1. Keep by Azurite
A Yu-Gi-Oh ONESHOT
By: Azurite - azurite AT seventh-star DOT net
Site: seventh-star DOT net
PG or PG-13/K+ or T
Disclaimer: Nope, don't own Yu-Gi-Oh. Not making a profit. Just borrowing the characters. Yep. You knew that.
Dedication: This one shot goes out to my late sister Michelle, may she rest in peace. While her body might not have a home in any sort of graveyard, her heart and spirit will always be here in San Francisco, and always at Land's End.
Note: Vaguely inspired by scenes in The Terminal, starring Tom Hanks. No spoilers, really, though.
Anzu Mazaki disappeared into the crowds so thickly congregating around the Tokyo Tower; she'd offered a sad sort of smile to her friends, Hiroto Honda, Katsuya Jounouchi, and Yuugi Mutou before running off.
A large black camera with an even larger lens bounced against her chest. Despite the tailored school uniform that marked her as part of the large 3rd year Domino High School crowd, the camera still made her look like a tourist.
Seto Kaiba rolled his eyes, watching her worm her way through the crowds and out of his sight.
The view was amazing.
He would have liked it, Anzu decided. His breath would have been utterly stolen away…
She closed her eyes, trying not to think that way. In past tense. Even though it was the truth, and he was no longer around, and—
'I'm keeping my promise, Ki-chan. I always will.'
Sucking in a sharp, cold breath, Anzu tried to regain her composure, hastily rubbing her red, tearstained eyes and holding up her camera.
The sun was gleaming brightly over the skyscrapers, the towers, and the other stunning structures that made up Tokyo's glittering skyline, and most of the Minato-ku prefecture. Being such a beautiful day, it was easy to see Mt. Fuji to the west, the Boso and Miura peninsulas on either side of the sparkling Tokyo Bay, and the Hakone Mountains just to the northeast.
It was simply amazing.
It was difficult to maintain her composure, standing atop the special observation tower, 250 meters in the air. And with her thoughts constantly fixed on Ki…
Anzu decided that it was perfectly okay to cry, and being alone atop the tower was just what she needed. She moved to take a few more pictures as the light changed, and as she walked about the special observation deck; she remained totally unaware of a pair of startlingly blue eyes tracing her every move.
It made no sense.
The view wasn't moving at all, really.
So why was she crying?
Those giant, dollops of water slip-sliding down Mazaki's face hadn't gone unnoticed by Seto Kaiba; and he was only up on the special observation deck because the class assignment involved taking notes on the view.
Of course, Seto Kaiba had answered all his questions on the bus ride THERE— his own office building was a few blocks from the Tokyo Tower, so the view didn't really offer him anything new. Still, he was a bit intrigued.
'Why the camera? Why the tears?' Wasn't Mazaki always the chipper one? Her constant gung-ho, sugar-high attitude often irritated Seto, but that girl seemed to have taken a one-day vacation.
And her friends —her friends hadn't acted like a single thing was wrong! What was the point of her cheering them up, cheering them on, and acting like a fool in front of crowds of duelists… when they wouldn't do the same for her?
It simply made no sense.
Seto Kaiba didn't like it when things didn't make sense, so he set out to fix that problem. Two strides found himself standing beside Mazaki, though she wouldn't have been able to tell him apart from a TV antenna, the way her head was bowed so low, chin to chest, her tears still falling.
He didn't like it when people cried.
Not his brother, not that stupid Yuugi, and certainly not Mazaki. It just didn't feel right.
Whipping out the soft white handkerchief with his old initials embroidered on it —SH— he abruptly thrust it in front of her face without looking at her.
Her sniffles subsided when she realized she was being offered a hanky, and she took it with noticeably trembling hands.
"The view isn't that amazing, you know." Seto murmured gruffly after a moment.
Anzu glanced up, realizing just who had thrust the cloth at her so suddenly. Swallowing hard, she found her voice despite her tears, her words coming out somewhat soft and hoarse.
"It is for someone who never got the chance to see it."
Seto favored her with a surprised glance; "Three years in Tokyo and you've never been up here? That's rather pathetic."
"I wasn't talking about myself," Anzu responded softly, her fingers brushing up against her camera.
Seto would have said "Ah," putting two and two together, but there was still a piece missing. Who did Mazaki possibly know that had never seen the view from Tokyo Tower?
The thought got him wondering— he really didn't know much about Mazaki at all. Of course, he knew about her friends, her "dueling style," and he supposed a bit about her nature, but that was it. He didn't know if she had any siblings, what her parents were like, or even what she liked to eat.
She might have some secret boyfriend in a distant country who she sent photos to, for all he knew.
For some reason, that thought brought an nasty taste to Seto's mouth.
"So why photos then? Why not postcards?"
This was the infamous Seto Kaiba rationale; if things had to be one way, why not the simplest way? Why not the most economical, the quickest way? If something was dealt with that much sooner, out of sight and out of mind, why spend more time and energy on it than was necessary?
This was the businessman he had turned into; he justified everything and put every action into an equation. Everything made sense that way, and that was how he liked it.
