Disclaimer: I do not own yugioh.
Flashback/ Scenes from the past
"Mommy, why do I have more than one daddy?" A young child of 5 years asked her mother. The woman, named Tea, looked up from her laptop to regard the expression on her daughter's face before replying.
"It's because you are special and very lucky." She said, delivering a kiss to the girl's forehead. But this answer did not seem to satisfy the child whose eyebrows furrowed.
"That's not what Sheila says." The girl said. "Sheila says that everyone has only one dad and one mom, and some people have two dads but no one has four dads. She says that it's bad to have more than one dad." The little girl stared at her mother with wide blue eyes. "Is it bad mommy?"
"Of course not sweetie." Tea said, engulfing the little girl in an embrace she felt they both needed. "Do you think it is bad that you have so many people to buy you presents and take you places?" The girl shook her head. "Does Sheila have that?" She once again shook her head. "There you go then. Don't listen to Sheila about this stuff, okay?"
"Eri, hold still." Mai said as she carefully braided a flower in the little girl's hair. Eri shifted on her feet impatiently.
"I wanna go and play with daddy Joey." She said and Mai sighed.
"Sweetie, you can't bother daddy Joey today. He and you both need to stay clean until the end of the wedding." Eri huffed in annoyance. Just then, Tea and Serenity walked in.
"Wow Eri, you look really pretty." Serenity beamed at the child who smiled widely.
"Papa Yugi bought me the dress himself." She said with pride shinning in her eyes. Tea smiled and bent down to kiss her daughter's head.
"How is Rebecca?" Mai asked. Last she had been in the room with the bride-to-be, they had enjoyed a screaming fest, with Rebecca shedding a few tears and Mai marching out in frustration. Both blondes were as stubborn as they came, and neither one refused to listen to the other's suggestions.
"She is fine now. We managed to fix the dress issue." Tea said and Mai snorted. "Mai, I know your idea was practical in the amount of time we had, but Rebecca wanted everything to be perfect. You understand that, don't you?"
"Of course. I completely understand." Mai said, though Tea was not convinced. "I am just glad that I am not her maid of honour. To think I would have had to deal with her for weeks is just…" Tea raised an eyebrow of amusement and Mai smiled. "I really respect you a lot more now Tea." Serenity giggled while Tea let out a few chuckles as well.
"Why is everyone laughing?" Eri asked.
"It's a girl's joke." Mai said with a wink. "You'll understand them when you get older."
"Daddy Joey says that I will be like him when I get older so I won't understand your jokes." Eri said.
"Let's hope not." Tea said before picking up a flower basket and handing it to her daughter.
"Okay baby, now just do as aunt Mai and Serenity taught you when the wedding starts." Eri nodded her head. "We'll head back." Tea said, motioning to Serenity and they both left. Mai sat on a chair.
"Aunt Mai, can I ask you a question?" Eri asked innocently. Mai smiled and picked up the girl to place her on her lap, careful not to wrinkle both their dresses.
"What is happening today?" Mai laughed.
"Your papa Yugi is marrying your aunt Rebecca."
"But why?" She had been briefed on her duties as a flower girl but nothing more. The women had been so busy planning the wedding that they had left Eri in the care of her fathers, and in their company, Eri usually forgot everything except mischief.
"Because he loves her and wants to be with her forever." Mai said in as simplistic terms as she could. Eri frowned.
"But what about mommy and me then?" She asked, dreading the answer. "Doesn't he love us?"
"Of course he loves you and your mommy."
"Then why doesn't he marry mommy or me?" Eri asked stubbornly. Mai laughed at her innocence.
"Eri, he loves you and your mommy differently than he loves Aunt Rebecca. It's a different kind of love." Eri did not seem satisfied.
"Does he have to marry her and not mommy?" Eri asked.
"Yes, because he wants to have a family with her." Mai explained. Eri frowned intensely.
"But what about our family? Isn't he our family?"
"Of course he is. So are your other fathers and us. We are all your family Eri." Mai said, gently hugging the girl.
"But papa Yugi lived with Aunt Becky and he is marrying her. Daddy Joey lives with you and daddy Tristan lives with aunt Serenity. Are they gonna marry you and not mommy and then have a family?" Mai hesitated before answering.
"Yes but that doesn't mean they don't love you."
"But they don't love me or mommy like they love you." Eri concluded with a hint of sadness. "That's why they live with you and not us." Mai struggled to provide an answer to appease the heart of the little girl in her lap, but she was momentarily at a loss of words. Helplessly she watched Eri climb down from her lap and leave the room, clutching the flower basket in her fragile hands.
"Mom, who is my real dad?"
"Wh… what are you talking about Eri?" Tea said while tucking her 7 year daughter in bed.
"Well, today, we were learning about families, and the book said that everyone has one real dad and one real mom. You are my real mom, but who is my real dad?"
"Eri, this is nonsense. Go to sleep." Tea said, avoiding the topic.
"Mom, please tell me. Who is my real dad?" Tea sighed.
"You are not ready for it yet Eri."
"I am." The girl said with a stubborn frown. "I am not a baby anymore."
"Look Eri, one day I will tell you, but not today, okay."
"Why not today? I want to know today." The girl was in a stubborn mood. Tea frowned.
"Eri." She said in a warning tone, but Eri was not deterred.
"He is my dad. I want to know. Why won't you tell me?" Tea struggled with words. "Is he a bad person?" Eri asked. Tea looked into her daughter's apprehensive eyes and turned away.
"Eri, I promise you I will tell you one day, but trust me when I say this that you are not ready yet. Now please go to sleep."
"I can't believe you broke up with her too." Tea said in a surprised tone as she sat opposite Duke in her kitchen. He shrugged carelessly.
"Duke, this is ridiculous. You can't keep doing this."
"You said that last time too, and the time before that." He pointed out, grabbing an apple and biting into it. Tea frowned in annoyance.
"What was the reason this time?" Usually, he used the excuse of Eri not liking his girlfriend or vice versa, but mostly the woman not liking his relationship with Eri. But Tea felt that this one was different.
"Don't know."Duke said and Tea felt her anger rise.
"Then why did you break up with her?" He looked up at her.
"Because she is not the one I want." Tea looked away from his piercing gaze.
"Why are you doing this Duke? You know I want you to be happy. Others have formed their own lives and I want the same for you." She said, referring to Yugi, Joey and Tristan, who were all happily either married or dating.
"I have formed a life too." He pointed out.
"Duke, you don't have to focus your life around us." She said softly.
"What if it already is?" He asked back.
"Tea, it's too late for me to not care. I don't think I can even pretend anymore." He answered honestly. "Maybe if I had formed a stable relationship years ago, I would be happy by your standards. But I didn't. To be honest, my most stable and long lasting relationship with a female has been with you." Tea looked down.
"Duke, you know-."
"That you are not considering a serious relationship because of Eri." He stole her words. "Don't you realize that you and I want the same thing for Eri? We want our significant other to love Eri like we love her." She knew what he was saying. He had said that before too, but she… for some reason…
"I care about you Tea, and I love Eri." He said softly. "You know that I am a good choice for you, just as you are for me. Then why won't you give us a chance?"
"I can't do that Duke." Tea said with tears forming. "I already took too much advantage of you all these years. I forced myself and Eri in your life. If it wasn't for me, you would be living the life you deserve."
"And who makes you the judge of what I do and don't deserve?" Duke said heatedly. Tea looked away in shame.
"You keep saying and thinking that you somehow imposed yourself on me along with Eri, and burdened me. You are so absorbed in your guilt that you can't even see that I don't believe that." His voice turned soft and he reached for her hand. "I am glad for your presence in my life, as well as Eri's. If I am not a drug-addicted, womanizing playboy, it's because of you two. To me, you are a blessing."
