Disclaimer: I do not own Yugioh.
She couldn't bear to look at those eyes. Even as she stared at their picture from that cursed night on the cover of a gossip magazine, she couldn't stand seeing those eyes. She could still feel the intensity of his gaze, could still feel herself getting lost in the swirl of unmentionable emotions, and it scared her. It scared her to no end. She wasn't much concerned about the gossip story as she was about the reactions she had received, and those she hadn't.
Joshua had been the first to snap, raising a storm at her careless actions, followed by Steven, who, in his own special way of carefully chosen caring words that somehow came out as caustic, gave her an earful. Stan came next with an hour long phone call that had her feeling worst than she could remember.
"What are you planning?" Stan's rage carried over the continent and into her ears. She flinched.
"Look Stan, it wasn't supposed to-." She tried to explain but he was in no mood for her excuses.
"You know how you are around him. You are well aware of your state of mind and emotions, so why would you make such a stupid move?" He growled. She felt her anger rise.
"I am not as weak as-."
"Shut up. You can feed yourself that bullshit but don't even try with me." He snapped. "You think I don't see what is going on in that picture? You think I can't tell what is going on in your mind right now?" He challenged. She chose to stay quiet. Silence fell over them, in which only Stan's heavy breathing could be heard.
"Tea." He finally said in a soft voice. "Times and times again I have told you to let it go. I know it is difficult, but you were making progress before you decided to come to Domino. And now, I feel like you are back to square one. You are back to being in a pained and conflicted state of mind."
"I am not conflicted." She said. Stan sighed.
"So you are sure you know what is going on and what you need to do?" She hesitated before answering.
"Yes. I do." Stan did not speak for a few seconds.
"Fine. You are old enough and mature enough to make decisions for yourself. And only you know how you truly feel and how to finally put all this behind you. So I will not stop you from whatever you are planning. But know this Tea, every action is coupled with a reaction, equal in magnitude but opposite in direction. Make sure you are prepared for what will come your way."
And Valon. Oh God, Valon had been brutal.
"What the hell are you doing?" Valon yelled over the phone. "I knew there was something wrong with your mind when you decided to date Alistair, but this… this is just crazy."
"Valon, it's not what you think." She tried to explain.
"I know that getting into some scandals is good for publicity, but this situation will bring you no benefit of any kind. This is Seto Kaiba you are dealing with. No matter what you do, you will lose."
"And have you even considered how Alistair would feel about this?" Her heart stopped at his words and she felt tears sting her eyes. "You know damn well how he feels about Kaiba and still you go and do something like this?"
"Valon…" She said in a broken voice, but Valon ignored her pitiful voice.
"I love you Tea, don't doubt that, but Alistair is my buddy. I will not stand for anyone hurting him or making a fool of him, not even you."
"I am not doing anything like that." She desperately tried to convince him. Valon let out a cold bark of a laugh.
"But it sure seems like it. I am not blind or stupid. I saw the look in his eyes and yours too. You know what they say, a picture is worth a thousand words."
"It was a-."
"Misunderstanding? Planned publicity event?" Valon mocked. "Save that bullshit for the media. Don't belittle me." She had no answer.
"Did you talk to Alistair yet?" Valona said in a calm voice. Tears fell from her eyes and she shook her head while making a choked sound. Valon sighed on the other line.
"He is not going to call you if that is what you are waiting for." She quietly sobbed.
"Tea, if you have an explanation for him, call him and let him know. I know how he is. He will not call you or say anything, but in his mind, a storm will be brewing, and I don't want you to be caught in it."
It had been two days since the incident and she still hadn't received a single call or a message from Alistair, nor had she mustered up the courage to give him a call. No matter what explanation she thought up, it seemed inadequate and false when she looked at it from Alistair's perspective. Stan hadn't called again, and Joshua and Steven were becoming more like their job title and less like her friends. Or perhaps it was only her who felt that way. The media was hounding her worse than they had ever, and the two were busy dealing with that, leaving her alone to wallow in her misery.
Surprisingly enough, she hadn't been contacted by Mokuba at all; no phone calls or visits. She wondered why that was so. Perhaps he was busy working on the other side to control the situation. But she never dwelled on it for long for it brought her attention to someone she did not want to think about at the moment. After all, he was the one she placed all blame on.
