A/N: Sorry for such a long wait. I hope you like this chapter, and thank you as always for support. And remember to review!
By Definition Evil
Love: 1. vti feel tender affection for somebody: to feel tender affection for somebody such as a close relative or friend, or for something such as a place, an ideal, or an animal 2. vtifeel desire for somebody: to feel romantic and sexual desire and longing for somebody 3. vt like something very much: to like something, or like doing, something very much 4. passionate attraction and desire: a passionate feeling of romantic desire and sexual attraction 5. very strong affection: an intense feeling of tender affection and compassion 6. romantic affair: a romantic affair, possibly sexual 7. somebody much loved: somebody who is loved romantically or sexually 8. strong liking: a strong liking for or pleasure gained from something 9. something eliciting enthusiasm: something that elicits deep interest and enthusiasm in somebody. 10. beloved: used as an affectionate word to somebody loved (informal) 11. U.K. term of friendly address: used as a friendly term of address, usually to a woman (informal) 12. Christianity God's love for humanity: in Christian belief, the mercy, grace, and charity shown by God to humanity 13. Christianity worship of God: in Christian belief, the worship and adoration of God 14. sports leisure score of zero: a score of zero in some sports and games, e.g. tennis, squash, and whist
Rishid's first reaction, quite honestly, was one of sheer revulsion; he pushed away instantly, lashed out with no regard for the blonde's already injured body. His only thoughts were of escape because…because what Marik had just said he knew now to be true.
There was no humanity behind that kiss. Like a marionette, Marik performed the action and, like a marionette, he understood nothing of what it meant.
At the sound of the spirit's rasping laughter, Rishid knew that Marik, too, was viciously aware of his own shortcomings. He stared in mute despair at the wretched creature.
"I told you. Liar."
This was the only thing Rishid could say. He was sorry, truly, deeply sorry. "I…I didn't realize…"
"That's okay. I didn't either. Not at first." Mariku's gaze betrayed no regret. It was an emotion, Rishid thought, that he refused to feel. However, the blonde's customary anger was gone as well. His calmness brought about in Rishid a whole new kind of fear.
"You see, I entertained the idea of humanity once, and then the idea of lack there of. However, as you can see,"—was that a self-deprecating smile playing at his lips?—"neither quite worked out for me."
"But you're still trying."
"Trying to what?"
"To be human." Rishid swallowed dryly and continued. "That's why you contact me, isn't it?"
Damn. Damn. DAMN IT! He knows! He…he fucking…
Marik fought hard to hold on to himself, to keep his head from spinning and his consciousness from running liquid through his fingers. He had to think…think logically.
Despite himself, the blonde burst out laughing. Judging by the horrified look on Rishid's face, this was exactly what he should not have done.
And to think, it had been going so well! He'd had Rishid feeling guilty, feeling bad for him! He'd never have dreamed that his foray with Bakura would somehow improve his situation, but it had worked perfectly. Rishid was eating from the palm of his hand. As to whether or not Marik's emotions had been real or fabricated remained uncertain even to himself.
The kiss, though. The kiss revealed too much. He hadn't been thinking, had been too caught up in his role, had forgotten where the act ended and the truth began. And the truth was that he wasn't human and that humanity was not something that could be taught.
But it could be stolen. He had to believe in this.
"Rishid, you should go." Marik couldn't believe he was saying this, but he had to…had to say something. "I'm not…not…"
Wordlessly, the larger man shook his head. His eyes were still afraid, but his jaw was set. He wouldn't leave.
What a genuinely good person.
Coming from Marik, this wasn't necessarily a compliment, but a part of him was a little bit relieved. Perhaps he hadn't blown his chance after all.
"You try so hard to be human." Rishid was speaking. With what resolve he had left, Marik forced himself to calm down and listen. "When you found out you could reach me, you did just that. I'm that connection to the living world, aren't I?"
"More than that." The lie came too easily to the blonde's agile tongue. "I need you. Why do you think I chose you instead of Isis or…or him...?"
His lighter half. God, Marik did not want to think of that.
At a loss for words. That was good, right?
"I am loyal to Master Malik." Rishid frowned severely, his green eyes suddenly cold. "I cannot allow you…anyone…to tempt me from the destiny I have chosen."
"…yes." Marik was aware of himself grinning angrily, of his legs shaking and the Shadows so cold their touch reached even from a distance. "Malik. That's right. You must think of Malik…think always of Malik…because you love Malik very much."
"And he loves you."
"Am I right?"
"Yes!" Rishid's voice cracked suddenly. Astonished perhaps by his own astonishment, his green eyes grew unimaginably wide. "Yes, Marik. He does, and I refuse to play your mind games any longer!"
