It had been exactly two weeks since Joey had been hurt protecting Yugi from Marik's attempt to kill him, and the tricolour-haired boy was covering his friend's shifts at the Day Care Centre.
It probably wouldn't have taken Joey that long to recover had they not been attacked on their way to hospital from the Battle City Finals, dragging him into both a duel and a Pokémon Battle with a Team Galactic Administrator.
It wasn't like Yugi minded. It was the least he could do after Joey had saved his life twice in the space of forty-eight hours. While Joey hadn't asked Yugi to do this for him, after the Death Duel and Marik's murder attempt someone needed to cover Joey's hours at the Day Care Centre. If Yugi hadn't volunteered to do it for free while Joey was on sick leave they would have hired someone to replace his friend.
He was just tired. He hadn't realised quite how many hours Joey took after school until he'd agreed to work them all and he had a new appreciation for the lack of time Joey had to do anything with the group outside of school. There was no way he could have done it if Tristan and Tea hadn't agreed to fill in for him at the game shop. As it was he often had to rush his homework or do it on his break.
He would get used to it eventually; at least that was what his colleagues were saying. It would apparently take him a couple of weeks to get used to the schedule he was putting himself through, then he'd stop feeling as tired. If anything they were impressed that he was managing to keep up with everything considering the complaints they often heard from Joey about his ability to do the exact same thing.
Yugi had an unfair advantage there though. He had Yami to keep him on the ball, in fact the Pharaoh had done his homework for him (badly, admittedly, but it had been done) three times over the last fortnight, got him into school on time twice and bailed him out when someone had tried to jump him on the way home from work. Yugi didn't like to ask about what had happened to that guy and Yami wasn't telling, but from the way Yami had been acting smug the entire following day, Yugi could guess that the attacker wouldn't be doing it again in a hurry.
And there was a plus side to working at the Day Care. He finally had access to the Centre's internal Pokedex and he was in on the beta testing of the PDAs that would work as the employee's Pokedexes, giving them immediate access to all the information in the Centre's extensive database just by scanning the Pokémon in question.
They didn't work particularly well yet - in fact they were going to have them back in again for adjustments to the camera and a new set of programming - but they worked well enough for Yugi to start catching up on all the things he'd missed the first time around when Jamie had been teaching Joey all the things she thought he'd need, and the devices gave the others a chance to pull their acts together.
The problem when Yugi had first started here had been that everyone had rather relied on Jamie, and later Joey, for the important information. Jamie had tried offering the same classes she was giving Joey to the other staff members, but no one had taken her up on it and was now regretting it as everyone scrambled to find someone who was able to handle the Pokémon competently.
Luckily that had come in the form of a pair of Trainers from the Pokémon World or, as it was beginning to become known by those in the know, the Pokeworld, Both of them favoured Electric type Pokémon. They were Chi Risha of Oldale Town, and Robert Langley of Canalave City.
They didn't have Jamie's background as their parents hadn't worked with Pokémon Researchers, but they had more than enough knowledge about Pokémon between them to keep everything running smoothly and were more than willing to help the other staff members catch up.
Yugi did have one advantage, it seemed. A bored Haunter had 'kidnapped' him one evening, demonstrating that the ghost Pokémon could interact with human spirits. While Yami was convinced that it was all Bakura's fault, it had proved that a ghost with an even infrequent playmate caused less trouble in general.
Of course the problem with working with the Pokémon was…
"You're not supposed to be here." A newly-awakened Yugi grouched at the Persian who for the fourth morning in a row was laid across his legs. She (Langley said it was a she) took up a considerable amount of space on his bed. The rather large, beige furred cat stared at him for a moment before leaping down to allow him to get up and feed her.
Yugi had learnt though, and before he even moved from his spot on the bed he put the Millennium Puzzle on. He'd played 'chase the Puzzle stealing Persian around the flat' two days in a row and was not – for a change - a big fan of the game.
