Okay! So I'm kind of on a roll with updating. Let's cross our fingers and hope this state of affairs can continue for awhile. I can tell you one thing, all this typing is making my fingers hurt! This story hasn't been added to in a long time, but I never intended to leave it unfinished. There's probably only about 2 chapters left after this one. I hope there's still an audience out there hoping to find out what happens! ;)
Disclaimer: I don't own Yu-Gi-Oh or any of that stuff.
Chapter 7: Between Courses (aka Cleansing the Palate)
Seto surveyed the company he now found himself in with great interest. He was pleased to find that Mazaki, seated on his right, was holding up well. She looked far more angry than anything else, which was what he had hoped for. He had been somewhat concerned that inviting Otogi and his date to join them might cause a repeat of her brief emotional meltdown earlier in the meal, but she seemed to have replaced any remaining sadness with what looked like rather furious righteous indignation.
He smirked as he watched her bright blue eyes smolder like white-hot coals, wondering whether she was angry at Otogi or if her displeasure was directed at him.
On his other side, Otogi's short-skirted and overpainted date, who turned out to be named Roxy, was pouting her lips in a way that she probably thought was alluring. Seto often wondered why women thought it was becoming to look bored, and to act like nothing really interested them apart from sex. He received a lot of these simpering looks, often accompanied by enough batted eyelashes to nullify a dust storm. Otogi's date looked well practiced in this skill set, even going to far as to surreptitiously wiggle in her chair so that her skirt hiked up even higher. She leaned forward, helping herself to a glass of the champagne that had just arrived. "Otogi, I didn't realize you knew somebody as famous as Seto Kaiba. Why didn't you ever tell me?"
Otogi frowned over at her, in no way failing to notice how she was flirting with Kaiba. "I guess it never came up."
Regarding the dark haired man across the table, Seto wondered what could have possibly been going through his mind that would make him prefer a money-grubbing twit like this girl over someone like Anzu, who was beautiful and actually had half a brain. Wait. Beautiful…?
Seto regarded the girl sitting next to him once again. Yes, he had to admit it. She was beautiful. Especially in moments like this, where she was trying to control her emotions. The contrast between her dark hair and pale skin was a warm fusion in the candlelight, her form accented by her slightly nervous posture. Her cheeks were flushed pink from a combination of sentiment and alcohol, and the way she was biting her lip almost made Seto want to reach over and-
Hn. That gave him a very devious idea.
Trying to make the gesture look as natural as possible, Seto slowly reached his arm out and draped it casually but snugly across the back of Anzu's chair.
Bingo. There was just the slightest flaring of Otogi's nostrils, a barely noticeable narrowing of his eyes. He'd known the man across from him to be a controlling type in business, so why not in his personal life? His calculations had also been correct in that Otogi still seemed to view Anzu as one of his possessions regardless of the fact that he'd cast her aside. Seto was willing to help the girl by clearing up any misapprehensions Otogi might be harboring on that score. There were many good reasons to make the man squirm- Kaiba told himself that at least the vast majority of them were business related, and any side effect that was beneficial to Mazaki was just a pleasant coincidence.
Next to him, Anzu's pose had progressed from 'nervous' to 'alarmed', though she was doing a fair job of hiding it. Her back was ramrod straight as she looked at Kaiba out of the corner of her eye. What the hell did he think he was doing, invading her personal space and putting his arm around her like they were lovers or something, or like they were on a…
Anzu stole a glance at Otogi, who looked thunderous. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the satisfied smirk on Seto Kaiba's face as he sat there, relaxed as can be, arm encircling her like they were on intimate terms. Seto looked back at her, raising an eyebrow just slightly and looking back to Otogi. Just what kind of game was he playing, anyway? Just as she got used to the idea of Kaiba's arm around her and began to feel more relaxed, she nearly jumped out of her seat at the feeling of his fingers brushing lightly across the bare skin of her shoulder. Blushing to the very tips of her toes, Anzu tried her best not to lose her composure as he traced lazy circles on her skin.
"So tell me, Otogi. How's business? I hear you've been having some cash flow problems lately." There was something dangerous about the flippantly conversational way Kaiba tossed this information about, as though he were talking about the weather.
