Blow Out the Candles
Written by Atlantis
This was written as a challenge I received at my Live Journal by Anonymous, who I hope to goodness is as pleased with the final result as I am. See how smart it is to sneak by my LJ and see what's happening? If you're a good little puppy, you might just get a fic out of it! Just kidding. No, really.
For anyone interested, I just want to get the word out that my fic, Riddles of the Heart is –NOT- finished. I simply had to put it on hiatus for a time because I had no time to write, no matter how much I wanted to. I'm hoping that will change this semester as I have been working on the next chapter. This makes me very happy and if makes even one of you out there happy, then my day has been made. If you'd like to know about other updates, stop by my profile or my LJ and leave a comment. I love to hear from you!
Disclaimer: The characters and the show aren't mine, but the story definitely IS. Do not plagiarize. There are several people besides myself who would gladly give you hell for doing so.
Behold, you are fair, my love!
Behold, you are fair!
You have dove's eyes.
Song of Solomon 1:15
With not even enough energy to make a snide comment on how slow his driver was to open his door, Seto Kaiba climbed out of his limo, hauling his briefcase out behind him. The maid was more prompt when it came to holding the door to the mansion open and welcoming him home but he had nothing to say to her either. It wasn't until Mokuba came sliding down the stair rail, hopping off just before the last few steps and donning a smirk that Seto's facial expression briefly flickered something with softer and more paternal before it was tucked away again to be replaced by a blank stare.
"Big brother," Mokuba greeted, shoving his hands into the back pockets of his jeans. Seto didn't miss the way the younger man's eyes searched behind him for something on the other side of the closed door, but he said nothing else.
"I've told you not to slide down the banister. It worries the help." Seto set his briefcase down momentarily to pull his trenchcoat off and hand it to the maid still standing at the door. Then he picked it back up and headed towards the stairs, intent on getting to his office to do more work. Mokuba followed with a shrug.
Seto opened the door to his office and left it ajar so that Mokuba could come in. Once he'd set his briefcase down, he sank into his leather couch and rested his head against the back, a heavy sigh escaping past his lips.
"Long day, big brother?" Mokuba asked.
"Not long enough for some of those morons that work for me. I ask for one simple thing and it brings twenty new problems to my desk before the hour is up." Seto threw his arm over his eyes to block out the little light that was in the room.
"So, nothing good happened today?" Mokuba asked, settling down in Seto's desk chair.
"No." The tone brooked no room for interpretation.
It was quiet for several minutes before a light knock sounded on the door and Mokuba turned his head to see while Seto lowered his arm back to the couch at his side, annoyance all over his features.
"I'm sorry to interrupt, young masters," the maid from earlier said softly, "but--"
"Finally!" Mokuba jumped out of Seto's hair fast enough that it spun and the armrests hit him in the knees. "I knew she'd make it." His usual vibrancy back, Mokuba mumbled an excuse to Seto and walked quickly from the room, his steps heavy. The maid bowed her head with a smile and disappeared from the doorway without so much as a dismissal while the Seto mulled a few things over.
1. Mokuba had obviously been waiting for someone else before he'd gotten home.
2. He seemed tense despite his nonchalant air.
3. The person he'd been waiting for had arrived and was a girl, by his reaction, and
4. He was wearing nicer clothes than he opted for on an everyday basis.
Could Mokuba have a… ? Standing abruptly, Seto walked out of his office and back down the stairs, rubbing his temples as he went, eyes narrowed at the invasive light. She'd meet his approval first, whatever the case.
When he came down from the stairs he didn't see Mokuba or the visitor in the main foyer and headed toward the kitchen when he heard Mokuba's good-natured laughter. Seto passed through the dining area and into the hallway that led to the kitchen, noting that the pictures on the wall needed straightening and a good dusting. Hearing Mokuba laugh again, a lower tone to the sound of his voice, thoughts of an inappropriate nature came unbidden to his mind. It certainly wasn't the first time Mokuba had done this, whatever this was.
He pushed open the swinging door to the kitchen and spied his brother, standing on the opposite side of the island counter that the girl—
"Mazaki?" Seto stopped in the doorway to stare at her, her soft smile diminishing as she turned to regard him. He watched her wring her hands in her lap which brought his gaze to the enchanting expanse of leg showing with that short skirt.
