Blair fingered the remnants of a serpent-torn beautification sign. "Don't think I'll ever look at this park the same way again." He looked up. "Are they there?"
Jim listened toward the picnic table, then past it. "Yeah. With Kaiba and Bakura blending into the background within shouting distance."
Blair winced. "They're that scared of us."
"You're still wiped after a day sawing logs, Chief, and you didn't call up dragons. And we still have witchcraft laws on the books." Jim tapped the folder of information he'd pulled together from Dan, Homicide, and a few of Blair's Internet-pals in Egyptology. "He's seventeen. A little young to know something like this falls on the side of the angels. And a lot of cops would find a way to lock them both up and worry about the law later. This-"
"-Is scary," Blair finished. "But you think-"
Blair rubbed the nape of his neck, nervous. "I mean, we weren't there-"
"Evidence speaks for itself. You taught me to trust my nose. Trust your instincts."
"Scary? Yeah." Jim squeezed a companionable hand on his guide's shoulder. "Come on. Let's go tell a story."
"Detectives." Solomon stood as they approached the table, stepping between them and his grandson. "You wanted to see us?"
"Unofficially," Jim said calmly, laying the folder on the table. He reached out with his senses, catching a nervous heartbeat, a faint whiff of ozone and desert around Yugi. Yep. Yami's right under the surface. How does he do that? "Thought we'd just fill you in on a few things." He glanced at his partner.
"A couple of nights ago Homicide investigated a suspicious death in Point Grey Cemetery," Blair began. "It's going to be written up as causes unknown."
Skipped beat, panic - calming now, that's interesting. Know a little biofeedback, do you? Figures. Your uncle does.Jim hid a smile. Let's see how it holds up to this. "Which is a shame, given that it ought to go down as justifiable homicide."
Solomon swallowed. "I don't see how that could be possible, Detective Ellison."
Jim barely stopped himself from nodding in sudden comprehension. So that's it. Part of it, anyway. Your grandpa doesn't get it, and he's all you've got left. The former Army Ranger's lips parted in a silent whistle. And that's why you headed for Kaiba. Kaiba had killed, without regrets; Jim had known that almost from the moment he'd met the dragon master's gaze. Where and why a seventeen-year-old had been driven to kill, he had no clue. Though given what it takes to set that ice prince off, I'd bet it had something to do with his little brother. "Don't think they're going to tell us what happened, partner."
"So why don't we tell you what happened," Blair said quietly. And opened the folder.
Jim sat, arms folded on the table, listening to the nervous hearts across from him as his partner wove the story of one dark night. In his mind's eye he saw the scene Blair painted with words, beeswax candles burning in cemetery darkness, the boiling cauldron of herbs and blood....
A sweaty hand drops three bundles into simmering crimson; hair and fingernails, stolen from the morgue by bribing one of Dan Wolf's less moral associates. Lost spirits sob in the darkness, dragged to the caster by malign magic. A woman drowned by her boyfriend. A runaway girl, dead of exposure and the streets and despair. And a man; one gunshot to the chest, surprise and shock and a last gasp of betrayal. Austell Johnston.
A photo flutters into the cauldron. The chant rises. Blocks away, a Santeria priestess writhes in agony.
Footsteps pierce the chant; quiet, unfaltering despite the darkness. A small figure stops, well out of reach of the necromancer. And then....
"Then we're not exactly sure what happened," Blair admitted. "Based on what we know now, and the fact that the hair nearly crawled off my arms when we walked the scene, I'm guessing some kind of magical battle. You fell. He... died." The guide sighed. "And then you limped out of the cemetery, called the cops, and got a cab back to your hotel. Desk clerk says you walked in looking like death warmed over."
Solomon winced. "You have no proof."
"Nothing that would hold up in court," Jim said evenly, watching Yugi's stricken face. "But enough for Simon. The guy was hexing a local priestess. She had a restraining order on him. He wasn't doing it for kicks." Damn it, the kid's scared to death. Solomon's right here, doesn't he think his own grandfather will protect him-
Oh, hell. He doesn't.
