After The Fact

By Elanorci

Summary: Ryou worries. A lot. Mostly about unreasonable things. But that's just the way he is. One thing leads to another and it becomes clear that perspective comes only too late.

Warnings: Slight Marik/Ryou if you squint.

It was a nice bathroom, large and clean, with an uncanny ability to refresh him, to make the air inside it seem cooler than it really was. It was probably the blue-gray hue that seemed to bounce from wall to wall—perpetually, so that he was pleasantly surprised every time he looked up, pupils slightly dilated, lips slightly parted as he gazed appreciatively. It wasn't yellowed like the bathroom he had grown up in, although he now regretted ever having disliked that homely shade of yellow. And it most certainly wasn't a sickly green like the one at the hospital—no, it was a nice bathroom.

They'd found the apartment after deciding that neither of them liked the other's apartment enough to live there and decided instead to get a completely new one. The rent was reasonable, the neighborhood was nice, their neighbors were pleasant—which was all well and good, Ryou decided. But the real dealmaker—for him, at least—had been the bathroom, which, to complete its effect, had a spotlessly white carpet.

So three months ago they'd moved in and Marik had taken an immediate liking to the bedroom near the kitchen, which was perfectly fine with Ryou because that left him with the bedroom near the bathroom. And the bathroom's white carpet was still as spotless as it had been on they day they first saw it, which was a little bit spooky, because one would think that a carpet would get a little bit dirty after three months of two teenage boys.

And even as he sat in his beautiful bathroom perplexed by his beautiful carpet, he knew that Marik would eventually come in and ask him what he was doing, because Marik was slightly clingy and couldn't live without Ryou for long.

And when Marik did, indeed, find him and inquire as to why he was sitting on the floor of the bathroom in the middle of the night, which was a perfectly legitimate question, he just blinked and seemed confused, as if it was obvious, as if everyone came into the bathroom and just sat.

"Hey Ryou, why are you on the floor of the bathroom?"

"…I like the bathroom."

"More than your room?"

Ryou paused, weighing the possibility that if he said he didn't like his room as much as the bathroom someone—

"God, not 'someone'..."

And even though he'd been brought up by atheists and didn't actually believe in God, he slowly considered the possibility that God would take his room away in some horrible accident if he said he wasn't happy with it. And Marik eyed him strangely as he thought, because he'd heard his mutter and was confused because he knew Ryou wasn't religious.

/'Ryou, honey, finish your sprouts.'/

/'Mum, do I have to?'/

/'You shouldn't be complaining. You have more than some people do.'/

He looked up at Marik.

"Do we have any sprouts?"

"How'd you get sprouts from bathrooms?"

Marik looked down at Ryou, slight concern mixed with overwhelming affection, because his lover was just so unwittingly cute sometimes.

"...I like my room too."

His eyes roamed the wall, stopping briefly at the full-length mirror that, although smudged in the upper-left corner, reflected his image back at him quite effectively, from his white hair that was frizzy from humidity down to his toes, which were cold and sweaty.

And when he looked up he realized that Marik was still standing there, topless, leaning against the doorframe, his tanned skin clashing terribly with the blue-gray room. And Ryou told him so, a look of complete seriousness upon his face, and Marik raised an eyebrow and blew him a kiss and told him not to say up too late.

Marik gone, he moved into the middle of the carpet and pulled his legs up to his chest. He savored the pleasant feel of his warm body against itself and the contrast between said warm body and the cool air of the nicely blue-gray bathroom.

His palms became uncomfortably sticky and he rubbed them on the carpet, which only succeeded in making his hands feel as if there were a thousand little pieces of black dirt and not-so-black dust stuck to them. Maybe a hair or two, too. Because, as he reminded himself, you never know.

And then, out of irritation that was at least partially sticky, he sat up, and he leaned his head against the side of the counter behind him, eyes closed as the knob of one of the drawers pressed into his upper neck and/or lower head. But he didn't mind, and maybe he'd even done it on purpose because the pressure was surprisingly pleasurable.

And after ten or fifteen minutes of sitting like that his back began to ache. So Ryou moved into the middle of the bathroom and lay down on the soft, sticky-in-a-way-he-couldn't-describe carpet that effectively masked the small pieces of unidentifiable black dirt hidden beneath the surface.

He gazed upward at the ceiling that was as smooth as a wedding cake. He saw the ceiling fan, which reminded him of the time when Joey had thrown Kaiba's briefcase at the ceiling fan in the classroom. And he smiled because that had been funny, although the ensuing fight between Joey and Seto hadn't. And thinking of his friends brought him to Marik, and he smiled again, more widely this time.

