Next up as a prize for getting the Written in the Stars mystery answer: heartshipping. In addition to the congratulations – this one's written for someone who got both perpetrator and motive! – I have to add a "thank you" for having faith that I'd be able to write this properly. The prompt:
I was kinda hoping for a Ryou/Yuugi post canon oneshot. The whole post-traumatic stress disorder thing where two damaged people lean on one another. The gooey gooey sappy drippy fluff ship. Why? Because it is very rarely done well or by anyone who cares to put any amount of quality behind it.
That's not quite how this turned out – especially the "fluff" bit, as I was having difficulty fitting PTSD and fluff into the same train of thought – but I did my best.
Title: All My Scattered Pieces
Pairing/Characters: This story features what may be the beginning of heartshipping (Yuugi/Ryou), if you turn your head and squint.
Word Count: 2 604
Story Rating: PG-13/T for language, discussion of violence, light shonen-ai, and shirtless boys.
Story Summary: Post-series. Yuugi is numb. Ryou wants to help.
Disclaimer: Anything you recognise? Totally not mine.
Spoilers: For the end of the series.
Warnings: Eh, none, really. Two lonely little F-bombs.
Notes: I would just like to say that writing this was incredibly interesting, because it started out as all dialogue and progressed from there.
Feedback: There may be something out there that's better than a review containing concrit, but if there is, I haven't found it yet. So if you have two minutes and you wouldn't mind? Please? Arigatou. (And concrit is cool. Flames are not.)
Special Thanks/Dedications: This story is for sofiadragon from LJ, who got both perpetrator and motive in the Written in the Stars mystery. Congrats, dear!
Ryou felt the breeze before he heard the door, which made no noise until it closed; the hotel proprietor was proud of her rooms, and the hinges were well-oiled. He waited five minutes, and when all remained still, he got up and pulled on his jeans before going in search of his wayward room mate.
Yuugi was on the front steps, arms on knees and head on arms. He was looking in the direction of the Nile. Ryou put a hand on Yuugi's shoulder.
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah." A pause. "No."
Yuugi shrugged, a gesture so quick it was more a jerk of the shoulders than a shrug. "If you want."
Ryou sat down on the steps next to him and wished he'd put on a shirt. It was cold out here at night. He said nothing; if Yuugi wanted to talk, he was there.
"I'm not sorry, you know."
Ryou turned his head to try and read Yuugi's facial expression, but remained quiet.
"I mean, I'm sorry he had to leave, because I know everybody really liked him and I'm going to miss him a lot, but I know it's the way things had to be. He's free now – with the people he cared about. I hope. I keep wondering if he's going to be okay. Because there was no body, I mean."
"If he had to have a body to have an akh, I think he would have stopped existing when he was still in the Puzzle. He'll be okay."
"I hope you're right."
The boys fell silent. Ryou watched a comet scrape a bright trail across the sky.
"You know, you're really something else." Yuugi picked up a rock from the path and tossed it. Ryou heard the clink and clitter as it bounced on the path. "I mean, seriously. You were the one being mind-fucked on a regular basis, not me. I should be the one worrying about you."
"Did you actually just say that?"
Ryou hesitated, and then decided it was just the two of them, and if anyone was going to tell him he was crazy, he'd rather it was Yuugi than someone else. "Mind-fucked."
"I don't think I've ever heard you swear before."
Yuugi shrugged again. "First time for everything. Does it feel weird to you, too?"
"What do you mean?" Ryou was a little thrown by what he assumed was probably a sudden shift in topics.
Yuugi stretched his legs out. He wasn't wearing shoes. "I keep going to tell Atem things, and then remembering he's not there. All day long. I mean, I know it's got to be different for you, because Bakura was absolutely out of his mind, but . . . "
It was Ryou's turn to shrug. "We never talked much. Mostly I just kind of tried to ignore him, when I thought it was safe to." He paused. It was dark, and quiet, and still; confession time. "I used to hate you a little, you know."
"Doesn't surprise me." Yuugi leaned over and reached for his feet. It was as though he were trying to wrap his mind around being the only one controlling his body – now, and forever after now.
"Atem was insane, but not too bad once he learned he could trust me. Bakura was just insane. And kind of homicidal. I think I would have been pretty mad at me, too, if I'd been you."
Ryou took a few moments to dissect Yuugi's last sentence before answering. "I can't feel that way anymore, though. I kind of feel like you got the worst of it in the end."
"Okay, I'll bite. Why?"
"Because you lost a friend. I lost an enemy." Ryou paused. "An enemy that tried to kill me more than once, actually."
"Yeah, but you had to put up with the enemy that tried to kill you for – what, two years? Three?"
