Normally I'd be self-conscious to have so many eyes on me as I walk into a room, but at the moment it gives me a sense of power and not a little sensuality. The tigers can obviously smell Malik all over me, I know my scent's all over the Egyptian and they're keeping a respectful distance. Although that may be from the way Malik's arm has yet to leave my waist.
And Pegasus has that annoying smirk on again. If he wasn't the Master of Tokyo I might smack him a good one. But, he is on good terms with Seto, so I curb my urges and nod politely.
"Pegasus," I say (and without growling, I'm proud to note) before offering a more formal greeting to his Lady: clasped hands and a slight bow while maintaining eye contact. "Lady Cynthia. Thank you for meeting with me."
"Not at all, Jyonouchi," Lady Cynthia replies. "Ryouta said that you had news concerning the situation with Bakura."
I cast a quick glance around the room; most, if not all, of Pegasus' tigers are here but they aren't the ones I'm bothered with. I'm looking for red, and I just found it. Malik gives my waist a slight squeeze before moving away a couple of steps.
"Yes, Lady. We had an opportunity to speak with the assassin behind the incident at the restaurant earlier today." Out of the corner of my eye, I see Amelda stiffen slightly before relaxing. He apparently thinks we don't know who's footing the bill. Poor stupid tiger.
"Did you learn anything new?" That's Pegasus. It sounds as if he noticed the red tiger's reaction and is praying that his assumptions are wrong.
"Actually, I got a name," I say, noticing the sudden tension around me; the tigers have picked up on their Master's unease. I'm finding myself curious about the man standing opposite Lady Cynthia. Somehow he puts me in mind of Malik... or rather, Marik.
"So you know where the leak is?" the stranger asks. I'm momentarily distracted by his facial scarring, which remind me more than a little of the markings on my lover's back. The scars look like pictographs, or maybe words.
"I'm not the only one with that knowledge," I reply, nodding slightly to Malik before adding, "Isn't that right, Amelda?"
The only warning I get is a snarl; then there's a blur of red lunging toward me and three yellow gold blurs attacking it. I merely blink calmly as Amelda growls at me from where Kajiki, Sasame and another tiger hold him in place only a few feet away from where I stand. Malik--no, Marik has placed himself at my side, and I guess he must have a pretty impressive knife collection of his own considering that's a silver blade he's got poised to strike. That Cat's purring at this display of protectiveness, and for the first time I find myself agreeing with it.
Lady Cynthia is staring hard at all of us, and even Pegasus seems to have been thrown for a loop. The rest of the tigers are starting to realize just what, exactly, Amelda has done if the low growls and snarls around me are any indication. And in the midst of all this Marik and myself are the only ones who aren't angry or shocked.
"You were told once not to antagonize an Alpha," I say coldly as I step past Marik. "And you already knew before then that I'm stronger than you. So you tried to be smart, didn't you?"
"Fucking child," Amelda snarls, struggling to break free from those holding him. "You don't deserve your rank!"
"But I am an Alpha regardless. So you went after someone close to me instead." Before anyone can blink I take one step forward and backhand the traitor, my hand closed in a fist. I can hear his jawbone crack. "You're the worst kind of fool there is. You've no idea what you have done."
The bastard laughs. "I've guaranteed that your brother"--he hisses the word--"will be dead by his next birthday and the heir will be returned to where he belongs."
Ah, so that's why things have gotten crazy lately. It's useful information; I'll pass it along to Dorobou when we talk later. For now, though....
"No. You have betrayed your pride and, more importantly--"
"--you have betrayed the Master," Kajiki finishes with a low growl.
I'm a bit taken aback when he starts laughing. "I never asked for that fucking lunatic to be my master! I don't care! What are these spineless kittens gonna do; kill me? I'll just keep after your stupid human 'brother,' you fucking waste of fur!"
Marik snarls and I just manage to catch my balance as he pulls me aside and digs his blade into Amelda's skin... and oh, yeah, that is silver; flesh doesn't bubble like that on a Were otherwise. I look over to see that the stranger has moved from behind the Crawfords and is making his way over to us. Something about him sets my hair on end and I bite back a snarl.
