When I open my eyes, I notice two things immediately. The first is that the curtains are open and sunlight is pouring into the room, which means that it must be early afternoon. The second is that Marik isn't next to me anymore, and from how faint his scent is he's been gone for some time. For some reason this second fact bothers me. It's not like I expected Ishtar to stay or anything; why would anyone want to spend their time with someone like me?
I push the thought aside and go get that shower I should have had last night. It helps clear my head a little, and after I dress I head off to check on my Cats. After that I'll see what Dorobou and Yami are up to. And no, I am not just trying to get the Ishtars out of my head.
I'm halfway down the hall to Dorobou's room when I hear a shout of, "Hey, Kid!" I can't help but grin as I glance over my shoulder at the wolf approaching. If there's anyone cooler than Mai-san, it's her mate. Jean-Claude Magnum is the Ulfric of the pack Seto hired, and the only one who doesn't see my alpha status as either threat or challenge. He calls things like he sees them, and to him...
"Been looking for you, Kid. There's a couple of messages for you." He pauses an moment, apparently deciding which to give me first. "Bakura and Mutou have a lunch date with Miss Cynthia, they left about half an hour ago." Huh, that's odd. I guess that just leaves my Cats to take care of. I tune back in to hear Magnum say, "And he'll be back by four."
What? "Excuse me?"
Magnum grins in a manner that puts me on guard. "That Egyptian kid left around ten, and said to let you know he'll be back by four."
Did I mention that sometimes Magnum can be a little, well, creepy? Seriously, I took a shower so that I could get their scent off of me but he's looking at me like he knows something I don't.
I try to play dumb. "So?"
And apparently it's not going to work. "So, if you really want to fool a Were's nose, Kid, you should put on some cologne or something. That might disguise the boy's scent a little better. You might be able to fool the vampires, but not one of our kind."
"Fuck," I mutter, leaning against the wall and (barely) resisting the urge to beat my head against it. "If my Cats say anything I'll smack the pair of them."
"They won't," Magnum says with a slight shrug. "You're their alpha, and at most they'll be curious. Especially the young one."
He does have a point. Plus, I'm pretty sure Dartz caught his scent on me last night but didn't say anything. It's possible he was just being polite, but I can't be too sure.
"Thanks," I finally reply after a moment. "Have my Cats eaten yet?"
"Twice, and Mai called the doctor to come take a look at them." A slight smirk crosses his lips. "Should I repeat all the things Varon called you or let you assume the worse?"
"No, more frustrated that you didn't contact him last night. But," the wolf adds, "he also said that they needed to rest more, and that you made the right decision in letting them do so." His expression shifts slightly, and I get the feeling he's concerned. "Stop second-guessing yourself, Kid. You're an alpha through-and-through. Trust your instincts. They won't lead you wrong."
Magnum gives me another smile before turning to leave. I know he meant well, but I'm not reassured. After all, they told me once before that I'd found my mate only for things to fall apart. How can I not wonder if they're wrong this time as well?
"So what's the story with you and the poster child for psychotic behaviour?" The question catches me off guard and I nearly choke on my water. Once I stop coughing I give Dartz what I hope is an innocent, confused expression. From the amused gleam in his eyes, though, I must be failing miserably.
“Ishtar. His scent’s all over you, Alpha,” Dartz blithely informs me. Thankfully Ryuzaki’s more interested in devouring every bit of literature in the library than in whatever his elders are talking about. Of course, the kit might be trying to find Mokuba’s porn stash, which’ll keep him busy for a while whether he finds it or not.
I heave a tired sigh. “He’s a friend.” Is he? I know he calls Dorobou ‘Boss’ but I have no idea where I stand in his mind. “He brought the kit here, you know that much.”
“And he apparently came back after I got here,” Dartz replies instantly. “His scent was faint last night but it’s pretty strong today.”
“So he spent the night,” I shrug, attempting to remain nonchalant. The other cat frowns slightly, apparently thinking of how to phrase his next thought. I can tell I’m not going to like it much no matter how delicately he phrases it.
“If he spent the night,” he finally says, “then why didn’t he try to fuck you?”
On that the kit’s head snaps up. Just my luck Ryuzaki’s a little on the perverted side.... I should probably blush under the scrutiny my Cats are giving me but I can’t seem to be embarrassed over this. Go, me.
“Oh, not for lack of trying on his part,” is my reply, and from the subtle sadness clouding Dartz’s eyes and scent he knows exactly who slammed on the breaks. The kit looks confused; I have the feeling he’s about to add his thoughts to the discussion.
“The kinda cute but really freaky gaijin that brought me to you, Jounouchi-sempai? I think he must really like you if he stayed after you told him no,” Ryuzaki says decisively. “He never took ‘no’ as an acceptable response.”
Dartz growls softly. “Which is why we’re here, kit. Alpha won’t let him come near us again.” Damn straight, I won’t. Next time I see Hirutani, he’s not getting away with a few missing limbs and scratches. He isn’t walking away at all.
“And on that note, any and all discussion of my non-existent sex life is closed,” I say, stretching my limbs before standing. “Hope Seto doesn’t mind us snacking in the informal den.”