And suddenly he realized that he hadn't seen any of his friends in months, that Kaiba and Joey and Yugi and even Tea, the friendship guru, had vanished into obscurity. They were drifting apart, which was understandable because they'd graduated from high school, but it terrified him to know that they'd probably never be in a room together again. And then a feeling of cold dread seized him, and he gave a little tired sigh as if he knew where this was going, because he did, he knew where it was going and he was as powerless over it as he was over the departure of his friends, as powerless as he'd been in the case of the death of his mother and sister.

And then he gave another little tired sigh and supposed that he should have been expecting this because he hadn't had a panic attack in nearly two weeks and because he'd foolishly stopped taking his anxiety medication three months ago because the idealist in him thought that moving in with Marik marked the start of a new life.

He knew what was coming, knew what to expect, because he'd been this way for as long as he could remember, even though his psychologist seemed to think that she knew differently. His psychologist seemed to think that his anxiety disorder was solely the product of the crash and had brushed off Ryou's attempts at making her understand that no, they weren't, that he'd always worried like this, that he had only realized how ridiculous it sounded until he'd said it out loud.

She hadn't listened to him when he'd told her that once in the eighth grade he'd been walking down the hall when an acquaintance had smiled at him, and he'd been deep in thought and hadn't really realized what had happened until he was too far down the hall to wave her.

And because she hadn't listened to that part, she hadn't heard him tell her that he'd stayed up that whole night biting his nails and praying that Christina didn't think he was a jerk.

She hadn't heard about the time when a teacher had asked him to bring a note to the office secretary, who wasn't there at the time, and he'd given it to the office workers, who'd said that they'd make sure she got it. And when the announcement wasn't made—because the note had been asking the secretary to read an announcement at the end of the day—he realized with a start that the teacher was sure to think that he'd blown her request off or forgotten or had just been downright malicious. And he'd gotten home and sent an e-mail to the teacher saying that he was terribly sorry and that the office workers had promised him that Ms. Garza would get the note. And then he pushed back from his desk and realized how ridiculous he'd been, how ridiculous sending an e-mail to a teacher about something like that was, how stupid he sounded. And he couldn't look that teacher in the eye for months afterwards, and when she'd finally asked him what was wrong, because she apparently didn't check her e-mail, he'd just shaken his head and muttered 'Nothing'. And to this day he couldn't think about it and not wince and furrow his brow and hate himself for what he'd done, hate himself, hate himself, hate himself.

It wasn't until he was sixteen that he realized that maybe he was the only one that even remembered things like this, maybe no one else actually cared. Which, he conceded, had helped him a little bit—but not enough, because he still winced and shook his head and rested his head against the cool metal of his locker when a teacher walked by and smiled at him and he'd been too deep in thought to notice until the teacher was gone. And then Yami had driven him to the psychologist one day, waiting in the parking lot as Ryou talked to her, and she made him realize that worrying like that wasn't normal.

She'd torn the prescription from her pad and looked at him, and he'd taken it and was about to leave when she asked him, wasn't he worried? And he looked back at her, eyebrows furrowed, and said no, why should he be? And that's when she told him to sit down, and he'd sat, and called Yami's cell phone and told him that he might be a while and that he'd catch a bus home, and Yami had said okay and left.

She'd leaned in and tucked her long black hair behind her ear and told him that he had a tangible mental disorder. And he'd shrugged and she'd looked into his eyes like she was searching them. She asked about his mother, because the crash had been in his medical history, and he told her what had happened, and she'd sat up straight and nodded. Well, that's what caused it, she'd said, and put a hand on his shoulder.

And he'd paused slightly before telling her that he'd been this way as long as he could remember, that he'd always worried like this and he hadn't really known that it wasn't completely normal because, he supposed, he'd had nothing to compare it to. And, he'd said, he'd handled it for eighteen years and he could keep handling it.

She'd scoffed at him, saying that she doubted it, that for that to be true he'd have to have had a very rough childhood, and then she paused and looked at him in that way again. And he shook his head no, no, they didn't beat me, I had a fine childhood, and she'd smiled again, slightly triumphantly, and said that it was probably all in his head and that he'd feel much better once he started his medicine.

So he'd gone home on the bus and put the prescription on his nightstand and went to bed. And the next morning he went to Walgreens and got the medicine, and he'd taken it and she was right, he'd started feeling a lot better, better than he ever had before. Which meant that he was right, as he knew he was, that he'd worried like this, had this—what had she called it?—anxiety disorder for his entire life, because if it had only started after the crash he would have remembered feeling this free, because he wouldn't have ever forgotten a feeling this good.

