Sesen Chapter 26: Enter the Radarman
"Your foot's bleeding again," Atem said as he watched Bakura pulling his sneakers off. "And you shouldn't wear those shoes into the apartment."
Bakura shot him an annoyed glance before propping his bare feet up on the arm of the sofa and sighing. "It's not like either thing matters," he said.
"I'd think your foot would, at least!" Atem spat back, already becoming aggravated with the thief again. "Honestly, it's like your health doesn't matter to you."
The thief lay there, silent. Atem frowned deeply and sat heavily on the other end of the couch, glowering down at him.
"So, where did you go?" he asked, stealing another glance at the sopping bandage on Bakura's foot. Gods, if that wasn't just asking for an infection...
"Shopping, then home," Bakura replied tersely. "Honestly, what do you need to know for?"
Atem grumbled to himself and settled back against the couch. "You shouldn't have been out in the damp, at least," he said after a few moments. "Your bandage is all wet and dirty."
The thief sat up suddenly, and Atem flinched, recalling their earlier spat and just how confrontational Bakura could be.
"What are you, my mother?" Bakura sneered.
"It at least needs to be changed, Bakura," Atem replied, relieved not to be pinned against the couch or in some otherwise dangerous position. He hated that Bakura could intimidate him so, even when they were supposedly on even ground.
Bakura sighed and waved a dismissive hand. "Ryou's resting, idiot," he said sharply. "I'm not going to wake him up just so he can baby me."
"Let me do it," Atem said, gripping Bakura's arm as if to hold him in place on the couch. "There's nothing hard about it."
The thief snarled and yanked his arm away. "You'll just fuck it up," he said.
"Let me do it," Atem repeated, narrowing his eyes. His voice must have been commanding enough, because Bakura sighed and settled against the couch. The thief pouted a little, which Atem had to admit (at least privately) was an amusing expression on his face.
"Go ahead if you're gonna bitch about it," Bakura said as he propped his foot up on the coffee table. He smirked at Atem as if challenging him to tell him to get his feet off the table. Atem just sighed, got up, and walked to the bathroom to retrieve the first aid kit.
By the time he'd returned, Bakura had laid himself out on the couch, his bare feet resting on one arm of the couch as he lounged. Atem settled down at the end of the couch, setting the little white box on the floor beside him. Bakura didn't even look up as he unwound the bandage on his foot. The wound wasn't especially deep, but Bakura's late night strolling hadn't helped matters any.
"It's just going to keep opening up like this if you keep walking around all the time," Atem said as he opened the kit and fished out a small spray bottle of antiseptic. When Bakura didn't reply, Atem shrugged and sprayed some of the solution onto the wound, and was far too amused when Bakura immediately retracted his foot.
The thief snarled and glared at him. "You could give a little warning before you do that," he said.
Atem grabbed his foot back and sighed. "Stop being such a sissy," he sneered, noting with some amusement that Bakura's toes had scrunched up tensely. He smiled a little, amused that a posturing jackass like Bakura could act like a bratty child in the face of first aid supplies.
"I'm not being a sissy," Bakura insisted. Atem could swear he caught the tomb robber pouting. "I just don't like stinging things."
"Would you rather I be more gentle?" Atem asked, his voice dripping with mock sweetness.
Bakura snorted and folded his arms over his chest. "As if I'd ask anything like that of you," he mumbled.
Atem ducked his head and set to work carefully rewrapping Bakura's foot, momentarily cowed by the implications of that statement. He sometimes forgot that Bakura probably still held a grudge against him, whether they were supposed to get along or not. He contemplated this for a few moments, and managed to get so lost in his own thoughts that he startled when Bakura broke the silence.
"Did you wanna keep me company until Ryou wakes up?"
"I... sure," Atem replied after a moment. He set the first aid kit aside and took a seat on the armchair beside the couch. "Seems kind of odd for you to get lonely."
Bakura grunted. "Like the great pharaoh knows anything about being lonely," he sneered. Atem winced, but held his tongue. The tomb robber scowled and folded his arms, looking away. "Even in death, you have your family and your ass-kissing priests."
"And you haven't got anyone?" Atem countered. "You haven't got Bakura-kun, or your family, or anyone else?"
"I won't have Ryou as soon as we're done here, and my family is a bunch of wandering ghosts," Bakura hissed. He propped himself up on his elbows with a slight groan and glared at Atem. "That's what pisses me off about you, pharaoh. One of many things. I'll have nothing once this is over. For all we've already gone through and more, I'll come out with nothing to show for it. Neither will you, but at least you have less to lose by leaving the land of the living."