"Anzu, Seto," Mokuba corrected gruffly and Seto looked to see his younger brother showing a rarity on his face. A frown. Seto frowned right back at him and pushed his hands into his pockets.
"Don't play games, Mokuba. What's all this about?" He kept his eyes on his brother for fear of another mutiny of his eyes that led to the examination of their visitor's legs. Mokuba merely held up a set of keys and Anzu rose from her seat, tugging her jacket closer to herself. Treacherous blue swept over to notice the flesh-colored leggings she was wearing with fur-lined boots.
Of course she's not wearing anything ridiculous when its so cold out. But what a pity, all the same. Seto shook his head. He should have known it would be her. Nobody else ever came over to spend time with the elusive Kaiba brothers and she and Mokuba seemed joined at the hip at times. His own inability to call her by her first name had nothing to do with being callous or unfamiliar and everything to do with the distance he'd wanted to remain between them.
"Come on, Seto," Mokuba said as he came back into the kitchen with both Seto and Anzu's long overcoats, helping Anzu into hers and lying Seto's over his arm. Seto blinked. He hadn't even realized Mokuba had left the room. He looked at Anzu who was blushing and studiously trying to keep her gaze averted. Had he been staring at her?
Neither said anything and followed Mokuba to the front doors, then outside to the waiting BMW where the younger Kaiba climbed into the driver's seat, but not before motioning with a jerk of his chin to his older brother to help Anzu in.
"Let's go," Seto said, his breath coming out in light puffs in the cold air. Anzu nodded and reached for the door but Seto's hand reached it first and he opened it for her. She looked up at him and gasped when his other hand went to the small of her back to guide her in. They stared at each other a moment; Seto's desire to maintain that carefully manicured distance between them diminishing with each passing second, particularly when Anzu licked her lips. Seto gripped the back of her coat and his fingers sank into the material.
The spell was broken.
She pulled away and got in behind the passenger seat, followed by a strangely thoughtful Seto. After he climbed in, he almost missed the smirk stretched across Mokuba's lips before he steered the car towards the road that exited the Kaiba property. Seto did his best not to look back at Anzu but found his eyes drifting to the rear view mirror to watch the girl – woman – stare out the window. He hadn't said anything to her earlier but suddenly wished he had.
She was beautiful tonight.
Over the past several years, she had steadily mellowed and lost some of her peppiness but in its place was a sense of self and confidence, a personality that was subtle and endearing and irresistible. It wasn't unusual for the two of them to be working in tandem in his office; he working away at one thing or another and she meticulously filing anything he printed (despite his protests). She also always found time to spend with Mokuba, laughing at her inability to play whatever new game he was engineering at the time while he took serious consideration of the constructive criticism she gave freely. Anzu had a surprisingly good eye and analytical nature when it came to graphics and design.
Her hair was longer, had grown out to the middle of her back, thick and sleek and magnetic. Seto had lost count of the times he'd wanted to bury his hands in those soft strands and run his fingers through them. And tonight, with a thick white scarf wrapped around her neck, the contrast against her dark hair only made it that much more tempting. Not only that, but her eyes held a consistent 'come hither' look, bright blue lined in black with thick lashes that fanned against her cheeks when she fell asleep on the couch in his office. Her lips, when she slept, tended to part with soft breaths, a cursed invitation for a stolen kiss.
He glanced back at her in the mirror once more and noticed the addition of a smile as she stared out the window. That reminded him…
"Where are we going?" he asked, breaking his gaze with Anzu's reflection to stare at his brother. Mokuba was silent.
"It's a surprise."
The quiet voice at his ear from behind sent Seto's heart racing. He could practically feel the mischievous look that was painted across her face. Seto raised his eyes once more to the mirror to find Anzu staring right back at him, her mouth still so close to his ear that he could feel the warm puffs of her breath on his skin. He suddenly wished he had his briefcase so as to place it on his lap. He watched Anzu lean back, noticeably more at ease as she continued eye contact through the mirror. Seto breathed a sigh of relief. That only left Mokuba.
Upon a brief flicked of the eyes to look, it was plain to Seto that Mokuba was suppressing a wicked grin by pressing his lips together.
Dammit. Seto cursed his brother every which way but paused after a moment to contemplate his current situation.