The sound of footsteps climbing stairs brought her out of her thoughts and she turned her head towards the door just in time to see Joshua appear.
"Lunch's ready." He said and left.
"I am not hungry." She called out to his retreating figure but she wasn't sure if he had heard it or not. She waited and when no one came again to call her, she figured he had heard her and had decided to let her be. For some reason, this hurt her enormously and she had trouble containing her tears. Did they not understand that she hadn't meant for it to happen? Did they not know that she wasn't one to play with people's hearts like that? Did they not see how agonized she was that such a thing had happened? Did they not know how much she needed them at this time? Did they-.
"Here." She looked up to see Steven place a tray of food before her on the bed. "You need to eat." Tears freely streamed down her face and she let out a strangled sob. Steen's expression did not change as he moved to grab a tissue box and place it before her. Sniffling, she took one and wiped her eyes.
"The food is getting cold." He said again. She complied to his request and slowly began eating.
"I've spoken with Stan. He thinks it is better if you stay put for a while, until this situation boils over. God knows how long that will take, but at least until we come up with a solution." She nodded her head.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean for this to happen." She said.
"I know." Steven said. "We are not angry at you for behaving the way you did, at least, not me. Personally, I knew something like this was going to happen sooner or later. I am just not so thrilled about the media hounding that I'm having to deal with. And quite frankly, it wasn't in the job description when I signed up for it." Tea managed a small smile.
"Fine print." Steven cracked a smile as well, watching her eat. Silence reined over them. Finally, when Tea was done. Steven spoke again.
"Did you call Alistair yet?" Tea looked away in guilt.
"This will only get worse if both of you act stubborn." He pointed out as he began collecting the dishes.
"I'm not being stubborn." Tea defended herself. "I'm just…"
"He deserves to know the truth from you." Steven said. "You need to call him and explain your actions. Whatever happens next is inevitable and can't be avoided no matter how much longer you wait." He stood up, ready to leave the room. "Remember this, the longer you wait, the more time he has to make assumptions of his own and the more time for those assumptions to turn into facts in his mind."
Tea sighed in defeat. She knew what Steven said was true. She would just have to be brave and face Alistair. Steeling herself, she reached for the phone and dialled his number.
"Are you going to deal with her any time soon because it's getting on my nerves." Mokuba said entering the office. Seto looked up from his laptop and regarded his agitated brother carefully. He knew very well who "her" was.
Serenity had caused a storm upon seeing their picture. Mai had joined in to add to the fire and…
A magazine was thrown on his desk unceremoniously. He looked up to see an enraged Serenity, huffing and puffing, ready to blow his office apart.
"What is this?" She screamed. He lifted the magazine to gaze at the cover. Not surprisingly enough, a picture of him and Tea, with her slumped against him, greeted him. He sighed and placed it back.
"Well?" She pressed.
"It is nothing to be concerned over." He said, turning back to his work.
"NO." She yelled loudly. "I won't be placated with those words anymore. I have kept a calm attitude about what you and that bitch have been up to for far too long." Tears formed in her eyes and her voice lowered. "I kept pretending that it wasn't what it seemed like… but I can't… I can't do it anymore." Seto sighed at her pitiful state.
"Seto… you have never…" She struggled to speak between the sobs and tears. "You have never cared for me the way I have for you. You have always, ALWAYS, kept me at a distance, and I accepted it because I thought it was who you were. And I thought that in a few years, I would be able to make a place in your heart." She looked at him with eyes shining with sorrow and tears.
"Have I Seto? Do I have a place in your heart?" Seto just stared at her, his heart beating faster than it had ever in her presence. What answer could he give her? Did he even have an answer for her?
"Look…" He started, trying to find a diplomatic answer, but she collapsed on the floor before he could continue. Quickly getting up, he walked to where she was and saw her sobbing hysterically.
"You…. I… I wasted my… life… trying… and you…" Kneeling before her, Seto made an attempt to embrace her but she shrugged away.
"No. You… you don't care. All this time… I was nothing… nothing more than a body for you, wasn't I? And I… I loved you… I…" She abruptly got up and ran out of the room, leaving a very frustrated Seto behind. He slowly walked to his desk and sat down. He hadn't even looked at the documents he had been working on when the door slammed open and in came a furious Mai.
