Hi all! Yes, we're finally updating this story after a long break. Thank you to everyone who is willing to stick around and find out what happens!
Responses to Reviews:
jay – Thank you so much! We're just glad that this fic is good enough to make you still want to read YGO even though you've left the fandom. Thanks for reviewing, it makes our day!
Tala2u – Well, it was a short chapter last time. Hopefully this one will make up for it. ;-) We've been working on it for quite some time to make sure it fits with what we wanted. Hope you enjoy!
Cactus Bob – Yup, and now we're updating again! Hope you'll like the part with both Yugi and Yami in them this time. Thank you so much for the review!
mofalle – Aww, we really like the Pegs and Kaiba relationship too. Look for more on that to come up in next chapter, but don't worry. They'll both be showing up soon enough. =) Thanks for the review!
Shadowincarnate – Thank you for the review! We're glad you're enjoying it so far!
Blythe – Thanks so much! We're trying to make it fun even though it takes us a while to update. Thank you for sticking with it!
Indigon – Yes, and the horror will continue! ;-) This is a horror fic partly after all. Expect many more thrills & chills to come, and thanks for the review!
PxC – Well, he's had many wives, so maybe he might. XD Ooh, fanart? For us?? We'd love to see it! Send us a link sometime, pretty please! And ty for the review!
What'sInAName!! – Sorry I doubt we updated soon enough, but we're really trying to do it more frequently. We just have high standards. =P We're glad you're enjoying it though, even with the screaming. ;-) That's what we try for! Thank you for the review.
Forever With Me – We're glad you're enjoying it so far. Hopefully you'll like this latest installation. We're hoping to be posting more soon, don't worry we're not dropping this fun fic! Thank you for the review!
Draconic-Master – Yup, Kaiba and Croquet are kinda in deep…. trouble that's for sure. As for Tea and Mokuba, we hope you'll enjoy seeing them in this latest chapter. And thank you for the review!
Kurumi-chan – Thank you, we like to think that we're very awesome possums! We're glad you're familiar with the Shining too because we really love it too (as you can probably tell). Hopefully you'll get to read the book soon too, cause it's lots of fun. Thanks so much for the review!
Dark Magician Valkyria – We're glad you're enjoying it. Hope you'll like the latest part. Thank you so much for the review!
. - We're glad you're enjoying it so far! We're not quite sure how we're gonna end it, but we are taking votes for who people think will live or die! =D Just kidding…. But thank you for the review!
Aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!! – We're glad you're loving it. We're hoping you'll continue to as we go on with this next chapter. Thank you for the review!
Aaaand, that's a wrap for the reviews. Thank you again to everyone who reviews, they really brighten up our day and make this fun fic all the more worth writing. =) And now back to our regularly scheduled fright-fest…
Chapter 28: Mokuba takes a Slide
The generator hummed happily away as Joey squeezed his eyes shut trying to think even though his chest ached. It seemed like forever had passed since Kaiba had offered to delve into the basement to fix the electricity. Joey could remember how cocky Kaiba had been, how he'd smirked even as he'd headed off alone into the dark depths. Joey hadn't planned on ever following in his wake. He'd never done too well in dark places. Ever since his dad had decided to teach his son bravery. His dad was always the prankster sort. He'd particularly enjoyed popping out of closets after Joey's mom had tucked him into bed. Ironically it was the same closet he would later be locked in, as punishment when his father's drinking turned vicious and his mother was no longer around to take the hits. It was either the closet or a fist. Sometimes he was given the option, and he would always rather take a beating than wait helpless in the dark cramped space for his father's temper to turn.
Sitting there as a child, his worst punishment was his own imagination. He always felt as though things were sitting next to him, things that he couldn't see, but always wanted to hurt him. He imagined cold dead fingers hovering inches from the bare flesh of the back of his neck or his arms. Every tiny noise had made him jump. Once when he'd screamed he'd heard his father simply laugh in the next room, pop the tab on another beer, and slur out a drunken obscenity promising that his stay would be longer if he kept up the noise.
He took a slow shallow breath. He missed his sister so much. He'd have felt a hell of a lot better with her near. He'd always save a little money to talk with the only person who had ever completely understood him. She'd always had a way of coaxing out the heart of the matter and he always had a lot to say but lacked the words to describe it. Serenity had a knack for understanding without needing words. Of course if she really had come with him to the Overlook for the weekend, she'd have been in danger too. She'd have had to endure the darkness and fear with him, the gnawing terror that he might not get out alive, and he would never have wished something like that on his baby sister.