"Something like that. About two and a half, I think."
"Close enough." A pause. "And you lost Atem, too."
"Not the way you did." Ryou also paused. "Yuugi?"
"Did you love him?"
"He was stuck in my head for two years, Ryou. After that long it'd be just a little weird if I was still totally indifferent, don't you think?"
"That's not what I mean."
"No. I didn't. Not that way." Yuugi paused, and when he spoke again Ryou was unable to tell if he was trying not to laugh, or trying not to cry. "After he got his memories back he went a little hormonal, though. It was kind of funny, in a sad kind of way. He'd sit in my bedroom window at night and stare at the KaibaCorp tower for hours. I kind of wish I'd looked up Kaiba's phone number before we came here. I should have given him the chance to say goodbye."
"To a person who never believed he existed?"
Yuugi shrugged. "I could at least have given him the choice. I should have done that. I really should have."
"If there was something he had to say that bad, he'll find a way. Atem always did."
Ryou heard the sniffle and pulled Yuugi into a hug before the tears could start. If it had been anyone else he would have felt incredibly awkward; Ryou had spent too many years distancing himself from other people to feel entirely comfortable when he suddenly found himself in the middle of a group hug or a game of tag. But this was Yuugi – and when Yuugi nuzzled against Ryou's shoulder and cried outright, there was absolutely no question that the proper thing to do was to simply hold him closer and try to not feel too guilty over the paradox inherent in his conflicting reactions to the whole thing, remorse and ecstasy blending in a bizarre mix. Eventually the tears slowed back to sniffles.
"I just – I miss him. I keep thinking about how if I found a way back into my soul room and opened the door I'd be looking at a nothing where a someone used to be. That probably sounds stupid."
Yuugi swiped at Ryou's damp shoulder with his fingers. "I don't have any tissues. I'm sorry."
"Don't worry about it." Ryou tried to ignore the goosebumps on his arms. Coming outside wearing nothing but his jeans had definitely been a bad idea. That was the reason, of course, not Yuugi's fingers against his collarbone. Yes.
"Are you okay?"
Ryou shrugged. "I will be, I guess. We'll both have to be. I mean, it's not like we can just go visit a shrink. 'The problem all started when this three-thousand-year-old thief invaded my head and took over my body so he could destroy the world, Doctor. I knew something was wrong when I started waking up in the middle of the night with this absolutely unbelievable craving for peanut butter and pickle sandwiches.'"
Yuugi's laugh sounded a little more normal even as he wrinkled his nose. Ryou wished Yuugi would laugh that way more often. "Peanut butter and pickle?"
"I know. They're disgusting. I don't have any idea where he got it from."
"And I thought waking up with a crick in my neck from sitting in the window was bad."
Their hands met on the stoop. Ryou considered pulling away, and didn't. It would be the respectable thing to do, but Ryou's morality stopped just outside shouting distance of respectable. He wondered if living with Bakura had something to do with that, and then decided he didn't want to wonder anymore.
"Your hands are cold."
"I probably should have put a shirt on."
"That might have been a good idea, yeah." Yuugi sighed.
"You sound tired."
"C'mon." Ryou pulled Yuugi up off the stoop. "We should get inside before we fall asleep and get bit by scorpions or something."
"Scorpions don't bite. They sting."
"Same thing. Let's go."
Yuugi let Ryou lead him back inside and down the hall. Ryou sat Yuugi down on the bed and retrieved a washcloth from the bathroom. He washed Yuugi's face, cleaning away tear tracks and the dust blown on the desert air.
"You're still cold."
"I'll be okay."
"Do you know what Atem told me once? After he got his memories back, but before we came here."
"There's no such thing as really okay, but there are some pretty good imitations out there."
"I don't think that's true."
"I'm not sure if I do or not. I guess it's something to think about."
Ryou put the washcloth back in the bathroom, sat down on the bed, kicked off his jeans. He wrinkled his nose at the pattern on the pajama bottoms beneath.
"I hate plaid."
"Plaid isn't so awful," Yuugi protested. "I'd rather have plaid than this." He kicked a leg out to display the pink and yellow monkey-covered pajama bottoms he was wearing. "I swear if anybody ever starts making pajamas for short guys so I can stop shopping in the girls' section, I'm going to find them and bear their children."
Ryou rolled under the covers. "You do that."
Yuugi followed him, but left the lamp on. "It feels weird, you know? I mean . . . if it wasn't for them . . . do you suppose we'd still be here?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, nobody else in my family has black and red hair. My dad's side and my mum's both are all brown. Jii-chan had, you know – " Yuugi indicated his fringe – "before he went gray, but I'm not sure you can even count that, because he was around back then, too. And I've seen pictures of your parents. You don't look anything like them."