"Duke…"Tea said with tears in her eyes. He leaned forward and kissed her cheek.
"Think about us, okay. I love Eri and I care deeply about you, and I want to be a permanent part of your lives, if possible."
"Hey Andy, what are you guys playing?" Eri asked a group of children huddled together around the swings.
"We are gonna play tag, and then hide and seek."
"Cool, I wanna play too." Eri said excitedly.
"No you can't." Sheila said, lifting her nose in the air haughtily. "Only kids with families are playing."
"I have a family." Eri said with a glare.
"I meant that kids with real mom and dad are playing, not fake dads." Sheila clarified.
"I don't have a fake dad." Eri said.
"Yes you do. My mom says that all your dads are pretend dads. They are only nice to you because your real dad doesn't love you."
"That's not true." Eri yelled angrily.
"Yes it is." Sheila glared back. "You don't even know who your real dad is because he hates you and doesn't want you. So your mom got other people to act like your dad. But they are all fake. They don't even love you because they have their own babies and they love them. They only pretend to love you so they are pretend dads."
"You are lying. They love me. They always say that." Eri said, a whimper escaping her lips.
"Then why don't they live with you?" Sheila mocked. "They act all nice to you and then they go to their own homes to get away from you."
"Stop it." Eri said, tears in her eyes. "I don't want to play with you anymore." She said, turning away from them.
"Don't play in the father-child games either. You need a real dad to participate, not a fake, pretend dad like you got."
"Hey Eri, who are you going to take to the father-child games at your school?" Duke asked as he entered the kitchen where Eri was eating along with Tea.
"No one." Eri replied, not looking up from her plate. Duke raised a confused eyebrow.
"I am not participating."
"But why not?" Duke was completely confused at this point. Eri loved to participate in those games that were held once a year at their school. Every child got to bring their father as their partner and take part in child games. Last year, Tristan had taken part in the games and they had won some trophies. Then why wouldn't Eri want to play this year? Faintly, he recalled her having a sour mood by the end of the day and for a few days after but Tea had told them to ignore it.
"I can't play because I have no dad." Eri's reply was a huge blow to Duke and he nearly stumbled on his feet. He eyed Tea who had stiffened visibly. Quickly trying to make amends before Tea spoke, he said.
"Then who am I?" He kept his tone light, as if to joke.
"I don't know. Maybe one of my many uncles who pretend to be my dad because they feel sorry for me."
"Eri, that was very rude." Tea chided.
"But it was true." Eri replied back. "I don't have a dad."
"Eri, that is enough. Apologize right now and then go to your room. You are grounded. I will speak with you later." Tea said angrily. Eri slammed her spoon hard on the plate and angrily mumbled an apology before running to her room. All throughout this, Duke was dazed.
"What the hell happened?" He demanded from Tea who sighed tiredly.
"She has been demanding that I tell her who her real father is."
"And you are not because…" He left the sentence unfinished for her.
"She is not ready yet Duke, you know that." He sighed.
"She is growing up. We can't feed her fairy tale stories and still expect her to believe them. If she wants to know, then just tell her."
"I can't." Tea said. "Not yet. I know this is not the right time."
"I can understand why you would still withhold this from Eri. But you can't just refuse her either." Duke said soberly.
"Then what the hell am I supposed to do?" She demanded angrily.
"A compromise. Let me talk to her. Maybe I can help." She shot him an apprehensive glance.
"Maybe you are not the-."
"It will be fine." He assured her. "I know she is just lashing out due to frustration. I won't take anything personally, and neither should you." He shot her a small smile before walking upstairs towards Eri's room. It was locked.
"Eri, open up."
"Why?" She stubbornly demanded. "Did mom send you?"
"No." He replied honestly. "She didn't want me coming here because she thought you might say something rude and hurt my feelings. But I said it was okay. I know my Eri is not rude and she doesn't mean the mean things she says." There was silence before he heard footsteps and the clicking of the lock before a red eyed Eri threw herself in his arms.
"I am sorry. I shouldn't have said that." He held her tenderly.
"It's okay." He assured her. "I just want to know why you would say that. Did I do something wrong?" She furiously shook her head while still in his embrace and hiccupped before speaking.
"You are not my real dad." He waited for her to speak more, but she sobbed harder.
"You have known that for more than a year now Eri, then why the anger and tears today?" He asked.
"Because everyone makes fun of me at school." She said. "They say that I don't have a real dad because he doesn't love me or mom. He doesn't want me or mom." Duke unconsciously tightened his grip on the sobbing girl.
"That's not true."
"Yes it is." Eri insisted. "If my dad loved me or wanted me, he would stay with us. Uncle Yugi and uncle Tristan love their babies, so they always stay with them in their house. Uncle Joey loved aunt Mai, so he stays with her. But no one stays with mom and me because no one loves us. Duncan says that his dad went away, but then he got a new dad, and he stays with him all the time. But I don't have a dad like that."
"Eri, that's not true. I love you and I am always with you." He assured her. "And even if the others are not living here, they still love you. You know that." She didn't reply.
"Eri, there are many different kind of families. Some families don't have moms, some don't have dads. Some kids don't even either." Eri looked up in horror. "Yes, there are people like that. You are very lucky that you have a mom who loves you very much and only wants what is good for you."
"Then why won't she tell me who my real dad is." Eri demanded. "I just want to know. I won't do anything. I won't go to him and leave mom. I just want to know so I can tell the kids when they ask me and tease me." Eri said, wiping her eyes.
"She knows all that but she has her reasons." Duke said in Tea's defence. "But she did promise she will tell you when you are older."
"How much older?" Eri asked in frustration.
"When you are mature enough to know that you mom makes good decisions for you." Duke replied. "And as for the kid's teasing you, just ignore them. They will get bored soon and then they won't bother you and will find someone else to bother." Eri seemed thoughtful at that.
"And if they still annoy you, then you do that karate move I taught you. That will show them to mess with my Eri." Eri smiled before looking up at him cautiously.
"Do you know who my dad is?" Duke sighed.
"Yes, I know. But I will not tell you." He said before she could open her mouth and ask. She pouted. "Your mom promised to tell you and she will."
"Fine." Eri said, squiggling out of his embrace.
"And what about the father-child games?" He asked, watching her climb into bed.
"I guess you can come." She said. "You are closest to a real dad that I have, so you can come." Duke smiled before moving forward to kiss her on the forehead.
"Bye babe." He said. "I will talk to your mom about the whole grounding thing. Maybe she will go easy on you. But when she comes up to talk to you, look very sad and innocent. Do the eyes Joey taught you, and say the lines Yugi taught you. It'll help." He said with a wink before closing the door.
Downstairs, he was met with a nervous looking Tea. He shot her a confident smile.
"Relax. I talked to her. She is only insistent because she is being teased by some kids at school. Plus, I think she is curious too, and getting frustrated at not getting a decent answer. But it's fine now. She won't ask you for another month at least." Tea smiled faintly.
"I heard what you were talking about." She confessed.
"Spying?" He said with mock hurt and she glared.
"You were in the hall. I couldn't help it." He chuckled. "I… I have been thinking about what you said." Tea began cautiously. "And I think I am ready to give it a try." Duke's eyes widened ever so slightly. "I think it is best for all of us." He smiled before moving forward to embrace her.
"I'm glad you got some sense knocked into you by Eri."
"Eri, I need to talk to you." Eri looked up to stare into her mother's serious eyes. Uh-oh, was she in trouble?
"Yes mom." She said, putting her most serious face forward. Tea stared at her for a few seconds before shaking her head, as if to dismiss a thought, before speaking.
"Duke and I are dating." Eri's eyes widened. "We are thinking of moving in together."
"Really?" Eri asked. Tea cautiously nodded her head and the next moment, she fell back from the impact of an overly excited child hugging her.