"…Everything's in the eye of the beholder, Kaiba-kun," Anzu whispered, her eyes riveted to the skyline again. Really, it was nothing impressive, but there were globs of tears on her lashline, stirring Kaiba to wonder if maybe she'd been smog poisoned or something.
Kaiba blinked at her, his mind sorting through all the possible replies, but she spoke up again.
"You wouldn't understand." And then she capped the lens on her camera, and started heading back to the elevator.
"What wouldn't I understand?" Kaiba asked, turning around. But the elevator doors already closed, and Anzu hadn't answered him.
Yuugi, Honda, and Jounouchi had all agreed to meet Anzu at the Ichiban Hana restaurant on the second floor of the Tower.
They all knew why she'd gone up there —all alone— and they respected her need for privacy. Still, it was always awkward envisioning just what to say when she appeared; they knew she would be sad, thoughts filled of that someone…
The three boys turned at the sound of Anzu's voice. They all saw how sad she was; her red-rimmed eyes and loose-limbed posture said it all. But her voice was quiet and broken too, and her eyes didn't have the same sparkle to them.
But they didn't pester her. They all knew.
There was that awkward silence that they'd all predicted; after a few moments of listening to the dull roar of countless other school kids running and shouting to one another, Honda spoke up.
"So I hear this place's sushi is really good."
No one said anything. Honda's cheeks burned a slight shade of red and he stood up abruptly.
"Tell ya what, I'm going to go grab some. When you're all ready to order, just meet me up at the counter." And with that, Honda sauntered off, ducking under the ropes of the cashier's line to speed up his walk.
"Uhm… excuse me, I'm just going to go to the—" Yuugi gestured around the corner, his cheeks a flaming red. Anzu smiled at him politely, her head bowed in assent. He disappeared around the corner, heading towards the bathroom.
Yuugi heaved a deep sigh once he was out of the sight of Anzu and Jounouchi, still staring at their menus intently as if they were going to be quizzed on them.
Though, it didn't seem like Anzu was really reading the menu at all; she was just staring at it with a sort of faraway look, her thoughts obviously somewhere else.
Actually, on someone else. And Yuugi knew who, and why, and… he could just never bring himself to mention him to her. He wasn't entirely sure how she'd react, despite the fact that Grandpa had always told him 'talking about what upsets you will make you feel better.'
After Yuugi had finished with his business, he made to leave the bathroom, startled to find a long leg barricading his way out of the short corridor. Violet eyes met with dark blue ones; Seto Kaiba dropped his leg and fixed his shorter rival with a demanding stare.
"What's with Mazaki?"
"E-excuse me?" Yuugi stuttered. It was just like Kaiba— to be so blunt and, well, insensitive. He claimed to be a genius, and could certainly put up a heck of a fight where dueling and business were concerned, but in the case of real live people…
"You heard me. What's wrong with her? She was crying up on the Special Observation Deck, and I don't think it had anything to do with the smog."
Yuugi contemplated this for a moment, cocking his head to the side as he glanced at Kaiba.
"Why do you care?"
Though the truth was, Kaiba probably didn't. But why else would he be asking about Anzu?
"…She said something about taking pictures of the view for someone who never got the chance to see it. Something about it being in the eye of the beholder, and that's why she wasn't sending postcards."
Yuugi frowned; the last bit didn't seem to make much sense, but the first did. He knew why Anzu went around taking pictures— it was because of Akito. Akito, Anzu's… late brother.
He'd died of cancer when he was only nine years old, and Anzu fourteen. He'd been so sickly the last two years of his life that he hadn't been able to see many places, or do much of anything— he was a very sheltered little boy.
And Anzu? Well, she was always healthy, always bright and energetic. That was how she'd been when Yuugi first met her in elementary school, and she'd stayed that way up until Akito's death. And then she'd quieted down some, and become a bit more reserved. But she was still determined underneath it all, still a fighter.
But the closer the days crept to the anniversary of Akito's death, the less like the girl he knew Anzu became.
"She made a promise," Yuugi began unsurely, wondering why he was divulging this information to Kaiba, of all people, "to someone. She promised that she would see the world, and take pictures of all the sights, and put them together for that someone that would never get the chance to see those places."
Kaiba's brows knit together in the center of his forehead; it was clear he didn't understand, but he wasn't about to admit it.
Yuugi reached into his pocket, fumbling to get his wallet out. After a few moments, he procured a small, palm-sized photo, worn on the edges, but still clear.
He handed it to Kaiba wordlessly, watching the brunette's reaction as his eyes scanned the picture.
It was Yuugi, on the left, Mazaki on the right, and… a thin, pale little boy in the middle. His face was gaunt and white, but he still smiled, even though he was stuck in a wheelchair. Mazaki wore a smile too, but it was a fake one, and Kaiba could tell.
Lord knew that he'd worn such a plastic expression on his own face, so many times…
She was masking a sadness that couldn't be disguised; it radiated from her eyes in that small photograph.
"Her brother, Akito," Yuugi said after a moment. "He… he died of cancer four years ago."
Kaiba was silent.
When the teachers had called for Domino High to reassemble, she'd been looking at the fish in the Aquarium downstairs, her fingers tracing along the glass, watching the sea creatures flit by.
