A/N: I wanted some holiday Ryou angst of the non-Yaoi variety. The original version of this story had Ryou going in and out of his memories, but while this style involves more telling its easier to follow. It also has Bakura in it, which is a very good thing, while the original version didn't.
Kudos to my friend TenshinoHikari for helping me come up with this one and finding the beginning quote for me!
For clarity Bakura is called Ryou in this fic, and his yami is called Bakura. It's easier on my fingers that way. Also, though it may seem like it, they aren't in separate bodies. Bakura is in holographic form throughout this fic.
Disclaimer: Don't own anything, sorry.
Title: Everything We Have Ever Loved
Christmas - that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance. It may weave a spell of nostalgia. Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance - a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved. Augusta E. Rundel
It had taken him all day, but the old Christmas tree was now up and ready for decoration. He had painstakingly unfolded each plastic branch, tenderly picked up every fallen needle and gathered them into a little pile, and then gently placed each branch into its own special spot on the metal center of the tree.
For its age, Ryou thought, the tree didn't look half bad. Some of the branches may not have been as full as they were when his family had purchased the tree when he was four and the white tips had rubbed off the needles but it was still functional and looked kind of like a tree.
Ryou finished screwing on the very top of the tree, and then he stepped back to smile at his handy-work. His hands were sore and a little raw; he didn't seem to notice. Instead, he silently turned to the small pile of boxes that lay, covered with dust and warped with age, next to the couch in his small living room.
Upon each box there was written in delicate, flowing writing two simple words, "Christmas Decorations". To most people those words meant little more than pulling out little balls of colored glass. One could tell, however, by the way the white haired boy lovingly traced each letter with soft fawn eyes that they meant so much more to him. They meant the world.
"What are you doing?"
Ryou didn't flinch at his Yami's somewhat harsh intrusion into his thoughts. He knew he didn't mean to be interruptive. As long as it didn't interfere with his own plans, Ryou's darker half really didn't care what his light did.
Ryou's soft, yet truly present, sadness had caught his Yami's curiosity though, so he had decided to see what the boy was up to. He wouldn't say he really cared about his hikari, but it did concern him when the boy was distressed.
"I'm remembering," Ryou answered.
Ryou nodded, and a small smile graced his delicate features, "yes, Yami, I'm remembering my mother."
The ancient spirit blinked slowly, as if trying to comprehend what his hikari had just said, "you have a mother?"
Ryou smiled a bit more and closed his eyes. He opened them again without answering his Yami's question. His thin fingers slid under the tape, and gently pried open the lid. Curious, the ancient spirit watched as the cardboard flaps fell over, one on each side, to reveal what appeared to be a grid of cardboard stuffed with toilet paper.
He became even more confused as Ryou reached in and pulled out one of the pieces with his left hand, laying it gently in his right, and began to fold back the somewhat yellowed paper.
His dark eyes blinked as the paper fell back, revealing a miniature bird. It filled up about the space of Ryou's palm; it was not to a very big decoration. His light fingers carefully brushed the slight layer of dust that had managed to penetrate its protecting cover off the hand painted red feathers, black eyes, and slightly chipped yellow beak. Ryou gently pulled up the thin yellow string that hung from around a ring on the birds back.
Bakura watched his lighter half walk over to the tree, carrying the bird as gently as if it were real, and nestle the small porcelain creature among the branches. He then silently followed him with his eyes as he sat back down to admire the placing. "And the point of this is…"
"Yeah, you said that," the former thief huffed impatiently, "but what things are you remembering." Having no memories of his own, everything before he came to Ryou's body being a blank, he couldn't help but be slightly curious about his hikari's life before he'd entered the picture.
"These were my mother's. She taught me how to care for them, and how to put them up." Ryou looked at the translucent form of his other self with shining eyes. "My mother loved Christmas so much. I always celebrate it to honor her memory."
"I never met your mother." Bakura stated, and then realized it was unnecessary. Ryou would know this, of course he would.
Ryou smiled at him, "I know. You would have liked her, I think."
Bakura had always tried really hard to remain unattached and disinterested in anything to do with his host, but the sparkle in Ryou's eyes drew him in and made it impossible for him to resist his growing curiosity. "What was your mother like, Ryou?"
"She…" Ryou faltered. He'd never talked about his mother before, to anyone but most especially to his yami. Still, maybe if he shared her instead of keeping her all to himself…she'd live longer and be fresher in his memories. "She was a beautiful woman. Father used to tell me I was a lot like her, when he used to talk about her." Ryou closed his eyes briefly as he spoke, "I remember she had long white hair. Hers was stringier than mine and softer too. She also had brown eyes like mine. I remember her eyes the best."
