Well, this certainly isn't what I had in mind. I mean, the job went off without a hitch, but the pick-up's leaving a lot to be desired. It just had to be that prick and his Mini-Me, didn't it? Some god out there is certainly having a good laugh at my expense.
Someone, remind me again why I didn't take the job at Kaiba Corp when it was offered to me. Oh yeah. I decided I couldn't work for someone with a stick the size of a tree up his ass, so I told him where he could stick it in no uncertain terms, as well as several choice terms that the brat might collapse upon hearing, not that that's ever stopped me from using them. Of course, Tree Up His Ass Seto laughed me out of his office for the advice, but we can't always have everything.
So I ended up in a nonexclusive contract with Kame Games. As long as I don't ever, ever steal from the Old Man, I'm free to contract out as much I like, which admittedly is a lot. Yeah, it sounded too good to be true to me too. I didn't find out the catch till much later: the goddamn Bossling and, worse still, his Mini-Me.
I wonder where the hell the Bossling found a middle schooler who looks so much like him to hang out with. I mean, they're not twins or anything, but the resemblance is uncanny. Then again, knowing the Bossling, he probably funded the kid getting plastic surgery to look like him. Yeah, the Bossling has a bit of an ego. I should know. Mine's nearly as big, but no one's going to top the Bossling, Mister "King of Games" himself.
I guess I should have knocked before I marched myself in the boss's office, but since when do I let a little thing like manners slow me down? I've never let them bother me before, and hell, my lack thereof is half of what got me the job to start with. The Bossman usually never lets a soul in his office for longer than ten minutes, myself included, so I guess I was used to it just being him in there and assumed the pattern would hold true. Stupid of me, I know. The thief who starts assuming stuff tends to end up a dead thief, and seeing as how I rather like being alive, I'd best start breaking that bad habit fast.
I have to stand there a second and stare. Thankfully, I caught the door before it could bang open, so they don't know I'm there yet. The Bossling and his Mini-Me are playing cards on the Old Man's desk, but I can't see from here what they're playing. Color me shocked - it looks to me like Mini-Me's winning. I'll be damned. I thought no one ever beat the King of Games. No wonder the Bossling snatched him up; either he's bucking for a prot? or, more likely, he grabbed the kid up before he got good enough to enter the tournament circuit. I mean, this is the guy who beat Tree Up His Ass Seto in a duel and took the gaming title away from him. What? It's a good practice to know everything you can about your enemies, and you aren't going to find anyone else who knows quite as much about the Bossling as I do, except maybe Tree Up His Ass Seto. I don't think either of us has quite figured out the secret of the Mini-Me though. If Treeboy has anything, he's sure as shit keeping it quiet from everyone, even his staff. And yes, I have my inside sources at Kaiba Corp, and no, I'm not saying who. Wouldn't want to compromise a perfectly good source.
That, and he said if I ever breathed his name as my accomplice, he'd put his favorite dagger through the brat's and my throats. Let it not be said that I don't respond to threats, especially when they're issued by a guy who has more than one certificate showing how crazy he and his other half are. How he fooled Treeboy's personnel manager, I'll never know.
Finally, I've looked my fill (It only takes a moment or two because who'd want to look at those two for long?) and clear my throat to get their attention; Mini-Me nearly jumps out of his skin, letting a very undignified yelp escape him and dropping his cards. The Bossling just looks at me like something he'd really rather squish than look at, rolls his eyes, and deadpans, "Oh, it's you." Meaning he thought it might have been someone important. God, I hate that guy. But I've got plans for him. Granted, most of them involve the eventual use of a shovel, a fire, or lots of acid, but they're still plans!
"Where's the Old Man?" I grit out through clenched teeth.
The Bossling shrugs, not even looking up at me, while Mini-Me puts on that stupid smile of his and replies while he gathers the cards he dropped at my entrance, "We're waiting on him to show up. Yami had something to ask him."
Yeah, the Bossling does have a real name. It's not Yami though. That's some kind of weird nickname his family gave him. His real name's Atemu. I'd probably go by Yami too, since it's better than admitting your parents were some kind of Egyptian fanatics. Mini-Me probably has a real name too, but I've yet to hear anyone say it. With the Bossling, he's always "Aibou". Can I begin to describe how much that annoys me?
I opt to ignore them both and cross the room to the painting that conceals the Bossman's safe. I've lost count how many times I've told the old guy his hiding place is way too easy, but he always smiles, laughs, sometimes pats me on the head (which I hate!), and asks, "Who'd expect me to use an old trick like this?" He has a point; he was the King of Games for years before Tree Up His Ass Seto took the title, though he in turn didn't get to keep it long before the Bossling took it.
