Originally Written: November 27, 2004 – December 18, 2004
Posted: December 19, 2004 (Due to the fact that I wanted to post it as close to Christmas as possible before I went on an Internet-less vacation.)
Final Review Number (Previous): 47
(Please keep in mind that the new review number will be added to the one above.)
HI. YEP, THIS IS LUVINANIME, AND I'M BACK! NO ONE CAN KEEP ME AWAY! YES, MY ACCOUNT WAS CLOSED DOWN FOR SOME UNKNOWN REASON, SO I'VE HAD TO REPOST ALL OF THESE STORIES. KEEP IN MIND THE POINTS ABOVE! THANK YOU. ENJOY THE UNCHANGED STORY(IES)!
NOTE: Okay, I just HAD to write a small fic for the Christmas holiday! It's my favorite holiday AND I've had this great SetoxTea idea running through my head for it. So please read it! I hope you like it as well as you like my other ones! Enjoy! (PS: Don't get mad at me if Seto seems a little (or a lot) OOC (out-of-character). It had to fit the story, okay!)
Disclaimer: I don't own Yu-Gi-Oh, the Christmas season, or any of the Christmas songs that appear in this fic, OR the Snow Village ® Series .
Christmas Curse or Christmas Blessing?
Tea sighed and slumped onto the green couch in her family room. She looked amongst the piles upon piles of boxes: all filled to the brim with Christmas decorations and the like. However, the month was only November. Yet Thanksgiving had occurred two days ago. November was dying and December was awakening. Yes, December: the month of Christmas.
Tea was alone in her large home. Only the sounds of her shifting on the couch, trying to crack her aching back filled the air. Her father was going to be away for a little over a month. He had left two days before Thanksgiving, apologizing profusely to Tea that he couldn't be there to spend it with her. Instead, Yugi and his grandfather had invited her over so that she wouldn't be completely lonely.
Joey was away for the Thanksgiving weekend (one of his favorite holidays), out by his sister, Serenity, and his mother's house, some odd number of hours away.
Tristan was also busy this weekend.
And Tea's mother…well…she had passed on many years ago…. Ten years, to be precise.
So Tea was alone in this home. Her father wasn't going to be back until Christmas Eve, as he was attending to many matters: work, personal and family. He had told her that she didn't have to set up the house for Christmas if she didn't want to. She could do as little decorating as possible. All that she really had to do was cook the Christmas dinner for the time all of the relatives arrived: those both on her mother's and father's side. And she could just put up a few decorations around the house. That was all that was required.
But Tea had protested, in her mind. She wanted to set up the house he way it was every Christmas. Indeed, their home was the most spectacular down the lane; both inside and out. And Tea wanted it done just as every year: even if she had to do it herself. She would surprise her father this year with everything done to perfection, and maybe even a little more….
Of course, because she was by herself, it would take a considerably longer time for her to set up. Usually, she and her father had it all done in a week's time (the weeks of Thanksgiving break), save for the special Snow Village ® they put up the weekend right before Christmas. However, as Tea scanned the plans, she would probably wither have to squeeze that last village and nativity set up that last weekend or right on Christmas Eve. Only time would tell.
What Tea wanted to get done first was the outside lights. That would be the most difficult job of all. She had never liked going up too high on ladders, and wasn't particularly fond of walking on the roof, no matter how cool that seemed. It still frightened her.
However, she would have to brave her fear. If she wanted to surprise her father on Christmas, she would have to but up with the fright. It was no matter.
Tea slung on her coat, for it was pretty cold outside, and flurries were beginning to fall, and dragged the large box of both large and small lights and icicle lights.
Once outside, she set the box by the garage and proceeded to open the garage door. From that, she needed the large ladder. That too, would be a chore within itself, as the ladder was a great distance long.
The door rolled upward and Tea saw the still empty space where her dad's car usually sat. Her own car was off on the right parking space. Tea sighed and looked up at the ceiling where her dad's ladder was hung on hooks. Tea found another small ladder on which to stand to reach up that high. What she wouldn't give right now to be Seto Kaiba's height….
Seto Kaiba spun to the left of his desk and stood, breaking away from the seat of his swivel chair in his office. That was enough work for now. It was the weekend, his brothers, Mokuba and Noa, had already played games and spent time with him enough to last a whole year and he needed some rest and/or relaxation. A nice walk might do. That was always soothing.
He walked out of his office quietly and went to the hall closet to grab a trench-coat. He selected a black one with long sleeves, and put it on, only buttoning up the top, letting the rest of it flare out as usual.
He had reached the door when Mokuba suddenly came bounding down the stairs.
"Seto! Where are you going?"
"I just want to."
"Okay. Later!" Mokuba ran back up the stairs. Seto shook his head. Crazy little kid….
He was soon walking down the road. The Kaiba Mansion was empty on either side, and across the street. About half a mile down, though, the houses started. There were many streets here, filled with large, medium, and some small houses. The apartments and such were in downtown Domino.
He walked down through these lanes of houses. Some parents were beginning to set up Christmas lights for the coming season. Some kids were playing football outside. Seto made a mental note to himself to remember to call up the Christmas decorators for the mansion.
He rounded a couple streets and started walking down one that seemed to have nobody on it, outside. Scratch that, Seto thought, I see someone. Indeed, a few houses down from the corner, he could make out someone walking around on a roof. Seto began walking down that direction.
Tea knelt on the roof. Gosh, this was really freaky. She couldn't help but to occasionally look down. Afterwards she would become quite dizzy and pull away. However, she did manage to get some lights situated and strung up. Of course, disaster can strike at any moment.
Tea was walking up a slope in the roof to get back to the lights she had brought up, when due to the slickness the flurries and frost had caused, she slipped and fell backwards.
"AHHH!" she screamed, sliding down the roof on her back. Suddenly, there was no roof.
"OH! MY! GOD!" she yelled out. Her mind was racing. What would become of her when she hit the ground? Would only her breath be knocked out? No, impossible: there would be too much impact. Would she be paralyzed? Would she only break a bone or so? Or would she- She didn't dare think about the ending alternative. Would she ever see her father again? Her friends? Anybody?
Everything was rushed together in a blur, and the passing seconds felt like hours. But all too soon, Tea recognized the familiarity of the first-floor windows and knew that the ground was approaching.
Yet it seemed that the ground came a little too soon.
Tea was stopped a little before she had anticipated and heard a muffled grunt before she jerkily came down the rest of the way to the grass. Tea opened her eyes, having closed them as to ready herself for the impact and saw that someone had caught her and was holding her bridal-style. She looked up to see the face of her savior.
"Kaiba!" she exclaimed suddenly, looking at his wincing face.
Seto looked Tea over, "So it was you up there. I thought I recognized that annoying shriek of yours."
"I didn't shriek!" Tea protested, "…I cried out."
"Yes, there is a big difference!"
"Speaking of 'big,' what have you been eating? Somehow I expected you to be 'feather-light,' as they say."
Tea scowled sharply, "Pig-head!" she shoved him away and tumbled out of his arms.
"Look who's talking," Seto murmured, thankful that she hadn't heard him. Tea stood up and brushed off the dirt that had gotten on her. "What were you doing up there anyway?" Seto spontaneously asked.
"What does it look like?" Tea looked at him incredulously, "I was putting up house lights."
"Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that a father's job, or something?" Seto looked up at the roof. It didn't seem to be the place for women.
"He's away currently," was all that Tea answered.
"…And your mother?"
"…Dead," she hesitated. Seto stopped. That was certainly not the answer he had expected.
"Oh, I see. I apologize." True, Seto wasn't one to apologize usually. But he knew what a toll a death could be on a family, and it was only polite.
Tea seemed to now be in some sort of trance, "She dies when I was eight…. Ten years ago…." Seto just looked at her. So she had been motherless four years before he had. But she still had her father. Why was he even thinking this over anyway? It wasn't like it mattered to him. This was her family. So he hadn't known that she had no mother for the years that he had known her. It didn't matter at all.
Tea suddenly seemed to jump back to Earth, "You looked chilled. Why don't you come inside to warm up for a couple minutes, before you catch your death." Indeed, it was a most blustery day, and the regular temperature didn't help it any.
"More like catch you from your death," Seto retorted. Tea felt a smirk pull on her lips. It was too true.
Tea opened the door and let him in. Truth be told, he was thankful to be in a heated area once more. This cold was doing wonders to his body.
"Just lay your coat on the couch, if you'd like. I'll get some hot chocolate. It sure would help after all that," Tea disappeared into the kitchen, which branched off directly from the family room. Seto stepped into the family room premise and took a quick glance around. Boxes were heaped upon boxes, and they were scattered on couches and tables.
"Are you moving or something?" Seto looked in through the kitchen.
"Heck no. That's just all of the Christmas décor I have to set up."
"And you're not waiting for your father to come home and help, because?" Seto asked. He really was very curious about this. "I mean, can't you wait for him?"
"No. He's coming back on Christmas Eve. I don't think putting up Christmas decorations late at night was really on his to-do list for the evening. Although it is true that we would have some more help, since all of my relatives are coming. But that's beside the point."
Seto looked around. Her house was fairly sizeable. "Why such a large home for two people?" Why was he asking these questions again?
"We've been living in it ever since I was…two I think. That meant mom was living here too. So…we did have more people at the time, and dad didn't want to move after she had died. Besides, the upstairs is mostly bedrooms. We get a whole bunch of company throughout the year." Tea didn't know why she was telling Seto Kaiba all of this. He asked: she answered. It was really that simple. Still, she wondered why he was even asking. It wasn't like Kaiba to ask about other people's lives. He usually just kept to himself and his brother.
"There, done," she brought out two steaming cups of hot chocolate, and handed one to Seto, "Careful now. I don't want anything spilled. …And I suppose I ought to say it's hot too. Don't want to end up being sued, like that McDonalds that that stupid lady pressed charges against. You'd be just the person to do that," she added the last sentence quietly, although Seto, with his most keen hearing, still heard.
"Very funny, however, it might not very well be true," he took a sip of the steaming cocoa. The warmth ran from his mouth and spread throughout the rest of his body. It was mighty good hot chocolate too….
They stood in silence while they quietly sipped their hot cocoa. Soon, Tea walked back into the kitchen and set hers down in the sink, "I'd best get back to hanging lights. And you probably want to go too, huh?"
Seto didn't reply. He just walked past her, setting his cup in the sink as well. Tea walked back to get her coat, and found Seto behind her just as she was opening the door.
"You're going back up there? By yourself?" Seto inquired.
"Knowing you, you'll kill yourself. And who will come to catch you this time? I'm surprised one of your geeky friends isn't here to help you with all this."
"They're all busy. Well…except Yugi. But he's already helped me enough," she said, thinking of how they had invited her for Thanksgiving, "I don't want to keep mooching off him. Besides, I can take care of myself."
"Yes, yes. Taking care to fall off the roof again."
"Well, if you care so much," she was surprised that these words were even daring to come out of her mouth, "Then why don't you help me?"
Seto stood there, looking at her strangely, with his eyebrow raised. Tea glared back at him. Seeing that he wasn't replying, Tea took this as his answer, "I thought so. So you can just-"
"Fine. But only because I don't want those geeks all over my back for leaving you to kill yourself."
Tea stopped, "You what? Y-You're staying?"
"That's what I said, wasn't it?" Seto gave a mocking smile and walked past her, outside.
It took Tea a minute to realize all of this. She suddenly dropped her mouth open, "Hey! I wasn't going to kill myself!" All she got in return was a laugh.
Seto Kaiba didn't climb ladders. It was not his forte. No…no. This was against all forms of Kaiba-ness. There was no other word for it. He would not go up there.
"Oh come on Kaiba, we don't have all day! Are you afraid of ladders or something?" Tea teased up on the roof, looking down at Seto, who still had his feet firmly planted on the ground.
"Of course not. I just…don't climb ladders."
"Uh huh," Tea nodded, "Thus the point of you helping me is?" Seto glared at her. "Oh come on! It's not going to bite! The worst that can happen is that you'll fall!" She probably shouldn't have said that. Seto gave her a look that said 'You're not helping!' "Look, I'll hold onto the top of it, and everything will be okie-dokie dandy, alright?" Probably not the best choice of words to use around Kaiba, but who cared at this point?
"Okie-dokie dandy?" Seto scoffed at her.
"Oh shut up and get up here!" Tea yelled. She hoped her plan worked. Seto frowned heavily. Since when did someone tell him to shut up!
"Gardner, you have NO right to talk to me that way! You're not going to like it if I come up there!"
"I can talk to you however I want! You're just scared to climb a ladder." Seto glared at her. She could see the anger rising in him. All he needed was a push over the edge. And she had just the line to do it. "Or maybe…you're just scared around me."
Seto scrutinized her heavily, "Just what are you trying to imply up there? Why would I be scared to be around you-" he stopped. So that's where she was getting to! She was trying to imply that he liked her! "You are more out-of-your-mind than I thought possible Gardner, if you could ever come up with something that crazy!"
"Are you calling me a nut-job!" tea taunted.
"You could say that!"
