When Boy Meets Girl
Sighing, Seto closed the file and reached for the last one in his inbox. Finding a nanny for Mokuba was proving to be harder than he thought. He wished he didn't have to do it; he spent little enough time with Mokuba as it was. But what with school, and work, and the upcoming Battle City Tournament taking up all his time…he just didn't have the time to do the things he used to do. Hiring someone to take care of the smaller things, like making Mokuba's meals and driving him to school, would give him more leisure time to spend with his brother.
But it was almost impossible finding someone qualified. He'd gone so far as to advertise in America, saying that applicants didn't even have to speak Japanese. Both he and Mokuba were fluent in English, so it wasn't like it would matter.
Flipping open the final file, he started reading about his last applicant, Amarin Marks. Born and raised in San Francisco, California, and had gone to UCLA, graduating with a 3.7 GPA. She seemed extremely intelligent, having graduated from high school at fifteen, and college with a Bachelors' degree in Childcare three years later. Excellent references from two daycares and several families; had volunteered at homeless shelters and orphanages. Knew CPR, first aid, had passed an EMT course with flying colors, and she'd actually chosen Japanese as her foreign language when she was in college.
"She sounds too good to be true," Seto murmured. But if her background checked out, she'd (hopefully) be perfect.
Two Weeks Later
Slinging her laptop case and her purse/oversized satchel over her shoulder, Amarin Rose Marks pulled her two carry-on bags down from the overhead compartment and headed off the plane. She was glad she'd waited until the majority of the passengers had already disembarked, as she didn't have to continually dodge around other people gathering their things up.
As she reached the end of the exit ramp, she began to look around for someone holding a sign with her name on it. The communiqué from Mr. Kaiba had said someone would meet her and she wasn't sure if the person sent would know what she looked like.
It was only a matter of minutes before she caught sight of him – he was literally head and shoulders above the rest of the crowd. Over six feet tall – unusual for a native Japanese – with thick, cinnamon colored hair shadowing his face from view. He was and switching back and forth between looking at a photo in his hand and the passengers disembarking from her plane. Feeling a jolt of recognition, even though she had no clue who he was, she knew he was here for her.
Only…she was sure that she'd met him before. Just…not in this life?
"Sometimes I really hate this mystical crap," she muttered to herself. She had originally planned to take Spanish in college; after all, she'd learned quite a bit of it growing up in Los Angeles. But some instinct, some sixth sense or what have you, told her to take Japanese of all things. And right after graduation, she'd heard about this job. Fate? Coincidence? Or did the Gods just like to play with her head?
Her grandmother had taught her all about the Tarot, but it had never been this…vivid, straight out of the blue
Deciding it didn't really matter – things would reveal themselves in time, they always did – she made a beeline for the man in the blue trenchcoat. As she neared her destination, she saw his head come up and he looked straight at her. Her breath whooshed out of her as she caught sight of his face. He had eyes as blue and deep as she'd ever seen, and so soulful she thought she might cry at the sight of all the hidden emotion in them. It was as if he'd kept his feelings from expressing themselves in the rest of his body and all of them were gathered in those deep blue pools.
Snapping herself out of her reverie, she bowed slightly, and said, using her Japanese for the first time since her sophomore year, "Are you looking for me?"
He nodded dumbly, before seeming to snap himself out of his own trance and said, "Miss Marks?"
Smiling, Amarin said, "Please, call me Amarin."
"Kaiba Seto," he said and she barely managed to keep her shock from showing. Her new employer, CEO of a multi-billion-dollar company, had come to pick her up from the airport personally? Good thing she'd opted to wear a more reserved dress and jacket combo instead of her usual travel apparel of jeans and a T-shirt. "You can call me Seto, if you like."
She could hear the resignation in his voice, though – he didn't want her to call him Seto. And it wasn't because he thought he was above her, either; he just wasn't comfortable with people calling him by his given name. Which was fine with her; she could definitely oblige. "That's all right, Mr. Kaiba; we should keep some kind of formality going here."
She could see the surprise in his eyes, but he only smiled slightly – very slightly, only a minor upturning of his lips – and nodded. "Very well. Do you need to pick anything up from baggage claim?"
Shaking her head, Amarin said, "No, I have everything I need for a week in my carry-ons. The rest of my belongings should arrive within a day or two; I'll be fine until then."