And then he was gone.
And Mariku was alone.
And very frightened.
Since the incident in the bathroom, Malik had become uneasy. There was something wrong with him. The voice he heard gazing into Rishid's eyes…it had taken a great deal of healing for Malik to regain the assurance of his sanity. Relapse was not an option. If the voice returned, he would refuse to hear it, even avoid Rishid…if he had to.
But why would it target Rishid? He's incorruptible, right?
No! Malik couldn't think like this! He had to believe in his own mental soundness, that the madness of Battle City had forever ended. There was no voice. No voice save his own.
The blonde gasped. The blood in his veins froze over and refused to flow. He'd forgotten what it was to feel so afraid.
The terror passed. It was only Isis, his beautiful, blue-eyed sister, Isis. She gave him a quizzical look.
"Is something wrong?"
A shiver—from the preservation room's temperature this time—infiltrated Malik's tissues. He gave Isis a weak smile. "No. You just shocked me. I was…lost in thought."
"Ah." The woman smiled back, but her keen eyes seemed almost wary. "I see."
Does she know? Can she see what I am thinking?
"We should go. It's getting late."
"You're right. It's almost seven."
Maybe she thinks I haven't changed. Maybe they both think that.
"Anything you have in mind for dinner?"
"No. I'm not picky."
And what if they're right? What if I'm still at risk of…of…?
Numbly, Malik followed his sister to the car. It had been a long time since he had held stock in such thoughts. He wanted to believe he was normal…but he had looked into Rishid's eyes and, doing so, his mind had screamed with words that were not his own.
But green? Why green?
Green like Rishid's eyes. This thought made Malik nauseous. Above all else, he could not bring Rishid into another Battle City scenario. The man had suffered enough. Malik didn't…didn't want to cause more trouble for the only person who had never left his side.
He had to believe that he could handle this alone.
Ryou. Thoughts of the boy crept in subversively. If only he could talk to him! Ryou always knew what to do. He was so calm, so together, almost as if he were still untainted. Though of course he wasn't. No one touched by shadow magic could ever claim real purity, but Ryou's false innocence, at least, was more believable than Malik's. Staring at his reflection in the car window, the blonde wondered just what he looked like to other people.
Probably outgoing. Probably confident. Probably reformed yet a little bit maniacal. Malik didn't feel any of these things. What he felt was lost. Depressed sometimes. He wasn't generally unhappy, necessarily, but things…things could have been better.
Maybe this is just what it's like to be normal. Without living underground or starting cults or being taken over by the voice inside my head. Pretty dull, eh?
Malik chuckled under his breath, though, in truth, his situation wasn't all that funny.
"Did you say something?" Isis regarded him quizzically from the corner of her eye.
"N-no, I was just…just wondering what Rishid's been up to all day. You said he had a day off from working at the museum."
"Yes, well hopefully he's scrounged up something to eat. I really can't think of anything."
Malik laughed loudly this time. "Quit stressing, Isis! Ra knows we've been through worse than an unsatisfactory palate."
"Yes." The woman offered one of her rare, brilliant smiles. "I suppose you're right about that."
"Though stir fry does sound good."
"Good thing you're not picky, then." Isis was still smiling.
The Ishtars had never been a normal family; they never would be, but there were occasional, brief and miraculous instances in which Malik could almost pretend their lives were normal…whatever normal meant.
Still, Malik's fears would not be silenced. His senses were dominated by foreboding. Ryou. As soon as the blonde got a moment alone, he would have to call him.
Normal. The word itself turned Malik green with envy.
Rishid had been staring at the wall for fifteen minutes. The phone rang. Somewhere in the house a moth beat itself silly against a light bulb. But as far as Rishid was concerned, the world consisted only of his thoughts, of the blank, impersonal, white wall glowering back at him.
White. He said white was his favorite color.
He should have felt relieved, proud of himself. The demon had enticed him, but at the last minute Rishid had escaped. He knew where his loyalties truly lay. He knew that…that he would return…eventually.
Rape. Someone actually raped him.
This knowledge forever ruined Rishid's schema of good and evil, of who pain affected and how and why. Embarrassment. Guilt. Anger. Desperate rationalization. Mariku had reacted to the trauma as any human would.
This was a paradox Rishid found most disconcerting: that something so clearly inhuman could be capable of such humanity.
And just as he felt this revelation was about to overwhelm him completely, the front door opened and his siblings' voices momentarily drowned out Rishid's dark epiphany.