"Yay." She cheered. "Now we can be a real family, with a mom and a dad who stay together." Tea smiled and hugged her daughter back.
"So you are happy?"
"YES." Eri yelled and Tea openly laughed.
"Here." Tea said, handing Yugi a steaming cup of coffee. He accepted with a small smile and watched as Tea settled on the couch besides him with her cup.
"So Eri is out with Duke?" Yugi asked, sipping his hot beverage. Tea nodded her head.
"Yes. I believe they are playing laser tag today. And probably after that, Eri will drag him to the nearest mall and take advantage of my absence by getting whatever she wants." Yugi smiled.
"Of course. Duke can't say no to her. But it is pretty amazing that he manages to take one day off every week to spend only with her. Rebecca has been hounding me to do the same and spend a day with her but I just can't spare an entire day. I don't know how Duke manages to do it since he is busier than me." Tea only smiled. Duke was extremely busy with the expanding business, but despite everything, he reserved time for Eri and Tea. Eri was the happiest Tea had ever seen her, and she too was finally at peace and happy. The decision to get together with Duke was the best decision of her life.
"How is Rebecca these days?" She asked. Yugi shuddered.
"Some days she is like a kitten, all cuddly and loving and adorable, and other days she is like a starved lion just waiting to attack and tear apart anything in flesh." Tea laughed.
"Her mood swings can't be that extreme."
"As the person who has been on the receiving end of her temper more than is fair, I would say I know better." Yugi said sagely. "You were pregnant once too but your mood swings seem so tame compared to Rebecca's. Hell, even Rebecca's first pregnancy seems like a breeze compared to this one." Before Tea could comment, the door bell rang. Both exchanged confused looks.
"Do you think Duke and Eri are back already?" Yugi wondered out loud. Tea shook her head.
"They wouldn't come back this early unless something happened, in which case, they would call and tell me." She got up to get the door, since the maids were off that day. Yugi followed her and was as shocked as her when the door opened and revealed Seto Kaiba… an enraged Seto Kaiba. Without waiting for an invite, Kaiba marched inside the house, flaming eyes looking for someone.
"Where the hell is he?" He demanded. "Where is that bastard Devlin?"
"What are you doing here?" Tea said, a frown evident on her face. "Leave right now." He turned to face her.
"No, not until I deal with that bastard. How dare he?"
"Kaiba, what is the matter?" Yugi asked, trying to remain calm. "What are you talking about?"
"I am talking about Devlin attaching his last name to my daughter and pretending to be her father." Kaiba bellowed. A knowing look appeared on Tea's face. Just recently, Eri's last name had been changed from Gardner to Devlin, at Eri's request. But how had Kaiba found out about it?
Kaiba glared at Tea and took a menacing step towards her.
"You think I don't know what is happening in my daughter's life? You think I am blind to all the decisions you make about her?" He spat angrily. "Just because I have tolerated everything so far doesn't mean I don't know it or agree with it. I know everything that goes on in her life. Out of respect for you and for the love of my daughter I never voiced my disapproval, but I will not stand quiet while you blatantly attempt to spite me."
"Spite you?" Tea growled angrily. "You think we changed her last name to spite you? Well news flash Kaiba, nothing in Eri's life or my life is about you. Her last name changed because she wanted it, because she asked for it. She wanted to take her father's last name." Tea relished the shocked and angered look on his face at her revelation.
"Her father?" He sneered. "Devlin is not her father, no matter how hard he or you may pretend. I am Eri's father. Devlin is nothing more than a stray dog who thinks he has found a home and a family but he is not and will never be her father."
"You are wrong Kaiba." Yugi spoke this time. "Duke is Eri's father."
"Stay out of this Motou." Kaiba threatened but Yugi was not deterred.
"From the moment we learnt of Tea's pregnancy, we all took responsibility of taking care of Tea and the baby, but none did more so than Duke. He had Tea shift to his mansion where he hired a nurse to take care of Tea 24/7. And when Eri was born, Duke again took care of Tea and Eri more than us. We all enjoyed relationships but Duke's focus always remained Tea and Eri. He has changed more diapers and has had more sleepless nights than any of us. And even today, all his decisions are made while keeping Eri and Tea in mind. The truth of the matter is that he has loved Eri as much, if not more, than any biological father would love his child. And Eri loves him just as much. To Eri and to everyone, Duke is Eri's father."
"Duke did no extraordinary thing. I could have done all of that too." Kaiba claimed. "But I respected Tea's decision to keep my identity hidden from Eri. I kept myself away for the sake of my daughter's well being."
"Oh shut up Kaiba." Yugi finally snapped. "That is bull shit and no one will believe it. You did nothing for the well being of Eri or Tea. All your actions were fuelled by selfishness. The fact of the matter is that the only reason you showed interest in Eri was because of jealousy. When Tea denied your charitable gift of monthly payments, what did you do? Did you even bother to offer twice? No. Instead, you left for a 5 month trip to America. And even when you came back, you didn't bother to check up on her, not even once. You didn't even care what state she was in. Forget her, since she obviously meant nothing to you, you didn't even bother to see what state your unborn child was, and if it was dead or alive. It took 2 years for you to acknowledge the existence of your only child, and only because you were jealous of her relationship with us. You were angry that your blood, your supposed property, was not only associating with us, but happy with us. The only reason you wanted to be a part of Eri's life was because you didn't want us to be a part of hers. You wanted to lay a claim on her just because she shared your DNA. You never saw her as your daughter, and never loved her as your daughter either. You only saw her as your relative by blood on whom you had natural claim. But Duke, who was not the biological father, loved her like his own flesh and blood. And despite your claims, Duke is Eri's real father. You, Seto Kaiba, are nothing more than a sperm donor." The words had barely left Yugi's mouth when Kaiba's fist smashed into his jaw. Yugi stumbled back from the impact. Kaiba advanced with a ferocious look in his eyes.
"How dare you?" He yelled in rage, ready to deliver another blow but Tea was quick to run and block his path.
"Get out right this moment or I will call the police." She threatened in a dead serious voice. Kaiba glared at her.
"This isn't over." He said. "I have had enough of your games. Expect a call from my lawyer soon. I will apply for full custody and I would like to see anyone stop me."
"Go ahead." Tea challenged. "If you think you can win, then by all means go ahead. But in the end, you will be the one falling face first into the ground, and Eri will see you for the monster you really are." Nostrils flared, Kaiba snarled.
"We'll see." He said before turning on his heel and walking out, not turning to see Tea tend to Yugi's bruised face.
"Tea… can I… can I come in?" A hesitant Mokuba asked, fiddling with his jacket zipper while standing at her door. She stared at him for a few moments before moving aside to let him in. Mokuba looked around, but Tea could tell it was not to see the décor.
"How can I help you today?" She asked, keeping her voice as neutral as possible, already fearing she knew the reason of his visit. After all, he had never bothered to visit her before. Mokuba's hesitation in speaking only confirmed her beliefs.
"I… I found out about…" He needn't finish. Tea's sharp intake of breath told him she knew exactly what he was talking about. Of course. It was only inevitable that Mokuba would find out.
"I am really, really sorry about what happened." Mokuba said. "I didn't know. Seto only told me you guys broke up." Mokuba had probably known about them dating. He had been in England when Tea had started dating Kaiba. And for the few months that they had spent together, Tea had never gotten a chance to speak with Mokuba over the phone, let alone have him visit. Kaiba had gone to England a few times to visit him, saying it was better that he went rather than Mokuba make such a long trip and fall behind in his studies. And being the understanding girlfriend she was, she had agreed, not even bothering to ask for a phone conversation with the little boy she considered her friend. Only later it dawned on her that perhaps Kaiba had no real intention of giving her a higher status than his little toy.
