Chapter Three
by Katsuko

Disclaimers and warnings can be found in Chapter One.

Dedications: My wonderful beta readers Eternal SailorM and Desolate03. Also the kitties Aya, Biscuit and Mika for keeping me company while I type.

It's a good thing I opted to check on the kit first. During the time I was trying to figure out why Noa opted to put a thick purple streak in the middle of Ryuzaki's bangs Seto was recovering from what my beta will only call "an attack, nothing to worry about." I'd be more inclined to believe him if his scent didn't convey so much concern.

At the moment, though, one would never know Seto had even twitched after I talked to him earlier. "You're going to what?"

"Gut Hirutani," I repeat; Seth is giving me an odd look. I wonder if Malik--Marik--his scent is lingering on my clothes. I knew I should have changed out of my school uniform when I got home....

"Why now?" Seto demands. "If I recall, you said you wouldn't act unless he threatened your pard."

"He will." Wow, twin expressions of confusion. "Ishtar was here earlier. He, ah, liberated a kit about Mokuba's age from the west side, brought him here. Hirutani can have him back over my dead body."

Never let it be said that I can't manipulate the Master of the City now that we aren't a couple; the second I mention Mokuba's name he snaps to attention, eyes narrowing as he makes the connection with Hirutani's increased levels of bastardhood. By the time I finish speaking he's managed to snap his pen in two.

"And you're going alone?" Seth asks, still giving me odd looks. I am definitely going to change before I face off with Hirutani--and can't forget to shower. Maybe I'll start to feel closer to normal if I get all traces of Malik's scent off my skin.

I shake my head. "Not alone, per se. I have a few Cats owing me a favour or three. I'll call in as many as I can to watch my back."

"You sure you can trust them?"

"One of them I'm almost positive I can trust at my back. The rest, well, it's a risk I have to take." And I think that was the wrong thing to say. "I'll only call them in if my first choice says no."

Seto's eyes are glacial; good thing I'm practically immune to Kaiba glares. "If your first choice says no then you will take some of the wolves with you."

It's an acceptable concession. "Agreed. So long as Dorobou and Yami are kept out of it. I don't want them at anymore risk than they already are."

"You can't keep them alive forever," Seth says quietly as I reach the door. He is all too aware of mortality; he's seen more people die than anyone else I've ever run with, Dorobou included.

I pause, one hand on the doorframe, and give my beta and my vampire a tight smile. "I know that. But I'll keep my humans alive as long as I possibly can." Without another word I leave. Nothing more needs to be said.

Before I can pull my cell from my pocket one of the late shift approaches me. This is not normal, since most of the vamps save the Kaiba clan and Kisara-san tend to give me a wide berth. I can't even recall this guy's name, so I hope my questioning expression is good enough.

Lady Luck is on my side. "Jounouchi-san, there's someone at the gate asking to see you. It's not the person who was here earlier," he's quick to add. In all honesty, though, I wouldn't put it past Ishtar to still be somewhere on the grounds but managing to keep downwind.

"Did he give a name?" I ask, following him out of the house and towards the estate's main gates. It couldn't be Kaasan or Shizuka, they've already been here half a dozen times and my little sister has all the guards charmed by her upbeat personality. They would have just let them in and called my cell.

The vamp shakes his head. "No, sir. He just said he was sent by a... peer."

Well, fuck. Hirutani's sent someone to retrieve his 'property' already. May as well see who I'll be dealing with.

My steps falter for just a moment as a slight breeze kicks up, bringing my visitor's scent to me a full minute before I see him. Either my former Nimir Raj is a complete idiot of I have to rethink my plan of attack. The other Cat glances up from his contemplation of the sidewalk and gives me a half-smile, mismatched eyes guarded.

"Dartz," I say, giving a short nod and keeping my gaze locked with his. Last time we were face to face he was trying to tear my throat out. Even though he owes me a favour, I'm not dropping my guard so long as he's acting on Hirutani's orders.

"Jounouchi," he replies, returning the nod then lowering his eyes. I'm a bit surprised but don't show it; that is a sign of submission and even in the presence of another alpha a beta Were or lower is never to show inferiority to any but his own Nimir Raj, Ulfric or King.

