Things had been difficult since your father’s funeral. Your mother was still feeling lost, even six months later, and you had to take over the candy shop in your father’s place. Of course, it didn’t help that you missed him like crazy, keeping a picture of the two of you in your cash register at work so you could still see him all the time.
But, things were also starting to look up. On the verge of bankruptcy, you had to find a way to get more business fast, and used some of your meager savings to fund advertisements and set up a catering side to the shop. You had seen something online about weddings and high profile birthday parties having “Candy Bars” instead of full meals, and you were now the only place in Domino City to provide that. It had definitely boosted sales, but it was also much tougher on you and your mom.
Every morning, your mother came in to open the shop. There was a small kitchen in the back, where she spent a couple hours baking fresh cookies and pastries. They were some of the most popular items in the store, especially your signature “Blue Eyes White Dragon” shaped cookies.
You had the mornings off, not coming in until noon. It was there you stayed until the shop closed at 8 every night. Just like you did tonight, nearly falling asleep behind the counter as you waited for the last 15 minutes to pass by. Thursdays weren’t very busy days, understandably, so you hadn’t had a customer in the past hour. You had run out of things to look at online, it seemed, so it was all just a waiting game now. You didn’t really anticipate anyone coming in this late.
Then the limo pulled up.
You thought this was odd, maybe they just needed directions. There weren’t many people who drove - or, rather, rode in - limousines here in the city, and you couldn’t see those that did stopping into a colorful little candy store.
You could just barely make out what was happening outside through the rain beating against the windows and the glare of the setting sun, and you squinted, trying to get a better look. But it wasn’t until the door opened that you could see who was coming in.
The man was tall, brunette, and somewhat angular - but he most certainly filled out his crisp, clean suit nicely. He was straightening out the cuffs on his jacket as he walked in, stopping just inside the door to look around. He looked like he was judging the rows of candies and sweets, but maybe that was just his face.
“Good evening!” You said, trying to sound perky. He turned to look at you with that same judging look, and it took you back for a second. It felt like he was looking through you instead of at you, but you could almost forgive him for it - you were now noticing just how good looking he was. “If you need any help, my name is Takara.”
“I’m sure I can find my way around myself.” He replied coldly. You almost answered with something snarky, but managed to bite it back and pretend to clean the counter.
He meandered around for a couple minutes as you watched, picking up little packages of candy and put them down. He did, however, pick up two bags of assorted hard candies and carry them with him as he continued to look at everything. You checked the clock on the wall. 7:56. You weren’t going to say anything, as the policy was that if someone showed up before 8, they could keep looking as long as they liked. Besides, you liked the view.
He abruptly turned around, catching you in your stare. You stood up straight and turned away, feeling your ears get hot. “Fucking idiot,” you mentally scolded yourself over and over. Hopefully he wasn’t offended.
After a minute of looking anywhere but at him, you hazarded a glance his way. He was now at the pastry case, bent at the waist and looking very intently at the Blue Eyes cookies. He grabbed a floral printed pastry bag and took out three cookies, then turned and came towards you.
“These will be all.” His voice was low, and he set the cookies and hard candies on the counter. You typed everything into the computer, read his total, and he swiped his card on the pinpad.
“Do you need a receipt?” You asked him as the transaction finalized.
He shook his head. “Though I do have a question.”
“Why were you staring at me?”
You felt your face burn and turn red. This was the worst thing ever and you wished you could melt and get sucked down a drain. “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean-”
“Come on, spit it out.” He said sternly, placing his hands on the counter.
You swallowed hard, but tried to be as brave as you could be. There was nothing to lose by saying the truth, unless he actually was offended and ruined your shop's reputation. As you looked him in the eyes, you said, “Sorry if I offended you, I just think you’re… an attractive man.”
He smirked, leaning forward on his hands a little more. “Good. Then you shouldn’t have an issue coming out with me for drinks when you close up. I would like to have a pretty woman to keep me company.”
You felt your entire body tense. It took a minute for you to wrap your head around what was happening. You couldn't even recall the last time someone had asked you to go out for drinks or anything, and you certainly weren't expecting it to happen today. You were suddenly very aware of the flour on your shirt from stocking the kitchen earlier.
“I appreciate the idea, and I would love to go. But I don’t even know your name.” You stammered out. Feeling warm, you touched your cheek and sure enough you were blushing so hard you were hot to the touch.
