WOOOOO!!!!!!!I'm not dead!!!!!! I'm here, after almost eight months of absence. I'm here, along with the last chapter of Rewind 1! I don't know if any of my readers are going to see this, but, if you do, I can't begin to tell you how sorry I am! The workload I've had to go through this past year was ENORMOUS. It was a terrible nightmare- it still is! This is why, knowing this chapter would be the last, I tried my best to complete it, even though I'm still up to here with projects and school stuff!!!
There may be many grammatical, syntactical or other kinds of errors (f.ex. I might want to say 'ears' and end up writing 'eyes'. I haven't even revised this script- I was so excited at having finished it that I just uploaded it without further ado! The next step is beta-reading and correcting the whole story! More details at the end of the chapter (and the story- WHOHOO!!!)
I've wondered, many times, what it may be like...
«Marik?» the soft call was barely audible. The handsome man didn't turn to acknowledge it, he just stayed put, his hand almost mechanically playing with one of Rascal's bouncing toys.
A life...without pain.
«...Yugi?» he asked, as the wiry boy walked forward, feathery footsteps almost shy in their unobtrusiveness. Yugi didn't speak anymore, just settled next to his numb friend. They were outside Joey's house, sitting on the doorstep. It was dirty and stingy, and had the colour and feel of ash. Everything in this place looked and smelled like grime. Burned to ashes, people and places alike. A crematorium.
«You know...» Marik's subdued voice suddenly sounded, and to Yugi's ears it seemed alien, unknown. He'd never heard it so...empty before. He smiled in self-pity, since he recognized that this was what the tone Tea used with him, ever since the Game King had died. Beneath her smile he could hear the whispers in her mind: 'You're different. You're empty'...'You're not him'
«...I've heard stories...» Marik went on, tone somewhat wistful. Yugi looked at his sceptical profile a little hazily, not really seeing anything. He was doing it out of habit...when someone speaks; you look at them...But through whose eyes? Whose...eyes?
«...about the Earth. » Marik finished his sentence, fist slackening and tightening convulsively around Rascal's old-fashioned stuffed ball. Mai must have made it for her son: it was one of those toys stuffed with seeds...or whatever. Marik stared at it absentmindedly, not really understanding... or thinking anything.
«I have memories» he started, and his voice broke a little at the end of the sentence, becoming chapped and dry «of a life here...» his amethyst, kohl-rimmed eyes blinked almost lethargically, as though tired of motion. Yugi gazed at him, soft yellow light from inside the house warming his brilliant features into a mellow golden hue, making him look angelic. His platinum locks covered one of his eyes and the tresses sparkled like wires of jewels.
«...but they're not mine. I can't...» Marik concluded, opening his eyes again, raising his head to look at the sky- black and fogged, just like his life. «Even so...» he started again, voice chocking, not really registering Yugi as a listener. His entire face was trained upwards, watching the swirls of grey twist into rococo formations. His eyes followed ashen particles that flew to the ground, and he made a motion to catch those ash snowflakes, but came up empty handed. «You can't capture something that's dead. »
...No! No! Bakura!! Noooo! You said you wouldn't leave me! Stay for me, you traitor! Don't leave me!!
Yugi just stayed there, silent. He turned his eyes heavenwards, following Marik's example. To the black sky, the black buildings, the black columns. They all stretch upwards, as far as the eye can see. Within hell, where can one hope to find heaven? Can God see these forsaken lands, or has he completely forgotten them, small and insignificant, scarred and lonely, covered in the ash of the corpses of a hundred thousand souls, which rot in fire day by day over the Catacomb machines. Underneath the layers of death and sweat and blood, there they are, two useless, liliputean humans. They have nothing. They've sacrificed it all to their dead, but their dead weren't so kind as to take them along.
«It's not fair, you know, Yugi...» Marik whispered, voice becoming lost in the whirling blackness, since Yugi's eyes were blank, unseeing, unfeeling in the distance.
They'd fought to live...and for what? For what? For who? Themselves? They'd much rather had died.I've wanted-
----i-n that life—
«Even though we've triumphed...» Marik whispered, though he didn't know if he was divulging his secret to the ashes, or to the dark spirits he could see in the fog of his mind: one who he missed direly, the image of a man who looked like Yugi, and yet not. A mirror image of himself, made of smoke and floating incense. Mokuba's silver, steel dead eyes. Bakura's feral cry, his blood eyes dilating impossibly, his red lips becoming sensual in their scream, as his mind was being ripped inside out- - «We are not victorious.»
I've lost too much.
»But I'm not angry...you know? I'm surprised at myself. I thought we'd be happier...I thought we were saving...something.»
«I'm not angry...I forgive you...»
And Yugi just stared on, completely blank, as though he were but an empty shadow, a mockery of what once was. Not even tears could flow from his hollow eyes, for he was a corpse. A walking corpse. And when the time would come to rest at last, the glass plaque over his grave would not have a name written on it, for he did not have one. He stared upwards, his mind silent, without a voice. The souls who died in this black void..What dark Angel would dare come take them away from hell's very claws?
Marik stayed suspended there, mouth aghast, swallowing the falling ashes, which never seemed to stop. Let him swallow them all, and be so filled with darkness on the inside as he was in appearance. Let them choke him to death.
I've lost you.
«But it turns out...I've saved nothing...Yugi.»
«Nothing at all.»
«Go to him.» Serena just said determinedly with her quiet voice. She felt Ryou's warmth leave her side as she pushed him forth with her hand. Ryou gave an imperceptible nod, tightening his fists against his sides and seeming to brace himself.
Serenity just stayed there, worried expression obviously having become a drawn mask on her face, like the painted face of a clown, the expression worn for so long that it becomes a permanent state. She tried, honestly tried, to smile encouragingly at Ryou, but she felt that it came out wrong, as though she was making him more nervous that happy. Ryou just gave her his own strained effort of a smile and opened the glass door, which led outside, to Joey's bedroom's small balcony.
When had it happened? When had they started...to hurt each other? When had they started to despise the faces of the people they loved? She'd fought Kuru Eruna in order to save something. To hope for a better feature. To see Ryou again. But now that it was over, she was so barren inside, so sentimentally infertile, so dead, that the sight of her beloved not only didn't comfort her, but made her nauseous. The mere remembrance of that gentle face, twisted in most primal torture, was enough to end her romantic longing. And it hurt. It hurt a lot. It was as though she'd fought for nothing. The feeling she'd tried to protect was lost after all- a person can take so much until he undergoes the ultimate dehumanization. Deep down they surely still loved each other...but now...now...now they were now dead, and could not revive each other. Some thing inside her had been taken away...but what? What did they take away from me?
Worried grimace always like a caricature on her face. It had all crowded up on her suddenly. The blackness, the pain. She was suffocating. After the initial thrill of being alive, after the first shock of being desperate to forget...they had all fallen quite drastically. Marik had woken up, they'd been glad, comfortable...even happy for a while. But then, as is often the case with trauma, it all appeared in a condensed when the smallest pretext was given. The frantic misery, the dolefulness. The longing for forgetfulness and death. The pretext needed was found in the sudden vindictiveness between Marik and Bakura, which had started a few weeks ago. No one knew what had happened, but ever since that morning, when Marik exited Bakura's room with a hoarse, crazed look on his face and his hair untamed, the atmosphere of the house had been first electrocuted, then deadened. When Marik's spirit faded, so did everyone else's.
It was as though the way Marik suddenly stopped smiling, stopped eating, stopped caring, acted as the catalyst for everyone's mood. Suddenly, all the things everyone had so ardently kept trying to forget came flooding back. And as the first shock of unbelieving gladness for being alive had faded, everyone was thrust into what would be their new selves from now on. Emancipated, ghastly, constantly vigilant, almost paranoid in their fear. They'd lost too many pieces. Too many pieces. What had been done to them? They survived...but did their souls survive? Did their humanity? Did their ability to love?
Nowadays everyone had ideas. Everyone had things to say. They talked very much for the sake of hearing their vocal chords function, but they ultimately said nothing. In the past days everyone had been trying to convince themselves they were alive and breathing, and that was enough. But now they were actually trying to process it...why? To her absolute chagrin, Serenity realized she couldn't explain that feeling. That sense of being...being...stained. Tainted forever. Unlike Marik, who had his mark carved across his entire back, Serenity and the others' marks were invisible...they weren't obvious to the casual onlooker. But they hurt just as much. Not only Yugi and Bakura had lost parts of their souls. Everyone else had as well.
Serenity watched silently, dozing in and out of the haze that seemed to permeate everyone's dreaming reality these days. It was as though it was impossible to believe this nightmare continued to follow their every waking moment, even when it wasn't really happening...Nightmares. Nightmares. The worst hell.
Like the time she'd dreamt she was still a small girl and her mother had given her presents. Only when Serenity had looked down at her cupped palms, she wasn't holding dolls anymore, but Marik's head. Marik's real head, bleeding, rotting, the lacerated mouth set in a scream. And it wasn't only one head. First it was one, then two, then three...soon there were thousands of them lying all around her, staring at her with their accusing purple, venomous eyes! They were all children, blood on their teeth. OhmyGodtheywerechilrentheywere- she'd killed them!
A happy reality can't exist for long, when dreams begin to permeate it...and the dreams came constantly. She found she couldn't focus on doing anything with Ryou...it's as though his mere presence- or anyone's presence, for that matter- actually hurt her more than it comforted her, reminding her or all the horror she'd seen when she was with them.
These were actually the final results of Rewind 1. It had been a successful experiment, after all: it had, indeed, managed to dehumanize and kill. Completely raped them, all of them, like it had done with Bakura's cold heart, and turn them into crawling lumps of flesh. Serenity felt her will being pulverized, not by Gozaburo...not by the cruelty of a thousand frozen immortals...but by her own hate of human nature. From now on, no matter where their life led them, they would all still return to roam those endless dark corridors. They would drag this hate and fury with them, like Mokuba dragged his broken toys. The ire would grip them, the intention to kill and be killed at the same time. A sudden flash hit her, as she thought of thunder and onyx eyes and frosty steel. Mokuba...that was exactly how she felt like, now. Dismantled. As though something had been broken from inside. Like a doll, that repeats the same phrase over and over again, until it becomes something from a horror story.
She forced herself to focus. Outside, she could see two outlines: one black and one white. How ironic...Black and White...Darkside and Brightside, wasn't it?
Of all of them who had suddenly been hit with catatonia, Marik and Bakura were the worst off, she knew. Even though Bakura kept trying to hide that restrictive sadness with rude words, Serenity could see right through him. Ever since the mysterious aforementioned quarrel with Marik, Bakura had turned into a complete shadow- even more so than before. Serenity recalled age-old legends about men who didn't eat and didn't sleep and couldn't live in places where there was light and happiness, unless they destroyed and hated- they sucked the blood, warmth and life out of everything they encountered. Bakura seemed like such a man. Even through all his grace and strange sense of beauty, a smile of light and glee would never deign his face. And if it did, by some twisted cynicism of fate, she fancied it could only be cruel and condescending, or a bit frightening. Fake. Or the parody of something real.
But, even through his reluctance to speak to anyone, she could clearly see that something was off with him the last three weeks. Apart from his customary snobbish, arrogant manner, something was really wrong. For one, he'd stopped speaking, even to Ryou. He'd spent day in day out perched on that balcony top, ebony feathers of hair blown like tentacles in the foggy wind, which carried with it sparks of fire from the catacombs. His black cape swished around his body in the manner of a villainous knight come out from a fairytale. Serenity could only see his back, always black and statuesque, from where she stood. Ironically, every time she'd look at him, perched black and lonesome like that, she'd immediately be reminded of a heartless vulture, cold and calculating, and a little ravenous with hate, eyeing its prey.
She saw Ryou, silver haired and opposite in countenance, approaching the crow man, and marvelled on their utter oxymoron. These people truly seemed like they had come out of fiction. In all honesty, just like Marik, they looked unlike any man –or alien- she'd ever met.
She watched Ryou's silver white tresses become strings in the wind, and observed the back of the albino's head as he silently conversed with his dark cousin. Although Ryou's body language expressed his words, Bakura's figure just remained unmoving, like a statue. Serenity just stood there, waiting. She saw Ryou give up on his efforts to communicate, faced with Bakura's unrelenting gloom, but the albino didn't move away. He stayed next to his former Darkside, becoming unmoving as well- a pillar of white in all that foggy blackness. They just stood there, silent and unmoving, staring at the nothingness of black.
Ryou was probably the only one. The only one left...After all, he hadn't lived through most of it, had he? Bakura had been in his place. Ryou was the only one who hadn't lost that much of his soul, or the only one who didn't show it. Perhaps this was why Serenity felt guilty, when Ryou caught her looking at him with contemplating eyes.
She should have seen Bakura's so occult, handsome profile turned towards the ash-filled distance. She would have found its frozen menace comforting. As it was, however, the only thing she could see was the black outline of his cloak. She couldn't really imagine him having a face. Only nails and teeth and tongue. To eat.
To eat them all alive.
«Just tell me, Marik...» the blonde woman asked again, resolving not to give up. Mai wouldn't let herself sink in that pond of catatonic nothingness which threatened to swallow her from everywhere around. She wouldn't allow it! She'd sort this mess out immediately, forcing even the ones who refused to accept their problems into submission. Some sort of malicious monster had darkened their small company, making the food taste bland and the water dry. And she knew where the source was coming from...
The leader can help all his friends when his spirit is alive. But when he's doleful, then everyone becomes like him.
«I can help you!»
«For the last time!» Marik rigidly stated, speaking in a tone he had never used with her before «Nothing happened! There is nothing you can do! Now leave me alone!» he stated, but she saw from his eyes that he wasn't as uncaring as he wanted her to believe. She had managed to trap him in this conversation right after dinner. As usual, he had refused to come down to eat, so, after Rascal had finally dragged him down, she'd taken the chance to trap him into a long- postponed tête-à-tête.
«Marik, tell me what's wrong.» she said apprehensively, watching his eyes dart around in search of escape «This isn't like you. I know we haven't known each other for that long, and I know you'd think there's no reason to trust me...» she looked at his face, which was stuck in a permanent grimace of half-misery, half-anger «But just tell me what's bothering you. Maybe a stranger is what you need right now!» she urged, and he immediately scoffed. She berated herself for the bad choice of words.
«And how would you know what I need?» he bit back, becoming dreadfully redundant in his denial «Why can't you leave me alone, for once, all of you!?» he directed the question not to her knowing eyes, but to the wall behind her shoulder.
