He couldn't remember a day being even a third as long as this one had been, but it seemed to finally be winding to a close. He had a duffle bag packed and ready to go. Even if the bag wasn't his, he was going to go with it. After all, one of the orderlies had just pressed into his hands, almost like the man had been presenting a sacrifice, so he didn't think anyone would mind if he didn't bring it back. It was a little sad perhaps, how little material was actually in said bag: a change or two of clothes that he had picked up some years ago and managed to not outgrow, a few books that he had read often enough to lay claim to, and the set of Duel Monsters cards he and Mokuba had made. There was nothing else he could claim as his own.
Maybe after this, he could change that. Develop a few things that were just his, at least enough to fill the bag. That was his first goal. He wanted to at least fill this one duffle bag with things that only belonged to him. Mokuba had his own small bag of belongings, and it seemed to be in a similar sorry state. That too they would deal with, once the time was right.
He had spent the rest of the day left to his own devices. Now that he no longer had a huge decision hanging over his head, he had time to finish getting things ready. It hadn't taken as long as he had been expecting, but then he had never left except to go from one institution to the next before. This was already promising to be a change.
He had his bag sitting in the chair next to his as he waited patiently in the cafeteria for Bakura to return. It couldn't be much longer until dark by this point. Now all he had to do was wait for Bakura to show up. Something told him that that would not be much longer. The shadows were getting long through the window and were starting to fade away; the sun was starting to go down, so it was almost time. Now that it was almost upon him, he couldn't remember having ever felt this excited about anything in his entire life. A chance to get out of here? And then a chance to pursue... whatever it was he was building with Bakura? Life wasn't supposed to get this good this fast. Hell, he was almost waiting for the group of people to jump out from behind something and yell something about it being a surprise and all a big joke. Good things just didn't happen to him. It went completely against the laws of his life.
He wasn't going to complain, though, if something good actually did occur. Just... He was understandably a bit nervous, waiting for the other shoe to drop. He had a feeling that it was going to come in the form of why 'they,' whoever 'they were aside from Bakura, wanted him around. He knew it was because he could hear them, which was apparently yet another conversation too complicated to deal with right now. He couldn't say he was digging that too much. But he could and would deal with it. He was pretty good at dealing with things, if he did say so himself.
"You're looking ready to go," Bakura's voice commented from behind him. Somehow he managed not to jump. How did Bakura do that anyway, just showing up like that without making a bit of noise? Maybe it tied into the whole 'not human' thing. It would make sense, looking at it that way. "One might be inclined to think you've been waiting to make a jailbreak for quite some time."
He shook his head. "It never would have occurred to me." It was the sad but honest truth. He just wasn't the type to think outside the box. He usually let Mokuba or the voices do that for him. "Are we headed out now?"
Bakura nodded. "We are. So let's get out of here."
They were out the cafeteria door and walking the hallways towards the front door before he finally noticed that one person here wasn't carrying a bag. "You didn't have anything with you?"
Bakura shook his head. "Nope. Just the clothes on my back, as they say. " He glanced down at Kaiba's duffle. "Is that all you have?" He nodded, and the white-haired man made a soft humming sound. "We'll have to take care of that as well."
He snickered quietly to himself. "We ought to be making a list at the rate we're coming up with ideas of things that need to be taken care of."
"I've got a pretty good memory. I need to smite Mazaki, deal with the rampant stupidity of the staff here, have words with a certain someone regarding death threats, and buy you stuff. It's not that long a list yet. It very well could become one, but I think we're okay for now."
They finally reached the doors leading to the outside. As usual for this time in the evening, one security guard stood station near it; another would be walking the halls. He had no idea what Bakura had in mind for security. That was a bit nerve wracking... until it turned out that apparently the guards were either on their side or whammied. The one at the exit just opened the door for them like some sort of butler or something.
And then they were outside, like there was nothing to it, like people just strolled out of mental hospitals all the time, whenever they felt like it. This was... It was something else all together different from anything else he had ever experienced before in his life. Well, Bakura had promised that his life would be nothing like it had been before, and so far he was holding true to that.