A particularly daring clown fish had followed her finger, nearly butting its head into the glass as she walked away, trailing her finger as far as she could before walking off.
Anzu glanced back only once, her eyes catching on that same bright orange fish amongst the sea of blue, bobbing up and down in the water, watching her. She waved good-bye with two fingers, and the fish dashed off once more.
Just as she turned her gaze back to the lobby of the Tower, Seto Kaiba wrenched his own gaze away from her. Ever since Yuugi had told him why she'd been crying up there —why she took pictures so diligently at all the oddest tourist spots, and why she sported such a professional lens— he hadn't been able to think about her the same way.
And think about her he did. She just wouldn't leave his mind. He didn't exactly know why, but… his eyes always sought her out, and his mind was plagued with hundreds of questions that only she could answer.
Why did she keep taking pictures, if Akito was dead? If she wanted to see the world, why did she always stick around in Domino, Tokyo? Where were her parents, and didn't they care that their daughter was upset, too?
Of course, Seto Kaiba could understand that feeling. He'd lost his parents too, and… well, he hadn't been willing to let Mokuba feel the way that he had. He didn't want Mokuba to EVER be upset or lost, or…
'Lonely.' That was the look in her eyes that he'd seen. Even though she surrounded herself with friends, and even though she tried to smile, tried to talk animatedly, he knew it was all just an act. He would have been willing to bet that her friends knew it was too, but everyone was too scared to say anything.
She probably needed to spill her feelings for once in her life, as she spent so much time bottling them up, absorbing everyone else's emotions like she were some sort of life-sized sponge.
But… she wouldn't. She couldn't. Seto Kaiba knew why, but… he didn't know whether he should bother doing anything about it or not.
The weather had worsened rapidly, and Seto Kaiba's mood with it.
But that was to be expected, this time of year.
It was drawing closer and closer to the memorial date of his parents' death, a day Seto Kaiba never much liked remembering.
Finally, on one rainy April day, Seto Kaiba rose early, drank a single cup of the strongest black coffee he could brew, and set out for the Domino Cemetery.
He dressed in his most formal gray suit, bringing two large, bright sunflowers with him. Sunflowers had been his mother's favorite flower, he remembered vaguely. And she'd always smelled like them, and it was a scent that had stayed with Seto for all his years.
The cemetery was foggy and wet; there were no stone paths anywhere, and the grass was thick with rain and mud. But Seto Kaiba didn't mind, really; he went to the cemetery with only one purpose, only one thought…
The thought was surprising, considering it was the anniversary of his parents' death, and he hadn't seen Anzu since Friday, the last day of normal classes for graduating senior high students such as themselves.
But there she was, kneeling on the wet grass, a bouquet of white Stargazer lilies lying before her knees. She obviously had no care for how soiled her simple black dress would become; she just sat there, her head bowed and her hands clasped.
It occurred to him rather suddenly, and for a brief moment, Seto Kaiba felt stupid for having not considered it sooner.
She was praying.
For his part, he'd never prayed, not putting much stock into believing what he couldn't see… but he wasn't about to interrupt her. Instead, his eyes flitted towards the gravestones that she kneeled before; Michiko and Wakaouji Mazaki.
A great feeling of awkwardness swept over him, and Seto stepped back, nearly knocking into a tree. He wasn't meant to be here, spying on her like this. It was mere coincidence that she was here, of all places, on the same day that he was. They both had their reasons, and… understand them as he did, he wasn't… he couldn't possibly interrupt her.
Even if he wanted to, just to tell her that he understood how she felt.
Because really, he didn't.
He at least, still had Mokuba.
She had no one.
He'd made his way to his parents' grave sites, which turned out to be a rather short distance from the place where Anzu was. Seto had to forcibly wrest his gaze from her direction, and instead focused on lighting a small cone of incense he'd brought for the day.
He remained quiet, neither speaking nor praying, instead focusing on the few memories he had of his parents.
Seto had been young when they'd passed; his mother had died when he was only six, and his father had died when he was only nine. But he still remembered his mother's scent, and her bright, sparkling eyes…
Bright blue eyes, actually. Eyes that… that Mazaki had. Well, when she wasn't bawling.
Which wasn't very often, really. She did have her moments.
Seto Kaiba forced down a chuckle, half wondering what his parents —had he grown up with them— would have said about this perplexing train of thought. Their eldest son was now eighteen, and the CEO and president of one of the world's top gaming and technological corporations.
He was a success —rich and powerful, to be sure— but he had to admit, it got lonely at times.
His gaze drifted back towards where Mazaki had been before; she was still there. Through the thick fog, he could barely make out her brown head of hair, still bowed before her parents' gravestones.
Seto never liked to spend much time at his parents' graves, and instead left the sunflowers he'd brought in the small vase at the base of the tombstone. He was walking away, taking the long route from the graveyard —to avoid Mazaki— back to the parking lot when a thought struck him.
In a few quick strides, he was back at his parents' grave, and he plucked one of the two sunflowers from the vase, muttering a quick, "Forgive me, Mom," and then moving towards Anzu.
She'd been sitting quietly with her thoughts, not caring whether she got soaked with rain or plastered with mud.
