Notes: The characters aren't mine, the story is, and this is sibling cuteness! I apologize for removal of the song, but the site's newly stated policy means that I have to.
I stopped as soon as the words escaped my mouth. Suddenly my throat felt parched, even though I hadn't been screaming very much. What was the matter with me? How could I have said that! I hadn't meant to. Honestly I hadn't!
I gritted my teeth, staring at the man I had just verbally hurt. He was looking down now, studying the floor. I couldn't stand it. I yelled for him to look back up at me, only too late realizing the harsh tones of my voice. This wasn't going to help the matter. Now I'd only made it worse.
He didn't stir; he didn't move at all. He kept his gaze averted, not wanting to look at me. I'd hurt him too deeply. Oh, he wasn't crying. He wouldn't cry, hadn't ever cried unless I was laying injured. I, the one who had just crushed his spirit. He loved me. He had always loved me and tried to protect me. But I rarely showed I was grateful. My heart was closed to that sort of emotion, consumed by hatred and a need to avenge a wrongdoing. But then again, if my heart was closed, why did a horrible weight of guilt suddenly settle upon me? Why did I feel like my own heart was breaking into pieces?
"Rishid," I tried again, "Rishid, please! Please look at me!"
Still nothing. He clenched his fists at his sides, the flowing cloak he was wearing seeming to almost swallow him in its depths. He had the hood pulled up, casting a shadow over his already-darkened face—darkened by the pain he was feeling.
"I . . . I didn't mean it, Rishid!" I pleaded, but I knew the words sounded hollow. I had cut him too fiercely. He wouldn't stay with me now. Oh, I knew I didn't even deserve him. He is so pure and good, only loving me, only wanting to help me through my trials, but at that time I was so blind, so confused and angered and alone. Well, I would be alone in a minute. Rishid was going to leave. I knew he was. "For the love of Heaven, I didn't mean it! Look at me!" My voice rose again, my panic showing. I didn't want to keep speaking in this tone, but I couldn't seem to stop myself.
slowly, he did look up. And I drew back in shock. His gaze was so
emotionless, so broken, so . . . so dead. "Servants should not look up
at their masters when they have done a wrongdoing," he said in a tight
voice, turning away from me.
I drew my breath in sharply, my body shaking. I wanted to call after him, to bring him back to me, but he left the room, never looking back. He was going to leave the yacht. He would get off and I would never see him again. And I would deserve it.
I screamed then, releasing my anger and grief on the chair. I overturned it, then the desk, then every other piece of furniture in that blasted room. Did I care that I was creating a calamity? No, why would I? I had already hurt Rishid. What greater calamity could I cause? How could anything be worse than knowing I had just been cruel to one of the two people who have never once given up on me? I had been angry at the time, incensed over things gone awry, but I had no right to say to Rishid what I had said. Now . . . it was strange. . . . I couldn't even remember what I had said to him. It had just been another random insult, like so many that I had given that day, most to my Rare Hunters. It had rolled off my tongue as easily as if I were ordering a meal. But it had probably created a rift between my brother and I that could not be mended.
What would I do? I felt so miserable . . . so alone . . . so wretched. . . . Without Rishid, I was nothing, only a hopeless beast filled with rage. But wasn't my rage justified? Didn't the Pharaoh deserve my vengeance after what he'd done to my family?
What about me? I myself deserved my vengeance more than anyone else now. I'd hurt Rishid . . . my brother . . . my protector . . . my closest friend.
I looked around the room frantically, my eyes wild. Everything in the room was scattered about. Just like my thoughts, my life. . . . My heart. And Rishid's.
With a scream I kicked out at the wall, listening to the resounding thump. If any of the Rare Hunters heard me now, I knew they'd be shying away from me for the rest of the evening. But that was fine with me. I didn't want them there. I only wanted Rishid, the one person I couldn't have now.
For another endless amount of time I continued in my madness, throwing furniture across the room and hearing it crash against the walls. Then, when there was nothing left to throw, I fell to my knees. How could Rishid still love me now? How could he ever have, after the way I treated him when I became angry?
I heard the whisperings
in my mind, the whisperings of the crazed being I always tried to
ignore. But day by day he was driving me closer and closer to the brink
of utter insanity. And there was nothing I could do about it.
