The Happy Genius
Inspired by episode 168 because I'm a little depraved. Sorry about that. And I'm using American ages because I really am. Anyway, I've pretty much quit fanfiction (real life and all), but here's the deal… I have five out of six chapters for this written. I can post this one as a one-shot, or I can post all five and hope that by the time y'all want to read the sixth I've actually finished writing it. Your call. Enjoy, either way.
When she sat down I'd been minding my own business, which for me usually has a twofold meaning. This time I was in a coffeehouse with a pair of sunglasses on and the collar of my grey coat turned up – I've heard people compare me to James Bond, but he gets better disguises. On the other hand, my gadgets are far superior to his so overall I feel I'm the winner.
I did not just acknowledge I felt the need to compete with a fictional character.
Oh, Christ. It was all the coffee.
No one had bothered me until then, despite the fact that my corner of the café also happened to be a window seat, on a fairly busy street downtown. Sure, I was attempting to keep a low profile, but being famous a famous CEO (or should that be an infamous bastard?) wasn't as bad as everyone seemed to think it was. Most of the time, nobody really expected you - Seto Kaiba - to actually be sitting in an actual coffeehouse, drinking actual coffee like an actual person. Surely not.
In the past I'd had my share of, "Wow, you kind of look like that Duel Monsters guy" comments, usually countered with a smile and the words, "You know, I get that all the time!" I'd prefer to glare at them and point out exactly how low their intelligence quotient must be/ how they were surely a wonderful contribution to society/ how their mother repeatedly dropped them on their head as a child making them both ugly and stupid… But that would be a typical Seto Kaiba response, and as such, would draw a lot more attention. As I've learned from experience.
Most of the time I just content myself with abusing them inside my head.
As for the media, they had actually realised my life as an actual person was incredibly unsensational. Well, it had been for a few years now, in particular since I dropped off the majority of the duelling circuit. I was still forced to give press releases on a weekly basis, but they were fairly standard. And I generally don't get out unless it's business… Which brings us back to the coffeehouse.
It was time to find a new supplier for headquarters. The one we had been using experienced a sudden corporate takeover and had changed its entire production line, meaning the coffee percolator in my office was suddenly producing a kind of mud I could barely swallow. (Not that I swallow any kind of mud, really.) So this was the other side of buying out a business! Great.
And as anyone who tries to run a business knows, coffee is an essential part of it. I wasn't going to stiff the employees and keep the good beans all for myself –how could I really expect them to stick around pulling all-nighters? I needed them wired like hard-drives most of the time. Nor was I about to leave the test-tasting to my latest assistant or even, for example my dear brother, both of whom drink Coca Cola in the morning instead.
Which brings me back to the girl who sat down opposite me. I was testing my tenth type of espresso when she slid into the empty chair and pulled off a pink woollen beanie, exposing long, sleek blonde hair. Next, off came a pair of pink, fingerless gloves, and then she ran one nicely-manicured hand through said hair.
I frowned and signalled the man behind the counter to bring espresso eleven - the so-called Mayan blend - over to me. Unfortunately, he misinterpreted the gesture and brought two. I scowled at him.
The man hastily removed the second cup.
She pouted. "You're not buying me a drink?" She made sure her voice was loud enough to carry to the barista's retreating back. The voice itself made me deduct several years from her appearance. It had all the authority but none of the actual maturity of a girl just a little older. This one was about fifteen. In short: what the hell?
"Was there something you wanted?" I asked, trying to make my voice harsh as I shuffled through my memory.
"Well, I would have taken that coffee..."
It was only then that I placed her; I picked up on the barely-perceptible accent when she spoke for the second time. There was only one blonde, American female who would ever consider she had a right to just sit down at my table, and yes, she would be about fifteen by now, wouldn't she?
"You remembered! I'm touched!" She winked at me, then pulled a small blue packet of sugar out of the glass holder in the centre of the table, and started slowly tearing the edges of it. She wasn't bothered by my stare.
Of course, maybe she didn't know I was staring at all. I was wearing sunglasses. I removed them, and sat back to give her another assessment. She was wearing a thin, pink woollen turtleneck, under a black jacket with a sophisticated, sharp cut; a grey, pleated skirt which stopped mid-thigh – her legs were sticking out away from the table, while she sat sideways on her chair – and black, suede knee-high boots.
"I repeat: is there something you want… Kid?" The word was added to the sentence slowly and deliberately.
