AN: I am suffering a bit by being a few chapters ahead of my postings – having to fight the temptation to upload lots at once, but this way I know I can be regular each week.
Massive thanks to all who are following and reviewing my story, I really enjoy hearing from you and reading your comments.
Particular thanks to: xDelfin, TheAlphaChives, Acirederf, Smellybelly69, Demented Insane Spirit, Bill (aww…no account), Bella, Jackie, Jane and the ever elusive 'guest'…your support is awesome – I hope it continues.
"Do not be in a hurry, the right man will come at last," Jane Austen, P&P.
The following evening the boys were all invited to a small gaming event held at the house of Alister, one of Tristan and Ryou's dicing circle. All decided to attend as duel-monsters (among other games) would also be played. Tea was delighted to have been included in the invitation as she had not enjoyed much of a social life whilst living in her grandparents' home and had mainly been mixing with other performers since joining the Pegasus 'family'. Here was surely an opportunity to form additional new friendships…she was already sure of making at least one agreeable new acquaintance as Yami had promised her an introduction to his best friend Yugi (who would be present) and someone so beloved of her wonderful cousin simply must be an estimable person.
Upon arriving at the dicer's abode that evening, all were happy to find that the interesting Duke Devlin (whom they had briefly met the previous day) was also among the guests present. All were keen to further their acquaintance with him but Tristan and Yami most of all. Yami was conscious of feeling far more interested in the undoubtedly handsome Duke than he had expected. The meeting of yesterday had been on his mind a great deal but he had told himself that curiosity about the mysterious acrimony between Kaiba and the newcomer was the reason for this. Encountering him again however, Yami was honest enough with himself to admit he found the magnetic stranger very attractive.
Many small games sprang up at various tables around the room whilst other guests lingered about in conversation. Yami caught sight of Yugi across the room and at once went to greet him.
"Good to see you Yugi," he said warmly, giving him a brief hug and pat-on-the-back, his fondness for his friend clear to see, "I want to introduce you to my cousin."
"Wow, your cousin did visit," replied Yugi who was familiar with the history of Solomon's family difficulties. "I can't wait to meet her…has the visit been alright?"
"Actually it's been very successful, my father is so happy to be re-united with his niece and she's really very likeable…despite a tendency to be overly loquacious on the subject of the wonders of friendship…"
Yami tailed off considering, it had suddenly struck him that although he was far less verbal about it, (and hence didn't have the same aggravating and sometimes paralysingly amusing tendency) Yugi shared very much the same strong value for friendship as Tea herself.
Unsurprisingly Yugi answered reprovingly, "friendship is important Yami, and you spoke like Tea's views were a bad thing? I wouldn't have thought you would feel like that?" He looked at his friend, big lavender eyes anxious and Yami made haste to reassure him.
"I agree with you Yugi, you know I do, it's the manner of expressing it I am commenting on and you know how overly critical I can be." He continued appeasingly, "I wasn't demeaning your views Yugi, I respect you too much…you should know that. Why don't we forget this conversation and you can judge for yourself, she's just over there."
"Is your cousin that pretty brunette talking to Marik?" asked Yugi, shy admiration clear in his unguarded expression, "I'd love to meet her."
Tea had been waiting for her eye-catching cousin to return as promised. She thought his looks both compelling and very unusual so was stunned to see that the young man coming over with him was so similar…a little shorter, diffident rather than confident and a gentler expression but they were so alike!
"Surely you don't have any other brothers?" She blurted, and then blushed as both laughed at her bluntness.
"No Tea, we're not related though I often call him 'my better self' as we look so similar yet he's so much kinder," Yami replied, still chuckling. "This is my best friend Yugi…I promised to introduce you…why don't you two get to know each other and you can find out just how much we differ."
'Perhaps that will give her someone else to think about, allowing me to pursue my acquaintance with Duke,' he added inside his head.
