hit the road
ryuujitsu & co.
Saying we own Yuugiou is like saying Faust is dead, and it's NOT. o
A/N: I was listening to Miyavi sing his cutesy version of "Hit the Road, Jack" and this came to me. I think it is a drabble-fic, and AU. Tendershippy as usual.
Hit the road, Jack
And don't you come back no more
No more, no more, no more
Ryou looks out the window in time to see another flurry of leaves billowing past, a continuous stream of reds and browns and ragged yellows. The trees outside are almost bare now.
The tattered reds remind him of a traveling cloak no longer in his closet, and he remembers the silver stubble rough against his cheek and wonders, thinks, Maybe he has a beard now.
With a good deal more certainty, he returns his attention to the bubbling pot in front of him. Thick stew, the recipe from his mother's side, for the winter months that are coming, the winter months that will chill to the bone. He needs to be fattened up, says Anzu, who is often concerned but too busy to stop by more than once a week. And it seems that he has taken her advice; there is far too much in the pot for one person alone, but then, he has been cooking for two ever since the summer faded dry and yellow. Without much interest, Ryou empties about a handful of spice into the pot and wipes his hand on his apron.
The apron is from his mother's side too, and it looks its age, caked with what might be centuries' worth of grime, lard, and perhaps potato skins. Ryou is not sure how much longer it will last, but he intends to give it a good burial when it goes. The neighbors, who have often been privy to Ryou's funeral plans, are never quite sure if he is serious or not.
Ryou decides, I hate beards. He snaps his fingers and the fire under the pot blazes just a little brighter.
Ryou's neighbors think Ryou might be just a tad eccentric, because he is sitting on a pile of old and new money. If living in the wood-and-plaster cottage were a matter of life status and not choice, then maybe he would have been burned at the stake years ago. But Ryou has made it a rule to practice the darker magic only in the forest, because he loves this house and does not want to see it torched one day, does not want to run in the dead of the night from farmers with pitchforks as is always described in the storybooks. How would Bakura ever find his way back again, if house and Ryou disappeared?
Bakura is Ryou's brother to those who cannot see through the curtains at night. Ryou has never made a point to clarify their relationship to the neighbors, who are perfectly content with thinking that Ryou is only a little bit strange.
Ryou knows that after the trees are completely dotted with little red buds, he will wake one morning to find the house empty, breakfast dangling over the hearth. In the months to follow he will do his own work in the village, but he does not leave the cluster of houses and shops. Sometimes he will go to the apothecary's son, Yuugi, who is far too friendly for his own good and more than happy to spend time with Ryou, who always seems lonesome during the warmer months. Often Ryou will work for the apothecary himself, the elderly fellow wise enough to carry Solomon's namesake. He will go into the forest with Yuugi and Yuugi's older brother, because three may be a crowd but three are safer from the wolves, and hunt for the special twigs and leaves that Solomon will brew into bitter medicines.
Sometimes sickness will come into the village, and the family of the Turtle Apothecary will work their hardest, but it will be Ryou who goes from house to house and gives a breath of magic to strengthen those who are faltering. Ryou has always considered himself something of a healer, even if his ancestors—mother's side again—were witches of the Black Forest. Anzu, the official healer of the region, is often absent and appreciates what Ryou does, even if no one else realizes what happens when Ryou takes the sick child's hand and gives it a quick squeeze. Eventually the neighbors start to send in little presents of food, for the strange but goodhearted boy who lives at the edge of the village.
Now Ryou is cutting big pieces of freshly-killed boar, a gift from Solomon for all his help during the summer, throwing them into the pot, adding their grease to the old apron.
Ryou helps the villagers because he is lonely, but also because excess magic in his body tends to give him violent and uncontrollable sneezing fits. And it is nice to be thought of as kindhearted. When he receives pickled plums and waxy honeycombs he sets them aside in the cupboard, for Bakura when he returns. Bakura loves the foods that come from the forest, and Ryou loves Bakura's mouth, sticky and sweet-sour from the hard green apples that grow surprisingly well in November.
Ryou does not remember much from his childhood, but he remembers Bakura, who loathed the village and could not wait to be rid of it. Conveniently, the villagers cannot recall the run-down house in the marketplace, since converted into a pottery shop, where Bakura grew up. Ryou also remembers the first seven month separation, how he relished that some of his mother's best china had survived the experiment. He remembers crying six days out of seven in the weeks that followed and breaking all the remaining china in frustration, and he remembers that glorious day in October when Bakura came dancing through the door, smiling wide and all but dripping with gold.
On written records, Bakura is a treasure hunter, but Ryou suspects that some months of the summer he goes a bit piratical, because the sea is close and the merchant ships are swollen defenseless with their wares and fat, sleepy captains. In the spring Ryou is sure that Bakura does his scavenging on land, in the old ruins of temples and palaces and tombs from eras long past.
