The ceiling hung low in this underground bar, making it an oppressive-feeling place, uncomfortable and claustrophobic for most. The heat and dust didn't help matters, and the fact that only one of the three ceiling lamps still worked just added to the sense of gloom and pressure. The walls were thick sandstone, painted (just barely) in a thin coat of gunmetal grey paint, and the bar itself was simple metal and wood, no frills or decoration about it. Behind it was a tall, gaunt barman, running a rag over the same glass he'd been cleaning for the last few hours, staring into its surface as if trying to find the answer as to why he had wound up working in a place like this.
The only customer in the building was a young man with a shock of white hair, sitting with his upper body slumped over the counter, resting his chin on his folded arms. Off to one side of him was a tall glass, remarkably clean compared to the rest of the bar, half filled with a thick chocolate milk, a crazily twisting bright purple straw sitting in the centre. The young man made a quiet gurgling noise of despair, the sound muffled by his arms pressed to his face. The bartender gave him a quick glance, but thought better of asking what was wrong. That kid looked like he could go all afternoon with his troubles, and that just wasn't something he felt up to dealing with right now.
There was a shuffling noise at the doorway, the faint sunlight that managed to filter down from the street above was blocked out by a silhouette. For a moment the bartender's heart lifted. Another customer! A new one! One that might actually bring some interesting conversation and cheer to this place!
Then he saw who it was.
Wrapped in a tan trenchcoat, the tall newcomer marched down the stairs into the bar with a look of furious determination etched onto his face. The tip of his hair, styled into a frontwards facing spike, skimmed along the ceiling, dislodging a fine film of dust. He advanced on the bartender, slamming a hand with a crumpled note and a few coins in it down on the counter.
"Something strong. Something cheap. Keep it coming until this isn't enough for it." He waited just long enough for the stunned bartender to take the money and start pouring a murky brown liquid from a dusty old bottle into a glass before he reached over and snatched up the drink, taking it to a table in the far corner of the room, slamming it down and sitting with his back to the others, feet propped up on the table.
A silence settled onto the room, broken only by the squeaking of the bartender's efforts to clean a new glass.
"Another all nighter," came the muffled voice from the white haired boy . The bartender looked confused, peering at the young man as he raised his head to purse his lips around his purple straw. His eyes were bloodshot and ringed with dark bags. A loud slurp, echoing around the bar. "He was out all last night. I'm not even sure where he went." Ryou continued. "But when I woke up this morning I was soaking wet, there was money in my pocket and a rather dented shovel in the corner of my bedroom. I'm starting to get quite sick of this."
The bartender's confusion was strengthened and he thought better of asking the young man to explain just what the hell he was talking about. He put the glass and washrag down, stepping out from behind the counter, heading towards the newcomer. Maybe he'd get a slightly better conversation out of this one... He stood behind him and opened his mouth to speak.
"Impulsive, selfish, pig-headed wise-ass!" Honda shouted, beating the bartender to the starting line of the conversation. He continued on his tirade while remaining in his seat, oblivious to the man standing behind him who was slowly edging his way back to the bar. "All I did was ask if he needed help carrying a crate. Is that worth biting my head off over? It's not like I was implying he couldn't do it by himself!"
Back at the counter, the bartender could feel his worry growing. Was he trapped down here with a pair of lunatics? He supposed he could flee, but then they'd be free to rob the place. Not that there was much to take. Business had been painfully slow the last few days. Maybe this was what his boss had meant when he said he'd need to keep his wits about him when working on a Wednesday evening. Was this when the town's crazies went on parade or something?
"It wouldn't be so bad if he just gave me a little forewarning about what he had planned," Ryou groaned, rubbing his half-closed eyes. "At this rate I'd even settle for just a little note telling me what he had done the night before! I've found bullet holes in some of my clothes. Bullet holes! He's putting me in serious danger here, and I don't even know how or why!" He gave an emphatic slurp on his milkshake.
Whatever these guys were talking about, it sounded dangerous. Perhaps even criminal. The bartender looked nervously towards the backdoor. There was a phone in there. If these guys turned violent, maybe he'd be able to -
"So he can take on masters of evil from all around the world with powers that defy mortal comprehension," Honda slammed his empty glass down on the table. The bartender reflexively started approaching to refill it as instructed. "I get that. I do. But he gets help there! Even Yugi's not too proud to ask for help and he's a damn celebrity these days! So what's so wrong with offering to help Jonouchi lift a crate that's clearly too heavy for him!" there was the swirling noise of his glass being refilled, followed by the pattering of the bartender's feet carrying him to safety. "And when he throws out his back who gets blamed? That's right, yours truly. Distracting am I? Putting him off with my offering to help was I? Well up his says I!" He downed the contents of the glass, and the bartender cursed himself for not just leaving the bottle there and hunkering down behind the safety of the counter.
Ryou straightened up slightly, interlacing his fingers and resting his chin on them. "Maybe I could leave a little notebook on my door." He mused, trying to get to his straw with as little movement as possible. "Just get him to tell me where he's heading so I can at least figure things out once I wake up. From there on in it's just a short jump to getting him to stop keeping me out all night. All night long. Every night..." he trailed off, staring into space as he sucked down the last of the milk. The loud, gurgling noise of the last dregs sliding up the straw filled the bar, just as the bartender placed the bottle down on Honda's table and made a fairly quick getaway to the backroom.
Another long silence followed. Ryou picked himself up from his seat, sagging a little as his tired body tried to convince him collapsing to sleep right there on the floor was the best idea in the world. He turned, walking past the door for a few steps, placing a small hand gently on Honda's shoulder.
"Same time next week?" He asked, the smile brightening his exhausted features.
Honda grinned. "Same time next week." He confirmed, pouring himself another glass of liquor. "It's good to get this stuff off my chest."
"Me too," Ryou looked at the fresh soil that sat under his fingernails, sighing inwardly. "Me too..."