«Oh?» she huffed, finally becoming aggravated. However, she tried to keep their discussion as quiet as possible, since she didn't want to alert the others and make them come downstairs again. However, keeping any discussion quiet was quite a challenge for Mai...«So you're telling me there's nothing going on between you and Bakura? Everything's just peachy, is it?» she watched his telltale tensing at the mere mentioning of the dark man's name, and immediately knew she'd hit the nail on the head. She thought she had a vague idea what this was about: a simple lovers' quarrel, which had dire consequences to everyone's mood, because of the group's empathy with each other. All she knew was that she wanted to fix this quickly, before the extended period of depression tore them apart. Joey...everyone had lost all traces of cheer and hope...something was wrong with all of them...instead of the lot of them feeling more bonded than ever, they appeared to feel sick of each other's presence. They were beginning to hate each other, since they were reminding each other of too much.
Marik's shoulders were alternately sagging and stiffening, as though he was trying to decide whether the best course of action would be to curse her and keep denying or finally accept the problem and shut up. Mai decided to give him a hand by staying quiet and letting him sort himself out. But Marik knew she was being 'indifferent' just for show, in order not to make him feel uncomfortable with female sentimentality.
He didn't speak for a long time. He just uncharacteristically kept staring at the floor. Had he been Rascal's age, Mai thought he might as well have been pouting. However, young men Marik's age didn't pout. They irately glared, as Marik seemed to be doing just now, in an unconscious imitation of Bakura.
«I knew it!» she exclaimed, in a tone which carried a portion of her traditional 'I told you so' attitude «I knew this would happen...there is nothing in the world that could get you so worked up, save for this.» she concluded, and he cursed how well she seemed to understand him. He wondered, offhandedly, if Ryou and Serenity knew him just as well, without showing it as much. Ryou probably did...but Ryou would never actually admit it.
«So, what happened?» Mai asked in a business-like tone, conveying that the sooner this issue was dealt with methodically, the better for all of them. She was beginning to feel a bit stupid for waging a one-sided conversation, but decided not to dwell on it when she saw Marik's stubborn face. Oh, honestly. Men.
When Marik didn't answer her directly, she wasn't so surprised. Receiving a straight answer from a male on a sentimental issue carries the same probability as shaving a hedgehog with bare hands. However, as usual when faced with matters of the heart, Marik got a dazed look, and quickly turned his face away, to hide his expressive eyes behind his golden fringe. It's strange, Mai pondered. Usually, Marik's eyes were narrow and reminiscent as those of a serpent, because of their occult colouring. At times like these, however, when Marik talked about the ones he cared about...his eyes became strangely larger and darker in hue, like those of a child. Mai didn't know which was more attractive, but she knew what the latter meant for Marik's psyche, so she longed to see it surface more often.
«I...I heard he had another episode last night...» Marik voice, usually deep and rigidly sumptuous, was reduced to a shy whisper of itself. The woman nodded silently and looked to the side, as the handsome man continued «...is he okay?» he asked, fighting, very obviously, not to let his worry show.
At this point , Mai finally drew the line: this was preposterous. Not only were they putting a strain on each other by refusing to help one another at this dire time, but they let their newly-turned self-destructive mood permeate everyone else's fragile balance. And she was absolutely sure it was Marik's mood that was affecting everyone else. It was always that way!
«I'm sick of this!» she exclaimed, uncaring about how she may sound and just focusing on getting things out of her chest «Sick of it, you hear?» she rasped, making Marik turn to look at her with a faded frown, which hid behind it no subtle portion of resignation «If you want to know 'if he's okay', then you should go ask him yourself! You're a big boy now, you don't need a messenger!» she admonished, and set both hands on her waist, thoroughly aggravated. Marik didn't say a word, simply keeping his face turned aside. He really tried not to summon an image of Rishid chastising him in a mother-hen fashion, but it was just inevitable.
«And, for your information: no, he's not okay. Last night was torture. We couldn't get him to sit still...god it was hell. But you just stayed in your room, didn't you? No doubt listening in on the commotion and refusing to do anything, for fear your ego would be bruised...And now you actually have the guts to ask me 'if he's okay'? God, you're something else, aren't you?» she finished with a shake of the head, finally sounding more disappointed than mad.
Marik stubbornly kept his face turned away, waiting for a long time before he responded « ...I have my reasons, woman...don't assume you know everything about me.» he finished, sounding weaker and more resigned than he intended. But his thoughts, his feelings were jumbled up together and made him incoherent. The image of his twin suddenly surfaced out of nowhere, choking him up with guilt- killing him. Dark Yugi's lordly outline flashed in his memory, and he felt he was suffocating. And Bakura...He couldn't go on like this...all the people...he just couldn't...and now he had this girl, telling him...god, forget about this. Forget about his stupid feelings. People had actually died, and he was still primarily concerned with...such childish matters?
But then again...wasn't the memory of these childish matters what had kept his resolve going in Kuru Eruna? How did he feel now that he'd survived, but realised he'd fought for nothing?!
«Don't worry.» Mai's stark voice hit him full force, and Marik unnecessarily worried if he'd been unintentionally speaking his thoughts aloud. It was stripped of all smugness for once, and laid bare in its accusation «I won't pretend I know much about you. You never let me in, anyway...or anyone else for that matter. I bet that's why you accuse Bakura isn't it? Well if I were him, I wouldn't let you in either.» and then, as though somehow coming to her senses, she approached him with her customary sway and watched the amethyst eyes rise to meet hers.
«We're not alone in this life, Marik... it took me a long time to realize that.» she whispered and turned around, not bothering even to slam the kitchen door in her wake.
«Marik...» it was rare for the albino to actually talk to him directly. Ryou usually made a point of leaving Marik alone, and Marik liked it that way. Ryou was...something strange, for the tanned man. He was too strong a presence of Bakura, yet too oxymoronic at the same time. Marik frankly thought that he would never be able to look at Ryou's face and see only Ryou again. After everything that had happened...
Best not to follow that trail of thought again. He'd gathered everyone here for a reason. And, true to form, they had all come to the sitting room when he asked it of them. All except for Bakura, who he hadn't actually invited anyway.
«What do you mean?» Ryou asked, probing for the lengthy explanation Marik knew he'd have to give sooner or later. He tried to be as succinct as possible. Looking at Ryou in the eyes was always disconcerting.
«I think it's time... we finished this» he rigidly stated, lavender eyes lodged on the crumpling plaster of a nearby wall. He didn't dare look at the discouraged and broken looks on their faces «I don't know about you, but I've had enough. I want to go home.»
«But Mari-» Serenity tried to interrupt, but Marik continued unphazed.
«And now that we have Kaiba Seto, the CEO of KaibaCorp, with us, it'll be easy enough to leave Earth.»
«But Marik, what about the Catacombs!? Now that we have Kaiba on our side, we can influence a lot of people! Many things can change! You promised us we won't leave until we've resolved some things! You promised...me...» Serenity insisted, standing up suddenly and drawing everyone's attention. From beside her, Yugi's and Tea's silent eyes just watched passively, not nearly vivacious enough to support her cause.
Marik appeared angry in his resignation. Perhaps he was angry with himself more than the others, who were being affected by his abandon and were becoming angry too. Rishid, Joey and Mai's faces formed slightly betrayed, disillusioned expressions. No one had expected it, really, that Marik would lose his fighting spirit to such an extent.
«Of course it's not! You know how much power Kaiba has in the IGC! With you controlling him, we could move forward a petition to shut down all Catacombs! We can try- it's not a lost cause! Ryou, come on! Say something!» Serenity countered, and looked at Ryou for support. He gave her a small smile, followed by an imperceptible sigh. His policy of non-intervention would not persevere for much longer, it seemed. He really disliked the idea of being forced in a debate with Marik. However, Marik's well-timed voice saved him the need to step in the argument.
«Use your brain, Serenity! Think!» Marik literally barked, making everyone jerk out of their reverie. The small expressions of hope that had appeared in Mai, Joey, Duke and Tristan's faces were wiped out instantly. Yugi's foggy eyes became even darker «There is no hope!» Marik continued «Do you think I hadn't thought of that? But we aren't in control! We're not in control of fucking anything!»
A stunned silence fell around the room at the hoarse sound of his voice. Everyone was staring at the blond man, who was breathing hoarsely, chest heaving, fists clenched. He looked as though he was fighting to contain himself.
After a few moments of complete quiet, and after they'd been staring motionlessly at each other, as though asking each other what to do, Marik spoke again, this time in a much more composed manner.
«Kaiba may be connected to some powerful people, but this is hardly enough to change the status quo. It takes much more than Kaiba's orders to wipe out the Catacombs. Do you have any idea how many are profiting from the slave labour? Do you have any idea how many pockets, how many elites we'll hit if we even attempt to stop this? The InterGalactic Council has no power over this! If the rich don't want it to happen then it won't! There's no point even trying!»
«And since when did you become such a wuss?» Duke pointed an accusing HyperArm at the preacher «Only a few weeks ago you were telling us that you'd discovered a person's will, can change the world!»
«That's bullshit!» Marik shouted back, enraged for no good reason, hating to hear his own irresponsible words thrown back at him.
«You should better control your words, Ishtar. Better not spew nonsense you don't intend to fulfil.» Kaiba commented, with his steel voice, unpleasant as always.
«Shut up!» Marik shouted, and was perversely satisfied when he heard the distinctive sound of Kaiba's jaws slamming against each other, almost in a pavlovian manner. They should shut up. They should all learn to shut up...what did they know of effort and tears, anyway...what did they..
«Marik, listen. I know it's going to be hard, I know we all feel fed up with each other, but we can still do this! Don't let everything we've discovered go to waste!» Serenity urged, now with the serious tone she used in scientific analyses «Marik, remember Kuru Eruna. This story is huge, and we know all about it. Imagine what will happen when we expose to the world what MultiCorp and KaibaCorp have been doing behind their backs! Imagine what will happen when we show them that their super idol is a droid!» and she unabashedly pointed at Kaiba, who made a «tsk» sound and looked mildly aggravated, but didn't deign to answer her.
Marik blinked a couple of times, at first...absolute silence followed Serenity's words, whilst everyone waited for their friend's reaction. But it seems today they were doomed not to reach any solid conclusions, since Marik started laughing, with a scratchy hoarse voice, more and more hysterically, until his guffaws became stark against the unmoving silence. Yugi faintly remembered the time he'd been imprisoned with Marik in the KaibaCorp Base. Marik had laughed much in the same way back then. Only now, there was no Bakura to calm him down.
«Haha...you think...haha...» he was rasping. Since he was turning almost purple in the face, Serenity took an imperceptible step towards him, with her hand outstretched, as though to try and comfort him.
But the moment her fingers touched his shoulder, his blond head whipped upwards, lavender eyes dilated, hair wild. And he started shouting, even louder and hoarser than before.
« Are you completely stupid, all of you? Don't you get it!? It doesn't matter what we do! The ones who are on top, the ones with the money to buy guns, will always prevail! Why should they shut down the Catacombs, huh? Why should they stop using HyperArms? Don't you get it? If there are no poor, useless, ugly slaves like us, then how can their idiot sons look superior? I've met so many morons in my life working in KaibaCorp that you wouldn't believe. They're all worthless- all of them.! But all their fathers are rich, and they've all been to top Universities, and they all have the hottest hovercraft around! And so, even though they're idiots, they get all these advantages you wouldn't ever dream of enjoying! All your sweat, the pain in your arms!» he pointed at Joey «And all your talent in CyberSpace» he looked at Yugi «Where do you think all that goes, huh? Sure, they tell you that if you work hard enough, you can make your life better...but can you?»
Joey was clasping the edge of the sofa tightly, unconsciously. He stared down at his metal nails, and could feel the familiar magma of anger burn under his skin, boil his blood. The expression on his face resembled a volcano waiting to erupt. And finally, with gold thunder in his amber eyes, he exploded.«You little fucker!» he finally shouted, not one to cave under Marik's accusations «Who do you think you are, huh? What the hell do you know of slavery, anyway? Have you ever worked like us? Have you ever felt the oxides melt your skin? Do you think you can come here and talk to me about my life! You don't know shit, you hear? You don't know shit!» And he banged his fist on the low wooden table in front of him. He force of the HyperArm ruptured the old would. Marik just stood still, his laughter temporarily paused. «And we don't need your help! Get it? You ailn't the hottest thing around! People can do great things even when you're not there, so if you wanna be a drama queen, get out of my goddamn house!» And then, slowly, as Mai and Tristan were restraining Joey from causing more damage.
«Shut up you mutt! We didn't ask for your pathetic lodging!» the distinctive voice of Kaiba's annoyed voice rang, and everyone briefly wondered if Marik had actually made him say that or if he'd said it on his own volition. Well, he certainly seemed irritated enough by Joey, so it wasn't impossible...But all such thoughts were quickly wiped out, since Marik drew their attention again, as he turned their back to them and started to talk, quietly.
«Seems like you don't like to hear the truth, then. They tell you that if you work hard you'll get promoted, right? And then, one day, if you're good and loyal, you'll get a key card for the upper levels. Hey, maybe you'll leave Earth? And you'll have an operation and you won't ever need to wear HyperArms ever again...right? Who knows, maybe you'll even get to send your kid to work in Mercury... But that's bullshit! Truth is, you'll be lucky if you even get a pension. You'll be lucky if you're even alive after ninety! And your kid's gonna start working at the Catacombs right along with you. And every day, in your kid's eyes, you'll get to see how much you've failed, how useless a parent you are, and how your life really hasn't gotten better, no matter how good you've been.»
Suddenly, Serenity got a very vivid image of her father in mind, drunk and staggering, returning home after a long night in the bar. She remembered his permanent expression as he looked at her mother: a mixture of regret and fury. Perhaps this was what he'd been thinking at the time...? That he was useless. And surely her mother's constant demands had not been helping...Perhaps he hadn't been as mean as she'd previously thought...perhaps...he'd been a victim as well. And Joey was now in the same situation...that's why Joey had always understood what their father had felt...And he'd even gone to prison for their father, once. Serenity felt tears prick her eyes as she turned to stare at her brother's golden hair and warm eyes. Would he become the same as their father, some day? Had her father been like him, some day? Why did it have to be like this? Why did they have to be slaves, who didn't even have masters? Why...did their life have to be like this? And now Marik claimed that there was no way to change it...
«Truth is, they're lying to you! Nobody gets what they want, except the rich guy- who doesn't even deserve it most of the time! If you're born poor, then you'll only get poorer, and in the meantime the rich will only get richer! Only the rich guy's son deserves free healthcare and a summer house and a nice hover, even if everybody knows that he's an idiot! They don't want their privileges to end, so they'll do anything they can to stop the Catacombs from shutting down. There is NOTHING we can do, even with Kaiba's help. Nothing...nothi...Nobody gets what they...haha...hahaha...HAHAHAHAHA!!»
