Marik x Ryou
Dedicated to AphroditeLove
I'm a new soul; I came to this strange world
Hoping I could learn a bit about how to give and take
But since I came here, felt the joy and the fear
finding myself making every possible mistake
- Yael Naim
There had been… promises he had to make, since he had come back, promises that he knew he could never keep.
The first he had anticipated: to be allowed to return, he and Ryou's yami first had to promise to never do something against the Pharaoh's will again. A promise that none of them, the Pharaoh included, had expected them to keep.
When Atem had, eventually, allowed them to restore themselves into the present world, it hadn't been without sacrifice. Time had been spent in the shadow realm before a compromise had been met between the Pharaoh, the tomb-robber and himself, and then a pledge, of sorts, been agreed. They would not hurt anyone, and he would not interfere.
Atem had reasoned, on the grounds of ignorance being bliss, that if they did not hurt anyone on a scale he heard about, a concession could be met. He was a good person, and he did not wish to keep them locked away if they could be trusted, and, perhaps a little naively, he believed he could trust them.
However, he was a stubborn man, and adamant: they would have one chance, and they understood that. He could send them back, and he would, if they did not behave.
That was Marik's first promise.
His second had been another easy agreement. His light-side had made him promise their independence- there was too much water under the bridge, he reasoned, for them to ever be as the Pharaoh and his host were, and this promise was soon mirrored by Ryou and Bakura: to allow the light-side's freedom from their darker halves, and the dark-side's to be allowed to do as they please, to a reasonable extent.
Despite this, both yami's were fiercely protective of their lighter halves, and the said lighter halves remained close to their… other selves, for that was where they felt the safest. They had grown used to darkness, and the same way one feels reassured in the warmth of ones own bed at night, the albeit fluctuating presence of their yami's was a comfort to them.
And then, there had not been another promise for a very long time. Bakura and Marik had continued with their acts of chaotic destruction and sadistic games, not all of which were with cards, and Ryou and Malik remained patient and incredulous at their actions.
And Marik had started to learn, in an absentminded, vague way, about the world. They'd discovered, his light and he together, about the strange earth that they had been born into from beneath the sand, and he knew that was often how Malik would think of it, in an offhand way: they had appeared as unknowing as new born children of social extremities and modern advances.
And there was always the same one who would sit there, patient and conflicted, teaching them. A soft, white-haired boy who would look so similar to the tomb-robber whilst at the same time looking so very different.
None were sure, at first, how to approach him. Malik had struck up an awkward conversation, and one he'd returned Bakura simply went for it, and marched right up to him, arms folded and smirking. Marik had followed, silently uncertain of the reaction they'd receive. However, he had only gasped, eyes wide, and then smiled at them with something none of them had known or expected: forgiveness.
And, the same way a flower will only open beneath a light, the three began to learn, only ever truly listening to him, because as much as the Pharaoh believed that Malik had changed and Bakura and Marik had been subdued, none of them were willing to listen to someone trying to help them, unless it was Ryou.
They were stubborn creatures by nature, much more used to becoming adamant to doing something if someone else wanted them to do it as well.
And then the darks began to understand virtues, and although they never felt to apply them to themselves, they at least they knew what they were. It was a start, after all, and it was appreciated by the light-sides. A new life dawned on the horizon. Perhaps the Pharaoh had been right in believing that they could be subdued, but then again, the fires that burned so brightly behind their eyes never flickered or died out, it only changed shape a little.
And so time had passed, a few months perhaps, and unbeknownst to Marik, a storm was brewing.
Bakura and Malik had made an agreement in Battle City, for their own gain, with little interest in each other. But since then, Malik had softened, and Bakura… well, his edges were as sharp as ever, but perhaps there were slightly fewer than before.
Of course, Ryou had noticed. How could he not? The chemistry had been enough to destroy the place. Much more than acquaintances, and no way near friends, their relationship had merged from one form to another, until it had settled on something that neither of them had really anticipated.
And after this long period, he had to make another promise, his third.
And this one, which he gave unwillingly, he never had any intention of keeping. The tomb-robber wanted his word not to interfere with the apparently growing relationship between the thief and Marik's own light-side, and though he gave it, he knew that he would soon break it.