He was beginning to wonder if he should just accept the inevitable and requisition Persian's Pokeball from the Day Care Centre. They'd pretty much just assumed that it was going to come and live with him now anyway; he might as well accept the fact…
"Yugi!" The King of Games cringed at his Grandfather's tone, wondering how Persian had gotten in this time. The first night it had been because Yugi had left the window open, the second it had managed to, somehow, and Yugi wasn't sure how considering how big it was, hide itself in the flat, probably under his bed or in the airing cupboard, the third night it had been in the flat when he'd gotten home and last night he could have sworn that the Persian had been in the Day Care when it had been locked and it most definitely hadn't been in the flat when the store had been shut last night.
Yugi worked out what the problem might have been when he tripped over a red furred, six tailed fox, who gave him a hurt look and barked at him. "Vulpix!"
"Oh great, two of you." Yugi groaned, wondering if any of the other Pokémon from the Day Care Centre had followed him home. These two were the ones who had taken to following him around when he was covering Joey's shifts, but he was convinced that if he'd let the ghosts come home with him they would. Not that they needed his permission to do anything. "How did you get in?" He asked the Vulpix, who just gave him an innocent look and bounded down the stairs ahead of him.
"Good morning, Grandpa." Yugi offered as he reached the bottom of the stairs. "I'm guessing that you found out how Persian and Vulpix got in last night."
"The back door was unlocked."
"But I locked it…" Yugi frowned; confused for a moment before deciding that he needed to have a word with the ghost Pokémon, since it had to be them or the psychic types that kept letting the other Pokémon in and he couldn't let it continue. He was just lucky that he was one of the few that they would listen to. They couldn't keep letting the other Pokémon into the flat. What if someone got into the flat because the back door had been unlocked?
"This isn't safe, Yugi." Solomon scowled, "If you're going to keep bringing Pokémon home, I want you to adopt them officially and bring them home on the evening so they don't have to break into the flat every night."
Yugi just nodded, having been wondering how to approach the subject with his Grandfather for the last couple of days. "I'll get the paperwork started when I get into work." He was just glad it was a Sunday. It meant that he had an eight hour shift at the Day Care but he'd have plenty of time to get the paperwork started and get the two Pokémon in question assigned to him. "I'm not sure how long the process will take and they might send someone round to look at the flat."
His Grandfather nodded. Yugi had explained the adoption process that Kaiba Corp had set in place back when he'd been trying to memorise everything he'd learnt in his induction. "Just make sure you tell them to ring ahead. The store has a mini tournament today and I don't want Kaiba's goons scaring off my customers."
"Mokuba's in charge of the Pokémon side of Kaiba Corp." Yugi defended the boy who had agreed him taking on Joey's hours with no complaints or conditions. "Not Seto."
"He uses the same thugs, Yugi." Solomon admonished, well aware of his Grandson's ability to see the good in everyone but not as willing to trust the Kaiba brothers as Yugi was.
"Don't worry, I'll try and make sure Chi or Rob phone ahead."
"They send the Trainers out on the adoption checks?" Solomon asked, surprised, as he followed Yugi into the kitchen, starting breakfast cooking as Yugi boiled some water for tea.
Yugi, who was reaching into one of the cupboards, reminding himself to remind Tristan that while he and Tea could reach the higher shelves, neither of the Mutous could unless they used a step stool, glanced over his shoulder at his grandfather, "Only the Trainers know everything a Pokémon needs, well them and Joey. The rest of us are still learning everything in the Pokedex. Jamie used to go out on all the adoptions, but now the staff members split it depending on knowledge and experience."
Yugi poured the tea and offered a mug to his Grandfather before sipping his own drink, "Just don't forget you promised a duel to the winner of the store tournament." Solomon sighed.
Yugi just nodded, trying not to let his grandpa see how much it bothered him when he was used as free publicity for the shop. He could understand why his Grandpa did it, it didn't mean Yugi liked it, especially when the promise of a duel with the King of Games drew in people who weren't regulars and threw temper tantrums, in Joey's words, when they lost to some of the kids who shopped at the store regularly.
Nor did it help in slightest that doing so had released his address to the duelling press. It had been bad enough when he'd had challengers turning up at school. Now he had them at home too.
That was one of the things he liked about working at the Day Care. Everyone there knew his title, but barely anyone cared. There was just too much going on and too much work to do to worry about it. That and the last time a bunch of Duelists had tried to badger him in the Day Care, he'd been in the middle of feeding the Pokémon and Denkou, Jamie's Raichu, hadn't appreciated having to wait for her food.
