A Little Bit of Loneliness, A Little Bit of Disregard
Notes: Pete Coppermine, and anything relating to the YGO franchise, is not mine. All other characters and the story, including Pete's backstory, are mine. I was going to write it before, but seeing the prompt Born from the seed of disguise at 31 Days pushed me to get it done quickly. And everyone please support the Yu-Gi-Oh! R manga (which is where you'll find Pete). It was approved by Takahashi-sama, it has the original YGO characters, and is an exciting adventure! Many thanks to Kaze, Crystal Rose, and Aubrie for plot help!
Carol Fergeson was a busy woman. Each workday was filled with meetings, conference calls, and documents to sign. Most weekends, she took stacks and discs of work home with her. Every Monday, she would have everything ready for the trip back to her company; nothing was ever out-of-place or half-finished. As president and CEO of one of the largest financial corporations in Seattle, she did not have time for nonsense or pranks.
And that was certainly what she was being handed today.
"You have to be mistaken," she snapped into the speakerphone.
"I'm sorry, Ms. Fergeson, but he's insistent," her bewildered secretary Lou-Anna said.
The businesswoman's eyes narrowed. "He can't be my brother," she said, her voice turning harsh. "My brother Peter has been dead for years."
"But what do I do, Ms. Fergeson?" Lou-Anna exclaimed. "He refuses to go. He . . . he's actually sitting on my desk with his arms folded, whistling some old song! He says he's going to stay parked right there until you agree to see him!"
Carol's eyes narrowed in distaste. She could hear the whistling in the background. The song was familiar, but she could not place it.
"Alright," she snapped. "Let him come." Without waiting for a reply, she pressed the button to disconnect the speaker on her phone. Then she leaned forward, clasping her hands.
A brief hint of pain passed through her eyes at the memory of her younger brother. Their parents had died when they had still been children, leaving them in the hands of Social Services. And they had not been allowed to stay together.
He had always been a problem child, or at least enough of one to cause foster parent after foster parent to throw up their hands in despair and give up. He had been unhappy, as Carol had been, but she had not expected to receive the grim news several months before she turned eighteen.
She looked up at Delia's---her foster mother's---voice. The woman was standing in the doorway of the study with a man Carol recognized as the Social Service agent who had been working on her case. Delia's kind features were now lined with worry and concern. "Mr. Brentwood is here to see you."
Carol pushed aside her high school homework, getting up from her chair to go over to them. "Is something wrong?" she asked. Her sharp eyes darted from one to the other. Mr. Brentwood looked grave---but then again, he always did. There was no way to tell what he was thinking.
"It's about your brother," he said.
Carol frowned. "Is he in trouble again?" she said in irritation.
"You could say that." He gestured to the room. "Maybe you should sit down."
"I'm fine." She crossed her arms. "What's wrong?"
Delia looked even more worried. "Dear, I think you should sit down," she said. Clearly, she already knew.
This was just making Carol annoyed. She had always been logical and practical and in good control of her emotions. Why did they think she could not handle it?
She blew out her breath, looking to Mr. Brentwood accusingly. "Did he go to jail?" she grumped. "I know his current foster family threatened to make him spend a night in jail if he scared another kid with tales of him being a mutant werecat."
Mr. Brentwood sighed, removing his glasses to massage his eyes. "He was in Canada with his foster family," he said. "They were visiting relatives. We're still trying to find out all the details, but . . . apparently he ran away."
She stared at him. "He what?!" Now she felt like she had been punched in the stomach. She had never expected this. Mentally she began berating her asinine brother.
Mr. Brentwood was uncomfortable now. "They tried to get him back, but he was determined to escape," he said. "They were just preparing to go canoeing or kyaking or something on a river. He ran down the bank and attempted to steal a motorboat parked nearby."
Carol's mouth dropped open. "Is there a warrant out for his arrest now?" she said in disgusted horror.
"No. . . ." Mr. Brentwood replaced his glasses. "His foster father pursued him and managed to stop him from taking the motorboat, but then he ran away again, climbing over rocks and boulders in his way. When his foster father tried to get him that time, he slipped and fell into the water." He took a deep breath. "He's dead."
Carol froze. She had not heard that right. She could not have. "What?!" she demanded.
"They weren't able to recover his body," Mr. Brentwood continued, wanting to get this uncomfortable scene over with, "but there is no hope he survived. He struck his head on a jagged rock as he went down. Most likely, he was killed instantly. If he wasn't, it's unlikely he could have regained consciousness, and even if he could have, he could not have saved himself."