He straightened up and reached in his back pocket, pulling out his wallet. He opened it to the first flap and held it out so that you could see, in the clear protective casing, his driver’s license. Suddenly you felt sick.
“Seto Kaiba? As in KaibaCorp Kaiba?” You squeaked. You wanted to hide for not knowing who he was beforehand.
“The one and only. And if it’s okay with you, I would like to take you out tonight. No funny business, I promise.” He held up his pinky, which, honestly, was kind of endearing. “Just say yes, I don’t think you’ll regret it.”
He was demanding, but you didn’t feel like saying “no” was the right response somehow. Part of you felt small and like you should hide. Another part screamed at you to go, that this was the only chance you may get to go on a date with a handsome billionaire. You knew which side was going to win.
You face apparently gave away your feelings on the subject, as Seto didn’t wait for a reply. “How long will it take you to close the store?”
“About twenty minutes, it doesn’t take long.” You remembered just then to reach behind you and clicked the light for the open sign off. “Do you want me to meet you, or-”
“I’d rather you ride with me. It’s okay if you want to text someone for safety, but it will be easier, just in case you have a drink too many to drive.”
That made sense, but most importantly, he was offering a real limo ride. You had seen pictures of limos with all that open space, but had never been in one. You wondered briefly what his was like, but then realized you’d see in a few minutes.
He glanced back at his watch. “Just don’t keep me waiting.” Without anything else, he took his bag of candies and walked out the door, the ring of the bell waking you up. Immediately, you took out your phone and called your best friend, Nanami. While you counted the drawer and swept, you told her about everything that had just happened and asked for her to text you in two hours as your safety contact, just to make sure you didn’t get murdered. You could finally see outside as the rain began to slow, and told her his license plate numbers. She squeaked as she wrote them down, saying how lucky your were. You didn’t know if it was luck, exactly…
You cleaned up in record time, and set the alarm. You grabbed your purse and ran out the door, locking it behind you. As you turned around, his limo was still there, as promised. A plump man in a black suit opened the door to the back of the limo, holding an umbrella for you. You walked towards him nervously, putting your keys in your purse, and slid into the seat on the limo.
There in the back was a seat facing forward, towards the driver, and one that ran the length of the side of the limo across from the door. The seats were black and made of a very soft, luxurious leather. Everything looked pristine and new, like he had never even sat back here, unlike your car that was full of clothes and water bottles.
“Hi,” You said as you got comfortable in the seat beside Seto, at a loss for words. “Come here often?”
“Frequently.” He replied dryly, typing away on his phone. The driver got into his position behind the steering wheel, and slowly took off. There was a moment of silence as he finished whatever he was doing, then slid the phone back into his pocket. “Thank you for not keeping me waiting. I’m sure you’ve heard I’m not a patient man.”
You had certainly heard a lot of things about Mr. Kaiba, most of which were not pleasant. But, you knew he had a heart for orphans and games, so you reasoned that he couldn’t be all that bad.
“Well, I’ve heard good things about you, too.” You said, trying to echo your thoughts.
He gave a little grin, as if that were funny. “Have you? Good to know.” He stretched out his legs, reaching all the way to the other seat. “How long have you worked at the candy shop?”
“Since I was a child, really. It was my father’s store, but he passed away six months ago and left it to me.”
“Sorry to hear that.” You didn’t know if you believed him. “How are sales?”
You turned your body slightly more towards him so that you could more easily look at each other. “Up from last year, thank goodness. Not enough to be sustainable yet. Working on it, It’s a lot harder than I thought it would be, raising it from the dead.”
Seto gave another little grunt of acknowledgement, plucked his phone out of his pocket again, and started to text again. Not much of a conversationalist, apparently. But then again, what had you contributed? He was asking all of the questions.
“Are you developing anything new and interesting? I haven’t heard much in the news lately, and normally KaibaCorp is all over everything.”
He was silent for a second as he finished up scrolling through what you could see was his e-mail account. When he locked his phone screen, he barely glanced at you to say, “We’re focusing on opening a new KaibaLand in France. Set to open in about six months. Developing new games systems - most aren’t cutting it though, so don’t expect to see one on shelves anytime soon. Improvements to the duel disks holographic interface are coming up, and I’ve got my eyes set on making several deals to buy companies in the next year.”
