Chapter 8: Rub-a-Dub-Dub
Ryou struggled to untie his hands, but the course hemp only seemed to tighten more, biting cruelly into his flesh. Not only was he currently tied up in Marik's chambers, but he was also bound in a most compromising position.
The mysterious followers had pushed him roughly against the wall and spread his arms wide, tying each to a metal hook that extended from the rock wall. His legs were bound in the same fashion. What was he going to do? What could he do? Everything was almost too much to bear at once.
A healer? How had he chanced that, though it did make things a lot more understandable. Still, something unnerved him...
"What I'm wondering though is why you haven't told Marik about your family."
Did she know, or had she made a lucky guess?
Suddenly his thoughts went to his father and Ryou wondered if his father was thinking of him. Would he miss his son if he died? Would he be sad? Ryou knew the answer was yes, knew it would tear him apart to lose the remaining piece of his family. Maybe if Ryou begged hard enough, Marik wouldn't kill him. Maybe... if Ryou did as he said, he would spare him.
But those eyes...
Those eyes were murderous, even when the hands were gentle. They always seemed to burn like pools of violet fire that at the same time were strangely alluring. That seemed to be the best way to describe Marik. He was handsome; Ryou really couldn't deny the fact that a part of him couldn't help but be attracted to him, but Marik emanated darkness and danger and all of his characteristics meshed together to form the superior being who ultimately instilled fear- intentionally or not.
Marik had been so kind when they had first met. Yes, he still seemed threatening and no less ominous, but there had been a softness in his voice that had disappeared as he had realized how hopeless his plans might be. Had he really cared that much about him in the past? More importantly, had Ryou cared about him?
No, he couldn't allow himself to think like this. He had to be strong. If he were weak, Marik would gladly break him down without a second thought. After all, that seemed to be his motive from the very beginning.
Hearing footsteps coming down a hall, Ryou raised his glance toward the door where Marik now stood. He was leaning against the doorframe, a mocking smile on his lips, his lilac eyes glittering with amusement. His plum robe hung open slightly revealing no shirt, but a broad chest that was naturally bronzed. A black cloth had been tied around his waist, fastened in front with a jeweled clasp, stopping a few feet above his sandaled feet, and a necklace of gold hung around his neck, the jeweled pendant on the end matching the amethyst around his waist. It harmonized with his eyes perfectly.
"It's really too bad," he finally spoke, his voice a low murmur. "I really like you like this, but I suppose sometimes personal hygiene is more important than personal pleasure."
Ryou remained silent as Marik sauntered toward him, and he felt himself begin to blush as memories of the previous evening came back to him.
Marik seemed to read his mind. "Don't worry," he said, "we'll continue our little tryst later. Now, there other matters to take care of." Looking at Ryou's bound limbs, he couldn't help but smile. "Honestly, you don't look seem like the type who'd want to be tied down... No matter." From a hidden pocket in his cloak, he withdrew a glistening blade. Ryou immediately tensed, his wrists straining against the rope.
"Don't worry," Marik said. "I won't kill you... Yet."
In four quickly swipes, the hemp fell free and Ryou exhaled in relief. Looking at his thin arms, he noticed they were red, but all he could do was rub them. His ankles were stiff too, painfully so, and Ryou wondered if he'd be able to make it to the bath he knew was next.
Marik grabbed one of Ryou's wrists and pulled it to him, inspecting it for a moment before letting it fall free. "You'll be fine. It's not like you can heal yourself, now come along."
Ryou obeyed silently and as Marik led the way back outside, he limped after him. The trek to the bath was short, but it felt like an eternity as Ryou struggled to make it on his sore feet.
"Marik! You tied him up?" Meera said in anger, approaching them as they entered a small establishment. "I told you to be nice."
"I didn't do it," Marik answered. "My men did."
"You're responsible for their actions," she said, concern in her voice, "just as you're now responsible for Ryou."
"Don't you think I know that? I do have a hideout to maintain now- one I haven't seen in 5,000 years. How am I supposed to watch him and lead my people?"
Ryou winced as the argument progressed. What made it even weirder was the fact that it was about him, and there wasn't much he could do about it.
Meera crossed her arms. "You're just mad because Ryou doesn't remember you."
Marik arched a brow, clearly skeptical. "Do you know how childish that accusation sounds?"
"About as childish as your excuses."