Atem fell silent, suddenly finding something very interesting on the little bit of carpet between his slippered feet. "I try not to think about returning," he murmured after a few moments spent under the imagined heat of Bakura's gaze. He finally looked up, managing a bland smile. "I like it here, you know?"
Bakura raised an eyebrow and settled back, seemingly shocked by the admission. Atem watched tensely as the thief got up off the couch and hobbled over to the television to open up the little cabinet underneath.
"Play a video game with me," Bakura commanded, thrusting a controller at him.
Atem hesitated, but Bakura waved the controller at him until he accepted it. Could it be that Bakura was just dropping the conversation and being civil? Unthinkable! Still, it couldn't hurt to take a break from bickering and enjoy the early morning. He settled down on the floor and waited for Bakura to join him.The thief landed on the floor with a soft thud and reclined against the couch, looking oddly content. Atem watched him for a moment before turning his attention to the game that Bakura had already started.
"You can play first," Bakura said, nodding to the opening menu displayed on the screen. "It's a one player game, but we can swap from time to time. Just load up the saved game and I'll fill you in on what to do."
"Sure..." Atem said, loading the game. As soon as the game loaded, he paged through the journal entries. It was very obviously one of the survival horror games that Ryou sang the praises of. Opening the inventory menu left him a little confused. The few weapons in his character's possession had obvious uses, as did the keys, but... "What's the photograph for?"
"Don't know yet," Bakura replied with a shrug and a yawn. "Maybe we'll find out."
They played for less than two hours before Bakura crawled back onto the couch to nap while Atem continued to search for some use for the photograph. It opened no doors, fit in none of the empty spaces on the cluttered walls, and stirred no interest in the one non-aggressive NPC he had managed to find. He reclined back against the couch with a sigh, looking over at Bakura's sleeping form and smiling just a little. The thief had developed some impressive dark patches under his eyes, and Atem couldn't help but feel a little sympathy. At least he himself had been able to catch a nap. Bakura had opted to go strolling off gods only knew where.
The tomb robber rolled over and mumbled something unintelligible. Atem resumed playing his game, continuing down the seemingly endless hallway, lined with empty picture frames and strange paintings. The photograph belonged in none of them, as far as the game was concerned. He'd tried them all, some numerous times.
Soon, Atem was engrossed in the game once more, exploring the lonely rooms with great interest. Just as he was nodding off, a sound in the hallway beyond the living room alerted him. He yawned deeply and paused the game before getting to his feet to investigate.
"Yuugi? Bakura-kun?" he called softly, not wanting to wake Bakura. When no answer came, he frowned and walked toward Ryou's room. As soon as he put his hand to the door knob, a soft shuffling sound caught his attention. He turned just in time to see something disappear into the bathroom down the hall. He followed, still calling for his friends.
Atem shuddered and glanced around frantically. "Who's there?" he demanded. There was no answer but a soft giggle from the bathroom. He dashed for the open door, stopping dead in his tracks as soon as he caught sight of the blood bath inside. Fresh, bright blood smeared in long trails along the tile floor and walls, more than Atem thought a single body could hold. In the center of it all was Ryou, crumpled in a heap on the floor, totally pale save for the parts of his body that had been coated in blood.
"B-Bakura-kun..." he murmured, tears forming in his eyes as a strong wave of nausea hit him. He shuddered again and slowly approached his fallen friend, tears clouding his vision. He stopped mid-step, choking back his nausea. He reached down tentatively, timidly, to touch the boy's shoulder. Cold.
"You failed, pharaoh," that same wispy voice from before hissed. The translucent form of Saito Suzu phased into view behind Ryou, lightly stroking his blood-caked hair. "For all your power, you couldn't protect this one boy. You can't protect the thief, either. You can't protect any of them."
Atem stared dumbly at her, shaking his head. "N-no," he managed after a few moments.
Suzu giggled, and a hoarse scream echoed from the living room. Recognizing Bakura's voice, Atem got shakily to his feet and took off for the door, only to find it replaced by a new section of wall. He turned back to Suzu, glaring nothing but intent to kill at her, just in time to see Ryou's tattered body lift itself up from the floor.
"You failed, Atem-kuuuun..." Ryou croaked through his sliced throat. Atem backed up against the wall as Bakura called his name desperately from the room beyond it. Ryou continued to jibber nonsense and hateful words at him as he lurched closer. Atem sunk to his knees, clasping his hands over his ears in the vain, desperate attempt to drown out Bakura's cries and Ryou's raspy jabbering.
