"Alright, so rule forty-nine states that…" Seto Kaiba murmured to himself, his wide back hunched over his work station as he leaned over-

-well, from where Honda was sitting, he couldn't exactly tell whatKaiba was leaning over. All the same, the teen reckoned that he could be fairly sure in his guess - judging from the way Kaiba's neck was twisting right and left, Whatever It Was must have been some kind of book, though the younger, less wealthy boy had little clue as to what sort of book it was, being both younger and poorer than Richie McRich Rich on the big screen. And even if he hadn't been younger than Kaiba - heck, what did multi-millionaires even read? Were their books bound in authentic leather and bedazzled with real diamonds? Was the handwriting in monk-like calligraphy, with stupidly ornate illustrations on every third page? Heck - was the text laced with gold; were the very pages themselves made of gold?

Or, perhaps, did multi-millionaires simply read normal books, just like everyone else? Honda had to hide a grin at that - maybe that rule did apply to normal multi-millionaires, but Kaiba wasn't exactly normal. This was, after all, a man who owned a Blue-Eyes White Dragon jet, and had replaced all his gargoyles with Blue-Eyes White Dragons, so Honda wouldn't be surprised if his books really were made of gold - or, more likely, of silver, so it could better match the dragon's scale colour. His books might well be bedazzled - with Blue-Eyes-White-Dragon-shaped diamonds, that is, not a single beast looking out of place in the man's immense private library (which was, of course, shaped like the swirls on the back of a duel monsters card).

In fact, since the whole match appeared to have been halted, time allocated for Seto to go through his book, Honda found himself idly filling his mind with images of a Duel Monsters - themed mansion; the bookends could be Obelisks, and the fireplace an Ultimate Blue-Eyes with three gaping mouths seeming to spew fire. It was all an enormous fantasy, of course, but with Kaiba being Kaiba - well, the CEO might just have found a way to make a dream reality. The brunette soon wondered if either of the Kaiba brothers would be willing to allow him to take the grand tour of the mansion - or even better, maybe they could give him a room to stay in whenever he was in the area. He made a mental note to ask Mokuba about that later.

Hah, I wonder what he'd say… Wait, he's the nice one, right?

Honda strained his mind to think if the kid had ever wronged him and his friends before, his mind reaching with outstretched fingers into the back of his mind, pushing past the boy's wide cerulean eyes, pinchable cheeks, and innocent grin to get to the attempted murder, theft, and kidnapping.

...Oh.

Finding that thoughts of the Kaibas were no longer very appealing, Honda decided to give some of his attention to the conversation his companions were having. As with many conversations, he remained silent throughout - but this time, he had something of a reason for doing so. Much as he would have liked to speak, in order to get his mind away from what currently occupied it, he wasn't exactly feeling up to being a very active part of the discussion after that strange encounter with his doppelganger.

"Say, erm, whaddya think ol' Scrooge McBucks is looking at?" Jonouchi asked Anzu, leaning forwards in his seat - as though this could completely change his perspective, make him see something in the screen that he hadn't spotted yet; as though the mere act of leaning forward could propel his vision past the massive wall that was Seto Kaiba's back and show him the mysterious object the CEO was poring over.

"I don't know… He looks really stressed out, though…" Anzu replied, her eyes seeming to hover a moment on the rigidness of the older boy's back, the tense muscles and hunched shoulders only accented by the fact that it was being displayed at three times its original size on the television screen in front of them.

"My, Joey-boy! I knew you were a bit light on the brains, but I didn't know you were that dull." The three teens switched their gaze to the smaller display standing to the side of the leather seats and the image of the man looking at them through the glass. Pegasus's eye glimmered with his usual mischief, though at this point, it wasn't even notable since his eye tended to glimmer very often. It was actually beginning to get a bit old.

"Hey! Hey! Whaddya mean by that, goldielocks?" the blonde boy hollered; craftily avoiding a curse word this time, in order to keep his ears safe from the blaring megaphone that Dartz was currently holding as though it were a loaded rifle.

"I'd watch your tongue if I were you," the CEO threatened, leaning his head down, his face darkening slightly - and just for a moment, the Pegasus in front of them wasn't the same man who played with cartoons. His free brown eye glinted harshly in the light from the screen, his expression stony, even intimidating- he was clearly letting all present know exactly who was running this show, and he was definitely a force to be reckoned with. Even Jounouchi, who was usually the first to get fiesty when faced with a challenge, shrank back from that face.

