Well, balls. Two years. TWO DAMN YEARS. Someone punch me.

Sorry I took this long, tho'. There goes that 'chap a day' plan.

DISCLAIMER: I fully acknowledge that I am a cheating lying hellion, but that's no reason to believe that I'd actually steal something like the commercial enterprise for Yu-Gi-Oh!. Jesus.

Both boys had changed into new clothes, ones that weren't hideously rumpled. Judai had been a bit unsure of where to put his dirty clothes, but Johan had assured him that the best course of action would be to just toss them on the floor somewhere.

Johan closed the door to his room behind them, turning to smile at Judai. "Alright. Here we go?" He tugged on Judai's hand, but the brunet boy held back. "Hm? Judai, what's wrong? You okay?"

"Um, yeah. I'm just a little hungry," Judai lied, faking a smile.

Johan saw clean through it. "You'll be fine, love. Mum's not exactly a fire-breathing dragon, you know."

"That's not the way I've heard it told," Judai muttered.

The taller boy shook his head in mock defeat. First making sure that there was no one in the hall, he leaned over and gently pressed a kiss to his lover's lips, leaving a small, true smile in his wake.

"If you're really hungry, we've got enough to feed a small army or two. Let's go." When Judai made a small face, Johan gave him a look. "Okay, if food's not going to fix it, what will?"

"Johan, nothing's –" Johan raised an eyebrow. Nothing more. "Fine," Judai sighed. "I've just got a bad gut feeling. Like seeing a huge shadow on the ground right before you turn around and see the bear, you know?"

"I thought you were Mister Confident before," Johan said.

"Well, nothing lasts forever," he muttered. "Speaking of which, do you know where we're even going?"

"I should," Johan said, "given that I live here."

"'Should' is not a word that inspires unerring confidence, Johan."

"Relax. You said the Audience Room, right? That's just Ma's fancy term for the dining room when all the crap's cleared off the table. Normally the thing is swamped with paperwork because, apparently, desks are for cleaning firearms and dining tables are for your taxes. Eating can be done on the floor if you're that determined."

"Is it just me, or is your mother really… particular about things?"

"That's about the size of it. She's got her quirks. And funny you should phrase it that way. 'Particular' is precisely the word she uses when she's describing those quirks to others. Aaaaaaand, here we are." They had halted in front of large French doors leading into what genuinely did seem like an Audience Room. Through the glass, Judai couldn't help but mentally gape at the 10-yard-long oak table with ornate chairs lining each side. At the head of the table was a much larger chair a good foot higher off the ground than the others with a portion of the table raised the same distance accordingly. Here sat a woman with her head down, engrossed in whatever was on her plate.

Before Judai had a moment to get his bearings and remove the dumb look on his face, Johan had pushed the door open, calling, "Hey Mum! Good to see you! If you popped in last night and I was out cold, sorry. I don't even remember arriving, to be frank."

The woman's head jerked up, an expression of mild happiness on her face. She was a beauty who greatly resembled her son. Her hair was a lighter shade of blue than her offspring's, and her eyes were somewhat more upturned and silver, but she otherwise was precisely what Judai might've expected her to look like. As she stood, it became apparent that she had some meat on her bones. That or, Judai thought with a gulp, she was packing some interesting weaponry under her loose shirt. She certainly moved like a woman with concealed weapons. All he could think was that it was a good call that she hadn't come to meet them at the airport personally if she indeed brought dangerous things with her all the time.

Heedless of Judai's suspicions, Vera sauntered over to her son and pulled him into a hug, kissing the top of his head with some effort, as she was painfully short. "So good to see you home, honey. You've been away far too long and your mother's getting tired of having to do all the chores herself."

"Of course," Johan said, eyes rolling, "you only had children so they could be cheap manual labour. I feel loved."

"As well you should," she said, patting his cheek. She abruptly turned to Judai, eyes sharpening in an instant. "So, this is the boy we've heard not-altogether-much-about?"