"Hex is putting it mildly," Blair picked up the thread. "We got in touch with a few Egyptologists; I know one who studies curse bowls. She says that from the look of it, he put together an ancient Egyptian necromantic spell. Magic to shatter a soul and let loose demons." He shuddered. "I know Corinne Santiago. She almost died that night. If I'd been there, I'd have shot him."
"You'd have tried to talk him down, first," Jim said wryly. He hadn't missed that sudden rise in heart rates across the table at her name. "When he didn't listen, then you'd have shot him."
Blair nodded reluctantly. "And it would have been a good shooting, Solomon," the anthropologist admitted. "Corinne believes in her faith. And belief can kill. Even without magic." He faced Yugi squarely. "I'd just like to know how you did it."
Yugi paled. "I...."
"Detective!" Solomon started angrily.
"I'm supposed to be the shaman of this city, Solomon." Blair swallowed, knuckles clenched white on report pages. "I'm supposed to be the one who makes sure things like this don't happen. Please." Teal eyes pleaded with two sets of violet. "Tell me what I missed. Tell me how I can make sure this doesn't happen again." One hand let go of the folder in a rustle of paper, spread helplessly. "Tell me how to stop it if it does."
Yugi bit his lip. Gold flashed, as if a sudden shaft of sun had caught his pendant dead on-
And for a moment Jim caught that disturbing double image, as innocence stepped aside for darkness.
"In Hor, dedj medew," Yami began softly. "By Horus, words spoken: See! I have arisen again. Isis my mother has held her wings over me; Isis great in magic has sent her scorpions to slay my enemies. Seth my brother stands at my right hand, he has slain Apep, the serpent of night, the demon who would devour the sun...." Yami sighed. "The necromancer bent and twisted the magic of Egypt, seshem. I could no more miss that than I could an eclipse of the sun. As for the how of his death...."
Solomon touched his arm. "Yami. Don't."
This is it.Jim tensed. This is what Yugi knows Solomon's afraid of. Whatever it is, it's worse than the cards.
"He should know, Solomon. The Shadow Games are loose once more; none of us can change that. His chances of survival will be far greater if he knows the nature of the danger." Yami touched his palms together, drew them slowly apart, as if pulling cold molasses....
Only what pulled between his hands were shadows.
"Gently," Yami warned as Blair gasped. "They will not harm you, so long as I hold them. But gently."
Jim gritted his teeth as his partner touched violet shadows. Stay calm. Stay calm. Blair needs to know this, as much as you ever needed to grab the dials. "That's the Shadow Realm Henri was talking about, isn't it."
"A part of it, yes." Yami relaxed his fingers, letting misty shadows curl about his hand like kittens. "I have the power to summon it into this realm, or bring those of this realm there. As I did with Jenna and Mokuba, to find Corinna's wandering soul. As I did to the necromancer, when he challenged my right to free his stolen spirits." A dark brow quirked upward. "The more fool he."
"A challenge in the Shadow Realm invokes a Shadow Game," Solomon explained reluctantly. "The stakes are high. And the game can be anything. A dice roll. A jigsaw puzzle. A Duel...."
"Riddles." Yami laughed darkly, dispelling shadows with a wave of his hand. "He almost had me with the one about icicles."
"That's not funny, Yami. Taking my grandson into that kind of danger-"
"Your danger as well, Grandpa. We could not ignore it." Yami set it aside with a shrug. "Know this, Blair. In a Shadow Game your true nature is revealed. Those who are weak of heart will perish. If you have doubts, if the stakes are too high - forfeit. That, you may endure. I know of very few who have survived losing a Game meant to kill."
"Kaiba," Solomon almost growled.
"No, Grandpa," Yami said gently. "I never intended to kill him."
"Kaiba hurt you, yes. But he himself was hurt, and lost, and consumed by darkness. Should I have robbed Mokuba of the one soul who loved him, as I feared Kaiba's pain and anger had robbed us of you?" Multicolored spikes shook slowly. "I shattered the darkness from him. It was vengeance enough."
