Crooked Way
Chapter Nine: "Balancing"
by Apollymi
Disclaimers: Yu-Gi-Oh! is owned by Takahashi Kazuki and all associated copyright holders. Therefore, unfortunately, I own nothing here, except the storyline.
Word Count: 2,075
Sequel to: Where Angels
Archive: DarkMagick(dot)net, FanFiction(dot)net, and Apollymi's Grimoire. Anyone else, ask first.

His niisama was starting to look pretty horrible. Granted, he wasn't exactly feeling all that fantastic himself. But he didn't think that his niisama had even stepped away from his computer yet today... or yesterday. He had tried his best to force niisama away from it at times. He had only been moderately successful. Niisama was willing enough to eat and take care of other necessary bodily functions, but he wouldn't sleep. Even Mokuba had caught a cat nap or two on the couch in his own office, no more than half an hour at the time, but he didn't think that niisama had taken even that much of a break, not if the bags under his eyes were any indication.

Yuugi had been in and out of the building all day ever since arriving early this morning. Right now, he was trying to see if he could perhaps coax Malik-san to come help out in some way. He hadn't predicted that the attempt would be successful. The two Egyptians rarely got along: they had been the most vicious of allies against the Pharaoh, but that alliance had ended after the Battle Ship duel tournament did. Since then, there had been a few near fistfights and more than a few arguments in a dead language.

At least, he assumed it was a dead language. He hadn't had any luck trying to convince Bakura-kun to teach him Ancient Egyptian, but sometimes he wondered. Given their reactions to some of the arguments that Mokuba couldn't understand, he wondered if perhaps Yuugi-kun and niisama could actually pick up some words. Yuugi-kun made sense: he lived with Malik-san when the latter was in the country and he had had the Pharaoh in his head for nearly a year. If those two facts didn't add up to a crash course in the language, then he didn't know what did.

Niisama knowing the language was, however, an entirely different kettle of fish. There was the whole Ancient Egypt thing, the one where there had been a version of niisama in Ancient Egypt. The other Yuugi, the Pharaoh, had said something way back four years ago about niisama being a priest in Ancient Egypt. Niisama hated the idea. He supposed part of the hatred had to do with it being the Pharaoh who told him that information, but a lot of it was probably niisama's utter and abject distaste for magic.

Oh, niisama put up with whatever Bakura-kun could do... and that had been quite a bit. And niisama had managed to do magic one time himself, putting their Bakura-kun into Bakura Ryou's body. He had avoided it ever since. If there was magic to be done, which thankfully didn't happen too often, Bakura-kun did it.

The Sennen Items were magic... or close enough to it to count. Yuugi-kun had been wearing the Sennen Puzzle around his neck again, ever since he recovered it from the Collector two years ago. Isis Ishtar had taken back the Sennen Tauk, that weird looking necklace thing she had had at the Battle Ship Tournament. He hadn't asked too many questions about what Yuugi-kun had done with the rest of the Items, just that they were scattered and not easy for any one person to get their hands on. If they were hard for a Kaiba to obtain, then they would--presumably--be more difficult for someone like this Collector bastard to gain possession of.

Well, he knew that at least three of the Sennen Items were still in Domino. The Sennen Puzzle went everywhere that Yuugi-kun went. The Sennen Ring went everywhere that Bakura-kun went. But the Sennen Rod stayed locked up inside their house, safely tucked away from the rest of the world. It was in a safe in niisama's home office, one that even Bakura-kun tended to stay out of.

He had never really ever gotten an answer for why Bakura-kun tended to avoid it, but the other man did.

He really hoped that Yuugi-kun was able to talk Malik-san into coming over and helping... or even just giving them all more of a background on the Sennen Items. Yuugi-kun seemed to think that they might be able to use the rest of the Items to somehow track down the Ring, assuming Bakura-kun was still wearing it. He couldn't imagine Bakura-kun not wearing it.

For that it was big and gaudy and imposing, Bakura-kun never--no, apparently rarely--ever took it off. For all that it was big and gaudy and imposing, Bakura-kun also had mastered the art of wearing it silently. It always looked to him like the prongs dangling from the center circle should clink together and chime and otherwise make noise, but that never seemed to happen when Bakura-kun was wearing it. It might as well have been part of his body.

"Niisama?" he carefully began to broach the topic. His older brother glanced up from the computer briefly then went back to work. "You need to step away from this for a few minutes."

"No," was all that niisama answered. It should have been final, but it wasn't, not as far as Mokuba was concerned.

"Yuugi-kun has gone to get Malik-san. Maybe there's some kind of magic... thing he has access to that we can use to find Bakura-nii--" He broke off, a bit embarrassed. That was something that he caught himself doing on occasion lately: thinking of Bakura-kun as 'Bakura-niisan'. Bakura-kun wouldn't have minded, he didn't think, but it still felt almost like a weird betrayal of his own older brother, since it had just been the two of them for so long, not to mention odd and maybe a bit childish. Right now was not the time for him to be childish. "Maybe Malik-san can do something to help us find Bakura-kun if the Sennen Items idea doesn't pan out. You need to be rested up to deal with Malik-san." He tried. When that didn't seem to faze his brother, he tried a slightly different tact. "Besides, you'll be more likely to make mistakes when you're tired than if you're not. Please? Even just a fifteen minute nap?"