The safe's not as simple as it looks. In fact, the Old Man told me once he got security called on him when he didn't hit the tumblers in the lock at the right speed. I haven't made any mistakes like that yet, and I'm not about to fuck up now because a couple of freaks have nothing better to do than watch me. I'm not even going to give them the pleasure of seeing me twitch, even though it's making my skin crawl.
The last tumbler falls into place, and I turn the handle, opening the door. There's the envelope with my money sitting right there on top like always. I grab it and tuck it inside a pocket on the inner fold of my jacket before dropping the envelope with the plans for the newest upgrade to II's virtual system. Who'd have thought the gaming industry was so cut-throat? I'm not complaining because, hell, it's good for my business. Hell, I don't even play any of these games so what do I care? The brat likes some of them, though, and it pays the bills. Win-win situation, I think.
There are footsteps behind me. If I didn't always listen out for things like that, I probably wouldn't have heard one of the freaks trying to sneak up on me. Who do they think they're fooling? I ignore them for the moment to close and lock the Old Man's safe. Typically, I have a few weeks between Kame jobs, till I'm ready to either kill the brat or do something equally drastic, but usually the first week or so off is bliss. The brat'll let me sleep in, he goes to school, I get to watch the cable I'm scamming off the neighbors. It's great, the first week at least, till the brat starts whining.
Once the safe is closed up, which is thankfully a lot easier than getting it open, I climb to my feet and turn. Well, shit, they're both there. The hell? Do they time their footsteps or something? Freaks. Really, they're both freaks. Gah! How does the Old Man put up with them? Mustn't let them see how much they're getting to me!
I decide to take a page out of Tree Up His Ass Seto's book and roll my eyes exaggeratedly, trying to look bored enough to fall asleep on my feet. "Can I help you with something?"
"Kaiba Corp?" the Bossling inquires. God, I hate that. I don't think I've heard him say five words in a row to me. Not that I want him to say more than five words to me, but still!
"Did it have a Kaiba Corp label on it?" I shoot back.
Mini-Me's eyes go wide, and I could swear he's bouncing. "Is it Industrial Illusions?" I wonder if the Bossling gave him sugar or coffee or something. This kind of high can't be natural. I mean, the brat only got hyper like this once, and that was the time I put half a bottle of No-Doze in his cheeseburger. Of course, what happened later wasn't pleasant, but it was fun watching him bounce off stuff.
"Got it in one," I answer. "Too bad you can't share a brain with the Bossling here." Score one for me.
Mini-Me giggles like that's the funniest thing he's ever heard. Did he have laughing gas with his Cheerios or what? He's so damn happy it's scary. The Bossling just rolls his damn eyes. "Idiot."
It's so damn hard to keep my bristling purely mental. Outwardly, I smirk. "You shouldn't insult your Mini-Me like that. You might run him off."
I have the satisfaction of seeing the Bossling pale a few shades. Two points for me. Damn, I'm racking up today. I wonder if Mister King of Games is having an off day. Why am I wondering that?! I don't give a shit.
"Get out of here, thief." Well, well, I'm impressed. Five words in a row. It's a new record. And it didn't even break him to say them. "Leave before I break you." Another five. I might make a talker out of him yet. I can't hold back a snicker. Wow, was that a growl from the Bossling? Damn, I'm good.
"Yeah, yeah, Bossling, I'm gone. Later, Mini-Me." I step around them, giving them a wide berth and head for the door.
"Bye, Bakura-kun!" Mini-Me calls after me. I wave vaguely over my shoulder, still snickering to myself.
I pull the door closed behind me and finally let out the shudder I've been repressing. The Old Man's secretary sends me a sympathetic look. I smirk in return and mock shoot myself in the head, which makes her laugh. "Bossling's gonna be in a mood," I mention, leaning on her desk.
"Did you antagonize him again, Bakura-san?"
I let out a nasty little chuckle. "Just a bit." I glance at the door and stand. "I'm leaving now before he deigns to emerge. Later."
"Ah, Bakura-san? Is Ryou-kun going to be home tonight?"
I shrug. "He'd better be. I don't want to have to eat leftover Thai again." I raise an eyebrow in question. "Test coming up?"
She nods gravely. "I don't need to fail another one."
See, this is why I quit bothering to go to school. It takes up too much time, and then there's the whole studying crap. It's so stressful too. The brat goes to school every damn day it's in, though, and he's welcome to it. Even if I am the one paying for it. "I'll tell him you'll be by, Miho."
