Disclaimer: Not-owning, No suing.
Warnings: Shounen-ai, mild cussing, manipulation of an Ancient Greek myth, ARTISTIC LICENCE TAKEN!!!
Pairings: (main) Bakura/Ryou, Mariku/Malik, (minor) Yami/Yugi, Seto/Jou,
A.N: :3 I plead the fifth. *ducks anyone still around who wants to kill her* I'm sorry, I guess. . . I made you wait ages again. In a vain attempt to redeem myself I'll state that I think my writing's taken a huge leap for the better since the last chapter so…that somehow makes it better. Yeah. Totally. *shot*
I might be attempting a rewrite of this story soooometime soon, hopefully before the next chapter so I can put it all up together. Not making promises though. Hope this chapter was worth the wait!
Review tally is: 260. Thank you again to all of you who have stuck around long enough for me to get this far. XD
There were twenty-seven bolts on the palace doors. Ryou had counted them, you see, as the servants had tightly bolted them upon Mariku's howling request. Though the blond had been almost snapping at their heels while they worked, none of the servants spared him a second glance as they completed their work, many standing on ladders to secure the topmost locks. Mariku, Ryou decided, was one of the stranger entities of life one just had to get used to. In a normal circumstance, the albino boy might have offered to lend a hand in closing the numerous locks. In a normal circumstance, however, he was reasonably sure he'd be told just what they were locking out in the first place, rather than just smiling soothingly in his direction and continuing their business. It was maddening, and Ryou had a pout pasted across his lips to make his displeasure at being left in the dark known. Pity no-one was looking.
"All done!" Mariku had somehow snuck up beside him and, metaphorical tail wagging, was watching the servants totter down the ladders with a look of glee. "Absolutely no Sunshine getting in now, not at all." At the last few words, Ryou could have sworn he'd seen Mariku's eyes dim just a little, though whether this was in sadness or for some other, completely unrelated, reason, Ryou could not be sure.
"What's wrong with the sun?" He had to ask. As far as Ryou knew, there was no physical sun down here, considering they were underground. Mariku glanced over at him, head tilted and a pondering look on his face. It was as if the blond wanted, ever so badly, to just break loose and tell Ryou everything but was holding himself in check, somehow. Ryou could only hope that, when Mariku's verbal dam broke, there wouldn't be an verbal flood of words he'd have to pick through.
"Nothing's wrong with the sun, Sugar-top," He eventually said, nodding to himself. "Sunshine is the problem, you see."
"Exactly!" As Ryou felt a headache coming on, Mariku grabbed his wrist and tugged him further into the palace depths. By now, Ryou was beginning to recognise almost every corridor in the palace so when he realised that they were heading towards the garden, he relaxed and allowed himself to be pulled. After all, without Bakura here, it wasn't as if he had any other, pressing matters to take care of, other than contemplate what on earth could be going on out there.
"Mariku…will Bakura be alright?" Mariku stopped short at the process and, naturally, Ryou bumped into him. As the albino regained his footing, Mariku gave him a curious look.
" 'Course he will be, Sugar-top. It's his pad, so he gets home-turf advantage, right? 'Sides, I doubt they're going to fight."
"Aah…" The blond's eyes shifted slowly to the left, then to the right, and it was obvious he'd said more than he'd been meant to. "Yeah. They."
"I don't suppose you'd care to elaborate?" By now, Ryou's mind was working overtime. After all, Mariku had just said that, in his own domain, Bakura would have advantage over any enemy against him. He was also one of the three most powerful gods in the world which lead Ryou to wondering; just what was out there that Bakura couldn't protect him from? It was downright frustrating, being carted off with no explanation.
"No?" Despite the fact that Ryou appeared perfectly calm, Mariku had begun keeping his distance. You always had to watch out for the quiet ones, after all. Ryou's eyes slid over to the blond, fixing him with what could be dubbed 'the look'. It was usually a skill patented by women, designed to say a thousand belittling, scathing words without speaking at all, and Ryou had managed to get it down pat with very little practise. Mariku keened quietly. "Alright, alright! Sunshine's out there and Bakura doesn't want him taking you away, stop looking at me now pleeeeeeeeeeease?"
Ryou hadn't been expecting it to work, and he stored this little fact away for later use. "So Sunshine is Malik, who is just outside there?"
Mariku nodded, eager to please now that Ryou had stopped glaring at him.