Retreat - doubling-
And Yugi sighed, blond streaks flopping back into innocent bangs. "He won't ever hurt you like that again, Grandpa. Isn't that enough?"
Jim surreptitiously eyed the kid, caught his partner openly doing the same. Like a relay runner, handing off the baton. Yugi doesn't fade. He doesn't stress out. He just - switches.
Which did not fit what Jim had been able to look up on MPD.
Weird. Very weird.
"Of course it's enough," Solomon said reluctantly. "That's not the point."
No, it wouldn't be, would it?Jim hid a thoughtful nod. You didn't blink hearing about Olshaker. Which means Yami's played his Shadow Games before. And most likely killed before; both Moutos felt like Blair, somewhere in the back of his senses, and Jim knew the kind of psychos Sandburg attracted just by breathing. But Yami let Kaiba walk... and you don't see the difference.
Kaiba was cold. Cruel. Lethal.
But if the chips were down, Jim would have dumped a bleeding detective on the CEO while he went for help.
Maybe not Blair, the sentinel admitted to himself. I'd rather leave a casualty with Yugi, the kid cares, but... ice or no ice, Kaiba would never abandon someone in his charge. That kid... that young man is pure steel. He'd keep his word or die trying.
Solomon rested his bearded chin on his hand. "Blair, I'm not certain how much we can help. I know various protective charms, a few minor deceptions; all one needs to keep a dig safe in the Valley of the Kings. But as for finding trouble before it takes root-" He winced slightly. "Yugi's very... attuned to dark magic. I'm not certain how much of that can be taught."
"We could walk the city," Yugi suggested brightly.
"Walk it?" Blair asked, curious.
"Looking for weak spots," the teen nodded. "Like the one in Point Grey. Places where it's easier to call magic. I did it all around my high school, so I wouldn't run into things while I'm trying to think about trigonometry." He looked at Jim, amethyst eyes wide and earnest. "I know it'll take a while, but Grandpa said we'd be here for a week. You could walk with us when you're off-duty. It would help, wouldn't it?"
"Definitely," Jim smiled. The first step in fixing problems was knowing where they were likely to crop up. Ask any beat cop.
"Great!" Yugi bounced off the bench. "I'm going to talk to Ryou, if he can help we could do it faster-"
"And he's off," Blair said under his breath as Yugi raced out of earshot. "Was I that bad?"
"Worse," Jim said confidently. "And what do you mean, was?"
"Yen for your thoughts."
Rafe gripped the railing of the PD roof as he looked out over Cascade. He knew who was behind him; had known almost from the moment the pair opened the roof door. That odd sense of wings and innocence that marked a white dragon cub, beside the sensual, silken feathers and lethal talons of a harpy... "I think that might be an overcharge, Ms. Valentine."
"Please. After almost landing on top of me falling out of the Shadow Realm, Detective? Call me Mai." The purple-clad Duelist sidled up to Rafe, lowered her voice as Mokuba ran to get a better look at a passing traffic helicopter. "Tell me you're not thinking of doing anything stupid."
"I - no, I...." Rafe swallowed. He hadn't even thought of what this might look like. "It's just... the wind feels nice." Was that Henri, waiting and worrying inside the door? He couldn't tell, all he could catch was a smoky hint of fear and familiarity-
"Easy. Easy!" Mai latched onto his shoulder to steady him. "Whatever you're doing, don't push it."
"I don't know what I'm doing." Rafe buried his head in his hands. "I don't know what's happening to me."
"It's called magic, Brian." The blonde dipped her head to catch his gaze, violet eyes full of compassion. "Far as I can tell, most people can slam right up against it; and if it doesn't kill them, they just forget it. Some people see it, believe it, and remember it. They can't use it, lucky bastards, but it clings to them like socks right out of the dryer. And since magic seems to attract magic, life just keeps getting weirder." Mai sighed. "But for a few people - people like you, people like me - hell, Detective, we got the booby prize. Magic likes us." She nudged his shoulder. "I've got a deck with a heartbeat, just itching at me to use it. What have you got?"
