I don't think I've written the sexual/romantic elements of their relationship prominently enough to classify this fic as romance, but here's a heads up for their existence.
Warnings: references to child abuse, dark themes.
Somewhere between sunset and the second time throwing up bile and saliva, Amelda felt the instinctual urge to run. He knew he had to, acute in his gut he knew it, throughout his bones, spiralling outwards from his deepest, most primal centre: run.
He was already dressed for it, as he always was. Always ready to leave. If he brought his jacket then he would have on him all his worldly possessions, which were neatly tucked into its pockets. He didn't need baggage. He never stayed in one place long enough to acquire it, and he never visited the same place twice.
So why was he back in Domino?
Amelda pulled his keys from his pocket, clicked them in and out of the motel door, stepped through, closed and locked it behind him. He didn't waste seconds with the steps, just swung over the balcony and squarely hit the pavement. His pace shot from inertia to pure speed, cresting into a frantic staccato of boots on concrete, tearing into flight, never stopping, never looking back. Run.
Run where? It didn't matter. Just go. You hear the gunfire in the next street over but you don't hear the bodies hit the ground because you're already running, flying, skimming over the grit beneath your feet, a child's hand in yours, and no one, no one can catch you.
What are you running away from?
He no longer has an answer to that. Bombs and guns and men who come for you in the night with curved bits of metal. But this is Domino, Japan, and there are no wars being waged here. The only people dying tonight are the sick and the old. Amelda is neither.
No, rounding another street corner, easily dodging the drunken night traffic even as their drivers scream obscenities at him, Amelda is not sick. Unable to sleep from the inexplicable nausea for the fourth night in a row, and Amelda is not sick. As he feels the pressure of the knife handle and the blade heating against his skin, he knows he is not sick. He is primed, and perfect, and lethal, and somebody is going to die tonight.
Amelda turns into the park, just wanting to run with the grass underfoot, and doesn't look up around him at the trees, the fountains, the beautiful and cultivated beds of closed, sleeping flowers. He misses open plains and wild grass, nature as it's supposed to be. Cultivation. Destruction with a planning permit. The grass beneath him is so neatly cropped it might as well not be grass at all. He glides through the gates and back onto the streets where civilisation makes sense, if it ever does. A skyscraper is more honest than a flowerbed. These buildings aren't pretending to be beautiful.
Cities always make him sick, especially this place. He spent too much time here, waiting on Dartz, watching Kaiba, wasting time. It was barely preferable to America. Domino reeks of community and failed attempts at permanence. They don't realise how arbitrary it all is. Here, this line designates Main Street. And here, this circle borders the park. Under the cement and the pipes all you'll ever find is dirt, no matter where you dig.
Amelda approaches a crossing and his mind falters, disorientated, but he doesn't stop running. He almost swims between the cars, trying to place his whereabouts, then reaches the other side of the road and realises he needs the opposite direction. He makes a sharp turn back into the traffic, provoking a flurry of horns. Someone calls him a faggot; something metal swerves into something else. Amelda is already gone.
But going where?
Is this flight, or the hunt?
Ameda abhors violence. The words repeat and drum, drum, drum into his head: I abhor violence, I abhor violence... He is not a violent person. He clenches his fists tight, tighter, then releases before he can puncture the skin. The only blood that's going to spill tonight will not be his own. He will have his own little patch of private violence, if that is what he needs to get some peace.
Cheetahs do not run so fast, panthers do not so smoothly bleed into the night and the black as does Amelda. Left, right, left, right, left... His thoughts reduce themselves to nothing but the rhythm of alternate stinging beats against the ground. He's just a momentary blur in the corner of your eye. They couldn't have caught him at this speed, if only he had run, kept running, a hand in his, safe in speed, in limitless movement...
The dirty, rotten alleys of downtown Domino have all but faded now, the buildings rising up around him far cleaner, far more expensive. Amelda, in an instant, despises every single occupant of these houses: men, women, children...
The children too?
No, not the children. The men and the women: hell, it doesn't matter. The people. Safe as houses. Watch your hometown burn, watch the homes of your loved ones crumble so finely that plaster is indistinguishable from bone. You think these walls keep you safe? They might as well be made of paper.
Amelda blinks sweat from his eyes and leaves the houses behind, stretches of open green emerging on either side of him. Let those people live their lives. Let them sleep in beds and never wake up covered in a stranger's gore.