"I can't." The words sounded as though they had been physically ripped out of his niisama. His brother's fingers had even still on the keyboard, and that alone probably said more than anything else right now. Well, anything except the haunted look in niisama's eyes. He couldn't remember ever seeing his brother look like that before. "Every time I close my eyes, even for a minute, I see Bakura right where I was. And I don't have a Diaboundo to watch over him. I don't even know if he has Diaboundo with him."

He... hadn't even thought of that. He hadn't been able to imagine Bakura-kun without the Ring, let alone without Diaboundo. But there was something to consider. "Bakura-kun is resourceful, niisama. He'll be all right." He had been telling himself that for hours now, and sooner or later, he would start believing it.

When this was all over and they had Bakura-kun back home again, he was going to be the one who installed a tracking device into every last one of them. That way, they would all always be able to find one another, provided one of them ever finished teaching Bakura-nii-- Bakura-kun about computers and other modern electronics.

Well, it was going to be a calculated risk, but he did have one more thing he could think of to try: playing the baby brother card up to the hilt. It was usually his most effective weapon in the war to get his way. He generally tried to keep it shelved, lest it lose its effectiveness, but this might be a situation where it would be effective. And it was for a good cause. And it was a legitimate question, one he had just been wondering about.

"Niisama?" That got his brother's attention back on him, at least for the moment. He would have to press his advantage while he still had it. "Do you think he would mind if I started calling him 'Bakura-niisan'?"

Niisama drew in a deep breath, but Mokuba couldn't tell if it was to steady himself or to prepare for what to say in response. Since it took a few moments for him to answer, Mokuba was supposing it was the latter option. "I don't think he would mind. He would probably appreciate it."

"Would you mind, niisama?" he pressed, because honestly, that was the bigger worry of the two.

But niisama ended up shaking his head quickly enough. "Of course not."

"I don't like having to worry about one of my big brothers. I really don't want to have to worry about both of them."

It was a dirty trick, and from the look on his face, his niisama was thinking the exact same thing. Somehow he couldn't find it in himself to care too much, though. It was his only Bakura-niisan who was missing, and it was his only niisama was worrying himself and working himself sick. He would fight as dirty as he had to in order to keep one safe and sane long enough to find the other. Besides, he was fifteen, nearly sixteen now. Surely he was supposed to fight dirty by now. Yuugi-kun would probably say that he had been fighting dirty for years.

"Fine." Niisama glanced at the clock, clearly noting that it was just after three in the afternoon. "One hour."

He wanted to argue. He knew for a fact, after all, that niisama hadn't slept since the weekend--and even then, he hadn't slept well--and it was now Tuesday afternoon. He wasn't going to push too much on the matter, but just a little should be all right. "You would be more productive," and feel better, he carefully didn't say, "if you get a bit more rest."

"One hour."

And he obviously wasn't going to win this one, not this time. Maybe later, if this kept on for much longer. And there was a delicate line between pushing his niisama enough to show he cared and pushing his niisama so much that he got stubbornly oppositive to the entire idea in general. He was dancing perilously close to that line at this point anyway. It would be best overall to concede the issue. "All right."

The couch that was in niisama's office was a Bakura addition. Before then, niisama hadn't had much in the way of comfortable furniture in his office. He would work long, long hours and then come home to collapse into bed for a few hours. Bakura had had the couch added, even though they both tried very hard to keep niisama from staying too late. As a small measure to keep too many people from staying too long in his office on the frankly ridiculously comfortable couch, they had had it installed in the small room that led to the ensuite. Niisama had used it as a closet before, and nominally, it was still, though the number of suits here had dropped drastically around the same time the couch had appeared.

It was a monstrously huge thing, plush and deep, obviously designed for long stays. He had caught Bakura-niisan sleeping on it more than once on nights where niisama couldn't avoid working late; the door between this room and the office itself had been left open, so the pair of them could easily check on the other if needs be. He had also caught Bakura-niisan and niisama sleeping on it together, and he had even managed to catch a picture on his phone that neither of them knew he had.

It was easier than it probably should have been to steer his big brother onto the couch. It was also easy to sit down at one end, his tablet computer in hand. It was an unspoken fact that niisama slept better if he wasn't alone; this way he could continue his currently fruitless search and stay with his niisama, not to mention be there to wake him up in an hour.

Maybe this brief break could lead the breakthrough they desperately needed. He could hope anyway.

19 April 2014

Okay, yeah, I've had this one done for a bit. I've been on a downswing, emotionally speaking, and didn't want to share it, given the somewhat lackluster reception to the end of Betrüger. I'm still not 100% certain that I want to be sharing it, but I'm tired of it sitting open waiting to be given, so... here it is.

(One day, I'll have a job again. When that happens, the first thing I'm going to do is get back on my antidepressants. I'm tired of feeling like this all the time.)


[ Prologue | Schedules | Safety | Sensibility | Tenacity | Conscious | Security | Command | Insight | Balancing | Determination | Communicating ]