The sun was definitely all the way down when they strolled to a stop just outside the hospital's grounds. "So now what?" he finally asked.
Bakura chuckled. "This." He let out a loud whistle that seemed to split the air around them. He had to fight the urge to cover his ears at the sudden, incredibly loud sound, only to have it repeat itself again.
Less than a second later, a howl echoed oddly loud, like the dog was right on top of them. He glanced around with as much subtlety as he dared but saw no animal. The howl kept repeating itself, gradually growing more and more faint... until a creature the side of a small horse planted paws on Bakura's shoulders. Even standing on its hind legs and leaning up against the white-haired man, the creature still seemed ungodly huge. He supposed it made sense that way, though: if Bakura were something other than human, why would he have a perfectly human pet (even if he was interested in a perfectly human person)?
He didn't know much about dogs, but this thing bore little resemblance to what he pictured hounds looking like. Instead, it looked more like a mastiff of some sort: a massive dog with a thick head, a burly body, and jaws that looked... well, formidable was a nice was of phrasing it. It looked capable of biting him in half with little effort if it got hungry enough.
Bakura had said it was part Gabriel hound, whatever that meant. Even with the new freedom he had been receiving in the hospital, there still wasn't that much access to the Internet, and other methods of research were a little slim. If it wasn't on television or in one of the few books lying about, then there hadn't been a chance to read up on it. Gabriel hounds were in nothing he had had access to. He was going to make an educated guess though. He was going to guess that a Gabriel hound was some sort of creature, making this dog a bit... more... than other dogs. Well, that certainly explained the size, as well as the howls, how it had sounded close when it was further away but quieter when it was up close.
"Gwyllgi," Bakura eventually scolded, "don't be impolite." He shoved the huge animal off of him like it was no bigger than a terrier, and he nodded in Kaiba's direction. "Seto here will be coming with us. Be polite."
Bakura spoke to the dog like it was intelligent, so maybe he should do likewise. "Good evening," he finally settled for.
"Oh, good grief!" a sickeningly familiar voice cut across the darkness. "Now we're doing doggy meet and greet? Don't we have better things to be doing?"
He knew that voice. He would know that voice anywhere. Whatever else he could say about himself, he did have a tendency to remember the voices that told him to kill himself. This was one of them. In fact, this was the most recent one, the one that thought it would be funny to have someone use an ice pick to turn him into a drooling vegetable.
Bakura rolled his eyes, and the dog let out a quiet huff, as if it too were utterly unimpressed by the new addition. "Malik," the white-haired man drawled. "So glad to hear you could join us."
Literally out of nowhere, a young man appeared before him. He was about the same height as Bakura, maybe a little taller, so definitely shorter than he himself was, but somehow that didn't seem to matter. Like Bakura, there was a feeling of 'old' and 'powerful' to him, but he was not playing it as subtly as Bakura. In fact, he seemed to wear it right out on his sleeve, like anyone who saw him should know right up front that they were dealing with something more than human.
Like Bakura, there was something altogether otherworldly about the man's appearance. It was nearly the opposite in appearance, though: Bakura was pale as a ghost, while this Malik person was darkly tanned; Bakura had lightly colored eyes that he still couldn't decide the color of, while Malik's were a bright and vivid purple; Bakura's hair was long, shaggy, and brilliantly white, while Malik's was neatly style and a shade of blond he had only ever seen come out of bottles. He didn't even do subtle in his clothing, what with the chains and the purple vest-like shirt and all.
"You dragged me all the way out here to bitch at me for being late? Seriously? You?" Malik rolled his eyes and sighed overly dramatically. If he had seen it on television, he might have even had to have laughed at the overdone performance. "That's rich. That's really damn rich, coming off you. So what's the plan, since you decided we have one now?"
"We head back. Seto's coming with us."
It was almost comical how high Malik's eyebrows shot and how wide his eyes grew. "You talked him in to coming back with us?" He sounded entirely too incredulous, and for some reason, that actually loosened Kaiba's tongue.
"It's amazing what not threatening someone will do for persuasion." Behind him, he could even hear Mokuba cheer very quietly.