Bakura would send the girls crying home if they could remember him, but, also conveniently, they can never seem to recall meeting him. This is sometimes frustrating for Bakura but leaves a little smile on Ryou's face every time the villagers seem to look through the thief, because Bakura is his and his alone, and Ryou has more than enough magic to keep his neighbors from meddling.
After dinner on the night of his return, Bakura will sit Ryou in his lap and spread the ancient gold coins in front of him on the table, weave the glittering baubles into his hair, laugh at the look on Ryou's face and the pleasure shining unadulterated and pure in Ryou's eyes, and he will take a handful of the coins and throw them into the air, take a silk scarf purloined from some dozing merchant's stand in the bazaar and tie it around Ryou's eyes or wrists, and then he will lead Ryou up and away from the table, because it has been far too long.
Ryou, rummaging around for the wooden bowls he whittled himself, blushes a deep but happy red. He thinks it must be tonight; there is frost on the windowpane and as far back as he can remember, Bakura has never been later than the frost, though snow comes early to Domino village.
This time, he does not ladle out Bakura's portion, because it will get cold. He slides out of the apron and folds it carefully over his chair. He has found a neatly-wrapped package of honeycombs and sets it on the table beside him and sets a bottle of sickly sweet mead taken from one of Bakura's more recent travels next to the honeycombs. Ryou snaps his fingers again and the fire in the hearth is positively roaring now, filling the house with a cozy warmth and the smell of stew.
The next day, Ryou will tell Bakura about the most recent sickness, the wolves encountered in the forest, his newest discoveries in their cellar where his mother kept most of the magic books. This year he will tell Bakura about Yuugi's plans to propose to Anzu, and he will also say that it is likely she will say no, because she travels so much and surely she will have met many fine young men in her journeys. Bakura, he imagines with a thrill of pleasure, will say that it does not matter; after all, doesn't he, Bakura, do a lot of traveling while Ryou stays behind? And aren't they happy? And Ryou will look into Bakura's eyes that are shining at him so fondly, and he will say, Oh, yes. Yes.
The next five months, Bakura will tell Ryou about his adventures on the ocean, in the temples of Macedon or the palace of Srivijaya. He will tell Ryou about his close shave with some thugs in a tavern or the duel he had with a pirate captain who had two parrots and no legs. Ryou will scream or laugh in all the appropriate places, and Bakura tells these stories like a real bazaar storyteller in Shanti, with relish and plenty of theatrical embellishment. Sometimes Bakura, who reads only maps and usually only uses books as protection against daggers, will bring new books for Ryou and they will go to the forest together to read them. Bakura claims he's there to make sure Ryou doesn't kiss any frogs, but later he will embark on rambling tirades about why Sinbad ought to have died at least twenty times by chapter twelve, and then he will smile at the glow in Ryou's eyes.
It is late and Ryou lights a candle in the window, so that Bakura can find the house in the darkness. Sometimes Bakura returns long after midnight to find Ryou asleep with his head drooping dangerously into to his plate. Bakura also claims that he has saved Ryou from drowning in his soup many times, though Ryou does not believe this.
He is hungry, but it must be tonight, so he will not eat until Bakura opens that door. As he has done every year, he runs through all the terrible things that could have happened to Bakura. Knifings, murders in the early morning, drowning in August. There are never any letters, because Bakura cannot write and Ryou never knows exactly where Bakura is in the world every month. He panics until he remembers that Bakura cannot die because Bakura has said so and promised so. He hopes Bakura has shaved during these seven months, or else kissing him will be painful and scratchy and possibly even unhygienic. Ryou will do it anyway, but he would like to avoid any unnecessary suffering.
There is no way of telling time in the house, but Ryou hazards that it must be well past midnight when he hears a rattling outside. For a moment he does not move, disbelieving; maybe it is a trick of his ears, but then he leaps to his feet and springs for the door. The mead trembles on the table but does not topple.
Before he can reach the latch, the door bursts open in an explosion of cold and Bakura is on him, shoving him against the wall, attacking him with his mouth and hands. Ryou thinks the neighbors might be watching, but he does not care for long. He is trembling in Bakura's arms, heart fluttering like a frightened bird in his chest, and he closes his eyes; it is too dark to see Bakura, but he does not mind waiting until morning. Ryou feels Bakura's smile against his throat and presses against him, and Bakura kicks his satchels out of their way and drags Ryou's mouth down to meet his own. Bakura is home and he announces it with savagery.
In the dark, Ryou runs a questioning hand over Bakura's face and Bakura grabs his hand and kisses it, too. Ryou hears a strange sound and realizes that it is his own laughter, soft and delighted, because Bakura's chin is as smooth as his mother's best china.