Before Judai could get a word out, Johan cut in. "Yes! Mother, this is Yuki Judai. Judai, this is Verruckt Andersen, or just Vera, as she prefers."

"Pleasure to meet you, ma'am," Judai said.

"You, as well," she said coolly. "But there's a matter that must be discussed."

"Pardon?" Johan coughed out.

"Oh, my naïve little bairn, are you really that dippy that you thought we were going to let him into the family without the slightest bit of insurance? Also, coincidentally, I am extremely disappointed in you that you didn't let me know when you first started dating. And you should pay more attention and call me on it when I tap your cell phone."

Judai was a bit dazed. "You… you tapped his phone?"

"Yes," she said absently. "I planned on catching him looking up porn and instead I catch a boyfriend. How odd."

"Mother!" Johan blurted. "I don't look up porn on my phone!"

"Then where do you look it up?" Judai asked.

Johan spluttered for a few seconds. "Be – besides, I already knew you did that, Mom! I just… I just figured it'd be easier if I didn't have to go through awkward conversations to keep you in the loop."

"Right, dear, keep telling yourself that. But you're all of you missing the point. Judai, whether I've tapped the shit out of my son's conversations or not, I still don't know you and I'm hardly going to hand over my son to someone I don't know or trust. You have to earn my regard, and until then, you're not permitted anywhere near my family."

"…Mother, this isn't funny," Johan said. "You've gone a bit far."

"Oh, I don't think I've gone very far at all. Aren't you going to say something, Judai? Hardly seems right that a man should let someone else argue his battles for him."

Judai took a deep breath and let it out. "Just how am I supposed to go about earning your trust, then?"

"Judai! What the – Mother, what the hell is going on here?" Johan sounded not a little panicked at this point. "Mom, I thought you said you'd love to meet him! Where in the shit did this come from?"

"From a momma's need to protect her baby's heart, dear," she said, eyes still locked on Judai.

"Perfectly understandable, ma'am," Judai said.

"It's not understandable at all!" Johan yelped. "Stop saying that!"

The older woman smiled thinly. "Mister Yuki, I don't trust people who are only worthy when someone points out to them that they should be. I have two requests of you, although it might be best that you not mistake them for favours. Firstly," her eyes narrowed, "my son dropped off the face of the Earth for several weeks a good few months ago. I'd like to know what happened and what part you played in it. I was given an official released version, but it stank of lies and governmental cover-ups. From it, I managed to glean your involvement, but not much else. I refuse to be kept in the dark. And I also will be questioning you two separately to make sure your stories are consistent. I will not be lied to, either. If I think your actions were at any point unsatisfactory, you will be taken outside and shot."

"Understood. The second?" Judai asked.

"Mom, I was going to get around to telling you, I really was, there's no need to –"

"Johan, not now, dear. The second is a requirement that you can work under pressure at achieve the task at hand, as well as proving that you are in possession of at least a handful of IQ points. There are two sneaks in this house that I do not recall inviting. You are tasked with locating them, incapacitating them, and bringing them directly to me." She grinned wolfishly. "I'll take care of the rest."

"Are there photographs of them, or surveillance footage?"

"Yes," said Vera.

"…May I have them?" Judai asked.

"No." Vera looked absolutely delighted to deliver the line. "You'll have to figure out who they are by your lonesome. Although, I must say, it should be easy, considering you ought to recognise them both."

At that, Judai's forced calm slipped. "Huh? What the hell does that mean?"

"You'll find out. When you find them, you are to knock them unconscious. I'm granting you use of these flash grenades and this – " she handed Judai what looked to be a massive gun, " – is to be used for the takedown. Don't worry; they're all beanbag rounds. I'll not have you ruining my home on the off chance you're a shitty shot. I don't think it needs to be said that if you hit one of my friends around the house, being that they are mostly Mafiosi, they might kill you. It might even be an accident, given how jumpy some of them are." She giggled, and the sound was downright unnatural. "I'm giving you until dinner, at which point we'll reconvene here and you'll get around to telling me the story from a few months ago. Is that fair?"