To his side, though, Bakura sounded like he was about to start howling in laughter himself. "He has a point."
"Whatever. Let's get out of here. We've been away too long as it is."
Without another word, Malik literally vanished into thin air, leaving no sign that he had ever been there but the dust moving in his wake. That was both enlightening and terrifying at the same time, he thought to himself. People vanishing into thin air? That he could almost deal with. It was the rest of the stuff about Malik that pinged off his every nerve wrong.
"Well," he started to say but then trailed off. There was literally nothing he could think of to say. He had been considering making a comment about people coming and going so quickly here, but somehow it seemed less than appropriate for the moment.
Bakura stepped a little closer to him, giving him a glance over to see if he was all right. "Malik is something of an acquired taste."
What would Mokuba say in a situation like this? He started to look over his shoulder and just ask, when suddenly it occurred to him exactly what it would be. "Rather like arsenic in that way, I suppose," he commented dryly.
"And you've just described Malik to perfection."
"I think you need to start telling me what's going on," he suggested, trying his best not to make it sound like a demand. "I mean, Malik alone..."
The white-haired man nodded. "Of course. Just... Not here, all right? It's a little bit more open than I would like. So, do you mind if we head out of here and I'll tell you elsewhere?"
He paused, thinking it over a brief moment before agreeing. "We can do that. As long as the explanation is only elsewhere and not elsewhen."
"All right. Hold on."
In a split second, the world blinked out around him. In that time, everything was completely black and seemed to spin on its own axis. He could feel his stomach lurching, like they were falling out of an airplane, and there was nothing beneath him, so it was probably a pretty good comparison. It didn't seem right or natural at all, but thankfully, it was over quickly.
When he opened eyes that he didn't remember squeezing tightly shut, he was inside again. This definitely wasn't anywhere like any place he had ever seen before. Even his uncle's home did not compare for opulence or size, but there seemed to be an odd homey feeling to the place. It was as if everything in here was older than dirt but well loved and cared for. If the terror he had of breaking anything at his uncle's home had been bad, he was going to go stark raving mad trying not to be accidentally destructive in here. Each piece probably cost more than his life was worth.
"Where are we?" He gasped out each word as its own question, willing the nausea to pass and the dizziness to abate. Sadly, it didn't seem to be any time soon.
"There's a couch behind you," Bakura advised. "Take a load off." Without further word, Bakura crossed the room to pull closed a door that he hadn't even seen. Gwyllgi sank down on a rug that had seen better days, circling a few times to make himself comfortable before relaxing. For all the world, the gigantic dog looked like a bodyguard settling into place, and that might have been something he wanted to keep in mind.
"Thanks," he commented quietly, taking the proffered seat. "So?" He let himself trail off with that, leaving it perfectly obviously that he wanted that explanation and he wanted it now. "Tell me."
Bakura raked a hand through his hair. This was appearing more and more like a nervous habit of some sort, which should have been amusing, seeing as how Bakura clearly was not human. "I don't really know where to start." He gave it a couple of seconds, long enough for Bakura to try to gather his thoughts. He was about to prompt the other man again when he finally continued. "I guess the beginning is probably a pretty good place, right?" He nodded, remaining silent, in case Bakura wouldn't go on if he talked. "You can hear us."
"You said that already." He tried to keep his voice down, rather than announce to all and sundry who might have been out there listening, but it was a challenge. A lot of things about this whole situation did in fact seem to be a difficulty for him.
The white-haired man shook his head. Really, he needed to quit thinking of Bakura as a man. He was male, yes, but he wasn't a man, simply because he wasn't human. "There aren't that many people out there who can hear us. It seems like there are less and less every year." He dropped down into an oversized chair opposite Kaiba, making himself comfortable. "Not every schizophrenic can hear us. Only a select few can, apparently, and you're one of them."
"So I guess the obvious question now is, so what are you, that it makes such a difference whether or not someone can 'hear' you?"
"We don't always talk out loud." The words had the air of a confession, but he wasn't stepping away from it yet. He had to know, which meant Bakura had to tell him. "In fact, we very rarely do. It's very imprecise compared to speaking mind to mind. That's what you were hearing just before I arrived: Malik and I talking."
