Author: Individually Packaged PM
My secrecy for his secrecy. But I had a few more days to pry it out of him. His entire existence, from the angry scar on his face to his tight-lipped hostility: I would know it all. Citronshipping. Complete!Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Adventure - Marik I. & Thief Bakura - Chapters: 9 - Words: 29,887 - Reviews: 121 - Favs: 80 - Follows: 28 - Updated: 09-16-11 - Published: 07-02-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7139623
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: Alright, last chapter! Just as a minor point, you should Google image "Nilometer" to get an idea of what exactly the structure looks like. It might come in handy when visualizing this chapter. ;)
(I think the Egyptians were awesome and ingenious to come up with it).
Chapter 9: Meret Rejoices
It only took a few steps for me to understand the source of the pain in my shoulder.
The guard had aimed for my heart too, but I had moved at the last second, narrowly avoiding the blade's intended target as it cut my shoulder instead. I was far luckier than I had any right to be.
The horse stable consisted of a maze of rooms. I walked out into a dank and dark hallway, feeling the constant stream of water at my feet. I had no idea where to look, but I was sure that Bakura was in the building somewhere.
I felt the bitter sting of betrayal in my throat as I thought of him, but it subsided when I placed my fingertips over the hilt of the dagger. The knowledge that I had used his knife to kill the guard was all I needed to keep going.
I tried to think of all the clues the guard had left me. There was something in our conversation that stood out. Something like, do you want me to send you down so you can see him yourself?
I was certain that the guard had meant something other than the underworld by that. He'd wanted him to drown. He'd wanted Bakura hidden from plain sight and to die alone. He'd known about the river rising and had counted on it to be his assassin.
I wound through the snaking hallway. The mud splashed over my legs as I strode across the river stream. The water was still rising. I realized suddenly that Bakura had probably been captured late last night, and he'd probably been chained this whole time. I doubted he had any strength to help himself.
This thought alone spurred me to move faster. I lost track of where I was in the building—all the hallways looked alike. There were other rooms with doors thrown wide open, but no one was there.
Finally, I reached what looked like the end of the hallway. Before me was a smooth, circular wall. A large staircase wound down in a spiraling column, reaching deep into the ground. It was fashioned out of carefully-cut limestone blocks, and as I approached it, I realized its purpose.
My sister used structures like this to predict the rise of the Nile each year. There were normally markings on the walls which measured the amount of water filling the structure each year. A priestess or priest had to come down the winding spiral to record the measurements. I was surprised to find it here, of all places.
Suddenly, I heard a clanking noise coming from further down the staircase. The sound reverberated against the round walls. I drew closer to look down into the pit, and when I saw the source, my stomach dropped.
"Bakura?" I called.
His head snapped up. I was surprised to find a pair of fear-stricken eyes on mine.
He was chained to the wall with both arms on either side of his head. The short chains were fixed on a hook in the wall of the staircase itself. The entire staircase had been filling with water over the past several months, as the Nile rose, but now it was filling rapidly with water that had spilled over the banks today. The river was streaming over the sides of the staircase and rising quickly. The water had already reached Bakura's chest.
"Marik!" He sounded shocked, as though he'd never expected to say my name again. "How—"
I dropped down the staircase and took the steps three at a time, keeping my hand on the wall so I wouldn't slip and fall into the cavern of water captured in the middle of the winding stairs. The water steadily rose to my knees, then to my thighs, then to my stomach as I descended down the staircase. Finally, I reached him and we were face to face.
"How did you find me?" he asked. His white hair was dirty and matted to his forehead and his eyes had a wild, desperate look to them. There was a cut over his left eyebrow, where I imagined the guard had hit him across the face, and a stream of blood from the corner of his mouth, where I imagined the guard had punched him.
I immediately reached up to the chains. We didn't have much time. If the river kept spilling into the structure, the level would rise above his head and since he was chained to the wall, he couldn't escape. He would drown. And I would be forced to watch.
"Something the guard told me," I muttered, concentrating on the heavy chains. "I figured you'd still be in the building."
Bakura's breath was shallow. "How did you get free?"
I smiled humorlessly. "I broke through the cell wall, like I told you I would."
He had the decency to look sheepish.
I wrenched at the chains and at the hook stuck in the wall, but I couldn't break them loose. I wasn't strong enough to pry them off, and it really was no surprise. I had sustained a lot of damage in the past two days. I hadn't eaten this whole time and had barely slept. My shoulder was shredded. But despite all that, I had no choice. I had to get us out.
"Shit," I muttered. "I can't break the chain."
Bakura's grey eyes were on me. I imagined all the damage he must have sustained in the past day. He'd been chained this whole time. The guard had probably beaten him unconscious. He'd been forced to watch helplessly as the water level rose slowly up his body and reached his chest.