"Malik is out there to take me home and Bakura decided not to tell me about it, in fear I'd choose my brother over him." As Ryou continued, Mariku's nodding became a little more uneasy, not entirely sure where the other man was going with this. Ryou was paying him no attention though, as he was too busy rubbing the bridge of his nose with his fingers. That headache was slowly but surely coming back. "Men! Honestly…" Nevermind the fact that he was one. Theoretically. Still shaking his head at the absurdity of it all Ryou simply walked past Mariku and into the garden, not sparing the blond another glance. In any other situation, he might have found the thought of his brother and another god having a cat-fight highly amusing but this situation just happened to involve him. His life, his future, his business. It didn't take a genius to figure out that neither of the men in question would even think of asking Ryou his opinion on the matter and, really, this was what annoyed him the most. That and, despite his complaining, he doubted he could choose anyway. Malik had brought him up practically by himself, taught him everything he knew, and represented the light and life of earth and everything that grew there. Ryou missed it, all of it, even the people who cared nothing for the earth, despite what they said. He missed the forests and animals that he played in as a child, and the stars so visible at night. Even just thinking about it made his throat constrict tightly with a homesick ache. Going with Malik meant going home, really home.
Going with Malik meant leaving Bakura. Ryou was under no illusion that he could have both as Bakura was of the Underworld; it was his duty to stay down here and watch over the dead. Nothing could really grow down here, no matter what the variety of plants surrounding him now boasted of. Nothing was really alive and the palace, grand in its own, sombre way, was not the most comfortable of places. Yet Ryou, after only a short while, felt attached to it. He felt attached to its master, Bakura, and could already see the good he was managing to bring out of him. Even the souls in the Underworld seemed to sense that his presence was soothing the Lord of the Dead, and went out of their way to make Ryou feel welcome among them. Of course, there was Bakura himself to add to the mix. Though the elder man scared him at times, Ryou had to admit that his host had been nothing but generous, taking the time to entertain, and court, him when he could have just taken what he wanted and left Ryou to fend for himself. Although, Ryou had to admit, a light blush staining his cheeks, that he wouldn't really object if Bakura asked…
Aha. Nevermind. He glanced around quickly and was glad to find himself quite alone. Even so, Ryou coughed quietly to himself in embarrassment. This was certainly no time to start thing about that sort of thing.
As he sat down on a bench to wait, and think, it out, Ryou debated his options. He could either find some way out of the palace and confront the two himself (the chances of finding an unlocked door were slim, considering Bakura had ordered the palace shut), though this might serve to simply escalate the argument. Certainly not good. His second option was to stay here and wait for whoever was the victor to come and claim him, like some prize in a tournament. Ryou's nose scrunched involuntarily at the thought; it was just insulting to think of himself that way. The third and final option he could think of was that he could do something about this entire mess. It wasn't a very promising list really and, though Ryou liked the last option, there were very few things he could do whilst stuck in the palace. The childish urge to hide in a cupboard, or some equally small place, was rather strong, though he really doubted it would dissuade his brother. If there was only some way he could have both…
- - - -
"Malik," Bakura lazily greeted, his arms crossed in a charade of confidence. He wasn't about to let the other god that he was somewhat worried about getting his face beaten in around now. "What a pleasant surprise."
"Spare me the crap, Bakura." The only reason Malik had stopped his march was that, while walking down the hill, the strap of his sandal had decided it would be a good time to snap. This had resulted in a rather ungraceful trip and near fall towards Bakura and now, slightly unsteadily balancing on one foot, Malik was assessing and repairing the damage. It had completely ruined his entrance, that was for sure, and the harvest god would swear, later, that Bakura was laughing at him. Which he was, internally. It took a few, awkward moments and a few suppressed sniggers from Bakura's direction but, eventually, the sandal was suitable for walking once more. Heartened by this, Malik resumed his prior pose, one finger pointing in Bakura's direction.
"You know why I'm here, Bakura. I want my brother back now!"
"Brother? What brother?" Bakura arched a brow, making a sweeping motion with his hands at the empty space surrounding him. It was all pantomime, and the sarcasm was making Malik grit his teeth. Bakura could almost hear them from where he stood.
"Cut the crap."
"You used that one, care to pick another?" Without Ryou around Bakura could feel himself slipping back into his old habits, a smirk twisting the corner of his lips. "Really, Malik, you came all the way down here just to yell at me? I'm flattered."
The punch was fast, hard and to the point, and had Bakura been any slower he would have found himself missing a few teeth. With a speed only possessed by the gods Malik had lunged forward and thrust his first towards the albino god's face, and within a split second Bakura's own hand had flown up in the defence. Calloused fingers slowly gripped into Malik's hand leaving angry red cresent-moons in the skin and Bakura, smirk still firmly in place, used the other god's own momentum to yank him in closer. Hearing Malik's breath hitch in fear, Bakura held him just a little too close for comfort and let his cold breath brush straight against the other man's ear.
"You have some balls coming down here, Malik, but they aren't going to save you." His voice was a slow rumble, purposefully husky, and in the blink of an eye he'd yanked Malik's arm the wrong way. For once, he felt little satisfaction at the hiss of pain this little manoeuvre invoked. "What's a little flower god going to do against the dead, mm? I could have you imprisoned here forever, locked away in Tartarus and it would be my right. And no, Yami wouldn't save you."
