Disclaimer- YuGiOh belongs to 4Kids and various Japanese people, not to me. I'm not making any money off this… in fact, I'm sinking the damn stuff into the merchandising! Lucky for me, Japanese culture is a hell of a lot more accepting of fanworks than American… This short is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for language, implied violence, and implied sexuality. It's another follow-up to "Ankoku Wa Osore Nai" and "The Only Constant." A few more loose ends needed wrapping up before I continue in this universe…

Duelists' Night Out
by: Ellen Brand

            He was so deep into his book, it took almost five rings for the doorbell to finally catch his attention. Blinking sharply, Tristan Taylor laid the volume aside, grumbling as he went to see who had so rudely drawn him out of the world of Ancient Egypt. Opening the door, he blinked again, this time in surprise.

            "Joey? Hey, man, what are you doing here?" the taller teen asked, stepping out of the way to let his friend inside."

            The blond shrugged. "Eh, I've been wanting to talk to you, thought it'd be a good time to drop by." Shucking off his shoes, Joey headed into the living room, one eyebrow raising as he noticed Tristan's discarded book.

            "Cops and Tomb Robbers: Law and Law Enforcement in the Time of the Pharaohs?" A smirk pulled at his lips. It wasn't that Tristan never read, but his friend usually preferred fiction, not scholarly work. Looking over his shoulder, Joey caught the other boy's embarrassed shrug.

            "Well… come on, I think all of us have been brushing up on Egyptology since Yami came along… and thinking about our favorite tomb robber made this thing catch my eye." Tristan tossed the book out of the way and plopped down on the couch. "Besides, I like detective stories, and this is actually pretty interesting."

            Joey grinned, dropping into the armchair opposite Tristan. "Hey, I'm not saying anything. 'Sides, I saw Tea coming out of the university library a few nights ago with an armful of books, so you're not the only one."

            Shaking his head, the brunet rolled his eyes. "So, you said you wanted to talk?"

            "Yeah." Joey leaned back in his chair, face losing some of its animation. "Your parents home?"

            Oh, ouch, Tristan winced. He knew that carefully nonchalant tone. Joey wanted to talk about something not suitable for parental ears, and wanted it pretty badly. He wasn't really that surprised. It had been almost three weeks since the incident with the Black Pharaoh, and Tristan KNEW Joey hadn't talked to anybody about it yet. He hadn't pushed, knowing Joey had to put his feelings together at his own pace before he was ready to let it out to anyone, even his best friend.

            "Nah," he answered, just as casually. "Dad's still at work, and Mom's out with some friends… won't be back until later tonight. Just you and me, buddy."

            Joey nodded, but didn't respond. Obviously he wasn't quite ready to spill what he came here for. That was okay, Tristan had a few other conversational gambits to pursue.

            "So, how's life at the Kaiba mansion?" He grinned at Joey's startled expression. All of them knew that Joey was finding sanctuary in that mausoleum of a house occasionally; even Yugi, though the smallest of them didn't know the specifics of what Joey was hiding from. And Tristan, at least, had noticed that those visits were becoming more frequent lately. Personally, he thought it was probably good for both of them, though he knew better than to say so, especially in Kaiba's hearing. He had no intention of ending up in a shallow grave.

            "For Pete's sake, Tristan, it's not like I LIVE there," his friend replied, a hint of exasperation in his tone. "I just… crash there occasionally."

            "And babysit Mokuba occasionally, and have all-night gaming marathons with the kid occasionally, and raid the refrigerator occasionally…" Tristan teased.

            "Hey, hey, I'll have you know I do my share of the cooking. And the shopping. And Kaiba makes me do the dishes."

            Tristan's grin only widened. "And I bet he has a frilly pink apron for you, too…"

            "No. It has DOGS on it," Joey ground out, glaring. But a hint of humor danced in his brown eyes as well.

            "Seriously, it's… it's nice. Kaiba and I only see each other when I'm there for dinner, and that's only 'cause Mokuba insists. And he's a great kid. Absolute killer with a joystick, though."

            Green eyes danced. "Met your match, huh, bro?"

            "Shut up. Anyway, the room's all mine, whatever I wanna do with it, Kaiba leaves me alone most of the time, and then there's his new head of security."

            The taller boy frowned. "What about him?"

            Joey shook his head. "HER, Tristan. Red hair, five three, eighteen, carries enough toys to stage a takeover of a third-world country."

