I waken to a room full of daylight, to the sound of voices and the pattering of feet. I don't open my eyes immediately. Rather, I allow the day's glow to seep in beneath my lids, wrapping me in a radiant warmth.
"Is he awake yet?"
"I don't think so. He still seems pretty out of it."
"Oh really! You think?!"
"Shut up, Bakura! It's not as if any of this is Ryou's fault!"
"Don't fucking start with me, Malik! I've had about enough of your…"
"Shut up, Bakura."
Marik's command seems to silence all of them. The noise of the room settles, and I keep my eyes shut, unwilling to break the peaceful quiet. The only sound comes from Mariku's erratic breathing and the muffled thump of Bakura's feet pacing back and forth across the carpet. Slowly, the events of what happened earlier return to me. What Bakura said was true. The spells of the Dark Book are no more. However, the binding remains, a malignant husk hidden away by Ryou in a place so obvious he thought no one would ever find it.
The dark thoughts begin flooding back. The terror…pure, wretched, mindless terror, and something sicker as well. I can't explain it. This feeling is sinking into me, saturating my soul, yet…yet it is not dangerous. I sense no power in this sensation. Rather, it is simply the vestige of power, the last bit of unpleasantness still clinging to the aura of that useless book. Despite this, I am admittedly frightened.
Ryou's voice cuts through my thoughts. "Hey, he's moving!"
I feel a sweaty palm touch my own, and the mattress shifts as a new weight settles upon it. Trying for one last time to shake my disturbance, I open my eyes. Cool, violet ones stare back at me. Marik's lips are held every bit as taut as they were when I brought Bakura back from the bridge. His hand tightens compulsively around my wrist. I shift to get a better look at him, becoming slightly dizzy as my vision blurs. The blonde realizes.how tightly he's been holding my arm, and lets go with a self-reproving hiss.
From the foot of the bed I hear the paler spirit snort. It is not a derisive sound.
"You're up." Ryou offers me a shaky smile.
"And you look like shit." Bakura's smirk is less cute, though not necessarily less sincere. Besides, he's right. Passing a hand through my sweaty hair, I realize I must look absolutely awful.
In fact, no one is looking their best. Bakura is uncommonly pale, Ryou and Malik have been crying so long their eyes are about to swell shut, and Mariku, true to his usual, twitchy self, looks as if he's about to go into some kind of seizure. Guilt leeches into me, quite as unpleasant as the aura of that book. Have I caused this? I can't believe it. I should be embarrassed, creating all this fuss over something so harmless.
But it wasn't harmless, and a part of me knows that. Memories are powerful, horrible things. They can undermine us slowly or rise up as the Pharaoh's did, awash with fire and brilliance. I think of those very memories, etched so permanently on Mariku's back, and a dreadful, almost giddy shudder wracks my body.
"Are you all right?"
Meeting Malik's gaze, I nod and try to sit up. It is a feeble attempt. Almost immediately my vision begins to blur. The bedroom melts away, and for the briefest instant I see my Diabound, overwhelmed and twisted by Zorc's glaring darkness. Then it is gone, and I find myself falling back onto the bed sheets. Zorc can't hurt you, I remind myself. Nothing can hurt you now but fear itself. I feel a hand on my shoulder and tremble as Ryou helps me up. This time I stay sitting.
"How long was I out?"
Malik peers down at his watch. "Eight hours. It's almost midnight."
"Eight?" I'm mortified. It's really been that long, then? Have they been up the entire time? It would explain why Marik and Bakura appear so exhausted. Also, it means they were worried, worried for my safety. I stare into their faces. They are brimming with stoicism and contempt, but there is something there, something hidden. That secret goodness I have come to cherish. When Mariku smiled, when Bakura allowed his tears to fall…I saw it their and was held, awestruck.
"We'll leave you alone for awhile." Ryou sees it in my face, in all our faces. "Malik and I will be downstairs. Call for us if you need anything." Then he whisks his lover away, and I am left alone with the two spirits. Bakura is the first to speak.
"You idiot. You're too fucking nosy for your own good."
"Hypocrite." I can't help but snicker. "You were the one seeking it out. I merely stumbled upon it."