"Kaiba, how dare you do that to her?" She growled. Out went frustration and in came annoyance and anger.
"Stay the hell out of this Valentine." He snapped. "This is none of your business."
"Yes it is." Mai said. "She is my friend, like my little sister. You have no right to treat her the way you did, or the way you have for the past four years."
"I didn't do anything wrong." Seto defended himself.
"Stop lying." Mai snapped. "You have always been cold to her, and have taken advantage of her." Seto glared at her.
"She should have seen this coming considering the kind of man I am before she got involved with me."
"Stop putting all the blame on her." Mai yelled in frustration. "It wasn't her decision alone that got you to this point. It was yours. You were the one to approach her, and then you made the decision to chose her. It was you all along. You are the one to blame. Yet you have always blamed her for your decision." Seto's eyes widened a fraction at her words, but he recovered immediately.
"She had four years to figure me out and leave me if she wanted. I didn't hold her by force."
"She loves you." Mai screamed. "Can't you see that? She has loved you since the first kiss you two shared and hasn't stopped since. She didn't leave because she cared for you. She stayed because she didn't want to leave you alone. She stayed because-."
"Because you manipulated her into it." Seto interrupted her, pinning her down with his glare. "She stayed because you needed her to take advantage of my position and money, which you successfully did. Aren't you going to say that Valentine?" He mocked. "For all I know, her feelings might just be a product of your manipulation." Mai seemed speechless for a few moments, her mouth open. Finally, she took a deep breath and spoke.
"Serenity stayed because she had hope for a future she wanted with you… a hope that perhaps she still clings to, however desperately it may be. And if you have an ounce of decency Kaiba, you should tell her the truth. Don't string her along any more than you already have. She doesn't deserve it." With that, Mai left.
Seto scowled at the door long after she had gone, her words swirling in his head. How dare Valentine assume she knew anything of their relationship, or about him at all? She was just threatened that her financial support might be cut off if Seto and Serenity were to break up. After all, he was the chief financier of her pathetic clothing line.
But she had spoken some truth, much to Seto's chagrin. He had placed all blame for their union on Serenity, which was unfair, as pointed out, since he was the one who had made the decision to choose her over Tea.
There was no doubt in Seto's mind that Serenity had stayed with him out of her own free will, out of whatever feelings of love she had developed for him. Valentine had been right in saying that Serenity had fallen in love with him since their first kiss. And since that day, she had devoted herself to him, doing everything in her power to gain his love. She had been there for him, through thick and thin, even when he made every effort to push her away. She had stood by his every decision, every action, no matter how cruel or unreasonable it was. He knew she would fight her brother if he asked her to because her loyalty lied with him.
Serenity was devoted to him, despite everything he had done to cause otherwise. And he had always returned her warmth with a cold attitude, treating her worse than he treated his lowliest employees. He had always verbally tortured her and mocked her. He had used her for his own reasons over the course of time, taking advantage of her body and feelings.
No wonder life was such a bitch to him.
"Well?" Mokuba repeated.
"I'll deal with her." Seto assured him and Mokuba grunted before leaving his office.
Sighing, he got up and walked towards their bedroom where he knew Serenity would be bawling her eyes out. He could already picture it in his mind. He opened the door to find the scene exactly as he had expected. Serenity was sitting on the bed, crying loudly, while Mai sat beside her, holding the girl and whispering comforting words to her. Their heads turned to look at him upon his entrance, resulting in fresh cries from Serenity and a dirty look from Mai.
"What are you-." Mai began in a venomous tone but Seto cut her off before she could spurt some nonsense.
"Get out Valentine. I don't want to waste my time or breath on you." She huffed in anger and was ready with a retort when Seto beat her to it… again.
"I don't want to repeat myself. Get out of my sight within the next 30 seconds or I'll have security escort you off my property." Mai's mouth opened in shock.
"The clock is ticking." Seto said testily. Mai shot him the meanest glare she was capable of before whispering something in Serenity's ear and walking out, slamming the door hard on her way out. Seto ignored her tantrum and stared at a sniffling Serenity. Letting out an internal sigh, he approached her and sat on the bed before her, but didn't speak. Uncomfortable silence reigned supreme. Finally, Serenity broke it.
"Why are you here?" She said, not looking up at him.