Apparently Duel Disks malfunctioned if introduced to a Thunderbolt attack.
Solomon dished out the breakfast as Yugi fed the two Pokémon that had followed him home, watching his Grandson interact with the huge feline and the small red kitsune. Solomon had half expected to end up with Pokémon living in the flat, though it had been more to do with the fact that Joey seemed to be assembling his own team, then Yugi was enamoured with the Pokémon.
In fact before Battle City the only Pokémon Yugi had been overly interested in had been Joey's Dragonair and Jamie's squad. Now he seemed as taken with the creatures as Joey was. "Just one thing," Solomon said, causing Yugi to glance over at him, before turning back to the Persian who was demanding that Yugi hand over the tin of tuna with a rather loud meow, "If another canine Pokémon comes up, could you try and get it?"
Yugi frowned momentarily, realised his Grandfather missed having a Mightyena to stand guard over the shop, then gave him a bright smile, already trying to work out if there were any Pokémon who could do guard duty at the centre at the moment, and Shade didn't' count, since he, along with the rest of Jamie's squad, bar Iblis, who stayed with Joey, and Aisu, who was travelling with Jamie, were assigned to guarding the Day Care. "I will."
"Yugi," Yugi, who was curled up on the sofa in the staff lounge, doing homework on his lunch break, looked up from his book report for English the moment he heard Mokuba's voice, concern obvious, "Can I have a word?"
"Sure." Yugi quickly moved his feet off the sofa, shuffled his books around and moved his lunch to one side so he could put his homework down, as Mokuba sat down opposite him. "Is there something wrong?"
"No, no." Mokuba shook his head a little too quickly, informing Yugi that something was up, but the Vice-CEO of Kaiba Corp didn't want to tell him about it, "I was just returning your copies of the adoption forms for Bast the Persian and Okibi the Vulpix."
Yugi, who had only put in the forms this morning and was surprised by this quick turnover, took the forms from Mokuba with a grin, "That was fast."
Mokuba shrugged, "It's not like we have to check the game shop's suitable. If it can take Jamie's squad, Shade and Aisu, Bast and Okibi won't have any problems living there. And I know you, Yugi, you're not exactly going to mistreat them." Mokuba smirked at him, "Besides, from what I hear Bast's practically adopted you anyway. If I didn't sign off on the adoption I might have found your Persian shredding my furniture, since she can apparently walk through walls."
Yugi, who could sense Yami's irritation over the matter of the cat like Pokémon, just chuckled lightly, assuming, half correctly, that Mokuba had been informed of the problem by other members of staff. What Yugi wasn't aware of was that after Battle City, the Kaiba brothers had made sure that there was someone hanging around Yugi at all times who could report in if he got into any Marik-esque trouble again.
When Mokuba didn't say anything, Yugi grew concerned. It wasn't like Mokuba to come down to hand over paperwork personally and, though the other boy was trying to hide it, his concern over something was blatantly obvious. "What's happened?" Yugi asked softly.
Mokuba looked up, surprised, about to deny it when he realised who he was speaking to and let out a soft sigh. "It's Seto."
"Is he alright?" Yugi asked, trying not to notice the way that both concern and interest had spiked across the link from his other self for just a moment before the Pharaoh had schooled his emotions. He shook his head mentally at Yami's instant interest if there was a possibility to wind up Kaiba with it later.
"I don't know. He's been acting really weird since Battle City. I mean he's finally started working on our plans again, and he's building it right this time, but there's something strange going on. He barely ever lets me in his office, he's forever sending out runners to odd places with odd packages and I've had reports that he's been down to the furnaces three times in the last week."
Yugi blinked, completely confused and unsure what to say.
'Maybe Kaiba's losing it.' Yami piped up helpfully.
"I'm sure he's ok." Yugi tried to reassure Mokuba, "He's probably just been distracted with some project and lost track of where he's going."
Mokuba thought it over, gesturing for Yugi to continue his lunch when he caught the teen glancing at the clock. It was a logical explanation, he supposed, but only if you didn't take into account the sheer volume of times that Seto had been lost in a project before and hadn't acted this way.
