A short one shot, un-betaed and roughly done, but decent. Standard disclaimers apply. I never in my life thought I'd ever write anything like this, though...


Circles.

"The ink of the marker will wear off… but in our hearts, the ring will always be there."

Anzu Mazaki, YuGiOh: Volume 4.

0

"Tristan, your ideas are horrible!"
"I got you up here safe and sound, didn't I?"

Tristan Taylor and Bakura Ryou, the YuGiOh Dubbed Series.


'You'd never replace him.'

That was what Jounouchi had said to him, in a tone of voice Bakura completely did, but utterly didn't understand.

In the end it was Yugi who stood up there and stubbornly held it together, because Jounouchi didn't trust himself not to put a fist through something if he tried to stand and speak. They all stood together afterwards, too, and Yugi kept his hand on Jounouchi's every single second. Anzu, for her part, stayed silent and solemn and glared all the way through the ceremony's obligatory national anthem.

The funeral of a soldier, missing in action.

There were four and now there were three. That is perhaps the part which hurts the most. A gap in their hearts and minds, but most of all, a gap in a smiley face, drawn in permanent marker across the back of their hands.

Bakura could only rub his own, unmarked hands together, and try not to feel too out of place as he stood in line at the bodiless funeral.

When Yugi spoke to him afterwards, the conversation was forced and painful and Bakura put it down to grief.

He knows that Hiroto saved his life, once. He doesn't know how exactly, but Yugi had told him afterwards. About the dungeon in Pegasus castle and how Honda had tried so hard to free him from the curse of the Millennium ring. Bakura would always be grateful for that, and only now did he think to mention to Yugi how sorry he was.

'Sorry…?'

'That I never got to say thank you,' Bakura finished in the perfect epitome of an American movie.

Yuugi's smile is also an epitome only Bakura's not quite certain what of. 'I think he must have known it, really. He knows… he knows what you meant to us as much as anyone did, Bakura-kun.'

Bakura wished he could believe him.


Jounouchi vanished halfway through the gathering that formed later at the Honda residence. They looked for him together, searching all around the block, and then around the next block, and the one after that. Anzu biting her lower lip and Yugi yelling the whole damn time. In the end it was Bakura who found him, knuckles bleeding from where they scraped against a hard stone wall.

Bakura couldn't deal with that, because Bakura never had. Even in the earlier days, at Duellist Kingdom and Battle City (the times, at least, when he hadn't been unconscious) he had stood apart and left the connections to Anzu and Hiroto and Yugi. Bakura Ryou had never connected with Jounouchi Katsuya and had always thought he never would.

But now, though, when he found Joey in the back end of one of Honda's oldest hang outs, and attempted to turn and call for Yugi to come as quickly as he could, Jounouchi reached up a hand to stop him, pleading with his eyes the way his mouth point blank refused to. He pulled away from the hand Bakura had tentatively placed upon his shoulder, and the rough material of his jacket seemed to scrape far deeper into Bakura's skin than it actually did.

And so, as ridiculous and stupid as it might have been to do so, Bakura did as Jounouchi wanted, and let him run off again without telling Anzu or Yugi where their friend had gone.


'What was he like?' Bakura asked.

Jounouchi didn't look up from the sand at the words so Bakura chose to sit down besides him. A few moments passed before Jounouchi muttered an impassive 'You talkin' to me?' and gave Bakura something to speak to.

'Well there's nobody else on the beach, you know.'

'Don't do that.' Jounouchi's eyes narrowed just a little but still didn't look up from the patch of sand beneath him. 'You're not… don't try to sound like him, okay? We don't…'

'You misunderstand me, I wasn't…' Bakura started, then stopped himself, letting out a breath he hadn't realised he was holding. 'Jounouchi... I know.'

'No, you don't,' Jounouchi said. 'You just think you do.'

'You were never really…' Jounouchi started to say, and then he too had to stop himself and take a back step. The beach lies below them now, and they're sitting on the seats that sit above the peer, watching the sunset falling before them. strange, but Bakura had never noticed the beach had faced to the west. 'No. You were, weren't you? Just because you didn't happen to be there some day in a freaky fun house… it doesn't change things. You get that, right? You don't have to feel like you need to be something good, and dependable, just because you do. You don't have to act like you're…' he struggled, tripping over the words he wanted to say so badly. 'Like you're…'

'Part of a smiley face?' Bakura asked, glancing absently at Jounouchi's left hand.