The rest of the world was a blurry gray mass to her, and it wasn't until a bright yellow sunflower blossomed in front of her face that she even realized that someone else was in the graveyard with her.
Tear-filled blue eyes looked up slowly; she thought for a moment that she was dreaming, or perhaps caught in an illusion of her own thoughts. What was Seto Kaiba doing here?
He was holding out the sunflower to her like it was the most ordinary thing in the world to do; his gaze was averted off to the side though, as if the cemetery offered some startling view that kept his eyes trained from her.
"The view's not that amazing, you know," Anzu remarked after a moment.
Seto let out a noise that sounded like a cross between a bark and a chuckle; it was brief and curled the corners of his lips in an unexpected smile.
"No, I guess it's not." His eyes dropped down to the grass and, since Anzu hadn't taken the flower from his hands, he put it into the Mazaki grave vase himself.
She stared at him with wide, red-rimmed eyes and a pale face, her eyes clearly speaking the question her voice couldn't.
"…My parents are here too," Seto said after a moment, gesturing slightly down and across a few rows.
"Oh." Anzu nodded slightly, letting her head fall to her chest again, her gaze fixed on the flowers in front of her.
The fog made her hair curl slightly, though the locks closest to her face were stuck there by the morning mist. She looked… different. Not like the bright-eyed spitfire that had yelled at him at Duelist Kingdom.
"Where's Akito?" Seto asked, finally voicing the thought that had nagged at the back of his mind ever since he'd spotted Anzu in the graveyard.
"Who told—?" Anzu murmured, astonishment plain in her voice. Seto looked away briefly; he didn't exactly want to admit that he'd pressured Yuugi into telling him the truth about why she'd been crying atop Tokyo Tower.
"Ah. Yuugi." She clicked her tongue against the side of her mouth, her head bobbing in a short nod. "I didn't think you really would have cared enough to ask him."
He wasn't sure what to say to that. Was he supposed to protest that he didn't care? In all honesty, Seto wasn't sure what he felt.
Just that Anzu felt the same way.
"Have you ever wondered why I'm so desperate to go to New York?" Anzu blurted after a moment. Seto didn't see what this had to do with his question, but maybe he'd been pushing his luck by prying. At least she was still talking to him.
That was probably what they both needed the most…
"I thought you— Juilliard. Don't you want to dance?" He felt rather embarrassed for the way he'd phrased it; even more so just for knowing about her passion. Of all the times they'd had encounters, it had always ended up having something to do with Duel Monsters. That he knew something so personal about her contradicted with everything else.
He knew very little about her except that she wanted to go to New York, more than anything…
Seto Kaiba had always figured it had something to do with Juilliard, and her love of dance.
"T-That's part of it," Anzu admitted with a wry chuckle. "Don't get me wrong, it'd be a dream come true if I got into Juilliard, but with the way things are now, I can't even afford a plane ticket to New York, let alone tuition to one of the top performing arts schools in the world."
This was something Seto Kaiba couldn't understand; money had always been at his fingertips, and he'd never been denied any expense. Even in the few short years he'd been with his biological parents, they had spoiled him rotten.
"But," Anzu whispered, her voice breaking, "the real reason why I want to go to New York is because I… because Akito…" She swallowed hard, obviously trying to fight back tears.
There was an odd impulse to hold her just then, to wrap his arms around her and let her cry.
What a stupid thought. They weren't even friends.
She sucked in a breath, her body shuddering as she tried to control herself.
"Akito died in New York. And if that wasn't bad enough my… my parents," she made a slight gesture towards the graves she was still bowed before, "my parents died on the return flight home. Crashed into the Atlantic Ocean because of engine failure."
She squeezed her eyes shut, "I don't even know if my parents really are underneath these graves. I guess it's just some sort of sick comfort, knowing I have a place to go where they're still remembered…"
"It is." Seto said suddenly, remembering how upset he'd been for all the times Gozaburo had refused to let him visit his parents' graves. Seto had always thought it his RIGHT to see them, to remember them…
"What?" Anzu sniffled, looking up toward Seto with a confused expression on her face, "A sick comfort?"
"No, I…" he chuckled slightly; a soft, low sound. "Just a comfort in general."
Anzu supposed he was right; no, she knew he was right, but she didn't feel up to saying so. It didn't make much sense why he was even here —beside her!— in the first place. Part of her wanted to believe it was still some sort of twisted illusion.
"So that's why I want to go to New York," Anzu whispered. "Because I never really got the chance to pay my respects to my own little brother… When he first got into the hospital, he wrote me, saying that he hoped he could get out soon, so he could see the sights. He was so sick, even back home here in Japan, that he couldn't go on field trips. He wanted to see the Tokyo Tower, and Mt. Fuji, and all these other places. So I went, and I took pictures. I sent them to him while he was in the hospital, and he said they were the only things keeping him happy, because he hated all the blood tests, and he hated the food, and he hated the chemotherapy." She sighed deeply, taking a breath before she continued.
"I talked to him on the phone… just two days before he died. He made me promise him that I'd come visit him in the hospital, and I should go and see all the famous spots in New York and bring him pictures. He liked the letters, he said, but he really just wanted to see his big sister again. So…"
"So you've been saving up, ever since."