She rolled her eyes. "Oh, you DO remember."
It wasn't a hard thing to recall, even if I hadn't seen her in a couple of years. Most child prodigies hate being referred to as the youngins' they are. I had. Mokuba had. Rebecca definitely had.
I signalled the waiter again. Espresso number twelve arrived – 'Black Columbian.' Rebecca piped up as the man tried to collect the scattering of empty cups sitting between us. "Hey, a double mochaccino, okay?"
He glanced at me worriedly. Oh, to hell with it. I sighed and nodded. "You don't have somewhere more important to be?"
"I'm working, not that it's any of your business."
"Did you take up caffeine addiction as a profession?"
I ignored her. Little smartass. Of course, she always had been. Insufferable as a child. And the worst part was, she deserved to be. I downed the Columbian blend like a shot of liquor and tried to figure out exactly how the taste was different from the previous one.
"What do you do, anyway?" I asked, abruptly.
She grinned. "What don't I do?"
"…Go away now."
"Aww, come on, Seto. Don't be rude. I was just kidding." She leaned back in her chair, bring her legs forward slightly and mimicking my posture somewhat unconsciously. She crossed her ankles. Her boots were close to my own, now.
"Being childish, you mean?"
She pouted her lips again. They were a pale pink like so much of her clothing, though it seemed this was natural. They had only a clear shimmer across them; lip gloss.
"I really am working. I'm considering this company as a supplier for my main building and I'm doing the taste-testing personally."
She stared at me – amused, I think. Shifted her big, light blue eyes back to the countertop. Put down her now-mutilated sugar packet. "Oh, you know… I got my degree in computer science and archaeology, recently did my masterate thesis in the latter and am almost done with my doctorate for the first. Founded a charity for toys and communications technology for underprivileged children… Duel Monsters International Champion for three years running… I'm technically in charge of Grandpa's investments and companies these days, though I guess other people look after it most of the time… And I dated a rockstar for a couple of months recently but dumped him because he wanted sex all the time. That sort of thing. How about you?"
Those eyes were pretty and innocent. Oh, so she wanted to play it that way, did she? To hell with it, I wasn't in the mood for games with a brat .
"I've been doing alright."
She threw her head back and laughed. It was unexpectedly loud in the coffeehouse, which had only a handful of other patrons at two-thirty on a business day. 'I've been doing alright.' Okay, Kaiba... You haven't been on the news recently?"
"When was the last time I saw you? That tournament in Paris two years ago?"
"Probably." I vaguely recalled a few snide comments being exchanged.
She re-crossed her ankles. I couldn't help but follow the slim lines of her legs. And she knew it. Fifteen, for the love of god in heaven.
"You know, Seto, you could try relaxing just a little bit. Have a nice, friendly chat. Maybe stop acting like you're the only one with a brain around here. It may come as a shock to you, but there are at least the two of us."
Oh yeah. Me and Rebecca Hawkins. We had something in common. That was just… Wonderful! But was it really such a bad offer? She was right. I spent enough time disdaining the rest of the human race, and here was a person with whom I could actually, possibly, have a satisfying conversation. If anything, I was reluctant to talk to someone who was very likely going to end up with the upper hand. I don't ordinarily venture into something if I'm not confident of emerging as the victor.
Okay, I did not just acknowledge I felt the need to compete with a teenage girl. Look at her.
"More coffee," I called. "No, no…" I corrected, as the man grabbed another ridiculously small espresso cup. "I think I've tried enough variety. Give me a flat white in the… Vienna."
"You're a little twitchy, huh?"
I didn't reply, and we sat in silence as the little man hurried to make my order. He brought over her frothy bowl of chocolate and coffee at the same time as my cup. Finally, a decent amount of caffeine in one sitting. Rebecca concentrated on emptying three sugars into her own drink and stirring them cautiously through the foam.
"It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it."
"…Huh? Oh," she giggled a little uneasily - a little startled that I'd spoken at all, let alone made… A quip. Me, quipping. It was a red letter day. "Right..."
"Okay." I sighed again. Here we go, I guess. "I studied physics and music, expanded KaibaCorp to communications, an airline, and entertainment and movies (Mokuba's division) to make it one of the largest corporations on a global scale, invested in medicine, funded housing programmes and orphanages in a few countries… That sort of thing." It was a modest description, really. I honestly could have tripled the list.