The paler yami straightens to his full height. "Oh, so it's my fault now, is it? My curiosity is the reason you fucked up?"
"That doesn't even make sense, dumbass. What I'm trying to say is that you're too nosy for your own good!"
For an instant the rage on Bakura's face is terrifying and absolute. His nose crinkles, and his eyes shrink to nefarious slits. I feel my own blood rising. My hands clench. I can feel my temples pulsing. Then, at the climactic pinnacle of our emotion, we burst out laughing.
"You stupid shit!" Bakura slaps me roughly over the head and continues chuckling. "Goddamn thief! Couldn't keep your hands off it, could you?"
I can feel my own grin, desperately happy, threatening to take over my face. "Couldn't help it! The fucking gold…you know? The fucking gold on the cover!"
And we are howling again. Clinging to each other, we laugh until tears shimmer on our lashes, until we're not even sure what was so damned hilarious in the first place. I feel drunk, high on fear and high on life. When our giggles finally do subside I turn, still hiccoughing, to Mariku.
The blonde gives me a look that could shatter glass. He is not amused, not in the slightest. The look on his face is one of fear and anger so deep they border agony. I realize for the first time how much I have actually frightened him.
"Hey?" I give him a light shake. "You alright?"
"I'm fine…are you ready to go now?" He stares at us with blank, fathomless eyes.
"Um…yeah. Hold on a sec." Swinging to the side of the bed, I test my legs before allowing them to carry my full weight. They seem stable enough. I get to my feet. Marik is still angry. He's no longer looking at us. Instead, the blonde glares off into space, face aloof, even contemptuous. Bakura frowns and looks as if he would say something to the younger spirit, but for once he holds his tongue. After exchanging hasty goodbyes with the hikari, we make our way outside. I become less disoriented as I walk. By the time we reach the car my balance is as sound as ever.
The car ride back is quiet. Marik drives, I stare out the backseat window, and Bakura drums his fingers distractedly on the dash. I pass the time attempting to calculate just how much of my life has been spent enduring awkward silences. Really, these situations seem almost as ridiculous as they are unpleasant.
The second we enter the apartment, Mariku disappears into the bathroom. He gives no explanation…simply slips away, the lock clicking in place behind him. I follow Bakura out to his usual brooding spot on the balcony. No one speaks for a moment. We merely stand there, staring off into a sea of stars mirrored by the city lights below. Then he turns to me.
"Tell me, what did you see when you held it?"
"When I held the book's binding?"
"What I saw…" I swallow hard before continuing. "I saw fear, the fear that was in my heart. That is all."
As if he has not heard me, Bakura turns his gaze back towards the city that surrounds us. He breathes deeply, taking in the frosty air as if it might somehow bring strength to his already frosty soul.
I continue. "You touched it to, then? The remnant of the Dark Book."
"…yes…" Finally, he turns to me. "I touched it. I was as curious as you…but then, you already knew that."
So that's it then. The night Bakura tried to take his life. He had already discovered the book's location. However…
"What did you see?"
The spirit flinches, and for a moment I see that cold, sneering facade about to take over his face. Then it falls. He has no reason to guard against me now. Even if he did not tell me, I will have guessed.
"I saw what you saw." Bakura shakes his head, once more turning away from me into the night. "Fear…stupid really. It's powerless, but…"
"But dangerous." I crack my knuckles and glance back at the interior of our apartment. That's why Mariku is like this. He was afraid for me, and in his fear he turned to anger. It's a common denominator, something all creatures capable of feelings are subjected to.
I do not know what Bakura saw when he touched the book, what was so terrible that he was driven to take his own life. Perhaps he saw the horror of the things he has done. The hatred of those he has maimed, killed, wrecked beyond all sense of repair. For it is true that Bakura has committed evil acts, but it is equally true that we have forgiven him for them. However, the reason doesn't make any difference. All that matters is that this fear, this atrocious force that unites all three of us, can be overcome. That we are strong enough to defeat it, strong enough to live unafraid together in this strange and alien world. That is where the true strength of our bond is founded.
The wail of a siren echoes in the distance, and I am shaken from my revelry. Turning from me, Bakura disappears back into the apartment. He's going to Marik. I should too, but I'm not ready yet. I need a few more moments to myself, a chance to clear my head before going back to untangling the vast maze of our existence. Not that I'm complaining. I wouldn't trade my life for anything now.
