"You and Bakura really seem to be getting along well," Mokuba commented.
It was early in the morning, early enough that it could almost still be called late, and he had been awake for nearly half an hour. Granted, he usually didn't sleep a lot anyway, but this was waking up early, even for him. At least Mokuba was here, so he didn't have to face the silence of an empty room alone. A short lifetime with the voices and one less than silent little brother, and he found that he did not do well in silence or solitude.
However, Mokuba was here for him to make sure that never happened. Otherwise, he might really go mad.
At the moment, though, he was trying to decide if he needed to read anything into Mokuba's tone or his comment. It had been just the two of them for so long that perhaps it wasn't unexpected for the boy to sound a bit jealous. At the same time, though, he didn't want to have to defend his first friend from his little brother, even just on a verbal level.
It was sort of like those situational comedies, where one character walked in at the completely wrong time, read the situation completely wrong, and spent the rest of the movie being pissed off about something that wasn't even close to true.
"Yeah, I guess so," he finally offered.
"I guess that means you don't need me anymore."
Horror flooded through him, turning his blood to ice in its wake. "No!" he hissed, barely remembering to keep his voice low, so security didn't realize he was awake. "No, no way," he whispered. "You're my only little brother and the only family I have that's worth a damn. I'm always going to need you."
"Even with your new best friend?"
He nodded, fighting that churning feeling in his gut. "Absolutely. Now as much as ever and always," he promised.
"All right," the boy relented. He resettled himself at the foot of the bed, in nearly the same location as Bakura had been only earlier that night. "So what did you guys talk about while I was out and about last night?"
He shrugged. "Mostly family and food and how would be the best way to punish the hell out of Mazaki."
Mokuba looked a tad bit impressed. "He doesn't like her either, I take it?"
He shook his head. "Definitely not. I believe the word 'smite' came up."
And just like that, he had Mokuba's full attention. "Really? Because that could get really fun and interesting. Smite how?"
Kaiba shrugged. "He didn't say how with the smiting, but he did mention earlier in the evening that he would like to make these people who work here have to survive on the food they feed us." He paused, frowning in thought. "And then we got off on cooking and how his sister nearly caused a forest fire."
"Now I like the sound of that, mind you," Mokuba stated thoughtfully, leaning back against the wall, apparently fully prepared to give due consideration to how to best punish the people who worked here. "Having them go through the sort of stuff that you and the other patients have to go through every day does have a lovely sort of cosmic irony to it, don't get me wrong there. I do like it. But it doesn't have the right amount of 'umph' to it, you know?"
This was why he was going to leave the cruel creativity to Mokuba. He had this brilliant grasp on what was good, what was fitting, and what was needed. "Yeah, I guess," he finally stated. If he sounded confused or hesitant, it was only because he was.
"And I mean, I've given some thought over the years to what sort of horrible things we should do to Mazaki, but that list is a little dated. Give me a little while, and I'll see if I can't come up with a few good ideas. Especially if either of you has access to a band saw. That would really be helpful."
He chuckled. "Getting our hands on one of those might be a little tricky, you know. They don't exactly like giving access to those to mental patients."
"I can work with a hacksaw!" Mokuba offered as a compromise. "Just don't stifle my creativity here. Access to sharp objects is essential to about a third of the items on my current list."
"I'll see what we can do." It wasn't a promise, but he would at least make the effort. That would have to be good enough.
"I could get behind Bakura if he's up for giving Mazaki some hell."
And there it was: the golden opportunity he hadn't known he had been waiting on. "I would really like it if you and Bakura could be friends too." He tried to sound nonchalant, but something told him he was failing miserably. That probably made it all the more suspicious to his already over vigilant little brother.
"So you want us to be friends?" Mokuba sounded an impossible mixture of scornful and amused. "Is this like wanting the family to like your new fiancé? Because, aww, niisama, that would be so sweet: you bringing the boyfriend home to meet the family."
