Title: To See Her Dance
Summary: Looking at home among the tasteful décor of the Kaiba household hangs a glossy photo of a ballerina, the moment captured in mid-pose, the girl vibrantly alive. SetoAnzu one-shot
Disclaimer: I don't own YuGiOh, any of the ballets mentioned, or any other deliberate/accidental references.
Notes: I decided to write a platonic, thoughtful and provoking story about mutual respect, to prove I could do something other than romance. I failed so miserably I was ashamed. (Luckily I got over it.) Enjoy the Azureshipping fluff. Oh, and don't even ask me what's up with the names. I know I got first-last backwards.
Twelve years after the passing of the Pharaoh…
Anzu walked down the streets of Domino, her messenger bag slung over one shoulder. She gripped the strap, almost as if for support. It felt strange to be at home again. The thing that seemed the most different was the silence. The quiet was a thick, tangible thing; it surrounded her and wrapped around her shoulders; it penetrated into every crevice of every dark alleyway, but was turned aside at the homes with light shining from the cracks. Inside there it was warm, and probably noisy, but for the moment Anzu preferred the quiet. Her feet, fitting into supple shoes, and specially trained as a dancer, made only a soft padding on the pavement.
She passed by her old dance academy. A teenage girl was just entering, pulling open the door and causing a square of yellow light to pour out onto the sidewalk. The girl glanced back just before passing through the entrance, and her eyes widened briefly. Anzu allowed herself a secret smile. It was somehow rewarding, exhilarating to be recognized. Of course, not many people would recognize her from anything but the old days in school; only people well-versed in ballet would realize that she was the famed Anzu Mazaki, rising star in America.
It should be snowing, she decided as she continued across town. It was a crystal-clear night, and the stars twinkled like jewels in the black sky. But large, fluffy flakes of snow would make this absolutely perfect. They shouldn't be too cold, though. And it shouldn't obstruct the stars.
Warm, cloudless snow, she thought with a half-smile. Imagine that.
She reached the iron-wrought gate and hesitated only a moment before putting her hand on it. For all its intimidating appearances, Mokuba had assured her it would be unlocked. She shoved gently. It was.
Anzu took a deep breath before starting up the driveway, wondering why she was nervous to be back among friends.
"Still working?" Mokuba asked, poking his head through the doorway. Seto typed in a sequence of keys rapidly. "I'm almost done."
"You need to get out more," Mokuba chided. "I'm twenty-three and about to get married. You hardly ever date."
"I have no need to," Seto snorted.
"Even so," Mokuba pouted petulantly. "You should still get out more. Go see a movie with Yuugi or something."
"I see enough of Mouto." Seto exited out of the program and shut the computer off deftly. He swiveled the black leather chair around, stretching his neck. "Is Yvonne joining us for dinner?"
"She had to work," Mokuba replied, his eyes lighting up at the mention of his fiancée. "But she's coming over in a little while. You don't mind a late meal, do you?"
"Why, what time is it?" Seto asked aloud, turning to look at the clock himself. About a quarter after seven. "Oh. I don't mind."
"I'm glad I found someone that you tolerated," Mokuba teased. "And I'm glad you're going to be my best man."
Brief surprise flitted across Seto's face. "Of course. It's the least I could do and I'm honored that you asked."
Mokuba reached over and rubbed his knuckles into his older brother's hair, a trait that the latter found less and less endearing over time. "Aww, brotherly moment," he grinned. Seto swiped at him, giving Mokuba a killer noogie of his own.
"Ow, ow!" Mokuba half-yelped, half-laughed, until the doorbell interrupted their horsing around.
"Saved by Yvonne. Again," Seto said with a grin of his own, releasing the younger boy.
Mokuba checked his watch. "Naah, it's too early for Yvonne. That's probably Anzu."
What? Seto frowned. "Mokuba, what do you mean, that's probably-"
Too late. Footsteps clattered down the stairs, and a moment later he heard the distinctive bang as the front door flew open. Mokuba's voice rose and fell excitedly, along with a girl's smooth but bubbly tones. Not Yvonne. This was a voice he hadn't heard in nearly a dozen years, ever since high school graduation.
Seto frowned, wishing for once Mokuba could tell him when he invited old friends over. Often, his younger brother just got so excited he completely forgot.
Anzu and Mokuba glanced up when they heard footsteps on the stairs. Seto Kaiba descended slowly, still wearing a long trenchcoat after all these years, which trailed faithfully behind him. He stepped onto the thick carpet of the living room, approaching the couch complex that the other two were perched on, and tentatively nodded a greeting towards Anzu. "It's been a while," she offered, feeling uncomfortable. "I've been in New York."
