WDKY Chapter 7A: Love and Confusion

Version 3.6.1 – Minor formatting fixes

Conceptualized/First Written: 10/26/03
Completed/Posted: 12/2/03 (SORRY FOR THE HUGE DELAY!)
Edited: 7/18/04, 8/16/04, 12/5/05, 12/28/09, 4/10/10

Sorry, Seto-sama! Happy UBER-BELATED Birthday! Don’t kill me!

Rated PG13 for a bit of swearin’…

CHAPTER 7 IS SPLIT INTO TWO PARTS ON ALL SITES—OTHERWISE, THE FILE WOULD BE TOO LARGE. THIS IS CHAPTER 7A!

Version 3.6 Notes: Thanks to Jade for pointing out that Yami’s thoughts got stripped by FFnet’s evil editor. They’re back, along with a fewgrammar, punctuation, and formatting fixes along the way, same as last chapter.


RECAP: Moving in with Seto Kaiba was one thing, but TĂ©a Gardner certainly didn’t expect to start liking him. Worse, when he steals her first kiss from her—and doesn’t remember!—TĂ©a finds herself trying to find any excuse to forget her growing feelings for the young CEO. So now, only Mai knows the truth, but TĂ©a will have to tell her other friends soon….



“Big Sister TĂ©a?”

Mokuba looked around the Violet Room curiously, not finding a trace of TĂ©a anywhere in sight. The curtains were already drawn apart, sunlight spilling into the purple-hued room, and onto the empty, freshly made bed.

He left the room with an expression of confusion on his face.

‘Where did TĂ©a go?’ He had looked everywhere for her, but hadn’t been able to find her. She wasn’t in the living area, wasn’t in the dining area, wasn’t in her room…Mokuba told himself he’d go to the kitchen next.

When he got there, TĂ©a wasn’t there either, but the boy did spot a bento set with a card with his name on it sitting on the counter. Mokuba smiled. As of late, TĂ©a had taken to preparing lunch for everyone. It seemed she was an early riser, and didn’t mind the extra work in the morning, and everyone seemed to like her lunches…well, Mokuba especially did. Not many of the other kids at his school got personal bento sets anymore: they usually had a bit of change to buy something with.

‘I’m one of the lucky ones, now!’ Mokuba thought delightedly, plucking the bento set off the countertop. It was getting closer and closer to the time when they usually left to go to school, and TĂ©a was still nowhere in sight. Mokuba knew his brother had spent the night in his office again, and was due to emerge any minute now, so it was unlikely that he knew where TĂ©a was, either.

‘I guess she left already,’ Mokuba thought, slightly disappointed and sad. He’d always looked forward to riding with TĂ©a and Seto in the limo—TĂ©a always had an open ear for whatever Mokuba had to say, while Seto typically seemed more reserved, focused on some project or another.

Mokuba wandered out to the entryway, meeting his brother’s eyes. The elder Kaiba was already in his school uniform, his metal briefcase tossed casually over his shoulder as if it didn’t weigh an ounce.

“Where’s TĂ©a?” Seto asked, barely a trace of emotion in his voice.

“I guess she left early,” Mokuba responded, the disappointment creeping into his voice. “She seemed kinda sad yesterday….”


“Hey, TĂ©a! We were wonderin’ if you was gonna abandon us or somethin’!” Joey Wheeler called out, seeing his friend approach them. Serenity was also in the present company, and smiled, seeing TĂ©a. The older girl was somewhat of a role model for Serenity, possessing so much strength after she’d been through so much.

Everyone had agreed to meet on Sunday, just to hang out—with the boys possessing the ulterior motive of finding out what Téa was really hiding from them.

Yugi, in particular, possessed the strongest concern for his best friend; since her parents had died, not only had TĂ©a been acting awfully strange, but her abrupt subject-changing wherever her new job was concerned had him even more worried.

“Nah, can’t get rid of me that easily,” TĂ©a attempted a smile, which reassured Joey and Tristan, but not Yugi.

‘Is she hiding something? I know TĂ©a’s not usually the type to lie about anything, but she’s always been pretty stubborn,’ Yugi thought, inadvertently letting Yami know what was on his mind as well, ‘And if she wants something done, she’ll try to do it herself before she asks for help. I hope nothing bad is happening to her.’

‘I’m sure TĂ©a is a very responsible young woman,’ Yami’s own thoughts came, ‘If she needs us, she will say so.’

‘I hope so,’ Yugi added, ‘because lately, it doesn’t seem like she wants to be answering our questions. He had never seen TĂ©a so hesitant to answer questions before. Of course, her situation had completely changed in the past month or so, moving homes entirely; no one could expect her to bounce back and be her perfect self. And yet…

The group of teens wandered the Domino City area, eventually ending up at the mall. It wasn’t long before the gang met up with Duke and Mai, and after some more wandering in and out of stores and looking at the various carts and stalls, they finally all agreed that they were hungry.

Yugi, Tristan, and Duke had all gotten up from the semicircular booth that the group of friends had claimed as their own, off to get food, while Mai, Joey, and Serenity surrounded Téa in the booth. Noticing she looked somewhat upset—or lost in thought, perhaps?—Joey piped up.

“What’s eatin’ you, TĂ©a? Never seen you look so out of it before.” He glanced sideways at Mai, but her face remained the same: concerned for TĂ©a. Joey had the sneaking suspicion that Mai knew something; he didn’t know how he knew, he just did. The same way he’d had that gut feeling when he’d dueled Odion—that the other guy wasn’t really Marik. Of course, that was all from a time Joey rather would have forgotten, so be abruptly brushed the thought from his mind.

“…Hey Joey?” TĂ©a suddenly glanced up, catching the blonde’s attention.

“Yeah, what’s up?”

TĂ©a cracked a smile, the corners of her lips curving up devilishly, “I’ve been uh, sort of stressed lately. You know, juggling work, and school, and getting used to my new house? So I’m wondering if maybe you can help me out.”

Joey blinked, “Uh, me? Help you de-stress?” He didn’t quite get what TĂ©a was asking, and it was by far the most unusual request he’d ever gotten.

“Yeah. Um, this might be a little pretentious of me,” TĂ©a started, confusing Joey even more, “But you know some pretty slick fighting moves. Maybe you could teach me some.”

That Joey understood.

“Oh! Heck yeah, I’d be glad to! Not that I’m condonin’ fightin’ or nothin’ like that,” he explained, off his sister’s glare, “But you’re right, that kinda thing is good to release stress.” He grinned cockily at all the girls present, “And if I must say so myself, I’m one damn good ass-kicker.”

“I’m sure you are, darling,” Mai said, rolling her eyes, glancing out of them sidelong to see TĂ©a, “But right now, it’s time to eat.” Yugi, Tristan, and Duke were approaching, each of them bearing a tray with various plates and Styrofoam boxes on it.

“That was nice of you guys to pick up our food for us,” Serenity said, grabbing her box.

Tristan smiled handsomely, leaning in, “It was no problem at all, Serenity…” Duke jabbed him roughly in the side, and the two boys started bickering with one another, shooting glares at each other, since neither of them could sit next to Serenity. With Duke on one side of the semicircular booth and Tristan on the other, they sat, picking at their food and boring holes into one another’s heads with their eyes.

Meanwhile, Joey sat beside Tristan, Mai next to him, TĂ©a next to her, Serenity beside TĂ©a, and Yugi next to her and Duke. It didn’t take long for people to wonder about TĂ©a, who hadn’t spoken much since she’d asked Joey to teach her to fight—and of course, Yugi, Duke, and Tristan had missed that request entirely, and wondered what Joey and the others had found out.

Almost waiting expectantly for TĂ©a to say something, eyes shifted at her, glancing away nervously when the bearer saw TĂ©a look up. Mai easily caught wind of TĂ©a’s discomfort, and said in a too-loud voice, “Well, we girls don’t have our favorite drinks. TĂ©a, what say you and I go grab some, hmm?”

TĂ©a couldn’t have looked more relieved, and clambered over the boys, who tried to avoid getting out of the booth while still letting the girls out. As Mai was on her way sliding out, she warned, “Don’t even think about touching my butt Wheeler, or you’ll lose more than your hands.” Joey immediately flushed scarlet and sat on both his hands, abruptly crossing his legs underneath the table. Duke and Tristan had a good laugh at Joey’s expense, but Yugi wasn’t paying attention—he kept wondering what the expression in TĂ©a’s eyes was all about.

‘I’m still worried, Yami,’ Yugi thought to his other half. He knew that the Pharaoh’s spirit within him oftentimes seemed more than human—what with his uncanny way to make or break people’s spirits. With normal people, he seemed able to detect whether or not someone was lying, but if he detected such a thing in TĂ©a, he wasn’t saying so to Yugi.

And for good reason.

‘She’s afraid,’ Yami realized, but kept this tidbit of information secret from his other half. His younger, more naive half. The boy still had much to learn about the world.

‘As I do about this place,’ Yami knew, realizing that he was out of his own time, out of his place here. What little he could remember involved a lifestyle completely different from what he was used to as Yugi Moto. High school, card games, petty jealousy, living in someone else’s body….

‘That too,’ Yami thought wryly. Had he been in control of Yugi at the moment, one might have seen him crack a sarcastic smile at nothing.

In any case, Yami kept the secret of TĂ©a’s fear from his other half, knowing full well of the boy’s feelings for her. In becoming part of him, Yami became privy to his secrets—most especially the ones that Yugi could only admit to himself. And even if Yugi had tried to keep his affections for TĂ©a a secret from Yami, he wouldn’t have succeeded: almost every time she was close, Yugi’s heartbeat sped up, his face flushed, and his hands tended to clench and fidget.

Visions swum across the boy’s mind, visions from younger days, before Yami had technically ‘existed’ in Yugi’s plane, when he first met TĂ©a. Of how they’d immediately latched onto one another, and how she’d always protected him. And how slowly, as he became accustomed to the presence of Yami within him, his thoughts became more defined—more assured—that he wanted to return the favor to TĂ©a, and protect her, no matter what the cost. But he was too afraid to take action, especially if it meant telling TĂ©a how he felt. He clammed up and backed off, trying to find other things to focus on. And despite the major battles ending, he always found a way to do just that—without Yami’s help.


“Are you going to tell them everything, or just part of it?” Mai asked TĂ©a, as the two walked towards the tapioca drink shop.

“You make it sound like I don’t have any other choices,” TĂ©a muttered, glancing up at Mai. The violet-eyed blonde fixed the brunette with a flat stare that said just what TĂ©a already knew—she didn’t have any other choices.

“Well, you’re right, I don’t. I do have to tell them something. I just…I don’t know what.”

“Listen, TĂ©a,” Mai started, halting the girl before she could walk another step, “No matter what, you have to be honest with yourself. You know my motto: the only person you can really trust is yourself. And all this time around you guys has made me question that. You should be able to trust your friends, too. Trust them to understand you, no matter what.”

“I wish it were that easy, Mai,” TĂ©a murmured. But everything she’d been thinking had been so…so crazy, so confusing, lately! She wasn’t sure what she’d been thinking in convincing Yugi and the others that it was right to let Chieko believe they were brother and sister…she didn’t know what she was thinking in trying to set the two up! And the way Seto had told her…

“Isn’t it enough that you’re the only girl I want in my life right now?”