"I'm -- He's not -- Where did you -- What -- We're not," he sputtered, unable to manage to get a full sentence out. Mokuba had shocked the coherency right out of him. On the one hand, it wasn't any real surprise. Mokuba had been doing that for years, after all. On the other hand, he would love to know where Mokuba got that sort of stuff.
"Don't try to tell me you're not into that sort of stuff, niisama. I know you, remember? I've known you for a small slice of forever. You like him like that, and we both know it. So what are you going to do about it?"
"Me?" he squeaked in a way that was almost -- no, that was terrified. He wasn't about to question Mokuba's assumption, though. Generally speaking, Mokuba knew what he was talking about in these sorts of situations, while he himself was utterly clueless. "Not a damn thing."
"Aww, ruin all my fun, why don't you?" Mokuba whined.
"It's my prerogative as an older brother to do so," he returned, regaining a bit of his composure. He might have even managed to sound a bit stuffy in the process, but that was all right too. That also might have fit with the whole big brother thing. He would have to ask Bakura later.
Outside the window, which was just as grilled as Bakura had described them earlier, he could almost have sworn he heard something, something he couldn't say he had heard any time recently, if anywhere except on television. There weren't all that many dogs that came to the insane asylum, after all. He had found out early in his life that the therapy dogs tended to be dedicated more towards children's hospitals and prisons than towards where the crazies lived. People couldn't see the point, a lot of times, of wasting the valuable canines on people who probably couldn't be helped.
This one sounded like a big dog, definitely not a terrier or anything small like that. If he had to guess, he would say a German Shepherd or something of a similar size. He didn't know breeds anyway, so trying to figure it out was a moot point. And it didn't sound all that close anyway. If anything, it had sounded a lot closer a few moments ago, back when Mokuba had still been trying to embarrass him into admitting something he wasn't comfortable with even thinking to himself.
And while this had been a pleasing distraction from an embarrassing conversation, he knew he wasn't going to get much of a break. Mokuba wasn't going to give him that. "So, do you like him or what, niisama? You can tell me. I won't tell anyone. It's not like they talk to me anyway. So 'fess up! Do you like him or not?"
He sighed softly. "Bakura's my friend. He's the first friend I can safely say I've ever had that wasn't you, Mokuba. I don't want to ruin that anytime soon. Besides, I've only known him, what, four days? That's hardly any time at all to get to know someone."
"Yeah, I guess so," Mokuba conceded. He wore a hangdog expression for a brief moment, but then he grinned in a way that could only safely be called 'evil'. "So you want to get to know him better, eh, niisama? Why didn't you just say so then?" He laughed, and Kaiba found himself trying not to shiver in worry. "I'm sure I can arrange something."
"That would go a lot better if the whole hospital didn't like to pretend you don't exist," he murmured. That alone was a relief in the matter. Mokuba couldn't cause too much trouble when people liked to think he wasn't even there. It should have been an amazing secret weapon, but thankfully, it wasn't. That alone was his saving grace on the topic. How odd... He could still hear the dog outside. It still sounded like it was miles away, but then again, maybe it was. Maybe someone who lived near the hospital had gotten a new dog or something. There was no reason for him to be suspicious of the sound. Now he was just being paranoid for no good reason at all. He shifted nervously on his bed, pulling his pillow into his lap and picking at the cloth. "You really think that? That I... like him like that?"
"Do I think that?" Mokuba snorted and grinned. "Does Mazaki annoy the piss out of you? Does the sun rise in the east? Is rain wet? Hell, yes, I think that."
"I'm not gay." At least, he was pretty sure he wasn't. In fact, he was fairly certain that he lacked any sort of sexuality at all. God knew he had never been attracted to a single person before.
"Well, niisama, it's not like the pickings in here or at the orphanage have ever been all that great. And maybe tall and pale as hell is your type. Did you ever think of that?"
"I'm not the Twilight fan here, you know," he protested, much to Mokuba's amusement. Apparently, that was worth a few dozen good giggles. Who would have thought it? Certainly not him. "And I'm not pursuing the matter or anything. I'm not risking the first friendship I've ever had, that wasn't with you, on the off chance that Bakura might be gay." Or on the off chance that he might be, for that matter. Mokuba still hadn't completely sold him on that one. "Why are you so set on this anyway, Mokuba?"
