Apollymi avatar

She's all dolled up like Marilyn Monroe as she belts out "Happy Birthday, Mister President". I wonder what it takes to bleach (or dye or whatever) black hair to that shade of platinum blonde, because even I can tell that's not a wig. Yami would get a kick out of her, if he were here. Damn shame he's not; this is more his thing than mine. He's the American movies fan, after all, not me, so I'm sure he could get a lot more of the cliches that abound here that I know I'm missing.

This place certainly wouldn't have been my idea of a fun place to spend my Friday night, but it was better than the alternative: namely, sit around the house and watch TV. Now mind you, Treeboy's TV is roughly the size of a movie theater and he's got surround sound going, which I can definitely appreciate, but weekends are just... Well, they're tough for me. Nine out of ten weekends, the Old Man steals Yami and his Mini-Me for the entire weekend. I try not to care too much because he's mine the rest of the week, but three days of sitting around the house gets really old really fast, and I really don't enjoy it.

So Treeboy asking a favor of me sounded like a good thing, at least till I heard what the favor was. Then it just sounded exciting. So far in my life, I've run a street gang, I've been a professional thief, I've killed someone (but I usually try not to advertise that one)... and now I'm working for a master vampire, trying to track down a serial killer. Not too shabby for nineteen, if I must say. As long as Treeboy doesn't get too many ideas about what kind of work I can do for him. I am, sadly, retired from stealing.

The longer I'm here and the more nights I have to show up, though, the more I want to rip Treeboy a new one. It's loud, it's smoky, I've been propositioned more times than I want to think about, and there's a Jean Harlow who's apparently not going to give up till she gives me a lap dance. If it didn't mean finding a brand-new Master of the City and getting that one broken in to my satisfaction, I'd kill him. I've spent the last few weekends working on this, mostly to keep Yami from worrying, and I don't think I'm any closer to finding the guy than when I started. I mean, a killer that preys exclusively on low-end hostesses?

This is the kind of case that should be high on the police's priority lists. With all the bodies completely drained of blood and marks of multiple vampire bites, it almost looks like there's a group of rogue vampires prowling the city. I mean, in Tokyo and in America, there are entire police squadrons devoted to preternatural cases like this; here in Domino, though, they don't seem to want to have anything to do with it. That's how things were handled under the previous Master (fucking Gouza-bastard): if it was supernatural in nature, they were to leave it to his people to handle. Treeboy can't change everything overnight, no matter what he thinks. That's our Kaiba, though: the consummate idealist.

Harlow gives me another wink and what's probably supposed to be a 'come hither' look, and I do my damnedest to ignore it. There's something whispering in the back of my head that says tonight's Marilyn's last performance. It might be the ghost that I spotted walking in the door the first night, or I might finally be developing a sense for this kind of stuff. Either way, it's getting close to closing time -- and maybe Marilyn's final curtain if I don't start coming up with some kind of an idea here. Last thing I want, after all, is a bleached blonde ghost warbling "Happy Birthday, Mister President" at me till I track down her killer. It's killing me enough to listen to it from her living without hearing a ghostly rendition of it.

"I see you're making friends as always, Bakura."

It takes everything in me to not jump or reach for a knife or anything like that. I don't know why the supernatural people I live with tend to think, for some ungodly reason, that just because I can't benchpress a truck, I'm not a dangerous person -- and therefore it's okay to sneak up on me. I swear, if one more leopard tries to sneak up on me, I'm going to superglue bells to every last one of them. Usually the vampires are a lot less playful with the whole idea, but every so often...

"You know me: the whole winning friends and influencing people is what I do best. What the fuck are you doing here, Seth?" I turn as I ask... then have to turn around again to face the other way because he's dropping into the seat next to me.

"I needed to get out of the house for a while. Helping you out on this seemed like an interesting way to do it. Besides, it's a full moon and my cats are all out..."

Woah there. 'My cats'? 'My'? Only two people say that: Kitty and Treeboy. That means this isn't Seth. And now that I think about it, the eyes are too light a shade of blue, there's absolutely no red to speak of in his hair, and he's a few centimeters too short. How the hell did they get his skin so close to matching Seth's?! And better still, why?! "What the fuck, Treeboy?!"

"You have no volume control, do you?"

I narrow my eyes and glare, not that it has any effect, since the bastard's not even looking at me. He's checking out the crowd. "Not right now. It goes right along with your lack of common sense. What the hell are you doing here?" At least I manage to keep it down to a volume between a hiss and a stage whisper. Anyone else wouldn't be able to hear me over the noise in the club, but Treeboy acts like he might as well be the Six Million Dollar Man... or would that be the Six Billion Yen Vampire? Hmm, food for thought. Anyway... He should be able to hear me.

"Because Mokuba reassembled the coffee pot," oh fucking hell, I'm so not coming home till after the sun comes up, "my cats are completely preoccupied with keeping Ishtar from getting killed," because no matter what Marik says, pink kitty Larry doesn't like his tail pulled (and if Amane ever sees him in cat form, she'll definitely be dressing him up), "and I thought you could use my help getting this over with this year."