TĂ©a blinked, forcing the memory out. ‘My heart beat so fast when he said that…and I–I didn’t know how to respond. He just walked away like that, and I know I hurt him, but this is idiocy!’

‘All this time, I’ve been lying to myself, trying to come up with a million and one reasons why I can’t possibly like Seto. One, because he’s a narcissistic, sadistic bastard with an ego the size of a yacht. Two, because he’s weird. Three, because he’s weird and he helped me through the roughest time in my life for no reason! Four, because I’m supposed to be in love with Yami. Five, because Seto doesn’t need someone like me in his life…’ The thoughts continued, sending TĂ©a into a spiraling fit of depression—and it showed.

“TĂ©a,” Mai shook the girl, her manicured hands gripping the brunette’s shoulders fiercely, “It is that easy. Once you stop lying to yourself about how you feel, it won’t matter what other people think! It shouldn’t anyway! They’re your friends, and they love you more than anything in the world! And, far be it for me to be the cheesy one spouting friendship speeches,” TĂ©a raised an eyebrow at that, “but you can’t spell ‘team’ without ‘TĂ©a.’ They’re lost without you—without you explaining things to them. They’ll just worry, up until they decide to take matters into their own hands, and who knows what will happen then?”

TĂ©a looked at Mai, but finally nodded, sighing. “You’re right. You’re absolutely right. I’m going to…stop lying. Right now.”


Everyone at the table glanced up the moment they saw Mai and TĂ©a return. Unlike before, TĂ©a was now looking up, her eyes meeting each one of theirs exactly. Blue met with violet, with brown, with hazel, with emerald green.

‘These are my friends,’ TĂ©a told herself, ‘I can trust them.’

Mai and TĂ©a squeezed back into their original places in the table, and it wasn’t long before Tristan, obviously impatient for answers, piped up, “TĂ©a, what’s up with you, lately? We’re sort of worried…”

“I know,” TĂ©a said slowly, swallowing to steel herself for the moment of truth, “That I’ve been acting weird lately. But I have a really good reason for it.”

“Really?” Joey asked, “Cuz I’ve been thinkin’ you’re hidin’ somethin’ from us, and if you’re gettin’ hurt or somethin’ like that, you know, we’re all friends, and we’d wanna know,” Joey glanced at everyone else, and they all nodded in solemn agreement.

“Hurt?” TĂ©a looked confused. “Nothing like that’s going on…”

‘Not unless you count Seto giving me a headache for confusing me the way he does.’

“Oh. That’s good,” Joey began, though his voice seemed to imply that he didn’t believe TĂ©a so immediately, “I mean, we thought maybe your boss was…doin’ somethin’ bosses ain’t supposed to, ya know?”

TĂ©a blinked rapidly.

“It’s not like that!” she almost yelled, startling everyone. “He–He’s not like that at all. He’s…nice. But that’s not what I’ve been…out of it for!” TĂ©a furrowed her brows, trying to come up with the words.

“The truth, TĂ©a?” Yugi asked softly.

Her eyes met his, sincerity reflecting in both their depths, “The truth. The truth is,” she began, taking a deep breath, “I–I sort of…I—” Mai’s glance urged her on, “I have a crush on someone.”

The boys blinked rapidly. “You…what?”

“Did you expect me to say I’m dying of cancer!? Come on guys…this is me! I’m a normal girl, and this–this kind of thing…” TĂ©a wrung her hands in despair, while Serenity and Mai smiled, leaning back. They understood, all too well.

“Well, who is it?” Tristan asked, a devilish smile appearing on his face. He exchanged a glance with Joey, who jabbed Yugi under the table. The small boy didn’t respond to the nudge, and instead decided to keep his eyes fixed on his Millennium Puzzle.

‘A crush…on…someone?’ Suddenly, it felt as if the entire world around Yugi had blacked out, and he could only hear TĂ©a’s voice. But he didn’t want to. He didn’t want to hear that she liked someone else, didn’t want to hear that she had a boyfriend, or that she was in love with someone else…

At that moment, Yugi wished more than anything that he could have traded places with Yami—to have his steadfast courage, his impassivity, his unreadable expression and supposedly near lack of emotions in situations that would otherwise be taxing to the heart.

But Yami wouldn’t be coaxed out so easily.

‘Listen to her, Yugi. You need to be her friend.’

And Yugi knew that, more than anything, but it didn’t stop the feeling of heartbreak from spreading throughout his body.

“I—” TĂ©a flushed, quickly shifting her gaze to the table, “I’m not telling you guys that! He doesn’t even know, and besides, he’s a friend, and I don’t want my stupid crush on him to ruin our friendship, and besides, it’s just…” TĂ©a began babbling. In the midst of her words, Joey winked at Yugi.

The smaller boy didn’t seem to understand, wearing a mask of confusion on his own face. Joey and Tristan both rolled their eyes at him, pointedly saying without saying: ‘You don’t get it, do you?!’ But both boys kept their lips sealed while TĂ©a spoke.

“Hmm, a friend, huh?” Tristan rubbed his chin thoughtfully, “So we know this guy?”

TĂ©a nodded, her cheeks coloring, “Yeah…But don’t think for a minute I’m going to play a guessing game with you guys! I just wanted to let you know…because I’m through lying.”

“Lying?” Duke asked, finally joining the conversation. Before, he’d been content just to listen and wonder about the dynamics of the odd group he’d recently become acquainted with—that or staring at Serenity.

TĂ©a gulped, but nodded and continued to speak. “It was wrong of me to ask you guys to play along with me in getting Chieko to believe Kaiba was my brother. It was a stupid mistake…and I should have just said from the beginning…” She trailed off, and Mai’s eyes widened. Was she going to admit her feelings for Seto Kaiba then and there?

“I mean, Chieko assumed, because of that day she saw Se–Kaiba and I walking together,” Yugi’s eyes narrowed, realizing TĂ©a had almost referred to Kaiba as ‘Seto,’ a rather personal reference for a pair that supposedly wasn’t really ‘that friendly’ with each other.

“And instead of correcting her, I played along. And worse, I asked you guys to play along too, saying I was going to set Kaiba up with her!” TĂ©a squeezed her eyes shut. “But…I didn’t. And if I had, I shouldn’t have, because it’s not my place to play matchmaker with anyone. I barely know Kaiba,” which was the truth, “and I just met Chieko,” also the truth, “so I quit while I was ahead. And I just wanted you guys to know. I’m going to tell Chieko the truth tomorrow morning.”

The guys remained silent in the face of this revelation, but they nodded, appreciating TĂ©a’s honesty—except for why her crush had anything to do with setting Chieko up with Seto Kaiba. Of course, foremost in all their minds was the identity of TĂ©a’s mystery crush, but Joey and Tristan felt assured that they already knew exactly who it was.


“Yug’, this is it!” Joey said the moment the girls were out of earshot. Mai, Serenity and TĂ©a had split up from the boys to do some “girls-only” shopping of their own. Despite protests from Tristan and Duke, who both wanted to stay with Serenity, the girls refused, and went off to go shopping for clothes.

“What’s it?” Yugi asked in a tired voice. Hearing that TĂ©a was crushing on someone else—and the frightening possibility that maybe she was becoming friendly with Seto Kaiba—distressed the young boy, despite the reassuring tone in his best friend’s voice.

“Didn’t you hear what TĂ©a was saying, dude?” Tristan chimed in, “The guy she’s crushing so hard on—and can’t stop thinking about—is someone we all know, and he’s a friend.”

“Not just any friend,” Joey interrupted, “But someone who’s close enough to her that she’s not willing to risk her friendship with him over. Come on, Yug’ it’s so obvious!”

“Enlighten me,” Yugi said blandly, not ready to believe whatever the guys were saying just yet.

“It’s you!” Joey and Tristan yelled at the same time.

Yugi blinked, recalling TĂ©a’s expression. Her cheeks had pinked, her thoughts obviously on her crush, and she had looked so beautiful….

‘It–it’s not possible!’ For the longest time Yugi could remember, he had harbored a secret crush on TĂ©a. When he’d met Joey and Tristan, he’d hoped that their “lessons” would help him get enough courage to tell TĂ©a his feelings, but things had happened. Things like Pegasus and Duelist Kingdom. Like Battle City.

He’d never gotten around to it. Despite having more courage than before, especially with Yami encouraging him in almost anything Yugi endeavored….

But this was something different. Yugi was aware that Yami didn’t understand this time or place, didn’t completely understand Yugi’s mindset. While he was positive that Yami knew about his affections for TĂ©a, he wasn’t so sure if the Pharaoh shared similar affections.

‘Probably not,’ Yugi thought, but then, he didn’t exactly know the Pharaoh that well—the Pharaoh didn’t even know himself that well!

‘She is beautiful,’ Yami’s mental voice came, startling Yugi out of his reverie. Images of TĂ©a floated in Yugi’s mind, in Yami’s as well—her effervescent smile, her brilliant blue eyes…

Yugi was on the verge of sighing when Joey and Tristan’s words came back to him.

‘Me…?’

“No way, guys. No way.” Yugi shook his head vehemently. “Not a chance.”

Joey and Tristan groaned, Tristan shaking his head in his hands.

“Didn’t you hear her though? Who else would it be? Besides, she’s known you the longest, and we all knew before you did that she was crushing on Yami—now this time she’s realized, hey, one and the same,” Tristan pointed out.

“She might be crushing on me,” Duke put in, grinning.

Joey and Tristan glared, “Shut up, Duke!”

However, Yugi grinned at Duke’s words, somehow finding comfort in the crazy impossibility of them. “It’s more likely than me, at any rate.”

Joey and Tristan shook their heads despairingly, groaning at Yugi’s stubbornness and strange need to put himself down.

“What have you got to lose by trying for once, then?” Duke prompted suddenly. He was aware of Yugi’s affection for TĂ©a now, and, judging from her words earlier, it was likely that the person she liked was someone she was a close friend with.

‘I’m not stupid. I know that it’s not me,’ Duke told himself, ‘Not that I’d mind, really, but my heart’s set on Serenity.’

“Huh? Duke?” Yugi queried, looking almost confused.

“Devlin’s right!” Joey exclaimed, catching an odd look from the dice-master, “The chances are huge in your favor if TĂ©a’s crushin’ on you. And if you’re the one that takes the offensive—makes the first move—then you’ll know for sure that she likes you!”

“What Joey’s trying to say,” Tristan interjected, “is that TĂ©a’s not going to be the one to tell you outright that she likes you.”

If she likes me,” Yugi pointed out. Joey and Tristan rolled their eyes again.

“In any case,” Tristan continued, “She pretty much said back there that her friendship with this guy—being you—” he said, as if there was no doubt whatsoever that the guy TĂ©a referenced was indeed Yugi, “Was too precious for her to risk over a crush. But, if she finds out that said guy,” Tristan pointed to Yugi, “likes her the same way, then everyone’s happy!”

It sounded great—perfect, even—but Yugi just couldn’t buy it. Maybe after so much time being told that he shouldn’t trust others so quickly, he was beginning to doubt his own friends. He hated thinking that way, but in his mind, he was positive there was no way that Joey and Tristan could ever be right.

‘But if they’re not,’ Yugi thought suddenly, ‘then who is TĂ©a crushing on?’