The boy shrugged. "I just like seeing you happy, and you have been -- very much so -- with Bakura."
"I've only known him three days."
"And you've been happier the last three days than you have in years. Hell, niisama, I can't remember ever seeing you this happy, even before the orphanage." He stopped and scowled hard. "Especially not before the orphanage. Rat bastard of an uncle that we have."
"Mokuba." The scolding was half-hearted at best. It was not like he had liked Gouzaburou either, but Mokuba flat out despised even the mere thought of him. It made him wonder why sometimes, what Mokuba might remember that he didn't, but he didn't want to push it, not now, not when he was currently in a fairly decent mood. He would have been in a lot better one, though, if Mokuba would lay off the hard questions.
"Sorry. I didn't mean to bring it up." He grinned, and the older brother in Kaiba actually felt slightly afraid. "So what were you two whispering about when I snuck back in last night?"
When Mokuba put it like that, it sounded like they had been doing something a bit higher rated than just talking. "Nothing. We were just talking."
And the grin grew. "Ooh, about what? Dare I hope he was asking you to run away with him and leave this dreary existence? Because that would be kind of awesome, but very Regency Romance novel. I would have to do the 'only remaining family' disapproval and testing to make sure he's good enough for you. However, no offense, niisama, but you're a bit lacking in the heaving chest area."
"I think I need to cut off your access to romance novels. You get way too enthused." He couldn't help chuckling in amusement though. Mokuba had a vivid imagination, one that more than made up for the lack of one he possessed. "He just wanted to know if it's possible to sneak out of here. Apparently, there's a full moon tonight that he wants to see."
"And he asked you to come too?" Kaiba hesitated but then nodded. It was the truth, and they always tried to tell the truth between the two of them. "That's kind of sweet. Not exactly Regency Romance novel material, but really, I couldn't picture you in one of those anyway."
"Good." And he meant it. This entire conversation was entirely too surreal for his tastes.
"Are you going to go with him?"
He shrugged. "I haven't given it a lot of thought." He paused, considering. "Maybe. It could be nice."
"Do it, niisama," Mokuba cajoled. "Do it. You know you want to."
"Maybe," he finally answered, taking a long moment to really give it thought.
It wasn't like he could really remember what the moon looked like from the outside. He had spent too much of his life behind institution walls: here at the hospital and, before that, at the orphanage. From what little he remembered, his uncle Gouzaburou's home had not been much better than either of the places he had been since.
Outside the walls, the sun seemed to be rising, based on the faint pink light trying to come through the grates on his window. Somewhere in that light, the dog he had been hearing most of the morning so far howled, the sound like death, like the poor creature was dying the minute the light hit it, as silly as that was to even think. He wondered to himself in a vague sense of curiosity just how far away this person who had acquired this dog lived and if it would be possible for him to get permission to go out and visit it. He hadn't had a pet before: it was not allowed here, nor had it been at the orphanage, and Gouzaburou would have died before allowing him to bring a dog into the man's house. The place had practically been a museum, and he had barely agreed to take Kaiba in when his parents died, for fear the boy would destroy some priceless artifact.
Hmm, how odd. He had forgotten about that.
"What are you thinking about so hard over there, niisama?" Mokuba questioned, tapping his hand against Kaiba's leg playfully. "You look like you're thinking way too hard."
"That dog," he answered vaguely.
Thankfully, Mokuba nodded. "Yeah, I heard it too. It sounded a bit like a hound, I guess. They howl like that -- or so I've read. Why?"
He shook his head. "Nothing. I was just wondering who would have gotten a dog that was that loud."
Mokuba laughed again. "I would! It sounds like it would be a really awesome dog, if it can howl that loudly! I mean, can you imagine the havoc it's playing on the people living around it, with all that howling? It would be awesome! When you get out of here, niisama, can we get one?"
