|Click Number Five
Author: Higurazel PM
Startleshipping Anzu Mazaki X Bandit Keith Warning for violence. What if Bandit Keith had never returned to Duel Monsters after his defeat in the American championship? Post-season 5, Anzu moves to the United States and becomes a professional dancer.Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Drama - Anzu M. & Keith H. - Words: 2,993 - Reviews: 2 - Favs: 3 - Published: 05-10-11 - Status: Complete - id: 6980840
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The cellar of the bar was a haven of the dark and dank. Shapes just beyond the reach of the single overhead sodium lamp, black on black. A dusty crate here, ancient bottles encrusted with filth there, its contents spoke of years of neglect and apathy.
Silence but for the long, rattled breaths of those who are perpetually on death's door. Maybe somewhere, fetid water oozed its way down an ancient pipe, the noise losing itself in the shadows. Not even sound itself wanted to interrupt the proceedings at the centre of the cellar.
A workshop table, scarred and battered, covered in a plastic sheet. Two chairs. Metal. Similarly covered. A group of men and women, maybe fifteen in total standing around in a circle, eyes fixed on the two men sitting at the table, facing one another. A stink of sweat and blood permeated every fibre of the underground chamber, working its way into the nostrils and never-
The gunshot punched a ragged wound into the silence, bouncing from one wall to another, whistling in ears and shuddering every loose fitting. A hand, tightly gripping the handle of a weathered handgun, dropped to its owner's side. With a slow, drunken grace, one of the men dropped forwards. His head, such as it was, struck the table, a glistening hole in its centre spilling detritus of grey and red and black over the plastic sheet. The body gave a lurching spasm before becoming truly still, the gun dropping from its hand to the stone floor.
No-one said a thing. A few people looked distinctly bored, but most seemed thoroughly disappointed. It was a while before a tall man in an ill-fitting suit stood forward and motioned at the corpse.
"Ok, first things first, can someone fetch the guys to come pick him up?"
One of the assembled guests drifted off into the shadows, heading upstairs to arrange the clean-up.
"Next, did anyone have Keith in the fourth round? Any bets?"
Nothing. Someone looked intently at their shoes. Another cleared their throat.
"Alright, well, better luck next time I guess." The man waltzed over to the surviving sitting figure, producing a square of material from his pocket and handing it over. "Until then ladies and gents, have a pleasant month."
The seated man lifted up the material, pressing it to his sweat-slickened forehead and tying it into a bandana.
"Excellent work Keith, you've been a bigger blessing to me than anyone." The suited man sat across from Keith at the same table, though the plastic sheets, body, gun and audience had long since disappeared. He grinned as he pulled up a briefcase and slid it onto the table. "As promised, your winnings."
"And payday rolls around again," Keith reached out for the briefcase, his voice little more than a rasp.
"Maybe you should spend some of that on a drink sometime. I mean, there is a bar upstairs after all. You do know that right?"
"Really? And here I thought this was just a Russian Roulette club." Keith reached into the inside pocket of his jacket, pulling out a pair of sunglasses.
"Well, whatever. I'm just saying you don't sound too good."
"You're right. I'd hate to ruin my Soul Singer Slash Bloodsports career." Keith winked before hoisting up the suitcase, slipping on the sunglasses and heading out of the cellar. From somewhere above, a door slammed.
"Well," The suited man sighed, "Guess I'll see you in a month Bandit."
It was well after midnight before Anzu managed to leave the theatre, and she had to wrap her coat about herself to keep out the winter air. The sky looked as though it could unleash a torrent of snow at any moment, but for now things seemed calm. She hurried her way to the subway station, gritting her teeth at the occasional rush of the wind. She could hear a train pulling in as she descended the stairs. Perfect timing. She quickly went through the rote of paying and making her way to the platform, actions that had quickly become almost automatic since she had moved here a year ago. The train came to a stop and she hopped aboard, almost instantly regretting her decision.
There were two other passengers in this carriage. One was a young man, maybe in his mid-twenties with short-cropped black hair and a wide grin. He wore a ridiculously expensive looking suit, with a thick golden ring on one hand and shoes polished to a horrific shine. His eyes were trained on the other passenger. A broad-shouldered man in a ragged collection of clothes that seemed entirely out of place in the modern day. A leather vest and an American flag bandana made him seem as though he'd stepped straight out of an 80's music video. The fact that he was wearing sunglasses indoors, at night in the middle of winter didn't help matters either. He looked as though he hadn't shaved or even checked himself in a mirror for a few days, the occasional oily curl of blonde hair peeking out from under the bandana.
Anzu quickly took a seat, far from the two of them. She looked straight down at the floor, trying to tell herself that she was simply imagining that behind those sunglasses, a pair of eyes were watching her. It was all in her head that she could feel them boring into her, roaming up and down. The doors shut and the train began to rumble its way to the next stop.
