The Gift

What happens when someone unexpectedly drops in on Seto with a Christmas present just for him? How will he react?

My first fic. Please be gentle.

I don't own Yu-Gi-Oh or any of the awesome characters created by Kazuki Takahashi. Please don't sue me. Reviews and constructive criticism greatly appreciated while flames will be ignored with a single, withering look.

Seto sat in his leather office chair, staring at the small, brightly wrapped box before him on the polished mahogany surface of his desk. He'd been staring at it for at least an hour, ever since she'd dropped it off at his place earlier that afternoon. What had she said? Something about it being especially for him. Not to share it with anyone. He frowned as he tried to recall her exact wording.

He replayed the meeting in his mind. It hadn't lasted very long, maybe two or three minutes. He'd been sitting in his office, working on the latest upgrades to his portable duel disk system when Roland had announced a visitor. Looking up, annoyed at the interruption, he hadn't expected to see the blue-eyed brunette, carrying a small purple bag, who followed Roland into the room. He'd been intrigued as to the reason she had come all the way to his home to see him. And there was nothing he enjoyed more than finding answers to things that piqued his interest. She'd smiled shyly at him, her blue eyes slightly downcast, and he motioned for her to approach and sit in the chair opposite his. Roland had departed quietly and that was when Seto had asked her, in his usual venom-dripping voice, what she'd wanted. There was no point in letting her know that he was curious about her appearance there. Still smiling shyly as she sat across from him, she had dug into her little purple bag and pulled out a small box wrapped in red and green paper with a gold bow on top and placed it gently on his desk, right in amongst all of his notes, diagrams and programming code. When he'd looked from the box to her, she was already standing up and looking a little more somber. He racked his brain trying to remember what she'd said just then. Concentrating hard, he finally recalled the conversation.

"Well, I came by to drop this off for you. I mean, it's the Christmas season after all and I realized that I had never gotten you a present before. We're supposed to be friends, right? Well, friends get other friends presents for special occasions. It's kind of an apology, too," she'd replied, her voice quiet and soft. She'd looked at her hands then but he'd seen the blush on her cheeks.

Leaning back in his chair and clasping his hands together in his lap, he had looked at her piercingly and asked, "Apology? For what?"

"For all of our claims of friendship, we haven't been very nice to you. We haven't invited you to anything that we do as a group." She had then held up her hand, stopping him from speaking out with that one move. "I know, I know, you really don't want to hang with us but the thought behind the gesture is just as important as the gesture itself. I wanted to let you know that you are welcome to join us anytime you want. In fact, if you want, you, and Mokuba of course, could come to the Christmas party we're having at my place this weekend, on Saturday actually. I really do want us all to be friends. I don't want us to be fighting each other all the time. There are much more important things we could do with our time." Her blue eyes had met his and he could see the sincerity, and something else he couldn't identify, evident there.

"And what makes you think I'd want to go to your pathetic party in the first place?" His voice had dripped poison again and he watched her eyes sink again towards her hands. He'd hit a nerve there, he figured, as he watched her hands tighten around the strap of the tiny purple bag.

"Like I said, Kaiba, the gesture is just as important as the thought behind it. I've extended my hand towards you. It's up to you to decide whether you grasp it in friendship or not. Whether you do or don't doesn't concern me right now. I honestly just came by to drop off your Christmas present. I left Mokuba's present with Roland. This is just for you, something special that I found one day. Hope you like it and hope to see you at the party," she had replied, calmly, to his sarcastic jibe before turning on her heel and striding out the door with her head held high, leaving him speechless.

And there he'd sat for the last hour, just staring at that box, wondering what was inside and daring himself to open it. It had been a long time, a very long time, since someone outside of his immediate family had given him a present. Only Mokuba had ever given him a present that meant something to him. Secretly, Mokuba would come into his room and leave his present under his bed so that he had something to look forward to the next day. He'd cherished those presents and homemade cards. If anyone found out that he had kept all of them, he'd die of shame and his reputation as the human glacier would be ruined. He was not a sentimental fool. Well, maybe just a bit, he mentally amended.

Gozaburro, his stepfather, had never given either of them birthday or Christmas presents. It was a sign of weakness to accept a gift for something you had no control over. According to him, birthdays were useless. Big deal, so you had been born. That was no cause for celebration at all. And Christmas? It was just a corporate excuse to take a holiday and indulge in too much drink and food. A time for businesses to make money off the poor fools that bought into the whole idea of good will to all men and who spent huge quantities of their paycheques buying things for those they loved.