"Do I look like a recluse?"
"Frankly, yes!" Rebecca took a moment to mmm over her drink, warming her hands on the bowl and inhaling the rich scent. "Look at you, you're sitting alone in a café, dressed in black and grey with shadows under your eyes, and on your thirtieth cup of coffee."
"Thirteenth, actually," I admitted with a small smile. Mokuba would be proud of me. I had yet to strain a muscle doing it, though he warned me that if I kept leaving them for such long intervals it was bound to happen one day.
"Uh-huh. How many did you have before you got here?"
I paused. "Maybe… six?" Hey, it was mid afternoon. It had been a long day, and was getting increasingly longer.
"I guess you've had plenty of girlfriends; you're still as sexy as ever."
I managed not to choke on my flat white. Instead I raised one eyebrow at her. "I'm a regular Adonis, yes." I even managed to sound bored.
"You could make the tabloids any time you wanted, anyway."
"You have a funny way of looking at the world, brat. I've worked hard for a long time to keep out of them."
She looked at her hands. "You never just want to do something… Crazy?"
"Life is crazy," I returned.
"I was just on my way to my favourite bookstore."
"How nice for you." I can't sound friendly even if I want to. Too late to amend my cold ways, maybe. Sure, there had been times, and people, who had made me feel and act differently… But I'd mostly given up on those. They never worked out. The company, the public… It was too much. Easier just to drink my coffee alone.
"Let's go do something, Seto."
"Have all those coffee crystals eroded your brain?" Alright, maybe I just wasn't trying very hard.
"Would it be so bad? You can pick a coffee later."
"What would you like to do instead, go play with your dolls?"
"Unless you're bringing your own personal blow-up along, there aren't any available." She was grinning.
"Thanks for the offer, but I've had enough of Yuugi Mutou's leftovers in life."
She stood up so fast her chair scraped and almost toppled backwards. "If you were anyone else, I'd slap you right now." Her face had coloured.
"You're the one who asked to play with the big boys." True, I'd started it, but for a moment she'd seemed willing to give as good as she got. Blow up dolls… Maybe it had been a while, but sex wasn't exactly high on my list of priorities. Okay, maybe she wounded my pride. What could she possibly know about any of it? I had a decade on her.
Rebecca leaned forward, her hands on the table, and brought her face close to mine. Her breath was hot and sweet, like the mochaccino. "Are you a big boy, Kaiba?"
"Or are you the one who needs to grow up, here?"
I looked her in the eyes. "Alright… Perhaps that was over the line."
"It was." She sat down again, but her expression was guarded now.
"Did you ever…?"
"Did I ever what?" Flat tone.
I gazed at her steadily. She was bright enough to know what I was asking, even if it wasn't the most explicit inquiry.
"He kissed me, once…" She looked away, out the window. "The day before he got married."
"The little wife can't have been too pleased about that."
Without looking back, Rebecca wrapped her hands back around her mochaccino bowl. "I think Anzu knew about it, really." Her voice was soft now.
I looked down at my own coffee. Whatever went on in Yuugi's marriage was none of my business. I was struck by the sudden thought, however, that it must be hard to watch the person you love grow up, get married and get someone pregnant before you could even start highschool. (Mazaki was as big as a house, too – it was hard to believe she wasn't due for another two months. Was it two months? Shit, I didn't know. Oh well… Mokuba would probably know when to send a card.) I couldn't really deride Rebecca's devotion to the midget as 'only' puppy love – hell, I don't know if I'd ever cared for a member of the opposite sex that much. I'd considered marrying one of my girlfriends once, but even now - years later - Rebecca looked more sad for Yuugi than I had when she'd left me.
Not that I usually let my emotions onto my face, anyway. Okay, I'd become a bit better at it since my own teenage years, but I wasn't about to let another person depress me like that. It wasn't worth it.
I didn't know what to say to her, so I didn't say anything. Why bother her with clumsy, ignorant condolences? She was obviously doing fine. She finished off her mochaccino. I sipped my coffee.
"So do you wanna go somewhere?" she asked, brightly.
I looked at her suspiciously. She pulled out the lipgloss – clear, as I'd already guessed – and reapplied it with no hint of self-consciousness, but very obvious deliberation.
"Am I going to get arrested for it?" I asked, lightly.
"Where'd you get an idea like that, Kaiba? I don't look like a punk, do I?"