"Hey, hey buddy."
Anzu looked up reflexively at the sound. The young man in the suit had shifted slightly, but was still glaring at the other man. From the looks of things, the former had been the one to talk.
"You're Bandit Keith, right?"
The 80's reject didn't say anything, but he did turn in the man's direction.
"I knew it! Man, did you just never change your clothes since you went off the deep-end?"
The man he referred to as Bandit Keith remained silent.
"You look like shit man. What's the matter? Couldn't swallow getting your ass handed to you by a kid?" He laughed. Snorted.
"This is what you look like when you have yourself a good life." Keith told him, a faint smile playing out on bruised lips.
"Got nothing to do with the fact that you were a failure at playing card games for a living?"
"Alright, alright," Keith raised his hands in what looked like a sign of submission. "You can quit it with the hostility. I'm just taking a ride home ok?"
"Don't like the reminiscing huh?" The young man got to his feet, "What sort of a man gets famous for playing at trading cards and then gets beat by a child?"
"If you're looking to get a rise out of me, it's not working." Keith told him, "All that happened years ago. We've all moved on since then."
"Not getting a rise out of you hmm?" The young man sneered, snorting again. The sound of him summoning up a mouthful of phlegm seemed louder than the engines, the rattle, the rumble of the tracks. He opened his mouth, aiming directly for Keith's unflinching face.
"Hey! The man said he's just taking a ride home. Why don't you shut up, sit down and let's all just sit in silence."
Everyone looked shocked at Anzu's outburst. Especially Anzu. She was on her feet, fists clenched, staring down the young man. She could feel the heat rushing to her cheeks as the adrenaline took hold, suddenly aware of what she had just said and done. A pair of faces stared at her, one quickly turning to digust and anger. Her outburst's target marched down the carriage towards her, adopting that same practiced sneer. He stopped inches from her, and Anzu didn't budge. She was locked into this course of action now.
She and the young man stared at each other for a moment or two. Each one silently daring the other to back down and take their seat. For a split second, it looked as though Anzu had won, the man shrugging and turning away. She didn't even have time to register her relief before he swiftly turned and smashed his fist into her jaw, the force of the blow sending her straight to the floor with a grunt.
"Beaten by a kid and then stood up for by a woman. You're one hell of a man Keith." The young man gave Anzu a final look before turning back around, finding his face no more than a few centimetres from Bandit Keith's.
The punches were few in number, but did their job perfectly. In the few seconds that it took to drop his opponent, Keith was certain he'd fractured a rib or two, broken an arm and caused a very hefty dentist bill. A swift follow up kick ensured that the man's immediate concerns would be about when he would stop passing blood. He stepped over the unconscious heap and extended his hand to Anzu.
"Come on, we're nearly at the next stop. I doubt you'll want to be around for when he wakes up."
In the time that they had been underground, the full force of winter had unloaded onto the streets. The surface was blanketed with snow, and a few flakes still drifted on down.
"Are you going to be ok like that?" Anzu asked, motioning to Keith's choice of clothing.
"Meh, I don't tend to feel the cold so much. Heat, now there's a different story." He grinned, hefting up a rucksack.
"Well, I don't have far to go, but what about you. Do you live near here?"
"Nope," Keith pushed his hands into his pockets and nodded in the direction of a bar opposite the subway entrance. "I'll be heading in there though, so I'll be fine."
"Well, I guess I'll head home then." Anzu pulled up the hood of her coat.
"What, seriously?" Keith arched his eyebrow. "You're not going to let me buy you a drink?"
Anzu stopped in her tracks, trying desperately to figure out the best course of action.
"Relax," He told her, "I'm not coming on to you or anything. What happened back there was my fault. You took a punch because you were standing up for me. I'm not going to feel right unless you let me buy you a drink."
"Is that some sort of law?" Anzu laughed quietly, "Someone gets hit so you offer them a drink?"
"Seems like a fair enough economy to me. Besides, it'll at least help settle your nerves."
She looked down the street towards the direction of her home. At this point, a sit down in the warm seemed like a great idea. Even if just for a little while.
"Go grab a seat," Keith told her, dusting snow from his shoulders and bandana, "I'll be right back."
The bar itself was almost empty. A few groups kept to themselves at far flung tables, but the majority of the building was deserted. Anzu pulled up a seat at a table near the window, removing her coat as the warmth returned to her body. Shortly after, Keith reappeared with a pair of glasses half-filled with a golden liquid. He told her to sip it slowly as he set the glasses down on the table and took a seat opposite her.
"I thought you had to be 21 to drink in this country." She mentioned quietly, lifting the glass and inspecting its contents.