"Something that's not me," Rafe said, trying to put words to the feeling in his veins. "It's wind, and light, and claws...." His fingers closed convulsively on the rail. "It's not me, Mai. But it's pulling me. And I'm slipping, and I can't stop." He gripped cool metal, surprised all over again at how frail wrought steel felt. "I should want it to stop."
"Sit down." Mai's tone brooked no argument. "Mokuba? Any ideas?"
The boy skipped over to them, looking Rafe over with too-old eyes. "Yugi said we shoved so hard, we shifted your aura. It was only supposed to be for a little while. But then Seto needed a dragon, and they had to pull in so much magic to fight the demon... Yami doesn't think it's going to go back." Mokuba looked down, shoulders slumped. "I'm sorry."
"Hey." Rafe gathered the little hairball into his arms. "It's not your fault, kid...."
It rang through him like a bell. This little one was like him. Not the same; Mokuba felt younger, wilder, more in tune with the shadowy cards in his pocket than the wind-carried feel of magic and mystery. But so much like what had nestled in his spirit.
White dragon cub. "So how do you live like this?" Rafe asked softly.
A shrug in his arms. "I just do." Mokuba pulled back enough to grin at him. "Besides, nii-sama loves dragons."
"And how," Mai murmured, ruffling the kid's hair. "The casino ship canceled my contract - something about 'acts of God', I think. Guess they couldn't say acts of sea serpent." She snickered. "So I'm catching a flight out with short stuff here. Places to go, tournaments to win...." Mai shared a sneaky grin with the younger Kaiba.
"But Yugi's going to be here." Mokuba stepped back, serious. "He knows dragons, too. He even got Seto to smile!"
"Next best thing to a miracle," Mai informed Rafe. Smiled at Mokuba. "Who knows, kiddo. Between you and Yugi, we might just get your big brother to figure out he's human after all."
"Just wait a second." Rafe gave them both a wary look, heart sinking. "The Moutos are going to be here?"
"Um-hmm." Mai's eyebrows flicked humor at him. "With Ryou. He said something about helping Dr. Wolf fix the morgue so you don't get anymore unexpected visitors." She gave him a sympathetic smile. "I were you, I'd lock up the silver."
"He's a-" Rafe swallowed.
"Oh, Ryou's fine," Mai shrugged. "Nice kid. But Bakura could rob you blind just walking past, and you'd never even know it."
"I asked him to show me how, but nii-sama says I should stick to security systems until I'm older." Mokuba folded his arms, disgruntled. "And then he won't tell me how much older!"
"You-" Words failed Rafe. "What do you people do in your spare time?"
"Every once in a while? Save the world." Mai slipped him a wink. "Come on, Detective. Let's go terrorize your bullpen one more time."
Luggage, check. Tokyo meeting schedule, check. Charitable donation to Cascade General, check. Watching his company plane being made ready at the Cascade International hangar, Seto snorted at that last item on his mental list. Charity had nothing to do with it. Donating the funds to fix the hospital's roof would cover a significant portion of Kaiba Corporation's American taxes... and if what Ryou had hinted earlier this morning was accurate, he might have good reason to want Cascade General fully operational in the future.
"Rather odd that Mouto-san would set out to meet the shaman of Cascade without even knowing, don't you think?"
Kaiba almost growled at the memory. Odd and Mouto were practically synonymous. But Ryou's comment had been more than enough to pique a master strategist's curiosity. Between glares at the tomb robber while they waited for the detectives' meeting to go to hell, he'd started various searches on Major Crimes in general and one Blair Sandburg in particular. In the course of which he'd pulled up various records - or lack of same, when it came to the paternal side of the man's family - and one of the anthropologist detective's ID photos.
And stared at it for what felt like eternity.
"Does he know?" Kaiba had confronted the slender teen once Yugi was safely starting back toward them.
"Have you seen anything explode yet?" Ryou had countered. "I would you were staying. He's innocent, not blind."
