Obligatory rambling: Okay! Sorry, another chapter that's sort of on the unfinished side. I wanted to update, but (tada! This month's excuse) I've had lots happening: SWOTVAC, exams, Valedictory, sang for small people, and no small amount of lethargy and procrastination. But it's here.
Quick thankies to lovely, lovely reveiwers: HOPPY-SAN2345, Silently Broken, DarkElf6, andRedEyesDarknessDragonLady!
Once I've finished this, I've had a new idea I'm going to try. Drew some concept art, will put it on deviantart when I get around to it, for those who're curious/really bored. Anyway! On with the show, and I hope you enjoy.
... and in Shadow
No one said a word on the walk back to Ryou's house: Ryou seemed to be lost in his own thoughts, Yugi concentrated all his energy on surviving the walk back, and Yami and Bakura had called an uneasy truce. They ignored one another completely.
The journey passed uneventfully (though excruciatingly slowly, in Yugi's mind. Even after drinking the revolting kuimn, he was more exhausted than he'd ever been), and soon Ryou was pushing open his front gate. The sun was just beginning to set behind the house, casting long, deep shadows across the garden and the road.
Yami laid a hand on Yugi's shoulder, halting him.
'We're hunting tonight,' he announced.
'I'll leave the doors unlocked,' Ryou promised, closing the front get behind him with a clang.
Yami led Yugiawaydownthe road, toward the town.
'Lock up as you come in, please,' Ryou called after them. He glanced at Bakura. 'Are you going out too?'
'No,' Bakura said, narrowing his eyes calculatingly. 'Something's bothering you. Who did you talk to today?'
Ryou sighed. 'I'll explain inside.'
A short ways into the town, there was a little park, barely more than a patch of dying grass, scattered with a few stunted trees and crossed by a worn concrete path. At the middle of the park, in the middle of a grove of the sickly trees, was a dilapidated children's playground. Yami led the way toward it, and sat down on an ancient swing. The chains supporting it creaked under his weight. Yugi perched on the swing beside him.
'It's a good night for hunting,' Yami said without preamble. 'It'd be better if it was raining.' He gestured vaguely around the park. 'It's cold, so there's fewer people. The only people on the streets are the ones with nowhere else to go.'
'...and you prey on them?' Yugi wrinkled his nose. 'That's...'
'Practical. People with nowhere else to go tend not to have any family to miss them, and everyone generally assumes that they've just... O.D'ed.'
'But still it's--' Yugi licked his lips and sighed. 'It just doesn't seem right, is all.'
'I know,' Yami swung a little, back and forth, with his feet planted firmly on the ground. 'Look at it this way: how many cats do you know who feel guilty for killing a mouse? It's just nature.'
They sat in silence for a while. Yugi scuffed the toes of his shoes along, digging shallow trenches in the dirt.
'When are we going?' he asked resignedly.
Yami tilted his head back, gazed at the darkening sky.
'Whenever you're ready,' he said.
With a small noise of assent, Yugi slid down from his swing, watched as Yami slid to his feet.
'I'll go first,' Yami said. 'You can get an idea of what to do, then. Don't look so nervous!' He smiled in what he hoped was an encouraging way. 'It's mostly instinctive. The hard part is finding a victim.'
He set off, heading southeast, toward the centre of the town, Yugi trailing rather reluctantly in his wake. A few people still hurried along the main streets, so they kept to the side streets and alleyways.
Beside a dingy antique store, Yami stopped and held a finger to his lips. He pointed at a middle aged man, leaning drunkenly against the side of the store, his face pressed against the cold glass and an empty bottle hanging limply from his fingertips.
Yami pulled Yugi out of earshot, and murmured to him, 'Tell me why I've chosen him.'
'Because he's alone... he's...' Yugi glanced around the corner at the man. He'd begun to sob, with his face still pressed tightly up against the window. The bottle lay shattered at his feet, and he lifted his hand to trace wistful patterns on the glass. His clothes were worn and stained. 'He's homeless, isn't he?'
'It's a safe bet,' Yami nodded. 'The only problem is that he's drunk. Any chemicals in a person's blood will affect you too, just not quite as much as it would a human. Try not to choose any victims that show signs of substance abuse.'
'How do you know the signs?' Yugi asked nervously. 'And why are you choosing that man if he's drunk?'
'I'm old. I've learned the signs. And after you've been around for a few hundred years, you build up quite an alcohol tolerance.'
With that, he slunk onto the dim street and sauntered casually toward the drunken man. His footsteps barely made a sound. There was barely half a meter between Yami and the man when he leapt, tackling the man to the pavement, his jaws closing over his throat before they hit the ground.