As I enter the bedroom, my ears are filled with the hushed whispers of the spirits. They are laying together, two ghosts haunting the bed sheets. Marik still looks a bit put out. He has not yet forgiven me for scaring him, but I sense something else in his derisive glare. Desire, sharp and pungent, lurks beneath his quiet anger. I can almost smell it…earthy, rich and secretive, the scent of smoldering wood and something almost bitter. I wet my chaffed lips, readying myself to speak, but the blonde beats me to it.
"I don't want to know, Touzouko. Just…just come here, alright?"
I sigh, secretly relieved. It is clear by the strain in his voice that Mariku no more wants to hear my tale than I want to tell it. And I am glad for this. He has known enough of darkness, enough of hatred and pain and limitless regret. Why should I add to it? That wouldn't be fair to either of us. Instead, I find myself walking towards the bed. I groan as his arms wrap around me, as he buries his still angry face into my chest and pulls his body flush against my own. His skin is warm. No, not warm. Marik's skin is hot, hot like desert wind is hot, feverish not with sickness, but with some deeper intensity that he alone can feel.
I glance at Bakura out of the corner of my eye. He's sitting a little bit apart, a deceptively sharp grin spread teasingly across his features. Marik, too, has noticed this, for he disentangles himself from me long enough to pull the paler spirit into a kiss. Their kiss deepens, and I find myself crushed between them. The scent of their arousal overwhelms me. The heat, the sweat, the soft groans as they explore each other's mouths. It becomes an enveloping mist, surrounding me so completely that I lose control of my body and fall back against Bakura's chest. He smirks at this and lets loose a low, rumbling chuckle.
"My, aren't we needy tonight, Touzouko."
"Fuck off." I'm not as bothered as I should be. Rather, I gasp as the spirit pulls away from Marik to drag his hot tongue along the nape of my neck. He nibbles lightly at the protrusion of my spine, and I can feel him smirking against my skin as I fail to stifle a moan. Mariku in turn must see my parted lips as a blatant invitation, for he wastes no time in assaulting them with his own. I almost choke as he explores the deepest corners of my mouth. The blonde is rough in his passion. His kiss is violent, and his hands grip my chin and hair with a force that is bruising.
"If you ever do something like that again..." Marik grazes his teeth along my throat, and, despite myself, I feel an ugly twinge of fear. "…I swear I'll fucking kill you."
He's not serious. I know he's not serious, but the concentration of devotion in Marik's gaze is as frightening as it erotic. It teeters on the edges of obsession, a love so strong it borders stifling. I kiss him desperately, aware that the strength of my human love pales in comparison to his…grown twisted and poignant, alone for too long in the recesses of darkness.
From behind, Bakura begins to slide his hands beneath my shirt. I gasp as his cold palms explore my chest before moving lower to tease the waistband of my pants. I haven't allowed him to touch me like this since the night of our anniversary, and even then it was I who took control. However, right now I am content to allow him power. Perhaps it is foolish of me to trust a creature such as Yami Bakura. Two weeks ago I wouldn't have dreamed of it, but things have changed a great deal since last night on the bridge. We are still the same people. I will not deceive myself otherwise. However, we have gained a sort of…a sort of awareness of each other. An understanding. I see Bakura and Marik clearly now, and, though it is at times unnerving, they see me clearly as well.
"Mmm…quit thinking so much, Touzouko."
Pulling himself onto my lap, Marik grinds roughly against my jeans. His exhalation whistles past my cheek. There is no discernable smell to his breath, merely a heady, almost desperate hotness. I smirk, and Bakura begins to unbuckle my pants from behind. The blond-haired spirit is right. Now is not the time to be thinking.
Not even fully out of our clothes, and already my mind is numb with lust. I tangle my hand in his messy hair and pull Bakura over my shoulder into a sloppy kiss. His skin is cool, cool to compliment Marik's heat. His touch is like a breath of chilly air. Cold, it causes me to shiver, but there is something invigoratingly sweet about it as well. If Mariku is fire, then he is ice, and they clash perfectly. I allow Bakura to explore my mouth with his tongue, all the while aware of the other spirit, who has taken to further loosening my pants. I grunt and settle him more securely on my lap.
