Hello all and welcome back to that elusive chapter two. Hehe… I am getting slower with my updates, but at least they're happening! Ok, and now for the reviews. Wow, I got more than I expected actually. *g*
SweetCandie – Well, Kaiba's plan is rather odd so don't expect too much plot revelation as of yet. Glad your back to this little tale! Yes, all I have to do is update, but that too can be quite a chore sometimes.
Amber – Yes, I always have to get ominous and weird with these longer fics. Guess the power of Pegsy compels me. ;-) No, I still think this pairing is quite viable and interesting enough to keep the fic going, though I admit that PegsKai rather drew me away for a time. Though I still think that one's the best, I'm open to all sorts of Pegasus possibilities. *g* I'll email you about OffKilter too. That's an interesting little tale … though its still alive!
SW – Well I actually thought it'd be kinda kinky to have Seto bash on Pegs some, but I wasn't sure how ff.net would take that. I should write some strict smut, opposite of the typical Pegs rape the world theme. I had the a really awful thought involving Yami Bakura and … well, somebody might like it. It just won't go away and it's god-awful! But yes, we'll definitely have public humiliation in store for Pegs. I think he's adorable handcuffed. Hehehe…
Sakuuya – Yeah, and now our board server died so that idea's gone. They didn't even send me an email, which had actually had me on a rampage the past few days --- but we won't go there. *g* I always wondered about Battle City. They show is very clear about some non-duelists not exactly being pleased with the situation. Its downplayed but there. Makes you wonder.
Schala85 – Poor Seto. I swear, that boy suffers in every fic I put him in – even when I'm trying to be nice to the guy. I can't say what's going on with him quite yet, but it will be revealed son enough.
CKthePhantomess – Thankies! Lots of fun to think how Yugi and his gang are imagined by people outside they're group.
Elemental-Mistress – *typing her little heart out* I'm right on it!
Slypher Queen – Thanks so much! I don't plan to stop any time soon, though I do have that annoying habit of taking a long hiatus now and than. ;-)
Mai Valentine1 – I dunno if he deserves to die, but Seto certainly deserves a very harsh spanking. *g* Poor does indeed Pegasus seem to be the theme thus far.
BlackFox – Well it's finally updated! Hope it was worth the three hours of raving. *g*
So that's it, ladies and gents! Thanks to everyone for their kind reviews – they really mean a lot!
And on with the show. *g*
Mai was feeling a little light-headed as she gripped the steering wheel in one well-manicured hand. She was trying to divide her concentration evenly between maneuvering her sleek little convertible and the conversation taking place between Yugi and his friends. She was trying to remain as controlled as possible, but as the real world seemed to leak more and more into the land of loony tunes, she couldn't help but notice her mind kept returning not to the dangerous duel between Yugi and Joey but to the smug smile of the strange one-eyed man she'd spent hours with in an elevator. It was bizarre to note the way a man was able to affect her, but even as she condemned her own weakness she couldn't help but worry more and more. What in the world did Kaiba want with Pegasus anyway? The guy had been just as trapped as she, why was he singled out? Was it all about kidnapping Kaiba's little brother during the Duelist Kingdom Tournament, or was something else at stake?
She remembered what Pegasus had told her as they'd gotten more comfortable in each other's company, about his search for the Millennium Eye which Bakura had stolen. In fact, he'd been determined to see little Yugi so he could retrieve it. Mai glanced at her rear view mirror to see the petit boy, squished between Joey and Tristan in the backseat and frowned. Yugi sure didn't have the thing anymore, Kaiba had stolen it right there in front of everyone. Mai was no expert in Millennium Items but she did know that their existence had to remain something of a secret. If everyone knew Pegasus could read people's minds, for example, there'd be no end to the folks desperate to get a hold of his source of power. She glanced again, her eyes training on the strange pyramid pendant which hung about Yugi's neck like an oversized Christmas ornament. What powers did it give the kid, she wondered.
"Um, Mai, did we just pass the parking lot?"
"Hmm?" The blonde glanced first at Tea curiously then at the retreating sign in her mirror. "Oh don't worry, I know a shortcut."
Tea eyed her critically. "Are you sure you didn't just pass it by mistake?"
"No really, I know exactly what I'm doing!" Mai revved the engine a little, tying to cover her mistake with overconfidence. What the hell was wrong with her? She was trying to win a duel for godsake but all she could think about was Pegasus and his stupid plans. "There's a back entrance up here that's probably less crowded."
There was some measure of silence before Joey's characteristic voice chimed into the dissenters committee. "It wasn't crowded, Mai. Only a few people are coming I guess." He caught her eye in the mirror and grinned. "Just admit ya screwed up -- everyone does it, just some more than others."