The man let out a guttural noise between a grunt and a squeak, and was silent.
Moments later, Yami was on his feet, delicately licking stray flecks of blood from his lips.
Yugi shuddered involuntarily.
'Come on,' Yami called, motioning him out of the shadows. There was no remorse in his eyes; he was even smiling. 'It's your turn now.'
She sat on a wide window ledge, bare feet dangling in the chilly air, two stories above the ground. In her hands was a lily; she turned it over in her fingertips, stroking tenderly along its petals.
'Soon,' she crooned, lifting the flower to her lips. 'Soon, my dear one, we'll play.' Her lips curled sweetly, but her eyes remained blank.
'We'll have a new toy,' she whispered ecstatically, and threw the lily to the ground. 'Won't that be fun?'
The street below was almost empty but for two figures, keeping to the shadows.
'The cat is here, dear one!' she chirruped, leaping down from the window. 'And he's brought a lovely mousey!' As she fell, she grabbed the horizontal bar of a streetlamp, swung around and landed softly on the pavement.
'Mousey, mousey!' she trilled as she followed the two figures. 'What fun we'll have, dear one!'
Yugi licked his lips apprehensively. Yami made this look so easy... There was his prey up ahead: a girl, probably not too much younger than him, shivering beneath a threadbare coat. Her only shelter was the crumbling doorway of a derelict building.
Pity stabbed through his heart as he edged nearer.
Once, the girl's face had probably been very pretty, he could see. Now though, her skin was as papery and thin as an old woman's; her eyes were glassy and shadowed by dark rings. Her lips were thin and parched, and the hands that clutched the coat were withered.
'I can't do this,' he whispered.
He glanced around the quiet street. Yami stood nearby, almost invisible in the shadows, watching him. Yugi turned back to the girl.
'I have to do this,' he muttered wretchedly, inching closer.
The girl hadn't noticed him yet, and he was thankful.
Less than a meter from where she sat, he stopped. Crouched in the shadows, he took a moment to master himself. He even tried Ryou's breathing trick again; he was certain his heartbeat had quieted a little.
If nothing else, it had stopped his knees' shaking.
He pounced, bearing the girl to the ground. Instinctively, his teeth found the carotid artery, effectively silencing the girl before she'd ever had a chance to scream.
Blood flooded Yugi's mouth, salty and metallic. He swallowed reflexively.
Within seconds, the girl's veins were dry, and Yugi let her body sag lifelessly to the pavement. He sat still and silent, swallowing thickly.
The taste of blood remained on his tongue. The girl's lifeless eyes stared at him; he closed them, gently, with his right hand.
He didn't turn at the sound of footsteps behind him, nor did he move when a warm hand closed gently over his shoulder.
'Yugi,' repeated Yami, closer to his ear this time.
'Does it --' he licked his lips. 'Does it feel like this every time?' he asked tonelessly.
'It gets easier.'
'I don't know that I want it to,' he said. He couldn't seem to tear his eyes away from the dead girl's face.
Yami's grip on his shoulder tightened, turning him around, and now he was staring unseeingly at the smooth contours of Yami's face. An arm wrapped around his waist, and he allowed himself to slump bonelessly against the warm body.
'You're not a killer,' Yami said at length. Yugi could feel his voice rumbling in his chest. 'You have to learn. You can't live on kuimn.'
'I know,' sighed Yugi. He leaned his forehead against Yami's shoulder. 'She's younger than I am,' he mumbled.
'Don't think like that,' Yami told him sternly.
For several minutes, Yugi was silent, practicing Ryou's breathing trick to calm down.
The taste of blood was gradually beginning to fade in his mouth.
'Yami...?' he said softly. 'I want to go home.'
'I'll take you back to Ryou's --'
'No,' Yugi pushed himself upright. 'I want to go home. To my friends, and my grandpa and… I just-- I want to go home.'
With his left hand, that had until that moment been resting lightly on his knee, Yami took one of Yugi's hands and squeezed it comfortingly.
'I don't-- this isn't... god...' Somehow, Yugi managed a grin. He lifted his free hand to his face, and was surprised when his fingers came away wet. 'I'm sorry. God knows I'd thought about all this when you told me I was -- but I didn't -- and it's--'
'It takes a long time to sink in,' Yami pulled him into a tighter hug, dropping his hand and wrapping his left arm around his shoulders. 'Just... let it out. You'll, uh, you'll feel better.'
'You're not very good at this, are you?' Yugi said wryly.
'No, he never-ever was,' said a sweet voice.
Yugi started and looked around wildly. He heard Yami swear under his breath.
'Pussy cat, pussy cat, where have you been?' sang the voice, closer now. 'It's been so long.'