"I… I came to apologize." He said. Her head snapped up to stare at his face, eyes wide as dinner plates.
"Wh… what?" She muttered.
"I'm sorry… for all I've done." He said.
"I… I don't understand." She said, clearly confused. Swallowing his pride, he spoke.
"Over the past few years… I haven't treated you as you deserved to be treated. I have always viewed you as a fixture in my life, someone who will always be there no matter what I do. In assuming so, I have taken advantage of your loyalty and your feelings, and I'm sorry for that."
"Oh Seto…" Serenity wailed loudly before throwing herself at him, sobbing in his chest. He wrapped an arm around her and brought her shaking form close.
"You have always been there for me, whether I wanted you or not. And I am grateful for that. You are one of the very few that I trust, and I know I don't show it or say it, but I do appreciate your presence in my life Serenity. You have given me support during tough times, even if I didn't realize it then." He took a deep breath, rubbing her back soothingly before speaking again.
"If there is one thing I respect, its loyalty, and you have been more loyal to me at times than my own brother. I'm sorry for everything I have done and for the way I treated you. I will try not to do the same in the future. You deserve better and I plan to give it to you."
"I love you Seto." Serenity sobbed in his chest. "I love you so much. I love you." He kissed the top of her head.
"I think it's time I confronted Te… Gardner and ended this." He said with a determined voice.
Tea walked through the halls of Domino General Hospital, donning big sunglasses and an even bigger hat, all part of the disguise to reach her destination undetected. Barely thirty minutes ago, had she received a call from Tristan informing her of Nina's labour. Having promised Nina already to be there at her delivery, Tea now walked towards the room Tristan had informed her to come to. As she read the numbers at the doors and reached closer and closer, her heart raced faster and faster in excitement. Perhaps it was because Nina was a friend and she felt happy for both parents. Or perhaps it was because this was the first birth she would see.
Hurrying along the corridor to reach the room Nina was in, she knocked gently, and took off her ridiculously large glasses. After a few moments, the door opened to reveal a smiling Tristan. His smile didn't waver as he saw Tea. Instead, he just motioned her inside the room. She followed and soon saw a sleeping Nina, looking much thinner than she last remembered. She shot a questioning look at Tristan who nodded towards the other side of the bed, where a crib was placed. Excitement coursed through her body again and she eagerly walked in the direction to see a small child, wrapped carefully in fluffy blankets, sleeping peacefully. She could not stop the gasp of wonder that left her lips.
"My daughter." Tristan said from beside her, his finger tracing the infants cheek lovingly.
"Congratulations." Tea said honestly. He smiled.
"It just happened so suddenly. Her water broke and the next think I knew, we were rushing through the hospital screaming for a doctor. Thankfully, the delivery didn't take long. The nurse said it was as painless as it could be, and then… she handed me… my daughter… and just like that… I was a father." Tea watched Tristan with a soft gaze. She could barely imagine how happy he was.
"Have you named her?" She asked and Tristan shook his head.
"No. Nina fell asleep right after feeding her so we never got around to it. We have discussed some names… but-." He was cut off by a slight moan from behind them. They turned to see Nina shift slightly on the bed. Tristan rushed to her side and held her hand.
"Nina, love, are you awake?" He asked gently. Nina moaned again before slowly blinking her eyes open. Her gaze settled on Tristan and she smiled blearily.
"How are you feeling?" He asked. She smiled widely in reply and snuggled into his touch. He leaned down to kiss her forehead.
"You have a visitor." He informed her. Lazily, Nina turned her head and smiled upon discovering Tea.
"Hi." She said.
"Congratulations." Tea said. "Your daughter is very beautiful." Nina smiled wider.
"Thanks. I'm glad you came. It means a lot to me." Tea smiled back.
"Tristan was just telling me that you haven't picked a name yet."
"Yes. We are still trying to decide. It would have been easier if we knew the gender of the baby but we chose not to know. So now, we are having some difficulty choosing a name. It is our first child, so we want the name to be special."
"Seraphina." Tea suddenly said. Tristan and Nina stared at her. She blushed under their gaze.
"Sorry. The name just popped in my head and I blurted it out. Anyway, what were you saying?" Tea said. Nina exchanged a look with Tristan and spoke.
"Hmmm…. Seraphina Taylor. Sounds nice."