Delia peered at Carol, deeply concerned. "Dear?" she asked.
Carol clenched a fist. "I hate him," she said.
Delia stared in alarm. "Carol, you don't mean that!"
"I do. I do mean it!" Carol shot back. "I'll never forgive him for this." With that she pushed past them both, storming to her room.
Delia reached for her in vain. "Carol . . . !" she called.
Mr. Brentwood shook his head. "She needs time alone," he said. "Give her a chance to process it. This is a terrible shock."
Delia gave a weak nod. "I wasn't expecting this reaction," she confessed. "I know she hates to cry, but I thought she would cry for her own brother. . . ."
"Give her time," Mr. Brentwood stressed again.
She had not cried. Instead she had channeled her grief into anger---an anger that had lasted to this day. She was furious at her brother and continued to believe that she hated him. How could he have been so stupid? He would have been free to leave all foster homes in three years. Couldn't he have stuck it out that long? Why had he thrown his life away idiotically trying to escape in the Canadian wilderness? Where had he thought he would be able to go?
"You never could do a thing without me there, Peter," she said under her breath, not conscious of the fact that she was not just speaking in her mind. "I wouldn't have let you run away. I wouldn't have let you die."
The sound of her office door opening brought her back to attention. She jerked up, steeling herself for whatever would walk through that door.
She was not prepared for the sight of a young man with pale skin and a shock of wild black hair. His clothes were black, too---from the sleeveless top to the armwarmers and pants. His boots, however, were white---a sharp contrast. Around his eyes he wore dark blue makeup above and black makeup below. He looked extremely out of place in this fancy, well-to-do office.
"Hi there," he greeted.
She frowned. "Well," she said as she looked him up and down, "I don't know what you were hoping to accomplish. You have a lot of nerve, to play a trick like this . . ."
The goth interrupted her by walking to her desk and holding out a hand. "Pete Coppermine," he introduced.
She stared at him, thunderstruck. Coppermine! The river her brother had drowned in. . . .
He looked into her eyes, suddenly serious. "Sis, it's me," he said.
She was about to retort when a good look at his eyes caused her to gasp. A hand flew to her mouth.
Her brother had always been unique in many ways---not the least of which was a strange birth defect that had rendered his pupils catlike in appearance. It had not impaired his vision in the least, but it had been a source of countless cruel remarks and taunting throughout his childhood. But he had made the best of it, to his way of thinking. He had decided that being called a mutant was a compliment and had cheerfully bragged that it was true and he was proud of it. That had stopped the teasing, at least. But it had started an obsession with mutant creatures and werewolves in books, movies, and television---something that had exasperated her and the foster parents alike.
Now she recognized the song he had been whistling---Michael Jackson's Thriller. One of Peter's favorites.
She slumped back in her chair, shaking. It was not possible. . . . It was not . . . ! And why was he only coming to her now, after all these years?! Why had he let her think he was dead?
Suddenly she was angry again. Eyes blazing, she stood up and leaned over the desk, delivering a harsh slap.
His head snapped back, but he stood his ground. As he recovered and looked back to her, his eyes were still serious.
"Sis, I'm sorry," he said. "If you'll let me explain . . ."
"Explain?!" she hissed through clenched teeth. "Yes, I'd like that. Please explain. For seven years I've thought you were dead. Do you have any idea what that was like?! Do you have any concept of what I went through?"
"No," he said. "I know I could never really know what you went through, even if I thought I could. But Sis, believe me, I never wanted this. By the time I got back to civilization after my spill, I couldn't find you. They'd moved you again and I couldn't find out where . . . not without revealing my identity. And I couldn't go back to that."
"You couldn't," she said. "So you just let me suffer, instead."
He flinched. "Sis, I know it's hard to believe, but as far as I was concerned, I was running for my life in Canada," he said. "It wasn't just average crummy living conditions I was trying to get away from."
"Really," Carol said, her tone and her expression showing her doubt.
The furious man struck out with a beefy hand, knocking the boy against the wall. The kid gritted his teeth in pain at the impact, but then his eyes flamed with indignation.
"I didn't even do anything," he objected.
"You know, I have to tell all my friends that you're wearing some kind of crazy contact lens," his foster father snapped. "I don't want them thinking I've got a mutant catboy in here."
Pete sneered as he pushed himself away from the wall. "You never know, Pops, maybe you do," he said.
