The Stockholm Game
Disclaimer: I do not own Yugioh, nor do I claim rights to any of the affiliated characters.
Warnings/Notes: An alternate ending to the Duelist Kingdom arc in which Pegasus is not always a man of his word. Rated for mild profanity, reference to violence and bodily injury, and mind games in general. Be advised that the rating may change as the story progresses.
"Pegasus holds all the cards right now.
As long as he keeps us prisoner, we're at his mercy no matter the outcome."
Deep down none of them had expected this.
Yugi had fought so valiantly, and they too had battled, armor up, hazard signs out, waiting to be torn through by the hurricane of Pegasus's misguided perception. It was a perfect victory. They earned it. But in the end, for all their efforts, they had become captives.
The card game did not matter, it never had.
There were exactly seven cells lining the dungeon walls, four on the right side and three on the left: an odd number. As the group awoke, one by one coming back to the hazy, bleary-eyed reality of dark, damp rooms and iron bars, they realized that he had intended it this way all along. He had known every move from the very beginning. The addition of non-duelists was no surprise; he had a cell for them as well. He had calculated their exact number and made preparations for them whether they ended up winners or losers.
In the first right cell, closest to the corridor that led, eventually, back to the main level of the castle, Yugi felt sick. The dim light of wall torches barely illuminated the faces of his friends in the row across from him. His mouth was painfully dry, "Are you okay?" He croaked, there was no saliva to moisturize his tongue or his lips, he felt like he'd been without water for days.
"I'm fine." Ryou spoke tentatively from opposite Yugi, fingers searching for the millennium ring that had vanished from around his neck, "It's gone…" he mused, abandoning the search and occupying his hand with locks of his white-blonde hair.
"Doesn't surprise me," Yugi cleared his throat, reaching for his own millennium item with the same results, "My puzzle's gone too." He felt weak; his heartbeat loud in his ears, the current of blood surging through almost enough to put him over the edge.
"Seto?" The definitive voice pulled him out of near-hysteria; it was Mokuba, alive, fully alive and talking.
"I'm here!" The elder Kaiba called out, from what he could gather with an echo and a racing heart working against him, Yugi ventured the two brothers had middle cells, directly across from one another. He swallowed thickly, painfully, trying not to think the worst.
"Grandpa, can you hear me?" No reply, his heart beat faster, slamming against his chest. "Grandpa answer me!" He shouted, choking on the rasping squeak of his own voice.
"Shh!" Kaiba immediately hissed, "He'll hear you!"
"That's the point, Grandpa! GRANDPA!"
"Shh, shh, Yugi please calm down." Her voice was barely a whisper above his screams.
"Tea…" He murmured, then, lifting his eyes from the ground, "Can you see my grandpa? Aside from the barred wall ahead it's all stone where I am, can you see into the cell beside you?"
The brunette stammered for a moment, "N…no." She finally replied, "I can't see anyone across from me or to my right, I think I'm on the end, same side as you. On the opposite side to my left is Mokuba." She concluded.
"And beside him?" Yugi probed.
"It's too dark." She whispered shakily, "I can't see."
"Okay." Kaiba cut in before the two could go any further, "everyone shut up for five minutes and we'll find out who's here." He paused, drawing a deep breath and locking eyes with his brother, "There's no one opposite Tea, which means there are more cells on our side than Mokuba's. Staring with Yugi, wait for the person next to you to say their name, listen hard to make sure they're directly beside you, then say yours so we can work out the order of the row."
"Okay." More voices had joined the chorus on agreement, and, like clockwork, they began.
A few moments pause, then, "Joey."
The pattern repeated itself until the end of the row, "Seto," then immediately, "Tea."
On the left side opposite Yugi was Ryou, opposite Joey was Tristan, and opposite Seto was Mokuba. There was no telling whether Yugi's grandfather had been released; if he had he was not with them now.
"We have to get out of here." Tea grabbed bars with both hands, standing as directly in the light as she could. "Can anyone pry one loose?" She began to twist and shake the iron rods, hoping there would be even a fraction of weakness.