Anzu nodded dumbly. "I know it must sound really stupid to you, but—"
She stopped speaking, her eyes meeting with his for the first time that cold, foggy day.
"He doesn't have a grave here because… well," she licked her lips out of nervousness; she'd never told this to anyone else before. "Mom and Dad had him cremated in New York. They spread his ashes out in the ocean over by the Statue of Liberty. I'd like to go there… someday."
She gently placed the Stargazer lilies into the vase beside the startlingly bright sunflower, standing up with knocking knees.
"I… I have to go," she mumbled, averting her gaze from Kaiba again.
"I'll give you a ride."
It wasn't really a question asking for her permission; however, Anzu wasn't one to protest Kaiba's sudden urge for generosity.
She just bowed her head and followed him out of Domino Cemetery.
His thoughts weren't with the rest of the crowd when everyone started applauding the new graduates; his eyes weren't searching for anyone in the audience.
Rather, Seto Kaiba's gaze was drawn to a fellow classmate of his, dressed in a formal, carnation pink dress that —though he'd never admit it aloud— really brought out the color of her eyes.
She was wearing that plastic smile of hers, her eyes shifting from her friends and their family members to the floor.
Anzu didn't have anyone out in that crowd, waiting to embrace her. Her entire family was dead.
It was moments like these —moments of happiness and celebration, of family gatherings and joy— that brought the loneliness into sharp relief.
Yuugi had his grandfather and mother in the crowd; Honda had his mother, his older sister, and his squalling nephew… and even Jounouchi had his sister and mother.
Anzu had no one.
Even he had Mokuba and —ironically enough, Roland, clapping out there just as respectfully as anyone else.
The graduates of Domino High rose from their tables, their certificates and gifts piled high as they could manage, worming their way through the masses to their families.
He had to catch her— before she disappeared and he never saw her again.
She turned around abruptly, nearly slamming into him because of the portly class 3-C boy that ran past her.
"Kaiba-kun." Her voice seemed a little odd, as if she were surprised and yet… not.
He thrust out a perfectly wrapped, shiny blue box with a silver ribbon around it, not saying a word. She took it with shaking hands, looking up at the CEO with a measure of confusion in her eyes.
He walked away briskly before she even had a chance to reply. Curious, she pulled the string off the box and opened it gingerly.
Her eyes immediately filled with tears when she saw what was tucked between the folds of the white tissue paper lining the box.
A tiny metal Statue of Liberty, perfectly polished and glimmering a brilliant shade of green.
Her eyes immediately lifted to try and find his face in the crowd, but Seto Kaiba was already gone.
Click. Click. Double-click.
Seto Kaiba blinked, his eyes finally adjusting to actually LOOK at the monitor of his computer.
The New York City Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Why did he keep ending up here?
Ever since he'd come home from graduation —well, after a quiet dinner with Mokuba— his thoughts had kept wandering back to her.
And how she'd never have enough money to go to New York, let alone pursue her dream of dancing at Juilliard. She was a young, working girl at a dead-end job, living by herself when she'd just graduated…
And he was stinking, filthy rich.
She probably thought he was so rich, he swam in pools of yen.
She'd be right —except for the swimming in yen part— but he didn't WANT her to be.
"Mokuba!" Seto called out, stepping out of his office as an odd thought struck him.
"Huh?" Mokuba replied in a monotone. He was absorbed in his video game, eyes glued to the screen and back hunched forward as his fingers moved like lightning across the controller.
"Come on, Super Move, Super Move! Yeah— K.O. YOU LOSE!"
Seto just raised an eyebrow, forcing the grin off his face.
"Are you still interested in seeing a Broadway musical?"
Mokuba turned around, looking at his brother as if he had just sprouted bunny ears.
"Yeah…" he replied slowly, his eyebrows furrowed. "What are you thinking, Big Brother?"
Seto was silent, pursing his lips together.
He offered no other explanation, so Mokuba quickly shut off the console and the television and scuttled after his brother.
Seto had told Mokuba to pack a weekend bag and then meet him in the garage; it being late at night, the CEO hadn't bothered to call his chauffeur, and instead unlocked his own car.
"Do you even remember how to drive, Big Brother?" Mokuba quipped sarcastically, tossing his duffle bag into the back seat.
Seto rolled his eyes. "I just got my license six months ago, Mokuba. I can't forget something in that short a time."
Mokuba only smirked as he claimed shotgun and buckled himself up.
True to his word, Seto Kaiba drove perfectly. The ride was silent, taking the brothers farther and farther away from the Kaiba mansion, and from the neighborhoods Mokuba knew so well.
"Where are we going, Big Brother?" Seto didn't answer him; only a few moments later, they pulled in front of a modest looking, two-story home, with all the lights out.
"Let's go." Seto unlocked the doors and stepped out, staring at the house with an odd expression on his face.
Mokuba didn't ask any more questions; he knew his brother was on a mission of sorts and wouldn't answer anything until he was done. That was when his eyes caught on the name near the address plate— Mazaki.
"This is Anzu's house!?" Mokuba squealed.
