A/N: I do not own Yu-gi-oh or any of its characters.
This has been a long time coming, but I wasn't satisfied with anything I had written previous to this. I needed to get the whole thing solved and explained and I think I have finally managed to do it in such a way that it isn't muddled and confusing. I hope you all 'get it', if not…drop me a quick note and I'll explain it…though I think I finally got it right. Or at least that is my hope.
It took Kaiba quite a while to convince himself Iolite would be fine, that combined with the warmth of her body and her soft sighs persuaded him to linger in the hospital bed. The two slept as the guards remained poised at the door. Raine returned to the cottage with Marguerite, who wanted to have a talk with Gertrude—it was time to settle things.
Gertrude was pacing in the library on the second floor; two guards were at the door to ensure she would be going nowhere. It was all a very annoying thing in her estimation, a hassle. Her anger bubbled below the surface as she thought of her dear Conner having died at the hands of the little bitch. It was just like Iolite to mess up her poor daughter's life. How many times had Tatiana been passed over for that little shrew of a cousin? Gertrude had lost count. Now, Tatiana would be passed over again—her fiancé dead at the hands of the Princess. What would it take for everyone to finally admit Iolite was a problem? The best solution would be a hefty jail sentence—even better would be ostracizing her from the nation.
The slamming open of the door caused Gertrude to stop. She stood her ground and frowned as Marguerite and Raine approached her.
"What is the meaning of locking me up in this damnable room? Last I checked I was no prisoner, unless of course it's a crime to grieve for a soon to be son-in-law—who was murdered by your perfect Princess, I might add." Gertrude spoke dryly and stuck up her nose, an air of authority about her.
Marguerite pulled back her hand and slapped the haughty woman across the face. The sound of the slap resonated in the room and snapped Gertrude's head to the side. Gertrude didn't gasp, or grab for her cheek—she just stood there silently and scowled at Marguerite and Raine.
"Iolite fought for her life against that beast. He beat her bloody and nearly raped her! You have audacity in defending him!" Marguerite seethed. "If you wish to grieve for something such as him…"
Raine stopped Marguerite by placing a firm hand on her shoulder. "Enough," he whispered through clenched teeth. "I have only one question, did Conner or did he not make an attempt on Seto Kaiba? I already know what he did to Iolite, and if she hadn't killed him, Seto Kaiba or I would have."
Gertrude's eyes widened and then narrowed. "You have nerve, speaking ill about a man who is no longer alive to defend himself. I will not hear you place marks against him! Conner was a dear man, he was gentle and kind, and he loved my Tatiana so completely this will truly devastate her. You should all be ashamed of yourselves!" Her voice rose and fell as her anger gripped her. There were no tears, no sign of real remorse. It was more disappointment than anything else.
Raine shook his head, the woman was clearly a lunatic. "Answer the question," Raine demanded.
"Conner was a gentle soul, a man who was to become my son once Tatiana married him. He came from a good family, morally structured, rich, perfect… To accuse him of something as heinous as trying to rape a girl like Iolite—is blasphemous. He had no interest in her, why would he when he had Tatiana? Seriously, who would choose water when they could feast on champagne?" After her small speech Gertrude erupted in wicked laughter.
Marguerite felt a chill sweep through her body. The woman was clearly not balanced, not at all. What did they do with her now? They needed to know if it had been Conner that day in the woods, when Iolite took the arrow in her shoulder at the party. Had he tried to kill Kaiba? Funny, but she really didn't think so. In a way it really made no sense. He had little to gain from Kaiba's death. Sure, he might have been twisted enough to think Iolite would have been his then, but his marriage to Tatiana was all but lacking the formality of a wedding. He was in a contract and would never have been able to break it.
"Come Marguerite," Raine frowned. "We won't get any answers from her. Though she will be confined to her room with guards at the door and windows." Raine looked at Gertrude, "you won't be leaving here until everything is found out and the cards are laid on the table. For once and for all the lies and the hatred will be aired and then put to rest—even if I have to dig the hole and bury it myself." Taking Marguerite's arm, he left the room.
Iolite sighed deeply and her eyes slowly fluttered open. For a moment she was startled at the strange room, but then she felt Seto holding her, and it all seemed okay. Lifting her head from his chest, she looked around and winced a bit. Yes, she would feel this for several days. Hopefully nothing was permanently damaged. Looking down at Seto she smiled and traced a finger over his lower lip. He had stayed, she thought he might wait for her to sleep and then slip out—leaving her to her personal demons, but no, he had stayed. One arm was still loosely wrapped around her, while the other was behind his head. He was the perfect picture—and she loved him.
"Seto? Are you awake?" She whispered, not wanting to disturb him if he was truly slumbering.
"Partially," he whispered gruffly. "I had to stay semi-conscious in case you decided to try to slip away from me." His arm around her tightened a bit as he pulled her closer. She rested her head against his shoulder and snuggled tighter against him. A smile almost tugged at his mouth. She was so soft and warm and perfect. He would have gone insane if she had been taken from him.
