"Okay, where is it?" Otogi muttered, as he picked the way down the halls. It was dark here, as it was in most of the building, but he was concerned about turning on the lights and attracting someone's attention. Obviously there was something not right about this situation, and it would be hard to help Yugi if whoever was causing the trouble caught him, too.
There's got to be a computer around here somewhere. He stared at the doors he passed, trying to get his memories of the visits he'd paid to Industrial Illusions in the past to match up with what he was seeing now. He was fairly sure Pegasus had an office around here somewhere, where the two of them had met to discuss business once or twice. It seemed logical to assume that if anyone had a computer that could let him hack into Industrial Illusions's system, it would be Pegasus.
I hope he's okay...
He shook his head, pushing away those kinds of thoughts. Come on, Ryuuji! He's bound to be fine. Pegasus is much too smart to let those guys catch him. Whatever's going on, he's bound to have gotten away from them, so just keep your mind on your job!
"Ah, this is it," he said aloud, as he recognized the door he was looking for. He tried the handle. "It's unlocked, good! I'll just have a quick look in he... oh boy that's not good."
He had been right: he'd found Pegasus's office. Pegasus was still in it. There were cards spilled around him, as if he'd been dueling recently - and had, apparently, lost. Then, it seemed, he'd dropped to his knees and pitched face-forward onto the carpet, and hadn't moved since. Otogi stood a moment and stared, wondering queasily if the man was dead. Finally, he forced himself to get closer, and as he did, was relieved to notice that Pegasus was still breathing.
"Hey," said Otogi. "Are you okay? Can you hear me?"
Well, that's a stupid question, he thought almost immediately afterwards. Obviously, he and the others hadn't gotten there fast enough to help Pegasus. There was definitely more here than met the eye. He'd been through enough by now to know the outcome of a Shadow Game when he saw one, and this was definitely it. Just like in Battle City, there was nothing left of the fallen duelist but an empty shell, perfectly healthy in every way, but unable to wake up because the soul that should have been attached to it had gone elsewhere.
Now what do I do? he thought. Then he thought, There's nothing I can do, right now. Right now, I have to help the others.
That was the truth, and he knew it. Nevertheless, something disturbed him about this situation. He couldn't quite bring himself to just walk away and leave Pegasus just lying there on the floor, crumpled and rejected like a cast-off piece of clothing. He was worth more than that. Otogi had always been an admirer of Pegasus, and still considered him to be a great man. He had a vague notion that there had been some points of contention between Yugi and Pegasus during that Duelist Kingdom thing, but no one had ever explained it to him in detail, and he figured that since Yugi had come to Pegasus's aid now, it couldn't have been all that bad. Most of what he knew about the man, he knew from dealing with him in person. They had been in fairly close contact ever since Otogi had relocated to San Francisco, at least up until the last few days when all this business had started. Before they'd spent any great deal of time around each other, he had admired Pegasus as a brilliant game designer and an unsurpassed player. Now that he knew him better, he admired him for being intelligent, witty, cultured, and generally interesting company. He was a free spirit, and Otogi couldn't help thinking he was a kindred one as well. You didn't just leave someone like that behind you without a second thought, if he was in trouble.
The least I can do is get him off the floor. He'll have one serious pain in the neck, when he wakes up, if he lies there like that very long.
He looked around. There were a few chairs lined up against the wall, for the convenience of visitors. Lying there would be much more comfortable than lying with his face pressed into the carpet. Otogi pushed a few together to make a sort of bench. All that remained was to remove Pegasus from where he lay. He knelt next to him and carefully lifted him partway off the floor so he could drag Pegasus to the other side of the room. It wasn't as difficult as it could have been. Pegasus might have been taller than Otogi, but he was slightly built, and wasn't particularly heavy. Otogi made it a good distance without any trouble, up until the point when he realized consciously that he had his arms around Pegasus J. Crawford, at which point he nearly dropped him in surprise.
The thing about being business partners was that it was necessary to maintain a professional distance. Otogi had never actually come closer to Pegasus than what was required for shaking hands. Clinging to him like this was definitely a new experience... and not an entirely unpleasant one, he had to admit. After all, it wasn't as if Pegasus was unattractive...
Now cut that out! he thought, a little surprised at himself. Not so much because he was attracted, . He was used to that by now. He was just a little disturbed that he could even be thinking things like that at such a serious moment, especially when Pegasus wasn't exactly all there at the moment, so to speak.