He chuckled darkly, twisting Malik's wrist just that little bit further before whispering. "No-one would."
"Ryou would hate you." Those four words were enough to make Bakura abruptly release his hold and shove Malik back, turning to face the palace as the blond rubbed his abused hand and grumbled under his breath. As much as he hated to admit it, Malik was right. There was little doubt Ryou was already suspicious and Bakura knew he'd never be able to keep it from the younger god. He'd gone soft he realised with a start, and what was even more worrying was that he really didn't care. Ryou was like that; his soft words and gentle touches could mould a thorn-bush into silken thread if he tried. Bakura was no exception. He glanced back at Malik, noting the slight smirk the other god now wore instead of him. Dammit all.
"If you were to see him and see that he was happy here – "
"Fuck no." Malik almost spat the words out. "Like I'd listen to the crap you've filled his head with. Whatever it is it's lies and I'm not handing him over to you and a life of hell down here! He'll be better off at home, where he'll be happy."
"You're very sure of yourself, aren't you." Eyes narrowed, Bakura turned away. "I wonder if you ever thought to ask him about it. Come on."
He cut Malik off before he could start arguing again. "I'll take you to see Ryou."
- - - -
Bakura could feel Malik's glare on his back as they walked, neither talking and both wound as tightly as a spring. They weren't far from the palace as it was yet the journey dragged. Malik's sandal had come loose again and was slapping against the road with every step. It set Bakura's teeth on edge and a very peculiar expression to take residence on his face. It was almost as if he were slightly constipated and suffering from a migraine at the same time. As the minutes ticked by at the palace gates – Bakura hadn't thought about getting back inside when he'd ordered Mariku to bolt the door – both stood ridged and alert, as if neither could believe the other wouldn't attack them at any given moment. The door creaked open, grating against the hinges to further set the tone, and Bakura felt he should say something as he ushered the blond in; something threatening, to put the blond in his place as he entered the domain of the god of the dead.
"SUNSHINE!" He didn't have to. Like a jovial puppy Mariku bounded out of the darkness and launched himself at Malik's chest, bowling the blond onto his back as he placed a large, slobbery lick on his cheek. It seemed a very familiar scene even to Bakura, who simply stood to once side with his arms crossed, not bothering to hide his amused smirk as Malik attempted to fend the hyperactive man off. "Told you you'd come back to me, and you did! Told ya, told ya!"
"Get off!" Malik's face had reddened in what he hoped look like anger. "Get the fuck off, Mariku, now!"
"But you do like me…right?" There was a pause, and Malik's eyes flickered over to Bakura. The other good was doing a fantastic job of looking disinterested, so the blond let a rush of air escape his lungs as he relaxed under Malik's body.
"Well…yeah." He smiled softly. Yeah, he guessed he did.
"What the hell, stop that!" If he'd been hoping Mariku would relent and get up at his admission he was sorely mistaken. The man had shrieked loudly in glee and flung his arms around Malik's shoulders, chewing on his head and mumbling adorations into his hair as Malik began squirming beneath him again. This may have gone on for quite a while had a soft clearing of the throat not attracted everyone's attention. Mariku withdrew his slobbery jaws from Malik's hair, Bakura's attention was drawn away from the palace walls and Malik, stuck under Mariku, had to tilt his head back to get the first good look at his brother he'd had in a while.
"Um…" Ryou appeared puzzled, and who could blame him? Here he'd expected to burst in on Bakura and Malik going all out, quite literally, and instead he walked onto his brother almost being molested by Bakura's guard-god. The youngest god coughed quietly into one hand, thinking he'd walked in on something a little more intimate than it actually was.
"Perhaps this isn't the right time but…um…I'm not coming home?"
As Malik squawked and tried to escape Mariku's grasp for entirely different reasons, Bakura stood silently, eyes wide. Had Ryou really chosen him over his brother? Could he even stay now Malik had come to take him back, if Yami got involved? Over the din and Ryou's awkward shuffling, Bakura let his eyes wander over the younger god before they finally came to rest on the boy's hand. A slow smile grew on his lips. If that wasn't a pomegranate in Ryou's hand, he was delusional.
Ryou was his.
A/N: As I said earlier, probably one or two chapters to go, plus epilogue. Let's see how long that takes me! Now here's where I'd normally thank all my reviewers personally except, in all honesty, there's an awful lot of you this time around and quite frankly I don't want my thank yous to be longer than the chapter! So I'll say a huge, huge, HUUUUUUUUUUUUGE thank you to everyone who's reviewed this story, read this story even though it's taken me forever to update (yet again). Every time I get a new e-mail saying someone's faved or reviewed it does give me a kick in the head, yanno. Yes I feel guilty XD So if you want to guilt trip me into finishing faster, review!
Fufufu~ They'll never see through that. 3