written by Atlantis
This is a fic I've had in my head, literally, for months upon months which was inspired by John Mayer's song 'Something's Missing'. I was presented with the perfect opportunity to get it out of my head and posted when I discovered the one-year anniversary of Azurite's fic What Doesn't Kill You was coming up. Therefore, I dedicate this little mind-bugger to the anniversary and to my dear Kysra who needs a pick-me-up Seto/Tea style.
Disclaimer: The anime Yu-Gi-Oh! is not mine and neither is the song referenced to at the end of this fic. Bonus points to anyone who can tell me the name of the song and the artist(s) that did it.Rating: PG (the first PG I've ever done! I'm in shock...)
No, I will not abandon you as orphans - I will come to you.
It's like this: When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child does. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see thing imperfectly as in a poor mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me now. There are three things that will endure - faith, hope, and love - and the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:11-13
It had been long. Far too long. As Seto looked around the park, hands tucked firmly into coat pockets to ward off the chill in the air, he couldn't help but allow a rare smile to tilt the corners of his usually somber mouth.
The red and gold leaves the littered the ground beneath the numerous large trees reminded him of better times; o strength. It had been his parents' favorite family picnic spot, before they had passed. And it had also been a refuge during his and Mokuba's years at the orphanage: a place where they could remember smiling without feeling the pain of the broken-hearted. Back then, he and Mokuba only had each other. All the other kids just wouldn't accept them, went so far as to bully them.
Settling himself down on an old bench, Seto gazed beyond the leaves and trees to the man-made lake, as unmoving as stone and misty with cold. A breeze rustled his hair, shifting bangs into his eyes so that he had to push them out of the way. Days long past, happy memories of boating with his father and falling in once or twice, rose unbidden to the forefront of the young man's mind. He grabbed at the collar of his coat and pulled it up as a cooler breeze whipped around him. He smiled again, a sort of sad, thoughtful smile.
That had been happening a lot.
He was still young at twenty-six, still remarkably successful, and amazingly more handsome than he'd been in his youth. He'd lost the lanky figure he'd had for years, replaced by a squared and solid frame, powerfully built by an intense workout regimen. His face was more angular, resembling the chiseled marble features of Michelangelo's David. His hair was neatly trimmed, barely brushing the tops of his broad shoulders, though his messy bangs seemed ever-present. But his eyes, the same eyes that saw the end of his parents, later, the end of his adopted father, and the quick growth of his younger brother, were still the same intense blue he'd been born with.
Lately he'd felt like something was missing. It had become painfully apparent when Mokuba had gotten engaged only months before. She was a sweet girl whom he'd gone steady with his last year of high school, broken up with, and then been reacquainted with sophomore year of college once they found they shared a chemistry lab. Mokuba, feisty, high-spirited, soccer-playing Mokuba, had gone and fallen in love. The newspapers and tabloids had promptly had a field day.
The ghostly sound of a child's faint laugh drifted through Seto's conscious and the wind picked up briefly once more, sending the placid water of the lake into lethargic ripples. He shook his head of the sound. It wouldn't do to dwell on the laughter of a child when neither he nor Mokuba were boys anymore. They were grown men, he at twenty-six and his brother at a just-turned twenty-one. He'd be graduating next year. But Mokuba was a grown man surround by love and Seto was... well, he was lonely. Yes, he'd finally discovered the name of the emotion he'd been feeling for some time. It had been difficult, particularly for someone who'd been trained to ignore emotions, who's been taught that they only existed for the weak-minded. It had taken watching Mokuba's feelings grow and develop for a mere girl to finally grasp how wrong his adopted father had been. And he knew he was wrong because Mokuba was anything but weak-mind, Seto's pride had insisted.
Leaning his head on the back of the bench, Seto took in a deep breath of the crisp air, his lungs protesting slightly at the temperature. His eyes nearly crossed as he watched his breath leave his mouth in trails of white air, like the steam puffing over the back of a moving train. He felt silly for doing so, but mouthed, 'choo choo,' not quite brave enough to mimic the sound aloud.