"Hello." He forced himself to smile as Malik entered the living room. "How was your day?"
"Pretty good." Malik flopped down on the couch beside him. "That Gospel of Shiva sure is something; though I'm not convinced it's genuine."
Isis appeared in the doorway. "Yes. We'll have to run more tests."
Rishid pretended to listen as Isis and Malik continued to converse. In truth, he was too preoccupied with avoiding Malik's face to have the slightest idea what was being talked about. What he saw in the blonde's countenance was not Malik; something about it was too dark, too desperate, too utterly alone.
It was only after Malik had left to call Ryou and Isis to make dinner that Rishid was finally able to relax. He stared again at the blank wall and sighed.
Well, I can't say the vacation wasn't nice.
Strolling across the campus at the university in Cairo was never a pleasant experience at the noonday hour. To say the air was hot to Ryou seemed a gross understatement. It felt as if he were being cooked alive, slowly broiled in an inescapable, sunny soup. He worried constantly about sunburn, and the boy's textbooks felt sticky beneath his sweaty palms.
"Does Malik make you feel this hot?"
Ryou ignored the voice inside his head and kept walking. He was going to go home, take a cold shower, and attack his monumental pile of homework. He refused to allow Bakura or anyone else to pester him.
"Is he loud when he comes? His yami sure as hell is."
Biting his lip, Ryou picked up the pace. Though it wasn't as if he could walk away from something inside of him
"Screams like a fucking slut."
Why was Bakura so hung up on the Malik issue anyway?
"Come on, Ryou. Tell me! Was Malik the same way when you fucked him?"
This was becoming ridiculous.
"Then again, he wasn't the one who got fucked."
"That's enough, Bakura." Ryou knew full well that this response would only drive the spirit further, but he was already irritable and could no longer contain himself. He was tired of the spirit's fervent hatred, of his hysterical cruelty and ridiculous paranoia. Sometimes, he felt he really was insane.
"Not much like his yami, I guess. Marik sure did like it up the ass."
"I said that's enough!" Ryou was breathing hard now and was conscious of the stares of some wary passers by. "Do you think I'm stupid? Even a monster like him couldn't have enjoyed being raped!"
Silence followed. Ryou made it to his dorm room and spread himself exhausted on the bed. Screw the shower. He just wanted to sleep. But as the boy finally began to drift off, Bakura's voice once more infiltrated his thoughts:
"You're right, actually. He even cried for me."
"Can you imagine? Yami Malik crying?"
"Yes! I can imagine anything involving you!" Taken with a rarely kindled but potent rage, Ryou overturned his nightstand, listening with grim satisfaction as it cracked sharply against the floor. He felt so helpless when Bakura was like this! Undermined by his own altruistic nature. "Why are you taking your insecurities out on him? Why not Malik?"
"…because if I touched Malik…you really would leave me, wouldn't you? You're in love with him."
"I…I am, Bakura, but I also…" Ryou clenched his head in agony as a wrath that was not his own overwhelmed his consciousness. "I-I…stop it…stop!"
"I WON'T LET YOU LEAVE ME, RYOU! I'LL KILL HIM! DAMNIT, I'LL KILL BOTH OF YOU!"
"You…you won't kill anyone…" Sinking to his knees, Ryou allowed his eyes to close. Before him now was Bakura, face set in a demonic snarl. "Come here." He offered the spirit a weak smile. "You know I'll never leave you. Let me…let me prove it."
But Bakura's temper would not be pacified. His eyes continued to blaze, and, as he drew nearer, Ryou began to feel afraid.
"No, Ryou." His voice was low and dangerous. "You will never leave me. Up until now, I have permitted you control, but that ends today. I can't trust you any longer, not while he is in the picture."
"Bakura, if you hurt Malik I swear I'll…"
The spirit laughed. "You'll what? Banish me? You admitted it yourself, Ryou. You simply don't have the stomach."
He's right. The boy's body shook, suddenly wrapped in the spirit's cold embrace. I can't…could never…because I…
"I'm going to take you, Ryou. Take you as roughly as I took Marik."
The boy smiled, setting his palm gently against the spirit's cheek. "No, you won't."
"The hell I won't!" Bakura's grip on the living boy tightened. He glared and shook him with a desperate fury. "I have to make you understand, Ryou, that I…"
"That you love me? I get it, Bakura. I always have." Gently, Ryou pulled the spirit into a kiss. "You're a good liar, but so am I. I can tell. That's why I…"
"Shut up!" Reeling back, Bakura struck the boy with all his strength. "Don't mock me, idiot! You know nothing!" Unfastening both Ryou's and his pants, Bakura smiled lewdly. "Let me remind you what true fear tastes like."