Given that the subject of their discussion had just skipped into earshot, further discussion had proved impossible. Just as well, Kaiba told himself now, turning toward the sound of Mokuba's happy chatter as a mingled band of Duelists and two stray cops approached the landing field. It's none of my concern how far Solomon Mouto may have strayed.
Just as it wasn't his concern why Solomon was concealing what he evidently knew to be the truth. Or how Yugi would react once he did realize what was literally before his eyes. Yugi knew well enough that his grandfather still had a very active social life; if he'd never considered the potential consequences of that, he had only himself to blame....
Seto winced, watching Yugi give Mokuba a parting hug. Picturing the grief and confusion in the small teen's wide eyes when he finally did know. It's not my problem, damn it!
"Yeah, email would be great," Sandburg was saying to Mokuba, Ellison taking notes at his side. Mai had already headed on board, muttering something about checking out the competition for a Tokyo tournament. As if there would be much, Kaiba thought dryly. Valentine's good enough to beat most of them without magic.
"Kaiba-kun?" Yugi approached him, the spike-haired teen's usual optimism bright in his smile. "I know you've got to go soon, but could we talk? About what happened on the roof?"
"We fought. She lost," Kaiba said dryly. "And I have programs to write."
"About what happened to you, Kaiba," Yugi persisted.
"Nothing happened." Believe it hard enough, and it might be true. He'd Dueled. He'd won. That was all.
"Seto." Yugi cocked a dark brow, a milder echo of his darker half's exasperation. "You know what happened. What you remembered. Who you remembered." A small hand found his sleeve. "I know it startled you. Tristan's still getting used to-" Yugi hesitated, aware of the potential listening ears. "To knowing some things. And he doesn't use magic."
"Hmph. Lucky for the rest of us." Damn it, when had Yugi decided stay away from me meant touch me whenever possible?
And when had he started letting it happen?
When you realized your best rival was being crippled by another man's irresponsibility, Seto told himself coldly. Empty victories are a waste of time. Yami has to be fighting at his best, or winning back your title will mean nothing.
Of course. That was all it was; the warmth, the caring, the wild thrill of battling at Yami's side. Just another tactic to ensure his ultimate victory. That was all it could be.
"Seto?" Dark brows drew down, puzzled.
"I need to talk to your grandfather." The sooner Kaiba could get the old man to take up the slack again, the sooner he could abandon this useless warmth. It wasn't fair to Yugi to pretend that he cared-
And small arms had found their way about his chest, hugging him close with more than Yugi's strength. "Biaw."
Mine?!Seto stiffened. "Were you drinking the wine of Sekhet-Aanru while you were trapped in that Puzzle, pharaoh? The hells I'm yours!"
Why on earth is he - oh.Seto bit back another vivid, all too ancient curse. "You," he said, picking Japanese words with great care, "Will not win this."
"Ah, but I don't have to win, Seto." Ruby glinted in amethyst as Yami stepped back, still not speaking any tongue native to the last few centuries. "I only need ensure that you do not lose."
"English or Japanese, damn it!"
The pharaoh granted him a mocking bow. "As you will, mer setau, sechem hekau, ukhes sebau em maseru."
Lover of fire, victorious with magical words, slaughterer of fiends in the night.Titles given to a Power... or to one who called upon them. Seto drew in a slow, vicious breath. I'm going to kill him.
Though killing Yami would mean admitting he understood that impossible speech, which meant-
Details later. Mayhem now.One swift grab. Just one.
"Seto?" Mokuba looked over at him, wary.
And... he was not going to maim anyone in front of his little brother. Not yet. "Mouto," Kaiba said harshly, stepping aside from the crowd. "A minute of your time."
"What do you want, Kaiba?" Solomon kept his voice low as they walked out of casual view around the corner of hangar.
"Hold your grandson."
Solomon rocked back on his heels. "Excuse me?"