Another smile turned the corners of his mouth as a happier memory flitted across his mind. Mokuba had loved trains as a child. He wouldn't have been afraid, at any time, to give a demonstration of the sound his favorite subject made. He love the sound so much and the way it made your mouth scrunch up as if preparing to kiss that he made all his toys make the sound. Dump truck, tugboat, airplane, bike: it didn't matter. For a time, the all only made that 'choo choo' sound; before some kid pushed him into a sandbox and told him he was stupid. Seto had been restricted from outside activities for a week after shoving the other kid into a tree and punching him. Mokuba had sat by his side as he stared out the window all that week, giggling quietly next to his older brother because the kid who'd pushed him sported one of the ugliest shiners he'd ever seen.
Again, the sound of a child's laugh filtered through his thoughts, just a bit louder, almost insistent in his mind. He shrugged and supposed it was to be expected after reminiscing things that had been locked away for too many years. Looking up at the sky through overhanging branches, Seto thought about all of the changed, not only in he and Mokuba over the years, but those that had been closest to them. More specifically to Mokuba since his own attitude and actions in his younger days hadn't earned him anything but fearful admiration and intimidation.
His rival, Yugi Moto, was now truly his opponent in every aspect, heading the company Industrial Illusions and rapidly developing enough ingenious products to give Kaiba a run for his money. However, it had become a somewhat friendly challenge, often including bets and the sponsoring of charity events. Battling Yugi in the corporate industrial world was far more satisfying than it had ever been with cards on the street.
Young Serenity Wheeler, just having finished college, was still constantly hounded by Tristan and Duke who had, oddly enough, gone into business together. It was obvious that Serenity favored the brunette but it didn't seem to matter since Devlin only seemed to vie for her attentions in order to aggravate his business associate.
Mai Valentine-Wheeler and her husband, Joey "the mutt" Wheeler (as Seto still dubbed him), had remained in the dueling circuit, both champions and world-travelers. They were the favorites since, oddly enough, they were often battling each other for this title or that title. But rumor had it that Joey had gone soft since he'd found out his darling, argumentative wife was carrying their first child.
Ryou Bakura had joined the Ishtars in Egypt, researching digs, recording ancient evidence to prove or disprove someone's thesis, and occasionally uncovering a once-lost city or massive architectural achievement. According to Mokuba, they were, plainly put, boring.
And Téa... well, nobody really knew where she'd gone after leaving for New York. Or at least, nobody talked about it. Oddly enough, at his lowest times, Seto often found himself thinking about the spirited cheerleader of Yugi's group. She may have gotten overly-friendshippy at times, but Seto would've been mad to try and deny the ever-present fire and unwavering courage in those star-like blue eyes. The twenty-six-year-old frowned at himself; he'd also taken to giving poetic descriptions about her eyes in his thoughts, though he had no idea why. He'd never truly liked the girl. He'd been in grudging debt to her for saving Mokuba's life at least twice and he knew somewhere in the back of his mind that she was pretty but he, Seto Kaiba, had never been attracted to her.
At least, he didn't think so.
His startling blue eyes shifted down to his feet where something had bumped against them softly. An elegant eyebrow arched at finding a red bouncy-ball sitting in the mass of leaves that littered the ground all around him. Another childish giggle. Seto looked to his right and found not a fading scene of his childhood but a little girl running as fast and carelessly through the leaves as her little legs would take her. Her light brown hair had a slight curl to it and was tied back into a half-ponytail, complete with a small pink bow and several barrettes holding it in place. She was bundled up to fend off the cold, her light purple jacket zipped up to her neck, gloves, a thick pair of jeans with flowers stitched along the bottoms, and a pair of light-up tennis shoes. Slowly down just a bit, she glanced warily at Seto, the proverbial stranger on the bench, and dug her toes into the leaves as she stood at a safe distance away from him.
Grinning genuinely, Seto lifted the ball from the ground, brushed it off, and held the red orb out to the unsure child. Reassured by his smile, she stepped forward and pulled her ball into a hug just as a breathless young woman came running up.
