The remainder of the night, or rather dark part of the morning, passes in a blur. I managed to catch a nap on the ride back into Domino, get shaken awake by Dorobou so I wouldn't get left on the helicopter, doze off in the car on the way to Kaiba Corp, woke up by Seto to tell me I could stay in said car, snapped off a 'lemme sleep asshole', then proceeded to fully pass out.
When I wake up next, the sun is just sinking below the horizon. And since I know that the windows in Seto's room all face west, it's safe to assume that I've been asleep for almost fifteen hours... or thirty-nine or more. Full moons leave me wasted and damn near useless for a day or so.
"I see you're finally awake." It takes me a few seconds to place where the voice is coming from; then I half-roll to my left and blink lazily at Seto. Damn him for looking so good after waking up. He's propped up against the headboard, an open book in one hand and what appear to be reading glasses in the other. Bet anything they're plain glass now, it must be habit for him to wear them since I recall him wearing them a couple years ago. He's shirtless (don't drool, Katsuya!) and clad only in a pair of silk pajama bottoms. Heh, blue, what a surprise. Seto smirks a bit; guess he noticed my observation.
"Mrr, how long?" I ask, pulling myself up to settle against the headboard next to him.
"You fell asleep in the car yesterday morning." Another smirk, apparently my expression is 'confused cat' again, that or 'oh shit'. It's been a while since I've been this drained.
I shake my head a bit to clear it, raising one hand to brush my hair out of my face. It takes me a second or two to register that I'm not wearing Seto's jacket anymore. I think I just found out where Seto's pajama top got to, I just wanna know when he had time to get me semi-dressed before daylight got to him. Hmm, well, guess he must have done that last night then.
Wait a minute, something's missing. My hand flies up to my throat and my fingers meet bare skin for a fraction of a second before Seto grasps my wrist, gently pulling my hand away.
"I had Mutou's collar sent back to him last night," he says by way of explanation. "And I had a rather interesting yet fairly uninformative conversation with Bakura." Oh fuck. Please don't ask about the scar, don't ask about that night, because I don't think I could look you in the eye and lie about it. "From what I know about your blood line and what I've learned about you recently, I can't figure out why you were in the warehouse district on the night of a full moon three years ago."
Fuck. Not a question but it may as well have been one. "I didn't give a damn anymore."
"What?" Confusion, but just a trace. I think his chat with Dorobou got him thinking back.
"Did I stutter?" I reply, gaze locked on my hands. "I. Didn't. Care. The police kept it quiet, but you saw the video feed."
"I thought only Industrial Illusions, Kame Games and Kaiba Corp brass received the feed," Seto says quietly.
"Yeah, well, I sure as hell wasn't in Tokyo that day and you know I wasn't at Kaiba Corp." I laugh a bit; it's a bitter sound and harsh to my own ears. What must it sound like to my vampire? "Jiichan still doesn't know I was there. Oyaji and Kaasan went to see if there was anything they could do to help; I was supposed to stay home with Shizuka. But I wanted to go, so I swore Imouto to secrecy and followed."
"Jyonouchi...." His voice is soft, I don't need my other senses to know he wants to reach out to me but won't just yet. I tug at the cuff of my (Seto's? whichever) sleeve before continuing.
"After Yuugi was killed, I stopped hanging out with Yami. He wasn't convinced that his brother was dead, and I couldn't pretend nothing had changed. I stopped listening to Kaasan. I stopped going to school. I stopped eating. Hell, I stopped caring, period.
"I started spending school hours and evenings in the bad parts of town. Dangerous? Fuck yeah, but like I said, I didn't care. I was hoping something would come along and kill me so I could maybe see my best friend again."
I fall silent, shutting my eyes and turning away. This time I feel the bed shift beneath me; he's moved but I can't tell if it's closer to or further from. Fuck, this is hell. My own personal variation of hell, and it's of my own making.
"I got lucky. Or unlucky, I suppose. You want the Reader's Digest condensed version or all the gory details?" I slit my eyelids and glance towards Seto. Oh; closer to. Surprise, surprise.