She was quite familiar with the calculating look he gave her – most people, even her own parents, were quite surprised with how little she packed. "All right. Then, if you're ready to go?"
She nodded and followed him through the busy airport. It was odd to hear people around her talking in Japanese; she'd heard it spoken before, of course, but only in class. Everyone around her was speaking the language, and she kept hearing snatches of conversations that she had to translate mentally to understand.
Getting through Customs was a nerve-wracking experience, but it went smoothly and soon they were threading their way through the parking lot.
It was only when she came to halt in front of a nondescript black car that she realized Kaiba had asked her a question. "I'm sorry, what?" she asked, a blush coming to her cheeks.
"I asked if you would be more comfortable speaking in Japanese or English?" Seto repeated. "Both my brother and I speak English fluently, and it doesn't really matter to me either way, but I noticed you seemed to be a little overwhelmed."
Grimacing slightly, Amarin asked, "Is it that obvious?"
Seto shook his head. "Not to anyone who doesn't look closely."
Which implied that he had been looking closely. Something to think about. "I am definitely more comfortable speaking English," she said, dropping out of Japanese for a moment. "The courses I took at UCLA were good, but they didn't teach me everything I need to know about your language, and I don't consider myself fluent in it. Also, I never had a chance to speak it except in class, so I don't have much practice."
Raising one eyebrow, he asked, "What would make you consider yourself fluent in it?" He took a set of keys out of his pocket and pressed a button that made the trunk pop up, and gestured for her to hand him her bags.
She handed him her carryon bag and laptop case, but kept her satchel. "Well, most linguists say that when you can think in a language you're fluent in it, but I personally subscribe to the Southern California idea of fluency – when you automatically swear in it without thinking, then you're fluent."
He chuckled lowly and closed the lid of the trunk. "Well, from personal experience I can tell you the second idea holds more true. I almost never think in anything but Japanese, yet I'm fluent in over twenty languages." He pressed another button on his keyring, and Amarin heard the distinct sound of the doors unlocking.
"Twenty? Wow," Amarin said, impressed.
Seto shrugged and pulled the passenger side door open for her. She nodded her thanks before slipping inside. He walked around to the other side and got in, putting on his seatbelt and then starting the car. As he navigated his way out of the airport parking lot, he glanced at the dashboard clock. "My brother should be getting out of school right about now – he'll probably get back to the mansion about the same time we get there. I'll introduce you and give you a quick tour, then I have to get back to the office."
"So once you leave for work, my job starts?" Amarin asked, not appearing at all fazed.
"If you wouldn't mind?" Seto asked, though she could tell it wasn't a real request. That was fine; she had no problem with jumping into the deep end.
"No, that's fine. Will I need to fix dinner, or do you have someone to do that?"
"I haven't employed any continuous help around the house until now; I have a maid who comes in twice a month to clean the mansion, and the gardener comes twice a week, but other than that, Mokuba and I pretty much take care of things," Seto explained. "I'll most likely be back tonight in time to fix dinner, but in case I'm not, Mokuba can show you where everything is."
Nodding, Amarin said, "All right. Um, you said you live in a mansion; am I going to need a map to navigate?"
His lips twisting in another almost smile, Seto gestured in front of them. "What do you think?"
Only just realizing that they'd stopped, Amarin looked up through the windshield and saw the Kaiba mansion. It was huge, sprawling; a rather nice shade of white brick, it had dozens of windows, some with balconies, some without, and seemed to stretch across over a block of land. They had slowed down so Seto could enter the security code in a panel next to the entrance gate and were now making their way down the front drive. "Whoo," she whistled. "Does this place have its own zip code?"
"No, but it is the only house on this street, so we're the only ones with Cherry Blossom Lane as an address," Seto said. She couldn't tell if he was joking or not, but a quick look to either side proved that there weren't any other houses in view.
After pulling into the garage – which Amarin noticed housed a limo, a blue convertible, a black Mercedes, and a sleek motorcycle – Seto helped her carry her bags inside. The inside of the house was much less imposing than the outward façade – probably because the decorations were pretty Spartan.
Seto checked his watch and said, "Mokuba should be home in a few minutes; in the meantime I'll show you to your room and give you a quick tour."
She nodded, sensing no words were necessary, and followed him down a series of so many corridors that she was sure she'd never be able to find her way back without help. Finally, they stopped in front of a door that looked just like all the other doors they'd been passing. Opening it, Seto said, "This is your room."