The two were very happy to oblige, leaving together to fetch drinks and find somewhere to sit and chat. Yami felt pleased, he was relieved of the obligation of looking after Tea for a while (really she did go on a bit!) and he thought he might actually have done Yugi a good turn - he had seen that admiring look.
He was roused from his thoughts by Marik, "want me to send someone your way?" Marik leered, gesticulating with his ever-present rod. "I'm pretty sure there was a glint in your eye when you saw dice-boy was here."
"Don't be ridiculous Marik…or so loud!" Yami hissed crossly, unable to stop the faint blush he could feel rising on his face.
"Suit yourself Yami," he replied laughing, as he sauntered off he took a final parting shot, "Don't say the rod didn't offer."
Scowling, Yami fetched himself a drink and looked about for somewhere to sit.
"Am I intruding?" Purred a soft voice near to his ear, "You seem to be thinking dark thoughts."
Yami turned to find the object of his interest standing at his elbow; Duke sipped his drink and arched an eyebrow, smirking around the rim.
"Not at all," Yami countered, "merely my brother being an irritant". His customary composure returning, he gestured to an empty table. "Care to sit?"
The two lapsed easily into conversation about duel-monsters, Duke was knowledgeable but freely admitted his preference for dice and mentioned he had himself invented a new game which combined the two...Dungeon Dice Monsters. Yami was fascinated and pressed him for more detail (he was surprised to catch a slightly black look cast his way from across the room by Tristan but was too engrossed in conversation to give it much thought) as any variation on duel-monsters was extremely attention-grabbing.
Duke leaned back in his chair and looked at Yami appraisingly, narrowing his emerald eyes, he then abruptly asked a surprising question, "how well do you know Seto Kaiba?"
Yami was inwardly delighted that it seemed his curiosity was to be so unexpectedly relieved. His deep voice was level however as he replied, "not well, we have only become acquainted over the last month and he is not a man one 'gets to know' easily I think, he appears distrustful and cold, he's rude and I have never seen him let down his guard."
"You describe him aptly," Duke replied, "You could not have met with a person more capable of giving you information on that head than myself, for I have been connected with him for some time in a very unpleasant manner."
Yami could not help but look surprised.
"You may well have questions, after seeing, as you probably did, the very cold manner of our meeting yesterday."
"I have spent four days in the same house with him, and I think him very disagreeable…" Yami prompted.
"Perhaps I should not give my opinion," said Duke, "as to his being agreeable or otherwise. I have known him too unfortunately to be a fair judge, it is impossible for me to be impartial. You should realize it might be unwise to speak of him as you do, he is a powerful man, but maybe you would not express it quite so strongly anywhere else. Here you are surrounded by friends and your own family."
"I say no more here than I might say in any house in the town," Yami declared somewhat intemperately. "He is not at all liked here. Everybody is disgusted with his pride. You will not find him more favorably spoken of by anyone."
"I cannot pretend to be sorry," said Duke "but with him I believe it does not happen as much as you would think. The world is blinded by his fortune and consequence, or frightened by his high and imposing manners, and thus reports of him only as he chooses to be seen."
"I hope your plans will not be affected by his presence?" Yami asked intensely.
"Oh! No – it is not for me to be driven away by Kaiba. If he wishes to avoid seeing me, he must go. We are not on friendly terms, and it always gives me pain to meet him, but I have no reason for avoiding him other than this…If he were not so well connected and prosperous I might proclaim before the entire world, a sense of very great ill-usage. I would be in possession of my heart's desire were it not for him."
"I contacted him some time ago regarding development of my new game; he is working on a new holographic system you know? He seemed interested and mentioned a possible introduction to Maximilian Pegasus the president of Industrial Illusions. However, after giving him all my work, supposedly so he could share it with Pegasus, I heard nothing more. All I got was 'put-offs' and I now know from an internal source that he's planning to eventually release it as his own idea."
Yami was stunned; anything savouring of the dishonourable was anathema to him, he would not have believed this – even of Kaiba, was the clearly distressed victim not seated before him.
