What Doesn’t Kill You
Chapter 20: Endless White (version 1.5)
A Yu-Gi-Oh Fanfiction
By: Azurite – azurite AT seventh-star DOT net
Site: seventh-star DOT net
Conceptualized/First Written: 6/28/05, 10/23/05
Completed/Final Edit: 10/29/05
Don’t Forget! All Review Replies are now hosted here. Thanks for your continued support!
Thanks to Miss Matched over at betasquad livejournal community and forums for helping beta this chapter. As with all chapters, if you’re interested in helping edit and make WDKY even better, let me know!
Double Thanks to the genius that is mischiefmagnet for catching “that error” that shall not be named…
‘Hmph. White Day.’ Seto Kaiba absently twirled an expensive pen between his fingers. It had his name engraved on the cap; some stupid present from an admirer whose name Kaiba couldn’t remember. He got lots of expensive gifts like these on St. Valentine’s Day, and the day one month later —March 14th, White Day— was the day when women supposedly waited with bated breath to find out if he shared their affection.
Needless to say, he did not.
Except for one person…
The question was, what in the world could he possibly do to make up for the disaster that had been St. Valentine’s Day?
Well… in retrospect, it hadn’t entirely been a disaster. But he wasn’t about to start thinking about that, because he’d already survived a month thus far, and he wasn’t going to push his luck by entertaining thoughts of what he and Téa had almost done on St. Valentine’s Day.
How had he survived a whole month, anyway?
Téa kept glancing at Seto none-too-discreetly, hoping she could catch his gaze, but he looked completely lost in thought.
It was an unusual expression to see on her boyfriend’s face, because normally he looked so concentrated. But at that particular moment during on an icy cold March day, he looked completely out of it.
‘I wonder why…’ Téa chewed the end of her pencil absently, frowning in disgust when the little pink eraser detached itself in her mouth.
Téa knew what she wanted Seto to be thinking: she wanted him to be thinking about whatever impressive and amazing thing he was going to do on White Day. He’d been awfully sweet and romantic whenever they were alone as of late, but his attitude remained completely the same in school— focused on work, dedicated to his job, and unconcerned with fangirls or wannabe duelists.
White Day was only a week away… surely Seto hadn’t forgotten all about it, right? He hadn’t forgotten about her Valentine (carefully crafted alongside a box of new Duel Monsters cookies) and the hard work she’d put into it, right? He hadn’t forgotten about what had… almost happened, right?
Téa had the decency to blush as she remembered the rainy St. Valentine’s Day incident that involved a shower, a burst of courage, and a great deal of nakedness.
All at once, a series of flying paper footballs bounced off the back of her head, and Téa snapped from her reverie and turned around to glare at Joey and Tristan. The two of them always paired up in chemistry lab, when they had free seating. Yugi had decided to use that day’s study period in the lab to work on another project for his vocational ed class, and Seto had already finished his assignments long ago, so he was content sitting at the lab table on the far end of the class, reading Tolstoy’s “War and Peace.”
Téa only made a face at Joey and Tristan, who chuckled quietly to themselves and went back to mixing acids and bases and causing all sorts of problems.
‘Boys! They’re so immature!’ The thought gave Téa pause. Did that include Seto? It wasn’t as if Téa felt she could talk about her problems —sexual or otherwise!— with the guys, least of all Joey. Even if Seto and Joey had some semblance of an odd friendship, the two of them probably didn’t want to know a thing about the other’s sex life. More often than not, Téa couldn’t even bring herself to be as brave as she had been nearly a month ago and talk to Seto about what she was thinking and feeling!
Mai was her only outlet for that kind of thing.
Considering Téa was only getting increasingly frustrated with the upcoming holiday and whether or not Seto would say or do anything, Téa decided that another visit to Mai was long overdue.
The truth was, Seto was planning something, and the only reason why he seemed so out of it was because he kept thinking that he was forgetting something, or that something was going to go wrong. He was the type who planned for every possible contingency, and who learned from past mistakes, whether they were his own or someone else’s.
The bulk of St. Valentine’s Day was a disaster, and Seto knew it. He’d been so confused that day, wondering why Téa was so quiet and upset, instead of bubbly and romantic as he’d expected her to be. In the morning, she’d been that way, but in the few hours they’d been at school, her attitude changed completely. Once Seto found out why, he was determined not to ever be so blind to her feelings again.