«Marik!» Serenity cried, and grasped her friend's shoulder, trying to support him and prevent him from keeling over in his breakdown. Ryou's jaws clenched, his mongoloid mahogany eyes staring straight, at the void, as he quietly listened to Marik's crazed laughter. His fists were clenching on his knees and his heart was beating fast. So little had changed in the world over the six hundred years he'd lived through. So little. It seems human nature and human society would never change. The powerful would always exploit the poor...always. And the problem was, even though you start off with hopes and dreams, no matter to what social caste you belong to, eventually all these dreams are shattered when you come to grips with reality: No. You can't do what you want with your life. It doesn't belong to you. You want to write novels, or, like Joey, design CyberGames?
It must feel terrible, thought Ryou, to be told from the day you're brought to the world that you can't really fulfil your greatest dreams. Joe always looked more alive when he talked about his great Duel Monster ideas...however, deep down, Ryou realized that Joey knew he'd never make his dreams come true. The Catacombs, his family...they were keeping him back, and there was nothing he could do to change this. And the problem is that when you live like this, when you have to accept that none of your expectations can't come true, that the purpose of your life is basically to create the wealth of someone else, that your children will grow up to see that their father is a useless, poor, deformed slave...when you realize all this, then you start hating.
You start hating the expectations of your loved ones and, eventually, you start hating your loved ones too. Your kids, your wife, your husband...your parents...you start to suffocate from each other, you start wishing you'd never met anything that you love, because then you wouldn't hurt each other simply by existing. Joey and Mai were lucky to be young and in love...but how long could it last? As the years would pass and they would both have to come to terms with the fact that they could provide nothing to their children or to each other, could the freshness and genuineness of their relationship last?
There was a pang in Ryou's heart, and the blank space between his blazer and his bare chest suddenly became extremely pronounced. The simultaneously warm and cold comfort of the Millennium Ring was missing. This absence had become a presence of its own. Sure, Bakura was still there, and Ryou could talk to him if he wanted...but, at times like these, when Ryou had always considered other people's emotions...the knowledge that he would never be alone and would always have a companion, even if said comrade was Bakura, was always a comfort. And a person as lonely and timid as Ryou had always failed in social contact.
The warmth in his heart that could never be extinguished had been Bakura, his Darkside...but the dark flame had now been extinguished, and Ryou's skin and teeth and nails felt colder than ever. It was as though a presence, a life had suddenly left his breath. When he looked in the mirror, his face looked older, his skin more loose. Only when Serenity stood by him, even though lately she wasn't her normal lively self, he could feel a bit young again. A bit rejuvenated. Serenity had on him the same effect of warmth and comfort that he was in such dire need of, ever since Bakura had...Oh God he couldn't even say it...and he could only imagine how it must be for Yugi, whose Darkside not only had been dislodged from his body, but had disappeared...disappeared... Dark Yugi had...Ryou couldn't even think it, unable to help imagining Bakura undergoing the same thing...Yugi...all the life in his eyes...had died that day.
Expecting to see the look of misery that had become customary, Ryou turned to the young, leather-clad boy. However, what he saw startled him, and he suddenly remembered where he was and what Marik had just said, about social injustice and pain. It seems the others had been affected by this, seeing as Yugi, the most deadened of all, now had this very strange expression...his eyes had a...a glow, again, and were now set in a frown, staring at the distance. And Tea, from his side, was also scowling, her sapphire eyes sparking at their thoughtfulness, fixed on a small smudge of the carpet. Ryou knew that her focus was entirely on Marik's words. And Joey with his friends...needless to say his amber-gold eyes had become the colour of a supernova with sparks of feral ire inside- an ire as old as the constitution of history, and human community, for it was not the first or last time the rich would exploit the poor.
And as the harsh echo of Marik's strangled laughter filled his senses, Ryou felt, for once, the blood flow hotter in his veins, and the fury of righteousness make his heart pump. Marik was laughing now, but now and then Ryou would see a shine of moistness in his amethyst eyes. Different people had different ways to express desperation, and Ryou had learned early on that, ironically, Marik's way was through laughing.
Looking at all his comrades, seeing the sparks that had appeared in their eyes for the first time in days, feeling this electric anger around him, the coldness gripping his gut, the laughter which sounded like the calls of crows for their dead...he became alive again.
He wondered if anger and pain were the only experiences he could consider human anymore. What Serenity's small attempts at comfort had not managed to do had easily been done through ire and memories of Eruna. With anger, he felt alive, again, after who knows how long. Apparently, Ryou thought, as he saw Tristan's HyperArm nails digging into the skin of his fist, so did everyone else.
«Nobody gets what they was in this world! Nobody except the rich-»
«You can't control the world, Kaiba! You don't deserve to be immortal just because you can afford it! This is something that the whole world-«
Yes. His father had been a fool as well. He'd heard it all before.
«If you're born poor, then you'll only get poorer, and in the meantime the rich will only get richer! You can't escape this prison!»
The voice, like the midnight cry of the jackal, reverberated through the walls, the shaggy furniture, the crumpling wood of the staircase he was standing on... even the rags he was wearing. He could almost taste it: the fury. The vengeance. He fed from it, drank it up like red wine, felt a kind of joy at hearing such proclamations of pain and hatred.
«I pay you and you find a way! Got that? You're a worm, Bakura...you hear me? A worm. You're crawling on the floor, you're licking my shoes in order to give you and you're pathetic wife a scrap of food to eat...and I will give you food and a home and a job. And that little whinging kid of yours will have anything he wants...as long as you do what I say...because if you don't-«
«Well well well...look who's here-«
«Nehti! What are you doing here? Get out!»
«Of course you shouldn't leave, Nehti...see, what a pretty name...I have a son too you know...His name is Noa…maybe sometime, you two can meet and play together...in fact, if you're a good boy, I may even make you Noa's permanent playmate-«
«Nehti, don't listen to him! Just get out!»
«U-um- - «
«Yes...go on then...play along...daddy and I have some serious business to talk about...isn't that right?»
da- - -
«There's a key under the carpet in the attic-«
«No mom!!...I'll kill you! I'll fucking kill you!!»
- «Oh..what is it...does the baby want to cry...Don't worry...we'll take good care of you from now on...ha...haha...hahahaha!!»
«I told you...I'd make you worthy of Noa's attention...didn't I...»
«You sick fuck! What did you do to him?! Touch a hair from his head and I swear I'll kill you! Ryou!!!... I'll kill you, you bastard! Ryou answer me! RYOU! I'll kill you, you hear!! I'll KILL YOU!!»
Marik should suffer. They should all suffer. They should suffer like he suffers, and they should hate every single breath they draw. Just like he does.
«It's no use! We can't change the world! It's not only the Big Five! There are thousands of them, people like Pegasus, who use the poor in Yango- - «
«But Marik, that's exactly why we have to stop it! If anyone has a chance at trying, then we do!»
«Don't you understand, Serenity?-»
They should...suffer. he should let them make mistakes and laugh at them...and he should applaud Marik's resignation...because Marik is disgusting- He's as disgusting as-
«I won't let you get away with this, Kaiba!»
«You ungrateful idiot! I gave you everything: I fed your whore and your brat, and how do you repay me? How?»
«The world should know...they should know who their hero really is, Goza-«
«Shut up !...You're going to die, you hear? You're going to die, Bakura...you're going to die and I'm going to live. I'm going to live forever using the thing you invented for me, you hear? And when you die, your pretty wife and spoilt kid will be too far down Eruna to cry for you- - I'm gonna kill you for what you did to me- what you almost did to me- you little fuck!! Don't you get it?! You'll never-«
However, it seems that even Nehti's heart had some tricks left to play. It deceived him quite dexterously. He'd meant for his legs to talk him back to the silence of the balcony...not forward, to the source of all his hatred.
The wavy shadow of black fabric that spilled in the room from the staircase was incomprehensible for a few moments. Then, Marik's eyes became wide in their surprise. The pressure in his lungs became inconceivable.
«Yes...you'd like for that to be true, wouldn't you...coward that you are...» the slithery voice was carried across the small living room, through the humid atmosphere, to ring in echoes within Marik's ears. The silence that fell amongst them was immediate and unprecedented. Those few who hadn't already risen to their feet, like Ryou and Tea, now stood up, looking hoarsely first at the newcomer and then at Marik. Had one been looking carefully, they would have seen the identical flames of hope that were kindling in all their eyes.
The silence continued. Marik was staring, first with surprise and then with longing. He probably didn't understand that so much of his thoughts were showing, though. He was obviously caught unawares by the pronounced redness of Nehti's eyes and the deceptive, striking glare on his face, which resembled Bakura so strongly that it became almost tragicomic. And the more open and readable Marik's expression and thoughts were becoming, the more shut off, obscure and rigid Nehti was. His blood eyes, cold and calculating were moving accusingly from one face to another. And the small smile on his lips, as Serenity had assumed, was a grimace of absolute malice. Even Rishid and Ryou felt the chills of a dark aura surround them, and suddenly the air around them felt colder and biting.
Finally, after the prolonged quiet, Marik apparently found it in himself to speak. And behold the irony, for when Marik now spoke his tone was meek- nothing like the boasting proclamations of futility he'd just been preaching.
«What...are you doing here?» the attempt to sound irritated and smug was really rather laughable, not to mention ill-timed. It seems Nehti thought so too, if the challenging smirk he displayed was any indication. It seems each of us have their own buttons, which make us weak when pressed. Maybe the cold, condescending look on Nehti's face was Marik's button. Ryou looked at the blond man discreetly, biting the vein pulsing frantically on the side of Marik's neck which wasn't covered by his golden necklace. And the muscle pumping at the side of Marik's jaw. His eyes were fighting to become narrow and composed, but were obviously incapable of obeying his probably frantic thoughts.
But Nehti just looked at all their faces, one by one. The tension that was palpable in the air was fortified tenfold, suddenly, and everyone felt simultaneously colder and warmer than before.
«What am I doing here? Shouldn't you ask yourself the same thing...Marik» his strange accent gave emphasis to the «r», making the sound resemble a roar and a purr at the same time. It was eerily disconcerting, just as the rest of Nehti's personality. Even his black hair, which so obviously resembled the formation that Dark Bakura's white hair had always had. It was the same, and yet different. Even the malicious expression on his face was extremely familiar and extremely alien at the same time, since all of them had seen the exact same grimace, but through Ryou's body's features. Nehti's own features, more graceful and soft than Ryou's, made the grimace itself even more disconcerting, since one couldn't tell if one should feel threatened or flattered by the attention.
Marik didn't answer, he just stood there trying to gather his wits, making Mai, and Joey, secretly smirk.
«I just happened to be strolling down the stairs, and unfortunately overheard your intimate ponderings...I then experienced an...enlightenment, shall we say? » a pale hand came up and Nehti tapped his long index on the side of his cheek, in mock thoughtfulness. It would seem almost playful, if it weren't for his cruel eyes, which made the entire gesture an instrument of sarcastic hate.
«Yes, I travelled down memory lane...it then occurred to me that this fan club of yours must be made aware of certain aspects of your personality...Mariku. That is to say, they should be warned not to expect too much of you, since you really are a fragile child of nature...» he said this last phrase with a mock-concerned, sarcastic look. The others warily turned to look at Marik, who, under such scrutiny, was coping quite unimpressively with the verbal assault. His lips were alternately stiffening and relaxing, his eyes blinking twice as frequently as usual.
«Now listen, everyone!» Nehti said, with a very unfitting 'cheerful' tone, which made his voice seem even stranger and more chocked-hoarse than usual. It sounded more like a dirge than a happy exclamation «Don't take him too seriously! He's very likely to say things he doesn't mean...am I right? In case you didn't understand that last sentence, Mariku, I just said a liar, and a cheat. » the brash conclusion was reached, a small smile of bliss, obviously unfitting, was etched like a grimace on Bakura's face.
«And you're also a coward. Indeed you are not the kind of person who would commit themselves to a cause and fight against the odds. Like my idiot father, my idiot sister and my idiot mother, you're perfectly happy to sit around, doing nothing, waiting for someone to wipe their ass with you and then throw you away.»
Gasps were heard all around, not so much by the things Bakura was saying but by the positively maniacal look he had acquired. Marik's look of utter blind fury was also something to behold and gasp. «I have concluded, therefore» his gaze slipped from one face to the other, smiling in a mostly homicidal manner, as his eyes slipped over Serenity and Yugi «That the lot of you, are all cowards, insignificant puny pawns of fate, and all deserve to die, since you would never dare stand up to the odds and face the facts.» his smile did not return, and he was instead talking in what seemed like a practiced monotone, unfeeling voice. «In fact, I personally believe you deserve to suffer. And you shall, if you continue following this principle coward's advice» he looked intensely at Marik, who was trembling by now- albeit it wasn't clear if he was trembling with rage or not.
«Ah...Ryou...» Nehti seemed to be reminiscing, since he briefly closed his eyes and smiled, then opened them again «You're very pure. I must publicly admit I repent. The torture you endured for my sake was entirely my responsibility, and yet I never clearly supported you as steadfastly and truly as I should have.» His eyes opened again, became pinned on Marik and didn't move again. «But not to worry Ryou. I have come to see the light. In fact from now on I shall help you. The two of us cannot allow any more liars to use us. I will protect you, Ryou. I will protect you from yourself. I have concluded, after my long meditation in Kuru Eruna, that all men, and especially those who aspire to fraternize with me, are firstly a nuisance and secondly a threat. »
The voice started to become even hoarser, and Joey, Tristan and Duke, not to mention Marik, began to feel the hairs on the back of their neck stand on end. A very distinct smell started to fill the air they were breathing, the smell of fear. And as they looked at each other, the room around them changed shape and substance, becoming a long, stretched out corridor, with dark alcoves and unseen doors, with ghosts roaming in the darkness. And like a beacon for all evil to gather, Nehti's red eyes were glowing, like spilt blood on an ore of fire.
«It is deemed logical that I rid myself of nuisance. And when I am finished, I shall take my revenge» his eyes refocused from Marik's alerted stance, to Kaiba Seto's cold, unrepentant features. «And I shall purge this world of all evil! You have humiliated me for the last time, you puny mortal!» he now barked at Marik's face «Now is the time to pay the price, for angering the dead!»
«I'm not the one who'll pay the price, Bakura! You're the liar and the cheat! You're the one who pays tonight!» Marik broke down finally, pointing irately at Nehti and not realizing what he was actually saying «It's time to end this once and for all! Your mere presence disgusts me, your fiend from the underworld! I begin to think I never should have saved you, since you don't deserve it! You think I've angered the dead by not doing what you want me to! Well then I'm sorry for the dead, 'cause they'll hate me for sending you back!»
«Oh is that so? Weren't you the one who was telling us how it's futile to even try and change?»
«I'll kill you, you fuck! You don't deserve to talk to me! You don't deserve to be called Bakura!»
Something snapped «And you don't deserve to live anymore! If you love him so much then why don't you follow him!»
«I gladly would, right after I kill you, of course, since you're supposed to be him, aren't' you? »
«Oh? In that case, I'll enjoy torturing you for eternity, when I slit your throat!!»