"You won't!" Ryou was crying now, tears sliding easily down his cheeks. "You won't rape me!"
Bakura merely cackled. "And why, pray tell, is that?"
"Because people shouldn't hurt the ones they love!"
"You idiot." Again, Bakura lashed out. There was blood on Ryou's lips now, on his own trembling knuckles. He hit him over and over, relishing in the bruises, in the hurt look on his hikari's face. Only when the boy lost consciousness did he relent. He stared at Ryou's roughed up face, at his own blood-covered hands. His vision was swimming. "How could I ever love you, Ryou? Someone so weak and pitiful?"
The boy did not reply, and in the silence Bakura was able to collect himself. No. He didn't—couldn't—love Ryou, but this didn't mean that the boy could be loved by someone else. Ryou belonged to him. He always would.
The soft vibrations of the hikari's cell phone broke Bakura from his musings. He fished the phone from Ryou's pocket and stared at the caller id for a moment before breaking suddenly into an angry laugh. "I'm sorry Ryou." He murmured as he slowly took control of the boy's unconscious body. "But this farce has gone on long enough. It's time for me to end things permanently."
He took up the phone.
"Hey, Ryou. How are you?"
"Fine, thanks. And yourself?"
Malik shook with relief at the sound of the other's voice. He hadn't realized how badly he wanted to be near Ryou, to cling to the reassurance of his voice. "I'm alright. I just wanted to…to talk to you, I guess."
Soft laughter on the other end. "What a coincidence. I was actually thinking of calling you myself. Is everything still going well with your family?"
"Uh, I guess. I…well actually, that's kind of what I wanted to talk to you about." Malik sank down against the comfort of his mattress. He didn't know why, but talking to Ryou suddenly made him a bit uneasy. "It's Rishid, again. He's been acting so…so strange."
"And this morning…Ryou, please! Please don't think I'm crazy, but I…I looked into his eyes and…and…" Choking on his fear, Malik began to hyperventilate. He didn't know how to say it, how to convey to Ryou the sheer terror of his situation.
"It's okay, Malik. Just calm down and go slowly. You can tell me."
Forcing his rebellious lungs to gasp for air, Malik tried to collect his thoughts. "It was this morning…I was looking at him and suddenly…there was this…this voice…in my head. It…I-I think…" Dread seeped in, undermined his reason. What if Ryou left him because of this? What if he decided he was took crazy and just… "R-Ryou, I think it was him!"
"Malik, that's…are you certain?"
"I don't know! I…Ryou, please! I'm not crazy! I-I just…green. He…that thing…said 'green.' Why would it…"
"Calm down." The unusual harshness of Ryou's tone sobered Malik almost instantly. "If your yami truly has returned, you have to act quickly. You said the voice was triggered when you met Rishid's gaze. Do you think it's possible that Ma…that your dark side has somehow manipulated him?"
Malik struggled to choke back the panic building inside him. "That's…that's what I'm afraid of. Rishid has been acting weird lately, not possessed or anything but sort of…detached."
"…Malik, have you ever tried to reach him, mentally I mean?"
"You know who I mean."
"Are you kidding, Ryou? Of course not! He would try to kill me, try to take over again! I'm sure of it!"
It was a minute before Ryou answered. When he did speak, the words came out with a repressed, fevered slowness. "He'd want to, sure, but if your yami had that power, why would he bother trying to get at you through Rishid?"
"I…I don't know…I'm sorry, I just…" Malik detested himself for the weakness of his words. "…it's hard to think straight…with all of this…"
"It's…alright. I understand."
Thank God for Ryou and his infinite patience.
"But, Malik, this really is serious. If your yami is trying to infiltrate Rishid's thoughts…who knows what might happen."
"You're right. I don't want him to…to suffer again on my account."
"Of course not. That's why you have to find out for sure. Chances are Rishid is perfectly fine, maybe going through a bad week or two, but your yami's involvement is worth looking into."
"Y-yeah." Once again Malik felt his heart rate begin to accelerate, his veins throbbing with blood. "I owe Rishid that much and more."
"In order to contact your yami, you will have to be in an extremely relaxed mental state." Ryou's normally compassionate voice was all business. "That might be hard considering…"
"Don't worry. I understand."
"Well, then. Do your best."
"Thank you…hey, Ryou?"
"It's nothing. I just…" Malik laughed depreciatively at his own hesitance. "It's just that, well, when I get back to Egypt do you think we could…I don't know…meet up again?"
"Of…of course. I'd love to, Malik. You're very important to me."