"Well looks like it's just the two of us, Yami. I'm fresh outta bright ideas." Joey closed his eyes against the darkness. He was leaning against a pile of moldering cardboard boxes and crumbling papers. Earlier he'd made the mistake of sitting on one of the many bloated boxes which, too rotten to hold his weight, had sent him stumbling to the paper-strewn ground. It was like being in file cabinet hell. He couldn't see much of anything useful, and when he tried to walk more than a few steps his knees buckled. His vision was all swirly and, ironic as it seemed, he was starting to feel dehydrated. Yup, that was it. After spending all day trimming bushes, the same ones that had attacked him come nightfall, the hours of hard labor were taking their toll. He was banged up, tired and hungry. He needed a hot meal and a couple hours of sleep, but every time he tried to calm his mind and think rationally he saw Kaiba's empty eyes, lifeless as the icy as the blizzard that raged outside.
"Joey? Did you hear me? I'm finished."
"Oh, sorry Yu—Yami." Joey leaned forward, his unintended groan one of the few sounds to rise above the low throb of the generator. It was a constant buzz, making the room vibrate like a mechanical bed in a cheap motel. Perhaps it was a learned response, or maybe they were both afraid of anything too noisy, but both of them had not spoken above a whisper since meeting. Come to think of it, Joey's thoughts had been noisier than anything else. He rubbed his aching eyes, already dreading the headache he could feel behind the bridge of his nose. "So what's in the book? Anything useful? Or do ya just need me ta turn a page for ya?"
"It's fascinating actually." The spirit's eyes were luminescent in the dark, a brighter imitation of Yugi's. It was strange to see his feet hover above the ground as he leaned over to examine the mounds of scrap like a curious beachcomber. Joey couldn't quite rationalize the fabric of what he saw before him, only that he was like a Yugi-shaped lampshade … but without a bulb or stand… and with its light turned on. Joey shook his head. He was feeling pretty awful and, with the way his mind was working, he was wishing he could just fall asleep somewhere.
Yami furrowed his brow as he hovered a long thin finger over a small yellowed image. "Why does this man look so familiar?"
Joey leaned up a little to get a better look at the faded black-and-white photograph. His chest felt like someone was standing on it, but he'd rather deal with the pain than lie around doing nothing. A pair of dark eyes met his from the old paper, and curiously a shudder convulsed through him at the sight. He knew for certain he'd never met the man. He'd have remembered that greased black hair and dark angular eyebrows. There was no better way to explain it than that the picture gave off cold, kinda like a grocery store's refrigerated section. "I don't know but I sure don't like him."
Yami cast a calculating look, "And why is that, do you suppose?"
"Well … he kinda gives me the creeps, if ya know what I mean." He sighed. "This whole place gives me the creeps."
"Moreso than I?"
"Oh, hell yeah!" Joey found his hands closing the small, dusty scrapbook before he'd even realized it. "C'mon, let's find you something else to read."
Yami made a grunt of acknowledgement, his fingers tracing over the cover almost lovingly. "I know I've seen him somewhere before, but where?"
Joey sighed, allowing himself to lean back a bit on his hands. His eyes slid shut for a moment as he tried to keep from breathing too heavily. It was hard to believe that he'd felt up to a brawl with Kaiba not too long ago, or that he'd even had the energy to crack jokes and trim hedges.
Kaiba. His thoughts always boomeranged back to him. The change had been uncanny. It's not that he'd never accused Kaiba of being an arrogant bastard, and he'd often joked with Tristan that if anyone was a serial killer waiting to happen it was Seto Kaiba …
He felt his eyes getting moist at the sudden rush of memory. The cold blue eyes gleaming unnaturally from behind a bloody shovel blade. The fear that had made him tremble then and that still made him start shaking even as he thought about it ages later. He couldn't get the memory of the gaping maw of the basement door, broken open and yawning darkness, out of his head. It haunted him – the humiliation, the helplessness he'd never wanted to feel again. And a voice, Kaiba's voice telling him he'd better do it, he'd better follow orders if he knew what was good for him. He couldn't help but think of his father, words slurring as he barked all manner of orders from his living room chair, always beer filtered. He would not start crying about it dammit! Not when Croquet had gotten far worse. He might as well have been –
His eyes flew open, "Croquet!"