            "Ooooh, sounds like Mai has competition."

            That earned him a punch in the arm. "Get your mind outta the gutter, Romeo, it's not like that. It's just… she's AMERICAN, Tristan. Even if she is from the South. It's nice to hear someone totally mangling proper English again… You guys all sound like broadcasters, you know? Plus, she drives Kaiba crazy, which is always a plus. Three days on the job, and she stole his laptop and sent him home early."

            Tristan laughed. "Oh, I have GOT to meet this girl," he managed, catching his breath. "But you didn't come over here to tell me about Kaiba's staffing problems. What's on your so-called mind?"

            Thwack! "Wiseass," Joey muttered, switching to English momentarily. Then, in Japanese again, he continued. "Well, look… I kinda… I kinda asked Mai out tonight, you know, to the fair that's set up, down by the river? And well… she said yes. But neither of us can handle being alone together just yet, so we were wondering if you wanted to come along too."

            "Man, you're not still beating yourself up about what happened with the Pharaoh, are you?"

            "No, that's not it, Tristan. I know that wasn't me, and so does she. We're not asking because she needs protecting. It's just…" Joey sucked in a ragged breath.

            "You don't know what it was like, Tristan; bein' a vampire, I mean. It wasn't mind control, not like with Malik. Then, I knew what I was doin', I was still ME… but I couldn't stop myself. With this… he didn't make me do things, Tristan. He made me into something that WANTED to do them."

            Joey paused for a moment, fiddling with a pen he produced from somewhere. He stared at it, unable to meet Tristan's eyes. "It ain't guilt, Tristan. I know what he turned me into wasn't something I'd ever be by myself. But it was built on parts of me, things tied together that never connected before.

            "Like Yami. Oh sure, the Pharaoh hated Yami because Yami had beat him, was the first ever to beat him and the only one to do it so completely. But that wasn't the only reason I hated him when I was… like that. Part of it was Yugi. You felt it too, didn't you? When we first realized what Yami was, what Yugi was carryin' inside? This little kid who was so PURE that he stood up for US and got the crap beaten out of him… was sharin' space with someone who could kill Kaiba in a heartbeat, because that was what it took to win."

            "But Yami isn't like that anymore," Tristan replied softly. "Yugi's changed him as much or more than he's changed Yugi."

            The other gave him a crooked smile. "Yeah, I know that, now. Remember, this stuff was basically taking all the bad stuff in my head and leavin' out the good. All I could see was Yami poisonin' him, takin' away everything that made him Yugi… never realizing that what I wanted to do would have been just the same. But even that wasn't all of it.

            "You know the big difference between wolves and dogs, Tristan?" Joey asked, looking up from his pen.

            Tristan blinked. ­Whoa, conversational whiplash, he mused. Shrugging, he replied "An affection for fire hydrants?"

            Another smack. "Wolves are predators, wiseguy. Dogs aren't, no matter how feral they get. There's something missing, that edge. They love each other, they fight for their pack, but they're predators. And wolves… wolves only have one alpha."

            Understanding dawned. "Yami."

            "Bingo. But when I was a vampire, ~ I~ was a wolf. And I damn well wasn't gonna be low on the food chain. Yami and Kaiba were threats, pure and simple."

            "And I'm not?" Tristan folded his arms in mock offense.

            "Nope. You don't LIKE to fight, buddy. And you don't wanna be the one giving orders. You guys… I wanted you with me, but Yami and Kaiba had to go."

            Tristan thought he was beginning to see where this was going. "And Mai?"

            "Yeah." Joey let out a breath, sounding old. "Vamps don't have the same… priorities that humans do. Mai was mate potential, pure and simple. Forget relationships, or friendships, or SCHOOL… You want it, you take it. That's how it was. And I guess with the binding, she kind of got some of the same thing. So…"

            "So, you guys want me there to make sure neither of you gets carried away."

            "Yeah. Besides, when was the last time you and I did anything that DIDN'T involve Duelists, magic, and Ancient Egypt?"

            The dark-haired boy winced. "I can't even remember, Joey. Sure, I'm in. Anybody else coming?"

            Joey fidgeted. "Well… Mai DID have somebody else she wanted to invite… but she was kind of hoping you'd go along as backup."

            "Backup?" Tristan frowned, confused. "Who would she need– Oh man… You can't mean…"

            "Yep. Life insurance paid up?"

            "I hate you."