...Huh? Did Treeboy just offer to help me out, in his own roundabout, high and mighty way? It's not like he's giving me a lot of choice in the matter, but that's a typical Treeboy maneuver -- and this is still counting as a favor paid off for letting the brat and me live at his place... and paying my hospital bills last year... and not killing Yami no matter how many times he mouths off... and a small host of other things. I really dislike being in anyone's debt, even if he's been oddly silent about it, and I don't think I'm ever climbing out of this particular hole. Not any time soon anyway.

"Do you really think that's a wise idea?"

He finally turns to look at me, one eyebrow slightly raised. "Do you have any better ones?"

"A few," I shoot back. "I know who the next one is going to be."

"Really?" Ignore the dripping sarcasm, Bakura. Just ignore it. He's just trying to piss you off. Pretend he's not succeeding. You're going to get him back in a moment. "Who?"

"Marilyn Monroe."

There is something extremely gratifying about seeing Treeboy look utterly confused. Making him look anything other than calm and collected sort of makes my day; it's such a rare event. "I know you get confused about living and dead, but Marilyn Monroe's been dead for sixty years. Even you should know that."

I didn't even bother to try hiding rolling my eyes. "Not the actress, Treeboy. The hostess..." I turn to point at her... and she's not there. "Fuck!" When the hell did I get to my feet? Oh well, no worrying on that right now.

There is a steady stream of foul language escaping me as I run for the door, Treeboy on my heels. The only reason I can see why he hasn't passed me is likely because I'm the only one who knows where these people have been killed (not where the bodies were found) and which back alley all the ghosts in the area are pointing to -- and there are no shortages of those in this part of town. I hate the west side.

We've circled the building and are closing in on the alley when I spot them. My God... If every sense I have wasn't screaming 'vampire' at me, I'd swear they're zombies. Each one of them is more emaciated than the one standing next to them, and I can't tell if their skin is so pasty white that it makes Treeboy look tan normally or some new and ghastly shade of grey. The only way to determine if they're male or female is by the clothes they're wearing, and even some of those are if-fy; it's hard to tell the difference between male cut and female cut clothes when they're covered in dirt and... and, well, ick. I don't even want to think what some of this 'ick' might be because, if I do, I might lose it. So I'm staring at various bits of gross that would have definitely had the Croquet guy who works for Pegasus tossing his cookies -- and I'm trying not to puke myself.

On a purely academic level, I've always known there were many kinds of vampires, just like there are many kinds of Weres. Some of the stuff I've overheard from Seth and Noah talking alone guarantees that there are at least three types, including Japan's local variation -- and something gives me the sick feeling these guys might represent either the ones Seth so eloquently described as 'rotters' or a whole new kind. And if it is the latter... Well, we're in trouble anyway, but that might make it a whole lot worse.

Almost like they're all running on one mind, they turn to stare at us, and I feel a shiver go down my spine that I'm never going to admit to. That many lifeless eyes, and they're all focused on us.

No, scratch that 'us'. Me. They're all looking at me, like yours truly is a steak to a starving man. I've been living with two packs of Weres for the last year; this is like the most twisted pack mentality I've ever seen. I can practically watch the bloodlust enter all their eyes at once, and there goes that shudder again. I'm not too proud to admit to falling back a step into Treeboy... and then a scream echoes through the close streets, bouncing off these close walls so that it sounds like it's all around us. On the other side of the pack is Marilyn -- and even I can tell how scared she is and I'm probably the only one in this alley not smelling it.

Again as one, they turn towards her. Treeboy whispers, "Bakura, get her out of here, and I'll handle this lot," just loud enough for me to hear over my own heart pounding. How the hell are they not getting to him? If we get out of this alive, I'm cracking him open to see if there are gears and cogs inside him or not. I swear to God I will. Still, robot vampire or not, he has a point, and I nod my understand. This is going to be... interesting, is all I can think for a long second.

As a thief, I've prided myself more with stealth than speed. With all the crap that's happened lately and especially with all the attempts on my life last year, though, I've gotten to where I'm decently quick. I mean, I'm not beating a leopard in a foot-to-paw race, but I'm no slouch. Still, this may take a bit more physical strength than I've got to get through this lot.

Like they're one creature in many bodies, they take a shambling step towards Marilyn, all of them moving their right foot in time -- and I'm vaguely reminded of the brat's bootlegged 'horror' films, where the killer is just ambling along behind the running victim yet somehow manages to keep pace. I have no doubt at all in my mind that they'll be able to keep up with us, but goddamn it, I don't want another ghost on my conscience. If I have anything to say about it, I won't tonight. No use thinking about this...

I take a deep breath and hold it in as I run, darting beneath the arm of the one closest to me, elbowing another aside, dropping to escape a grabbing hand, skirting around as much of the group as humanly possible, and generally trying to avoid the smell and getting caught. It seems like a few terrifying forevers, but finally I have my hand around Marilyn's. "Come on!"