What? She's the brat's friend, so I need to be halfway nice to her. He gets pissy when I'm mean to his friends, and I don't fancy being locked out of my own apartment. "Bye, Bakura-san."
I make a beeline for the elevator. Really, I don't want to be there when the Bossling gets over himself enough to come out of the Old Man's office. I'm not running from him or anything, though! It's... a strategic retreat. Yeah. Plus I have to hurry or I'll miss the bus that runs by the apartment. So I'm not running away. Really.
The door's unlocked when I get home. How many times have I told him not to do that? How many more times do I have to tell him? And it's not that he forgets! I mean, we're in the habit of locking every door, even our bedroom doors or the bathroom door when it's just the two of us! No, the brat just unlocks it a few minutes before I get home, damn nearly every time. It's not as weird as it sounds. The brat almost always knows who's at the door or who's on the phone. It's just a shame we can't turn his little talent to more... practical uses, like helping me out on jobs. Not that I'm ever letting him go on a job with me, even if he asked, but it's still an entertaining thought. But, really, he needs to quit unlocking the door like this! There's no guarantee someone won't just waltz in, or the old bastard might not show up, or -
"Welcome home, niisan!" the brat chirps from the kitchen. At least we're going to having a real meal tonight, if what I'm smelling is any indication. "How did everything go today?"
I toe off my shoes at the door, making extra sure to lock it and put the chain on before heading to the kitchen. "How many times do I have to tell you not to unlock the door before I get here?"
"Hello, niisan." Do I detect a note of chiding in his voice? Is he my mom or my brother? Jeez.
"Fine, fine. Hello, brat. Now, the door?" I snap.
"No one was going to be coming by here before you so it was okay."
I glare at his back as he stands at the counter chopping vegetables and wander over to snatch a carrot and use it to point at him. "Look. You're not 100% correct all the time, brat. One of these times, you're going to be wrong, and who'll I get to take your place? Trained slave labor isn't cheap or easy to find, you know."
"I'll be more careful, niisan." He grabs the carrot back and starts chopping it up. "Go change and wash up. It'll be ready soon."
I hesitate a second and then pat him on the head. I swear he looks like Mini-Me, about to explode in happiness. Yeah, I'm an asshole most of the time, but this is my brother, after all. He's trying to train me to be nice. The lessons are slowly taking. It's hard to unlearn years of habits, and I learned to be a jerk from the best. "I'll be back in a bit."
"Take your time. The fries are still cooking."
Magic words. He knows my weaknesses too well. Not that I have too many, but fries are definitely on the list, right up there with rare meat.
I head back to my bedroom to start changing. Glancing around the room, I can tell Ryou's been in here cleaning. Hmm, he found my hamper again. I thought I buried that thing good last time. I toss my jacket down on the bed and get the money envelope out of the inner pocket. I retrieve the lockbox from behind the false bottom of my dresser, unlock it with the key I keep hidden on the top shelf of my closet, and tuck the money away, before hiding the box and its key again. Only then do I change into jeans and a striped t-shirt, tossing my "work" clothes on top of the hamper. Ryou buys both our clothes, and he just gets two of the same thing, like our mom's mother used to do. Of course, that was a long time ago, before we quit looking quite so much alike and before the old lady kicked it and we ended up living with Oyaji. But there's no point thinking about that asshole and ruining what's left of my day.
Well, that should be enough time for the food to finish, so I wonder back to the kitchen. Ryou's setting out plates and the food and stuff, and I go wash my hands and help out. It makes the food be available faster, so I don't really mind.
Once we're sitting down and I've finished shoveling food in my mouth like Ryou would steal it from me, he inquires again, "How did work go today?"
I grab another fry or two to munch on as I answer. "Not too bad. The Bossling and his Mini-Me were there for the delivery instead of the Old Man."
Ryou frowns at me, as much as he politely can around his mouthful of salad anyway. "You shouldn't pick on them."
"The Bossling's an asshole. Mini-Me's not too bad, for a midget on Prozac."
"Niisan!" He sounds scandalized. Another point for me. The thief's doing damn good today. "You shouldn't say stuff like that!"
I cock an eyebrow and smirk, feeling a bit smug. "Why not?"
He doesn't even miss a beat. "Because it's something Oyaji would say."
Damn. How long as the brat been saving that one up? Maybe I should be taking lessons from him. "Damn, that was cold, brat," I mutter under my breath.