"If something is wrong, can I…?" Mokuba finally asked hesitantly, not really wanting to ask if he could come to Yugi and the others. He knew full well that no matter how bad it looked, they'd pull out the stops to help them, they had before. In fact Mokuba was all too aware that, no matter how much Seto may have aggravated and insulted the pair in front of him, the Yugis would still take huge risks to help them. After all had or had not Yugi put his own soul on the line to save those of his grandfather, Seto and Mokuba?
"If you need help, feel free to come see me. I'll help in any way I can." Yugi promised.
"Thanks." Mokuba stood up, feeling a little relieved. "Oh…" He paused, "No, its fine, we can discuss it once Joey's back in work."
"Hmm?" Yugi asked, tilting his head slightly, curiosity showing.
Mokuba considered the time, then nodded and sat back down again, "I'd like to take this opportunity to discuss a proper working contract with you."
Yugi blinked again, causing Mokuba to wonder if Seto had ever managed to confuse Yugi twice in the space of ten minutes. "I thought we'd made an agreement? I'll cover Joey's hours and you cover his hospital bills." Yugi said slowly, wondering where Mokuba was going with this.
"That was the agreement, yes," Mokuba nodded. The problem was that with the amount of hours Yugi was covering the medical bills were significantly less than what Joey would have been paid. That, and that though Mokuba knew that Yugi was doing this to help Joey as much as the Day Care he was also completely aware of how much Yugi was putting himself out to aid Kaiba Corp. Mokuba knew full damn well that Yugi would never ask for anything in return.
If it had been anyone else, Mokuba wouldn't have felt so guilty about fleecing them, but it was Yugi and he deserved better then that after everything he had done for the Kaiba brothers.
That and Mokuba had full knowledge of how tight money was for the Mutous, not that Yugi would ever complain about such a thing. Small shops didn't make much money after all, no matter how popular they were and most could barely cover their rent, bills and products. "However I'm willing to offer you a contract that would mean that you would have a job here after Joey gets back and you'll make some pocket money."
'We don't need his help.' Yami grouched.
"No, but we do need to hear him out." Yugi replied, a little exasperated, "A part time job here would give Bast and Okibi a chance to interact with other Pokémon in a slightly more natural environment."
'You call the Day Care natural?' Yami snorted.
"More natural than inside a house. At least the Day Care's designed to look like something they'd have back in their world."
'True.' Yami acknowledged. 'Of course if you don't have the cat…'
"I'm keeping the Persian." Yugi half-scolded, well aware that Bast didn't like Yami much for some strange reason and Yami barely tolerated Bast. "Go on."
"Starting as of this week, you'll be on a twelve hour week, which is the standard contact for students." Mokuba explained when Yugi gestured for him to do so, "And that's on Y4000 an hour, same as everyone else who works here. Once Joey comes back to work, anything you do over the twelve hours will be counted as overtime and you'll get paid for that too."
"What about Joey?" Yugi asked, tempted by the idea of those sorts of wages, which, if he was working it out right would come to just under two million yen a year, but not if it impacted Joey at all.
"What about him?" Mokuba asked, "We'll continue to pay his hospital fees and once he's out of hospital we'll continue to pay his sick leave until he returns, at which point he'll come back onto his normal hours and contract, including all the obscene amounts of overtime if he wants it."
Yugi nodded, smiling. "Which days would you need me?"
"Evenings only. I've seen the reports about you and the ghost Pokémon." Mokuba explained, "Six till nine on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday evenings."
Yugi nodded, it sounded reasonable and he could help his Grandfather at the Game Shop on the afternoon on the other weekdays and help till closing on the weekends. "Sounds good, but may I phone my Grandpa and check that it's alright?"
Mokuba nodded and stood, having figured that Yugi would need to check in with his Grandpa before signing anything considering that Yugi worked as almost free labour at the Kame Game Shop and any hours Yugi took at the Day Care would impact how much he could work at the store. "In fact, I'll come back on Wednesday and if the contract is viable, I'll back date the pay for this week."
Yugi smiled at him, "Alright. See you then Mokuba. And thanks."
Mokuba just smiled at him, feeling less of a toad, and left.
