Roll the Bones

A/N: Sentinel and Yu-Gi-Oh characters belong to their respective creators. Bits adapted from the "Book of the Dead", translated by E. A. Wallis Budge. "Roll the Bones" by Rush. Story refers to events in Sentinel episodes "Trance", "Murder 101", and "Sentinel, Too"; plot and random insanity is mine. //Exchanged thoughts.//

Point Grey Cemetery, Yami read as he dropped inside the high stone wall. Allowed his eyes a moment to adjust to the deeper night inside these walls, looking over carved granite slabs, the forbidding marble of family tomb. Odd houses of eternity folk have in these times. Where are the prayers and invocations? The altars for family to share bread and wine with the Justified and the gods?

//People don't do that much these days, Yami.// Leaning against the bright wall of his soul room, Yugi Mouto let the ancient spirit control their body while he felt outward for that horrible tearing in the fabric of magic. Winced, sensing the ragged edges so near. //Grandpa's going to be worried about us. We stopped the cab right in the middle of the street, he hadn't even gotten to the hotel yet-//

//He'll understand, aibou.// Yami reached out with the Millennium Puzzle's magic, listening for the moan of tormented spirits that had led them here. Midnight boots never missed a step on stone-laced ground; one advantage a dark spirit passed to its human vessel was perfect night vision.

//He'll understand? "I'm sorry, Grandpa, I hear some fool toying with the Darkness and we have to go stop him, don't wait up for us?" He's going to worry himself sick!//

Stepping around a freshly mounded grave, Yami winced. //Was I that blunt, aibou?//

//...Maybe not that bad,// Yugi admitted. //But we're not in Domino City, Yami. We're not even in Japan. This is America. Cascade, Washington State. We could get in so much trouble....//

Yami nodded, acknowledging the possibility. //Yet I sense no one else moving to thwart this evil, aibou. We must act.//

A ghostly wail tugged at his heart. Yami moved stealthily around dark gray granite, using stone's solidity to cloud his aura as he crept nearer to the burnt-copper scent of lit wax and spilled blood. Candlelight flickered in an iron cauldron as he neared the sound of a man chanting, twisted wax bobbing in dark red liquid, echoing the misty shimmers of three translucent bodies. Ghostly throats gasped and whimpered, insubstantial limbs struggling weakly against dead-black cords of energy.

And before the cauldron stood a dark-robed man, sweaty and ill, dusting something dark and choking into the flames.


//Wolfsbane and myrrh.// Yami moved out of the wind; no need to breathe in that venom. //And other scents I do not know... yet they reek of chaos. This bodes ill.//

Yugi was glancing through their eyes, searching the shadows under the trapped spirits as the balding man turned an ink-scribbled page. //Shouldn't there be more than just him?//

//Were this trained dark magic? Yes.// Yami tested the heft of shadows around them, grimaced at the raggedness of magic pulsing here. //But this is curse-calling. Fed by anger, steeped in hate; those willing to shatter souls for power need no willing aid, nor priestly blessing, nor even training, if they call on Powers dark enough. Gods, where are the mages of this city?//

He felt Yugi's shiver down their link. //This is a lot more Shadow Magic than we usually call.// Yugi took just enough control to look over their outfit; dark, dark leather, the Puzzle a golden glint at his throat, heavy ankhs decking forearms of a long jacket that rustled in the wind like a cape. //I've never....//

//No; I always held your memory when I clad us so.// Yami let his fingers brush across a golden loop, feeling the comforting weight of the protective symbols on his wrists. //Coercing spirits is heka bin, aibou. Evil magic. Even if we stop him, the powers he's summoning may well act on their own. We need every ward I can raise.//

"Darkness, I call you, I call...."

//Who could turn down an invitation like that?// Smirking, Yami stepped out of the shadows. "Well, well. A would-be necromancer." Dark boots stalked through clipped grass, making no more noise than the whisper of ghostly fingers through the wind. Violet mist rose from his footprints, trickling over cold ground to circle them all; ghosts, curse-caster, and embodied spirit. "I don't believe those belong to you."

Sweaty fingers clenched on pages; magic-glazed eyes cleared, taking in the small teen in dark leather.

Yami waited, letting the Shadow Realm close around them. He knew what this mortal saw. A slim Japanese teenager, barely five feet tall, hair spiky tufts of red-tipped black streaked with gold like lightning. Indigo leather clad him neck to toe, brightened only by a myriad of buckles, the belt holding his Duel Monsters deck... and a golden pendant in the shape of an inverted pyramid, Horus Eye gleaming from its side.

Warning enough for those who deal in Darkness, Yami thought, studying the black energy binding the ghosts. If he's sense enough to see it.