But Mokuba had returned 5 months ago. Yugi had informed her of that. But during those 5 months, Mokuba hadn't visited. Sure she saw him once at Yugi's house but that was about it. Back then, Mokuba hadn't mentioned her brief relationship with Kaiba, and she had concluded that Kaiba hadn't informed Mokuba of it. Eri hadn't been present then and the guys avoided mentioning her in Mokuba's presence. Mokuba, too, hadn't inquired about any child, and all was as Tea wanted.
But now, seeing that look on Mokuba's face and hearing such words come from his mouth told her he had finally found out. But she wondered how? Did Kaiba finally confess, or did Mokuba figure it out from Kaiba's behaviour?
"I am sorry." Mokuba said again and she sighed.
"You have no need to apologize Mokuba." She told him, trying to force an assuring smile but failing. He looked upset.
"I can't believe the news, that Seto and you have a child together. And I can't believe you guys never told me."
"It wasn't my place to tell you. And I felt that if your brother didn't tell you, then he must have a reason." She told him calmly. Her telling him would not have been pretty. It would have led to many other questions, the answers to which she knew she would not be able to give without resorting to bias. She had left the task to Kaiba.
"I can't believe I have a niece. I can't believe I've had a niece for years and I found out about it today." He muttered in frustration. She chose to keep silence, having no response. What could she say? She wouldn't apologize for hiding it, though she did feel a little guilty. Mokuba was different than Kaiba. She knew he would not hurt Eri in any way. But there was a fear in her heart. She feared Mokuba might give clues as to who Eri's father is, and Tea wasn't ready for it, and neither was Eri.
"Can I see her?" Mokuba asked hesitantly. Tea appeared thoughtful for a moment. Should she allow Eri to have a relationship with Mokuba? He was her biological uncle and so had every right to see his niece. But would associating with Mokuba cause Eri to interact with Kaiba as well? Also, since Eri was displaying more and more interest in finding out the identity of her father, would Mokuba succumb to the temptation of answering her question and asserting his biological relationship with her? Could she trust Mokuba to keep a silence about his brother, no matter what Eri said?
"Okay Mokuba." She finally said. "But you have to promise not to mention your brother at all." She said strictly. "Even if Eri begs you to tell her who her father is, you must not say a word, not a clue, not a hint, no nothing. Do you promise?"
"But why?" Mokuba asked. Surely he did not know the entire story, just that they had broken up.
"I… It is not time for Eri to know who he is. She is not ready for it." She said, hoping he would not ask more. But it was Mokuba. He had to ask more, especially when the situation involved his family members.
"But he is her father. He has the right to-."
"No." She said harshly before she could stop herself. Immediately, Mokuba's eyes widened and she knew she had given away too much. The hate her one word carried was enough to shock him and raise his curiosity and fear.
"What happened?" He asked, eyeing her carefully. Tea looked away.
"It's in the past now. I don't want to think about it. Just know that your brother agrees with me on this."
"He was drunk and in misery when I left him." Mokuba informed her. "It's obvious that he is hurting because of your decision."
"No more than how much I hurt because of his decisions." Once again, she could not help the words that left her mouth.
"Tea, tell me what happened? What did he do?"
"I… I can't." She whispered. She was just learning to get over it. She would not reopen those wounds. "You can ask your brother if you want, but I can't tell you." Mokuba sighed but nodded his head in acceptance.
"What is her name? When I found out Seto had a daughter with you, I was so angry at him that I didn't even bother asking him. I just yelled at him before marching over to your house." Mokuba informed her in a sheepish tone.
"Her name is Eri Gardner." Tea informed him. Mokuba silently said the word, trying it on his tongue. He seemed satisfied with the choice.
"She is in her room right now, studying. I'll call her." Tea said and left to go up stairs. Mokuba shifted on his feet nervously, not knowing how to react at seeing his niece. His eyes drifted to take in the decorations of the living room in order to distract himself from the nervousness he was feeling. There were many pictures, he noticed. Many of them included Tea and the guys, but the one thing common to all was a small girl with sparkling blue eyes. Was that… He moved closer to inspect when he heard footsteps. Immediately, he turned to the stairs to see a young girl walk beside Tea. His heartbeat increased. That was his niece. In appearance, she looked just like Tea; same hair, same face, same eyes. But her manner was very much like Seto. The way she walked with confidence but caution reminded him of his brother.
"Eri, this is Mokuba. He is a friend of mine and also your uncle." Tea said once they were standing face to face. Mokuba wondered what she meant by "also". Did she consider Yugi and the others Eri's uncles as well?
"Hi." Eri said, eyeing him carefully, in a manner that was so much like his brother that Mokuba himself was shocked. It was obvious Eri was not a naturally trusting person like Tea. No, she preferred to make her own judgements, like her father, based on her own experiences. He kneeled before her to be eye level with her.
"Hello Eri. I am Mokuba. You can call me uncle Moki if you want." He said. She seemed thoughtful but did not reply.
"Mom said you are her friend. How come I have never seen you before or heard of you before?" Eri asked and he heard Tea sigh. Once again, Mokuba felt his heart swell at the similarity of attitude between Eri and Seto. He could not help but smile openly.
"I was in England, studying. I recently returned." It was true, if you considered 5 months recent.
"Okay." Eri said, but did not seem convinced but Mokuba was not worried. He was just glad that he was able to speak with his niece. He would earn her trust soon.
"Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday, happy birthday, happy birthday to you." The chorus turned into cheering as Eri blew out a candle shaped as the number 12 and cut her butterfly shaped cake. Yugi and Tristan repeatedly snapped pictures with their cameras and Duke held a video camera, recording every moment, from Joey's newborn baby drooling on Mai's dress to Eri rubbing icing on Tea's mouth to Rebecca and Serenity fussing over plates and spoons. Around 30 kids were gathered in the large dining hall of Duke's mansion where the party was being held, along with the usual gang of adults.
"Okay guys, food first, and then we'll have cake." Tea announced loudly to the screaming kids and they all quickly grabbed plates being handed out by Serenity. Duke still continued to follow every movement and motion made in the surround.
"You can put the camera away now Duke." Yugi said coming up beside him. "I don't think it's necessary to videotape kids eating." Duke smirked.
"Au contraire my friend, the most interesting footage will come from these kids, along with Joey, eating and dropping food. I am particularly excited about Tea's and Serenity's reactions about food on the carpet."
"I know Rebecca has a thing for all things clean, but who knew Tea and Serenity were clean freaks too." Yugi said.
"I guess it's a girl thing, or a mother thing." Tristan replied and Duke chuckled.
"We got new carpet a week ago. That is why Tea is fussing over food remaining in plates and in mouths. She doesn't want it ruined."
"Oh." The guys nodded their heads in understanding. Just then, Joey came with a plate filled with food.
"You guys should get some now. These kids are like starved lions. They just fall on whatever edible item they can find and gobble it without even chewing."
"Not all of us have the guts to jump into such dangerous situations and take food from little kids Joey." Tristan said cheekily. "That kind of skill is only in you."
"Make fun of me all you want, but later when there is only empty plates for you to lick, don't come crying to me because I won't share." Joey said hotly.
"That's fine Joey." Duke said, now focusing the camera on Joey eating. "There is a lot more in the kitchen, and its actual food too, not just cheesy chips and pop." Duke informed him with a smirk and Joey moaned.
"Aww man. I guess I won't go for seconds at this table." Tristan laughed.
"Seriously Joey, you are a bottomless pit."
"I don't care what you eat Joey, but if you get some kind of stomach or colon issues from eating this junk food, you are not using any bathroom here." Duke informed him.
"No problem." Joey said with a careless shrug. "I will just go into your front lawn. It needs a bit of fertilizer anyway."