"You come up and say that in my face, and I'll-"
"I'd like to see just what you do, Gardner!" Seto grabbed hold of the ladder, putting one foot on the rungs. Tea smirked inwardly. There was some achievement.
"Well then get your butt up here, and I'll show you!" Tea jeered.
"Excuse me! What did you just say?" Seto inquired back, menacingly.
"You heard me!" That all did the trick. Seto was coming up just to show her the respect he deserved.
Faster than she had anticipated, Seto was up on the roof and holding her shoulders tightly, leaning her against the slop of part of the roof. He was leaning in quite close to her….
"You listen here, and you listen good, Gardner, because I'm not going to repeat myself," Seto growled, "You have no right whatsoever to talk to me that way, got it?"
"Oh, I had it loooooong ago. My only task was to get you up here. And so I did." Seto stopped. He could have smacked himself at that moment. He had let her grab hold of his anger and use it on him like a puppet! They sat there for a second, watching each other like hawks, just daring each other to make some sort of move.
Finally, Tea stated, "Well, let's get to work!" Tea shrugged out of his grasp and walked over to where she had been working on the lights before.
Seto too, stood up. What did she want him to do now?
"You can start with the light on the garage," Tea stated, as if reading his mind, "The garage is the level right below you." Seto peered over the edge by the ladder, and saw that indeed, the garage extended out from the house, only coming up to the first floor.
"I think it's best if you take that part of the job. It's closer to the ground after all," Seto remarked, facetiously. Tea scowled and stood up from her work.
"You're never going to let me live that down, are you?"
Seto pretended to think, "…No, probably not."
"Fine. Have it your way," Tea huffed, walking over towards his position, to climb down to the lower level. Seto smirked triumphantly. It was her house, and he still held the ground.
They worked in silence, both of them running the lights along the edges of the house. The afternoon left, and night came, and they were still not finished by that time.
"Well, I still have the icicle lights to hang up and the wreaths on the windows. I can take care of the bush lights." What she didn't speak of were the outside tree lights. That was a project or another weekend. Had she not had to go to school still, she could have gotten this all finished earlier. "Maybe…you could just stop by for an hour or so tomorrow?" Tea asked sheepishly. She was getting afraid of heights, due to her accident this afternoon. Even before, she hadn't been too fond of heights. Just having Seto around as a precaution would take a load off her fears….even though on real terms, he was the last person…jerk…that she would ever ask. But she was getting desperate.
Seto speculated the girl. She was actually asking for his help again? The real question was…would he accept?
"I swear…it will only be about an hour to hang one or two strings or icicle lights around the garage. Just…take that little walk you were taking earlier- wait. Why were you out here earlier?"
"You don't need to concern yourself with that. Just know I'll be here at one o'clock sharp and gone by no later than three o' clock. Got that?" Seto lay out.
"Yes sir," Tea mocked, saluting him as one would salute a military officer. Seto looked at her queerly. She shrugged her shoulders and smiled.
Seto did return the next day, and as said, he was gone by three o; clock. Luckily, for Tea, they had finished by then. When he had left, she had dug out the lights for the bushes. This she could do on her own.
Seto had a very thoughtful walk back home.
Why was I even wasting my time helping her out? Oh, that's right. I didn't want her getting herself killed. How soft I'm beginning to get. Mokuba and Noa are really getting to me. How sad…. Hopefully that's the last I'll see of her outside school or Duel Monster Tournaments.
Seto had now reached his front gates. Strange. I never noticed how close she lived to us. …Has she ever noticed?
"Joey, can you help me?" Tea inquired at lunch on the Wednesday after her Christmas light fiasco.
"No can do, Tea," Joey took a bite of his sandwich, "I'm goin' back up ta Mom 'n Serenity's dis weekend. And the weekend after dat and da weekend after dat…and stayin' till New Years or sumptin'."
"Aww," Tea sighed, resting her head on her elbow. Tristan then landed at the lunch table. "Tristan!" Tea's happy mood suddenly reappeared, "Tristan, old buddy, old pal…you can help me this weekend with Christmas decorations, right?"
"Not right," Tristan shook his head, "I'm busy all December."
"With what!" Tea demanded.
"…Stuff," Tristan replied.
"Smooth answer," Tea retorted. "You guys know I can't carry a tree up from the basement by myself."
"We know. You'll just hafta ask Yugi," Tristan replied.
"Yeah…" Tea drifted off. Hopefully Yugi wouldn't feel like she was using him all the time –with Thanksgiving and all.
"Ask me what?" Yugi suddenly sat down beside them.
"Will you come over this weekend and help me out with decorating my house? Such as lugging up the tree and all?" Tea inquired, giving her most sincere smile and eyes to go along with the package.
"Of course, Tea! As long as nothing major comes up…and I don't catch the epidemic running around, then I'll certainly be there!" Yugi smiled. Tea hugged him back. Yugi blushed upon the contact. He knew that tea's father was away. She had enough to do without having to do all this extra decorating. She needed all the help she could get. And Yugi planned on giving it to her.
"Great. I can come pick you up-"
"No, I'll come over. When?" Yugi inquired.
"By one, if you can manage. We've got a bunch to do on the tree. At least…if you're willing to decorate it with me."
"Of course! The lights and ornaments, right?"
"Correctamundo!" Tea smiled. "Saturday. Remember that, okay?"
"It has been remembered," Yugi affirmed.
"Geez, where's Yug?" Joey looked around the school yard, "He an' Tea are usually here by now. They're neva' late…not as long as Tea's draggin' Yug along."
"Hey! There's Tea! But…where's Yugi?" Tristan pointed down the sidewalk.
"Hey, Tea!" Joey and Tristan ran up to her, "Where ya been?"
Tea sighed, "I went to pick up Yugi, as usual, but he's sick today."
"Poor guy," Tristan affirmed.
"Yeah, he always catches the worst of any sickness," Joey replied.
"Exactly," Tea looked up at her friends, "He's probably going to be sick at least until Sunday. He can't…help me then."
"Oh," Joey looked at Tristan, "That's right."
"Is there anyone else that you can get to help you?" Tristan asked.
"Not that I know of. You know Ryou went back to London for the year. Duke's back in San Francisco. Mai…God knows where she is, but she wouldn't help with this kind of work anyway."
"True," Joey nodded, "She doesn't do manly work," he put his hands on his hips and puffed out his chest in a proud fashion.
"Define manly, mutt," a cruel and sudden voice suddenly whisked around them, like a whiplash.
"I dun hafta, Kaiba!" Joey exhaled and glared at the handsome teen, "I dun hafta do an'thing for ya!"
"Except build a better vocabulary," Seto mumbled out.
"Wha' was dat!" Joey took two steps towards him. Tristan was at the ready; on call to grab Joey in the nick of time. But Tea was standing out in space, getting an idea formulated.
"Nothing, Wheeler," Seto shook his head lightly, and glanced at Tea, just to see where she was placed in this. To his surprise, he saw her gazing thoughtfully at him. "What are you looking at, Gardner!" he snapped.
Tea jumped out of her reverie, "Nothing! Just thinking about something, that's all."
"Whatever," Seto turned his back and strode away from the small group.
"Yeah…what were ya lookin' at, Tea?" Joey suddenly rounded on her and demanded an explanation.
"Like I said: nothing!" Tea defended. Tristan was ninety-nine percent sure that that wasn't the real answer.
Tea sighed slowly, taking in deep breaths. School was over, and she was waiting by the brick fence for someone. Someone she wasn't exactly keen on speaking with, but had no choice. She was desperate for help.
Tea spotted her victim coming out from the school doors, briskly and punctual, as always.
So predictable, Tea thought, it was only too easy to get here early enough to catch you. And…no one else is usually out here at the time.
Just as this person was passing, Tea stood up from the wall, "Kaiba! Could you wait a second…please?" she added.
Seto stopped abruptly, and turned his head rather sharply. Tea swore she heard it crack, "What!" he demanded. Seto didn't seem to be in too good a mood.
Tea raised her forearm and pointed her index finger up towards the sky, making a loquacious gesture using her hands, "Kaiba, I-" She stopped. He was staring at her very coldly. His eyes really did resemble ice at the moment. He had a severe frown on his face, and his face clearly defined that he didn't want to be messed with at the moment. "You know what?" she started again, "Never mind," she put down her arm. "Forget it."
Tea began walking away, towards her home. Seto's eyes followed her movements. He finally spoke up.
"Spill it, Gardner." Tea said nothing. All she did was stop and hesitate. Seto sighed slightly, "You don't need more help with that dang house of yours, do you?"
"…Yes, actually, I do."
"And you're not going to your geeky friends for help because?"
Tea spun around and pointed an accusing finger at him, "First of all, my friends aren't geeky! Second, they're all busy…or in Yugi's case, sick. Yugi was going to help me, but it's a definite case that he'll be sick tomorrow…and probably Sunday as well. But I'd rather do this tomorrow."
"How can you guarantee that he's stay ill tomorrow?"
"He always is, okay? It's been proven countless times! His immune system is quite weak," Tea retorted. Silence passed through the air for a moment. Only wind brushing past the two made a whisper. Finally, as students began to exit the building, Seto said something.
"…What time must I be there?"
Tea smiled slightly, "One in the afternoon, if you will. I'll call you if Yugi can come instead."
Seto frowned slightly more, "My number isn't in any directory in this city."
"Joey's called you before, hasn't he?" Tea smiled slyly, and shrugged, before turning and trotting away.
Seto noticed that as she bounced in her walk, and with the help of the wind, her hair flitted about, and her skirt swished around, and dangerously up and down. Once, Seto caught sight of the shorts she wore underneath them.
Seto shook his head and turned to open the door to his limo, with a thought rolling around in his head regarding that last scene he had witnessed.
He could have smacked himself for even allowing such a thought to enter his mind. (AN: Think about it this way: in these fics, you know guys like to see under girls skirts…and she was wearing shorts…and "cheater." Ring anything?)
"I take it Yugi was still ill today?" Seto inquired, walking in as Tea opened the door for him.
"You couldn't be more correct," Tea replied. "You can take off your jacket, if you wish. Our work is inside today."
"And what is our work composed of on this…cheerful day," Seto looked outside the family room window to the front of the house. A heavy snowfall was going on outside. Seto couldn't have walked to her house this time. He had to have a limo drop him off here, inconspicuously to his brothers, who he had managed to fool that he was going to Kaiba Corp. (He had strictly told them to call on his cell phone if they needed anything, as he wouldn't really be at Kaiba Corp. to answer that phone, should they call there. He didn't give a reason for the el phone offer though….)
"Well, I – we, have to bring up the Christmas tree from the basement. Half of it is already completed, except for the ornaments, but the other half is in a large box. I just need help with bring it and the box up…and possibly the lights, just to get it done faster. Then, you can leave, if you so desire."
Why wouldn't I, Seto thought to himself, not daring to say that aloud.
Tea led him to the basement door, and turned on a light to walk down the stairs. Seto followed her. Tea rounded the stairs and walked towards the back of the basement, where a large half of a tree was covered in plastic wrap. She and Seto lifted this wrap off the tree and threw it aside onto the basement floor.
"Okay, someone needs to grab hold of the stand end, and someone needs to get the section where the tree branches stop. Careful though, it all slides off." To her surprise, Seto just lifted the whole tree and held it horizontally.
"Guide it," was all he ordered. Tea looked back at him, amazed.
"Or…or you can just lift it yourself," Tea nodded stupidly.
"Are you going to stand there all day. This thing is getting heavier, you know."
"Things can't get heavier by just sitting there, st-" she stopped herself before she said anymore…such as the word "stupid." That would have been a most costly mistake. Instead, she moved to the front of the tree and carefully helped Seto to maneuver it around the twists and turns in the basement and up the stairs, just barely fitting through the doorway at the top.
They carried it over to the family room, where Tea showed Seto the spot she had cleared for the tree to be set down on. Seto set it down and heaved a sigh of relief. In truth , that tree was really getting heavy for even him to hold.
"Take a minute's break, then, before we go back down to get the box of branches." Seto slumped against a couch. More? He sighed. This was going to be a long afternoon.
"Oh relax," Tea shook her head, "honestly, it's not that much at all."
"Oh no, of course not. Not even when you lift up a-a- God-knows-how-much pound tree!" Seto threw out sarcastically.
Tea sat down forcefully next to him, "Goodness, calm down already. It was a joke. At least…I think it was. Oh well, doesn't matter. Just rest for a sec," she replied.
"Let's just get it over and done with," Seto stood up.
"Okay," Tea shrugged. They went down back to the basement and fetched the branches. Tea had previously brought up the lights for the tree, and they sat near it ready to be hung.
"Okay," Tea directed, opening the branch box, "the hooks have little flags with letters on them. Match up the letters and line up the piles of branches in alphabetical order. Then, we hook them unto the corresponding hooks on the trunk that way."
"Simple enough," Seto muttered.
"Yep," Tea overheard. "Start sorting." So, for the next three minutes, they were sorting branches. Afterwards, Tea took a pile of branches (them being letter G) and sat under the tree with them. "Could you grab the H's and start hooking them in?" she asked Seto.
