Trading places

xxxxx

Warnings/notes: see first chapter

Disclaimer: I don't own Yu-Gi-Oh.

written at 4th january 2005, by Misura

Thanks to the people who reviewed the fourth chapter:

To clarity: -grins sheepishly- I guess I do stretch the term AU here; I just can't seem to help myself. As to everything making sense in the end … well, I sure hope it will, if I ever get there. –winks- Thank you!

To Freak09: Not exactly soon but there –is- an update, so I hope you'll forgive me for being late. –smiles-

To ChibiSerenity3: Not to burst your bubble or anything but … -none- of my stories really move anywhere, I think. They're just, well, there. –winks- Thank you!

To mandapandabug: In short: Gozaburo, Seto and Mokuba's uncle, is running Kaiba Corp after their father was in an accident and the two of them went missing. Otogi chases after Shizuka, much like he does in the anime, and he's made a bet with Honda to fire Joey and see if Joey's so-called skills will help him find a new source of income. In Joey's stead, he's hired Seto, presumably not knowing who Seto really is. It's all kind of complicated, and me wanting to keep some things secret or mysterious probably doesn't help either. –grins ruefully- Thank you!

To Lil-Riter: Kaiba is Gozaburo, definitely. (Though he prefers –Mr.- Kaiba. –winks-) Thank you!

To DarkShadowFlame: I must admit, I didn't read half as much from Shakespeare as I should have. But yes, this is a bit like Hamlet, except that Gozaburo didn't marry Seto and Mokuba's mother, or something like that. Mokuba and Noa are a little like Romeo and Juliet, too, except that I don't intend to let them commit suicide. –grins- Thank you very much!

To pixiestickchild: Thanks, I did!

To Radiany: Strange as it may sound, I mostly based Ryuzaki's personality on the impression I got from his voice in an episode I saw in another language, which took place during Battle City. Joey is intending to duel Espa Roba, and Ryuzaki really does sound like a mother-hen in warning him not to do it. He's also got a cute kind of accent that makes him sound caring, rather than, well, not caring. That scene was definitely at the back of my mind when I cast him as Joey's colleague.
Gozaburo does not, in fact, have a picture of Seto and Mokuba in his office. That's what the line: "That photograph, long gone by now, had depicted two children." is supposed to say; Seto and Mokuba's –father- did have a picture of his kids there, but Gozaburo's not the sentimental kind, so he doesn't.
Thank you very much for your review!

To Bourei no Hikari: Don't worry, I haven't mentioned yet who Haga's partner is. In fact, I haven't even mentioned what Haga does for a living, or why he'd need a partner. –winces- Thank you!

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Shizuka stared at the five bags that were standing on the floor of her bedroom in slight horror. Granted, they contained clothing for two months -though, of course, she'd wear some of them more than once, since it wasn't as if she was moving to some sort of barbaric location in the middle of nowhere.

Still, she felt like packing 'the bare necessities' should have resulted in far fewer luggage. Maybe if she unpacked all of it and then folded the clothes a bit more economically, she could ...

The sound of the doorbell prompted Shizuka to throw a quick glance at her watch, which told her that yes, it was pretty close to the hour on which Mai had promised to come and pick her up. With a last discontented look at the bags, she went to open the door.

As she'd expected, her visitor was, indeed, Mai Kujaku. And also as she'd expected, Mai had some comment on the amount of luggage she was going to bring with her, though not quite in the way Shizuka had feared.

"Are you sure you'll only need five bags?" Mai somehow managed to pick up three of them, making them all appear to weigh next to nothing at all. "Of course, we can always come back if you need anything."

Shizuka lifted the two remaining bags with a slight frown. "But I thought the idea was that it would disrupt the experiment if Joey would be able to find me at home and ask me for help."

Mai shrugged. "Well, quite aside from the dubious sense of that rule, you might remember that you -are- paying two detectives to keep an eye on Joey. If they're worth their money, they should be able to tell you where Joey is at any time of the day. We'll simply have to make sure he never gets any chance to spot you during the next two months."

"Two months sound like a very long time." Shizuka sighed.

"It all depends on whether or not you'll have anything else to do than worry about Joey. And, believe me, I have no intention of being a bad hostess and letting you get bored." Mai winked. "Those two months will have passed before you know it, and then we can all have a good laugh at Otogi and Honda, for coming up with such a silly idea. Unless Joey has beaten them to a pulp first, of course, which wouldn't entirely surprise me."

Shizuka, with a slightly disturbed expression, opened her motuh to say something, but Mai prevented her. "No, please, I'm only teasing you. Joey may be a bit of a hothead, and he might not quite see the joke of getting fired and made to live on his own strength for a while, but you shouldn't worry. We'll make sure nobody gets hurt. At least, nobody who doesn't deserve it."

Mai grinned, and Shizuka responded with a smile. "Thank you for your reassurances, and for all of your help. I'll do my best not to be a bother to you, and make it feel as if I'm not there at all these two next months."