Having finished work fifteen minutes ago Yugi, carrying Bast and Okibi's Pokeballs in his back pocket, was heading for the bus stop. He was planning on taking a detour to visit Joey in hospital and fill him in on what was going on at work. His friend, who was by now a notoriously bad patient seemed to be more willing to listen to the Doctors if he knew everything was going alright.
'Yugi!' Yami snapped at him over the link, startling him out of his thoughts.
Yugi knew that tone of voice and he glanced around, hesitating only because he wasn't sure whether he would need his deck or his Pokeballs. Instead of deciding, Yugi let Yami slip into control and took the passenger seat as Yami darted down an alleyway to escape the limo that had been following them for the last couple of blocks. 'If this is some plan of Kaiba's…' Yami let the threat hang.
Taking spirit form, Yugi darted down the alleyway to check that the way was safe, only to find a second limo coming down the road. "But why would Kaiba be hunting us? He hasn't had us kidnapped in years."
'I don't know.' Yami growled, wondering if this had something to do with what Mokuba had been worried about earlier. If there was one bonus, it was that it wasn't Team Galactic that was following them, unless the group from Jamie's world had somehow managed to buy or steal a bunch of limos, which Yami greatly doubted. 'But…' Yami trailed off and Yugi retreated to his body as a group of guys entered the alleyway. "Can I help you?" Yami asked, backing up slowly, glancing over his shoulder and noting that a second group were coming up behind him.
"You need to come with us." The leader said. Yami recognised him from the security detail upon the blimp.
"If Kaiba wants me to go anywhere, he can phone and ask like any other civilised person." Yami snorted, wondering if he could Shadow Game all of the goons at once, at least until several of them pulled guns on him.
Not that he hadn't faced down a gun before. There was one game that stuck in his mind, though he hadn't shared the memory with Yugi, where a convict had pulled a gun and threatened both himself and Tea. Yami had managed to convince him to play a game and had gotten the guy to set himself on fire.
Somehow he didn't think that would work here.
"I'm sorry, sir, but I must insist."
"Uhh Yami. I don't think we have much of a choice here."
Yami was loath to agree, but he backed down. There was a plus side to it being Kaiba. He wouldn't be after the Millennium Puzzle, there wouldn't be anything to do with magic and the worst case scenario Yami could come up with was that Kaiba had suddenly decided it had been too long between their last duel (because two weeks was such a long time) and decided that instead of giving Yugi any notice, he wanted to duel now.
As long as Kaiba hadn't regressed to pre Mind Crush, in which case the worst case scenario would be Death T round 2, which, though he'd beat it, would be less than fun.
"Alright." Yami nodded, letting his hands fall to his sides, playing the innocent, harmless role, not wanting to get Yugi injured.
That was a mistake. Before he could move towards the leader's group, one of the guys behind him wrapped one arm around his throat, twisted his right arm behind his back and, when Yami attempted to free himself, twisted the aforementioned arm so far up his back that Yami let out a yelp of pain and stopped struggling for fear it would break.
That wasn't the worst of it though. The guy holding him captive lifted him up by the throat, the arm tightening enough to stop him from falling through and enough to make him start struggling again as his air supply cut off, at least for a few seconds before he was dropped unceremoniously and shoved into the car, landing face down on the back seat.
Before he could right himself, someone had climbed into the car, pinned him down by putting one knee heavily on his back, crushing Yugi's tiny frame with his weight, making it difficult for Yami to breathe, and seized his wrists, trapping them behind his back.
"Let me go." Yami managed to get enough breath to snarl as he squirmed, fuming at being trapped like this, his anger only intensifying at the fact he could sense Yugi's fear.
They pulled into the Kaiba Corp car park five minutes later, by which point Yami was feeling incredibly dizzy, and by the time the Pharaoh had managed to shake himself free of the disorientation he'd been dragged out of the car and locked in pitch black room on the basement floor.
'I am going to kill Kaiba.' Yami snarled over the link as he first attempted to find a light switch, then, when that failed, attempted to break the door down.
For once Yugi didn't disagree with him. The hikari, who was slowly calming down, wasn't sure what was going on. As far as he was aware he hadn't done anything to Kaiba to incite this kind of treatment.