Mai resisted the temptation to retort with something about Joey screwing up enough by letting Marik control his mind when Serenity came to the rescue with her characteristic placating personality. "Please, big brother, I'm sure Miss Mai knows what she's doing."
"You're right, Serenity." Tristan exclaimed, and Mai could envision the scene which would come to play once Joey became really and truly comfortable exerting his power over Serenity's would-be boyfriends as the elder brother. She sighed, watching the road glumly as the streetlights marched by in a strobe parade of phosphorus orange. She leaned forward, manicured nails gracing the radio button on the dash. In a moment the cries of screaming music and hard metal burst from the speakers.
Never gonna say that I'm sorry I kissed him
Guess it's not my day, he turned and I missed him
I was workin' overtime, now I just wanna walk out.
I just tried to make him mine, it's not like he's a knockout.
I don't care, I don't care
If you don't wanna bother with me baby,
'Cause I don't care, I don't care
There's better guys everywhere, so there!*
"Sorry, that's a little loud." Mai adjusted the vole to a low murmur, the chorus of the furious female singers fading into the background leaving little more than a white noise behind the continuing conversation.
"It's ok." Yugi looked like he'd just been smacked in the head, but he still tried to be understanding. Mai sighed, what kid his age didn't listen to loud music anyway? It was a little creepy, but strangely endearing in an unbelievably sugary sweet sort of way. As the conversation continued in the backseat, Yugi turned to gaze at Mai strangely, his violet eyes probing for something. When he finally spoke the tension she'd been feeling seemed to dissipate a little. "Mai, are you sure you're okay? You've been a little out of it since we left KaibaCorp."
From his place in the backseat Tristan leaned forward, grinning ear to ear. "You mean since she got away from Pegasus."
Yugi sighed, rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly. "Well, I wasn't gonna say that exactly…"
Mai rolled her eyes. "You boys need to quit acting like children. Yes, Yugi, I'm ok. I promise." She winked at the boy coquettishly in the mirror. "Now stop fussing over me, alright? I can handle myself."
Yugi looked a little skeptical, but then he nodded. "Alright, Mai, I believe in you."
With a response like that Mai didn't know how to respond. Believe in me, she ran the phrase over in her mind, straining it for any edible chunks of insight as she rolled to a halt at the glowing red stoplight. By that time Joey was staring at her in the rearview as well, his tawny eyes reflecting something like pain in the instant before he realized she was watching him and shrugged the emotion away. "So what were the two a you doin' in there all that time anyway, Mai?"
Tristan snorted. "You know she just wanted to get in his pants, Jou."
Mai narrowed her eyes. "You're pushing it, shark-head."
Tristan shrugged. "C'mon, Mai, we all know what you were after – cash!"
It took a whole second for the tires to squeal in protest, the passengers cried out as the car came to a very abrupt halt. The three boys in the backseat watched wide-eyed as the blonde fury turned upon them, her normally composed face livid. "I can't believe you! I'm chauffeuring you up and down this damn deserted city and you have the gall to call me a whore?!" Tristan looked like he wanted to say something but Mai would have none of it. "It's a convertible for a reason, asshole. Get out of my car! All of you!!"
Yugi blinked in stunned silence, his cheeks flushed with embarrassment before he turned to Tristan. Serenity was already staring at her newfound friend wide-eyed, "Tristan how could you!"
Tristan sighed, rolling his eyes. "Look, I was just kidding around. You all just seemed so tense I thought --"
But Joey was already on the bandwagon, smacking his friend hard in the back of the head. "Take it back, Tristan! You can't just say things like that to a lady!"
Mai clicked her tongue. "You think you can defend me now, Joey? It'll take more than that to get on my good side again. Out of my car!"
"Mai," Tea spoke up from her place in the passenger seat, "Tristan's just an idiot. He can't help being like that. Don't punish all of us. Yugi hasn't done anything!"
"Hmm… you're right. Yugi: Stay."
The boy only nodded, unsure of what to do. Games were one thing, but it'd been a while since he'd been on the receiving end of a crazy woman's assault. Mai was even scarier than Tea! It must be something that comes over women with age, he thought unheeding of the low laughter of his Yami in the back of his mind as he ventured to speak once more. "Mai, you have to go easy on Joey and Tristan for a while. Remember what just happened back there on the docks?"
It was a truthful enough statement. No one would soon forget the crazed gleam in Joey's normally soft brown eyes. There really was no other explanation than that someone had been controlling Joey's mind, forcing him to hurt his best friend. It was a critical issue, but for some reason Mai just couldn't focus on Joey's problems. Her mind kept returning to an eye of another shade, more golden than brown, framed by silver hair. Mai's anger still throbbed in her chest at the memory of that eye flown wide in pain and surprise as Seto Kaiba's fist had connected, the silver head cracking to one side, a bruise instantly rooting upon the flawless skin.