The noise was like a shotgun in a church, a sort of blasphemy in the cavernous dark. If Yami were capable of such a thing, he would have jumped out of his skin. "What?"
"Croquet! Oh man!" Joey was scrambling to an upright position, his breathing coming in ragged gasps.
"Joey, try to stay still!"
"But I have to check!" Joey shoved aside a pile of papers that seemed to crumble as they hit the ground. For a moment, Yami feared Joey would follow them. "I have to find him! I'm responsible! Oh man, if he's dead…"
"Find who? Responsible for what?" The spirit cursed his incorporeal form. Joey was in serious condition, and becoming hysterical was no way to help his wounds.
"Croquet! He's down here somewhere. Or … or at least his b-body is …" A revolted spasm passed through him.
"Joey, I demand you tell me the meaning of this!"
"Kaiba!" His fists clenched and unclenched, the rage completely overtaking him for the moment. "He attacked us for no damn reason and he … he made me –"
"Joey, you're not making sense!" Yami moved beside him, watching helplessly as Joey shoved piles of moldy paper and books around the room. "Get hold of yourself before you do yourself harm!"
"He made me…" Joey blinked, as though realizing where he was. "Yugi … Yami … I'm a murderer…"
Yami blinked, his jaw tightening at the thought. He was really unprepared for such a situation. He'd never been good at handling any of the myriad emotions Yugi threw at him on a daily basis in his blind groping rush through teenage years. The Pharaoh could not even remember such times of confusion in his own youth. Being cut off from Yugi and his friends for so long, being away from the hustle and blur of the living, it felt strange to be near such intense and unpredictable emotions. In a way the silence and solitude of this basement was more welcoming than returning back to Yugi's body. Especially with Joey's unnerving edginess. The Overlook was dark and distant, like the Puzzle itself or a tomb buried beneath the sand. He could sense the other spirits, out of reach but nearby, and for the first time in eons he felt a strange sense of belonging. He was dead, just as they were. It was oddly comforting.
It wasn't that he didn't care for Joey, certainly he cared deeply for all of Yugi's friends and would gladly kill anyone who harmed them; but he couldn't help but see the entire situation through a lens of cool logic. Kaiba was certainly a cruel man, but he had emerged from his shadow magic punishment, something which spoke volumes to the ancient spirit. It was one of the few things he respected aside from aptitude in a challenging game. If Seto Kaiba had attempted to murder one of Yugi's friends, if he was responsible for Joey's predicament, then the Pharaoh would show no mercy should he and Kaiba meet. He paid no heed to Joey's remorse over Croquet, the mustached man Yami dimly recalled had worked for Pegasus Crawford. In his mind, Pegasus had paid for his crime by being defeated in his own Shadow Game and losing his Millennium item. By contrast, Croquet was merely a servant to the acclaimed duelist.
He wasn't sure whether he should be upset or flattered by the fact that Joey kept referring to him as Yugi, but every time he started to get angry he remembered Yugi's eyes. Even from such a great distance and in such a forlorn place, Yugi's pull over him was unbreakable. "Hush. I think I understand, Joey. " Yami reached forward, suppressing his own confusion about Kaiba. He was grateful that Yugi had taught him to temper his desires for vengeance with a cool head.He knew that Yugi's friend first had to be coerced into staying calm before they could move any closer to unwrapping the mystery. Yami moved as though to touch Joey's shoulder, stopping just short of the frayed jacket. It wouldn't do to frighten him further. "Stay here. There's no need for you to get up. I'll see if I can find Croquet for you."
"But it's my fault if he's …" Joey's voice refused to allow him to continue as he leaned against the wall, his chest heaving in ragged, wheezy breaths.
"Your remorse and bravery speak more strongly than words ever could."
Joey laughed weakly, slumping down to the floor as he kept his back flat against the wall. His blond hair hung over his eyes in shaggy wisps. "Bravery… Where th' hell was bravery when Kaiba knocked Croquet out cold? When he told me ta drag him to the damn door? When he told me ta… toss him in…" His voice had become very small as the generator hummed out its relentless rhythm in the corner of the room.
