Author's Notes: Written for the 30screams LiveJournal community, which everyone should join because the prompts are all quite cool (in fact, there are two sets, so if you don't have an idea for one, you can use the other instead). This particular fic is for the first prompt, "A Bloody Knife" (the alternate, for those curious, is "Echo"). Of course, I claimed Darkshipping (like anyone expected any different from me?), so behold the Bakura/Yami goodness. Actually, since this is supposed to be set post-series, I've got Yami in here as Atemu throughout; silly confusing timelines...
Warnings: A little bit of blood, unexplained implications that Bakura and Atemu are alive and in a relationship (post-series), self-harm (NOT of the suicidal variety, though). First thing I've written for this fandom in a good long while. ;)
Please let me know what you think of it!
A Friendly Reminder
Atemu had known as soon as he entered the apartment that something was off. Perhaps it was because the curtains were drawn closed when it was still just early evening, or maybe it was because it was so eerily silent, but Atemu proceeded past the front door with more than a little caution.
Straining his senses, he detected his companion in the bedroom down the hall. He sighed quietly in relief; if Bakura was at home, there was no chance that anything – spiritual or otherwise – could have gotten into the apartment and still be lurking around.
Still, the atmosphere was more than a little creepy, and Atemu couldn't seem to pinpoint the cause. That bothered him.
He wandered down the hall until he came to the closed bedroom door.
"Hey," he said through the wood. "Got enough lights on in here?"
"Hn." Bakura grunted from within, obviously un-amused by Atemu's attempt at a joke.
Atemu frowned. "Are you all right?" he asked.
"Yeah. Fine." He sounded preoccupied with something.
Atemu felt a sudden chill pass through him, and his frown deepened. He placed his hand on the doorknob, then paused. He didn't like to intrude on the other's privacy, but he was concerned, and his sense of foreboding was increasing with each passing second.
Making up his mind, he twisted the handle and stepped into the room.
It was even darker inside than it had been in the hallway, and Atemu stood still, waiting for his eyes to adjust to the murky light. When they finally did, he quickly spotted Bakura, and he went rigid as his mind registered what he was seeing.
Bakura was slumped on the floor against the far wall, a small knife in his hand. As Atemu stood in stunned silence, Bakura raised the blade to his opposite hand and unflinchingly dragged it across the tip of his index finger. Then he did it again to his middle finger. And again to his ring finger.
He seemed not to have even noticed Atemu's presence in the room. The motions were so deliberate that Atemu felt sick just watching him. His voice was strained and tense when he finally managed to speak.
"Bakura, what are you doing…?"
"Hm?" Amber eyes raised to regard him absently, then flickered downward to follow Atemu's line of sight. "Oh," he muttered, apparently realizing he'd been caught. "Picking my nails," he answered sardonically, proceeding to do just that.
Atemu would not be so easily convinced.
"What are you doing sitting here in the dark with a knife?" he snapped, taking a step forward.
Bakura rolled his eyes, giving up the farce. "What does it look like I'm doing?" he asked thinly.
"Cutting your fingers open," Atemu said, his eyes narrowing in anger. "Why?"
"Don't get any ideas," Bakura warned. "It's just a little exercise in remembering how to feel."
"By damaging the nerve endings in your fingertips," Atemu commented flatly. Bakura snorted, but didn't contest it.
"What are you playing at, Bakura?" Atemu made his way carefully over to Bakura's side, sliding down the wall to sit next to him. Bakura moved to touch the knife to his skin again, and Atemu grabbed his wrist. "Knock it off!" he said sternly.
"Contrary to widely-held belief," Bakura drawled, pulling out of Atemu's grip, "not everything in life is a game. I'm not playing at anything." He frowned. "I'm having – was having, rather – a moment of peace and quiet."
"And cutting your own fingers open."
"How long have you been…?"
"I don't know. Maybe half an hour?"
"That is not what I meant."
