Color of Life
Chapter Two
by Eternal SailorM

Disclaimers & such: See Chapter One

I hear the glass exploding before I actually see it.  The first piece hits me, though, and I hit the floor, grabbing the Bossling's wrist and pulling him with me as I go.  His Highness looks like he's never seen anything like this before in his life.  Hell, I don't think I've ever seen anything like this in my life, and I've seen some pretty weird shit over my short lifespan thus far.  Glass is still flying, and there's some weird electricity stuff jumping through the air as well, making the lights flicker dangerous then go out, plunging us into darkness, except for what's coming from the... lightning?  Electricity?  Not the time to wonder about it.  Previous experience, however limited, says to get a solid object between myself and the danger.  I tug the Bossling's wrist and drag him with me behind an aisle.  Well, toss him down an aisle and follow quickly, accidentally slamming my back up against one of the shelves in the process. "Shit..."

"What the hell is that?" he finally explodes.  I think the brat would call that a stage whisper; it's soft, but I can hear him over the crackle of electricity and things exploding in the store.  Sounds like he's recovered nicely - and he's picked up some of my more interesting speech patterns as well.

"Off-hand, I'd say either we're having some damn freaky weather tonight or there's a witch having a spastic fit nearby."  Even - no, especially in stressful situations, sarcasm is our friend.

"Oh, it's definitely the latter."  I nearly jump out of my skin at the sound of Makiko's voice.  I look up, and she's standing just past the Bossling.  Damn, I didn't even realize I tossed him further down the hall, and thereby further from danger, than I positioned myself.  The hell?  I guess my body thought he was the brat and needed protecting and - And why is Makiko staring at me like I've grown a second head or something?  "You're bleeding," she quietly states.  Hmm, she must be better at this stage whisper thing than Yami - I mean, the Bossling; it's almost like I can hear her in my head.

I look down, and my left hand is cut to hell and back.  I must be running on adrenaline because -  Well, now I'm feeling it, of course.  "Oww, fuck."  It's not too hard to restrain myself to that because, you guessed it, it's habit.

The Bossling follows my gaze, and he goes pale.  Great, I'm the one that's bleeding, and he's the one that's going to pass out.  Maybe my body knew what it was doing, assuming he was like the brat.  Or then again, maybe not.  He looks... less sickened and more pissed off.  Interesting.  I've heard of going white with anger, but I don't think I've ever seen it before.  "What happened to you?"

And he's being an asshole again.  And he claims Treeboy's bad?  I wonder if he's looked in the mirror lately.  "I cut myself shaving.  What the hell do you think happened?  In case you haven't noticed, there's glass and shit everywhere!"  Sometimes, I think the brat may be right and I'm a testy little bastard when I'm in pain, but just sometimes.  After all, I'm a testy bastard most of the time anyway, I'm proud to admit.

Something clatters to the floor next to the Bossling, and this time we both nearly jump out of our skins.  I almost have to laugh at the expression on his face; I would, except that I'm sure it's probably on mine as well.  If I wasn't in pain, I'd be in stitches.  Stitches... Oww, I hope I don't have to have those.  I hate stitches.  "It's raining first-aide kits," His Highness comments dryly.

I'm already reaching over him to seize it.  "Don't knock it.  I can live with medical boxes from heaven."  It's kind of... interesting trying to do this one-handed, but it wouldn't be the first time.  It probably won't be the last.  And Makiko needs to stay still and out of the way before she gets hurt.  I mean, I don't believe in medical boxes from heaven, so she's the most likely source.  And there she is, at the far end of the aisle.  I nod my thanks to her and go back to bandaging up my hand, with the Bossling's help, surprisingly enough.  I guess this isn't going to be a good thing job-wise.  At least it should be a little while before I have another scheduled Kame job come up, but these hands are my money-makers.  The brat and I can't long afford for them to be stiff.  I can hope it won't wind up being too bad anyway.