A dark, wide shape loomed on the horizon, its proximity spurring Amelda into a final burst of speed. The final half mile was easily eaten up, swallowed by his footprints. Amelda could have pretended that he hadn't known his destination when he first started running, but of course he knew. He knew the moment he decided to bring the knife. Who else would he use it for? Himself, perhaps. One day.
Amelda finally slowed when he reached the outer perimeter of the Kaiba Mansion grounds, decreasing to a jog, winding down his muscles. He stopped himself before he reached the main gate – that was where the first cameras were. He knew this house better than any that he had ever lived in, though he had never seen the place in the flesh. He had fantasised a thousand times about infiltrating it. Why make a new home for yourself when you only had to close your eyes to transport yourself here? Burn it down in your mind, build it up anew. Amelda had never needed more. Not for a long time.
The wall stretched high above him, an impenetrable perimeter. There was no back way in, no gap in the wall.
But he could climb it.
Before he could fully comprehend what he was doing, Amelda had lodged his foot in a tight alcove, crushing his toes against some sharp kind of rock, and then the other foot was up, hooked into the ivy, and then he barely registered vaulting over the top before he landed low, crouched and catlike, on the other side.
The moon was hung fat with dull light. Two AM, perhaps. If Kaiba wasn't home yet, then Amelda would wait for him. It would only make things easier. Not that this could ever be difficult. Years of his life spent poring over plans of the Kaiba Mansion in search for the exact and vulnerable, little, soft, fleshy part of the defences to pierce through. He could do it blindfolded.
Amelda ghosted low to the grass over to the mansion's exterior wall, pressing himself up against it and staring upwards. There – the window ledge. Then – where are you going? – then the camera. One foot atop it, the other swinging up onto the next window ledge. A chink in the otherwise smooth wall is all you need, really, just a little groove, to get just enough grip to slide over to the next window ledge. And one more to go, one more.
What are you doing, nii-chan?
"I'm-" he panted, breath a silent cloud of steam and fury in the night air. "I'm going forward..."
The window, he finds, is unlocked. Left open a crack to let in the cool night air.
Amelda paused. The wind disturbed his hair and he inhaled, filling himself with some pungent night flower, cloying, awful.
He spat, then pushed the window silently open. How trusting of Kaiba to think that no one would find their way this far.
Amelda flowed over the threshold in a single movement, outside to in, then dropped silently onto the carpet and froze. No movement. No sound. Tar black darkness, thick, still. He waited for his eyes to adjust, identifying sparse furniture, rocked his feet gently to test the thickness of the carpet, and wetted his lips.
Amelda drew the knife in one soundless motion and held it poised, ready to throw, but he identified the movement a second later.
With the realisation came the decision. He stood, stepped forwards, forwards again, raised the knife, forwards again, approached the bed, tilted the blade at the exact angle, and -
Panting, sweating, knife frozen in a flawless unformed arc, Amelda stared down at the two cold, confused blue eyes gazing up at him. They flicked over him, taking in his hair, loose and sticky against his face, his bare shoulders glittering with sweat, the wildness in his eyes, then they dropped downwards and lingered, first, on the naked, sweat streaked muscles of his stomach, then shot to the knife in his hand. No doubt he could smell him, the salt and metal of exertion, of anger, of...
Kaiba pushed himself up onto his elbows, the sheets falling from his shoulders, looking again to Amelda's face. He didn't need to mention the knife. He knew that Amelda knew that he'd seen it. What was there to say?
Amelda breathed hard, feeling more aware of the thud of his heartbeat than he had in years, his skin burning up with the heat of the run, of his fury, of... and...
He placed the knife carefully on Kaiba's bedside table. It made a deep, hollow clink.
"I couldn't sleep," Amelda said, seeing his fingerprints shine bright and sticky against the handle of the knife.
Kaiba didn't look again to the knife. Sitting half upright, a weak patch of moonlight had fallen across his face. There was no fear or anger in that face. Even the confusion had faded.
Kaiba remained in static silence for a moment, then inhaled slowly and deeply. "I couldn't sleep either."
The faintest, slightest hint of a smile smudged Amelda's lips and, in the moonlight, he saw the same expression touch Kaiba's face. Amelda standing upright, pouring sweat, armed, an intruder, and Kaiba lying in bed, wearing what looked like very expensive black silk or satin pyjamas, and Kaiba couldn't sleep?