But that didn't bother him at all because it just didn't matter, because he was better now and even if he hadn't been, even if the pills stopped working, the disorder had never been a real issue before. And then after a few days something occurred to him, and he'd quietly mulled it over before deciding that he couldn't come to a conclusive decision and that he needed a second opinion.

That night at dinner he'd asked Marik about it, and Marik had paused and put down his fork and wiped his mouth and motioned for Ryou to come here and so he did, he came there and he sat on Marik's lap. And Marik had told him that they'd been over this, that it wasn't his fault, and Ryou told him I know, I know, and Marik had sighed quietly and looked Ryou in the eyes and hugged him and Ryou hadn't understood why.

In retrospect, he thought, the whole thing was quite ironic, because Ryou wouldn't have continued to think about it if Marik hadn't seemed quite so sad.

And in bed that night, Marik already asleep, he'd realized why Marik had been so tender, so fearful that Ryou would, for some reason, think something was his fault.

He'd wondered why he hadn't gotten worse when his mother and sister were killed like that, why his anxiety hadn't gotten so bad that he'd actually noticed it. Because if these things were normally caused by a traumatic event, he thought, surely a traumatic event would worsen one that was already there.

And at first, yeah, it had been just an innocent question. But then the obvious, the positively 'Duh' part of his question hit him.

Why hadn't he gotten worse?

Didn't he care about them?

Wasn't he upset by their deaths?

And then he'd let out a shaky 'Oh, God…' and Marik had stirred, because he was never a very heavy sleeper. And he'd looked over and seen the look on Ryou's face and the room seemed suddenly very cold, and he'd hugged Ryou tight and whispered comfort into his ear, but it hadn't helped, because Ryou had been too busy crying to notice that someone cared.

All at once the room had gone white and his head had started spinning and his thoughts started going everywhere—everywhere, but mostly back to England, back to his house and his life that had been taken from him violently, suddenly, like a smoker who had to quit smoking unexpectedly because her doctor had told her that she was pregnant from what she knew was a one night stand and hadn't known to count the cigarette this morning for what it really was; her last cigarette. Only smoking wasn't really on her mind, because she'd seen what happens to girls who get pregnant before they're out of school, and she'd promised herself that no, that would never be her, but now it was and she was powerless now because she'd made a mistake then.

And as his body convulsed in wracking sobs Marik had been wrapped around him tightly, so tightly, tighter than his mouth had been stretched at their funerals because he'd thought that he was supposed to be strong and not cry. But now he wished more than anything that he'd cried because he didn't want them to think that he didn't love them more than anything, because he did, yes, mommy, I still love you, I do, I do, and now they're stuck in the cold ground thinking that their son doesn't love them and their brother doesn't love them because he hasn't come back yet, hasn't come back and told them how much he misses them, how now he cries for them every night to make up for not crying then.

And by this point tears were streaming down his cheeks even in spite of his beautiful bathroom. His head was in his hands and his fingers were pulling at his hair, trying to rip it out, and it worked and he saw fine white hairs float down and land on the carpet which now definitely had a hair or two on it, and he thought about smiling because he'd been right all along.

His muscles ached with self-loathing as he sat there on the floor, tightened with a feeling of painful need. He bit his knuckles even though they were already clasped together and the taste of sweat made him bite down harder. His teeth and the respective other hand combined to make each hand's knuckles white, white twice over; his knuckles were white twice over and he was losing it.

His shoulders trembled as he stood up, stumbling over to the medicine cabinet in a heavy fog. He looked down at his—what was that again?—he couldn't seem to remember, and when he searched his memory for the word and couldn't come up with anything other than fuzz. He swayed, the world tilting, and shrugged it off, his eyes glazing over as he reached for the razors and cut his leg, cut the line that he knew would look so good because it fit so perfectly with the contours of his body.

And the fog seemed to thicken, and he sat down heavily and a cold, uncomfortable sweat broke out on his forehead. And the razor was still clutched in his hand, and the blinding fog still surrounded him, and he knew he had to get himself out of this fog because he didn't know what was going on, and he slashed at his wrist with all the energy that was reserved for missing people who weren't gone, for worrying the most when everything was perfect.

He let out a scream, a desperate, panicked scream that stung his throat, and was thankful for the sting, and grabbed a towel and wrapped it around his wrist, trying desperately to stem the blood that was, in his mania, flying everywhere, staining the white carpet that used to be so perfect with flecks of crimson in jagged little lines.

Marik threw open the door, bleary-eyed but sufficiently terrified, and Ryou let out another blood-curdling scream, although in his present state he missed the irony, that soon he would have no blood left to curdle.