After all, there was nothing more dangerous in his book than an angry or upset Téa. She knew him better than most people, and she had access to practically every part of his life. As strange a thought as it was, their relationship was almost a form of two-way blackmail. As long as they kept each other happy, there would be no problems.
That meant no ghosts, no alcohol, no amnesia, and no fangirls!
He triple-checked every last detail to ensure things were going to go perfectly, and if anything needed revisions, he made the appropriate changes and triple-checked everything all over again. There was no way this Sunday was going to be a disaster like St. Valentine’s Day.
Not a chance.
Mokuba was grumbling over a stack of white and red construction paper when Seto found him later that evening at the kitchen table.
“What are you up to?”
His younger brother only responded by shoving a pile of empty, heart-shaped boxes (that likely once contained chocolate) from the center of the table off to where Seto was standing; there was a small load of them there in various sizes and colors, and almost all of them had some sort of cute card attached to it with a large bow.
Seto wanted to laugh; apparently not even his younger brother was exempt from the chore of politely thanking all of the girls that gave him chocolate. The easiest ones to deal with were the “obligation chocolates” bestowed on the boys from their classmates, but the majority of chocolates tended to be “favorite chocolates” from girls that admired Mokuba as “more than just a friend.”
“I can’t wait till I’m 13,” Mokuba groused as he hastily scrawled his signature on another thank-you card.
“Why’s that? I thought you weren’t looking forward to me shoving you into an active role in Kaiba Corp.” Seto smirked, remembering his ‘threat’ to Mokuba the previous August before they’d arrived at the 50th Kaiba Corporation Anniversary Ball.
“I’m ready for that. But at least when I’m 13, I can start turning down all these girls and their chocolate, and blame it on teenage hormones,” Mokuba grinned toothily.
Seto shook his head in disbelief. But before he could leave his brother to his own devices, there was one last matter…
“You’re going to need to keep yourself busy on the night of the 14th.”
“Huh?” Mokuba continued scrawling his signature on card after card, only bothering to glance up when he needed to make sure he was spelling the name of the recipient correctly. “Why, you and Téa doing something? It is White Day, so I hope you’ve got something planned…”
“I do,” Seto straightened, allowing himself a moment of pride. He was probably being a bit excessive in his efforts, actually, but if everything went as planned, then it would all be worth it.
When Seto didn’t elaborate, Mokuba looked up from his work and stared at his older brother with a raised eyebrow and a questioning stare. “Do I want to know?”
Seto pursed his lips and sat down beside Mokuba, taking some of the finished thank-yous and stacking them neatly off to the side. After that, he clasped his hands together, then took them apart and started to drum them on the table. He couldn’t exactly tell Mokuba why he was planning what he was, but he could tell him what he was planning, right? That was simple enough.
“The Anniversary Ball” was all he said, and then he waited for Mokuba’s reaction.
To Seto’s surprise, Mokuba wasn’t shocked in the least. He smiled briefly and then went back to his work.
“That’s a nice idea.”
“What? You think it’s stupid?”
Mokuba didn’t look at his brother, but the smile on his lips did curve up a bit more. “I didn’t say that.”
“Then why are you smirking like that?” Ironically enough, his younger brother’s opinion mattered to Seto a great deal, even if he was the third party in this situation. Truthfully, the best person to ask about what he should plan for White Day was none other than Téa herself— but since asking her what she wanted for White Day would ruin the point, Seto immediately vetoed that idea. The next best inspiration came in the form of the scrapbook he’d given to Téa on her birthday; one of the pictures within it was a color newspaper clipping of her, Seto, and Mokuba smiling as genially as possible for the cameras, while reporters hounded them from all sides.
The night of the Kaiba Corporation 50th Anniversary Ball.
When Seto originally selected the picture, he had done so purely out of the fact that it looked good— he had hardly remembered the actual night of the ball. Now that time had passed and the “incident” following the ball was explained, there was no more mystery. Nevertheless, Seto didn’t care for a repeat performance.
“Nothing, nothing,” Mokuba waved his hand airily, still sifting through the cards he’d finished and the ones he had left to fill out. “Téa’ll like it.” He paused, and Seto waited for him to say something along the lines of ‘BUT…’ Luckily, Mokuba came through as predicted.