And with that, came his breaking of the promise prior to that: to not interfere with Malik's life.
And he was very happy with breaking these promises. There was no way he could ever have kept them, and to break them was to protect his light, after all, and what he still considered to be his property. And, so what if Malik protested that he did not want to be protected? Marik felt slightly displaced by the knowledge that he probably was not the most important dark in his light's life anymore.
It was slightly confusing, and worrying, and so he sought an explanation elsewhere. He went to the person who he allowed to teach him.
Ryou had tried to explain it, tried to make Marik understand, that in life there were times when you could seize from people, and times when you simply had to let things go elsewhere.
This, he reasoned, was one of those times.
But still, Marik did not understand, but he decided that if Ryou had been right before, he may be right again, so he left them alone. He still did not approve, and despite the fragile friendship he and Bakura had struck up, if friendship could be considered the right word, he let the tomb-robber know that if he hurt the blonde light, he would feel pain.
With this feeling of displacement, Marik sought companionship in a predictable elsewhere.
Ryou was a good person to spend time with, he found. He was calm, and made Marik feel a little less angry, as if his white-hot rage was being slowly, subtly diminished. He found himself quite liking the feeling of being calmer than normal, as if he were a walking contradiction to what he was supposed to be: an embodiment of fury.
He liked how Ryou talked to him, as well. It wasn't in terror, although there was some caution, and it wasn't in disgust, although there was some disapproval sometimes. He liked how his voice was quiet and how polite he always was, although that did sometimes aggravate him, if he was in a particularly bad mood. What he really liked, however, was how Ryou would never patronise him, or treat him like he should not be there.
Ryou believed in giving everyone another chance, and Marik liked that as well.
And thus, another few months or so down the line, Marik had to make his fourth promise, and the first one that he did not fully understand, at least at the time.
The spirit of the Pharaoh had kept his distance from them for a long while, watching with a little interest and amusement at Bakura and Malik. He'd made sure that nothing had gotten out of hand, and, apart from a few small incidents (at least, small in comparison to what they used to do) he had had no reason to confront either of them face to face.
Small warnings had passed, of course, because the destructive sides of both Bakura and Marik had not diminished that much with time, but they had been passed along via Ryou, who remained a part of both groups of friends, despite the distrust and animosity between them.
So, when the darker side of Yugi Motou approached the darker side of Malik Ishtar, he was not really sure what to make of it. Seven months had passed since he had returned from the shadow realm, and nothing he'd done had so far warranted him being sent back. He had broken their original agreement, but only in the expected way, after all.
He expected questioning, more warnings and threats along the same vein as the ones Ryou had passed on to him.
What he had not expected, however, was for him to be asked to make another promise.
A promise for him to stay away from Ryou, if his intentions were not good.
After a bewildered Marik had watched the Pharaoh walk away, he tried to think about what he could have meant by that. Why would he have asked Marik this now? If he had been worried, shouldn't he have made him promise this much earlier on?
Of course, it was true that they had been spending much more time together now, and they talked a lot more now, but how would the Pharaoh have known this, unless Ryou had told him? And why would he have told him?
These thoughts plagued him for a while. He knew this was something he couldn't ask Ryou about... it seemed something that he had to figure out for himself.
Why would that Pharaoh think he would hurt Ryou now?
It seemed so incomprehensible to Marik to even consider removing Ryou from his life now, and that knowledge made him feel slightly… weaker. The white-haired light made him feel… well, what did Ryou make Marik feel? He knew he felt comfortable, and calmer with Ryou.
He knew that when their skin brushed, accidentally or simply because of close proximity, he felt the small, fine hairs on the back of his neck would stand up.
He knew that he didn't feel particularly destructive or murderous to Ryou, less so than anyone else.
He knew that some days he worried about Ryou. It was a scary world, and humans were fragile little things. They were so easily broken, something which he knew only too well.
He knew that when they talked, sometimes, when Ryou would smile up at him, he would lose track of what he had been saying and feel a fool, and cover up this with the pretence that he had grown bored with the conversation, and he knew that Ryou would feel bad that he was boring the dark.
Marik knew that he didn't like it when Ryou felt bad on his account.