"What do you want?" I ask him after a moment. Along with his natural musky scent I'm picking up traces of blood... and all of it's his own.

"My Nimir Raj has sent me to retrieve his youngest," Dartz says, eyes still lowered. "He said that this is a simple misunderstanding and that I am not to return without the kit."

"And if you do return without him?" The only reply is a faint tremor from the turquoise-haired leopard. I understand perfectly: If Dartz goes back empty-handed, Hirutani will throw him to the rest of the pard. He's already injured; they would tear him apart in seconds.

Still, there's only one way I can answer. "Ryuzaki stays here. If Hirutani wants him, the bastard can come himself." I start to turn, but stop when for the second time this evening a hand attaches itself to my arm. This time when I turn back it's to terrified yellow-and-teal eyes.

"I-I can't go back there," he mewls, "not again. It wasn't my fault but I'm glad the kitten escaped. I said so, I shouldn't have but I did and I can't go back. Please, don't make me go back, Alpha."

I think I just saw one of the vampire guards faint. Probably because they never really believed it when Seth referred to me as an alpha Were; another Were acknowledging me as such has to come as a shock to them. I'm less concerned about their opinion of me and more aware that Dartz is only injured because he spoke out.

Even when I was still in Hirutani's pard Dartz was outspoken. He never played at being an alpha; in fact he acted more of an Omega even though his standing was higher than mine. Now that I think about it, he never met my eyes for more than a minute and refused time and again to rape me on Hirutani's command. Lead to a lot of suffering on his part but... he knew. He probably always knew, but he only feels free enough to acknowledge it now.

"Jounouchi-san?" one of the guards asks; he still seems rather taken aback but has recovered quickly.

"Call Kisara-san, have her prepare a room," I reply; Dartz's eyes snap to meet mine. "And I want the wolves notified in the morning that there are two leopards on the grounds. They are pard and are to be treated as such."

I don't think Dartz's eyes have ever looked prettier. Happiness suits him so much better than sorrow.

Ryuzaki was very... enthusiastic when he realized Dartz was going to be staying as well. I don't think I've heard that many 'thank yous' in the course of a minute since the Espresso Situation, after which the kit pounced the older Were and knocked them both on the floor. Noa's largest source of fascination with the whole encounter was discovering that, somehow, Dartz's hair is naturally that colour.

I somehow manage to convince Noa that it's time for all Weres in the house to go to bed (which is a lie, as I'm pretty sure the wolves are still partying hard out back) and see that Ryuzaki and Dartz get settled in for the remainder of the night. My Cats both need medical attention, so I'll have to contact the doctor in the morning. I just know Varon's going to chew me out for not calling tonight, but they both need sleep too. And they'll rest better since I know it's much safer here with all the guards Seto's got on duty 24/7 now.

I frown for a second. Dorobou and Yami haven't had more than a minute of couple-time since they got home--I swear I saw Mokuba in there with them when I was bringing Dartz inside--so it's a safe bet that I should make myself scarce from the room tonight.

As I mentioned earlier, I really don't have my own bedroom here. I do, however, have a room where I keep my stuff that happens to also contain a bed. Tonight may be a good time to utilize it. Yeah, I'm used to having someone in the room with me, but I should be fine on my own.

Decision made, I go to Dorobou's room and write a quick note to let him know where I got to before going to 'my' room. It's rather Spartan, actually, since I don't really accumulate much. True, I've got a few textbooks thrown on the desk and I usually toss my school clothes there when I get home, but there's not really anything in the room that says "Jounouchi Katsuya lives here."

I heave a sigh as I close the door behind me, tossing my uniform jacket towards the desk without looking. Barely a second later I pause, mainly because I didn't hear the damn thing hit the desk. Hell, it didn't hit anything. I scent the air, but the room is so disused that I can't smell anything aside from stale air. Note to self, throw open a window when I get a minute.

Before I can turn my worst case scenario confirms itself--or rather, himself: "Your box springs suck." It's all I can do to not beat my head against the wall.

"What are you doing here, Malik?"