"Yes, but there are mitigating circumstances sometimes. Like the Bandit-Keith-says-you-need-and-deserve-a-stiff-drink clause." He grinned and raised his own glass. Though it had been a long day, he was making sure to keep himself alerted to an inner monologue that screamed at him to keep his eyes at face-level or higher. He hadn't been able to notice her body before, what with the girl's thick coat, but now it was difficult to do anything but notice. "So!" He said quickly, attempting to distract himself, "Have you been in America long?"
"No, only a year or so," she admitted, "Is it obvious?"
"No way," he assured her, "Hell, you speak english better than I do."
The conversation flowed from subject to subject.
Keith spoke. Anzu took a sip.
Anzu spoke. Keith took a sip.
Back and forth.
Both of them facing each other across the table.
Smoke wafted up to the cellar's damp ceiling, drifting over the fragments of hair, bone and meat that now clung to it.
Once again, the revolver dropped to the floor. A few of the audience muttered under the breaths. Two punched the air in delight, high-fiving each other at the result. One man stepped forward, screaming abuse at the top of his lungs, directing it at the half-headed contestant.
"You dumb bastard! I had my money on you in the third! Not Keith in the second! Do you know how much I had riding on that?" He kicked the corpse out of its chair. "No offence meant Keith," he added, catching his breath, "But come on! I was one shot off!"
"Sorry for the inconvenience." Keith chuckled, tying his bandana.
"So when do the tickets go on sale?" Keith asked as two plates were set down on their table, a hot lunch welcome on such a cold day.
"Why, are you interested in seeing the show?" Anzu pulled her plate towards her, sprinkling salt over the top of her meal.
"It's a balletic reimagining of A Midsummer Night's Dream. That doesn't exactly sound like the sort of thing you'd go for."
"A month of dating and suddenly you know everything about me?" Keith laughed as he began to hungrily shovel food into his mouth.
"No. But not for lack of trying. I can't count the amount of times you manage to dodge the Job bullet."
Her choice of words stopped him for a moment, but he shrugged it off.
"Still not going to tell me hmm?"
"A man's got to have a little mystique," He said before slurping noisily on a milkshake.
"Well, it always leaves me guessing. I mean, the fact that you never let me pay for anything means you're alright for money, yet you never tell me where it is you work. Plus it's only since we met that you started... y'know, looking after yourself..." She trailed off.
"Cogs in motion?" He asked.
"I'm thinking you're either a drug dealer, a gigolo or Batman." She stated, her voice low. Keith laughed loud enough to get stared at by a few of the diner's other customers.
"Thanks a lot!" He finally managed to get out between laughs. "Nice to hear."
"I'm serious!" She said, the corners of her mouth turning upwards. Soon she was lost in laughter too. The two of them either didn't notice the stares they were receiving, or they just didn't care, they carried on laughing until it was difficult to draw breath.
"You're still not going to tell me are you?" She ventured.
"Tickets." He responded, "Come on, I want to see your show. Midsummer Night's Dream right? I love Dickens!"
"... Is also good." He grinned, placing his hands over hers. "Don't make me bat my eyelashes young lady."
Anzu sighed, rolling her eyes. "I'll make sure to get you a ticket." She said eventually, "Just... Try and dress nice for the occasion ok?"
"You mean my formal leather vest and bandan- Joking!" He cut his self-deprecating statement short when he saw the look in her eyes. "I've still got a suit somewhere. Might have pawned it... Or eaten it or something. We'll see." He leaned forward over the table, pressing his lips gently to hers. Hands squeezed tight.
The cold touch of the gun barrel to Keith's temple felt welcome. Reassuring him along with the stares of the audience. His hand gripped the revolver's handle tightly, thumb pulling back the hammer.
He'd thought about leaving his 'Job' a short while after meeting Anzu, but it just hadn't measured up in his head. When he had played Duel Monsters, he had played to win. The money had been great when he'd gone professional, and the risk of losing face was always on his mind. When the time finally came when he lost, and lost spectacularly at that, it had destroyed him. To lose in such a way, in such a public forum, it was too much for him. He could deal with the risk of losing just fine. It was the aftermath that was hell.
Here, in Russian Roulette of all things, he had found a perfect state. The money was good, if not as good as when he had played Duel Monsters (And the thought that playing card games was more lucrative than betting on one's own life still chilled him.) But it was the risk that had him hooked.
In short, for him, there was no risk.
If he won, he kept going. More money in a briefcase (quickly transferred to a rucksack), and a month without worries.
If, somewhere down the line, he ever lost... Well, there would be no shame. He wouldn't have to deal with the failure.
His free hand patted the ticket in his jeans pocket.
He pulled the trigger.