"Careful." I pull away from the paler spirit and nip sharply at Marik's bottom lip.
The blonde laughs softly, sending those familiar shudders coursing up and down my spine. If I'm not careful I'll fall into that laugh. A wretched beauty that torments me just beyond the edge of comprehension. It will haunt me till my dying day.
As the night progresses, everything becomes a blur. The events swim hazily through my consciousness, mixing themselves always with sensations and thoughts almost vivid enough to be touched. Wet fingers in my mouth. A devilish smirk. Pleas of lust so fervent they seem to me a sustained and wrenching sob.
One moment I am conscious of Bakura pressing in eagerly behind me. A second later it is Marik, the scars on his back creating patterns beneath my fingertips. My awareness shifts violently between them. Bakura's throat smells of soap and cheap cologne. Marik looks different in the filtered moonlight, almost feminine actually. Tomorrow I will recall things more clearly. I will remember how I finally let Bakura take me, how it didn't hurt so much when I saw the gratitude mingling with the lust trapped in the mahogany chambers of his gaze. Then I'll see Mariku's silhouette, standing out darkly against the uncommon brightness of a winter's night, trembling as he forces himself down on me with a twisted, almost apologetic smile.
In a brief moment of trepidation, I wonder how all of this has managed to work out. I mean, the story's pretty implausible. Boy possessed after destruction of village, thrown 3000 years into the future locked in a gold ring, given own body by same book that destroyed family, shacks up with former possessor and renegade mental disorder, madness ensues. It's not the kind of plot most authors would look for, but why change it? I've turned out happy, haven't I? Look at them, Mariku and Bakura. They're beautiful, crazy perhaps, but still beautiful…and despite how hard life with them can be I am grateful. Grateful for their unnerving beauty, for being permitted to bask in it, simple and mortal though I am.
A hitch in Bakura's breathing tells me that he is about to come. Three more times, the abrupt cut off of respiration. His body jerks, and I am aware of something warm and sticky filling me. This sensation sets off some hidden trigger inside my own body. I see white. All the blood occupying my veins seems to be flowing downward, concentrating. I release in a flash of carnal brilliance. The pleasure comes in waves, ripple after ripple, overwhelming, drowning me. When it is over, I pull out of Marik and curl up between him and Bakura on the bed sheets. Also spent, the blonde offers me a groggy kiss.
"Sweet dreams, Touzouko." Even on the edge of slumber, Mariku's eyes are disquieting in their brightness, vivid and unnatural beneath his kohl-blackened lashes. I run my fingers through his hair until those lashes fall, until his face relaxes and all I am aware of are his soft tresses and Bakura's cheek pressing gently against my back.
"He seems better, right?"
"Huh?" Peeking over my shoulder towards the slumbering blonde, said spirit gives a short bob of his head. "He's fine. Well…as fine as he'll ever be. Don't stress over it."
"Yeah, okay." Closing my eyes, I allow Bakura's hand to wander lazily over my chest. His lithe fingers send shivers through my skin. Teasing…I almost snort as he allows his nails to tickle across my ribs before digging deeper for a more raking, violent dance. I can feel the welts, maybe a little blood, rising in irritated ridges across my flesh.
"Marik's right, you know." The spirit's lips brush my shoulder as he speaks. "You think too much. You always have. Even as a child."
"Yeah?" I roll over so that I am nestled squarely on his chest. "You think so? Well one of us has to, right?"
Despite himself, Bakura lets out a snorting burst of laughter. I suppose it is humorous when you put it into context. How can I, uneducated and malleable as I am, possibly claim to be more intelligent than a creature like Yami Bakura. Scheming, subtle Bakura, clever and cruel and manipulative in ways only his former puppets can fully appreciate…but then, he doesn't look as if he's making fun of me. If anything…
"Maybe you're right, Touzouko. Maybe that's the real reason we keep you around."
The spirit chuckles darkly and bats the bangs from my eyes. "I mean that you take care of all the perspective bullshit."
This time I am the one who can't keep from laughing. "Perspective bullshit? What the hell are you talking about?"