"I have security cameras. You drop you pants and it will be all over 6 O'clock news before you can pull them up." Duke warned.
"Maybe then the girls will see how little you are compared to me and they will stop worshipping you." Joey replied.
"Please Wheeler." Duke scoffed. "My di-."
"You realize that Eri will see this later, don't you." Yugi quickly said, hoping to drive some sense into the two arguing men.
"Not to mention Tea and Mai and the rest of the women and kids." Tristan said.
"And if they ask any questions, you two will be answering them." Yugi said. Duke and Joey quickly sobered. Joey put the plate of junk food down and Duke turned camera back on the party. Yugi and Tristan shared a triumphant look.
The party ended up as a huge success, from the food and cake, to the games and party favours. By 8pm, all kids were finally picked up by their parents, and the adults seemed to be in the mood to leave as well. Mai and Joey's newborn baby was fussing and it needed to sleep. Serenity and Rebecca also wanted to get their kids to bed. So after a few long hugs and embarrassing kisses directed at Eri, the adults also left.
Duke closed the door and let out a loud sigh, feeling glad it was finally over. He loved Eri and Joey's, Tristan's and Yugi's kids, but that was under 5 children. That he could deal with. When it went over that, his head began to ache. He watched as Tea walked into the dining room, probably to do some cleaning. He quickly raced after her, grabbing her arm before she could start scrubbing the table clean.
"The maids will get to it tomorrow. Come in the living room and rest now. You have spent too much time and energy on this party." Tea smiled in return as she allowed him to lead her to a couch.
"But it was worth it. Eri seemed very happy." She said. Duke smiled as well. They fell on the couch and let out a tired sigh. However, their moment of peace and silence was short lived as Eri entered and jumped on them, hugging them.
"Thank you guys. This was the best party ever." She said, shooting them a huge smile.
"I am guessing you finally opened all the gifts." Duke said with a smirk and she nodded.
"Yup. All of them. But I never found yours or mom's." Duke chuckled and stretched his arms behind his head.
"We threw you such a great party. I thought that would count as a present." Tea chuckled at Eri's expression.
"No." Eri said adamantly. "You throw me a party every year and you also get me a present. You are only teasing me. I know you have a present hidden somewhere."
"This party was bigger than your other parties. And besides, all the food and games were of your choice. And you ordered the cake and chose the flavour and design. All of these can be counted as a present from us to you." Tea said, watching her daughter's face.
"Oh." Eri finally said as realization hit her. No more presents. "Well, thanks anyway. It was an awesome party." She finally said with a big smile. "I guess I should get ready for bed then." She got off and was about to walk away when Duke spoke.
"Okay, I can't do this anymore." Eri stopped and turned, her eyes filled with excitement.
"I knew it. I knew you would have a present for me. You always compete with Uncle Joey and Tristan and get me a bigger present." Duke laughed.
"You know me too well kid." He got up and retrieved an envelope from a drawer.
"What is it?" Eri asked in a confused tone.
"Tickets to Europe."
"WHAT?" Eri screamed in surprise and excitement before grabbing the envelope from his hands and opening it. After she saw that they were indeed, tickets, she threw her arms around him.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you." She chanted. "This is the best present ever. When are we going? Where are we going?"
"Calm down Eri." Tea said, enjoying her daughter's happiness. "We will leave in two months, after your exams are finished."
"I have a few meetings in England and France. You guys can come with me. My meetings will take a few days, a week maximum. After that, we can go wherever you want. I will have more than a month to spare, so we can see the entire Europe."
Awesome." Eri yelled loudly before hugging Duke again. "You are the best dad ever. I love you." She gushed. "I can't wait to tell this to my friends. They will be so jealous that I am going to go to so many countries."
"Okay Eri, let go of your dad." Tea said. "He has to go check up on something." Eri nodded and got off Duke's lap, but not before planting a quick kiss to his cheek. Duke chuckled again and left the area, leaving mother daughter alone. Eri turned to Tea, eyeing her suspiciously.
"Do you have a surprise present for me too?" Tea sighed and kept her gaze steady as she looked at Eri.
"Yes I do."
"What is it? What is it?" Eri asked, literally bouncing on the couch.
"It… it is something that you deserve. I kept it from you and I am sorry for that, but I wanted you to be ready when you receive it." Eri's heart beat quickened, her eyes widening as she anticipated what it could be. Tea watched her daughter breathing change pace and knew what Eri was thinking. "Originally, I thought to wait until you were 14 years old because I thought you would be mature enough. But you wore me down." Tea said with a small smile. "And I know that you are mature enough now, so I don't want to hide it from you any longer."
"M… mom." Eri said in a shaking voice. "Are you gonna tell me who my… real da- … father is?" Tea sighed and nodded her head.
"Who is he?" Eri asked impatiently. Just then, Duke entered. He shared a look with Tea and Tea let out a deep breath before turning back to Eri.
"He is here Eri. You can meet him." Eri quickly got up and raced towards the sitting area where she knew he would probably be. But she stopped as she passed Duke. Eyes filled with apprehension and conflict stared at him. He smiled and spoke.
"Don't worry about me Eri. You go ahead and meet him. I will not be hurt or offended." Eri quickly hugged him, whispered her thanks and entered the sitting room.
Seto Kaiba fidgeted on the couch, eyes darting around the room. From his spot, he could see into another room which was littered with gift wraps. That must be where the party was held. His mind urged him to go there to see the room. Maybe he could recreate, with his mind, some of the moments of happiness his daughter had shared with her friends. But he stayed put. What if he moved and Eri came and he missed her? What then? No, he could not risk it. Ten years he had waited for this day and he would not miss it.
He had been surprised to receive a call from Duke telling him about a meeting with Eri. He had not been expecting the call, not for another 2 years at least. Duke had been curt and to the point, telling him the time and location. Duke had also said that he would make a confirmation call to let him know when the guests had left and if the situation was still suitable for him to visit. That had been the longest and hardest wait of his life. Those past 1o years of wait seemed nothing compared to the hours he had spent in anticipation of a meeting with Eri. He was thankful that he had gotten the confirmation for the meeting, and so now here he was, sitting in Duke's mansion, waiting for his first face to face meeting with his daughter. Finally, he would be able to speak to her and call her his daughter, and try to be more than just a sperm donor as Yugi had called him.
Yes, he still remembered. The words were etched into his memory, not just because of how offensive they were, but because of how true they seemed at that time. Yugi has been right in stating that his interest in Eri developed out of jealousy and not love.
Seto Kaiba walked calmly on the side walk, ignorant of the occasional stare directed his way. His brief case was held securely in his hand and his gaze was fixed ahead. He had chosen to walk home today instead of taking the limo like he usually did. The weather was nice and he was in a good mood, or at least as good as his mood could be. He was going to take over a major telecommunications company, expanding Kaiba Corp into that industry. Kaiba Corp had developed and sold various technologies to such companies but Kaiba had decided it was time to step into the field as a major player and not as a supplier. With this take over, Kaiba Corp's might would increase even more and it would be among the top 5 major corporations in the world. He smiled in triumph. Life was perfect.
Causally, he glanced around to look at the less successful and less intelligent people who pathetically crawled the path of life. He noticed he was near Domino Park.
'Hang-out spot of the dorks.' His mind automatically supplied. His steps halted as his thoughts drifted off to Tea. An image of her enlarged stomach appeared in his mind. He wondered what she had done with the child. She didn't seem like she was going to abort it, so perhaps she was raising it? Or maybe she had given it up for adoption. After all, how could she support it after rejecting his more than generous offer? He shook his head to clear away the bothersome thoughts and continued walking but his mind and eyes were focused on the park, perhaps hoping to catch a glimpse of her like in the past. But instead of her, he spotted Joey and Tristan. Both were running while laughing like buffoons. He scoffed at their childish behaviour.