//Wouldn't count on that,// Yugi warned, feeling the magic about them roil with hatred.

//Nor will I.// "Release them, and live."

"You're weeks too late, whoever you are," the man growled. "The way is prepared. The doors to chaos open. I will break the fetters of the demons of Sebau, I will sing to the Terrible One who dwells at the bend of the River of Amentet. I will open the doors of the Other World; I shall delve into the waters of Nu, before the first sunrise, and call its creatures home...."

"You're mad," Yami breathed.

"The world is mad." A manic glitter in dark eyes. "I'm just being sane."

Yami extended his senses, held back a shudder. "You've weakened the very fabric of the world here. What could you possibly gain that would be worth this?" His gaze fell on the bubbling cauldron, the picture of an olive-skinned brunette adrift in candle-lit red.

"Beautiful, isn't she? My priceless Corinne." Lips pulled back from bloodied teeth. "She left me; she's mine, and she left me for her damn witchery!"

//Smart lady,// Yugi observed.

"Oshun wouldn't let me touch her precious little priestess. But I searched, I searched; I found this power, older than hers, and now she burns, she burns...." He laughed, dark and sadistic. "By dawn the little priestess will yield to me or die."

"By starfall you'll be dead, shattered by the creatures you seek to call," Yami stated, darkness curling around his hands. Lust and hate; one who would defy a Power to seize Her priestess. Gods, we are in danger.

"Do you think I care? Flee, and you might live to see the sunrise. Once." The necromancer sneered at twisted apparitions. "Unless you'd like to join my little collection? I've said the words; I've made the sacrifices. The stars bow to me; the great doors in the sky stand open at my call. I can seize you by your very breath!" A hand reached out, squeezed the air-

//Look out!//

Dark magic snarled along an ankh-clad arm, gnawed at gold before Yami could shake it off. //Easy, aibou. I've faced worse.// Sweat touched his brow; violet eyes narrowed, a glint of ruby in their depths. "A poor attempt, necromancer. And unwise." He met the manic gaze. "I sense truth in you, dark one. You have given your soul, without question, and of your own will. Poor a choice as it may be, you have the right to your power. But not to theirs."

"Oh no? People are so ignorant in these times. Look at these, the unburied dead. No one to perform the opening of their mouths, no guide to show them the way into the West. Easy prey. My prey." A hungry smile stretched the sallow face. The curse-caller tugged on dark cords, drinking in the silvery shimmers drained from weeping ghosts. "I have them. And soon, their strength will throw the dark doors open...."

Yami smirked. "Care to wager on that?"

Hot eyes narrowed. "Who are you to ask me?"

Yugi rolled unseen eyes. //Like we'd tell him.//

"That riddle's not for you. But others I will answer. For them." Yami met each pair of translucent eyes in turn; a middle-aged man with a gaping wound where his heart should have been, a worn woman whose lips were tinged with the foam of drowning. A child, thin and shivering and afraid....

Be strong, little one. We will not forsake you.

Cold lips parted. Help us....

"For them I will answer," Yami said softly. Cocked a dark brow at their foe. "Unless you're afraid?"

"Afraid?" The curse-caller's lip curled. "There's nothing in this for me."

"Then we'll raise the stakes." Ruby glimmered in Yami's gaze. "Riddle me, and I'll riddle you. Win, and you win my power. Lose...."

"Riddles? The oldest spells of all, little boy, and you'd challenge me to that?" The necromancer laughed darkly. "Lose, and you'll meet mine face to face!"

"Fair enough," Yami shrugged. Leaned back against a tombstone, eyeing his foe. "Game start."

"You think this is a game? Always hungry, ever fed," their enemy hissed, hand splashing into his cauldron to fling thick liquid toward Yami. "The flesh I lick will soon turn red!"

//Hmph.// "Fire."

And flames - halted, inches from his face.

The curse-caller gaped. "That's not..."

"Possible?" Yami waved a hand, shattering frozen fire into dark glints that crackled and vanished. "At night they come, never fetched. By day they're lost, never stolen."

"Dreams," the necromancer sneered.

"No. Something else you gave up hope of, when you took your first steps into darkness." Black cords splintered in diamond light, freeing the woman with a shriek. "Stars."

Wind swept one ghost from the mists, and she was gone.

"Yield them," Yami warned. "Yield them, and I'll spare you if I can."

//...But you don't think you can.// Yugi's tears glittered down their bond.

//I would try, aibou. But he's granted himself to the darkness. The willing sacrifice of a soul....//

"Weight in my belly, trees on my back," the necromancer growled. "Nails in my ribs; feet I do lack!"