Your eyes widened. You thought you had a lot on your plate, but this was next level. “Jeez, maybe you can give me some pointers about how to make my shop better, because I’m nowhere close to as good at this as you are.”
He turned towards you, obviously thinking. You didn’t want to interrupt him, so for a few seconds you just watched each other silently. “Have you thought of opening an online store?”
Oh! That was so simple! You wanted to beat yourself in the head for not thinking of it yourself. You shook your head no to him, feeling stupid. “I guess I hadn’t, that sounds like a perfect idea.”
Seto turned away from you, leaning back into the seat. “Impress me tonight, and I’ll see about setting you up with the people who run the KaibaCorp websites. I’m sure they can easily start getting you set up.”
You nodded, but couldn’t find the words to express your feelings. How were you, the college dropout with nothing interesting to say, supposed to impress the unimpressable? It’s not that you were boring or bad looking, but you didn’t feel like you were on his level in any capacity.
The rest of the short ride was filled with idle chat - you both liked your whiskey neat - while he typed away emails destined for who-knows-where. When the limo pulled up to the curb outside of a well lit, beautiful building with smoke rising from the chimneys, Seto smirked at you.
“Have you ever been here?” He asked, moving to get out of his seat.
“Only in my dreams,” you replied as you looked out the window. It was a bar, but a nice one. It wasn’t a sleazy dance club or a place where drunks go to save a dollar on their cheap booze. It was more of a cigar club, were wealthy businessmen came to discuss business off the clock. You once looked at their online menu and a simple white russian was $20.
“Neither have I. But I’ve heard good things, and I like an adventure.” The driver had silently gotten out and came to open the door just as you reached for the handle.
“Oh, thank you,” You said as you slid out of your seat and onto the sidewalk. Seto came out right behind you, standing uncomfortably close before you took a couple steps forward to put some distance between you. He came up beside you, and offered you his arm. Your nerves started to come back and you timidly accepted his gesture, wrapping your arm through his.
“Mr. Kaiba, I don’t-” You started, but got cut off.
“I like to keep business and pleasure separate, so unless you’re working for me, Seto is fine.”
You cleared your throat as he began walking and you almost stumbled trying to go with him. “Seto, I don’t know if I’m the type that belongs in a place like this. I’m not like these people, I’m - I’m wearing jeans and a t-shirt with my shop logo on it, for God’s sake.”
“Good, you can advertise while you’re here,” He replied. You couldn’t tell if he was joking. He continued, “You’re not required to prove your income at the door. And if it’s money you’re worried about, don’t. You can’t drink enough to damage my check book.”
As he opened the door, you went ahead of him and were greeted by the sounds of a piano and the scent of tobacco and mint and faint cologne. You felt dizzy as your eyes adjusted to the darker atmosphere and you saw pretty waitresses talking up older men in suits. There were bottles of everything you could imagine along the back wall, and to the right of the main seating area, behind the counter, were boxes and boxes of cigars along a shelf. A bubbly woman your age held out her hand for your ID, and you fished in your purse to show it to her. Not surprisingly, she didn’t ask to see Seto’s.
She led the two of you to a round table in the corner with a deep red tablecloth, and set menus between you and Seto. He didn’t bother looking at them.
“Whatever your nicest zinfandel is,” He ordered, before looking at you expectantly.
You felt rushed, so you blurted out the first thing that came to mind - “Watermelon mojito, please,” and she left towards the bar to get them made.
Your eyes turned away from her shapely figure as she sauntered off, and back to the equally attractive man seated across from you. His fingers were intertwined on the table, and he looked to be studying you.
“Why did you ask me here tonight?” You blurted before you could stop yourself. It sounded rude.
“Are you complaining?”
“Not at all. I just don’t understand - I don’t really get asked out for drinks frequently.”
He was silent for a minute, turning his head to look at the piano player, then around at the couches where cigar smoking men in suits like his were lounging and laughing. “Do you have siblings?”
You furrowed your brow. It didn’t answer your question, but you decided to play along for now. “I’m the oldest of four. Two brothers and a sister.” Just then, his wine came out, and he took the glass delicately and sipped it.
