White is in the Winter Night
Notes: The characters from the show are not mine. The other characters and the story are mine. This was loosely inspired by several things: an old RP, a fanart of Bakura and Yami Bakura dressed as Shinichi Kudo and Kaitou Kid from Detective Conan, and talk of some recent TV specials on Jack the Ripper. It is part of The Pendulum Swings timeline, which has Thief King Bakura survive Zorc's destruction. Thanks to Aubrie and Kaze for plot help!
Ryou Bakura gave a tired sigh as he sank down at the dinner table. Even the tantalizing smell of the pizza he had ordered could not fully manage to rouse him from his stupor.
It had been an unheard-of long day, starting with when he had woke up much too soon and had not been able to go back to sleep. He had felt like a zombie throughout breakfast and the walk to school. He had scarcely even registered Yami Bakura informing him that he had forgotten his lunch money. In a haze, he had wandered back upstairs and had gotten it, stuffing it in his pocket before leaving.
And the classes! History class had been a lesson on labor unions. It had been so dull that Bakura had barely been able to stay awake. Tristan had poked him every time it had looked like he was dozing, resulting in him coming back to himself for several more minutes before his eyes had started to droop again. He knew he had done horrendously on the test at the end of the class.
He was usually good at math, but he had stumbled through the pop quiz and had gotten several questions wrong. When he had awakened enough to see what he had written, he had stared in horror at the third story problem. Being close to Thanksgiving, the teacher had thought it would be funny to make story problems about food. But on the question about yams, Bakura had sloppily and sleepily written "yamis." He was just lucky there had been enough time to change it before it was time to hand in the paper.
"What's wrong with you?"
Bakura started, looking up as the grouchy Egyptian wandered into the kitchen. Throwing open the pizza box, the thief greedily took out a slice and bit into it, canine teeth bared.
"I'm so tired," Bakura said, unable to stifle a yawn as he took a slice of his own. "And I haven't started on my homework yet. . . ."
"You actually believe you could do schoolwork in your state?" Yami Bakura grunted as he sat at the table. Seasoned crumbs fell from the bottom of the slice, landing on the finished wood.
Bakura took a bite from his piece of pizza, then set it on a napkin. "No, I really don't," he sighed. "I'll have to take a nap first."
"And then cram until two in the morning," Yami Bakura said.
"At least I should be awake," Bakura yawned.
Yami Bakura had finished three slices and Bakura one when the phone rang. The British boy looked up in surprise. "I wonder if that's Father," he blinked. "He said he'd call when he got to Germany. . . . The layovers were being a nightmare."
"You'd better answer then," Yami Bakura retorted, taking a fourth slice.
Mr. Bakura had been reluctant to leave his son with someone he now knew as the King of Thieves, but with business calling---and his own inner, subconscious need to keep traveling---he had finally departed. He had tried to console himself with the thought that the character had been around for years anyway and Bakura did not seem any the worse for wear.
Bakura pushed back his chair, stumbling up from the table and wandering into the living room. He grabbed up the phone on the third ring. "Hello?"
He blinked. No one was answering him, but he could hear heavy breathing on the other end of the line. And now he was awake.
"Hello!" he said again, commanding this time. "Who is this?"
A click was his answer.
Annoyed, he dropped the receiver into the cradle and went back into the kitchen. "I can't stand it when people make crank calls!" he fumed, taking a second slice of pizza out of the box.
Yami Bakura licked his lips. "That's what it was?"
"It must have been," Bakura said. "They wouldn't say anything and I could hear them breathing!" He bit into the gooey cheese and crust. "Don't they have anything better to do with their lives?!"
"Apparently not," Yami Bakura said as he finished the fourth slice. "Didn't someone crank call us last night too?"
"Yes, actually. And the night before that. . . ." But Bakura trailed off, gaping at him. "How do you even enjoy the food when you inhale it every time?!" he exclaimed. And then he rocked back in surprised realization. "Yami, you're . . ."
"Looking like your older brother," Yami Bakura smirked. "I wondered how long it would take you to notice."
Bakura shook his head. "Why?" he asked. Despite the Infinity Ring's power of transformation, or perhaps because of it, Yami Bakura had preferred to appear as he had in his mortal life. Tonight he instead was appearing as he had when Bakura had possessed the Millennium Ring. And he was wearing some of Bakura's clothes, which fit him in that form.
Yami Bakura shrugged. "I wondered what it would feel like now, after everything," he said. He sneered. "My major complaint is that I have very little muscle in this form."
Bakura chuckled in spite of himself, but then sobered. "Yugi and the others don't even know about you yet," he said. "Whatever am I going to tell them when the time comes?!" That would be even more difficult than telling his father. After all, Mr. Bakura did not know the full truth behind Yami Bakura's identity or the terrible things he had done. Yugi and the rest did. It would be understandably much more difficult for them to accept that he was still around.
