I know it's been awhile, but I hope some of you are up for a very late chapter! I've absolutely loved all the reviews I've gotten, and the urls to helpful sites. I want to give a HUGE thanks to Peacewish for her review. It means a lot that you cared enough to nitpick this, so thank you!
It was completely dark when Kaiba woke up. He turned his head to look at his bedside clock, but the familiar red L.E.D. numbers weren't there. It took him only a moment to realize he was not at home in bed, but thousands of feet in the air, on the Kaiba Corp blimp. He recalled staggering to the couch after his confrontation with Shizuka, and the way his muscles protested as he stretched suggested that he had slept for several hours.
He stood up carefully. The dizziness was gone, so he navigated through the dark room and made his way to the door. It was silent in the hallway. Kaiba paused, making an almost compulsive inventory of each duelist in the blimp. Yugi's room was down the hall to the right. Even though it was very late, Kaiba was certain that his rival was still awake. Since Yugi had already passed his first duel, he wouldn't need to be well rested for tomorrow. Jonouchi, on the other hand, was most likely sound asleep. His room was further down from Yugi's, where he and his unwelcome friends could stay out of the way.
Malik's room was to Kaiba's left. With a small smirk, Kaiba realized that he had placed himself between the two other God cards. It was appropriate that he had separated to the two legendary cards; the best strategy by far was to take them down one by one. And luck had held so far - no matter who he battled in this first round, he would not be facing both the gods in one deck. If luck was truly on his side, he would face Malik next. A thrilling feeling filled his chest as he imagined defeating Malik. He would bring down the man who had threatened Mokuba, and he would take the Winged Dragon of Ra as his victory spoils...
But in reality, Kaiba knew he might not face Malik at all. There was also Mai, Namu, and the eighth duelist, whose rooms were one floor below his own. He might duel any of them tomorrow, in which case his victory would be quick and easy.
And that covered all the duelists, except for Bakura... who was probably still in the medical bay. Kaiba sighed and headed to the elevator. It was his responsibility to be on top of everything on the blimp, so he might as well get the doctor's report on Bakura's collapse.
The silence remained unbroken as Kaiba strode through the dim corridors of his aircraft. Kaiba especially appreciated the peace, considering the constant babbling he had to - and would continue to have to - endure from Yugi's useless cheerleaders. He was idly contemplating the benefits of a 'No Talking While Duel is in Session' sign when he reached the medical bay.
The lights were dimmed inside, but even so Kaiba instantly spotted the redheaded girl sitting beside Bakura's bed. Her eyes were open, but she didn't seem to notice Kaiba. She was leaning forward in the chair, with her hands folded and elbows resting on her knees. Her gaze was fixed on an empty point in space, and Kaiba couldn't help wondering what her thoughts were. His last conversation with her flashed through his memory as he watched her, and a familiar annoyance clouded his mind. He tore his eyes away from the Mutt's sister. Seeing as there weren't any doctors currently in the room, he decided to leave before she noticed him.
His retreat was cut short when the transmitter attached to the collar of his trench coat beeped. Shizuka's head snapped up at the noise, and almost immediately a blush colored her cheeks. Kaiba glared at her as he spoke into the transmitter. "What is it?"
The pilot's timid voice answered. "Sir, you asked us to notify you when we passed over Tokyo. We'll be over the city for about half an hour, then it'll just be ocean until we reach our final destination."
"Good," was all Kaiba said as he pressed the transmitter to shut it off. He was still glaring at Shizuka, who had the decency to look bashful.
"I... I just wanted to check up on Bakura. I know he's a good friend of my brother, so I told Katsuya I'd watch over him so he could get good sleep before the duels tomorrow."
Kaiba raised an eyebrow at the girl's explanation. "Your brother-" He managed to fill the word with sharp condescension, "-asked you to stay the whole night?"
"Of course not!" Shizuka had reacted to Kaiba's disdain for Jonouchi by becoming defensive. The blush returned to her face as she realized how loud her voice had been. With a deep breath, she continued in her usual soft tone. "He wouldn't ask that of me. No, I just fell asleep myself, and when I woke up... Well, I had just woken up when you arrived."
Everything about the girl's manner suggested that she was omitting a large part of the story. Kaiba didn't care enough to call her on it, though. He spared a glance at the person he had originally come to see - Bakura. The pale boy seemed peaceful enough, oblivious to his two visitors. Content that the duelist wouldn't expire during the night, Kaiba turned to leave.
Kaiba paused in the doorway, not bothering to look back. He heard the chair shift as Shizuka pulled herself to her feet and the light sounds of her footsteps as she hurried towards him. "Are you heading back to your room?" She asked.
"Do you mind if I come with you? Your room is near mine..." She seemed unsure of this last point.
'Ah, so that's the real reason she stayed,' Kaiba grinned to himself. 'She's lost, and too proud to admit it.' None of it surprised him. It was only natural that she shared the same stubborn pride that her brother possessed. In fact, Kaiba had expected more similarities between the two siblings. So far she hadn't exhibited any of the temper, boastfulness, or loud-mouthing that he had come to expect from Jonouchi. Instead she seemed poised and... not exactly cautious, but at least thoughtful. He briefly wondered if the stark differences of personality occurred because they had been raised apart, or if they had developed that way to complement each other.