“Doubt it.” All three of us start and snap our attention to the door. I almost didn’t recognize his voice, raspy and weak as it sounds right now.
Marik grins, the expression somewhat sickly, and manages to take one step before his legs give out. Before he can come close to hitting the floor I dart forward and catch him.
“Marik, what happened?” I head myself ask; that can’t be my voice, why would I sound half-scared? There’s no way in hell I can be worried about him. After all, he’s scarier than I am, and more than capable of taking care of himself... right?
He manages a weak laugh. “Ate someone who disagreed with me,” he replies. If I didn’t know what he was I’d almost think I misheard him. Before I have a chance to ask just who was on the lunch menu, Marik’s eyes lose focus and he passes out.
Okay. I have an ahmet that shares a human body with his vegetarian twin. Is this on par with Marik eating meat? I bet Malik’s punishing him for this one. Well, only one thing I can think of to do right now.
“Dartz, did Mai happen to give you Varon’s cell number?”
“Give him a call.” He’ll probably yell about coming here twice in one day, but Seto did offer him a position as on-site physician.
“On it, Alpha,” Dartz says before heading down the hall. I’m going to have to talk to him about that; I know Hirutani is enough of an ass to make his pard call him ‘Master’ and ‘my Nimir Raj’ in his presence but this ‘Alpha’ business is already starting to get old.
“Jounouchi-sempai? Should I go wait for Varon-san to tell him where you are?” Ryuzaki asks, grey eyes watching me intently. Trust the kit to keep the situation in perspective. Probably already knows what I’m gonna say, too.
“Tell him we’re in my room,” I reply, knowing full well Varon knows where it is; apparently one of the wolves pointed it out to him once or something. The kit nods and takes off in the direction Dartz went. I turn my attention back to Marik and frown.
“Someone please explain why I’m so compelled to help you,” I grumble under my breath. F course there’s no answer, and I can only shake my head as I pick him up.
“I should start charging Kaiba for house calls.”
“Well, you’re the one who insisted on turning down Seto’s offer,” I counter with a shrug. Vivid blue eyes glare at me, but the day I’m scared of Varon is the day I shave my head. Hell, I don’t even know if Varon’s his first or last name, but he’s good at what he does and he’s fun to play poker with.
“So, he gonna be okay?” I ask, ignoring the look he’s giving me. Ryuzaki and Dartz both perk up slightly’ apparently they’ve decided that if I’m worried about Ishtar then they should be concerned as well.
Varon nods, leaning against the door frame. “You said he’s half-soul eater, correct?” I nod--it's close enough to what I said. “A human body isn’t designed to digest souls. All I can do is guess that it’s causing gastrointestinal pain.” Um... mew? “I gave him a sedative. All he can do now is, well, sleep it off.”
“Thanks, V,” I say, resisting the urge to roll my eyes. ‘Sleep if off,’ he says, like Marik drank a little too much at the bar or something. “Seriously, you should just move in here. It’d save you the trip.”
“I have my practice to think about.”
It’s a fairly weak argument and we both know it. Varon used to work at the hospital, but he quit a few years back. Hell, the truth of the matter is he argued against keeping me in the hospital’s long-term facilities back when I was first turned. He’s fairly young, true, not much more than twenty-four, but he opted to give up his impending residency rather than compromise his values system. Varon can’t get any patients aside from the few Weres who contract silver poisoning and Dorobou. Believe me, the only reason he’s protesting at all is due to his pride.
“Seto’s paying you more than you make off your practice in a year just to keep Dorobou healthy,” I reply with another little shrug. Two thousand yen says he’ll claim a couple rooms before the end of the day.
Varon glares at me. “You’re a pain in he ass, Jounouchi Katsuya. I should have kept my mouth shut three years ago.”
“But then who would keep you on your toes?”
He laughs. “Bad kitty. So, who do I draft to help get my shit here?”
“I’ll help,” Dartz blurts out before I can say anything. He’s quick to add, “I mean, if Alpha says that it’s okay.”
“I have a name,” I say. “It’s alright to use it, you know. And grab a couple of wolves to go with, it should make the move go faster.”
“Are you sure?” Ah, hell, I really need to get Hirutani out of my city. He’s got every Cat in Domino convinced that they can’t even sneeze without his permission... well, every Cat aside from me and the kit; don’t ask, but there aren’t any Tigers in this city. I think they all gravitated to Tokyo a dozen or more years ago but I’d have to ask Pegasus to find out for sure.
“I just said as much, didn’t I?” From his expression I’m not quite sure he believes me. Ryuzaki speaks up before I can add anything.
“I think it’s cool that Jounouchi-sempai lets us call him by name. It means he respects us.” Good kitty. Honestly, I already love the pair of them like they’re blood; how the hell could any alpha Were treat his pard like they’re beneath him if we all feel this way?
“Besides, I think he might kick your ass if you kowtow to him too much,” Varon adds with a smirk. I flip him off.
“Ha ha. Go get your doctor crap and get your ass back here.” I can’t help but grin at Varon’s mock-glare. “I’m going to sit with Ishtar for a while, see if I can find out who he ate whenever he wakes up.”