Atemu pressed a hand to his forehead and tried to keep from screaming at the other. He wanted to grab him and shake him and demand what in the hell was wrong with him and make him promise never to do this again, but he knew it wouldn't do any good…
"You're worried about me." It wasn't a question, so Atemu didn't answer.
Bakura chuckled softly to himself and Atemu glared at him through his fingers, still splayed across his eyes. Bakura offered up the red-tipped knife.
"Want to try it?"
The glare intensified.
"That'd be a 'no,' then," he said with a smirk, and returned to working on his own hands.
Atemu's eyes followed the knife's path. The incision was just deep enough to draw blood, but it obviously wasn't anything that Bakura's magic couldn't heal. Still…
"You're deranged," he mumbled, tearing his gaze away.
"You love me anyway," Bakura assured him.
They sat in silence for a while. Bakura eventually must have lost interest in his task, because when Atemu next glanced over, he was simply passing the knife back and forth between his hands.
"What did you mean before by 'remembering to feel?'" Atemu finally asked. He felt suddenly tired; this was about the last thing he would have expected to come home to, and it was beginning to take its toll.
"Just what I said," was his reply. "Sometimes I forget."
It was Bakura's turn to glare at him. "And here I thought you were starting to grow out of being so dense all the time," he said irritably. "Yes, 'to feel.'"
"Isn't there another way to go about it?" Atemu asked, raising an eyebrow. "There are other feelings than pain, you realize."
Bakura shifted suddenly, and Atemu thought for a brief moment that he caught a quickly-masked look of discomfort on the other's face. Bakura mumbled something that Atemu couldn't quite hear, then stood abruptly and left the room. Atemu was quick to follow him.
"What's the matter with you?" he asked when he'd caught up; Bakura had gone into the bathroom and was rinsing the knife off in the sink. The bright overhead lights were a stark contrast to the gloom of the bedroom, and Atemu had to blink rapidly to clear his vision.
"Oh, various things," Bakura said flippantly, and Atemu could tell he was intentionally hiding his eyes from Atemu's own view.
Atemu grabbed his wrist for the second time that evening. The knife fell from Bakura's fingers, clattering against the bottom of the sink basin.
"Look at me."
Bakura, for once, remained completely motionless. He didn't try to pull away, but he also didn't obey Atemu's command.
"It's not as simple as you make it out to be."
Atemu fell silent, watching Bakura intently. The other was acting as unpredictable as ever.
"So explain it to me," he said cautiously, his hand still wrapped around Bakura's wrist.
Bakura let out a disgruntled sound but otherwise didn't speak. The water continued to run from the faucet, keeping them just an inch away from dead silence.
"You know how it is when you're in a pitch black room?" Bakura started slowly, reluctantly, after a minute. "How you can't see a thing, and your first instinct is to throw your arms out in front of you and start feeling around for something solid, something… familiar, so that you have some sense of where you are?"
"Yes…" Atemu said, keeping his voice quiet. It wasn't often that he got Bakura to talk about himself like this, and he didn't want to provoke him into clamming back up.
"That's sort of what it is. I feel, sometimes, like I'm in a dark room, and I'm stumbling around like one of those blithering idiot friends of yours until I find a chair to trip over or something. And falling on my face reminds me, somehow, that this is reality now." Bakura's lips curved into a grim smile, and he finally met Atemu's gaze head-on. "Pain's always been a pretty reliable memory-sparking companion. And it's certainly familiar."
The silence was heavier now, though still punctuated by the rush of water down the drain. Atemu held Bakura's eyes with his, watching him unblinkingly for several moments, still aware of the weight of Bakura's wrist in his hand.
He drew Bakura's hand up between them, breaking their eye-contact to inspect the tiny lacerations along his pale fingers, each a reminder of the fact that, yes, this was their reality now. They were alive now.
"You don't need pain to be your companion anymore, Bakura." Atemu regarded him solemnly for a second before pressing his lips gently to the other's damaged skin. Bakura shivered at his touch.
"You have me."