I'm not going to scream. I will not scream. I refuse to
scream. Those are my first thoughts upon waking.
There's a long knife sitting in a hot fire a few feet away from where I'm sitting handcuffed too tightly to a chair; I can feel the metal cutting into my wrists. I don't want to know what the knife is doing there. Hell, if I didn't know swords thanks to Yami's little obsession, I'd swear that's what it is. He has swords that are smaller than that thing, though, I'd swear. The metal on it is so hot, it's starting to glow.
I manage to draw in a deep breath and take stock of my surroundings. Everything, from the chair I'm in to the brickwork on the fireplace, from the thick velvety rug to the medieval European tapestries on the walls, speaks of money. No taste, but money. In a weird way, it reminds me of Oyaji's place. I'm alone in the room, so I guess Ryou listened to me for once when I told him to run. I'll bet he ran straight to Kame Games, though. Damn, I don't want either of them mixed up in this - whatever "this" is.
The door opens, and a backlit figure shuffles in. The door creaks closed behind him, and he moves slowly forward, not in my direction but towards the fireplace. He picks up the knife with a cloth around the handle, turns - and I feel myself blanch, blood running cold, someone walking over my grave, the works all at once. "Takeshi." If his favorite ape is here, then...
Black dead eyes stare at me like he's not seeing me, like he's never seen me before. Hell, I've seen spirits look more alive than this, Yuugi being a case in point. If I didn't know better, I might think he was a zombie, but Takeshi's always been like this: cold, blank, and lifeless. "Saichou wishes me to convey a message to you." His voice sounds much the same as I remember too: like he's been gargling with razor blades and battery acid. "He does not tolerate his property being stolen, thief. Return what you took immediately."
I hate orders. I really do. He knows that; he's trying to piss me off. The bad thing is, he's succeeding. "He should be glad that's all I took."
He smiles vaguely, and I swear my blood runs even colder. Freaky flunkies who are human but could probably bench press more than a Were should not smile like that - or even at all! "Saichou said you would probably require convincing."
That knife moves closer and closer to my face till I can feel the heat coming off that red-hot blade. Hell, it's all I can see out of my right eye. He wouldn't... He wouldn't get his ape to... No, he would. I'm not going to scream. I will not scream. I refuse to scream.
Then the knife touches the flesh just above my right eye. The pain hits immediately. He starts to drag it down my face, down nearly to my chin. I scream. As he starts to carve twice more into my cheek across the first cut, I scream until my throat feels as bloody as my face. Then, finally, thankfully, blackness swallows me.
There are voices whispering in my head, some almost familiar, asking what I want them to do. I just want him gone, I try to think back at them.
There's screaming. It's not me anymore, I don't think. Warm liquid splashes against me, but it's not enough to drag me out of the quiet, numb room inside my head. I guess I am at least partially still conscious; I can vaguely pick up things going on around me, but I'll be damned if I can do a thing about them.
Not now. Please, not now, Yuugi.
Perfume... Something light, flowery. Violets, maybe? A gentle hand touches the undamaged side of my face. An achingly familiar voice whispers, "Niichan?"
"Amane," I manage to get out before blackness completely seizes me.
I can smell the antiseptic before I even really wake up. Hearing a steady blipping sound a moment later only confirms it: I'm in a fucking hospital. I hate hospitals. Not that I've ever been the patient before. How can I be? Legally speaking, I don't exactly exist. When Ryou and I were born, it was at home. If he hadn't been tiny and sickly enough to warrant hospitalization, I don't doubt that neither of us would legally exist. I think our grandmother was going to start my paperwork before she died, but that was many years ago. So, again, how am I here?
There's a very, very faint buzzing in the back of my head, but it's a tone and pitch I recognize easily: Yuugi. And if he's here, then so's Yami and, I'd imagine, Ryou. Guess that means I should open my eyes, huh? Might be harder than I anticipated; they feel like they weigh a ton or two each. Finally I get one open - and that's because the other one won't.
I really wish Ryou and Yami wouldn't talk at the same time like that. It's rather unsettling, to say the least. "Why am I in a hospital?" I manage to croak out. The question I want to know is, of course, how am I here, but if Yami's here and if that dark shadow lurking in the corner is Seto, then I think I know the answer: money talks, especially when it comes from a Kaiba or a Mutou - and even more so when it's the Master of the City's money. Seto may be a young Master, but he's made it perfectly clear since he took up the reins a week ago that he has no intention of being as "hands-off" as Gozaburo was. Changes in Were policy alone...
Ryou's climbing up on the bed with me, wrapping himself around me like he used to do when we were a lot smaller. "They told us they found you on the hospital steps covered in blood. What happened, niisan?" If my brother ever cried, somehow I think he would be doing it now. I can't tell him, though. Not only because my throat feels like a quarter mile of well-traveled road, but also because I don't want to see the look in his eyes when I do, so all I can do is shake my head.
