A/N: A tie-in/follow-up/side-sweep to Season 10, Round 2's Hostshipping [Ryou Bakura x Anzu Mazaki] and Season 9, Round 2's Trustshipping [Seto Kaiba x Ishizu Ishtar]. Lifeshipping. Amelda x Anzu Mazaki. Again. So help me god, this pairing is exploding on me.
Warnings: mentions of violence and torture.
Disclaimer: Kazuki Takahashi and all associated companies are the rightful owners of the Yuugiou! franchise and I claim no association with any of them. No copyright infringement intended with this and no money is being made from this. Please support the creator by purchasing the official releases.
Between The Lifelines II
Anzu couldn't pinpoint the exact moment when she stopped being intimidated by Amelda. The days spent together holed up in some hideout and waiting for a go-ahead sign to move out when there was no immediate danger, clinging to him for dear life when they sped down winding roads from one place to another, and doing things she would have never before considered herself capable of had changed a lot. Sometimes, when she looked in the mirror, she caught herself thinking that it couldn't be her reflection. That it couldn't be her life. That she'd somehow, someway ended up trading places with another person. She doubted her friends would recognise her now.
Now, when Amelda told her to grab her coat, she was already halfway to the door. When he told her to shoot, she asked if he had a spare magazine because she already was all out of bullets. And when he swooped in and dragged her out of the fray, dodging crossfire and risking his life to get her out, she covered for him. When he stripped off her shirt to inspect her wounds, she didn't as much as flinch; she only gritted her teeth and tried to swallow the whimpers of pain while he cleaned and dressed her injuries. She'd undergone so much during the last month in the redhead's company and still all of their troubles weren't even close to an end.
She was starting to slowly accept that she wouldn't be returning to her old life anytime soon, if ever. Her captivity and the subsequent involvement with the rescue mission of Kaiba and Ishizu had thrown her into a dangerous world where she'd played an active part as well, though Amelda was the one to carry the brunt of it now that he had taken a stand against his former friends and fellow countrymen just to save Kaiba – the son of the man who had brought them so much misery and ruin, and eventually – a loss in the war with his underhanded business tactics. This was something that wouldn't go down easily. While he was in life debt to some of them and vice versa, there were plenty of others who saw him as a traitor, and for as long as Kaiba remained with them, they were all in danger.
They had succeeded in finding the place where the kidnappers kept him and Ishizu, and they had only barely made it out of there alive; all six of them. Anzu had learned that her dance moves came in handy in a fight when it came to it, that Malik was unnervingly skilled with a gun, and that Bakura could build a fine fire. A sky-high one. The latter had been their distraction while they pulled both captives out and took off, with Amelda's driving putting any speed racer to shame.
Right now Kaiba was in a room on the other side of the corridor, recovering from all the injuries his capturers had inflicted on him. Worse than the physical ones, though, was the blow his mind had suffered from watching his little brother being murdered in front of his eyes. The broken bones and torn flesh were healing, but his mind refused to do the same. He barely moved, he barely ate and spent his time lying in bed, dead to his surroundings. When Amelda realised that Kaiba had withdrawn from the world into his shell like a covering snail, he took his anger out on him for giving up. He yelled at him, putting in words everything he'd gone through after Mirko's death, about moving on, about forcing himself to keep going, but his outburst only resulted in a look that was meant to be condescending and mocking and was supposed to say 'And look how that went! You tried to kill me and Mokuba', but turned out only apathetic. The redhead lost his nerve and added a few good punches on top of the ones his former comrades had delivered to the CEO, though mindful to not make his injuries worse. He dragged him out of the bed, landed a good, solid punch to his swollen jaw, splitting his lip open again, and slammed him into the wall. When Kaiba only slid down it and remained hunched on the ground, Amelda spun on his heel and strode out of the room in a flurry, slamming the door shut so hard even the kitchen window rattled.
He couldn't explain what exactly made him so infuriated about the situation, about the way Kaiba was acting now – so cold, so disinterested in life and so detached from everything. He was still in the other's debt because the Kaibas hadn't left him to lie unconscious in that field in the middle of nowhere for vultures and wild animals to strip flesh from his soulless body as they had all the rights to do, and for not pressing charges for the damaged plane and the murder attempt. Though the new owner of Paradias had played its part there and had settled it with Kaiba and anyone else affected on behalf of its former misdirected employees, and Amelda didn't even want to think about that. Being indebted to Seto Kaiba was bad enough; being in debt to the new owner of Paradias – a thousand times worse. He wanted nothing to do with that company, ever.