"Whatever," Seto replied gruffly, grabbing the pile and sitting on the opposite side of the tree to start hooking them there, under the G hooks.
By the time they were to the last letters, L and M, the two were on their stomachs and elbows, looking under the branches to peer for the hooks.
Tea finished hooking up a branch and looked over at her pile to grab the next one. She knew she had to shift over a tad to reach the next hook. So while grabbing the branch, she shifted. When she turned her head to look back at the truck, her noggin collided with something else.
Her hit was followed immediately by a low, "Ow-crap it!"
Tea pulled back her head out from under the tree and saw Seto do the same. His finger was feeling around his lower lip.
"I so sorry! What's wrong?" Tea immediately inquired.
"You knocked your head into my chin…causing me to severely bite my lip. I'm trying to see if there's any blood."
"Oh goodness, here, just let me see," Tea responded.
"Wha-" Seto was bout to protest, but Tea was already over there, pulling his hand away from his mouth.
She put her hand on his chin and tugged down on it slightly so that he would open his mouth. He did so, grudgingly.
"Geez, it is bleeding pretty badly," Tea murmured. "What a sec while I fetch a paper towel." She was back in thirty seconds with a paper towel and knelt back down in front of Seto. He was trying to lick the blood away by moving his tongue across his bottom lip back and forth.
A very sexy look for him….with a very sexy tongue.
Tea's spine chilled at the thought.
"Oh cut that out! You're not supposed to lick it," Tea said, with a hint of difficulty in her voice that she hoped he didn't hear, "Here, keep this on it until it stops," she made him open his mouth against slightly, and placed the towel on his lip, and held it there until he had gained enough wits to hold it there himself. Still, he hand had lingered there a second longer than necessary…. Another thing she hoped he hadn't noticed.
What was going on with her?
She had always known he looked extremely good- no: understatement- handsome maybe? Definitely, but that wasn't the word for it…. Hot? Genuinely, good Lord, yes! Sexy? You bet! If there was a word that combined all of those definitions, Tea knew it would describe Seto. But she would eat her own tongue before saying that!
Or even his.
Tea mentally gasped. What the crap was revolving around her mind! Needing major distractions, Tea quickly returned to her work on the tree while Seto stayed a moment longer, nursing his lip.
Things had finally settled down a few minutes later. They had soon finished the branches, and Tea took out the lights. She showed Seto how she and her family wrapped the lights, and they set to work on opposite sides of the tree again.
Tea was in desperate need of conversation. She just wanted to talk about something…anything. Just to talk…and get her mind off these new ideas about Seto. Where they had suddenly popped up from was truly beyond her.
"So…are you and your brothers doing anything for the holidays?" Tea inquired casually.
"Yes." Tea was bit surprised by the answer. Then again, why wouldn't they do something? But…what would they do?
"If I may ask…what are you doing?"
Seto paused before answering, as if not sure whether to tell Tea or not, "…It turns out that Noa had some…blood relatives. Cousins, aunts, uncles and the like. We're going to visit them. Mokuba and I…get to be the inducted family. Fun…."
"Oh, but it does sound like fun!" Tea started, "My family always comes to our house for the holidays. I've always loved the gatherings. I'm sure you'll have a good time." But Tea herself started doubting this the moment it left her mouth. Are you sure? This is Seto Kaiba we're talking about! His only "fun" revolves around company work and Duel Monsters!
"You really think so?" Seto amazingly asked.
Tea was caught off guard by the question, "Well yes. If you go there with a positive attitude, and try to enjoy yourself and have fun, I'm sure you'll have a pleasant time."
"…I suppose you're right."
"What!" Tea stopped. She peered around the tree to look at him. He didn't look back though. He was steadily working, his hands intertwining the lights around the branches. He had a determined look on his face; he was biting his tongue as he worked around branches. He seemed perfectly at ease. It was as if he looked at her, he would loose all sense of this ease and resort to silence again.
"What I mean is," he started speaking again, still concentrating on his work, ignoring Tea's looks completely, "You're always right about those sorts of things. Positive attitude this; open heart that; what don't you have a philosophy for?"
Tea thought for a moment, watching him work. She was in her own little world…. "I don't have a philosophy for…. …Mysterious humans." Seto looked up suddenly in her direction. She jumped and retreated back to her side of the tree.
Seto's eyebrows furrowed slightly. Was it just him…or had she really been staring hard at him when she had replied to his question?
"There now, that's done," Tea lay back against the couch, resting her aching back.
'That it is," Seto replied, leaning against the bottom of the couch while sitting on the floor.
"Well, I can take it from here. You can leave if you so wish," Tea stated.
Seto looked up at her, "You're positive you don't require anymore help?" Tea gave him an outlandish look. "I'm just saying…I don't want to be called back here an hour later because you can't do something."
"Oh, yes, of course," Tea giggled, "But…I'm sure."
Seto looked into her eyes, studying her. After a moment's hesitation, he spoke, "I don't trust you. Knowing my luck, you'll need help with something. It will save me a bunch of time just staying until this thing is done."
Tea jerked slightly, "Y-You're staying? I mean…that's fine, but…you don't have any work to get back to?"
"I have some things downloading at home…that take hours to download."
"…Their out at the moment, if I recall," Seto replied.
"…Okay," Tea nodded. It was a very awkward moment. They just stared back and forth at each other, each one daring to move. Why is he acting so desperate to stay, Tea wondered.
In truth, Seto did feel something inside of him that pulled him towards staying. During their past time working on the tree, Seto had grown more…comfortable here. And not just here, but in Tea's very presence. It was a very different feeling, and Seto wasn't sure if he liked it-
The two were about finished hanging up the tree ornaments. Tea's family had quite the collection, and it was beginning to become difficult to find space for all of the trinkets.
Finally, Tea announced that only one ornament remained. Seto watched as Tea carefully took out a medium sized box and removed a large wad of bubble wrap and tissue paper.
This ornament must really be special or something, Seto hinted at the major precautions to take it from breaking.
What Tea took out of the wrap, upon first glance, was a medium sized angel: the ornament for the top of the tree.
Tea began speaking about it, "I'm sure you know that usually angels or stars decorate the very top of a tree. Well, we have both on this one ornament. And…something-…someone more." Tea turned it around to show him. The angel was holding a pale yellow star in her hands. It was a large star, and it held a circular photograph. Seto had a feeling he knew who it was.
"It's my mother. We put her up on the tree every Christmas, just to remind everybody that she is here with us: even just in spirit." Tea felt the regular tears start coming on when she mentioned her mother. She missed her very much. And putting up this last moment was always heart-wrenching for her.
Tea walked up to the tree, and reached up to put the decoration on top. The tree was a bit tall for her, and it was a bit hard to maneuver against the branches. She could barely reach the top. And the tears were beginning to slowly fall from her eyes.
She suddenly felt the angel slipping from her grasp, in her futile attempt to balance out. She almost dropped the precious ornament-
If Seto hadn't put his hand on hers and clenched it tightly, preventing the ornament from falling. Together, him leading her, they put it atop the tree and let it sit there in it's perfection. Tea looked up at the top with tears shining in her eyes, and Seto looked at it all too. But his attention was soon broken off to the girl standing next to him….
Tea saw Seto to the door, "Thanks Kaiba. I really appreciate all that you've helped me with. And…you really didn't have to. I mean…I knew it!"
Seto looked at her uncertainly, standing outside the door, and in the driving snow, "Knew what?"
"You helped me out of the goodness of your heart! You really do have a heart! Screw all those people who think you don't have one!" Surprisingly, she suddenly leaned up and pecked him quickly on the check, before receding inside and shutting the door.
Seto stood, frozen, while the blizzard whipped around him. What had Tea Gardner just done?
She kissed you, stupid, a voice rang inside his head. It was his consciousness…which wasn't where it was supposed to be at the moment. You helped her out, and she showed you a light sort of affection.
Affection… Somehow, this word made Seto's heart flip over.
"Oh Tea, I'm so sorry I wasn't able to help you on Saturday! Do forgive me!" Yugi apologized the moment he saw Tea at school on Monday.
"Oh, don't worry about it Yugi. Sicknesses happen! I understand!" Tea smiled at him.
"Were you able to get anything major done?" Yugi inquired.
"Yes, actually. I did manage to find a source of help," Tea replied. "Don't take it the wrong way though, Yugi! I wasn't replacing you, I just-"
"No, no!" Yugi waved his hands, "I understand! Don't worry about it! I'm glad someone found it in their heart to help you," Yugi smiled.
Yes… Tea smiled fondly, found it in his heart….
"Uh, Tea? Earth to Tea?" Yugi inquired, seeing the dreamy look immediately spread over Tea's face.
"Huh? Oh, yeah!" Tea popped back into reality. "We'd best et going," Tea reminded her friend.
"Yep," Yugi nodded.
They walked inside the school. Yugi then voiced aloud his question, "So who did you get to help you, Tea?"
"Uh…" Tea stopped, "You know, I just remembered I have to get something out of my locker for first period. Be back later, Yugi!" and Tea ran off for her locker. Yugi put his hands on his hips. Something was very strange about this girl today….
Tea ran to her locker and opened it. Literally, she did need to get something out of her locker, but the statement had been more of an excuse to leave Yugi at the moment, rather than to obtain this item.
She didn't want to tell Yugi…or any o the others, for that matter…that she had recruited Seto Kaiba as her helper. She smiled faintly, biting her lip as she thought about him. Something inside of her had changed over the weekend. The more she thought about that day he had spent helping her with the tree, the more she liked the idea of him helping her out.
All day yesterday, while she was setting up decorations around the inside of the house, she had thought about him.
Was she developing…a crush on him? Tea blinked. No, it couldn't be. It was…impossible. So she had spent a reasonably good time with him on Saturday…it didn't mean anything love-wise…
Tea turned around and started walking down the hall. That's when she noticed him turn the corner up ahead. Her hand immediately flew to her hair to comb it back behind her ear and to flatten it out. Why had she done that? This was just Seto Kaiba…there was nothing special about him, she tried to reassure herself. Tea sighed, and continued her walking, trying to avoid his gaze altogether. What an interesting morning this had been….
Tea walked into class, and sat down in her usual seat behind Yugi. She smiled at him, when he smiled at her.
"So, Tea-" Yugi stopped when the teacher suddenly called for attention.
"Class, we need to begin work immediately," she replied, facing the board, "Now, please copy down the notes…."
Class proceeded on this way until its end. Tea then rushed off for her second period class; one she shared with Yugi, yet again, and her "friend" Miho. This was an AP (Physics) class…thus we see why neither Joey nor Tristan is in this class.
Tea entered the classroom, ahead of everyone else.
Well, almost everyone else.
Seto Kaiba was already seated in there, reading a book. Tea stopped in the doorway and blinked. She had forgotten he was in this class with her.
Seto looked up from his book, sensing someone watching him. He gave her an inquiring look, but she smiled meekly and went to her seat. She sat down quickly, and stared down at the books on her desk. Goodness, she honestly hoped that someone else would come into this room now…. Just so long as she didn't have to be alone here…with him. These past few days, the thoughts of him had started bringing new sensations to her. And she wasn't sure what to think of them.
Miho happened to enter the classroom a minute later. She eyed the two suspiciously, and then walked to her seat, which was two from the right of Tea's. Other kids came filing in soon enough. Another class started. Tea paid attention in class, however, today; her thoughts were…distracted, to say the least, many times throughout the period.
One can only guess where they were.
And the problem was…she didn't even know why she was thinking these sorts of thoughts!
After this period had finished, lunch was to begin for Tea and her group. Tea was at her locker, with her friends waiting around her. Finally, after putting her books away and grabbing her lunchbox, Tea turned around to the guys.
"So-" She stopped. They were all staring at something…someone down the hall. Tea turned her gaze that way, and low and behold, Seto Kaiba was snapping at someone for bumping into him and scattering his belongings.
The poor boy that had bumped into him was a lowly freshman, who looked completely lost at the moment…and terrified.
"Eh, Kaiba!" Joey suddenly shouted, "Leave Onyikawa alone, alrigh'? He didn't do nothin' ta you!" Joey began stomping over towards the scene.
"Joey, hold yourself!" Tristan jumped to his friend's side.
"I suppose we should help him, right?" Yugi turned to Tea.
"Huh?" Tea looked down at her friends, and stopped playing with her hair and skirt, "Oh, yes! Of course…help that freak."
Yugi looked confused, "And…which 'freak' are you talking about?"
Tea blinked, "Joey, of course!"
Yugi wasn't so sure. She had been acting strange around Kaiba today…he had noticed it in AP Physics.
And so had Miho.
In fact, she was just five lockers over from Tea's, and was watching the whole scene. When Yugi and Tea joined in, Miho noticed that Tea repetitively looked back and forth between her friends and Seto for no reason. She seemed very jumpy…and kept patting down her hair and skirt.
Miho's mouth dropped open. It couldn't be! Tea Gardner couldn't-
Be in love with Seto Kaiba!
No…. She would keep this to herself, until she was positive of the matters.
"What? You guys can't help me out this weekend either?" Tea cried out, banging her head on the table and digging her fingernails into her scalp.