"Now that," Mai stated firmly, "would be a very unkind way to repay me, Shizuka. Really, why would I invite you to stay at my house if I didn't want you to be there? Of course, I'm simply curious to see how Joey will do, and staying near you gives me the best opportunity to do that, but I also asked you because I quite simply enjoy your company."

Shizuka blushed. "You are very kind."

Mai looked slightly uncomfortable for the smallest of moments, before her usualy carefree expression returned. "Well then, no use in us standing here. Let's get you settled in your new home for the coming weeks."

xxxxx

(elsewhere)

"You!" Ryuzaki's sharp voice resounded through the hallway, earning him a lot of strange looks. In general, one did not scream in the Kaiba Corp. building. It was bad for one's career-prospects.

"Where have you been?" Ryuzaki appeared not to care one whit about career-prospects, the expression on his face that of a person who has been pushed well beyond their limits. "And what has happened to your desk?"

Joey (for he was the person Ryuzaki was yelling at) walked on without giving any indication that he'd heard Ryuzaki's questions. Had Ryuzaki been in the mood to note such details, he might have observed that Joey's shoulders were slumped, and his attitude unusually subdued.

Though Joey wasn't to be found up and awake too early in the morning, once he -had- dragged himself out of bed, he tended to be energetic and cheerful, ready to jump at anything that wasn't work. That still made Ryuzaki and most of his co-workers think of him as lazy, since, not-so-surprisingly, Mr. Kaiba didn't approve of activities that weren't work taking place in -his- building.

"Hey! I'm talking to you!" Ryuzaki managed to grab Joey's sleeve, forcing the other man to a halt.

"Oh, sorry." Joey turned, his lips curving in a grin. "I mean, it's cool and all that you're so upset about me leaving that you've come to see me off, but I told you before: you may not be the worst kind of guy that works here, only I'm straight, and that's that. Now, don't you have a project to finish or something?"

"What the ... you ... I ... " Ryuzaki sputtered. "I'm not interested in you like that, you moron! You could be the last other guy on earth, and I -still- wouldn't be! I just want to know what's going on around here!"

"I quit." Joey shrugged. "Well, actually I got fired, but hey, same thing, right?"

"Hardly." Ryuzaki frowned. Why had Otogi decided to get rid of his least useful employee -today-? A month ago, when they'd been flooded in work, yes, -then- it would have made sense to replace Joey with someone more skilled and willing to work, only currently, it was almost quiet. Sure, there were deadlines coming up, there always were, yet ... "What did you do?"

"Nothing." Joey snorted. "As usual. Ah well, I guess Otogi's simply over my sister. Good thing too, since the only way that slimeball would've gotten anywhere near her would have been over -my- dead body."

"That's - " Ryuzaki started, when a cold voice interrupted him.

"Joey, I suggest you get a move on. If you're still here in another ten minutes, Security will be forced to remove you for unauthorized trespassing. Ryuzaki, shouldn't you be working, instead of wasting your time chatting?" Otogi made a shooing movement with his hand. Joey glared at him, before vanishing into an elevator, without another look in Ryuzaki's direction.

"It's still thirty minutes to the end of my lunch-break," Ryuzaki informed Otogi, slightly surprised to find himself feeling stung by Otogi's casual threatening of Joey. He supposed it was merely a matter of principles; -nobody- should get fired without any reason and then get kicked out by Security on top of that, not even people as worthless and annoying as Joey.

"Good for you," Otogi replied, in the tone of someone who couldn't have cared less.

"And I want some clarifications," Ryuzaki continued, his gaze wandering to a small camera that hung in a corner, near the ceiling, and was facing the doors to the elevator. It was said that Mr. Kaiba used these cameras to keep an eye on everything that went on in his building. Ryuzaki had no idea if this was actually true, but he did know that Otogi couldn't take the risk.

Otogi seemed to know this as well. "About what?"

Ryuzaki hesitated for a few seconds. In the unlikely case that Mr. Kaiba -was- listening in on them, a question about Otogi's motivations for getting rid of Joey would hardly receive any kind of answer. Otogi was as aware as Ryuzaki that Mr. Kaiba didn't care who his directors fired, or why; all that mattered was that their departments functioned properly.

"Joey's replacement, for example. Who's going to take over his work? Any new person has to be screened by Security, which takes at least a week. We can't work properly for that long without one of our team's members!" They could, of course, and without any trouble, since Joey had rarely done -anything- productive, but Otogi'd hardly be able to point that out right here. It'd make him appear rather inefficient, for starters.

"Don't worry, I've already found someone." Otogi's smile seemed a little strained. "Security's checking up on his background should be finished this afternoon, so if all's well, you should meet him tomorrow morning. Which reminds me: I have a meeting with Honda in five minutes, so I really must be going."

x- tbc? -x

A/N: This chapter 'tasted' rather bland to me, but none of my attempts to rewrite it got me anywhere. I hope I'll feel better about the next one, once I've written it.