This ficlet was inspired by Azurite's challenge of a Seto/Téa fic where Seto makes the first move while remaining in character at the same time. This fic takes place after my in-progress "Folgen Sie Ihrem Traum," but this story can be read independently of it, and there are no spoilers for "Traum." Disclaimer: the characters aren't mine, but the story is.
She hadn't intended to come to the museum that fateful day. She had intended to go home to visit the friends in Domino that she hadn't seen in months. But while changing planes in Atlanta, she had seen the headline on the paper: a local museum was going to temporarily host an ancient Egypt collection. Ordinarily, that wouldn't have bothered her at all, but her eye glanced upon the article, and she was stunned by what she read.
"A newly discovered mummy and its associated treasures will be the centerpiece for the exhibit," she read. "The mummy, currently unnamed due to extensive damage done to his cartouches, has been determined to be a royal mummy from the end of the 18th Dynasty."
And they had included a picture. She had expected a lot of things, but never had she expected to see Atem's picture in the newspaper. But there he was, serene and regal in his Pharonic glory.
She had forgotten everything after seeing that picture; all she knew was that she had to get to that museum. She hurriedly spoke to the ticketing counter to be rescheduled for a later flight. One taxi ride later, she arrived at the museum, but she hadn't gone unnoticed.
Seto Kaiba had been in town due to a business meeting, and was on his way to his private jet when he noticed the brunette girl. Téa had been the last person he would have expected to meet here, especially since she had told him that she would be returning to Domino after their last meeting. But when he noticed the banner over the museum entrance, advertising the new Ancient Egyptian collection, his eyes rolled involuntarily. That explained everything.
"There she goes again—dwelling in the past," he thought, derisively. For some reason, it annoyed him to no end when people did such a thing—one of the many reasons he had trouble getting along with her group of friends in the first place. And ever since that "other Yugi" left nearly a year and a half ago, he had noticed that Téa's mind seemed to be stuck in the past.
He ordered his taxi driver to drop him off at the museum; someone had to put some sense into that girl's head. She needed a wake-up call, and since there was no way that any of her friends would be able to give her one without sugarcoating the whole thing, it would have to be up to him. Yes, he would be harsh. Yes, she would cry and be miserable for the next few days. But she would get over it; that was going to be the whole point of his lesson.
Never once did it occur to him as to the reason why he was bothering to go out of his way to teach her the lesson in the first place. In the time it would take to be in and out of the museum, he could very well have been halfway to Domino in his private jet.
He scowled to himself as this realization finally came to him, as he stood on the museum steps. Unfortunately, it was too late for him to change his mind; the taxi had just pulled away.
Muttering under his breath, he proceeded into the building.
"I can't believe I just did that…" he fumed to himself. "This isn't like me; why am I even here!?"
The answers refused to manifest themselves.
Oblivious to the fact that she had been noticed by an acquaintance, Téa headed straight for the new exhibit. She remember the last time she had been to such an exhibit; that was when she had seen a golden statue of the Pharaoh Sethos, standing hand in hand with his queen, Túaa. The likeness of the golden faces had been too similar to those of her and Seto Kaiba to ignore—so much so that the statue had brought the two to the same place. Throughout the course of the following months, their meetings with each other had gone well, considering their past squabbles. But Seto Kaiba was still one of the most difficult people to get along with.
But now, before her very eyes, was the one she had fallen for before Seto Kaiba. Indeed, Atem wasn't exactly the same; she had fallen in love with his spirit, who had inhabited the Millennium Puzzle for so long. Even though he had been an ancient spirit, he had seemed so real; he had seemed like a part of this world, as much as she knew he belonged to the past.
And here was the proof; he was tenderly wrapped in linen and resin. No one would have been able to guess that he had ever seen the 21st century. But Téa Gardner knew the truth: not only had Atem visited the 21st century, he had left a part of himself behind in the numerous hearts of those he had touched—hers included. She was almost hoping that the mummy would somehow speak to her in that deep, sonorous voice she missed so much.
"Why?" she asked him, in a voice so low that no other passerby could hear her. "Why is it that every time I'm certain that I've moved on, something happens that makes me miss you all over again?"
A tear fell on the glass display case, and she hastily dried the glass with her handkerchief.