To give her proper credit, she's only frozen in place a moment, then she turns and runs. And damn... If she ever decides to give up on being a hostess, she should try out for Olympic track. I have several centimeters on her, not to mention I'm not wearing heels, and I'm having a hard time keep up with the woman. "What about your friend?" she calls over her shoulder at me.

I glance back myself. Treeboy's holding his own in that mob. No surprise there. One, he's a master vampire despite his age, so he should be more than capable these punks because, two, they're not interested in draining a fellow vampire dry, not when two tasty humans are so close at hand. "He'll be fine, and he's not my friend!" And damn it, I'm not worried if he'll be okay because it's Treeboy. He's always okay; it's the rest of us that catch the crap.

The shuffling footsteps behind us corroborate my thoughts on them keeping up with us; the accompanying smell confirms this. I'm not turning around again. I don't want to see just how close they really are. We start to turn a corner, and something, one of them I suppose, grabs my hair and yanks me back. Now I really regret never cutting it all these years. Okay, new order if I survive this: chop my hair off short so it's not as easy a target as now, then I'll see if Treeboy really is a robot or not. I'll also need to inform Treeboy of his new nickname of RoboVamp, whether he is or isn't one, again assuming we both survive.

Whatever I hit when I fall back gives and not in ways that I really want to think about. The human body doesn't give like that unless it's dead, well and truly dead -- and maybe a little bit hollowed out. I have to admit that I panic. For as much time as I spend around ghosts, I don't do well around dead things. At least Marilyn is out of sight; that's one less thing to worry about. Thankfully, though, my version of panic amounts to finally putting to use some of the assbeating skills Treeboy's been insisting on my learning. I'm completely on autopilot, but there's kicking and a bit of punching... which actually further serves to turn my stomach as I can feel my fist go wrist-deep into the side of a face. I mean, on anime, it looks really cool, but in real life, it's just gross... and fuck!

I'm yanking hard, trying to get my hand free when two others of them grab at me. Someone yells my name, and I think it's Treeboy, but I really have no clue because I'm really just trying to avoid yellowed teeth. I can feel the ghosts of the west side reaching for me and I don't know if they're trying to help me get away or help me die and that voice is back and louder than ever and all I can hear is /Call upon me, and I will destroy these creatures that seek to harm you. Kill them, call on me, and it will all go away. Call on me, little thief, and do it now! Just say my name: Zork...!/

Fuck, fuck, fuck... Usually when I hear that voice, I'm under orders to get my ass wherever Yami is right away. There's no doing that now, though. Teeth close down on my arm, and a scream breaks out of me. If I could form coherent words, I might yell the name I keep hearing whispered in my head, but there aren't words, just a scream.

And suddenly all those ghosts are here in the alley, and the only order I can give is a purely mental 'Don't kill Treeboy' because anything else is beyond me right now. I shove at the walking corpse that has its fangs in my arm at the same time as Treeboy finally wades his way through the diminishing mob, only a bit worse for the wear, not that I can actually see that much of him aside from the hand reaching in and grabbing the vamp trying to eat my arm, yanking it away from me. It reacts with remarkable celerity for only having a few seconds of unlife left and counters by shoving me away hard.

I think I'm actually airborne for a second before I hit something hard with first my shoulder then my head. And hmm, that's interesting. Yami's not the only thing that stops that voice. Unconsciousness works just as well in a pinch.

* * * * *

I think I'm going to throw up. I feel like a quarter mile of well-traveled road, my entire right shoulder aches, my left forearm feels like someone shoved a red hot poker through it, and my head is going to explode in the very near future. Can I go back to unconsciousness now?

Wait a minute. There's someone sitting next to me and a cool hand touching my forehead. Last thing I remember is a bunch of vamps trying their level best to make me into a meal and/or silly putty. Who the hell is this now? I wrestle my eyes open... and apparently I must have a concussion; why else would I be seeing a Treeboy sitting on the dirty ground of a west side back alley with me? But that doesn't explain why my vision is slowly clearing and the pain is even more slowly receding . There aren't a lot of things that explain that, except...

The hand draws away and all I can see are blue eyes. "Bakura?" I'll be damned. He almost sounds worried. I'm impressed. First I rate the 'fangs and a hearty fuck-off' tone, and now I get the worried voice that's usually reserved for someone with the last name Kaiba or Jyonouchi, as well as the first mark. Yeah, color me impressed.

"I'm here." I'm not going to lie and say I'm fine, mainly because lying to a vampire is kind of stupid; they can always tell.

"Can you move? We need to get out of here. It's half an hour till dawn."

Fuck. How long was I out? And how much worse can this night get before it's over? Okay, think, Bakura. Akito might be able to get us anywhere inside the city inside of ten minutes, but getting him moving this early might be a bit of a trick, not to mention all these narrow streets will certainly slow him down. We wouldn't make it back in time. Fuck fuck fuck fuck... What are the other options? Where can we get inside of half an hour in the condition we're both in? Only one place is coming to mind, and even that will be tight time-wise. Not like we have any other choice really, not unless Treeboy has places scattered throughout the city that he hasn't mentioned in a year.