And now he felt like he'd failed Kaiba terribly. He hadn't been able to prevent Mokuba's death and Seto's captivity; he hadn't been able to get to him faster and spare him the beatings and the torture. And now he couldn't get through to him. He couldn't break him out of his shell.
Anzu, having heard all of the shouting and the thuds following straight after, actually recoiled from the thunderous expression on Amelda's face and shrank back. She'd never seen him this angry before. In fact, she hadn't known he could lose his composure like this, having assumed he was just like Kaiba in that regard. Amelda hesitated in the hallway for a moment before punching the wall and leaving the apartment, making sure to slam every door in his path. It would only be later when she'd make the connection between the spots on the wall and the bruises on the back of his hand; he'd punched it hard enough to hurt himself.
She steeled herself for the worst upon entering Kaiba's room and had to take a moment to orient herself because it appeared empty at first glance. Then she noticed Kaiba on the ground behind the bed, partially leaning against the wall. He showed no signs of having noticed her and she used that to study him in the daylight. She hadn't seen him since the rescue even though they'd spent all this time under the same roof. He was a shadow of the man he used to be; she could barely recognise him. The black eye he'd gotten was already colouring yellow around the edges, his nose was broken and still swollen, a spectacular red bruise was blossoming on his cheek from Amelda's right hook and blood trickled from the corner of his split lip. The radical partisans had mostly kept his face intact so that it would serve as a constant reminder for their hatred, but they'd done a number on the rest of him. He had several broken fingers, a dislocated shoulder, fractured ribs, a broken arm and countless of knife wounds and burn marks all over his body, not accounting for any internal damage he might have. It was a miracle they hadn't broken his legs or cut his fingers off as Amelda had seen them do before.
He was too heavy for Anzu to lift, but she tried to get him back on the bed nonetheless. "Help me, Kaiba," she growled in exasperation when all attempts to pull him up yielded nothing.
He regarded her all of once and heaved himself just enough to sit down on the edge of the bed with her guidance and support. He remained sitting there with his head bowed and his gaze trained on nothing while she fetched a first aid kit and worked on his lip. Blushing in embarrassment because handling him like he was a mere doll or a mannequin felt odd and awkward, she lifted his ruffled shirt to check if any of the wounds had started bleeding. Thankfully, they hadn't.
Amelda had brought in a doctor who didn't ask questions to patch Kaiba up since it was too risky to take him to a hospital. There would be too much explaining to do, too much attention from the police and too high of a risk of a repeat attack. The same doctor had attended to Ishizu as well, but Anzu didn't know how she was doing now, or even where Bakura and the Ishatrs were. The most she'd gotten out of Amelda was 'safe' and it had been enough for her; she'd begun trusting him in almost everything. From what she'd seen during their reckless rescue mission, Ishizu had faired only slightly better than Kaiba, but she hadn't withdrawn inside her own mind and, upon realising who had come for her, had done everything she could to help them – or at least be as little of a hindrance as possible. She'd squeezed Anzu's hand once and whispered a weak 'thank you' before passing out in Malik's arms.
Done with cleaning Kaiba up, Anzu pushed on his shoulder. "You need to lie down."
He obeyed her like a puppet, assuming a rather uncomfortable pose in the process and seemingly not even registering it. She had to lift his legs onto the bed and push and shove him into a more comfortable position before tucking him in like a child. All that time his eyes remained locked onto something out of her sight. She left the room, closing the door behind her as quietly as she could, and slumped against the opposite wall. Her hands shook and she clenched them into fists, trying to stop the tremors. She gulped down air like somebody drowning and tried to contain the stinging in her suddenly misty eyes. She wasn't going to cry, she told herself fiercely. She wasn't going to cry for Kaiba. Truly, if somebody had told her that she would be fighting her hardest to not sob like a baby for the aloof CEO just two months ago, she would have thought that person needed to see a doctor about his head. Thought, not said out loud, because her manners were too good to actually say that to somebody's face.