Yami desperately wished Yugi was with him now. Unable to do any more, the ancient entity moved away, his booted feet hovering above the rubbish-littered ground like a rejected wraith. "Wait for me. I will not leave you alone for long."
"But what if something happens to you?"
"Joey, it is obvious that I am already dead." He smirked at him from over his shoulder, "I believe the Overlook could do no more to a wandering spirit such as myself."
Joey slapped his palm to his forehead, "Dammit, Yug - Yami! Don't go jinxin' yourself!" Joey sat back down heavily, his vision blurring at the edges. "You go on then. I'll just sit here like a useless bum I guess." Joey raked a hand wearily through his bushy mane. "But if you need me, I'll come runnin'!"
Yami doubted that very much, but nodded curtly. "Very well, Joey."
"Seto!" Mokuba couldn't contain his excitement. His brother was alive and safe and right outside the door, and already the visions he'd seen, the dream Tea and he had shared, the bodies seemed less real, less tangible. If Seto was here then somehow everything would be okay. His big brother always came back to save the day. It was almost too good to be true.
"Mokuba! Open this door!" Seto banged again, hard enough to rattle the door in its hinges. Something wasn't right. The voice was gruff, harsher than any tone Seto had ever directed at his little brother. It reminded him of the way Gozaburo acted when he got angry with them. The doorknob wiggled up and down viciously, as though Seto was trying to yank it free of the frame. The banging came again, this time more ferocious than before. Mokuba had come to a halt in front it, his hand hovering above the lock. What if it wasn't really Seto, but some trick of the hotel?
"Mokuba, you disgusting little pup – open the goddamn door!"
Mokuba's eyes grew wide, staring uncomprehendingly at the shadows that danced under the door as Seto shifted his weight from one foot to the next as he tried to find a way in. Seto had never spoken to him like this before. In fact, the only time he'd ever been cruel was when they had no choice. They needed to win the shares for Kaiba Corp, and the only way to do that was to win Gozaburo's little game. It had been a rouse at the time, an act to throw Gozaburo off their scent. This Seto, on the other side of the door, was not the same person he had known.
He felt Tea approaching from behind. "What's wrong with him, Mokuba?" Her voice was little more than a whisper, instinctively they knew they had to be quiet.
"It's not him, Tea."
"Do you think it's one of those murderers from upstairs?"
"I don't know. It could be I guess, but I do know that this is not my big brother."
Tea placed a hand on the boy's shoulder, gripping more to comfort herself than Mokuba. If Seto found a way to get through the door, she would do everything in her power to keep Mokuba safe. She couldn't let someone else get hurt. Like Yugi… "Maybe he's feverish, maybe he's sick. Mokuba, people say strange things when they're sick, they might not seem like themselves…"
"My brother would never talk to me like that – sick or not. If it is him then there's something more wrong with him than a fever." He put one hand on the door, wincing as it shook beneath another furious blow. He forced himself to stand firm, to be as brave as his big brother always had been, and concentrate. He reached out with his strange power, trying his best to control the force of it – he still had no real idea what he was doing. He just knew he was trying to see if Seto was really there, if he needed his help, or even if he was capable of being helped.
The door seizured again under his touch but he didn't pull away, and almost immediately he was rent by more visions. A man dressed like a perverse imitation of a dog laughed maniacally as a woman stood next to him, her decaying breasts heavy on her rotten chest, she draped one arm in a mockery of sexiness around Seto's waist. Beyond them, a tall dark figure stood, the dim light of a cigar clenched between his teeth, he blew out a puff of smoke as he turned to look directly at Mokuba, his posture lazy but his eyes sharp and cruel. He tipped his fedora in a mock salute. The woman bared her green teeth in a terrible rictus, her thick black tongue hissing seductively in Seto's ear. Kill… kill…kill…
Mokuba let his hand drop from the door in resignation, mopping his tears on his sleeve. They had them surrounded, he could see that now. Even if they found a way to escape, if Duke and Tristan had found the snowmobiles and had reached help, the Overlook would still pursue them. And with Seto in its grip, Mokuba knew he couldn't leave his brother behind. The others could plan a way to escape, but there was really nowhere they could go. Seto was still himself, but twisted by the Overlook's use, and Mokuba knew that even if his brother had been in his right mind there would still be no stopping it. He wasn't sure why, by for some reason the Overlook had targeted his brother out of them all. Was it his solitary nature? His independence? Or worse yet, was Seto simply the best tool to attack them all? The best available weapon? "They've got him," Mokuba whispered at last, his tongue dry and swollen. He felt his knees buckling as his body rather crumpled toward the floor.