Yami sucked in a sharp gasp, feeling the Shadow Realm pierce his spirit as if the riddle's nails had been pounded through him. What... where....


Tree's child, river-rider.... "A ship," Yami gritted out, tearing off shards of shadow.

His foe stared. "Who are you?"

"Not your turn," the spirit growled. What shall I ask... ah. "Bright as diamonds, loud as thunder. Never still, a thing of wonder."


And black cords shattered in a rush of foam, and the girl fled.

"Waterfall," Yami corrected, recalling the bright spray of cataracts even the staunchest ship needed aid to traverse. "Your move."

"Glittering points that downward thrust." Blood-soaked hands rubbed over each other, a flicker of deadly white forming between them. "Sparkling spears that never rust."

What? I don't...spears that can't rust? That makes no sense.... And there was chill about him, the Shadow Realm's chill as it sensed his lack of answer, stabbing his heart, seizing his magic-



//You wouldn't know this one! Trust me!//

"Icicle," Yami gasped.

Chill held on a heartbeat more. Crackled, and seeped away.

"They have winter in Japan," his foe murmured. "What are you?"

Riddle, I need a riddle. Yami shivered. So close, that last one. So cold.

Words swept into his mind. //This one.//

"I build up castles, I tear down mountains," Yami bit out, eyes on the last, frantic ghost, the pulses of light being drained from the frail spirit. "Some men I blind, others I make see."

The necromancer laughed, tapping his pages. Touched one eye, to pop out a translucent lens. "Oh, please. Sand."


Yami winced, feeling the force of a sandstorm grit across his soul. //It's all right, aibou. We're still here. Just hang on.//


"Ripped from my mother's womb, beaten and burned," came the growl, barely audible through rising wind. "I become the slayer, thirsty for blood!"

Fire, fire and forging wind, wind over blades.... "Copper and tin," Yami breathed.

And razor edges slipped away.

"But that's not the answer," the necromancer snarled. "That's not the answer! Iron is the answer, you should have lost-"

Yami laughed darkly. "We didn't make swords of iron... when I knew it...."

//We can't do this much longer!// Yugi warned, lending his own strength to his darker half. //Why is he still standing?//

//He's given himself to the Outer Dark, aibou. It's in him. Supporting him. Using him, to gain its freedom. Even I couldn't save him now.//

Sadness echoed from his other self, wrapped around a bright core of determination. //Then we've got to finish this. Quick.//

Fear flickered in mad eyes. The necromancer's breath panted harshly. "It wasn't the answer! I should get another chance at you-"

"And I'll let you take it," Yami smirked. "If...."


"Should I win this one, I'll riddle you for the last time," the spirit said coldly. "Winner take all."

"The darkness is with me," his foe snarled. "A few more riddles and I'll finish you, win or lose. What could you possibly have that's worth it?"

Ruby eyes glowed. "Because win or lose, I will give you my name."

"Well. Well, well, well." The necromancer's gaze fell on his pages. And smiled, speaking words old when no tomb had yet been carved in the Valley of the Kings. "Behold, I am the dweller in his terrors, his firstborn. I bring prey from a distance...."

"Sebek." The ghost of the crocodile god snapped fangs on air, snarling as it vanished. "And your accent's terrible," Yami said lightly in English.

"Egypt." The curse-caller's face paled. "You're of Egypt."

"Long and long ago. Mortal fool." //Yugi, help me,// Yami whispered. //I need something he wouldn't know. I need something not of magic. Now.//

Warmth wrapped him, fighting off the clinging shadows. //You already know it, Yami. Trust me.//

Always. "Demons and rogues know nothing else, save starlight."

"What?" Mad eyes narrowed. "That's no Egyptian riddle...."


"You can't possibly...."

"Answer me!" Yami growled. One breath more, hold one more-

Red-stained hands twisted, seizing magic to crush this impudent challenger. "Hate!"

"No." And darkness swallowed robes with a scream.

"As I promised," Yami whispered. The mists of the Shadow Realm faded, leaving a limp corpse on stained grass. Their unnamed foe lay like a discarded doll, eyes wide and dilated and utterly empty. "I gave you my name."


Yami closed his eyes. Don't look, aibou. Don't see.

//No.// Grief and love and shivering bravery reached out to him. //We had to stop him. I know we had to.// Cold swept by his shoulder. //What's that?//

"I believe someone wishes to speak to us." Yami glanced up at a frail spirit. "What is it, lost one?"

Translucent lips worked, trying to form sound. Blood bubbled in the man's wound, faded scarlet.

//Why can't he talk to us?//

Yami frowned, recalling their foe's words. "He's recently dead, aibou. No one has tended to him. And we are no priests, to coax a wandering ba back to its eternal home." Yet - there was a way....