"I was running," said Amelda, almost offhandedly. "I thought I might..." He looked again at the knife. "I thought I could tire myself out."
Kaiba watched him, watched the rapid vibrations of Amelda's skin as his heart raced. "Did it work?"
Amelda hesitated, then shook his head.
Kaiba nodded slowly as if he expected this. Then he pulled the sheets back, slipped out of the bed, and walked past Amelda to his wardrobe. Amelda didn't watch him. He stared at the soft indentation in the bedsheets. Strange to think you could call a bed your own. Dartz had understood that. Valon and Raphael had their own rooms, and Amelda would sleep wherever chose to lie down for that night. He favoured the undersides of shelves, the bathtub, a well built wardrobe. It was safer.
"I didn't know you were in Japan," came Kaiba's voice.
Amelda respectfully kept his back turned at the soft sounds of clothing being removed and put on. "Neither did I," he said. "I stowed aboard a ferry at Hong Kong and it docked in Okinawa." His lips twisted into something that could not even generously be called a smile. "Call it fate."
Kaiba snorted. Amelda heard the clink of a buckle and glanced across the room, half turning when he saw that Kaiba was fully dressed.
"Why Hong Kong?"
"I had just been in China. It was close."
"Then why China?"
Amelda shrugged. "Why anywhere?"
He couldn't read Kaiba's expression now, he couldn't even guess in this darkness, but the way he folded his arms and relaxed his posture wasn't the attitude of someone who feared for his life. His voice was low and cool and clear, not the tone with which you would expect a man to address his assassin.
Is that what you are?
"Do you want coffee?" asked Kaiba.
"I don't drink stimulants."
"Something else? Water?"
"You're not very good at social calls, are you?"
Amelda's eyes drifted involuntarily to the knife. "This wasn't a social call."
Kaiba's gaze matched the direction of Amelda's. His voice was quiet. "I think this is exactly your idea of a social call."
They stood in mutual silence for a little while, neither looking at the other, each thinking something over. The soft wind disturbed Kaiba's heavy curtains and, lightly, whipped a few strands of dark red hair about Amelda's face.
"I have a treadmill, you know," said Kaiba suddenly. "If you still feel like running."
Amelda didn't feel like doing anything, but he gave half a shrug and half a nod anyway. Kaiba walked past him, pushing open his bedroom door, and Amelda followed.
They walked together down the narrow hall, both their paces comfortably slow. They weren't really going anywhere. They were just walking. The treadmill was only a vague abstract to shape the present moments into some form of continuity. Amelda felt that they could have walked those halls for hours, hallways he had spent years dreaming about and that he was now caught within. The red wallpaper seethed in the darkness. He was walking through something's guts, the dying, twitching insides of a life he was once certain he'd lead. How many times had he pictured Kaiba's soulless body slumped in one of these corridors? How many times had he dreamt of razing the place to the ground?
"What have you been doing these last three years?" said Kaiba, not looking at him.
Amelda breathed in slowly. Difficult question. "Mostly I travelled. I spent some time in South America, I'm not sure how long. I didn't really do much there. Hitched rides around, kept to the less tourist friendly places. But I suppose I wasn't much better than a tourist myself. Then I went to Europe, mostly stayed in the capitals."
"What did you do for money?"
They turned into the main atrium of the house and began to descend the stairs, Kaiba's hand drifting over the banister.
"Nothing really. Some petty thievery, the occasional delivery job. I lived cheaply. Ate what other people threw away."
"I can't say I see the appeal." They reached the bottom of the staircase and moved into another, tighter corridor, sliding into file, Kaiba in front.
"It's an easy way to live. I don't like commitments." Even in the darkness Amelda could make out the shape of Kaiba's shoulder blades, melting into view and then back to blackness under his shirt as he moved. His hair was still disturbed from sleep, a sight Amelda doubted many people got the opportunity to see. Or perhaps he was wrong. Perhaps Kaiba invited a lot of people into that big, empty bed of his. It was three years since he'd seen anything of the man, after all, and presumptuous to think he knew him. Strange to think, because Kaiba looked the same. A little more tired. A little calmer. Amelda felt the same as he ever had. "I stayed in Germany for a while," he continued, simply to stop his mind from wandering. As if Kaiba cared about any of this. His mind never usually wandered. "France... Belgium... European nightlife is unsettling. So loud, so much alcohol."