            For a second, Ryou couldn't imagine WHAT the buzzing noise in his ears was. It had been so long since anyone had rung his doorbell, he'd practically forgotten what it sounded like. After all, no one was likely to come to visit him, and word of his yami's… dislike of disturbances had spread quickly among the door-to-door set. He couldn't imagine who would be ignorant or fool-hardy enough to come calling to his door.

            A second ring had him setting aside the book, hurrying to reach the door and send the poor sod outside packing before Bakura woke up. His yami had been fairly well-behaved so far– he hadn't KILLED any of the salesmen– but in Ryou's experience, that could only last so long.

            //Hmph. You don't appreciate me, that's all.//

            Ryou sighed. Yami, when a creature from beyond the boundaries of time and space is trying to eat my brain, I appreciate you very much. It's just that when dealing with more minor threats, like traveling salespeople, you're… perhaps a bit too enthusiastic. It's not as if Japan has Jehovah's Witnesses or anything…

            //Oh, very well. I'll let you handle this one… but try to make it interesting?//

            Despite everything, Ryou's mouth quirked. You've got to have rubbed off on me somewhat… we'll see what I can do. Taking a deep breath, he opened the door.

            And blinked. The last people he had expected to see on his doorstep were Tristan Taylor and Mai Valentine. The two of them looked… not NERVOUS, per se, nor worried… anxious? Somewhat, but also anticipatory.

            //Oh, no. No more saving the world for at least a month, hikari. Tell them you have the black fever or something.//

            Antibiotics killed that one years ago, yami, Ryou replied wryly. Besides, they don't look upset enough for it to be Yet Another Shadow Realm Eruption.(TM) Actually, they don't look upset at all… Let's just see what they want first.  Relaxing somewhat, Ryou smiled.

            "Hello, Tristan, Mai. What brings you two over here today?"

            The two exchanged glances, then smiled back at Ryou. "Well, Mai and Joey decided they wanted to go to the fair tonight," Tristan replied, "but they don't think they're ready for one-on-one yet… so they decided they wanted to invite a couple friends along."

            Mai's smile grew a bit warmer. "Joey, of course, instantly thought of Tristan… But we also decided we'd drop by and ask the two of you."


            Spiritual equivalent of a blink.

            "The… two of us?" Ryou managed.

            Tristan nodded. "Yeah. You and Bakura."

            Ryou blinked again. "Ah… would you both like to come inside?" Stepping out of the doorway, he waved them in. This was DEFINITELY not a conversation to be carrying out on the front steps!

            The three of them settled into the living room, Ryou giving silent thanks that his yami was, for the moment, content to listen to what was going on from inside his soul room. "So… you really wanted to invite BOTH of us?" He couldn't help his skepticism. Bakura wasn't the most popular person around, for several very good, very pointy reasons.

            Mai's nod was quite emphatic. "Yes, Ryou. For a lot of reasons. One, both of you need to get out more. On excursions that don't necessarily involve other people's property making its way into Bakura's possession."

            //Heh. She knows me well.//

            Ryou rolled his eyes, then mentally smacked himself for picking up his yami's habits. "And two?"

            "Two," Tristan continued, "We're both comfortable with Bakura… maybe because we both kinda feel like we owe him. He saved my life during Duelist Kingdom, and in the warehouse, and he saved Mai from the hold the vamp had over her. He's part of you, Ryou, and we've accepted that… now we want a chance to… well, at least establish a truce."

            The silver-haired teen cocked his head, considering. "What about Yami?"

            Mai's lips quirked. "We're not inviting him, are we?"

            "Look, neither Bakura nor Yami will talk about what happened 3000 years ago between them," added Tristan. "I'm not even sure Yami KNOWS. As long as we're in the dark, well… we're reserving judgment. Sooner or later, this is going to get ugly, and we may have to choose sides. Before then… well, we want all the information we can get. Make up our own minds."

            "And besides, we both actually LIKE Bakura," Mai replied. "Homicidal though he may be. What do you say?"

            Yami? How about it? You might actually like the fair… Ra knows you probably invented half the rigged games they use to cheat the patrons.

            //Flattery will get you nowhere, hikari.// The image of a fanged grin flashed before Ryou's mental eyes. //But… why not? Mai, Wheeler, and Taylor aren't too bad to be around, and we COULD both use a chance to have some… fun.//

            Just remember, we'll be in a crowd of people. You have to control your baser instincts.