"So what if . . . what if the only reason we're here is because they needed a way to play the game out to the end? What if we're – I don't know – not reincarnations, exactly, but – extensions?"
"I don't think that's possible. You and I are actually friends." Ryou paused. "I hope."
Yuugi nodded. "Maybe I'm just being paranoid."
"It's scary when you can't be your own person."
"Even if the person you're sharing with has your best interests at heart," Yuugi agreed. "You always kind of have to wonder – "
" – what it is they're doing when you're not around."
"Exactly. When Atem told me about Kaiba I think I nearly had a heart attack. And they weren't even, you know, doing anything. I don't care about the whole gay thing, but . . . " Yuugi gave a mock shudder. "Something about the idea of being kissed by Kaiba gives me the serious creeps. Even if I didn't know it was happening. Especially then, actually."
Ryou nodded his understanding. "I used to be afraid I'd wake up some morning with the cops in my room telling me they found my fingerprints on the body of somebody I'd never seen in my life."
"I still am. Atem never told me what happened to all those people – before we realised we were two different people, you know. I mean, there wouldn't be any fingerprints left by now, but you know what I mean."
Yuugi rolled over so they were face to face. "Ryou?"
"Thanks for listening."
"That's what friends are for."
"Yeah, but you understand."
"You tried to protect me even when I was too stupid to listen. I guess we're even."
A long pause.
"It feels weird. After tonight I'm going to be sleeping alone again for the first time since I was fifteen."
Ryou hesitated, and then let caution go. If it had been anyone else it would have been awkward at best, but this was Yuugi. And he didn't have to know. He slid his arms around Yuugi's waist. Yuugi mimicked him and let his head come to rest against Ryou's shoulder. Ryou let his arms fall away; he wouldn't try to pretend to be an angel, but he felt uncomfortably close to the edge of appropriate with Yuugi pressed against him like that. Yuugi lifted his head quizzically. Ryou felt a blush spread across his nose.
"I think maybe – I shouldn't get too close. I'm not – "
"I know. Did you hear me say I don't care, or were you not paying attention to that bit?"
"I heard it. I guess I just . . . you know how some people will say they don't care as long as you don't talk about it?"
"That's stupid. People who say dumb stuff like that are just afraid of what they can't understand. I'm not afraid of you." And Yuugi settled back against his shoulder.
"It's just – I think maybe – it's kind of – this is really a bad time, but – I mean – "
Yuugi lifted his head again. "Just spit it out, Ryou. It's not like I'm going to stone you for being gay, or something. If I had a problem with it I would have stayed with Honda and Jounouchi."
"I don't know if I have a crush on you or not because I've never had one before, but if this is what they feel like, then I think maybe I do."
"Oh." Yuugi laid down for a third time. "Okay."
"'Okay?' All you've got to say is 'okay?'"
Yuugi shrugged the shoulder that wasn't tucked against Ryou's side. "What am I supposed to say?" The edge of a smile, tired but genuine, slipped into his voice. "Don't give me any hickeys if you wake up first tomorrow and we'll call it even."
"I guess it's just – kind of hard to get used to. He used to make fun of me for it. You know – the other Bakura."
"The other Bakura also put you in the hospital more than once and tried to destroy the world using your body. I don't know about you, but I can't say I'd care about his opinions too much."
Ryou hesitated, then let his arms slip back around Yuugi's waist. "You know something – I'm glad you're here."
"I'm glad you're here, too."
Another pause, and then the lips against Ryou's were soft and distinctly boyish and tasted vaguely of chapstick. Yuugi pulled away and tucked himself back into Ryou's arms.
"What was that for?"
"Whatever you want it to be for, I guess."
"Not to be that shrink we were discussing earlier or anything, Yuugi, but now might not be the best time for you to be trying to figure out if you're straight or not." It didn't keep him from tightening his hold.
"That's okay. I wasn't."
"Then – "
"I just needed somebody to remind me I'm still here."
"Okay." A pause. "Go to sleep."
"Okay. G'night." Yuugi's breathing lengthened. Ryou stroked his hair until he was sure Yuugi was sleeping, and then he leaned over and turned off the lamp.
In the morning they would both still be there, a pair of twins preparing to go on with their other halves missing. Whether it was a blessing or a curse was beyond Ryou to say. But he did know Yuugi fit absolutely perfectly into his arms, and that if he only asked, Ryou would be more than happy to help him build a bridge to the future where the someone had been. A bridge, because there could never be any filling the hole completely, but it could be made a little better, and he'd be happy to help do that.
He liked to think Atem would have wanted that, too.