He held out a hand, palm forward, speaking words out of the heart of lost memory. "Ptah shall open my mouth, and the god of my town shall unfasten the swathings. Then shall come Thoth, with words of power, who shall untie the fetters. And Tem shall cast them back at those who would fetter me...."

Faith.... Key... have... tell her-

Candles blew out, and the ghost was gone.

"Aaah...." Yami dropped to one knee on mown grass, drawing in deep breaths of night air.

//You're hurt!//

Yami blinked away blurs, focussing on anything but still, dark cloth. Shivered as misty air exacerbated the chill of spent magic. "We are, yes, my own. I'm sorry."

//...It could have been worse.// Yugi reached out from the Puzzle, testing the strength of night around them. //Everything feels so fragile.//

"He failed. Yet the barriers between this world and the Shadows are thin." Yami reached out with his own senses, winced at the sting. "They should heal in time."

//Can we do anything to help?//

"We've done what we can," Yami admitted, weaving through gravestones toward the cemetery entrance. He didn't feel up to scaling the wall once more. "We're Shadow mages, aibou. Not those who weave the world back together." Gate. Conveniently open. Which made sense, after a fashion; their foe hadn't planned on being stopped by any mortal power....

//Yami, I'm taking over!//

Yugi stepped through the cemetery gate, shivering as ankhs and jacket faded, leaving him clad in a sleeveless shirt of buckled dark blue leather. "Are you okay?"

The spirit shifted in his Puzzle, weary and heart-worn. //Just tired, aibou.//

Yugi chafed bare arms as he walked back to the road. Cascade was chilly. "Grandpa might know where we could find a priest. Someone who'd know how to help." The lights of a convenience store beckoned; he headed for the pay phone nestled by the door.

Something in the set of his emotions roused Yami's attention. //You should be calling a taxi, Yugi. We must be gone before our foe is found.//

"I know. And I will. But we can't just leave him there, Yami. No matter what he tried to do." Biting his lip, Yugi picked up the phone and dialed.

"911, what is your emergency?"

"Point Grey Cemetery," Yugi said quickly. "There's been some vandalism."

He'll be all right. Solomon Mouto paced his room in the Hotel Devonshire, not looking at the clock, running worried fingers through spiky gray hair. He has his deck. He can summon help if he needs it. And Yami's looking after him. He'll be all right.

You should be more worried about the poor fool they're after....

The short old man sighed, sitting down on one of the blue-sheeted beds. His grandson was somewhere out there in the city night, chasing down dark magic. His small, bright, cheerful grandson... whose soul held the spirit of a killer.

Oh, Yugi. I'm so sorry.

Yugi swore Yami never struck without cause. That the dark spirit of the Millennium Puzzle was part of him now, and would not act against his wishes. That Yami loved him, loved them both, as the family he could not remember.

"Just get to know him, Grandpa. He cares about you. He helped me save you...."

Small consolation, toting up the destruction Solomon could now lay at Yami's door. Pain. Insanity. At least five deaths - and those were the ones he knew of.

Not to mention an acute shortage of bullies in Domino High School.

Be fair, Solomon told himself tiredly. Some of that was Bakura's work.

Slim, white-haired Ryou Bakura was almost as much of a bully-magnet as his grandson. And the Millennium Ring's spirit was even more homicidal than Yami.

Yet Yugi and his friends still wanted to tame that dark magic. Befriend it. Lighten it. Bring it home.

And I don't know what to do. Solomon cradled his head in his hands. I simply don't.

Let Yugi keep the Puzzle? Hold that darkness in himself, that ancient magic that drew enemies and allies and monsters into a constant swirl of oddness around them all?

Yugi swore that Yami had changed since he'd solved the Puzzle. That the dark spirit had... gentled. Worn away some of his rage in the companionship of friends, gaining humor, hope, even love in its place.

Yet you don't seem to see how you've changed, Yugi. Solomon closed his eyes. The way you walk, the way you Duel, how you slip into Ancient Egyptian when you think I can't hear... gods, you face down Kaiba and never blink. Yami's wrapped around your soul like a vine. And he's getting stronger.

Could he take the Puzzle from Yugi, if he tried? His grandson had learned more than strategy from the spirit nestled in his soul. Tea Gardner had told him about the so-called simple protective spell that the pair of them had placed on her before they'd left Bayville. Had let Solomon trace those invisible symbols, testing their strength.

The shock had blown him across the kitchen.

Between that and Eli Stoddard's phone call... he'd had to get them out of Domino City. Just for a week or so. Just to have time to think. Time to breathe.