"I did love you, Atem," she whispered. "I wish you hadn't left."
"Gardner, when are you going to stop this!?" asked a clearly annoyed voice behind her.
Téa let out a shrill gasp.
"Kaiba!?" she asked, her eyes wide. "Don't ever scare me like that again! …What are you doing here!?"
"To find out what it's going to take for you to realize that dwelling on the past is useless," he replied.
"Look, Kaiba… can we talk about this later?" she asked. "I'm really not in the mood to talk right now."
"No, we can't talk about this later," the CEO retorted. "If you had any idea how idiotic you're acting--"
"What!?" she asked, indignantly.
"Do you honestly expect to get anywhere with all of these wishes and tears for the past!?" he asked. "You're being incredibly stupid—standing here, uselessly wishing for things that will never come true. Keep it up, and you'll be wishing away your whole life, which will just pass you by."
"Well, it's better than casting everything aside, forgetting about all of the precious things and people that have walked in and out of your life!" she retorted.
"There's a fine line between nostalgia and dwelling too much into the past," Seto pointed out. "And lately, your head has been in the clouds… or, should I say ancient Egypt? And you say I'm the one sealing myself away? You've been like that ever since Yugi's twin left, and you've only gotten worse. Can you get any more crazy than confessing your love to that thing?"
"That thing was once a person, Kaiba!" she shot back.
"I never said he wasn't," Seto replied. "I'm just saying that you've taken this 'come-back-to-me' routine too far! Face it, Gardner: he's not coming back."
"So what if he isn't?" asked Téa. "And why do you even care? Why should wasting my life away affect you and your precious company? I thought that was the most important thing for you! If I'm bothering you that much, go focus on your bright future, and just leave me alone!"
"Gladly," the young man snarled. "Never mind that you could ruin your life and miss out on all of the other people who would try to get through your thick skull. Not that I blame you; look at who you're stuck with! There's Yugi, who probably would only remind you of his twin. Then there's Wheeler, who'd drive you (and anyone else) to the deep end. And heaven forbid that you'd be stuck with someone like me, who'd--"
He caught himself, but it was too late.
"I did not just say that…" he fumed to himself, as Téa turned back to him, wide-eyed. It couldn't be… was this the reason why her dwelling on Atem annoyed him so much?
"I don't believe it," she said, a bemused expression on her face.
"I give up!" he fumed aloud. "Gardner; this is entirely your fault! You and all of your endless lectures and speeches have turned me into this! I would never have been like this if it weren't for you…"
"Like what…?" she asked.
"Soft," he snarled, as though it was a fate worse than death. "And now I don't want to see you waste your life away, though I can't, for the life of me, figure out why."
Téa said nothing; she just stared at him as though he was a total stranger.
"Don't do this to yourself, Gardner," he said, looking away. "There are people who care."
"And are you supposed to be one of them?" she asked, her eyebrows arched.
"In spite of myself…" he replied, only half-annoyed. "That's the only way I can explain allowing myself to be led on a chase around the world."
"I have to admit that 'caring' isn't really a word I'd use to describe you," Téa mused.
"Of course you wouldn't," Seto said. "Neither would I."
"And yet you're saying--"
"What do you want from me, Gardner!?" he asked. "Do you want me to say it!? Yes, I care about you. I have to say that there was a time when you would have been the last person in the world I would've cared about. Are you satisfied now, or are you intent on messing with my head some more?"
"No… I mean… I won't mess with your head anymore," she said. "I don't exactly know what to say right now. I still would like to be alone for some time. I'll… I'll see you again when I get back to Domino?"
It was a question. She wasn't sure if Seto would be willing to see her again, especially after that uncharacteristic conversation.
"Whatever, Gardner," he replied. "If you think you're ready to move on…" With that, he turned and walked away.
Téa glanced at the retreating CEO, and then glanced back at the mummy in the display case. Her gaze shifted between the two for several moments.
She then recalled how Joey had once said that Atem had the uncanny ability to be able to bring people together. A smile found its way onto her face as she realized that the last few minutes had proved Joey right.
"Thanks, old friend," she said to the mummy. She knew now that she would be able to move on; the task would be difficult, but she knew that Seto Kaiba would be there to help.