"Ryou... go inside and wash," he instructed gravely.
Ryou had no wish to protest as he glanced shortly at Meera then silently disappeared inside.
"Now what is this really about?" Marik asked, motioning around him with his arms, "Why do you question my authority every chance you get?"
"Because, that's not a slave in there, Marik, it's a human being. It's Ryou- your Ryou. I know it might not seem like it, but he's there... and I think you know that."
"What would give you that idea?"
"He's here... with you. Had you felt otherwise, you would've killed him. But you didn't because you can tell that he is the same, only- different."
"I think you've misunderstood me, then. I plan to keep Ryou, yes, but only for my purposes, and only for a short while. As long as he has that ring-"
"The ring means something to him. For now, let him keep it. You're going to have to be gentle with him; he doesn't know this place, he doesn't even really know you. If you really want the old Ryou back, then make him want to return. Don't scare him away."
"I'm evil by nature, Meera. How do you suggest I do that?"
"Ryou found a way to fall in love with you before," she smiled kindly. "I know he will again."
Marik was muttering to himself as he finally walked into the room where Ryou sat quietly in the bath. He had been washing himself, but all motion whatsoever stopped when he noticed Marik, and he sat there, eyes wide, but not speaking a word.
Fancy that- Ryou hadn't spoken a word to him all morning. How was Marik supposed to get to know him better when the kid didn't even want to talk to him? He wanted Ryou- the past, and, yes, the present one. How could he not? They were alike, in too many ways, and maybe that was why Marik disliked the Ryou before him. Having feelings for someone meant weakness to Marik. He hated this weakness in himself, and, because Ryou was the one who caused it, he felt compelled to make him suffer for it. Still, it was hard to even do that. Seeing Ryou look at him with fear was somewhat hard, especially when he had once looked at him with- yes- love.
"What is it going to take?" Marik asked idly.
Ryou looked at him with confusion. "I don't quite understand."
"Well, at least I've gotten you to talk." Sighing, he came over and sat on the bath's edge. "It's a start." He gazed at Ryou with tomfoolery in his eyes. "You know, I'm surprised. A boy like you- single? Does anyone but I appreciate your beauty?"
"I've always been extremely selective- when I had a choice," he said coldly.
It was now that Ryou was thankful that Meera had added some kind of desert herb that caused the water's surface to bubble up in thick foam. He didn't want to reveal himself to Marik more than he had to.
"I just don't see why you're putting up such a fight," continued Marik. He removed his sandals and tossed them aside. Slipping the cloak from his shoulders, he draped it over the basin's edge.
Ryou gave him a contemptuous glance. "You really don't?"
"No, I don't." He slipped gracefully into the warm water, sarong and all. The bath was spacious, taking on a rectangular shape, but Marik was still too close for Ryou's comfort. "I've been as gentle as I'm humanely capable of being."
"That's a lie." Anger was beginning to build up. Marik really didn't see what was wrong with his methods? "You've been extremely unkind."
"Extremely?" Marik repeated. "I've treated you with respect, or at least as much as you deserve."
"Respect? You call that respect? You almost forced me to bed with you! That's utterly deplorable!"
"Even had I not 'forced' you, as you say, I'm sure you would've come to me of your own accord."
"I would never!"
"You once felt the same way, but you still slept with me in the end. Who's to say the same thing won't happen again?"
"I'll never come to you willingly," Ryou stated bluntly.
"You will," Marik promised, "not only willingly, but eagerly as well."
Ryou looked up at him again with a level gaze, those lilac eyes full of not anger, but a strange enjoyment. Marik smiled.
"Think not?" he inquired. "We'll see."
Ryou sat still in the water, his fists clenched. He almost expected the water to start boiling as a result of his fury, but it was motionless. Marik still had that deliberating smirk fixed on him. Oh how Ryou wanted to reach out and claw at him, anything to wipe that stupid grin off his face!
"Listen," Marik finally said, "I'll try... That's all I can do. I'll try to be more... courteous," he almost cringed at the word, "but you have to understand that this is a two-part situation. You've got to hold up your end as well. Just try and stay out of my way."
"That won't be hard."
Marik glared. "And no more of your little habit of talking back."
"What do you want me to do? Bow down? Is that what the past Ryou would've done? Fine, I will. I'll do whatever you tell me."