I don't waste the breath to say I can move, and I just start pushing myself to my feet. First mark or no, I'm still a little shaky and I hurt like a son of a bitch, but damn it, I'm moving. And this makes another one I owe Treeboy. He's not going to know about the RoboVamp nickname at least; that'll be a start... and maybe I won't break him open to see if he's a robot. "The apartment's the only place close enough to get before you turn into a crispy critter," is all I say. I have a feeling it's going to take every bit of breath and energy to get there.

* * * * *

Sometimes I hate being right. Let's just say it's a good thing Treeboy is adept at trying to beat the dawn because as it is, I'd say we avoided sunlight by all of two minutes, if that. We take the elevator up, and I pick the lock to my own apartment. What can I say? I quit carrying the key five months ago. Anyway, the brat's bedroom is the only one without any windows, so I direct him in there. I've got the door open to my own old room and am about two seconds from just crashing on the floor when I hear a tired voice say, "Bakura?"

I'm hearing my own name a lot more in the last few hours than I have in quite a while. "What?" I demand, barely turning towards him.

"This didn't happen." For half a second, I stand there and stare at him in confusion. Yes, it takes that long for me to remember what happened last year with the assassins Oyaji sent after me, that he never let anyone who didn't witness one of the attempts know about them till it was completely unavoidable. "There's no need worrying anyone about this. The problem's taken care of, so there's no need to mention it to anyone."

"Wasn't planning on it." Last thing I want is to see the brat or Yami worried over something that's over and done with, and it's not like I'm ever letting him give me another mark. Treeboy's decent enough in his own way, once you get to know him, but I don't think I want to be bound to him for the rest of his life. I'm not exactly human servant material after all. "We kicked ass, we neglected to take names, over and done with." I pause, debating on if I want to say anything or not. I might be wrong, after all. "I don't think this is over, though."

"I know. Me too."

Great... More fun times ahead. Just my luck. Fuck.

posted by Apollymi @ 3:45 PM


Apollymi avatarSeries: Yuugiou
Pairing: You'll see!!
Notes: Based on another of those Weird-Ass Dreams (TM) of mine...
Word Count: 5,051

Mokuba meant well. He was certain he did. It was just that his very popular and outgoing little brother didn't understand he had absolutely no interest in socializing, much less the mini party the sneaky kid had pulled seemingly out of a hat and had somehow gotten security to allow to happen in his office. Birthday or not, there was only so much interruption of his day to day activities, such that they were according to Mokuba, that he could tolerate.

Now, thanks to that little party and how long it had taken him to shoo everyone out, he was running about two and half hours behind on his work. At least tomorrow was Sunday, so he didn't have to worry about getting up too early. He might even treat himself and allow himself to sleep in till eight.

At least it hadn't been the entire group that tended to cluster around Mutou Yuugi. His office never would have handled it, much less he himself. Ever since their return from Egypt a few months back, the coterie had begun to dwindle. Kujaku was in China last he heard, while Otogi was almost as busy in his business as he was in his own. Bonkotsu's sister lived too far away for frequent visits, and thankfully the Ishtars had remained in Egypt. One of the most interesting fringe members, however, had disappeared almost completely off the radar the minute the plan back to Japan had landed. Even with all the resources at his disposal, he'd only found one blip of information on Bakura Ryou: when he'd withdrawn from Domino High two days after they returned, sold his apartment, and purchased a train ticket to Tokyo.

A tap at the door interrupted his thoughts. He knew that particular knock well; it was Mokuba's, after all. "Come in," he called out.

Seconds later, his little brother popped into the room and bounced into one of the chairs that was in front of his desk. "Did you have a good time, niisama?" he asked without prelude.

He shrugged. "Good enough."

The smile on his brother's face grew brilliantly. "Great! I'll be heading home now. " He glanced at the paperwork piling up, quickly mentally gauging how long it would take to finish. "You'll be home in a couple hours?"

He nodded shortly. "Most likely."

"Come tell me good night when you get home." Mokuba winked at him, and he had to restrain himself from rolling his eyes. "Unless you decide to go out and get lucky tonight." The younger Kaiba laughed. "Yeah, right. Try not to work too hard! And happy birthday, niisama!"

His brother vanished back out the door almost as quickly as he'd come through it in the first place. He had to shake his head in amusement before turning back down to the papers before him. Mokuba really did mean well. Sometimes that's what it took to get him through the day. Only a moment or two later, though, Mokuba's knock repeated itself. What in the world could he have forgotten? "Come in, Mokuba."

"Why, thank you, niisama." That wasn't Mokuba's voice though. It was about five years too old physically and centuries older in weariness. He looked up sharply as the door opened and closed quickly, to see dark brown eyes staring back at him.

"What are you doing here?" he managed to get out through his surprise. Better still, how had he managed to get by security?

The other tsked softly. "For shame, Kaiba-kun. Hard at work on your birthday. Days off are good for you, you know. What does Mokuba-kun say about your workaholic tendencies?"

