Disclaimer: I do not own Yugioh, nor do I claim rights to any of the affiliated characters.
Warnings/Notes: I'd like to high five all of you for sticking with me, and especially with Yugi and the gang, through all of this madness. You guys were my inspiration to finish a story I never intended to publish, and no words will ever be enough to thank you for that. I'm sure this will leave some of you with questions, reservations, and fears, but I hope you enjoy it nonetheless. As always, feel free to message me with commentary or concerns, or to leave them in a review.
Chapter Fourteen: Exodus
For a long while the room surrendered to stillness. Pegasus began to unconsciously rub Yugi's back, casting casual glances to little ears that, to him, looked unmarred. "Yugi-boy," he hummed over his shoulder, "Can you hear me?"
The child blinked but didn't acknowledge him, to his left a doctor began unwinding a length of plastic tubing, "We've started a course of antibiotics for unchecked infection, if that's the cause of the rupture he should regain partial hearing in three to four days and full hearing in no more than a week."
Pegasus nodded numbly, forcing himself to his feet while Yugi pushed away from his chest. As the CEO's towering height gave new perspective to the room, Yugi yawned against the assault of the ceiling lights and blinked to clear his vision. The boy untangled his arms from around Pegasus's neck and stared complacently into the elder's unreadable eye, making no move to get down. Pegasus ruffled his hair sadly before lowering him to the ground, on which Yugi managed to find his feet.
"What happened?" He asked hesitantly, cupping a hand over each of his ears. Pegasus glanced around the room for a medical clipboard, and seized one with a pen attached by chain. As he began to scribble on the paper, Yugi tested his lack of hearing by making several noises, soft at first, then loud enough to cause Joey to stir in the next bed.
As the taller boy's stretching caught Pegasus's eye, he turned the clipboard to Yugi who scanned it at a diligent pace. 'An infection caused your eardrums to rupture, the hearing loss is temporary. You'll be fine in a few days.'
Upon reading this the boy relaxed, but looked onward with notable concern. Several of his friends were coming out of sleep by now, and as much as Pegasus wanted to greet them, he pushed gently past Yugi to Addison Langley, who was sitting cross-legged on the floor.
"You will leave immediately and take your team with you." He began curtly, "The three of you never applied for a job at Industrial Illusions, much less worked here for an extended period of time. Do not list this company as a reference; we've never heard of you. Any photographic evidence of cooperation with us was done on your own time, not as a contractual agreement of this establishment. A lawyer who tries to say otherwise can take it straight to court, where records of your employment will not exist beyond your own fabrication."
The elderly man pressed one hand to the floor and shoved to get to his feet, "I'm glad to be done with you, and your company." He spat in a rush of boldness incited by relief. The children were safe from any lasting harm, at least he hoped, and it seemed that after Cecelia's words, Pegasus would even let them go. "What the kids do is up to them, but I'd sooner spit on you than reference you for a job."
Pegasus laughed uproariously as the former members of his research team gaped, "I'll let payroll know not to send your compensation. Better you not take anything from a company you'd rather spit on." Addison froze, eyes locked onto the angry and indignant faces of his former colleagues. "That's what I thought." The figurehead countered, "The three of you can collect your chump change and be on your way." He continued, "Oh and Addison, I'd tell your granddaughter to re-think that International Business major."
Langley's hand clenched into a fist tight enough to turn his knuckles white, but he knew better than to challenge Pegasus after what had taken place. As it stood, the three of them would be lucky to return to the mainland with their lives…and he did not grapple with that as sincerely as he should. While the younger members caught his arm on the way out, as if keeping him there would build their nerve to retaliate, he calculated the hundreds of exits available to him. "You never deserved to have children."
A set of medical tools collided with the back of Addison's head, nearly knocking him over. As blood slowly oozed to the surface of broken skin to mingle with gray hair, Pegasus offered a retort of his own – soft and sweet, "Sue me."