TĂ©a didn’t bother announcing herself when she got home from shopping that day. And it didn’t matter, because neither Seto nor Mokuba were anywhere in sight. As far as TĂ©a knew, Seto Kaiba was still holed up in his office, doing whatever it was that he did when he holed himself up in there.

She quietly ascended the stairs to her room and shut the door, intending to mull over her confusing thoughts and maybe get some sleep. She didn’t need dinner, she didn’t need talking to people, she just needed to sort things out.

Once and for all.


When TĂ©a arrived at school Monday morning, the campus was apparently void of all life, despite the doors having being opened. When she walked into her classroom, the morning haze still filtered in through the windows, casting shadows about the classroom. Desks almost appeared to be skeletons of the morning, shadows of their long legs stretching out to curve against the walls of the class.

TĂ©a’s eyes were so fixated on the eerie morning scenery that she didn’t notice someone sitting in the first row right near the door—until that person spoke.

“Good morning, TĂ©a.”

TĂ©a’s skeleton just about jumped out of her skin, and she gasped when she faced the speaker.

“Chieko! Wow, you’re here early.”

“As are you. You didn’t arrive with…Seto?”

“No,” TĂ©a murmured, “I decided to walk on my own this morning. He and I…”

‘He and I what? I have to tell Chieko the truth, and now’s a good as time as any…I can’t say that we had some stupid sibling fight, because that’s not it at all. I don’t understand what happened between Seto and I, all I know is that I–I…’

‘I love him.’

It was a startling revelation to TĂ©a, one she’d been trying to figure out the entire night before, and during her long walk to school. But it finally boiled down to its most simplistic form…

“You and he…?” Chieko prompted, wearing a secret smile. She pushed herself off the wall on which she’d been leaning, between two desks in the far right row of seats.

“We…um, had a misunderstanding, that’s all,” TĂ©a murmured, embarrassed by this awkward situation. “Look, Chieko,” she breezed on, trying to get the moment over and done with, “there’s something I need to tell you.”

“And something I must tell you, TĂ©a,” Chieko spoke up, looking up at the brunette from the chair she’d sat in.

TĂ©a looked at her oddly; “What’s wrong?”

Chieko smiled slightly, brown eyes flickering in the golden morning light, “I know you and Seto Kaiba are not related.”

TĂ©a blanched, her blue eyes widening to the size of saucers. “What—? I mean…how did you find out?”

“More like I’ve known for some time now. Initially, it is true, I thought you and he were related, which is why I said as much when I went running after you that second day at school,” she explained, “but—and forgive me for this—I decided to do some research, and I found out what happened to your parents a short time ago.”

“Oh,” TĂ©a said. She should have known! Chieko probably wasn’t stupid enough to rely on what other people told her as her sole source of truth. ‘Yet I thought she would…and I kept trying to trick her, trying to…I’m so horrible!’

“TĂ©a,” the brunette was startled by Chieko’s slender palm touching her shoulder, “I do not yet know why it is that you have been trying to convince me—and others—that you and Seto are related. I do understand that you have been living with him, likely because you have no other place to go, correct?” TĂ©a nodded abysmally, her eyes downcast and clouded.

“But what I could see—from the very beginning—is that the affection you have for Seto Kaiba is not that of a sister for her brother.”

TĂ©a swallowed, looking up at Chieko. She knew. She knew everything. “You’re right, it’s not,” she said, her voice a mere whisper.

Chieko leaned back in her seat, a satisfied smile blossoming on her pretty face, “Good! It’s about time you admitted that!”

TĂ©a blinked, gaping for a minute. “Waitasec…you–you knew that, all along? And you didn’t…?”

“If you are wondering why I didn’t mention anything, it is because I was having a bit of fun at your expense. And for that, I apologize. But truly, it was too much fun to see you force yourself into thinking of Seto in a different way, and his reaction to that.”

“His reaction?” TĂ©a grumbled, “Annoyed, confused, stupid: same as always.” Her gaze dropped, remembering how Seto had pulled her into the darkness of the stairwell above the gym and the locker rooms, demanding to know why TĂ©a had suddenly decided to pretend they were siblings.

But now that Chieko knew—no, had practically always known—the truth, it didn’t matter. The other guys already knew that. She hadn’t told them why she’d bothered to ensnare them in her little plan, why she’d gone to all the efforts of making both her own friends and Chieko believe that she was setting the latter girl up with Seto Kaiba…

‘Because I wanted to convince myself that I didn’t love him! That was my only reason, and it was stupid, and selfish and—and I didn’t know what else to do. I was so afraid! I still am. How can I tell my friends…how can I tell Yugi?!’

Even though TĂ©a had tried so hard to come clean, she still kept much of her secret locked away inside her wounded heart. She couldn’t risk it, she kept telling herself, not yet.

Chieko remained silent to that, thinking to herself that TĂ©a was either blind to the small actions that led the blonde to believe Seto had some feelings in return for TĂ©a…or she just had convinced herself—beyond the point of all reason—that Seto really didn’t feel anything.

“Well then,” Chieko finally said, “are you up for some friendly competition?”

TĂ©a blinked, “Wh-What?”

“Friendly competition. It seems we are both after the same thing—drawing Seto from his shell. To be honest, there were not many boys like him in New York, and I find him…intriguing, I suppose. Interesting. I would like to propose a sort of challenge between the two of us.”

TĂ©a’s eyes narrowed in suspicion, “With Seto as the prize?” She cocked her head slightly to the left; she wasn’t ready—not for admitting the truth to her friends, and certainly not for openly pursuing Seto Kaiba. But wasn’t that just what Chieko was suggesting?

“Perhaps. But this is more a competition to see who can get him to open up more. You, who has known him for all this time, or me—a newcomer.” TĂ©a didn’t like the way Chieko seemed to be slanting the balance against herself, rather than in her favor. What was she trying to say, exactly?

But…‘If I at least try, maybe I can stop lying to myself. Stop lying to my friends. If it becomes obvious to them that Seto is the one…that I–that I’m in love with…then maybe there won’t have to be a painful confrontation about it.’

Or such was TĂ©a’s hope.

“You’re on.”


TĂ©a spent the lunch period—for once, without any of the boys—setting things up for the upcoming school festival with Chieko. Together, they’d talked to Ms. Misao, the gym teacher, and planned to make several colorful flyers, and speak to the gym classes they weren’t in.

The two charismatic girls would take the school by storm, just in time for the festival!

It was difficult avoiding Seto Kaiba for the entire day though. TĂ©a briefly wondered if he’d been at all curious—worried, even?—that she hadn’t been there when he and Mokuba had left the house that morning. Had he even cared?

‘I can’t think about that right now. I have to focus–focus on the upcoming festival, focus on fixing things with my friends.’ It didn’t matter that Seto Kaiba was the primary reason why TĂ©a Gardner was having so many problems in the first place.

‘It’s not his fault that I fell in love with him,’ TĂ©a thought, the idea making her unusually upset. It was supposed to be a good thing—a wonderful thing—when you fell in love.

‘I’ve been reading too many sappy shoujo manga,’ she decided, ‘Life’s never that easy, and love isn’t either.’

Originally, TĂ©a’s heart had been wounded by the obvious—that she wasn’t in love with her own best friend, Yugi, but the spirit inside of him. And not just any spirit, but that of a 3000 year-old pharaoh, one who knew next to nothing about himself—let alone the modern world. Worse, when she’d finally realized that Yugi couldn’t remain “two people” forever, and that one day, Yami, within him, would have to return to the afterlife, she’d also realized that her love would never come to fruition.

It had been a foolish love, a pointless one…and she hadn’t even been aware for a moment that her feelings had been shared.


“You, me, gym. Afterschool,” TĂ©a stated, dropping her textbooks on Joey Wheeler’s desk.

He looked up, startled, but smiled at her, grinning. “I take it you want those lessons now, eh?”

TĂ©a nodded firmly, somehow disguising the intensity of her stress to even those that knew her well. “You bet!”

The bell signaling the end of school came only a short time later, and TĂ©a said her good-byes to her friends—Yugi, Tristan, Duke, and Chieko—and left the classroom with Joey in tow. She did her very best to ignore Seto Kaiba and his gaze, pretending that she hadn’t seen him at all.

Seto Kaiba, for his part, only got angrier at this turn of events—though it didn’t show. He kept his exterior calm, cool, and collected, as always. Emotions equaled weakness, as he remembered his late ‘father’ telling him, and it was best not to let them get in his way. If TĂ©a’s idea of fun was to play mind games with him—confusing him, giving him much unneeded heartache, then he wouldn’t play along. He wouldn’t be a puppet for her own desires, if that was her intention.

Of course, a voice within Seto Kaiba told him that TĂ©a would never do such a thing—would never string anyone along like that. She wasn’t heartless, she wasn’t…

She’s not like me,’ Seto realized uncomfortably, ignoring the ache in his chest as he watched TĂ©a walk down the hall with Wheeler, not even casting a single glance back in his direction.

‘I–I don’t deserve her anyway.’ On the off-chance that TĂ©a really did have some sort of feelings for him…‘Which she doesn’t!’ Seto told himself resolutely, collecting his things and getting ready to go. None of it mattered, anyway. Seto steeled himself.

‘It’s not like I have feelings for her anyway.’


“Pays to have friends in the Kendo Club, huh?” Joey Wheeler cracked a smile as TĂ©a stared, wide-eyed, at their surroundings. Joey had pulled a few strings with the captain of the Kendo Club, a friend of his, and borrowed some of the club’s equipment.

He’d lugged out the punching bag the kendoists used to increase their arm strength, and brought out some pads to TĂ©a to punch and kick, while she went into the girls’ locker room and changed.

‘Ugh,’ TĂ©a thought while changing, her mood swinging again, ‘I have such a headache. Must be that time of the month again.’ Her annoyance quickly faded into anger, ‘One week a month I wish I were a guy. No more mood swings, no more headaches or bloating—no more stupid…oh! Never mind!’ TĂ©a pulled her shirt on and stomped out of the locker room.

When she caught sight of all the gear, her eyes grew to the size of saucers.

“Uh, I said something about relieving stress, but isn’t this a bit much, Joey?”

“Hey, now you can cover all your bases,” the blond said proudly. He had no real need to change his outfit, but he had taken his school uniform jacket off, and he stood behind the punching bag, gripping it with a smile on his face.

“Actually,” he said, stepping from behind the bag, and towards TĂ©a, “we gotta cover somethin’ else first.”

TĂ©a swallowed, ‘This isn’t going to turn into an interrogation session, is it? Joey’s one of the last people I’d want to know that I…’

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that chargin’ headfirst into a fight ain’t the smartest thing to do. And since you just wanna reduce your stress, then what you gotta do is be calm and relaxed first—as much as possible—before you charge forward and blast the hell outta this punchin’ bag here.”

TĂ©a blinked. She hadn’t been expecting that.

“Stretch,” Joey demonstrated, putting both arms behind his neck and holding both arms with his hands, arching his back and stretching on his toes.

TĂ©a, having experience with dancing, knew that stretching was important before any workout session, and quickly followed through with her own stretches—but it wasn’t long before impatience worked its way into her system, and she finished, waiting for Joey to get on with it.