«Nehti, Marik liste-«
But it was too late, for, with a dark swirl of black, Bakura had grabbed the nearest wooden beam and pulled himself up to the ceiling with almost superhuman strength and speed. What happened next was so fast and frantic, that no one really had a chance to realize what was going on, until they saw the faint gleam of metal in the light. The shadow over them held the dagger in his hand, almost experimentally. «It seems there are a few things I have dear Kaiba to thank for.» Nehti said and, followed by the yelps and screams of the women, started to literally crawl on the ceiling, scratchy nails digging into imperceptible hooves of the plaster. When he found it too difficult to crawl, he literally jumped forward and reattached himself. It took a few moments for the stiff and baffled Marik to realise that what Bakura was doing was an action no known human can naturally perform.
«He's got a knife! Mai!» Joey's voice could be heard, along with the screams of Tea and Serenity. But Marik had no time to react, since, by the time he realized what was happening, the thing had jumped directly from over his head, willing to crush him with weight. Marik, barely able to react in time, made a frantic somersault backwards, hitting one of Mai's vases and toppling a coffee table.
«Get the kids out! Hurry!» Joey had Tristan help him get Mai safely out of the room, whilst Yugi, Ryou and Duke were practically towing Serenity and Tea outside. When they reached a safe angle, they all observed, terrified, the unexplainable occurrence. Rishid lingered for a moment. He stayed there, staring, unconsciously trying to help his friend. But when Joey came and tugged him out of harm's way, Rishid also back stepped.
«I want you to hurt!» Bakura's voice was heard, and Tea actually whimpered, since it echoed around them like a scream from that god-forsaken place «I'll make you scream!!»
And indeed, the fight was superhuman. Nehti moved like a jaguar...no, a bat...any comparison would fail! It was like a black cloud, moving with such speed and evasion that no one could separate true movements. All they could see was an obscure, dark cloud and a periodic gleam, as the light caught on Bakura's dagger. Marik seemed to be using all of his strength to contain Bakura, unable to land even a punch in the effort to simply defend himself from Bakura's artificially enhanced supersonic speed. The others prayed and wondered how Marik was coping, since he was unarmed and Bakura was holding a knife- god knows where he'd got it. Mai didn't put it beneath him to pilfer from anyone!
At some point, if the sickening cracking sound was any indication, Bakura landed a solid hit, hooking his elbow behind Marik's knee and punching it from the front with all his strength. With a faint scream, Serenity called «Marik!!», worried that his knee might be crushed, Marik let out a yelp, and within seconds, toppled over Bakura's crawling stance, using his body weight to dislodge his leg from Bakura's rigid hold. He keeled over and made a somersault practically on Bakura's back, grabbing Bakura's cloak in the process and forcing Bakura to be dragged along with him.
«I hate you!»
«I hate you!» they were screaming at each other, as Marik uncharacteristically grabbed Bakura's prostrate body by the roots of the hair and started shaking him, causing Bakura to inadvertently drop his knife. He kept trying to hit Marik in the groin, but to no avail, since Marik's body was also filled with strength enhancers, and he wasn't letting go of Bakura any time soon.
«I want you dead!» Bakura was saying, his arms flailing around, scratching at whatever bare piece of Marik's skin he could find. «I want you dead, so much!» he groaned, finally managing to hit Marik's ribcage and cause Marik to dislodge the black hair. Unfortunately for Marik, Bakura lost no time in recovering, grabbing his dagger from the floor within seconds. Like a viper for the strike, he prepared a fatal wound with lethal accuracy, aiming for the side of Marik's chest.
Seeing what the opponent was preparing to do, Marik immediately backed off, making Bakura miss by a few inches. However, the killing rage had just begun and Nehti was wielding his dagger in waves in front of Marik's chest. Eventually, as Nehti kept advancing, Marik would have no place left to go, and then-
«Marik!» Rishid's tormented voice rang and, unable as he was to stop his compulsive action, he jumped back in the rampaged room and sprang towards the duel. Ryou ran behind him, intending to stop him from being hurt. Nehti was uncontrollable at this state- and possibly so was Marik. It was too dangerous to approach them and try to prevent them .No one was as powerful as they- not even Ryou. If they tried to interfere with this fight they would only get killed, themselves.
«I hate that I can't-« Nehti had started saying, more to himself than to his opponent. As Marik was left with no place to go, seeing as he was between the wall and Nehti's knife, he jumped upwards in a desperate attempt, fighting to grab a wooden or metal bean, with which he could climb upwards in an effort to escape the dagger. But whatever Marik did Bakura could do faster. Within seconds, and whilst still threatening to stab Marik, Nehti grabbed hold of the nearby picture frame, using it as a means of elevating himself and sliding upwards on the wall. Then, whist keeping hold of the wall with his one hand- nails digging in crumpling cement again, he supported himself and tried to stab Marik sideways. Marik used this opportunity to jump downwards and run away, but, again, Bakura was much too fast.
«MARIK WATCH OUT!!» Serenity literally screamed, as she saw Nehti's black form lunge on Marik from behind. Having no time to react, Marik could do nothing as Bakura brought him down, pale face drawn in a grimace of bloodthirsty triumph. Within seconds, Marik found himself lying supine, with Nehti's body weight pinning him down, with a knife poised right in front of his neck and with Nehti's eyes wide and red with victory. Even now, Marik hated his mind for thinking of Nehti's cruel expression, which resembled dark Bakura's so much in its cold, frozen beauty. Only Nehti's eyes weren't the only thing alive on his face, like Bakura's had been. No, Nehti was alive. Even though the air was cold, his body was hot and pounding with a heartbeat. And his eyes were like mirrors of the heat in his blood, since now they were red and brilliant with exhilaration. And his black hair, like dark feathers, were arranged in a halo of wild spikes around his pale, accusing face. His red bandana had slipped off at some point, and his expression seemed somehow much clearer now than ever before. From somewhere in the side, Marik heard Ryou's gasp and knew that everyone else had noticed too, how much this stranger resembled the man he'd loved. But, unlike Bakura, Nehti hated him...hated him for what he'd done...
«I'm going to kill you now...» Nehti said, as an afterthought, but still seemed frustrated «Look afraid.» he instructed, as he started shaking Marik's head. The somewhat calm resignation in Marik's eyes was not what he'd wanted, damnit! He wanted fear, screams...pleas of forgiveness. Proclamations of atonement. He was not ready for this kind of acceptance.
«Look afraid, damnit! You're going to die!» Nehti roared, Teeth bared in a snarl, eyes narrowed, fighting with his own mind. But as Marik looked at him, with those deep amethyst eyes, and his golden hair, and his strangely childlike face, a certain image suddenly filled his mind, the picture of a little boy passing by his glass cell in Kuru Eruna, A little boy, eyes wide and scared, expression nullified. Nehti had thought, at that time...he'd thought...
«Damn you!» he growled, and rushed to unclasp the necklace from around Marik's neck in an effort to stab his throat. In the meantime, Ryou and Yugi, who had finally come back in the room since there was relative calmness, tried to restrain the black haired man. But when Bakura turned to growl at them and they saw Marik give them a small nod from outside Nehti's sight, they stepped back, warily, eager to see where this would lead.
«No...» Marik suddenly said, drawing Bakura's attention as he slowly raised his tanned palm and pressed it over Bakura's which was holding the knife. Imperceptibly moving, Marik led Nehti's palm downwards, until the pointy edge of the dagger was over his chest, directly aiming at his heart. They just stayed there, Marik looking at Nehti, who was looking at his hand.
«...Well I won't leave you»
How can I be in...lo-
«Urgh!» Nehti grabbed his temples with both hands, unconsciously dropping the dagger as he squeezed his skull, trying to make the stupid voices stop. But they weren't stopping. They weren't stopping...And every time he remembered that night three weeks ago, and the fire he'd felt...and every time he opened his eyes he saw Marik's hopeful expression right in front of him...
«Urh...uh...» the right side of his head was pounding- could this be one of his migraines. no...it hurt more than usual...it was like something was being squeezed to come out but was impossible to reach «Shit...» he started saying, and Serenity gasped from the side, gripping Ryou's sleeve, hoping against all odds that it was happening...that he'd remember once more...
«I...I...must...» Nehti was rasping, impossibly hoarsely «I must...kill...that man...»
«And your pretty cousin...we used him all right...»
«What is that thing??!»
«Don't you recognize it...it's you!»
«No! No! That-that...NOO!»
«That...that thing...» Nehti gasped, his hands shaking. Ryou tried to shake his cousin out of concern, but Marik bashed Ryou's arms away, realizing that it might be happening...that it might...
«Huh...were...were am I...everything is so black...why...Ry-Ryou? Why are you so...so old..? Why do I feel so strange...it's like I'm here, but not really here...I...»
«Erase the memory»
«Wh-what are you...a spirit? A ghost of some sort?»
«I'm Marik Ishtar...now that I gave you my name-«
«Call me Bakura...just...Bakura...»
«That thing...» suddenly, Nehti's back stop shaking, and he uncovered his ears. His head was still pounding, but something had changed...it was as though he'd suddenly remembered something very important...he was hurting so much at the time, so he'd forgotten in the commotion...they had been torturing him, and he didn't know for what reason. It's not like they ever explained to him what they did, anyway...and at that time he had paid no mind to it...They woke him up one day, from his quiet spot on that disgusting machine...And that man...Alpha, had walked in again, and shown him a microchip...and Nehti hadn't really understood at that time...Alpha just put it in the disk and said something about simulations and stuff, and...and...and then...
«I know...» Marik's voice suddenly sounded in his ears, and Nehti belatedly realized that he'd been speaking aloud. No he'd been stammering. He didn't know what to do when he realized this, nor what to say. He was lost. There were two timelines running in his head: one of the past, when he'd seen himself as a faceless hologram-he'd seen himself inquiring where and who he was- and then there was the timeline of here and now, when he was himself again, when he was real...At some point, he knew...he remembered being the hologram...but then...he was...he was himself...again...how? How can...
«It's very complicated» Marik's voice rang again, and Nehti wondered when the tanned hands had landed on his shoulders, and when he'd stopped sitting on Marik...And he wondered when all the other idiots had suddenly appeared around. And then his eyes fell on the pillar of coldness in the corner, the man called Kaiba, and Nehti couldn't really think anything more after that. With sudden force he shoved Marik away, lost no time in grabbing the trusty dagger and lunged toward Kaiba, The movement had been too sudden for anyone to react in time, and Bakura's blade was buried, swiftly and cleanly, in Kaiba Seto's lower abdomen.
Horrified screams, included those of Serenity, Tea, Mai, Yugi and Ryou all sounded at once. The others just lunged forward, temporarily forgetting that Kaiba was a droid that could not be harmed. Marik was amazed by Nehti's action and vaguely concerned at the fact that natural red blood was now flowing from Kaiba's wound. However, Seto seemed extremely disinterested, if not flatly bored with Bakura's antics.
«Die!!» Nehti shouted, raving now like a lunatic, as images of his own face, cold and scowling in holographic form attacked him. The more he remembered Gozaburo's smirk as he watched, the more he hated and the more he wanted to drink the blood of revenge. «Bleed! Bleed!!!!» He shouted, and lost no time in taking out the dagger and stabbing Kaiba relentlessly again and again. But Kaiba's scowl was not altered, despite the blood that was now covering Nehti's hands. The others, namely Yugi, Ryou and Joey, as well as Marik, were trying to prevent Bakura from destroying Seto's robotic tissues more than necessary, and mainly for Nehti's own mental health. Who knew if he'd regret 'killing' someone later on.
«I'd move outa the way if I were you, moneybags...» Joey said, scowling as he saw the cataract of blood leaving Kaiba's body. Now if there was one person Joey hated, it was this good for nothing rich guy. But seriously...even he deserves a break...
«I want to drink your blood, Kaiba!!...haha...I want to cause you pain!» Nehti laughed darkly, as he actually tried to duck and lick the blood d. Marik strained to hold him back, as Ryou gulped and make obscure retching sounds from the side.
But Kaiba's expression wasn't showing much pain, and the more silent he kept, the worse Nehti's disposition became «Die, you bitch!! Die! For my father!! For me!!! Your whole family are thieves and murderers!!! Now it's your turn!»
Marik sighed a bit, seeing the desperate gleam of righteous hatred in Nehti's eyes. Reluctantly, he made up his mind, and vaguely aimed a thought at Kaiba 'just act like your dead, Kaiba...please' Marik added, feeling a little ridiculous for even asking this. Kaiba, with a vaguely disgruntled look towards the one he called 'that idiot Ishtar', following the order. Joey and Yugi had thought they'd never see the day that they'd witness Seto Kaiba dropping to his knees and falling prostrate in his own pool of blood, chest unmoving, eyes unblinking. Wow. Mai vaguely wondered if he really was malfunctioning or if he was just acting dead. A quick look towards Marik unimpressed face reassured her.
But on Nehti the effect was much different. He dropped the dagger over Kaiba's form, brought his blood-bathed hands near his face and smelled their deadly scent in glee. This blood, which he didn't know was provided from Kaiba's personal blood bank, was the blood he had sworn would avenge him. When they'd killed his father. When they'd raped his mother and sister again and again and again. When they'd operated on Ryou's brain right in front of his eyes. When they'd let him watch as they dissected, lacerated, burned and mutated little children. When they'd made him see his own face for the first time after five years- the gentle brown eyes and the crooked- a bit awkward smile- that he always had had was now replaced with a twisted sneer, like that of a monster, with fangs and red eyes, and with the hateful tattoo, right in his face...how dare they...how dare they...
«It's all right...he's dead...he's dead now, Bakura...you've killed Gozaburo's son. There are no others...see? You've avenged them.» Marik gestured towards the corpse, looking intensely at Nehti's face for any sign of disgruntlement...All he could see, however, was a calm composure, as though this was what Bakura had needed to do all along, in order to finally calm his spirit.
«And...Noa? And Gozaburo?» Nehti asked suddenly, and was aware of the sudden flinch that every single person around gave. Except for Marik. Marik just stayed put there, watching the pale face, without blinking.
«What about them...?» he asked, pulling Bakura aside slightly, careful not to let Nehti realize that he was being led away. But Nehti didn't seem irritated by this. In fact, after Kaiba had finally fallen, supposedly giving his last breath, Nehti seemed as composed and quiet as ever. His eyes...seemed calm, serene. The red in them did not swirl as a fiery inferno, but as blood red waters calm after a storm.
«Are they dead?» he asked, pausing in his steps and turning to look at Marik. Joey and Yugi looked at each other, and Ryou and Serenity kept silent. It felt as though this was the answer, the answer they had all been unconsciously looking for these past few days.
«Yes.» Marik stated, with a tone of finality «You killed them.»
And at Nehti's distrustful look, Marik gave a sincere nod of the head. Ryou, seeing this, took a step forward, realizing that Marik...Marik may need his help.