"Kira!" she ground out. "What have I told you about running off without telling me?" The woman knelt down, breathing heavily, and put her hands on the girl's shoulders.
"My ball rolled away," the girl told her, looking down at the ground dejectedly. She was suddenly engulfed by a large hug, the ball tumbling away from her once more. Seto only barely caught the murmuring of, 'I was so scared,' from the young woman. He coughed in order to get their attention. The woman turned her head, startled at his presence, and momentarily tightened her hold on the girl.
"I'm sure you won't hold this as much, but I wouldn't have let any harm come to her," Seto told her, retrieving the ball and once more holding it out to the little girl.
"He found my ball," the child announced before adding a hearty, "I'm Kira!" Seto smiled and glanced over to see the woman grinning amusedly.
"Nice to meet you, Kira. I'm..."
"Seto Kaiba," the woman supplied for him. "Everyone knows who you are," she added, pressing a kiss to Kira's forehead before telling her it was okay to go play some more as long as she stayed in sight. Kira squeaked an affirmative and ran a little ways off, bouncing her ball. Giving a half-laugh, the woman got up off of her knees and sat on the bench next to Seto. "Do you mind?"
"Not at all," he told her, glancing at her curiously. "You obviously care for your younger sister a great deal," he remarked quietly. Her eyes widened slightly and she gave him a soft smile.
"She's my daughter," she told him. That caught him off-guard and Seto found himself blinking quietly, not entirely comprehending the weight of what his bench-partner had admitted.
"But she must be at least four years old!" was the only thing he found himself able to say.
"Actually, she'll be five in about three months," the woman told him. "I had her when I was twenty." She turned to face Seto, staring him straight in the eye, the blue gazes separated only by her small, frameless glasses. Kaiba's brow furrowed. She wore a grey, hooded sweatshirt, a pair of fitting light blue jeans, and tennis shoes. Her hair was thrown back in a thick ponytail, bangs brushing the sides of her face and the tops of her glasses. She was beautiful. He'd never seen her before but there was something... "Can you sit there, stare, and not recognize me?" she blurted out. Seto jerked back.
"What?" She rolled her eyes.
"I swear, Yugi and Mokuba don't tell you anything, do they?" she shot back, not really answering his question. His head tilted slightly to the side and Seto stared long and hard at her. It couldn't be...
"Téa?" he ventured.
"I'm surprised you remembered I had a first name," she laughed, leaving against the bench and folding her legs beneath her. "All that you called me when we were younger was Gardner."
"Things change. You've got a daughter," he said quietly. "I would have thought Mokuba or Yugi would've told me you got married."
"They would have if I had," Téa replied with a sad sigh. Seto looked at her sharply.
"Were you...?" He let the question hang in the air and watched Téa's eyes shift toward Kira to check up on her before shaking her head.
"You always said emotions were for the weak and at time, I really believe it. I fell in love in New York while going to school, gave my heart freely and soon after, my body. I got pregnant. He abandoned me and I finished my senior year with a teaching degree at seven months along. My dreams of becoming a dancer were shattered. Kira was born a month and a half later on the Fourth of July. She may have been unexpected, but sometimes I call her my little Freedom because she liberated my from illusions. I'm far happier now than I believe I ever could have been on-stage," Téa told him softly.
"Why?" Seto asked. Téa gave him another soft smile.
"Because I have her. She's my world."
"Why did you tell me?" Seto questioned her. She shrugged.
"Old habits die hard. I am and always will be a motor-mouth, even when it comes to personal stuff," she laughed.
"I'm serious," he said roughly.
"Kaiba, I'm sorry. I joke when I'm uncomfortable. I've never spoken with you on civil terms before so it's new and a little awkward."
"Why did you tell me?" he repeated, not quite sure why exactly he was being so persistent on the subject. She sighed and looked away.
"Because, despite the fact that we didn't get along when we were younger, the way you're acting now, the way you spoke to Kira, lead me to believe I can trust you. It may be naive of me to think that, but I don't care. I'm not afraid of being weak in front of other people, not even you," Téa said passionately, keeping her eyes on her daughter. If this was the Kaiba she knew as a girl, she expected him to up and walk away in disgust. He didn't move.