"What did you call my suncat?" I hear Marik growl out. Amelda doesn't answer, and I turn my gaze back to see him peering past my mate--yeah, might as well admit it to myself at least--at the stranger. His eyes widen and he tries to wrench free from Kajiki and the other two holding him.
"For your betrayals, there is but one punishment," Pegasus says, his voice like ice, and I realize just how powerful this vampire truly is. "Eternal death. Your body will be torn asunder by your pridemates, your blood will be spilled by silver, and your soul will go to Rishid."
"Hello, cousin," the stranger--Rishid, I suppose--says as he stops next to Marik. Ah, so that's why he set my skin crawling; he's full ahmet.
Marik gives the other a sidelong glance. "Rishid," he replies with a slight nod. "Didn't know you were in town. I thought you went back to Cairo."
"I've been back for a few months. Mr. Pegasus contacted me for the unlikelihood that one of his Cats was responsible," Rishid intones in a tone I would classify as either bored or dead.
"Marik," I snap, moving closer to him. "Just end this. I want to let Dorobou know that the leak's been taken care of."
I find myself on the receiving end of a searching look and return it with a steady gaze of my own. After a moment Marik nods slightly and turns back to Amelda. The red tiger doesn't even have time to do more than let out a small yelp; before the sound is finished my mate's blade flashes across Amelda's throat and the pride is surging forward. I catch a faint snap of ozone which is abruptly gone, both because Rishid has devoured the soul and the smell of blood is overpowering.
I wrinkle my nose slightly, sweeping my fingers across my face and coming back with the traitor's blood. "Ugh, shower. After calling Dorobou," I mutter to myself before licking my fingers clean and pulling out my cell.
It barely rings before Dorobou answers. "What's up, Kitty?"
"Amelda's cat food," I reply. "Are you on the train?"
I glance over at Marik, slightly confused by the intensity of the look he's giving me. "I've got a bet riding on this."
"Yeah, I'm on the train," he answers after a moment. "I told Varon I was coming to Tokyo."
I nod slightly. "I know." I pause as Kajiki hands me a note and notice that Pegasus and Lady Cynthia are exiting the room. I read the message and relay it to Dorobou: "Your old man's in the last place you saw him. And from what Amelda said before Rishid ate him, there's a deadline on your head."
"Uh-huh." Dorobou doesn't sound the least bit surprised. "I'll take care of it. Tell Rishid I said 'hey.' Oh, and call to have someone uncuff Yami," he adds before the line goes dead.
I stare at my cell for a second, all the time I have before Marik plucks it from my hand. I turn a hard look on him and reach for my phone; he quickly shoves it in his pocket.
"I need to call Seto."
My mate smirks. "After," he says before grasphing my wrist and dragging me out of the room. Before I can ask what the hell he means by that he's licking the blood from my neck.
Well, Yami will just have to wait.
It's been a very long night.
After Marik finished, ahem, cleaning me up, I placed a quick call to Domino and sent Dartz to take car of Yami. Then Malik took over again and suggested we head over to Dorobou's old home, the last place saw his old man. Apparently the two of them messed with the fence way back when and no one bothered to fix it, who really knows.
"How are you so sure that no one's patched the fence in the past two years?" I find myself asking, staring at the razorwire electrified deathtrap in front of me. From the corner of my eye I can see him pouting at me. "What? It's a valid question."
Rather than say anything, Malik walks to a section of fence next to an old, gnarled tree. Its branches hang just over the fence itself, but one would still have to climb the fence in order to reach them. Either that or be able to jump five feet straight up, which only a Were or vamp would be capable of. Before I can ask what the hell he's up to he places one hand flat against the fence.
"What the hell?!" I snarl, yanking him back before it registers that he's still on his feet. "You had no way of knowing--"
"Bakura the elder doesn't spend much time patroling the grounds," Malik interrupts. "The Boss and I 'fixed' the fence here so that Ryou could get out when they cut and run."
I find myself nodding; Ryou climbs trees almost as good as any Cat (and since we've moved into the Kaiba mansion I've had plenty of opportunities to watch him do so), but he's not so good on ropes--or fences apparently. "Fine, point proven," I sigh. "But do me a favour and grab hold. I trust myself attempting to haul us both over more than I trust you to not slip and get caught on that razorwire."