«It's true, Bakura,» he said quietly, with his distinctive serious tone «You killed them when you were inside me, as my Darkside...We all killed them together. And Yugi's friend, who left us now...he also helped us kill them.» and then, as an afterthought, after seeing Marik's grateful look, he turned to his right with a hopeful look of his own and stretched his hand towards the auburn haired girl. «Right Serenity?»
And Serenity, slowly, with a shaky smile of her own, feeling as though she was treading Earth's ground for the first time after ten years again, stretched her hand and clasped Ryou's palm «Yes...we did. They're gone now...They're all gone.»
«That's right!» Tea's melodic voice suddenly chimed, the sweet tone like a glass of fresh water in Yango's desert «We did it together with all of our friends!» she said, and raised her first in the air with a twirl «Even though we lost people that we all loved dearly..» she looked at Yugi's eyes, which were brimmed with unshed tears and smiled her most potent, bright smile «...they're still here with us! They are still here within our friends!...Even though we can't see them.»
«Yeah! And now with them dead...there's a whole lotta stuff we can do...ya know? Even though it's gonna be hard...» Joey started saying, looking at Marik and Serenity. He also clenched his hand in a fist and looked at Tristan and Mai.
«Well...we've been through the hard part, haven't we? The dreams won't stop coming...and it may be horrible for a while but...» Mai started saying and then looked at Marik with a meaningful look. And Marik, with a sudden flash of memory, recalled something she'd told him...a few days ago...
«But we can't go on living alone...right Mai?» he finished, and looked at Nehti- no. At Bakura, whose red eyes seemed disgruntled, oppressed by this sudden storm of friendliness that was surrounding him.
«Right.» Mai smiled. «So...are we gonna keep living together? Do we want to try improve our lives together?» she asked, her sparkling eyes shining like jewels, her blonde tresses caressing the sides of her beautiful face, which was so at odds with her monstrous arms.
«Yeah, Mai.» Marik smiled, and suddenly realized something he'd been thinking for a long time «We do. We wanna make your arms beautiful again.»
«Hey, don't sweet talk my wife, lover boy! Bat your pretty eyelashes at someone else!» And they all laughed, freely and together, for the first time in what seemed like ages.
A small pause ensued, when everyone just stared at each other, as though aghast of their sudden revelation- that they still had the ability to bring joy and comfort...and even a warm sense of acceptance to each other. No one seemed to remember that kaiba, even though a droid was beginning to feel weary of lying on the floor without letting his usual functions take place. And Bakura really had damaged some vital tissues...he'd need a circuit chekup soon. Blasted hippies.
«Maybe we should make Kaiba out of here...he's spoiling my carpet...» Mai said as an afterthought, but then regretted saying anything, since she remembered they were supposed to make Bakura think he'd killed off Seto for good.
«Should we?» the red eyed man wondered aloud, and it actually took a few moments of stunned silence, and a few looks toward his raised eyebrow, for everyone to realize that...yes, he was joking. They wondered how they would have felt like if they sat to think that Nehti had just 'murdered' a man in cold blood. But now they were all laughing about it, reassured that Kaiba wasn't really dead...and everyone thought he deserved to wipe the floor a bit, anyway, after everything he'd done to them...bah, he'd be ok. And now that Bakura seemed calm, what more did they want?
«Wait guys! Where are you going?!» Tea's sweet tone became indignant suddenly, as she saw Mai and Joey moving to check if their kids were alright and the others splitting up to pick Kaiba body. Bakura was starting to ascend the stairs quietly, and everyone wisely avoided him.
«We didn't stretch our hands to draw our sign! Let me draw a common mark on our hands, so that we'll all remember we're part of one thing!»
The groans, laughs and even the rolled eyes were heard from all directions. Upon hearing them, Tea gave a small smile and shook her head. Even their collective mocking her pleased her immensely, seeing as it proved how warm and comfortable they all felt again. Sometimes she felt that no one understood this apart from her, but she felt it was deeply true that the small things of every day life can be the bases of stability and confidence at times of crises. When one feels connected, even through a small friendship...then they are not likely to betray each other. Even in panic.
She looked at Yugi on her left, who was smiling at her with the trademark goofy-but-kind grin she hadn't seen for such a long time. Feeling him pull her in a hug, she smiled as well, burying her face in the crook of his neck
And when she smelled his familiar, sweet scent of pine, she knew everything was right again. And strangely enough, it had taken Kaiba's 'death' to liberate not only Bakura's sprit. But all of them.
«So this is it?» Bakura asked in his quiet voice as he held up the golden item, which appeared trampled upon.
«Yes...» Ryou answered. Serenity was standing with them in the balcony this time, and she could see their contrasting coloured figures from up close. She watched the mixed emotions in Bakura's eyes, the confusion and rage along with the calmness and acceptance brought by the mere illusion of revenge. «The chip receptor was probably somewhere in the middle. See? Right here.»
Ryou motioned at the torn part of the Ring, where the microchip had been «I never saw it with my own eyes...I'd always thought you were a spirit, myself...» Ryou thoughtfully said, as though somewhat wistful.
«Well, even I who saw it didn't think it's anything special...»Serenity concluded, with her most scientific voice. She smiled at Ryou, who was rubbing small circles on her back «It's looked like a regular microchip, which was placed on the bottom of your cryocapsule. Then, apparently, the 'brainwaves' or, your 'consciousness' was transferred from the microchip to your body-«
«Yes. I've seen it. Thanks. » Bakura said with a somewhat sour look, glaring at her with no small amount of distaste. He hadn't forgotten the way she'd almost humiliated him last time. Or the many other times before that...In general, he disliked conversing with smart women...Not that this one was smart, of course, but...anyway. In any case she was Ryou's...girlfriend, or...whatever they called them these days. Humph!
«In any case...I just thought that you'd like to have it...» Ryou concluded, treating the Millennium Ring as though it was made of glass, touching it dainty and with care.
Bakura, in contrast, just grabbed the thing crudely and shook it, seemingly not caring for Ryou's flinching expression and Serena's mild amusement.
«And what should I do with it, Ryou? Eat it?» Bakura sighed, shaking his head as though patronising a little kid. In the meantime, Ryou was pondering how strange it felt when Bakura called him by his name and not by his usual 'Brightside' nickname. «How many times have I told you you don't keep stuff unless you intend to make money out of them or hurt someone with them?»
And he shoved the golden Ring back to the pliant Ryou's hands «Dump this.» he said disinterestedly. But then he noticed the kind look of care that Ryou was giving the retched object, and he rolled his red eyes in smugness.
«I guess I must have been a good partner, then. Humph! I probably beat the crap out of people you didn't like...since you're a wuss and all...»
Ryou and Serenity looked at each other, whilst Bakura was basking in his self-loving tirade. «Oh if only you knew...» they both said at the same time, making Bakura glare quite viciously at them.
«Is he okay?»
«Yeah yeah...not to worry, Yug» Joey answered with his customary laidback attitude. He leaned back in the sofa and crossed his legs over the table. «All I had to do's is take him to the closest hardware store. He was whining the whole time, mind you, saying he doesn't want stray dogs to follow him and some shit like that»
Mai briefly walked by them, trying to rearrange her nice living room in the way it was before a hurricane called Bakura had fallen on it. Rascal's antiques weren't helping.
«And honestly, Yug...I mean, I haven't seen a dog around here for ages...ya know? I was like 'what the hell do ya mean, man?' and then he was tellin me about stupid dogs who shouldn't talk and something like that. Ya know?»
Yugi was nodding, making a very pronounced effort not to smile or even guffaw.
«And it turns out he was talking about me! The nasty son of a bitch! I take him to a nice garage to fix his metals, and what do I get? Some cheesy jokes about mutts! Now that's just ungrateful!»
«Hehe!» Yugi chuckled, leaning forward and playing with one of the many chains hanging from his neck «You're so funny, Joey! I'd love to play some Game with you sometime!»
Needless to say that Joey's focus suddenly narrowed down on the conversation «Games? You like to play Games, Yug?»
Yugi smiled cheerfully, making the chains and collars around his neck jingle «Sure! Haven't I told you I came first in the Yango Cyber Game tournament! I beat that slimy Pegasus!»
Joey's eyes were positively sparkling, as though an old flame, which had been extinguished before, was now being quickly rekindled. «I love Games myself! I wanted to make Games, when I was young, and I'd drawn up these whole plans for a Game called Duel Monsters...but my game has all these cool monsters and no plot...I thought I'd never make it work...»
«Really?» well, it seems Joey had found his soul mate when it came to games, since Yugi's stamina on talking about Games far surpassed Marik's, or any other living person's for that matter «Well tell me all about it! Tell me! Maybe I can help. Do you have any drawings! Show me!»
Joey grinned, his eyes becoming lively and excited, as he finally lapsed into the subject in which he was most adept. «Al'right. Ok, first there's this legend, about some dark monsters being sent by the gods to control the world...»
Mai just smiled as she continued her cleaning routine.
It was never silent in the Catacombs. There were always sounds of machines and cargo being moved, sounds whose origins were indeterminable. They were probably echoes of the heavy transport that went on in the factories. These last two weeks, Joey had resumed his work, so everyone had the chance to see what a Catacomb really did to a person. Every day he'd return, Joey would lock himself up in the bathroom and wash furiously, scrubbing the grime off before it became a permanent part of his subcutaneous tissue.
But tonight, strangely enough, it was very quiet. For some reason, the crashing sounds of heavy metals coming in contact with each other was not as pronounced as usual. Then again, Nehti thought, that could be because he'd been moved from Joey's room to the storage room downstairs. Apparently, the happy 'couples', namely Ryou and Serenity and Joey and Mai, were the only ones entitled to a double bed in this place. Bakura was not a patient any more and neither was Marik, since Nehti had heard he'd been kicked out of his bedroom as well. Not that he was paying attention to what the others were saying, mind you...Therefore, since they weren't patients, they didn't need double beds!
Now Nehti found himself lying on the rough mattress of the small, dank room where Mai apparently kept her cleaning apparatus and Joey his old toys. It smelled old and damp. But Nehti had slept worse.
He quickly diverted his mind from the direction it was going. Everything was all right now...it was all right... Nehti wrapped himself in a foetal position, wrapping his hands around his own shoulders in an struggle for self-comfort, pretending that someone else, perhaps his mother or his aunt, were holding him.
«It's ok...it's ok...he's dead...he's dead now...» he kept whispering, rubbing the cold skin of his arms again and again, until he felt warmer. His ability to draw the warmth from the atmosphere was useless when he was in such a small space. He intentionally kept the door open, still reluctant to be alone- and possibly confined- in any sort of closed space. This is why he always preferred Joe's balcony. There he felt free, looking over the planes of black land...at least he felt he could breathe...he felt he could escape. «You killed him...» he tried to comfort himself, ironically, by remembering that glorious moment, that truly glorious moment, when he saw all life be extinguished from the cold blue eyes, and Kaiba fell to his knees before him, coldness of death overtaking him...
Albeit, Bakura wasn't stupid. He knew Kaiba was a robot. Ryou had told him as much before. And Bakura planned to make Ma- that guy pay for trying to fool him. However, the fact that Kaiba wasn't really dead wasn't as frustrating as it should have been. The only thing Nehti had needed, really, was to see him fall on his knees, to taste his cold blood. To 'kill' him. He felt comforted by the act of doing it, not as much with the result. Besides, the entire Kaiba generation had been wiped out now. It was just unfair for all of them to die and remain as droids, without giving Nehti the pleasure of taking their life from them.
Now, with what he had done, he finally felt at peace. The fact that Kaiba was a droid and that Nehti could repeat this rejuvenating experience whenever he wanted was also something to look forward to.
Turning around, to where the small creaking door of the storage room was open, Nehti could see a faded, ethereal golden light coming from the distance. Nehti knew it was the mushroom-shaped light that Mai always kept open outside the children's' room. But in Eruna, Bakura had been taught an important lesson: it's better in the still darkness, where at least you're alone, than when lights appear. Lights mean they're coming for you...lights mean...
Without really registering or controlling his actions, Nehti had stood up and took a few paces, intent on shutting the door after all. There was a small window on the upper left wall of the storage room, so he wouldn't feel entirely shut off...And besides, there was no way he'd be able to sleep with that light on, even if it was in his peripheral vision...
He had just grabbed the metallic edge of the door and was about to shut it, when he heard something, like a strange noise coming from the direction of the front door. With all his senses alert and the hair on his naked torso and legs standing on end, he took a minute step to the side, concealing himself in case an intruder entered the house. He waited for a few moments, the sounds becoming more pronounced every second. He didn't know much about these new-generation contraptions, so he wouldn't be able to stop them from entering the house...but what he could do was give them a night to remember if they managed to get in. Like a panther poised for strike, he waited, still hidden in the shadows.
With a loud clatter, a grunt and an obscure curse word, the front door opened. Bakura's senses were tingling with adrenaline. Damn stupid Ryou! He was probably doing unmentionable things with that woman right now, leaving Nehti to deal with everything again! He was sure they-
«Watch your step, Rishido...there's a toy here...» the voice speaking became a familiar tone, and Nehti let out the breath he'd unconsciously been holding. It was that guy again. God, would he ever leave Bakura alone and at peace? It didn't seem so...wait a minute. What was he doing lurking around in the middle of the night, anyway? Could it be...he had gone to...to that kind of place...Well, it was only to be expected...he did look like the type, after all. Well...he was blond, right..?
Vaguely, Nehti recognized there was a gaping hole in his line of reasoning, especially if it were associated with the onslaught of jealousy we was suddenly experiencing. Of course Ma- that guy, even if he was technically younger than Nehti, would be much more experienced in those kinds of things...Let's not forget what happene- no, let's not even go there. Nehti had only had the chance to date one girl before they locked him up in Eruna...and he remembered that, even though he'd been planning to...well...he never got the chance. As Nehti made an effort to keep his thoughts in check concerning Marik and any sort of relationship, Rishid facilitated this effort by continuing the conversation.
«Master...did you arrange the details, though...you know how risky it can be if we're not careful...» Rishid's baritone was saying in a contemplative tone, leaving room for much controversy about the nature of his sentiments on the matter.
«I know, I know...don't worry...and don't call me 'Master'» Marik said as an afterthought, as though annoyed. Nehti was annoyed with himself too, just by realizing he was noticing that idiot's reactions. It was established that such a bastard didn't deserve attention...or anything else.
Marik had had a relationship with Nehti's probably paranoid microchip self…that was all. Therefore...it wasn't exactly like Marik cared for him, was it? Marik cared for...his microchip self... But he and his other 'self' were the same person, right? It sounded ludicrous to his own ears but he accepted it nonetheless, just as he did with everything else lately.
«All the arrangements have been made, then?» the bald, tanned man asked, and Bakura vaguely wondered where he had acquired that elaborate mark which was etched on his face. It didn't seem like a tattoo, exactly, since it had ridges...but it's blue colour made it confusing for the viewer to understand if it was a scar.