            Sugar-sweet innocence. //Why Ryou, whatever could you mean?//



            Sometimes Joey wondered why the hell nobody ever noticed the blatant case of multiple personality Ryou Bakura had going. Yugi and Yami at least TRIED to keep the behavior fairly constant no matter who was in control. Of course, anyone in the know could tell the difference between yami and hikari simply by posture and choice of words, even without the magic to see the minor physical changes. But Ryou… well, even on a good day, he seemed downright bipolar.

            Actually, one person HAD noticed… Domino High's school shrink. One private session with the silver-haired freshman, however, had left the man cowering under his desk, muttering about demons with fangs and red eyes. Of course, what had really impressed Joey was that Yami swore no one had called on the Shadow Realm all morning. Bakura had done it cold. Nobody was too upset with the tomb robber after that one, though… the shrink was kind of a prick.

            But after this long, it was child's play for Joey to see the shift between Ryou and Bakura as they approached the midway. The back straightened, the hair became a bit wilder, and the wide chocolate eyes became amber. Yami Bakura had caught his first sight of the midway… and the plump pigeons that flocked within.

            Grinning widely, Joey leaned closer to the tomb robber. "Might want to wait 'til later to pluck 'em," the blond said quietly. "That way, if we have to book, it's AFTER we've had a good time."

            "That IS a good time, Wheeler," Bakura replied smartly. "But you probably have a point."

            "Make ya a deal. You hold off until we've done the fair, I'll help you run a con that'll get us both wallets fat enough to pass for 'War and Peace.'"

            The fanged grin spread wider. "You have a deal. I knew there was some reason I liked you."

            Tristan rolled his eyes. "You two are dangerous. Watch out Mai, between the two of 'em, no wallet in the city is safe."

            The girl laughed. "Aw, Tristan, no larceny in your soul?"

            "No desire to do five to ten," came the dry response.

            Joey chuckled, slinging one arm around his friend's shoulder. "Aw, come on, Tristan, you're a minor. Probably community service, tops."

            "So… aside from acts of fraud and petty larceny, what do you guys want to do first?" Mai asked, grinning.

            Joey, Tristan, and the now-in-control Ryou didn't hesitate.



            //Tell me, hikari, why do people find losing the contents of their stomachs to be entertaining?// inquired one very grumpy Bakura, several roller-coasters and a Tilt-a-whirl later.

            For the same reasons you find relieving people of their possessions entertaining, Ryou replied, as the group headed for the food stands. Only this way is safer– less chance of getting arrested.

            //Safer. Keh. Your people put too much emphasis on being safe, yadonushi. All life is risk.//

            Sometimes, yami, I would be tempted to agree with you, Ryou replied soberly. But cheer up. You'll like the fair food. Probably.

            //Hmph. Somehow, I doubt that.// But the spirit let himself be shoved to the back of Ryou's mind without more than grumbled comments.

            Stepping up to the kiosk's window as Joey moved aside, Ryou blinked at the smell of hot grease wafting out of the kitchen area. "Good Lord," the shorter teen commented, "no wonder people in your country keep dropping dead of heart disease."

            "Three words, wiseguy," Joey shot back. "Bubble 'n' squeak."

            Ryou blushed. All right, so the British pretty much had a lock on fried food… Still, he'd been raised in Japan. He ate much healthier than… oh hell, who was he kidding.

            "Hamburger, French fries, Coca-Cola and a funnel cake, please," he told the man behind the counter. Paying his money, he took his tray and joined the others at the picnic table they'd found all the way at the edge of the fairgrounds, ignoring Joey and Tristan's snickers.

            As Ryou sat down next to her, Mai looked at the hikari's tray in astonishment. "How the hell do you eat that and stay skinny?

            "Bakura. Rooftops. You do the math," he replied dryly, biting into his hamburger.

            //Mmm. A bit overcooked, but not bad.//

            Yami, I keep telling you, they're not ALLOWED to serve it raw!

            //As I said, too obsessed with safe. What's the point of meat without blood?//

            Damnit, yami, I don't think this burger will taste as good the second time!

            Snicker. //Very well, hikari. But less ketchup next time, please?//

            With a scowl, Ryou shot his yami a rude mental image, then turned his attention back to his companions, only to find them all watching him.

            "You realize that if you ever do that around anyone else, you'll be on your way to a mental institution before you can blink," Tristan replied.

            Ryou shrugged. "Like having Bakura in the back of my head hasn't already killed my social life. Present company excepted, of course."