"I used to do this every night, Katsuya." He sounds annoyed; I ignore the tone and give him another hard look.
"Not recently. And why are you arguing against a chance to potentially grope me in public?"
He opens and closes his mouth a few times before responding: "Good point." He steps behind me and wraps one arm around my waist, the other looping across my shoulders.
I guage the distance from the ground to the nearest branch once more; it's a fairly easy jump, I shouldn't have to shift any. "Hold on," I say before crouching low to gain a little extra force.
Malik yelps slightly and tightens his grip a fraction as I leave the ground, relaxing only after I've hauled us up onto the branch. "Why didn't you warn me?!" he deamnds, his hold transferring to the branch. "And how'd you do that? No one's that good at a standing jump!"
"I said 'hold on,'" I reply, crawling over the branch to the trunk of the tree. "And I'm that good. I used to play basketball before, and I am a Leopard, Malik-chan."
He scowls at that but follows me across and drops onto the ground almost as quietly as I do, rather impressive since we're both wearing motorcycle boots. He glances around for a moment before nodding towards me and dashing across the lawn. I'm right on his heels, scenting the air as we move. Apparently Dorobou's old man isn't a big fan of security guards; these's an old taint of human sweat in the air but it's days old. And from the way Malik's moving, this must be a fairly common occurance.
"We can climb in through here," he whispers, too low for the human ear but loud enough for me to hear him clearly. "The old man's office is the next one over. The Boss'll be there, so we should check for potential witnesses."
I nod, knowing that he'll never hear my own whispered reply. I slip through the window first. A quick glance reveals that it's a library; Dorobou's scent is still in the air and I'm picking up Yuugi's ozone-and-vanilla as well. I hear Malik climb in behind me and slide the window down a bit. I can hear voices in the next room, but what the man saves on security he spends on soundproofing since I can't make out what's being said.
"Upstairs first," I mouth, waiting for his nod before crossing to the door. I absently note that Dorobou's scent gets stronger while Yuugi's fades; I gues my friend is still in this room. Huh, wonder what he makes of the two of us slipping in quietly and casing the house while Dorobou kills his father? I ignore the faint sense of unease I feel as we slip out of the library and make our way to the second floor. I note that Malik immediately crosses to one door and tries the knob. I follow and sniff slightly, picking up a faint hint of thyme and sakura.
"Empty," I murmur. "Gone at least ten hours." He looks relieved at this before moving down the hall; I'll have to ask about that later.
It takes only a few minutes more to check the rest of this floor before hitting the attic. I'd swear this place was abandoned if I hadn't smelled Dorobou and his old man so clearly. I nod to Malik, who replies in kind before leading me down the back stairway. Once on the first floor again I sniff the air once more.
My breath catches in my throat and I hiss. Blood is thick in the air now, blood and Dorobou and the old man, and I can't locate that Yuugi-scent anymore.
"Katsuya?" Malik asks, resting a hand on my arm. "What do you smell?"
I shake my head, unable to determine which hint of thyme is mingled with the copper taint of the blood in the air. The rain scent and that horrid coffee stench are both doused by it, and there's another softer something beneath all of them that I can't catch; the only clean scent I'm picking up is Malik's saffron-and-lemon.
He swears under his breath and takes off down the hall. I catch and pass him effortlessly, but he's right next to me again when I come to a dead stop at the door to the left of the library. The blood smell is thicker here, but now I can make out the faint sound of two hearts beating... strong beats at that.
"The fucking hell?" I mutter, ignoring the confused look from Malik as I shove the door open. The next sound out of my mouth is a very confused meow. My earlier recap is nothing compared to storming into the office to find a body on the floor--Dorobou did a number on the old man's face--a confused Dorobou and my no-longer-dead best friend sprawled out on the floor.
Malik looks from Yuugi to me. "I thought Yami was still in Domino," he says, but I hear the question in his tone.
"He is," I manage to say calmly. "That's Yuugi."
"The dead one?" That drags me out of my confusion and shock long enough to smack my mate; it's just a quick thump to the back of his head, but it gets his attention. "Ow!"
"The formerly dead one," I correct, shooting him a little glare before turning to my brother. "Dorobou?"