"Poor Marik," it hissed. "Always hurting Rishid. Why don't you forget him? Think about me instead. I'm the one who really cares. Rishid never has. Why would he just leave the room so suddenly and with such a cruel comment? He wouldn't, not if he really loved you. How could he even think of abandoning you when you're losing your mind?"
I clutched the sides of my head, letting loose with a cry of agony. "LEAVE ME ALONE!" I bellowed. "YOU'RE THE ONE CAUSING ME TO LOSE MY MIND! YOU'RE THE ONE WHO DOESN'T CARE ABOUT ME! AND IF . . . IF RISHID NO LONGER DOES, I DON'T BLAME HIM! I'M TREACHEROUS!" My voice dropped to a pained, gasping whisper, feeling whatever it was tearing at my mental defenses. I didn't know what it was, but it was always there . . . and only Rishid could make it be silent. "Rishid doesn't deserve what I do to him. He should leave, to get away from me," I said bitterly, more to myself than to the being in my head.
Suddenly I was fearful. Rishid wasn't here now. What if this . . . this thing got free because of that! I couldn't let that happen. I would fight for my sanity . . . and my body.
And for what seemed hours, I did, though I feared it was a losing battle. I felt as if my insides were exploding from the pressure of trying to restrain something that wanted out no matter how it achieved that. Eventually I was writhing on the floor, my mental strength almost gone. I felt hot tears coming to my eyes after a while, but I ignored them. Then I was screaming in physical pain, feeling my arm slashed by the Millennium Rod's dagger. But . . . how had it gotten unsheathed? Had I done that! Had I just stabbed myself without even knowing it! I didn't know. I couldn't even think. But I heard myself screaming for Rishid until my voice truly was hoarse and I could scream no more. I felt myself sinking into a darkness. Was the creature taking over? Had it won? I was certain this must be so. Again I struggled, but I was too weak to last much longer. Oblivion claimed me.
Something cool and damp brushed across my forehead. I didn't like it at first and I jerked, trying to make it go away. But it came again, gently, dabbing at my face and over the tearstains on my cheeks. It wasn't so bad. Somehow the touch seemed familiar, as if . . . as if someone I loved were handling the cloth. But there was only one person who loved me who had been with me recently. And he had left me. Hadn't he?
No . . . no . . . he couldn't have left. I heard his voice now, quiet and calm and soothing, as it has always been. Maybe it was only a dream . . . maybe my sanity had left me . . . but it was so good to hear my brother's voice. I felt almost . . . almost as if I were a child again, with no thought of the horrors existing in the world.
"It's alright now, Master Marik. You are safe. Nothing will harm you while I am here." He sounded as if nothing had ever happened, as if I had never verbally wounded him. But I knew it happened! How could he suddenly be so calm about it? I didn't understand.
But a slight smile played on my lips. "Brother," I croaked, barely able to speak after all the screaming I had done. "Not . . . not 'master.' 'Brother.'" I couldn't get my eyes open yet, and I didn't know where those words had come from, but they were true. I wanted Rishid to call me brother. He is my brother and I am his.
Rishid froze and I knew he was trying to think of something to say. Maybe he was thinking that No, he couldn't possibly call me brother after what I'd said to him. But I longed for it so badly!
I forced my eyes open, looking up at him. His eyes were filled with emotion again, mostly bewilderment and shock. "Blast it, Rishid," I choked out, "I . . . I'm so sorry. I didn't mean what I said earlier. Please . . . forgive me." I reached out a weak hand to clutch his arm. It was then that I saw my own arm was bandaged carefully. "I . . . I thought you'd left me."
Rishid got an expression of guilt, laying his hand over mine. "I left the room," he admitted, swallowing hard. "I . . . I was hurt, Master Marik. But I know it . . . it truly isn't your fault. You suffer so much. Of course, I have forgiven you." His gaze fell upon my bandaged arm and he looked sickened. "Did you . . . did you hurt yourself . . . because of me?" He didn't say that he thought perhaps I'd tried to commit suicide, but it was written in his eyes.