The thick hand connected with his cheek. "I'm sick of your jokes," the man growled.
Pete raised a hand to the sore spot. "Wouldn't Social Services like to hear about this," he said. It was not something that happened often, mainly for that reason, but when his foster father got angry enough, he struck out without caring about the consequences.
"They're not due here for another week," was the retort, "and I'll find out if you try to call them. Anyway . . . we're all going up to Canada for a few days. By the time we get back, there shouldn't be any trace of what happened today."
Pete blinked in surprise. "Canada?" he repeated.
"You've got ears," his foster father growled. "You remember my brother and his menagerie up there. We're going to see them and do some outdoorsing on the Coppermine river. We already got the written permission for you to travel there with us."
Pete frowned, crossing his arms. For now he would ignore his annoyance at not being told before now. That was always the way it went, after all. They never thought it important to tell him anything he needed to know until the last minute.
And he remembered that crew, alright; they had come down here several months ago. The kids had been brats and had hated and tormented him, so he had retaliated by scaring them into believing that he really was a deadly werecat. Terrified, they had left him alone for the rest of their trip.
But Canada and the Coppermine river. . . . That was a pretty isolated area, if he remembered right. There was only a small town at the mouth of the river.
The wheels began turning in his head. Maybe he would have a chance to get away from this place, after all. Even if he called in Social Services about the abuse, he would just get sent somewhere else---and what he wanted was to be free of this system altogether.
"Say something!" the man roared. "I hate it when you're quiet. It means you're plotting something."
Pete sneered at him again. "Let's face it, you don't like anything I do," he said. "If I talk, you want me to shut up. If I'm quiet, you want me to talk. Crazy old man.
"Anyway," he went on, leaping back before he could be hit again, "I was just thinking that Canada sounds good. I've been wanting to get out of this stuffy house."
His foster father's eyes narrowed in suspicion. "You're up to something," he said. "And you'd better not go through with it, whatever it is. You know what I can do."
"You know I really could call Social Services," Pete said. "You wouldn't dare do anything to me if you knew they were coming over."
He received a harsh swear and a searching look before the man stormed out of the room.
Carol narrowed her eyes. "You're right, it's hard to believe," she said. But it really was not impossible. Was she just acting skeptical because it made her feel better about being angry at him?
"Come on, you know some foster parents are like that," Pete said. "They want a nice fat check and don't care about the kids. You were pretty lucky, Sis---you had nice families who treated you good. I checked up on them when I was looking for you. But me, the misfit, the outcast, I never did so well." He looked away. "None of the places I was in were that great, except one---or at least, I thought so at first. Wouldn't you know, the people were nice, but once I started trying to go goth, they didn't want me. I changed my tune about them pretty quick."
"Maybe you shouldn't have tried to 'go goth,'" Carol said with a frown.
"I have to be me," Pete said, a bit of the impish grin returning. "And no matter what my name is, a goth is who I am."
She was not impressed. She remembered being told of his interest in the goth subculture and fashion, but that he had not been allowed to indulge in it. She had hoped it was a teen fad he would grow out of. Now she could see that was not the case at all.
". . . I was told you couldn't have survived," she said, deciding it prudent to change the subject. "They said you hit your head falling in the water."
Pete paused. "Well . . ." He flipped up the wild mane, holding it back enough that part of a scar on the very top of the right side of his forehead was visible.
She could not help but gasp. How long was it? She could not tell how much was hidden by his hair, but what she could see was nearly a couple of inches in length.
"It knocked me for a loop, that's for sure," Pete said, letting the raven hair fall back into place.
Pete gripped his arms, freezing even in his jacket. It was cold in the Canadian wilderness in autumn.
It was a nice place, though. Under different circumstances, he would have really enjoyed exploring. In fact, maybe that could be arranged. His plan was still firm in his mind.
He was standing apart from everyone else, watching them set up their canoes for the trip down the river. The kids were still afraid of him, much to his relief. He did not want to deal with them bugging him today.
"Do we have enough lifejackets?" called his foster father's brother's wife.
"Looks like we still need two more," was the reply from one of the girls. "Unless werecats don't need lifejackets. . . ."
"Now don't talk nonsense," her mother scolded.
Pete smirked. "Werecats don't need lifejackets," he said under his breath. "And this is my chance." No one was looking his way. He could easily run down the bank. And if he could get to that nearby motorboat and start it up, he would be home-free for at least a little while. Once he lost them, he could cut the engine, make his way through the trees, and eventually double-back to the village. It was a good thing he had taken that map.