The question is only one word, but it's loaded: What happened? How's Yuugi here... back... breathing? Is Dorobou himself okay?
"I don't know." And that's a loaded answer if I've ever heard one. I can't even really 'read' his scent, there's so much going on there. Instead I turn to Yuugi and find myself falling back into our old silent communication: one eyebrow quirks and I tilt my head slightly.
"Don't ask me," he replies with a shrug. Before he can add anything else Dorobou speaks again.
"As fun as it is to sit around and play guessing games, we should worry about getting out of here before anyone... fun show up... like the police." He's got a good point; Dorobou and Malik don't exactly follow the law all the time, and I'm not one of the local Weres. Being found at the scene of a murder would be very bad.
"The house is clear," Malik says as I nod in agreement. "Katsuya said Amane's been gone for hours." My eyes narrow at Dorobou's relieved sigh. There's thyme to his scent as well, after all....
"Who's Amane?" It comes out calmly, but with a bit of... well, bite to it. If we need to worry about another crazed relation, I will not be a happy Leopard.
And that's Dorobou's 'oops' expression. "Amane's my little sister. She and her mother still live here. If she wasn't here, she won't be a problem. She's..." he trails off, apparently searching for the right word.
"Nice?" Yuugi says as he climbs unsteadily to his feet; I recognize the tone as the same he once used to describe Bitch Queen Mazaki as 'not all that bad' back in junior high. Granted, he is the one who gave her that lovely nickname in the very next breath, but we're the only one's who know that little fact.
"That works," Dorobou says with a shrug. "So, are we leaving now?"
"That sounds like a stellar idea," I drwal, crossing my arms over my chest. "Any idea as to how we're to do so without tracking blood through the foyer?"
"Give me your shirt."
Malik blinks before realizing that was directed at him. This is followed by a half-hearted glare and my mate slipping out of his hooded black pullover; I'm not complaining because the grey wifebeater he's wearing beneath it leaves just enough skin on display for my taste. He tosses the shirt to Dorobou, who's shed his gloves and bloodied shirt, before snapping, "You aren't getting my pants, Boss. These are new."
There's the eyeroll. "Forgive me if I'm not interested in getting you out of your pants," Dorobou drawls. "Kitty might be, though." I pick up an odd spike of embarrassment and interest in Yuugi's scent and have to snicker.
"I'm not the only one," I say casually, smirking when my best friend turns guilty eyes towards me. "Hey, looking's no big, but don't forget he's mine." Meaning: I'm not sharing this time. He'd better not even--
"But Jyonouchi-kun," and he's using The Whine, "we always--"
"Ix-nay. We'll discuss it later." No need (or time) for Malik to learn about my sexual history pre-turning here. I glance over to see that Dorobou is in thief-mode, carefully examining the artifacts scattered around the office and stowing those that pass whatever test he's giving them into his sling. Hmm, how much can he fit in that thing...?
The nearly imperceptable sound of an approaching vehicle draws me to the window and I glance out, unable to really see past the fence. Although in all honesty that's probably mostly due to the bloodsplatter on the glass itself.
I wave off the two of them; I need to concentrate for a moment. I tug my not-so-new coat up and use the hem to keep my hands from actually touching the window as I open it. I just catch the scents of gasoline and tiger before the idiot starts leaning on the horn.
"Damn stupid tiger," I snarl. "This beats the four-on-one thing."
Dorobou starts snickering. "Kajiki is the most impatient getaway driver ever. I'm glad he didn't used to work with us."
I shake my head as my mate and Yuugi start laughing as well. I'm surrounded by crazy people... and I wouldn't have it any other way.
For those wondering at the subtext, I am, indeed, a fan of the Yuugi/Jyonouchi pairing. However, when as Yuugi was dead at the beginning of Endless Loop there was no way it could be possible save in a past-tense, preteen/teen experimentation stage. So yes, the Y/J subtext is intentional and has been cleared with ESM as canon in the EL universe.
There will probably be only one more chapter and maybe an epilogue to go on Avarice, then I'm probably going to take a short break from this universe to gear up a bit for Endear. In the meanwhile, I might try to get that KaiJyo in my head out and work on my Thief King/Jyonouchi themes a bit.
Chapter seven coming soon.