Bakura struggled for a moment to imagine a female version of his hikari, but concluded it to be impossible because his light was already pretty feminine and he just couldn't imagine anything girlier.
The pair lapsed into silence, Bakura unsure how to prompt his hikari to talk about his mother more and Ryou unsure how to describe her to someone so usually unfeeling. Ryou reached in and withdrew another tissue wrapped figurine. As his hand enclosed around it his eyes lit up.
Bakura watched as Ryou eagerly pulled back the paper. Inside was what looked like a silver Christmas tree with the words 'Ryou's First Christmas' engraved upon it. Ryou flipped over the tree, revealing it to actually be a frame. It contained a picture of baby Ryou sitting on the lap of a woman who was just as Ryou had described.
Bakura looked at the picture and laughed in his icy way, "you were a chubby kid weren't you?"
"Oh Yami," Ryou half sighed, half pleaded, "don't."
A silver hook held this one, and Ryou moved across the room to hang it toward the back of the tree. Bakura raised an eyebrow at him.
"Why back there? You can't see it back there."
"Father would be upset if he saw it."
Bakura resisted the urge to point out that Ryou's father would have to be home in order to actually see the picture, let alone be bothered by it, but chose not to. Something told him that this little ritual meant everything to Ryou, and even he wasn't heartless enough to ruin it for him. Instead he contented himself with silently watching Ryou unwrap each handcrafted piece. After about four more, however, he got bored. As the youngest of the pair unwrapped an angel from its special place, he couldn't help but blurt, "That thing looks like you."
Ryou looked at his Yami in surprise, seeming to have forgotten he was there, and then down at the angel figure he held in his hands. The saddest smile Bakura could remember seeing appeared on his hikari's face, "it was meant to."
Ryou nodded, "I was really sick my second Christmas. Sick enough I had to go the hospital. My mother brought me this and hung it on the little tree they kept in my room. It was to remind me how special I was. I don't really remember it, I was only a year old at the time, but she told me about it later."
"Do all of these things have stories?" The yami asked, the light he kept hidden showing through despite his best efforts.
"Yeah, almost all of them do." Ryou looked over at his yami, "do you want to hear some?"
Slowly, almost imperceptibly, Bakura nodded. Ryou grinned with pleasure and reached into the box; his hand expertly searching through the still wrapped decorations for the exact one he wanted. He withdrew what was probably the oddest shaped one yet. He folded back each crease in the tissue with the uttermost care, and before long the figurine lay in his hand. It was a boy and girl on ice skates, holding hands and looking into each other's eyes. Ryou smiled down at them.
"My father bought this for my mother the first Christmas they were married. Mother always hung it up last, right near the top. Their first date was to go ice-skating, but my poor father had never gone before. Mother always said that was the best date she's ever had. She remembered it up until the last."
Bakura watched Ryou place the decoration lovingly in the uppermost branches, return to his seat, and search for more. His hand brushed across one, and a sudden sadness seemed to consume his soul. Bakura blinked in surprise.
Bakura watched, more than a little surprised and somewhat panicked, as Ryou's expressive eyes filled with tears. "I didn't know you had a sister."
Ryou didn't answer, instead he unwrapped the tiny figure. It was a little girl, her face framed in dark curls and wide eyes painted brown. Her skin was as white as any fairy-tale princess's except for two spots, one on each cheek, that were tinged pink. She was dressed in a skirt of real red velvet and a miniature shirt of black satin. She wore socks trimmed with lace and shiny black shoes.
A single tear slid down Ryou's face as he spoke, "this is my twin sister, Amane." Bakura watched his hikari from where he was perched on an unopened box. He didn't know what to say; he wasn't exactly adept at comforting people.
Ryou tried to say something, found he couldn't, swallowed, and then managed to squeak in an unsteady voice, "Amane died a year after mother. She was hit by a car crossing the street on her way home from school."
"Ryuo you don't…"
"She went to an all girls school a few blocks from our home. I was supposed to pick her up. I didn't do it," his voice cracked, his whole body shook, and a tear rolled down the other cheek as he next spoke, "I wanted to stay and play soccer with my friends. All I remember about that day is having my grandmother coming and picking me up. She took me to the hospital, explaining on the way that Amane was very hurt."
Tears were now falling freely down Ryuo's face as he leaned his head forward, allowing his hair to hide his face. Normally Bakura would have huffed, even yelled, at his light for being weak enough to cry, but he couldn't bring himself to do it today. He couldn't remember his family, though he was sure he had once had one, so in a way he could almost understand Ryou's pain. Almost.