"I heard," he said after a moment's pause. "Welcome back."
"Anzu said she flew back for the wedding," Mokuba announced to his brother. "Isn't that awesome of her? She came all this way!"
"Well, it was high time I visited," she smiled, gripping his hand. "And I had to be here. I can't wait to meet your fiancée."
"She'll be here soon," Mokuba said, looking at the clock. The phone rang shrilly, from somewhere in another room. "In fact, I bet that's her now," he said, jumping up. "She sometimes calls right before she leaves the office. I'll be right back."
He hurried from the room, and after a moment the phone stopped jangling. Anzu looked at Seto, then at the floor. There was an awkward silence.
Seto looked… exactly the same as he always had, except twelve years older. He did look his age, she decided after a brief scrutiny. He always had. His face was hard, and betrayed little emotion; he had stress lines already. And right now, he seemed to be especially anxious about something, because he kept twisting his hands and playing with a strap on his jacket.
"Well, I haven't heard from you lately," Anzu said, trying to break the silence. It was okay outside, but indoors it was just stuffy, especially sitting across from Seto Kaiba. "Yuugi's written about you though. He said you were doing well?" She tried to phrase the last part as a question, hopefully leading into a conversation.
Seto inclined his head in acknowledgement. "We spend quite a bit of time together," he said. It sounded like a peace offering. "Because of the new tournament styles. The top four duelists in the world confer a lot, and work together designing and managing new programs."
"Who are the top four?" she asked curiously.
"I'm one, of course." Anzu stifled a grin. "Yuugi is one. The other two places bounce between Jounouchi Katsuya and Kujaku Mai and this hot-shot new duelist named Galed." He shook his head. "Those three are forever dueling. Occasionally someone else slips in, but they rarely last for more than a month or two."
"Have you or Yuugi ever been ousted?" she wondered aloud. The true question was whether he'd get angry at her for asking, or even answer.
He did pause, but only for a moment. "Yes," he admitted grudgingly. "Both of us, once or twice, have slipped to number five. But only for a short time. There are only so many duels you can play, though…"
"I never thought I'd hear you say that," Anzu laughed. "Yuugi said the same thing. He said the game was really changing, with all sorts of new technology and strategies and rules being introduced."
"It's true," Seto responded. "But KaibaCorp prides itself on staying one step ahead of everything else."
"I bet." She half-turned around, looking down the hallway. "Mokuba's been gone a while…" When she settled back onto the couch, she noticed that Seto's eyes were wide. His nerves, which seemed to have subsided as they chatted, suddenly kicked back in, and he pulled absently at a corner of his coat. "So," he said quickly. "Mokuba informed me that you were dancing ballet now."
"Oh yes," she smiled, her spirit lifting at the mention of her chosen career. "I went to a dance academy in New York after high school. I practiced all sorts, but it turned out I especially loved ballet, so I started auditioning for bit parts. My big break came in Sleeping Beauty- I was understudy for Princess Florine, the Bluebird's wife, and the girl ahead of me quit because of a fight with the company manager. So I played Florine in California, then moved back to New York. I tried out for the same ballet, just in a different role- this time as Aurora, the lead." She smiled happily. "And I got it. Ever since then, things have been going perfectly for me."
Anzu lifted her eyes to see Seto's reaction. He looked slightly stunned at her enthusiasm, but a ghost of a smile was working its way onto his face. "What's been your favorite ballet to work in?" he asked, leaning forward.
She thought for a moment. "Swan Lake," she decided. "I worked with some great people there, and it was a long, country-wide tour. That was my second leading role, the only other chance I got to be the main character. I was Odette," she added as an afterthought.
Seto started to nod, but caught himself in time. Anzu tilted her head quizzically.
"Hey Seto!" Mokuba hollered from down the hallway. "Yvonne's on her way over here! You can stay for dinner, right, Anzu? We cooked for four!"
"That's wonderful; thank you, Mokuba," she called back, twisting around again to catch his eye. He was leaning in the entranceway to the kitchen.
"Great! I can't wait for you guys to meet! You'll love her. Big brother, I'm just gonna check and see how the food's coming along. Be there in a moment." He disappeared, and Anzu began to turn back around, but something caught her eye and she suddenly realized why Seto had been jittery, almost embarrassed about getting caught at something.
The picture on the wall suited the room perfectly. Her eye had almost gone right over it, especially since the deep blue background matched the tasteful midnight mountain scene on the opposite wall. She stood up to get a better view of the 18 x 24 poster, letting her mouth hang open unabashedly.