Otogi was silent for a moment, not sure whether he was more astonished by the cozy scene before him or by the bluntness of Kaiba's remarks. He frowned, quite sure he was being insulted. "Well, I-"
Kaiba wasn't done with his enquiries. "I heard you had to sell off several of your commercial properties. What's the matter, is the novelty wearing off? I always said that Dungeon Dice fad wouldn't last…"
The atmosphere was distinctly chilly as the two men stared each other down. Anzu and Roxy tried not to look directly at either of their dates, as this was obviously some kind of masculine pissing contest that only vaguely involved them. They tried not to look at each other, either, since every time their eyes met Anzu could feel Roxy glaring at her as she took in Kaiba's affectionate behavior toward her. The only person at the table who was having any fun at all just then was Seto Kaiba. It was all going according to his hastily assembled plan…
In the kitchen, a clattering of pots and pans and a succession of curse words in French could be heard as a diminutive figure burst through the delivery entrance, down the line of white-clad cooks, and through the swinging door. At the Maitre d' station, Jean-Pierre was scribbling some quick reservation notes in his neat and compact handwriting. The hurrying figure skidded to a halt beside him, peeking over the podium and trying to see into the dimly lit dining room. "Jean Pierre, what's going on!? Is Otogi really at my brother's table?"
Jean-Pierre cleared his throat. "Good evening, Master Mokuba. Indeed, your brother and his date have been joined by another young man and his, ahem, escort." The maitre d' sighed, seeing the fierce expression on the younger Kaiba's face. The exact reason why he had allowed himself to get involved in the schemes of such a young rascal was something of a mystery, but much like with his older brother it was difficult to say no to Mokuba Kaiba.
"This sucks! He better not say anything to make Anzu unhappy." Mokuba crept slowly to the edge of the dining room, concealing himself by the edge of the entryway. What he saw there made his eyes go wider than was usual, and after all the sugar he'd ingested tonight that was saying something. "Psssst! Jean-Pierre! Look at this! Seto's got his arm around her. I knew those oysters would work!"
Rolling his eyes discreetly, Jean-Pierre glanced over at the table. "It would seem that matters have improved somewhat."
Mokuba smirked. "Awesome. I knew we could get them to like each other if we just tried. If only there was a way for me to get closer so I could hear the conversation…aha!" The boy's eyes had settled upon a rectangular dining trolley. It had a top shelf and a bottom shelf, with just enough room in between for a small person- like himself- to fit. Slowly, he turned his head and looked slyly at Jean-Pierre.
The maitre d' pulled at his collar nervously, wishing this night would end. "Yes, Master Mokuba? What precisely did you have in mind?"
Otogi was steaming. Fuming. What was the one that was even worse than fuming? Oh, right. Enraged.
He hadn't been expecting anything like this to happen when he brought Roxy out to dinner. Maybe this was karma getting back at him because he hadn't really wanted to bring her out to dinner in the first place- until he found out how rich her father was. He wasn't going to admit it to anyone, but he was having financial problems with his business venture. He had met the girl recently, at a club frequented by many of the City College students. Her interest in him had appeared to be largely of a sexual nature, but he figured it might at least be an in with the right circle of (wealthy) acquaintances. Now he was stuck sitting here being insulted by Seto Kaiba of all people and, if that wasn't already bad enough, Roxy now appeared to be more interested in Kaiba than she was in him!
And then there was Anzu. Oh, was there ever Anzu. She was looking so gorgeous tonight; why hadn't he ever seen her look like this when they were dating? Not that it changed anything as far as their breakup, but Otogi couldn't help but feel the pull of the green-eyed monster as he watched the girl that used to be his being practically caressed by Kaiba. His arm was around her, long fingers lightly touching her shoulder. They were obviously here on a date, and looked like they were getting along just fine. Hadn't Anzu always hated the guy? He felt a hole being punched in his masculine pride. She certainly hadn't wasted much time being upset about their breakup, had she? It was scarcely two weeks ago.
He was the one who had chosen to end the relationship, so shouldn't he be the one that was happy and getting along just fine? He wished. It was true what he had told Anzu about his feelings for Shizuka. He had thought he was doing the honorable thing by ending it, it wouldn't be right to string Anzu along when he longed to be with someone else. Unfortunately when he went to tell Shizuka how he felt things hadn't exactly gone as planned. He hadn't factored in Hiroto Honda, for one. That had apparently been going on for awhile. The two had been corresponding while Shizuka was away in Europe, and started dating almost as soon as she returned. So now here he was, the odd man out. Shizuka had Honda, Jounouchi had Mai, Yugi had been dating the Hopkins girl for awhile, and Anzu- who had until recently been his Anzu- apparently had Kaiba.
Which left him with…
He looked across the table at his date, eyeing Seto Kaiba like a feral cat ready to pounce.
…well, apparently it left him with nobody.
Could this night possibly get any worse?