Tristan had taken to tackling the metal, wincing slightly on impact before feeling for the backmost edge of his tomb and charging again. When his aching body protested the abuse, he tried to kick at the bars. The room was empty save for the stone slab of a bed against a side wall, and two shackles that had been left ominously at his feet.
"They won't budge." He panted, more to Joey than to himself.
"We have to try!" The blonde called out, grabbing the bars like a rope and climbing the best he could, trying to put his full weight against them, "What else can we do?" He tugged and dangled but there was nothing to give him leverage to exert more force, no object to aid in the escape attempt. He grunted, trying to think.
"This isn't helping." Kaiba called out sharply, anger searing at the thought of Mokuba being so far from him, even now. "Everyone take a minute and think." He had come to the very front of his stone box room, and, like Tea before him, stood directly in front of the bars. "We have to figure out what he wants. I thought it was just about Kaiba Corp but that doesn't explain the five of you."
"Has Pegasus really gone to these lengths just for control of Kaiba Corp?"
Seto scoffed, "Pegasus's dueling technology is outdated. Without Kaiba Corp innovations in the dueling arena Industrial Illusions would lose millions; Duel Monsters itself would be a thing of the past."
"Okay…" Ryou conceded, confusion still lingering in his voice, "But as you've said that doesn't explain why we're here. I can understand Pegasus's interest in the millennium items being that he's become so powerful with his eye as an asset, but that still leaves Joey, Tristan, and Tea."
"Maybe he thought we would talk." Tea murmured dejectedly, and then a bit louder, "He probably expected us to go to the police if he tried to make off with the millennium items and keep the Kaibas here, but he has to know the world isn't just going to ignore the disappearances, maybe ours will fade eventually, but Yugi's? Kaiba's? No. Something doesn't fit."
Kaiba chuckled lowly, reaching a hand out as far as he could stretch for Mokuba's. The younger did the same, their fingertips touched, he strained hard, tendons in his shoulder threatening to tear if he persisted, but the bars were not very giving. He could feel Mokuba for a fleeting moment and touched nails that'd grown too long from neglect, grazing the edges of his dirty fingers.
"Listen." He said, eyes closed, face pressed against the cool metal, "You have no idea the kind of authority you're dealing with. When you're a company with the standing of Industrial Illusions and you have a good reputation not just within the country but internationally, you control the press. You can spoon feed these people anything and they'll gobble it up. There may be some suspicion on internet forums but that's hardly enough to save us. We can't expect any outside party to interfere."
Joey growled low in his throat, punching the stone wall as his exasperation built, "So he wants more than your company and more than Yugi and Bakura's millennium items, what else is there? And if he's not afraid of answering for this, what's he going to do with us? Why not just trap us on the island? Why keep us in cages like animals?" He punched the wall again, drawing a slow stream of crimson from his fist.
"You know Pegasus's sick game as well as the rest of us by now." Kaiba had calmed slightly from the contact with Mokuba, "What more reason does he need than to say he can?"
"So if it was all for the sake of torture, if it was "all in good fun" for him, why go through the guise of a tournament at all? You've said negative attention from the press is no object, which is apparently true if he could sneak Mokuba under the radar all those months, so why the big charade?"
"It was part of the charade." Tea's voice trembled as she said it, "Don't you see Bakura; he's been toying with us all this time. He wanted to see what we could do."
"Or," Tristan interjected, remembering Mokuba's once lifeless body against his own as he carried it out of the dungeon and into the light of the dueling arena on the main level, "He wanted us to see what he could do. I think it's like Mai said when it came time for Kaiba and Pegasus to have their duel, it was meant to intimidate us. All of this is him flaunting his own control. We have to show him we won't back down."
"Tristan's right, we've beaten everything else he's thrown at us. We just have to keep fighting." Yugi concurred.