Several years ago, brother included or not, Seto would have never agreed to go anywhere without first knowing the destination, the reason, and the length of time of the activity. And even then, there was no guarantee he would go along with it. His schedule was precise, planned out to the minute if he could help it, leaving leisure time only for Duel Monsters; perfecting his deck, mapping out devastating strategies (to just win was not an option), and competing with Yugi. Nothing else mattered. But things were different now.
He made time for Mokuba, included him in new innovations and productions, focused on making his company not only the unrivaled leader in electronics and gaming, but he was also improving the workplace for his employees. He was able to tolerate the behavior of most of the people around him for a majority of the time, and rumor had it that he'd been happy enough on two occasions where he'd outright smiled.
Now, he was beginning to have feelings for someone. For Anzu.
And yet he still kept the distance between them. The closeness, the intensity of his emotions, was jarring for an individual suck as himself, someone who had tried for the better part of his life before now to avoid relationships and personal contact on any level. Social interaction had been kept to a minimum and now that he wanted to expand that slim field of experience, he found he couldn't. He simply didn't know how to react to something he couldn't first simulate and analyze. Anzu in particular could not be imitated because the only behavior pattern she had was her limitless selflessness. She was genuinely concerned for everyone but herself at all times, to the point of frustration sometimes for Seto. But that same reason for frustration was, ultimately, what won her over to him.
Seto cam back to the present and peered out his window at the building they were parked in front of.
"Funtastics?" he inquired, a sneer making itself known.
"Don't knock it 'til you try it, big brother," Mokuba said as he climbed out of the car and tucked his keys into the pocket of his leather jacket. Seto was more than skeptical but got out anyway and helped Anzu out from the back seat. He bent forward a bit and brushed a strand of hair behind her ear after closing the car door and whispered, "What's this about?"
Blushing prettily, Anzu said, "That's the second time you've asked, Seto. Don't you trust us?" And when she reached up to flick his bangs this way and that until she was satisfied, he couldn't help the way he took her hand and gave it a squeeze before lacing their fingers together.
"You'll have to hold my hand to reassure me, then." A small smile tilted the corner of his lips with a sense of inner triumph over his words. He never teased – flirted! – this way with Anzu. When she lowered her face but made no move to unclasp their hands, the smile stretched. Perhaps an experiment with his own bravery had been what was needed all along?
Anzu said nothing but tugged on Seto's hand and led him behind Mokuba. He brushed his thumb over her knuckles as they walked (another experiment) and watched closely, took note of the way she squeezed his hand a little tighter, bit her lip and glanced at him from the corner of her eye. His smile got wider when he met her stare and she managed a tiny 'Eep!' for being caught. Mokuba held the door to the building open for Anzu and she walked in, Seto trailing behind her (willingly), their hands still connected, his thumb still sweeping over her skin.
"Its good to see you smiling, big brother," Mokuba said and Seto looked over his shoulder to watch his brother shut the door and follow them in. Seto stopped moving as the were passing through the middle of the darkened lobby. Suddenly, the empty parking lot, unlit building, and questionable antics by his brother and Anzu computed and Seto narrowed his eyes.
The lights blazed to life all around them and Seto winced.
Seto opened his eyes again and quickly took in his surroundings. There were streamers and balloons everywhere in gaudy, annoying colors and more than a few of the people Seto had come to not hate anymore over the years. Yugi, his arm around Rebecca, had a ridiculous cone-shaped hat on and she, a noise-maker in hand, both wearing huge smiles. Shizuka was fairly beaming, surrounded by Otogi, Honda, and Ryou who were elbowing each other and snickering.
Seto eyed the blonde who had opened his big mutt mouth with rude gestures on each hand before Jou's siren of a fiancé headlocked him. Seto still had doubts over his choice of a best friend.
"Hey there," Mai waved, jerking Jou under control with a subtle twist of her elbow.
Still, despite the obvious set-up, Seto turned eyes that were almost never completely confused to Anzu. She leaned up on tiptoe.
"Happy birthday, Seto Kaiba."
Seto managed to understand her words only after a momentary loss of clarity due to the sensation of having Anzu stand so close.
"It's… my birthday?" Seto pulled his jacket sleeve back to look at his watch.