Tea caught the small boy as he sagged. He looked like a man who has carried the burdens of the world on his shoulders instead of a young boy. "Mokuba what happened? Did he hurt you?" She was trying hard not to become hysterical again but the world seemed to be spinning and her heart was beating too fast. Mokuba was heavy in her arms, but just as quickly as the exhaustion had appeared on the boy's face, it was gone. And shakily she was helping him stand once more.
Something harder than a fist collided with the door. Both of them turned their eyes back to the doorway as Mokuba regained his balance. Tea thought she could see a bit of metal gleaming amidst the old wood. It was pulled back suddenly, and the door shook with another assault. This time, more of the metal glinted through, winking at her in the dim light. Finally Tea screamed, long and loud. It was like ringing a crystal bell, and the sound carried up, filled the room, and flooded the hallways of the Overlook. Mokuba backed away from the door, finally graced with some small understanding. He realized that if they didn't move soon, they were both going to die. "Tea, we've gotta get out of here."
"He's coming through! He's gonna kill us!" She cast around desperately, looking for anything she could use as a weapon.
"The window, Tea! The window! The one you came through, remember?"
"The window?" She blinked in confusion.
"How wide is the ledge, do you think?"
"Give me a second, please! I have to think!"
"We don't have the time!" They both cringed as another bellow of insults rang from the other side of the door. Seto's voice was beginning to sound inhuman.
"It's wide enough I think, Mokuba," she gasped, her eyes were still wild but she seemed to have regained control of her emotions once more. Together they ran to the window Tea had come through earlier, already dreading the drop. They reached it together, and froze. There was a white mass in the glass, solid as cement. It filled the entire frame and there was no sky to be seen. They were snowed in. "No." Tea shuddered, grabbing Mokuba tight. "No, no this can't be happening." She shook her head, her eyes darting about like a caged animal. "Come on, let's look at them all! Find all the windows in the room!"
Wordlessly Mokuba obeyed, the banging on the door a steady background urging them on. The splintering of the wood gave them plenty of incentive. There weren't many windows in the room, but every curtain they flung aside was filled with tightly packed snow, glinting at them in mockery. In desperation Mokuba worked one of the windows open and beat against the ice with his fist. His hands quickly became red and painful. He could practically hear the hotel laughing at them. It was winning.
"Here! Mokuba, in here!" Tea's voice echoed from the bathroom, and Mokuba rushed in to see an undersized window that miraculously wasn't completely blocked. She had already pried it open. The blizzard whipped at their hair and made the towels quiver. "Down there, there's a snowbank and over there – is that the front door? It doesn't look very far."
Mokuba had to stand on his toes to see it once Tea moved, and he saw something like a snow slide, gracefully sloping down toward a dark black rectangle that could be the roof over the main entrance. Either way it was almost too convenient, but Mokuba didn't want to press his luck with the Overlook breathing down his neck. If he wanted to get his friends out safely, and rescue his brother, he'd have to take any opportunity available.
He remembered Seto much younger than he was today, smiling at him from across a chessboard instead of pounding his way through a wooden door. "Looks like you lost again." His brother's eyes were sparkling with a cheerfulness that Mokuba hadn't seen in a long time. His face was missing the usual worry lines and creases.
"Man, I always lose."
Seto had just smiled, small and shy as he fidgeted with his white queen. "You just have to believe you can win, that's all. Just because I've got a twenty game winning streak, doesn't mean you're gonna lose the next time."
Mokuba had scowled and looked around the room. The other kids in the orphanage had been watching cartoons or laughing with friends. They often spent long hours alone and undisturbed by others back then, something that seemed impossible with his brother running Kaiba Corp and working his way through high school. It was during that time when they were so isolated that they grew so close, and grew to depend on each other. Mokuba trusted Seto as Seto trusted Mokuba. It was never stated; it was as if they had communicated without speaking.
Finally Mokuba had nodded, grinning bashfully down at the chessboard.
"Come on, let's try again." Seto had set about replacing the pieces with that same enigmatic smile, "But this time, you have to believe in yourself."