"Sorry, Tea, but I told ya, I'm gonna be wi' Serenity an' my mom this month," Joey replied, biting his sandwich.
"And I told you I'm busy for the whole month," Tristan added, taking a bite of his sandwich.
"I'm so sorry, Tea, but Grandpa and I have to get everything ready for my Mom's arrival. She's coming in from Ireland this time! I can't wait until she comes back!" Yugi smiled and bounced in his seat.
Tea smiled. That's right-Yugi's mother was coming back. She had no right to take her friend away from his family. After all, he barely saw his mother throughout the years: only at Christmas, Easter, two weeks in the summer, emergencies and his birthday. Otherwise, she was busy raveling the world on business.
After Yugi's father had died in the awful house fire, Mrs. Muto had taken it upon herself to find a pay-worthy job that would help to finance Yugi's grandfather for allowing them to stay at his home, as she was sure the gaming business wouldn't finance all three of them, in these times of day. It turned out that she did get quite a well-paying job, but at the cost, she had to be around the world for most of the year. It was always a joyful time for Yugi when his mother came to visit.
"You guys are right: go have fun. I'm sure that…what I have to do won't be too difficult," Tea replied, sincerely. She wasn't trying to put them on a guilt trip.
"What do you have to do this weekend?" Tristan asked.
"Um…put up parts of the village in the company rooms: not difficult…put up the wreaths and electric candles in the windows: not too hard of a task…although ladders can be evil (she quietly remembered her fiasco on the roof, and going up to that height again didn't please her)…and I have to wrap the lights around the outside trees."
"You've got quite the workload cut out for you," Yugi replied, "When do you do our homework?"
"I've got a study hall, remember Yugi? Anyway, we're only winding down towards exams. And exams aren't that hard. Besides the teachers don't assign much to do during those times, and Christmas decorating won't take up all of my weekend," Tea chirped, nonchalantly.
Seto closed the mansion door on Saturday afternoon. Strong flurries were busying themselves, fluttering about outside, and a biting cold was stabbing at Seto's bones.
Remind myself again WHY I was coming out here? To take a walk, yes, but why take a walk in this weather? Oh yes…. Mokuba and Noa are being annoying as heck. As much as he loved the two, Seto couldn't stand their kid-ish ways at times. Right now, they were running about the house, all pumped up for the holidays, although the holidays were still a week away.
Seto made his way down the steps of the mansion, and began his walk. He was thinking quietly to himself, without a care of where his feet led him. After turning about the third corner, Seto looked up just to see where he was. It took a minute, but he recognized the street alright.
I'm on Gardner's street? What the blazes led me here! Seto sighed. It was best to turn around now…just incase Tea had something more to decorate her house with once again.
And speak of the devil, Seto said, as he suddenly spotted Tea looking up at one of her large front lawn trees. She had a large set of lights next to her. Seto sighed. And her friends were…where? What kinds of friends left a girl to do all of this work?
But why does it matter me? Why should I care? However…Gardner and large heights don't mix. I suppose she's going to accidentally come close to killing herself again. I assume I had best go and check out what she's up to…. Though I don't know why on Earth I'm wasting my time with her….
Nevertheless, Seto did continue walking down the sidewalk, just acting as a by-passer. To his surprise, Tea wrapped the lights around parts of her body, and grabbed some limbs, preparing to climb up the tree. Seto blinked. What the heck was she doing?
He sighed. She was having trouble getting up. He quietly walked across the snow covered grass and over to the tree. Tea was really having problems.
"How the heck does dad do this every year?" Tea grunted, trying to heave herself up. To her surprise, she suddenly started pulling herself up quite easily. But something felt out of place…..
As she pulled herself up onto the branch, she turned around just to see if anything…or anyone was there. She gasped. Seto looked back up at her, smirking.
"I thought you might need a lift…. It's obvious you didn't climb trees when you were younger."
Tea was too astounded that he was here to reply. What was he doing here? "Um…what are you doing here?"
"I was walking. Is it a crime?" Seto replied.
"N-no!" Tea responded, "I'm just…surprised…that you're…here…of all places."
"Yes, well…I'd best be-"
"Wait, Kaiba?" Tea stopped him. Seto stopped.
"What this time?"
"Maybe you could...stay…and...help me?"
"…Hanging the lights on the trees."
"Aren't your friends supposed to be helping you with all of this?"
"They're all busy."
"So, you always rely on me?"
"You're never doing anything when I ask for help. Besides, you came here yourself. It's not like I called you here." She had a point there.
Seto hesitated. Did he really want to help her? He could just go home right now…. And be bombarded by two kids…. Climbing trees sounded like a better idea…for whatever reason.
"Fine, whatever. Where do you want me?" Seto sighed. This would be a long afternoon…in the cold….
"Well…you could start on the other tree over there," Tea pointed across the lawn. "That's the only other one."
"And what happens to you when you fall?" Seto looked up at her.
"Hey, just because I fell off the roof, once doesn't mean I'll o falling off other things too!"
"Right…. I'll just stay in this tree. We'll get one of them done twice as fast."
"O-Okay…" Tea stuttered out of…well, who knows what? It wasn't fear...but it wasn't…love…was it?
"You go up one more branch, and I'll sit below you…in case…that you undoubtedly fall." Seto grabbed onto a couple strong limbs.
"Uh huh," Tea replied, half mockingly. Thank God for pants. A skirt is any girl's downfall.
Seto then climbed up onto the branch that Tea was on, and she in turn, climbed up to the next branch.
"Wouldn't it be easier just to use ladders?" Seto inquired.
"At some points. However, for these thick branches, we can sit on them." They worked in silence, having the wind bite at them, and the flurries hurry past their frozen limbs. About an hour or so later, the tree was finished. Around it's bare branches lay cords and cords of lights. It was a beautiful sight indeed.
"Just one tree to go," Tea commented, "However, I say we take a small break…just to warm up," she started walking towards her front door. She beckoned to Seto to follow her, and he did so.
Her house had changed since Seto had last seen it. Now, there were little porcelain houses, made into villages, in almost every space available. The tree they had set up together was still in it's place, but there was a rung over the stand, and there were many other little decorations about the place: small wreaths, candles, ornamental angels and the like.
Seto noticed that the mantle above the fireplace was completely barren. "Didn't you have enough of these houses to fill the mantle up as well?"
"Ah," Tea looked towards the fireplace, "I'm setting that up a few days before Christmas. It's a special sort of village…you know? It's one we usually put up with the rest of the family. However…the weather channel is predicting heavy snowfall around that time…and I don't know if everyone will make it. I may have to do it myself…." She faded off slightly, looking up at the barren shelf.
"Is that a problem?" Seto inquired.
"No, the village in itself isn't…. It's the wreath that I'm worried about. The wreath hangs above the village: on the fireplace, and it's one mighty large wreath. I'll have to bring in the ladder…and somehow lug that thing up there…. Then again, the snowfall may not happen, and Dad will do that, just as always…or one of my uncles, since Dad won't be back until Christmas Eve…."
"I see." They stood silently for a few moments, just warming themselves up, before having to go back outside.
Tea had unintentionally devoted this time to thinking about the man beside her….
I can't believe he's helping me with all of this. It's so…thoughtful! He didn't even have to help me, but he says that…he doesn't' want my "death" on his hands, or whatnot. I guess he does care, in some sort of way. Wait…. He…CARES! Oh my gosh…where is this leading to? Calm down, Tea, calm down. I'm sure it means nothing…. He cares about his brother, right? And…and…oh, I don't know! He just seems to care for the people he loves, and- OH MY GOSH! PEOPLE HE LOVES? QUIT FREAKING OUT, TEA! It…doesn't…mean…anything…. Why am I even thinking on these terms? It's not like I have any feelings for him!
They were back outside about ten minutes later. Tea grabbed a set of lights for the next tree, and proceeded over there. She climbed up, and Seto was up after her. He sat on the branch below the one where Tea was going to climb up to. Tea started reaching up for the above branches, but jerked sharply when she realized she was loosing her balance. She groped desperately for the branches, or tree at all, when something suddenly caught around her waist, pulling her back.
Tea was pulled back against another body – Seto's body. His arms were till around her waist. Tea breathed heavily for a minute. She slowly looked around and up to look at Seto. To her surprise, Seto was looking back down at her.
When Tea turned her eyes on him, Seto took in a sharp intake of cold air. Good Lord her eyes are beautiful…. They look right at place in this sparkling snow…. And…she feels in place…just here…with me…and- holy cow, where ARE these thoughts coming from! I swear I've lost my mind….
Tea looked straight back into his own eyes. She leaned upwards slightly more…. Why am I doing this… Tea's mind barely thought out. Seto found himself leaning down slightly, as if magnetized to her very being-
Seto froze. He shivered violently, while Tea pulled back and laughed. A large drift of snow from the above branches had just landed on Seto's crown. His eyes were closed, and he was shaking madly.
Tea laughed and snickered to herself. It was just too funny, seeing snow on Seto Kaiba's head! On one hand though…I wish it hadn't fallen…. It had been interrupting something that Tea…sort of hoped…was about to happen. On the other hand…it could be God's sign that we shouldn't be doing that….
Tea's father's words came back to her at that moment:
"Remember now," he had started out, jokingly, "No "foreign" boys here while I'm gone…. Your friends are okay…just as long as they…don't get too rowdy, you understand? But, I rust young Mr. Muto. He's such a sweet kid. You know, I'm always fine if you two hook up together over the holidays-"
"Dad! Yugi and I aren't going to "hook up!"" Tea yelled back at her father, "I'm not going to "hook-up" with anyone!" Heck, who are you to talk, Tea thought, when the family ahs been trying futilely to get you and Aunt Kamea "hooked-up" for years now….
Yes, maybe it's a sign, Tea thought out again. Dad did say…then again, it's not "rowdy" in his context…. Oh, never mind! Why am I even thinking about Kaiba like this anyway?
Tea sighed, seeing that Seto wasn't doing anything about the snow in his hair. "Here, let me get all that for you," Tea turned around, difficulty, and started brushing his hair off.
And why does this feel pleasant to me, Seto asked himself. Indeed, it brought a small feeling of joy to him to have Tea brushing away through his hair. And yet again…she was so close…her lips were so close…and just why he was thinking this again was beyond him!
However, he did notice that she was snickering, while brushing away the snow. "So…you think this is funny, do you?" Seto inquired, a plan beginning to form.
"Well, yes, if you must know. Why?" Tea responded.
"No reason…" Seto fibbed, "Just-" He scraped off some snow from a nearby branch and was ready to dump it on her. But, Tea realized what he was doing, and swung her legs around, and jumped off the branch onto the snowy ground below. Seto had to hold onto the branch to keep from falling. Tea laughed at him.
"Think you can get me that easily? I beg to differ-ah!" Tea backed out of the way, as Seto jumped down, near her. Tea turned around and scampered away, while Seto dug up some snow, ready to give her a serious snow-washing.
"Get back here, Gardner!"
"You can't order me around, Kaiba!" Tea answered back, running into her backyard. Seto stopped. He smirked and backtracked, running to the opposite side of the house. He hid behind the corner of the house and waited for Tea to show up.
Tea ran through the backyard. She looked back to see how far Seto was from her. She suddenly stopped. Where was he? Tea turned around. She looked both ways. There was no sign of him….
Seto sighed. What was taking her so long? Maybe she had realized that he wasn't following. Yes, that would be it. He slowly crept out of his spot, and rounded the corner of the house, going into the backyard. He spotted Tea in the middle of the yard, looking in the opposite direction. He smirked. If he aimed just right….
Tea froze. She gaped at nothing in particular and turned around slowly. Her eyes fell upon Seto, who was desperately trying hard to contain the laughter building up inside of him. Seto Kaiba did not laugh gleefully. He laughed manically…and during duels only. Thus, he was trying to conceal this hidden glee.
"You are so DEAD!" Tea suddenly sprinted towards his spot. Before he could react, Seto found himself being pushed onto the snowy ground, with Tea holding him down. "There! Now who's in trouble?" Tea smirked proudly, ignoring the cold snow running down her hair and neck.
"You are," Seto replied simply. Tea was confused by this statement – until Seto suddenly grabbed her own arms and flipped them over: him being on the top now.
"Why you little devil!" Tea cursed under her breath. "Get off me!"
"Why? So you can lob some more snow into my face?" Seto inquired, jokingly, "I think not."
"Well, I think so," Tea emphasized, as she tried to flip Seto over, to gain the upper hand. It didn't work. She struggled, but Seto's grip and position were hard as steel. Tea scowled, muttering out only a very audible (to Seto's ear, at least) words, "Stupid little…grip…bodybuilder person…."
"What's this?" Seto mocked surprise, "Bodybuilder? Since when did you become so…how should I say this…interested?"
Tea flushed so badly, that she was sure the snow around her face had liquefied back into water, "I'm n-not---interested…in you!" Tea added, "W-What sort of…ditz do you take me for!"
"I don't take you for a ditz," Seto stared directly into her eyes, "You're quite the opposite," his voice was lowering now…as was his head.