Walking inside, Amarin looked around and said the only thing that came to mind: "Wow."
The room was huge – at least three, possibly four times as big as any room she'd ever had before. It was also lightly furnished – a large brass bed in the corner, two side tables, a pair of bookcases and a bureau.
"You like it?" Seto asked.
"Yeah, it's great. I just hope I'm able to find it again once I leave," she said, smiling ruefully.
"Maybe you could put something on the door," Seto suggested. "I have a floor plan of the house I can give you, but it's not extremely detailed."
"Sure, I can do that." Looking around for something suitable for the job, she finally reached into the side pocket of her carry-on and pulled out a bright pink scrunchie. Walking over to the door, she slipped it over the doorknob. "There. That should work for now."
Nodding in accordance, Seto led her back down the hall, they way they'd first come – she thought, anyway – and a few minutes later, they arrived at the kitchen. Despite the size of the house, the kitchen was not all that much bigger than most ordinary ones, though it did hold an economy-sized refrigerator.
Picking up a piece of paper off the kitchen table, Seto handed it to her, saying, "This is the floor plan I was talking about. The main rooms are marked, as are all doors to the outside, but any of the unused rooms, and closets and such aren't on there."
Quickly scanning the sheet of paper, Amarin said, "This is great; it will really be a help."
At that moment, the sound of a door being slammed was heard, followed quickly by a young voice shouting, in Japanese, "I'm home!"
"We're in the kitchen, Mokuba!" Seto called back, in English.
They heard the sound of running feet, and soon a short boy with messy black hair entered the room. "Ani-sama, why are you speaking English?" Mokuba asked, switching to the other language. Then, catching sight of Amarin, he smiled widely and said, "Hi."
"Mokuba, this is Amarin Marks, your new…companion. I believe I told you about her?" Seto said. Mokuba nodded, and Seto continued, "Amarin, this is my brother, Mokuba."
"It's good to meet you," Amarin said, switching to Japanese for the moment as she bowed slightly.
"Good to meet you, too," Mokuba said, returning the bow.
"She's not quite used to speaking Japanese on a regular basis, so I thought you could practice your English until she's more comfortable," Seto suggested.
"Sure," Mokuba agreed, again switching languages.
Checking his watch, Seto said, "I have to be getting back to the office; I'll most likely be back in time for dinner. If I'm not, you can show her where everything is, right?"
Nodding, Mokuba said, "Sure. Don't work too hard." He gave his brother a quick hug, not bothered at all by Seto's slight stiffening, and then, turning to Amarin, asked, "Want me to show you around?"
Sensing that the younger Kaiba was trying to direct attention away from his brother, Amarin smiled and said, "Sure. From this floor plan your brother gave me, I can tell this place is like a maze. I can use all the help I can get."
"Great! Come on, I'll show you my room first." With that, Mokuba grabbed Amarin's hand and dragged her off, leaving his brother to pull himself together in private.
Having seen pretty much the whole mansion in less than an hour, even if it was a whirlwind tour, Amarin and Mokuba had ended up in the rec room, watching Disney's Brother Bear on DVD.
Soon after the movie ended, the sun was setting, Mokuba's stomach was growling, and Seto called to say briefly, "One of the mainframes has gone down, I'll be late tonight. You two go ahead and eat without me."
"Well, why don't you help me find the kitchen and I'll see what you have that looks like dinner?" Amarin suggested, rising from the floor and slipping her shoes back on.
"Okay," Mokuba said, and led her quickly down the hall. When they got to the kitchen, Amarin went straight to the refrigerator to look at what food was there. Considering the size of the appliance, it was pretty sparse in the way of provisions.
"Hmm," Amarin murmured, examining the contents of the refrigerator. "Not much in here…there's stuff to make sandwiches, or hot dogs. There's some ground beef, so I could make tacos if you have taco shells, or I could make spaghetti if you have spaghetti noodles and sauce. Other than that, it looks like we need to go grocery shopping soon," Amarin said, closing the refrigerator door and turning to Mokuba.
"We can fix spaghetti – we always have noodles, and there's a jar of sauce in the pantry. Seto's been really busy lately, so he hasn't had a chance to go to the grocery store; now that you're here, maybe he'll have more free time," Mokuba said.