Anzu could feel the magnitude of the awkwardness around the table, and wished for something to distract or occupy her in this uncomfortable pause between courses. Otogi had deflected Seto's taunting remarks with surprising grace, skirting around the edge of more pedestrian business matters. Nobody really seemed sure what to do; the waitstaff certainly didn't know how to proceed seeing as half the table had already eaten dinner and the others had yet to order. Was there even proper protocol for such a thing? Jean-Pierre seemed to have figured out a way to rectify the situation, pushing a cart full of hors d'oeuvres, small desserts, and a silver coffee service over and leaving it next to the table. "For your enjoyment, compliments of the chef."
"Thank you, Jean-Pierre." Everyone was too involved in the drama happening at the table to bother thinking about the fact that simply leaving a cart of miscellaneous food by the table was a very odd thing for a classically trained French Maitre d' to do.
Otogi had been about to break the silence by suggesting that he and Roxy wouldn't want to intrude any further and perhaps they should just move to their own table, but his date beat him to the chase with a line of questioning which certainly wasn't helpful in diffusing the tension. "So," she gestured to Seto and Anzu, "are you guys, like, a couple? I thought Otogi just broke up with you a few days ago or something." Roxy openly sneered at Anzu. The alcohol had given her voice a harsh and brassy tone, not that she had been the queen of charm to begin with.
Anzu's face turned cherry red. Just what she had wanted to be reminded of. Couldn't ten minutes go by without someone making disparaging remarks about her love life? "Umm-"
A voice to her left cut in, steady and deep. "Actually, Anzu and I have been seeing each other off and on for quite some time." Seto smirked devilishly, taking his arm off the back of the chair and reaching over to grasp one of her small hands in his own.
Otogi's eyes widened. Anzu's jaw dropped. Roxy just looked disappointed. Unnoticed by anyone at the table, the food cart made a choking noise.
The young man with the red bandana looked at his ex-girlfriend with a wounded expression "Anzu, is that true?"
Anzu coughed on the sip of water she had been hastily drinking. "Umm…I don't- I mean-"
Seto fixed her with a searing look, quelling her stuttering attempts with a very good facsimile of a passionate gaze. "It's alright Anzu. I don't think we should have to keep it a secret anymore." Looking over at Otogi's expression, Seto knew that victory was at hand. The guy looked dumbfounded, glancing back and forth between Anzu and the CEO like he was missing something important. Seto was about to drive the last nail in. "It's a good thing you broke up with Anzu when you did, Otogi. It finally made her realize she really wanted to be with me. So I guess we should thank you."
Any possible words that she could think of got caught in Anzu's throat. She didn't know what to say. Why was Kaiba doing this? What purpose could possibly be accomplished by telling Otogi that they had been secretly dating? She looked between the two men, noticing the tumult of mixed emotions flashing across Otogi's countenance. He looked confused, hurt, rejected, upset…
…in other words, all the things she had felt when he broke up with her two weeks ago. Was Kaiba actually doing all of this for her benefit? She looked over at him, barely noticing the fact that his hand was still twined with hers under the table. He was glaring at Otogi triumphantly. Noticing that Anzu's eyes were upon him, he let a small superior smile grace his features.
Anzu wasn't normally the kind of person who was prone to revenge, but she had to admit there was a certain pleasure in watching Otogi's distress. She felt… vindicated. And Seto Kaiba had been the one to help her to this point?
"We really should be going. Sorry to have intruded on your date for so long." Otogi gestured to Roxy, who rose silently from her chair wearing a haughty expression. "Goodnight Kaiba… Anzu." Otogi nodded his head toward Seto, but was unable to meet Anzu's eyes as he bid them goodnight. Anzu could hear Roxy complaining that they hadn't eaten yet as Otogi dragged her toward the restaurant entrance. She watched their retreat for a long moment, perplexed at the turn the night's events had taken. Looking back at Seto, she opened her mouth to say something, perhaps to thank him. It was then that the two blue-eyed individuals realized that they were still holding hands.
Even Seto looked slightly embarrassed as he released her small hand from his grasp, hyper aware of the softness of her skin and the sparks that crackled when the tips of their fingertips brushed at the last moment of contact. There was a silent moment where neither was sure what to do or say. As is often the case, they were saved the trouble by a well timed visit from a waiter. The head waiter, to be exact. Jean-Pierre smiled down at them with his hands clasped in front of him. "Now that your guests have gone, would Monsieur and Mademoiselle care to enjoy their dessert?"
There! That was fun. I know Otogi kinda seemed like a jerk in this, but he's really not that bad. Just a little on the immature and insensitive side. Maybe Seto was able to teach him a lesson! If Seto seemed a little OOC, it's because he was putting on a show. I promise he'll be back to his somewhat caustic self in the next chapter. And did anyone forget that Mokuba is still hiding under the food cart? Hahaha… Please review, and I'll share my dessert!