And now this. Please be all right, Yugi.

A knock at the door. "Grandpa?"

Solomon opened the door and looked into wide violet eyes. Noted the goose bumps on bare arms, the faint tear-tracks over pale cheeks. Searched the boy's gaze, looking for a trace of ruby....

What am I doing? He gathered the shivering seventeen-year-old into his arms, walked them both inside the room and locked the door behind them. "Yugi."

A sob caught in his grandson's throat. Chilled hands patted across his shoulders, drawing the boy close, unruly hair brushing against his beard. The Puzzle dug into his chest a moment, slid away as his grandson pressed closer.

And Solomon still wasn't certain who he held.

Time to face reality, Mouto. "What happened?"

"It was..." the boy hiccuped against his shoulder. "Someone was using spirits, Grandpa. Trying to curse a priestess. Corinne. He... gave her name to the Dark...."

Dear gods. Whoever "he" was, he'd put this Corinne in danger of losing mind, body, and soul. Even if Yami had stopped the attempt, the magical aftereffects could be devastating. "Yugi." Solomon kept his tone gentle; this hesitance had to be Yugi. "What happened?"

Fingers clenched in his sweater. Yugi buried his head in Solomon's shoulder, silent.

No. Please, no. "It's all right." Oh, if only it were. "You can tell me."

A shake of a head. Solomon looked down in time to catch the glint of a tear slipping down his grandson's chin.

Solomon hesitated. I don't have to know. Not yet. I could... wait. Until he's ready to tell me.

Or he could ask the one person who would tell him. Whether he wanted to know or not.

"Yami. Tell me what happened."

The Puzzle flashed, and Solomon felt the body in his arms shift. Not his grandson's innocent faith in him, not this; the being he now held was weary, and wary, and still ready to attack if necessary.

"Thank you, Grandpa." Not Yugi's voice, not quite. A shade deeper, a tone richer; words laid out with the confidence of cornerstones. "I've been trying to get him to rest. It... was not an easy battle. For either of us."

Solomon sighed. "So you did kill him." Kami-sama, if you're listening - why Yugi?

"It was a Shadow Game," Yami said quietly. "And we warned him."

Small consolation. Even among those rare few that knew magic in this day and age, Solomon had never heard of any beside himself who'd met the Shadow Realm face to face. Yami could have told the man the stark truth, and never been believed....

And... were those tears, soaking his shirt?

"I don't understand, Grandpa." Yami's voice was thick with rage, sorrow, stunned bewilderment. "Where are the mages of this time? Where are those who should have been watching over their city's spirits, placing wards against such evil spells? We're not of this land, not of these people. Where were those who should have protected them?"

"I don't know. Cascade has rumors of being a difficult place for those with magic...." Yami's words sank in with a shock. Solomon studied the ancient spirit. "You didn't want to kill him."

"Want to? Ra, no!" Ruby eyes met his, exhausted and indignant. "Isis and Hathor, Grandpa, what do you take me for?"

A lost pharaoh, used to the power of life and death, Solomon thought starkly. A spirit of darkness, part of the Shadows you call to wreak havoc on those you consider guilty. A killer in an innocent's body.

My grandson's protector. Heaven help us all.

Yami held his gaze a heartbeat longer, shook his head slowly. "Were there others here who could have dealt with the necromancer, Grandpa, I would have allowed it. Were there laws, and mages to enforce them, and no threat to Yugi - I would have let him pass. I sought him because I felt the spirits cry out, and the world torn, and there was no one else to hold it whole!" A violent shove broke Solomon's grip, and the spirit stalked away.

Is he... crying?

"Yami. I-" Solomon's breath caught. "I'm sorry."

Leather-clad shoulders stiffened. A pale hand tangled in a hotel bedspread, as if wanting to take and twirl and strike him down with it like a weighted cotton net.

"I am sorry," Solomon said softly, placing a careful hand on his grandson's arm. Yes, that was a stray tear, escaping before Yami could blot it. Yugi's grief, leaking through the link between them? Or... could it possibly be Yami's? "I warned Charles not to judge so swiftly. And here I am."

"I am Darkness, Solomon Mouto." Yami kept his gaze fixed on the printed sheet. "I've never denied that."

No. Hidden the fact that he existed, yes. Blanked some of his Shadow Games from Yugi's memory, certainly; though Yugi and Ryou both seemed certain that had been an accident, a yami's protective instincts combined with the Puzzle-spirit's blurry confusion over who owned Yugi's mind. Confusion that had ended with a near-deadly duel atop Pegasus' castle, when Kaiba had forced Yami's hand and Yugi had barely stopped the spirit's strike in time....

Still. Yami had never denied what he was.