“Just don’t get drunk and forget about kissing her, okay?”
Seto dropped his face into his palm and grumbled as he walked out of the kitchen. There should have been no surprise that Mokuba found out about ‘that’ eventually; while he hadn’t witnessed Seto’s mistake the night of the Ball, he’d most likely reviewed the video footage, same as Charles, the security adviser, had… but Mokuba —knowing more about Téa and Seto’s relationship— was able to deduce what had happened when the camera bulb blew and the video footage went dark.
‘I should have known.‘ After all, Mokuba was a Kaiba.
“You are the luckiest girl on Earth,” Chieko Sagusa stated dramatically, in a tone quite unlike her usual super-polite one. The girl with almost platinum-blonde hair was staring at “Téa’s” dance studio in the basement of the Kaiba mansion, turning around slowly and with awe plainly visible in her eyes.
“I’m beginning to think so,” Téa laughed.
After a great deal of conversation regarding the future of the Domino High Dance Club and their own interest in dance as performers for the Domino Performing Arts Group, Téa offered to take Chieko to a private studio she knew of. Chieko seemed horribly confused when she and Téa arrived at the Kaiba mansion, but as soon as Téa turned on the basement studio lights, it all made sense.
“And this was a Christmas present?” Chieko shook her head in disbelief. “I wonder what he’s got planned for you for White Day.”
Téa blushed scarlet, trying to find a side of the studio where her expression wouldn’t be reflected in a multitude of mirrors. She was wondering that same thing herself, her mind supplying her with increasingly wild ideas as the day passed. Try as Téa might to not think about it, or to pass the day off as just another commercial holiday, she couldn’t help but wonder what Seto was planning.
‘If anything,’ Téa thought morosely to herself. If he was scheming something, he made no indication of it. And White Day was quickly approaching…
If Seto was suddenly going to surprise her by being romantic, it wasn’t as if she would dislike it, but she hoped that after St. Valentine’s Day, Seto wouldn’t need the excuse of a holiday to be sweet to her.
A little voice in her head told Téa that probably wasn’t the reason why he’d been so indifferent to her the past month: it was more likely that he was trying to put “that incident” out of his mind.
‘But it’s almost been a month…’
Téa’s face connected with one of her open palms. What was she thinking? Hadn’t they both agreed not to rush things? Besides, even if the gods of weather and fortune were on their side this holiday, that didn’t mean they were ready for that next step. There was probably a really good reason why they hadn’t yet slept together, a reason that neither of them had touched on just yet.
They both felt ready —at least Téa felt ready to deal with any possible consequences— but…
There was still something else, and she knew it.
She just didn’t know what “it” was.
“Oh, hello Kaiba!”
Téa looked up abruptly when Chieko greeted Kaiba, who strode into the studio. He offered a curt nod to Chieko, who smiled and continued to speak without being prompted. “I was just telling Téa about how wonderful this dance studio is… though I’m not sure I’ll be able to join you in practicing as much,” she added as she faced Téa again.
“Why’s that?” Téa turned toward her friend curiously, wondering what bomb Chieko was about to drop. However, the blonde’s smile seemed to imply that whatever Chieko was thinking was good, so…
“Well, a famous fashion designer has just taken me under his wing. I will at last be able to pursue my real dream!” Chieko looked thrilled. Though Téa was mildly upset that she might be losing a friend with the strongest interest in dance, she knew that fashion design had always been Chieko’s true passion. She’d even announced it to the entire class on her first day in school, and she hadn’t seemed the least bit ashamed to say so.
“Which designer?” Kaiba asked, out of courtesy to the conversation more than personal interest.
“Jacques Mode!” Chieko bubbled enthusiastically. “Isn’t it wonderful? I’m so glad that such a globally-minded man has made his base of operations here in Japan. It really is so lucky…”
“Jacques Mode?” Téa gaped. “I- I have a dress by him…”
Chieko’s caramel-colored eyes widened. “You do? Oh, how lovely— promise you’ll show it to me today!”
Seto turned to leave and took a moment to lean in toward Téa and whisper something in her ear. “That dress. Wear it on the 14th. Six o’clock sharp upstairs at the entryway, all right?”