Mokuba blinked, his mind resurfacing in the Overlook and the ominous dark sky outside a complete contrast to the bright sunlight in his memory. The bits of snow danced around his face and caught like faeries in his hair. He knew now what cards the Overlook had. It had Seto. It had the element of surprise. It had the ability to read their fears, and twist their trust. It had them isolated from each other, and it was using that to its advantage. But it would never completely have Seto – not if Mokuba could help it. He and his brother had always shared a special bond that not even the Overlook could break. If only he could figure out how it was manipulating Seto ...
"We can do this, Tea."
Tea nodded in agreement, but her eyes spoke otherwise. "If you say so."
"Are you gonna be ok?"
"Yeah." She drew herself up, raising her chin and pushing a bit of her brown hair from her eyes. "Yeah, I'm alright now. It's just, it's all so…" She swallowed, gathering herself a moment longer. "I'm ok."
"Good." Mokuba took a breath to say more, then thought better of it. There really wasn't time for a motivational speech. He gestured to the window. The snow was settling on the window pane, their eyelashes, and the aged ceramic tiles beneath their feet. It was quickly becoming a fantasy bathroom, and would have been charming if circumstances had been different. Instead it made everything more surreal. "Ladies first, Tea."
"No, Mokuba, I'm…" She was looking at the window intently. Her hands were clutched together beneath her chin as though caught in a moment of private prayer. She shook her head. "You go first."
"We're all in this together, Tea."
"I know that. And I'm sure about this. We don't have much time. You go first."
Mokuba peered at her intensely. He could sense she was hiding something from him. "I'd feel better if you –"
In that moment Seto's mindless hack job turned vicious. He gave an animal shriek, a sound that drew all attention. It was nothing that should have come from a human being, let alone his big brother. There was only evil in the sound, evil and unadulterated hatred. "Don't think you can hide from me, you worthless dogs!"
Tea's face became deathly pale. If not for the vice-like grip on his arm, Mokuba would have doubted she was alive. When she turned back, it had been only a split second, but he could tell that she wasn't going to stand for any argument. "Look, we don't have time for this. Get going!" Before he realized what was happening, Tea had hauled him up by the jacket…
… and pushed him out the window headfirst.
With one shove, Mokuba was sliding down the snow slope, his hands pushed out in front of him like he was shooting down a water slide. The slope was steeper than it had looked from the bathroom window. He had an instant of elation when he realized he was going to miss the corner roof they'd seen by a few scant feet, and instead landed with a spray of powder in a fresh snow bank. Mokuba stood up, shaking his head like a wet dog, flailing snow in all directions.
He wiped his eyes and looked up to see Tea's pale face framed in the window, her brown snow-flaked hair swinging low over her shoulders. He knew that she was worried about him, and that he should let her know that he was okay. But he felt so light, so unburdened, and he realized for the first time just how stifling the hotel had become. His mind didn't feel weighed down like a matching pair of cement shoes. He cupped his hands around his mouth, his elation pouring over and he dismissed any need for caution. "Ok, your turn!"
But Tea shook her head. "Mokuba, I can't."
"What do you mean, you can't? Just close your eyes and slide! You could do it to me easy enough!"
"No, you don't understand! I can't… fit."
"You're too fat?!"
"No! I don't fit – I'm not a little kid – I'm a woman! With a figure!"
Mokuba blinked in confusion. He hadn't thought of that, and he certainly hadn't thought of being stuck outside on his own. The feeling of lightness was quickly evaporating and he glanced around furtively wondering where he was supposed to go. Seeming to read his thoughts, Tea wrung her hands. "Now get out of here before he figures it out! Go that way." Her pale hands were fluttering white birds in the yellow bathroom light as she gestured wildly in the direction she had pointed out earlier. "You have to get away, don't let him see you!"
"I can't just leave you!"
"Yes you can – now go! And hurry!" And with that she shut the window with a snap, pulling the curtains closed and plunging Mokuba into a blue and black world of snow and darkness. If only he'd remembered a flashlight.
The curtains closed, Tea went to the bathtub, wishing she had a razorblade or any kind of weapon. Instead she snatched up a bottle of her favorite shampoo, hefted it in one hand, weighing it. It was heavy, but she wasn't sure if it was heavy enough to break the mirror. Still it was worth a shot. She reared back, and then brought the bottle forward with a snarl, bashing the blue bottle against her own reflection. It bounced off. The mirror was plastic, not even real glass. She screamed in frustration, flinging the bottle across the room. It made a sad thump as it hit the side of the tub and then rolled to a stop.
