It's not often I'm rendered speechless, but frankly right now I'm floored. Never once in a million years would I have guessed... this. The incense smell is thick enough to make me feel ill, like it's crept into every surface. That must be the case because I only see two sticks burning before a portrait.
For a long minute, I stay frozen in the doorway before I find myself propelled forward. The face is so familiar, even in an old photograph, that I almost want to turn around and check the pulse of the person I woke up beside to make sure he's still with the living. It's not Yami though. The face is too innocent, the eyes too wide and trusting - and the wrong color completely. Yami's eyes are red, after all, and it's Yuugi's that are purple. The picture doesn't do those eyes a bit of justice, but that's Mini-Me beyond a shadow of a doubt. What the hell?
I whirl, one hand going for one of my knives before I can register it's the Old Man. Even then, I'm not sure I'm too coherent beyond a "Wh-what-" or two and pointing at the picture like an idiot. I think my brain's exploded. We'll be wiping it off the nice white walls sooner or later, since we don't have an Alfred here to end up with it all on his back.
The Old Man shuffles past me, touching the portrait fondly, with more than a hint of wistfulness. "I know what you're thinking." That's quite the accomplishment. I wonder, if I ask, would he clue me in? I mean, seeing as how I have no idea at the moment what I'm thinking. "It's not Atemu. This is Yuugi. You weren't here yet when It happened."
I can hear the capitalization on that word: 'It'. Kind of creep. I finally manage to get out a semi-coherent response: "Huh?"
"Three years ago, Yuugi was killed."
Huh? Wait? What? "But I - Yami-"
The Old Man shakes his head sadly. "Atemu was there when It happened. He saw everything."
One thing, at least, clicks. I never thought I'd say it, but thanks, Pegasus. "The kidnapping?"
He's going to get whiplash if he keeps whirling about like that. "You know about that?"
I shrug one shoulder. "Pegasus mentioned it."
"Oh, he did?" And I'm treated to a few anatomically impossible (not to mention chronologically improbable) lists of things Pegasus' mother did with that goddamn Funny Bunny. All I can guess is the Boss doesn't know Pegasus is a vampire - or he's pissed and doesn't give a shit. Finally, he takes a deep breath and visibly calms. Damn, I think that was scarier than any Were or vampire could ever hope to be. "What else did he say?"
Nothing if you're going to do something like that again, I have to hold back saying. Instead I reply, "That Kaiba Seto is the Master of Domino." I can't help that coming out sounding like a question. The Old Man is scary.
"Oh. That's it?" I almost feel let down by the non-reaction.
"Yeah." I stare over my shoulder at the picture. "Yami said-"
"Atemu blocked the whole thing out. He swears Yuugi's still alive. The doctors said it's a coping technique and I should just let him be. It's easiest to humor him than try to convince him otherwise now."
Humor him? The hell? "Humor him?" Okay, if the brat ever kicks it and I start getting delusions, someone, please, smack me back into my senses. "How is humoring him-"
"Yuugi and Atemu were very close. You have a younger brother; you should understand." Yeesh, I didn't know the Old Man could go all scary like that. "It's almost night, by the way. You might want to call him." He's out the door before I can get another word out, and I'm left staring behind him.
"I'm sorry, Bakura-kun."
I whirl again, this time to find Mini-Me right before me. I think my heart is in my throat, which of course only makes me belligerent. "What the fuck, midget? Trying to do me into an early grave?"
He chuckles softly, almost like the brat might do, and at least has the good grace to look ashamed. "I'm sorry I couldn't tell you the truth, Bakura-kun, but now you know, right?"
"Yeah, now I know. 'Too close to the problem,' indeed." I sigh, sinking down to sit on the floor and stare at him. "So how the hell are you like this? You're too passive to be a ghost and you never once set off any vibes like a spirit - not to mention I've seen you holdings stuff and talking to Yami! What gives?"
He sits down on the bed, arranging himself with his legs crossed. "Niichan and I were kidnapped three years ago, and I was killed. Niichan blocked out what happened and, somehow, bound my spirit to him. He-"
"Here you are.." I nearly jump out of my skin at the sound of the Pharaoh's voice behind me. Yesterday was Confuse Bakura Night and today's Scare The Shit Out Of Bakura Day, isn't it? No fucking fair. "You were gone when I woke up, and I was-"
He just glided right by the small shrine like it doesn't even exist. Is this what Mini-Me meant about him blocking it all out? I know I've heard many times that the mind can do amazing things like Kitty forgetting everything leading up to his turning, but for fuck's sake... "What the hell are you trying to slip by me, Atemu?" I interrupt him to ask.
Both the freaks look confused, but it's Yami that speaks up. "Excuse me? What do you mean, Kura?"