Before any of them could reply, Croquet moved between his employer and the wolves in sheep's clothing, ushering them down the halls and beyond the office which would later send them a large sum of money for their fruitless labors in Egypt.
The only thing taming Pegasus's rage was the waking of the children all around him. Yugi had gravitated to Joey's bedside and was shaking him gently. Tea was blinking her beautiful blue eyes open, much to his relief, and Seto and Mokuba were halfway to one another's arms.
"I can't hear anything; my ears were infected and something ruptured. I'll be fine soon."
Joey blinked in shock, throwing the blankets from around him and nearly knocking Yugi over as he scrambled to his feet, "What?" He exclaimed, a hand clasping over each of his friend's shoulders, "All I remember is you winning the duel with Pegasus and us showing up in that freaky tower to find Grandpa's soul." He looked frantically around the room, "What is this place? Yugi where are we? Oh right, you can't hear me."
"What do you mean he can't hear you?" Tea sat up slowly, pressing a hand to her aching head. "What is this place?"
"Everyone calm down." Pegasus instructed, parental sternness ingrained in his voice, "Yugi-boy's had a medical oversight, he'll be just fine." He turned to face Tristan and Bakura, who were stumbling to their feet and awkwardly regarding one another. Tristan's only memory of the paler boy was the spirit trying to make off with Mokuba's soul.
"Whatever game you're playing is long over Pegasus, stand down and accept it." Seto strode confidently around the elder and straight for the corridors of the castle. "Come on Mokuba."
"I wouldn't rush off if I were you." The head of estate called out as he tried to gather his thoughts. Can it be that the purging of their memories was only partially successful? They remember the events of the tournament…but nothing of their upbringing…. He didn't know whether to be thankful or infuriated that, to the young captives; it was as if the whole ordeal had never happened. On one hand it would make the media coverage a lot less messy…but on the other…he had not planned to let them go so easily. Even hearing Cecelia disown them in anger…even seeing the horror on her face at the lengths he'd gone to for their family…they were his. He had worked so hard for them.
"Cut to the chase Pegasus." Seto ground out, wrapping his arm around Mokuba instinctively.
"Patience Kaiba-boy," the CEO taunted, "leaving will not be as easy as hailing a boat. I promised Yugi that at the conclusion of our duel he could have the prize money and the souls he so valiantly fought for, I never said anything about a free pass off the island."
"You snake!" The hand digging into Mokuba's shoulder shook the small boy as it tightened.
"Now, now Kaiba, petty insults aren't going to help you find the way to your dueling deck, and to the missing pieces of little Yugi's puzzle."
"You can't be serious; Yugi fought the duel fair and square!" Tristan snapped, taking a step toward Pegasus at the center of the room. Kaiba's hand dove into the pocket that held his duel monsters cards, but came up with nothing. Also strange, his shoes had been removed, as had Mokuba's.
"Just what the hell are you scheming?"
"Come now Kaiba, after all I've put you through you can't take a joke?" He laughed hyperbolically at the uneasiness in the room, "Your shoes were removed on the way to this infirmary. Truth be told, you're lucky I didn't throw your ungrateful asses out into the hurricane." He continued, anger rising steadily in his voice, "Either way, Croquet will show you to your rooms for the night. You 'll find everything you're looking for there."
"My grandfather…" Yugi murmured, hands moving to his ears in frustration of the sudden deafness, "Please tell me where he is…"
Pegasus withdrew a blank soul card from his pocket and turned it to face the boy, "His spirit has found the way to its vessel, which I've kept safe in Egypt all this time. No need to thank me for being such a gracious host, I assure you it was my pleasure." Compulsion stirred at the surface, threatening to break through the waters, "In the morning you will be escorted to your own separate homes, Yugi-boy's grandfather will be waiting for him in a helicopter, dear Joseph will be taken to his sister, whose eye operation was a roaring success – you're welcome. Seto and Mokuba Kaiba will probably arrange their own escort, no favor too big for a chauffeur earning seven figures, right Kaiba-boy? I'm sure the rest of you catch my drift."