“Don’t be lookin’ so eager over there,” Joey admonished, though the expression on his face was humored. “Like I said, rushin’ headlong into anythin’ only gets you hurt.”

“Yeah, well,” TĂ©a started, cracking her knuckles, “I have stress to burn. I don’t mind.”

Joey blinked, surprised, but nodded in assent. He walked TĂ©a over to the side of the gym, where he’d brought out some dusting powder and wraps for TĂ©a’s hands—if she was to go all out on any sort of punching bag or pads, she’d need protection for her hands, especially since the Kendo Club didn’t have boxing gloves.

TĂ©a quickly wrapped her hands and dusted them, ready to channel all her negative energy into a series of hard blows.

“All right, let’s do this.” TĂ©a said, standing up with a determined expression on her face. Joey didn’t say anything, he just took his position behind the punching bag and let TĂ©a have at it.


It hardly seemed enough of a workout for TĂ©a when Joey announced they’d have to call it quits; he had to get to his job. Working as a courier, he hardly had time to spare, since deliveries had to be made quickly. TĂ©a wished she could have found a way for him to stay longer, train her more—teach her more moves—but there was simply no way.

‘Guess I’ll have to settle for dancing at home or something,’ TĂ©a thought. She wasn’t too keen on the idea of going home. But hadn’t Seto said something about a gym in the basement? ‘Maybe I can go there,’ TĂ©a thought, ‘And there was that time in the security room I thought I saw some sort of other room down in the basement as well…’

At the moment, Téa wanted nothing more than to cleanse herself of all the anger, all the hurt, all the pain, welling up so insurmountably inside of her…


Mokuba Kaiba’s eyes were riveted to the screen, his right forefinger pressing hard on a button that froze the third screen from the top—on the left wall of the security room—from flickering its view to another room or angle.

What had captured his attention so was the fact that Téa—his Big Sister Téa—had found the gym downstairs in the basement not long ago, and, armed with her portable boombox from her room, had been working out, starting out on the treadmill and the step machine, but quickly moving on to more difficult pursuits, like the weight lifts.

But even that seemed to bore TĂ©a, and it wasn’t long before she attacked the rarely-used punching bag in the center of the room. She hadn’t bothered to wrap or dust her hands, and the constant stream of punches turned her knuckles a visibly bright red, no doubt her skin turning rough and raw.

Out of the corner of Mokuba’s eyes, he noticed a screen displaying the front door opening and his brother entering. He’d just come back from KaibaCorp., where he’d had another executive meeting with his senior staff.

“Big Brother,” Mokuba said, his fingers flicking over to the controls for the main entrance speaker, “you gotta come to the security room, right now!”

Not having a way to respond, Seto Kaiba stared at the mirror, his fingers effortlessly finding the button, not even waiting for the gears to finish their cycle before he ducked under the rising ‘door’ and rushed upstairs.

When he got to the security room, he was greeted by the amused smile of Charles—and the unwavering gaze of his little brother—though the smaller boy’s eyes weren’t focused on the entering Seto Kaiba at all. The elder brother didn’t waste any time glancing up to see what held his little brother’s attention so—and why he’d thought it an emergency, judging by the tone of his voice from a minute ago.

When he saw what was on the screen, his jaw almost dropped. TĂ©a Gardner, practically demolishing his punching bag—going at it with an intensity and ferocity like he’d never seen in her before.

“She’s been goin’ at it for over an hour now,” Mokuba finally said, “and I didn’t see her wrap her hands like you always do, Big Brother. I think one of her hands is bleeding.” He squinted, staring at the screen. TĂ©a’s movements now were too quick for him to make anything out.

Seto’s trained eyes followed every movement, every position TĂ©a launched herself into, focusing on her face. He watched it her eyes shine with determination, flicker with doubt, and then, though it was only for an instant before she turned away from the camera’s view, tears tracking down her face.

“Don’t you think we oughta go down there and help her or something?” Mokuba asked, finally looking away from the screen. Seto paused a moment, watching TĂ©a grab a towel and wipe herself off before walking towards the front of the gym, her boombox set on a chair.

TĂ©a stretched for a brief moment, giving the camera a perfect view of her limber body, clad in a white tanktop and black biker shorts. Seto found himself swallowing from a suddenly dry mouth, his eyes now fixated on the screen as Mokuba’s had been.

“Wait.” He stretched one arm out to Mokuba, who looked ready to dash down to the basement and stop TĂ©a from whatever it was she was doing—whether it was simply working out or some form of self-torture, Seto Kaiba couldn’t tell.

Music flared in the once-quiet room, filtering through the speakers in the security room, though they weren’t that good.

“Transmit the audio from the gym into the headset jack on this console,” Seto directed Charles, who swiveled in his chair, pressing buttons on the rear panel and quickly throwing his employer a headset.

All the things she said
All the things she said
Running through my head
Running through my head
Running through my head

Meanwhile, in the basement, TĂ©a took a deep breath and tried to keep herself calm. She knew she was being brutal to herself; she could feel the pain snaking its way up her arms from her hands. They burned, they itched, they bled and stung, but she had to keep going, because she wasn’t tired yet, wasn’t burned out yet, and still felt that ache in her chest…

The lyrics of the particular song her CD player had chosen at random didn’t help with things any. The popular song, written by two Russian girls who called themselves “t.A.T.u,” spoke to TĂ©a in ways that no one could have interpreted.

All the things she said
All the things she said
Running through my head
Running through my head
All the things she said
This is not enough (enough, enough, enough)

“…the affection you have for Seto Kaiba is not that of a sister for her brother.”

TĂ©a couldn’t get Chieko’s words out of her head. Ever since she’d announced that morning that she’d known—for a while, now!—that she and Seto weren’t brother and sister, a whole new plane of fright instilled itself in TĂ©a’s mind.

Chieko wanted a competition. For Seto. Because she knew that TĂ©a liked Seto as more than a friend, as more than a ‘sister.’ She’d known all along, even while TĂ©a was still denying it.

I’m in serious shit, I feel totally lost
If I’m asking for help it’s only because
Being with you has opened my eyes
Could I ever believe such a perfect surprise?

Worse, TĂ©a kept remembering Mai’s words.

“Once you stop lying to yourself about how you feel, it won’t matter what other people think!”

‘And that’s all I’ve been doing these past two days. Ever since the trip to the beach…when Seto said he wanted me to be the only girl in his life. But this is—this is Seto Kaiba! Why? I don’t…’ Confusion muddled her thoughts, and it showed in her movements, as they became jerky and unfocused, almost slipping back into fighting moves.

I keep asking myself, wondering how
I keep closing my eyes but I can’t block you out
Wanna fly to a place where it’s just you and me
Nobody else so we can be free (nobody else, so we can be free)

It was a nice thought…to think that maybe, just maybe Seto liked her. But why would he?

‘I’m sure he’s just been nice to me all this time. And while we’ve had fun, I can’t pretend that I’ve been his friend for years. I wasn’t lying when I told the guys that I barely know Kaiba. How can I even think I’m in love with him when that’s the case?’

All the things she said
All the things she said
Running through my head
R
unning through my head
Running through my head

All the thoughts were giving TĂ©a a headache, and she swung her palms up to her head, letting them hover just off her brow, bobbing her head slightly as she danced, her movements sharp as knives. Precise movements cut the air, her arms straightening to slice through the room as if she were fighting an invisible opponent.

All the things she said
All the things she said
Running through my head
Running through my head

If anything was running through TĂ©a’s head at the moment, it wasn’t her dance moves. It wasn’t even Mai’s words, or Chieko’s words. Rather, she couldn’t pull her thoughts from Seto Kaiba, and from how he’d come to mean to her, ever since her parents died. How he’d suddenly transformed in TĂ©a’s mind, once the reticent, introverted CEO, but becoming a silent, maybe even scared young man with a past. And a determination for the future.

All the things she said
This is not enough (more, more)
This is not enough (all the things she said)

‘This isn’t enough,’ TĂ©a thought, feeling her eyes well with tears again. She was sweating droplets now, but she didn’t care. Didn’t stop, didn’t want to bother with any of it.

‘I can’t keep on lying, no matter what the circumstances. Maybe it’s just lust, or maybe it’s something more…and maybe it’s one-sided, but if I keep trying to bottle this up, trying to deny what I really feel, then I’m only going to destroy myself from the inside out. And then…’

And then what? Not even TĂ©a knew. But she knew that it wasn’t enough, just to keep pretending. To keep lying. Not just to herself and her friends, but to Seto as well.

‘I just want to keep going. To keep moving, to keep living…’ She swung her body around to the music, bending to the techno chords of the song’s bridge. This was the best place to do that: de-stress, think, relax, work out. There’d been a smaller room on the way to the gym, but it was in horrible shape, with no barres and a poor concrete floor. It had probably been used for storage.

And I’m all mixed up, feeling cornered and rushed
They say it’s my fault but I want her so much

“Wait,” Seto’s navy blue eyes narrowed, seeing TĂ©a’s mouth move, presumably singing along with the lyrics, “Can you increase the microphone volume? Focus it on the ambient sound, rather than the music?” Charles played with the controls for a moment, but shook his head, “The speaker in the gym is too close to the source of the music for the pickup level to be altered, sir.”

‘What is she saying?’ Seto wondered, noticing that TĂ©a’s lips were not moving in synch with the song.

‘I’m all mixed up, feeling cornered and rushed,
I know it’s my fault, but I want him so much…’
TĂ©a replaced the lyrics in her mind, hardly aware that she was mouthing the words of her own imagination as she danced.

Wanna fly her away where the sun and rain
Come in over my face, wash away all the shame

‘Wanna fly us away, where the sun and the rain
Come in over my face, wash away all this pain…’

She wanted to tell him. More than anything, she wanted that hurt look in his eyes—the expression from that Sunday from the beach—to disappear. She wanted him to smile. To not search her eyes for something she couldn’t provide him with…

When they stop and stare, it don’t worry me
‘Cause I’m feeling for her what she’s feeling for me

‘Well, they’ll stop and stare, and it’ll worry me
Yet I’m feelin’ this way, does he feel it for me?’

“Damn,” Seto cursed aloud. She was impossible. Her movements were jagged, suddenly flowing and graceful, the next minute sharp and jagged—almost like she were fighting something none of them could see. She never stayed still long enough for Seto to even try and read her lips (an ability he had never quite mastered).

“Big Brother?” Mokuba questioned, still ready to dash outside and ‘help’ TĂ©a.

Seto shook his head, “I don’t think this is something either of us can help her with.”

I can try to pretend, I can try to forget
But it’s driving me mad, going out of my head

‘This isn’t going to work,’ TĂ©a realized, suddenly catching her reflection in the mirrors that walled the gym space. She watched as if her body were out of her own control, twisting and moving as though she were merely a marionette on someone else’s strings.

The headache was worsening, the memories intensifying, the ache increasing to a throb in her chest.

All the things she said
All the things she said
Running through my head
Running through my head
Running through my head

‘All my friends…I wish I could trust them enough to tell them what I’m really feeling…that this isn’t just some crush. This is–this is what I felt for Yami, initially. This is me already knowing about all of Seto’s bad points, and this is me accepting him. Wanting–wanting more.’