It's been mentioned to me a few (dozen) times that I'm entirely too impatient when I'm between jobs. "I said, what are you trying to pull on me? Is this one of your games or something, Pharaoh?"
He looks totally bewildered. Good, since I was feeling that way not too long ago. "Wh- what are you talking about?"
"You know the trouble I have with stuff like this, and yet you bring me here." I could hit him - and I might if I didn't have a feeling it might be counterproductive. He looks so lost. Maybe I'll take some pity on him, but just a bit. "What's that on the wall?" Even with me pointing directly at it, he doesn't seem to see it, and frankly that's the last straw. "It's a shrine! You know, the kind you put up for dead people!"
I didn't know Mini-Me could move like that. I do know that if he hadn't grabbed me, I was going to punch Yami for all I'm worth. Probably a good thing he did stop me, since I might have ended up regretting it, no matter how good it felt at the time, and I hate regretting anything. It still doesn't stop me from snarling, "Yuugi, you fucking blind idiot! Who else's face do you see plastered up there?"
He glances to the wall again, eyes widening just slightly, almost like he's starting to take this all in at last. We can only hope, I guess. Desperate red eyes turn back to me then down to the Mini-Me holding me back. "Aibou can't be dead. He's right there."
Stubborn son of a - I growl and step away from Yuugi, who obligingly lets me go. "You haven't been around me long enough to know that just because something is walking around doesn't mean it has a pulse?"
"Aibou isn't dead," he insists.
A growl escapes me again. He should be damn glad solving this mystery is more important to me than knocking his teeth in. "Yami, I like you, but you're an idiot."
"What do you mean?" Great, he's gone from confused and stubborn to confused and belligerent - and probably still stubborn too.
I let my eyes flutter closed as I try to find Mini-Me's signature amidst everything else in this godforsaken city. Okay, that's him. Why am I not surprised his 'humming' pattern is light and entirely too perky for someone who's dead. I reach behind me and feel the chill of my hand going through him. Oh, I do not like this feeling, but if this is what it takes to convince him, then I guess I'll have to live with it.
"Bakura?" Mini-Me sounds nervous. I can't say I blame him; I'd probably be nervous too if someone had his hand stuck through me.
I open to my eyes to see Yami staring at me - and more precisely, my hand - all goggle-eyed. "I couldn't do this to someone who's alive, could I?"
"Stop it, Bakura." Oops, looks like I'm back to 'Bakura' instead of just 'Kura'. "Please, stop it. You'll hurt him."
I pull my hand back, cradling it close to my chest. Now, instead of the lingering sting of the glass cuts, it aches with so much cold that it almost burns. I guess that's why he doesn't let people get close enough to possibly touch him. Where does he get the energy to be that cold? Wait a minute, he said Yami bound his soul to him when he died. That means- Oww. That explains a lot.
"Yami," Yuugi speaks up, "you have to remember what happened, as much for my sake as for your own."
Nice job with the guilt trip there, Mini-Me. I don't think even I could have done better. Yami staggers between us to sit on the bed, though it's a bit more like he just collapsed. My body seems to be moving on its own as it moves to kneel in front of him. "Yami?" I try to pack as many questions as I can into that one word. He's silent though, so I reach up to touch to the side of his face. "Yami?"
"Your hand is like ice," he mumbles, grabbing it and holding it between both of his. I can feel a faint energy pulsing between them. Look like I was right: Yuugi was being supported by Yami's energy. It explains why he kept getting tired. Sometimes I hate being right, really I do.
"Do you remember something?" Mini-Me asks from right over my shoulder. And it also explains why I could never track him by his footsteps.
Yami nods slowly. Silence stretches a long moment till I finally have to prompt, "You can tell me, Yami."
His voice is miles away when he speaks. "I remember a couple of guys grabbing me after school and being thrown in the backseat of a car. A minute later, Aibou was thrown in with me, and the car flew away. I remember getting tossed around when the driver took corners too sharply but trying to keep Aibou from being jostled too much. I remember the car slamming on brakes and the two of us being dragged into the basement of a house that looked ready to fall down on us. There was a bright flash of a camera as they took our pictures to send to Jiichan." He draws in a shaking breath. "Do I have to go on, Kura?"
And we're back to Kura. I guess that's good, isn't it? "I think you need to, Yami."
"I don't want Aibou to disappear like your cat did, though."
Damn, I almost forgot I told him about that. "Still, you need to get it out."
"How about if I promise to stick around as long as I can, niichan?" Mini-Me pipes up. Hmm, bribery is good. It might get us through this more or less intact. I'll have to keep that in mind.