"Come here." Solomon wrapped gentle arms around the dark teen, felt muscle and bones stiffen in his embrace. "Shhh. Come here. It's all right."

Stiffness melted into boneless exhaustion, tri-colored hair tucking into his shoulder as if Solomon's arms were the last support over the abyss. "I don't want you to hate me."

"How could I hate you," Solomon said softly. Stroking his grandson's back, thin leather clinging to lines of muscle that hadn't existed a year ago. Yugi had never been one for sports....

Nor was Yami. But the dark spirit loved rooftops as much as his grandson, and had made a game of finding new paths to and from school that crossed at least one each way. It was enough to turn his hair white.

Or it should be, Solomon chuckled to himself, eyeing strands still stubbornly gray. I'd ask him to stop. But it lets him avoid some of the bullies, and that's worth helping him mend a few uniforms.


"Grandpa," Solomon corrected, helping the groggy spirit onto Yugi's bed. "It's all right. I'm here."

Ruby was retreating, mingled with violet in half-closed eyes. "Love you, Grandpa."

"I know." Solomon planted a feather-light kiss on his grandson's forehead, watched the Puzzle's bearer succumb to sleep. And sighed.

We warned him, Solomon thought, walking toward a date with his toothbrush. We moved to protect the spirits. We.

Yugi swore Yami didn't act without consulting him first.

Yugi had let Yami start the Shadow Game.

His young, innocent grandson... had let the spirit he loved unleash the darkness in his soul.

It's going to be a long night.

Annoyance is a thing with feathers, Blair Sandburg thought, deliberately mangling Dickenson, curly head buried under his pillow as doves continued cooing outside the loft windows. Man. For a guy who wants me to put the white noise generators on when I have to study late, how come Jim hasn't taken up target practice?


The anthropologist ducked deeper under cotton-wrapped goose-down. "Whose idea was it to invent morning people, anyway?" he mumbled. He was not getting up. Not if he didn't have to. This was the first morning in over three weeks that he hadn't felt sick to his stomach, and he meant to make the most of it.

"I heard that, Shorty." Jim Ellison's chuckle came right through Blair's bedroom door. "You've got a phone call. Corinne Santiago?"

Say what? Blair tumbled out of bed, yanking on fresh jeans. Pulled on a shirt as he wove toward the door. Managed to tangle a hand in the wrong sleeve as he undid the latch. Ack! Cold floor, cold floor!

Detective Ellison watched his short partner hop from foot to foot, shaking his head. "Coffee." He pointed to the steaming mug by the phone.

"Thanks." Ah, rug. Blair stepped onto the four-colored pile, toes relaxing in relative warmth. "Ms. Santiago?"

"Blair." The Santeria priestess let out a relieved breath. "I hoped you were all right. We knew we were calling you into danger. But I felt the magics worked, the strain on the weft of the world. I didn't dare disturb you until dawn had broken, and the shadows retreated from the land...."

"Wha-" Blair yawned. "'Scuse me. S'early. What danger?" Magic? Corinne had magic; he knew that, no matter how much Jim might deny the evidence. When Oshun rode her, she could stop bullets.

"The dark one. The curse-caller." Corinne's voice was puzzled. "You know. You stopped him."

Dark one? Blair's eyes widened, more awake than caffeine could manage. "Ah... maybe you better take this from the top. Where did you call me?" He sank into the couch. "And when? I've been here since we got in from stakeout." Chasing down a guy who knew a guy who might know a guy they were looking for; frustrating to his and Jim's nerves, especially when Rafe and Brown had a juicy homicide over at Questscape to poke into. Lucky bastards.

Jim had asked to help out. High profile case, the more detectives on it the better, team play - the whole nine yards. But Simon had put his foot down, hard. No way was any defense lawyer poking a hole in the Johnston case by claiming prior prejudice on Ellison and Sandburg's part. Inspector Connor could help. Joel Taggert, definitely. But the two most acclaimed detectives in Major Crimes were not to be anywhere near the Johnston homicide. Period.

Nearly get thrown out of your job by the company president for not covering up his son's cheating and homicidal tendencies, and they think you might be prejudiced, Blair thought. Gee, I wonder why?

"Yes; I should have realized you might not remember." Corinne sighed. "Iyalocha found me in the Botanica last night, in the midst of a half-drawn circle, ablaze with fever. I was... raving. Enspelled. Darkness had me, and none of the counter-charms she could manage would work. She thought-" A raw gasp on the line. "Another hour, and she thought I would break."

"It's okay," Blair said gently, trying to soothe the panic in the priestess' voice. "It's over."

