Hello! As of 12/21/12, this story is still officially in progress. I'm sure most people would assume that it's been abandoned- it hasn't. If you manage to read all the way through it, please do drop a review if you enjoy it. I'm hoping to update it sometime in the relatively near future, and feedback is always very motivational!

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters used and lovingly abused herein. I'll put them back (somewhat) neatly when I'm done.

xxxxx

The Night Before
Chapter 1: Prelude

"...wish you all the best."

"Always knew you guys would end up together..."

"It was a pretty short engagement, huh?"

"Look at her, she looks so nervous. Reminds me of when I was about to become a bride."

Anzu Mazaki blushed, overhearing the innocuous comment from a nearby well-wisher. The middle aged woman's assessment was somewhat accurate; she was nervous, and uncomfortable. But these weren't just run of the mill jitters on the night before her wedding. No, her apprehension was rooted somewhere deeper.

Standing next to her husband-to-be, Anzu felt like an exotic specimen on display in a fishbowl. Yugi, sensing her distress, gave her hand a reassuring squeeze. The effect was not what he had intended; the gesture made her stomach feel even tighter, queasier, and nobody but she knew the reason why.

Yugi had asked her to marry him about two months before, a mere three weeks after she returned to live in Domino after four years in New York. The two had kept in touch while she was away, and he'd visited a couple times, but it wasn't like they had been in a relationship. She had been taken by surprise by the proposal, to be sure, but she hadn't hesitated long in accepting. Yugi insisted that he'd always intended for them to be together, and she reasoned that somewhere deep within her she must have envisioned a similar eventuality...

Anzu brushed a lock of hair out of her face with her free hand, feeling the early summer breeze fluttering through the open patio door and around the hem of her midnight blue dress. Everyone at the party seemed too distracted with conversation and drink to notice her pensive expression.

The engagement had been short, leaving a little less than two months between Yugi's proposal and the date of the wedding. They'd been so busy making arrangements and planning and organizing during the interval that she'd hardly had time for second thoughts- still, late at night she would wake with a pit of cold fear in the bottom of her stomach. These panicked thoughts and irrepressible misgivings had very little to do with Yugi or the wedding; not directly at least. They had everything to do with something- someone- else. Which had been dominating her thoughts and taking up more and more space in her mind the more she tried to push it- him- out.

"Yo," Honda's surprised (and moderately champagne giddy) voice broke into her thoughts like a knife. He was pointing toward the entrance of the restaurant and exhorting to Otogi.

"Dude, is that Kaiba? I'm surprised he would come down off his high horse for something as trivial as an engagement party."

Otogi chuckled. "Maybe he wants to challenge Yugi again. It wouldn't be the first time he's tried to duel him at a totally inappropriate time." Otogi placed his empty champagne glass on the tray of a passing waitress. "He looks kinda out of it. His hair's all messed up."

"Probably been riding around on his motorcycle without a helmet again. Jounouchi keeps saying how he wishes he'd just fall off."

"That's harsh," Otogi laughed. The rest of the conversation was lost to Anzu, as the subject of their speculations had drawn away every last pinch of her attention.

Piercing navy eyes drilled down into her soul as the disheveled CEO located her. Anzu half expected him to approach, but he simply crossed his arms and perched rather conspicuously in an empty corner of the room. His casual attire made him even more noticeable, as most of the men in the restaurant wore suits and ties. Kaiba looked tousled and comfortable in black pants and a white shirt with the proverbial top few buttons unfastened.

He was observing her intently, like she was the only thing in the universe. His unshifting attention made her palms sweat and her knees shake. She knew exactly what he was saying with those relentless eyes, and it was everything she had feared and- deep down- hoped.

XXXXXXX

Jounouchi didn't like what he was seeing. It was bad enough that Kaiba had the nerve to show his face tonight, even if Yugi had put him on the guest list...but that wasn't even the problem. People thought Jounouchi was an idiot, he knew, and that was just fine. But he certainly wasn't blind, and actually he wasn't as oblivious as he sometimes seemed. He could see exactly how the ice block was eyeing a very nervous looking Anzu, and with Yugi chatting away next to her without a care in the world Jounouchi figured it was up to him to put Kaiba in his place...

XXXXXXX

Seto Kaiba waved away a proffered champagne glass with irritation. There was only one reason he'd come here tonight, and it wasn't to guzzle brut and pretend to care about the impending 'happy event'. He was here because of Anzu, and from the way her eyes kept shifting back to meet his stare he was able to deduce that she understood the reason for his presence. Unfortunately, Anzu wasn't the only one who noticed him staring, as Kaiba discovered when a glaring Jounouchi stepped directly into his line of sight.

"I'm surprised to see you here, Kaiba."

Seto snorted. "I'm surprised every time words come out of your mouth in comprehensible order."

Jounouchi ground his teeth in irritation. "You seem to have a bit of a staring problem."

Shrugging his shoulders inside his white linen shirt, Kaiba regarded the intruder disdainfully. "You should mind your own business, dog."

The billionaire's glare intensified as the blond stepped even closer and shoved a finger into his face. "I'm warning you, Kaiba. Stay away from Anzu, or I'll-"

The blue-eyed man chuckled darkly. "You'll what? Bite at my ankles? Relax, Jounouchi. I didn't come to cause trouble, so get out of my face. I promise I'm not here to break up your little friends."

No, thought Seto as the mutt stalked angrily away, that will have to wait until later.

Flagging down a passing waiter, he scribbled a quick note on a small sheet of paper and gave terse instructions for its delivery. The sky outside was blazing with sunset as Seto Kaiba strode toward the door, pausing one last time to turn and look into Anzu's eyes before donning a pair of Aviator sunglasses and disappearing into the street.

XXXXXXX

"Miss Mazaki? A message for you."

Anzu nearly jumped out of her high heel sandals as the waiter descended upon her. She was flushed and somewhat bewildered, having just witnessed Kaiba's departure. Her heart raced along at a million miles per hour as she unfolded the small slip of paper, thanking her lucky stars that Yugi had stepped away to visit the men's room. The message was written in a familiar hand, neat and masculine. Its contents made her stomach flip and her already jumbled thoughts slam violently against each other:

You know why I was here,

and you know where you can find me.

XXXXXXX
XXXXXXX

Whew. So there's the end of chapter 1, which is really more like a prologue. Chapter 2 is much, much longer. Are you intrigued? Confused? Don't worry. I know some of this seems a bit strange, but it shall all be explained in future chapters. Do you like it? Want me to continue? Send me a review!