"I never want to slip away from you," she whispered against his ear. "I love you Seto Kaiba…and I hope you don't hate me for what I did." She felt his body stiffen at her words and a lump formed in her throat. He was mad at what she did to Conner—she knew he would be. Instantly she could feel tears welling in her eyes. Why did this man have the ability to make her feel so weak?
"You fought Conner for your life Iolite, not that I would expect anything less from a girl who wore black to her own wedding." He slipped a finger under her chin and tilted her face up so he could look at her. "I also remember when you bit me the first time I kissed you…and how you slept on the floor of our room… Your spirit intrigues me like no other. You're defiant and strong, and what you did was remarkable. A lesser woman wouldn't have faired as well as you did. If you make me feel anything it's pride."
She blinked at him. Pride? He was proud of her? She worried her lower lip and looked down.
"You're proud of a murderer? Of a girl who constantly defies you and places herself in danger? I seldom think before I act, I'm hardheaded, stubborn to a fault… I don't plan, I don't listen, why do you put up with me?" He voice was cracking, until she heard him chuckle.
"I won't change you, I think I would be bored if you weren't as feisty as you are. You're independent, hardly sappy, not caught up on notions of being catered to or pampered like some snobby debutant. Though you do put yourself in danger, I know it is never intentional, and I also know that someday, when we decide to start a family, you will take greater care." His words washed over her and she smiled slowly and nodded.
"I would never endanger our child, nor would I endanger Mokuba or you…" She tried to explain as he placed a finger over her lips and hushed her.
"Now isn't the time for you to panic and be afraid that you're under interrogation. I just want you well again." He pulled her back into his arms and kissed the top of her head.
"I had the most amazing dream Seto," she whispered. "I dreamt you were holding me and speaking softly…and then you told me…" She stopped. It hurt too much to know he didn't love her, and for her to practically ask for him to confirm it—it was wrong, all wrong.
"That I love you?" He asked gently.
"It wasn't a dream, I do love you."
She looked up at him again, her eyes wide with emotion and her heart nearly ready to burst from her. "Say it again," she asked in reverence.
"I love you Iolite." It was a statement of fact, it wasn't gooey, nor was it said with stars in his eyes. He wasn't elated or giddy, he didn't have a crack in his voice and he didn't blink. She studied his face for a few minutes more. He was being honest, like he usually was with her.
"You have no idea what this means to me," she smiled as she leaned forward and kissed his mouth. His hand slid up her shoulder to the back of her neck and he held her against him, not wanting the kiss broken or interrupted.
A soft cough caused them to finally come up for air.
"I'm sorry to disturb you both, but the Princess has been released. I would imagine you would both be anxious to leave." A nurse explained as she stood there with a clipboard and a knowing smile.
"Give us a moment please," Kaiba smirked at Iolite, but his tone of voice was directed at the woman in the doorway.
Once the door shut, Kaiba slipped his hand down Iolite's cheek. "Let's get you dressed and home. I need you strong and ready for the upcoming issues we'll face. No doubt your brothers will poke around the cottage, but even more—" His words halted as he searched his wife's eyes. Could he tell her how her whole reality was about to change? That her family was about to be turned upside-down? Nothing was what it seemed, and soon, he imagined the true identity of her father would be revealed to her. How would she react when the illusion of her life was shattered and reality was brought to the surface?
"Yes?" She prompted softly when his words didn't seem to restart after his halt.
"I need you to realize that no matter what happens—you have me and you have Mokuba. I have a feeling from this point on, things will get shaky and pieces may fall, but… you have safety nets." He firmly kissed her, "Now, let's get you dressed."
Iolite wanted to ask what he meant, but she surmised that whatever it was would hold until later, besides, he seemed very upset. The limo ride back to the cottage was quiet, but she was cuddled against his side and she really needed no more than that. Faith was finally starting to mean something to her, and she had placed her faith in this man—her husband, because he loved her. Finally.
"Kaiba and Iolite are home," Raine announced to Marguerite as he entered the library. "I think he wants to talk to you once he makes sure Iolite is settled and comfortable." Marguerite nodded, she knew it would only be a matter of time before Kaiba had unraveled part of the issues within this screwed up mess called a family. Yes, it was dreaded, but expected.
"I just hope I can make him understand," she whispered.
Raine tilted his head as he watched this woman he had known forever seem to revert to a more innocent time. She looked almost fragile, a temperament he had never witnessed in her before. Yes, there were issues in this family and skeletons in the closets, but what did it have to do with Marguerite? Slowly he walked over to her and tilted her chin up.
"What is it?" Raine asked, concern evident in his eyes.
"I'm afraid Seto Kaiba is about to force out the truth, and if he does…" Marguerite could feel the tears behind her eyes. "I don't know what it will do to Iolite when she finds out who you are…and what really happened. I gave my whole life up to protect everything. Maybe it was stupid of us all. If we had confessed it all from the start…"
Raine's eyes narrowed on her, "If we had confessed it might be even worse now. No, we did everything we had to do. I wouldn't have done it differently. I was able to see my daughter grow up, even though she had no idea I was her father. Edward has always loved her and despite his parenting skills leaving so much to be desired, Iolite has grown up beautifully."