"It's like that in every country."
They came to a wide set of sliding glass doors, through which Amelda could see an impressive collection of exercise equipment. He couldn't imagine why anyone would ever want all this stuff. All you needed was the ground beneath your feet and the open air.
Kaiba slid back the door and stepped through. Amelda followed.
"Here," Kaiba said, coming to stand next to an unnecessarily elaborate treadmill. "If you want it. Or any of the other machines, I don't mind."
Amelda ran his fingers over the thing's metal frame. It had been so long since he'd used a treadmill. The thing looked alive. He drew his fingers away. If it was his discomfort with the treadmill or Kaiba's presence or something else he didn't know, but his thirst and parched throat suddenly became overwhelmingly noticeable. How long had he been running?
"Actually, I could really use that water."
Kaiba regarded him for a moment, then broke into a strange, cold smirk.
Kaiba didn't look back as he walked away. "It's of no consequence."
It was the first time in a long while that Amelda had had any obligation to stay put. To wait for someone. It was rude to wander off in someone else's house, wasn't it? Still, he probably knew this house better than Kaiba, or at least he knew its timeline up until three years ago. Kaiba might have made any number of changes to it in the meantime. Even if he hadn't, it would be rude to wander off.
Amelda had never been one for etiquette.
It emerged that Amelda still knew the Kaiba mansion intimately and at no point did he feel lost or disorientated. There were some minor details that he didn't expect – some modern paintings, a vase containing a single black orchid – not because they seemed out of character but because they were so striking a divergence from his mental image of the place. But then, all he knew of Kaiba's character was built on years of research and stalking. It wasn't like he really knew the man. Or perhaps he knew him better than anyone.
At least he was moving with some direction now. The gym had just been an excuse, but now he knew where he was going. It wasn't very far. When Amelda came across the glass door he couldn't help but smile. Yes, he knew this house. He pressed a hand against the glass, then the tip of his nose, then his cheek. He couldn't hear anything, but the clinical, strangely sweet aroma of chlorine came distinct and strong.
Amelda pushed the door open.
The pool was quite large, though perhaps not by a billionaire's standard, and lay open and uncovered. Perhaps Kaiba liked his night swimming. On one wall were windows of frosted glass, letting in distorted, pale moonlight. It didn't compare to the underground lakes he had swum in, but it was still beautiful. Parks bothered him in a way that swimming pools never did. You could cultivate a park, but water was always water. Treated and chemical smelling, yes, but still water. It could still drown you.
Amelda didn't bother with the diving board. He only had to step over the edge and let his heavy boots drag him downwards. He didn't resist. He simply allowed himself to sink, slowly and comfortably, to finally rest on the bottom.
He opened his eyes, not expecting the sting of the chlorine, accustomed as he was to swimming in seas and freshwater lakes. He stared out at the dappled tile floor beneath him, cool and ice blue, but warm around his skin. Perfect quiet. His hair drifted in red, purple, golden strands of light and colour before him, suspended in the water. His heart slowed. That consummate calm silence before the oxygen starts to run out.
Then, a low, muffled sound, somewhere above him, but Amelda didn't have time to look up before he saw the knife spiralling lazily downwards, sinking towards the bottom where it fell with a soft thunk against the ceramic.
He stared at the knife for a moment. It looked strangely peaceful as it lay still on the pool bottom, somehow divorced from the violence of itself. Then Amelda pushed himself through the water towards it, caught it within his palm, then kicked hard and rose upwards. The seconds of warm, enclosing water dwindled until eventually he broke through the surface of the pool and took a gasp of air he didn't realise he so desperately needed.
Kaiba was crouched by the pool, watching him.
Amelda broke eye contact and swam to the edge, pushing himself out of the water and not bothering to avoid spraying Kaiba with water. He turned himself around and sat upon the edge of the pool, legs still submerged. After a moment Kaiba sat beside him, dipping his narrow, black socked feet into the water beside Amelda's boots.
They stared at the surface of the water. Low ripples emanated from their legs, Kaiba's the more recent and stronger, merging and breaking against Amelda's.