«Yes. He says we'll be leaving the day after tomorrow. Naturally, we won't need cards if the CEO of KaibaCorp will be with us...God it makes my guts turn! » Marik was saying sarcastically, oblivious of Bakura's overhearing. Nehti had come to terms with the fact that Kaiba had not died, but it still irritated him to hear it, especially from this good-for-nothing scumbag who had tried to deceive him in the first place. No matter, Bakura was planning to act like an idiot for now. This way, when he 'discovered' that they'd lied to him and that Kaiba was still alive, he'd have a perfect excuse to 'break down' and 'kill Kaiba' all over again! It all worked perfectly in his mind. Killing Kaiba many times and in many inventive ways proved more interesting than just getting his revenge over with...He'd just deal with Kaiba's annoying existence...for now.
«Good...So then I should inform everyone...Joey's family and friends are coming too, I assume? » Rishid asked, sounding to Bakura like a remarkably misplaced, disoriented butler.
«Yeah...you do that...but leave Bakura...I'll talk to him myself...» Marik answered with a reflective tone. Nehti didn't even need to open his mouth –not that he would've, mind you- in order to make Marik regret what he'd just said. As luck would have it it was at that exact moment that Marik chose to turn around, coming face to face with the open door of the storage room and Bakura's glare.
Marik just stayed put for a few moments, apparently disarmed by Nehti's unusual state of undress. He also seemed a bit lost, as though wondering what the heck he'd done now and why he was being glared at. It seemed to hit him like a brick that just a few moments ago he'd been ranting about how best to approach Nehti with the news.
«Yes» Nehti started, drawling tone and cold sneer a bit out-of-place, considering he wasn't wearing his usual black attire. «We wouldn't want your poor butler to come face-to-face with the beast, now, would we?» he distastefully said, making Marik and Rishid exchange looks of alert
«He's not my butler!» Marik said, almost in a mechanical manner.
«Why are you looking at each other?» Bakura barked immediately, now even more cross «had I wanted you to die I would have bitten your heads off some time ago.»
As they say, extreme honesty can be both a blessing and a curse. Rishid seemed slightly alert and Marik appeared unimpressed, as though used to the ill-treatment.
«In any case» Marik answered with his own drawl, daring to even look in Bakura's ruby eyes «Now you know. We're leaving the day after tomorrow. A friend will help us exit the Catacombs, since he has all the cards and stuff...and then we'll leave Earth. So yeah...that's it.»
«A friend?» Bakura mimicked sarcastically «It wouldn't be our dear 'CEO of KaibaCorp' by any chance, would it...?»
Marik, obviously realizing his former blunder, didn't even bat an eyelash at the assault. The level of Bakura's esteem for him unconsciously increased by this «Of course he is. The CEO of KaibaCorp is an old friend of ours, From Saturn. You wouldn't know him...» Marik concluded smoothly, making Bakura smirk.
«Oh...that wouldn't be Kaiba, now, would he...?» he asked, red eyes piercing in Marik's scull, willing to break his brain open.
«No. It wouldn't.» Marik lied again, flawlessly, If there was one thing he was proud of, it was his deception ability. If he wanted it, he could lie a person to oblivion. Unfortunately for him, he hadn't yet realized that Bakura was deceiving him much more than he was deceiving Bakura. Nehti enjoyed lulling Marik in a false sense of security...then, at the opportune moment, he'd strike and wipe that carefree smirk off Marik's pretty face!
«But most importantly» Marik, despite Rishid's warning looks, was bent on making his own counterattack, putting Bakura in his place «Shouldn't you be worried about how you're going to cope in the spaceship? You've never travelled with warp speed before, have you?» Marik asked in a knowledgeable which he knew usually worked, enjoying the faint but not-quite-hidden look of alert that fleeted over Bakura's face.
«And what are you going to do when we get to Saturn, huh?» Marik mocked in a babyish voice, ignoring Rishid's tugging on his shoulder «All alone in an unknown planet...whose gonna take you in?»
Nehti saw red, and it wasn't just the little light outside Mai's kids' room. In fact, he saw red to such an extent, that he didn't even think before blurting out the first most venomous thing he could fathom «Well at least I won't be taken in by some pretty dame, who will lead me to an underground lab full of psychotic mad scientists! I'm sure Ryou will volunteer instead.»
And he slammed the door quite noisily, right in a dumbfounded Marik's face.
Rishid shook his head and sighed. He didn't understand the details, but, as always, he'd known this verbal match would have a less-than-pleasurable ending, for Marik. At least now, finally, even through this unpleasant way, Marik had been pacified, and let Rishid drag him along, to the calm oblivion of sleep.
It was still quiet. There was this kind of twilight darkness, a mixture of blue, white and black...all around him. He was lying, like he always lies, in a comfortable curled up position. Only, for some reason, it was very hot, and the thin blanket felt scratchy against his sensitive skin. Something...something warm...was...
«Mhmm...» he muttered in his sleep, and turned around to lie supine. But that thing wouldn't leave him alone, like a soft, warm balm, it was sliding torturously slow over his calm and then over his thigh. He trembled, half asleep and half-awake...not really coherent...
It was so soft...like warm plastic, if such a thing existed. Like a snake coiling around his right leg, and then his left leg. He stretched languorously, revelling in the warm, pleasant touch...it was perfect...it was...and then he felt it crawling beneath...under his thin boxers, pulling them downwards. He stretched even more, exhibiting as much bare skin as he could. He wanted it. He wanted it to touch him.
And then, before he really knew what was happening, this heavenly, unreal...warmth...enveloped him, and he was being touched, everywhere by this warm, wet entity. He realized that he was thinking about juicy strawberries and red apples...of lips that he could bite and ravish...
«Wha-!» he woke with a jerk, sweating profoundly...only when he looked downwards, the covers were drawn at the side and, in between his thighs nested a batch of golden-platinum hair. In the vague shadows of the night, he could see the dark palms around his leg and under his navel- they appeared black against his extremely pale skin.
«Uh- What are you-« he started saying, but immediately the blond head turned upwards, revealing for all the world to see the infamous, mischievous lavender eyes, full of lust, and the trickster smile that could kill with allure.
«Mari- - « But he couldn't say much, since he saw and simultaneously felt that warm, wetness envelop him once more. And now that he could see it, actually see the blonde head buried and eating hungrily between his thighs, like a starved man...now that he could see the dark hands squeezing his thighs open...It was too much, he was moaning, he was turning into mush within seconds..
«Why...?» he was asking, over and over «Why?...I thought...I thought...you hated me...» he was saying, not really hearing his own voice, which was hoarse and scratchy in normal circumstances, but even more so right now, in the throes of passion.
«I thought you hated me...» Marik's deep, sultry voice answered back, and Bakura could feel the sighs and conclusions of vocal chords reverberate through the whole of his body. «But I couldn't stop myself, anymore...»And Bakura desperately clung to it. Without a second thought about his pride, or what had happened the last time the last time he'd let Marik had ravage him like this. He buried his hands in the golden tresses and pulled, he let his back from an arch and lift off the cheap mattress, he threw his head back, not bothering to mute the moan, and convulsively let Marik spread his legs wider, swallow him whole.
And he wasn't even thinking, he wasn't breathing, the pleasure was so perfect. The only things shooting through his mind was 'I can't believe I didn't know such a feeling exists' and 'I can't believe he's forgiven me'. He suddenly became hyper-sensitive and could feel each and every one of Marik's hair tickling his skin. Marik stretched his hand enough to tease a nipple, rub it until it became puckered, and until Bakura's eyes had fogged from the inside out, and he couldn't see straight unless they he kept them half-open. He opened his mouth wider, let his moans loose, let his tongue shoot out and taste the air and savour the smell of life and pleasure. It was so constant, it was as though he was tortured all over again, but in a pleasurable way...and he was- he was
Marik had sat up and was looking at him, those narrow, gleaming eyes sparking with dark pleasure, that slow smile intensifying in lust as he pushed forward and-
«Does it hurt...uh...does it feel good...?»
«I want to make you feel-«
This time, when he woke up, he was all alone. Covered in sweat, panting, and entirely alone. There was neither warmth nor another body against him- only the coldness of the small storage room. He was shaking, and the whole of his lower body was aching. He knew what he would see if he looked down, so he didn't. He just gritted his teeth, again and again. He let his short, cuffed nails dig in his palms and wished for an epileptic crisis to hit him. But it didn't. It was just the cold air, the mattress –which was damp with sweat by now- his own shallow breathing and his aching need.
He closed his eyes, thinking of hate. Trying to think of Kaiba as he fell to his knees, trying to think of Gozaburo and every scientist of Kuru Eruna he could recall.
But still, nothing he could do could alleviate the fact that, ever since that night, and every night thereafter, he'd had that same disgusting, disgusting dream.
«Well someone slept on the wrong side of the bed today...again.» Mai commented lightly, not bothering to care about Bakura's glare as she set a plate of jam-covered croissants in front of him. Naturally, he didn't thank her. Why the hell would he? What was her purpose in life, but to anger him?
«Mind your own business, woman.» he nastily bit back at her. But unfortunately, it seems that he had lost all forms of prestige with these minions, since she not only didn't cower before him, but seemed very entertained by his feeble attempts to command her.
«Whatever, your Royal Buttness.» she rolled her eyes at him and airily flipped her hair over her shoulder «Just don't let that chip on your shoulder get in your head as well.»
Bakura, not for the first time that day, was just plainly enraged «Why, is there any other chip in my head, is that it!?»
«Yeah!» Mai countered with a smirk, and seeing as he was smugly sticking her chest at her with his arms crossed, she mimicked his position flawlessly «That's exactly what I want to-«
«Good morning everyone! » a happy, well-rested Ryou entered the kitchen, clearly rolling his eyes when he noticed the position.
«Good morning Ryou...» Bakura immediately said, tone exactly the opposite from the one he'd been using with Mai only seconds ago «Humph! Don't let this get over your head, yankee. We'll finish this some other time!» he let the comment with a scathing voice, then turned his back at her and walked to the table.
«Good morning Ryou...» Mai had said simultaneously with Bakura. Then, upon hearing the man's wayward comment, she simply smirked and walked away, shouting at him as she exited the kitchen «Be careful of what you say, or you won't have anything to eat in this house!!» she said with spunk and cheer.
«Yeah, THAT'D BE A GOOD THING!...Oh...» he'd started shouting back at her, but at the moment she was exiting the kitchen, Marik had been entering. Therefore, he was the one who ended bearing the brunt of the shout. Bakura was surprised, the 'events' of last night coming to mind immediately. And involuntarily, unprepared as he was to meet Marik head on so early in the morning, a bright shade of crimson graced his high cheekbones.
«...'Morning...» Marik just said, ignoring what he'd just heard and aiming his words mainly towards Ryou's side of the table. «G'morning» Ryou and Serenity said at the same time, Serenity a bit more tiredly than Ryou. Judging from the twin sated smiles on their faces, Marik supposed they'd been getting reacquainted with each other last night. He compulsively treaded on the spark of envy that appeared in his heart, used to suppressing it by now. Judging from last night's little row, he was the last person Bakura was considering as a possible lover right now...Guess there was just no helping it. The moment he'd finally found him, Marik had lost him all over again. It just wasn't fair.
But life isn't fair, Marik pondered bitterly as he took a seat right next to Rishid, opposite from Ryou, all the time noticing that Bakura lacked even the basic courtesy of wishing him a good day. But his musings would not remain calm for long, since a sudden crushing noise echoed around them, and, like a 4-feet tall tornado, Rascal had broken into the kitchen and pounced on Marik seat from the back.
«ALL RIGHT!» the kid was shouting, now completely berserk «We're leaving this place!? This is so cool! Can I bring my stuff too, like, Omega and Sidney and Megatron and stuff?! This is gonna be sooooooo cooool!!! Come on Menace! Comeoncomeoncomeon!!! Tell me is it true!?»
«Well I would, if you'd stop CHOKING me!!» Marik was yelping, as Rascal was literally squeezing the daylights out of him, purposely keeping him at a headlock.
«Who the heck is 'Omega'?» a voice was heard from the far left, and Yugi just smirked, biting calmly into his toast and savouring the taste. Then, when what he'd heard finally sunk in, he almost choked on his last bite: «What» he half-chocked, half-spat «We're leaving??!»
«Y-yeah..-« Marik was trying to speak whilst dislodging the kid from his hip. Apparently, Rascal had taken to hitting him more than pouncing on him lately, so now he was making it a habit to use Marik's hip as a punch bag. And, damnit, why did it always have to be the same hip! It was getting small-punch-shaped bruises! As if Bakura wasn't enough!
«Well, go on!» Ryou egged on, now interested in the conversation «When are we going? »
«I thought you'd be more reluctant to leave Earth!» Marik observed, now indulging Rascal and play-brawling with him. Marik was holding the kid's head away from his body, whilst Rascal, with his much shorter hands, was flailing his fists in all directions, hoping to hit the man.
«Well, Earth isn't exactly as we remember it...right Bakura?» Ryou nodded towards his cousin, not really expecting an answer, since he knew he wouldn't get one. It was assumed, in these circumstances, that Bakura just...agreed with everything Ryou said. «It would be nice to leave again...»
«Hey, forget about them, Menace!! Just tell me! Is it true?! Is it true? Mom and Dad are going to Yango? And Dad's gonna work on CyberGames with Yugi...is it?! »
«Yes. Yes, ok? It's true! NOW can you stop choking me?!» Marik complained, and had one known where to look, they would have seen his eyes slipping towards Nehti's disinterested hunched form, now and then. Had Nehti...no, Bakura...had he...blushed, before? Nah...that was probably just the lighting...that was...
«Really, Joe? CyberGames? » Serenity asked, eyes sparkling as Ryou kissed the back of her hand. From the side, Marik didn't miss the roll of Bakura's eyes. Sometimes, the similarity was just plain disconcerting. The only difference was that Bakura wasn't invisible now, so he couldn't comment whenever he wished.
«Well, our friend the CEO of KaibaCorp arranged that as well. Joey and Mai, as well as the others, will have an operation for HyperArms as soon as possible...After that, there are many roads to take...» Marik rushed to say, before Joey spilled any information about Kaiba in front of Bakura. Bakura still thought that Kaiba was dead, after all- they couldn't let Joey spoil their deception! Not that Joey didn't know about it, mind you...He was just very prone to forget about being careful of what he says.
«One thing is for sure, though» Ryou started, looking at everyone around «Wherever we go, we won't forget about this place, the Catacombs, or everyone we've met here» he looked at Marik, and they both nodded, in utter seriousness «We won't stop this fight until we reveal to everyone the plans of the Big 5 and Gozaburo, and until we start changing the Catacombs...once and for all! »
«For sure!» Serenity said, and shared a high five with her beloved. «For sure», Marik repeated, and let Ryou hit his hand as well. «It's gonna be hard, I can tell you that...but we can't give up now. The worse is behind us...the worse has been going on for six centuries...now is the time to change it!»