Ryou spoke again, the tremble underlying his otherwise steady tone, "My father was there…"
For a brief instant, Bakura had a flash of the memory Ryou was reliving because it was that strong. It was a lot like being in a black and white movie. Walking in and seeing Ryou's father there and hearing him call to Ryou's father with Ryou's voice. Seeing him turn sharply, raise his hand, and then pain screamed across his face. Hearing his father say, "I lost her because of you, and now I'll lose Amane too. Because of you!" Then it ended.
Bakura, who had never been one to keep his thoughts about people- except nice ones- a secret, said upon its conclusion, "that son of a…"
Ryou shot him a look that would have made even a sailor stop mid-curse, the same affect which it had on his yami, before he spoke in his still trembling voice, "my father had never hit me before nor has he since then. The emotion of the moment over whelmed him."
"What's your excuse for him ignoring you then?" Bakura muttered. Instead of answering, Ryuo reached into the box, to the hole next to where Amane's piece had lain.
"The year before she died, Mother had these made for Amane and me," he offered as he began to unwrap the small ornament. Into his hand fell a piece that had obviously once been broken, and then painstakingly glued together again. The poor decoration had its white hair hanging down under a red and green stocking hat. Its brown eyes were wide and happy, though there was an unnatural oldness in them, and the little mouth was painted into a smile. It was wearing a green velvety coat; red felt mittens, small denim pants, and small white shoes.
"That's you," Bakura frowned. Accident prone as his light side was, Bakura knew he wouldn't be so careless as to drop something that precious. "You broke that on purpose."
"I regretted it instantly." Ryou looked down at the piece in his hands sadly. "It was the first Christmas after I got you. The first one I had celebrated since mom died on Christmas Eve three years before. I was putting up the decorations while dad was away. I found this one and, well, I broke it. I thought about everything that had happened because of me, and I threw it. It broke into about four pieces. I cried then I found glue, and I fixed it as best I could."
"How'd I miss that one?"
"You were asleep."
Ryou stood and placed the miniature version of him in the very heart of the tree next to Amane. Bakura remained silent as he watched his hikari unpack all the boxes. Some were decoration for the tree; others contained strands of garland for around the house. The box Bakura had been using as a seat contained two wreaths, one of pine branches and the other pinecones.
The last box was a small one that had been placed gently on the couch cushion. At Ryou's soft sigh, Bakura- whose mind had long ago drifted away- found himself returned to the present. He had been lying on his back, but he pushed himself up on his intangible elbows to look over at his hikari.
"What is it, Ryou?"
"Mother's Christmas Angel."
Ryou decided that showing was better than telling. With expert fingers Ryou opened the box and removed the large pieces of Styrofoam from inside. He carefully undid the tape and pulled the piece apart.
Inside lay a figure of the most beautiful girl Bakura had ever seen. Blonde hair hung in perfect ringlets down either side of her face; the rest pulled back and pile on top of her head. Her face was a smooth luscious color; her eyes were as navy blue as the midnight sky. Even her lips were a luscious soft rose color. She was dressed in emerald and ruby velvet dress trimmed with lace, which had yellowed little with age. Her arms were spread in a welcoming manner, and upon her back rested a pair of slightly yellowed feather wings.
"Wow," was Bakura' grunted expression of approval. Ryou gently pulled her from her white tomb and held her with both hands.
"This once belonged to my great-grandmother. She was born in Italy, where this was made, and she always treasured it. She gave it to her daughter- my grandmother- who gave it to my mother when she got married. Just before she died, we knew she'd been going to die for a year, Mother gave it to Amane. Since Amane died a little after she did, I guess its mine now."
Bakura grunted because he had no idea what else to do. If he thought this response a cold one, Ryou gave no sign. Instead he held the angel close, his brown eyes beginning to fill with tears again.
"Mother always told us to make a wish on the angel. She said she would grant one wish a year. She and the North Star would tell each other the wishes they receive and then decide which on to grant. They'd only pick the most needed one." Ryou's bottom lip trembled, and Bakura watched as one more tear fell from Ryou's face, falling onto the angel's perfect hair. "I wish I could have them back, if only for a day. I wish Father would stop pretending I don't exist. I wish…" Ryou didn't finish the thought. Bakura wasn't sure even Ryou could put into words exactly what it was he wanted.
The ancient spirit watched as Ryou dragged over a chair to stand on so he could put her on the top of the tree. He looked into the angel's eyes and allowed a small part of himself to indulge in its own wish. If asked later he would deny it but for now the light of his heart, the little there was, was allowed full reign to do what it wanted, and what it wanted was one wish for the boy who had already lost so much.
Let him go to them, when he dies. Don't let my sins be on his head. Let him go where he deserves to go and not with me. Anywhere but with me.