He knew he felt better when Ryou was happy with him, when something he'd do or say would unintentionally make the smaller one laugh, although why he laughed was something Marik could never understand. He knew he liked his laughter, though.
And then, all of a sudden, Marik realised that everything thing he thought he knew about Ryou only served to confuse him further.
And so, with his foundations feeling a little shaken, he went to find Ryou, because when a student wishes to find answers, they find the teacher that taught them to question and understand the world in the first place.
And it was when he was trying to find Ryou that he was asked his fifth promise, on that very same day as the fourth, leaving him in a similar state of confusion.
And again, it was another from Bakura, who came to him looking rather disgruntled, and just a little bewildered. They'd casually circled each other, until Bakura had spoken.
"All the grief I got about Malik?"
A silence in reply.
"Promise me one thing."
"This will be the second thing."
"Shut up. Hurt him, and you'll pay."
Marik heard his own threat thrown back at him, the very one he'd told to Bakura, and would have smiled at the irony, but it was not his style. Bakura was staring at him, with the same simultaneously amused and angered look in his eyes.
"That still stands for you, you know."
"I do know. And I gave you my word. I have not broken it yet, have I?"
"No. And I shall give you mine. I shall not harm Ryou."
Another silence followed, until Bakura moved away from the front door and brushed past him, away. Marik stood there, reeling slightly in confusion, unsure of where to proceed from where he currently was. Eventually, Marik opened the door, and left.
He already knew he'd break that promise.
He followed the path to the road, and then the road down to the long street that their road came off from. He followed a line he had been down many times before, with Ryou, as if their footprints were burnt onto the floor, the invisible charred and smouldering steps showing him the way to the small bookshop which Ryou was coming out of.
Ryou looked up, and saw him, and obviously unsure of why Marik was here. An excuse had come to mind quickly.
"I'm here to walk you home."
Ryou didn't argue. He simply shrugged and smiled, still confused, but blushing slightly. Marik watched him closely. He'd never noticed his blush before. It wasn't particularly dainty, or pretty. It was a red slash across his cheeks, more evident because of how pale the skin was, but Marik decided he liked it.
Marik found himself staring at Ryou, who was looking a little worried. Realising this, he stared up to the sky quickly, and wandered off in the direction of home, at a much slower pace. Ryou followed him cautiously.
The street was quite quiet, with relatively few people about. The clouds hung low in the sky, but they were the thin, pale grey kind, and although it was fairly warm, there was an overriding cold breeze, which blew a newspaper along in the gutter, the water-soaked edges dragging on the floor. Ryou watched it's lazy, negligent path until he realised that Marik was looking at him.
He turned to the taller man, who was holding his hand out, one eyebrow raised in an expression that Ryou could not quite read, and he stared at the hand, bewildered. It took a roll of the eyes and a pointed glance before Ryou handed over his carrier bags for the dark to carry.
Marik was slightly unsure of what to say. There was an awkwardness in the conversation that there had never been before, and he found himself snatching small glances at his companion out of the corner of his eye.
His hair, he noticed, was blowing gently in the breeze, small tendrils escaping across his face only to be pushed back in annoyance. The tip of his nose was red from the wind, and his fingers were laced together in front of him, trying to warm themselves up.
There was silence still, for a few moments, until Marik spoke.
"The Pharaoh came to see me earlier."
"He wanted to ask me to stay away from you."
"O…Oh. What… I mean, what did you say?"
"Why would he ask me that?"
Ryou shrugged, his face a mix of emotions that Marik found a little hard to read. There was a little anger there, which surprised him, and a little worry, but an overall air that he could not place.
He could feel something in the pit of his stomach, as if it suddenly became weightless and started floating upwards. His mouth was suddenly dry, and he licked his lips before speaking again, determined to keep his cool.
"Why do you think he meant by that?"
"I don't know."
Marik was stunned. This was the first time Ryou had not had an answer, in some form or another, to a question he had been asked. It left the yami feeling a little displaced, unable to work out where he stood. He concentrated on the weight of the bags in his arms, trying to think.
The pavement was narrow, and as they walked side by side Ryou's shoulder might brush against Marik's forearm, or Marik's arm against Ryou's. Every time this happened he would be distracted from his thoughts by the proximity, his head filled again with new concerns, new questions,
"Could I ask you something?"