"You don't owe me anything," he said. "This was my decision, and I'll live with it. You can get out—"
"Shut the hell up," I cut him off. I had no comfort to offer him, but I wasn't going to allow those sorts of words.
With that, I turned from him, and waded back up the steps. I needed something stronger than my two hands. I needed something firmer. As I thought of the water still streaming over the stairs, my stride lengthened and I took three steps at a time up the staircase.
"I'll be back," I called over my shoulder as I stepped back into the hallway. Behind me, I heard the clinking of chains as Bakura struggled.
I breached the maze again. The water flow had increased. It rushed at me quickly, almost at my knees.
I had stumbled on the staircase by accident, while hurrying through the hall, but I needed a surefire way back. Grabbing the dagger out of my belt, I angled it, pressed it to the hallway wall, and let the blade scrape the brick as I waded. If I got lost, the line I cut into the wall would lead me back.
At each open doorway, I glanced into the room. Mostly, the cells were empty, filling with water. The horse stable must have been abandoned for a long time. I guessed that the guards only used it to house prisoners for the short period before the trial. Although, I thought bitterly, the guard I'd murdered had probably been killing them off before they could be justly tried.
After searching through dozens of rooms, I started to lose hope. The stench of the Nile—once the welcome smell of escape—filled my nostrils and reminded me that Bakura had little time left. Panic was setting in. I scraped the wall more forcefully. The jarring sound of metal on brick did nothing to slow the adrenaline rushing to my heart.
Finally, I reached what seemed like the opposite side of the building. A door stood locked at the end. My pulse sped up at the realization. If it was locked, it must have contained something important.
I struck the knife into the cavity of the lock's crossbar. Maneuvering the blade haphazardly, I splintered the wood, driving the door open. I looked into the room, and I was overwhelmed with what I found inside.
Knives, axes, spears, sickleswords, and hatchets. I thanked all the war gods I could remember: Ankt and Sekhmet and Bast and Maahes. This must have been the guards' storage unit. I had no time to examine all the weapons, because I grabbed the nearest thing I could find—a piercing axe that was boasted to penetrate armor—and strode back out of the room.
I hurried back through the maze, following the line in the wall. My shoulder throbbed as I waded, carrying the long-handled axe at my side, but the pain was slight in light of my gratitude.
I quickly found my way back to the staircase. Dropping over the edge, I stepped down the stairs, careful not to fall. When I glanced down at Bakura, the dread slammed back into me, as forceful and alarming as before.
The water was at his neck. He was standing precariously on the stairs, trying not to slip.
"Oh gods," I breathed, and splashed down through the water.
"What is that?" he asked, breathless, staring at the weapon in my hands. "What are you going to do?"
My fingers were shaking as I descended until the water reached my chest. The chains were short. I had to hit them perfectly. The alternative was something I tried hard to shove to the back of my head—that if I missed, I could cut off his hand. I could slice open his neck. I could kill him.
It was difficult to maneuver while most of my body was underwater. I took a deep breath and decided to practice the movement first. After all, I had never used an axe before.
Aiming for a spot on the wall two feet from him, I hauled the axe up over my head and instinctively squeezed my eyes shut before I slammed it down hard.
The metal struck inches from his head. I cursed under my breath, despising my aim.
"What the hell are you doing?" Bakura snapped, after the axe almost hit his head. "Are you aiming for the chains?"
"Yes," I lied. "Stay still. I'm going to try again."
Bakura looked up at me, his jaw clenched but his eyes fearful. I found myself praying to the gods while staring into his grey eyes. It was as if the whole world slowed suddenly, as I raised the axe again. My palms were sweating. My mouth was dry. My blood rushed through my veins, winding and cascading.
I asked the gods for fortitude. I asked for precision. I asked for conviction, because it was hard to believe in myself right then.
Glancing down one last time, I saw Bakura's lips curl into a smile.
"I know you weren't aiming for the chains just now," he said ruefully. "But that doesn't really matter."
"Then what does?" I whispered as the axe was poised over my head. Ready to save or to kill him.
The faith tingeing his face surprised me.
"That I trust you."
He said nothing else, and I found that I didn't need anything else. I raised the axe high, feeling the smooth and strong wooden handle in my hands. I aimed. And not losing another moment, I brought the blade crashing down.
I felt the breath knock out of me.
The sound that emerged shook my whole body. I shuddered with its echoing ring, drowned in its fortunate cry.
It was the sound of metal hitting metal. The sound of the axe blade hitting the iron chain on his shackles, splitting the metal apart as the hook snapped from the wall and fell with a plop into the water.
I dropped the axe. It fell somewhere deep in the cavern between the stairs, slipping into the abyss and sealing our triumph.