"Waiting for you, obviously." And he says it as if it's the most natural thing in the world for him to be doing right now. I turn and, yep, he's sitting on my desk with my jacket draped over one leg. "How the hell can you sleep in that?" he demands, waving one arm in the direction of the bed.

Okay, there're a couple things I could do here. I can ignore him, but judging by what happened earlier that will only encourage him. I can just tell him the truth, but that might lead to a whole discussion that isn't any of Ishtar's damn business. Or, I can call for Kisara-san.

"I don't."

Holy Christ on a motorbike, I think the temperature just dropped ten degrees in here. That was probably the wrong thing to say, but I can't take it back now.

"Really? So where are you sleeping then?" he demands, and I'm wondering why it's any of his business. "Is it with Bakura? Doesn't Mutou have anything to say about you fucking his boyfriend? Or is he fucking you too?"

"First of all, eww. Second, yeah, I sleep in Dorobou's room most of the time. Third, Yami and Dorobou haven't passed the cuddling stage yet. Besides, I have no interest whatsoever in sex." Why I'm telling him all this, I don't know. Maybe I just wanna clear the air or something.

Whatever the reason, it seems to have calmed Malik down. "Oh." He's quiet for a minute, long enough for me to peel off my shirt and start searching for my pajamas. "I'm sorry. And I'm sorry about Marik, you know, kissing you like that earlier."

That causes me to pause, and I turn my head slightly to regard him. The only light in the room is from the moon outside, but it's enough for my eyes. Malik looks a bit lost.

"He really should have asked first."

Nope, not lost, just thinking apparently. I roll my eyes and head into the bathroom to change. Malik pauses outside the door before speaking again.

"It's not fair, though. I didn't get to kiss you," and yep, he's whining. "Just like Marik got to visit the Boss in the hospital but I didn't."

What--?! I yank open the door and stare at the Egyptian for a moment. "Dorobou never mentioned seeing you while he was there."

"Because he didn't see me," Malik replies. "Marik went and talked to him, but he only told me afterwards." This is so damned confusing. He talks like they're separate people.

"What do you mean? You and Marik are one and the same, right?"

Now he's laughing at me. Well, not really laughing, more like snickering, but still. I'm glad my life is an endless source of amusement to these psychos around me, really. Just ignore the sarcasm. I start to shut the door again, but Malik grabs it before I get it halfway closed.

"Sorry," he says, and it almost sounds like he means it. "Bakura asked that same thing back when we met, I had to laugh then, too." Then his face goes all serious and I find my grip on the doorknob loosening. Damn him, and my curiosity.

"You've met my sister." It's not a question, but I nod anyway. Isis and Kaasan are in the same coven, I've known Isis almost forever. "She's only half human."

I think he expected me to be surprised by the revelation; he smells and looks so disappointed when I nod. "She mentioned that when Kaasan started working with her. You aren't entirely human either, everyone knows that."

And he's shaking his head. "No, that's where everyone is wrong. Maybe you should sit down or something before I say anymore." The most I concede here is to exit the bathroom (thankfully I managed to get changed while he was confusing me earlier) and lean against the wall by the balcony. Malik frowns at me but continues anyway: "I was supposed to be a twin."

...this is new. I quirk an eyebrow at him. "I've heard of this. Sometimes during the early stages of pregnancy the second embryo is absorbed by the first. So you're some sort of... chimera?"

"No. For whatever reason, my twin developed a personality of his own as we got older. He also insisted on taking all of the ahmet side so I could be completely human," Malik says as if it's a completely logical thing to have happened. "Mother left before he could make his presence known, and Father...." He shrugs; all I know is that Isis and Malik left Egypt about ten years ago. Right now, I really don't want to know more than that.

I blink and try to voice my thoughts. "So you and your twin--Marik--just what? Coexist? Share everything?"

"Oh, we disagree most of the time," Malik says. "Hell, we only agree on two things. Can this conversation be over now? I'd really like to kiss you."

Talk about a one-track mind...! I hold up one hand as if to push him back should he try anything right now. "Not yet," I find myself saying; do I want him/them to kiss me again?! "I think I need to know what those two things you agree upon are first."