Yami took a step back from the door, considering his options when it became obvious that his weight wouldn't be enough to move the door, and tripped over a bucket, creating the most horrendous noise as he knocked everything over on his way down, informing the pair of them that this was, in fact, a rather large broom closet.
"Right. That's it." Yami snarled and drew the top card from his deck without even being able to see what it was. He summoned the monster on it, only to call forth the Dark Magician. The bright flash of magic from the Puzzle blinded him temporarily but did not prevent him from ordering the spellcaster to blow down the door.
The purple robed sorcerer did just that, allowing light to flow through the door, and proceeded to precede the Pharaoh who was blinking away the sun spots from the sudden influx of light, threatening the boy on the other side.
"Uhh, Yugi, can you call off your Dark Magician please?" Mokuba asked nervously as a furious Yami stepped out of the broom closet.
"What the hell is your brother playing at?" Yami snarled, causing the black haired Kaiba brother to back off.
"It's not his fault this time." Mokuba protested, having thought that Seto had already fired all the 'security' staff from the pre-Death T era of Kaiba Corp and trying to protect his brother from what was swiftly becoming obvious would be a slow and painful death, "I was there when he sent them out. He asked them to collect you, not kidnap you."
"They locked me in a broom closet." Yami let out a low growl, dismissing the Dark Magician as he did so.
Mokuba, very wisely not making a reference to the Other Yugi being in the closet, just nodded, "I know. Seto sent me down to let you out while he makes his displeasure known. Trust me, if they still have their jobs at the end of the day it'll be a miracle."
Yami snorted, still unconvinced of Kaiba Seto's complete innocence in the matter, but followed Mokuba, knowing that Mokuba wouldn't let anything happen to Yugi because he still needed him to cover all of Joey's shifts. Besides, without the guns Yami could take Kaiba easily. He had before and he would again.
Mokuba led Yami up to Seto's office where the CEO was waiting semi patiently, and once the door was shut, Seto stood up and turned to face the, blatantly pissed off, Pharaoh but didn't get a chance to say anything before the Other Yugi opened his mouth.
"What the hell do you want, Kaiba?" Yami glowered at the CEO. "How dare you…?"
"Stow it Mutou." Kaiba interrupted, snarling back, having expected to end up talking with this Yugi, considering the methods used to get the teen into Kaiba Corp, but needing a face to face talk with his rival and he hadn't seen any other way of getting Yugi to come here without sending out sensitive information. "I need to speak with you."
"I would have come if you had had the courtesy to call, Kaiba." Yami growled, "There was no need to kidnap me."
"It was urgent."
"Urgent enough you couldn't pick up the phone?" Yami didn't like many modern conveniences, he had difficulty understanding their controls, but he did appreciate the thing called the telephone, which allowed for conversation between long distances.
"I couldn't talk about it over the phone." Kaiba retorted, "My line is secure, yours is not and I would not be happy if this got out."
Curiosity warred with anger. "Go on." The Pharaoh gestured, wanting to hear more, even as he was still pissed off that Kaiba thought he could grab his hikari off the street at any moment he wished.
"The Millennium Items." Kaiba saw he had managed to surprise his rival, just by saying those words. "What are they?"
Of all the things Yami had expected when Yugi had been kidnapped, this had not been on his list, at least not after he'd realised that it had been Kaiba's goons doing the kidnapping. "I thought you didn't believe in magic." Yami replied cautiously, probing for more information before he gave what little he knew up.
"I would be a fool not to by now." Kaiba snorted back, "After the events of Duellist Kingdom and Battle City."
"Then why were you…?"
"You answer my questions; I'll answer yours. Unless I deem them inappropriate." Kaiba interrupted the teenager with a sneer. Yami's ruby eyes flashed with irritation. The CEO gestured to the chair on the opposite side of the desk.
"Only if I get the same courtesy." Yami retorted, then sat down. He recognised that for now at least Kaiba had the upper hand. The Pharaoh was unwilling to give the CEO more information then was necessary, no matter the situation. "Why do you need to know? You haven't been interested up to this point, and I've known you what… three years?"
"Going on four." Kaiba acknowledged, "Let's just say that recently my interest has become personal." Kaiba watched as the Other Yugi's hand instantly moved to hold his Puzzle, a movement that was probably more subconscious than anything else.