He doesn't answer for a moment. "The thief said you don't remember," my vampire finally says. "That you only know what the doctors told you and your family."
"Good, then my brothers and family can keep thinking that."
"It started coming back a year ago." My voice is barely a whisper, but I know he can hear me, no question. "Just... words and phrases at first, not enough to set me off but just enough to unsettle me. Then images without sound, and blood, and phantom pains...." I trail off, my fingers brushing over my scarred neck. "Wolves and rats are lucky. A scratch or a nip, poof, 'nother Were in the world. Cats... we are fucked from the get-go."
"What do you mean?"
"You know shit about Weres," I snap. "Feline DNA is picky. A victim has to have one foot in the grave before it'll infect him, and the turning just might finish him off. That's why tiger pards are so small. That's why there is only one leopard pard in Japan. That is why we all bear scars and no other species does.
"You want the condensed version, or the details?"
Seto is silent. I'm about to get up and leave when he finally answers me: "Whichever is easiest for you, kitten."
I have to laugh again. "Easiest. Is there an easy way to tell your mate, your crush since second year junior high, that you wandered down the wrong back alley on the wrong night hoping to find solace from the entire fucking world and instead was attacked, raped, torn apart, infected and left for dead by the bastard who licked his 'father's' boots?" I don't even look at him. "If there is an easy way to say that, by all means someone tell me how."
I only realize that I was thinking aloud when Seto growls quietly and I suddenly find myself in his lap, his arms wrapped possessively around me. I rest my hands on his shoulders, fully intending to push him away when an odd scent strikes me. Scenting the air again, any fight I may have had left flees me. Mingled in with my vampire's usual mint and cocoa scent is the faintest trace of salt water. I'm glad someone can still cry for me; my own dried up three years ago and have yet to return.
"I. Am going. To kill Hirutani," Seto snarls softly, voice somewhat thick with rage towards my former Nimir Raj and sadness for the hell I went through. I rest my cheek against his, feeling the wetness of his face against mine for a moment before murmuring a negative reply to his words. "Why not? The bastard--"
"Is mine, Seto," I hiss softly. The feline side is asserting itself a bit, the moon is still affecting me and I'll be more leopard that human for some time yet. "I broke from him two years ago, served up to him what he'd forced on me for months. If he intrudes on my territory, comes too close to my family and my mate, I will kill him. I do not want you to even so much as think of him, Seto. You shouldn't waste the effort on him."
He's quiet for a long time, long enough for his tears to dry and for their scent to fade, holding me tight to him and petting my hair. Finally he nods slowly. "All right, Katsuya, but only because you've asked it of me."
"Thank you." I close my eyes and relax against him. I thought I would be okay but I feel like this evening has sapped me of whatever strength had returned with my slumber. A soft laugh escapes me and Seto's hold tightens a bit.
"That's the first time you've called me by my given name," I say lazily, lifting my head and pressing a kiss to the corner of his mouth before he can apologize for what he may see as a liberty taken without permission. "I like how my name sounds on your voice. Almost like you care." I'm teasing a bit now, but I'm also digging. Why did he bring me to his home instead of having me returned to the apartment or even to Yami's? I hope it means what I think it does, but I've learned not to jump to conclusions.
There's a flash of something in his eyes before he answers. "I do care, kitten. More than I probably should."
I can't help but purr; even if he didn't say it I can smell the truth on him. "I love you, too."
Chapter Nine is over and done. All that remains is the Epilogue, which ties in just the littlest bit with that of Color of Life. Mostly, though, it's going to be a bit of a jumping-off point for the next fic in the CoL side series, tentatively entitled Silver Blue.
And just one final thing that my ever-lovely beta and friend Eternal SailorM pointed out to me; yes, Jyonouchi has been looking vampires in the eye the past three chapters. How can he do so, since most people can't? He's not human, and in truth never has been. As a Wereleopard he doesn't fall under the rules for most people, and had he never been turned he would have been a fairly powerful witch. Although he wouldn't have been able to look vamps in the eye he wouldn't have turned tail if one was trying to intimidate him.
Again, Epilogue to come soon!