A girl emerged from the shadows, barefoot and ghostly pale, with an almost boyishly thin figure and wide, milky eyes.
'Fuck,' Yami hissed. He stood up, pulling Yugi with him.
'I missed you,' the girl said sweetly, taking a step toward them (Yami pushed Yugi behind him). 'You're so hard to find, did you know? I looked and I looked...' She gave a sad little sigh, all the while watching them calculatingly. 'But you're always gone before I get a chance to see you...' A delighted smile bloomed on her lips (Yugi looked into her eyes and shuddered). 'But I've found you, this time! Isn't it lovely?' She took another step closer.
'Liliith,' hissed Yami. 'What are you doing here?'
'You're not happy to see me?' Lillith pouted, twirled a strand of pale hair around her index finger coquettishly. 'Kitty-cat, I'm so sad... you were so lovely and caring before... and then you ran away!' She sighed again, a sound like glass shattering. 'Why did you run away from me? Wasn't I a good friend?'
'You tried to kill me,' Yami said bluntly. He shuffled Yugi back a step. 'Several times.'
'You abandoned me!' wailed Lillith, wringing her hands melodramatically. She covered her face and broke into loud, wracking sobs.
'Run,' Yami hissed to Yugi, under the cover of Lillith's hysterics. 'Go back to Ryou's. Keep to the main streets. Tell Ryou what's happened. He'll know what to do.'
'What about you?'
'I'll go around the alleys,' Yami glanced back at Lillith, still convulsed in earsplitting grief. 'Go now.' He gave Yugi a shove. 'Now.'
The sound of Yugi's footsteps faded into the distance and Lillith peered at Yami from between her fingers. Her eyes were dry.
'You sent your pretty mousey away, kitty-cat,' she said softly. There was sharpness in her tone that hadn't been there before. 'That's not fair. Not at all. You should always share, pretty kitty.'
'Don't touch him,' spat Yami. 'He hasn't done anything to you.'
'Silly,' she whispered. As she came nearer, she swayed her narrow hips in what she thought was a seductive way. The movement was almost lost amongst the folds of her shapeless clothes. 'If you have it, I want it. Didn't you know?' She raised a hand, and made as though to run it down his face.
Yami moved out of her reach with a disgusted snarl. She giggled.
'Not like that! No,' she shook her head, never taking her eyes from his face. She leaned toward him conspiratorially. 'I have a new friend, did you know? He was going to meet you tonight. Very interested in meeting you... but...' she mock sighed, clasped her hands in front of her chest, 'I suppose he'll just have to meet the pretty mousey first.'
Without waiting for a reply, Yami bolted down the street in the direction he'd sent Yugi. He heard Lillith's tinkling laughter echoing behind him.
'Run, kitty-cat! Perhaps you'll get to meet Taiyu after all if you hurry!' she cried after him.
For several minutes, she stood still, until the echo of Yami's feet on the pavement died away.
'A new toy, dear one,' she whispered ecstatically. 'And a second soon to come!'
Beneath the cool orange glow of the street lamps, Yugi stopped to catch his breath. The muscles in his legs were screaming at him.
He braced his hands on his knees and looked around the street. Aside from himself, the only other people was a group of young people, all clean and neatly dressed, apparently on their way to one of the handful of clubs on the other side of town.
A droplet of sweat rolled down his forehead and dripped from the end of his nose. He wheezed shrilly and lowered his head.
God, he thought, I think I'm going to be sick.
'Are you alright?' asked a smooth voice somewhere above his head.
He straightened. The group he'd seen moments earlier had gathered around him. The man who had spoken to him stood the closest, looking down his nose at him, while the others hung back slightly, saying nothing.
Yugi forced a smile and shuffled a few painful steps backward.
'Yes, I'm fine,' he said brightly. 'I was just on my way home.'
'Really?' the man took a step toward him. He shuffled back and cursed under his breath when his back hit the lamppost. 'Do you live nearby?'
Yugi sighed. He was tired, sore, and a long overdue emotional breakdown was knocking at the backs of his teeth.
'What do you want?' he demanded flatly.
The man regarded him thoughtfully a moment. He parted his lips and made a small, shrill whistling noise. One of the group behind him surged toward Yugi, his hands outstretched and curled into claws. In the split second before those hands closed around his arms, Yugi made a decision.
He let himself fall blissfully unconscious.
By the time Yami arrived on the main street, it was completely deserted. He paused, for barely a second, hurriedly glancing around the empty street.
In the distance, he could hear soft laughter, and a voice raised in song.
Madly hoping that Yugi'd made it back to Ryou's place, Yami gasped in a breath and continued to run.
Mmnn, another awkward ending.