"I've never refused before."
"What does it mean when every time you are with someone, anything you were thinking about goes right out of your mind? And every time you touch them, even if you didn't mean to, it does the same?"
He paused for minute, and looked down at Ryou, who was staring ahead of him, his face carefully impassive.
"What is a feeling like that? When you don't know what to think, or do, or feel? When every time you think they are in trouble, you want to be the one to help? What if this person teaches you so much, gives so much to everyone, but your not sure how to give them something in return? What does it mean, Ryou?"
For a long time, Ryou did not answer, obviously thinking of an answer that would fit the twisted mind of his companion. They had reached the place they called home, and stood outside, neither wanting to go inside.
When, eventually, he spoke, Marik felt relieved that the balance had somehow come back, that he once again had an answer.
"Well, it normally means you like them."
"More than you like a friend. You know what I mean."
Another long pause left them feeling slightly awkward.
"Can I ask you a question, just this once?"
A surprised blink.
"Who is it, that's stolen you?"
"He's no thief."
"He's stolen a part of you, though. Hasn't he?"
"Well, maybe he's a little bit of thief, then. I'm not sure if he means to be, though, or even if he wants to be."
Ryou's eyes flickered up from the pavement in a testimony to his surprise. They were caught, as an animal catches it's prey, by the eyes of the other, and they stood there a minute, looking at each other, neither quite willing to look away. When Ryou spoke, it was weakly, quietly, as if the news had damaged him a little.
"That's okay, isn't it?"
Ryou nodded numbly, confused and unsure but all over happy, as if the thing damaged by the news had been something he did not want to have in him. Marik put the carrier bags down on the pavement, and stretched his arms, his actions a little awkward. He had not thought this through, and had no reaction anticipated.
Ryou took a step closer, a little hesitantly, and placed his hands palm down on Marik's chest. He was also unprepared, never honestly thinking he would be in this situation. Marik's arms fell back to his side, and then moved so one hand was on the small of the others back, the other on a hip, and pulled him up close. His hands moved to the other's chin and neck, tilting Ryou's head upwards to meet his eyes. They stared at each other for a moment longer, before Marik leant in and kissed him.
The kiss was neither hard nor gentle, and on the mouth. It was surprisingly tentative, and clumsy, a little awkward, but undeniably sweet because of it, and they stayed like that a while longer, neither wanting to move away from the other. And when, eventually, they pulled away, both blushing, and Marik picked up the bags, they moved inside, and although no one could see it, Marik was smiling, a much more honest smile than anyone had seen before, and had Ryou turned around and seen it, he would have felt so touched, so happy, that he could make the blond smile in that way.
Marik had made a lot of promises that he couldn't keep. Some would think he had bitten off more than he could chew, but that wasn't it. He'd promised to be a good person once he returned, but he could not do that. That was simply not in his nature. It would be like a pig learning to fly.
He'd promised to let his light be independent, and free. He'd broken that one, as well, and the one that followed, because he was protective, and that was not often considered a crime. He'd stay out of his light's and the tomb-robber's relationship, but only to an extent, and only because he was learning to give and take.
And then he promised to stay away from Ryou. That wasn't even one he'd considered keeping. He'd never understood anything but anger and hatred before him, and now… well, he'd felt happiness, and guilt, and even a little fear, and the resulting mix of emotions clung to him, and made him feel weak and foolish, but he'd discovered he'd liked it. To cut that out of his life…
And then there had been the final promise, and it was the hardest one to break, because he didn't even really want to do so. He'd promised not to hurt Ryou, but it is in human nature to make mistakes, to do things unintentionally. He didn't like to break that promise, and he felt it himself when he did, but it was something he couldn't help, couldn't stop, like a tidal wave coming to the shore.
But to Ryou it didn't matter how many times Marik had broken that promise. It didn't matter how many times Marik had hurt him, because he knew that it wasn't really intentional, and he would apologise afterwards in his sweetly awkward and ungracious way, and it was obvious that he was doing what he could, and in the end, that was all that was significant.
Marik was trying, and to Ryou, that was all that mattered.