The seven exchanged glances to one another, Kaiba especially unnerved by the psychotic energy radiating from Pegasus, who by now was only a few paces behind him. Tea found her feet and stayed between Tristan and Bakura. Even not knowing what the sense of danger came from, there was a potent reassurance of being stronger in numbers. A nagging thought occurred to them, but they dared not speak it aloud…Pegasus planned to arrange separate rides home for all of them, even though it would be cheaper to send them on a flight or boat together. Why divide them…why split them up for even a moment?
"What do you mean Serenity's eye operation was a success?" Joey demanded to break the silence, "How could you have known about that?"
The millennium eye was illuminated by a flash of golden light, "Have you forgotten my power already? You insult me, Joey-boy. My five star medical staff handled the photocoagulation personally, the bandages have already come off by now."
"What – then my sister can see?"
"Of course she can, I wouldn't leave her blind to her big brother's triumph. You were only second to your friend…" He trailed off, almost sadly, before gathering his composure, "By the way you might want to fill the poor boy in, I'm sure the suspense is killing him." He pointed a finger to the clipboard in Yugi's hands, and made a motion of scribbling with a pen.
"Oh!" The gang swarmed for the clipboard to record Pegasus's strange behavior and instructions, with a storm raging outside and blackness closing in around the island, they couldn't logically question why their departure had to wait until the next day…but sleeping would be impossible nonetheless.
The host's gaze was upon them, drinking in the togetherness of his children sharing one another's joy and relief. It was only when Croquet reappeared in the doorway, clearing his throat to make his presence known, that the gang's faces lifted to the one that had been studying them. Anxiety settled in their stomachs, but they pressed forward at the head of security's beckoning. The sooner they got back to their rooms, the sooner they could fall asleep and wake up home.
Kaiba and Mokuba followed on the henchman's heels, never giving him a moment to pause for direction. Behind him Yugi and Joey were walking side by side with Tristan and Bakura, their bodies taking almost the entire length of the hallway. Tea trailed behind in the doorway, trying to ignore the shivers creeping up her spine when she turned to glance in the opposite direction of the castle for a moment.
"After you." Pegasus insisted, pressing a gentle hand to the small of her back to usher her forward.
She made a small squeal of protest before running off after her friends, "You alright Tea?" Tristan asked, breaking away from the chain to allow her to squeeze in.
"Ready to get out of here…" She mumbled, glancing over her shoulder one last time. Pegasus's looming gaze set her straight. The hint of a smile clinging to his lips, the distinct notion of nostalgia in his eyes…she didn't know what he was thinking about, but after what he'd done to Yugi and Grandpa, she had no desire to. Whirling around to face forward, she marched off to the rooms they had known for the entirety of the Duelist Kingdom finals, and never looked back.
As Joey found his way to bed through a neighboring door, she heard him cry out, "my deck," and felt a flood of hope course through her veins. If Pegasus returned their duel monsters cards, he would surely return the rest of Yugi's puzzle. She ran into Yugi's room a few doors down before he had a chance to settle in. Grabbing a pad of paper and pen from the dresser, she scribbled, 'puzzle?' Yugi smiled brightly and moved back, gesturing to a bedside table on his right. Fully assembled and on its original chain, sat the ancient artifact.
"I'm so glad!" She sighed, clasping her hands together in front of her and offering a final smile before retiring to bed.
In the room across the hall, she quietly closed the door and ignored the complimentary robe she had worn to bed previously. She was too anxious to leave to bother throwing her usual clothes on in the morning, but at least with her friends safe, and the puzzle intact, she could sleep a bit easier.
The ceiling fan whirred above his bed, sending an unnecessary chill through the room. Pegasus stood wide awake under the light fixture, which burned bright even as the clock on the end table flashed two a.m. For hours he had been admiring Cecelia's portrait, caressing her wind swept hair, searching the folds in her dress for the softness of her skin.