"Ssh!" Seto hissed at him. "It's late, Mokuba. You have to be quiet."
Mokuba's mouth clamped shut, but he stared at his brother, his eyes wide.
"Are you breaking and entering?" Mokuba whispered as his brother edged towards the door, his eyes scanning the front porch for something.
Seto suddenly bent down, groping under the 'Welcome' mat Anzu had placed in front of her door. He breathed a soft "A-hah!" when he found what he wanted— a key.
"It's not breaking and entering," he shouldered the door so that it wouldn't make a noise when he opened it, "if you have a key!"
The door swung open silently, and he gestured Mokuba to follow him.
The ebony-haired boy, for his part, was in a state of shock.
What was his brother THINKING?
"Hmph. I should have known she'd eat them."
Mokuba glanced in the direction of his brother's voice; he was looking at Anzu, who was sleeping soundly at her kitchen table, a pile of candy wrappers near her folded arms.
A small, green statuette lying on its side, its hollow bottom exposed, winked at Mokuba in the dim streetlight filtering in from the window.
"You poisoned her candy?" Mokuba whispered incredulously. Who was this guy, and what had he done with his brother!?
"She's not dead Mokuba, she's just asleep. Besides, it was just a little bit of sleeping powder mixed into some candy. Come on, help me get her to the car."
Mokuba blinked in acute astonishment.
"W-Wha… Where are we going?"
Seto grinned as only he could.
"New York, of course."
"Anzu had a little brother?" Mokuba whispered, his eyes wide with surprise.
Seto nodded gravely, absently popping a honey-roasted peanut into his mouth. He and Mokuba had managed to get Anzu to the limo —and to the airport, where Seto's private jet awaited them— without a single hitch.
She'd murmured a bit in her sleep, but said nothing coherent, and so far, hadn't woken up.
"That's why she's been saving up to go to New York all these years," Seto explained. "She never got to give him a proper good-bye. Her parents couldn't afford to bring her to the hospital in New York where he was being treated, so the last time they even spoke was over the phone."
"…That's so sad." Mokuba murmured, shaking his head. He'd never expected that strong, stubborn, pretty Anzu was hiding such a sad past.
"And she takes pictures of all the famous places she goes, 'cause she made a promise to her brother to see the world?"
"Right. He was too sick to see places like the Statue of Liberty, but…"
Seto trailed off, remembering when Anzu had revealed this information to him. When he'd given her a ride home…
"Why did your parents choose the Statue of Liberty?"
It was bizarre, to be talking about death and related matters so casually, but Anzu didn't seem too distraught by it. Kaiba was probably right in assuming that all she wanted was someone to talk to.
He'd wanted someone to talk to as well —someone whom he could admit all his fears, all his worries, and all his loneliness. How much he missed his parents, how hard it was raising Mokuba alone, and how badly he wished he could have redone the past, without Gozaburo entering their lives.
"…The doctors were so sure that Ki-chan was going to get better," Anzu explained in a whisper. "He said that as soon as he got out, he wanted to go to the Statue of Liberty first, because well, Liberty… freedom… It represented what he wanted the most. Freedom from his own body, freedom from the disease that had eaten away at his life. He wanted to go to the very top and breathe in the ocean air, see the city…"
She trailed off, her gaze drawn to something outside the window again.
"I actually lived in New York for a while," Anzu recalled, a slight smile curling the corners of her lips. "But not long after Akito was born, Dad got transferred to Tokyo, and… well, the rest is history, I guess. This is me."
Her voice had gotten abruptly louder and she gestured out the window at a small, two-story house. Seto realized that this was her home.
He pulled the car to a stop, swallowing hard. He wasn't entirely sure what to say to her, so he was a bit relieved when Anzu spoke first.
"Thanks a lot, Kaiba-kun. I mean it."
She was still the only one that called him that. Jounouchi and Honda usually referred to him without the proper honorific, constantly saying his name in a sneer that indicated their dislike for him. Yuugi, nowadays, avoided saying his name at all costs, if he could help it.
Anzu, however, always was respectful, even though he wasn't sure he deserved that respect after all he'd said and done.
But he supposed that was just the way she was raised. Only in the most dire of situations did she forget being polite. There was that one time she'd yelled at him, 'Kaiba, you idiot!' and said it with such fierce meaning in her eyes that he'd known, without a shred of doubt, that she meant it.
She'd saved his life back then, even if she'd never know it.
"Thank you," he mumbled in reply. Anzu blinked, a bit confused as to what he could be thanking her for, but she didn't inquire after it.
She exited the car, but Seto didn't pull away until he was assured that she was inside— and that was after she'd groped under the mat at her front step, jammed the found key into the lock, and given him a brief wave good-bye.
Before leaving Mazaki's house, Seto had grabbed her oversized camera, and, on impulse, the album underneath it. After fending off the guilt that told him not to rifle through her personal things, he'd opened the album and discovered hundreds of photos of beautiful landscapes, amazing skylines, and even a few of real people— himself included.
Some of the photos had pasted-in captions underneath them. Anzu wrote them as if she were speaking to Akito, explaining each person, place, or thing in the photos, when and where she'd taken them, and her own thoughts on what was pictured.