"Catch him daddy Tristan." Kaiba stopped abruptly when he heard the voice of a child who seemed to be chasing Joey and Tristan.
'Daddy Tristan? Taylor had a child?' Kaiba wondered as he watched Tristan tackle Joey to the ground. Not long after, a small girl, barely 2 years old came running and tumbling towards them, a small water gun held in her chubby hands.
"I got you daddy Joey." She squealed as she sprayed Joey with water. Kaiba's eyes widened. Daddy Joey? This child was calling Joey her father too. This was most peculiar.
Kaiba watched the child closely, carefully studying her silky brunette hair, heart shaped face and sparking blue eyes. She seemed very familiar but somehow he couldn't place her. He just watched as the little girl continued to spray Joey with her water gun while the three of them laughed. Just then, another voice joined the conversation.
"That's enough now Eri or your clothes will get wet." It was Yugi. He came from behind them and picked up the little girl.
"But papa, I don't mind getting wet. And its daddy Joey who is wet." She pointed out sagely. Yugi smiled while Kaiba felt even more confusion arise. This child had called Yugi her father as well. What was going on?
"But if your clothes get wet, then you can't go to pick up mommy from her class." Yugi said.
"Are we going to mommy's class? Am I going?" The little girl bounced in Yugi's arms in excitement. Yugi laughed at her antics and held her securely.
"Yes. Mommy's class ended early so I am going to go pick her up. Then we will all go out to dinner and your papa Duke will join us there." The little girl let out another squeal of joy and threw her arms around Yugi.
"Yay." She cheered.
"Why don't you go with daddy Joey and sit in the car while daddy Tristan and I collect your toys." Yugi said, handing the little girl over to Joey. "Joey, can you call Mai and Serenity and tell them to meet us at the college? We will decide a restaurant and then go together." Joey nodded his head and walked away from them. Yugi and Tristan began walking towards a bench where a bag and some toys were scattered. Kaiba watched them, wondering what the hell was going on? There was a suspicion in his mind but that was too farfetched in his opinion. Yet his heart was beating insanely fast.
"So Tea is done early today?" Tristan causally asked. Kaiba never heard Yugi's reply because his mind was filled with a strange buzzing noise. His suspicion was true. That little girl was Tea's child… she was his child.
That was the first time he had learnt of the existence of his daughter, and the first time he had seen her. So Tea had not given up the child for adoption and he saw the reason why. Her friends had decided to help her raise the child. He had been baffled by his discovery. He knew that beside's Duke, the rest of the gang was unemployed and probably in college. Yet they still decided to take on the responsibility of raising a child. Based on his experience with raising Mokuba, he knew it was no easy task, especially financially. Why and how did they do it?
Further research revealed that Yugi, Joey and Tristan attended college during the day whereas Tea attended evening classes. Duke ran his company and was a part-time student as well. He must be the financial supporter of the group.
He also searched Domino Hospital's records for Tea, hypothesizing that she must have had the baby there, and it was then he learnt that Eri had the same blood group as him. Unexpectedly, that little piece of information had a huge impact on his mindset because suddenly, he felt connected to that little girl he had seen for a few minutes. She was his daughter, his blood, a part of him. And she was surrounded by idiots who were claiming to be her father.
Blood rushed to his head as feelings of jealousy overcame him. The image of his daughter playing with and calling Joey and Tristan 'daddy' appeared in his mind and he felt rage overtake him. How dare they? How dare they lay a claim on his daughter? How dare they lie to her? How dare they keep her from him? If they thought they could keep him from her, they were sorely mistaken. She was his daughter.
Without considering the implications, he was out the door and on his way to Duke's mansion which was listed as Tea's current residence.
Kaiba rang the doorbell and waited outside the huge door to Duke's mansion. He didn't know why but his heart was beating unusually fast and his palms were sweating. Was he nervous? He realized that he was a bit apprehensive about confronting Tea after so long but the lingering anger in his mind refused to accept any wrongdoing. It was all Tea's fault. She was the one who had stupidly refused his offers of help. She had called it 'charity'' but what did she call help from her friends? What did she call living in Duke's mansion?
The door opened and a maid poked her head out.
"I need to see Tea." He spoke before she could utter any nonsense. She eyed him carefully before opening the door a bit more to let him in. She led him to a sitting room and then left to retrieve the requested party. He sat down and glanced around. Apparently, Duke was doing quite well financially. He would look into his company and see if it was worthwhile doing business together.
"Faster papa, faster." He heard the voice of a little kid and he immediately knew it was his daughter. It was Eri. He got up before he could think and was moving in the direction the voice had come from. Not long after, he saw Duke giving a piggy back ride to the little girl he had seen in the park with Yugi. Again, her eyes were sparkling and she giggled in joy as Duke jumped and ran around, his hands securely holding her to his back. Her giggles turned into shrieks as Duke plopped on a couch, crushing her small body with his large ones. Automatically, Kaiba took a step forward, ready to pull the insufferable idiot off his daughter when he realized the shrieks were of laughter. Duke was not resting his weight on the little girl, but just enough to pin her down. He then turned and began tickling the child who screamed in laughter even more. The sight was one that would bring a smile to anyone's face, a father engaged in play with his 2 year old, but to Kaiba, it was an eye sore. Jealousy burned in his core and he half snarled, half sneered.
"What are you doing here?" He turned to face a stone-faced Tea.
"Why did you hide her from me?" He demanded. Her jaw clenched.
"I never hid her from you as you claim. It I had, you wouldn't be here asking me about her."
"Then why didn't you tell me?"
"Because you made it very clear that you wanted nothing to do with this bastard child." Tea's fists clenched in anger and he knew she was thinking of their graduation day.
"I offered you my assistance-."
"You offered me charity." Tea cut him off to correct him. He growled in anger.
"And what do you call the assistance from you idiotic friends who all pretend to be Eri's father?" He demanded. Tea seemed taken back at this. She had figured he would eventually find out about Eri through searching records, but how did he know about the guys playing the part of father? That was in no record.
"What are you talking about?" She feigned innocence.
"Don't think you can fool me. I know that your idiotic friends are posing as Eri's fathers, which brings me to my next question, why are they acting as her father?"
"What happens in Eri's life is none of your concern." Tea stated.
"I am her father." He nearly yelled. "It damn well is my concern."
"You are not her father." Tea breathed venomously. "You are nothing to her."
"She is my daughter. She had the same blood group as me, and shares my DNA. I have as much right on her as you do."
"You have no right on her Seto Kaiba." Tea yelled. "She is my daughter, only mine. If you had even an ounce of care or concern for her, you would not have ignored her for 2 years of her life. You knew I was pregnant. You saw me so don't think you didn't know if I was going to have the baby or not. But did you inquire once about my health or your unborn child's well being?" Tea demanded. "Did you even bother to find out its fate, if it was dead or alive? No, you didn't, so don't you dare say you have any right on her. You abandoned her even before you knew of her existence. She is nothing to you. She is my daughter." Kaiba looked slightly guilty.
"It was a mistake on my part." He calmly stated. "But I tried to rectify it by offering you my help. But what did you do in your anger and pride? You rejected my help. Had you been sensible, Eri would have had a father."
"Eri has fathers." Tea replied, inciting his anger again. "She has wonderful fathers who love her and are worthy of being called father. She doesn't need a pathetic excuse for a human being to degrade and verbally abuse her."
"How dare you suggest that? I would never-."
"You labelled her as a plot to get your money. You degraded her even before you or I knew of her existence." He glared at her.
"That was a mistake and it happened in the past."
"But it is ever present in my mind Kaiba. I still remember what you said to me that day and I won't let your words come true." Just then, Duke entered and stood besides Tea.
"You need to leave now Kaiba." He said in a plain tone.