Crying she grabbed Yugi's super-strong ultra-hold aerosol hairspray and maximum strength mousse. It wasn't much, but anything was better than just standing by and dying. She popped her toes and ankles, preparing to kick and fight her way out if she had to. The cold floor felt good on her bare feet. She'd taken a few self-defense classes. She was an aspiring professional dancer after all, and she planned to go to New York – the crime rate was legendary. She wouldn't go down without a fight. If Kaiba thought he could take her out easily, if the Overlook thought it could gut her like all those poor hapless women in every horror movie she'd ever seen, they were in for a surprise.
She moved over to the wall beside the hinge of the door to the main room. He wouldn't be able to immediately see her when he came through, but close enough that she could get a good shot at the bastard. He was really getting into beating that door though, hopefully wearing himself down. She hoped Mokuba would be alright. The thought of him out there alone only made her worry. And Yugi…
No, she'd done the right thing. She had to believe that no matter what happened to her, Mokuba still had a chance. He would've been a wreck seeing his brother like this anyway; Kaiba was muttering incoherently as he bashed away at a bathroom door. There wasn't any doubt that he'd kill anyone he could get his hands on. Tea tried not to think of Kaiba as the proud duelist who Yugi had … who Yugi respected as an equal. She tried not to remember the look of sheer contentment when he and Mokuba had been reunited after Yugi's defeat of Pegasus. This was a matter of self defense now. She couldn't be worried with the details of the past. Kaiba would kill her if he got the chance. She would have to hurt him first.
When the wood splintered, Tea held her breath. She clutched the hair products tightly, her fingers positioned lightly over the triggers. She instinctively backed away from the triangle of dull metal that wiggled and then was yanked back from the door with a grunt. It looked like it was a shovel of some kind it was bigger than she'd thought. She could only hope that he wouldn't use it to block her line of attack. She'd have to aim high, Kaiba was taller than her after all and hit as soon as she got a clear shot. If she hesitated, she wouldn't get another chance.
"I'm coming for you, Tea. You can't get out without coming through me." Tea nearly dropped the hair products as the door was hammered again, a larger bit of the shovel's blade wedging itself further in the wooden door. It almost felt like the floor was shaking each time he struck now, the glint of the shovel showing more and more through the hole in the door.
It seemed almost impossible that just the other night she had slept peacefully in here, her only worries the cleaning of the old hotel. And later, after her miraculous escape, whether Yugi would be okay. Now she was worrying only about herself. Shaking, Tea tried to focus on something else. She concentrated on the steady in-out pattern of her breath. Her hands were growing sweaty against the cans, but she wouldn't let go of them. Her eyes transfixed on the widening gap that separated her from Kaiba's mad frenzy.
He'd gone back to muttering, snarling really. Something about Gozaburo and not taking orders from anyone. He really had lost his mind. Her breath slowed and she felt herself calming down as she watched the shovel's progression with detachment. The hole was nearly wide enough to get a hand through. She wouldn't be able to strike until after he'd reached through and unlocked the door. She'd wait for him to open the door before her assault and he'd hit with everything she had and then run like crazy. It wasn't the best thought-out plan, and she was certain Yugi would've thought of something better, but it was the best she had. Then she'd find Mokuba. Maybe Duke and Tristan had finally found the snowmobiles. Maybe Mokuba was with them by now, perhaps Joey too. Once the gang reunited, she was sure Kaiba would have no chance. She just wished they were here with her instead of wherever they were now.
"Why can't this damn rustbucket move any faster?" Duke mashed the button like a crazy man's Morse Code, as if he were playing a Final Fantasy game and the more times he hit it the faster the elevator would move. He kept glancing at Yugi's face, ashy even reflected in the brass elevator doors. His eyes were like stones dug from the earth, dull as dirt and sunken. Tentatively, Duke placed a hand on his shoulder, "Yugi…"
"The hotel wants it that way."
"Come again?" Duke and Pegasus exchanged worried looks before once again eying their short companion with morbid curiosity. Duke noticed Pegasus shift uncomfortably, his skin pale in his warm winter clothes. His eye was dark against the brightness of his hair, his exhaustion evident.