And in an instant, it was all gone. He found himself staring up at the white ceiling of Ryou's living room, gasping for breath with Bakura out like a light beside him. He must have rolled off the couch and decided it wasn't worth the trouble to get back up again.
As if sensing Atem's wakefulness, Bakura sighed, moaned softly, and sat up. He rubbed sleep from his eyes as he regarded Atem with a confused stare. "Must be past noon already," he murmured, stretching.
Atem wouldn't admit it, but he was relieved to see something as mundane as Bakura slowly but surely waking up after having such a surreal dream. He nodded and sighed. "Do you think Yuugi and Bakura-kun are awake yet?" he asked.
"I doubt it," Bakura mumbled, standing. He paused for a moment, silent and still. "I don't hear any movement in the kitchen, so I'll assume that they're fast asleep."
"Does Bakura-kun usually cook first thing in the morning?" Atem asked with a faint smile. It was nice to imagine Ryou cheerfully preparing breakfast while Bakura tried to haul his lazy body off of the couch.
Bakura nodded. "Almost always," he said, turning to Atem with a slight smirk. "Since he's not cooking, do you wanna go get breakfast at the convenience store?"
Atem couldn't help but laugh a bit at the lazy suggestion. "Yeah, all right," he said, stretching and reaching over to shut the game console off. Ryou would be so annoyed to know that he'd left it on for so long without even playing it. "You're paying, though."
"Tch. Cheap bastard," Bakura muttered, already stepping into his shoes.
Atem chuckled and followed his lead. "You can't complain too much," he said, smirking. "After all, I am your king."
"Don't make me clock you upside the head," Bakura said with a hint of a smile. That pleased Atem, to see Bakura smile like that.
They left the apartment as quietly as they could, Bakura taking special care to ever so quietly shut the door before creeping away.
"You're awfully considerate," Atem said as he crept along behind the thief. "Maybe Bakura-kun was right in keeping you around."
"I'm a good tenant," Bakura said, nodding.
"Yes, and an excellent maid," Atem said, totally incapable of resisting the easy joke. "Even Yuugi admits you keep a cleaner home than Bakura-kun."
Bakura visibly flinched. "Don't you dare tell Ryou that, or he'll have me doing it all day."
"Like you don't already," Atem countered.
Atem privately enjoyed the warm spring afternoon as they walked to the convenience store. In the climate controlled utopia he had spent the previous year in, he had often found himself missing things like spring showers and the freshened days that followed their end. He had even come to miss thunderstorms, at times when the nights in his perfect world were just too peaceful. Atem hoped that he could experience a thunderstorm before he and Bakura had to leave again.
He started slightly at the electronic voice that greeted them upon entering the convenience store. Having been startled out of his musing, he looked up to see Bakura inexplicably glaring at the clerk behind the counter. He gave a sharp tug at the thief's sleeve, drawing his attention.
"You didn't... did you?" Atem asked in a hushed tone of voice, eying Bakura suspiciously.
Bakura scoffed. "I'm not that shameless, pharaoh," he said, subtly pointing to the clerk. "He is a sick man."
Atem blinked and glanced over at the clerk. The inoffensive-looking young man didn't even acknowledge their presence, quite wrapped up in the chore of sorting impulse buy items into neat rows in their display boxes. He looked bored and possibly a little anal, but not deranged.
"What makes you say that?" the pharaoh asked, still watching the bored clerk arrange the novelty pens just so.
The thief visibly shuddered. "Let's just get our food and go," he said, hurrying over to the hot foods counter. Atem followed after taking one last look at the clerk.
"What're we gonna get?" Atem asked, looking over the various packaged lunches. He'd never bought convenience food before. It all looked trustworthy, if not kind of tasty, but Atem figured that Bakura would know better what kind of cheap food to get. Not that he'd admit to Bakura knowing anything better than he did, of course.
"I'm getting yakitori," Bakura replied as he grabbed one of the boxes and headed for the register. "You get whatever you want."
Atem sighed. He grabbed a beef bowl and followed Bakura, just in time to see the clerk profusely apologizing and bowing over and over again, holding Bakura's lunch.
"I'll get a new one right away! I'm so sorry," the man kept repeating, bowing his way all the way back to the hot foods counter. He handed another yakitori lunch to Bakura, and Atem marveled at how he managed to do that while still bowing. Atem reasoned that clerks had to be well trained in the art of apologizing for anything and everything.
Bakura yanked the food out of the clerk's hands and stomped back to the register, laying some money down. "That should cover his, too," he said as he sauntered out the automatic doors. Atem hurriedly let the clerk ring his food up, and followed Bakura out into the afternoon light.
"What was that all about?" he asked when he found Bakura feeding coins into the soda machine by the door.