"He's given up on fighting them. Now, what are you doing here? How did you get in the building?"

"I slipped in when security was letting Mutou and the others out. As for why I'm here," he smiled angelically, a look he'd seen the other do at Yuugi frequently to put the smaller boy at ease, though it did little of that for him, "can't I wish a friend a happy birthday peacefully?"

This whole conversation was just too bizarre. "Why didn't you come with the others then?"

The smile fell hard and fast into a frown. He stalked over to drop in the seat Mokuba had recently vacated. "I said I wanted to do it in peace. There's no way I could do it in the presence of attempted murderers, was there?"

He'd once thought that the other and Yuugi were halfway around the bend into insanity before finally admitting the truth about the Egyptian spirits. Now he had to wonder if he'd gone that far and further with talk like that and the sudden mood shifts. "'Murderers'?"

He waived the question away with a pale hand and a small smile. "That's not very happy talk, especially not for a birthday."

"Where did you go?" He had to ask. He had to know. No one just vanished off his radar like Bakura Ryou had done after all.

"Here and there. Wherever my search took me." He started to question that turn of phrase, but the other held up a hand for quiet, and to his own surprise, he closed his mouth on the inquiry. "That's not the point right now, Kaiba-kun. The point today is, it's your birthday, and you're still not even relaxing. Come with me. There's nothing here that can't wait till Monday."

Was it a sign he was losing it that he immediately stood to do just that? Caution stepped in first, though, and made him ask, "What did you have in mind?"

"Us, anywhere but here -- and preferably somewhere Mutou and his merry band of moronic misfits won't show up."

He paused pulling on one of his many trench coats to look over at the white-haired young man. "You hate them." There was no question in it.

"'Hate' is too mild a word for this feeling. 'Detest' might even be an understatement. 'Loathe'? Yes, 'loathe' might work." It should probably be disturbing that he sounded so bland about the whole thing, but it wasn't all that long ago that he'd had murderous thoughts about Yuugi and, more specifically, the other Yuugi.


Bakura climbed to his feet and made his way to the door before replying. "Like I said: attempted murder. Do you eat Chinese, or would Italian be better? Is there something else you'd prefer? It's your birthday after all."

"Italian's fine. You are going to explain what you mean by that, right?" The other beamed too innocently, so probably not. "And are you going to wear a jacket? It's turning into winter out there."

"My last stopover was a lot colder than this, and my next one will be a lot warmer. I'm fine." Bakura cut himself off as he dropped one of his suit coats around his shoulder. "Or I'll wear a jacket. You live to get your way, don't you, Kaiba-kun?"

"Of course." Of course, if he really got his way, he probably wouldn't be going out at all right. He'd be finishing up the last of the paperwork he had here at the office then going home to put Mokuba to bed, before finishing the bit of his work he'd taken home last night. He did have a tad bit of curiosity to assuage as they headed to the elevator and started down. "Were you still in Japan?"

Bakura laughed. "No. I've been everywhere except Japan lately: America, England, Europe. I was in Russia before I came here."

Russia? "So when did you come back to Japan?" The elevator dinged and its doors opened almost silently to the ground level floor. One of the security guards sitting at the main desk glanced at him and Bakura then at the clock, a pointed reminder that he was leaving about three hours earlier than he normally did and that this was the first time he'd ever left with someone other than Mokuba.

"About three hours ago. And my flight to Baghdad leaves the day after tomorrow at noon, before you ask."

"So you came back..." He trailed off, both unable and unwilling to put his thoughts to words.

"...just for your birthday? Yep." The air outside the building was brisk, a sure sign that real winter wasn't long from arriving. He could see breath puffing out before their faces, and that didn't really matter because Bakura had just grabbed his hand and grinned broadly. "I think I remember where there was a good Italian place near here."

With no small amount of private amusement, he let himself be pulled along by the other. The cold really didn't seem to bother Bakura in the least and it seemed likely he could have gone without the extra layer of his jacket. Coming from the climate-controlled Kaiba Corp building and especially his warm office, though, he had to admit he was a bit chilled. Thankfully it wasn't very far to the restaurant Bakura had in mind. Him stepping in the door was all that was needed to get them seated almost immediately far away from the rest of the crowd, which brought a laugh from the other. "Well, that's useful" was all the white-haired man said, though.

He waited till the waiter (who looked suspiciously old enough and nervous enough to be the owner or maybe the manager) had left with their orders to speak again. "So what is it you're looking for that you have to go all over the world to find it?"


The one word answer was so simply stated that he almost wasn't sure he'd heard it right. "Magic?" He nodded. "For what?"

"Now that is a secret, Kaiba-kun." There was a faint twinkle in his eyes that he was beginning to understand meant a subject jump was on its way. "I hope you realize I'm getting you dessert too. Sweets are good for you, and my other always said you're too skinny."

He shook his head, almost giving into the urge to laugh that wasn't maniacally or at the other Yuugi. "Bakura..."

"Call me Ryou, Kaiba-kun. It'll be less confusing."