The latter explanation was more likely, he decided. After all, that was how he and Mokuba were, wasn't it? They had grown up together and shared many of the same experiences, but Mokuba was in no way a carbon copy of himself. Kaiba had the nerves and strength of ego to challenge any difficulty, while Mokuba had the patience and empathy to use diplomacy. Kaiba was smart enough to know that each approach had its place.
That train of thought brought him back to Shizuka. He was tempted to tell her to find her own way back, but she was hardly a difficulty that needed force. So instead he started walking after snapping "Hurry up." over his shoulder.
So she hurried after him. He wasn't about to slow his pace for her.
Once again, Kaiba strode through the quiet corridors of his aircraft, and the walk was no louder despite the girl trailing behind him.
They reached the elevator and Kaiba punched the lowest number on the panel. The car came to a smooth stop and the doors opened onto an unfinished passage. The ceiling was low; Kaiba's head came within inches from the open pipes and beams. The walls were unpainted and drab and the floor was bare and rather dusty. The humming from the fans and the engine was noticeable here, and Kaiba felt Shizuka draw back slightly. She seemed to realize that this area wasn't open to the tournament guests. But before she could voice this, Kaiba stopped in front of a door. He slipped a hand into one of his coat's pockets and produced a key.
"Should I wait out here?" Shizuka asked as the door unlocked with a small click.
Kaiba's piercing blue eyes swept over Shizuka. She shifted nervously under the scrutiny, but met his gaze. After a few moments, he shrugged. "Do what you want. But if you come in with me, you need to take off your shoes."
With that, the young CEO knelt down and unbuckled his own boots. He glanced back up at Shizuka as he yanked the boots off his feet and caught her staring at him in obvious surprise. Her mouth was open slightly and her eyes narrowed. He turned his head away from her to smile at her reaction. The tales Jonouchi might have told her about him - and he could imagine Jonouchi grouching on about how cold and heartless he was - would never give her the right to assume she knew him. She was a fool if she already had ideas about what Kaiba did and didn't do.
He pushed his boots out of the way and stood up. The floor was cold through his thin black socks, but he didn't mind it. Beside him, Shizuka finally unfroze and quickly removed her shoes, balancing on one foot at a time with a hand on the wall for support. Her hair hid her face as she leaned down, so although she could feel Kaiba's eyes on her once again, she couldn't see the way his gaze lingered. When she straightened, he was opening the door. The room beyond it seemed pitch black from where she stood. "Close it behind you," he ordered, and stepped into the darkness.
So she stepped in after him, and shut the door.
Her heart was beating much too fast as she waited for her eyes to adjust. For a moment all she could see was the ghostly glow of Kaiba's white trench coat, stalk still in the center of the room. Slowly her vision accommodated for the darkness, and she was able to see Kaiba's face, pointed towards the floor. Shizuka followed his gaze and her breath caught in her throat.
Kaiba was standing on nothing, simply hovering thousands of feet in the air. The whole room was open at the bottom, though Kaiba seemed unconcerned that he was defying physics by standing in the center. Below him, Tokyo glittered like something built entirely out of Christmas lights. From their height, the city seemed almost delicate: something ornate and alive against the blackness of night.
"Do you like it?" Kaiba spoke quietly, breaking her out of her shock. "It's a new material Kaiba Corp. is producing. More durable than plastic, clearer than glass." He tapped his sock-clad foot against the nearly invisible surface, and Shizuka blanched and looked away. She had never been afraid of heights; in fact she had taken the opportunity to look out of every window she could on the blimp, but this was something else.
"Hey," he called, and Shizuka looked back at the duelist. His face, tilted towards the floor, was illuminated only by the lights of Tokyo. "Are you just going to stand there?" When she didn't move or answer, his face twisted into a sneer. "Don't tell me you can dive fearlessly into the ocean where your brother is drowning, but you're scared of the view?"
He was suddenly gazing towards her with angry eyes. She didn't know why her hesitation made him mad, but she was remembering vividly the way he had denounced her bowing as petty and untruthful. She wasn't sure if it was right, but Kaiba's anger felt like a compass rose, pointing her to the better course of action. If it was her fear that was making him angry, then getting past her fear was what she wanted to do.
She moved further into to the room, measuring each step carefully until her foot hit the floor. Even now she could barely see the surface; there was no reflection, no scuff marks or scratches to separate it from the long drop to earth. "Just close your eyes," Kaiba suggested, his voice slightly mocking, "If you were blind right now, you wouldn't be afraid."
Shizuka bit her lip and defiantly kept her eyes open until she was standing next to him. For awhile they were both stood silently, watching the city below them as if they were its guardian spirits.
"I wasn't fearless when I dived in after Jonouchi," the girl said out of the blue. She supposed Kaiba didn't care, but it felt right to be truthful to him. He had been nothing but honest to her and the group. "I was very scared, but nothing could have stopped me from going after him."
She kept her gaze on the floor where she could see both pairs of socks, barely a foot apart. Kaiba made no reaction to her words, but Shizuka didn't mind. He had heard her. They stood together like that - silently watching – until the lights of Tokyo gave way to the dark water of the bay.