"Don't you remember when they were happy, darling?" He asked dreamily, staring into cerulean irises that would never be alive, "Don't you remember when she loved us as her own?" His voice faded out as he lost confidence in the memory of Tea sobbing over a lost brother, clinging to his arms, and chest, and neck. "I do." He finally whispered, breaking away from her entrancing gaze. "I do…"
He bowed his head to avoid her scrutiny altogether, dragging a hand along the cool wood of the headboard. The children didn't remember a thing from captivity, not the dampness of his dungeon, nor the harshness of his words and hands. His fingers jumped off the wood as if it had burned him, mind replaying the evening he shoved Tea face down into the carpet of the living room, bruising her, breaking her. Guilt stole into his chest until he thought he would never breathe air again. All at once he was fighting back tears for the child, who in suffering said, "Our hearts were always full of you."
The light bulb blew out. The ceiling fan slowed to a stop. Everything inside of him ground to a shuddering halt. Exhausted. Angry. Dead. "How can you say you don't want them?" He choked,
"Cecelia…how can I leave our babies behind?" His fell to the carpet with a harsh thud; he thought of Tea moaning through her tears, a sob pierced the night, he thought of Yugi begging for his grandfather's life.
His mind raced with tragedies until the early hours of the morning, when he knew for sure what he had to do. The children were distracted by sleep, and his employees were busy making preparations to see their guests, finally, peacefully, leave, the castle was his to navigate. And navigate he did.
Yugi woke to Croquet extending him two envelopes. One held a check for three million dollars in prize money, the second, a personal letter from Pegasus. He reached inside and hastily unfolded the paper, from within it, a duel monsters card fell into his hands. It was hand painted and read "Ties of Friendship." The letter itself, at this point, was far more interesting.
Congratulations on your cunning victory, in addition to the prize money and release of souls, I would like to tell you a story. I'm sure my motives are of little interest to you, but at the start of the Duelist Kingdom tournament I had planned to harness the power of your millennium item, in conjunction with the remaining six, in the hope of seeing my beloved wife a final time. You may be too young to understand a love that strong, but I was barely older than you when I was married…and widowed. Life is a strange and cruel thing, I suppose.
I have arranged for my personal helicopter to take you back to Domino. Aside from a pilot and co-pilot, your Grandfather will be your only company. I'm sure the two of you have enough catching up to do to warrant some privacy. Your skill and determination are wonders beyond anything I have ever known, and as genuinely as one can say this after such a blatant act of selfishness, I wish you every success and happiness in the future.
Yours Proudly and Sincerely,
Pegasus J. Crawford
Yugi smiled briefly before taking a pen from the end table and writing in the tablet of paper, 'please give this to Pegasus, and let him know that grandpa and I forgive him.'
Croquet fought with the tightness in his chest, knowing a note like that would incite fierce, raging madness in Crawford. Taking the tablet, he wrote, 'Very well, sir. I should see you off first; you're the last to leave the island.'
Yugi blinked in surprise, "My friends are all on their way home?"
Croquet began scribbling again, 'yes, all of them have found a separate way so no pit stops will have to be made. They were off about an hour ago.'
Wasting no time, the boy followed him out onto the grounds, blinking hard against the sun of a new day as he clambered into the helicopter. Solomon, who had been informed of Yugi's injury by staff on the way to the island, hugged him tightly and did not let go for several minutes. When he did so, he and Yugi joined hands.
"I'm so glad you're okay."
His grandfather's lips moved slowly and purposefully, "What did he say?" Yugi asked the spirit through their mind link.
His partner replied proudly, "I am, my boy, now that you're with me."
Croquet clutched his thigh as he forced his way up the long castle staircase. A knee replacement from the employee with most seniority would usually warrant an employer to invest in an elevator, but Pegasus was not always a man of courtesy. He shrugged it off and tried not to hobble into the warmth of the extravagant abode.
"Arthritis?" Kemo asked with a snicker.
"Shut up." He quipped, straightening himself up and forcing his hands to his sides.
"Don't get touchy old timer, we're finally free of those brats."