All the things she said
All the things she said
Running through my head
Running through my head
All the things she said
This is not enough (more, more)
This is not enough

‘How can I keep living here, under his roof, as his employee, if this is the way I feel? If–if I can’t even look at him without remembering what happened on the beach? Remembering how his hands felt on my skin…’ As if he were almost there, right behind her, his hands on her, and she wasn’t even wearing her tanktop anymore.

A shiver ran down her spine, freezing her in place.

All the things she said
All the things she said

All the things she said
All the things she said

All the things she said
All the things she said
All the things she said

All the things she said
All the things she said
All the things she said

Téa swallowed, looking up at the mirror and suddenly feeling compelled to walk towards it, to see herself—her real self, with her feelings bared—for once.

Mother, looking at me
Tell me what do you see?
Yes, I’ve lost my mind

TĂ©a reached a trembling hand out to the mirror, for a moment, seeing her mother’s reflection staring back at her. Sad blue eyes met TĂ©a’s own, a silent gesture of disapproval.

‘A dancer, TĂ©a?’ Her voice was filled with disappointment.

Daddy, looking at me
Will I ever be free?
Have I crossed the line?

Téa swirled towards the mirror on the opposite wall, closing her eyes for a moment before touching her hand to the glass, seeing her father staring back at her. He was shaking his head, telling her no, that she was wrong, that it was wrong…

‘I’ve been so tempted to give up so many times…I’ve been on the edge of so many things, and now, I’m about to jump. Really take a chance, and risk it all. My friends, my sanity, God, even my heart! I don’t want it to be broken again…’

Losing her parents had hurt. More than realizing she couldn’t love Yugi the way she had loved Yami, even though they were in one body. Maybe even one soul. And now, the possibility that she’d be throwing all that away—on a whim, perhaps?—wasn’t it crazy? Wasn’t she losing her mind?

All the things she said
All the things she said
Running through my head
Running through my head
Running through my head

TĂ©a swung herself back to the center of the area, opening her mind to the lyrics again and moving her body smoothly. She stretched one arm outwards, reaching toward the imagined spirit of Mai. TĂ©a brought the arm back into her, touching her damp palm to her left breast and sliding it down her stomach. She turned on the balls of her feet, stretching her other arm out towards her vision of Chieko. On the beat, she brought both arms from her sides up to her head, closing her eyes as she bobbed her head, the throbbing inside pulsing to the beat of the music.

All the things she said
All the things she said
Running through my head
Running through my head

All the things she said
This is not enough (more, more)
This is not enough

‘This isn’t enough. Won’t ever be enough. I–I have to tell him. Someday…’

All the things she said
All the things she said
All the things she said

All the things she said
All the things she said
All the things she said


TĂ©a didn’t waste any time once the song finished, to gather her things—the boombox and a moist towel—and headed upstairs. She didn’t spare a thought as to the whereabouts of either Mokuba or Seto, but she smiled, thinking that she no longer had a reason to hide from them anymore.

No reason to run.

‘I thought I wasn’t ready to pursue Seto openly, but maybe that’s just what I need to do. And maybe I’m crossing the line, maybe I’m chasing a shadow of hope…but it’s worth the risk.’ From long ago, she remembered a rare Seto Kaiba smile. She wanted to see that again….


Seto Kaiba couldn’t take his mind off her. Even though it had been a good half hour since TĂ©a had left the gym—and he and Mokuba had emerged from the security room, their minds muddled—he still didn’t know what to think.

He had been entranced by her movements, shifting from one form to the next. One moment, fluid and smooth, tempting in so many primal ways, the elder Kaiba didn’t care to admit. The next moment, sharp and cutting, a jagged fighting style that seemed out of place with TĂ©a as its user. Welcoming and inviting one moment, warning and abruptly destructive the next.

But what haunted Seto Kaiba the most was that moment—that one split second—when he’d seen her cry. First, he’d watched with amazement as she’d pummeled his expensive punching bag—with her bare hands, no less—and the next, dance her heart out, her emotions so raw and pure…

‘I wish I knew what she was thinking. What she was feeling…’ Of course, had Seto Kaiba been able to do that, he would have called himself God’s Gift to Women and lived the high life. But, since he was just a “normal” guy, he had to settle with finding things out the hard way—which was something Seto Kaiba did not like having to do.


TĂ©a’s eyes paused as she entered the living area from upstairs, her eyes catching on the CD player. She still had her other CD in there, and even after her shower, TĂ©a still felt anxious. While her previous session of dancing hadn’t actually given her the relaxed feeling she needed, TĂ©a felt that she was in the right mood to at least try.

‘Besides,’ she smiled, flicking the stereo controls on, ‘At least I won’t be getting sweatier. I’m all clean now, and I’ll only dance one song…’

Nobody on the road
Nobody on the beach

‘This song…’ TĂ©a closed her eyes and let herself flow with the song, willing her body—and her chaotic mind—to relax. Despite the tensing of her muscles from her workout, they’d relaxed somewhat in the shower. Not completely, of course…

Her current predicament was too clear in her mind.

I feel it in the air

How could it not be, when all things Kaiba surrounded her, from every angle, every side? She lived with him. It wasn’t as if she were his next door neighbor, or even his classmate anymore, or even the girl who saw him duel her best friends. They had an odd relationship, one that left TĂ©a yearning for something more.

The summer’s out of reach
Empty lake, empty streets
The sun goes down alone

She remembered the beach. Only too well.

The last of the summer heat, the brilliant sun that never seemed to last long enough. Warm sun, soft sand…smooth hands running over her back, lulling her into a dreamless, albeit short, sleep.

I’m drivin’ by your house
Though I know you’re not at home

TĂ©a spun in a circle, opening her eyes for a brief moment while her mind conjured up memories of what was most assuredly a happier time: a time when her emotions weren’t so frazzled, and she wasn’t so ready to beat herself into a pulp for wanting what she “couldn’t” have.

That was when her blue eyes alighted on three pictures, innocently positioned above the mantle, the same ones TĂ©a had seen the shadowed outlines of during her first night at the Kaiba mansion. She’d never taken the time to look at them. Though the song was still playing, TĂ©a moved towards the pictures.

A young boy with chocolate-brown hair and the unmistakable midnight blue of Seto Kaiba’s eyes. Him—as a youth, as a child. So wide-eyed to the world…

On one side, a smiling woman with a shining face, ebony hair tumbling down her shoulders in soft waves. Her belly was round with child—Mokuba—TĂ©a realized. This was their mother. And on the other side of young Seto, a handsome, older man, with hair a similar shade of brown as his young son’s. He too, was smiling, his arm wrapped around his wife’s shoulders, while her own pale hands rested on her son’s shoulders.

‘This was what Seto’s life was meant to be like. He didn’t deserve to have that happiness taken away from him at such a young age…no one does.’

TĂ©a amazed herself sometimes with her resilience—she couldn’t ever see herself becoming what she’d always known Seto Kaiba as. She could never be ruthless, callous, or so blind to emotions that she’d block them out entirely—for years and years.

‘But he’s not really like that,’ TĂ©a knew, ‘What happened to him shaped him into who he is…or was.’ He had changed since TĂ©a first met him. She didn’t know how or why or when, but…

The next picture was just young Seto with his mother. He sat on her lap, despite the swell of her belly preventing the child from snuggling up against her as any other child would. But young Seto looked quite content where he was. Still, there appeared to be a trace of sadness in his eyes, in contrast to his childlike smile.

His mother was in a wheelchair. She looked paler, and her hair was stringier than it had been in the last photo. She still looked happy—proud—but there was hurt, weakness—pain—in her eyes.

‘She knew,’ TĂ©a realized, ‘She knew that she was dying.’

And maybe young Seto had known this as well, but as a child, so happy and free, he didn’t want to believe it.

The final picture: it featured a distinctly sadder Seto, sitting in his father’s arms. Nestled in the crook of the older man’s arms, there was a small baby with bright blue eyes and a smattering of dark hair.

After that, there was nothing else. No other pictures, no trace that Seto had ever even had a childhood after that point. With a sinking heart, TĂ©a remembered Mokuba’s words from the first night she’d stayed in the Kaiba mansion; “Mom died when I was born.”

The boy had been trying so hard to hold back his tears, to hide what was undeniably sadness. He’d never known a mother. Never had that comfort. And he’d only been three years old when he’d lost his father to an accident. His brother had to become his father, and everything had changed…

‘How can I pretend to be a part of this family? To be part of either of their lives?’ TĂ©a sighed, closing her eyes and drifting back into the rhythm of the music. She knew that she didn’t—couldn’t, and probably wouldn’t ever—belong in the Kaiba home.

But I can see you—
Your bare skin shinin’ in the sun

Did it matter where Seto Kaiba was, right at that moment? Did it really matter that so much of Téa longed to have his touch on her skin again? It was an insane, delirious thought. Bordering on hormonal. Téa had noticed cute guys before, admired male models, and been a normal teenage girl…but something was different about this. About now.

She remembered first seeing him after he’d pulled his shirt off at the beach and how, if the feeling had to be described, it was something like her heart leaping up from her ribcage and into her throat. A feat of biology and anatomy, to be sure.

You got your hair combed back and your sunglasses on, baby

He was so different from the rigid, unfeeling boy—no, man—she’d grown to know the past year, from Duelist Kingdom up until Battle City. He was different at home, than he had been in duels, than he was at school….

And I can tell you my love for you will still be strong
After the boys of summer have gone

‘And it feels like that was so long ago…’ Yet, it hadn’t been. It was only two days ago. But it felt like months. There was a distance that had inserted itself between Seto Kaiba and TĂ©a Gardner—one TĂ©a had placed there on her own—and it stung with each passing day. Every day, TĂ©a, returning to what had become her ‘home,’ but was undeniably not.

I never will forget those nights
I wonder if it was a dream
Remember how you made me crazy?
Remember how I made you scream

But what she kept going back to in her mind, over and over, even as she moved around, her arms rising as she danced, her body flowing to the music, was that night.

“How can you…do that!? Pretend to be happy, or smile the way you do, after everything you’ve been through!? Have you forgotten that your parents are dead!?”

Stinging words. Arrows aimed for her heart, dipped in poison that burned her from the inside. Or was that heartache, from something else?

Now I don’t understand what happened to our love

Perhaps it was from knowing that there was no ‘our,’ like the song said. After all, TĂ©a knew that Seto Kaiba was devoted to his company, and devoted to his brother. He didn’t take time out for silly things or silly people….

‘Like me…’

But babe, I’m gonna get you back
I’m gonna show you what I’m made of

‘If I ever had his attention—maybe at the dance, maybe at the beach—if he ever thought of me as something other than Mokuba’s tutor, as some sort of friend, then I want to know. I have to know.’

I can see you—
Your bare skin shinin’ in the sun
I see you walkin’ real slow and you’re smilin’ at everyone

Though it had been a long time ago, she remembered his smile. Something so simple had ended up being one of TĂ©a’s most precious memories.

‘Even after everything that’s happened…all that I’ve lost and will never have again, I can’t just forget that. This Seto Kaiba I know isn’t the same as the one I first met. He’s changed. And I really like this Seto Kaiba. I might not know a lot about him, but what I do know makes me want to learn more.’