"This is your surprise party, big brother," Mokuba cut in, hands tucked into his jacket pockets and a smile on his face. "When Anzu found out you'd never had one before, she insisted."
"Aww, don't blush, Anzu!" Jou cawed, pulling Mai into his arms so that she couldn't catch him in another headlock. Jou grunted because, knowing Mai, she'd probably elbowed him in the gut, but Seto's eyes were only for Anzu who was making an effort to not look at him. She'd drawn in on herself a bit but the pink in her cheeks had nowhere to hide. Seto reached out to take her hand once more, having let go of it earlier in his surprise, and felt his collar get hot when there was a chorus of 'Aww!'s. He waited until she looked up at him.
"Why did you do this?" he whispered.
"Because you're our friend, and--" She took a deep breath. "And we love you. That's reason enough." A smile made itself known on her lips and Seto wanted to say something but found his voice locked away in his throat. He knew now. He knew. She had said 'we,' but her eyes had firmly stated 'I.' Choked with emotion, something in him snapped and released all that he'd ever held back. He pulled Anzu to his chest and tucked her under his chin, arms wrapping around her tight. What was it about this girl that made him feel and care and want to change?
Something wonderful. Empowering. A sense of rightness when everything in his grey world had always been ruled by logic. She was the one who had opened the window; or perhaps she was the window. But in any case, there was light and color in his life because of her.
When he lifted his chin from the crown of her head, he was grateful to see that the others had dispersed to different areas of the building that had been revealed by the lighting. Most were over by a decorated table sipping from styrofoam cups. Mokuba was walking from person to person with some sort of wristband, saying something about it 'adding to the experience' when Rebecca had inquired the point when the entire complex had been bought out for just this party. Jou and Honda were already busy pushing tokens into games in the arcade, movements jerky as they challenged each other to painfully easy-to-beat machines. But the only person he cared about at the moment was secure in his arms, resting her chin on his shoulder, her arms loose around his waist.
"You didn't have to," he whispered into her hair. "In fact, you really shouldn't have. This place is ridiculous."
"That's why it made me so happy to do it. Because every fiber in you would avoid this place and feel it was wholly unnecessary. This is a place for wishes and fun and childhood." Anzu raised her head from his shoulder to smile at him and his arms tightened slightly around her waist.
"No," he said. "This is a place for dreams like that." One of his hands went to her jaw, his thumb brushing across her cheek while he watched pink suffuse her face and her eyes light up as thought filled to the brim with stars. "But Anzu, I've never had a childhood." Anzu reached up to place her hand over his lips.
"I know." Yet her eyes still held that unconditional adoration. "Come on, lets go to the rink."
Rink? Seto knew his eyes showed his skepticism but he followed Anzu's gentle tugging, her comforting smile putting him at ease. They left the others behind and walked to the far end of the room, passing through a doorway where large sheets of plastic hung from the top of the frame to the floor. The temperature almost instantly dropped and Seto was glad he'd left his coat on. His eyes traveled shamelessly down the expanse of Anzu's legs and on closer inspection (-much- closer inspection) he realized that the leggings she wore seemed to be made of a much thicker material than average.
Anzu led him out until they reached a wall and on the other side: ice. She slipped her hand out of his and sat down on the bleacher seats behind the wall and reached for a duffle bag. What she pulled out were two set os ice skates, one white pair and the other black. Anzu tugged her boots off and set them to the side before lacing up the skates. Once there were snug, she stood up and faced Seto, sweeping her hand down at the other pair of skates.
"Aren't you going to join me?"
Seto looked down at the skates; knowing Anzu they were his size to the tee and were the best money could buy. These were no rentals. He turned startled eyes to her.
"Why would you buy skates for someone who has never stepped foot on ice?" You can't afford these. The gesture alone made his heard clench, reminding him of a long forgotten promise and Anzu's ever-giving nature.
"Because," Anzu said as she took a step closer across the rubber floor, "I intend to teach you how to use them." She leaned forward on the toes of her skates and placed a whisper of a kiss on the corner of Seto's mouth. Seto watch her checking his reaction when she moved away and thought that maybe he wasn't the only one experimenting.
