Before You Say, "I Do"
By Starian Princess

Chapter 3- Ignorance is Bliss

It could have been anyone; the mutt, the pencil-head, even Yugi for all he cared. But apparently, some higher being just happened to love tormenting him so. And as fate would have had it, indeed, the object of his inner perils was standing but a few short meters away.

He frowned. The same brunette hair, the same agile form, the same dazzling smile, the same captivating cerulean eyes… it was as if he were looking into the past, as if he were on his way to Domino High all over again. Just how long had it been since he'd last seen her in person? The scene was playing inside his head like a broken record. It had been at their high school graduation ceremony. People were cheering, people were congratulating each other left and right, people were generally getting with the spirit of triumph after having passed one of the hardest aspects of life… except for one, that is.

"Kaiba?" He hadn't expected it; a hand brushing against his shoulder and a kind smile.

"What do you want, Gardner? Your geek-squad is over there." He'd always been one for appearances, especially when he didn't want a supposed opponent to know what he was actually thinking.

"Like I didn't already know that." Unconsciously, he admired her fire- the flame that burned so strongly within her eyes showing that she would never back down. Never, not in a million years. No one else would act that way around him, and for that he certainly admired her. But it was even more than a million years before he was going to admit that to anyone. The world simply didn't need that small piece of information, in his opinion.

She was struggling with something, he could tell. Her gaze was ever shifting from the ground to his face, but not exactly looking at him. It was as if she wanted to look through him, in fact. And this intrigued him. What was it that she wanted to say that seemed so difficult? For all the years he'd known her, Tea Gardner was never one to display such… unease. It pleased him, in a morbid sort of way, how he- his presence, his being- could invoke such agitation from her for once.

"Well, what is it? Spit it out already, you're keeping me from all the merry-making." He smirked, and this got her attention. In an instant though, an image of a Greek goddess formed in his mind. All vibrant and pure, divine and simply extraordinary… It was probably because it was graduation, that's all. Yes, all the female students probably looked just as pleasing, just as perfect.

"I… Well, how is Mokuba doing?" He could tell that she was obviously trying to stray from the topic she'd intended to bring up, but for now he'd play her game. It was safe to say he was intently amused. She'd gotten his undivided attention.

"He's fine." Keeping his answers short would probably hasten her little diversion, and she'd soon find that Seto Kaiba was not one to be easily swayed.

"Oh, he's not here today?"

"Obviously, Gardner, if he was then he'd be right here beside me."

"Oh yes, that does make sense." A lot more sense than what she was trying to say, yes. He refrained from adding that remark though.

"Is that all you have to say to me?" Could he help it if his presence was dominating, cold, callous, and pretty much intimidating? Adding that to the fact that he was rather impatient made the young CEO a very disagreeable person; most would have known that by this point. The girl wouldn't fall short though, if his calculations were about right.

"A-Actually no, Kaiba, I… Well, I wanted to ask about you. Uhm… no, I mean, what will you be doing now that you've graduated?" There was a stutter here and there, and she almost sounded like she was rambling but that was fine for now, he mused.

"Again, an obvious answer. I'll be heading Kaiba Corp. full time now." Nevertheless, that didn't mean he'd cut her some slack on his end. Seto Kaiba was capable of being tolerating of course, just that he wasn't too generous with the said trait.

He could remember as far as that, but the rest of the conversation was a mild blur. The point though, was that the girl had approached him. Even when no one else dared to, she'd made it a conviction to come right up to him to see how he was doing. Not that he was feeling sorry for himself, not one bit. He didn't need anyone else; he was Seto Kaiba after all. It was just that knowing that someone had actually cared to talk to him made him feel… a cross between appreciative and just plain enlivening.

