You know, somehow I didn't realize Treeboy knew how to drive. I always
figured, you know, he sat down in the car and one of the drivers just
showed up. A weird thought, I know, but somehow it made sense in my
head at the time. But the blue, an idiot could have guessed that.
He didn't say a word, which somehow was what struck me as really odd, though. Weird, huh? Treeboy was never been a big talker, but when you were waiting to catch crap... Well, it could go either way, which would be worse: the waiting or the actual conversation (read: argument) that was inevitably going to ensue. Really, it was just as well I had no intention of letting him give me the other marks: if I were his human servant, I'd have to kill him within a few months.
We were out of the gates and pulled onto the main road before he finally opened his mouth. "You realize Rebecca just won the bet."
Talk about unexpected. The idea that Treeboy even knew about the betting pool was actually kind of amusing; I didn't think he lowered himself to keep up with little things like that. "She was the only one who bet on Yami?" He nodded, and I smirked for a second before realizing it hurt too much to bother. "She must have cleared a fair share then."
"Over fifteen hundred American." Wow. I'd be impressed if it weren't for the fact I knew they were betting my temper would snap first. And I couldn't deny it came close a few times. But there was no way I was taking a swing at anyone, at any of my people, not after Oyaji. I'd seen what happens once you start hitting people close to you -- I'd lived it and I had seen its consequences; that's why I could hold myself back.
And I remembered the way I'd blacked out once I started hitting Oyaji with that fireplace poker. I couldn't hit him because I didn't know if I'd be able to stop.
"Who all betted?" Not that I was plotting revenge or anything. Perish the thought. Who would ever think I'd want revenge?
"All the wolves, most of the cats, Varon, Mokuba, Noa." He made a turn that felt like ninety degrees; holy shit, did he learn to drive from Akito? I just found myself a lot more interested in buckling in and finding something to hold on to. "Ishtars One and Two couldn't decide which weapon you were going to use, so they didn't bet. I believe Yuugi bet double."
"The midget's in for it," I managed to grit out between clenched teeth, pretty sure there would be impressions of my fingers on the arm rest for all time. "I can't believe he'd bet on his brother getting his lights punched out."
He shrugged. "You aren't known for your self-restraint or thinking things out before you do or say them." And then my teeth were clenched to keep from growling, and I was holding on to the arm rest to keep from grabbing him, shaking him, and demanding to know what the fuck that was supposed to mean. And who said I had no self-restraint? "Or will Kisara find a body upstairs?"
"Which I'm assuming means no." I released the arm rest long enough to flip him off. He didn't seem to notice, which meant he was concentrating hard on the road -- which probably meant he was about to do something he didn't want to -- which would probably be the lecture we both knew was coming. "So what brought it on?"
"The fight? He's had some ghosts following him around since the kidnapping that he never bothered to mention."
And that got me Kaiba Frown Number Three (so named because many of the Kaibas use them): confusion. "Did he know about them?"
I shot him one of the deadliest glares in my arsenal, which happened to be improving the longer I spent around the Kaibas, the masters of the deadly glare. But that also apparently meant they were immune to them because it rolled right off him. "Yes, he knew."
"So that's what started the fight." Shifting slightly was the only indication he gave of this being an... uncomfortable conversation for him. Otherwise he was a rock, and God damn it, it made me want to hit him even more. But moving at all meant he really didn't want to be doing the 'personal' talk, which any other time would have made me want to antagonize him the details... if it wasn't my life we were discussing. "So what led to the punch?"
"Nothing that's any of your damn business." Great, I'd been kidnapped to talk about my relationship. If I hadn't been in fear for my life with the way he drives, I might have been tempted to let him have it. As it was, I just wanted to survive the ride. "He brought up Amane, why he hadn't know about her." And why the hell was my mouth moving without my brain? "I told him that I didn't tell Malik about her till I'd known him two years."
"And that's what set him off?" I couldn't help but think that Yami's IQ just went down about twenty points in Treeboy's book. Not that he thought too highly of Yami's intelligence anyway. "Why?"
"The nutjob and I had a thing together, back before I left Tokyo. Five years ago," I added for clarification. Like he didn't already know. As anal as Treeboy was, he probably had dossiers on us to put the Tokyo police, the military, and the American FBI to shame. "I told Yami about it a few months ago." I turned my attention out the window at to the scenery whipping by. "To say he took it badly would be an understatement."
Another sharp turn, and I was officially in areas of town I wasn't familiar with. And damn it, I was not getting a bad feeling about this! There was no way... Well, no, fuck, there were plenty of ways this could all go wrong, but thinking about them just tended to make the whole situation worse, and it was bad enough as is.