Bakura shrugs. "You see the things we can't. I mean…fuck. How do I say this? When I look at a situation or when Ishtar over here does, we look at it in only one way. It's not really a conscious thing. It's merely difficult for people…people like us…to observe things from all angles."
For a long moment I lay in silence, trying desperately to comprehend what Bakura is trying to tell me. Angles? Perspective? One of the only times the spirit's being fully open with me, and I'm too stupid to know what the fuck he means!
As if sensing my confusion, Bakura continues. "Because of this we have trouble…I don't know…recognizing how different situations can cause different people to feel…differently."
"But what the hell does that have to do with me?"
"Damnit! Are you really that fucking thick?" The spirit throws me a bristling glare, but there is no real malice behind it. "That's exactly what you do best! You can read people, not their intentions necessarily, but their…their…"
"…oh…" I've never really thought about it before. I mean, I'm no more sensitive about others' feelings than most people, certainly nowhere near as empathetic as Ryou. Still, I suppose it makes sense. If I were incapable of seeing past the callousness of their actions, Mariku and Bakura's cruelty would make them impossible to live with. I wouldn't be able to take it, knowing only the nastiest aspects of their nature.
The paler spirit reaches up to touch my face. His thoughts are similar to my own. "You see now, Touzouko? Without you we wouldn't be tied to the reality of human thought. If we didn't know at least someone normal could bear us…we'd go back…back to how we were before."
I don't know what to say. Since when does Bakura get it into his head to tell me that I'm some kind of fucking saint? That I'm responsible for his ability to go about life in a fashion of pseudo-normalcy? It's not just out of character. It's a blatantly gross exaggeration, but thankfully he doesn't seem to need any form of reply. Explaining these things to me appears to have taken up the remainder of Bakura's strength. He's falling asleep now, and I am left alone to ponder the sincerity of his words.
It's puzzling to me that, after 3000 years together, the spirit has just now decided to appreciate me. Why such a change of heart? I cannot know for certain, but perhaps it has something to do with Mariku. Some of the blonde's muddled expressiveness, his inability to keep emotion in check, seems to have worn off on both of us. Because of it we are more volatile, more apt to lose our tempers and gravitate towards thoughtlessness and conflict, but because of it we are also freer. Because of it Bakura is not afraid to at times drop his cold, analytical demeanor, and because of it I no longer find shame in the acts of human passion, rage, and lust.
And maybe that is Marik's truest wisdom. Of the three of us he is considered the most crazy, the most inhuman and generically deranged, but is he really that monstrous? Isn't emotion what defines us as human? The ability to feel, to hate, to love...in theory, is what distinguishes us from lesser beings. If this is true, then Marik is the most human of all. He feels without reserve, without the presence of mind to block the things that hurt him as so many are apt to do. He represents the quintessential ideals of humanity. To express without restraint the inner workings of one's mind.
And yet he is branded a monster. They both are. They are seen as evil. Why? Because they are violent. Because they lack manners and tact. Because they find solace in cruelty and can kindle hatreds that span millennia. In a word they are ugly. They harbor aspects of human nature that we are unable to come to terms with. Therefore we label them as wrong, as insane, so that we may distance ourselves from the darkness that lurks inside every one of us. That the human race is great is undeniable. That brutality goes hand in hand with greatness is often ignored. It is the fear and aversion of this truth that surrounds Marik and Bakura.
Yet as terrible as they are, these spirits are not evil. They are capable of kindness along with atrocity. They understand such abstractions as beauty and loneliness and can express in their own way the deepest denotations of love. So rather than be repelled by such creatures, we should find in them hope. Hope because if those as far gone as Marik and Bakura have the capacity for decency, then so must the rest of us. Despite the truth of man's iniquity, the reality of human goodness remains inherent.
Turning my head, I am surprised to find the blonde gazing at me through heavily lidded eyes. He smirks at my astonishment.
You look pretty when you're reflecting on things, Touzouko, but you should try to get some sleep. The sun's already coming up."
I glance towards the window and gasp. Mariku's right. Just now light is beginning to filter through the curtains. "I…I must have lost track of time."
