DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fanfiction produced for entertainment purposes only. Yu-Gi-Oh! and all related characters are the creations of Kazuki Takahashi.
By Shadow's Mirror
It was shortly before Christmas and Bakura was not in a good mood.
He'd spent the better part of the day so far doing the rounds of the shops he had voted 'most likely to have something I could get Ryou for Christmas that's not striped, white or ugly'. Unfortunately, he had still been empty handed when he had stopped by The Kamé Game Shop on his way home. As he had grumbled to a sympathetic Yugi when he reached the counter and found the short teenager on till duty, a very amused and definitely not sympathetic Yami in the background, apparently striped, white and ugly were all 'in' this season. Sometimes all three combined, as he had proven by showing Yugi a particularly ugly striped white sweater in a catalogue he had picked up at one of the stores. He and Yugi had both shuddered over it and even Yami had winced.
Bakura sighed. "So yeah. I'm officially stumped. I need to get him something good. Something he'll be happy over. Something to make him forget he ever got anything from Father."
Yugi winced. "Oh dear. Ryou told me on the phone this morning that a parcel had just arrived for him. I thought at the time that he sounded odd. Excited but apprehensive at the same time. It was bad?"
"Yeah. You got it right. By now, Ryou's used to getting weird stuff from Father for gifts, but he really outdid himself this year. He got him two sweaters that not only don't fit, but they're both so ugly that casting the spell I found to make wrong sized sweaters fit would just be a waste of magic as there is no way in the Shadows I would ever let him wear either of them. Oh, he also got him a… I think it's a table lamp."
"You think?" Yami arched an eyebrow at him. "How could you not know if it was or was not?"
"Well, the box says it is. But it's only slightly bigger than his kitten with a copper base that's almost completely green and a lamp shade that is the weirdest shade of orange I've ever seen. Oh and did I mention the base is shaped like a pair of legs in high heels while the lamp shade looks more like a clown nose than anything else? Last time I checked, lamps were also supposed to give off light. This thing just sort of glows. Forget clown nose, isn't there some sort of reindeer linked to the whole Santa thing that has a glowing nose?" He smirked as Yami's eyebrows took up permanent residence in his tri-coloured hair.
"Remind me the next time I am over there to see this lamp. I need some new terrifying items to use in my Shadow Games."
"That would probably be the best, and only, use for it, yeah." Bakura was actually quite happy to help Yami, for once. Anything that had the potential to get the lamp out of his and Ryou's lives was fine with him.
Yugi had been thinking quietly during the lamp conversation. "Bakura, how about some Duel Monsters cards? The latest packs came out this morning, as I'm sure you know." He smiled as Bakura smirked at him.
"That's why I'm here. Although I hadn't thought of them as a present. Ryou asked me to pick a few packets up when I told him last night I'd be out today." He thought for a moment. "You know, you're right. They're the best gift for him this year. Something he likes, something he'll use and something I know will make him happy." He looked happier himself, just thinking about Ryou's reaction to such a gift.
Yugi smiled and nodded. "All right. I'll go get them. We haven't had a chance to put the boxes out yet, so they're still in the back. You'll get second pick at them. Yami went through them last night."
Bakura grinned. "Of course." He looked at Yami as Yugi headed out to the back of the shop. "Does Grampa Yugi know?" His grin was now a fully fledged smirk.
Yami smiled serenely back. "It was Yugi's payment for helping with the shop this week."
"Does Yugi know that?" Bakura's question earned him another eyebrow raise.
"He was the one who suggested it."
Bakura shook his head and grinned. "Of course he was. I should have guessed."
Any reply Yami might have made was interrupted by the shop door opening. Both Dark Ones looked to see who had come in and blinked in shock at the sight of the last person either of them had ever expected to see standing in the game shop's doorway.
Bakura broke the silence. "Huh? What are you...?"
Seto Kaiba remained standing in the doorway, a look of distaste on his face as he spotted Yami, who was in physical form that day, the same as Bakura. "I was told that my order had arrived."
Yami nodded. "It has. Grampa is out but I believe Yugi knows which package is yours." He headed out the back to find his Light, leaving Bakura alone with Kaiba.
Bakura eyed the brunette teenager curiously. Kaiba was still standing in the doorway. "Are you coming in or not?"
Looking mildly amused, Kaiba stepped into the shop and arched an eyebrow at him. "Happy now?"
"Delirious with joy. But tell your eyebrows this is a no-arching area. After the day I've had, I'm going to be seeing eyebrows arching in my sleep as it is." The affable, grinning Bakura was gone and the former grumpy version of himself had returned. He scowled and folded his arms. "Since when have you collected a package personally? Don't you normally have a team of men in black suits to do that for you?"