"It's not customary to go swimming in your clothes," Kaiba said suddenly.
Amelda shrugged one shoulder. "I dress prepared for many occasions."
Kaiba's eyes might have flicked to Amelda's bare stomach before he smirked, but it was too quick a motion to be certain.
They sat together in silence for what seemed a long while, the only sounds the faint splashing of the water due to some unknown disturbances, the occasional dripping, and their own breathing, all echoing together around the empty room. This was the most intimacy Amelda had had with anybody in a very long time. At least Kaiba had Mokuba.
"Why are you here, Amelda?"
Kaiba's tone wasn't accusatory. He sounded tired, not the sleep drenched state of one woken in the middle of the night but an old, stretched kind of tired. How could Kaiba be only nineteen? The years since they'd last spoken had gone by so quickly.
"I wanted to see you," Amelda began slowly. "I think I wanted to kill you."
"You don't seem very determined."
"I said I wanted to kill you, not that I would," Amelda corrected. He gave a casual, apathetic shrug. "It just seemed like the thing to do. I've spent so long plotting to kill you. It seemed strange not to do it."
Kaiba snorted. "Get a hobby."
An ugly laugh escaped Amelda despite himself. "I have a hobby." His weak, dry smile fell away. "I run."
"Never," Amelda spat. He almost bared his teeth. "I should never have stopped. I... Everything is suspended when you're running. Adrenaline and possibility. You still don't know... Until you stop, and look back, you don't know if anything has hit you." He slowly exhaled. "You wouldn't understand."
The water was completely calm now. Placid. Amelda kicked his leg slightly under the water to send another little ripple of waves against the side of the pool. Still water was unnatural.
"I understand," Kaiba murmured, his voice strangely soft. "You were just trying to protect your brother." He paused for a long moment, as if doubting whether or not to continue. "Sometimes I wonder why I didn't run away. Not that I regret staying. If I had to live it all over again I still wouldn't run."
Amelda knows that Kaiba is only telling him this because Amelda knows it all already. Maybe he knows more than anyone. He used to own every piece of public footage that Kaiba and his foster father had ever appeared in. He can read between the lines. Not that he needs to. Bruises aren't a subtext.
"Why commit to a game you know is going to kill you?" Kaiba said, louder this time, and Amelda isn't certain if this is rhetorical. "Isn't that only its own form of losing? Embracing defeat, perhaps, so you won't be troubled when it finds you."
The ripples had dissipated once more, but Amelda didn't kick again. "Perhaps you're too hard on yourself," he said and looked down at his reflection to see a blurry smear of purple red reflected in the uneven water.
"Coming from you, that's unimaginably rich." His voice was bitter. When he spoke again, it was back to that soft, distant cadence, as though he wasn't quite aware he was talking to someone. "I've always prided myself on being someone who never runs away. But I suppose I've always been running. Not away, but towards." He swallowed. "Into the heart of gravity."
The water was perfectly still now.
"I'm not going to try to kill you tonight," he said, brushing the remaining drops of water from his clothes. "Maybe tomorrow."
"Is that a promise?" Kaiba's smirking, but there's no humour in his voice.
"Only perhaps?" Even the smirk has gone.
Amelda dropped to the ground briefly to grasp the knife once more, then straightened. "Only perhaps."
He began to head towards the door, but Kaiba addressed his retreating back. "You're not very good at social calls, Amelda."
"Maybe one day I'll try one that doesn't involve trying to kill you."
He heard Kaiba's low laugh echo around the pool. "Do you even know how to do those?"
Amelda stared thoughtfully at Kaiba's silhouette, his feet in the water, his hair untidy. In all his years of obsession, he had never pictured Kaiba quite like this. "Do you?"
Amelda didn't wait for an answer he knew he wouldn't get. He walked away, boots ringing out loudly on the tiles, then entered once more the mansion's labyrinthine corridors and wound his way back to the window through which he'd dropped.
He walked back to the motel. No one bothered him. He carried the knife in his hand without quite realising it, winding his way through the skyscrapers, one pale shape drifting through the empty, gently dawn stained streets. He doesn't feel so sick any more.
Alone once again, Kaiba takes to the treadmill. He runs, and runs, until his legs dissolve into pain and lactic acid that somehow keep him from falling, and still he runs. Running onwards, into it, into the headlights, embracing white and impact.