«Even though the world won't change overnight, there are still many things we can do...if we see we can't get through to politicians and chancellors...then we'll aim for the people of the Catacombs! Surely things will change if all of them call for revolution!» Yugi let his right hand punch his left in a decisive gesture.
A small silence followed, during which everyone present reflected quietly. Mai, Tea, Rishid, Kaiba, Rascal's sister and Joey's friends weren't here, but they surely would agree to what was said. Especially Kaiba..
«Not to interrupt your moment of divine enlightenment» everyone made a visible effort not to cringe at Bakura's disagreeable voice, everyone except Marik, who had his eyes trained on Bakura the whole time, and was expecting him to spill venom soon «but it seems to me I have no place in this great vision...Are we going to be together from now on...Ryou?»
Ryou seemed surprised as he turned to look at his cousin, his warm brown eyes not speaking of anything except honest perplex ion «Oh...eh...» The small pause was enough to make Bakura's red eyes lower and his chest to heave in an imperceptible sigh.
«That's fine, then. It's not as if I was counting on it.» he said, and was careful not to make the glasses topple over when he abruptly stood up. Ryou lost no time in grabbing his palm and tugging him down again, eager to explain.
«No, that's not it!» he motioned with his hands towards Serenity « I really don't have a place either, so Serenity offered...But...but I thought you'd be staying with...that's why I didn't say anything..» the unsaid name again loomed over them, and Marik's silent posture again came to the forefront. It became clear to Bakura, suddenly, that Marik's amethyst eyes were lowered, his grip on Rascal's shoulder had become quite lax. He wouldn't raise his eyes and just kept staring at a far left corner, apparently finding the floor very interesting. Nehti suddenly became hyperaware of all the eyes around him, Ryou's hand on his shoulder, Rascal's scowling face...oh how he hated people! Really, how he hated them!
«No, Ryou. I was thinking...you...Yes...you.» Nehti just said, simultaneously hating his own voice and Marik's golden hair, which distracted him with their shine. The moment he spoke, he saw Marik turn toward him at last, his usually lavender eyes now having taken a bluish, bruised hue. He didn't speak at all...but his calm, resigned and intrinsic eyes spoke for themselves.
«Well...»Ryou stammered, obviously at a loss. The table had grown overly quiet again, and Bakura felt as though thousands of small prickling fingers were prodding at him, making him aware of all their stares – all their stupid stares- what are they looking at? I don't want him! «Well in that case...I hope Serenity would...» and he turned towards the auburn haired girl, obviously at a loss. Her eyes widened at him first, and then she directed them to Bakura, sounding as sincere as she could.
«Oh- sure! Sure! No problem, Ryou. Don't even think about it! Bakura's like family to me.»
Lies! He thought, unable to help it, really «Don't misunderstand, woman. I don't need your pity.» And his blank, if not accusing, stare only served to verify his words. The girl gulped and nodded, her experience telling her it was futile to try and change his mind, when it was set. He'd just have to learn to like her the hard way, just as he had before. In any case, she felt at ease with herself, since she had been sincere.
«No way! Nuh-huh. You can forget about that right now!» Joey's voice rang, in protective-brother mode «I can accept Ryou...since he's her boyfriend and all...and don't think it was easy to accept that! But don't think there's any way I'll let my sister stay in a house with two guys! Ok? That's just a no! And there's no way-«
«Oh Joey, stop it! Honestly! I'm a big girl now! I promise I won't let anyone near my closet, if that makes you feel any-«
«I don't agree with that kind of-«
«Ahahahaha...» Ryou's good natured laughter rang on deaf ears, since it was too late to stop the inevitable, upcoming banter.
However, on the sidelines, whilst the others were enjoying the familiarity of each other's presence, Bakura and Marik just stared at each other, silent, unmoving. This was the end, then. Soon, Bakura would go live with Ryou and Serenity. They'd finally part ways. The dreams would stop, the nervousness would stop...the stupid heartbeat and increased blood pressure would stop.
And overall, he'd be free of the thing he'd always hated most. People who cared about what he was doing.
Marik watched, his eyes cold, but not dead. Just...cold...like the eyes of a lover who's finally accepting that he's experiencing unrequited love. Like a flower that blooms every morning in order to wilt each night.
From now on, this is what his life would be like. It seemed prudent, to him, suddenly, not to think any more. Instead he just picked up Rascal and enjoyed the wild oblivion of a child's world, where nothing matters apart from the next hour, the next meal, the next day. Not an entire lifetime. Not a lifetime, spent without the one you love.
From then on, the table was much more silent and all eyes, albeit discreetly, were returning to Marik and Bakura, again and again and again.
What the hell-?
«Ah! » he let out the unrestrained yelp that always signalled his disgruntled awakening. The sheets were damp and cold again, and the blanket felt scratchy against the sensitive pores of his pale skin. Panting and feeling the ache grow already, he sat up, vision still foggy. He could see the dull shape of the small storage room window on the upper left, from where most of the blue light was shed in the room. But he couldn't see much else. He closed his eyes and pulled his legs up, biting his lips in order not to gasp at the inevitable friction that was created between his body and the sheets. His need was growing by the minute, and the more he tried to ignore it, the worse it would become.
Compulsively, he wrapped his arms around his shaking legs. He knew he'd have to do something about it, Sooner or later he'd have to...but doing something would be equal to accepting it. And Bakura was a master of denial, trying to delay the acceptance of the problem. Procrastinating endlessly and dragging out even the smallest detail. He didn't want to admit it to himself, even...that he might...that he might...lo-...lo-o-...that idiot...
Suddenly, as though being washed by a freezing bucket of water, his heart started pounding, and he realized the air was heavier...warmer...than usual, in the room. All traces of sleep swiftly leaving him, he uncoiled himself from the guarded position and sat up straighter, head sweeping around and freezing, noticing two things at once: the open door. And Bakura never left the door open- that small light made his skin crawl even now...But as he sat there, contemplating and fighting to suppress his arousal for the sake of clearing his mind...a strange shape caught his eye, and immediately he whipped around, heart hammering in his chest, as his worst nightmare literally came true, when Marik's ethereal halo of flaxen hair appeared in the light of the small window. Marik's face was cast in shadows and only the vague shape of his body and the nakedness of his torso and arms were revealed. Nehti, in his state of panic and confusion, managed to register this. Had he been hiding in the shadows, concealed perfectly...all this time?!? How much did he see? How much did he...hear?!
«What...are you doing here?» Bakura chocked out, hoping against all odds that this was another dream...and Marik would swiftly dematerialize in order to transform into a Kuru Eruna scientist...anything...anything...except for this humiliation!
«I heard someone call my name.» the voice answered within milliseconds, as deep and sensual as it always was in his dreams. Surely this was another impossible scenario. Surely this was a dream as well. But in his dreams, Marik was always touching him...he had never sounded indignant or...even...angry.
«It wasn't me» Bakura denied automatically, uncomfortably aware of the ache that was still pounding, demanding some attention. He tried to suppress it, he really did, but the dream which had wreaked havoc on his senses, coupled with the visual stimulus of the contours of Marik's rather rippled body, was not helping much.
«Yes it was» Marik countered, not losing a beat. He sounded tired. He sounded fed up. But he had no right to be! He had no right, after what he did to Bakura the..the last...time. The humiliation! The humiliation!
«Then I must have been dreaming you were hurting me.» Bakura concluded, hoping against all odds manage to convince Marik that the moans he'd heard were of pain, not pleasure. But Marik took a step forward, closer to the pale man, thus bringing his lavender eyes close enough to become discernible. And Bakura could see clearly what Marik was looking at.
«Yeah, it must have hurt a whole lot.» Marik said in a purposely bland tone. Belatedly realizing his weakness, Bakura tried to cover it up, but to no avail. The more he struggled to hide it, wriggling in the restrictive covers, the more obvious it became. Until, finally, he gave up.
«Yes, it did.» Bakura hissed and glared at Marik's general direction, unable to face the other's eyes quite yet. He wasn't lying when he said it had hurt. It had hurt a lot. He hated it. He hated these dreams and everything connected to them! But...but still...
«Is there something you want to tell me?» Marik asked, in that expectant tone that parents use with their little children. Bakura barked «No!» in annoyance, before his mind was straight enough to think. What was Marik expecting? A love confession? He had another thing coming! Not since the time he left Nehti, alone and crumpling in need. Even though Marik had heard him calling his name in the middle of an erotic dream, even though Marik was seeing his arousal with his own eyes, Bakura would still deny! He would deny until death, and he would make Marik pay! He would make him pay!
«No! I have nothing to tell you!» Bakura sprang up, standing tall to face Marik, enjoying the obvious irritation in Marik's features, and the muscle that was pumping frantically in the other's jaw. Marik was tightening his fist convulsively, letting Bakura see the rippling muscle on his arm relax and tighten. The pale youth gritted his teeth and smirked provocatively «What's the matter, Mariku? Want to punch me...or maybe kiss me?» he dared to tease.
«You'd like that, wouldn't you?» the other bit out, and without a word, shoved Bakura away and took a couple of decisive strides toward the door.
«Don't ever talk to me unless you have something to say!» the blond whispered venomously, grabbing the door with the intent of slamming it. But Bakura was there before Marik had the chance, keeping the door jammed open without much effort. He could hear Marik gritting his teeth and could hear his own heart pounding frantically in his ears. He could sense...he could smell...the desire. He felt blinded, completely subject to the whims of his heart.
He just grabbed Marik's forearm and attempted to stare the man down, glaring at him with all the artificial malice he could muster. And, to his credit, Marik did the same, staring with unwavering distaste at his opponent, glaring and nearly baring his teeth to show how much he hated, how much he hated...this feeling.
«I don't love you.» Bakura spelled out, vicious and desperate, as he clawed on Marik's mocha skin. «Is that what you want to hear? I don't. I don't love you.»
He lost his balance, since the door he was supporting himself on was roughly moved out of the way. Bakura vaguely had the time to register the clatter of the door against the other wall, before he literally felt his entire world going upside down, as Marik's solid force grabbed him by the waist, slammed him against the wall and started kissing him. He felt confused at first, and then a sense of bliss overcame him, not so much because of the quality of the kiss than from the fact that Marik was kissing him. Marik was kissing him. And he could think only that.
He lost all account of his own actions, now convinced once more that this was a dream and he would soon wake up, sweaty and lonely. But now, just for this moment, he rejoiced in pain and pleasure as Marik buried his pelvis against his own. And suddenly, he found himself even incapable of moaning, or making any sort of sound. He could feel the tanned hands, like tentacles, slip roughly over his thighs, like a conqueror ravages new lands. He raised his face when he was able and met those eyes, those eyes of power, burning with bluish- amethyst flame. This time Marik's eyes weren't like those of an unaffected possessor, as they were in his dreams. Now Marik seemed affected as well, driven, like Bakura, from a lust-crazed passion. His eyes this time were hazy and sharp at the same time. He mouth was open and panting. Bakura couldn't remember the image of his dreams, it was wiped out by the unexpected reality, where Marik was also human and could also be affected by these emotions...at least as much as Bakura.
«I'm not gonna stop, this time...» Marik grunted, voice even deeper and even more husky that the usual as he let his hand caress Bakura's navel and then delve into the pliant pelvis. Bakura started shaking, arms wrapping almost involuntarily around Marik's neck and pulling Marik's head closer, to kiss the pebbled nipple and the gasping throat.
Bakura muttered something in response, but Marik was too far gone to understand that it was in Japanese, and he wouldn't have understood anyway. The moans were purposely silenced, but the sounds of fabric and skin rubbing together more than made up for that.
The cold light in the room was not lonely or unwelcome that night, and the door was still shut, but for different reasons. In fact, when their naked bodies staggered blindly to the bed, Bakura wouldn't have seen the small light even if it had been set right in front of him.
It was night. Long past midnight. At a time like this, few would roam the streets of tithe Earth Catacomb, so they wouldn't be identified. However, they all wore black hooded cloaks –even the children- for good measure. As they all walked out of Joey's house, the man turned to look at it for the last time, golden tresses shining underneath the ragged fabric of his black hood.
«What's wrong, Joey...?» Serenity paused to ask, noticing his reluctant step and wistful eyes.
«Nothing...» he finished, and stared towards Mai, who was standing there, understanding smile in place, winking at him «Are you going to miss it?» Serenity asked, looking at Joey's face, and becoming startled when Joey pulled her into a tight hug, careful not to hurt her with his HyperArms.
«No...I won't. Not when you guys are with me.» he finished, and let Serenity see the moistness in his eyes.
«Brother! We'll never be apart again! » she cried in one breath, and wrapped her arms around him, feeling him smile against her forehead. «We'll be together, wherever we go. We'll be here. » he said, as he pointed at Serenity's heart. She smiled at him «Pinky promise?» she asked. And he simply nodded, knowing he couldn't really give her his hand, but promising none the less.
From the side, two pairs of eyes were watching, one amethyst and one blood red. Whilst Marik appeared hopeful and glad, his expression revealing his compassion to their plight, Bakura looked positively bored, if the rolling of the eyes and the huffing was any indication.
«Typical.» he groaned, disinterested. «I mean here we are, waiting for 'our friend the CEO of KaibaCorp' to lead us to our new lives, we're dressed in all our getaway gear, and they're still stuck in family mushiness. I feel like I'm in some cheesy soap opera. Barbara Streisand will start singing any minute. » Bakura crossed his arms over his chest. Marik raised an eyebrow from the side «Barbara what? » he asked, completely taken aback. He was into everything...how come he hadn't heard of that name before...
Ryou, however, seemed perfectly in tune with this «Yes, quite so.» he answered, albeit with a small smile which belied the lack of malignance in his words «I believe the lipstick ads will start any minute now..»
«The what?» Marik asked again, as he saw Bakura and Ryou nodding at each other, as though speaking in some ancient language- which they actually were. Fireworks? Barbara? Only then did Marik realize that he would now have to deal not with one, but with two completely ignorant people from another world. Well shit. Now he must explain everything about the galaxy all over again. Or maybe he'll have Ryou explain to Nehti. To test how well he'd learned and so forth.
«And speaking of our friend, the 'CEO of KaibaCorp'...»Bakura's drawl sounded, just as they'd all started walking again and Joey and his family had paid their last respects to their house. At the mere mentioning of the 'CEO' the hair on Marik's neck stood on end. Bakura didn't know...did he...about Kaiba still being alive...right?
«Yes?...What about him?» Marik gingerly asked, slowly looking at Bakura's seemingly 'disinterested ' red eyes.