As suddenly as the lightning started, it stops again, leaving us in darkness.  The air smells like ozone.  The Bossling wrinkles his nose; I guess the smell doesn't agree with him either.  Cautiously, I push myself to my feet, ignoring the critical way I'm being stared at.  It's not like I'm going to fall over the minute I stand up.  Then again, I might if I let go of this shelf any time soon.  A hand grabs my elbow, to steady me I guess, and I follow it up to see, yep, it is attached to the Bossling.  Well, what do you know?  Maybe he's not too much of an ass.

"I'm taking you to the hospital."  I thought too soon, I guess.  He finally starts talking, and it's to order me around, like he is some sort of princeling, like I'm his damn Mini-Me.  "You need that hand looked at."

"I've got someone at home who can handle it."  Now that's the truth.  The brat's gotten more than proficient at first-aide over the years.  And really, the Bossling's pissing me off enough that moving is a lot less of a problem.  I think I'm going to bruise from hitting that damn shelf, though.  I'll just check on Makiko then head home.  The brat will fuss at me a while, and I'll put His Highness out of my head for the next few weeks.

"Then I'm taking you home," he continues, giving my elbow a tug.  Damn, I didn't even realize he was still holding on to me.  "I've got a car outside."

He's all but dragging me out the door, and I don't have much choice, it seems, but to let him.  I don't think I could get my elbow back at this point unless I do what he wants - or cut off my arm.  While neither of those prospects are appealing, I'll have to go with the first one.  "Do you think your car even still works after all this?"

He's silent, but that's because he's managed to drag us to said car and his driver is explaining the electricity did... something to the car and it doesn't run anymore.  What?  I don't drive, so I don't know anything about cars except gas makes them go.  I'm trying to save up and maybe get the brat one or something and then I'll learn about them, but in the meanwhile...

In the meanwhile, I fish the brat's cell phone out of my coat pocket as well as I can with the Bossling hanging off my arm like I'm his last link to sanity, which is rather amusing given my own tenuous grip on it.  Well, the phone's definitely had it (or it needs to cut back to a pack a day, since it's definitely smoking), so I guess I'm going to have to surprise the brat.  Well, shit.  Might as well get this over with.

I march to the end of my human tether and give the Bossling a sharp tug of my own, unbalancing him for all of a minute.  That's what he gets for wearing boots with heels anyway.  The completely confused expression on his face is great, though.  I'll have to save it to review later.  I can always use something new to laugh at; I think I've just about exhausted that mental image of Tree Up His Ass Seto in a French maid outfit.  Don't ask, really.  Tequila was involved.  I just wish I could claim I was drunk tonight.  Anyway, before I can start to talk myself out of this...

"Come on.  You can call another car from my place."  And there it is:  out in the open.  His Highness looks about as pole-axed as I feel, which is another good one to add to my mental collection.

To his credit, he doesn't ask if I'm sure - and I'm not too certain what my answer would be - and merely says, "Lead the way."  I'll note he still hasn't let got of my elbow.  He doesn't seem to notice, and I think I'll just wait and see.

It's eerily quiet walking back.  I guess I'm used to Ryou's chatter when I actually have company on these walks and my own plotting when he's not with me.  What?  You don't get to be as great as I am without some scheming along the way.  Lately, though, a lot of my scheming has involved the man walking next to me, a knife (sharpness is entirely optional), and lots of bleeding on his part.  Have I mentioned lately how much he gets on my fucking nerves?  Yeah, it gets that bad.

I never thought I'd ever be so glad to see the apartment house.  Even when he isn't saying anything, His Highness is a nerve-wracking bastard.  And generally, it gets worse once he opens his mouth.  "You live here?"  Case in point.

"Sorry, they were all booked uptown.  You'll have to stand it a few minutes."

It's actually a pretty nice place.  I could wish we live on a lower floor, but that's just about my only complaint with it.  A lot of people won't live here because there are a few Weres, vamps, and witches living here, but they're actually a pretty good lot.  There's one witch on the floor below ours, Mana, who's definitely on my permanent good list.  She's patched me up almost as many times as Ryou.  But this is Japan, and while otherworldly creatures are legal, following America's lead, they're still different and different is still bad in Japan.