"Why did he want me to kill myself anyway?" he questioned. "Wouldn't that defeat the purpose of my being able to hear you?"
"In theory," Bakura conceded, "but that's not always the case. Yes, generally, if someone can hear us, we would rather whisk them away and keep them, rather than anything less than pleasant. But sometimes that's not always a choice." He leaned a bit forward, elbows resting on his knees, as if he were preparing to tell Kaiba some big secret. "A few of us have never even seen one of the Listeners, but at this point, we're desperate." He inhaled a deep breath and released it slowly, obviously trying to regain some of the calm he had been exhibiting earlier. "The listeners are so rare that we have to either keep them safe or keep them from being picked up by someone less than savory."
"How do you mean?" He was seriously not liking the sound of all of this planning and the listening and what could possibly be done with people like him, what might have been done to him if Bakura hadn't decided he liked him.
"We're in a war, Seto. We've been in a war longer than most people you know have been alive. Right now, it's at a stalemate; neither side is scoring. Sometimes we lose a fight, and sometimes we win one. We need a weapon to help us pull through."
It was hard to keep a very Mokuba-like growl out of his voice. "And that's the listeners, people like me. We're your new weapon."
Bakura actually looked pained, but nonetheless, he answered; the response even seemed to be honest, though he could admit that he probably wasn't the best judge on honesty in situations like this. "Yes, you are." He could give Bakura credit for telling him what sounded like the truth, even if the man -- whatever he was -- didn't seem to be enjoying telling it. "There's a running theory that if the listeners can hear us, then maybe you can hear them as well. And we have to know what they're planning ahead of time. We've been pulling too close as it was. It's been too close the last few skirmishes, and frankly, I think I would prefer it if a few less of my comrades are killed."
It seemed as good an opening as any. "So what am I dealing with? And I want to know everything this time."
Bakura slouched back hard in the overstuffed chair, seemingly a bit overwhelmed by the question, the demand, or both. He was silent a long moment as he visibly appeared to be organizing his thoughts. When he finally spoke, his voice sounded resigned. "We've been at war for millennia, longer than humans have recorded their own history -- longer than any of us care to remember. Sometimes we pull a little ahead, but lately, it seems like the daeva have us bent over a barrel. We've been being killed left and right, and frankly, there aren't enough of us left to win this without some sort of an ace in the hole." He gestured weakly in Kaiba's direction. "That's where the listeners come in. If we can find out what the daeva are planning ahead of time, maybe we can at least avoid being murdered outright, if not possibly even manage to get the jump on them and thin their numbers down a bit." He didn't appear to be too hopeful of this working. In fact, for all the world, it sounded like it was a plan someone else had come up with and he was only reluctantly going along with it. Surprisingly, he even confirmed it. "I don't think it stands much of a chance, but we're running low on ideas at this point."
"Two questions then."
"'What are the daeva?'" Bakura guessed.
He nodded. "And what are you?" It was a good deal more blunt that he ever wanted to be, but there was no real way of easing around this topic. It had to be addressed bluntly or not at all, and frankly, they were too far beyond the point where 'not at all' would be acceptable.
"Ah, the hard questions," Bakura surmised with a tired exhalation. "The daeva are... We had no idea what they were when they first appeared. Some of us called them demons, while others of us called them monsters. We didn't have a real name for them until Ahura Mazda gave them that one. Apparently, to his people, it means 'other' or something like that. I guess it works: they aren't animals, they aren't human, they aren't one of us, and they aren't a mixture of us and human -- so I suppose that does leave 'other'." He sighed again, allowing his head to lean backward so that he was staring at the ceiling instead of Kaiba. "As for what we are... That's both harder and easier. You got the part where we're not human?"
He had to chuckle quietly at that. "Yeah, I definitely noticed that part, with the whole mind control thing and where that Malik guy kept vanishing and reappearing." He almost wished he had some sort of creativity. Maybe then he might have been able to make an educated guess on what these people might have been, but for now, he was drawing a blank.
19 July 2010
Almost caught back up... at least to LiveJournal...