"I'm sure you're one on the inside." Disdainful tones are my friend.
She batted her eyelashes.
"You look like trouble."
She raised her eyebrows, pleadingly.
Well, why the hell not? Someone else was taking care of business. These days I let my most trusted employees handle a lot of the actual running of KaibaCorp. It had officially become too big and unwieldy for me to personally oversee every project. I'd cleared my afternoon now, and only other option I had was to continue drinking coffee by myself. A fine way to spend one's time: alone and jazzed up on coffee beans.
I stood and put my sunglasses on. "All right."
A smile illuminated her face, and I was sorry to say, it was devastatingly… Cute. Not a word I have ever used. God knows what the barista thought. I walked over to the counter, tossed a few bills in his direction, and muttered a thank you. Held the door for her.
She'd apparently been pulling on her gloves and hat, and now bounded towards me. "How gallant of you."
She looked comfortable in my car. She had no suggestions for where she wanted to go. She didn't seem particularly inclined towards any activity. I was forced to inhale and exhale several times, and remind myself that she was, in fact, a genius. Apparently. Just when I was starting to feel like a babysitter, I suggested the mansion. It wasn't like we had nothing to do there - an arcade, library, theatre, indoor pool, gym.
We made it into my garage without me killing her. I switched off the engine.
"Kaiba. ….Seto?" She said, softly.
I knew that tone. I kept my hands on the staring wheel and turned my head to look at her. "What?"
She shifted her legs, flashing a stretch of her inner thigh. "You like the way I look, right?"
"What game are we playing here, Rebecca? Because I don't appreciate not knowing the rules."
"I'm not playing." She toyed with a few strands of her hair, twirling it in her slender fingers. She bit her lip.
I took my right hand off the wheel and angled slightly towards her. "Is that so?"
Rebecca took a deep breath. "Well, do you?"
I considered. Of course, but that had never been good enough motivation for me, had it? She was a brat, and I knew plenty of those. I'd been one. Still kind of was. I'd agreed to leave with her, hadn't I? "I think I just might like you, yes."
I don't know how it happened but suddenly we were kissing. I was kicking myself mentally, but god, she tasted good. The lipgloss was cherry-flavoured. She snaked a hand around my waist and I let go of the wheel completely, using my hands to pull her closer across the seat. I could almost hear police sirens in my head – she pulled back, abruptly. Had I kissed her? Had she kissed me? Had I misjudged the situation? I hadn't felt so uncertain of anything in years.
"The handbrake is in the way, and I can't get on top of you because of the steering wheel."
We stood in the elevator, both staring forwards as floors disappeared below us, willing the damn thing to hurry up and the doors to open.
"Kiss me again," she said in a rush.
I grabbed her and lifted her, pushing her against the back wall, resting her slightly on the waist-high brass bar that ran around it. Her legs went around my hips. She pushed my coat back.
The doors opened onto my floor with a soft buzz, then closed again – it took longer than they allowed to disentangle ourselves.
"My room." My voice was hoarse. I took her hand like I was nothing but a teenager too, and pulled her along. The instant I shut the mahogany double doors she threw her arms around my neck, and this time I pushed her up onto a vanity, kissing her neck. It wasn't until I slid a hand inside her top that she stiffened.
What the fuck was I doing? This time, I pulled away – turned away, and said without looking at her, "Go away now."
"I'm sorry." Her voice was very quiet.
"Didn't you say you broke up with your boyfriend because of this?" She was silent behind me, and I studied my empty canopy bed. I could have left the room, but Christ, I wasn't a monster. I wasn't going to just walk out and leave her here to have some kind of emotional crisis. "You haven't done this before, have you?"
"He wasn't the right one. They never are."
I laughed, and found myself half-looking over my shoulder. "And what am I?"
"You…" She hadn't moved at all. Her legs were still parted enough to let me stand between them, her skirt pushed up slightly. Its appeal was dampened by her eyes, and the wet shine in them. "You know what it's like."
"What what is like, exactly?" I reclaimed the space between us. She stared down at my chest, not nearly so cocky now.
"To always… Always be thinking."
I kissed her cheek. Trying to be reassuring. "You can leave."
"No!" she breathed, vehemently. "I don't want… To think so much."
I'd probably switched my own brain off for the day. At least one of us ought to be thinking, right? Apparently not.
Rebecca's voice became even more quiet. "I don't want to be so lonely."