"Guys, as much as I'd like to agree and as much as I want out of here…I think it's time we realize this is a different game. In the tournament there were chances to gain the upper hand, in a dungeon I just don't see how we can. This is an ultimatum. Whatever Pegasus really wants was saved for now."
In an instant there was clapping from beyond the corridor, followed by low, rolling laughter bouncing along the walls until it came to stand menacingly in front of Ryou. "Very good Bakura." Their captor reached a hand through the bars of the boy's cell too fast for him to move away, gripping his cheeks mockingly. "I always knew you were a clever one." His voice dropped several octaves into the rasping growl of an animal.
"Fuck off." He was not about to be subdued by a clown parading himself around in Armani while they sat and twiddled their thumbs in despair.
Pegasus jerked his face forward with such force that even Bakura's grip on the metal in front of him was not enough to stop the impact. He stifled a cry as his lip, cheekbones, and forehead connected hard. His bottom lip swelled almost instantly, blood pooling against the only layer of skin he had not bitten through.
"Now, now." The elder taunted, fingers leaving bruises at the younger's jawline, "Don't be so gauche as to resort to profanity, it really doesn't suit you."
"Pegasus!" Yugi threw his own body against the bars, "What do you want? Where is my grandfather?"
The man merely chuckled, turning to face the smaller teen but not advancing toward him, "That, Yugi-boy, is the question of the hour. Your grandfather's shell is being well maintained, but as the brothers Kaiba will tell you his soul is on a little…vacation." He laughed maniacally into the stillness.
"Let him go." Tears sprung to his eyes and he could not stop them falling down his cheeks, "I'll give you whatever you want." He conceded, because the spirit of the puzzle was not there to build him up, and because any thoughts of his grandfather being hurt were unbearable, "He has…grandpa has nothing to do with this."
Their abductor approached, he could sense it even with his eyes closed in an attempt to quell the liquid leaking steadily from them. "Don't you see, Yugi-boy." His tones rose to their characteristically cheery pitch, a sing-song tone that made them all want to retch. "I already have anything I could ever want from you, in this castle you are mine, body and soul, to do with whatever I please. Your grandfather may have little to do with it now, but I assure you if you try anything like your friend nursing his wound…" He paused to crouch to Yugi's direct eye level, malice flaring over his features, "that will change in an instant."
Yugi swallowed hard, the dryness in his mouth and throat more apparent as he tried to form words that would not come. The few tears he had managed before were slowing, even as his chest heaved with stifled sobs and his nostrils flexed as he swallowed again and again, desperately trying to compose himself.
"I don't understand…" Tea, though equally afraid, was too angry to break. With those she cherished at least able bodied and of sound mind, it was easier for her to be bold, "How could you do this?" She seethed, blinking hard to fight off her own waterworks.
"Be quiet!" She jumped, fingers trembling against the barricade, though she had always sensed danger in Pegasus, she had known nothing of the fierce man before them now. She didn't know whether to assault him with words or to beg for his mercy, it seemed both avenues were hopeless.
"Enough!" Kaiba spat through bared teeth, "Tell us what you want and be done with it."
"Kaiba-boy!" He sang out, snapping his fingers to fully illuminate their narrow passageway, "It is so hard to believe I just want company?"
"Considering the source, I should say not." The brunet shot back haughtily.
"Come now Kaiba, petty insults aren't going to get you out of there." He moved to stand in front of Mokuba's cell, causing the boy to back as far away as he could manage, "You wouldn't want to tempt me into doing some rash," he reached into his suit pocket to retrieve a blank soul card, "would you?" Kaiba bowed his head in defeat, his hands tight fists, teeth clenched so hard he felt the force might shake them, one by one, from his mouth. Pegasus smiled broadly, "Just as I thought." He noted, turning to face the cheeky brother, "Now be a good boy." He instructed, tone dangerously high and mocking, "and say you're sorry."
Kaiba flinched as his captor beckoned a black suited guard into the light, taking a ring of keys from him with a sickeningly casual word of thanks, "You won't get away with this." The CEO locked eyes with his aggressor, "Stop using innocent children to get what you want and face me head on!"