Yami nods again and takes a deep breath. "I remember us sitting down there for what felt like forever. I remember being told to be quiet often, even though I don't recall us making any noise. I remember one guy bringing us water and the most horrible sandwiches." He shakes his head as though to clear it. Almost unconsciously, I climb up on the bed next to him and feel him wrap an arm around my waist as he lays his head on my shoulder. It's a little awkward, since I've never really done something like this, but I hold as best I can. "That last day... the door opened and I thought it was the burly guy who brought the food, but it was the others. One of them had a video camera and started filming their leader. He said something about it being a live broadcast to Jiichan and the other gaming heads and this was what happened when he got the cops involved and didn't pay all the ransom money."
He's starting to shiver. This can't be good. We - I may be - must be pushing him too hard. I just never would have dreamt it'd be like this, even with Pegasus' hint about the kidnapping. "Yami, you don't have to-"
"He put a gun to Aibou's head and pulled the trigger. For a second, I thought I was deaf, then I heard screaming - and it was me doing it. There was... stuff all over me, and Aibou was starting to slump against me. The leader turned back to the camera and said, 'Mutou, this will happen to your other grandson too if you don't come through soon.' He started to choke; the guy holding the camera was gasping. They started falling to the ground, then... I guess I passed out because I woke up in a hospital bed with Aibou standing right beside me. I thought it was all a bad dream, since, I mean, he was right there and he certainly didn't look dead."
"I was confused too, niichan," Mini-Me admits. "I couldn't figure out why I didn't go anywhere and just ending up staying near you. Once I figured out what happened, though, it made more sense why Jiichan didn't talk to me too and why Jounouchi-kun quit hanging around."
So that's why Yami didn't know about the changes in Kitty, that he's a Were now and all... Wait a minute. Wait a goddamn minute. Yuugi died three years ago. Kitty was turned only a couple of months after that. Suddenly everything's starting to fall into place. I have to admit I always wondered what Kitty had been doing on the bad side of town that night. I think I've finally figured out why. Damn it, Jounouchi. Damn it. But I can't say for sure I wouldn't do something similar if the situations were reversed, because something's happened here that never occurred in Tokyo: I have more attachments than just my brother. For better or worse, it seems I have people I've allowed myself to become close to, and I do for them like I would for the brat. They're mine, all of them: Ryou, Yami, Jounouchi, Yuugi, Seto, Mokuba, even Malik. What the hell's happened to me?
"Am I going to lose Aibou now?" He's talking into my shoulder, and I have a sneaky suspicion he's just barely holding back tears. Have to admire that kind of determination. Or maybe he's in shock. Either way, he didn't break down. When it comes to my brother, I'm a wuss; if something like this happened to him, I'd have followed him to the grave, one way or another.
I let my eyes close and find Yuugi again. I can't feel any difference in him, any weakening. If anything, I'd be more inclined to say he's stronger. And he 'feels' content. "I think you're stuck with him a while longer yet, Pharaoh," I answer, opening my eyes again.
"I like being here," Mini-Me puts in, all perky and happy again. "I like being around you, niichan, and you, Bakura-kun - and Ryou-kun too, even if he can't see me. I like him. He talks to me, even tough he doesn't know where exactly I am."
"Whoa, whoa, back up there. You do not have designs on my little brother, do you?" And Mini-Me's staring at the skylight like it holds the answers to life. "Are you waiting for inspiration to strike or the floor to swallow you?"
"Both" comes promptly.
I shake my head, barely holding back a snicker. The midget at least has a bit of a sense of humor, one I can appreciate at least. "Make him cry, and I'll make sure you die for good this time."
And oww, that hurt. Have I mentioned Yami hits hard? He does. Not like... but still. "Bakura," he draws out, finally lifting his head to look at us. "Don't be mean to my brother. I'm not mean to yours."
"Sure. Whatever. I'll be good." This time, anyway. "I need to call Kitty. Where'd we drop my cell phone?"
"My room, I think." Yami stands and head back in there. There isn't even a trace of a limp tonight. I mean, the doctor said the bullet just grazed him and if he'd stayed still, it wouldn't have bled nearly as much. But Pharaoh-boy had to be all over the place - and we certainly weren't going to leave him alone and bleeding in a place crawling with Weres and vampires.
Back to Jounouchi, though. I still need some answers there. I need to know if what I think happened is what really did happened. And Yuugi said something. "Hmm?" I mean-
I mean, if he really wandered down to the warehouse district in a fit of depression or something - "Jounouchi." - am I going to have to keep an eye on him if something happens to one of the rest of us?
"Why do you call him that?" Curious little spirit-thing, that Mini-Me is. I'd almost say it's adorable, the way his face is all scrunched up in thought and his head is tilted to the side.