"I suppose we'll just tell the truth again," Yami Bakura grunted. "Though I can't say I'm looking forward to it."
Bakura gave a slow nod, taking another bite from the pizza.
To his relief, the rest of the night went exceptionally well. He was able to do his homework before sleeping and then get a full, uninterrupted rest. The next morning, he fixed breakfast and ate it with his Yami before setting about collecting his belongings for school. He stuffed the last book into his bag before jogging down the stairs.
"I'm going now, Yami," he called. "Don't get into too much trouble."
Yami Bakura made an unintelligible reply from where he was sitting at the computer in the living room. Bakura glanced over his shoulder.
"You're playing computer games?" he blinked.
Yami Bakura shrugged. "I was bored," he said.
Bakura shook his head with an exasperated sigh. "I must admit, I didn't think you'd be interested in Minesweeper," he said.
"It's really too mundane for my taste," Yami Bakura said. "I'd prefer something more involved." He smirked. "More . . . destructive."
Bakura groaned. He was about to reply when the telephone rang. "This time it must be Father!" he exclaimed, crossing the room to the small table and lifting the receiver. "Hello?"
Just as last night, there was silence. Bakura placed a hand on his hip. "Who is this?" he said. "I'll have you know it's against the law to make prank calls. And we have a caller I.D. I'll have you tracked down and arrested!" That was only partially true; while they did have a caller I.D., this number was coming up blocked. Bakura had no idea who was calling.
The low chuckle he heard then sent a cold chill up his spine. "Then you should already know who I am, shouldn't you, dear little Ryou?" a voice whispered. With that the person hung up.
Bakura swallowed hard. For some reason, his hands were clammy. He dropped the receiver, turning away from the phone as he took a deep breath. But it did not help. He was shaking.
Yami Bakura turned in the chair, his eyes narrowed in bewilderment. "What's wrong with you?" he asked.
Bakura shook his head. "I . . . I don't quite know," he gasped. "I . . . I'm sure I've heard that voice before, but I can't place where."
"This time they spoke to you?" Yami Bakura frowned.
Bakura nodded. "Yes. . . ."
"What did they say?"
Bakura turned, heading for the door. "Nevermind. I can't imagine why I acted the way I just did." He gripped his bag, his knuckles white. "I couldn't have really heard that person before. I'd remember where I heard a voice like that." He hauled open the door, stepping into the autumn morning. "Goodbye, Yami."
Yami Bakura watched him leave, his eyes narrowed. Something was definitely wrong. Bakura would never act like that if there wasn't. But as long as he would not talk about it, there was nothing Yami Bakura could do for him.
. . . Or was there?
The old thief studied the phone in thoughtfulness. If it rang again, he would answer. Maybe he could dust off his skills and pretend to be Bakura. And maybe then he would learn something.
But to his annoyance, the phone did not ring again. Absolutely nothing of interest happened at all until the mail arrived in the early afternoon. And though he usually left it for Bakura to bring in, today he was on edge and bored out of his mind. For wont of something to do, Yami Bakura went outside to collect the mail.
He muttered to himself as he stepped outside, ignoring the chill fall breeze on his half-bare arms. At least when he had been in the Millennium Ring he had gone to school with Bakura. It had been an amusing enough way to entertain himself---teasing Bakura, listening to the lessons, studying Bakura's friends and familiarizing himself with each one. . . . And though he was grateful to be free of the Ring and to have a physical body, he wanted something to do other than loiter around the house all day.
Perhaps he would have to take matters into his own hands and do something interesting. Unfortunately, all the "something interesting"s he could think of involved revealing his presence to people in the city who knew him, which he did not want to do just yet.
He opened the mailbox, taking out several envelopes and the weekly ads for the local grocery stores. Then he turned, heading back towards the house as he began to shuffle through everything. Bills . . . bills . . . bah.
Wait . . . what was this?
He frowned as he came to a very different, very strange envelope. It was hand-written, postmarked London, and bore no return address. Not only that, there was something oddly familiar about it. He had never seen Bakura get mail from London before. Why on earth would it feel as though he had seen something like it?
He wandered into the house, letting the door swing shut behind him. He had seen Mr. Bakura get mail from all over the world. Could that be where he had seen the hand-writing before? Perhaps, but if so, why was this letter addressed to Ryou Bakura?
He sat down in a soft chair, abandoning the rest of the mail to keep on the arm while holding onto the mysterious envelope. He was bored out of his mind, and what was more, he had opened Bakura's mail in the past. He reached to get his finger under the loose tip of the flap and rip it open.
He frowned more as he hesitated. Bakura was just coming to trust him. It was such a new and strange experience; he could not remember anyone trusting him before, actually---except when he, or Zorc, or both of them---whoever---had tricked Yugi Muto into believing he was an ally. He had not been able to believe how gullible Yugi was. And now, after everything he had done to Bakura, that boy was willing to take a leap of faith and believe in him.