Now that was a nice, if unrealistic, thought: him getting out of here in this lifetime. The doctors were convinced his schizophrenia wasn't responding to treatment, so they weren't likely to let him out any time soon. If he told them about hearing the voices again recently, then they would just step up his treatment, and that would be that. He would eventually end up a drooling zombie, just like that particularly violent voice wanted, and it wouldn't be from the schizophrenia or an ice pick or anything. Instead, it would only be due to the vast amounts of drugs they were pumping into him. The result would be the same, no matter the methods.
"If I ever get out of here, Mokuba, I'll buy us an entire pack of hounds," he promised, "each one bigger than the one next to it."
"Good morning," Bakura greeted him. Again, he was waiting outside of Kaiba's room when he left for breakfast, and he immediately fell into step beside his friend as they headed towards the cafeteria. "Sleep well last night?"
He nodded. "Yeah, I guess. You?"
Bakura shrugged easily. "Yeah, pretty well. I thought I heard you up and about early this morning."
Almost on cue, he felt heat warming his face. "I was up before dawn. I usually am. I didn't think I was being that loud." And he had thought that the soundproofing between the rooms was good enough to block out any noise he had been making.
"You weren't." Bakura winked, leaning over to bump his shoulder against Kaiba's. When he spoke again, it was at little more than a whisper, like the white-haired man was confiding some deep, dark secret. "I snuck out last night. I was just slipping back in around dawn, and I heard you then. Don't tell on me, okay?"
He couldn't help it: he was impressed. Bakura made it sound like it had all been so very easy, getting out of the building. "I won't breathe a word of it," he promised, automatically sliding into the chair facing the window again.
Since Bakura had first arrived, they had fallen into a routine. They even sat in the same places every meal and during free time. He wouldn't have thought it was possible to get into a pattern so quickly, after barely four days around each other, but they had. They were into a pattern, and frankly, he liked it. He had always been fond of having a sense of order in his life, though that might have been instilled in him from the places he had grown up, and this was just about perfect in his book.
Still, he did have a question, something that was vaguely bothering the back of his consciousness. "Did you hear the hound this morning?"
And Bakura nearly started out of his seat with the way he jumped almost guiltily at the innocent question. "You heard him?" Kaiba nodded, a confused frown darkening his brow. He didn't see how it was possible to have not heard the animal. "He was why I slipped out. I wasn't expecting-- I mean-- The hound's mine. He followed me here."
Now that he hadn't been expecting. "Really? He's yours?" Bakura nodded, still looking entirely too guilty for this to make any sort of sense to Kaiba, but at least that explained where the hound was. "Mokuba and I heard it, and we were talking about him. What kind of hound is he?"
Bakura chuckled a little breathlessly. "He's a little hard to describe. Maybe he'll be back tonight, and you can meet him."
Unexpectedly, that sent a grin across his face. "I would love that. What's his name?"
"Gwyllgi." Kaiba frowned at the odd name, and Bakura chuckled, finally recovering his usual carefree temperament. "I know, I know: weird name. It just... fits him, you know. He's part Gabriel Hound, so... yeah."
"Have any others?" Even if he were not curious himself, Mokuba would want to know. There was no way the boy wasn't going to let information like that go without demanding more. He knew his little brother after all.
"A few. I doubt they'll show up here, though."
"Well, look at you, as thick as thieves." He nearly started out of his seat at the sudden sound of Kawai's voice behind him. "What are you boys up to?"
The look on Bakura's face very clearly translated into utter disbelief, likely at Kawai's indomitably cheerful voice, to say nothing of her sudden appearance. Rather than find out what sort of choice answers the other man was thinking up, no matter how promising they looked to be from his expression, Kaiba answered almost calmly, "Just talking about stuff on the outside. Pets and stuff."
"Really?" She smiled broadly. "That's good." She redirected her attention back to Bakura. "There seems to be some sort of problem with your paperwork, Bakura. If you wouldn't mind coming with me, we can get it straightened out. We--"
"There isn't any problem with it," Bakura cut across her words, authority in his voice, like he was the doctor and she the patient. It was actually pretty impressive how quickly it silenced her as well. "You must have just looked at it wrong. It's all in order."
