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Mutually Beneficial Arrangement

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Seto sighed as he stroked the long blond hair of the woman asleep in bed beside him. This wasn't the first time that he wished to fall asleep beside her, to stay the night in the penthouse apartment he'd rented for her in Domino, and it wasn't the first night he'd resist the urge and return to his home instead.

He stood and slipped out of bed so that he could get dressed, pondering not for the first time how they'd come to be in this situation.

Rebecca Hawkins, that arrogant little "genius" that once hung around with the dweeb patrol, had come to him with a proposition. She was only two years younger than him, but he'd seen far more of life's horrors and man's depravity, and his experience, contrasted with her naivete, seemed to create a vast gulf between them. She'd stood there in his office, tall and confident, and proposed something to him that was so absurd he could hardly believe his ears at the time.

Apparently, she and her grandfather had fallen on hard times, financially. Her grandfather was in debt and out of a job, she was in college on a full scholarship, and she needed a job that could pay a lot for what little time she had available. Somehow, she'd thought that being a professional courtesan was the best option available to her.

Not just that, she'd been incredibly clever about the whole thing, figuring out what kind of price would be par for her position, how much she could reasonably ask for, and what kind of clientele she was targeting. She'd even been clever enough to realize that her intelligence distinguished her from other courtesans, making her uniquely talented. And she'd used that damned cleverness to realize that she knew exactly who she would appeal to.

She was right to deduce that Seto Kaiba could not stand for a dull-witted companion. She was right to deduce that he was too conscious of his reputation to spoil it with clubbing and partying, and too disgusted by the whole sordid downtown scene to engage in any of its activities, no matter how gratifying they promised to be. She also knew that the chances of him having a secret girlfriend or lover tucked away somewhere in his mansion were slim to none.

Rebecca had looked at the situation with an economic eye, unlike Seto himself: she'd seen a demand and made herself the supply. She'd found his weakness, and he'd hated her for it.

Seto looked down at the contract she'd put on his desk as she stood before him and waited for his answer. She'd drawn up a bloody contract for this arrangement. There wasn't a single thing she hadn't thought of: he'd pay for the birth control, but she'd pay for her own food; he'd pay rent on the apartment, she'd be certain to be available to him every evening and any other time he requested her services so long as she was given fair warning; he'd pay her a fixed, monthly amount, and she'd be certain to take care of herself and her looks. Over a dozen other details were covered in more specificity inside the contract itself, which he planned on reading more carefully later, when he had the time. He looked up at her skeptically, a voice in the back of his head still repeating a shocked, "What the fuck?"

"And you think I'd agree to something like this?" he asked, his tone blaise, his demeanor cool, almost entirely indifferent. This was a business transaction, after all. There was no reason to be worked up over anything.

"I think you need me," she replied boldly, crossing her arms as her eyes danced with amusement. She was smirking, but only faintly. It was strange to see her face moving only in small, controlled increments, much like his own. He remembered her being something of a spitfire the last time they'd met.

"I don't need anybody," he scoffed, pushing his chair away from his desk and taking some papers from his desk as he turned around to replace them in their proper places in the filing cabinet behind his desk.

"You need Mokuba."

Had she really just dared to bring his little brother into this? He stilled for a moment, then slipped the last stack of stapled pages into the manila folder before closer the drawer and turning around, folding his arms as well.

"Are you threatening me?"

"No, I was contradicting you." Her expression was one of extreme satisfaction. They stared each other down in proud, stubborn silence for several long moments.

"It would be nothing more than a business arrangement?" he asked dubiously. "Girls tend to have a hard time controlling their feelings, and subsequently get themselves and others entangled in an emotional mess." That was a purposeful jab designed to see if she had really matured into the kind of person he could tolerate as a companion.

"It would be a purely business arrangement," she replied slowly, even though what she really wanted to do was burst out at him in anger, tell him that she wasn't a girl, she was a woman. If she was to impress him, she needed to show that she could be just as logical, just as professional, just as detached as him. "You'd be using me for satisfaction and companionship, and I'd be using you for monetary gain and a temporary luxurious lifestyle. It's a mutually beneficial arrangement."

Too bad for Kaiba, her efforts to impress him were working.

"I'll get back to you about it after I've had more time to read your... contract." The words were dripping with scorn, as if he couldn't believe that she actually thought he would seriously consider her offer.

"You have twenty-four hours to make your decision. After that, my fee goes up." She stepped forward and held out a hand to him as she said, "Have a good day, Mr. Kaiba."

He looked down at her hand for a moment, then reluctantly uncrossed his arms and shook her hand firmly. Then she turned and left, looking more confident than she felt. She'd known intellectually what would impress him, what he would value, yet, he was as inscrutable as ever. She wasn't capable of recognizing when he was impressed and when he was genuinely insulted. She'd thought she was doing well, but she honestly didn't know.

As Seto read the contract that night, he found himself both amused and further impressed. Oh, the audacity! She had balls, that much was certain, and he could acknowledge that she really was a fine specimen when he allowed himself to look at her appearance with an objective eye. She was obviously intelligent, which was something he did value, more than he'd ever said. The idea of spending a night with a stupid slut revolted him, but how had she known that? He'd never told anybody that, simply because he never had occasion to.

He didn't like that she'd been able to read him so well, that she'd managed to uncover his one need that he couldn't satisfy by himself. He was tempted to reject her out of pure spite because of it.

He called her to accept the proposition that very night.

He didn't just find her tolerable; despite himself, he genuinely enjoyed her company, and the sex wasn't bad either. Far from it, in fact. Mokuba and even Roland noticed that he suddenly seemed to be in a consistent good mood most of the time. She'd been right: he needed her, even if this was only a monetary, sexual, and intellectual relationship. Rebecca too found that she enjoyed his presence more than she thought she should.

They'd both been mature adults going into this arrangement, and yet, Cupid had gotten the better of both of them. Rebecca was trying to accept the fact that she'd miss Seto when this came to an end while Seto was trying to think of a way to express his interest without making himself at all vulnerable. He glanced at his sleeping light-o'-love one last time.

The contract had clearly stated that their arrangement would last four months, the duration of a single semester of college. They only had two weeks left before the contract expired and this tenuous union dissolved. He wasn't ready for that, not yet, but how to say that without feeling like a fool?

He contemplated this problem as he rode the elevator down from her apartment to the street level. An idea finally struck him as he drove home in his ferrari. He pulled out his phone, dialed a number, and put the call on bluetooth, not wanting to wait to act on his idea.

The next morning, Rebecca woke up at 6:05. She had a quiz that day in her eight a.m. class and she needed to be there early. She went to the kitchen wearing only the silk dressing gown Seto had provided for her and was met with a surprise. A dozen red roses in a crystal vase sat on her kitchen counter. He'd sent her gifts before, out of a vague sense of obligation: lingerie, jewelry, perfume. He'd never given her anything that necessarily implied an emotional attachment, only a sexual relationship. This, though… Surely not even Seto Kaiba was ignorant of the symbolism of twelve red roses, was he?

Rebecca approached the counter and reached out to stroke the impossibly soft petals. That was when she noticed the card and the small jewelry box at the base of the vase. She opened the jewelry box first, which happened to contain a pair of sapphire and diamond earrings. She smiled, pleased at the gift, then reached for the card, which held only a single simple sentence: "I would like to extend our arrangement."

She smiled broadly at the card, feeling happier than she'd felt in a long time. This was a new kind of happiness, something she'd never felt before. She smiled as she ate breakfast, smiled as she showered, smiled as she left for classes, and smiled for the whole rest of the day.