"MARIK! NO! MARIK, I, I, I DON'T WANT TO DIE! AHHH! GOD, PLEASE! I-I-I-WANT TO LIVE! NO!"

And he collapsed, sobbing uncontrollably, his breath coming in short, wheezing gasps that would have worried Marik if Ryou's breathing hadn't been the absolute last thing on his mind, clawing at the wall and leaving trails of blood as if a new paint job for the bathroom would save his life. And soon Marik followed suit, dropping to his knees, and wrapped his arms around Ryou, pulling him to his chest and sobbing into his white hair that was now stained with red, because everything in the room was now stained with red.

Marik pulled out his red cell phone, which, in two weeks, he would trade in for a blue cell phone because he couldn't stand to look at red anymore and because blue was the color of the bathroom that Ryou had liked, and dialed 911 and told them that he was at 856 Domino Avenue and that his friend was bleeding to death and to please, please hurry because he's starting to die, he's dying and needs help right now.

And Ryou pulled the towel ever-tighter around his wrist, too hysterical to notice that the towel had been completely soaked with blood three times over, that it wasn't doing any good. There was a sickening crack as the bone in his wrist split from the violent, erratic tugging of the towel that Marik would later refuse to wash and keep in a box in the back of the closet, but neither of them heard it through their collective screams and I Love Yous and Don't Leave Mes.

He had never been this scared, never been this regretful, never been this angry at himself but had no time to blame his idiocy. He fought, he fought as hard as he could, because he didn't want to die, he wanted to live and grow and love with Marik and the rest of his friends. He wanted to live more than he'd ever wanted anything, and he was screaming and shrieking because he knew he wasn't going to, but even so he fought. And as the ambulance arrived and they loaded him onto the stretcher he kept screaming, and the weary-looking people in uniform tried to tell him that he'd be just fine so that he'd be quiet, but he knew he wouldn't be. He knew that he was dying, and that this was it, and he was so unbelievably regretful that in any other situation he would have wanted to die.

And Marik was at his side in the ambulance, his tanned body that had looked so good leaning against the doorframe now splattered with blood, so much blood. Marik was there for the whole seven minutes of the ambulance ride, but then the weary-looking people in uniform handed Ryou off to wearier-looking people in different uniforms who took him away for an emergency blood transfusion, because, believe it or not, he had lost too much blood.

And that's what the doctor told Marik when he came out an hour later, his surgical coat perfectly clean, but only because he had thrown the other one away because it was covered with far too much of Ryou's blood. The doctor in the clean coat told Marik that Ryou had lost too much blood and that they couldn't have helped him anyway, because his blood type was so rare, and Marik's world tilted because one of the things they had marveled at on their first date was that they shared a very rare blood type.

And Marik, through his tears, asked the doctor who was with Ryou when he died, because one of the things Ryou had mentioned once was that he was terrified he was going to die alone. And the doctor looked away and couldn't answer, because Ryou had indeed been all alone when death took him, even though there was supposed to be a nurse with the patient all the time. And then Marik lost it and started yelling incoherent things in Egyptian because there was no way to express his grief in his second language of English, and he took a step forward as if he were going to attack the doctor, and the doctor started saying nice things. He told Marik that yes, Ryou had fought oh-so-hard, which was a downright lie because Ryou had been unconscious and wouldn't have had the energy to fight even if he'd been awake, but it's not the doctor's fault because that's what the professors at his medical school taught him to say to comfort family members. And it did calm Marik sufficiently enough to go in and identify Ryou's body, which was still slightly warm, and Marik kissed his dead lips and touched his dead hand and cried.

And so at his funeral a week later, Marik made a big point in his speech of saying that Ryou wasn't suicidal, that he'd wanted to live. Marik told everyone that they should consider Ryou a victim of circumstance and not of self, and that was that.

And everyone applauded and told Marik how brave he was and how strong he'd been, which was just as big a lie as the doctor's, because Marik broke down crying three different times during the speech.

And then Marik and all of Ryou's other close friends—but not his father, because his father was on a dig in Egypt and couldn't make it home in time, could never make it home in time—rode in a black limousine that was scratched on one side to the cemetery that was not the one in England, and they put Ryou in the ground thousands of miles away from his mother and sister.

Thousands of miles away from his mother and sister, who would never know how much he missed them, and who Ryou prayed he'd be buried with as he and his memories were lying there, dying alone in a blue-gray hospital room.

A note:

I dearly hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. Ryou has always been one of my favorite characters and I think that this piece looks at an aspect of his life that is not normally addressed. Please take the time to review and leave your comments, criticisms, and thoughts. All reviews are greatly appreciated.