Bakura retrieved his drink and rolled his eyes. "Idiot left an out of date box in there," he said bitterly. He paused to take a long drink of his soda. "Some people are useless."
"You should remember to check the date so you don't get food poisoning someday," Atem chastised him as he carefully pulled the plastic lid away from his food and tossed it into a nearby garbage bin.
Bakura eyed him with a smug smirk. "What's the expiration date on that?"
Atem paused, looked down at his beef bowl, and frowned.
"That's what I thought," Bakura said, smugly chomping on a skewer.
"Oh, shut up," Atem grumbled, carefully separating his chopsticks before taking an experimental bite of his food. His face lit up in a happy grin. "It's just fine! It's almost tasty, even."
Bakura scarfed down the rest of his first skewer and laughed to himself. "Just don't jinx yourself again."
The pharaoh paused, looking up at Bakura. "What do you mean?" he asked, just before realization dawned on him. "Oh."
"Almost got your fool self killed rushing off to play hero," Bakura mumbled around a mouthful of food, looking thoughtful. For a change.
"I really wish you'd stop bringing that up," Atem said, shooting him a sidelong glance as he paused from his meal. "You're only going to piss me off if-"
Atem's sentence was cut off by a sharp yelp as some... thing emerged from the neatly trimmed bushes alongside the pavement. The creature bowed its enormous, hairy head and knelt before him, its leathery red and white skin creaking. Atem shuddered and wondered why creepy things continued to visit him.
"Pharaoh!" it exclaimed. "I've finally found you! And your guardian is with you as well, I see."
Bakura and Atem both sputtered indignantly, and Bakura grabbed the creature and pulled it to its feet. It raised its fuzzy head, revealing that it was not a creature at all, but a strangely-dressed young man with puffy hair and what could only be described as the most outrageous two-toned jacket Atem had ever seen. Bakura was silent for a moment, his eyes narrowing.
"It's you," he snarled. Atem stared at the two of them, confused.
"Do you two... know one another?" the pharaoh asked.
"Not really," the man replied as Bakura released him. "We only met recently."
"He's a creepy little stalker nerd!" Bakura snapped, pointing an accusing finger at the man, who cringed, obviously expecting to be snagged again.
The man straightened and sighed, composing himself. "I can see how you would think that," he said, his voice calm and diplomatic. It seemed out of place, considering his garish mode of dress. "However, you need to know that I'm on your side."
Atem looked up at Bakura, who looked less than convinced. He decided to speak up before the thief tried throttling the stranger again. "I hope you know we can't be expected to take your word for it," he said. He sighed a little when the man bowed deeply. "You don't have to do that, you kn-"
"Please!" the young man wailed, the pitch of the sound so high that it caused Bakura to flinch. "You have to understand. My name is Kon Hideo. I'm a clerk at the Domino Museum and a freelance investigator. For the past year, I've been researching anything related to the Nameless Pharaoh – Er, you. You can imagine how shocked I was to see what looked an awful lot like one of the three gods in the same vicinity as one of the creatures I'd been investigating!"
Stunned silence fell over Atem and Bakura for a few moments before the pharaoh piped up. "You've seen those things before?"
Bakura snarled and stepped in front of Atem, cutting him off. "How the Hell did you see that?" he demanded. Hideo took a step back, looking nervous. "If you saw that, how close were you? What were you doing so close to that woman?"
Before Atem could stop himself, he found himself grabbing onto Bakura's shirt to hold him in check. He didn't want the situation to escalate into violence, even if Hideo was working with Suzu. Who knew what kind of power he had, if she were controlling him?
"Well, see, my apartment faces the bridge," Hideo explained hastily, eying Bakura nervously. "I also keep a rather advanced camera and telescope for my investigations."
"So you have pictures," Bakura said coldly, stressing the grip that Atem had on his shirt.
Hideo swallowed. "Just a couple," he said. "I submitted the blurrier ones to the local news and kept the better ones for myself."
Bakura blinked, his expression fading into one of disbelief. "You mean the pictures of me as an 'angel'?" he asked dully.
"You could have also been a UFO," Hideo added, earning another snarl from Bakura. "But that's not the point. The point is that I've been monitoring the young lady and her... companions, as well. I've discovered some things that I believe would be of use to you. We can meet at my apartment this evening. I have my conditions, though."
Atem held Bakura back and stepped up, leaving the thief to glower at his back. He straightened to his full (is abysmally unimpressive) height. "Name your conditions," he said.
After Hideo got over his awe at Atem's sudden shift into monarch mode, he replied, "Let me fight with you."