A/N: I was supposed to be updating "Letters" right now, but I kind of went off on a tangent. The result.
Disclaimer: These characters own me.
"Driven by restrained desire
I want what I need…I've lost all control"
- The Tea Party
Insomnia for Seto Kaiba is a reflective state.
There's always work to be done of course when there is no rest to be had, but he likes to defer such responsibilities for when his mind is sharpest.
Studies have shown that in remaining awake for an excess of 24 hours, the human body begins to display some of the symptoms of a person past the legal drinking limit. Seto has no desire to conduct any sort of business when he is operating with the reflexes of a drunk.
As it stands, in the quiet hours of early morning, he's left with no recourse but to sift through the constant barrage of thoughts that hold sleep at bay. Duel Monsters strategies and lessons, the next day's schedule, plans for coordinating Mokuba's activities with his time off. And her.
It's odd how frequently she appears in his thoughts, this acquaintance of his, this girl he would no doubt pass on the street without blinking an eye under different circumstances. He barely knows her, but then he knows her so much better than she would ever suspect.
He won't pretend to understand why she holds his interest; if he knew, he might have found some way to remove her from his thoughts by now. But her presence is persistent in a mind that shuns sleep, plaguing it with images, sounds and memories.
A plaintive sigh, an angry glare, a desperate plea, a jubilant laugh…
And there are her eyes. Heavily lashed blue in its purest form, guileless, displaying every facet of her unchecked emotions. He knows them well, each expression, every variation of color and intensity ingrained in his superior mind.
Sapphire illuminated by a glow of indignation, a tangible gaze lands heavily and he represses a flinch. An accompanying verbal lecture that can't reach the intensity of the glare clashes with something inside of him, ignites a spark. A flicker of interest.
A glimmer of unshed tears magnify the startling azure, "Forget about me!" Fire behind water, fierce loyalty, begging for her life to be sacrificed to keep them safe and his heart lurches. A small patch of ice melts under blue flames.
They smile before her lips do, glittering like the ocean at sunrise, sweetly reflecting inner joy. "I knew you could do it!" and he imagines the words are for him.
Shining with love and affection, softening with compassion, burning with courage, they dance with her, laugh with her, cry. Cast light on every delicate plane of her pretty face. Speak words she doesn't say.
He opens his own navy eyes, trying to end the slideshow. Why can't he forget her? Why does she steal his sleep and take his breath?
His alarm clock calmly regards him as he turns to face it, glowing digits dutifully inform that it is now ten minutes shy of 5:00am. And he thinks he just might hate her.
The way her gaze, whichever version of it she wears, always causes his stomach seize up in that maddeningly involuntary way. And her smile – he really hates that, and how it makes him want to return it. Her curves are distracting, the sound of her laugh grates, they way she feels life in a manner he can only observe is unforgivable.
His sheets are cast away from him in a fit of frustration; this preoccupation is starting to exceed inconvenience. Sleep is precious; he needs it (loath as he is to admit) to function at full capacity, and she takes it from him.
Going on his thirtieth hour in the waking world, a work day looms ominously ahead, full of responsibilities which require energy and focus. Seto is more than capable, outshining the best of them on his worst day of the year, but the prospect is nonetheless dismal. He should kill her for this.
A resigned sigh follows a dark scowl, and he finally gives in; hoists himself out of bed, strips wearily as he heads for the shower.
Hot water soothingly massages aching muscles moments later, and he concedes. He doesn't hate her, not even close, and that's exactly the problem.
Because he wishes he did.
The only 24 hour coffee shop in Domino City is mostly home to cramming college students, but it's suitably empty as Kaiba enters in search of caffeine. It's approaching 5:30am and the day feels over at its birth. He thinks about twenty shots of espresso should do the trick while he grumpily places his order for one.
His laptop feels abnormally heavy, settles on the table before him gracelessly, it requires unusual force to pry open. He sighs, rests his chin on his hands, stares blankly at the screen.
He wanders again to meet her, slowly, lazily descending a path that draws him towards her smile this time.
Passing him after witnessing a defeat, slyly quirked lips widen for her friend the victor, mouth parting to reveal perfect teeth. A full-fledged grin, sweet and charming, overflowing with cheer and he longs to have the latter aimed at him instead of the former.