"Wow…really?" Tea breathed out. And that's when she "cracked." Suddenly, Tea's head shot up the rest of the distance between them, and caught his lips in her own. Seto, not entirely surprised at the reaction, only took a second to realize what was going on.
And now his body was on its own. His mind had had a complete shutdown.
His arms moved from her arms, and down to her waist. Tea, in turn, snaked her arms up Seto's appendages and around his neck. Their mouths also had their own ideas: kissing, opening, feeling, suckling, and whatever else was possible for them.
Who knew that this could ever happen between the two?
Heck, they didn't even know it was possible for them.
Think about what Tea's friends would say id they found out.
But Tea didn't think. She just acted.
That is…until a particularly sharp gust of wind blew it's way through the back yard, and abruptly stopped the two's commotion. They looked at one another in almost complete shock. Tea blinked and started to slink out from under Seto. They watched each other the whole time…pondering just what had happened.
"Not…interested…huh?" Seto heaved out, quietly.
"It…was all…just a…mistake," Tea tried to form the words carefully, "Caught up…in the moment, you know?"
But a little voice inside her told Tea: Sure: whatever.
Eventually, Tea and Seto had gone back to the tree in the front of the house, and worked quietly on it for the remainder of the time that he was there. Eventually, the tree was finished, and Tea turned on the lights. They stood in front of the house together, looking over their work…both weeks of it.
"Wow…it looks great!" Tea exclaimed, "Just as if Dad did it all!" Deep down inside, though, she told herself, I think it looks a tad better than Dad's work though… She looked over at Seto as she thought this.
It actually does look pretty good, Seto thought out, looking over the décor. "I'd best get going, then," Seto side-stepped her, and proceeded to walk down the side-walk.
"Kaiba, wait-" Tea started, and then stopped, as he did. She cursed herself, knowing what she was about to ask. "Um…you wouldn't mind…possibly…if you came back…next weekend…would you? I'm kind of…using a ladder again…" she bit her lip, and looked at her shoes. Great, now I'm practically BEGGING him to come back…just so I can see him. Wait, what! I want to see him all the time? What's coming over me! Do I have a fever? A cold? A crush-! Tea stopped. As soon as she had thought it out…it all made sense. She bit her lip even harder.
Grand: she had joined the club:
The Seto Kaiba Crush Club.
"Ladders again?" Seto quirked an eyebrow, "You sure that you can't do this yourself?" Something inside of him told him he shouldn't have just said that. That little "something" was that annoying little feelings that told him he wanted to come back again…just so he could be around her cheerful spirits. They really made the whole idea of holidays a lot better.
"Well…I don't know…maybe," Tea blushed a tad, hoping he didn't see.
"…Fine. I'll be back. But only for a little while. And only because –like I've said many times before- I know you'll kill yourself if I'm not around to help you," Seto snuffed, and then walked off.
You don't know how true that statement is…in another context, Tea relayed in her mind. I suppose this is what people mean by when they're in love…they're kill to be with that person. But…this is just a little crush…right? Nothing big…it can go away. After all…I had that senseless "Do I like Yugi or not 'crush'" a while ago…and I got rid of that. So…I'm sure this will all go away in due time.
Tea walked back inside, and shut the door, putting a hand on it as she did so. There was just one last thought on her mind.
Lord, he can kiss like fire.
Seto welcomed the noise he heard greeting him in the mansion. It would occupy his mind, rather than the thoughts he had been experiencing on the walk home. Those thought on a certain occurrence in the snow earlier….
"Seto! SETO, SETO, SETO!" Mokuba's voice drifted down the mansion.
"At the door, Mokie!" Seto called out, hanging up his coat.
"Where have you been?" Noa called out, running after Mokuba. The both of them came sliding down the banister of the grand staircase, and crashed into Seto's ready arms. They all landed on the floor, laughing.
"I was out…that's all."
"You've been 'out' a lot lately," Noa said, "Are you not telling us something?"
"Like what, pray tell?" Seto replied, with a small and extremely almost unnoticeable hint of anxiety in his voice.
"Oh, I dunno," Mokuba pretended to think, "Maybe…a girl perhaps."
Seto shook suddenly, then laughed, "Why ever would you two think that sort of story? That's preposterous!"
"Uh huh," Noa replied, bobbing his head up and down, "Sure…."
"The truth: I swear," Seto held up a hand, "However, there is one other matter I wished to discuss with you two."
"What, what, what!" the two boys shouted exuberantly.
"…Who's going to help me go and buy a Christmas tree?"
Mokuba and Noa were struck speechless at the notion.
"Careful now," Seto ushered, as he mainly helped to drive the tree thought he front doorway. Usually, he would have had all professionals working on this Christmas decorating…but this year, something had changed inside of him.
And he knew just who to thank for that change.
"Put it here, Seto!" Mokuba bounced up and down, pointed to a spot near the stairs. Seto set it down, and stumbled back, sighing. The second tree in a week….
"Do we have any ornaments?" Noa inquired, hesitantly, "besides the plain ones that always go up?"
"I do believe…" Seto walked over towards their basement door, with his brothers in toe. They walked down the stairs, and Seto led them around some poles and boxes, finally coming to a small section. He turned on the lights. "We do." Boatloads of boxes littered the floor: lights, ribbons, ornaments and the sort. Mokuba and Noa smiled gleefully. Neither had had a real Christmas like the one Seto was proposing for a good six years or so. Noa had "died" early on…and Mokuba had been adopted into Gozaburo's family, where Christmas had been forgotten due to the death of his wife and son.
"Where did you get all of these?" Mokuba sifted through some boxes, "Because…I remember these from mom and dad…not here."
"It took some searching…" Seto replied, "But I was able to find them. And it seems Gozaburo left quite a stash down here."
"Yeah," Noa replied, sifting through other boxes, "I remember these too!"
"Let's haul them up then," Seto smiled at the two, softly.
I wonder what's come over Seto, Mokuba thought, he's never cared for Christmas like this. Not since Mom and Dad died…. What made him change?
The three brothers were well into setting up the tree. Seto had taught them how to tie on the lights as Tea had taught him. In no time at all, they were putting up the ornaments.
Mokuba was picking through a box, when he spotted one in particular. He picked it up, looked over it, and tears started brimming in his eyes. He smiled though, through the tears. He brought the ornament over to Seto.
"Seto…look. We can…hang this up, right?" Mokuba handed over the ornament. Seto took it and looked at it. But before he had barely even seen it, he remembered it exactly. It was a picture of their family soon before the two's parents had died. There they were…Seto, as a twelve year old...Mokuba on their mother's lap as a six year old…and their father, with his hand on Seto's shoulder.
Seto mind whirred with the memories this brought back. He smiled down at Mokuba, "Of course. And you know what? It can go right here-" Seto stretched his hand up towards one of the tallest branches on the tree, "right near the top." Mokuba beamed.
Funny how much that relates to Tea's mother…Seto thought out. He had learned quite a lot about her over the past few weeks.
AND…he didn't even catch himself –even if it was in his mind- when he called her Tea.
"Hey!" Noa looked up at the ornament, "You know…I sort of remember us having one like that too…." By 'us' he had meant his own blood-related family. "It has to be in these boxes somewhere," he mumbled all of this to himself. Sure enough, it was in the box he was currently sifting through.
"Hey, Seto?" Noa came over to him, "I know…you hated…my father…but he was my father, after all…a-and he wasn't always so awful!" Noa tried to lay out his case, "So…maybe we could put this one up too?" Noa held out his own family ornament.
Seto ruffled his brother's hair, "Kid…I may not have respected Gozaburo to the fullest, but he is your father, and your family deserves every right to be on this tree, just like Mokuba and mine. After all, we all are family as well, aren't we?" Seto took the ornament from Noa's hands, and put it up right next to his and Mokuba's.
This was the last week of school for Domino High before the break. It was exam week: a week everybody dreaded. On the bright side, they got to get out of school early, after having three or less exams Wednesday through Friday. It was now Friday: their last day of exams.
The senior literature/English class was finishing up their exam. Tea, Yugi, Joey, Tristan and Seto were all in this class, surprisingly. It was the only class they all shared together.
The students had to stay in the room for at least an hour of the exam time, before they could leave to the commons area in the front hall of the school, or go home, if their drivers' licenses allowed. Seto, of course, was finished right on the dot of the hour. He turned in his exam and proceeded to the door.
The teacher, Mr. Asuka, separated his test papers into the proper places to turn in, and then bid Seto farewell, "Goodbye Mr. Kaiba. Merry Christmas."
Seto stopped at the door, with his hand on the handle. He opened the door, turned his head, and nodded, "Merry Christmas Mr. Asuka."
Pencils stopped filling in Scan-tron ® sheets. Some pencils fell to the floor. All heads turned towards the direction of the door. Even Mr. Asuka looked back at Seto surprised.
But Seto didn't notice. As soon as the words had escaped his mouth, he had exited the door, and closed it.
Everyone just looked at the door for a moment or so. Mr. Asuka shook his head, "I'm sorry for the disruption, class. You may continue with your exams."
Everyone slowly returned to their exams, eager to get back to them, and easily forgetting at Seto's changed attitude. But four certain people couldn't forget.
What's up wi' dat Kaiba, eh? What's tuggin' on his strings…. Somethin' ain't right, Joey thought out, while using the "pencil-guessing game" to fill in an answer to a question he didn't know.
Whoa…that was strange. Kaiba never says ANYTHING like that…especially to his teachers! I wonder what Yugi has for answer number sixty-seven…. Tristan thought out.
I wonder what's happening in Kaiba's life. He showed a remarkable change right then and there. Yami? Do you think something is up?
Finish your test, Yugi,was Yami's only reply.
Tea smiled to herself. She had a possible theory as to Seto's sudden change. She was sure that he hadn't experienced this kind of Christmas season in a LONG time…and she had brought it back to him.
Her cheeks glowed at the thought.
That next day, Tea and the gang went out Christmas shopping at Domino Square Mall. Tea was in most blissful spirits…and the other three members of the group couldn't put their finger on the reason.
"Tea, why you so happy, eh?" Joey inquired.
"It's Christmas, duh! Get into the spirits!" Tea smiled, and hopped along the mall floor.
"It can't be just the Christmas season," Tristan replied, "You're always over-ecstatic…hey! A big word!" he high-fived Joey, "Score! Anywho," he cleared his throat, "on the holidays, but never this excited."
"Maybe…I have more on my mind this year," Tea smiled at them from behind.
"Like wha'?" Joey asked.
"Hmm…someone special," Tea let slip. The boys stopped.
"Who?" Yugi accidentally blurted. It wasn't his business….
"Well…" Tea started, "I'm not going to tell you!" she laughed and raced off towards the nearest store.
"Ah, man!" Joey snapped his fingers across the air, "That bytes! I wanna know who dis mystery man o' Tea's is!"
"I'm with you, bud," Tristan crossed his arms.
Yugi just bit his lip. Who could Tea be acting so happily over?
"Are you guys waiting for next Christmas to move? Come on!" a sudden voice came from behind them.
The three turned around, "Miho?"
"Yeah!" Miho smiled, "What're y'all standing around for?"
"We're tryin' tag figure out who Tea likes, dat's all," Joey revealed. Tristan kicked him. Tea's matters were not for other ears to hear….
"Oh?" Miho didn't look the least bit surprised, "I wondered if that might be it…. I wonder…."
"Do you know something Miho?" Yugi came up and asked.
"Hmmm…I might. But really…I could be entirely wrong…and if it is right, Tea might not want anyone else to know. Really, I'm just basing this off observation."
"Come on, just tell us!" Tristan pleaded, "We won't freak, we promise!"
"Uh huh…" Miho said sarcastically, "If I know you and Joey well enough, which I believe I do…you two will faint on the spot."
"I am a man!" Joey pointed to his puffed out chest, "I do not faint!"
"Very well…" Miho looked around, unsurely, as if Tea could just pop out of the store she had disappeared into, any moment, "I do believe….I think…-"
"Get on with it!" Tristan urged.
"I think Tea is in love with-" Miho decided to drag it out as long as possible before Tristan strangled her…just to poke fun at the males.
"Yes?" Yugi pleaded, "Who?"
Joey and Tristan looked at each –their eyes wide, and mouths hanging agape- before they slumped to the floor.
Yugi just blinked in utter surprise.
The next weekend, Seto did leave, as promised, to go and help Tea this last (so he thought) time. Mokuba and Noa watched him from upstairs, as he walked off.
"Where do you think he keeps going?" Noa asked.
"Dunno," Mokuba replied, "Should we follow him?"
"Could we keep up?"
"Then I say we go for it!" Noa stood up and ran to the door. Mokuba followed. As soon as the two had opened the door from their study, one of their butlers stood in the way.
"Masters Kaiba, Master Seto wishes that you stay inside and resort to finishing up your homework that you disowned yesterday," he said, and then walked away.
"WHAT!" Mokuba gaped, open mouthed. "Homework! I totally forgot! Who invented that crap anyway?" Mokuba pouted.
"I agree with you there. but the thing bothering me is…it's like Seto knew we were going to follow him."