«Oh nothing...I was just thinking he must really like to play dress-up...» and he pointed at the figure at the far front. It was Kaiba Seto, of course, but Bakura wasn't supposed to know that. Kaiba was wearing a cloak like all of them, but, in order to keep his face concealed from Bakura, he was also wearing a white mask under the black cloak. «Terribly cliché if I may say so» Bakura added as an afterthought, with a small smirk.
«Yes...well...» Marik smiled goofily, scratching the back of his head and looking upwards in order to devise a good lie. However, before he had the time to do all this, Bakura tapped his shoulder again «Hey...» he said seriously, and Marik stopped walking immediately, turning to stare at his companion...he hadn't...figured it out...had he?
«Mariku, seriously...I think I should tell you something...» he said, and received a strange look from Ryou, who passed by them. But Bakura ignored it. Instead, he looked at Marik tensely, lips pursing and red eyes becoming darker. Oh now...he was about to explode! He knew! He-
«I think there's something green stuck in your teeth.» he concluded, and Marik erupted almost simultaneously: «It's not like you think I didn't do it on purpose I just knew you really wanted him dead and I...uh...huh?»
«I said» Nehti repeated, thin black eyebrow rising in inquiry «I think there's something stuck in your teeth.»
«Oh...» Marik started, looking slightly lost «Ohhh» He finally grasped the reality of the situation, and the fact that Bakura had not figured it out after all. His short moment of rest was short-lived, however, since a new upheaval was at hand:
«Stuck in my teeth? Where? Where?» He started saying, making Bakura, who was already walking faster than him, smirk secretly in response.
«I can't say I see why I'm the one who should stay and baby-sit you, Wheeler.» Kaiba's clearly irritated voice rang, sounding genuinely annoyed for once, and not just perfunctorily disagreeable.
«Tell me about it» Joey huffed «If it weren't for this huge ship and all the cool gadgets around, then I'd definitely not want to be with you and hear your voice, moneybags! »
«Don't worry, Joey» Yugi's comforting voice, like a melody of blooming flowers, came from the front of the ship. The were located in the bridge, were hundreds of Kaiba's employees, otherwise referred to as 'minions' were commanding a ship unlike any they'd ever seen. Bakura, Marik and the others had just left a while ago, Bakura still being too fascinated –but unwilling to admit it- with all the spaceship abilities, that they'd stayed here for about five and a half hours already. Now, however, Joey, Yugi, Tea and Kaiba were left here- Kaiba having explicitly prohibited Rascal and Mai from entering the Bridge, having seen what they could do- and were the only ones still toggling with the hologram controls, the light speed wheels and the galactic maps that could be found on the ship's bridge.
«So, Kaiba...» Joey started, with an air of pride «Yug and I have perfected our Duel Monsters idea, I've got here some designs for you to look at- since you're a professional jerk and all- and tell me your opinion and stuff. So what do you say?»
Kaiba didn't answer, just kept staring straight ahead, beyond the bridge. Had he not been a droid, is it possible that he could have been visualizing the dissection of Joey Wheeler? «I hear some barking» Kaiba finally said «But I can't really say it's a nice barking.» he concluded.
«Jeez, Kaiba!» Joey half-chuckled and half-glared «That must be the stupidest thing I've heard in..like, my whole life!» he gave the verdict, and Kaiba visibly cringed at the bad grammar, his perfect i/o arranged head unable to withstand the pressure of Joey Wheeler's entirely unmechanic mentality.
«Okay, so listen to this! There's the Red Eyes Black Dragon! » and Joey produced a sketchpad, where there was a rather elegant, elaborate, and not at all crude design of a charcoal monster with ruby eyes. Kaiba did notice it, his mechanic brain programmed to receive as much information as possible. «He's like, one of the super-strong monsters in the game! It's my favourite. And then there's this:» he flipped the page eagerly, producing a design of a silver monster, this time. «The Blue Eyes White Dragon!! He's great, isn't he? Which one do you like best, moneybags?» Seto Kaiba gave no real indication of preference. The only thing he did was, when his eye had perused the «Blue Eyes» for a few moments, he actually turned around and gave the drawing his full, rapt attention, for about more than four seconds. After that, he turned around, walked ahead a few paces, and stared out into the distance.
«They're both stupid.» he concluded, his tone of voice unchanging.
«Cool!» Joey exclaimed «You can have the Blue Eyes, then, 'cause it sucks!» he finished, and apparently found the glare that Seto sent him extremely amusing.
«I'm so glad you like it moneybags! Since you're so excited about it, we'll give you the whole story! We have the whole plot ready, right Yug?»
«Yeah!» Yugi smiled and the necklaces hanging form his waist chimed sweetly «And since Marik and Bakura said 'I want to be the bad guy' then we have our villains cut out! We don't need to disappoint anyone! It's so great!!» The boy said, and Tea egged him on from the side.
«You're right!» Joey followed Tea's example, and smiled maniacally at Kaiba «Ok, Moneybags...you're gonna listen to all the story and we'll hear what you have to say! Let's see if you've ever seen a game so great as the one we'll tell you about!» Joey rubbed his palms together, closing in on Kaiba's back. «At first, there was this boy named Yugi Moto. He was a normal high school kid, living alone with his grandpa until the day he received a strange gift...a Millennium Puzzle...»
Had Kaiba not really been a droid, would that look on his face correspond to desperation?
«What are you thinking about?» Bakura asked, as they both stood in front of the huge window, out of which they could see, as clear spheres of light, the seemingly silent planets and comets pass them by. Earth was getting smaller, more obscure by the minute. And Marik was staring down at it, his lavender eyes narrowed, the golden earrings jingling, the platinum hair moving with ethereal light.
«...» he didn't answer, not immediately. Instead something else came to mind...
«What are you thinking about?» Bakura asked. It was almost morning, and the light from the window of the small storage room had become stronger, albeit not as strong as one might expect from day time. It was always like this in the Catacombs.
They were laying there, curled against each other, Marik's arms around Bakura in the position of two spoons. The were both turned towards the window, but Bakura's red eyes were fixed not on the light, but on the tanned boy- no, man- over him. Marik's eyes were calm, as though a raging storm had just passed. And suddenly, Bakura was overcome by this illogical fear again, the feat of having been used as nothing but a tool...this time for love and not for hate.
But as it seemed, Marik hadn't left. And his arms only tightened around Bakura, as though never wishing to let go.
« I just...» he started saying, and then paused. He turned to look at the man underneath him, blood red eyes and pale skin contrasting deeply with the black locks in the morning, grey-white light. «I just...can't believe...the world is suddenly so three-dimensional. » he explained, turning again to the window and directing Bakura's gaze towards it as well. «In my mind, dreams are always real, but always in two dimensions...something that can't be touched...and my memories are all the same...»
«But now...?» Bakura's voice came, not as a human but as a surreal, dreamlike sound. Its innate hoarse quality helped enhance this impression.
«Now...I can...touch...life.» Marik concluded. And tightened their embrace. Bakura turned around, coming chest-to-chest, face to face with his lover. They stared at each other, savouring the up-close, unguarded view of each other's face.
«I guess I can touch you...I can see you now...without being afraid you'll melt away...» Marik said, and, as he said it, let his palm caress a cheek and a forehead free of the infamous red bandana. Bakura didn't exactly smile, but, as he looked into his eyes, Marik had the impression that he did.
When looked at from so close, Bakura's eyes weren't really as red as they were translucent too, three dimensional. The iris was red as blood, all the melanin having been removed. But the core of the eye, the pupil, was translucent as a mirror, clean and sometimes foggy- at times of wrath, perhaps. Underneath it, Marik could see layers and layers of blood-coloured lenses, covering the portal of life. But the mirror-pupil itself had a slightly bluish, translucent colour.
«Tomorrow we'll be up there» he pointed toward the window «looking down. I won't know what to do.» he warned, and Bakura didn't respond, just kept staring, into those amethyst irises, which, like the planes of the Sahara, still retained a few of their original sky-blue streaks. It appears the intense purple colour of Marik's eyes was a mixture of burnt out- and permanently damaged-, blood cells in the retina- which were red- and of his original blue colour of iris. In this way, when scrutinized from far away, Marik's eyes appeared to have the usual, unexplainably occult colour. But from up close, like Bakura's his eyes were red and blue.
«I know what I want to do...» Marik concluded quietly, and Bakura kept listening «I want to stay with you in my house, and show you everything about the future...and I want to sleep next to you every night, and I want everything to be quiet...»
«But» he continued, and Bakura noticed that his eyes had become slightly moist, and they gleamed strangely as his voice grew scratchy and strained «but there are also the things that I must do. I must relive Kuru Eruna- we must relive it- and we must tell everyone about what happened down there...and we have to stop the Catacombs, stop the Big 5...stop everything...But deep down, I don't want to do any of those things! Now that I have the chance...I just want to stay with you!» he finished, and the space between his eyes had grown red. And for once, Bakura didn't feel like laughing, or smirking, at the face of pain, since he was experiencing it at the same time.
«All the things they did to hurt you-« Marik said, bending to kiss Bakura's open, willing lips «I want to undo them with these hands, and these lungs.»
And they kept silent for a long time after that, just hearing each other breathe. Silently, serenely. And as Bakura drew Marik's head to the crook of his neck, he closed his red eyes, and suddenly remembered the times his mother would read stories at him before he went to bed...or the times his father had wanted to play football together in the back yard...and then of the times he watched all these people die and burn and scream in pain. He shut his eyes closed, smiling. Smiling truly and freely for the first time.
«Hey...» he started, speaking to himself more than Marik «it's ok. Life has it's ups and downs right? You're just going through the usual post-coital panic attack, Mariku. You probably should have wondered what you would do afterwards before you came to Eruna. But you came, right? So something must have been wrong in the world already...right? There must be some reason why, of all the sleeping corpses in the room, you chose to wake me up, right? So as long as you don't make any more unbelievably cheesy love confessions...I'll just deal with you.»
Marik just smiled, blinking slowly, feeling the comforting presence right next to him. Then he turned around to greet the other man, seeing him as though for the first time, through the layers of hate, fear and insecurity. Seeing the core.
«We're the same you and I...» Marik said, looking deep into the eyes that were now familiar in their consistent passion. «You know that right?»
Bakura then turned back to see Earth, the familiar and ye so-unfamiliar star becoming smaller and smaller, until from the distance, its amethyst colour resembled Marik's eyes. Could it be the Earth was bleeding too? Could it be they were the ones to heal it? Bakura had no good memories of that place...And yet still...still...
«You know that...right? And you've been hiding it from me.» Marik concluded as he stared at the other, feeling less than young. A hundred thousand million years had passed over his body in the expanse of two months. He was and old man, and yet he was not. He was wiser than before, and yet he was not. He was truer than before, and yet he was not. «I think I've undergone some changes, Bakura.» he stated, in a bit of a comical tone, if Bakura had anything to say about it.
«It's a change for you to realize that, Mariku.» Bakura remarked, in his usual bored, blunt tone.
«Yes...I suppose.» he commented airily «You've undergone changes too. You can talk without homicidal proclamations too, now.»
«I'm quite proud of that.» Bakura answered. «But it took a long time to happen.» he meaningfully looked first at Marik, then at the galaxy, stretching before them. «The world is going to take even more time...Mariku.»
«Well then I guess we'll have to hurry» Marik said, setting his arm around Bakura's shoulders. And then, as he saw the comets fly around them with greater speed, and felt the telltale boost of a ship before it enters a galactic warp, felt the jerk of reality before time is stopped and rewinded, giving you a second chance at life...he smiled.
I can't believe it. I honestly can't believe I did it! I finished it! I'm simultaneously extremely sad and extremely happy! I didn't want to end, on the one hand, since I enjoyed writing it so much, but on the other hand, I always wanted to see it as a complete novel! It's huge! I wouldn't read it myself, to be honest. It has many drawbacks, but I think it has some strong points as well, as a whole. I'm proud of it! I hope you are too and I honestly hoped you enjoyed reading it! I will be revising it, and changing some parts of the narration in the near future, but the plotline and basic story will all remain as they are.
For anyone who really enjoyed this story , I have a proposal! I thought it would be nice if some reviewers and I worked together to compile a new chapter for this story. I'll explain immediately: since the story has many characters, it is possible that a reviewer's favourite characters in the story are not Marik and Kura, but...say...tea and Kura, instead! Imagine what would happen if each reviewer wrote their own short scene, involving their two or three favourite characters and then sent it to me. Then, once I receive various mini-scenes involving different characters, I can compile a chapter composed of these mini-scenes and add it to the story as a 23rd reviewer-chapter! All your rights shall be copyrighted and disclaimers shall be included, of course, in order to make it clear to other reviewers that this is your work and not mine!
To tell you the truth, I'm not so sure this will work, since I'm not very confident that many of my old reviewers are still around! And even if they are here, maybe they didn't like this last chapter enough! But if you are, and you want to keep rewind 1 going just for a little bit longer, then please, send me a small piece of work, in order for us to create a chapter full of the readers' ideas!
This is not a competition! I won't be selecting bad and good scenes. There aren't many reviewers for this story anyway, so I won't need to be selective or anything! My only problem is that many people will choose the same characters to write about (f.ex. Marik and Bakura) and not focus on some other interesting combinations. There is a way to solve this: if you felt that a certain character was scorned during the story of rewind 1, you can always write a scene about them. Write a scene about only one character if you want to!
Let's set down the rules for these scenes:
don't make them more than...1000 words long. This way, we'll keep them long enough to be substantial, but not too long!
use up to three of your favourite characters! Try to make some weird combinations (like...Bakura and Rishid, or mai and Yugi) which weren't explored much during the actual story.
Use the Rewind 1 AU universe. Don't write about Ancient Egypt, for example. Zork and Priest SETH aren't in this fic, for example, so don't use them unless you plan to refer to Joey's Duel Monster YGO game... You can make the scene as an aftermath to the end of Rewind 1, or as an intervening scene between two other chapters.
Your scene can be any genre you choose: it can be humour, gag, parody of Rewind 1 itself, mystery, horror, romance (of course)...it can basically be anything except a lemon (porn). We can't do that, since will throw us out if we upload it. Otherwise, I'd have no problem with that either.
If you Really Have to use another pairing except for the ones I've used (Marik/Kura, Serenity/Ryou, Tea/ Yugi) then go ahead and do it! For instance, if you really felt that ...hmm... i don't know, two characters could share a great bond (in the rewind 1 universe) then go ahead! I'd love to see it happen!!
Well, this is it! I'm very excited about this! But I'm not sure I'll get any responses! In any case, I hope you all enjoyed reading this story, and I hope everyone will forgive me for not appearing in the net for so long! I hope I hear from all of you! Send me your scenes/ comments/ questions (if you have any) to heratsohandarisyahoo.gr and I'll answer all of them! I look forward to seeing you in my next fic and I can't wait to hear about your ideas to compile a new reader-based chapter for rewind!
Thank you for your help! I hoped you enjoyed it!