"Shut up and stay out of this Devlin." Seto spat.
"This is my house Kaiba and I am telling you to get off my property."
"For two years you have been using my daughter but I haven't told you off yet."
"She is not property Kaiba." Duke glared angrily.
"She is my daughter." Kaiba growled before turning to Tea. "You called my help charity, but what do you call this? You are living off Devlin's generosity, though I am pretty sure he is extracting quite a payment from you. When you said you would sell your body to raise the child, I didn't think you would actually stoop so low and do it, but now I see-." Words stuck his mouth as he was punched quite violently by Duke. Before he could recover, Duke was on him, grabbing his collar and lifting his fist for another blow.
"Don't you dare utter another word with that filthy mouth of yours Kaiba." The fire in Duke's eyes startled Kaiba. He had not expected this from Duke and for a moment, he remained dazed. Duke threw him back. "Get the hell off my property Kaiba or I will call the police."
"You dare challenge me?" Kaiba said, gaining his wits. "I will destroy you." He said to Duke. "And you," He turned to Tea, "I will take you to court. Eri is my daughter and I will have her."
"Go ahead." Duke challenged back. "By all means Kaiba, go ahead. I can't wait to see you fall face first into the ground. Go to court for custody and then watch as I colour the tabloids and newspapers with your exemplary behaviour towards Tea and Eri. I am sure the court will be more than willing to listen to a man who called the mother of his child a whore and a gold digger, and only wants the child to spite the mother and her friends." Duke said with a poisonous smile. Kaiba snarled.
"We will see Devlin." With that, he turned and left.
He hadn't pursued legal help as he had threatened because he knew Duke would go through with his threat, and he wasn't willing to risk such a blow to his reputation and company. Instead, he decided to bide his time and wait for an opportunity to weaken Duke before using blackmail to obtain Eri. Now as he looked back on his decisions, he felt ashamed. Yugi has been right in stating that his primary interest had been out of jealousy and not love. He hadn't thought of Eri as his daughter but as property on which he felt he had natural claim. But all his attempts to weaken Duke failed. Also, he began tracking Tea and Eri's life, slowly devoting more and more time as his interest increased. Somewhere along the way, his attitude changed and he felt love appear in his heart. Perhaps it was from watching Eri play in the park with her 'fathers'. Her laughter, her joy, her twinkling eyes, her sweet antics all imprinted on his mind, leaving him with the desire to be near her and be the one at the receiving end of those smiles and laughs. The more he secretly watched her, the more he saw himself in her, and the more he desired to be a part of her life. He felt an emotional connection with her. In just a few months, he had become entranced by the child he had not spoken to once, and felt the burning need to have some form of contact with her.
But he could not bring himself to confront Tea again. Every time he thought of it, he felt more guilt than the last time. Her words brought him to shame and he realized what a horrendous mistake he had made. But the more time he spent out of Eri's life, the stronger the desire became to swallow his pride and beg for Tea's forgiveness. But doing so had no effect. Tea was not willing to forgive him so easily. Instead, she threatened him to stay away from her daughter and forbade any contact with Eri, and shockingly, he accepted. If Tea felt that this was a punishment for him, then so be it. He would suffer it because he knew Tea. She may pretend to be cold hearted, but she was kind. He knew that sooner or later, she would forgive him. So he waited, stealing glances at his daughter from shadows and corners.
But Tea's punishment went on for years, bringing him to his knees. Many times he fought with her and threatened a custody battle, but never once went through with the threat because he knew of the consequences of a custody battle. He knew how it would impact all parties involved, and he didn't want to bring any harm to Tea or Eri. He didn't want his first meeting with Eri to be under negative circumstances. He couldn't risk her disliking him. And he hoped his selfless action would improve his image in Tea's eyes and maybe lessen his own guilt.
10 years of punishment he suffered before Tea decided to end his torture and allow him access to his only child. But the past years had made him realize how important Eri was to him and how much he loved her.
Sound of approaching footsteps told him someone was coming. Was it Duke, or Tea, or was it Eri? His palms began sweating and his heart beat quickened. His pupils dilated and he sat like a frozen statue, gaze fixed at the entrance.
And then he saw her. She looked even more beautiful then he last remembered seeing her. But of course, his watching had been done at a distance and in hiding, when he knew no one would spot him. This… this was the closest he had been in 5 years, ever since Tea had ended his nightly visits. He watched her stop at the entrance, in surprise and shock, he guessed. Unconsciously, he stood up, ready to greet her.
She stood rooted to the ground. It was not possible. Her mind screamed as she stared at the tall figure of the man standing right before her. It couldn't be him. She had been ready to accept anyone. Anyone else could have been a possibility. But not him. Not The Seto Kaiba.
She knew who he was. Everyone knew who he was. He was the most famous man in Domino. And probably the richest too. Stories about him circulated on a regular basis, on TV and in magazines, about his grand takeovers, about his money, influence, cruelty, power, intelligence etc. He was a celebrity. And perhaps that was why it was so hard for her to believe that he was her father.
"Hello Eri." He said and she stared at him. Was this man really her biological father? How did her mom and family manage to hide him from her? How could they hide something so big for 12 years? As she thought about it, she realized that he was never mentioned in her house. Her mom, her dad, her uncles or aunts never mentioned him. If he ever came in conversation, he was quickly passed over or the topic changed. It should have seemed suspicious to her then. She should have asked why they never seemed to talk about, or want to talk about him. After all, he was in business with uncle Yugi and her dad. And he was a duellist, just like her uncles and dad. In fact, she remembered seeing pictures of all of them from some tournament. She even remembered asking them about him, but he was passed over and the topic changed.
"Eri." Seto tried again, trying to get her attention for she seemed to be in a world of her own. His call seemed to end her trance and she looked up at him.
"You…" She seemed to be struggling. "Are you… really…"
"Yes." He said. "I am your biological father Eri. You are my daughter." She did not move. He took the initiative and walked towards her frozen form, kneeling before her. She looked so much like Tea, he noticed. She had her hair, her heart shaped face, her rosy cheeks, her full lips, but his eyes, thought they were not as cold and cruel as his. No, hers were warm and twinkling, like Tea. She was truly Tea's daughter. But he could see himself in her as well, with the way she stared at him, the cautious look in her eyes, her stance, her chewing of the inside of cheek when in deep thought was all him.
"I have waited so long for this day to come, when I can finally speak to you and call you my daughter." His voice shook with emotion. "10 years I have waited to hold you in my arms, my own daughter, and to hear you call me your father, to acknowledge my existence and presence. Can I hold you?" He asked. She slowly nodded her head and immediately, he encased her in his arms, hugging her close to him. He was afraid that it was just a dream, and that he would wake up alone and miserable again, so he held her tightly, wanting to make the moment last as much as possible, attempting to carve in his mind the sensation, the feel, the presence, the scent of his daughter. Only when he felt her struggle against his chest did he let her go, but not more than a few inches. Her face showed a troubled look.
"What's the matter?" He asked, fearful of the answer.
"Why didn't you come for me?" She asked. "Didn't you want me?" All the taunts of her peers rang in her head and she struggled not to cry.
"I wanted you Eri." He desperately tried to assure her. "I love you and I wanted to be in your life. I argued with Tea many times over this, but she was adamant about not having me as a part of your life until she deemed you ready."
"And you just agreed?" Eri found it hard to believe. This was a man who was known to be assertive, to get whatever he wanted, no matter the cost to others. How could he just give in to her mother?