I can hear a faint noise to my right and turn my head slowly (because anything else makes the room spin) to see Yami pouring a little bit of water into a small glass. "Here." Any other time, I'd be annoyed at being... well, babies like this, but for once, I might actually need it. I don't think I can hold a cup right now while I'm feeling doped up to the gills and my wrists are bandaged. Not that I'm going to tell anyone just how good that water feels on my throat. When the glass is empty, he looks at me expectantly. "More?"
"No." Sounds like the water helped a little bit. It still doesn't feel great, even when I'm all hyped up on pain meds, but it's helping me ignore the bandages covering one side of my face and the throbbing beneath them. But I have to ask. "How bad?"
Yami's silent as he picks at the bandage covering one of my wrists. Ryou lets out a small whimper and manages to wrap himself around me closer, and I absently wrap my left arm around him, taking care not to pull the IV. Yuugi's biting his nails and looking away. (Every time I see him do something so... human, so normal, I have to marvel again that he's a spirit Yami bound to him.) I don't see Jounouchi since they're strict about known Weres in hospitals. So that leaves one person.
"How bad, Seto?"
"There are severe bruises and minor lacerations on both your wrists with the right one being the worst. The consensus seems to be you were handcuffed to something and struggled. There are marks that look like someone - a human male, most likely - tried to claw his way through your stomach and chest." Damn, I hadn't even felt those. "The worst is where someone carved into the right side of your face. The doctors are predicting it will scar but shouldn't affect your eyesight." He sounds like he's reading a laundry list (or in Seto's case, probably a computer manual), but that's how he is. I wouldn't expect anything else. Nights like tonight I even appreciate it.
A sniffle from Ryou draws my attention back to him. "What happened, niisan?"
"It's not like you to let someone get the better of you," Yami adds.
Damn. How am I supposed to resist both of them? Not to mention the worry radiating off Yuugi in waves and the faintest stamp of concern in Seto's eyes.
"Takeshi happened," I rasp out.
Ryou goes impossibly paler. "He found us?" I nod slowly. "What does he want?"
"Don't ask that, Ryou. You don't want to know." You won't like the answer, little brother.
Another sniffle escapes him, and something inside me that Takeshi couldn't touch hurts. "We should get out of here then. Before anything else can happen. We should leave Domino as soon as you're released - No! Before then! Kaiba-kun, Yami-kun, you can get him transferred out of the city, right?"
I'm guessing he's about five seconds away from completely freaking out when Yami cuts in. "What is it, Ryou?" He glances from him to me and back again. "Who's found you?"
Ryou shakes his head, stubbornly silent, and crimson eyes turn to me once more. "You don't want to know." I know that won't work worth a damn with Yami, but that's all I can give him without getting into a long, drawn-out discussion of our past. Not even Jounouchi knows half of what I'd have to tell him, and Ryou doesn't need to hear it all over again; living it once was enough for both of us.
Yep, I was right. Yami's building up some massive retort - and Seto interrupts him. "I can't do a damn thing for either of you if you're outside the city."
You can practically hear that taking the wind out of Ryou's sails. For that matter, I hadn't even really considered just how useful it might be to have the Master of the City on our side. Imagine that: me not tapping a resource like this. I must be losing my touch - or things have just been that crazy around here lately. "How safe are we in the city, Seto? I was grabbed here. I'm not trusting Ryou to any maybes."
"Niisan..." Good, he's starting to go from worried sick to concerned and a little annoyed.
"No maybes." That's another thing I have to admit I like about Seto: he does nothing by half-measures. "You'll be safest at the mansion. I'll go arrange for your belongings to be moved over tonight. I'll... tell Jounouchi you're awake also." The last is said as he shuts the door behind him, leaving us to stare after him.
I turn to look at Ryou in utter confusion, half-hoping whatever drugs is being pumped through me made me see that, to find he's looking at me in much the same way. I guess I didn't hallucinate it. "Did Kaiba-kun just -"
"-completely take over our lives?" I finish. "I think so." Yuugi's laughing like someone let him into the good drugs. I shoot a glare as best I can. "Glad we're so amusing to you, Mini-Me."
He sobers abruptly and exchanges a strange look with Yami right about the same time as Ryou starts yawning. "Why don't you get some sleep, Ryou-kun?" Yami's being too nice. This is suspicious. "You've been up all night. Aibou and I'll watch your brother a while."
He nods and is out cold in a matter of minutes. Only when I'm sure he's asleep do I ask, "What's with the looks, you two? And don't even try to pretend you don't know what I'm talking about."
"What really happened out there, Bakura-kun?" Should have known Yuugi'd start this off.
"Who's Takeshi?" Yami presses on. "Who's after you? There's a lot you left out."