I can tell you my love for you will still be strong
After the boys of summer have gone

‘It–it doesn’t matter when everyone finds out,’ TĂ©a realized, a smile blossoming on her face, even as she continued to dance, stretching her arms out as if to embrace something—perhaps the invisible warmth of the disappearing summer heat.

The song had reached a bridge, with a fast tempo and trance-like instrumentals. TĂ©a danced, her body curving and sliding to the music, even as the tempo slowed and the next verse started up.

‘If this–if this is really love and I really end up going after him, then they’ll understand. They’re my friends, and we’ve always stuck by each other. No matter what. Nothing’s ever torn us apart before. Not mind-control, not dueling one another…not anything.’

Out on the road today, I saw a Dead Head sticker on a Cadillac
A little voice inside my head said, “Don’t look back. You can never look back.”
I thought I knew what love was
What did I know?
Those days are gone forever
I should just let them go but—

Yet something inside TĂ©a reminded her of him.

A painful image of his figure, lean and imposing beside her, radiating with an intimidating aura that her best friend couldn’t ever possess.

“He” was Yami. “He” was also Yugi, but somehow, in some way…not Yugi. He was her best friend, but not. For while her best friend was sweet, endearing…painfully shy, and perhaps too sympathetic towards others, his other half was incredibly mysterious. He didn’t know himself at all. Only that he was the spirit of an ancient pharaoh.

And being that TĂ©a had fallen for him, and not her best friend, presented problems.

It had hurt, watching him duel, watching the plot thicken and the web tangle. More and more people wanted something other than star chips or rare cards. They wanted the puzzle, they wanted Yugi’s soul, they wanted…

‘Something I can’t even begin to understand.’

I can see you—
Your bare skin shinin’ in the sun

What TĂ©a did understand, though, was that it was something other than mere attraction that had led to her feelings for Seto Kaiba. She’d noticed him of course, but had never thought of hm that way…not until now.

Not since she’d gotten to know him, started to recognize the touch of his hands on her skin….

You got the top pulled down and radio on, baby
And I can tell you my love for you will still be strong
After the boys of summer have gone

TĂ©a froze, closing even as she brought her arms to her sides and her legs together again. She could feel it again.

Feel him.

How could such a mundane sensation as touch have such a rippling effect on her whole mind, body, and soul?

I can see you—
Your bare skin shinin’ in the sun
You got that hair slicked back and those Wayfarers on, baby
I can tell you my love for you will still be strong
After the boys of summer have gone

She could still see him, from that day at the beach.

Could smell the sunscreen on his skin, even as her hands ran over his back.

She could still hear his words, hear the desire laced in his voice…from that night after the Ball.

Could still taste the alcohol on his lips, crushing against hers.

Trembling fingers brushed against her lips, but TĂ©a made a quick and silent resolution not to think about that. It was a secret…only Mai really knew the truth. But TĂ©a was doing her best to forget about it, because Mai had been right: it hadn’t been how TĂ©a wanted her first kiss. Not with anyone, and certainly not with Seto, whom TĂ©a found herself becoming more and more attracted to by the day.

She swung her body around again, one hand reaching up towards the ceiling. Her abdomen protested painfully, a reminder of the bruise TĂ©a noticed there during her shower. She wasn’t sure how she’d gotten the purple mark, as she knew Joey hadn’t hit her back during their ‘training,’ and she hadn’t fallen or been hit by something hard enough to bruise.

But she hadn’t thought about it much. As the song drew to a close, the vocals fading into the instrumentals of the earlier bridge, TĂ©a struck her pose, years of dancing practice allowing her to remain still even after the song finished.

Téa was startled out of her post-dance reverie—and the thoughts the song had invoked in her—by applause.

Blue eyes snapped open as she whirled around, hairs clinging to her moist neck, damp with sweat.

“Se—” TĂ©a started to say, surprise plain on her face—but she stopped. They weren’t speaking. Well, they hadn’t been, for almost two days now. She’d avoided him well enough on Monday, but now…

“Still not speaking to me?” Seto asked, leaning his elbow on the back of the couch. He sighed slightly, averting his gaze from TĂ©a’s. She blinked, looking down sadly. She was afraid and she knew it. She knew she had to tell him—tell him that she wanted to be the only girl in his life, wanted to explain why she’d been so foolish in trying to set him up with Chieko, but…

“I’m—” TĂ©a began, immediately catching his attention. She wasn’t sure what she’d been about to say. Words had been on the tip of her tongue, but the moment his eyes met hers, they failed her, disappearing into the fading day.

There was a pregnant pause between the two teens, just staring at one another, blue clashing with blue.

“You’re good. At dancing, I mean,” Seto finally said.

TĂ©a blushed at the compliment, remembering his sudden and genuine applause. “I–I want to dance, when I’m older. I mean, join a company or something…”

“I remember,” Seto nodded slightly, sliding around the armrest of the couch to sit on it, eyes meeting hers, “You—or someone—saying something about New York.”

TĂ©a smiled slightly, “Juilliard. My dream.”

“Still going to go for it?” Seto asked curiously. New York was pretty far away, not to mention the schools there—especially Juilliard—cost a fortune. Not to say tuition in Japan was cheap—it wasn’t—but American schools had been undergoing a financial crisis as of late, and Seto Kaiba was glad he didn’t have any parents dictating that he go to one, unlike the unfortunate heir to the Maple Hotel chain.

TĂ©a swallowed, remembering the illusory faces of her mother and father from downstairs in the gym. Disappointed. Sad.

‘I–I was just imagining things!’

“Yeah!” She smiled brilliantly, thinking ‘They would have wanted me to be happy, wouldn’t they?’

“I am!”

There was a mutual feeling of pain between Seto and TĂ©a then, though neither admitted it aloud.

Téa realized that it had always been her dream to dance. It had lasted the years, lasted the trials and troubles that had been thrown her way. The larger-than-life destinies of her friends, their battles and duels…It would last no matter where Téa lived, who she lived with, or who she loved.

‘Above all else, it’s dance I love. More than anything…more than anyone.’

Seto’s ache came from the sudden realization that, no matter what his chaotic thoughts about TĂ©a said, he would never have her. Even if his jealousy really was, in fact, attraction, and even if that attraction turned into something else, he couldn’t have her. Not the way he wanted. She had dreams—bigger than himself, bigger than the house, even bigger than Tokyo. Her dreams were someplace else.

Not with him.

“Your hands,” Seto Kaiba said, breaking the silence, rising from the couch. Even after her shower, it looked as though TĂ©a hadn’t tended to her hands, and her now-bruised knuckles had begun bleeding again.

TĂ©a glanced down at them, slightly surprised, and even more startled when Seto gently grabbed her one hand and led her into the kitchen, pulling a first aid kit from one of the lower cabinets.

His hand still held hers, even as they sat down at the kitchen table and Seto used his free hand to rifle through the small box and pull out some gauze and medical tape, searching for some alcohol swabs.

“Doesn’t it hurt?” he finally asked, eyes meeting hers.

TĂ©a found herself staring into the endless fathoms that were Seto Kaiba’s eyes, unable to form a coherent answer. When—better yet, why—had Seto Kaiba gained such control over her? Over her every sense, her every thought?

She only nodded dumbly, eyes widening as Seto brought her knuckles to his lips and gently kissed them. His eyes never left hers, blue meeting with blue. His eyes weren’t moving, not searching for something as they’d always seemed to before.

‘Oh my god, what does he think he’s doing?’ TĂ©a swallowed, ‘What is he thinking? What am I…’ Fire raced through her veins, the pain in her hands suddenly a distant memory. Her whole body heated up, and she was sure her cheeks were bright red by then.

But by the time TĂ©a’s thoughts had worked themselves into some semblance of sense, Seto’s gaze had dropped from hers. The romantic—almost intimate—moment had disappeared into time, and now he was holding her hand up while wrapping it with some bandages.

“Next time you decide to punch the living daylights out of a punching bag,” he said, no trace of emotion in his voice, “Wear wraps. It’s not smart to ruin your hands.”

TĂ©a nodded dumbly, swallowing the lump that had formed in her throat, “I’ll do that.”

Once her hands were wrapped, Seto stood up from his chair, his hands abruptly sliding off TĂ©a’s. Her hands felt the immediate lack of warmth, and her skin—the whole of her body—protested mightily.

“Wait!” TĂ©a finally managed, pushing herself out of her chair as well, catching Seto Kaiba’s attention just before he exited the kitchen and rounded the corner into his office.

“Um, I…” Words failed her again.

‘What was I going to say? Would I have had enough courage to ask him, when I had the chance, “What are you thinking?” when he kissed my hands? Enough courage to admit that I…’ But of course not. How could she ever tell him—to his face?

“I was wondering. I–I’ve got…this bruise,” TĂ©a hesitantly lifted her tanktop, revealing the oddly-shaped purpling bruise on her firm stomach, “I don’t know where I got it from. This is an odd question, but…”

“The beach,” Seto said simply, as he turned around to face TĂ©a. She blinked in confusion.

“What? I don’t get it. All that sand you piled on me wouldn’t have made a weird bruise like this…” She traced her finger on the bruise, and realized with sudden embarrassment that she was barely concealing anything from Seto Kaiba anymore. Anything physical, at least. She dropped the hem of her tanktop and prayed she wasn’t blushing as hot as she felt.

“No,” his voice dropped a level, “when that wave hit us, you almost drowned.”

‘I almost lost you.’

“You were unconscious. You’d swallowed water, so I had to…force it out.”

TĂ©a’s eyes widened. “What do you mean?” she asked, brows furrowing.

Seto couldn’t bring himself to tell her that he’d hit her—tell her that he’d even said “hate me for this later.” What if she did? He didn’t know if he’d be able to live with that. Whatever it was he was feeling for TĂ©a…he didn’t want it to result in her hating him. The very thought scared him.

So he demonstrated the action, keeping his distance from TĂ©a though, and dropping his gaze so he wouldn’t have to see her face when she put two and two together.

And put two and two together TĂ©a did. Quickly.

Curiosity and confusion turned into abrupt horror, and she cried out, “You hit me? Haven’t you ever heard of the Heimlich maneuver?”

Seto did look up at that, a cynical expression on his handsome face. He rolled his eyes, leaning forward as he spoke, sarcasm plain in his voice, “That’s for choking victims.” But he wasn’t about to tell her what one did to save the life of someone who swallowed water. You weren’t supposed to whack them in the stomach like he had, at any rate…

“Well, whatever it’s called for unconscious people that swallowed water—” TĂ©a began, but was cut off by Seto’s voice—though it had dropped in volume to an almost-whisper.

“Mouth-to-mouth,” he said, eyes fixated on the floor now, an abrupt change from when his stare had penetrated her very core. “And I didn’t want you to misinterpret anything—”

‘Didn’t want to kiss her before you were both ready, that’s what you mean, you idiot.’ That annoying voice in Seto Kaiba’s head was back. He hated it. He never questioned his instinct, always did what he had to do. He followed his gut, and thought himself stronger for it. But of course…

‘Where’s the choir?’ Seto wondered, rolling his eyes, though TĂ©a couldn’t see. Where was the synchronous trilling of voices, proclaiming what Seto Kaiba already knew too well: that where TĂ©a Gardner was concerned, things were confusing!