There was only one section left blank, and that was the one labeled, in tiny, even script, 'New York.'
Well, soon enough, it would be filled up, and maybe Anzu wouldn't have to wear a plastic smile anymore.
It felt like she was sleeping on a cloud.
Anzu snuggled deeper into the fluffy recesses of warm, white blankets, having never been so comfortable in her life.
And that was when it hit her.
'This isn't my bed.'
One eye opened hesitantly, then the other.
'This isn't my room.'
It was an amazingly large room wallpapered in varying shades of pearl and cream; modern lamps and sculptures filled up most of the corners while a huge television sat perched on a desk diagonal to where Anzu found herself laying, in the biggest bed she'd ever been in.
The television was showing the news at low volume, but Anzu didn't register it nor the words scrolling along the bottom of the screen. Rather, she heard the busy sounds of a city just outside her window, and moved closer.
Anzu scrambled up out of the bed, heading toward the window. She brushed aside heavy brownish-green curtains and then the gauzy white shades, drawing in an astonished breath as she did so.
Yellow taxis crowding in hoards down a packed street. People in massive groups pointing at the flashing billboards and vibrantly colored signs. Street performers, businessmen, photographers. People of all shapes, sizes and colors— some pausing to take pictures, others chattering away on their cell phones.
A door in the hall Anzu hadn't notice opened with a click, but it wasn't until Seto Kaiba spoke that she realized who had entered.
Precariously balancing a tray on either hand, he favored the astonished girl with a lopsided grin.
"Continental or classic blueberry pancakes? I've got both. Mokuba grabbed the chocolate chip pancakes already though, so if that's what you were hoping for, sorry."
If she'd had the power to, Anzu would have decided to faint right then and there.
But, lacking such control over involuntary processes in her body, she settled for staring at Kaiba with her mouth hanging open a fraction of an inch.
The fact that she hadn't used the honorific this time hadn't slipped by Seto, but he didn't really mind; he attributed it to the shock written so plainly on her face. She probably thought she was dreaming.
"The one and only. Welcome to New York, Mazaki."
His words seemed to solidify the fact that she was, in fact, in New York. Thousands of miles away from home —Domino, Japan— and where she'd wanted to be for years.
Anzu's knees gave out and she crumpled to the floor in a heap. Her knees bent at opposite angles, her arms trembling as they supported her in her wide-eyed state.
Kaiba moved forward, placing the blueberry pancakes tray before her and settling down with the Continental Breakfast one on his lap.
After a few moments, Anzu blinked rapidly, glancing around— from the window to the door that Seto had just entered, to the small hallway that led to places unknown, back to her fluffy bed and the television still on low.
The anchor's words were closed captioned; he was saying something about the current weather in New York City being a surprisingly sunny April day…
"Wh-Wh…" Anzu mumbled, making it apparent that she hadn't quite found her voice yet, let alone the motor skills to get up and look around fully.
Seto only grinned, chewing his croissant.
"HEY! You're awake!" Mokuba bounded into the room, carrying three large shopping bags with him. Chocolate was smudged on the corner of his lips, but he didn't seem to notice or even care.
"Big Brother and I went shopping earlier! We got you some clothes!" Mokuba proceeded to flop down on the floor between his Anzu and his brother, he reached into one of the bags and pulled out a huge "I Heart New York" shirt.
"I know it's probably way too big for you, but they didn't have any small ones… mine is this big, too." Mokuba grumbled with a frown. "But there's more! Big Brother didn't grab any of your clothes when he kidnapped you—"
"You what?" Anzu blinked, forming her first semi-coherent question. Her eyes snapped to Seto, who mumbled something incoherent and shoved the remainder of his croissant into his mouth all at once.
"Big Brother. He kidnapped you," Mokuba said in an almost-proud voice. "But you don't mind, do you? He said you always wanted to go to New York, and so do I, they have this really cool musical that I wanna see—" Mokuba continued to babble while Anzu stared at Seto, her eyes filled with a mix of astonishment and… gratitude.
Anzu's face finally broke out into a bright smile, and she nodded at Mokuba, reaching for her fork and digging into her pancakes.
"You really don't have to do this…" Anzu trailed off guiltily, absently tugging on the corners of her too-big "I Heart New York" shirt.
"We're already here," Seto pointed out, handing the cashier a crisp $20 bill.
The cashier smiled and handed him three tickets for the Circle Line Ferry to Liberty Island, a single dollar in change, and a brochure about the statue and the museum at the base.
"Enjoy your ride," the cashier said in English.
"Thank you," Seto replied before inspecting the ferry tickets. They were waiting at Battery Park for the next ferry to the statue, which would leave the docks at 1:30.
"Your English isn't half bad," Anzu remarked with a slight smile, brushing her hair from her face. It was a warm, breezy day— 73 degrees Fahrenheit, and much more pleasant than rainy Domino.
"It's his second language," replied Mokuba, trotting up with a giant cloud of cotton candy in one hand.
"Where did you get that?" Seto asked with a raised eyebrow. Mokuba just pointed innocently to a hot dog and candy stand, taking a huge bite of his blue puff.
"How did you—" Seto started, but Mokuba just thrust a five dollar bill at him.