I let out a loud sigh. "Takeshi... Can we leave it at 'he's someone who doesn't like me'?" They're both shaking their heads before I can finish. "Fine, fine." I start brushing my hand over Ryou's hair, taking care not to get the IV stuck. It's not quite like Jounouchi, but it'll have to do to keep me calm enough to relay this. "Takeshi's... our father's favorite goon. He only uses him when he wants to send a message."
"What message was he trying to send this time?" Wow... Who knew Yami's voice could get so soft? I'd like to hear it again like that in other circumstances, but then again, like I said, I'm drugged to the gills.
"He wants his heir back. Ryou's the most normal of the three of us, after all."
"We have a younger half-sister, Amane. She talks to animals and plants the same way I talk to spirits."
"Why isn't she with you guys?" Trust Yuugi to ask the hard question.
"She wanted to stay with her mother and Tokyo friends, not take chances coming with us."
"So your father's behind all of this?" Back to Yami. It's almost like a tennis match. I'm starting to know how the ball feels anyway.
"Yeah, he is." Why does it bother me so much to admit that, at least to him? And damn, does he look pissed off! I think if he clenches that fist any harder his hand is going to start bleeding. "Now what's with the third degree?"
Yuugi fidgets and looks nervously over at Yami, who shakes his head. "You have to tell him, Aibou. I'm not sure I can."
The ghost nods slowly. "Several hours ago, after Ryou told us you were gone, I felt something. I don't know, a flicker."
Okay, if it didn't hurt to move my face, I'd raise an eyebrow. "A flicker?"
"For a moment, he flashed solid then vanished. He was back in a few minutes, saying you were in trouble," Yami cuts in.
"Bakura-kun, I think you tried to call as many spirits as possible to you again, to help you. When I got there, you were handcuffed to a chair, unconscious, and there were easily a dozen other spirits in the room," he swallows hard, "ripping a man apart."
"I thought it wasn't possible for a spirit to turn flesh." Corporeal. Whatever.
"Neither did I, but they were. I was." Yuugi sounds almost sad - or I think the term is 'wistful', like he enjoyed being real for a bit.
"It sounds like your abilities increased." I wish they'd quit switching back and forth like this. He pulls the chair up to the bed before he continues speaking. "I mean, before it was just ghosts that were close to you. We don't know where you were, but Aibou said wherever he was wasn't close to our home. Your powers taking jumps like this can't be good."
I'm not going to point out that I haven't bound a spirit to me yet. Hell, we just got him willing to accept that Yuugi is dead - or mostly dead - or something. He's not technically a ghost, since ghosts are unquiet and usually malevolent spirits, and he's a spirit only in the sense he doesn't have a flesh and blood body. And since Yami's accepted his death, strangely, he's aged to the point he's supposed to be, a year younger than us, not that he's grown much or anything. I've never seen a spirit age before. Yeah, I've said it before, but they're freaks. Cute freaks and freaks I'm starting to lay claims to, but freaks all the same.
"Yami, it's not like there are that too many others like me. I can't go traipsing around the world to find one - and hope they're still sane enough to ask." That's one bit of information I could have lived without Mahaado passing on to me. I'm still on the low levels of my powers, and I'm close enough to out of my mind as it is.
It's odd, though. Mahaado said there are probably no more than five hundred people in the world with powers like mine and, unless I deliberately look for them, I'd probably never meet another. So I have to wonder if my powers hunted down another like me in the Bossling. They seem to be similar enough, and his balances mine out when they start to overwhelm me. I'm not sure where his end and mine begin in all honesty sometimes. It's an odd little checks and balances system we have going, but I like the way Mahaado explained it better: my powers are a wide open door, while Yami's are the lock that can hold it closed.
"Do you have any idea where we might find one?" Yami's asking.
I shake my head slightly. "None whatsoever."
"Then Aibou and I will stay with you and Ryou-kun and Jounouchi-kun at Kaiba's. Make sure nothing goes wrong." I can practically see him biting back commenting on Seto's incompetence.
I'm almost tempted to say 'thank you', but I won't. For starters, it's not in my nature. And I think I'm officially in over my head. This... is going to get interesting.
Original Draft: 29 March 2005
Revision Draft: 20 May 2005
A quick note: Saichou is a term used to for the president of a company, one's top most boss.
I've actually had this written for a while. I've just been being very lazy about getting it typed up. ^.^;; So this is the end of Color of Life, at last. There is a sequel in the works, if anyone interested, tentatively titled either Blood and Sacrifice or Eternal Blue.
Thanks to everyone who's reviewed. Also, thank you to everyone who read and didn't leave a review. It's been a fun run. I appreciate the comments I've gotten from readers, from my beta-readers (Katsuko, Marika Ikeda, Desolate03, Robin Terrae, Rein), and from my muses (Katsuko and Desolate03). Thanks to everyone for sticking around through my first major foray into the Yuugiou universe. I'm not done yet.