascination that surprised him, he watched as Téa's skin flushed with color from the skin that showed at the collar of her dressing gown, then up and over her neck and cheeks. Her eyes seemed weighted down with a glassy light, the color in them heavy and sultry, calling to him with questions of why this was happening to her. Reluctantly, Seto removed his hand from her cheek and set it back down upon his knee. She lowered her eyes to her hands lying in her lap, pressing her lips together as she did so before raising her gaze and smiling softly at him.
"An impressive feat for any individual, man or woman," Seto whispered, though he did not know why, for there was no real reason to. "I should like to see this horsemanship for myself though."
"I would be happy to oblige. I was rather amazed at your stables and the horses you keep. Your family has a keen eye for horseflesh, the best I've seen in years. Perhaps we've found a common interest?" Téa whispered back, inching her hands towards Seto's who took hold of her fingers before they reached his and rubbed his thumbs over them.
"It would seem so," his voice murmured to her. He brought her hands to his mouth and caressed the skin of her hands with his mouth, brushing softly along it like a breath of wind. Téa's breath caught and he pulled away. She seemed bereft for a moment but rose to her feet after him at his tugging on her hands and stood for a moment longer, looking up at him with intensely curious and unsure eyes, gracing him with a last, sleepy smile before turning and leaving his room.
Seto watched her all the way, waiting until he heard the click of her door in the deathly silent stone hallway before retreating to his bed and collapsing as though all his strength was suddenly gone.
Perhaps he wouldn't have to worry about becoming her friend at all. Miss Téa Gardner was fast becoming a woman he would give up his solitude for, if only to watch her flush under his gaze for the rest of his life.
End of Part 3. More will be coming, but I can't promise when. Please be patient. This will continue if it kills me, but lets hope it doesn't come to that...
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