"Personal?" Yami glanced towards the door, "Mokuba?" He asked, sensing Yugi's concern for the younger Kaiba brother. "How would he get a hold of a Millennium Item? I was under the impression that I'm the only one who holds any in the area, bar Bakura of course."
'Right reason, wrong Kaiba brother.' Kaiba thought, "In your concern over the Mutt's health, you left the Millennium Rod unattended. It was recovered before the island exploded, but it appears to have latched onto the one who picked it up and is refusing to leave."
"Refusing to leave?" The Other Yugi was confused again. Kaiba had managed that more in the last ten minutes then he had over the last four years.
"Do I hear an echo?" Kaiba asked, "Yes, refusing to leave. As in it gets removed from the premises, it returns, it gets locked in a vault, it's back on the desk by the time the person returns."
That explained the strange runners and trips to the furnace then…
"The only way for control of a Millennium Item to shift is for the current owner to lose a duel for control, or for the aforementioned owner to die. Since Marik was killed in that helicopter crash, I assume that the Millennium Rod picked the next person to touch it as its next owner." Yami gave Kaiba an amused look, "I'm assuming that was you."
"That's why Marik tried to kill you during Battle City?" Kaiba had wondered how long it would take Yugi's much more arrogant self to work it out and he just nodded in response to Yami's assumption,
"He wanted my Puzzle. I wasn't willing to give it up. He couldn't beat me fairly, so he tried underhanded tactics." Yami nodded.
"And you nearly sacrificed yourself to stop him." Kaiba nodded.
"I wasn't fighting to protect the Puzzle then, I was fighting to save Joey." Yami snorted, suppressing a bitter laugh. He remembered how close Yugi had come to dying… 'If it hadn't been for Joey…' Yami shook his head almost imperceptibly, trying to shake off the memories. Anyone else would have missed it, but not Kaiba who, thankfully, didn't say a word. "Why did you pick it up?" The Pharaoh couldn't resist asking, "And what are you going to do with it?"
"Someone had to remove it from the Duelling Platform." Kaiba snorted. "And I wasn't about to let Mokuba play with the damn thing."
Yami nodded, understanding, "And you didn't mention that you'd found the Millennium Rod two weeks ago? We assumed it was lost when your island exploded."
"Because I wanted nothing to do with the damn thing and you don't need any more ancient magic following you around like a little lost sheep."
Yugi's mental image of Yami being followed around by a pack of Millennium Items did not help his composure one bit. 'Yugi, please, I'm trying to have a sane conversation with Kaiba for a change.' Yami sent down the link.
"Us? Sane conversation with Kaiba that doesn't involve Duel Monsters?" Yugi asked, still sensing irritation from Yami and hoping that Kaiba wouldn't push Yami any further then he already had today, "He's probably decided he's finally gone crazy, you realise this?"
"So what do you want me to do?" Yami asked of the CEO who was watching him carefully, as if expecting a comment, unaware of the conversation that had gone on inside Yugi's head. "If you want me to take it off your hands, we're going to have to Duel."
Kaiba's pride was piqued when the Other Yugi didn't remind him that he'd have to lose. The other teen probably assumed he'd win, again, just as he had in Battle City. "Doesn't the defeat in Battle City mean that the Rod is yours?"
"If it worked like that, you could have claimed the Puzzle at Duellist Kingdom." Yami snorted, "If you're going to claim a Millennium Item, either you must state it, or you have to take it before anyone else does. Why do you think Jamie was able to defend herself with the Ring, when it was technically Marik's after Bakura was defeated?"
Kaiba hadn't really thought about it, having had little contact with the Pokémon Trainer after she'd gained the gaudy piece of jewellery other then to work out the details of her journey and who would take over from her when she left. "I assumed that it was because the spirit inside likes her."
Yami shook his head, "Yami Bakura was gone. Marik could have claimed the Millennium Ring, but Jamie grabbed it first. When he let her leave with it, she gained ownership, though she probably never realised it at the time."
"So you're telling me I have an employee travelling around the world who is the current owner of one of these," Kaiba put the Rod down on the table, "and doesn't know it?"