Kaiba arched his eyebrow more. "Not that it is any of your business, however I just came from your home and Ryou told me that you were to be coming here today. As my order here is to be a present for Mokuba, I thought I might as well collect it myself and speak to you at the same time as Yugi. However, as you appear to be content to wait until your return to your house to see my latest developmental prototype, I will return later, when my package has been located." He turned to leave.
Bakura blinked. "Huh? It's finished? I thought you said you'd be hard pressed to get it done the day before the tournament? Oh get back here, Kaiba. You know perfectly well you've got my attention now." He scowled at the annoying brunette who was still headed back outside.
Joey suddenly stuck his head inside the open door and grinned at Bakura. "Don't worry. He's just comin' to get this." He held the item he was holding out to Kaiba, who scowled at him.
"You had better not have put any grubby fingerprints on it, Wheeler."
"Kaiba... bite me." Joey said it far more cheerfully than usual.
Bakura headed for them, his scowl now replaced by an expression that, on anyone else, might have been labelled 'happy'. His eyes were on the brand new Duel Disk system in Kaiba's hands. "Oh, that looks good!"
Kaiba nodded slightly, the honest compliment thawing his haughtiness considerably. For a moment, he looked like the excited teenage boy he truly was. Just for a moment. "It is a considerable improvement over the last version. You and the others were correct in your feedback on it. I tested this one personally to ensure such issues did not occur again."
He passed the disk over and Bakura studied it carefully. He frowned a little and tapped the glass dome on top. "What's this?"
"A built in container for tokens, dice and coins."
"Oh. Cool." Bakura frowned as soon as he said it. "Hang on... did you just say... coins?"
"For the coin-based chance cards. I spent this morning testing that part of the system with Wheeler. Whatever else can be said about his... skills... as a duellist..."
"Hey!" Wheeler glared at Kaiba. "I heard that!"
Kaiba ignored him and continued speaking as if there had been no interruption, "…I know of no one else capable of using a token, dice and coin card in the same battle. For that matter, there are few duellists who have all three types of cards in their deck at once."
Bakura nodded, although he was still frowning. "That's true. It's not a popular combo. Takes way too much luck to be effective for most duellists." He sounded somewhat distracted. "Did you say this holds coins?"
"I did." Kaiba frowned at him. "You appear to be fixated on that aspect of it. Why?"
"I think I may have just lost a bet with Marik." Bakura sighed heavily.
Kaiba arched an eyebrow. "Oh?"
"It was a week or so back. Marik and I were talking about those things that you see outside shops where you put coins in and get stuff at random. He said you'd make a mint if you made something like that that gave out cards and I said there was no way Kaiba Corp would ever make anything that used coins."
He sighed. "I was too general. This definitely counts as something made by Kaiba Corp that uses coins." He decided to ignore Joey's snickering. He deserved it for being such an idiot. Everyone knew that when you made a bet, you always made it as specific as possible!
Kaiba looked mildly amused and, as he always did, went straight to the heart of the matter. "How much?"
"Two thousand yen." Bakura winced slightly. He'd have to borrow it from Ryou and wasn't looking forward to explaining what he needed it for.
"Tell me when you pay him. I will demand half. Consider it a favour. You will owe me for teaching him a lesson on finances." Kaiba looked rather too satisfied for Bakura's liking. Any chance to grab even a few yen made his day.
"I think Isis is the one who'll owe you a favour for that." Bakura was just grumpy enough to point it out.
"She will indeed, of course." Perfectly calm and collected, Kaiba was even smiling a little now.
"Of course." Bakura gave Kaiba an 'Of course you would collect two favours for the same thing, you sneaky weasel. Shadows, you're good.' sort of look.
Joey was still snickering. "Hey Bakura... ya know he's conned ya, right? I mean... this is Marik we're talkin' about. As in... Isis's brother, Marik. As in..."
Bakura sighed and interrupted. "I know, Joey. As in Isis, bearer of the Millennium Necklace that can show visions of the future to its wearer. But would she really tell him something like that?" Hey, a guy could dream, right?
Joey at least gave that a moment's thought. "Depends. Had she been workin' on her accounts just before it happened?"
Bakura blinked, mentally ran through that time again, then sighed heavily. "Shadows."
Everyone knew that Isis was particularly absent-minded while working on accounts. Hers or the museum's, whenever she was working on them, any question asked of her would earn an immediate and very distracted reply. Malik and Marik were both particularly adept at taking full advantage of that fact.
Kaiba almost smiled. "Two favours and one thousand yen." He was obviously happy about his unexpected windfall. "If you wish to test the holographic display system properties, I will not count it as an additional favour."