"You don't think he has a sixth sense about these things, do you?" Mokuba inquired.
"No…I just know you two too well," Seto suddenly walked out from behind the nearest corner.
"AH!" the two jumped and grabbed each other.
"Seto! But you…you went-" Mokuba tried pointing in many directions at once, to convey his point.
"That was the cook going home sick. I was hoping you two would think that to be me. I had a suspicion that you would try to follow. However, now I must be on my way. You two: go do your homework," Seto said, walking down the stairs.
"But Seto!" Noa retorted, "just tell us where you are going!"
"Oh yeah: we believe you!" Noa replied, sarcastically.
"Good: get to work!" Seto replied, shutting the front door. The two pouted, and were driven to their rooms by the butler, who had strict orders to keep both eyes on their doors the entire time. The two wouldn't even dare to climb out of their windows: not unless they wanted to climb out from two stories up and into pools of frozen water.
Tea grunted as she lifted the ladder again. She hoisted it up slightly, and waddled out of the garage with it. To her surprise, the load lightened when she reached the outside. She looked up from her feet and her heart did a back flip. Seto was holding up one end of the ladder for her.
"It looked like you needed some help there…" Seto scoffed.
"Yes, thank you," Tea smiled slightly mockingly.
"These front windows here. Pick any one," Tea replied.
"Okay…" Seto helped her drag the ladder to one section of windows. Tea took out the box of wreaths, and opened it.
"Who's going up and who's staying down?" Tea inquired.
"I'll go up," Seto offered, "Wouldn't want you killing yourself, would we?"
"You are never going to let me live that down, are you?" Tea inquired.
"Probably not," Seto replied, grabbing a wreath.
"There should be a screw up there in the window frame that you can hook the ribbon onto.
So, Seto went up the ladder, and Tea scooted behind the bushes, to get the first story windows decorated.
This time, conversation was started-
"So tell me Gardner, how exactly are you taking care of yourself while your father is gone? I doubt you yourself have enough money to support you for a month."
"Dad left me about one thousand dollars to use for necessary items. But…I've been rationing a bit…and I want to buy one extra special and new Christmas decoration for outside the house this year...so that he'll see it right when he comes home."
"And what would that be?"
"I don't know: I have to go browsing later this or next week. …Hey Kaiba?"
"What made you actually say "Merry Christmas" to Mr. Asuka on Friday? It's not like you…" Tea tried to worm out the truth.
Seto flushed up on the ladder. He had hoped she wouldn't ask him about that. "I just…was in the spirit, that's all. No big deal… Everyone gets over-jolly this time of year. I have a right to at least say "Merry Christmas" to someone, don't I?"
"Yes, of course. I just thought…never mind," Tea replied.
What did she think, Seto wondered.
Tea offered for Seto to come inside later, for a minute, just to rest and warm up before he went back home. He took her up on her offer, and went into her family room. He stood around, just getting his body temperature back to normal.
He looked around the room, and once again spotted the wreath lying on the floor. "Are you going to need help hanging that up, as well?" he sighed, almost melodramatically.
Tea looked over to where he was gesturing, "Oh! The wreath? Well…I might…but I uh…think I can do it myself. I'm sure you positively won't want to…come on the twenty-third…just to hang up a wreath. No…I'll do it myself…." As much as it was paining her to say that, she couldn't intrude on Seto's life like this anymore. Not if she was really starting to care and love him….
Seto stared at the large wreath that was about three-fourths as tall as he was, and looked back at Tea, "No…I'll come."
"What?" Tea shook her head, "No…no, you don't have to! …If you don't want to…that is."
"But I do want to."
Tea looked up at him and blinked. "W-Why?" she was almost afraid to ask.
Seto bit his lip and sighed, "Look…you've done something for me this season that no one else could do for six years straight…not even my brothers. You brought the meaning…and the joy of Christmas back into my life-" Seto wasn't finished yet, but he had to take a breather. He was having a hard time saying all of this, as he usually didn't do any of the sort, "-I mean…I really and truly surprised my brothers last weekend when I told them that we ourselves were going to at least decorate and get a tree this year. They had a blast, and I was regretting not having done this in past years. And…that's really the reason why I actually did give a "Merry Christmas" to Mr. Asuka. I've changed…I hope, for the better…and it's all thanks to you."
They stood there, after that long speech, just looking at one another: blue to blue.
Tea was shaken. She couldn't believe it. She –a simple girl, who had just had some troubles in the beginning- had gone and broken the ice around Seto's long frozen heart. She had done that. Not Mokuba…not Noa…and Yugi or Yami…but her.
"W-Wow…" Tea looked away and her cheeks colored a tad, "I'm g-glad I could…help." He really was such a softie at heart. One just had to chip away at the ice until they came to the core of who he was.
And Tea loved that core. She really did. These whole past five minutes had made her small crush really jump up on the love scale.
There were two miracles in this situation:
Tea had opened up Seto Kaiba back to the world;
And Tea had also fallen in love with him.
She couldn't help but to think: If only he could fall in love with me….
Seto then decided to end his speech with the conclusion, "So, I do want to help: as much as I can, to repay you for this. …I'll be back on the twenty-third…like you said, right?"
Tea just nodded. She couldn't speak.
Seto took this as his cue, and began walking back towards the door. He opened it, and much like in the classroom, he stopped, before stepping outside, "Merry Christmas…Tea."
He was gone not a second after. Tea looked up and stared at the door, blushing even more.
Had he just called her…
"Joey, we've talked about this for a whole week! Tea IS NOT in love with Kaiba!" Yugi spoke through the phone, while knocking his head against his desk.
"Yugi, darling? Are you all right in there? What are you doing?"
"Nothing Mom!" Yugi called back. He turned back to the phone, "Just listen Joey-"
"No, Yug! We've gotta ask 'er! I've jus' gotta know!"
"Well, there's nothing you an do about it, even if you called her! Your by your mom's, remember?"
"I know dat! I'll get Tristan ta knock some sense into 'er. He'll go ova' ta 'er house!"
"Tristan is busy, remember?"
"Oh…yeah. Den how 'bout you?"
"Joey, I'm not about to take away from spending my time with Mom just to go tell Tea to stop loving Kaiba…if she even does! Joey, there's no way possible that she could! It's like…written law in her book! She dislikes him and his ways as much as we do!"
"I beg ta differ!" Joey retorted, "She's always been payin' special attention ta him! Like da time when she was da only one…beside you, who volunteered to go an' find Kaiba at his duelin' tower. AND…she gave him dat long speech in Duelist Kingdom. AND-"
"Joey, enough! All that has nothing to do with this matter! It doesn't mean that she likes him any better! It just means that she has a heart to help him…because really, Joey, he seriously needs it," Yugi sighed.
"Yugi? Are you ready yet? We were going to leave ten minutes ago!"
"Okay Mom! Look Joey, I've got to go. Just…forget about Tea and Kaiba, and have a Merry Christmas. Oh, and tell Serenity I said 'Hi!'"
"Hi, Yugi!" Serenity's voice piped up on the line.
"SERENITY!" Joey and Yugi both shouted at once,
"Were ya listenin' in on my phone conversation?" Joey growled.
"Or maybe that Te likes Kaiba…. Tell me everything, Joey!"
"Serenity!" Joey called back.
"Okay, later guys. Merry Christmas!" Yugi ended, pulling the phone away from his ear.
He heard a "Merry Christmas" come back from Serenity before he hung up. Yugi sighed. Joey could be really bothersome at times….
It was a very windy and blizzard-ish day on the twenty-third of December. Seto decided to take his own car to Tea's house this time. He wasn't about to walk in this sort of weather. He didn't want to take a limo…just so he wouldn't attract any attention.
He was going to the garage door, just as Mokuba and Noa popped up out of nowhere.
"Seto! Where are you going now?"
"Work," the almost-lie came out of his mouth smoothly. Indeed, he was going to a place to work, but not to the actual Kaiba Corp.
"Sure," Noa replied.
"Truthfully," Seto returned. "I'll be back soon. And don't go out in this weather."
He left then.
Mokuba looked over at Noa.
Noa sighed, "We are NOT going to hide in the trunk again. Remember what happened last time we did that?"
"Oh, yeah," Mokuba remembered, "We almost suffocated to death and died of heat stroke at the same time. This time…we would suffocate and freeze."
"Yes, and I really don't want to live through a third near-death experience. Two is plenty for me."
Tea opened the door and let Seto in. They proceeded to the living room, where Seto immediately set to work. He took off his coat and laid it on the couch. He walked over to the wreath and stopped.
"We need a ladder, don't we?"
"Oh, yes!" Tea smiled sheepishly. "Unfortunately, we have to go to the garage and drag it in through the front door."
"I'll go. You keep the door open."
"Go through the laundry room door, and you'll be in the garage. Just open the garage door to get out," Tea led him to the laundry room. Seto had put his coat back on, and then went into the cold storage room.
Tea stood by the front door waiting for a knock. When she heard it, she immediately opened the door, as a ladder, flurries of blasting snow, and Seto came through. He looked like a popsicle.
Tea closed the door and went over to him, as he had set down the ladder.
"Goodness, it must be freezing out there!"
"No, of course not," Seto replied, "My watch only said it was two below freezing."
"I'm sorry! I should have gone out there, not you!" Tea clenched her hands together.
"No, no," Seto held up a hand, It's done with: forget it. Let's just get that thing up." They dragged the freezing ladder over to the fireplace, and set it against it. Seto grabbed the wreath out of it's bag, and started climbing the cold ladder with it.
He shivered as his hands came into contact with the chilly rungs.
"There should be a screw up there for you to hook the rung of the wreath on. …The bow is at the top."
"Alright," Seto replied, a bit harshly.
It's just the cold getting to him, Tea thought, hopefully.
Seto found the screw and rung and set it up. They made sure that it stayed there, as to not have it fall down atop the villages and break them all, before Seto climbed down.
They took the ladder away, and put it by the front door, not ready to go back outside yet.
"Maybe you should stay here for a while," Tea offered, "At least to warm up…or to wait for the storm to calm."
"I doubt that blizzard is going to settle."
"Let's see then," Tea replied, walking over to the television. She switched it onto the weather channel. The two sat down on the couch to watch.
"And it seems that a mighty blizzard is beginning to rip through Japan. It's already hit Tokyo, and left a good five feet of snow! It's heading towards Domino, and the worst of the storm should be coming within the hour. This storm could very well last until Christmas Eve afternoon or evening. Parts of the city are already out of power, and some water is freezing in the pipes. Bundle up, stock up on provisions, and stay tuned! We'll have more with the blizzard-ous update as soon as possible. I'm Hikotari Veathersman, reporting to you live from-" Tea muted the television.
"Okay...so maybe you're right. Maybe you should just get home now, before you're caught here.
But what will she do here…alone, Seto wondered. "What about you? Will you be okay, alone here?"
"Of course! Now, you go get back to your brothers. I'm sure their really getting worried now…."
"…Fine," Seto nodded, and stood up. They proceeded to the door, which had the ladder blocking their way.
"I'll get the ladder later. You just go," Tea opened the door for him. The door suddenly flew open, knocking roughly against Tea, by the force of the wind.
Seto immediately grabbed the door, trying to shut it, before it hurt Tea anymore. He pushed on it, and Tea tried as well as she could. Eventually, after struggling for moments with it, the door shut. They leaned against the door, sighing, and looking around the hallway. Snow had come in almost everywhere.
"Something tells me I'm not going home," Seto stated.
"We could always try the garage door…. It's mechanical, so it could close on its own…."
"Still, I was seeing large snowdrifts out there. It'd be mighty difficult to get from here to my car. And still…the car wouldn't go anywhere in this."
"You have a point," Tea replied. "I guess…you're staying here then. I know this is probably the last place on Earth you would want to stay, but it can't be helped."
Who said it was the LAST place, Seto thought. He didn't say anything aloud.
Suddenly, a phone rang in the house. Tea ran up to go answer it. She came back a few minutes later, looking slightly depressed and worried.
"That was my Aunt Rica. She said that her family and the rest of them probably weren't going to make it into Domino tonight. They might not make it in until tomorrow, quite possibly not until very early Christmas morning. And she had called my dad. His plans have changed too. He for sure won't be able to come home until very, very early Christmas morning."
"…I'm sorry to hear that," Seto nodded. "Just…hope and pray, I guess."
Tea looked up at him and smiled, coming closer to him. "I knew it. You really are a softie at heart," she tapped his nose once with her index finger. Then, she turned around and headed towards the family room. "Since you've got no place to go…you could help me with these villages here."
Seto stood there for a second, reflecting on what had just happened to him, and then followed her to the room.
As they set up the Christmas village, Seto was doing some thinking….
…Some thinking on Tea Gardner.
He looked at her occasionally…okay, A LOT…as they worked. She really is a beautiful creature. I've always known she had something about her…but I've never thought it was all of this. Beauty…charm…talent…care…love, it's all in her. I guess I envy her for that –love and care and all. She could have just kicked me out into the snow for all of the insults and problems I've caused for her and her friends…and instead, she invites me into her home like I'm just…one of her other friends or something. I like her for that….