It was hard to face the wreck of a man Seto Kaiba had become. Harder than the cold-hearted, arrogant businessman who had insulted her friends whenever the opportunity presented itself because, back then, there had been Yuugi and Jounouchi, and Honda too with her. There had been the four of them against him. Now, she had to take him one-on-one. And he wasn't even insulting her, but already it seemed impossible. She would have gladly ran out the door just like Amelda had before, but she had more sense than that. She wasn't familiar with the area, she'd showed her face to the extremists thus becoming their target as well, and she didn't want to put Amelda through the trouble of upturning the entire neighbourhood in search of her just because she'd been stupid enough to go and get herself lost or worse yet – captured.
It was only later, back in the kitchen, when a teacup fell out of her hand and shattered at her feet because her hands still wouldn't stop trembling, that she remembered having left the first aid kit in disarray on the floor by Kaiba's bed, wanting nothing more than to get out of his room as fast as possible at the time. She decided to leave it be, not having the courage to face him again. Tears threatened to spill out anew and she tried to distract herself by cleaning up the broken glass, but after the third sweep she gave up and slumped on the ground, falling back against the door of a kitchen cabinet. The door handle dug in her back sharply, but it was a welcome pain.
She drifted off eventually from exhaustion and was jostled awake by the sound of clinking glass and boiling water, having no idea how much time had passed between now and then. Amelda was crouching next to her, sweeping up the teacup fragments. From the visible part of his profile she deduced that he'd calmed down and regained his usual impasse expression. She felt numb enough to not care that he'd just seen her in the middle of her breakdown. In fact, she found that very few things still mattered.
"Sit. I'm making tea," he said, straightening up and emptying the shovel onto a piece of newspaper before bunching it up and tossing it into the plastic bag that served as a trashcan. His voice betrayed no emotion.
Anzu pushed herself up, wincing at the soreness in her muscles from the uncomfortable position she'd slept in and took a step towards the narrow kitchen table. For a moment she stood watching the redhead's back while he quickly washed his hands before retrieving two mugs and a pack of tea from the cupboard above the sink. Something had broken inside of her earlier. Something she didn't know how to fix. She only knew that she needed human contact and she needed it now.
"I'm sorry," she said, her voice catching on the last syllable.
"For what?" he asked without looking back at her. He opened the pack of tea and took out a bag, about to drop it into a mug.
Anzu hugged him from behind. She'd started trembling again and the sluice gate of tears broke down.
"Th-this," she mumbled into his coat, unsure if he could hear her. Her emotions were spilling out, too many to contain and too varied to make sense of.
He frowned, but didn't try to push her away. He'd checked on Kaiba first and guessed that she'd been the one to get him back in bed even before finding the scrambled first aid kit on the ground – and that the encounter had led to the broken teacup and her sleeping on the kitchen floor.
Instead, he said, "We'll get you home."
She nodded against his back, knowing that he was lying just to make her feel better. She could have told him that it wasn't working, but didn't bother calling him out on an obvious lie which they both were perfectly aware of. She could never be safe now. No matter which part of the world she moved to, the threat of the partisans would never lift. She'd spend the rest of her life looking back over her shoulder and trying to guess which moment would be her last. Or rather, which would be the one she became their whore. One look at the state of Ishizu's clothing had told her everything about the reasons those men had kept her alive. She was certain to have the same fate if they ever got their hands on her. She'd had it in her head that Amelda would be killed instantly for his betrayal until he laughed it off and pointedly glanced at the door behind which Kaiba was recuperating. Bakura and Malik would die fast for being involved. He wouldn't.
The kettle boiled over and Amelda reached out to turn off the gas. The motion made Anzu pull away, suddenly shy because her face was sure to be blotchy and her eyes – red and puffy. She was relieved to see that she hadn't gotten any snot on his coat.
"I'm sorry," she apologised again, shuffling back uncertainly and sniffling loudly. Belatedly, she felt that she'd overstepped a border.
"For what?" he repeated himself again and pulled off his coat to lay it over the back of a chair, barely sparing it a glance. "For ruining my coat? You'll be the one cleaning it."
A choked sound escaped her throat; something between a sob and a desperate chuckle. She was relieved beyond words for the sarcasm in his tone.