Judai's head was spinning, but he nodded anyway.

"Marvellous! Let the hunt begin!"

Jim and O'Brien had Frequent Flier Miles out their ears and saw fit to use them for some heckling. It seemed Jim was inordinately excited to be visiting Italy and considered the whole thing to a wonderful tourist-y adventure, whereas O'Brien would be content to get in, laugh and Johan, and get the hell out. He was the worst tourist ever, as Jim had informed him multiple times already.

"Suppose Johan gets one good look at us and slams the damn door in our faces? What then?" he asked.

"Tsk-tsk, pessimistic as evah, ahn't we?" Jim said, digging around his massive duffel bag. "And ya always think I don't come prepahed, don't ya? Well, joke's on you, Debbie Downah." He unearthed a huge folded object that appeared to be some coarse cloth.

"Is that…" O'Brien began.

"Yep. Sho' is. I expect you've no problems with sleepin' out undah the stahs, should our accommodation plans fall through?"

"None at all," O'Brien said instantly. "But on the other hand, did you see that damn house o' his?"

"You mean the fo'tress?" Jim snorted. "Not sho' I saw much else. Damn thing takes up 'alf the ruttin' countryside."

"Fortress? I was thinking castle, personally."

"Nah; no turrets. Or a moat, fo' that mattah."

"But when they get around to getting a proper moat, the alligator will be here ahead of time for their convenience, is that right?"

Jim guffawed loudly. "Ol' Karen-girl'd keep e'erybody out, wouldn't she now? Well, most of 'em! She might be takin' a bit o' them with 'er!"

"I thought you said she was vegetarian?" O'Brien asked, trying to mask the hint of worry.

"Jus' because you don't eat humans don't mean you cahn't kill 'em when yer throwin' a wobbly." (1)

"How 'bout this? I pretend I know what the hell you just said, and we get away from the part of the conversation where Karen could decide to dismember me in the middle of the night just 'cause she's pissed."

"Why would Karen be drinkin'? She's not 21, yet."

"You know what? Screw it. Are we going to go ring the damn doorbell and take our chances, or what?"

Jim played with an earlobe before speaking. "I've a bettah idea. Doo'bells are fo' quittahs, not fine trackahs like ourselves."


"Let's sneak in, eh? Mission: Impossible style. Find Johan's room, drop in, ruin an evenin'… sounds like a solid plan!"

"Except for the part where we get lynched by the Italian Mafia. Great plan, but I like having just the one asshole. No need to go collecting more from gangsters who shoot first and ask questions later," O'Brien said.

"Oh, come off 't. This is Johan's house. Who's going ta be shootin' us? 'is mum? What's next, Judai hittin' us wit' flash grenades? Tomorrow-Girl carpet-bombin' us? Load o' bollocks, that is."

O'Brien pinched the bridge of his prodigious nose. "All right. This once. But if ever you try 'n' tell me I'm a wuss, I'm going to remind you of this very moment and laugh your ass all the way to whatever death you have planned for us then. We clear?"

"Crystal, mate."

"Then let the hunt begin."


(1) Throwing a wobbly – A British (and consequently, Australian) phrase meaning 'to have a fit', or 'having a temper tantrum'. Jim used it once or twice in the English version of YGO GX and no-one had a damn idea what he was saying then, either.

Note: "Pissed" in American is "angry". "Pissed" in British is "drunk". Just to clear that up.

I hope you think you know what bullshit is going to rear its ugly head next chapter. For the ones after that, just keep in mind that my style is to lull you into a false sense of security before shit gets real. You might think you know what's going on now, but you don't. Oh, how you don't. *evil cackle as hands rub together in manic glee*