Without warning he turned, taking off running.
His foster father looked up with a start. "Hey!" he bellowed. "You get back here!"
Of course, Pete just ran faster.
Cursing, the man gave chase. "Keep getting things ready!" he yelled over his shoulder. "This won't take long."
He stared in disbelief as Pete ran straight for the motorboat. "You've gotta be kidding," he said.
Increasing his speed, and opting for a different tactic, he managed to get to the boat just as Pete arrived. "What do you think you're doing?!" he roared, grabbing for the teen's wrists.
Pete jumped back, kicking out in defense at the same time. His path to the boat was blocked, but that did not mean he was beaten. Now that he was fighting for his freedom, he would not give it up for anything. He whirled, continued to tear down the bank. Up ahead the ground sloped upward. It would be easy for Pete to get ahead here; he was in better physical condition than the man. Scaling the jagged rocks and boulders should be a snap.
And it was, at least at first. He pulled himself up one rock, then another, the adrenaline rush and his determination keeping him going. But the higher he went, the more winded he became. He forced himself on, pulling his body up to the next rock.
Behind him, his foster father was struggling to climb up after him, swearing and cursing all along the way. But as loud as he was, the river was louder. Pete could scarcely hear anything over its crashing current. Taking a deep breath, he grabbed for the next rock.
And a hand curled around his ankle. "I've got you now!" the man cried in triumph. He pulled, trying to drag Pete back down.
The boy yelped, kicking out with his free leg. "Let me go!" he screamed.
His foster father cursed as he was hit in the face. He fell back, his balance lost. But as he slipped, he clutched tighter at Pete's ankle, panic-stricken. Pete cried out as he lost his grip on the rock, tumbling backwards.
The terrified man, thinking only of his own safety, released him, clawing with both hands to catch on to the jagged surface. As he grabbed on and pulled himself up, Pete was not as lucky. The last thing he remembered was one of the rocks saying Hello. He plummeted into the harsh water below.
Carol stared at him in horror. "That's how it happened?" she said in disbelief.
"Oh yeah," Pete said, bitterness in his voice. "Of course, that isn't how it was reported to Social Services." He sighed. "At least the family did get investigated. But it was a little too late."
"How did you survive?!" she exclaimed.
He shrugged. "I woke up enough from the cold water to grab onto a branch floating past," he said. "But I had a pretty bad concussion. I ended up passing out again from the pain pounding through my head, not to mention the force of the current. I woke up a long ways off, on the shore, with a couple of Inuit kids calling to me. They thought I was dead." He laughed a bit. "I thought I was dead, too."
Carol did not laugh. "And then what?" she asked.
"They took me back to town and to the hospital. And I really didn't want to be found out, just in case my foster family would hear something about me surviving, so I pretended to have amnesia. It wasn't too hard." He grinned. "With my head cut open, everyone believed me just like that.
"Once I was better, I managed to make my way to the States---hitch-hiking, sneaking on boxcars, just about anything you can imagine. And I wasn't about to go back to Michigan. So . . . since I was already Northwest, I went down to Oregon. Found a nice, crazy place called Domino City."
Carol raised an eyebrow. "I don't understand how a place that's 'crazy' could also be 'nice'," she said.
He shrugged. ". . . I knew I'd need a new name, since I was starting over," he said. "And since the river's what helped me on my way, I decided to take its name."
The exhausted sixteen-year-old wandered down the streets of the city he had decided he would call home. It looked like a nice place, far away from everyone who knew of Peter Fergeson. And that kid was dead now anyway; he was Pete Coppermine, legally an adult and free to indulge in his goth fashion.
It had been a long road back to the United States. Being on his own was certainly not what it was cracked up to be, but he had grown up a lot over the past months. He had taken on whatever legal odd jobs he could to pay his way here, and by carefully calculating his budget, he had arrived still in possession of some of his savings.
Now he just wanted a real bed to sleep in again, something he had not had since being in the States before---unless the hospital bed in Canada counted, and he did not think it did.
He paused, looking up at a Victorian-style mansion. It matched the address of the boarding house for which he had been looking. Pushing open the gate, he headed up the walk and to the porch.
The door was opened after only one knock. "Why, hello," smiled an older woman with graying hair and a pleasant smile. She did not seem taken aback by the dark clothes and makeup, a good sign.