The blonde doesn't reply, simply stares at me with a thoughtful, lopsided smile gracing his face. How can he know that all I've been thinking about is him, him and Bakura and the love I feel for both of them that has only just begun to make itself known? No, Marik doesn't know any of this, but maybe that's for the best. He wouldn't be interested in my thoughts on the nature of humanity or how he and Bakura epitomize it. Sure, he'd listen if I told him, but only because of his twisted resolve to make me happy. What the world thinks of him does not concern Marik. It is the opinion of those closest to him alone that the spirit truly cares about.
"Come out on the balcony with me. I want to see the sunrise."
The request is out of my mouth before I can help myself. It is stupid, childish even, but Mariku merely gives me a curious look before scooting to the edge of the bed.
It's cold outside, cold yet desperately beautiful. At this hour Domino City appears cleaner, bleached to an ethereal brightness by the pale morning sunlight spilling over the rim of the world. The sky itself is almost white. The only stars visible are at its very pinnacle, where the twilight lingers, a sweep of fading indigo. It's impossible to say if Mariku is as affected by this loveliness as I am. I believe he is trying to be affected, but whether or not he is able to grasp such natural transcendence as that of a winter's morning I cannot say. Still, I am happy that he is here with me, happy that I am not the only one awake to experience such a cold but elegant perfection.
"You're going to call Ryou today, right? Make sure they're…okay…after last night?"
I smile at Marik's tentative, clumsily worded compassion. "Yes, I was actually thinking I would go pay them a visit. Want to come."
"Me? Hell no! I-I mean…no…no thank you." He drums his hands against the balcony railing and fidgets uncomfortably. "I'll stay here if…uh…if you…"
"Sure. No problem." I grab his hands between my own to stop their fiddling. Certain aspects of his psychosis are almost cute. "Hey, do you think Bakura's up yet?"
"What about me?"
Said spirit stands in the doorway, much like he did the last time I was out here admiring the scenery. The paleness of the morning does something to his already ghostly pallor. It's as if he were carved from marble…or maybe porcelain, a substance more delicate than stone. Still, Bakura is in no way doll-like. The trenchant force of his gaze betrays all thoughts of listlessness or lack of strength. His eyes flicker brightly, a rich auburn tainted with just enough red to be unnatural. However, they are still beautiful, still rich and filled with life and intelligence.
"Fucking Ra, it's cold out here!" Stepping out onto the terrace, Bakura rubs his palms against his upper arms. "What are you two idiots doing, anyway?"
Mariku shrugs and continues to gaze out into the morning stillness. The clouds have begun to spit crystals of snow, and the sun's weak rays catch in them, causing the air around us to glitter strangely. "Touzouko wanted to see the sunrise. That's all."
"Oh." Bakura scratches his nose and settles between myself and Marik at the edge of the balcony. Like the blonde he scrutinizes the early morning clarity, and, like the blonde, I am unsure if he is able to appreciate it as I do. Then he turns to me and grins. "You're a weird one, Touzouko. It makes me wonder why we like you so much."
I grin back, no longer worrying about whether or not the spirits understand my love of nature. That they are here with me, that is enough. That they care enough to let me bask in this loveliness when they cannot, that is more than I could ever ask or hope for.
I glance from Marik to Bakura, and suddenly the morning doesn't seem so marvelous. Sure it's beautiful out here, but there are many forms of beauty, and I know which ones I enjoy the best.
"You're right." I grab each spirit by the hand and begin ushering them inside. "It's too cold out here. We'll find something better to do."
And to my immediate pleasure they follow me, exchanging glances and shrugging in a way that seems oddly affectionate.
"Be patient, Touzouko! We're coming!"
"Shit! How does he have this much energy on zero hours of sleep?"
However, their words have no effect on me. Life is too good, and I have too much energy to complain. I simply throw back my head and laugh.
'And of these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.'
-1 Cor 13:13
-UsuakariTOT (Was the ending weak? I usually try to end my stories with something introspective, but since the whole story was basically one big character analysis I thought it would be better to wrap it up on a lighter note. Anyway, I really hope you liked it. I took a while to update because I was so busy, but things have slowed down, and hopefully my next story will move along a bit more quickly. Thank you to all those who have stuck with this story and reviewed. Your comments and criticism are the most useful tools I have with which to improve my work.)