Bakura smiled wryly. "Gee, thanks. You're all heart, Kaiba."
"I could, of course." He arched an eyebrow and waited.
Bakura shook his head and grinned. "I never said a word."
Turning his attention to the new duel disk, he studied it more closely. "I see you solved the problem with the strap." He moved away a bit so he had more room even as he strapped the device onto his arm with quick motions, as if he'd done so a million times. "Yeah, that's much better." He weighed it up. "You got it lighter too, huh? Anything you couldn't fix with this one?"
He was genuinely interested. Kaiba knew it and responded to that interest. "I am still not entirely happy with the card drawer system. Prolonged use continues to create wear and tear on the cards to an unacceptable level."
Bakura put a card in and set the system in motion. An image of Dark Witch appeared as a hologram on the floor in front of him, weapon in hand and in her opening battle position. "Prolonged use by whose standards?"
"He means if ya use it repeatedly for an entire year without a single break and with the same deck, one in three cards get a little bend in one corner." Joey grinned.
It was Bakura's turn to arch an eyebrow at Kaiba, who shrugged. "As I said. Unacceptable."
"Only in your world, Kaiba." Bakura grinned and hit a button on the duel disk. Dark Witch's holographic image ran through her battle moves. He studied the hologram and nodded slightly. "That's really smooth. Is that last bit of her moves new? I don't remember it, but then again I don't usually use this card when I duel. Despite drawing it in the first hand every single time." He sighed softly, a wry grin twitching at his lips as he turned the hologram off.
Kaiba nodded, looking both slightly pleased and very smug. "It is new, yes. I made a deal with Pegasus. In return for adding his latest cards to the system, he provided upgraded battle actions of around half of the existing cards." At Bakura's surprised whistle he nodded again. "The programmers hated me for two months after that."
Bakura grinned. "You mean there are times when they don't hate you?" He unstrapped the duel disk and handed it back.
"Every pay day." Kaiba smirked. "What do you think?" His smirk faded and Bakura now had his full attention.
Bakura considered, then nodded once. "I like it. It's definitely an improvement over the last model. I really like the new strap design. It's a lot faster and easier to do up. Even though the addition of the coin holder will make me poorer this week, it's something that was needed and will make duels using those sorts of cards better. No more lost dice, too."
Kaiba actually smiled. A little. He nodded. "I left one at your home for your use in the tournament. If Ryou decides to enter separately, let me know and I will give him one of his own, also."
Bakura blinked at the unexpectedly generous, from Kaiba anyway, offer and nodded. "Thanks. So far, Ryou's content to duel with me and it gets us around the inevitable questions of who I am, but I'll let him know. It's good of you." He was always willing to acknowledge courtesy or kindness shown to his Light.
Kaiba shrugged slightly. "I value both your opinion and his in regards to the design of my duel disk system. Between the two of you, Yugi and Wheeler, I am always guaranteed honest opinions."
It was a rare admission of gratitude from Kaiba, but Bakura and Joey both understood why he chose to say it now. The last version of his duel disk system had been rushed through by an overeager new product line manager whose priority had been getting the new version in stores in time for the half-year sales period rather than making sure the new version was up to the level of quality that Kaiba insisted on for all of his products.
Kaiba had been overseas at the time, on a very rare trip with Mokuba, and had known nothing about the version being released with its numerous problems unfixed until Yugi, Ryou and Joey had contacted him. They'd known that he'd want to learn of the pending disaster from people he occasionally considered to be slightly more than acquaintances.
Because of their quick contact, Kaiba had been able to minimise the damage done to his company's reputation. He'd had the product recalled and compensation arranged before the former new product line manager had finished clearing out his desk. He'd been grateful at the time, but Kaiba had also realised the value of having a small core group of duellists who were not only capable of putting a duel disk system through its full paces, but who were willing to give him a complete and honest evaluation afterwards.
Bakura nodded, understanding that Kaiba neither wanted nor expected any reply to what he'd said. But he gave him one anyway. "Well, my honest opinion right now is that you've not only gotten the design right, but the timing too." He grinned at Kaiba. "A new duel disk system should be celebrated with new cards and some just came out yesterday. They'll be flying off the shelves by the end of the week."
Kaiba looked especially smug as he nodded. "I know. Pegasus contacted me this morning to personally thank me for, as he put it, 'ensuring that his latest visions of artistry would be welcomed even more delightfully than usual'."
Yami and Yugi came out of the back room, Yami carrying a large box. "Forgive us for the wait, Kaiba. Grampa had your order filed under V for 'very big order'… Why is Bakura laughing?"
The look on Kaiba's face as he realised he would have to repeat what Pegasus had said made Bakura laugh even more.