"Jamie gave it back to Bakura before she left." Yami advised, "As far as I'm aware she didn't lose a game to him, so I don't know if Bakura can use his Millennium Item, but I know he has it."
Kaiba nodded, "He's after the Millennium Items." He mentioned, remembering the conversation before the quarter final match between Bakura and Yugi.
Yugi's Other Self nodded, "His Millennium Item can track others, so he will probably come after yours at some point."
Kaiba found it oddly satisfying that other than when the Other Yugi had assumed Kaiba would want to relinquish control of the Millennium Item, neither Yugi questioned his right to hold the Rod. "Where are the others?" The CEO asked, having seen from watching Yugi, that the greatest danger to a Millennium Item holder was another of their kind.
"I hold two. The Puzzle, which has always been mine." And somehow Kaiba knew that 'mine' encompassed the original Yugi too, "And the Necklace, which Isuzu gave me after you beat her."
"Gave? I thought you had to win them." Kaiba scowled.
"So did I." Yami snorted, "But she claimed the Necklace was giving her false visions and she wasn't supposed to hold it any longer."
"Sore loser." Kaiba snorted.
Yami smirked slightly, an odd saying he'd heard someone mention about the colour of pots and kettles springing to mind. "The Millennium Key and the Millennium Scales belong to a man named Shadi. He's supposed to be the Guardian of the Millennium Items." Yami paused to think, "He might be by at some point to test you, to see if you're worthy of its power." The Pharaoh indicated the Rod.
Kaiba snorted, "If he's supposed to be their guardian, how, exactly, did they end up in Marik's hands?"
The Other Yugi shrugged, "The same way the Eye ended up in the hands of Pegasus, I assumed."
"So Pegasus's cheating…" Seto snarled. He still hadn't forgiven Pegasus for making him fail Mokuba, or showing him that he wasn't strong enough to protect his brother on his own. The Millennium Rod was both another thing that drove the point home and the thing that would allow him to protect his brother against other idiots with magic.
"It was a Millennium Item." Yami nodded, agreeing with Kaiba's snarl, still disliking Pegasus even now, for what he'd put Yugi through. "The Eye allows you to see into people's minds, but I don't know where it is. It went missing after Duellist Kingdom. I'm sure Bakura had something to do with that, but I have no proof."
Kaiba nodded, making a note to get more information on Bakura Ryou, if he was going to become a thorn in his side.
"And the Rod makes seven and, apparently, it's yours." The Other Yugi finished up, there was a pause and then…
"Kaiba, I wouldn't blame you if you didn't want to be dragged into this." The normal Yugi spoke up, having taken over from his arrogant, self assured counter part, "I know you wanted nothing to do with the magic involved in Duel Monsters, and…"
"I know what you're about to offer Yugi." Kaiba interrupted, making the innocent Yugi tilt his head, interested in what he was about to say, "You're about to offer me the chance to hand over the Rod so I don't become involved in the chaos that you've been dragged into, but you're forgetting something."
"What's that?" Yugi asked.
"I'm already involved. I have been since I fought you for the first time."
"Sorry." Yugi murmured.
Kaiba didn't correct him, though he felt that the first Penalty Game, all those years ago when he had tried to steal Blue Eyes from Yugi in school, had been the inspiration for his hologram technology.
If Yugi wanted to feel guilty for getting him involved, he wasn't going to stop him. It would, after all, mean that he could call in a favour later on.
"With that in mind, I called you here to see if you knew any way of controlling the powers of this thing." Seto continued, "Because I'll be keeping the Millennium Rod."
"Well…" Yugi could see all the options running through Yami's mind, and offered up the thought that it would be nice to have an item wielder on their side for a change. "I'm not sure if we can teach you everything about it, but we certainly teach you the basics. I have one condition though."
"Go on." The CEO gave Yugi a bemused look. It was unlike Yugi to demand anything.
"You're not to use the Millennium Rod on me or any of my friends." Yugi said, "And in exchange we won't use the Puzzle on you or Mokuba, deal?"
"If those are your only terms, then yes, Yugi, we have a deal."
Author Note: - About ruddy time. This chapter didn't want to be written. Oh well here you go guys. The first chapter of Sheer Cold. BTW the first chapter of Sacred Fire, this fic's sister should have gone up at the same time : )