"I'm sorry, niisan, but it's true." He starts gathering the plates, leaving the remainder of the fries in front of me. "Maybe if you're nicer to them, they'll be nicer to you."
I frown and stuff another fry in my mouth. "I don't want to be nice." I scowl in though. "And if Mini-Me's any sweeter," I nearly choke on the word, "we'd all die of diabetes."
"You really shouldn't call him that, though," the brat continues. "It's just mean, after all."
"He thinks it's funny though, and I don't know any other name to call him," I admit. "I'm not calling him 'Aibou' like the Bossling does."
The brat does this kind of half-freeze at the sink, glancing at me over his shoulder. "I'm sure he has a name, though, niisan."
"Yeah, sure. I'll try to find it out. Will that satisfy you?"
The look he gives me is loaded. Threats, bribery, pleas, cajoling, it's all there. "And I won't call him 'Bossling' as much anymore. Fine! Now are you happy?" I have to clench my fist under the table to keep my temper from really letting go. As it is, I can see a tiny bit of fear hidden well in the back of his eyes. I take a deep breath and do what I hate to do second most in this world. "Sorry, Ryou."
"I- It's okay." Damn, he's stuttering again. Now I'm starting to feel bad. I hate that.
With a sigh, I push myself to my feet and stalk over to join him at the sink. At least he's not crying or anything. Still, that was stupid of me to lose my temper on him like that. I'm still awkward at this hug thing, but I put my arms around him hesitantly and pull him a little closer. He sniffles, but that's as close to crying as he'll come. Guess we both ended a bit fucked up. "Sorry," I say again.
He nods. "It's okay, niisan." He scrubs an arm over dry eyes. "I'm all right."
I frown slightly and state, "You look like something I'd kick back on the scrap heap." I can feel the frown grow as I take in how red his face is. "You burned again."
He turns a little redder, thought this is a blush now. "I ran out of sun block."
I sigh again. "You're supposed to tell me when you're low."
"You've been working lately, and you were asleep when I got home yesterday." He stares at the dishes in the sink like they hold the answers to the mysteries of life. "I'll pick some up before school tomorrow."
"And you'll finish frying walking there," I predict direly. "If I didn't know better, I'd swear you're part vampire."
"Better than getting fuzzy once a month."
It's a bit of an old joke between us. He's definitely not part vampire, and we only know one person who does the monthly fuzzy thing and that's our flatmate Jounouchi. We just figure maybe Mom did some of those funky drugs before we were born, so that's why he's so pale while I'm tan, and he know stuff before it happens, and we both have white hair, and the rest of the weird shit that is our lives.
I reach past him to retrieve the money stashed in the flour bin and start heading towards the door, snagging the last two fries as I go. "I'll be back in a bit. Stay inside, and keep the door locked this time. Miho'll be over to study with you sometime soon."
"You know, niisan, I'm not a kid anymore," he states, following me, hopefully to lock up after me. "You're welcome to stop treating me like one any day."
"I'll take that into consideration." Wow, that came out very Treeboy-ish.
He tosses one of his jackets at me. "The sun's going down. It's starting to get cold. My cell's in the right pocket. Call me if you need to. Be careful, and hurry home." He pushes me out the door and shuts it in my face. I have to laugh as I hear the lock slide home. I think I've just been evicted and I was being good for once. Irony's a sarcastic little bitch sometimes.
There's an all-night drug store a few blocks down from the apartment, and that's where I start heading. It's a fairly nice city we settled in, but it has its share of gangs, human and nonhuman, so it's never a wise idea to be too slow when walking at night, even if you're me. The brat would probably say here 'especially if you're you'. I'll admit I have a tendency to talk first and think second.
At least I make there without incident. I open the door, though, and have the distinct urge to wish for the ground to open me up and swallow me whole. Am I fucking cursed or something?
"You," the Bossling growls at me. I feel my eyes narrow. A distinctly long stream of curse words build in my mind. They're immediately followed by an image of the brat scolding me for all eternity, and I bite them back. "What're you doing here?"
Okay, screw being nice. He's being an asshole. "Stalking you obviously."
"What?" He actually looks completely baffled. So, I guess I'm up three points to the Bossling, and the night's still young.
"Don't flatter yourself. I live around the corner." I step the rest of the way in the door, letting it close behind me. The brat was right; the minute the sun went down, it got cold. "So what're you doing slumming with us commoners?"
"On my way to class."
An actual answer. Color me shocked. "Impressive. Almost a full sentence. Excuse me." I start to step past him, but he stays right behind me. What is he, my Velcro buddy now? "Help you with something?"