I heard the iron shackles ring and a splash before I felt Bakura's solid body slam into mine and his arms wrap around me. His wet hair splattered across my face as his musky smell overwhelmed me. Gods, I had never guessed that I would miss his smell so much. The water splashed around us, still rising, but the slick feeling of our wet skin pressed together was indescribable.
He smashed his lips into mine, pushing me back up the stairs. His mouth was eager and hungry. I pressed back with as much, if not more, need. His tongue slipped into my mouth for only a single moment, before my tongue slipped into his. Our teeth clashed in hurry. I grabbed his hair between my fingers, pulling his head closer.
The feeling was overwhelming. I was choked with how much I could want a single person.
"You asshole," I breathed between our broken, jagged kisses. "You're such an asshole."
I heard Bakura take a shaky breath. I felt what he felt. Bubbling laughter rising in our chests, hysterical disbelief that we were here, we were alive, and we were free.
"I'm sorry," he whispered.
Those words alone would never be enough—they wouldn't dispel the panic and anger I'd felt upon waking up that morning, and they wouldn't make up for the tear in my shoulder. But his actions had spoken more than words ever could.
My hand slipped down to my belt and I pulled the dagger up to show him its blunt edge.
"You found it?" he asked, drawing back from me and taking the blade.
I nodded. "You left it there for me, didn't you?"
"I knew it wouldn't be enough, but it's all I had."
"Wrong," I said simply. "It was enough. It was all I needed."
Bakura frowned as he looked up from the blade to me. "The guard—"
"He's dead," I answered, and turned to wade back up the steps. The cavern was still filling, and darkness was falling. The last thing I wanted was to be stuck here for another night.
I turned back to find Bakura staring at me in wonder. I tilted my head, asking, "What?"
Bakura shook his head and started wading up the staircase, splashing as he took one step at a time.
"Sometimes, I feel like I really misjudged you."
I laughed as I waited for him to catch up, and then extended my hand out to him.
The sun was setting over the Nile as we stood on the hills above the flooded crops. The river had covered the entire stretch of land near the banks, flooding everything in its path. We had escaped through a door at the far end of the horse stable and waded up to higher ground. Somewhere in the distance, the festival was ending. Shouts echoed across the hill and I imagined the farmers and villagers who had lost their year's worth of crops.
The sound of clinking iron was at my side.
"It's hard to believe how fast the Nile flooded," Bakura said, looking down at the glistening waters. "In just two days, it covered everything."
I snorted, remembering the way he'd scoffed at me for trying to cut through the wall. "I told you it would flood fast."
Bakura looked at me tartly.
In just two days—that's all it had taken for the feeling in my chest to grip me every time I looked at Bakura. Of course, it would still take time. I wasn't sure how keen he was on staying with me now that we were free. Even so, we'd found something more than sex and attraction and companionship in each other. Sealed between us was this experience, fortifying us.
"So what now?" I asked, looking across the flooded fields. The water, like us, was a savior and an assassin. But above all, it was a refreshing start.
Bakura's glance was on the palace. "I still have the diadankh to steal."
I laughed, remembering what had gotten us here in the first place. Nothing short of blood, sorrow, and fury. Two nights ago, I had broken into a temple to steal the most valuable thing I could find. I had set out for the boundless horizon and the greatest expanse of desert this land could offer. And now, that was exactly what I faced.
"Of course. Good luck with that," I said, not wanting to assume that our paths were still crossing, should he scoff at the prospect.
Bakura shifted, looking into the distance.
"I could use some help."
The words sounded strange coming from him. I stared at Bakura for a second, before my lips curled up into a smile. While he still stared into the distance, I reached out and grasped his fingers cautiously. He intertwined our two hands without looking.
"Considering how terrible you are at stealing things, maybe you do," I teased.
Bakura smiled, not even taking the bite.
The horizon was tinged with a burning red, before giving way to the black night. This was the time of day we both craved. The time when our hearts were flushed with adrenaline and the moon guided our measured footsteps. I greeted the night with a companion by my side.
The wind was clean as it rushed at me, the shadows pressed like a mask to my face.
And the venom—after years of smothering my every move and my every breath—finally, irrevocably vanished from my veins.
A/N: Although it's over, I would love, love, love to hear from you! ChaosRocket suggested I change the description for this story to, "It's just like Titanic, but with more gay prison sex." XD What do you think? Should I change it?
- ChaosRocket and I are co-writing a post-series Thiefshipping story. Please follow the link on my profile page to read it! (It's being posted on her account).
- I'm planning to write another multi-chapter Citron story sometime soon (I'm estimating ~20 chapters this time, with a huge plotline), so keep on the look-out if you're interested in that.
- Thanks so much again to ChaosRocket for being my beta for every chapter in this story. And of course, thank you for reading!