Weirdly, just like that, Kawai smiled and nodded. "Of course. That must be the case. Sorry to have bothered you."
Now on that, he couldn't help but be impressed. "Now that was..." He trailed off, unable to think of a word to describe exactly what he was thinking. After all, Bakura had just said something completely opposite of what the young doctor had originally stated -- only to have the doctor then turn around and agree with Bakura, as if that had been her intention all along.
Bakura shrugged, grinning faintly. "Yeah, I know. It's a talent."
"Think you can persuade them to get rid of this crap and start serving us real food?" It was only half a joke and half serious. He had been eating this junk for years, after all; he certainly wouldn't mind a real meal again.
"I'll do you one better," Bakura returned with a suggestive wink, before turning his attention back to Kawai. "I'm going to take Seto here out for the evening. You got any problem with that?"
She shook her head easily, her smile never even dimming. "Of course not." He could feel his eyes growing perilously large. "Do you need anything from me for that?"
Bakura shrugged. "A written pass would be very nice. Oh, and before you go home for the day, drop off all the copies of our files to me. That would be very helpful, thank you."
"Of course," she agreed again, turning on her heel and finally leaving the two of them alone.
All he could do was stare for a long moment before he finally found his voice -- and his pessimistic nature -- again. "That was way too easy, you know. We're going to get in so much trouble."
Bakura laughed, the sound surprising deep for his voice and entirely too carefree for their current location. Movement at the corner of his eye drew his attention, and he glanced behind him to see the other patients, every last one of them, staring at them, at Bakura, in rapt fascination. It didn't seem to affect his friend, though, so resolutely he pushed it to the back of his mind. Bakura was odd. He had known that practically from the moment he met the man. There was really nothing to do but accept it.
"We won't get into any trouble," Bakura assured him. "I'll see to that." Again, he winked at Kaiba, this time reaching out to run a finger along his arm. He fought the urge to shiver or stare, and he felt he was mostly successful. "What do you say? Do you want to play the Great Escape with me tonight? I can fix it so neither of us have to come back here ever again."
This... was entirely too similar to the conversation he had had earlier this morning with Mokuba. "As long as no Regency Romance novel plots start cropping up," he muttered mostly to himself.
It seemed he was not as quiet as he could have been, because it brought another bout of laughter from the man sitting across the table from him. "Nope, I can promise that too: no Regency Romance novel plots. And may I say that I cannot picture you reading those, Seto?"
He shrugged. "I don't. Mokuba reads everything he can get his hands on, though, even romance."
"Smart kid. So we're on then?" Kaiba paused a long moment, giving it due thought. It would be nice to get out of here, and if Bakura could indeed arrange it so that there were no nasty repercussions, then he didn't see a downside to this. Finally, he nodded. "Good. Then I'll handle everything. Just be ready to leave at dark."
He nodded. "I can do that."
Bakura leaned closer and beckoned him to do the same. When he spoke, his voice was nearly silent, barely loud enough for Kaiba to hear it even at that close proximity. "And you have to promise not to be too freaked by anything you see," Bakura stated. "If you leave with me tonight, Seto, I can promise you a few things. You will never see the inside of an institution again. I will do everything in my power to give you whatever you want. But things will also be very, very different from this world and what you have seen in it. The world I live is run by very different rules. What you just saw with Kawai is the least of what I can do. So you have to be certain when you leave because there is no going back."
"What are you talking about, Bakura?" he whispered, his stomach sinking in a combination of fear and dread. Bakura sounded incredibly sane right now, but everything coming out of his mouth was beyond belief.
"Just think about it. Let me know by this afternoon. But either way, I am leaving tonight, and I will not be back. I would prefer it if you were with me, so just... Just think about it."
Bakura pushed to his feet and was out of the room so quickly that he almost seemed to have disappeared.
10 July 2010
You can now find the re-release of my first book on Lulu. The easiest way to access it is, however, to go to my website and click on the 'All Titles' link.
I will be at NecronomiCon selling and signing!