Jounouchi shook his head sharply, yet Bakura still knew, somehow, that his guess had been right. 'Never mattered. You were still there, man. You always were. Didn't matter if Anzu never got to take a marker to your fingers. You were still there…' his sort-of half sad smile turned quickly into a frown. 'I can't remember… was he the left eye or the right one? Or maybe that was Yugi and…'

'Perhaps,' Bakura said softly, 'in the end, it doesn't really matter, Jounouchi-kun. The point is that he was there. Was always there and always will be.'

Jounouchi looked up at him and finally, Bakura felt as if he'd hit a nerve centre which wasn't going to send Jounouchi on a rampage of anger across the beach, resulting in hands smashed against a nearby wall and bleeding knuckles Bakura knew he'd have to help fix later, whether or not his assistance was wanted. Slowly, carefully, Bakura lifted a hand and gingerly painted a circle on his chest. The shape of the ring almost seems to shine though the woollen jumper even though it hadn't been there for such a long, long timer.

'What? That freak? But… You hated him. It.' Jounouchi said, blankly. 'Didn't you?'

'Yes.' Bakura said, far too quickly. And then he hesitated and thought about his answer. 'Well. Usually, I did. I don't really know.'

Jounouchi nodded, seeming to understand the point that Bakura honestly hadn't expected him to. 'Sometimes,' Jounouchi said evenly, 'just now and then I think… I think I hated Hiroto, too.'

'Like… when he decided to join the army?' Bakura hazarded an uncertain guess. 'When he became a pilot?'

'No, not then, I was never angry with him for that, man , it was what he always wanted…' he screwed up his eyes and Bakura waited patiently for a lie about the sun being too bright for Jounouchi to see properly without closing them. 'S'funny… I can't remember any of those times. I just…'

'Choose to remember the good things,' Bakura finished, more sure of himself this time. 'Rather than those which cause you pain. I think…. that's the only way to survive these things, Jounouchi. The only way to make it through.'

'Yeah well ,who wants to remember pain, eh?' Jounouchi leaned back…

Against nothing, and then fell backwards into the sand. Bakura snorted his giggle into silence.

'Oh, very funny…'

'Actually it is, a little.'

They were still on the ground, the both of them, and yet Bakura still reached out a hand to help Jounouchi sit again. And when Jounouchi took his hand, he for some reason chose not to let go of it. 'He… he liked those American TV shows they aired on satellite television,' Jounouchi said, softly after a moment. 'And motorcycle magazines… but only when they were more about the bikes than the girls. And he liked that Okonomiyaki stuff they used to sell in the cafeteria. He wrote back to us about that once. Complained because the air-force rations didn't give them any Okonomiyaki… like he couldn't believe it.'

Bakura smiled in a combination of politeness and some genuine amusement which he figured would be a great deal stronger if the person they were talking about had actually been there to enjoy the conversation. 'There were these times when we were really young… I never told you about that relay race, did I?' Bakura shook his head. 'Yeah, that was… that was the one that I won. Only Honda helped. A little. I've still got the sash somewhere… unless I gave it to Honda. I don't remember. Bakura I… I never hated him,' Jounouchi said, again. Though the tone suggested he was trying to convince himself as much as Bakura. 'I didn't. He was my best friend. Even before Yugi. Even before all of us.'

'I know you didn't.'

Silences between the two of them, Bakura decided, would never be entirely comfortable. He was far too used to worrying about what still silences in his head could possibly mean, and Jounouchi was too used to talking his way through them until somebody (usually Hiroto) finally told him to be quiet. They were, however, becoming more bearable, since the day of the funeral.

'I never hated you, either… just so's you know,' Jounouchi added.

'I know that, too, Jounouchi. I just… don't make a very good part of a smiley face,' Bakura said, softly, interlacing his fingers, almost surprisingly, for just a moment, with those of an older, more rugged boy from the bad side of the city.

'Nah. I wouldn't say that.'

Jounouchi smiled as he let Bakura's fingers go again, placing their hands side by side with their palms facing downwards. Bakura could almost see the glow of ink on Jounouchi's hand where it has long since faded.

There were no marks on Bakura's own hand, he realised, but all of a sudden, it hardly seemed to matter.

Fin.


Bakura always seemed ever so slightly distant from the group because of the other spirit thing and I just wanted to deal with that. This is all I had time to do. Rreviews are appreciated.