Seto shook his head, trying to break the mesmerizing spell that one small box had put him under. A simple box in wrapped paper. The memories it brought to the surface threatened to make Seto remember the happier times in his life, his life before his parents' fatal accident. Memories of running down the stairs, with Mokuba close behind, to see what Santa had left under the tree for them. Waking up Mom and Dad with their shouts of delight at finding a seeming mountain of gifts piled under the tree. Mom making breakfast and admonishing them to wait until after they'd eaten to open anything. Dad handing them each a small present and telling them to open it quietly or Mom would hear. Their whispered shouts at the decks of cards or small boxes of chocolates that were revealed under that paper.

Seto closed his eyes and sighed. It was no use. The memories came flooding back and he felt a tear trickle from the corner of his eye. It had been so long. Should he open the present and see what he'd been given? Or should he just throw it out in the garbage next to his desk. The latter would be easier. His mouth tightened to a thin line and his fists were white knuckled. Why should he even care about a present that one of Yugi's little friends had given him? He hated them, hated them all. Having friends was a useless expenditure of time and money. He had better things to do than "hang out" with friends. Like run his multi-million dollar corporation, plan out Kaiba Land and perfect his duelling system.

Then why was he so jealous of them all the time? Yugi always had friends surrounding him when he duelled. Hell, the kid never lost because he believed in his friends and in the heart of the cards. At least that's what he was always spouting off about. Maybe, just maybe, there was something to be said for having friends. Mokuba was always cheering him on but he was envious of the attention that Yugi got, even from the mutt.

He frowned again. No, having friends was useless. They just dragged you down and held you back. They were a weakness and that was one thing Seto Kaiba was not. He was not a weakling to give in to the temptation of having friends, no matter how much he wanted to. Gozaburro had ingrained that lesson as deeply as any of the others Seto had been forced to learn with the touch of the whip and the word. Nothing less than perfect was acceptable and Gozaburro made sure he understood that perfectly, no matter how much it hurt and no matter how much he bled.

But Gozaburro was gone now. Why couldn't Seto try to undo the damage he'd done? He could start by opening the present at least. It was only polite. It was also obvious that she'd wrapped the present with some care. It would be a shame to waste the effort she'd put into it. Curiosity got the better of him and he picked up the brightly wrapped box and held it in his hands. It was heavier than he'd expected it to be. The present was something larger than a tie at least. He had enough of those, in all colours of the rainbow no less. Her tone of voice, and the sparkling glint in her eyes, had suggested it was something he, and he alone, would enjoy.

His eyebrows knit together and one hand gently pulled off the golden bow that crowned the gift. Setting it off to the side, he turned the small box over, looking for the seam that held the paper on. Carefully peeling the tape away in several spots, he took the red and green paper off. A small blue box rested in his hands, looking much less of a threat with the colourful paper removed. With trembling fingers, he separated the top from the bottom and peered inside. The present itself was still hidden under a layer of green tissue paper. Sighing, he pulled the edges aside and revealed what was underneath.

He gasped in surprise, his eyes wide in appreciation. It was beautiful, breathtaking even. Two distinct pieces glinted up at him from the nest of green tissue they rested on. They were definitely something only he could enjoy. She'd been right in telling him that.

The first piece was a belt buckle. A belt buckle that shone in the light pouring in from the windows. That wasn't the exciting part though. It was shaped like the head of a Blue Eyes White Dragon, the tooled silver shimmering, casting shadows across the surface. He looked more closely at it and smiled in delight. A rare moment in life had made him smile like this before. At the very edges, carved in ornate letters were the initials S.K. Now, why hadn't he thought of this before? It took a fiery, blue-eyed brunette with courage and guts to give this kind of a present to him when he could have had it made for himself. She wasn't just a cheerleader, he thought to himself. She was quite observant and his respect for her grew. Maybe she wasn't so bad after all.

The second piece astounded him upon closer examination. It was a duelling case to put his cards into. The same theme continued though. The leather case was exquisite, soft and supple as his fingers caressed it. The same workmanship from the belt buckle was present in the Blue Eyes that was worked onto the surface, again in silver. The same stylized dragon roared at him from the cover. There was a subtle difference, though. The eyes, he thought, the eyes weren't the same. They shone with a different light and they were actually blue. He gasped. Small sapphires twinkled for the eyes, bringing them to life as they caught and reflected the light in the room.