"Well, I'd go and pick some stuff up, except for two things: one, I don't know where a grocery store is, and two, I don't have any Japanese money," Amarin said, grabbing the small package of ground beef and placing it on the counter. "Actually, make that three things: I don't know how to drive on the left side of the road, either. Which is probably going to cause problems when I have to take you to school on Monday."
"We have a driver – well, actually I have a driver," Mokuba corrected, hopping down from the stool he had been sitting on to walk over and open the pantry door. As Amarin accepted the jar of sauce and box of spaghetti noodles he handed her, he continued, "Seto mostly drives himself wherever he needs to go – he gets there quicker that way – but he's had so many problems with the people who work for him trying to hurt us that he doesn't like to leave me alone with the driver." He didn't act as if anything he'd said was in the least bit unusual.
Worried about the younger boy, who she had befriended within minutes of their meeting, Amarin said, "So basically I just ride with you to and from school to make sure the driver doesn't try anything funny?"
"Mm-hm," Mokuba said, opening a cupboard door and pulling out two pots, one large, one mid-sized, and a small skillet. Amarin took the larger pot and filled it with water, then set it aside before picking up the package of ground beef and opening it with a nearby knife. Mokuba was obviously familiar with the making of spaghetti, and with his help, the meat was soon browned and added to the bubbling sauce while they waited for the noodles to cook.
"Does your brother work late often?" Amarin asked curiously.
A shadowed look passed over his face, and Mokuba answered, "More often than not. He makes it home for dinner half the time, but normally ends up going back to the office, or working on something here. Especially now, with the Battle City Tournament coming up…"
"Battle City?" Amarin asked, confused.
Mokuba nodded, becoming animated once again at the new subject. "Yeah, he's hosting a Duel Monsters tournament to promote his new duel disk system. It's going to be great."
"How long is Battle City going to last?"
"Well, then, once the tournament is over, he'll have less to do, and maybe he won't be so busy," Amarin offered reassuringly.
"I hope so," Mokuba sighed, but he didn't look convinced.
Half an hour later, they had eaten the spaghetti – well, most of it, anyway – and Amarin and Mokuba were cleaning up.
"Why don't we leave the rest of the spaghetti in the refrigerator for your brother to have later?" Amarin suggested.
"He probably won't notice it," Mokuba told her. "He skips meals lots when he's working."
She got the feeling that Seto 'skipped meals lots' even when he wasn't working, but it wasn't exactly her business. "Well, we could leave him a note telling him it's in there."
"Where would we put it?" Mokuba asked. He was clearly hesitant to do this, but his obvious love for his brother compelled him to help.
"How about on the outside of the garage door?" Amarin suggested, after giving it some thought. "He'd be sure to see it when he comes in."
"Okay," Mokuba agreed, nodding. He opened a drawer and pulled out a pad of paper and pencil, quickly scratching out the message in perfect Kana.
Amarin, meanwhile, placed the leftover spaghetti on a plate and covered it with some plastic wrap before setting it prominently at the front of the refrigerator.
Tearing off the note, Mokuba threw the pad of paper back in the drawer. He then grabbed a piece of tape from a dispenser in the drawer before trundling off down the hall, Amarin following as she still wasn't familiar with all the hallways. When they reached the garage, Amarin accepted the proffered tape and note and attached them to the door.
"There," she said in satisfaction. "He'll be sure to see it."
Mokuba nodded, hiding his grin. He wasn't about to tell her that the note read: 'Amarin saved you some spaghetti; it's in the refrigerator. I think she likes you – or maybe she just thinks you're too skinny. Either way, could you eat it? I think it would make her happy. Me too. Love, Mokuba.'
Amarin's voice brought him out of his thoughts as she asked, "It's only six-thirty; do you want to watch another movie? Or do you have homework?"
Shaking his head, Mokuba said, "I got it done on the ride home. How about we watch The Fifth Element? It's one of Seto's favorite movies, but I've never seen it."
Amarin's eyes widened and she said, "Sure. It's one of my favorite movies, too."
"Okay, come on," Mokuba said, grabbing her hand and tugging her, laughing, down the hall.
Maybe – no, definitely – he shouldn't try to play matchmaker. But it would be fun to see what would happen. He got the feeling that Amarin Marks was going to turn their whole lives upside down.
And that wasn't necessarily a bad thing.