"As soon as we've located Bakura's father, we're getting you lot out of here."
"If we're still alive by then, you mean." Her voice broke on the word 'alive' and she couldn't get it back under control by the end of the sentence.
To this, he raised a brow, still keeping his back to her, giving her the privacy he figured she needed. "You're supposed to have inspirational and uplifting comebacks for all occasions. Isn't that how you made the Pharaoh's support team?"
Another desperate sound scraped its way up her throat. "I'm all out of happy speeches. And I doubt my friends would recognise me now."
Anzu wasn't sure if that was a dismissal of her words or pride for her change, which he had helped to bring about. The shifting of muscles beneath his tight-fitting shirt wasn't supplying any good answers.
"Do you want that tea or not?"
"Yes." She hastily sat down. "Yes, please." She couldn't make out everything he muttered about at that, but she did catch 'polite' and 'cavities'. "We're all out of sugar, by the way. I don't know my way around the block, otherwise I could have…" she ended the sentence with a shrug.
He turned to regard her with narrowed eyes. "I'm not taking you grocery shopping."
She blanched at that. "Don't, then."
"The tea is fine as it is," he said as if challenging her to deny it and all but slammed the mug in front of her, somehow managing to not spill the liquid.
"You're terrible at this, you know," she muttered, turning the mug this way and that, hyperaware that he was still standing there, practically leaning against the table with his hip. She missed Yuugi and the conversations they used to have. She missed Jounouchi and Honda bickering in the background. She missed chattering away with Shizuka about clothes, music and the newly opened cake shop on the corner of 229. She missed all the normal things she used to do. "This domestic thing."
She chanced a look at him and didn't like the smirk slowly spreading on his face one bit.
"Is that what we have here?" he inquired amusedly, almost cruelly. "Domestic?"
To avoid looking at him, she concentrated on blowing on her tea to make it cool off faster. She reflected on all the times they'd been in one room and came to realise that they'd sat together at one table only in diners and fast food joints. He poignantly kept his distance from everyone. "When you're not being a Drill Sergeant."
He snorted and returned to the counter to lean against it, a steaming cup of his own in hand. "Drink your tea before I tell you to drop and give me twenty."
Anzu hid her smile against the edge of her mug.
The silence stretched on while they drank their tea and by the time Anzu was done with her cup, she was starting to regret having said anything. She got up to put the mug in the sink and caught Amelda's gaze for a moment. He had an unreadable expression on again, which meant that she didn't have to apologise for anything or try to make light of the situation by attempting a joke.
She had to reach slightly behind him to get to the sink because he wouldn't budge from his spot and when she moved away, his hand shot out and grabbed her arm, stalling her. She jumped a little in surprise and drew back, then stayed put. With her gaze, she followed his other hand as it carefully set his own mug down, before looking up only to discover that his expression hadn't changed. Without a warning, he hoisted her up, turned, and deposited her on the kitchen counter. She had a split second to see his expression become calculating before he kissed her. It took her a moment to decide whether to respond or not. Somehow, she felt like she'd lose the challenge if she didn't and he'd think less of her for it.
He might have smirked the moment when she responded; she wasn't sure. He wasn't slow, he wasn't gentle, and he had her cornered between himself and the cupboard. She was aware of his hands not touching her even before his phone started ringing and he reached behind him to grab his coat from the back of the chair. She followed his movement and leaned forward, gripping the edge of the counter for support. The kiss broke when he turned his attention to fishing the phone out of the inside pocket.
"Malik," he informed her after one glance at the screen, his voice perfectly even and so unlike what she'd expected to hear that it gave her a whiplash. He kept her gaze for the entire duration of his one-sided conversation with Malik, after hanging up and putting the cell phone away again, and while pulling his coat back on. He leaned in again and placed his hands on the counter on either side of her, making her back up a little. He looked pointedly at her lips, then back into her eyes. "I'll be back in two hours. Think about it."
Left up on her perch to get down on her own, she watched him go. Maybe she missed her friends more than she'd initially thought. Maybe she was just starved for some regular human interaction. Maybe the situation she was in was making her do stupid and desperate things. Whatever the reason behind it, she did think about it. Heaven have mercy, she did.