I shook my head weakly. "That . . . that thing in my mind tried to get out again," I told him softly. I'd always thought that Rishid knew more about the entity than he let on, but I'd never asked him. I was too afraid of the answer. And I wouldn't have told him about its latest attempt to gain freedom, but I was afraid that if I tried to keep it from him we would start fighting again. That was the last thing I wanted. I shut my eyes tightly, remembering how I'd suddenly felt myself bleeding. It had to have been what I had thought—that while I was struggling to overcome the monster, I'd cut myself with the Millennium Rod's dagger and not even have realized it. Perhaps in my distraught state I thought I was cutting it instead of me.
Rishid was alarmed at the news. He gripped my shoulders firmly and my eyes opened, looking up into his. "I should not have left you," he berated. "I should never have left the one I vowed to protect." His eyes shined with grief as he explained. "I heard you shouting in anger, but I didn't return to you at first. But then I heard the cries become those of agony and pain and you screamed for me so piteously. I was on the deck, but I came back to you as soon as I could have. When I entered the room, you were laying unconscious on the floor, bleeding---the desk on top of you. I feared you were dead, Master Marik." He still didn't let go of my shoulders, as if he felt that he couldn't let go of me again. His body trembled slightly and he slowly sat on the edge of the couch. "I got the desk away from you and found you were still breathing. As I gently touched you, I did feel as though something were retreating again . . . something dark and evil that had been about to emerge."
I drew my breath in sharply. "If it had emerged, it would have only been what I would have deserved," I said bitterly, but I knew that wasn't really true. For if it had gotten control, it surely would have killed Rishid. "I don't know how you can even stay with me, Rishid." As I tried to shift position my entire body screamed in protest, obviously sore from the desk incident, which I didn't remember at all—just like I didn't remember cutting my arm.
Unexpectedly Rishid held me close, but gently. "Because you are my brother and I love you," he replied, keeping me in his protective embrace for the next several moments. Rarely did we hug during that wretched time. I savored it then, wanting to be an innocent child again. I didn't want to have to be aware of the horrors of the world . . . or the horror that resided within me, the being that only Rishid could quell.
"I'm sorry, Rishid," I told him again, sadly. "I never should have opened my mouth." While this wasn't the first and certainly not the last time I snapped at him during this period of time, it was the time when Rishid reacted the most. Usually he tried not to let it show how badly I hurt him, though I could always tell from his eyes when I had. I am so grateful that since Battle City has ended, I have been able to calm my temper a great deal.
Rishid laid a hand in my hair as if I were younger than I had been. "I'm certain that, after time has gone by, we won't even recall what was said," he said reassuringly. I had been forgiven again, as Rishid always has forgiven me. He loves me unconditionally, as does Ishizu.
I start out of bed, looking around my room slowly. Everything looks just the same as before. There's the Rod, sitting unused on top of my desk. And the book I'd been reading right before I'd fallen asleep now is laying on the floor, apparently having fallen from my hand. The moonlight is investigating the corners of the dark room and I suppose that my lamp's bulb has burned out. But none of it really matters, except to show that I truly am at home and not back on the yacht during the weeks leading up to Battle City. Why was I dreaming about that?
I lean back into the pillows, trying to remember if I'd said anything thoughtless to Rishid before coming up here. But I can't think of anything. I frown, however, realizing that if, perhaps, I had said something to him, I most likely wouldn't have thought about how it could hurt him.
Slowly I get up, now anxious to find Rishid and try to make amends if I had hurt him. I wander into the hall, seeing the lights still on. Ishizu and Rishid must both still be up. I look upstairs anyway, but they're not here. Ishizu's probably studying some artifact in the basement and maybe Rishid is reading something. So I come downstairs.
Rishid, as I'd thought, is sitting on the couch in the living room with a book. I watch him from the doorway a moment before calling to him softly. "Rishid?"
He looks up, surprised at first, but then smiles. "Hello, brother," he greets me. Finally he has ceased to call me "Master Marik," though it understandably took a long time to break the habit after having called me that for so many years.
He closes his book and indicates for me to come over. His eyes are the same gentle golden hue they have always been, but he seems almost younger now than he did during Battle City. Physically he may be a year or so older now, but mentally and emotionally a heavy weight has been lifted from his shoulders—and from mine. "What is it, Marik?" he asks as I sit down beside him. He doesn't appear to have been wounded from anything I might have said and I relax a bit. But that doesn't mean nothing happened.
"Rishid, I . . . . I haven't said anything that hurt you, did I?" I ask urgently.