Not even just a “little bit” anymore. A lot. A whole lot. A lot of aching, a lot of desire, a lot of unspoken words and confusing gestures…

“Didn’t want me to misinterpret it as a kiss?” TĂ©a shot back, crossing her arms over her chest. Why now was Seto Kaiba as easy to read as a book? Why not earlier, when–when…

“I didn’t want to do anything before we were ready!” Seto practically shouted, his eyes meeting hers, even as they sparked with anger. He wanted to clamp his hand over his mouth, shoot himself in the foot for admitting what he’d been thinking.

How could she possibly misinterpret that? He’d practically come out and said that he wanted to kiss her, and yes, he did, but he hadn’t wanted to tell her that!

Of course, her response wasn’t what he expected.

“It’s a little late for that!” And she abruptly stormed past him, her shoulder just barely grazing his arm as she ran past him, tears in her eyes.

She was already upstairs by the time Seto turned around to where she had been, his eyes marred with confusion.

“W–what?”


And so the game continued.

Its manner of play was simple: he avoided her; she avoided him.

Seto Kaiba remained inexorably confused, and for one reason or another, came up with various reasons not to speak to TĂ©a and get the answers to his questions.

Like the one foremost in his mind ever since she’d said it…

“It’s a little late for that!”

‘What did she mean?’ Seto Kaiba mused absently. His thoughts tended to wander as of late, especially when there was hardly anything new happening where TĂ©a was concerned. They avoided each other so diligently, had one not known better, any semblance of a relationship between the two—even living together—would have been called into question.

That one person, however, seemed to like the turn of events.

After all, Chieko smiled, it meant things were going in her favor.


It wasn’t long before the day of the school festival arrived. TĂ©a had been busy the past week, planning with both Chieko and the rest of the second year, class B students—at least, the ones that wanted to take part in the festival. Seto Kaiba was not one of them.

Part of TĂ©a was disappointed—he knew how much work she was putting into the festival, and he hadn’t gone his first year. Even if they weren’t talking to each other, the least he could do was show up, right?

The second year, class B students had chosen their wildly successful idea from last year—carnival games. This time, though, they decided to have a wider variety of games, especially since the results of the previous year’s festival had given them a bigger budget to work with.

After much convincing, Joey agreed to play the part of the pirate-in-the-barrel again, while Tristan lent his air rifle once more, though this time, boys in the woodshop had helped construct a board, painted as a clown, with falling teeth to shoot at. Duke agreed to have a Dungeon Dice Monsters-based game, in which players rolled dice on a blue-and-red painted board, trying to get certain crests to land on certain squares, to win points, and then prizes. The final game was a simple ring toss—using the school’s massive collection of glass bottles as targets.

However, since TĂ©a also had to juggle running the newly-formed dance club’s booth as well, she left Yugi in charge of the Class 2B booth, switching shifts with other classmates every now and then.

Thankfully, it was free-dress that day, meaning you weren’t required to be in uniform. TĂ©a smiled, seeing many girls gather around the dance club booth, many in flared skirts, catsuits, and one—Miho Nosaka—in a kimono. For herself, TĂ©a had chosen a sleeveless navy shirt, with lighter blue stripes crossing the fabric horizontally at her chest, and a pair of black capri pants with embroidery at the hems.

“Are we ready to get this started?” TĂ©a winked, moving towards the stage the club had set up. With the hard work of several dedicated dancers—Chieko included—the girls had managed to set up a stage large enough for five or so people. The drama club had been kind enough to allow the usage of the auditorium speakers, which TĂ©a hooked up to the stereo system in the fore of the stage.

On the left side of the stereo, a small table had been set up, with tables for four judges. On the right side of the sound system, a large box had been set up, with a roll of paper and a pen nearby. The table was set up for the judges—the gym teachers, Ms. Misao and Mr. Norimachi, the principal, Ms. Kawaga, and the vice-principal, Mr. Ryohoshi. And the box? For the fifth “judge”…the other students!

Each girl participating had taken a Polaroid earlier in the day, writing their name on the base of the photo. Each of these pictures was attached to a white board duct taped to the stereo system’s cart, so that the student voters could look at the dancers and write down the name of those they thought were the best for each piece.

The winners of each round would continue to compete until there were only two dancers left, and the winner of that would win a prize. This was considered fair, even by the other dancers, knowing that TĂ©a and Chieko had set everything up. After all, they were being voted on; it wasn’t as if they could rig it to have them win.

“Hey, Domino High!” TĂ©a jumped on the stage, taking a cordless microphone with her. “We’re the brand new Domino High dance club, providing this festival with some fresh tunes and some hot competition! And we’re about to get started!”

To TĂ©a’s surprise and pleasure, a cheer erupted from her schoolmates, many of whom looked enthused over there being music at the festival for once. Though it was an open festival, where anyone could visit, most attendees tended to be Domino High students. If they weren’t involved in one club or another, they toured the whole festival, while the more active kids—like TĂ©a—ran booths and tried to have fun.

“We have four wonderful judges, Ms. Misao, Mr. Norimachi, Ms. Kawaga, and Mr. Ryohoshi! The mysterious fifth judge is…you! Each round, we’ll have five dancers on-stage competing in improvised dance to a random song! You pick the best three out of five, and they continue on to the next set! The final two dancers compete against one another for a big-time prize! And between rounds, we have individual dancers strutting their stuff to their own music!” TĂ©a grinned, watching the girls of the dance club cheer.

Many were into ballet, while others preferred tap. Miho Nosaka was one of the rare modern school girls interested in the traditional art of enka dancing, or the rigid Japanese style of dancing in a kimono to koto music, oftentimes using a fan. TĂ©a, Chieko, and several others liked many different styles, and planned to have fun, regardless of whether they won or lost.

It wasn’t long before the judges pulled the first five names out of the bag they’d put the name-slips in—TĂ©a and Chieko weren’t among them. The five girls whose names had been pulled giddily got on stage, while TĂ©a manned the stereo and waited for the song to begin.


TĂ©a and Chieko got their names called in the second round, shortly after they’d both returned from the Class 2B booth to see how it was doing. While the dance club booth attracted a lot of attention, few people hung around for very long to watch an entire round, given that it tended to be at least 10 minutes long, and it wasn’t exactly fun standing in place for such an amount of time, especially with the lure of games and food at every corner.

However, with the Dance Club president TĂ©a and Vice President Chieko both on stage, peoples’ attention seemed to get riveted. Yugi managed to catch a break from the carnival games booth long enough to wander over to the dance club stage, just as the song was beginning.

A guitar riff opened the unfamiliar song, and TĂ©a grinned to Chieko, at her side. The blonde seemed to recognize the song just as well as TĂ©a.

“Shall we invite one of our dear classmates to dance?” she asked, swinging her hips to the intro music.

TĂ©a grinned, turning her attentions to the audience.

Hey! Hey!

Téa shouted in unison with the music, extending an arm out to point. A familiar head of hair—attached to an equally familiar face—was walking by, and Téa wanted to get him on-stage.

Uh-uh-huh

The boy blinked in astonishment at TĂ©a, even as she gestured at him to come forward and onto the stage.

Hey!

“You’re going to regret this,” Ryou Bakura smiled devilishly as he climbed on-stage, wearing black pants and a light blue T-shirt.

“Why’s that?” TĂ©a grinned, “Going to step all over my feet?”

“Quite the opposite, TĂ©a,” Bakura smiled, taking a position between Chieko and TĂ©a on-stage, “but you’ll see for yourself.”

Uh-huh-huh

What I like about you

“You know the song,” TĂ©a murmured under her breath, as Bakura started to dance—the sole boy on-stage, though with the way he moved, he didn’t look a bit out of place.

“I do,” he responded, quickly placing his hands on TĂ©a’s waist as the next line came up.

You hold me tight
Tell me I’m the only one
Wanna come over tonight?

TĂ©a spun out of his light grasp and wagged a finger at Bakura, urging him to come closer to her. The boy could dance!

‘So this is what he meant when he said “quite the opposite,” earlier…’ TĂ©a thought, still wearing her bright smile. ‘Maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea after all to get Bakura on-stage. And here I thought he was a wallflower in need of some attention! After all, when he’s not all evil, he’s pretty quiet…’

TĂ©a’s smile didn’t fade, but she did remember with rapid clarity that Bakura’s “Yami” half could take over whenever he pleased. Was it possible she was dancing with him and not her classmate, the real Ryou Bakura?

(yeah)

‘Doesn’t matter,’ TĂ©a grinned, ‘I’m having fun!’

Keep on whispering in my ear
Tell me all the things that I wanna hear

She crooked her finger towards Bakura again, urging him to come to her, even as Chieko stretched out her arm and wound the white-haired boy towards her. TĂ©a leaned forward, still moving her body, but this time she curved her hips towards Bakura and put her hand behind one of her ears, cupping it as if she wanted to hear some sweet whispers.

Playing along with the song, Bakura moved towards her again, but was quickly spun away from her by Chieko, who mimicked TĂ©a’s moves as if there were a competition between the two for Bakura’s attentions.

‘Cause it’s true (what I like)
That’s what I like about you (what I like)

TĂ©a remembered her real competition with Chieko—the first to “get Seto to open up.”

‘He’s probably not even here,’ TĂ©a thought crossly. For a fraction of a second, she frowned, but dismissed the thought, ‘I’m here to have fun!’

Across from the stage, a good fifteen feet away, someone paused.

He felt awkward, out of place there. Loud music, bright colors—everything that made a festival festive. Why was he even there? Seto Kaiba could have been at KaibaCorp., working on one project or another, but for some reason, he’d felt compelled to stay for the festival that day.

Mokuba had urged him to go, actually, pointing out how dedicated TĂ©a was to it, and, no matter what “stupid fight” (Mokuba’s words) they’d gotten into, she’d appreciate knowing Seto cared enough to show up.

Not that he was about to announce his presence to her, especially with the fact that she was on-stage. Busy.

With Ryou Bakura.

Seto Kaiba’s left eyebrow twitched.

What I like about you
You really know how to dance

TĂ©a pulled Bakura towards her, bending slightly at the knees and pointing a bent arm at Bakura. She winked at him, and on the second line of the new verse, Bakura slid an arm around TĂ©a and bent her backwards, allowing her to stretch a slender leg up in the air, over his shoulder.

When you go
Up
Down
Jump around

It was only a flash of a movement later, and both of TĂ©a’s feet were again, planted on the ground as she moved along with the music, rising on the balls of her feet, bending down on her knees, and then springing into the air on cue, Bakura pressed against her, copying her movements exactly.

Talk about true romance

TĂ©a spun away from him, a hand on his chest acting as her force of movement, while she used her other hand to fan her face as if she were raging hot from their brief interlude. Judges and audience members alike laughed at TĂ©a’s skit, even as the other dancers continued.

Keep on whispering in my ear
Tell me all the things that I wanna hear
‘Cause it’s true (what I like)
That’s what I like about you (what I like)

Chieko spun by TĂ©a’s side now, allowing Bakura the chance to move with the other dancers. A few girls looked downright embarrassed to be dancing with one of their classmates—especially one who had seemed so quiet and introverted, and yet, was grooving on the stage with the best of them, clad in tight-fitting pants, no less!

It boggled the mind.

Especially Seto Kaiba’s mind. The jealousy was back again, but this time, it wasn’t directed at TĂ©a. Rather, it was at Bakura, who continued to move across the stage as if he belonged there just as much as the girls.