            "Does kinda put a crimp in the whole dating thing, doesn't it?" Joey agreed.

            Tristan snorted. "Like it doesn't for the rest of us? 'Sorry, Miho, I couldn't make our date… I had to stop a nutcase from summoning up a centuries-dead monster and wreaking havoc on Tokyo.' Or having a Screaming Skull materialize in the middle of the restaurant because you've got enough magic residue on you to glow like a nightlight…"

            "Bitter much?" Mai teased, sipping her drink.

            "It petrified my pasta!" the brunet replied. "And then SHE goes and throws her salad in my face and runs off screaming…"

            Fighting to control his snicker, Joey laid a comforting hand on his friend's shoulder. "Come on, man, she just wasn't the right type for you."

            "I didn't think Tristan HAD a type, other than female and breathing," Ryou replied innocently.

            His friend made a face at him. "Ha ha. I'll have you know I DO have an image of what I want in a girlfriend."

            "D-cup?" Mai rested her chin on her hand, giving him eyes as wide and innocent as Ryou's.

            "No! Well… not that I'd mind… No, I just… I want someone smart, okay? Someone I can have a conversation with. And brave enough not to run away the first time something weird pops up. And… not jealous, like a lot of girls get. You know how many times I've seen girls dump a guy because he won't give up his friends? And… the rest of you guys would have to like her too." Tristan blushed. "And I sound like a TOTAL doof…"

            Mai shook her head. "Actually, no, Tristan, it's sweet. I won't lie and tell you every girl is going to go for that… but there are ones out there who will, and you'll be a lot happier with one of them than the self-involved beauty queens you've been chasing."

            "So, what about you, Ryou?" Joey asked, tossing the trash from his dinner into the nearest waste-can.

            "Mm?" The other teen looked up from his funnel cake. Wiping powdered sugar from his mouth, he looked thoughtful. "I haven't given it a lot of thought, honestly. Frankly, I've been a bit busy with other things. I suppose she'd have to be able to handle my yami, and he'd have to like her as well… not an easy feat, I assure you."

            Leaning forward, Tristan rested his head on the table. "Bakura aside, Ryou, what interests you in a girl?"

            "Well… I did used to have a bit of a crush on Tea, if that tells you anything," the younger boy chuckled. "Much like you, Tristan, I would want someone smart, loyal, and brave… willing to just be quiet sometimes, to sit back and just be, to enjoy life without having to DO something all the time. Gentle… And I've always rather liked dark hair. Long, dark hair. Opposites attract, or something."

            "And Bakura?" Mai asked?

            "Rich," Ryou replied, his tone dry, the look in his eyes suggesting he was relaying his other's comment.

            Joey snorted. "No, really. Come on, Bakura, what do you want in a girl?

            "Well," the spirit drawled, taking over the body as he did so, "a streak of larceny would be nice. Dangerous… good with a blade… And I agree with Ryou, willing to just sit and be quiet at times, not always having to be doing or talking. Willing to fight her own battles, but not too proud to ask for help. One who understands loss… and vengeance." A fang-filled grin. "And tall, dark, and… endowed wouldn't be bad either."

            Mai rolled her eyes. "Men. No matter what the era, they're all the same."

            "Testosterone through the ages." Bakura nodded mock-soberly. And was showered in balled-up napkins.


            "Man… sure is clear tonight," Tristan commented, looking up at the star-strewn sky. "Hard to believe summer's almost over."

            Joey groaned. "Aw, man, you HAD to bring that up?"

            "What ~ I~ find hard to believe is that we're going to be juniors," Ryou threw in. "Our second year of high school… our first together. THAT should be quite interesting."

            "Boy, I'm glad I'm clear of THAT piranha tank," Mai sighed. "Maybe it's different for guys, but for girls, it is DEFINITELY a social war zone."

            That got a snort from Joey. "On our end, it's a little more physical, but yeah, we know what you mean. Some days I can't wait to get out… others I don't want it to end. I mean, hell, at least high school, I know what I'm doin'! After I graduate.."

            Tristan raised an eyebrow. "I thought you wanted to join the force with me?"

            "I… I used to, but…" Joey let out a long breath. "Since all this Duelin' started, I've been realizing… I can't do it. There's too much that's changed, that I don't think I could hide if I were a cop."

            "Like what?" Violet eyes regarded Joey with concern.