"You little pickpocket." Seto groused, shoving the money into his wallet and forcing it as far as he could into his pants pocket.
Mokuba only laughed.
The breeze was stronger out on the water, but Anzu didn't have any sort of a coat or jacket. She didn't really mind, though. Who was she to complain about being cold when she'd just been given this opportunity, this chance, this… gift?
That Seto Kaiba was the one to give it to her made things even more confusing.
"Here," a voice from behind Anzu spoke up. Before she could turn around, a warm woolen coat slipped over her shoulders— a quick glance confirmed that it was indeed Seto, who had taken off his own coat and draped it over Anzu's shoulders.
She smiled lightly, reaching up to cross her arms over her chest and hold Seto's hands on her shoulders, twining her fingers with his. He didn't move, so she took a step backwards and dropped her own hands, and taking his with her, so that he held her around the waist.
He was warm.
It was odd, considering Anzu Mazaki typically would have likened Seto Kaiba to an ice cube. (A really tall ice cube.) But he really was quite warm, and his arms were nice to have around her.
Especially since he didn't have those weird belts or armbands on.
He understood her. He understood what she'd been through, and he didn't pester her about any of it. He let her talk when she needed to, and maybe even prodded her to get her to open up (when she thought she didn't need to talk, but she really did). He was annoying, egotistical, and stubborn much of the time, but ever since Tokyo Tower, he…
He was just different. Different from all the other guys.
She urged his hands to close tighter around her waist, holding her against him as close as they could both possibly manage. Neither of them said anything, and they stayed like that for the remainder of the ride.
Everything seemed different from the top of the statue.
The breeze came from a different direction, the air smelled differently, and all the buildings back on Manhattan Island seemed turned around one way or another.
But it was beautiful.
Raising her camera to eye level and adjusting the lens to gain better focus, Anzu snapped a picture. And then another, and another.
She moved around to another spot in the crown of the statue, angling her camera and taking more pictures.
She was almost out of film.
But that was a good thing. It meant that finally —finally— she could keep her promise to Akito. In the course of a few weeks, she'd seen all the most amazing sights— from the special observation deck on Tokyo Tower to the Empire State Building to… the Statue of Liberty.
Finally, she thought, Akito's spirit would be free.
The plane ride back home a day later was a long one, and Anzu only realized this because this time she wasn't drugged. A wry grin crossed her face at the memory; Seto Kaiba had actually planned all this from the moment he'd given her the statuette, filled with candy. No, before that.
But… she didn't mind. In fact, she probably wouldn't mind if he kidnapped her in the middle of the night again, whisking her off to some fantastic place.
He hadn't made her upset once during their stay in New York. He hadn't been bossy or pushy about anything. He'd just been there. And understood.
She slid her hand over to meet his, resting on the right armrest of her chair. The Kaiba Corp jet was small, but fast, and the lone attendant and pilot were very nice people.
Mokuba was sound asleep in the window seat, his CD player still whirring away even though he had to have listened to the songs at least thirty times.
Anzu had her album spread out on her lap, the final pages arranged… at last. Beautiful pictures from the Empire State Building, from the hotel room window, from Battery Street Park, the ferry, and finally, atop the Statue of Liberty littered the final pages.
There was a single picture pasted at the bottom of the very last page, one that Anzu had put in there and captioned before Seto could see it. It was a group photo that Anzu had asked a fellow tourist atop the Statue to take —of her, Seto, and Mokuba. Anzu was beaming, happy at last that she'd been able to keep her promise to Akito, and had been able to properly pay her respects atop the statue. Mokuba wore a huge smile and was flashing the "V is for Victory" sign with both hands, while Seto smiled in the way that was strictly his— a sort of smirk-smile that curved the corners of his lips, but genuine in the way that smiles were supposed to be.
"I came, I saw, and I kept my promise to him. For the first time in a long while, I'm really happy, Seto. I can't thank you enough for that," Anzu murmured.
Kaiba sucked in a breath; she'd called him 'Seto,' without any honorific or any anything.
His cheeks burned slightly, but he didn't look at her; instead, he focused on the last page and its photographs… his gaze finally drawn to the final picture.
The tourist that had taken the picture for them had said they made an adorable family.
And in that same, tiny print that Seto recognized as Anzu's own, the caption read: "Nothing can break the bonds love creates."
He could feel her eyes on him, but he wasn't sure just what to say, and confusion flitted across his face. He thought for a moment he'd finally come up with at least something proper, but Anzu's hand found his face, cupping it gently before she kissed him softly on his lips.
He might have been a bit too surprised to really respond, but the look in his eyes was enough for Anzu. She pulled away, still keeping one hand twined with his.
And then she smiled… a real, honest smile, filled with more emotions than either of them could imagine.
His hand gripped hers, and she pushed the armrest up, leaning on Seto's shoulder. They didn't need words; they didn't need photos. What they had were new memories… happy ones to outnumber the sad.
On that sunny, late April afternoon, the sunset gracing the sky with deep hues of red, orange and gold, new promises were made… and old promises were kept.
'I'll always remember you, Akito. Thanks to you, you've found your freedom… and I've found my new family.'