Téa turned a curious stare toward Seto, who merely smirked and started to head upstairs. Chieko was still looking at her expectantly.
“I’ll show you the dress Chieko, don’t worry!” Téa laughed. “Any more big surprises before we head upstairs then?”
To Téa’s surprise, her friend nodded slowly, averting her gaze to the floor. “Well, I am excited about my interning with Jacques Mode, but…”
“But…?” Téa prompted. As soon as the word fell from her lips, Téa remembered the link between the designer and her own family. But there was no way that Chieko knew that the man who’d indirectly caused her parent’s death was connected to Jacques Mode. Only Seto, Yugi, Mokuba, Sergeant Konami, and Téa herself knew that. Part of her was still disgusted with how Theodore Laroque —alias Theodore Iwana— had managed to live his life for months after he’d arranged for the deaths of the Gardners’— on the Big Five’s orders. He was behind bars now, but…
“Well, remember how I met my fiancee back in December?” Chieko began. “I don’t think I ever got to tell you about it, and now…”
“Now…?” There had to be a reason why Chieko was being so hesitant about things lately.
‘But why? What would Chieko have to hide from me?’
Chieko lowered her voice and spoke so low under her breath that Téa thought her friend might have been talking to herself.
“I don’t understand it. Kaiba is so generous, and yet all of the Hiromas seem to have a horrible grudge against him. Even Katsuro– but when we’re not around his family, he’s practically perfect…”
The name struck a chord in Téa’s mind, but she couldn’t recall where she’d heard it before.
When she caught sight of Seto’s reflection, standing rigidly in the doorway of the studio, she understood.
‘But there’s no way… Hiroma’s got to be a common family name, right?‘
Judging by the way Seto’s hands clenched into fists at his sides, he obviously didn’t think it was just a mere coincidence. But even so… what could Téa say? What could she possibly do?
“STAY THE HELL OUT OF MY PAST!”
‘Lesson learned,’ Téa thought firmly to herself. If there really was some connection between Chieko’s fiancee and Seto’s biological family, it was up to Seto to pursue it.
Seto, and Seto alone.
At last, White Day arrived.
Téa wanted to laugh at the idea of it all; some candy confectioners decided that if they made such a great killing on St. Valentine’s Day with the female demographic, why couldn’t they do the same with the men? Sometime during the 1960s, a marshmallow confectioner decided that men should express their ‘soft, sensitive’ side by giving marshmallows and marshmallow-filled candies as gifts to the women they admired.
The name ‘Marshmallow Day’ didn’t stick, but it still made Téa laugh every time she’d thought about it. The silly holiday had only existed for a generation, and yet it meant so much to her to have Seto return her feelings and show it…
But maybe he just wasn’t that expressive of a person. Nothing changed during school. Seto didn’t bestow her with any fancy jewelry or a handmade card. Joey, Tristan, Yugi, and even Duke and Ryou all bestowed their own forms of White Day gifts on Téa, but there was still nothing from the one man Téa most wanted to receive something from.
‘I’m so selfish,’ Téa thought as she shoved a fluffy, bunny-shaped marshmallow into her mouth. The overwhelmingly sweet flavor had to be reason enough to explain the tears forming in her eyes.
After she’d stashed the other boys’ presents into her satchel, Téa decided to tidy up her desk. To her surprise, a note written in neat print on a tiny white card dropped out of her desk and into her lap.
“Don’t forget— Wear the Jacques Mode gown tonight. —Seto”
That was all the note said.
Téa forgot about how upset she was over not receiving a gift or a card from Seto; he probably had something wonderful in mind if he wanted her to wear that dress (actually, he was insisting on it! This was the second time he’d reminded her, after all…), and it simply wasn’t her place to doubt him— not again. Not ever.
It was different this time.
For starters, she didn’t have a multitude of butterflies in her stomach flapping away nervously. She didn’t get scared about tripping down the stairs, or about the prospect of dancing with Seto —wherever they were going. If it was to some charity ball or other important event, Seto was doing a great job keeping his lips sealed. Not even Mokuba was saying anything, and Téa had tried everything she knew how to do in an attempt to bribe the younger Kaiba.