"Don't think I'm taking liberties or anything!" he said, a little defensively. "I'm just trying to help. Honest."
With some difficulty, he managed to get Pegasus comfortably settled on the row of chairs. Otogi hoped he was comfortable, anyway. There was really no way he could find out. As an afterthought, he gathered up the cards that had been dropped on the floor and tucked them under Pegasus's hand. Now he looked less like someone who had just suffered an undignified loss, and more like a tired businessman who had closed his eyes for a quick nap. It was hard to tell there was anything wrong at all... but Otogi could tell. It was subtle, but he could tell. There was something wrong about the facial expression: the vibrant spirit that normally animated it was missing, leaving only a blank mask.
I guess I really can't do much good here, he thought. This is the kind of thing I have to leave to Yugi. He's the one with the magical powers and all that... but at least I tried!
In a sudden flash of insight, he wondered how long Pegasus had been lying there, alone in his office. He must have been there for some hours, at least. Considering that Otogi hadn't heard from him in a while, he could have been there for days, even. No one had found him. No one had found him because obviously no one was looking for him, because this was the most obvious place to come looking for him. It was strange to think that this man - one of the wealthiest and most influential people in the world - had been left alone and forgotten like this the minute the tide had turned against him. Didn't he have any family or friends or anyone who cared about him? Otogi looked at the form lying forlornly before him and thought he could guess the answer. Any more selfish feelings that might have been simmering in his mind were drowned out and replaced by pity.
"Well, even if no one else does, I care," he said aloud. Maybe there wasn't a soul in that body right now, but there still should be a functioning brain, and his ears should still be able to hear. Maybe Pegasus would remember hearing him later. "I wish I could do more for you than this, but right now, there's something I have to do. But I want you to know that I came here because I was worried about you, and I wanted to help... and I promise that I'll come back as soon as I can. Just hang in there, okay?"
He didn't get any response, but then, he wasn't expecting one. He hated to turn his back on Pegasus, but there was really nothing more he could do. With a sigh, he turned and walked away to get back to his original task. He had wasted too much time... no, he hadn't. He couldn't have not done this and had an easy conscience. It was just that there were other people who needed him, too. His only comfort now was to keep firmly in mind that he was the only one who could help the rest of his friends out of the jam they'd gotten into, and to repeat to himself the promise that he'd made: he would come back.
He didn't come back. He didn't need to: it seemed that once the danger was over, one of Pegasus's hirelings had finally found him and arranged for him to be sent to a hospital. Otogi told himself that it was probably just as well; that Pegasus probably wouldn't have lived very long if he was just left unattended in an empty office building until Otogi himself had time to get himself back there, but he couldn't help feeling a little jealous anyway. He'd been a bit more smug in his role as Pegasus's only defender than he really liked to admit.
At least he could go and visit him in the hospital. It had taken a bit of doing to find out where exactly Pegasus had ended up, but he was determined to keep his promise as best he could. It had taken a bit of persuasion to get the hospital staff to let him pay a visit (they seemed to be worried about keeping such an important person safe in his vulnerable state) but in the end, he'd been able to use his charm and credentials to wrangle permission. Soon, he found himself once again alone in a room with Pegasus J. Crawford.
The circumstances could not have been more different than last time. Instead of a dark, dreary office, this room was bright and sunny. There was a even a vase with some kind of frilly flowers in it sitting on his bedside table. More importantly, instead of lying senseless in a heap, Pegasus was sitting up in a chair by the window, looking out at the flowers in the hospital courtyard. He looked up when the door opened, and an expression of pleased amazement flashed across his face.
"Otogi-boy! What a surprise! What are you doing here? Don't tell me you're sick."
Otogi couldn't help laughing a little; obviously Pegasus had made a full recovery. "Nah. I was just in the neighborhood and thought I'd drop in to see how you were doing. Are you okay? I'd have thought they'd let you out by now."
"Have no worries, dear boy! I am sound as a bell. They just keep me here for observation because of the extraordinary number of extraordinary things in my medical history. They seem to think I'm a little crazy." He gave a melodramatic shrug at the eccentricities of other people.
"Can't imagine why," said Otogi.
"Apparently I said some ill-considered things after I lost my eye, and they've been watching me ever since. One of these days, I have no doubt they'll try to put me away completely. Not that I'll let them get very far, you understand, but I wouldn't put it past them to try. Honestly, you try to be truthful with people, and just because you happen to insist monsters and magic are real, they think you're crazy."