            "Like… Well, like when we first Dueled, Mai. Didn't you wonder how I could smell your perfume from across an entire Dueling Arena? You didn't use THAT much."

            Ryou's eyes widened. "You have a heightened sense of smell? That's somewhat unusual, Joey, but it's hardly so out of the ordinary as to draw undue attention."

            "It ain't just that. Didn't ya ever wonder why I get so riled up when Kaiba makes his dog cracks? It's not like I'm just a 'nose' like in a perfume store… I actually can smell about as well as a German Shepherd! And that was before all this. Now I smell stuff that isn't actually there.  When I was a– a vamp, I tracked Kaiba across the city smellin' his… well, mental scars. I smell things that don't usually have a smell. I can smell magic… I can still remember smellin' Marik, and tryin' not to get sick."

            "That might be a bit hard to explain to a police captain, yeah," Mai nodded. "Of course, there's always professional Dueling. You'd be pretty good at it."

            Joey chuckled. "And you'd know, right? I dunno. I might go that route… I just don't know. Still got a year or so, though… What about you, Tristan? Still planning on the force?"

            "Yeah. I don't have anything I'd have to hide, and it's probably a good idea to have SOMBEODY in law enforcement who actually believes in this stuff. Besides… It's always been what I wanted to do. I don't know if there's anything else I could be happy with." He shrugged. "What about you, Ryou? What are your plans after graduation?"

            "You know… I've never thought about it much," the white-haired teen admitted. "I used to think about archaeology, but… well, it's rather hard to find a career that would satisfy both me and my yami… and HE hasn't thought much beyond his usual plans of death, destruction, and vengeance."

            Eyes rolling, Joey snorted. "Yeah, well, ruling the world is a career in and of itself… Ow!" The blond rubbed his head, glaring at the tray that one of the Bakurae had bounced off him. He THOUGHT it was probably the yami… but from the innocent look on Ryou's face, he wasn't about to place bets on that. The light half of the pair was surprisingly protective of his other, despite everything that had occurred between them.

            Spikes rose in silver hair as Bakura took over the shared body. "So… now that we've eaten… who's up for a chance at the fair games?"

            Tristan looked from the spirit's fanged grin to the disturbingly similar one on his best friend's face and felt slightly ill. "Somehow… I don't think FAIR is gonna be the right word at all."


            If nothing else, Mai thought, this evening was shaping up to be quite an education. Oh, she'd known for some time that there was more to Joey than wisecracks, a hot temper, and a loyalty to his friends that put Lancelot and Arthur to shame. She'd seen the dark, dangerous edge to him when he'd dueled Marik for her soul, and stronger still when he'd been under the Black Pharaoh's spell. And she'd watched him duel on Pegasus' island, growing into a high-level Duelist in the span of two or three days. Yes, Mai knew there was a lot more to Joey than anyone saw at first glance. But this…

            She glanced over at Tristan, who despite his worried grumbles, looked more amused than anything else. Joey and Bakura sat at another table, closer to the midway, watching with the lazy patience of cats on the hunt as the patrons flitted from one game to another. Occasionally one of the other would make a casual comment as they analyzed the patterns of traffic, who won… and who lost far too often.

            "That one," Joey said finally, indicating a dart booth with his chin. "He's so crooked, they'll have to screw 'im into the ground to bury him. Not likely to go to the cops if he's scammed."

            The tomb robber nodded. "Aa. He's had a profitable evening, as well… more for us." The two of them shared quite predatory grins, then rose to their feet.

            "Now, how's he gonna handle this one," Tristan murmured, leaning forward slightly in his seat. "Oooh… the drunk walk. He's TOO good at this one… Not like we don't know why."

            "Mmm," Mai nodded, watching as Joey's steps shifted effortlessly into the slightly hesitant stumble of a boy who'd had too much of something he shouldn't have been into. Tristan was right. It wasn't comfortable to know just where Joey'd learned to imitate a drunken stumble.

            The two of them watched as their friends approached the dart booth, the white-haired teen pulling nervously at his friend's arm. From this far away, Mai literally could not tell whether it was Ryou or Bakura currently in control. She didn't honestly think it made much of a difference.

            Joey's coordination was awful, of course, all three darts missing the target entirely. Bakura managed to win a small stuffed animal– Mai thought it looked like a yellow rat, but she was too far to tell. There were a few moments of unheard conversation, then Joey's voice came back loud and clear, and only slightly slurred.

            "Double 'r nothin!"