"Do we not pay you enough?" the Bossling is saying.  Why am I having the urge to kick him in the ass for my neighbors' sake?  Not that I don't get the urge to kick his ass frequently, but still, I don't usually get charitable impulses.  Don't tell anyone.

"Shut up, Bossling, or you're walking the rest of the way back to your house."  Never mind that he could just walk back to the broken-ass car and wait with the driver for the police, but I'm not reminding him of that.  He's the one that should have to remember such things for himself.  "And while you're at it, ease up on my arm a bit before you put it out of commission too."

His Highness doesn't even blink an eye, though his grip does loosen a bit.  Good, since I do need that hand, to punch up the elevator if nothing else, and hit the button for the sixth floor.  Okay, maybe I shouldn't complain about us living on the sixth floor of a thirteen story complex, but it would make a quick escape rather difficult - and I'm not trusting Mana to remember how to do a flying spell correctly without giving us permanent wings or rabbit ears or something equally screwy.  She still isn't nearly as talented (or controlled) as her brother Mahaado, but she works nicely in a pinch.  Most of the time.  Unless she's had sugar.  Then the world needs to fear.

The elevator works its way up to our floor soundlessly.  His Highness hasn't said another word, and I'm not starting a conversation with the likes of him, arrogant ass-

"It looks like someone tore mirrors out of here."  Whoa, did he just try to start a conversation in some weird princeling way?  I'll be damned, hopefully not literally.

"Vampires don't cast reflections," I explain slowly.  "The landlord didn't want to insult any of his tenants by leaving them up."  I remember thinking at the time it was a very Japanese thing to do, not pointing out people's difference directly.  Indirectly, however, is a whole other thing.

The doors slid open to our floor.  I guess I should be glad Ryou isn't waiting right outside them.  Then again, our door isn't too far from them.  I wouldn't be a bit surprised if he's laying in wait for me or something.  On that note, I wonder if I should warn the Bossling about Ryou or about his secretary being in there, but no, I want to see his reaction.  This is going to be great.  I wonder if he'll do that strange squawking sound Miho did or, better still, something like that confused cat sound that Jounouchi did.

I have my hand up (as much as I can, mind you, with a princeling hanging off my arm) to knock when Ryou flings the door open.  Hell, even I jump at that one.  Out of the corner of my eye, I can see Yami - the Bossling - go white like he's just seen a ghost.  Ryou stares at the man behind me and his hold on my elbow, apparently trying to decide if I need help or if His Highness is trying to kidnap me or something.  He reaches his decision at last, locks his eyes on me, and demands, "What happened?"

"Inside, brat, not on the front stoop."

He fixes the Bossling with a look that I would be proud to send him, but he moves out of the way so we can come in.  Miho's in the living room, presumably still going over stuff for school since I don't hear the television or music going.  She's got her eyes trained on the book in her lap, staring so hard she doesn't even seem to notice us behind her.  The Bossling is starting to regain some color in his face and stares at the back of Miho's head questioningly before following Ryou and me into the kitchen.

The Brat's got me dropped in a chair before I can blink, making the Bossling release me or be dragged down also.  He opts for letting go and sinking more leisurely in the other chair.  "Why's Nosaka-san here?"

Ryou doesn't even blink.  Or maybe he does.  It's hard to tell when he's rooting around under the sink for our personal first-aide kit.  Either way, he doesn't miss a beat as he answers, "Miho-san's in my math class.  I'm helping her study."  He stands back up, box in hands, and brings it over to set it down on the table next to me.  "So what happened this time?"

"Hell if I know."  He fixes me with a rather stern look.  "What?  I don't know.  Some witch was having spazzes, lots of electricity, stuff blew up, the end."

"Should I call downstairs?" he asks, unwinding the rather shoddy bandaging job His Highness and I did.

