What Doesn’t Kill You
Chapter 27: Adrift – Part 3/13
A Yu-Gi-Oh Fanfiction
By: Azurite – azurite AT seventh-star DOT net
Site: seventh-star DOT net
Conceptualized/First Written: 6/28/05
Completed/Final Edit: 8/6/16
“Stop it,” Mai said in a crisp tone, continuing to shuffle her deck without looking at Téa. The two of them sat back out in the dueling area, and once again, Téa’s mind wandered to Yugi, Joey, and her other friends…and Seto.
“Stop what?” Téa asked. A thin smile nudged at her cheeks. Her gaze flitted to Mai before it wandered again, seeking an uncertain point in the distance.
“Thinking about them. About him,” Mai amended. “A little bit of your mooning was fine before, but now it’s starting to get noticeable. And if I’m noticing it, it won’t be long before your opponents –like that Serena chick– will, too.” Mai finished looking at her cards and shot an icy stare at her dueling partner.
“I wasn’t–” Téa began, but Mai interrupted her with a crisp wave of her hand.
“Don’t. Just don’t.” Mai frowned and glanced about to see if anyone was looking their way. She maneuvered Téa into a nook where the ship stowed some of its supplies.
“You’re freaking out, and it’s showing,” Mai said, pressing her hands against Téa’s shoulders. “You’re thinking Kaiba isn’t contacting you because he used you for a publicity stunt. That all he wants still is to be number one, to be the most popular duelist, the most talked-about guy. You’re thinking he’s putting on a great show and you’re just a prop in his act.”
“How did you know–” Téa started, but again Mai cut her off.
“It’s written on your face, plain as day,” Mai stated in a low, firm voice. “I can tell, because I know you, and you’re about as easy to read as those convenience store paperbacks.”
Téa flushed and bowed her head. Sure, Mai was a friend and had known her for long enough to catch her quirks and see through her foibles, but…
Mai dropped her hands from Téa’s shoulders and looked away. “It’s not anything against you, honey. But I know heartbreak, so it’s easy for me to spot.”
“‘Heartbreak’?” Téa echoed. Was that what this was: the slow, painful realization that someone you thought you loved wasn’t who you thought they were?
“It is on your end,” Mai said. “But to him? Come on. He trusts you. That’s why he gave you the cards, that’s why he acted so out of character and brought your guys’ personal relationship into the spotlight. He wanted you to know how far he’ll go for you.”
“You’re starting to sound like someone else I know,” Téa smirked, her brows raised as she thumbed her collar up and out.
“I don’t know why you won’t own up to how much he needs you,” Mai said with a sigh. “The more you keep thinking he’s back to his old self, the more off your game you get.”
“That’s the thing, Mai!” Téa snapped, lowering her voice to a hiss when the shadow of a nearby duelist fell into the galley. “How do I – how do either of us – know that Seto or any of the others have grown up at all? We try and move on from the insanity that’s followed us around for years. They seem to go after it, just traipsing on one adventure after another. So this time, I said no. I wanted to do my own thing for once, to stick to my own plans and not be anyone’s ‘cheerleader accessory’!”
Mai let out a long sigh and leaned against the galley wall. “That Alessa girl got to you bad. Damn, I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”
“She didn’t ‘get to me,’ Mai! Everything she said–”
“Everything she said was bullshit!” Mai snapped, not bothering to lower her voice anymore. “Look, Kaiba’s–he’s a good guy…pretty much.” Mai winced as she spoke.
“And as for the boys? If they want to go off on their own little adventures saving the world from monsters, let them! They should be able to handle their own problems, and now you’re letting them prove it. Do you want them to need you so much that you can never live your own life?”
“No,” Téa admitted finally, her voice a choked whisper. No, what she wanted was for her own friends to believe in her, to invest the kind of time and energy she had in them. Her encouragement had played no small role in helping both Yugi and Joey become champions… and changing Seto Kaiba for the better.
Was that asking too much from boys that seemed to have greater destinies than her own? They kept getting caught up in magic and mayhem that threatened to end the world. Was it even possible to hope for them to believe in her? After all, this was a duel tournament unlike anything any of them had participated in. They couldn’t be there on the sidelines, cheering her on the way she did for them.
“No,” Téa said, firmer this time. She raised her gaze to meet Mai’s. It was time to grow up. That meant not wanting to be wanted so much, not by her friends and not by Seto. No, she didn’t make it this far–in the tournament or in life–by playing second fiddle all the time. Téa Gardner was here to prove herself–to the world, but more importantly, to her own heart.