It turned out that when Seto Kaiba said he would be in touch, it meant that his secretary would screen his calls and relay noncommittal messages. Kaede was at first hurt, then indifferent, and finally infuriated. After a week of no answer, she rang Kaiba Corp determined to speak to him.
"Thank you for calling Kaiba Corporation. How may I direct your call?"
"I'd like to speak to Seto Kaiba please," Kaede said, bracing herself for the brush off.
"I'm afraid he's unavailable, Ms. Iwate. However I can pass a message along to him." The secretary's cool tone was irritating at best.
"Please let him know I think I'm having problems with the baby." Kaede crossed her fingers and mouthed a silent prayer. There was a click, and then a ring.
"What's wrong?" Kaiba's voice snapped onto the line. Under the impatience, Kaede thought she caught a twinge of panic.
"So this is the only reason you'll talk to me? If you think our little miracle is in trouble?"
"What. Is. Wrong." Kaiba grated out. "Is the child okay?"
"Yes," she replied, exasperated. "We're fine. Not as though you've called to check on either one of us since you left."
"I had important business. I had to return to Domino."
"I'm certain. You remembered while you were taking my panties off or after?"
He coughed uncomfortably on the other end of the line. "I don't believe this is necessary."
"You don't sound the least bit upset I tricked you."
"In a way, it's admirable," he snorted. "You gambled that I care enough about the child to stop ignoring you."
"Ha! You were ignoring me."
"Perhaps, but we have nothing to discuss until you agree to sign the papers I left."
"And I won't sign them until you can consider treating me with a little more respect!"
There was a silence on the other end of the phone, and Kaede absentmindedly rested her hand over her stomach. It might be her imagination, but it seemed as though it were already a little bigger. Could it be so soon? It was only nine weeks in and-
"Are you there?" Kaiba's voice shook her from thoughts.
"Yes, Seto," she said softly. "I'm here."
"I asked if you would consider coming to Domino." The irritation had faded; instead, he just seemed simply weary.
"For how long?" Kaede asked. Her hand moved to the dimple of her bellybutton. How long before that was distended and stretched beyond recognition too?
"For however long you will come. You can stay with me. We can, er, talk."
Kaede hesitated on the words before slowly answering, "I… would really like that. When should I come?"
"A week should be long enough for you to arrange things, I'm sure. I can handle your bills if you'll bring the contact information when you arrive."
"You don't need to do that, I-"
"No," Kaiba interrupted. "It will be taken care of. I'll send a plane for you next Friday. I'll get you the details this afternoon."
"Thank you," Kaede said, grateful.
This apparently signaled the end of the conversation for Kaiba, because there was an abrupt click. To be sure however, Kaede waited until she heard the dial tone on the phone before she hung up. She hadn't gotten an apology, nor had she gotten a commitment from Kaiba to change his behavior, but she felt soothed nonetheless.
Later that afternoon, Kaede was sprawled out on Tea's living room rug, flipping through a maternity catalogue.
"These are hideous, Tea," she complained, pointing to a flowered muumuu style dress. "Why is it that the fatter I'm going to get, the uglier these flower prints are?"
Tea chuckled and threw an old copy of Vogue at her. "I'm finding it hard to have sympathy for you. But since you seem to love them so much, I'm sure I can get some of my aunt's old maternity clothes for you."
"How awful?" Kaede peered up at her, wary.
"Makes those look like they belong on the runway."
Kaede hid her face behind under the magazine, muffling her voice. "I'm unwed. I'm knocked up. Oh, and I have to rely on my rich baby daddy to pay my rent for me while I fly to meet him in Japan."
"You could have gotten knocked up by someone from Italy. Or maybe Spain. Have some discretion next time," Tea mocked.
"Oh, don't be so jealous." Kaede giggled. "You get to have your butt kicked back into shape for the next show while I eat whatever I want and laze about."
"Have you told Vaughn yet? About anything?"
"Well, most everyone knows about my rampant sexual misbehavior. Its unintended consequences haven't made the tabloids just yet." She wrinkled her nose. "Which, you will have to keep an eye out for that debacle. I've given up the habit."
"I'm proud… caffeine and tabloids? Being pregnant is doing wonders for you." Tea rolled her eyes. "You really do need to tell Vaughn though. I can't stall for you any more; they won't believe the flu excuse much longer."
"I suppose you're right." Kaede sat up. "What time are you going back today?"
"In an hour. Come with. Get it over and done."
"Exactly what I wanted to do with my day."
Kaede purposefully arrived early with Tea to meet with their trainer. At six foot seven and who knew how many pounds, Vaughn was an imposing wall of a man that only seemed like he might tear your limbs from your body. In reality, it was difficult enough for Kaede to admit her predicament to Vaughn; if any of the other dancers were there, she didn't know that she could handle the scrutiny.
Unfortunately the great mirrored room where they practiced and readied for rehearsals wasn't empty. As Kaede followed Tea through the doors, a tall slender figure straightened up and tossed her blonde hair back.