"Yes." She drew in a ragged breath. "Yes, it is. Though now I and mine must say the rites, to ensure none of the darkness escaped to our world... it is over. Thank you."

Silence from the kitchen. Blair looked up, met his partner's blue gaze. Knew the Sentinel was listening to both sides of this phone call. "Did I go anywhere last night?" he mouthed.

Jim gave him an incredulous look. Shook his head.

Okay. "Um... what did I do?"

"Iya was desperate," Corinne admitted. "She called for any power that would help. Any ally who could hear. And Oshun came, and said the blood of the shaman would save me. That the shadows were coming, and I had but to hold on...."

Blair looked over his hands. Gave himself a quick once-over, met another shake of Jim's head. No blood. Not so much as a nick from shaving. "And then?"

"The fever broke. The curse was - shattered." Her voice dropped, became more than human. "We owe you much, Blair Sandburg. Shamans do not slay lightly. We will not forget."


Blair stared at the buzzing phone. Slay? His throat knotted. He'd never been possessed that he knew of. And yet... he knew what Corinne could do in Oshun's keeping. "Ah, Jim...?"

The sentinel was checking every lock and window, sniffing gently, feeling ledges and handles for the minutest scratches. "No way," Jim said firmly. "There's no way, Blair. You were in this loft with me. All night." The detective frowned. "But I think we'd better start looking for a body."

Terrific. Blair moved toward the breakfast nook, suddenly not hungry. Could the day get any weirder?

Mine, Mai Valentine thought, watching a flock of seagulls squabble over the cook's tossed tuna-fish sandwich as they headed for the docks after a long night's gambling at sea. Mine, mine, mine... boy, they really do sound like that. Leaning against the Luck of the Draw's railing, the blonde Duelist's lips curled in a wry grin. If only life were always that simple.

It could be. If this job worked out, if Marie Sidonie's leave ended and the woman Mai was temping for decided she'd had enough of the traveling dealer's life... well, running a table on the Luck could be a good line of work. No magic, no Shadow Games, no annoying blond lunkhead Duelists making her think twice about everything she'd always taken for granted. Just peace, quiet, and making nice with the casino ship passengers. It could be good.

"You free for the day, darling?"

Mai didn't turn, violet eyes focused on the approaching Cascade waterfront as her ears kept track of the brunet sleaze-ball behind her. Anyone whose game table felt as off as Ivan Sterling's was good reason to think twice about making the Luck a permanent job. "Get a life, Sterling. Before I introduce you to my kind of blackjack."

"Hey, just being friendly...."

Mai tuned out his spouted protests, tapping polished nails on painted steel. Moronic sleazes aside, it had been nice to be out of Domino City. Still... there was something missing.

Let's see, a cynical part of her mind toted up. No mind-reading, no dragons, no threats of getting thrown in the Shadow Realm. And you miss that?

Please. Not a chance.

Though maybe it would be nice to give Serenity Wheeler a call. Just to see how the kid was getting on, now that her eyes were better and her mother was actually talking to her brother. And it wouldn't be a bad idea to call Tea, either. Talk about a girl with double the usual boyfriend trouble. She could use a more experienced woman's perspective on the mess.

And it wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that they'll let you know what Joey's up to, would it? That traitor part of her mind pointed out. How he's doing, whether or not he managed to knock himself out summoning another Duel Monster, if he talks about you in his sleep....

I am not thinking that, Mai told herself firmly. Great. Now she was talking to herself. Were yamis catching?

You miss him.

As if. Miss a seventeen-year-old who still had a Brooklyn accent after spending half his life in Domino? A hotheaded, scruffy kid who jumped into any fight or Duel headfirst, wisecracks leading the way for his fists? A guy who still rose to the bait every time Seto Kaiba let fly another stinging barb about lost puppies?

You never know. Kaiba might have something there, Mai thought as the crew fastened them to the dock. Threw a glare Sterling's way, as he tried to sidle past her with wandering hands. Kid's middle name should have been Faithful, that's for sure.

Huh. What she wouldn't give to see Yugi's friends walk up that gangplank right now. Guys like Sterling never went after groups. Or heck, even Seto Kaiba on his lonesome. Cold eyes snapping, trench coat blowing in the wind, Sterling would never know what hit him-

And something - tingled in the breeze around her.

No. Oh no. I didn't mean it!

Mai held her breath as the sea breeze ruffled her hair, fluttering away to tangle the perfect coiffures of the disembarking passengers. Nothing happening, nothing happening....

She let air sigh out. Great. You really do need a vacation, kid. You're jumping at shadows. Sheesh. What had she been thinking? She'd never touched the magic in the cards. And Yugi's friends weren't anywhere near Cascade.