Soft, pink lips, moist with tears turn up shakily. A sigh escapes her, shuddering, half a chuckle – raw relief which removes all traces of humor from the sound. He lets out a breath he didn't know he was holding.
Brave eyes catch his, body trembling, full mouth pointed towards him as he stands at a distance. A grateful smile, fleeting acknowledgement before she rushes to their aid leaving footprints on his heart.
The sharp smell of strong coffee intrudes and Kaiba looks up to see his order has arrived in a large mug. A young woman regards him with wary recognition as she places it in front of him, she doesn't bother with pleasantries; his reputation precedes him.
The interruption is welcome, and he grows irritated with himself while sipping his espresso. Ridiculous does not even begin to describe the whims of a sleepy brain, particularly when it fixes on her instead of the work in front of him. If he could just stop thinking about –
His head jerks up, eyes snap towards the direction of the voice. His heart stops for a split second – it's her – and starts again in time for him to inwardly berate himself. It's nothing short of pathetic to feel this way.
"Good morning ladies," she's openly friendly with the girls at the counter, "Just the usual for me, please."
He barely remembers what it's like to have her act so pleasantly towards him, their roles have been adversarial for so long. It's his fault, of course and he's mostly glad for it. He doesn't want to be her friend, he just wants… well, he's still figuring that part out.
She's smiling again. Tapping the counter with slim fingers, body resonating energy, her mood is happy and carefree.
Work forgotten, he watches.
Her long, sculpted legs are exposed as usual in pale blue jogging shorts, a matching hoody covers her upper body, unzipped to reveal a white sport's tank. She's shorter in running shoes, a departure from the heels she normally wears.
Chestnut hair is sloppily confined to the back of her head with a band, loose strands escaping randomly to surround her face. Her cheeks glow softly, a dusky shade of pink from exercise. She tilts her head back to empty the remains of a water bottle and he watches her lips part with interest, before the graceful curve of her neck demands his attention.
She finishes the water, brushes the back of her hand across her mouth, and tosses the plastic bottle at a nearby recycling bin. It lands neatly with the other containers and she punches the air in a silent cheer, taking a mock bow for an invisible audience.
He sneers; that was painfully immature, and just… adorable. His scorn returns like a boomerang to smack him in the face. It continues to get worse. The word, "adorable" is not even in his vocabulary. She has unknowingly entrenched herself in the deepest parts of his consciousness.
He's in the process of forcing himself to look away when her coffee arrives in a large paper cup, and she nimbly sorts through a handful of change to pay. Stubborn eyes ignoring the protests of a foggy brain latch onto her, desperate to hold her until she disappears from sight.
She turns suddenly, clutching her drink, catches him watching. The distinct pleasure of extracting a pretty blush from her is suddenly the highlight of his morning. Pathetic.
A nod of acknowledgement, half a smile, and her gaze lingers on his face. He scowls in return, not at her, but himself, annoyed with the butterflies dancing in his stomach.
She misinterprets, rolls her eyes, and turns in the direction of the door.
Something akin to panic grips him as he watches her leave and he hates himself for it. He wasn't prepared to see her, and now he's unprepared to see her go. He swiftly closes his laptop, throws some money on the table as he gets up to follow her.
He feels uncharacteristically reckless as he leaves the shop after her; he has little control of a body that duels with a sleep-deprived mind.
She walks ten feet ahead of him, footfalls light and easy, moving with the fluid grace that is as much a part of her as those startling eyes.
He knows she's a dancer, even if it hadn't been overheard once in passing, he'd have been able to tell. Her body shouts it to anybody who will listen; delicate poise at rest, powerful elegance in action. It's second nature to her. Fueled by a mind that will not accept defeat and a heart that fully embraces every aspect of living, she runs, walks, gesticulates passion and allure.
In front of him, she continues to mesmerize him with each motion. She is beauty unrefined, at ease with her surroundings, natural. She is confidence without conceit, talent without haughtiness, charm without deliberation.
She is… flawed, he reminds himself sternly, headstrong and lacking discretion. A weak dueler, relies too heavily on her friends, rarely thinks before she speaks, preachy and maudlin.
Why is he following her? Why does she captivate him? Why not the intense and beautiful Ishizu Ishtar, or gorgeous, confident Mai Valentine? He encounters both women on a semi-regular basis, both far more attractive than Téa. Why haven't they ensnared him this way?