"Well, one is that Bakura's the boss," Malik says easily enough. "The other is that you are absolutely beautiful. So," he adds, and I realize that he's right in front of me, close enough that I can feel his breath on my face, "can I kiss you now? Please?"

Something in his scent--his sincerity--and in his almost whispered words leads me to only one logical reply: "Okay." Then his hands are on my face and his lips meet mine, and words are meaningless.

People talk about how a first kiss is supposed to be all, I dunno, magical and perfect and not at all awkward. That's not exactly true; at least I don't think so. Honestly, my first kiss was an hour ago and while Marik is one hell of a kisser, there weren't exactly angels singing or anything. Marik was all passion and want and demanding; Malik is so completely different. This kiss is more... well, gentleness and coaxing and a hint of need.

It's intoxicating.

By the time I can think beyond abstract once more my hands apparently decided they belong threaded in Malik's hair. That's fine by me, since one of his arms has wrapped itself around my waist and I think we somehow walked from the balcony to the bed while my mind was elsewhere. That's also okay; if we keep this up much longer I may have to sit down.

Okay, lying down works, too. And I think I might be kissing Marik now, he just bit my tongue again. I don't think I mind much, unless he just growled instead of me. I'm pretty sure it was me, though. And then his free hand slips down to--

"No." I shove him up off me as I speak. Was he even listening when I said sex isn't high on my list of things to do? Apparently not, since he starts to say something only to abruptly snap his mouth closed. From the slightly glazed look in his eyes I'll just assume that Malik is filling him in. Now that I know that they aren't just one person I can see a slight difference between the two. Marik's eyes are a bit narrower, slightly darker in colour too. Come to think of it, Marik doesn't smile either, just little smirks and smug looks like the one from earlier this evening. And when, exactly, did I even start noticing these things? I've barely looked twice at the man before today....

Pushing aside that train of thought I sit up, forcing Marik to shift off to one side, and swing my legs off the edge of the bed. I'm not running away this time, just rebuilding a few walls. I'm not sure how he got past my defenses but it won't happen again; I can't let it happen again.

"I'm sorry." That almost makes me jump, turn to face him, but I don't. He sounds like he means it, too. "I... I should probably go before I make things worse."

"You don't have to." What the hell am I saying? "Just... don't, okay?"


I nod slightly, still wondering why I didn't tell him to get the hell out of my room. Maybe because I'm' tired, I have no clue.

"Lie down," he says after a few minutes. "You need to sleep. I won't do anything, I swear on Malik's soul." I'm assuming that's a pretty strong oath, his scent has that tinge of honesty in it again and I see it in his eyes when I glance at him over my shoulder.

My answer isn't voiced; I just look at him for a moment before settling back onto the bed, facing the window. I'm tired and my mind can't really try to interpret the Ishtar logic at the moment. A quiet sigh comes from the man before I feel the bed shift slightly; then there's warmth at my back and arms wrapping themselves around my waist.


"This is all I'm going to do," he replies, and I can feel his breath on the back of my neck. It's oddly comforting. My eyes are heavy, and as I drift into sleep the last thing I hear is, "Pleasant dreams, little suncat."

For those unfamiliar with the Anita Blake universe upon which the Endless Loop saga is loosely based, there are different terms for alpha males in the different Were 'races.' Nimir Raj is the term for an alpha male Cat, while Ulfric is used for alpha male Wolves and King is for the alpha male Rat. The feminine forms used for alpha females are Nimir Raja, Lupa and Queen respectively.

Chapter Four coming soon.

[ Cursed Gold 01 | Cursed Gold 02 | Cursed Gold 03 | Cursed Gold 04 | Cursed Gold 05 | Cursed Gold 06 | Cursed Gold 07 | Cursed Gold 08 | Cursed Gold 09 | Cursed Gold Epilogue ]
[ Avarice 01 | Avarice 02 | Avarice 03 | Avarice 04 | Avarice 05 | Avarice 06 | Avarice 07 | Avarice Epilogue ]
[ Endear ]
[ Unbreakable ]