Marguerite nodded, "My sister would be very proud of Iolite and…you…" She turned to look at the man and she gave him a weak smile. "You know—she never loved Edward the way she loved you. You had her heart—he only had her name."
Raine looked off into the distance, "Alexandra and I were young and tempestuous I would have raced her off if I could have. Her ties to the crown were…" He paused and released a deep sigh of breath. "She decided her title was too important."
Marguerite shook her head, "she didn't chose her title over you, she chose your daughter over you. Before she knew she was pregnant she was more than ready to run off with you—she wanted me to take the crown and I was willing to."
"Then why the hell didn't you?" It was an honest question, asked from a new arrival in the room—Seto Kaiba. He closed the door behind him as he walked towards the two of them. "What's wrong?" He asked dryly. "You can't come up with something quickly enough?"
Marguerite whirled on him, her eyes on fire. "You know nothing…nothing at all. You have no idea what it was like back then. My sister did everything she could to deal with a life she wanted no part of. She never loved Edward. Do you know how often she cried over all the things that were forced upon her? I would have taken the throne to free her, without any thought of looking back, but there were other issues."
"Other issues?" Kaiba asked, his eyebrow quirked. His stance was unforgiving as he stared down the aunt of his wife. "And they would be?"
Her eyes narrowed. "We found out Alexandra was pregnant—and there was no way it could have been Edwards…" Marguerite closed her eyes tightly. "My sister and I tried to figure out how it could be explained and we settled on…blaming it on a night of a ball. Edward drank excessively, so his guards placed him in bed…it was easy enough to lie to the man. Alexandra formed the tale and I swore to each lie. Iolite's conception was protected. No one ever dared dream someone like Alexandra would be unfaithful—especially not Edward. It was fool-proof."
"Nothing is ever 'fool-proof'." Kaiba scoffed. "The only way to ensure a cover up to a lie is to kill all of those involved."
Tears formed in Marguerite's eyes, "and that's what they did. They killed my sister, and to protect Iolite's lineage, I was forced to keep quiet."
"They?" Raine asked.
Sitting down with complete dejection, Marguerite tried to think of where to even begin.
"Edward's brother learned of Iolite. I don't know how—though I have my suspicions. With that shrew of a sister—Gertrude, I can imagine she had some hand in this." Marguerite ran a shaking hand through her hair. "He came to me…and told me he knew everything. At first I had no idea what he meant, but he scared me horribly. He explained that in the next few days there were decisions to be made—and if I made the incorrect one Iolite would be…" She couldn't finish her sentence. "Two days later Alexandra was dead. The kingdom went into mourning. I was approached by the higher ups in the court—the crown should have passed to Iolite, but at three years old it simply wasn't possible. So, it fell to my shoulders. It was then I remembered what that hateful man had said. As long as Iolite was in danger, I had no choice but to reject the crown. There were no other female heirs and so Edward gained the crown."
Raine was speechless. Kaiba looked from one to the other. This was a start, but it still left so much unanswered.
"When Edward rejected the crown—and tried to pass it off to his brother it all came full circle didn't it? Edward's brother finally had what he desired—the crown was almost in his hands. Why didn't you snatch it back then?" Kaiba asked, his voice softening ever so slightly. It was plain to see the woman had many demons she wrestled with.
"Aron and Simon were of age then. I could have tried, but once again—if Iolite's true father came to light… She would have been killed. She was safer on the run—and then she met you. Iolite was playing her own game, thinking she could keep herself safe, but all along her life has been one long treacherous riddle. The only one who has ever been truthful with her is you Seto Kaiba." Marguerite stood then. "And even you twisted her life in some degree. You stole the stocks she thought she needed to remain free. Before you convict me and brand me a horrible person, I would have you remember that your act of treason has ultimately saved her in her adult life. Remember, as a child she needed saving as well—and I did everything I could, everything I thought was right."
Raine paced the floor as silence settled over the three of them. He had no idea what to think or what to say. His daughter had been in danger since her conception. Had she ever been safe? Ever?
"Now what?" Raine asked, sounding tense.
"Now," Kaiba stood and looked from Raine to Marguerite, "we tell Iolite the truth, before someone else does. Afterwards, we'll pull Aron and Simon from power and place Marguerite in as monarch. If her lineage is at issue, we uncover it and toss the ammunition against her away. A lot of people will be devastated, but, with the true heir to the thrown being of a different father—it will negate Aron and Simon. This crown passes from female to female—Edward had no right to it, Aron and Simon have even less of a right."
Raine shook his head, "You say this as if it will be a simple maneuver."
Kaiba shrugged arrogantly, "you forget, I'm quite powerful—and I think I've had enough. It's time to bring this charade down around their ears."