"Why do you stay with him?"
I didn't have to look at him to know he wasn't looking at me. He would have his eyes locked on the road. He probably hadn't meant to say that out loud, but it was out -- and I'd be damned if it didn't need an answer.
"Because you so enjoy his presence. I'd hate to deprive you of that."
"Bakura..." And that had been growled. Score one for me; I made the Ice Prince lose his cool. "If you didn't have the first mark, we'd probably be taking you to the hospital right now."
"That's pushing it a bit, Treeboy. Yami's human. There's no way he could hit me that hard."
"Nonetheless, you have the first mark and therefore are harder to hurt, and he still managed to do that to you." He reached over with one hand and flipped the visor down. A mirror was there, believe it or not. There weren't any at all in the house, so I didn't think there would be any in the car short of the rear view. "Take a look."
"Okay!" It was all I could do not to scream the words. "Just put both of your hands back on the wheel!"
Once he'd complied, I did look, and okay, yes, it did look pretty bad. But it was far from the worst bruise I'd ever had -- and it had only been one punch. Oyaji had usually doled them out in sets of ten or more. Not that the number of hits discounted the fact he'd hit me at all, and I was still steamed about that. Even more so, since it was Treeboy giving me the lecture. Still, it was a fairly bad bruise: it was already turning weird colors and starting to swell. It probably wasn't going to be bad enough to impair my vision, but I was definitely going to be uncomfortable the next few days. Maybe Treeboy did have a bit of a point: ordinarily, I'd have been at least knocked out by this. And if this was with the first mark in place, how bad would it have been without it?
New rule: Yami could punch like a son of a bitch, so if there was something I needed to tell him that I thought he wouldn't like, I wouldn't tell him. Not too big a deal; it was not like my life was an open book for him or anybody to read. I still had secrets no one, not even the brat or Malik knew, not the least of which being the real story about what happened last Halloween.
And he caught me staring at the mirror. "So why do you stay with him, Bakura? I can have him thrown out in half a minute."
Was that a Treeboy-ish offer to help out? How... interesting. I guess he deserved an honest, non-joking answer after that. "Most of the time, I enjoy the fighting, at least when punches aren't being thrown. It's fun because we're such total opposites. I like making up after the fights. And..." How to put this? "He makes the voices stop."
It was a damn good thing no one else was on the road this time of night: he skidded across the road when he whipped his head around to stare at me, from what I was catching out of the corner of my eye. Well, that was odd. There should still be people out, walking if not driving, this close to the sun going down, but the streets were utterly deserted. Maybe this part of Domino actually shut down at night? Every window we passed, whether it was a shop or a home, was black. If the streetlights weren't on, I'd have wondered if there was a power outage, but with them still functioning...
"Voices?" For all his surprised turn to stare at me and the road skid, his voice was amazingly calm. Had no one told him, though? I certainly didn't recall it if we had. In fact, the only conversation I could remember Treeboy being present for was Kitty's extremely abbreviated one two years ago, before we'd known he was Master of Domino, and that was just that I could sense ghosts. Nothing about all the fun extras. "What voices?"
"Ghosts, mostly. Spirits, that sort of thing."
"I thought you just sensed them." He paused to shudder very slightly, almost imperceptibly. "And using them to tear things apart."
I snorted. "Just sensed them? Yeah, right. They do everything but knock on the front door when they want to be noticed." In fact, a few of them had even done that, but there was no reason for him to know that. "I can see them, hear them, and you already know I can call them." I laughed, completely humorlessly, and he stared at me like I'd gone over the deep end. "I can even tell you exactly how many people have died in your house."
If vampires could go white, he probably would have then. "Would I want to know?"
"Probably not." The number was almost definitely higher than he'd be comfortable with, even with the laws against hunting humans that had been passed about four years ago.
He straightened the car onto the correct side of the road again, his entire demeanor relaxing. Damn, now that would be a neat talent: the ability to look completely calm no matter what. Probably one of those useful Kaiba talents they'd never share, though. "So you can hear, see, and summon these ghosts?" I nodded. "Those are the voices Yami stops?" Another nod, but a bit more hesitant than the last. I couldn't really decide if I should tell him about The Voice, as I still thought of it even knowing its name, or not. Somehow he caught the hesitancy and asked, "What else?"
"It's mostly the ghosts, but," I had to take a deep breath before I could say it, it sounded so outlandish, "there is one other voice. I just don't hear it as often, only when when something bad is happening. Sometimes I can stop it myself, but sometimes Yami is the only one who can." There was no point in telling him the only times I'd controlled it myself, I'd either rode it out till something (like Mini-Me suddenly being alive) surprised me or I'd been rendered unconscious.