"Impressive. Almost a full sentence," he returns.
"Where's your better half?"
"At home where he belongs." He's still trailing me, so obviously he's not taking the hint, so I just opt to ignore him and go on with my shopping. The look on his face is great as we get to the sun block and pick out the highest strength. "What's that for?"
Years of habit makes me lie automatically to that one. "Friend of mine burns easy." I'm not about to tell the Bossling about the brat. It's not like it's any of his damn business.
It's also out of habit that I go over to the candy aisle and grab two bags: chocolate mints for the brat and dark chocolate for me. I haven't managed to shake my new shadow yet, but I guess he's not satisfied I do stuff like normal people yet. "Sweet tooth?"
"A bit." The is getting really annoying. It's like Twenty Questions or something. Of all the rotten spots of time, I had to come in when he was here. Hell, maybe I should go flip through some of the magazines till he leaves me alone. No, I should get back before the brat gets worried.
I march myself and my items to the counter. Makiko's working tonight, and she smiles at me before shooting a questioning look at the Bossling. She's used to me coming in here alone or with Ryou, and I think my new escort has thrown her for a bit of a loop, not that it hasn't done the same for me as well. She sends the Bossling a quick smile and starts ringing me up, and I toss a booster pack of Duel Monsters in for the brat. Now that gets a raised eyebrow. "I thought you didn't play."
"I don't. It's for a friend," I toss back, handing Makiko the money. Damn, did I shoot down some big hopes for the Bossling or something? For a second there, he looked like I kicked his puppy - or his Mini-Me as the case would be - then he's back to his usual bland expression. Not much gets a rise out of the Bossling. I take my change back from Makiko, grab my stuff, and turn, only to find myself pretty much nose-to-nose with the Bossling as he steps forward to drop a notebook and a pack of pens on the counter. "Excuse me, Your Highness," I growl. Hey, that's a pretty good nickname for him. It certainly suits him and his better than everyone else demeanor.
"Your friend can wait," he replies confidently, handing Makiko the exact change. And where the hell is he hiding change in leather pants? Gah, why the hell am I looking at his pants?! I have my eyes firmly fixed on my goal, the door, by the time he's got his stuff.
"Can I go now?" Patience is not a virtue I keep in good supply when he's around. I have plenty of it on jobs, but the Bossling, something about him makes me very impatient to be elsewhere, before I do something really stupid.
"Want a ride?"
I'm pretty sure my eyes are about to pop out of my head. What is this: the freaking Twilight Zone? I'm waiting for Rod Sterling to make a voiceover, and His Highness starts to smirk. Damn, I think he just gained back some of those points he lost to me. It's not often I'm flabbergasted. "I'll pass," I finally manage to get out. "It's only a couple of blocks."
Behind us, Makiko clears her throat and, once we're both looking at her, speaks. "They were saying something on the radio earlier about there being a lot of gang activity going on tonight."
The Bossling glances back at me, an eyebrow sardonically raised. "Sure about that ride?"
I flip him off. "Don't push your luck, asshole." He's so annoying. Damn. "I should have taken that job at Kaiba Corp," I mutter to myself, only half aware I'm thinking aloud now as I walk to the door, my new shadow trailing me like... well, like a shadow.
"You'd hate it. Kaiba's a complete asshole."
Holy shit. That's more than I've ever heard from him at once. And how does he know so much about Tree Up His Ass Seto?
I whirl to stare at him in shock, and that's probably what saves my life.
First draft: 21 November 2004
Revision: 03 December 2005
Wow, first chapter completed! This is the first for a lot of things for me: this is the first time I've written in the Yuugiou fandom, this is the first chapter of the first story in a series, this is the first time in ten years I've written in first person POV, and this is the first time ever I've written in present tense. It seems to flow best this way, so I'm rather happy with it.
Color of Life is, as I said, the first in what I plan to be a series of stories. You've noticed by now I'm sure that this is completely AU to the series. I'm taking a page from Katsu no Miko's book and setting it in the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter universe, where the supernatural is everyday. So here's your warning now: expect weird stuff to happen! We're talking witches, werecreatures, vampires, zombies, the works. All chapters and all stories will be from Bakura's point of view. What can I say? He's my favorite character, followed by Black Magician/Mahaado and Yami Yuugi, both of whom will have large roles. Pairings? Only my beta-readers know that, and they're not telling upon threats of "to the pain".
So anyway, given I intend to make the chapters roughly as long as this one, it could take a while for them to get out. Work with me, people. Reviews really help. Just a hint.