What was confusing were statements like that! "Fine. Ryou, what are you up to?"

He hadn't seen a smirk like that in nearly seven months, since that rather fateful trip to Egypt. It was vaguely reminiscent of the other Yuugi, but there was something else, something he hadn't seen since a night on the roof of the Kaiba Corp building... and on another version of the person in front of him. "Well, since you're on to me, my ever so nefarious plot was to have a good time with a friend before I head on to the Middle East."

"I wasn't aware I was your friend."

"Now that was just mean, Kaiba-kun." He was still smirking though. How interesting. "So, do you have a curfew, birthday boy? Will I get you in trouble with your brother if I keep you out late?"

He chuckled in vague amusement. "Mokuba would probably give up the internet for a week to get me to have even a social life for one day."

Bakura -- No, Ryou laughed. "I'd hate to cut off the boy's 'net. It'd be like a fate worse than death."

"He wouldn't mind too much. He gets to stay up till I get home either way."

"So his big brother gets a social life that doesn't involve signing autographs or paperwork, and he gets to stay up late. I should have tried a deal like that with Amane." Ryou laughed again. "It probably wouldn't have worked on her though. Maybe my other, but not Amane."

The first course came out then, and he waited till the waiter was gone to speak again. "You talk about your other a lot more than Yuugi does," he commented quietly. "I would have thought it'd be the other way around."

"Mutou had a choice about his other leaving. I didn't." He sighed harshly, stirring his spoon around his soup idly. "I get a little tired of everyone close to me being taken away. Mutou should have considered that."

There was silence till the main course was almost over. It rather amazed him. He'd seen how much the white-haired man could eat on Battle Ship. It was slower now, but the food was still vanishing in amazing quantities. "You need to eat more than just that, Kaiba-kun. We're teenagers; we're supposed to eat like vacuum cleaners, you know."

"I think you're managing that well enough for the both of us," he put forth diplomatically. In truth, Ryou ate more like someone was going to take it away from him. After a moment's debate, he said as much.

The other shrugged, obviously not taking offense. "It's something I picked up from my other, I guess. Apparently that was a real possibility for him. And you never saw my sister eat. You think I'm bad? Wow." There was a wistful expression on his face. "Bakura Amane, the amazing human trash compactor." Another pause, then, "What kind of dessert would you like, Kaiba-kun? It's your birthday. Cake is in order, right?"

"You were serious about that?"

"Absolutely. There's a lot of things I don't joke about. Food is one of them. I saw one cake on the menu that had seven different kinds of chocolate. How does that sound? Or tiramisu maybe?"

What was even weirder than actually going out, weirder than having a good time of it, and even weirder than ending a meal with sugar... was the rather novel experience of not having to pay for it, for once not because of the restaurant forgoing the bill but because someone else did. That amount of money coming out in cash, though, made him wonder how much Ryou had learned from his spirit. The other Yuugi had mentioned vaguely in passing that the other Bakura was a thief or a tomb robber or something like that, if he recalled correctly. Of course, given that the source was an amnesic three thousand year old spirit, he wasn't exactly naming it the most reliable one. All he was really certain of when it came to the spirits was that, from at least as far back as Battle Ship, the two others had a real hate on for each other.

The restaurant was empty except for them and the waiter/manager, who didn't seem too terribly inclined to remove them. Smart man, he thought to himself. Who wanted to remove the man who controlled more than half the city, after all? And Ryou didn't exactly seem broke either. It made sense. To stay off the radar all this time, he must have been paying for everything in cash. He certainly wasn't about to question where he'd gotten hold of all of it. Why make waves now, after all? This was the most fun he'd had in months, not to mention it being the most relaxing time he could recall that didn't involve Mokuba in years. Dueling, while fun, was rarely very relaxing, especially not if the other Yuugi got involved; then there always seemed to be some sort of world threat involved somehow. What was it he'd written into one of his games: "The presence of a hero character creates villain characters"?

"So what do you want to do now, Kaiba-kun?" Ryou's voice interrupted his thoughts. "The night is still young, and we should enjoy it."

"I wouldn't know how to." Had that just come out of his mouth? He hadn't meant to just blurt that out.

Thankfully Ryou didn't laugh at his admission. "Well, let's see. No offense, Kaiba-kun, but you don't seem like the type for clubbing, so let's rule that out. There's some parks around here, or we can catch a movie. The cab driver from the airport said a couple theaters around town are marathoning horror movies all weekend."

How had he known Ryou would be a horror movie fan, with a Duel Monsters deck like he had? "I'm not that much of a movie person either."

"Okay. Park?"

"Can we just stay here?" Had that just come out of his mouth?

Well, if it bothered Ryou, it certainly wasn't showing. "That's fine too. I was just thinking the manager there would like to go home tonight and brag."

He glanced over his shoulder to observe the other man. "I think he's too busy trying to figure out how to use me eating here on my birthday in an ad campaign."