“If anyone can get an honest answer out of Malik Ishtar it’d be you. See you later then, Jounouchi,” Varon says with a slight wave as he starts off down the hall.
“We’ll be back soon, Al-- Jounouchi-san,” Dartz adds; I’ll have to talk to him about dropping the –san, but it’s a little better at least. He runs to catch up with Varon and I can hear the kit snickering behind me.
“Dartz-kun likes Varon-san,” he announces through his laughter.
“He’s not very subtle about it,” I agree. Let’s me honest, he’s less subtle than me about it, and that’s saying a lot. “So, what are you going to get into this afternoon?”
The kit shrugs. “Maybe I’ll go annoy the wolves. Magnum-san said he was going to teach me how to toss Mazaki if she sneaks onto the grounds today.”
I... am not surprised. “Have fun, kit. You know where I’ll be.” I watch him head down the hall before turning to go back into my room. At least now I have some quiet to figure out how to go about dealing with Hirutani.
“Remind me to kick Marik’s ass later for this, would you, Katsuya? Thanks.”
“I thought you were sedated,” I say, giving Ishtar a quick once-over. For all intents and purposes he seems just fine.
“Marik’s the one who needed it,” he replies with an easy shrug. “He knows better than to go after a Were, even if the bastard pissed me off, too."
Well, that solves the problem of just how to ask what the hell happened. “Whoa, wait, back up a minute. Marik ate a Were?” A nod and a half-grin; I think he’s still feeling a bit of pain despite having shoved most of it off into his twin. “Anyone I know?”
“No one you liked.” And that was a snarl that would do any Cat proud.
“Tell me you didn’t eat Hirutani. I’ve got plans for that waste of fur.”
Malik shakes his head and I relax slightly. “No, this jackass was more of a--what’s the word again?--gaijin than I am. Big, dumb, blond, loud and no fashion sense.”
I can only stare. “You ate Keith?”
“No, Marik ate the guy. I just, y’know, didn’t stop him.”
I could kiss him right now.
“I wouldn’t be opposed to that.”
...and either Malik’s a mind reader or I said that last little bit out loud. And since I’m fairly sure Dorobou would have mentioned it if the Ishtars could read minds, I need to not blurt out what I’m thinking.
“Hold that thought. Why did Marik eat him? Hell, for that matter, what were you two trying to prove confronting him?”
“Marik thought it’d be a good idea to send Hirutani a warning. I mean, it’s only a matter of time till you take over both the pards in Domino,” Malik says, frowning a bit when he notices that I’m still standing. “We thought we’d track down one of the lower-ranked Cats, figured an Omega would be easier to deal with than a Beta.”
I’m shaking my head before he’s finished speaking. “Keith never really accepted that he was so low-ranked. He always thought he was important because he’s the one who brought the Leopard strain to Japan.”
“Well, he wasn’t,” Malik snaps, and for a second I almost think Marik has taken control again. “Anyway, Marik went out into the city looking for an Omega. We found Keith and the chick with him; Marik sorta mentioned that you weren’t gonna give the kitten or the Beta back without a fight, and that Hirutani is going to lose.
“And that’s when Keith said you were going to be put ‘back in your place’... then went into details of what he was going to do to you.”
My eyes narrow and I head myself growl. I know what was said, basically because Keith was never original in his... attentions. Right now I could probably do a little more than just kiss the Ishtars. Thankfully this time I keep the thought to myself.
“Long story short,” Malik says after I stop snarling, “the Omega was Marik’s lunch and his female has probably delivered my message by now, provided she’s stopped her whimpering and crying.” Before I can say anything a tanned hand catches my wrist and I suddenly find myself sprawled out on top of the human twin.
“What--” is all I get out before his tongue is in my mouth. Really, I’ve been kissed more in the past sixteen hours than I have in my entire life up to last night. And I definitely could get used to it.
“I love you,” Malik says against my lips after a moment. I know my eyes must be in danger of popping out of my head, but he continues before I can speak: “I won’t let anyone hurt you. We won’t let that happen. We’ll never hurt you.”
I pull back just enough to look into Malik’s eyes and find both twins staring back. I’m still trying to find my voice enough to reply--how? I barely know them!--when a scream comes from somewhere towards the front of the mansion.
I’m on my feet and halfway down the hall, Malik/Marik right behind me, before it hits me that the scream was closer to a howl of rage and mourning.
When I get outside I see why.
...shit. Things just got a whole lot more complicated.
Sorry for the cliffhanger there, folks, but this section is still running side-by-side with Blood and Sacrifice. And for the record, if you think Malik and Marik are moving too fast, please reread the epilogue to Cursed Gold; long story short, the twins have been watching Jounouchi for quite some time and really do feel what they’re saying.
Chapter five coming soon. Really.
For those unfamiliar with the Anita Blake universe upon which the Endless Loop saga is loosely based, there are different terms for alpha males in the different Were 'races.' Nimir Raj is the term for an alpha male Cat, while Ulfric is used for alpha male Wolves and King is for the alpha male Rat. The feminine forms used for alpha females are Nimir Raja, Lupa and Queen respectively.
Chapter Four coming soon.