‘Back then,‘ Téa recalled, ‘I didn’t know how I felt. I was just on the verge of figuring it all out when everything went wrong…‘
So was that her lot in life, then? To have a taste of the amazing, the wonderful, the incredible and the almost-impossible, only to have it come crashing down and burning away before her eyes?
Téa was determined to believe otherwise.
So no matter what strange thing Seto had planned and was keeping secret, Téa was sure she was going to have a good time. She had to believe that about herself— and about Seto, too.
At precisely six o’clock sharp, Téa inhaled a deep breath and relaxed. She looked good. Better than good, even: she looked perfect.
‘Like a princess,’ was Téa’s initial thought when she first put on the Jacques Mode blue gown. It featured a neckline that accentuated the curves of her chest without being overly showy, and the silver sparkles pressed deep into the fabric allowed for a smattering of simple accessories. Now that Téa’s hair was longer, she bothered to style it with some peach oil and a curling iron, but she used the same silver hair clip as she had when she first accompanied Seto to the Anniversary Ball in this gown. The gloves and bracelets remained the same too, but Téa decided to forego her mother’s sapphire necklace— if she caught Seto staring at her chest again, she would know he had no jewelry to use as an excuse!
With one last check in the mirror, Téa swept out of the upstairs bathroom and headed down to the entryway below.
It took a great deal of self-restraint not to do a variety of things the moment Seto laid eyes on Téa. For one, he was filled with the desperate urge to run his hands up and down her body, and tangle his fingers in her hair. She looked so perfectly soft and touchable, and she smelled absolutely incredible….
But he refrained.
He also stopped himself from blurting just what he’d planned, where they were going, and everything else that had been running amok in his mind the past few days. Namely what had happened on St. Valentine’s Day, and what both of their stances exactly were on that subject.
It had been a month…
‘I’m not going to rush this. I’m not going to screw things up.‘ Seto had to mentally repeat the words over and over, like a mantra. Eventually, he’d start believing them.
They were nearing their final destination when Seto spoke to her for the first time that evening.
“Close your eyes.”
Téa quirked an eyebrow up in questioning, but she obeyed. Seto pulled the silk handkerchief out of his suit’s breast pocket, extending it so he could blindfold Téa. She protested when she felt the fabric slide around her face, but when Seto shushed her with a firm finger against her lips, she silenced. Once she was assured that he would guide her all the way to their final destination, she placed her gloved hand in his and let him lead the way.
‘There’s bound to be someone who thinks it’s a little bit funny that two people dressed to the nines are walking the streets of Domino, and one of them is blindfolded, right? Someone’s going to say something and give it all away….‘ But in the midst of that thought, Téa decided she wanted to be surprised.
Whether Seto had arranged it or not, Téa couldn’t tell— but wherever they were sounded completely silent. It also seemed big, too, though Téa had no idea where that perception came from. It might have had something to do with the tiniest of sounds echoing off in the distance, or the fact that she felt chilly, as if she’d just stepped into a large, air-conditioned lobby.
Which, in fact, she had: she just didn’t know it yet. Seto had the chauffeur drop both him and Téa off at the Maple Hotel, where Kaiba paid an exorbitant amount to ensure that their arrival went smoothly, and that the night would be a perfect recreation of the 50th Anniversary Ball— minus the boring speeches, the annoying reporters, and the crowds of other people.
It would just be the two of them, and the rest of the night together.
He carefully led Téa to the bank of tower elevators, and once they emerged on the topmost floor, Seto gently turned Téa toward the magnificent, sparkling cityscape of Tokyo and removed the blindfold.
It took a few moments for Téa’s eyes to adjust to the different lighting, but when at last she realized where she was, she gasped sharply and brought a gloved hand to her mouth.
He couldn’t help but smile proudly; that was just what he wanted to hear from her. A breathy gasp, an exclamation of his name… it didn’t hurt that she was also flushing a pretty shade of pink, or that she looked happy enough to start crying. He didn’t want her to cry, though…
Before he could come up with some words to ‘comfort’ her, Téa spun on her heel and hugged Seto tightly. “Thank you, thank you, thank you… I know it’s silly, being this crazy over just a view, but I’ve missed this place, I’ve thought about the Ball so many times—”
He silenced her with a kiss.