After he swallowed and looked pleased, he turned his gaze back to meet your eyes. “I have just one brother, and he’s the only person I feel strongly for. He’s truly my rock in life. He left for college a few months ago. It’s hard to find good company when all anyone cares about is money or fame.” He took another sip. “So it was important to me when you didn’t recognize me, that’s why I asked why you were staring. Calling me attractive helped, too.”
“So, because I didn’t recognize you, and I was honest that I think you’re cute, you asked me out?” You said, trying to make sure you understood properly.
“That’s the first part of it. The second part is that I find myself needing companionship, but I’m not a very… agreeable person. I want to give you the proposition, if you will, that we give each other a chance tonight. If we don’t hate each other by the end of it, perhaps consider making this a habit - dinner, drinks, business functions…”
You contemplated his words for a minute, and waited to see if he would continue. When he didn’t, you asked for clarification again. “If we find each other acceptable, we date?”
His grip on his glass visibly tightened at the suggestion. “I don’t know that I would call it that. I’ve never been called an ‘affectionate’ man. I don’t know that I will romance you - but for your companionship, there will be benefits. Nice clothes, jewelry, status, entertainment. I can set up things for your shop and make things happen that you can’t get elsewhere. But I have expectations -”
“Like what?” You interrupted.
He looked like he was struggling for words, and took another drink. You were startled just then as your cocktail came out and was set before you. You thanked the waitress, and took an eager drink, finding your mouth dry suddenly.
Finally, he began to elaborate. “I like fine things. Expensive drinks, good food, fast cars, and pretty women. In public settings with me, or at my office, I expect you to be well dressed and well mannered. I can take care of the clothing, if we agree to see each other again. I expect punctuality. You are free to decline ‘dates’ but I expect you not to be a flake. And, most importantly, I expect that you respect my boundaries with you. I take things slow, and I see where they go before I make promises that I can’t keep.”
Your head was swimming, and it wasn’t the drink. This was a lot to take in, but you couldn’t help but find yourself intrigued. You didn’t know about the gift giving and the eccentricities, but you found him sincere and open with his desires, and it made you a little more at ease with the idea of at least giving him a shot.
“Do you… Do you expect sex?” You said, just barely audible over the piano in the background.
He shook his head immediately. “I will never ask you to do anything, especially with your body, that you don’t want. I won’t even ask you to take my hand if you say you’re uncomfortable with it. There will be mutual respect.” The last sentence was said as more of a demand.
You nodded gently, drinking a little more. All in all, it seemed like he was asking you to just be there for him - he may have some rules about what to wear, but that wasn’t too problematic, you thought. Surely you could use a break from jeans and flats every once in a while. And he seemed lonely, what with his brother being gone and all. You felt a pang of pity ripple across your chest. With another drink, you finished your mojito off.
“Okay,: You said after some quiet contemplation. “I’ll give you a shot tonight. As long as I feel respected, I think I can keep you company.”
If he was pleased by your acceptance, he didn’t show it physically. It was becoming clear that he had a very flat affect unless his ego was being stroked. This might make things difficult…
“In that case,” he started, waving the waitress back over to the table. “Let me get to know you, Takara.”
You ordered another drink, and began talking openly about yourself. He wasn’t as forthcoming, but you didn’t mind being the one to talk. You told him a little about everything - growing up, your family, that you dropped out of your robotics program when your father got sick - and it was at this last one that his face finally showed a little bit of surprise.
“You’ll have to finish your degree. There are so many ways robotics could change things for you. I could even consider hiring you to work on features in Kaiba Land.”
You chuckled and tucked a lock of hair behind your ears. “I might consider finishing up school, if I can get the shop stable enough to hire some help. Right now it’s just me and my mother and my little brother if one of us can’t work. But I don’t know if I have what it takes to be a KaibaCorp employee, I know you’re a demanding guy.” Somewhat shockingly, he gave a little nod to agree with you.
You decided, on your third drink - a glass of scotch - that you wanted to know more about him. You were feeling a little more comfortable as inebriation slowly set in, so you crossed your legs and tried to think of something to get him talking. He had just lit a cigar, and the woody scent was floating around you in a comfortable haze.
“How did you become the owner of KaibaCorp so young? And what made you turn it into a games company?”