Because they are not her, and her beauty is superior because it's not fully reliant on aesthetics. Even her many flaws are somehow precious to him, and his inability to comprehend this is utterly, unforgivably frustrating.
He continues to trace her footsteps and longs to be indifferent; there is power in indifference, the ability to walk away, the command of his thoughts. And there is sleep.
What does he want from her?
He thinks back on their prior encounters, trying for the life of him to gain perspective.
Words thrown across hallways, and dirt pathways, and cyberspace. Eyes touching his face from afar and up close, smiles extracting various reactions from where he stands away from her. Tears and laughter reaching inside to seize different parts of him, assorted movements inviting him to draw nearer.
There is always distance between them, untouched space that exists in every sense. She is everything he is not, genuine smiles, honest eyes, unrestraint. They remain painfully separate, worlds, ideals, and perspectives dividing them, keeping them apart.
He wants, he realizes suddenly, frighteningly, to build a bridge. He wants to touch her.
A moment passes. The epiphany does not bring the relief he expected from it, but only serves to frustrate him more. He can't deal with these feelings, has no place for them, just as he has no place in his life for her. He grows angry with her for doing this to him, for calling out and making him want her. For exercising power over him, Seto Kaiba. For not even knowing it.
Ahead of him she stops suddenly, bends towards the ground, sets her coffee down beside her on the pavement. Her shoelace has come undone and she stoops to tie it.
He freezes, other emotions slamming into him as he watches strands of hair dip forward to brush her cheeks. He can't sort them out, but they take the edge off his rage, soften his frustration, push him towards her.
If he could just touch her, he thinks maybe it will go away. Maybe she'll let him have his life back.
He approaches, watches his shadow fall over her, watches her notice it. She stands and turns in one fluid motion, forgets the coffee on the ground, accidentally kicks it over when she sees it's him.
"Kaiba!" her tone his surprised, cheeks once again flushed. She is expectant, bites her lip softly, nervous.
He doesn't speak, doesn't trust himself to, just lets himself fall into the moment, this excruciating weakness. He still neither likes nor understands any of it, but she stands before him radiant and lovely, eyes meeting his, open and confused and it's too late to turn back.
He reaches, slowly, languidly and together, they watch his hand move towards her. She is perfectly still, doesn't flinch or retreat, but waits, trapped in the same moment that has captured him.
He closes the distance. Contact. His hand on her cheek. She moves again, not away from him but subtly closer, her body trembling. He brushes hair away from her face, fingertips gliding over skin that is smooth and soft, warmed by a blush.
Her eyes catch his once more, hooded and questioning, awestruck, happy. They don't lie, or withhold information, and ask him to return the favor. They cast light on his face now too, and caress every part of him they touch.
None of it is going away; he still wants more from her. It occurs to him that whether or not she belongs, she's here. In his thought, and undeniably, inexcusably in his heart. Uninvited, and without his approval she has put down roots, grown into him. She's a part of him now and it's frightening.
It can be counted on one hand the number of times since his childhood when he has felt helpless, and it is not a feeling he enjoys. He remains indecisive for a mere second longer, before suddenly control is given back to him.
He knows now what she means to him and it's evident that he means something to her; she would have already pulled away otherwise. He doesn't like it, but it's happening anyway, doesn't understand but here they are.
So he stops fighting himself, pulls her face towards his, kisses her. And she lets him, opens her mouth to invite his tongue, wraps her arms around his neck. They are not standing in the coffee she spilled, but rather hot chocolate; he can taste it. His hands find her waist and he pulls her closer, distance dissolving between them.
She pulls away first, hands falling down his arms to clasp his hands and she stares at him. He stares back and it's easy, she's so beautiful, eyes glittering, lips swollen. It's so inexplicably comfortable to be near her this way.
Then she smiles, and he believes it because it begins in her eyes and ends where her hands squeeze his. He wants to kiss her again. And go to sleep. And take her with him. He does none of those things, opting instead to do what comes most naturally to him.
He smiles back.
A/N: Sap attack! I was feeling very dramatic and flowery. Okay, it was a one-shot, but I might do a companion piece to it from Téa's POV after I update some of my other stuff. Oh and Yep! I quoted "Temptation" an offering from my absolute favorite band (The Tea Party).