Rishid blinks in surprise. "Why . . . no," he says then. "Where did you get that idea?"
I look down. "I was dreaming," I tell him, "about something that happened a few weeks before Battle City." And over the next while I reveal everything that had gone on—how I had unintentionally hurt him, when he had left me, how I had thrown the furniture in self-hatred and then had fought with what I knew later was my Yami. . . . I don't consciously realize at first, but my voice is dropping lower and lower with renewed guilt as I relive the experiences all over again.
But then I feel a hand being laid on my shoulder. "Marik," Rishid says kindly, and I raise my gaze to meet his. He smiles compassionately, no trace of anger or hurt in his eyes. There is only a brotherly love. "It all happened a long time ago, Marik," he whispers. "There is no need to still hold on to the painful memories. Accept them and understand that in the end everything has brought us closer together, but do not continue to feel sorrow. I forgave you that very night. Forgive yourself and move on." He chuckles softly. "You know . . . I don't even remember now what it was you said."
I laugh a bit as well, leaning back into the couch. "I don't, either," I admit. Rishid is such a good brother. "I just wish those things hadn't happened at all. . . ." I sigh, starting to fall against Rishid's shoulder with sleepiness.
He keeps his arm around me. "If not for the trials we suffered, Marik, would we truly love each other and know about each other as much as we do now?"
I am dozing off, but his words make sense to me. I smile slightly. "No . . . probably not," I reply, settling down into my brother's watchful embrace. I am safe here, safe and warm and loved. "You're always wise, Rishid," I tell him. "You know what's best."
Rishid's grip tightens slightly. "Not always," he says softly and a bit melancholy. "No one ever knows all the time. But I have taken care of you as best as I knew how, my brother. And you have been my dearest friend. You have taught me many things, though most likely you do not realize it." I sense that he is smiling. "Your mental strength has been an inspiration to me, and your devotion to those you love."
I blink up at him. "What mental strength? If it hadn't been for my 'mental strength,' my Yami wouldn't have even been created!" I speak in a slightly bittered tone, but mostly with disbelief. I don't understand how Rishid can say this and mean it.
"But it was an accident, brother. You did not mean to create that foul entity. You were always fighting against him." Rishid is firm and believing in his words. He looks down at me, smiling gently. "And you were able to overpower him."
"Because of you, Rishid," I reply earnestly. "I had given up. But you gave me the hope I needed. My Yami would have won, if not for you." I shudder, remembering again the horror of those moments. I had felt so lost, so alone, and so hopeless as I had hung there, my spirit fading into the shadows. Then I had heard Rishid's voice through my cloud of despair. He renewed my determination and my hope. He saved my life then, as he has before.
Rishid is silent now. He says nothing for several long moments, holding me close in his arms. "I heard you when you came to me and said goodbye," he tells me now. "And I wasn't willing to let my brother perish."
"I treated you horribly sometimes," I say sadly. "But you never stopped loving me. Whatever happened, I knew you would always stay with me, struggling to lead me back to the light." And it was true—I had known that, even if during the time I had recalled earlier I had been afraid Rishid was leaving me. It had been a momentary state of madness, brought on by my distress over speaking cruelly to the brother I love. During that time I had often felt insecure, having bouts where I hated myself and couldn't understand how anyone else could not.
"Of course," Rishid agrees now, "my brother. I could never abandon you." He smiles again. "But you're weary, Marik. Rest now. I will be here."
"No," I protest, "I can stay awake." But I know I actually am exhausted. I didn't get a lot of sleep the night before, and when I'd fallen asleep and dreamed about Battle City, it wasn't really very relaxing. I still can't figure out why I'd dream about that, of all things. Rishid is right, that it happened so long ago. And it had been in the very back of my mind just before I'd gone to sleep, as were all the events of Battle City. Sometimes I ponder over what happened then, but mostly I think I've healed from the memories. I paid the price for my sins when I struggled with my Yami and he managed to get loose. Now I have tried diligently to repent of it all.
"Rest," Rishid repeats softly, covering me with his cloak. I can't fool my brother. He always knows when I'm just saying something. But the realization of this doesn't irritate me at all. It comforts me, actually, to know that someone knows me so well and still loves me anyway.
And so I start to doze once more, feeling at peace.