A soft growl drew his attention back over to his dinner companion. A hard look resided on the other's face where it was locked on the manager, dark and determined -- and vaguely familiar. "That happen often?" He shrugged, and it was like flipping a light switch as quickly as the white-haired man's expression changed. "Guess it's a good thing I didn't ask him to sing then, isn't it?"

He couldn't help the small chuckle that arose from within him and so let it out. "He'd have probably gone into shock."

"You're almost smiling there, Kaiba-kun," Ryou teased. "Fun thought?"

"Just imagining him falling over in shock if you'd asked him." Predictably for him, a darker line of thought chased the image. "Of course, if you had and he'd passed out, he would have likely hit his head on the way down and sued me."

"Pessimist." Again he shrugged. There was no point in denying it. Mokuba told him often that he'd made a profession of it. "You worry too much, Kaiba-kun. You're going to have a heart attack before you're thirty."

"That's better odds than what Mokuba gave me: he said I'd only make it to twenty-five." But then again, Mokuba knew better than anyone that he didn't exactly separate home and work. He'd called him an equal opportunity stressor as he recalled it.

He started as a warm hand touched his shoulder. It took a brave person to touch him, and that usually consisted on one person. But even Mokuba generally said something before he laid a hand on him. "Kaiba Seto, you're one big knot!" Was he being... scolded? How odd. "Do you ever take a second to relax?"

He started to reply that relaxing was what he was currently doing, but that's not what came out. "I run a very successful international business, raise a preteen, and still go to high school. When do I have time?" He had to resist the urge to eye the hand still resting lightly on him.

"Make time!" Ryou looked a bit like a... pissed off white kitten when he was angry. Interesting. It was everything he could do not to laugh. "If you don't take care of yourself, the rest won't matter." Almost faster than he could follow, the other was on his feet and behind him. "Now sit still and try to relax."

He started slightly at the feel of the other's hands below his jacket, fingers digging into his shoulders, expertly finding the knots and working them out, till he felt like he was about to melt into the chair. "I'm going to have to hire you on full time for this."

He could almost hear the smirk in Ryou's voice. "Keep up with my room and board, and you won't even have to pay me." A soft laugh escaped him. "Though paying me might be more cost efficient in the long run."

It was on the tip of his tongue to say he didn't care, but he bit it back with some effort, instead offering "It's not like the house doesn't have plenty of spare rooms." He frowned very faintly as another thought occurred to him, looking up at the other. "You do have a place to stay, don't you?"

Ryou shrugged. "I was just going to rent a hotel room. I mean, I sold the apartment, and there's no way I'm staying with Mutou or the other morons."

"Then stay at the house. We'd be glad to have you." Where was all this coming from? It wasn't like him to be this nice normally.

"If you're sure." The white-haired man smiled. "So how do you like your birthday present from me, Kaiba-kun? The dinner was okay?"

"I like the massage." It was a tacit way of saying he'd had a good time. He shifted before speaking again, almost nervous about saying what he was thinking. "Maybe when you find what you're looking for, you can come back and stay with us."

Ryou... looked a tad nervous himself and maybe a bit on the guilty side. "If I find the magic I'm looking for, Mutou isn't exactly going to want us in Domino at all." He glanced away, not meeting his eyes. "Domino probably wouldn't be a very safe place for us to stay."

Why did he feel vaguely sad at the sound of that word? "'Us'?"

The other shook his head, fingers stilling inside his jacket. "I can't say it here, Kaiba-kun. It's too open. Maybe when we get to your house, if I'm still invited, I mean."

The silence was a little awkward, and he really didn't like the idea of that. "It's getting late," he finally stated. "We should start heading to the house." He toyed briefly with the idea of calling for his car to come get them, but he wasn't going to mention it just yet.

Ryou tried for a grin. "Nowhere else you want me to take you for your birthday, Kaiba-kun?"

"To bed." One white eyebrow shot up to the other's hairline. He thought over what he'd just said, and when he figured out the other connotations, he felt a faint heat touch his cheeks. "No! I mean... It's been a really long day, and no offense, but I could use some sleep. Nothing like that."

This time the smile and the laugh were completely genuine. "Well, if you insist. I can behave."

Now what exactly did that mean, he had to wonder. He spent most of the cab ride back to his house thinking about that while Ryou stared blankly out the window, looking like he was anywhere but there. In fact, if he didn't know better, he'd think the other was in a deep conversation with someone, only he didn't hear anything. The longer he was around him, the more mysterious the white-haired man became. Normally he didn't enjoy mysteries, but this time... he wanted to know more.

The taxi pulled to a stop in front of his house and he stepped out. It took a moment, but Ryou followed. "Do you have any bags or anything?"

"My bag is in a locker at the airport. I didn't want to be too loaded down today." He shrugged and smiled self-depreciatingly. "And they got kind of heavy after the flight. You're still waiting on me to spill the beans, aren't you?"

That had to take some kind of a prize as an utter non sequitur, but it was a perfectly valid point. He was curious about what was going on. He paid the cab driver and waited for him to drive away before he answered, "I am." He glanced around at the empty streets and the closed gates. "Is this private enough?"