It was an advertisement for Swan Lake, the name of the ballet written in white script down the side. Odette was posed in full garb, snowy-white feathers adorning the pure white costume, the wings especially lined with the fluffy material; the skirt full and ruffled; and the top half of the costume stretched tightly across her limber body. She was in mid-pose, one leg extended far behind her; she was balancing her whole weight on the very tip of the other toe; her spine was arched in a perfect curve backwards. It was a simple photograph, but it spoke wonders; a clean, simple, beautiful love for dancing and the power and grace of the ballerina and the utter majesty of the play.
The caption on the bottom, printed in simple block letters, read: Swan Lake; New York City; April 14, 2013. ANZU MAZAKI.
She turned to Seto, stunned, one hand half-lifted to her mouth. His neck was red, but he shrugged. "You were very good in that," he said gruffly.
"You- saw the ballet?" she asked softly. He gave a quick, jerking nod.
"I- can't believe it." Her fingers touched her cheeks: they were burning. "Thank you. I can't believe you flew to New York to see it."
He shrugged again, the flush creeping up towards his face. "I had business there anyway," he muttered, ducking his head.
"Why didn't you say hello?" The question was out before she realized it.
Seto looked surprised. "I- I'm not sure," he faltered. "I saw Jounouchi there. But I made him promise not to tell you."
Her eyebrows rose up. "He listened to you?" she began to wonder, joking, but he anticipated her confusion.
"Like I said. We were working together at the time." He rubbed the back of his neck. "We have a bit more of an understanding. Anyway, I did send you flowers."
"You- oh!" She suddenly remembered the white rose bouquet with no tag, too big to be from just any anonymous fan. Jounouchi had denied sending it, and anyway she'd already received flowers from him; he'd been the one to give her the lilies. But at the time she'd had no better explanation. "They were beautiful," she said shyly. "Everyone noticed them. Thank you."
"You're welcome," he acknowledged, and she saw to her surprise that it took an effort on his part to say. "Well, in any case." He gestured behind her again. "That's where I got that poster. "I thought it was… rather nice."
"Hey, food looks great," Mokuba announced, strolling into the room. He caught sight of the both of them. "Whoa- is it really hot in here? Want me to open a window? You guys are all pink." Luckily, they were spared from answering when the doorbell rang, and Mokuba charged off to answer it. Anzu smiled after him, and let her gaze wander the room for a moment before he came back in with his fiancée. Aside from the poster of her, and a few shots of natural wonders like the mountain, the only other pictures in the room hung over the rustic fireplace. How clichéd, she thought dryly, but in this household it seemed entirely appropriate. There was a black-and-white studio picture of the Kaiba brothers that, judging by the age, was taken shortly before Battle City; and the other one was a newer color photograph of Mokuba and a girl with thick black braids wound around her head.
Anzu couldn't help noticing that the pictures were placed slightly to the left, as if someone- no doubt Mokuba- was hoping that soon Seto would have an 'engagement' photograph to place on the opposite side and balance the room. She turned to him, ready to share a smile at his little brother's antics, but he was gazing thoughtfully at the Swan Lake photo.
Sensing her looking at him, Seto looked up and met her eyes. "You really were very good in it," he said again, gesturing at the picture.
"Thank you again," she whispered, her throat dry. Her palms were slightly moist, too; and come to think of it she was getting a slight knot in her stomach. These were all the symptoms she got right before her performances; the faint vestiges of stage fright.
Unexpectedly, she reached out and touched Seto's arm. He looked at her curiously. "I'm glad to be back in Domino," she told him.
In time, the Swan Lake photo was joined by three others. First, there was a smaller snapshot taken at Mokuba's wedding; Seto and Anzu were dancing together for a slow, light waltz reminiscent of a ballet piece. Anzu had been delighted to float along to the music she loved best, and Seto had been glad to see her delight. This marked the first time he had given her a full, real smile.
Then there was a second poster of Anzu in the Nutcracker. Seto had flown to New York City and celebrated Christmas in America… with her. To see her dance. And also, so it seemed, so that he could take her in his arms, and kiss her for the first time.
Finally, there was Anzu dancing in Coppelia, nearly eighteen months later and at the pinnacle of her career. At the end of this performance, she had garnered a standing ovation. The joy on her face as she waved to the audience and accepted the reams of flowers was nothing compared to her expression when she accepted another bouquet of white roses from Seto Kaiba and found, nestled in the center, a small black box containing a shining diamond ring.
And then, eventually, Mokuba Kaiba got his wish, and the empty space above the fireplace was filled.