Anzu pivoted and opened the door that led onto the ice, pushed off, and went gliding towards the other end of the rink, turning around half-way there to blow a kiss while skating backwards. An image of his mother, all quietness and gentle smiles, shimmered over Anzu and Seto saw himself, resolute as he clung to the wall, to not go out on the ice. As he wobbled on his little skates, his father knelt beside him to ruffle his hair affectionately.
"Someday, when you're ready," he said, "you'll find a reason to not be afraid of falling. But its okay right now. Watch over your little brother in the meantime. These things take time and patience." Then his father pushed onto the ice toward his mother, only to immediately take a tumble backwards and land on his back. He rubbed at his rear while Seto's mother glided over, covering her soft laugh with one gloved hand and holding the other down to help his father up. She fell forward when he pulled on her wrist and the two rolled around on the ice for a few moments before lying down and laughing.
Blinking, Seto saw Anzu leaning against the wall, suddenly unsure. "You don't have to put the skates on. You can just walk on the ice if you prefer. But I can understand if you don't want to; I mean, I didn't ask--"
Rather than answer, Seto took one step forward through the open door onto the ice and let go of the wall with the second. Anzu pushed away only slightly to give him room, a bright smile splashed on her lips. He could tell she wanted to say something but she kept quiet, leading him slowly to the center of the ice. Once he got there, he stood and looked around him, surrounded by a thin white surface that stretched in every direction and a chill that was nearly frosting his coat. He watched Anzu circle him, nothing fancy in the way she moved but graceful and breathtaking nonetheless. What was it the commentators said during competitions?
Ah, yes. She had presence. This was where she'd channeled all of that passion for dance and it seemed to fit her the way a glove fit a hand. As she was gliding in front of him again, smile still present, he felt the need to hold her hand again, keep her close.
His weight shifted, his foot slipped. Seto jerked his body forward to keep from following in his father's footsteps but on the ice, his footing was unsure and he overcompensated. It was to his surprise that he jerked to a stop halfway down, legs spread in a way that could very well have been painful, and arms caught in the crooks of Anzu's elbows. Her stance was wide and her skated were digging into the ice, her smaller frame trembling slightly from holding up so much weight at such and angle, but she only sighed happily.
As Seto pulled himself back up to a standing position, his hands grasping Anzu's shoulders rather than splayed all over her arms, he heard her say, "I'll always catch you, you know." He found firm footing and looked down at her. "As long as you'll have me around."
The smile was there before he knew where it had come from and suddenly his father's words didn't only pertain to ice skating. He lifted a hand to brush his knuckled over Anzu's flushed but chilled cheek and lowered his lips to her ear.
"I'm going to kiss you."
Anzu threw an arm around his waist and caught his jaw with her hand, turning him towards her. Their lips met in a sort of exuberant kiss, Anzu pulling him closer and Seto kissing her harder. Her hands slid under his coat to clench at the material of his black turtleneck while he buried his hands in her thick hair. She sighed breathily when Seto kissed at her lower lips, sweeping his tongue across the moist flesh before tugging her away a little so that he could look in her eyes.
"I love you," she said. And this time, Seto kissed Anzu, if only for a moment.
His enthusiasm sent them tumbling down to the ice, and Seto groaned when he landed on his shoulder and heard his hip give and unpleasant pop. Anzu was rubbing the side of her head gingerly but when she turned her eyes to him, all she could do was laugh. Seto chuckled as well and rolled to his back, pulling Anzu half onto his chest where they shook together in their joy before Seto tugged her up again for another sample of her lips.
At the other end of the rink, more than several heads could be seen peering around the corner, as though they were stacked atop each other.
"So, you think we should tell Anzu that Seto's birthday isn't really for another month?" Yugi looked up at Mai and Mokuba who shrugged. Shizuka shook her head 'no' then looked behind her to watch Honda and Ryou try to contain her brother's howling laughter.
"What good would it really do?" Otogi snickered as he slipped an arm about Shizuka's shoulders unbeknownst to his competition. "Looks like he's about to unwrap his present, anyway."
"Seto, is that your ice skate or are you just happy to see me?"
"That's the ice, Anzu."
One-shot. Don't ask for more chapters, please. You really won't get any. But I would like reviews. I actually crave them. Like chocolate. Actually, chocolate sounds really good right now… Don't forget the review! I'll munch on those later!