I felt an almost-physical twinge inside. Whaddya know, I still have emotions deep down somewhere. "There are boys your own age."
"Boys!" she shoved at me, then grabbed my black shirt and bunched her hands in it. "They don't know what they're doing."
If she thought I did, I had news for her. Right that moment I had no idea what the fuck.
"Stop me from thinking about it." She turned her face up to mine, and I took it like I might eat her from the mouth down.. I carried her from the dresser and laid her backwards on my bed. Kicked off my boots. Pulled my shirt over my head. Laid down on top… And she was too short, too close to the end of the bed. My feet were hanging over. I pushed her up along the black bedcovers and she put her hands against my now-bare chest.
"My boots - " she practically stammered.
Were they muddy underneath? Didn't care. "Leave them on."
The expression on her face was uncertain, but it was anything but childish. She knew what she was doing – what she wanted. I kissed her again.
I'd fallen asleep. I couldn't believe it. Of course, I'd been exhausting myself with some of my best work – but after all that caffeine? She was gone. I'd been seduced by a fifteen year old and she'd left while I was sleeping. There was one word to adequately sum up the situation:
What time was it? It was dark. I fumbled around for the beside clock - it had been knocked off the stand, I vaguely recalled - and found it on the floor.
Only six pm. I must've been asleep… What, an hour? I put the clock back beside me, brushing a piece of paper as I did so. Oh great. A note. What could she possibly have to say, now? Dear John? If I was getting a dear john from a teenager, I should officially probably kill myself. Unfortunately, I wasn't that angsty. I switched on the lamp to read it.
Thank you. I know it wasn't what I said I wanted from you, but… If you should decide that you want to see me again, give me a call. It's up to you. I won't bother you, otherwise.
Her number. I wondered where my cellphone was. Ah - Two coats. They should be lying on the elevator floor, though probably Rebecca had taken hers. I hoped no one else had used the elevator since then, but it was unlikely. And the security camera would have – no, not thinking about it. That's what huge salary bonuses are for. I grabbed a sheet and pulled it around my waist so I could walk into the hall. Wouldn't do to startle a maid, after all. I pushed the button and with the hissing of the opening doors, there it was. I grabbed it, went back to my room, pulled my cellphone out of its pocket. I left the coat on the floor.
Trying not to think too hard myself, I lay back on the bed – sheet still around my waist - and dialled the number in front of me. I knew I'd show up as 'number unavailable' on her screen. I stared at the ceiling. Bother me. That, she did.
"Yeah?" Nice phone manner.
"Hey, Brat." She was quiet. "You know that when you're a young and attractive fifty year old, I'll be a decrepit sixty years of age."
Still silence. And then, "Don't be ridiculous, Kaiba. You have classic good looks and a lot of money; you'll always be sexy."
"What if I get a hip replacement?"
"Then you'll finally be part machine like the world always suspected."
"You can work out a sexy dance routine and go on tour."
I guess she was okay, then. Her wit wasn't suffering, anyway. Not that I'd been too concerned – she was the one who'd left me to wake up alone. And not that I shouldn't have woken up alone… Except it had bothered me. Crazy. Maybe I'd finally crossed the line from eccentric billionaire to crazy asshole. Maybe I still had more caffeine than blood in me. Maybe, maybe. What pretty excuses.
"How did you get home?"
"I persuaded your driver to take me." Had she, just. I was not dealing with an ordinary girl here. Of course, I shouldn't have been dealing with her all. I shouldn't have called. She'd had what she wanted out of me, and I hadn't done too badly in the bargain. But there had been something in her those sky-blue eyes of hers. I don't want to be so lonely.
"Yes?" She'd answered almost too quickly.
"I have another coffee retailer to check out tomorrow."
"Oh. Maybe you shouldn't drink all that by yourself; so much caffeine can't be good for a person."
"I was considering that, myself." Dry tone, as always.
"So what do you suggest?"
She hesitated. "Can't really do two thirty. Later?"
"Pick me up."
She seemed to think she could boss everyone around. I had news for her if she thought she could do it to me. But since I'd called her, I suppose in this one case it was acceptable. "Okay."
She gave me an address. I said okay again. I hung up. I had the funny feeling my life was about to be re-examined by the tabloids. Maybe that would be okay, too. I could stand to be bothered for a little while.
As long as her grandfather didn't try to have me arrested, of course.