Author's Note: This fic (whose title is German for "Follow Your Dream") can be read as a sequel to my previous mystery fic, "Geheimnisse im Tanzsaal." Several of the chapters will be inspired by the prompts at the 20 Cities and 30 Nights communities on LiveJournal. Disclaimer: I don't own these characters, except for the people associated with the traveling dance troupe.
For Téa Gardner, the stage was her life. There was no place she'd rather be than singing or dancing on a stage, and tonight, on that warm July night, she was preparing to do so. It was the last night of Domino's production of The Sound of Music, and Téa was ready to wow the audience as Maria, as she had been doing so the entire week.
Her performance had not gone unnoticed. The local papers were already raving about her performance, and it was apparently good enough that Téa's young friend Mokuba Kaiba had successfully convinced his famously aloof brother Seto to attend this final performance.
Téa had to wonder how much Mokuba had to convince him, or if Seto had been more willing to come than he had let on. After all, things were slowly changing between her and Seto Kaiba. She, along with her friends, had helped the brothers solve a baffling mystery a few months ago, involving a rival company owner and her scheme to take over Kaiba Corporation. Seto had been afflicted with a spider bite, which had prompted Téa to care for him until he eventually recovered.
She couldn't help but think that something had changed between them because of that. And sure enough, a few weeks later, they met on neutral ground at the museum, where she had (albeit cryptically) confessed her feelings for him. He seemed to have been able to see through her veiled words to see that she did, in fact, seem to be falling slightly in love with him after that spider incident.
Téa had been in for a slight disappointment. Seto didn't say anything that seemed to suggest that her feelings were returned. However, he did not casually toss her feelings aside or ridicule her because of them. Actually, he had avoided the topic altogether. She didn't know what to make of that, but she did notice that their future meetings were quite amiable indeed, a pleasant change from the bitter quarrels and arguments that they constantly had in the past. And he was here in the audience tonight; that surely meant something, didn't it?
Téa collected herself, banishing the bouts of nervousness as the orchestra began to warm up. It would soon be time for her opening solo, but she still had time to think about herself and Seto. Why hadn't he said anything about her feelings? Did he want her to full-out say, "I love you," or something like that? Téa didn't even know if she could say such a thing to Seto Kaiba, especially when she hadn't been able to say it to Pharaoh Atem.
With a sigh, Téa made her entrance onto the stage and began to sing. Her mezzo-soprano voice rang through the crowded auditorium. She knew she shouldn't have done so, but she couldn't resist glancing across the audience, trying to find familiar faces. She spotted Yugi immediately; that hair was unmistakable. And the rest of her friends were right next to him. They had been to every performance that week, purely by their own choice.
Mokuba was with the others, too, but Seto was not; he was sitting a few seats away, determined to distance himself as much as possible from Yugi and the rest of Téa's friends. She tried to focus on her singing, but the back of her mind had to consider that if Seto wasn't so keen on being associated with her friends, how would he ever acknowledge her feelings? Was that why he hadn't said anything? Did he know that associating with Téa meant having the others flocking close behind? Or did he honestly not have any thoughts on her feelings at all?
She finished the opening solo, blinking back the tears in her eyes. She couldn't cry onstage, especially now! She barely heard the cheering of the audience; her eyes sought out Seto, who was only applauding half-heartedly. Téa was grateful for her exit cue.
"Don't think about Kaiba right now," she ordered herself, as she gathered her composure offstage. "He's here, isn't he? Be grateful for that. You owe it to everyone else in the audience to give your very best."
"Hey, Gardner!" a voice whispered to her. It was the young man playing the captain. "Rumor has it that there are talent scouts in the audience."
Téa smiled slightly, her eyebrows arched.
"And just where did you hear that?" she asked, skeptical.
"From the stagehands," he replied. "But I suppose their news doesn't mean much… Hey, have you been crying?"
"What? No; I'm fine," she said, hurriedly drying her eyes.
"Hey, I know it's the last performance, but come on!" he said. "You've been doing so well; you're sure to get the lead roles from now on!"
"I know… and don't think I'm not grateful," she said. "But is that all I'll be doing? I wanted to go abroad and dance on bigger stages than just a local performing arts center… I want to make a name for myself." She sighed, and thought to herself, "And I want to find a way to make certain people understand how I feel."
"It'll happen for you, Gardner!" her costar assured her, with a good-natured grin. "You never know… that rumor about the talent scouts might be real!"
"Here's hoping," she replied.
And Téa continued her role to the best of her ability. She soon became one with the role, and forgot about Seto completely. Meanwhile, Seto Kaiba himself was going over a few complicated thoughts in his own mind. For one thing, he couldn't figure out why he was even here, when he had work to complete; a recent prospective business deal had turned sour, prompting the one who had proposed the deal to say that he was having second thoughts and was considering the prospect of backing out of the deal. Well, this was all well and good for him, but Kaiba Corporation had already invested time and money into the project.
"The idiot should have left a message by now," Seto thought. "He said that he would finalize his decision this evening, and would reimburse Kaiba Corporation if he did pull out…"
And he had to agree that if this person was going to be this indecisive, he'd prefer being left alone. But that was only half of it; he wasn't very trusting of the man, and doubted that he would pay the money, as the contract clearly stated.