Would Pegasus have really been captured so easily if she had just taken the next elevator?
Dammit, how could she be expected to duel under these circumstances!
She drummed her manicured nails on the steering wheel. "Fine, I'll let it slide. But Tristan, watch your goddamned mouth, got it?"
"If I don't got it by now … jeeze, sorry Mai."
It didn't take long for everyone to get settled again, and soon enough Mai's sleek convertible had returned to hugging curve after curve heedless of traffic signals since the city had been veritably shut down. No one spoke for a time, and Yugi allowed his mind to wander, enjoying the breeze on his face as the crisp night air whipped about his head, catching his hair and making the various buckles and chains that adorned his garments jingle softly. Eventually Tea said something that made Mai laugh and soon the conversation was back in full swing, but Yugi could no longer stay interested. There was too much on his mind, and the steady purr of the engine combined with the metallic throb of the female rockers as they crashed into another song floated tinny from the speakers was strangely soothing.
Yugi leaned back, closing his eyes and breathing a sigh of relief as the tense mood of a moment ago seemed to slip away in the ride. For him, the simple pleasure of being driven about, of the moonlight shining vaguely behind his eyes and the comfort of Mai's expert if slightly jerky driving relaxed the tensed muscles in his arms and shoulders. He became knowledgeable of a dull ache in his left arm from the weight of the duel disk, a five-pound metal object he'd carried around since early morning. It was hard to believe the finals were almost upon them.
Inevitably the thought of the final battles led to the impending threat of the mysterious Marik, a being who could control minds through the power of some terrible Millennium Item and had no qualms about harming those dearest to his adversaries. He dull blank look in Joey and Tea's faces returned unbidden, and a shudder passed through the boy before a warmth spread into his mind, enveloping him in a blanket of warmth. Yugi didn't have to open his eyes to see his other half, ancient wisdom peering from eyes so much like his own. ::Do not fear, aibou. I will not allow Marik any leniency.::
Yugi sighed softly, turning his face toward the open window of the convertible so the others wouldn't stare. His friends were used to seeing him talk to himself, but it didn't make Yugi feel any more comfortable – especially with Mai and Serenity in the car. Yugi didn't want Joey to have to explain something like the Millennium Puzzle to his sister. Yugi barely understood the concept himself. ::Everyone deserves leniency, Yami.::
::You are so forgiving, yet Marik will not be so kind. If he gains control of all three God Cards the game will be over before it has even begun. Do not let your guard down, regardless of the security Kaiba has planned.::
Yugi knew the danger, surely Yami didn't think it needed repeating; but there was another effect of gathering all three legendary cards. Yugi pushed the surge of sadness away before his other half could discern it. ::We'll stop him, Yami.::
::And win all three God Cards as well!::
::Yeah, that too.::
The spirit was silent for a moment. ::Why do you fortify your mental shields so much, aibou? Are you upset?:: When Yugi made no response, the spirit pressed forward. ::Is it about Kaiba? Don't worry, we'll defeat him. He won't be able to rely of trickery this time.::
Yugi sighed. ::I'm not upset about dueling Kaiba.::
::About Pegasus then? We still do not know why Kaiba stole the Millennium Eye. Perhaps Marik has something to do with it!::
::I don't think so. I don't know what to think anymore.:: Yugi allowed his eyes to slide shut, fighting back the headache that threatened. Since the fiasco concerning Pegasus, a great deal had been revealed and more questions had been spawned. Joey seemed fine, but barely an hour ago he'd been a completely different person, sneering like a hate-filled madman. Mai seemed tense, and after all she'd been through Yugi couldn't blame her. Joey still glowered at her every so often, his eyes seeming to search for evidence of her loyalty or betrayal. No amount of reasoning could stop jealousy, Yugi supposed, but he didn't like the division that had been flung up between him and his friends. They sat together, laughing and joking as usual, but there was a tenseness that hadn't been present before. Mistrust had wormed its way into their little group.
As Mai pulled the roaring vehicle into the KaibaCorp Stadium parking lot, Yugi clutched his Puzzle more tightly. He didn't know how to communicate his nameless fear to Yami, but the sense of dread in his belly only grew worse with each moment. As Joey and Tristan laughed and joked, as Mai and Tea exchanged mocking glances over the heads of their companion males, Yugi knew he should be feeling cheerful. He'd collected his locator cards, sure, but more importantly he'd held on to Joey through Marik's manipulations. Somehow, though, he sensed the darker side of their little triumphs.
*Lyrics from "I Don't Care (So There)" by The Donnas.