With a dark chuckle, the older man continued to speak. "I don't have this handsome fellow standing behind me to look pretty, you know. As for what I meant - and I do believe that goldielocks is a term better befitting you, Joey-boy-"

During the slight pause, Jounouchi opened his mouth, then wisely shut it again, allowing Pegasus to finish his sentence.

"-Kaiba-boy is obviously looking at a book."

"Ain't those forbidden or something?", Jonouchi asked, shivering a bit at the change in atmosphere.

"Yeah, aren't recipe books cheating?", Anzu murmured. In order to look at Pegasus, she was leaning forward in her seat as much as her back would allow - and, thankfully for the dancer, that was quite a bit.

Regaining his aloof composure, Pegasus dropped his head slightly into his raised hand, the movement ruffling his silver bangs ever so slightly, before it settled into its perfect state once more, not a single hair out of place. "Well, I never exactly made a rule against having a recipe book. Then again, maybe I should have…" With a relaxed laugh, and a small gesture of his hand, he raised his head to look at each of them in turn. "Ahhh, silly me!", he exclaimed, sounding nothing like the powerful and intimidating man he had been minutes prior to this exchange.

What mood swings - almost as bad as Jounouchi...

Speaking of which, the blonde clearly hadn't learnt anything from his earlier verbal mistakes; no, he was getting angry all over again. "'Silly you'?" , the blonde growled; sarcasm was beginning to seep into his voice now, and Honda guessed that if the guy became any more angry, Jounouchi might just find himself restrained.

This time, however, Pegasus appeared to be unfazed by the growling, choosing instead to voice his own threat quite openly - even cheerfully, as his voice took on an undoubtedly musical tone. "Watch it, Joey-boy. My friend over here is getting restless! And we like to keep things PG here if we can." With a luxurious yawn, the man shrugged his shoulders, resting his arms on a table that Honda guessed probably existed somewhere off-camera. "Besides, that book is obviously the Player Handbook. Ahhh, such amateurs..."

Player Handbook? Amateurs?

The things Pegasus said sometimes…

Honda rolled his eyes in disbelief - unfortunately, the movement had him catching a glint of gold in his vision, and soon he was gazing down at the Millennium Spatula. The dratted thing was sitting innocently on his lap, as though it hadn't just unleashed an ancient spirit that threatened to take over his body the moment he let his guard down (or at least, Honda assumed that the whole spirit thing was the Spatula's fault). The thing was… well, it looked so mundane. So harmless, so-

hoooondaaaaa

Yeah, yeah, Otohir, moan all you like,he grumbled in his head. It's just not gonna happen.

oh? i had… other ideas...

That was about when the ongoing discussion between Pegasus and Honda's friends faded away at the edges, blurring and distorting, the overall effect making the poor brunette's head seem to spin. With a desperate effort, Honda attempted to get a firmer grip on his seat arm, even as he clung to his consciousness with every last ounce of his strength he could muster - which wasn't much, for the record. In fact, the teenager's strength was so pitiful at this point, so very depleted from his earlier efforts, that his descent into unconsciousness could almost be called completely voluntary, in that when the command to sleep came, he was almost happy to obey, because he really was tired, so very tired...


It was a scene that wouldn't really have looked out of place in a certain other kind of fic, to be honest; a moderately attractive teenager, waking up one morning with little idea of what had happened last night, knowing only that every last bone in his body hurt. That's how so many of them begin, isn't it - and tell you what, let's say that his chocolate orbs opened when the shimmering sunlight came through the crystal glass of the window, and are you sick yet?

Thunk.

Honda certainly was feeling ill, but for different reasons. You see, this was his bedroom he'd just woken up in - the very room he left behind in Domino City when he boarded the KaibaCorp blimp, and had so walked right into this entirely strange course of events. As he rolled onto his side, lazily taking in the bed, the armoire, the desk, the piles of laundry on the floor, he figured that things were surely only about to get weirder.

Thunk.

What had happened, to have made him leave the airship - that was the question, and he doubted he was going to like the answer. Had he somehow ended up in an alternate dimension? Was this the afterlife? Heck, had he simply been unconscious the whole time - and if so, how long had he been unconscious after that? A week? A month? Many months?

Thunk.

Honda's eyes went wide - instincts said that if you heard a soft noise once, it could just have been you, twice semi-confirmed the noise as existing, and three times was definitely a worry. Something was definitely off about this whole scenario, and so he highly doubted that the noise was, say, someone chopping up vegetables out in the kitchen-

Thunk.