The elder allowed a smirk to grace his features, "Finally is right."
Kemo leaned against a marble staircase in the foyer, casually propping one leg in front of the other, "You know payroll contacted the research team and couldn't reach any of them."
Croquet met his eyes through their shades, "Oh?"
Kemo smiled despite himself, "You wouldn't know anything about that, would you?"
Croquet used his pointer finger to shift the sunglasses further up the bridge of his nose, "For once, I had no idea."
The seriousness in his voice shook the other man, "He always runs that shit by you." He mused aloud, "You think he's got other people lurking around here, pining for our jobs?"
He bit back a laugh, "He wouldn't pay two people for a job one person could do, and at some point casualties add up. Keep your head on straight and you won't have problems."
There was a long pause between them, "How long you been with the guy?"
Kemo stood straight, "I hear that." He agreed, turning in the direction of the staff kitchen, "It's quiet with those kids gone. Wonder what it'll be like now." Croquet had joined him in his walk, and grabbed ingredients to cook from the cabinet to their far left.
Holding up a flying pan and a pack of bologna, he replied, "Business as usual."
For the first time in three long months, they laughed.
Humming filled the tower as the scent of drying paint was trapped within stone walls. Amidst heavy purple curtains draped to keep the cold out, were open blinds to let in rays of sunlight. Shadows danced across the backdrop as he absently turned to the canvas and continued to sketch. Immune to the harshness of winter cold, even in an old yellow painting T-shirt, he pressed on with diligence to complete the frame of a face.
Christmas was fast approaching. Seasonal songs on his tongue begged to be accompanied by Cecelia's old, out of tune piano. It warmed his heart to think of that. Presents exchanged under a Christmas tree, gingerbread houses lined with royal icing…there were few pleasures lost to him with age.
Small noises sounded from the corner of the room he was referencing, for a moment he continued to wipe the brush along the canvas, ignoring them. He placed a drop of blue paint on an angled, precision brush, two inches from the target, one…a sneeze echoed into the largely empty space, startling the instrument from his hand. It splattered ultramarine across his masterpiece, staining it irreversibly.
"Oh dear…" He mused, expression souring for a moment as he rose from his perch and moved to smooth the bunched, white fabric of the backdrop. "That can only mean one thing…" His hand found a pale, fussing face and began to stroke it into sleep again. His humming picked up where it left off, evolving into words, "…for you know, once even I was a little child, and I was afraid…"
Blue eyes blinked open despite his efforts, regarding him with horror for a moment as he pressed a gentle finger across trembling lips. A scream rang out, and he gathered the flailing body to his in comfort.
"We'll have to start all over again."
Dedication: I would like to thank all of my readers, and especially my reviewers, for taking this journey with me. The Stockholm Game started out as nothing more than the whim of my overactive mind. I wanted to experience it, and I did, every day. Some of the scenes in my head never made it to paper; some of them were translated in a very different way. Over time I told myself I would never finish what I had sloppily started. Every single one of you changed that. All of your encouragement to continue, all of your reviews, messages, favorites, alerts telling me that the story grabbed you and never let you go…I can't find words for that. It is the most amazing thing I have ever known. I worried at first that this story was too different from canon, that it was perhaps too big a jump for something like Yugioh, but your support told me that was wrong. From the bottom of my heart, thank you, for everything.
This-Wreckage: Where can I even begin? This is the story that started our friendship, the story that you read with interest and insight I can never accurately describe. Without your perspective, especially in regards to Pegasus's character, I never would have finished this. Our conversations were what kept me inspired to update regularly, talking to you was what made me realize that my interpretation of Pegasus's character here was not irredeemable within the fandom. Through you, I learned to challenge what I know and believe, and more importantly, I learned to share whatever half-formed view I have with someone willing to listen, because they will make it more complete than I ever could alone. Though I put the words on paper, you are as much the author of this story as I will ever be, and it's only fair that the readers know that. More than I can ever say in words, thank you.
Ending Note: In case there is confusion, every single child made it home safely.