"You must have good in you somewhere, Yami," he had said. "You're a human, unlike Zorc ever was."
He toyed with the envelope. This was ridiculous. He had never had such qualms in the past, even before Zorc. He was a thief, raised among thieves---until they had been brutally slaughtered to create the Millennium Items. But even though opening this piece of mail would be a small thing, he knew how Bakura felt about it being done. It might damage the trust he was trying to cultivate. And as bored as Yami Bakura was, he did not want that obstacle in his way.
He set the envelope on top of the other mail with a curse. Bakura would be home in a couple of hours. He could open it then.
Yami Bakura went back to the computer. Maybe he would try out one of those massive multi-player role-playing games. Something interactive sounded much more interesting then clicking little squares in search of mines. He could always harass the other players if he got too bored.
But on the other hand, if there were as many tedious leveling-up missions as he had heard, he might want to kill the game before he got very far.
When the door swung open some time later, Bakura acted as though he had forgotten about the strange call that morning.
"I'm home!" he called. He blinked at the sight of Yami Bakura sitting at the computer. "You haven't been there all day, have you, Yami?" he said.
Yami Bakura grunted. "No," he said. "I had lunch. And I brought in the mail. You got something from London."
"London?" Bakura blinked in surprise. "I don't know anyone in London. . . ."
"Well, someone sent something anyway," Yami Bakura growled. "And they didn't want to leave a return address."
Bakura frowned, setting down his bag. "That's odd," he said, walking over to the chair. But as he reached for the envelope, he froze.
Yami Bakura got up, narrowing his eyes. "What is it?" he demanded.
Bakura stared at the envelope, his heart hammering in his chest. "That writing," he gasped.
"You know it?" Yami Bakura grabbed the parcel, glaring at the hand-writing. Was that why it looked familiar---because it was one of Bakura's memories?
"I . . . I . . ." Bakura slumped back, placing a hand over his racing heart. What was wrong with him?! He could not remember where he had seen the writing any more than he could place the voice from the morning. And yet he knew that both of them filled him with a deep-rooted terror that he had not thought of in years.
"I'm opening this," Yami Bakura growled, tearing open the envelope. "You're in no shape to do it."
A single sheet of paper fell out, twirling down to land on the seat of the chair. Yami Bakura leaned over to take a look. After a moment, Bakura dared to look too.
The paper was plain white, with an insignia of a white rose in the lower left-hand corner. The message in the center was written in the same flowing, fancy script as that on the envelope.
It's been so long, hasn't it, dear little Ryou?
I've missed you and your beautiful white hair.
You shouldn't have gone away! It's taken me
so long to come back and find you. But now
you won't get away again.
And in a moment, a flood of memories roared through Yami Bakura's mind. Suddenly he knew where he had seen that hand-writing. It could not be, yet he knew there was no mistake.
"The White Death," he hissed in disbelief.
Bakura looked to him, stunned. "Yami?" he gasped. "You . . . you know who sent this?" The note meant nothing to him, except for increasing his feelings of terror. Yami Bakura's reaction was not helping.
Yami Bakura straightened, grabbing up the note in one hand. "That fiend!" he cried. "That fiend!"
Bakura stared. "Yami, your hand is trembling," he said. "What's going on? Who is this man?!"
"He shouldn't even be able to send this," Yami Bakura growled. "He should be dead. How could he not be dead?" He threw the note down, his eyes burning.
"Yami!" Bakura exclaimed. "What is it?! Tell me! Please tell me!"
Yami Bakura gripped Bakura's arms. "You can't remember where you met the person who sent the note?" he cried. "Is he the same one who called you? Think, Bakura, think!"
Bakura trembled, shaking his head. "I . . . I don't know!" he wailed. "I don't know where I met him. I don't remember at all! I . . . I just remember feelings. . . . Feelings of terror. . . ." He shuddered. "I think it is the same person as on the phone. . . . He called me 'Dear little Ryou.'"
Yami Bakura cursed, releasing him. "It can't be," he hissed. "It can't. . . ."
"Yami, you're frightening me!" Bakura declared, his eyes wide with alarm.
Yami Bakura looked Bakura in his eyes. "The man is a serial killer known as the White Death," he growled. "He always leaves a white rose at the scene of his crimes. He's obsessed with the color white. It's no wonder he would be fascinated with you." But where on earth had Bakura encountered him?! Why couldn't he remember?!
Bakura was horrified. "How do you know about him, Yami?" he queried. "You act like you actually, personally know him."
Yami Bakura turned away. "Nevermind," he snapped. "He was in the news. Look him up there." And with that he stormed upstairs, leaving a stunned Bakura staring after him.