Whatever was out there, the sound was coming from his door - his sharp eyesight could see the timbers vibrate slightly with each thunk. Something was presumably trying to get in - and it wasn't like Honda was going to know exactly what the something was, not until he had opened the door. Against his better instincts, he pushed himself up off of the ground and got to his feet, steadying himself with the mahogany closet to his right.

BANG!

That made him jump; that was definitely a louder sound, certainly a more aggravated one; and it became even more impatient with each BANG that passed. Honda irately rubbed at his temples, massaging the strained nerves - but it was a futile act because each BANG on the door only served to suckerpunch straight into the core of his brain, making the headache only worse. All too soon, it seemed, he was wincing, gritting his teeth; then his breathing hitched, and through the slit his lids allowed, he could see the door in shades of red. Snarling in borderline agony, he stalked towards it - even though each footfall made the searing pain increase, extra noise on top of that annoying banging - which was, for the record, getting worse, amplitude increasing in a steady crescendo.

BANG! BANG! BANG!

Honda moved with the pain as though he were possessed by it; staggering over to the door with one arm extended and the other still pinching the skin on the side of his head - and only when his hand was on the handle did the teenager actually began to question whether or not it would be the smartest decision to open the door. Still, there was no question that opening the door was the only way to make the pain stop-

BANG!

"Rrrgh!", he growled softly, reeling back from the door and bringing both hands to his head.

Why won't it just... stop?

hondaaaaa

Oh no, it's him-

BANG!

hey hey listen, it's not polite to keep your guests waiting... hondaaaaa

The boy raised his head, and then he absolutely shrieked at the wooden frame: "GET AWAY FROM ME, YOU-"

BLEEEP!

The BANG softened to a more hesitant sort of bang?,but it did still persisted, and the softer, more hypnotic sound did little to soothe Honda's pained nerves. The boy retracted his arm from the door handle, as though he had accidentally touched a hot stovetop; it was definitely dangerous to keep his hand there, especially now that Honda knew how to get rid of the monster out there.

"I HAVE HAD IT UP TO HERE WITH YOUR-"

BLEEEP!

"ALWAYS-"

BLEEEP! BLEEEP! BLEEEP! BLEEEP!

"AND ALL THE TOASTERS-"

BLEEEP!

"SO YOU CAN JUST-"

BLEEEP!

"FLOWERPOT-"

Sure, Honda had let out the occasional swear in the middle of the gang fights he so often seemed to be involved in - but never before had such a flowing river of slurs emerged from his lips, and though he confessed that he wasn't quite as creative as Kaiba was, he had admittedly done a decent job for a first-timer. What was even better was the fact that the sound had diminished completely. Sure, thenear-constant BLEEEP-ing that had just rung in Honda's ears wasn't exactly pleasant, but at least he actually had some control over that.

Things were looking up, and the teen smiled at the realization of this - sure, the pain in his head wasn't gone, but it had dulled to a steady pulsing that he could almost easily dismiss to the back of his mind. He wasn't sure what to do now that the banging was gone and he was alone in the room that looked like his bedroom, but obviously wasn't, assuming that Otohir was around. The only thing that looked remotely good to the teen was the bed - the real thing had suffocated and killed many a headache, and if this imitation was anything like the real thing, then it would be perfectly capable of soothing his pain.

With that in mind, Honda flopped back onto the mattress, the suspension bouncing him up and down for a couple of moments, before it slowed to a stop. With a peaceful sigh, he slowly laid back into the comforter and the feather pillow, not even bothering to tuck himself in, instead simply savoring the feel of the bed against his body. He could feel himself beginning to drift away within seconds; his breathing was becoming shallower, his eyes falling shut. He drew up his knees a little, just like he did when he was in his real bed, in his real home - it was an instinctive movement. Honda felt at home, like he had gone to sleep in this very bed too many times to count, and... well, in a funny sort of way, he had.

He knew he was tired, but he didn't know just how damn tired he was, not until his fatigue took the reigns of his consciousness and thrust him into a deep sleep.


JONOUCHI

The blonde Battle City finalist (er - the saner, better-looking one, of course) stood at Honda's bedside, with one arm crossed over his chest and the other resting atop his crossed arm, his hand rubbing at his chin thoughtfully. The brunette had been out cold for a fair while, after collapsing for seemingly no conceivable reason during the preliminary elimination round. Speaking of that - the round was now over and Yugi was in the bottom two along with Yami Malik, a match that didn't exactly guarantee both sides coming out with their heads still attached to their bodies.

If only there was something I could do to help Yugi… and Mai, too… and heck, even Ryou...

