Chapter 21: Two Steps forward…One Step back.

It's prom night and I am lonely

Low and behold

She's walking over to me

This must be fake

My lip starts to shake

How does she know who I am

And why does she give a damn about me?

Weatus, Teenage Dirtbag.

WARNING: Some description may be of a risqué nature, and this chapter (and the next few) intend to push boundaries a little. If you are underage, please skip ahead three paragraphs from the start in this chapter.

After dinner, they adjourned to the lounge for coffee and petits fours. Selecting a delicious looking strawberry and chocolate confection from the tray offered by Roland, Tea chatted happily to Yumi and the Minister, and tried to ignore the pangs of sleepy satisfaction tugging at her brain. Her medication still dictated her sleep patterns, and she was a long way past nine thirty! Her eyes felt heavy and languorous, and the sugary confection tasted so good…

Seto, commenting on the falling share price of a long term competitor with satisfaction, turned to glance at Tea, and caused his coffee cup to rattle in its saucer. Steadying his hand, and turning a glance into a full on stare, he watched the girl who had intruded on his life so rudely show off long dark eyelashes in one long, slow blink and then pop the strawberry and chocolate roll past her pink lips in one smooth motion, slowly lick her lips and then- his jaw practically dropping- suck on a chocolate smear that dared to coat her forefinger. As he felt his blood begin to heat, Minister Dan drew his attention away with a chuckle.

"I felt much the same about my dear wife when we first met, Kaiba-San. Tea-san is very lovely; you have a treasure there, that's for sure. I think that this is our cue to leave. Tomorrow, I will email you details for the contracts by 9am, and we can begin negotiations immediately. I would, in the meantime, be happy to offer some extra security should you desire some?" At Seto's brief headshake in refusal, he continued, "My thanks for a wonderful evening, it has been a privilege to enjoy such excellent company, food and conversation."

As Seto rose, Hirushiko Yumi rose with him, drawing Tea out of her chair in politeness. The ladies embraced, and briefly agreed to meet again soon at the Dance, thanking each other for a delightful evening. Tea asked Roland to fetch coats and wraps for their guests, as Seto bid her new friend goodnight, and they moved out into the hallway.

As their guests entered their car, Seto reached a tentative hand out to Tea, and drew her close to his side. She looked up at him in surprise, and he stared blankly out into the night after the retreating car, refusing to acknowledge the question in her eyes.


"You looked cold. Let's go inside- you're shivering."

His kindness was still surprising, but she accepted it as proof of their tiredness and an evening productively spent. It wasn't until she blinked, and realized he had escorted her all the way to her bedroom door and was standing, looking at her, a little too close. He leaned in, and her heart jumped. She stared into his eyes, even as he pushed her gently into her room and shut the door between them. Slumping back on the bed, Tea smiled up to the ceiling and closed her eyes in bliss.

Seto rested his forehead on the door for a split second, weighing up the temptation to push it open again and look into those beautiful eyes. Then, in one swirl of movement, he was walking away down the corridor and back to his study.

The next day, Jennifer woke Tea with her pain medication and a purring ball of fluff, who settled down for a cuddle in the crook of Tea's knees quite happily, while the girls chatted about the events of the night before. Stroking Ariadne and giggling about Seto's adventure under the table, they barely noticed time passing until suddenly, the conversation turned to Christmas.

"So, Tea, will you be staying with us over Christmas?" Jennifer enquired, folding a towel ready for Tea to take into the Bathroom with her when she showered. The hand Tea was running down Ariadne's back faltered for a second, and Tea blinked in surprise.

"Oh my gosh- what date is it today?" she exclaimed, realizing that in all the madness of injury and kitten, she had lost track of time, and that day when Kaiba tricked her into coming to care for Ariadne seemed to have happened months ago. A lot had changed since then.

"It's the 12th of December today, and we'll be getting a tree cut from the grounds tomorrow. Kaiba-san and Mokuba discovered and enjoyed Christmas on one of their many trips abroad, and it is much celebrated here. Are you familiar with the traditions?"

Tea shook her head. "Not very- my parents celebrate New Year more than Christmas, which is when I usually go out and celebrate with my friends. Last year we went to the arcade, and I beat Joey and Tristan in a duel- hands down! It was great. I know about presents, and dates and so on… What are the traditions here?"

Jennifer perched herself on the corner of the bed again, her face lit up with excitement.

"Well, tonight we'll start getting all the decorations out and polished and ready, and cook will bake lots of cookies and treats. Then tomorrow, we spend most of the day decorating- Roland and the men will put up lights outside, including the biggest Dragon image, all lit up like the card in blue and white, on the roof! There'll be holly on the staircase and banisters, and wreaths on the doors, and we'll put Christmas lights and candles out on each of the mantelpieces and tables. In the dining room there's a little tree with family decorations on (mostly made my Master Mokuba a few years ago at school) under which he and Kaiba-san put their presents for each other. All other gifts go under the big tree, which has little lights that look like candles strung around it and gold and red tinsel draped over it! It's beautiful, Tea! Then, over the next few days people will put their presents under the trees until they're bursting out from under the edges- you've never seen so many gifts! Each of us servants gets two from the Kaiba's, and some from each other…"

Tea broke in, unable to sit quietly and listen any more to this litany of amazing information.

"That sounds wonderful! But in the snow- how will we all buy presents? Seto says I'm still too ill to leave the house for at least another week, and I don't want to leave it too late or I might not be able to get them good enough presents! Seto's a hard one to buy for- I don't think he wants anything that he doesn't have…"

Jennifer paused thoughtfully.

"I think there are some things… Maybe you should think about it this morning, and see if you can come up with something that you can give Kaiba that he's never had enough of in his life. Come on, then- breakfast time, and you're not even showered yet! Plus, I'm pretty sure that Yugi and the boys left a bag of clothes for you when they visited, that Roland found abandoned and forgotten about in the lobby and has sent to be laundered, so you'll have some new clothes to wear tomorrow! Let's pick some warm ones- I think it might snow again…"

Pushing Ariadne off the bed with her good arm, and laughing at the indignant mew she received, as the kitten stalked off down to the other end of the bed and sat down to wash herself, Tea hopped out of bed and began her morning routine, thinking hard about Jennifer's prophetic words, and how she could get presents for Jennifer and Roland too. Perhaps she could speak to Seto about ordering them to be delivered to the house? She could borrow Mokuba's laptop to order them…

As Tea set about her work getting ready, she was thinking of potential presents for her new friends. She thanked her lucky stars that she was organized enough to have ordered the boys presents to be delivered, gift wrapped, to their houses via an online retailer in the run up to Christmas… At least that was a few people less to shop for! But what to get for the people who literally had everything they wanted at their fingertips? The obvious suggestion was to move away from material gifts, or bankrupt herself and her parents. So what could she, an average girl, give to the Kaibas?

Perhaps she could knit them hats- there would just about be time if she could start today, and if there were knitting needles and wool placed in that mornings groceries order. Black silky wool for Seto, and green chunky knit for Mokuba- and Mokuba's should have a bobble on top, whereas she could weave a small SK logo into the side of Seto's cap. They might be handy in Paris, if it was cold. Oooh! Yeas almost squealed as she came up with another idea… She could bake them special Christmas cookies in secret, using the other kitchen, although she'd have to find out what flavor each preferred, and she could make extra for Roland and Jennifer. She could even make shapes! Tea pulled on her jumper (she was still wearing the warm, oversized one she had found in her closet… It was just so comfy, and smelled so nice) and left to go and discuss putting her requests on the shopping list with Roland.