I shrug.  "I doubt Mana'd know anything, and Mahaado's out of town for another three days."  What can I say?  It pays to keep up with people's movements, especially the man who added some sort of magical extra layer of protection on the building.  Don't ask me to explain.  I just know no one who wants to hurt anyone in here can even get in the front door.  Damn useful, if a bit limited, I think.

"Bakura," the Bossling pipes up.  I glance over at him in annoyance, vaguely noting Ryou looking up as well.  He focuses on me, making it clear which one of us he's speaking to.  "Are you going to explain, or do I need to start guessing?"

Ryou frowns across the table.  "Who are you, anyway?"

"Mutou Yami," he answers.  He sounds like he's introducing a god, and I have to roll my eyes; it's a biological imperative.

Ryou glances over at me, and I mouth out 'Bossling'.  "Oh, so you're him."  I've taught him so well. I'm so proud.  I didn't know the brat could do such a dry tone.  "You need to to work on your first-aide skills a bit, I think."  And there goes that wonderful dryness as he starts getting self-conscious.  "I'm Bakura Ryou, by the way."

Crimson eyes turn back to me.  "Then you are?"

I shrug nonchalantly.  "Just Bakura."  I smirk.  "You could always do like Jounouchi-kitty and call me 'thief', if you absolutely need a first name.  Otherwise, I don't have one."

"And the two of you are brothers then?"

"Twins," the brat volunteers.  I would be speaking up, probably with something sarcastic and probably involving pod people, but of course, His Highness timed his question to the exact moment that Ryou starts putting on the butterfly sutures, and I'm too busy hissing because it hurts!  "Niisan's older, though.  Do you have any brothers or sisters, Mutou-san?"  Have I mentioned that Ryou babbles when he's nervous?  When Malik's around, he doesn't shut up.

"I have a younger brother, Yuugi."

I finally rally myself away from the brat's work to deadpan, "So that's Mini-Me's name.  And I was starting to think it really was 'Aibou', after all."  Hey, did I make him growl again?  The thief is definitely on a roll.

He's still growling when he speaks. "Why does Aibou like you?"

Hmm, that sounds like a rhetorical question, but I've never let that stop me.  "Because of my charming personality, I'm sure."

"That's what they're calling it these days?"  I will not flip him off.  I will not flip him off.  I will not flip him off.  "I thought it was just plain stupidity."  I flip him off, and he smirks.

"At least I don't act like I have a stick up my ass,"  I turn in my chair to eye him speculatively, "or dress like a boy slut.  I mean, the collar alone..."

"Niisan!"  Ryou's looking scandalized again.  Not that that's a shock or anything.

It's taking everything I've got to keep my face straight.  "Come on, brat.  Even you have to admit the collar just screams 'Dominate me,' don't you think?"

"I think you have way too much time on your hands, niisan."  He finishes winding the gauze around my hand and tapes it in place.  I spare a glance over my shoulder; I think the Bossling's turning his fourth or fifth shade of red and is now progressing to purple.  Hey, pretty soon he should match his hair.  That should be interesting.

Once the brat's finished with my hand, I turn the rest of the way in my chair, prop my hands on the table, and smirk at the Bossling.  "The phone's on the counter behind you.  Go ahead and call whoever you need to pick you up."

And yeah, I'll admit to being shameless enough to eavesdrop.  The brat tries to make himself too busy putting a band-aid on one of the worse cuts on my cheek to be listening, but you'd have to be a compete idiot or blind to miss his interest.

There's this weird buzzing in the back of my head, kind of like a hundred pissed off bees flying around my head at once.  It's not a pleasant sensation, I don't like it, and I'd like it to stop!  Now!  I let my head drop down on my uninjured hand and will it to stop.  Not that it works, of course, but it was worth a shot.  And I can feel the weird look His Highness has fixed me with, but he does that regularly so I'm used to it.  "What's your problem now?"  I wonder if he hung up the phone first or if he's just covering the mouthpiece.  I'm not curious enough to look up though.  The Bossling's not that interesting.  An intriguing distraction, maybe, but not interesting enough to get my mind off that damned noise.  Thinking of it makes it like a hammering - or rather, a pounding against the side of my skull.