Seto blew smoke above his head, watching it dissipate for a moment before meeting your eyes. “I won it. My… father was being irresponsible with things I designed, and I wasn’t going to let him mutilate my dreams. So I acquired the majority of the shares with the executives, and I took it from him. I have no interest in war. Being paid money to manufacture death disgusts me thoroughly, but I’ve been interested in games for my entire life.”
“And that evolved into Kaiba Land, too?”
“No,” He finished his fourth drink, having picked up the pace to make sure you weren’t out-drinking him. His face was starting to flush, but he maintained composure very well. “Kaiba Land came first. I wanted a place where children could go to escape, especially children in poverty and orphans. Children don’t deserve the heartache of the real world, so I want them to have a place free from it.”
That honestly was touching to hear, and you smiled as you leaned your elbows on the table. “That’s sweet,” You said quietly, and watched him turn his head away from you. “You’re not all monster, you know.”
“Tell that to the press.” He snorted defiantly, still not looking at you. But he was clearly becoming uncomfortable with being questioned, so hen turned it back on you. “And what about you? You run what is essentially the dream store for children. You could have left it to fail, but something about it is clearly important to you.”
You thought about that for a second. “It’s a happy place. People come there for things that make them feel good, not for things they need. Anyone can come in and find something to smile about, and if they don’t have money, sometimes I… lose a little inventory, but I get paid in happiness.”
Even though he was avoiding looking at you, you saw the corner of his lips turn up just slightly, before they settled back into the emotionless flat affect.
It was then you got your safety call from Nanami, and you excused yourself to the bathroom, quickly recapping to her what had been discussed as far as future dates. She sounded a little disappointed that he was a slow mover and said that it sounded more like he just wanted arm candy. You brushed her off, and promised you’d call her with any more developments before heading back to the table.
The two of you then chattered about local happenings. You weren’t too well versed in politics, but he explained a few things, and found out he was quite the lobbyist for certain things. To your surprise, it wasn’t for tax reform or decreased regulations, but for things like increased workplace safety and the continued expansion of equal rights. That’s when you decided you were comfortable enough - or drunk enough, having finished three more cocktails - to let him know a secret.
“I’m not… only attracted to men.” You said with a slow sigh, wondering what the reaction was. But he just raised his eyebrows.
“So women, too?”
“Men, women, and anyone outside of that. Not many people know that about me, but I just think there’s so many good, attractive people out there, and their gender doesn’t influence that.”
“That’s interesting,” he mumbled, then, noticing your look, added, “Not in a bad way. I just didn’t expect it.” He decided not to say anything about himself on this matter, instead standing up from the table and laying a small fortune on the table to cover the tab.
“You’re slurring,” his voice was still crisp and low as he offered his hand to you. “I don’t want you too drunk to stand, let’s get you home.”
You took his hand, smiling as you stood, and like before, you linked arms. You couldn’t help but think how pleasant the night had been as you walked outside. It was a little surprising, honestly - there were a few surprises and bumps, but it was so nice to sit and talk with someone genuine for a change. It didn’t really feel like a date, but more like the beginning of a journey.
Seto slid into the limo first, scooting over to the side so that you could get in after him. Once you were seated, you noticed he was a little closer than he had been on the ride over. He didn’t touch you or try to hold your hand, which was a little disappointing, but you remembered that he had warned you he wasn’t very affectionate. You decided that was probably okay, and you would respect his boundaries as long as yours were equally respected.
You gave the driver the directions to you house, then settled back into the plush seat, angling yourself so your head could rest on the doorframe behind you.
When you arrived outside of the small house you called home your entire life, Seto stepped outside with you.
“Thank you for tonight,” You said, clutching your purse to your chest. “You’re pretty good company so far.”
He smirked at you again. “You as well, Takara. I’d like to do something a little more formal soon. If you’re still giving me chances, I’d appreciate if you stopped by my office tomorrow about ten. Wear whatever you have that’s nice, I want to send you with my secretary to buy an evening gown so that we can have dinner. I’m busy tomorrow evening, but I’m free Saturday. How does that sound?”
Your heart fluttered a bit, and you willed it to stop. You should be a little more reserved like him. You gave him a nod anyway, hoping nothing on your face gave away your emotions. “I’ll be there at ten o’clock, then.”
As one last surprise for the night, he reached up and smoothed back your hair from your face. But without anything else, he turned to get back in the limo, leaning forward so he could see you one last time. “Good night, Takara.”