"Kaede," the blonde said with a sickly sweet smile and arched brows. "So good to see you… you're looking robust."
"Thanks, Annika," Kaede replied icily. "Happy you noticed." Tea cleared her throat and cast a meaningful glance toward the small office at the back of the room where Vaughn worked.
"Oh, hello, Tea." Annika said offhandedly before turning her gaze back to Kaede. "So, you had an interesting trip to Japan, hm? Shame you couldn't handle yourself that night, those were some truly unflattering photos…"
"That's enough, Annika. I'm sure Kaede is quite aware of your feelings," Tea cut in. "We need to meet with Vaughn, is he in his office?"
"So Kaede, when are you due?" Annika asked, an awful gleam in her eyes.
Her breath caught in her throat, and rather than coolly arching her own brow and lying through her teeth, Kaede instead sputtered and choked out a startled, "What?"
"Come on, we're not stupid. You screw some billionaire, get knocked up with his kid and voila! Instant payday for Kaede," Annika hissed. Kaede was taken aback by her venom. She and Annika had never been on good terms but instead had a rivalry that was more often than not tinged with bitterness. But never had Annika spoken so viciously without any provocation.
"What are you talking about?" Kaede said, her voice shaking. Unbidden tears began to well up, embarrassing and exasperating her more. Why was it that she was crying at the most inopportune times?
"At least your career is done here," Annika spat. "I can finally work without having to worry if you'll slut your way into another part I should have gotten!"
Tea gasped next to her, and with that Kaede turned and bolted from the studio. As she fled, she heard Annika's cackle and Tea raise her voice in anger.
The walk home was at least fifteen blocks; while a cab ride wouldn't shave much time off, it would save her feet any number of blisters. But in her distraught state, she simply bolted down the sidewalks, brushing past people without care.
The hateful words had been the first open censure of what had happened in Domino. Despite the bitterness and untruth to the words, they had wounded her deeply. Annika had simply guessed and spewed forth her true thoughts… what if everyone else thought the same and simply didn't have the guts to tell her?
Her heart dropped even further into her gut as she rounded the corner to her block. Standing by the elevator lobby's door was a familiar figure that she thought she had abandoned.
"Ken," she croaked, as he turned his head to face her. Her throat was parched, and her head swimming.
"Kaede," he replied formally, his deep timbre ringing hollow in her ears. His dark hair was as coiffed and polished as ever, his brown eyes taking her in as they always did.
"What are you doing here?" Kaede asked tiredly. After her day thus far, any conversation with Ken was the last activity she wanted to participate in.
"I'm here to take you back if you're done being mad," he said simply.
Kaede felt her eyes bug slightly at Ken's sheer stupidity. If her memory served her right, her final words in their breakup had been, "We're done, for good this time. I can't be with you ever again."
"What part of our breakup were you not present for?" she snapped. "I told you I was done. I fucked up, I don't love you. I moved, I changed my phone, I avoid you like the plague. Why aren't you getting this?"
"We've fought before. We always made up… how is this time any different?" he argued back. "Everyone expects us to be together, Kaede. We're perfect together."
It was the line that blew her last fuse. " Everyone expects us to be together?" she said scathingly. "Not, you love me and can't live without me. Not, you miss our good times and want to work things out. No, everyone thinks we're a perfect couple, that's why we should be together?"
Ken had the grace to look slightly embarrassed.
"Well, of course I love you," he tried to mollify her. "You know that."
"No!" Kaede cried out. Her voice echoed off of the alleyways around them, fierce and razor sharp. "I am done! I slept with someone else. I cheated on you. And guess what! I'm having his baby! We're getting married, and I'm having his baby!"
As he processed the news, Kaede watched his face break while she breathed heavily before him. It had always been his dream to marry her and procreate, and the realization that she had lived his fancy out with another man seemed to finally sink in.
"You're pregnant?" he asked dully.
"Yes," she whispered back.
"And it's his? Not mine?"
"How could it be yours, Ken? But yes, we're sure."
"You're marrying him." The statement felt like a slap to Kaede.
"Yes," she forced out. "I think so."
He appeared not to hear the last of it, but instead stared at her glassy eyed. He opened his mouth and closed it once, twice, then asked, "What are you trying to prove, Kaede?"
"There's nothing to prove, Ken. I'm sorry if I wasn't clear before, but I hope I am now."
"Yes, well," he began, then stopped short. Kaede watched with pity as the man she had spent so much of her life with, shared so many moments with seemed to crumble inward before her. "I won't bother you then." Ken turned hastily and began to walk quickly down the street before breaking into a sprint.
Kaede felt shattered to her very core, as if she had broken up with Ken all over again. The sharp tinkle of her phone woke her from her reverie on the sidewalk, and she pulled it out to reveal the promised message from Seto Kaiba.
Her fingers hesitated only a moment over the keyboard before she quickly typed out a reply, then hit send. Across the world, Kaiba picked up his phone from beside his coffee mug, yawning hugely. A single line greeted him:
"Can I come asap? – Kaede"