But are you sure you just…LIKE her?
How is it that second voices always appear when you don't want them to? I have never liked you…. You're the one that got me into the whole Gozaburo Kaiba mess.
Sorry about that…anyway, it made to smarter and richer right? Well…that's not the point. Back to the facts: are you SURE you don't like her any MORE?
What's your point?
LOVE you idiot!
WHAT! I-I've never heard of such a thing. Such a word…or thought…has never crossed my mind.
Suuuuuuuuure. I know the things that cross your mind, Seto Kaiba. And lately…Tea Gardner has been one of them. Well…the ONLY one of them….
Likely story! I've had plenty of other things cross my mind!
My point exactly. Just reflect on what I've said. You'll thank me one day….
That's what you said at the time Gozaburo was to adopt me. I haven't thanked you yet.
Just shut up and go away. …So this is why people don't like to talk to themselves. It is rather frustrating…and weird.
"There! We're done!" Tea suddenly exclaimed, standing back from the mantle. Seto looked up and saw that, during his conversation with himself, he had unconsciously helped to finish all of it.
"It looks great," Seto commented.
"It always does," Tea replied, looking from the mantle, to Seto and back again. "Well…it's about five-thirty. I suppose we should have some dinner now…just in case the power goes out and we have no appliance use…except for a gas stove."
Thus, they had a simple dinner that Tea cooked. Afterwards, Tea slumped herself on the couch, and closed her eyes. Today had been a long day….
Footsteps coming from the kitchen caused her to open her eyes. Seto was looking at her in an amused fashion.
"I never would have thought you to be one of those people to recline in such a way."
"Why? Everyone…er, almost everyone, does that," Tea directed the comment towards him.
"It just seems different, that's all. You're always up and on the go: you never seem to rest."
"Well…that's where you would be wrong," Tea replied, laying her head back. Seto sat on the adjacent couch. "See why it's wrong to just make your own opinions about someone? You could be entirely wrong…. Take Joey for example-"
"If I have to be here all night, I don't want to talk about Wheeler at all."
"Fine. I'll respect what you want," Tea sighed, "I really think you should just give him a chance."
Tea sat up, "Why? Because he's a human being, and every human being deserves a chance. Heck…you gave me a chance, didn't you?"
Seto stopped. She had caught him there. "Well…."
"Well, yes. And you know it too." Suddenly, the lights flickered. They abruptly went off, and the whole room plunged into darkness.
Tea sat up fully, and swung her legs off the coach, grabbing onto its lining. "Okay…umm…I'll go try to grope for a flashlight in the kitchen."
"You should have thought of that sooner," came Seto's reply.
"Oh quiet! I wasn't thinking."
"That much was obvious."
"I can still slap you, you know! Just because it's dark doesn't mean I can't find you!"
"I'd like to see you try."
"Alright then!" Tea suddenly stood up. But then, she halted. For all she knew, Seto could be moving about the room. And movement was already limited by her, making her have to hold onto anything she could grab hold of.
She took some slow and careful baby steps, trying not to trip over anything. Should she really go to pummel Seto, or go to the kitchen to get the flashlight.
If I got o the kitchen first, I can find Kaiba with the light! Good…I'll work with that plan.
Tea felt around to make her turn towards the kitchen. She walked on, and got to her destination. After finding the handle to the right cabinet, she felt around inside for the flashlight. After accumulating it, she switched it on, and the beam of light fell into the cabinet once more. Her face lit up when she saw the lighter.
Tea returned to the family room by way of the flashlight. She walked past Seto, who was still sitting on the couch, expressionless, and walked over to the fireplace.
"What are you doing?" he inquired.
"Making a fire, what else? The heat is obviously off, and we can't put full faith in a flashlight that might burn out at any given moment. We don't even know when this storm is going to end. A fire provides both heat and light!"
"Good conclusion, Einstein," Seto remarked, coolly.
Tea frowned, "Looks like the cold is getting to you already."
Tea saw that the logs were already in the fireplace, and all she needed to do was light them. She used the lighter, and low and behold, a fire erupted in the indent. Tea closed the iron curtain and went to sit back down on the couch that Seto was on, setting the turned off flashlight aside.
Tea sighed, "So…what do we do now?"
Seto looked at his watch, "It's about eight-thirty now."
"Well…options are going to sleep…um…and probably going to sleep. Tomorrow, the cooking begins-"
"With what? The appliances don't work as of now. Who says they will work tomorrow?"
"Just hope and pray-" Tea was stopped by a sudden ringing. Seto looked down, and picked up his cell phone.
"Seto Kaiba speaking."
"Seto…where are you? We're getting worried!"
"Duh, who else?"
"Don't talk to me like that."
"I'm…stuck at work. The snow has pilled up too much for me to drive anywhere. I probably won't be able to get home until tomorrow at latest, I hope."
"Okay…should Noa and I be worried at all? Or is everything alright where you are? The power went out…but the back-up generator is on here. It's on a Kaiba Corp., right?"
"Of course, Mokuba," Seto fibbed, "Of course. Well, goodnight kiddo, I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"
"Okay…be careful, Seto."
"I will. Goodnight."
"'Night." Seto hung up. He put his phone away and turned to face Tea. She was smiling at him.
"What?" he inquired, confused.
"Nothing…. It's just that you're so…sweet around your brothers. It's really admirable…and cute," she giggled.
Seto rolled his eyes. That was the last thing he needed to hear right now. "Well then, I must not look completely admirable in other people's eyes…since I usually hide that side of me from them."
"Oh, that's not true!" Tea leaned more towards his side, "There are lots of qualities to you that people admire…or, sometimes in my case, are jealous of…."
Seto looked over at Tea, surprised, "Jealous?"
"Well yeah," Tea shrugged, "You're what? A genius or something? I've always wanted to be that smart…. Heck, the more logic smart one is, the less "common" smart they are…which can be a good thing when you are around Joey and Tristan. Then, it doesn't necessarily become "common" smarts…it could become…oh…smarts no one likes to think about, if you get my drift."
"Do worry: I've got it," Seto looked blankly ahead.
Sensing she should continue, Tea did, "But…not only are you smart…but…you do have that soft side to you…and you can hide your emotions, which can sometimes be really handy…and you've got great looks, and-" Tea stopped.
Her face drained of color. Did I just announce that out loud!
Seto seemed, unfortunately, to have noticed, "I what?"
"Uhh….I didn't mean…umm…" Tea looked away from him, color returning to her cheeks.
She suddenly felt his fingers cupping her chin, as he turned her head to look back at her. She averted her eyes, so that she wouldn't have to look into his own deep pools of blue…but it didn't work.
His eyes were like magnets: pulling her own eyes back to look into them. Once their eyes were pretty much locked, Seto stated, "You know…you're really quite beautiful when you're flustered."
He leaned in and kissed her, as the fire raged on in its savage beauty.
Tea woke up to a dim sunlight coming in through the windows. The fire had since died out a while ago. She opened her eyes and found herself lying on Seto's chest. She gasped slightly, and sat up immediately, trying to remember what she was doing here…with Seto Kaiba.
A replay of the snow scene rolled through her head.
Oh…that's right. We did the exact same thing in here as we did in the snow…only it was warmer…and inside…and he started it…and we fell asleep…while…making out…good Lord almighty, will Christmas wonders never cease?
She smiled nonetheless, upon seeing' Seto's sleeping form.
He really is adorable when he's asleep. It's the only time he looks...vulnerable…like the little child in him that was taken from his life at such a young age….
She stroked a tidbit of his hair from his eyes, and then stood up, taking the flashlight to the kitchen to return it…and also to work in the kitchen. The power was back on now, but the snowplows wouldn't be out on her street for a while. If Seto woke up, he could help her…hopefully. She had some work ahead of her.
She passed a side table near the kitchen entrance, and stopped. There was a small bag on it. She smiled. She had almost forgotten. Tea took out the mistletoe out of the bag, and wondered where to put it this year.
Every year, Tea had specially put up the mistletoe somewhere where she thought she could get her dad and her Aunt Emberlynn (from her mom's side of the family, of course) under it. It was everyone's secret desire to see the two of them together. Emberlynn had long since loved her father: they all knew that…except for Tea's dad of course. And they all thought that Mr. Gardner needed a new companion…. All in all, they did make a perfect match.
Tea didn't specifically mind in her father and aunt got together. After all, it wouldn't be some stranger that got together with her father. She would still be related to this woman, either way. Tea missed her mom, yes of course! However…she wanted to see her father happy again, and with some woman his age.
It was a sweet idea, and the whole two families were in on it: except for the testing couple. But…up to this year, it hadn't yet worked. At least one of them was always under it at one point in time...but either the other wouldn't come near quick enough, or they would spot the mistletoe.
Tea smiled: she had the perfect place in mind.
Seto stirred slightly, and smelled the sweet aroma of…a roast…coming in through the air. He opened his eyes blearily. He sat up and looked around. Where was he again? Oh yes…Gardner's house.
He stood up and walked towards the kitchen. Tea was busy at work, preparing many things at once.
"What are you doing?" Seto asked, bewildered.
"Tomorrow is Christmas, silly, I've got stuff to prepare baking for tomorrow night's dinner! And lunch…and breakfast…and just…everything! I've got to get it all done!"
"You uh…" Seto looked around the kitchen, "look like you could use at least some help."
Tea looked up at him and smiled, "I would love help."
And they got to work.
Tea exited the kitchen a couple hours later, sighing overdramatically. She had put forth all of her cooking effort…and it still wasn't all finished. A lot had to be done on Christmas Day itself. Also…she and Seto had just finished shoveling the front yard from it's snowfall. Seto was going to leave soon…he just wanted to make sure there were no other loose ends that she couldn't tie up herself.
Tea rested on the small section of wall that just served as a third side to the whole wall dividing the front hall and the family room; one that her father always liked to lean against, saying that it was right at the perfect location to easily recline to – and she closed her eyes and sighed. What work…it may not look like it, but cooking sure was a difficult thing to do at times.
Seto came out of the room, dusting bits of flour off his shirt.
"It's no wonder I hire cooks to do this sort of crap…" Seto muttered under his breath.
"What was that?" Tea opened one eye, smiling slightly, "Cooking is…crap, did you say?"
Seto shrugged, "I might have said something like that…but you'll never know…will you?"
"Who knows?" Tea laughed.
Seto walked over and stood next to her, but with his back to Tea, looking out over the many decorations that he had helped her with. "I never thought this would happen to me again."
"What?" Tea looked up at him.
Seto turned around, "Living out a real Christmas. I though those days were gone now…."
Tea looked down to the side, "Nothing and no one is ever gone…unless you choose for it to be that way. Maybe…physically something…or someone can be gone…but never spiritually."
Seto got the picture. Tea was also referring to her mother…. He walked closer to her and caressed her cheek with his thumb. She looked up quite suddenly. "I'm sure your mother would be-…is very proud of you for going through all of this, to keep up tradition."
Tea blushed a bit, and looked up into his eyes. Yet something caught her attention in he corner of her own eye. They suddenly widened when she saw what it was, and turned to reface them back on Seto. To her surprise…he was laughing softly.
"So you finally noticed it too."
Tea looked away, not being able to take his gaze. Remind myself again WHY I put up Dad and Aunt Emberlynn's mistletoe HERE!
"It's…it's really meant for my dad and Aunt Emberlynn…family tradition, you know? Trying to get them together…" Tea faded off.
"Yes, I understand," Seto laughed, "Nevertheless-"
"Rules still apply," Tea finished for him, turning her head back towards him just in time to be caught up in a new kiss.
After slowly pulling away, Tea starting whispering out what she had just made herself fully believe, "Kaiba…Seto? I have to tell you…. For the past couple of weeks…maybe even ever since you first helped me out this season…I've been falling in love with you. And…I have fallen in love with you."
Seto looked back at her softly, caressing her cheek again, "I don't know if you want to love me."
"I understand completely if…you don't return the feeling…but I had to tell you…" Tea replied, the hurt resonating from her voice.
"That's not it at all…" Seto replied, "Because…truth is…I do love you…for longer than you may know. It wasn't just this Christmas season that I began having that felling: it was long before. But I could never bring myself to admit it…even to my own mind. It took all of this for the words to come out. And that was probably half of the reason I always came here to help you: it wasn't all as I had proclaimed: not wanting your death on my hands. Still…I'm not sure if you really want to love me. After all…I can't say I've treated you and your friends in the best ways…."
"Oh, but I've seen what you're really like!" Tea protested, "That's why I love you! Because…I know you aren't who you are pretending…or showing yourself to be. Inside…you are one of the most caring people I know."
"…Do you really mean that?"
"Of course. Do I ever lie?"
"Not that I know of. You tend to speak anything and everything on your mind," Seto replied, laughing quietly.
"Exactly. See…we know a lot about each other already," Tea smiled.
"Then maybe…we should get to know each other a little more," Seto smirked, before placing his lips on hers again.
A sudden ringing of the doorbell broke their moment. Tea walked reluctantly out of Seto's arms, and proceeded to the doorway.