"But how can that be? Why did you not seek legal redress?" he cried, aghast.
"Our dealings had thus far been informal and he is in possession of all my paperwork. I was very unwise I admit but I thought him a man of honour."
"This is scandalous; he deserves to be publicly disgraced."
"I am sure at some time he will be, but not by me. I have no proof and no desire to be prosecuted for defamation of character which without it I should be…Kaiba has no financial constraints. The fact is we are very different sorts of men, in addition to this I have already made a nuisance of myself by the fuss I have made. Last time I tried to go to KaibaCorp I was physically thrown out…he both hates and despises me. I must bear up under my misfortune and begin again, I shall do so - I am not the type to give up, I shall succeed eventually." Duke declared - the very picture of persecuted heroism.
Yami honoured him for his tenacity and strength of purpose, thinking him even more attractive as he expressed such sentiments.
"I had not believed Kaiba to be as bad as this. Though I never liked him and thought him disdainful of others, I never suspected he could be so unjust. I knew he had a poor temper…his disposition must be dreadful. I would have thought him too proud to be dishonest; I sincerely pity his brother…to have such a guardian."
"Oh he has, I believe brotherly pride and even some brotherly affection of sorts so he is a careful guardian, at least such was my observation the few times I saw them together. I think you would hear him described as a good and attentive brother by most people."
"What is his brother like?"
"Mokuba? I wish I could say pleasant things," he shrugged, "but he is too much like his brother…proud and demanding. I think he spends most of his time at their mansion out of town - when not at school - which he goes to by limousine."
Yami thought silently for a moment, giving Duke a warmly supportive look of compassion.
"I am amazed that Mai Valentine would be friends with such a creature! She seems to be such a straightforward and honest person. Do you know her?"
"I have not that pleasure, which it would certainly be if she is as you describe."
"She is charming and trustworthy - I am sure, she cannot know of his actions towards you."
"Probably not but I am sure Kaiba can be pleasing if he so chooses, he can appear very sincere, interesting and convincing you know…I should otherwise not have trusted him. I am sure he seems very different to those he deems his equals, possibly even agreeable when you consider in addition his fortune and figure."
Their tête-à-tête was interrupted at this point, by Tristan who declared Yami had monopolized Duke for long enough and bore him off to play a game of (what sounded afterwards very riotous) dice.
Yami was joined by Yugi and Tea, who now seemed to have an excellent understanding between them and were totally at ease. In Yugi's company Tea seemed much more relaxed and happy, Yami noted and the remainder of the evening was spent with the three chatting idly.
Later, as the gathering was breaking up, Duke approached Yami again to say goodbye.
"I understand from your brother that your cousin is closely connected with Pegasus?" He asked.
"Yes, Pegasus has lately given her patronage…she is a dancer and he is interested in the arts you know."
"She probably knows his daughter Serenity then, I have heard rumors that Pegasus hopes for a closer union with KaibaCorp through her. Perhaps she and Kaiba could be the means of uniting the two corporations?"
Yami smiled as he thought of Vivian, in vain would be her evident hopes if such a clearly advantageous match was on offer. "Tea speaks very highly of Pegasus but she is prejudiced in his favour, I have heard other tales which make me think he may be arrogant and even ruthless should the need arise."
"I have heard similar, no doubt the families would be very well suited," Duke replied, a small, sexy smile curving his lips.
The two parted for the evening with shared looks of mutual amusement and a clear rapport between them.
Yami went away with his thoughts full of Duke. He could think of nothing but how he had looked and what he had told him. He paid scant attention to the chatter of Tea and the others on the way home or once they arrived there. His mind's eye was dominated by a pair of green eyes which looked sometimes mischievous and at others, wounded.
AN: The next two chapters are going to be very busy…all the events of the Kaiba tournament – so lots of action. I am just starting chapter eight so will upload as usual next Friday. Hope you continue to follow and enjoy.