By the time they separated, Téa’s lungs felt icy and cold, probably from the lack of air. She’d never felt so tightly pressed against anyone, so attached and connected… it was a different kind of feeling, clearer and warmer than the lust and desire she’d felt for Seto on St. Valentine’s Day. This was going to be a different day. It was a new day, a new time, and she had the chance to make new decisions.
‘Good decisions,’ Téa reminded herself. She smiled and linked her arms with Seto’s as he led her up the tiny staircase into the Grand Ballroom.
“I can’t believe you had them prepare the exact same menu,” Téa laughed. “Right down to the Chicken Apple Marinade!”
Seto couldn’t help but grin; Téa’s smile seemed to be contagious. “Not everything,” he admitted at last. “We haven’t had dessert yet.”
Téa blurted the first words out of her mouth before she’d really thought them through. “You mean you’re not going to personally prepare me dessert?” Téa wasn’t talking about cheesecake or chocolate fondue. There was a certain suggestiveness in her voice that Seto had never heard before— but he liked it.
But if he said something in honest reply, they would never get around to what Seto really planned for the evening. Instead of giving in to his impulses, he decided to stand up and force the rush of blood back through his legs. After a moment of standing rigidly still, he offered his hand to Téa.
“Dance with me?”
Téa suppressed a small giggle; she wondered if Seto had danced at all since the 50th Anniversary Ball in August. If not, what guarantee was that he wouldn’t step all over her feet?
Seto pressed a small button on a remote in his pocket; immediately, a stereo concealed within the elegant paneling of the ballroom began to play a soft, almost orchestral music. When the vocalist of the song started to sing, Téa’s gentle smile widened.
“Even the same song…” She started to sing the words under her breath as she swayed with Seto. Surprisingly, he moved with a great deal of grace and elegance; so much so that Téa nearly forgot she was dancing. She felt warm and safe in his arms, and the room around them was dazzling with soft glows and the haze from the low lighting. Though their last dance like this had been months ago, the movements came to her as naturally as breathing; she found herself leaning back as he dipped her lower, tantalizing her with a near-kiss as he brought her back again.
“I would say ‘lovely necklace,’ but I notice you’re not wearing one tonight,” Seto murmured, his voice sounding just a bit gruffer than normal. The fact that she wasn’t wearing jewelry was actually a point in his favor; it would make giving her his White Day present all the more special.
Téa laughed under her breath. “I had a feeling the first time you said that you weren’t looking at my necklace.”
“Are you telling me that you didn’t decide on that neckline on purpose?” Seto spun her around, pulling her in extra-close as her spiral ended.
“Oh, I did,” Téa laughed. “In fact, Jacques Mode specifically told me it was a ‘flattering’ neckline.”
“Anything you wear would look flattering on you,” Seto whispered. When the music stopped, Téa’s movements stopped of their own accord, trained to freeze when the last chord played out. She found herself staring up at Seto, only a few centimeters away from him.
“Do you really mean that?” she asked, the hesitation plain in her voice. It would be insult to her if Seto actually replied ‘no,’ and it certainly wasn’t the answer Téa was expecting, but she felt compelled to ask the question anyway.
“Yes.” Another gruff answer, short and somehow laced with unspoken implications.
Téa blushed out of habit more than actual embarrassment, and when she finally dared to look in Seto’s eyes again, she couldn’t find the answer she was looking for in his eyes. Instead, she pushed herself up the extra few centimeters in her heels that it took to bring her almost-level with Seto and she kissed him. Though they’d spent plenty of time kissing since they’d initially forged an ‘official’ relationship in December, this time felt different. Téa felt almost lightheaded, but gravity seemed to be pulling down on her especially hard, as if she might fall at any moment…
Her lips went slack against Seto’s, and before he could even react, Téa collapsed against the cool marble floor.
She felt like she was riding one of those horrid teacup rides at a theme park. Everything was spinning and swirling, and it all seemed to be a mass of darkly-tinted colors…
“Téa?” Seto’s voice. She knew that much, but why was it echoing like he was speaking to her from down a long hallway? He repeated her name a few times, and at last the haze of color coalesced into a singular shape: him, beside her. They were in a place vastly darker than the lit ballroom they’d been in before, and now, Téa had the sensation that they were moving along at a quick pace.