"I… I didn't agree to it immediately." Seto admitted, looking away. "I threatened to go to court for custody. I knew I had the money and means to ensure that I would have complete custody. But I didn't go through with it. I didn't want to hurt Tea anymore than I already had. And I didn't want anything to happen to you either. I knew that if the news leaked out of me having a child, the media would go into frenzy in trying to find out the identity of the child and mother. They would have hounded and harassed you, and made your life miserable. And I didn't want that for you. So I stayed silent until Tea decided that you were ready for it. But don't think I didn't love you." He added. "Only I know how I have spent the last 10 years, yearning to see you and talk to you. I have wanted this meeting with you more than anything else in life." He assured her.
"I wanted to meet you too." Eri admitted. "I wanted to know who my real father was. But mom kept putting it off. We even had some arguments over it, but she never told me it was you."
"What did she say to you… about me?" Seto asked. Eri's reaction was far from someone who was excited to see their father after years. She seemed… surprised… but it wasn't the good or excited kind of surprised. He wondered if Tea had filled her head with information about him that caused Eri to not receive him as warmly as he had hoped.
"She never said anything." Eri said. "No one ever did. If I ever saw your picture and asked anyone about you, they just changed the topic. And mom never said anything either when I asked her about you. She said that I could form my own opinion after meeting you." Seto nodded. Of course Tea wouldn't fill his daughter's head with lies against him. She wasn't that kind of person. Or perhaps she didn't want to give any clue away, fearing Eri might figure out his identity. Or perhaps the topic was still too sensitive for Tea to speak about. There were too many possibilities, too many explanations.
"What did you do to mom?" Eri asked, causing him to end his train of thoughts. He shot her a confused look, trying to contain his fear at what Eri wanted to know.
"You said you hurt her" Eri said. "What did you do?" Seto looked away in shame.
"I… I wasn't there for her when she needed me." He finally said.
"Is that why you and mom broke up?"
"… Yes." It was a lie, he knew. But he was too ashamed to tell Eri the real reason why Tea had left him. If Tea and the rest of her friends never talked about him, then that meant that Eri's impression of him came from outside sources which loved to portray him as some kind of evil demon. He didn't want to confirm Eri's beliefs about him. He already knew he had a lot of work to do to show her that he was kind and nice too.
"Eri, I know I haven't been a good father or a father at all to you these past years. And I know you probably think I am a horrible person, but please, give me a chance to show you otherwise. I want to spend time with you and make up for the years you and I lost."
"I'll ask mom about it. But I think she would say yes." Eri said and Seto allowed a small smile to come to his face.
"Maybe when your school ends, you can come live with me. Do you know you have a biological uncle too? Mokuba? You have met him." Eri nodded.
"Yeah. I know him. So he is my uncle. Wow, another uncle." She said. Seto felt the need to correct her and tell her that Mokuba was her only real, biological uncle, but decided against it. He knew the other guys had been just as loving as caring to her and Eri loved them just as much, perhaps even more than she could love Mokuba.
"So what do you say Eri? Would you like to come live with me?" He asked again.
"I can't do it this summer." She said and his heart fell. Of course she would say no. Why would she want to leave her mother and come live with a man she had met a few minutes ago, especially a man with a negative reputation?
"Dad is taking mom and me to Europe." Eri's excitement was lost on him because of her reference to Duke as "dad". He envied how easily and comfortably she called Duke 'dad', but she had yet to use that title to refer to him.
"But when we come back, maybe then I can visit you." She said. He nodded.
"I would like that." Few moments of silence passed. He watched as she suppressed a yawn.
"You are tired. You should go to bed." She smiled and nodded her head.
"I… I am gonna go to bed now." Eri said. "I will ask mom and dad about coming to live with you." She turned to walk away before stopping abruptly and turning to face him.
"It's my birthday today and you owe me a present." She had a smile on her face and Kaiba couldn't help but smile back.
"I do have a present for you, but I will give that to your mom for now and she can give it to you tomorrow. Right now, you are too sleepy and should go to bed." Eri nodded and said good night before running out of the room. Kaiba patiently waited for Tea and Duke to come. When they came, he took a deep breath before speaking.
"Thanks for finally letting me have my daughter." Kaiba said, his eyes locked with Tea. She didn't reply. "I know you don't trust me and think I will somehow hurt her, but I promise you I will never intentionally harm her or bring a tear to her eyes. I hope you know that the past years have taught me a lot about valuing people over objects and I value Eri over everything else, over my company, over my reputation, even over my life." Tea's eyes finally softened and she nodded her head. He took out an envelope from his coat pocket and held it out to Tea.
"These are the details to a bank account I have opened in Eri's name. I will continue to add money to it so she never has to worry about money for the rest of her life." Tea wanted to protest but he beat her to it. "I know Eri doesn't need any financial help, but I am her father and I feel that it is my responsibility to contribute to her future. This is my birthday present to her so please accept it. It will take some weight off my chest and make me feel like I have some part in Eri's life and future." Duke squeezed Tea's hand and she reached forward to accept it.
"Eri told me you are planning a trip to Europe."
"Yes." It was Duke who spoke. "After we come back, we will have a lawyer draw up the documents for a custody agreement. I hope we can settle this as quietly as possible because once the news leaks out, there will be hell to pay." Kaiba nodded his head.
"I want Eri to live with me after you come back, at least for a few weeks. After that, we can decide the living arrangements in the custody agreement." Tea nodded her head. Silence hung in the air.
"DAD, STORY TIME." Eri's yell came from her bedroom and Duke and Tea shared a laugh.
"She may say she is a big girl now but she still wants a bedtime story every night." Duke informed Kaiba. "And it is my job to tell her a new one every night. So you better prepare yourself Kaiba. Once she comes to live with you, bedtime story will be your responsibility." Kaiba smiled and nodded his gratitude towards Duke.
"I will prepare myself well for the challenge." He stared at Tea for a few moments before turning on his heel and walking towards the door. He was about to get in his car when he heard Tea call his name. Quickly, he turned and watched her come to him but stop 2 feet away.
"I want to apologize for keeping Eri away from you for so long. I know I claimed that I had the right, but I didn't. I also want to apologize for threatening your company and your reputation in case you decided to pursue legal guardianship. I want you to know that I did it to protect Eri. I didn't think she was mature enough to understand your attitude or behaviour and I didn't want her to get hurt. I know you would have never intentionally hurt her, but she was a child prone to interpreting things her way and I didn't want her to have any misconceptions about you." She finished her defence and stared at him.
"That's in the past now. There is no need to bring it up or dwell on it." He said and she nodded her head.
"Yes, it's in the past now. But I hope we will have a better relationship in the future." He nodded in agreement.
"Tea…" Kaiba said after a few moments of silence, "are you happy with Devlin? Do you love him?" Tea seemed surprised at his question but nodded her head and smiled.
"Yes. I love him and I am more than happy with him." Kaiba sighed and turned away.
"Have fun on your trip. Inform me when you arrive back in Domino and I will have my lawyer meet yours to settle a custody agreement." With that, he sat in the car and quickly drove away. Tea watched the car disappear from view before entering her house. She could hear Eri's bubbling laughter coming from upstairs and smiled before going up to join her family.
Hey guys, this proves it that I am still alive :D
Sorry for the long absence but I can't find the time to devote to fanfiction anymore. This chapter alone took me more than 2 weeks. Right now, I am only focusing on finishing "Payback is a bitch". Hopefully, I will have a new chapter up in a few weeks.
I know the status of this story is set at 'complete' but I was told in many reviews and personal messages that it needed another chapter involving Eri's meeting with Kaiba. So I wrote this chapter. I tried to make it interesting and worth the time you spent reading it, and hopefully you enjoyed it.
Please review and let me know what you think. There are probably spelling mistakes and other errors eg inconsistencies in names or events in this chapter but it is 3:00 am right now and my brain is unable to function, so I am unsure about my proofreading. But anyway, I hope you guys liked the chapter.
Please review and let me know of your opinnions. For those of you who read 'Payback is a bitch', I will try to upload a new chapter in a few weeks.