Tea opened the door, and her eyes widened, "Aunt Rica! Uncle Mike! You guys made it! The plows came through already?" Tea peered out of the doorway, "Wow…time flies in the kitchen. What time is it?"
"Why…it's seven o' clock, dear," her aunt laughed, "Have you not checked the time recently?"
"No, I haven't! Say…where are Tai and Azriel?"
Mike sighed, "They're still bickering in the car. I swear Tea…those cousins of yours…." Tea laughed.
"Come on in! I'm sorry I don't have much of a dinner…I was pretty much making tomorrow's dinner. You guys remember where your regular room is upstairs, right?"
"Of course, dear," Rica answered, walking down the hall.
Mike added, "Great job with the lights outside, Tea! It looks fantastic! Did you do it all by yourself?"
Tea shook her head, "Thank you, but no. I had quite a bit of help from someone," Tea looked over in the direction of the family room."
Rica heard this, just as she entered the room, and saw Seto picking up his coat, and pulling it on. "Oh? Might this be the young man?"
Tea came over, "Yep," she smiled sweetly at him. Seto gave a small smile back.
"I'd best be getting back home then. Mokuba and Noa are probably really worried by now," Seto replied.
"I'll see you to the door," Tea nodded, walking in time with him. Curious, Rica and Mike peered out slightly from the family room, just to see what their niece was up to.
"Bye Seto," Tea took his hand briefly.
"Merry Christmas Tea," Seto replied, bending down and leaving a small kiss on the corner of her mouth. Tea smiled and opened the door for him, as he stepped out. She waved a bit and kept the door open for her cousins who were just now coming up the shoveled walk.
"Hi Tea!" little Tai bounced in, grabbing Tea around the waist, "Merrwie Cwismas!" he bubbled out.
"Merry Christmas Tea," Azriel, Tea's year younger cousin nodded her head, hugging her cousin as well.
Tai ran to his mother, who scooped him up, and Azriel whispered to Tea, "Say…who was that hunk walking out of your house, girl?"
Tea smiled, "My new boyfriend." At least…I think it's that way… Tea sided in her mind. Aw, what the heck: sure he is!
"Really! Gosh, your so lucky!"
"What's his name?"
Tea smirked. She was sure that her cousin would fall over upon hearing that famous man's name, "Seto Kaiba, of course."
Azriel's eyes popped out, "WHAT! SETO KAIBA!"
"Was that whom that was?" Uncle Mike asked, "interesting…."
By the time Tea had gone to bed and left the front door open for any other visitors that would come later in the night, most of her family had already acquired here. The Meitoka's (Mike, Rica, Tai and Azriel – Dad's side of the family) were first; then the Konijawa's (single couple – Mom's side); the Rieona's (an aunt, uncle and four kids, two of whom were around Tea's age – Mom's side); and the Fillanges' (an aunt and uncle with a new baby – Dad's side). Two more families were coming from her dad's side and one more needed to come from her mother's side. Then that just left her father, mother's parents (whom he was picking up) and Aunt Emberlynn (who lived with her parents, thus getting picked up by Mr. Gardner).
Tea groaned slightly when she was nudged a little bit in her sleep.
"Tai…go back to bed…Santa Claus isn't in my room…" Tea mumbled without opening her eyes.
"Is that what Tai asks you every year?"
Tea's eyes shot open. Could it be? Was it? She sat up in bed immediately, and wrapped her arms around the figure, "Daddy!"
"Hey there, sweet pea," her father hugged her back, "I missed you so much."
"I missed you too, daddy!" Tea hugged him as if he were the only thing keep her on the ground.
"You did a great job with the house…and I loved your new addition," he pulled her back and smiled.
"Really?" Tea smiled exuberantly, "So you saw I did it especially for you!"
"That you did," her father laughed. Indeed, a few day ago, Tea had bought a string of lights, and hung them over all sorts of nails she drilled into the bricks to read: Merry Christmas Dad which he would see when he came home. She only had it turned on last night, so that he would see it that one time…and so that the neighbors wouldn't think she belonged in the insane asylum.
Tea looked at the clock, "What? Three-thirty? Are we starting a new tradition this year or something? Christmas at mid-morning?" Tea laughed.
"Ha! No, no, I just wanted to say 'hi' to my little angel…though your aunt tells me that your not so little anymore."
"What?" Tea cocked her head.
"Is it true? You have a boyfriend now?"
"Oh…yeah…just last night…" Tea colored a little.
"My little daughter's all grown up," Mr. Gardner pretended to wipe a tear away. "Now…your aunt wouldn't give me details on names: she only said he was tall with brunette hair. That would happen to be that friend of your Tristan, would it?"
"Oh, Dad, no! Seto's much better looking than he is, I must say!" Tea protested.
"A Seto, is it?" he pretended to think, "And what might my daughter's future last name be?"
"Oh, Dad, quit…trying to predict the future!" Tea joked. Really she knew that there were very low chances that high school sweethearts ever got married…but she didn't want to think like that. She wanted to be with Seto Kaiba for life. "But uh…this might surprise you that my Seto is…Seto Kaiba."
"No way! You're pulling my leg, aren't you?" her dad rebuked.
"Honestly! I'm swearing that it's the truth! I swear by…how much I missed you!"
"Then I would hope you are telling the truth," Mr. Gardner laughed.
"I am daddy. I know it's…surprising-"
"To say the least," he put in.
"But I really do love him…and he loves me."
"Now tell me…how exactly did this come about? Didn't I tell you about no foreign men in this house over the month?" Mr. Gardner cocked an eyebrow.
"Well, you see, dad, I was working on the Christmas lights outside…and he was walking by…and through some accident that I'm not sure I should tell you about-"
"What accident?" Mr. Gardner immediately sat up.
"Oh, I almost fell off the roof…but it was nothing," Tea waved it away, "Anywho-"
"What! Fell off the roof!"
"Oh, dad, don't worry! K-…Seto saved me!" she wasn't used to calling him by his first name just yet. "And then…he began helping me with the decorations. I let him into the house a few times, yes, but he wasn't exactly foreign, because he does go to my school and is in some of my classes, you know."
"He does? The boy actually goes to school? I thought Gozaburo had taught him so much that he didn't need to-"
Tea stiffened, "You know about Seto's stepfather?"
Mr. Gardner smiled, "Know him? I worked with him! I was the vice president of Kaiba Corp. way back when! I was Gozaburo Kaiba's best friend!"
Tea mouth dropped open. "Then…then you knew about all this all the time?"
"Knew about what?"
"His son Noa…how he adopted Seto and Mokuba…do you know how he treated those two? Especially Seto?" Tea pleaded for answers.
"Well…now that you mention it, I did know about him adopting his two sons…and he had changed after his wife's death. You see Tea…that's how your mother died as well. They were both on some sort of…girl get-together, and a truck rammed into Mrs. Kaiba's limo…killing both of them eventually. You remember how I told you it was an accident that killed your mother, right?"
"How could I not?" Tea looked away. "So…we've been "friends" with them…this whole time?"
"Then…did I ever meet Noa…as a kid?"
"At some times, but very rarely. You were so young that you probably don't remember."
"Yes, that would explain why I didn't recollect him at all in his little virtual world fiasco."
"But to continue with your previous question, yes, Gozaburo did change, and I noticed it. We became a little more distant…and eventually, becoming so wrapped up in his work and trying to teach Seto everything, that he became pretty…how should I put this-?"
"Yes!" Mr. Gardner nodded, "How did you know?"
"Seto used to be like that."
"I see…passed on through the generations. I'm not surprised. Gozaburo was a very influential man. Anyway, not long into this new adoption, he fired me, and for some pretty stupid reasons too. But that didn't matter. Seto took over about three years later, and that had been the last time I had seen Gozaburo."
"So…that might explain why you are such a great business man, and have to travel the world all of the time, right?" Tea inquired.
"That would be some of it…yes," he nodded.
"Why didn't you tell me all of this before?" Tea asked.
"I didn't think it was very important. You needed only the hardcore facts."
"It probably would have helped to know some of this earlier," Tea sighed, "Oh well. What's done is done."
"You know…" her father stood up and walked to the door, "Maybe I shouldn't tell you this…but way back when, when you and Noa were still about five or something, and were having some great play-days…Gozaburo and I were thinking of hooking you two up together. Of course, you can see that that didn't work out…but amazingly, you got hooked up with his brother. Funny how some things turn out, isn't it?" Mr. Gardner left.
Tea sat in her bed, looking at the door, practically speechless and still trying to absorb every piece of information she had just received.
That morning (later, of course) after everyone had had their gifts from Santa Claus and the family opened, the relative Gardners and Mitachi's (mother's side of the family) all went to mass to celebrate the Lord's birth. Afterwards, they went back home to have their little family celebration.
Everything was underway quite nicely, when there was a ring of the doorbell.
"I'll get it," Tea replied, nonchalantly. Everyone resumed their normal talking.
Tea walked to the door and opened it up. Her eyes widened when she saw whom it was, "Seto? What are you doing here?"
"Oh, is that how I'm to be greeted now?" Seto looked at her.
"Oh, no!" Tea replied, "I'm just…surprised that you showed up here. Weren't you going over to Noa's relatives?" Speaking of which, I'll have quite the interesting story for him when I see him next….
"Well, yes…but I wanted to stop by and…give you something," Seto pulled a small package out from his coat pocket. "Merry Christmas," he said, putting it in her hand.
"Oh, Seto! You shouldn't have! Really…seeing you all this time was a Christmas gift within itself!"
"I still wanted to get something special for someone special to me," Seto replied.
"Well, thank you," Tea smiled cheerfully at him, and then proceeded to open her gift. After taking off the paper, she opened a small velvet box. "Oh, Seto! It's beautiful! I love it!" Tea took out and fingered the necklace and matching bracelet. Both were on a small silver chain and the charm on each was a heart about the size of making a circle with your thumb and index finger. The heart was filled in with a sort of polished jewel and painted with blue and lavender embers emanating from the bottom. "It' wonderful! Thank you so much!" she wrapped her arms around his neck, and kissed his cheek. Seto hugged her back, caringly.
"Could you put it on for me?" Tea inquired.
"Of course," Seto replied, taking the necklace, and tying it around her neck. Tea put on the bracelet as well.
"Wait here," Tea commanded, "I have something for you too." Tea raced away and was back in a minute, holding something behind her back. "I really hope you like this…. I thought you might. I didn't have time to wrap it though, sorry."
Tea brought forth a regular sized book, with a magnificent picture of a majestic and sparkling –almost real-looking- dragon on the cover.
Seto's eyes widened slightly as he took the book, "It's…spectacular!" he said, thumbing the cover, "It looks almost real!"
"Yes…many people say that about my mother's work." Seto suddenly looked down at the bottom of the book. Sure enough, the name Raven Gardner was engraved at the bottom. "They're all her works. She was a painter when she was alive…and her specialty was dragons. Her work was good enough to be shown around the world, and her best ones made it into this book. I had a spare copy upstairs, and thought you might like it."
Seto began flipping through random pages, "It's wonderful," he breathed out, "You're mother made such fine work."
"Yes…. And she had a small poem for each one too. But, I think you'll like the last one the best. Before she died…I asked her to do that one especially for me…because I had a thing for the beginning Duel Monster fad. It was my favorite monster back then…and she got special permission from Industrial Illusions to use the monster as an "inspiration" or model, if you will."
Seto turned to the last page. His mouth opened slightly, "It's Blue-Eyes!"
"Yep. I had quite a fascination with the monster…and mom painted it…in a way…for me. Isn't it gorgeous?"
"Gorgeous? Oh, more than that," Seto replied, "However-"
Tea looked up at him, worry slightly crossing her face.
But Seto continued, "You outshine them all." He pulled her close into a deep and heartwarming kiss. As they pulled away, Tea sighed.
"I'm glad you like it."
"I love it. It means even more because it's from your family. And…I love you. You know that, right?"
"I do. And I hope you know that I love you as well."
"Of course. Merry Christmas Tea. I'll see you soon."
"Goodbye, Seto. And Merry Christmas!" she waved to him, as he walked back down the sidewalk to the waiting limo.
Tea smiled, and closed the door. She turned around, and was greeted by many faces peering out from the family room and kitchen.
"Awww," they all cooed. Tea's face straightened as she blushed.
"All right, all right, show's over!" she shook her head, "Come on, let's get back to the party. Everyone laughed.
"Hey Seto, what's that?" Mokuba asked, as Seto got in the limo. He was asking about the dragon book.
"From?" Noa inquired. "It's really awesome looking."
"It is. As for who it's from…."
"Yes?" Mokuba and Noa leaned forward.
Seto smirked, covering up the first name of the illustrator, and leaving the last name visible,.
"A very special gift…from a very special person."
I know…it's a one shot…but I hope you enjoyed it because I took A LOT of time on it: taking away from other fics AND my exam study time (thought I did do pretty well on them…I think). Now, I know I'm usually against writing/reading one-shots, but I just had to write it! So, I hope you enjoyed it, because I thought it was sweet…and long. As a little Christmas present, might you please leave a review on your way out? It would be much appreciated! For this DID take a lot of work!
Happy Holidays Everyone! …