Needless to say, after that, the prospect of it all simply never left him. He wasn't obsessed of course, just that he thought about it every other day. Every spare second he had, to be exact. And within that span of time, he began to wonder how the girl was doing- the girl who had inspired such a reaction from him. What of her dream to become a famous dancer? (He'd known that much about her.) What of her safety- having always been dragged into the next big adventure her best friend embarked on? What of her? Was she different now? Did she look different now? Her personality, even when he knew it was close to impossible, had she possibly changed? Maybe if he was completely honest with himself, Seto Kaiba would finally admit that he was actually interested in her, Tea Gardner. But no, the second greatest duelist in Japan was far too prideful for such a thing. So instead, he took off into the not-so-wonderful world of denial, haplessly disturbed and- wonder of wonders- still reminiscing about her.

Until, of course, the moment he laid eyes on her again that is.

His scowl firmly in place, a hand loosely hanging from his pants pocket, he briefly considered going up to her and her blonde friend then and there. But just as he was about to step off onto the street, he stopped short. Wouldn't it be weird? What would he say to her anyways? He didn't need to ask anything he could already perceive from this distance. She'd obviously grown a bit taller and had, not to mention, decided to grow her hair longer as well. He watched as it was carried through the breeze, and concluded for himself that she indeed looked even more stunning with the waist-length hair. She'd definitely pursued dancing, as one could tell from her slim yet firm figure. Her eyes were alive with life, like a child but one could still tell that she'd been through the worst situations all the same. She was still the goddess he imagined she would be- but had evidently refused to acknowledge- from those years ago.

And a small thought entered his mind then. Was she… taken perhaps? Most probably, and the slight chance of it all suddenly gave him a very uncomfortable feeling in his stomach, like someone had reached in and pulled something out. It was probably his lunch, or what little of it he'd had a while ago. He made a mental note to eat more and satisfy this hunger later, once he got home.

Hadn't Mokuba mentioned something about meeting up with her a few weeks ago? He'd been too stubborn to notice. He remembered though, that his younger brother hadn't said anything about her having a boyfriend. Maybe he'd forgotten, or they'd just never discussed it. After all, Tea wasn't one to go around saying she had someone. But maybe that was because she just didn't have anyone yet. The possibility made him feel a little better. Yeah, Seto Kaiba had a good resistance to bad meals.

"We're pretty much done here, Mai. Wanna go for some ice cream? I know this really good place nearby." She had an impulsive feeling that they were being watched. If she hadn't felt it before then she definitely felt it now. Someone was… leering at them, from a distance. It felt both relatively familiar, and yet totally new to her. How could she even feel like she knew who it was? She decided to ignore it. Maybe she was just being paranoid, what with all the wedding preparations and the moving to Egypt.

"Sure, why not?" The violet eyed duelist hadn't noticed a thing though, for which she found quite strange. Mai was usually more perceptive to this kind of thing, having gotten in and out of trouble numerous times by depending on her foresight for trouble. Maybe she really was being paranoid. She just couldn't shake the feeling off though.

Looking both ways, she grabbed the blonde's arm and tugged her towards the pedestrian lane. If she couldn't get it out of her system, then she would simply have to try avoiding it. Perhaps it was a stray dog or cat or whatever creature that was following them. It didn't necessarily feel like an immediate danger so she didn't feel the need to bring it up either. Mai would just end up thinking that she was on the verge of an emotional breakdown anyhow.

"Hold on for a second there, girl, aren't we walking a little too fast?" She ignored her friend's comment and kept moving, failing to realize that the streetlight had changed from red to green.

"Tea, watch out!"

In a flurry of seconds, quick reflexes, and a peculiarly recognizable blue trench coat, the bride-to-be found herself tossed up and over a strong, supporting back and once again on the other side of the street. The distinctive sound of cars honking violently loud made her head spin, and she slowly felt herself losing consciousness.

"Why don't you ever watch where you're going, Gardner?"

She barely caught the snide yet nonetheless relieved remark, and stared up at her savior as her eyesight began to blur. Dark blue- no, azure was the perfect word for it, just like how the sea glimmered during the summer time. She'd been rescued by an angel of sorts, she was sure of it.

She smiled faintly, using the remainder of whatever strength she had left to lift a limp hand up to his face and caress his cheek.

"Thank you," And she whispered this so only he would hear.