"You said you received a teaching degree," Seto commented. "A Bachelor's?" She nodded. "Are you doing anything with that?" Téa looked him in the eye, clearly perplexed at how cordial he was being.
"Funny you should ask," she smirked. "I teach at the school you funded the building of several years back. Domino Primary. You know, the one next to the Domino Orphanage North-west branch."
"What do you teach?" Seto couldn't understand where this line of questioning was coming from. He was asking questions that made him seem like he was interested, even attracted. Could that be it?
"Kindergarten," Téa said with a trademark smile. "There are so many children who don't have a good influence in their lives at that age, if they have anyone at all, that I believe if I can make the difference to one child, I've done what I'm meant to do."
"And what inspired you to do that?" Honestly! Seto was starting to suspect his own ulterior motives. Téa pressed her lips together and hesitated a moment.
"There are a lot of children who live at the orphanage that attend that school. I want to be there for them since nobody was there for me when I lived there."
"Come again?!" Seto blurted, flushing after realizing how abrupt his outburst had been. Seto Kaiba was NOT abrupt.
"You didn't know I grew up there?" Kaiba shook his head. "And here I thought you kept tabs and complete histories on everybody." She laughed quietly at her own little joke then stopped when she saw how quiet and intense Seto's stare had become. "My mother died in childbirth. It was just my dad and I until I was nine when he was killed during a high-speed chase. He lost control of his patrol car and it flipped over the guard rail of the bridge," she said, shutting her eyes at the memory. She took a shuddering breath and for the first time in his life, Seto wanted to hold someone; wanted to hold her. "He and my mom were both only-children and my grandparents had all unfortunately died before I was born. So I was sent to the orphanage at age nine. When I turned sixteen I got a job at the local diner and was able to save up for my own place while attending Domino High School. It's hard to believe it's been nearly ten years." She paused. "Now I'm giving back as best as I can so that no child is as lonely as I was." Téa wiped a tear away with her fingertips and took a deep breath before looking at Kaiba.
"You were lonely too." Seto fought back the urge to let his eyes get teary. "That was the orphanage where Mokuba and I lived for nearly two years before we were adopted by Gozaburo. I had the school built because I remember what it was like there. I can hardly imagine having to live there that long, especially since you didn't have any siblings. I would've died without Mokuba." Téa shrugged and then pulled the sleeve of her sweatshirt back, glancing at a small wristwatch.
"Kira and I need to go," Téa said standing up. "Naptime is a necessity at my house," she added with a half-smile. Seto stood as well. For a few long moments, the two just stood and stared at each other, realizing the other had grown up and they had more in common than they ever would have imagined.
"I want to see you again." It had been Seto who spoke. Téa looked surprised.
"O-okay," she hedged.
"Do you like coffee?" he asked, pulling a mini-notebook and pen out of a breast-pocket. Téa nodded and watched as the now-very-good-looking Seto handed her a sheet of paper with his number written in meticulous handwriting before asking for her number. She gave it and he tucked it back into his pocket, smiling at her. Téa thought she'd never seen a man look more beautiful than Seto at that moment. Somehow, she gathered Kira to her side, allowed the girl to say goodbye to her ball's rescuer, and bid Kaiba a blushing farewell herself.Watching them walk away, Seto felt a lightening of his heart. He didn't know why. And for once, it didn't matter. The lyrics to a song he'd heard on the radio came to him. 'I love the way you laugh. I want to hold you high and steal your pain.' It was odd but Seto felt that, deep down, he wanted to do what the words said. As he began his walk back home, he couldn't help but think of how he'd never looked as forward to a cup of coffee as he did now.
End. Someday there will be a sequel or second chapter, but for right now, since I have no time, this is just a stand-alone. If you write a review asking for quick updates or a sequel I will know that you completely skipped my author's notes and I will make fun of you. Hope you enjoyed. Don't forget to review!