With something that was a cross between a grimace and a sly smile, Jounouchi turned his attention to Anzu, sleeping on the loveseat. She might as well have been knocked out herself - the blonde figured that she had to be tired, and so there was no way she would catch him if he were to simply sneak out of the recovery room...

After a pause, Katsuya Jounouchi did just that.

Closing the door to the infirmary with as much grace as he could, he made his way through the blimp with one target in mind: Yami Malik's dorm room. He had to save Mai, he knew that much; and even if someone's life hadn't been involved here, Yugi was still going to be facing Shanky tomorrow if Jounouchi didn't do something, which was more than enough reason for the blonde. He moved down the corridors, checking in every room as he searched for the psychopath's bedroom. That was his first guess as to where the Egyptian would be - and if he didn't find the lunatic there, Jounouchi had already decided that he would walk every hallway on the vessel and search through every room until he found Yami Malik, and then he would take him down. It was his dut-

"Looking for something, Jonouchi?"

Jonouchi whirled mid-stride, narrowly managing to keep his balance when his eyes locked on his target, his prey, which appeared to have found him first. It was Yami Marik all right, even in the semi-darkness of the corridor; the lanky form leaning against a wall, the Eye of Anubis glowing dimly on its forehead. His amethyst eyes were difficult to see, but Jounouchi saw the flash of the almost sharp white teeth, bared in a smile condescending, and guessed that the teen's gaze was currently full of a mild sort of amusement.

"Malik!" he exclaimed, extending an arm to point at the boy.

Pushing off of the wall, Yami Malik waved a hand dismissively in the other boy's direction. "Malik, that's me - I think I would know my own name." He grinned sinisterly, sticking out a playful tongue, before bursting into hysterical laughter at his own quip.

"Erm - yeah, that…" Jonouchi sighed. "It wasn't that funny, Malik; I mean, I've heard better jokes…" The sane blonde tried rather awkwardly to make the Egyptian stop laughing, with a deadpan stare and a straight face, but to no avail. If anything, the psychopath only laughed harder- not that Jounouchi hadn't expected that anyway, but it was still unnerving.

"So, what were you looking for?" Yami Malik asked, placing his hands at his hips and leaning forward slightly, and something told Jonouchi that the other boy knew exactly what he wanted. "A... Shadow Game, perhaps?"

Jounouchi inhaled deeply through his nose, feeling his whole body become tense in the heavy air that Yami Malik had created with his words. A Shadow Game was exactly what he was hoping for, of course - that is, if only he could win and so banish Yami Malik forever. He couldn't be entirely certain of his victory - but if only he believed in his deck and the Heart of the Cards like Yugi had taught him, he knew that, if anything, he at least had a fair chance of winning. He suddenly became aware of the weight of his duel disk on his arm; it was rather heavy…

This is it.

Yami Malik took Jonouchi's silence as a sign of approval, and he slowly unhooked his Millennium Rod from his belt and held it in front of himself in a ceremonious manner, causing the atmosphere around them to cloud up and cover the two duelists in a blanket of murky darkness. On realizing that this was his first Shadow Game alone, and one that could very well be his last, Jonouchi twitched slightly, shivers racing down his spine.

Automatically, he reached for his duel disk, flicking the little switch on its underside that would start it up - only to be interrupted by Yami Malik - "Tsk, tsk, tsk."

Jonouchi's head shot up to see what the Egyptian's deal was, one eyebrow raising in confusion. "What's yer proble-"

"We're not going to need our duel disks in this game", Yami Malik declared, his voice carrying a hint of what was almost reverence. Jounouchi, of course, missed this subtle hint; instead deciding to question his enemy for answers.

"What the heck is that supposed to me-"

He was cut off by a loud groaning sound like two slabs of stone struggling against each other, followed by the loud crack of the ground splitting in the space between the Egyptian and his opponent. Out of the ground rose two identical stations made of pure gold and decorated with ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. The walls of the corridor grew cabinets made of the same gold, with intricately carved handles and Jonouchi could only stare on in awe as the corridor warped into a miniature… a miniature...

a miniature kitchen?

"What is this, Malik?" the boy exclaimed, trying to mask his terror with confidence and rage.

"What does it look like?" the bored Egyptian replied, rolling his eyes and stepping towards his workstation, his hand going straight for one of the butcher knives. "It's a Shadow Cookoff!" he announced with malicious glee, throwing his head back in laughter and raising his blade to the sky.


END

(And so Jonouchi realized that he was officially bleeeped.)


-cough- erm... -shoves late excuses under the rug- So, uhh... HOW 'BOUT THAT CHAPTER, EH? ;D -sweats nervously-