"What kind of a voice?"
I shook my head. "I don't really know. I first felt it the first time I summoned all those ghosts at Pegasus', when we found out about you being the Master, then when Cynthia was shot. Then I heard it a lot louder when I... took care of Oyaji. The worst, though, was last Halloween."
That caught his attention. "You heard it then too?"
"Right before I got bit." And as I recalled it, the only thing that shut The Voice up that time was my head hitting a wall at high speed, not an experience I'd like to repeat any time soon. I didn't think he really wanted to hear that either.
And damn it, I refused to start having a bad feeling! Because I wasn't! Not a snowflake's chance in hell. There was no way I was going to have a bad feeling before he even parked the car.
"Any ideas on what it is?" So he wasn't even going to bother asking if I was a few more steps around the bend than usual? Well, that was refreshing. I could get spoiled on non-reactions... which would be why I hadn't mentioned The Voice to Kitty and begged Mai not to mention it to the other wolves. Non-reactions were pretty much an exception to the rule where Weres were concerned.
"Not really. That first, the ghosts reached for it because of how powerful it is -- and I think it was in Tokyo, somewhere underground. It's coming knocking on my mind here in Domino every time since then. It said a name last Halloween, but..."
He waited a moment before prompting, "But?" I kept my gaze fixed on what I could make out of the scenery rushing by. There were fewer and fewer buildings, all of them dark. That just couldn't be good. And the flickering streetlights just cast an even more ominous feeling.
"It told me to say its name and it would destroy all those creatures. I don't think saying its name would be a good thing. Do you know where the hell we are?"
"There's a church a few blocks from here. I believe that's where we're supposed to meet this person. If I could find a way to block the voices--"
"Kaiba." I think he blinked; I know he swerved slightly. "Yeah, I can call you by name. I know you mean well and all, but lay the hell off." From the look on his face, I had to guess no one had ever said anything like that to him before. And he'd dated Kitty how long? "I'm pissed at Yami, but I'm also rather attached to the little asshole Pharaoh. Yes, you have a mark on me, and I appreciate you saving me the weeks of healing and putting up with Varon's shit it would have taken otherwise. But that doesn't put you in charge of my sex life. And if you try to pull Master of the City rank, I will yank the tree out of your ass and stake you with it."
Well, that actually felt pretty good. He looked stunned for all of a minute, then the expression slowly graduated to pissed off, not that it was a huge difference between the two unless one knew what to look for -- and I did. You couldn't go by the face because that rarely changed; it was all in the eyes, now I could meet them at least. The thought briefly struck me that I was sitting in a very small enclosed space with a master vampire who I was doing a rather thorough job of cheesing off, but I let it pass right on by. Pissing off said master vampire and not getting snapped in half like a twig was one of the perks of being among said master vampire's people; we might annoy the shit out of him sometimes, but he'd sooner walk out in the sunlight than betray one of us. I knew the feeling; I was much the same way.
No, what concerned me was that the angry expression changed again, this time to something more indefinable, something I couldn't recall ever seeing cross his eyes before, and he started slowing the car, finally bringing it to a halt at the mouth of a thin street between two abandoned-looking buildings. Metal piping that might have once been bicycle racks in a better life stood between us and the alley; if I were the poetic sort, I'd have said they were like sentinels standing guard.
He opened the door, and that was when it hit me like a metaphysical punch in the gut: death, old, recent, and fresh all clamoring for attention at once. In fact, one of them seemed so fresh that Treeboy must have caught the scent of the blood... because even I could almost smell it. The feeling I was picking up, the death, it was so strong that it was almost overwhelming. Someone -- or more probably several someones -- had died painfully here in the last few nights.
To my own surprise, I didn't want to find out. Hell, I didn't even want to follow Treeboy out of the car, but at the same time, I had to know. I damn sure didn't want to so much as contemplate reaching for the souls that had to be nearby (it's a rare ghost that leaves the scene of its murder), but it wasn't like the Ice Prince was going to turn it up on his own. So I reached -- then froze.
I guess I was standing there in shell shock a few seconds too long because Treeboy prompted, "Bakura?" That snapped me back out of it.
"Several people died near here."
He nodded, looking away, down that dark alley that oddly seemed like something from a nightmare to me. "I can tell that much."
"They died... but there's no souls left."
21 December 2006
This has to be my record turn around for any story in the Endless Loop 'verse. I'm warning you all now that Automatic Paranoia will be shorter than my other EL stories, but there's a reason for that. Here's hoping for more soon!