"If I told them what my last week has been like, they'd lock me up with you," said Otogi. A bit more quietly, he said, "Not that I'd mind, particularly. We might make good roommates, don't you think?"
He said it lightly enough that it could be taken as a joke and passed over, if Pegasus had wanted to. Instead, he fixed him with a thoughtful look.
"That reminds me," said Pegasus. "It seems to me that I had the most peculiar dream while I was out. I am almost certain I remember your voice. Did we happen to cross paths at some point?"
"Yeah, I guess you could say that," said Otogi. "When Yugi came to get that card you left, there was kind of a little scuffle with those Doma people, and they locked him and the rest of the gang into a room, and I got sent to try to hack through the computer system to get them out. I went looking for a computer, and I found you in your office, and I hated to just leave you lying there. I tried to do what I could to help."
"You stopped what you were doing to tend to me, even while you knew your friends were in danger?"
Otogi flushed; put that way, it sounded like he'd been unforgivably thoughtless. He tried to defend himself.
"I didn't stay long, really. I just couldn't stand to see you left all alone like that. Nobody else cared but me. I mean, I look up to you - I like you. It burned me up that those Doma people just left you lying there like you were just garbage. The rest of the gang could at least do something to help themselves, but you were helpless. I knew there wasn't anything I could really do, and I know it was kind of stupid, but..."
For what was possibly the first time in his life, he was stuck for words. No matter what he said, he was finding it hard to reconcile the fact that, if only for a moment, he had ignored the friends who cared about him in favor of someone who only thought of him as a business partner.
But I don't think of him that way. That's why I did it. I'd do it again, too, if I had to. He's too special to be ignored.
Even as he was thinking that, trying to work through his embarrassment, he saw Pegasus rise gracefully to his feet and cross the room to stand in front of him. He placed a hand on Otogi's shoulder.
"I was not accusing you," he said. "Listen to me, Ryuuji Otogi."
It was the first time since the day they'd been introduced that Pegasus had called him by his full name, and not the flippant title he usually employed. Otogi listened.
"You saw what happened when I lost control of my company, didn't you?" said Pegasus. "As long as I was successful, I could surround myself with people eager to obey my every whim, but the moment success left me, so did they. I honestly did not expect help from any quarter, except for what I'd asked for myself. I didn't even place full trust in that. Even now, I think Yugi only pities me because he knows I have no one else to rely on."
"That's not true," said Otogi. "You could rely on me."
"Yes, but I didn't know that! I only knew you as an admirer of Pegasus J. Crawford, the invincible gamer. I saw no reason why you shouldn't be disillusioned after word got out that I'm something less than perfect. You wouldn't tell me if you were - not if you wanted to keep your game on the market. I had no reason to believe that you wouldn't leave just like everyone else did when I was no longer of use to you. You have no idea how grateful I am to be proven wrong. It has been a long time since anyone has genuinely cared about my well-being. It's a nice change of pace, really."
Otogi felt a wave of relief, and forced himself to hide it with his usual careless smile. "Good to know. Here I was, thinking you thought I was completely lame."
"Not at all! It's exactly the kind of thing I would have done," Pegasus replied, "back when I was young and in love."
It was a good thing for Otogi that he was standing still just then, because if he'd been walking, chances were he would have tripped over nothing at all at that moment and fallen flat on his face. As it was, his face took on an uncharacteristically stunned expression, and he emitted a baffled, "Eh?"
"Please don't tell me you're going to start stammering out denials. You've been making such a nice impression on me up until now. If you're going to stammer and look dazed at me, the least you could do is stammer out a confession. I don't like being alone. I do, however, like you."
Otogi managed to filter that through his mind and come up with a translation he thought sounded good. He smiled slowly.
"Come to think of it, you do have your good points," he said. "Anyway, you're definitely more intelligent than my fan club back at school. And better looking. And they don't play cards."
"You know, if we follow this conversation to its logical conclusion, and anyone finds out about it, they really are going to decide you're as crazy as I am."
"Doesn't bother me."
Otogi observed, almost with detachment, that they were standing closer together than they normally did. Much closer than they would have needed to stand just to shake hands. He decided to bridge the gap. For a second time, he put his arms around Pegasus and clung to him tightly. He heard an unmistakable sigh of contentment, and he smiled. He had been right. Holding Pegasus was so much better when Pegasus could hold him back.