Pete smiled back. "Hello," he greeted. "I just arrived in Domino today. I was wondering if you had any vacant rooms." He held out his hand. "Pete Coppermine."
She shook his hand, seeming quite at ease. "Agnes Brighton," she said, still with the smile. "And yes, I do; there's a free room upstairs." But she peered at him in curiosity. "You seem young to be traveling on your own," she said.
"I'm eighteen," he said smoothly. "I'm hoping to get my footing around here. I've heard a lot about your city and it sounds like my kind of place."
Agnes accepted that explanation. "I hope you'll enjoy your stay here," she said. "Come in; I'll take you upstairs and you can see if you like the looks of the room."
"Great," Pete said as he stepped inside the cozy parlor. "I already know I like this house, so the room must be perfect."
Carol sighed. "You always could turn on the charm, when you wanted," she said. "But you really lied about your age?!"
"Of course," Pete said, nonchalant.
"Peter!" Carol scolded.
"I couldn't say I was sixteen, could I?" he retorted. "That would have put me right back where I was trying to get away from."
She shook her head. "How on earth did you get by?" she demanded.
"I used my savings for that first while," he said, "and I also paid for my stay by helping around the boarding house. That Agnes Brighton, she's a real gem. Never judged me, never asked uncomfortable questions, just let me be.
"Then I heard about these people called card professors, who were basically paid to play Duel Monsters." He smirked. "You know how I was always nuts about the game, Sis. So I decided that was perfect for me."
She stared at him. "I've heard of card professors," she said. "They're nothing more than mercenaries! You degraded yourself to that level?!"
"It's a living." He placed his hands behind his head. "Pete Coppermine, card professor. That's me! I've made enough to move out of the boarding house and into a high-rise apartment complex. A local businessman even lives across the hall from me."
"You're still a card professor?" Carol regarded her brother in utter horror. "For a brief moment, I hoped you would have got out of that line of work as soon as you had enough to go on to something better."
"If it works, why change?" he shrugged. He grinned wickedly. "Is it too much for you, to have a brother that's both a goth and a mercenary?"
Carol half-turned on the couch where they had been sitting. "It will take some getting used to," she said, her voice and posture stiff.
He sobered. "I never stopped looking for you," he said. "You have no idea how many dead ends I chased over the years. I came here as soon as I found out about Carol Fergeson, financial entrepreneur in Seattle." Again the grin. "Just think, we only live a state apart. Pretty something, huh?"
"It's something, alright." Carol stared off at the far wall. This was so much to digest. Her brother, whom she had grieved for and mourned for seven years, was alive. He had not grown up the way she had hoped he would, not at all---but he had been given the chance to grow up, which was more than she had dreamed possible.
". . . Do you regret what you did?" she asked at last.
"I regret the pain I caused you," he said. He sighed. "In hindsight, I probably should have just called Social Services on that creep. But I was fed up with the whole program. That place was the last straw for me. And if I hadn't run away . . . we'd both be a lot different than we are. I don't know that I'd be willing to give up what I learned when I suddenly had to fend for myself. But I wish I'd been able to find you sooner."
She nodded. "I was of legal age not long after that," she said. "I could have tried to see if they would have given me custody."
"I'm sorry." And he was; she could hear the sorrow in his voice. "I was wrong; I would've given up what I learned in an instant if we could have been together through those years. I wanted that every day I was gone. I never intended to get into such a big mess and not even be able to find you." He gave a humorless, dry laugh. "I had all these visions of running away, going back to the States, finding where you were. . . . Man . . . I was such a stupid kid. Carol, can you ever forgive me? I won't blame you if you can't."
She looked back to him, staring into those unique, catlike eyes. The emotions held back for seven years came rushing out as her defensive wall crumbled. She threw her arms around her brother, not trying to choke back a sob. She did not hate him. She never had.
"Yes," she said through her tears. "Yes, I forgive you."
Surprised at first, Pete recovered enough to return the embrace. "Thank you," he said, his voice quiet but filled with emotion. "I don't deserve it, but I'll do my best to live up to it."
She gave a numb nod. The pain and hurt had been a burden on her heart for seven years. She wanted to let it go.
". . . I'd like to hear what you've been up to," Pete said. "We've still got a lot of catching up to do."
She pulled back, nodding again. "That's an understatement," she said, managing a smile. "Well . . ." She glanced at the clock, then turned back to face him. "I'm ready to get started."