"Hold him, hug him - give him one of those idiotic head-rubs Wheeler deals out," Kaiba bit out. "Do something. He needs - people. To touch. To be touched." Details, Kaiba told himself forcefully. Give him details, even if it sickens you. Make your case once, so this never has to come up again. "You've never seen him in school, with Tea and the others. He's always touching someone. Usually it's not me, but he's - starving." Kaiba steeled himself to meet the older man's gaze. "Hate Yami if you have to. But your grandson loves you, don't ask me why, and when you won't touch him you hurt him like-"
Gozaburo. No. I won't say it. Not for Yugi. Not for anyone.
"You hurt him," Kaiba finished lamely. "And the sooner you stop it, the sooner he'll leave me alone." Alone....
*You're not alone. We're here. We'll always be here.*
An eternity of dragons. Terrific.And yet, the idea didn't seem so frightening anymore. The Blue Eyes were power that would never forsake him, power that... cared about Mokuba.
*Just Mokuba?* A scaly laugh tickled him. *Believe that, then. We'll wait.*
"And that's what you want, is it?" Solomon was eyeing him very oddly.
"I want my title back. In a fair fight." Kaiba straightened his violet trench coat, let his lips curl in the familiar dismissive smirk. "That's all that matters."
Make it to the plane. Just make it to the plane.
A murmur of voices; a few barked orders, and there was engine-whine and the characteristic thump of wheels-up-
"Seto? Seto!" Mokuba barreled into his arms, driving him back against the plane's cushioned seat. "Nii-sama, talk to me!"
"What in the name of-" Valentine was staring at him, white-faced as she craned her head from the next seat over. "Who died, Kaiba?"
"No one." His eyes stung, and his throat hurt, but he knew he wasn't injured. Did I breathe in smoke? "Don't be a fool."
"Seto." Mokuba's hand touched his cheek. "Did you and Yami fight again?"
"Why would you say...." Kaiba cleared his throat. It burned. There must have been smoke. Why don't I smell it? "No."
But Mokuba was already clinging to him like a kitten, head nestled into the warmth of his shoulder. Holding him, the way only two people Seto could remember had ever held him; the little brother in his arms... and the one he'd left behind.
"It's okay, Seto," Mokuba whispered. "It'll be okay, you'll see...."
And never flinched, even when tears fell in dark hair.
Yugi stared out where Kaiba's plane had vanished in the sky, one hand absently touching his Puzzle.
Pain. Hurt. Longing.
Zipping up his jacket against a cool drizzle, Blair tried to shrug off the faint but unmistakable sensations whispering around the small teen. "Hey."
//...He's hurt....// A soft whisper; Blair had to take a second look to be sure Yugi's lips weren't moving.
//...Couldn't hold him here, aibou.// A darker voice, confident but weary. //Mokuba will look after him, and the Blue Eyes....//
Is that Yami?Blair's eyes widened. Involuntarily he looked back toward the airport parking lot holding Jim's truck and Solomon's small rental, gaze skimming to the bus-terminal style overhang where the rest had taken refuge. Ryou slouched almost in the rain, alternately concerned and amused. Solomon still looked disturbed, leaning against the clear wall as if someone had taken his worldview and given it a good shake. And Jim was standing near the older man, talking to him in low, confident tones.
Go on, Jim mouthed at Blair. Get him out of the rain.
Easy for you to say, Jim.Blair had read that multiples sometimes heard the alternate personalities "talk" to each other, but to hear it himself? Freaky. "Earth to Yugi? You in there?"
"Ow, man...." Blair shook out his left hand, wincing. Blew on the offended tips, feeling like an idiot. Again. This time it felt even more real, even when he knew there was no way his fingers had gotten caught in a stone door....
Saw the red on nails and fingertips, and swallowed. So why are they bruised?
"Gomen... sorry. I get distracted. I-" Yugi caught sight of his fingers. Small shoulders slumped. "Oh."
Uh-huh.Blair flexed his hand, raised a dark brow. "I'm going to assume you didn't do that on purpose."
Pink flamed over Yugi's cheekbones. "Ano... not exactly."
Blair waited. A few raindrops sneaked past his hood, turning curly hair to damp ringlets.
"Pegasus, he - it's a long story." Yugi drew a deep breath. "He could read minds, and trap souls. He took Grandpa's soul... and then he took Mokuba's."