The taller laughed uproariously, dangling a golden key between two fingers before placing it in the keyhole of the younger Kaiba's cell and turning, one click – two – "I've already done that Kaiba-boy," at the third turn of the key, Kaiba heard the door unhinge, creaking open toward Mokuba, "You lost."
"I am not a man of patience, Seto Kaiba." He grabbed a fistful of Mokuba's hair as the younger thrashed about in his hold, running as hard as his feet would allow while still in the man's grasp.
"Seto!" He screeched twisting and reaching for the keys Pegasus held just out of his reach. The elder stood firm, jerking the boy backward and nearly immobilizing him with the sudden pain and force, in retaliation Mokuba did the only thing he could think of, pushed his weight hard against Pegasus's chest, biting at the arm he dangled above his head.
Reacting immediately, Pegasus released the child's hair and jerked him away by his shirt collar, the thick material of his suit jacket absorbing the majority of the boy's bite. "Don't you dare!" He growled darkly, tossing the keys to the guard and using the now free hand to slap Mokuba roughly across the face.
"Alright – alright, I'm sorry!" Seto panted out, thrusting his arms through the bars again to reach for his brother, "Let him go." He breathed shakily, "You've got your apology, let him go."
"Say it again." Pegasus's body had relaxed, his shoulders dropping and arms loosening in their grip around the small boy at his fingers. With the hand that had previously struck the child, he moved to stroke the reddening area of his cheek. Mokuba whimpered at the touch, again trying to pull away, "Shh, shh, shh, enough of that." He chided, turning with the boy in hand to face Kaiba, who still reached for him as far as restraints would allow.
"I'm sorry." He repeated.
"I'm sorry sir, for being fresh with you." He prompted, stroking Mokuba's hair as he looked hard at the ground, unable to meet his brother's eyes. Shame had swelled inside of him so fast it took his breath away, he was always too slow and too small to fight, in the end it was Seto who paid the price. Being made a fool for standing up for himself…the younger Kaiba was wanted to hit his abductor, claw at his throat until they were both bloodied and heaving and exhausted, but he could not.
Seto ground his teeth, "I'm sorry…sir, for being fresh."
Pegasus smiled almost genuinely, the others looked to one another in confusion and paranoia. There was no telling what the man might do next, and in truth they were just as afraid for Mokuba as Seto. "Good boy." He praised, calmly giving Mokuba a push to Seto's outstretched arms.
"Seto." He whimpered, body wracked with sobs as they elder held him as close as the trap would allow. "I'm sorry." He cried, clutching the elder's arms and waist, "I'm sorry."
"It's okay Mokuba, he whispered as Pegasus approached to pull the child away.
"Seto, Seto, SETO –"
"I'm right here." He kept assuring, "I'm still right here." Mokuba was ripped violently out of his arms, fingers struggling for tenacity as they still grasped for his shirt, his hands, anything. Even as Pegasus lifted the boy up high against his body and tore him entirely away from Seto, he yelled that he was right there, he would always be right there.
"I want to make this very clear." The elder turned his back to the remaining six and made his way toward a room at the far end of the corridor leading away, "Your hopes, fears, secrets and dreams are mine for the rest of your lives. No matter how much or how little you grow to like me, you will belong to me from this moment forward until the day you die. Every ounce of trepidation and tragedy is mine to discover, one memory at a time." He paused to clutch Mokuba's limp, sobbing form against his chest and shoulder, shushing him tenderly.
"Starting with the baby." He kissed the child's hand, stopping at the furthest possible vantage point from the others and turning again to face them, "I intend to know and mold you, and no matter how much begging you do." His voice rose above the frenzied protests of Kaiba, and of fellow oldest child Joey –
" – I intend to own you."
The monster turned from their sight and carried the youngest off into darkness, soft sobbing carried through the cruel current of an echo long after they had gone.
"This is the way the world ends.
Not with a bang but with a whimper.