Chapter Three

Malik (or maybe Isis) angst

"Isis-sama, are you sure you don't need me to carry anything else?" Isis cast Rashid a withering glance and shifted her grocery bag on her hip possessively, as if determined to prove to him that she was capable of carrying her own things.

"No," she snapped waspishly. "You've got enough to handle already." And he did, his burly arms were weighted down with at least six bags, and four more were looped around his wrists, the lack of circulation mottling his dark skin to a deep purple. "Really," she said as he ignored her, reaching out for her bag. "I'm fine. And stop with this '-sama' stuff."

Rashid smiled. Or at least the tattoos on his face crinkled a bit; it might have been a smile. It was hard to tell...Rashid didn't have many facial expressions. "As you wish, Isis-sa—Isis."

Isis locked the car and lead the way to the apartment steps, stopping to bid old Mrs. Kenshi good afternoon. The old woman was mechanically sweeping the steps, a disapproving frown on her normally friendly face. "Is something wrong?" Isis asked, rummaging in her purse for the key. Mrs. Kenshi, a widow of nearly fifteen years, lived in the apartment directly below the Ishtars. Isis liked her; she was a kind, gentle woman, with a soft spot for children and cats. She baked them cookies every so often, and in return Isis would stop by every few days to chat with her. "You seem upset."

Mrs. Kenshi sighed and glanced up at the Ishtar's window. "They're at it again."

"Who?" Isis asked. "Malik and Marik? Again?"

Mrs. Kenshi shook her head hopelessly and went back to her sweeping. "They've been going for at least an hour. I couldn't take the pounding anymore, so I came out here to get some peace and quiet. Furball's awfully worked up about it, though. She doesn't like noise." She scratched the ears of a scraggly orange kitten that was sitting on the porch railing and it closed its eyes in contentment, purring.

"Oh, I'm so sorry," Isis said, inwardly groaning. "I'll talk to them, I promise."

"Boys will be boys," the old lady said sagely. "I just wish they could keep it down a little."

Isis and Rashid exchanged worried glances as they dashed up the stairs. Isis fumbled awkwardly with the key and Rashid covered her small hand with his, steadying her. Isis gave her almost-brother a weak, worried half-smile and pushed open the door.

Isis dropped her bag on the kitchen counter and Rashid followed suit, massaging his arms where the bag handles had dug into flesh. "Malik?" Isis said, listening. She couldn't hear anything; the house was dead quiet.

"I don't hear them," she said. "They couldn't have gone out…" Mrs. Kenshi was blocking the door, surely she would have seen her brother and his lover leaving. It wasn't like the two could blend into a typical Japanese crowd, what with their skintight clothing, sandy blonde hair, caramel skin and tattoos.

"Isis-sama," Rashid said, and Isis turned around, ready to berate him for the unnecessary honorific when she saw what he was pointing to.

Half the counter looked like a hurricane had hit it. All the fruit and utensils had been swept hastily onto the floor, as if someone had been in a rush to clear a large area quickly, without any care for the consequences. Isis wondered for a moment if they'd been robbed, but then she took a good look at the tiles and gagged.

It was splattered with blood, great wide swaths of red stark against the white tile. Mingled in with the blood was a thick white substance that Isis really, really didn't want to think about. She recognized it, of course. After all, she'd found it on the couch, the kitchen table, in the shower, in the hallway, and most disturbing of all, her own bed. "Overhormonal nymphomaniacs," she muttered. Rashid lay a comforting hand on her shoulder; he knew how worried she was.

The blood was what concerned her. She hadn't found blood anywhere in a very, very long time, and it couldn't mean anything good. True, Malik claimed that Marik had gotten over his anger management problems, but…well, it looked bad. Very bad.

Marik used to beat Malik so badly and rape him so brutally that he literally couldn't move. She'd driven her little brother's bruised, broken body to the hospital more times than she cared to remember, held him while he cried more times than she could count, and hidden him from a raging drunk Marik far, far too often. It had only been in the last year that something had changed, that Marik and Malik moved beyond a bloody, violent physical relationship to something more intimate, more safe. She'd even found them cuddling on the couch once, and Marik had sworn her to silence under pain of death.

Why had she let Marik stay? Her brother loved him, the idiot. He actually loved this psychotic hallucination, although she had to admit that Marik was a little more substantial now that he had a body and all. No, it was for Malik that she let the yami live with them. She'd tried, tried to throw Marik out of the house after she'd come home one day to find Malik tied to his headboard, bleeding from gashes across his chest and between his legs and everywhere else a person could possibly bleed. There had been a fight, a huge argument that woke up everyone within a mile, most likely, and Marik had been gone for two weeks, during which Malik virtually wasted away. As dependent as yamis were on hikaris, the lights needed their darks. Without the other half of his soul, Malik lost any interest in life. He didn't eat, didn't sleep, just cried and begged Isis to let Marik back or curled up on his bed and stared at nothing for hours on end.

She'd relented finally and allowed him to come back. He'd been apologetic and it hadn't happened again—Malik's bruises faded, and to Isis's joy, no new ones replaced them. Finally, it seemed that everything was alright with her brother and his lover. Marik could even be sweet at times. He'd taken to Mrs. Kenshi's cat, Furball, and he'd been promised a kitten when Furball had her first litter. Life was good, would have been perfect if the boys didn't get down and dirty nearly every time they were alone, no matter where in the house they were. That was okay, though; Isis could live with that.

But now…she didn't know what to think.

"Isis-sama…" Rashid began. Isis closed her eyes.

"I can't do this anymore, Rashid," she whispered. "I can't handle watching my little brother destroy himself." Rashid hugged her and she buried her face in her brother's chest. "What do we do?"

And then a horrendous, outraged scream split the air, Malik's voice, coupled with a lower cry from Marik. Isis winced. "Ra…"

They were here. Marik was hurting Malik. Her little brother was in pain and she hadn't been here, hadn't been able to stop it…

"Isis?"

Her head snapped up. Malik was leaning against the doorjamb, licking the same thick white substance off his fingers. He was covered in crimson, his shirt was torn, and he was panting, obviously exhausted. Isis gathered her little brother into her arms. "He's got to go, Malik, I can't watch him do this to you…"

Malik blinked but let her hug him anyways. "What?"

Isis buried her face in his hair. "He promised he'd stop doing this to you. I thought it was over." She sniffled, blinking back tears. "I'm sorry I wasn't here…"

"That's…okay?" Malik said, completely bewildered.

Isis paused and sniffed experimentally. "Malik…why do you smell like ketchup?"

She looked over Malik's shoulder at Marik, who was dripping with white and red. In each respective hand he clutched a ketchup and mayonnaise squeeze bottle, open and nearly empty. He grinned at her. "She's not going to protect you," he snickered, squirting mayonnaise into Malik's hair. Malik screeched, the same pained cry Isis had heard earlier, and batted him away.

"Ma-rik! My hair!" Malik shook his head violently, sending the white substance flying, splattering both Isis and Marik. "That's not fair!"

Marik grinned and kissed his hikari on the nose. "All's far in love and war."

Malik pouted, trying to wipe the mayonnaise out of his precious sandy locks. "I don't think a food fight really qualifies as war…"