I find myself on my feet, though I can't say I remember standing, and following Ryou to the front door.  When exactly did my body decide to go on a field trip without me?  Better still, why is the brat humoring it?  Or is it following him?  I'm seriously fucking confused.  Of course, the Bossling looks a lot more puzzled than I feel.  Don't look at me; even if I could explain, that doesn't mean I would, not to him.

Ryou opens the door before I have the chance to say something either way (close it or open it) and before the person can even knock, and Makiko's standing on the other side.  She looks... different somehow since I last saw her.  And how the hell does she know where we live?  I never breathed a word about the apartment to her, and I damn well know the brat wouldn't have mentioned it.  "What're you doing here?"

"There was nowhere else I could go.  Besides, I have a favor to ask of you."

Me?  A favor?  I thought everyone knew me better than... Wait a minute.  Ryou's staring about a foot too far to the left, and Yami's looking at me like I've lost it, so... Shit.  Fuck.  Damn it.  I was hoping to have left that in Tokyo as well.  I guess not though.  Damn.  "What?"

"These attacks are only going to keep getting worse until the new Master of the City is found."  Of course.  Everything comes down to the missing Master.  It's been three months since the previous Master met with his rather, umm, spectacular ending, and the new Master has yet to put in an appearance or so much as put his foot down on all the Were activity.  Not that the previous one did that much about the Were problem, but at least he could be bothered to keep them from outright warfare in the streets.

"You want me to find him?"

She nodded. "Yes, please.  And -"

"Make him start doing his job?"  I guess next.  This isn't exactly brain surgery after all.

She smiled faintly.  "Again, yes.  There is no excuse for this to happen."  Now, that I can't disagree with.  The whole city is suffering because some bastard won't get off his ass and do his job.

"I'll do it."  Not that I have much of a choice.  I know how this goes:  either I do it now of my own free will or I do it later after more pressuring than anyone is meant to endure.  It's easier - and a lot less of a headache - to just agree now.  Forgive me, but I tend to be rather pragmatic in such matters.  It's better in the long run.

She bows low.  Much lower, and she would be kissing carpet.  She straightens again quickly and smiles for real.  "Thank you."

And she's gone.  I swear, I'm never going to get used to that misty dissolve into the hereafter.  It's damn creepy.

First draft: 07 December 2004
Revision: 03 December 2005

So, umm... yeah.  Was anyone expecting that (besides me and two of my betas)?  Setting this up just so was actually rather difficult, so I'd appreciate any feedback, critiques, or comments you have to make.

I'm going to try to get a third chapter out before Yuletide, but don't hold your breath.  I work in the hell known as retail sales, so from here on my time will be very hard to come by.  I'll do my best though! 

Later, everyone!

[ Color of Life 01 | Color of Life 02 | Color of Life 03 | Color of Life 04 | Color of Life 05 | Color of Life 06 | Color of Life 07 | Color of Life 08 | Color of Life Epilogue ]
[ Blood and Sacrifice 01 | Blood and Sacrifice 02 | Blood and Sacrifice 03 | Blood and Sacrifice 04 | Blood and Sacrifice 05 | Blood and Sacrifice 06 | Blood and Sacrifice Epilogue ]
[ Spellbound ]
[ Automatic Paranoia 01 | Automatic Paranoia 02 | Automatic Paranoia 03 | Automatic Paranoia Epilogue ]
[ Route 666 | Route 666 Epilogue ]
[ Cyber Fake 01 | Cyber Fake 02 | Cyber Fake 03 | Cyber Fake 04 | Cyber Fake 05 | Cyber Fake 06 | Cyber Fake 07 | Cyber Fake 08 | Cyber Fake 09 | Cyber Fake Epilogue ]
[ Last Waltz ]