The young CEO’s gaze remained fixated on the stage, so much so that he didn’t notice his own arch-rival Yugi Moto appear beside him.

That’s what I like about you
(What I like about you) That’s what I like about you
(What I like about you) That’s what I like about you

Yugi, like Seto and many other audience members, was quickly entranced by the dancing on-stage. A spark of jealousy flared within him, seeing TĂ©a move against Bakura. For a moment, Yugi remembered TĂ©a’s admission of a crush.

‘It couldn’t be Bakura…could it?’

No, Yugi quickly amended to himself, not a chance. TĂ©a was friendly to everyone, maybe even to people that didn’t “deserve” it so much in Yugi’s eyes, but who was he to tell her who to dance—or not dance—with?

uh-uh-huh

hey! hey! hey! hey!

TĂ©a and the other dancers faced the front now, singing along with the song and shouting out to the audience members as they moved. Still, it didn’t seem as though she’d noticed either Yugi or Seto Kaiba, as far from the stage as they were.

What I like about you (you, you, you)
You keep me warm at night

Bakura was easily sandwiched between TĂ©a and Chieko, with the former girl behind him. He extended both arms around the girls, a more difficult task for TĂ©a, given that Bakura’s arm could only bend backwards so far. They shimmied up and down briefly, then turned, allowing Bakura to grasp both girls around their shoulders.

Never wanna let you go
Know you make me feel all right

Yugi tore his gaze away from the stage, glancing up at Seto Kaiba. He still hadn’t noticed Yugi. His eyes were riveted to the stage, Yugi realized. No, not on the stage…

On TĂ©a.

Yeah…

She had swirled around, a single hand held by Bakura, who pulled her into his embrace and just as quickly released her, allowing her to make a coy pose and lure the boy to her side, her hand cupped behind her ear.

Keep on whispering in my ear
Tell me all the things that I wanna hear

“I–I have a crush!” Yugi remembered TĂ©a’s words, her admission accompanied by a faint blush on her cheeks and a smile tugging at her lips.

The picture of beauty.

TĂ©a urged Bakura forward, Chieko by her side. The other three girls on stage stood behind the two leads, acting as “backup.”

‘Cause it’s true (what I like)
That’s what I like about you (what I like)

‘It…couldn’t be!’ Yugi thought, noticing that, for the first time, Seto Kaiba appeared to have an actual expression on his face. Clenched teeth, knit eyebrows…a distinct frown. He didn’t like what he was seeing, but he wasn’t about to look away. Not yet.

That’s what I like about you
That’s what I like about you
That’s what I like about you

TĂ©a raised her head, smiling widely. The happy expression on her face didn’t slip, even as she realized that her friends were in the distance, watching her. Yugi, standing a short distance from Seto….

Those impossibly dark blue eyes fixed to her body. TĂ©a would have flushed with embarrassment, had she been standing still, but she kept moving, concentrating on her dancing.

you you you

Téa grinned as she spun around again, extending her arm out and pointing to each of her friends—Joey, Duke, and Tristan appearing behind Yugi. They must have all taken a break from manning the Class 2B booth, she realized. She was glad to have their presence, their support.

That’s what I like about you…

Hey! Uh-uh-huh! Hey! Hey! Hey! Uh-uh-huh Hey!

That’s what I like about you

Hey!

The song came to a close, and the tired dancers clambered down the side stairs attached to the stage, smiling to one another. The judges were busy writing down their scores, while students clambered towards the “judge box” and voted for their favorite dancers in the second round.

Yugi, not noticing his own friends behind him, wormed his way into the crowd, hoping to get away from Seto Kaiba before the CEO realized that he’d been standing beside him.

‘There’s no way,’ Yugi thought, pushing through the masses of people, ‘Why Seto Kaiba!?’


“T-TĂ©a,” Bakura smiled as they exited the stage, “I…”

“What is it, Bakura?” TĂ©a was panting, her arms and legs stiffening as cramps set in.

“I…wanted to thank you. For bringing me up there.”

“No problem,” the brunette smiled. “Besides, you weren’t kidding, you really can dance!” he winked. “Thanks for not stepping on my feet.”

“I went clubbing…quite a bit in London,” Bakura explained with a shy smile, “but there is something else I want to tell you.”

“Hm?” she asked, sitting down on a few metal chairs scattered by the stage. She, and the other dancers from the second round, were awaiting the judges’ final ruling on who would continue and who would not.

“It’s been years since I danced. Since I wanted to dance.” Bakura’s eyes drifted to the ground, and TĂ©a realized he looked a bit sad. “You remind me of someone,
he finally said, looking up at TĂ©a with a timid smile, “Her name was Amane.”

TĂ©a blinked. ‘Bakura had a girlfriend?’ She didn’t know the white-haired boy enough to ask such a question aloud though, and waited for her classmate to continue. “She is—was—” Bakura corrected himself, his eyes drifting down again, “my sister.”

TĂ©a’s eyes widened. WAS?!’

“She passed away in a car accident many years ago. It–it’s been hard, without her,” he finally said, “but I’ve been getting by. I suppose she’s the reason why I’ve been so obsessed in the occult,” he chuckled wryly, while TĂ©a sweatdropped.

“Thankfully, I’ve had my friends to help me through things,” Bakura smiled up at TĂ©a, “and I can’t thank you enough for that.”

TĂ©a was silent a moment, pursing her lips as she tried to come up with the right words to say. Bakura cut her off before she could utter a word, however, placing a gentle hand on her shoulder, “She loved to dance, TĂ©a. It was her dream. I wanted to see her realize that dream more than anything, because I knew it made her happy. And maybe now I realize that I can’t ever get her back, but…I can still help others be happy, and realize their dreams.”

‘He–he’s talking about me, isn’t he?’

“You are a strong girl, TĂ©a. I envy your strength. I envy your smile.” TĂ©a blinked, suddenly imagining Seto Kaiba sitting where Ryou Bakura was. But she knew he wasn’t really there; she’d thought, for a moment, she’d seen him earlier, while she was dancing, but…

She blinked, dismissing the image, and the memory of Seto saying almost the same thing—that he wanted what she had—to her.

“I envy your dancing skills,” TĂ©a grinned, “But thank you. For–for everything. I know that stuff’s always been weird,” she gave Bakura a pointed look, referring to his Yami half within his Millennium Ring, “but we’re friends.”

“Always, TĂ©a.” Bakura rose to his feet, helping TĂ©a up as the judges started to stand. “Good luck.” They shared a brief hug and then Ryou Bakura disappeared into the crowd.


“Man, way to make things even more confusin’.” Joey Wheeler groaned, shoving his vote for TĂ©a into the box. Tristan, beside him, stroked his chin thoughtfully, nodding.

“Out of all people, Bakura? You don’t think she really likes him, do you?” he asked, eyes widening. They’d been so sure earlier, when TĂ©a admitted she’d been acting odd because of a crush she had on someone—a friend they all knew—that her crush was Yugi. But what if Yugi had been right, doubting himself the way he always did…and TĂ©a’s crush wasn’t Yugi at all?

“Nah. S’not like she sees him enough or nothin’,” Joey twisted his lips, thinking back. Earlier, while TĂ©a had been dancing, Joey, Duke, and Tristan had come from the nearby Class 2B booth to see if she and Chieko were dancing. And dancing they were—with hundreds of eyes on them, judges, classmates, and visitors alike.

Yet TĂ©a hadn’t seem fazed in the slightest by the eyes of so many people on her. She’d just kept dancing, kept moving…with Ryou Bakura as her dancing partner.

It just made things more complicated.

“There’s something I just remembered,” Tristan interjected, “Back at the mall, TĂ©a was awfully adamant about defending her boss, wasn’t she?”

“It’s not like that! He–He’s not like that at all. He’s…nice.”

Joey nodded in agreement, “Yeah…that was kinda freaky, but didn’t she say that he wasn’t the reason she’d been actin’ weird?”

“Could have been a simple excuse to throw you off,” Duke spoke up, after shoving his own vote into the judge box. “You don’t really think there’s something going on between her and her boss, do you? That’s sort of…sick.”

Alll the boys had pictured TĂ©a’s boss as a fat, balding businessman in his late forties, with a rambunctious son that needed tutoring and attention from someone who could actually give it to him. True, the guy had helped TĂ©a out during a tough time, giving her a home and a job, but…was their friend really the type to fall for someone like that?

“We don’t even know who her boss is,” Tristan pointed out, “Didn’t TĂ©a say Kaiba introduced them?”

Joey frowned, “That just makes things worse.”

Suddenly, Duke looked enlightened, “Waitasec…why was TĂ©a trying to set Kaiba up with Chieko in the first place, if she was crushing on her boss, and not Yugi?”

Joey and Tristan both turned to look at him, confusion plain on their faces.

“What I mean,” Duke explained, “is that if she was so preoccupied with her crush, why was she trying to set Kaiba up with Chieko in the first place? What do either of them have to do with her crush?”

“Well, if she really is crushing on her boss,” Tristan trailed off, trying to make sense of it all, “maybe she’s trying to return Kaiba’s favor of introducing them by setting him up?”

“Unlikely,” Duke shook his head, “but I can think of another possibility.” He grinned slightly, but faltered. Joey and Tristan wouldn’t like this possibility very much. Duke didn’t like it much himself either, but…

“Well, what is it?” Joey asked urgently. If TĂ©a really was crushing on someone else other than Yugi and it was stressing her out to the point of wanting to fight, wanting to hurt others—or even herself!—then they had to know. If not for Yugi’s sake, then for TĂ©a’s as well. Maybe the girl loved a bit too indiscriminately, and the pushy, overprotective girl they’d known their first year at Domino High was gone…

“What if her boss is Seto Kaiba?”



OY VEY! It’s out, dammit, it’s out! I need a vacation…Or maybe that’s my muse talking. In any case, my brain hurts.

Hey, I’ve figured out when this takes place: after Battle City, but before the Noah arc. I know that doesn’t make any sense, but just pretend Battle City continued without the gang ever running into Noah. I’ll bring him in later…maybe…*evil snickers* After all, how could it be a great Seto fic without Short, Evil, and Minty Fresh making a guest appearance? Mwahaha.

Okay, another reason this took so long to get out (aside from being a general pain in the tail) is that I came up with several other fic ideas…”Dragon Lore,” Chapter 1 should appear soon, and an as-yet-untitled Noah-arc fic. Both S/T fics, of course. So once again, sorry!

Songs in this chapter:

* Boys of Summer – Don Henley/DJ Sammy/The Ataris (changed some lyrics to fit)
* t.A.T.u. – All The Things She Said (English Radio Edit)
* Lillix – What I Like About You (this was a a pain to get the right lyrics for)

I don’t own the Chicken Soup series, of course, and I don’t even know if there is a “Chicken Soup for the CEO’s soul.” That was a joke, obviously.

THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!

I love my reviewers so much, I name them all and respond to what they had to say personally. ^_^ So please review! All my review replies are posted on my LiveJournal!

Have I mentioned how cool it is when I find out that my reviewers are also authors, and not just borin’ ol’ run -of-the-mill fic authors, but GOOD FIC AUTHORS?! YOU GO GUYS! (AND GIRLS)

~Azurite