"Because he's a Wereleopard."
And it just got really cold in here. Did I miss a memo or something? Was Mini-Me not supposed to know this information? "Niichan," he calls and I shiver. Yami freezes in the doorway, my cell phone in hand. "Why didn't you tell me about Jounouchi-kun?"
This seems as good a time as any to beat a hasty retreat. "I'll leave this between the two of you," I excuse myself, hopping off the bed, grabbing the phone from Pharaoh-boy, and securing myself in his room. I don't get involved in family arguments unless they're with the brat; I damn sure don't get involved when it's not my own family.
Speed-dial three, having a seat on Pharaoh-boy's bed, and I'm listening to ringing noises as I wait for Kitty to pick up. It's really close to dark; I wonder if he's even gone home yet. I suppose I can live with him spending so much time around Treeboy, bad influence that he might end up being on my housecat.
"Jounouchi Katsuya's phone, Kaiba Seto speaking?" I can clearly hear the question mark tacked on the end.
"Don't you know your own name anymore, Treeboy?" I have to get at least one taunt in. It's a moral imperative. Messing with Tree Up His Ass Seto makes my nights.
"Bakura," he growls. "What do you want?"
"Is Kitty where I can speak to him?" I'm not even going to ask if he's decent or anything like that. Kitty's like me and is rarely far from his phone. If Seto's answering it, then... yeah. Either someone's in the shower, still in bed, or possibly getting fucked hard (in which case the background is awfully quiet - and if Seto's answering the phone, Kitty isn't doing something right). I'm going with Option Two, though, personally.
"He's... still asleep. Should he be awake by now?" There is the faintest edge of panic in his voice. I suppose Kitty's affections are returned after all then. Good to hear. However, panicking vampires is not something I want to deal with that other little revelation.
"Sometimes it takes days to sleep off shifting back and forth so quickly. It's hard to do at any time, but this close to the full moon especially. The part of him that's a cat would really rather stay a cat, you see. You really need to start boning up on Weres... before you start boning Kitty anyway."
Oww. As loud as that clatter was, I guess he just dropped the phone or maybe even threw it. Why do I tolerate Treeboy again? Oh yeah, Master of Domino, and Kitty likes him. There is silence for a moment, a shuffling sound, then a perky voice saying, "Hello?"
And that would be the nicer Kaiba brother. "Yo, half-pint. Where'd your brother go?"
"He dropped the phone, is all." Damn, I'm good. "I think you broke niisama, Bakura."
"Well, hand him the phone. I need to finish the job."
Another shuffling noise, the phone shifting hands I suppose, and then Treeboy's voice comes through once more. "Yeah? What now, Bakura?"
Gah, how to put this...? "Do you know how long Kitty's been a Were?"
He's quiet for a second, like he's taking the opportunity to sit first before I make him keel over again. "Almost three years. Why?"
Getting to that in a minute, Treeboy. "Do you know of anything that might have, I don't know, led up to his becoming a Were?"
He's quiet for a second, at least till I realize he's mumbling to himself ever so quietly and, silly human that I am, I'm only getting a few words here and there. "Three years ago... was when... he went... couldn't have seen... but... Oh hell." The last bit comes in loud and clear. "I'll talk to him when he wakes up."
"He doesn't remember anything about when he was turned," I caution.
"I'll see what he does remember then."
"Let me know."
He makes some kind of noise, I can't tell if it's agreement or not, before shutting off Kitty's phone. With a sigh, I cut my off as well and lean back on Yami's bed.
What a fucking weird couple of days it's been. My abilities decide to make a vocal reappearance, only apparently they never rewally went into submission since I had no trouble at all seeing Yuugi. Then we get carted to Tokyo and back, after turning Domino itself upside down, only to find out Treeboy was Master of Domino all along and none of us knew it, not even him. And now I find out Mini-Me's been dead this entire time, and Yami somehow bound his brother's spirit to him - and that's another thing we have no idea about how it happened. Three weird-ass days indeed...
In my hand, my phone rings. Wearily, I lift it up and look at the caller ID: Mahaado. "Yeah?" I answer. Mahaado knows me well enough to know I'm rarely at my best; he isn't going to say a thing about me answering the phone less than is proper.
"I see you found your powers' key."
20 May 2005
*falls over* And it's finally done. It was actually done yesterday, but I fell asleep typing so I had to delay it till this morning. All that remains now is the epilogue, which is already done and should be following this chapter. Thanks for sticking with everyone! And a special thanks to the following people for pre-reading or wonderful comments:
Katsuko, Marika Ikeda, Robin Terrae, Desolate03, Rein, Silvershadowfire, Brigette, MotherCHOWGoddess, and everyone else! Thanks so much! Cheers!