"No, no." Tea hastily said. "I just… the name just…don't think about it. I don't know why I said it or why it even occurred to me because I don't even know any Seraphina, or someone with a name remotely close to it. I didn't say it so-."
"It does sound nice." Tristan said, cutting Tea's rant off.
"Tristan… Nina… I…" Tea didn't know what to say. Nina shot her a small smile.
"Ihink of it as a gift to our daughter. You did say you'd get her a gift, and what better gift than a beautiful name?" Tea felt her heart swell with joy and emotion. She stepped forward and took Nina's hand, squeezing it in gratitude.
"Thank you so much for this… honor. I don't know how to…"
"It's not a problem." Nina said, stifling a yawn. "It's actually an honor for us. Maybe in the future I can tell my grandkids that my daughter was named by the famous Tea Gardner." Tea let out a small laugh at Nina's comment.
"Go back to sleep Nina. I'll take care of Seraphina." Tristan whispered to her as her eyes closed and before long, she was taking deep breaths of sleep. Tristan motioned for Tea to follow him and they walked out of the room.
"Congratulations again." Tea said when he closed the door behind him. She hesitated before speaking. "Did… did no one else came to see Seraphina or Nina?" Tristan looked away.
"I called my parents and Nina's parents after I called you. They should be arriving in a few days. As for friends, I haven't told anyone except Yugi."
"Is he… here?" She asked hesitantly. Tristan nodded.
"He left for the cafeteria before you came. He said he needed to get a coffee and that you probably wouldn't want him near you anyway." Tea looked away as guilt seeped into her mind. "He still has to see Seraphina so I'm sure he is still there." For some reason, Tea felt as if the last part was added on purpose, and she had an idea what that purpose was.
"Well, I should get going then." She said. "Take care of Nina and Seraphina. I'll come visit them again later." With that, she turned and quickly began walking away. Only when she heard the click of a door closing did she slow down and change course.
Soon, she was standing in a small open area where aromas of coffee and baked goods pleased her nostrils. Her searching eyes soon spotted a tri-colored head sitting with his back to her. Taking a deep breath, she walked towards him, determination overcoming any other emotion she was feeling at the moment. Stopping just a few steps away, she tentatively called out.
"Yu… Yugi?" He turned his head and then dropped his coffee. The barely hot liquid spilled all over the table. Yugi tore his gaze away from Tea and hastily began wiping the substance off with the napkins he had. He froze when another hand joined his efforts. With wide eyes, he watched as Tea helped him clean. When done, she gathered the dirty napkins and threw them in the garbage before walking towards him and standing before him again. No one spoke for a while.
"Thanks." Yugi finally managed to say.
"It's not a big deal." Tea said. "I… I came to talk." Yugi sighed and took a seat. She sat opposite him and stared at him.
"Look Tea, I'm really sorry for-." He began but she cut him off.
"Don't apologize, please." She said. "Actually, I'm the one who should apologize." Yugi's mouth dropped open in disbelief.
"What are you saying? You shouldn't-."
"Please let me finish." Tea interrupted him again. He obeyed and just watched her intently. She took a deep breath before speaking.
"I was wrong and unfair in my judgement and treatment of you. You helped me immeasurably in the past. On more than a few occasions, you risked your own safety to ensure mine. I am indebted to you for all that, and therefore I have no right to be angry at you. I believe your past actions atone for where I think you wronged me. So… so I want you to know that… I don't hate you or dislike you… or feel anything negative about you." She said in a tone that was too formal for friends and Yugi didn't fail to notice that.
"Then how do you feel about me?" He asked quietly. "Or do you not feel anything at all?" Her heart thumped violently as she stared into his pained eyes.
"I feel that… maybe… we can… start over. We can try to be civil and… maybe become friends." She looked at her folded hands. Yugi reached over and gently grasped her hands in a comforting grip.
"I'd like that a lot." She looked up and met his warm comforting gaze and knew she had made the right decision.
"If you don't mind, can I ask what changed your mind?" Yugi asked after a few moments of silence. Tea sighed tiredly and looked at the few other occupants of the cafeteria, watching them smile and talk to each other. Her mind drifted to Nina and she replied.
"I miss having friends."
Thanks for reading.
Don't forget to review to give me your input.