Malik smiled; he felt somehow lighter. "That…that makes really happy. Anyway, I'd better go. Can I call you again sometime?"
"Please do. And keep me updated on the details involving Rishid."
"Sure thing. Goodbye."
The line went dead. Both terrified and somehow elated, Malik allowed the cell phone to slip from his trembling fingers. Something wasn't right about this, but what other options did he have? I won't let Rishid sacrifice himself for my mistakes. Not this time.
The moment he hung up the phone, Bakura burst into a bout of raucous laughter. It had been too easy! He never remembered Malik being so incredibly foolish. Desperation, then. He must really be terrified.
If there was one thing Bakura understood, it was how to manipulate fear.
"Did you hear that, Ryou? He's going to contact Marik."
"…" There was no reply, but Bakura could sense the hikari's presence, burning with brilliant anger in the shared corridors of their minds.
"And Rishid's involvement in all of this certainly is curious, eh? Remind me to ask Mariku about it next time I visit him."
No response again, and Bakura began to feel uneasy. He knew that, at any time, Ryou could regain control of his body. The Sennen Ring was gone and Bakura was only capable of possession for short periods of time, and then only when Ryou was in a state of weakness. "You know, it was pretty easy tricking Malik into believing I was you. Makes one wonder if he likes you that much after all."
For an instant, Bakura was engulfed by a sulfurous, almost chemical-smelling heat. He saw white. His teeth began to ache. Then, quite suddenly, the spirit found himself floating near the ceiling, gazing down at Ryou, once again in control. In control and crying.
"I'm sorry Ryou." Sinking down beside the distraught boy, Bakura wrapped invisible arm around his shoulders. "I did it for your own sake, Ryou, and for mind. You see, Malik…"
"Don't." Bakura flinched as Ryou jerked disgustedly away. "Don't touch me! Don't even lookc at me, you bastard! You monster! I …"
But, for once, Ryou was too angry to be affected by this dangerous tone of voice. His mouth was set, his brown eyes weirdly cold. "I've had enough. You're leaving."
"As if you could make me d…"
A cold sensation rose suddenly in Bakura's stomach. His vision dulled, ears swam as though with echoes. It was as if he was his own vitality slipping through his fingers. Not like death, but equally as terrible
Juxtaposing the unkempt swarm of color that overtook the rest of his eyesight, the hikari's visage remained incredibly clear. His gaze was fixed on Bakura, lips set in a thin, emotionless line. All and all he looked callous, more callous than the spirit had ever taken him for.
"I'm stronger than you now, Bakura. We both understand that."
"Ryou, listen, I…"
"No." Ryou stood, his normally compassionate face perfectly expressionless. "I have listened long enough. I have reasoned with you. I have forgiven you. I have even allowed you to stay beside me…only to be repaid with distrust and hatefulness. It is you who is going to listen now. Bakura, you will never again hurt the ones I love."
Ryou's rage-lent eloquence was almost as startling as the rage itself.
"…don't…" Bakura could feel darkness seeping into him, gaining strength as Ryou began to forcibly sever the link they shared. "Ryou, you don't have it in you!"
But he did have it in him, had spent six long years accumulating it and watching it grow. After so long, Ryou's wrath was fully ripe. What had so laboriously been nurtured now at last was sown. Bakura screamed in terror as his surroundings began to fade to black. He could hear the shadows that so torturously embraced Marik calling out for him as well. Without his connection with Ryou—with the bright shield of his intoxicating goodness—Bakura would no longer be immune to them.
"Ryou! Stop this immediately!"
The coldness had worked its way from Bakura's stomach down his legs and up into his throat and mouth. What remained of Ryou's countenance regarded him with the same carefully emotionless gaze.
"Tell me, then. Tell me the truth."
"…I-I'm sorry, Ryou! I won't…"
"I don't want an apology!" For a moment something like hurt flashed across Ryou's gaze. "I just want to hear it coming from your lips, the truth you won't admit even to yourself."
"What?!" Bakura was desperate now, willing to say anything. Fear had overridden everything, including pride. "What truth are you talking about?!"
The hikari's soft, porcelain lips curved into a smile. "Tell me that you're in love with me."
That's it? Bakura could have laughed for joy. Three words, and Ryou would forgive him.
"I love you."
In an instant reality was reasserted. The cold leeched from his body, his vision cleared, and the shadows retreated into nothing with a hiss of biting fury. Bakura was once again sitting across from Ryou, whose face burned with a weak, irresistibly human emotiveness.
"You idiot. Was that all it took?"
Saying nothing, Ryou Bakura began to cry.