            Money changed hands, darts flew, and something pink and fluffy joined the rat by Bakura's side.

            "Double 'r nothin!"

            The observers continued to watch as Joey doubled his way up the prize chart, and a pile of multicolored plush gathered next to a no-doubt disgusted tomb robber. Finally, Joey's last command got a response from his companion.

            "But Joey, that's all of our money," Ryou protested weakly.

            "An' that's why it's good luck!" Joey declared sweepingly. "Come on, let's go!"

            "And they're off the chart," Tristan chuckled. "Only eligible prize now is the contents of the cash box."

            The booth operator had obviously realized that too, because he was hesitating. If he lost, he'd lose the whole night's take… but if he backed out, he'd only be getting half of the possible winnings. Mai could almost see the greed warring with caution in his eyes.

            "It's a Shadow Game," she realized suddenly.

            Tristan nodded. "Kind of. Another reason Joey and Bakura picked this guy. A more honest vendor would have qualms about taking all their money… this one's going to pushed into it by his own nature. He can't resist the easy win… and that's why he's gonna lose."

            "Lucky for him it's only his money."

            "Doubt he'll feel that way when he loses the night's profits," Tristan chuckled.

            Finally, inevitably, the gamesman nodded, handing Joey and Bakura three darts each. As if a switch had been thrown, Joey's drunkenness fell away, as did Bakura's innocent air. Six darts thudded into the target, not a one outside the golden center. As the operator stared in dumbstruck horror, Joey collected the contents of the cash box, while Bakura dumped his load of collected stuffed animals over the man, snagging something large and white from the grand prize row. Then he followed Joey back to the table.

            "And a good time was had by all," the American said, sliding onto the bench next to Tristan with a satisfied smirk. "Half for me, and half for the psychopath."

            "Two-thirds. One for me, one for Ryou," Bakura replied, tossing the toy in his arms to Joey, who caught it reflexively.

            "What the–" Joey trailed off. Two plastic blue eyes bored into his, set in a head that was plush, white and toothy. "Oh hell."

            Tristan choked. "A stuffed BLUE EYES?"

            "Give it to Kaiba," Bakura instructed Joey, fangs bared in a wide grin. "And tell me what color his face turns."

            Joey groaned. "I'm a dead man…"


            There was, Seto Kaiba thought to himself, something to be said for taking a Saturday just to relax. Not that he wasn't working… That would be like trying to stop breathing for the day. But he had his laptop with him in the den, (having finally managed retrieve the thing by finally enlisting a sympathetic security guard to steal it out of the office while Alix wasn't looking) and was watching Mokuba play video games while.  paying attention to his project mainly in fits and spurts. It felt cozy and quite relaxing.

            Gods, I AM going soft, he thought with amusement, then mentally smacked himself over his choice of words. Too much time around Yami, that's ALL it is, he told himself. I do not have any memories of Ancient Egypt. I might be a descendant of Yami's priest, but I am NOT a reincarnation.

            (DeNILE!) A young voice sounded in his head.

            /Not just a river in Egypt,/ Taiyuu added. Seto stifled a groan.

            The corruption is spreading, he griped, stomping the grin that threatened to break out. Keep your opinions to yourselves, please.

            Draconic snickers faded to the back of his mind, and the young CEO shook his head. Between his own personal Greek Chorus, and the fact that Joey was crashing here more often than not, it was getting so he didn't have a minute's peace anymore…

            As if in response to his thoughts, the doorbell rang, cutting through the music of the game and causing both Kaibas to look up. Frowning, Seto got to his feet, headed cautiously for the door. He wasn't expecting anybody… and anyone from work would call first, or more likely, instead.

            Looking through the peephole, he saw nothing, so he carefully pulled the door open… and saw it. Plush. White. Adorable. Wearing a little sign that said in perfectly done kana, "My name is Seto!" And staring directly AT him.

            For one long moment, Kaiba considered punting the stuffed toy off his front porch and seeing whether or not he could clear the front gate with the kick. The opportunity was lost, however, when Mokuba caught sight of the toy.

            "Kawaii!" A blur of black and red and white, and Mokuba was skipping back into the house, plush toy clutched securely in his arms. It's head hung over the boy's shoulder, and for just one second, Kaiba could SWEAR the toy was laughing at him.

            That's it, Seto thought, mind racing through all the suspects with means and opportunity… not to mention the desire and knowledge of how to annoy him. That is it.

            The mutt is a dead man.


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