And that goes double for certain less-than-friendly rivals, Mai smirked. Seto Kaiba, in Cascade?

There were bad days, Seto Kaiba reflected. Days when stocks went down, annoying company meetings went up, and some over-caffeinated hotshot in Kaiba Corporation's R&D turned down a blind alley and fried half the lab computers.

There were bad days, and then there were days like these. Days it just didn't pay to crawl out of bed because they started the second your toes hit the floor and could only be considered improved if you took a bullet train straight to hell.

Which the street here was giving a damn good impression of, right now.

Chaos and lights and screaming. Smoke; gasping, bitter smoke. Blackened holes in alley walls. Blackened holes in his heart.


"Kid, you have to get back!"

And he was not going to break the uniformed officer's arm, he was not - though the last executive to call him "kid" had ended up with a shattered company, a ravaged bank account, and most likely a one-way trip to the bottom of Tokyo Bay when his Yakuza masters had figured out their pet corporate spy had snooped on one Kaiba too many. Here as well as Japan, assaulting a cop was a serious offence. A seizeable offence. A jailable offence.

Jail equaled wasted time equaled time not spent looking for Mokuba.

No. Cop assaulting was not on the list of options. Yet.

My head hurts....

*Breathe, master. He's alive. We would know if he were not.*

Hurts and has dragons in it. Oh yes. This was one of those days.

"You okay, kid?" The dark officer none-too-subtly nudged him back from the growing barricade. "You get hit? You look pale."

*Summoning in haste tends to do that,* an amused, scaly voice rumbled in Seto's mind.

Kaiba shuddered, more than Cascade's chill drizzle could account for. There'd been no time to wonder where Mokuba had slipped off to, no time to chastise himself for losing track of his twelve-year-old walking bundle of curiosity of a brother, no time to even take his leave of the confused American computer clerk whose wares he'd been studying with an eye toward keeping Kaiba Corp. laughably ahead of the competition.

Only time to hear, *The young one is in danger.*

Only a heartbeat to seize his Deck, and set one last-ditch, defensive trap.

"Mirror Wall!"

He'd felt the blast, inside and out; felt fire and shrapnel and a bolt of bitter fear-

Then nothing.

"I'm Officer Rogers. Is there someone I can call?" Rogers was glancing from him to the scene, evidently weighing the merits of leaving this dazed bystander on his own to assisting the swarm of emergency personnel hustling into the blast zone in protective gear. "What's your name, ki-" The officer caught sight of narrowed blue eyes, and swallowed. "Sir?"

"Kaiba," Seto snarled.

*Are you sure?*

Idiotic question. Mirror Wall taps your own Life Points. You're in shock, you idiot. Get out of the road. "My brother's in there. Go."

"Your brother's in there...?" Rogers blanched, and hustled off. Grabbing a well-dressed man who'd shown up with the ambulances, pointing toward Kaiba's brass-studded violet trench coat as the suit patted the arm of a sobbing woman.

Some kind of psychotherapist, Seto thought coldly, fading back through the crowd of rubber-neckers; he could spot the false smile a mile away. Here to make it easier on those who'll have to identify a body. As if anything could ease that pain.

But he knew Mokuba was alive. He knew it.

How he knew... he didn't want to think about.

*He's your heart, master. We guard it as we guard you. You struck in time.*

I'm not listening... why are you talking to me, anyway?! I didn't call you!

Puzzlement seeped from his Deck. *You called us for Mokuba. You always call us, when you know he's not safe.*

And visiting America - hell, anywhere outside his own picked security - definitely wasn't safe... no. He was not going to think about that.

Think, Kaiba told himself coolly, skillfully slipping behind a leather-clad gawker as Rogers' suited shrink tried to catch a glimpse of violet. At least he didn't stand out as blatantly in America as he would in Domino City; six-foot-one wasn't an uncommon height here. Explosion, they've set up a cordon even that shrink's not getting past, the uniforms look nervous, and the rescue workers took time to break out protective gear.

Chemical hazard, then. Which meant breaching the line to search for Mokuba would be foolish. Worse than foolish; he'd have outraged physicians to dodge as well as cops, and they were by far the more dangerous.

An ambulance peeled out, ruby and white lights flashing, siren a wavering scream of panic.

Taking the survivors to be evaluated and treated, Kaiba realized. If Mokuba's alive-

*You know he is.*

Hush. If Mokuba were alive, he wouldn't be here.

Break it down. Subroutines. Follow the correct algorithm, and he'd achieve the proper result.

One: phone.

Two: call taxi.

Three: waiting for taxi, run a quick search of his database on which local hospitals were tasked with chemical victims.


"Cascade General."