Snicking open the cover, he marvelled at the workmanship inherent in the piece. It opened seamlessly, the dragon's mouth opening to reveal a blue velvet interior that would house his precious duelling deck. His eyebrows rose as he spied a white envelope inside the case. Pulling it out of the dragon's mouth, he smiled again.

A smooth, flowing hand had written his name neatly on the front of the envelope. Turning it over, he pulled out the note that was tucked inside. Unfolding it carefully, he read the contents slowly, savouring the words inscribed there. Her attention to detail was present even here.

Seto Kaiba,

I hope you enjoy this present. It's meant to make up for quite a few missed birthdays and Christmases and for that I'm really sorry. I know your favourite card is the Blue Eyes White Dragon, which is why I chose these two items for you.

And I meant it when I said that this present is something only you would enjoy. I don't know anyone else that this would be suitable for.

Enough blathering here. I really do want you to come to my Christmas party, even if it's only to say thank you. My address is listed on the back of this card. Bring Mokuba along if you decide to come. I haven't seen that little rascal in ages, since the end of Battle City at least.

Merry Christmas, Seto!

It was signed simply "Téa". He read the message again and sighed. She'd just forced his hand as if this was a duel and she was in charge. Now he HAD to go to her party, to at least say thank you for such an amazing gift. And once Mokuba found out about it, which he would there was no doubt about that, he'd beg to go there. His little brother made friends easily and he'd decided that Yugi and company were his friends. That time when Seto had been stuck in that virtual world, he'd gone running over there to ask for help. Seto couldn't blame him either. He'd had nowhere else to turn and he didn't know enough of the program to figure out how to get his big brother out of there himself.

"Seto!" Well, speak of the devil, he thought and smiled to himself as his little brother burst into the room, black hair flying behind him, holding a brightly wrapped box in front of him. The energy the kid possessed never ceased to amaze him as he jumped into the same chair she had sat in just over an hour before. "Someone left me a Christmas present with Roland. Do you know who it's from? I haven't opened it yet. Can I open it, Seto? I know it's not Christmas yet but I really want to know what it is!"

Smiling indulgently, he replied, "It's from Téa. Go ahead and open it. I've opened mine." Mokuba's eyes widened as he took in the two silver pieces that lay before his big brother on the desk.

"Wow. Téa got you those two things? They're awesome, Seto. Can I look at them?" Mokuba's hand reached out and gently picked up the duelling case. "I can't believe it, it's so beautiful. Téa gave this to you? I hope you said thank you at least."

Seto grimaced. Lectured on all sides for his manners, or lack thereof. "Hmm, they are really nice. Why don't you open your present, Mokuba? I want to see what she got you."

"Okay, Seto." Two words and he was ripping the paper apart. He wasn't quite as careful as Seto was but he had the excuse of youthful exuberance on his side. Probably chocolate, too. The wrapping paper and bow ended up on the floor and Mokuba quickly opened the box and tore away the tissue paper. "Aww, it's a shirt. It's not as nice as your present, Seto. But I like it anyways." Pulling out the shirt, he held it against himself, measuring to make sure it would fit. Mokuba was actually becoming a fashion plate and he was starting to enjoy clothes shopping. Some days, Seto had a hard time pulling him out of the mall to go home. The shirt was just the right size, it seemed, and the purple colour met with Mokuba's approval. "Hey, there's something at the bottom of the box!" Fishing it out, he opened the envelope and let out a whoop of joy.

"What is it, Mokuba?" Seto asked, his curiosity piqued once more. His brother was doing what he presumed was a dance of joy around the chair.

"It's a $20 gift certificate to Arcade World. Wow! That's my second favourite place in the mall. How did she know, Seto?" Seto laughed aloud at Mokuba's reactions to his presents. His little brother stopped and stared at him. "What are you laughing about, Seto? You never laugh anymore." And he was being serious about that. It was true. Seto never laughed unless he had the upper hand. That last laugh had been a happy laugh, though, something he hadn't done in years. Mokuba had picked up on it and was puzzled.

"Nothing you would understand, Mokuba." One fiery, blue-eyed brunette had caused all of this to happen with two small, not so simple presents. Quite the accomplishment for one that he had thought of as just an "empty headed cheerleader" yesterday. One day can change everything. He felt a burning glow start in the pit of his stomach as he thought about Saturday night and felt his cheeks redden. Looking at his brother as he continued his victory dance on the floor of Seto's office, he asked, "Mokuba, do you want to go to a Christmas party?"