Seto rolled his eyes in annoyance; as long as he was in the audience, there was no way he'd be able to check his messages. And Yugi and the others, Mokuba included, would never allow him to leave to do so, either.
"How long is it until intermission, anyway?" he thought, checking the program. He suppressed a growl of annoyance after realizing that intermission was only going to be ten minutes long. That might not be long enough discuss how strict this contract was and point out that he would refuse to continue with this nonsense. But it would be long enough to try.
Realizing that he paid money to attend the show, he decided to watch and try to enjoy it. Yes, he had to admit that Téa Gardner could sing and dance. That was all well and good for her, though he failed to see how that knowledge would benefit him in any way. He wasn't the kind of person who wanted to get away from his work, in spite of however much Mokuba wanted him to do so.
Seto politely watched as one scene progressed into another. But he found himself annoyed as he watched Téa waltz with her costar during the ballroom scene. Of course; his interest could only have been held by a musical for so long. Or was it because of something else? Of course not! Why would he be annoyed by the fact that someone was dancing with Téa?
He was grateful for intermission, and managed to steal away for a chance to check his text messages. Sure enough, there was a reply.
"Mr. Kaiba, it causes me deep regret to inform you that I have decided not to proceed further with the deal," the message read. "However, I know that you will insist that I stick to the contract, and rightly so. Kaiba Corporation's money will be paid; I have already sent the check. It should reach your accountants within the week. I apologize for any inconvenience I may have caused you."
"Too late for that…" Seto muttered in annoyance. He wondered what had become of the money Kaiba Corporation had given; it was supposed to have been used for researching a new holographic design technique. But it didn't really matter in the end, he realized. All he would have to do would be to make a mental note not to take up any more offers from this man, in case he decided to change his mind again and come back.
Still, it struck him as odd that the man would be so willing to quit and return the money so quickly. He would have expected to make at least one phone call to remind him. Of course, if the check didn't arrive, he would certainly make it clear that the money had to be paid. Kaiba Corporation's lawyers were now far superior to Johnson or any of the other lawyers that Gozaburo had hired.
Seto frowned at the memory of his stepfather. He knew that some shred of the cruel man's virtual data still existed somewhere out there, however weak it may be. And neither he nor Gozaburo were going to rest until the other was defeated. It was only the matter of who would win first.
And this brought his mind back to Téa Gardner. He had lost count of the number of times she had tried to tell him that Gozaburo had wanted Seto to become cold and aloof, and that he should resist out of defiance. He glanced back at the girl on the stage, as the show resumed. He couldn't help but wonder if there was some reason why she kept on trying, only to be ignored again and again. Perhaps her little veiled confession was her way of saying that she wanted him to be more open before she fully declared how she felt.
"She may as well stop dreaming," Seto said to himself. "I'm not changing for anyone. And if she thinks I'm going to forget all of those speeches and arguments, she needs to wake up and see the light…" His train of thought came to a screeching halt as the scene changed, revealing Téa in a dazzling dress for the wedding scene. "No…" he thought, looking away furiously. "If she's serious about those feelings of hers, she's going to have to take me as I am. She's going to have to seek me out and convince me that she is ready to give up all of her friendship speeches, and that she can find a place for herself in my life, because I can't be bothered by something so…" He flinched, slightly, as he saw her kiss the other young actor out of the corner of his eye. "… something so trivial…"
Why was he flinching? Was he dreading the thought that one day, those lips might kiss him? Or was it for another reason? The notion that he was actually jealous was completely laughable!
"It's official; I've spent far too much time with them," he thought, casting a glance at Yugi and his friends.
Téa, in the meantime, pulled away from the kiss and noticed that Seto was staring determinedly elsewhere.
"He's not even watching," she thought, slightly hurt. "He's probably thinking of that company of his again…"
She wasn't surprised; she had expected him to become bored by the show. But it didn't change the fact that she was disappointed.
"Should I see this as a reason to forget about my feelings for him?" she asked herself. "I could just leave him alone; that's probably what he wants. But then I'd never forgive myself."
She sighed as she departed the stage again for the scene change. Acting seemed so much simpler than real life. She got to deal with other people's problems and troubles, and she got to forget her own. And her problem was certainly one that few could relate to.
"I wish there was an easy way to solve this," she thought. "If he was like Atem, this would've been so easy. Atem was so warm-hearted and open. Kaiba's heart must be colder than Antarctica in winter…"
She hated the thought of asking Mokuba to act as a messenger, even if he wouldn't mind at all (and she knew he wouldn't; their friendship was such that he would welcome her into the family with open arms). Seto would certainly be furious if she did so, which wouldn't improve her position in any way. And she could hardly walk into Kaiba Corporation and talk to him during working hours; he'd be even more livid if she tried that.
"There has to be some way to get him to understand," she said to herself. "And I'll keep searching until I find it."
"Hey," whispered her co-star. "Our cue's coming up; you ready to go back out there?"
"Yeah, I'm fine," she said.
She shook off her troubles and returned back to the stage, and she was pleased to see that Seto had focused his attention back to the show again. The show would have to go on regardless of whatever he did, but at least he was watching it. And that raised her spirits, however slightly.
Maybe there was hope.