"The hotel. The Overlook. It controls everything. It doesn't care for interruptions when it's playing. It's putting us where it wants us to be." His gaze was steady and unflinching. "It's playing with us. We're nothing but pawns in this place."
Duke sighed. He wanted to argue that a hotel was nothing more than a bunch of brick and mortar, nothing sentient that could want anything, let alone play; but he couldn't lie to himself any more. There was more to this place than met the eye. From the moment he'd seen that photograph at the top of the collapsed stairs move, he'd known something was horribly wrong with the Overlook Hotel. Even if he didn't want to admit it to anyone else.
"There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." Pegasus blinked, shaking his head. "Shakespeare, you know. A wiser man than I by far…" There was a banshee wail as the elevator's brake set to work, the tiny red meter pointing steadily at the delicate 2 above the doors.
As the brass doors crept open, like the folds of a curtain being drawn back for the glee and delight of an awaiting audience, the scene that unfolded before them rendered them all speechless. There was timelessness to the scenario, as though it had been playing endlessly and would continue on and on so long as the Overlook still stood fast against the dredges of time and memory. The handrails of the dilapidated staircase stood like sentinels against the black chasm below. Across the hall, the pale faces of the numerous ancient portraits stood smiling into the camera lens, seeming almost too happy to see the three of them standing in shock within the elevator. But it all paled in comparison to the scene before them. It was all an elaborate stage show, and the tall shell of a man in the distance was certainly the main attraction.
Down the hall, the figure was moving fluidly, flinging some long thin object over and over against one of the doors with mechanical relentlessness. The figure had to be Kaiba – Duke's mind kept telling his eyes that's exactly who it was. The white trench coat was dirty and torn but unmistakable. Kaiba's movement seemed more fluid than any human's should be – whether he was an athlete or freaking Bruce Lee. Duke swallowed hard, realizing he'd been holding his breath.
The banging sound of each blow, the metal striking the splintered wooden door, seemed so loud that Duke wondered why they hadn't heard the noise from below. It was horrific. Duke wondered how much longer the assault would continue before the door collapsed and the attacker – Kaiba oh my God it's really Kaiba – burst through it, still mindlessly beating, beating, until his victims were silenced.
Somewhere below, Duke knew Tristan was there waiting for them completely unaware of what was happening just above his head. Why had they not heard anything? It didn't make any sense! Duke was shaking all over, sweat sliding down the small of his back as he stared and stared. He was frozen, helpless, unable to do anything but watch, desperately wanting to help but lacking the will to move his own legs.
Yugi was the first to react, scrambling so quickly that he skirted the edge of the yawning abyss where the staircase had once been, his foot sliding against the rubble.
"Yugi-boy!" Pegasus hissed. Leaping forward with almost rabbit-like speed, he snatched the back of Yugi's jacket, yanking him sharply back to safety. "You can't just go running at him like that!"
Duke crept up beside them, keeping his voice low. "Yeah, Yugi – that's exactly how Tristan got hurt earlier!"
Yugi was breathing heavily, his hands balled into fists and his eyes full of tears. "He's going to kill them!"
"Well we have to be a bit more cautious than that if we don't plan on becoming victims of the Overlook!" Pegasus spat, the anger in his voice overshadowed by his fear.
"Um, guys?" Duke realized with a sinking feeling that the banging had stopped. He reluctantly turned his gaze back to the room down the hall, feeling his heart leap into his throat as he saw Kaiba holding the snow shovel in both hands like a large, unwieldy scythe. He seemed to be listening, assessing the situation with his head cocked to the right. It was eerily silent in the hall as Yugi and Pegasus debated in heated whispers, oblivious to the imminent danger.
"Tea's in there, Pegasus – she needs my help!"
"Exactly, your help not your dead body!"
"Pegasus." Kaiba's voice resonated in the dimly lit hallway, bouncing off the old walls and taking on a disturbing power. His steps were slow and deliberate as he approached the trio, his blue eyes shone out of a dirtied and bloody face. Duke could hear something vibrating all around them, in the walls, as though thousands of voices were whispering excitedly at once.
Duke saw a shiver of fear run through Pegasus, but surprisingly his friend stood taller. He turned, arching a single elegant eyebrow and meeting Kaiba's gaze with a strange determination. "Kaiba-boy." Pegasus made a show of looking the ragged wraith up and down. "Goodness, you certainly look like hell."
To be continued…