"Come now, don't be that way. You're not my slave, I- was wrong to say that you were."
"Then make up your mind." Ryou's voice was soft now, and sad. "Decide how you want this relationship to progress, because I don't want it to be this way. I just want to be treated as a person... not a memory."
The glare diminished from Marik's face as he heard this, and his smug expression was gone too. Had he really been treating him that badly? Marik wasn't really one to care about other people's feelings. He found it easy to just dismiss everyone in general. That way Marik had no one to worry about besides himself. He felt secure in that belief, and it had helped him to survive...
"I don't want you to ever end up like me… Be careful, my son. Don't let love fool you."
But at what cost?
"...It's hard for people to put into words how they feel. For some people, it's simple. For others... they might never say it."
Marik had closed himself off from people so much; he had almost forgotten what it felt like to be cared about, to have someone who loved you so much they would resist even a mighty and powerful pharaoh who could've given him anything he wanted, including a much better life. Looking at the boy who sat across from him, cheerless eyes now looking the water, Marik felt something. He couldn't really describe it, but, it was there... and it was nice. It was almost like his heart had skipped a beat. Ryou looked different to him, but he looked the same. It was like he was seeing him for the first time, taking in his soft, stunning features- the silky white hair, pale-cream skin, and deep brown eyes. No wonder Pharaoh Yami himself had fallen for him. He really was beautiful.
Almost unconsciously, Marik reached up very slowly and rested his palm on Ryou's pastel cheek. Ryou looked up at him quickly, uncertainty in his eyes, but the fear was gone.
Marik finally spoke, his voice low, almost soothing. "You make it very hard for me to be cruel with you."
When Ryou tried to speak, he almost found it hard. Why was he reacting this way? "Is-" he paused "Is that a bad thing?"
"...We shall see."
Marik went to withdraw his hand, but Ryou suddenly held onto it, his pale fingers tangling with tanned ones. For some reason, he didn't want that soothing touch to be gone, but at the same time he felt terribly foolish for acting as he had. He really didn't want to give Marik the wrong idea, but then again, what exactly was the wrong idea? It was true- Ryou felt physical attraction toward Marik, but something more? Did it go deeper than just looks? No. It couldn't, what's more, it shouldn't. The past was over and done, and obviously, some higher power didn't want them to be together. It wasn't meant to be.
"I...am so sorry," he said quietly, releasing Marik's hand.
"I understand," Marik said simply. "Just make sure that from now on, you make the right decisions."
"I'm free to do as I please."
"Prove it." Marik's face seemed determined, yet content. "Forget about everyone else... Here, now, just you and me... Do what you want to do."
Ryou hadn't noticed it until now, but Marik was very close to him. Only a couple inches separated them from each other. Marik's physical allure was pulling on him now and Ryou felt helpless as he slowly closed the space between them. He couldn't help it; was Marik using his mind power? No, Ryou knew he wasn't. Marik seemed so close, yet he felt far away and Ryou remembered that he had wanted to help him in the beginning, and strangely, now, he felt the same. Marik's hands rose from the bath, gripping lightly onto Ryou's small shoulders, gently easing him nearer, pulling him close. The magnetic pull strengthened and Ryou tilted his chin back and closed his eyes and Marik leaned down to kiss him.
"Ehem, um, Master Marik?"
Marik looked up immediately at the servant-boy who had entered. "What is it?" he growled.
The boy winced slightly. "There is... a problem. It regards High Priest Seth."
"A problem?" he raised a brow. Exhaling, he muttered, "Damn that Kaiba... You may leave now."
The boy nodded and rushed off, and Ryou shivered when Marik's hands left his skin, leaving him oddly cold.
He was still slightly lethargic, but the words clearly registered. "Kaiba?"
"We'll finish talking later," Marik said, getting out of the bath. Then, coming up behind Ryou, he started to unfasten something, or at least, that's what it sounded like to Ryou. He couldn't see what Marik was doing. "I can give you anything," he murmured, warm breath close to his ear. Ryou gasped as Marik brought the gold necklace with the amethyst adornment around his neck, fastening it securely. "If it's jewels you want- I can give them to you. Riches-? Not a problem. Power, a fine, educated life, and a spot in my bed- I could give it all to you... except for one thing. I hope you'll come to learn that while you're with me." Slipping on his lavender robe, he flashed an eloquent grin. "Just don't forget... You owe me a kiss."