Ryou followed his action, looking back and forth as well. "It'll do." And then something changed in the other's face: the brown eyes narrowed slightly; the edges seemed to sharpen just a tiny bit, defining his features just a bit more distinctly; and maybe it was the night breeze, but his hair looked a bit wilder. "It's time for my present to you."

He blinked. This... wasn't Ryou. No, this had to be Bakura, the thief. No wonder Ryou had said to use his given name... Now this was the person he recognized from Battle City, the one he had dueled on the rooftop of Kaiba Corp, the one it had been so hard not to think about in the time leading up to Egypt, the one who was... supposed to be dead. "How?" That was good; his voice sounded steadier than he felt.

"Do we really want to get into that right now?" the other practically purred, stalking closer to him. Automatically, he fell back a matching number of steps till his back was pressed against the iron gate, his breath catching in his throat as Bakura moved up flush against his body. "Ryou got to spend the last few hours with you, and the dinner and the massage were his gifts. I don't have that much to offer -- I don't even have my own body, yet -- so this will have to be my present to you."

He opened his mouth to ask what Bakura meant by that curious statement when the white-haired man moved impossibly closer, a hand moving up to brush softly up the side of his face around behind his neck, inexorably drawing him down closer. The first taste of Bakura's lips reminded him of the bites of cake Ryou had stolen from him, sweet, light, and a little chocolate-y, but then it changed as much as the man before him had; it got darker and more sensual as the kiss deepened, Bakura's tongue invading his mouth and wiping away all thought, leaving only feeling.

It didn't even enter his mind what anyone would say if they saw him, Kaiba Seto, making out up against his own gate well after midnight with a white-haired man. The only people he answered to, after all, were himself and Mokuba; what did he care what other people said? And... how long had it been since he let himself go and just feel? When was the last time he just went with the flow? Had he ever?

All too soon for his taste, Bakura pulled back, resting his forehead against his. It was a little hard to tell unless one was as close as they still were, but Bakura was definitely breathing hard. Was--? He was too. This was.... Well, for lack of a better word, this was nice. Enjoyable. Something he'd like to repeat on a frequent basis. The sooner the better too, for that matter.

Were they still going to leave on the day after... well, tomorrow? It was after midnight now, after all. Were they still leaving on Monday? Well, if he was following what hints he was picking up here and there from them, the magic they were looking for was to separate them. The thought of both of them was almost enough to make his eyes glaze over. Were they both... interested in him? There was no disputing Bakura, but Ryou? He did make that face at his little verbal faux pas, and he seemed pretty determined to make him start taking better care of himself, and he had made that comment about moving in. Maybe it was safe to assume Ryou was as well. He... would not be unhappy about that.

Maybe they were still going to leave on Monday, but in the meanwhile, he had both of them till then, even if he wasn't too sure what he was going to -- or even could! -- do with both of them, especially while they were still in one body. (What was he going to do when they were separate! He sincerely hoped they had the imagination to make up for what he lacked in this area.) Whatever happened today, he'd put them on their plane on Monday, call to Bagdad and get them the best hotel available... and worry till they were here with him again. And something told him that they wouldn't be back till either they'd accomplished what they had set out to do -- separate themselves from each other -- or this time next year. Somehow he got the feeling that might be like a little slice of hell for him.

Bakura seemed to have his breathing under control once more because he leaned up to press another kiss, this one more tender and briefer. A warm hand brushed against his cheek, pushing his hair back away from his eyes.

"Happy birthday, Seto."

* * * * * * * * * *

He glared at his cell phone, halfway hoping that if he looked angry enough, it would give up and ring. It was overdue in ringing, by a week. One or the other, Bakura or Ryou, called every Sunday like clockwork at or nearly five in the evening. Mokuba had even quit reaching for the phone at that time of the day on Sundays. But the phone had been silent last Sunday, and it was approaching six now.

Something had to have happened. There was no way they'd miss today. The last time he'd spoken to them, Ryou had promised that if they didn't show up for his eighteenth birthday, they would call, if nothing else.

This might go down in some record books, at least according to Mokuba, as the weirdest relationship ever. It amused his brother to no end that he'd gone from no social life to being in a long-distance relationship with two people in one body. No one else could brag to that, he supposed. He wasn't too fond of only getting by on a phone call a week for the last year, but their search seemed to have hit a snag in the Middle East. But no phone calls... That was cause for concern.

He started and jumped to his feet when the doorbell rang, but Mokuba was already running to the door to get it. He paced the room a second or two more then grabbed the phone and stalked into the hall. Maybe whoever was here to see Mokuba could entertain him for a few minutes...

"Hi, Kaiba-kun," a sheepish voice said from the doorway. And that wasn't one of Mokuba's friends. None of Mokuba's friends had white hair, and anyway, no one looked quite like Ryou except...

Muscled tanned arms wrapped around him from behind, and a slightly deeper version of Ryou's voice whispered in his ear, "Happy birthday, Seto."

posted by Apollymi @ 8:18 AM


Name: Apollymi
Formerly: Eternal SailorM
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