The creator of Duel Monsters was stealing souls. That innocent - okay,mostly innocent little kid. And... my father. Man, oh man. "So that's how you knew about wandering spirits." Blair tried to keep his voice calm. Tried not to imagine the terror of a parentless teenager left with the soulless body of the only family he knew. Make that two parentless teens. My god. "Kaiba kicked his ass?"
"He tried," Yugi admitted. "But Pegasus read his mind. Read his cards. Seto fought him, but... he lost." Wide violet looked up at him. "And Pegasus trapped him, too."
Oh shit.No wonder an iceberg like Kaiba might feel indebted to a bright soul like Yugi. "So I'm guessing you took Pegasus on," Blair said slowly.
"It was the only chance they had." Yugi shrugged. "I saw him Duel Seto; how he always had the perfect move set up and waiting, no matter what Seto tried. I knew it was magic. And then he Dueled me, and we realized he really was reading our minds." A shy smile touched his face. "So we figured out a way to use that against him."
Blair blinked. "Two personalities." Holy cow. You turned that into an advantage?
"Two minds," Yugi confirmed, gaze warm as he touched the Puzzle. "I'd set a card, let Yami take over. Yami would play what we had, then call me out when he needed to spring a surprise. We just kept switching whenever Pegasus probed us. Which is... kind of why Yami slammed his door on you." Yugi huddled into his rain jacket, sheepish. "I don't know if you know what you're doing, Dr. Sandburg, but when you... reach... like that, it feels like a mind probe. And we just - react. Sorry."
"Nobody's fault," Blair shrugged. Inwardly his mind reeled. They switched? Voluntarily? Fast enough to play a game? How? "We'll just have to work on it. And call me Blair. Come on, let's get out of this wet."
"Well?" Jim asked in the truck a few minutes later, pulling out behind the rental loaded with the Japanese trio.
Or should that be quintet?Blair thought, shaking his head. "There's a lot they're not telling us, Jim."
"No kidding." The sentinel concentrated on the wet road. "We've got a week to figure it out. If you want to."
Blair frowned, weaving his fingers together. "I think I do," he admitted. "Yugi's a good kid. A little confused...."
"Seventeen's confused." Jim snorted, easing them into a turn. "Add a multiple personality on top of that, and you've got real fun."
Blair hesitated. "I'm not sure Yami and Bakura are multiple personalities."
Jim slid a quick glance his way. "So what the hell are they?"
He believes me. Blair felt a rush of relief, unknotted his fingers. Thank goodness. "I don't know. Yet. They just don't fit the profile."
"But they don't know that," Jim concluded. "Think I'm going to have to have another talk with Solomon."
"What were you talking about?" Blair asked, leaning on the window. "He looked pretty upset."
Jim's lips curled into a wry smile. "Looks like your nephew needs physical contact just as much as you do, Chief. Kaiba read Solomon the riot act about not shunning the kid."
"Say what?" And pigs were, without a doubt, flying straight south for the winter.
"He was clumsy about it," Jim acknowledged.
Blair shook his head, trying to fit this jarring fact into the mix. "Oh, man. Solomon said he was having a little trouble getting used to Yami, but...."
"If Kaiba can tell it's a mess, it must be really bad." Jim sighed quietly. "Blair. You don't owe them anything. Maybe you feel like you do. Maybe you would, if things had been different, if Naomi had stayed put or Mouto's family hadn't been a bunch of cold idiots. But Solomon came looking for you, not the other way around. We don't have to get involved."
"Maybe not," Blair admitted after a long minute. "But... I like Yugi, Jim. And Ryou. They're here, Jim. Now. I couldn't live with myself if I just let this chance slip away." He swallowed dryly. "And I want to know Yugi's Grandpa." He dredged up a smile. "Just keep me from doing anything stupid, okay?"
Blue eyes danced. "Now you want miracles."
"Do my best, partner." Jim shrugged. "But if a dragon shows up on Main Street-"
The sentinel's grin was all teeth. "-You get to explain to the mayor."