Meera threw one of Marik's sandals at him, walking in the room. "Just get out of here, you smitten fool."
Marik grabbed the sandal and his other and left grumbling. Meera, though, stayed. Her eyes held mischief in them, but her smile was simply innocent.
"So... you and Marik are finally getting along?" she queried.
"Well, I... I suppose."
"Oh my Ra!" she exclaimed, kneeling beside the bath and inspecting the purple crystal thoroughly. "Marik gave this to you?"
"Well yes, yes he did." Ryou touched it fondly.
Meera looked at him for a moment before letting out a thoughtful "Hm" and standing. "I see..."
"What?" Ryou asked, looking at her with slight anxiety.
"Fear not, Ryou, for you have nothing to worry about... You're playing your part perfectly," she began to rub her palms together impishly, "and now it's Marik's turn to act."
"Meera," Ryou started, "You scare me when you're like this."
She tucked a wayward lock of black behind her ear. "I just want to see everyone happy."
"But what about you?"
"I'm happy as long as I see that through. This time is going to be difficult, though. I can tell. You and Marik are just so different. Oh well, I'm ready for a challenge." She handed him a pile of fresh, clean garments. "These are from Marik, so get dressed."
And Ryou did so, while Meera wasn't looking, of course. The outfit was much like the last one; only, there wasn't a shirt this time. The sarong was more elegant, with black, hieroglyphic border and little touches of gold wound into the ancient lettering. The skirt-like fabric tied on one side, exposing what Ryou felt was a little too much of his thigh, but he dealt with it. Rather few clothes than no clothes.
When Meera grabbed a comb and began running it through Ryou's hair, he was a little confused.
"Um... what are you doing?"
"What does it look like?" she asked, pausing in her work. "I'm known throughout the sands for my expertise, but I've devoted it solely to Marik. He's the only one who pays me enough."
"I'm lying," she said happily. "I work for free." Combing out the last of the tangles, she sat the comb down and grabbed her small pallet of kohl and began applying the dark liner to his eyes.
Ryou began to wonder why Meera would stay with someone so callous, but she seemed to read his mind.
"I stay because- even though Marik does things many disapprove of, even me- he has a good heart."
"But," Ryou's mind was swimming in puzzlement, "hasn't he killed people?"
"Oh yes, many," she answered plainly. "He wasn't always like that... Along the way he steered off the right path I suppose. He hasn't had the best life." Meera smiled to herself as affectionate memories returned. "But I have faith that you can help him see the things that are good in life. You've got a kind soul, Ryou," she said with a warm smile. "...I could tell the first time I met you."
Stepping back to admire her work, she beamed with triumph. "I'm simply the best."
Ryou blinked a few times, eyes adjusting the foreign makeup. Turning, he looked at his reflection in the water where the foam had cleared.
He looked... pretty. Still, his male features were enough to convince anyone of his gender. Had it not been for his hair and skin, Ryou would've looked very Egyptian. Instead, he looked mysterious, intriguing, if not downright exceptional. The jewel pendant glittered strikingly, only adding to the enthrallment. It didn't match his sapphire ring, but Ryou appreciated it greatly nonetheless.
Looking at the azure stone, it almost seemed alive, like a swirling pool of cobalt waves. It almost seemed dangerous. Marik hadn't liked it- no, he had even tried to take it away from him. But why? All over a simple piece of jewelry?
"If Seto gets his hands on just one gem... it will create problems for all of us."
"That's a beautiful ring, Ryou," Meera said after a few moments. "May I ask where you got it?"
"My father found it many years ago... He had given it to my mother, and when she passed, it was given to me."
"I see..." Her tone was wary. "Do you know why Marik dislikes that precious stone?"
"I've no idea. Do you?"
"You'll... have to take that up with Marik. Just know that as long as you're in possession of that ring... we are all in danger."
"Other than the one I already possess, there is only one more left somewhere," Kaiba had said. "I fully intend to find it."
Sorry for the delay! I had surgery. Interesting. Writing in the fluff between Marik and Ryou was fun, but I found it surprisingly hard. Marik wants to like Ryou, but he's only just now beginning to see him for who he is, rather than was, and Ryou wants to hate Marik but he's finding it awfully hard. I decided to throw some wine into the next chapter so madness is sure to ensue.