The word wouldn’t form on her lips. Her tongue wouldn’t cooperate, and she felt nauseous.
‘Food poisoning? A flu bug? Or maybe it’s just that time of the month…‘ Téa grouched to herself. She felt horrible, and if she was really so ill because of her gender, she vehemently wished she could turn into a boy for one week a month.
“We’re on our way home. You’re going to be okay.”
Seto looked a bit grim, but his head dropped a few centimeters: answer enough for Téa.
She wanted to cry. “I’m sorry, Seto…” Her words slurred together, her s’s all coming out like the hisses of a snake.
“It’s all right, Téa.” She could feel the warm pressure of his hand on her back. Her skin felt hot and sticky, but cold and clammy at the same time. “It’s all right.”
Then the blackness enveloped her once more.
When Téa awoke next, Seto was closer to her, gently nudging her awake. Once her eyes opened, he whispered something incoherent to her and gently tugged on her arm. Everything still felt so disjointed and nauseating, so Téa decided to forego even trying to talk. The March air was blistering cold at this time of night —whatever time of night it was, because it was pitch black outside— and Téa wanted nothing more to be enveloped in Seto’s arms, surrounded by a pile of fluffy blankets.
At last they entered the Kaiba mansion, while the driver brought the limousine back to the garage around the rear of the house.
“Can you stand? Do you think you can make it up the stairs?”
At least his voice wasn’t echoing loudly in her ears this time. Téa understood his words perfectly, but it took her a few moments to steady herself and find enough moisture in her throat to speak.
“Yeah. I don’t know what’s wrong with me Seto, I’m so sorry for ruining tonight—”
“You haven’t ruined anything.” The tone of his voice was so firm, so commanding that Téa couldn’t think of anything to say in reply. Seto seemed to see her silence as an opportunity, so he reached into his jacket and withdrew a narrow box covered in what looked like light gray velvet.
“I wanted to give this to you earlier, but…” he paused, a wane smile curving his lips. “Well, here.”
Téa’s fingers were shaking as she took the box from Seto, but she didn’t know whether it was because she was sick or something else. The dim lighting of the outside entryway lights was just barely enough to illuminate the contents of the box. It was a slender necklace composed entirely of bright diamonds, aligned first in single sets, then doubles, then in tiny squares of four. In the centermost setting, four diamonds surrounded a beautiful sapphire.
“I think I’m going to faint again,” Téa murmured.
“Does that mean you like it?” Seto asked, a smirk plastered on his face. He looked a bit silly, staring at her expectantly like that, but at the same time, his happiness seemed genuine, especially after he was afraid something had ruined their night altogether. He didn’t want her to be sick, he didn’t want anything to go wrong, and above all else, he didn’t want to screw up and have anything be his fault…
“Yes, I do,” Téa whispered breathlessly. “Oh, hold me. I really am going to topple over.”
Seto gladly obliged as Téa shifted forward into his arms, but he didn’t expect her to start crying. He felt the first few droplets hit his neck and slide down beneath his collar.
“I love you,” she stated simply, her voice cracking. “And I can be honest here and say it hurts, it really hurts—”
He was pretty sure she wasn’t talking about ‘love hurting’ the way many people thought of it in that metaphorical sense. He gently twisted Téa away from him and examined her for a moment.
“One last thing before I carry you off to bed, princess,” Seto smiled. “And this time I’m going to get it right.” He didn’t say anything further as he leaned forward, his lips meeting with Téa’s. They moved together in a slow tempo, all at once barely touching and crushing together with fierce intensity. His tongue touched hers gently, and only once, before he pulled away. Téa wavered in place, still dizzy, still flushed. She clutched the open necklace box in one hand, her eyes sparkling with unshed tears.
But above all else, she looked happy, and that was what counted.
“Happy White Day, Téa.”
Those were the last words she heard before she melted into Seto’s arms and he carried her upstairs.
I realize that this is a short chapter, but I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: some chapters are planned that way. There’s just no way for me to cram a month’s worth of story action into a chapter, so I condense it and try to make certain events as poignant and memorable as possible. Trust me, there IS significance in this chapter! Now that we’re into the second half of the story, loose ends will start to get tied up, new plots will arise, and old subplots will come to a close… keep your eyes peeled!