A/N: Hey guys! It's another YGO fic. I swear, this fandom will haunt my brain until I die...
Anyways, this is one of those "post-series Ryou goes insane" fics. I think it was actually inspired by a scene in one of Ryuujitsu's fics... not sure which one... But yeah! It started out as a happy fluffy thing, and then morphed into... this. I don't even know what to call this anymore. It's full of needles and blood and eyes and parentheses and some of those things are eaten. But I would not suggest actually eating any of those things.
So so so, Bakura/Ryou-ness implied, some Honda/Ryou if you want to look at it that way. Very light Yuugi/Anzu too. Yup.
"Oh my god." Anzu sounds half-awed and half-disapproving. "Bakura-kun, what is that?"
You shrug and blush and try to tug the neck of your uniform higher, even though it's buttoned all the way and can't go any further up without strangling you. "It's just - it's a tattoo," you mumble, smiling at her. She rolls her eyes, still with that disbelieving half-smile on her face.
"I know it's a tattoo," she says, "but why did you get it?"
Your fingers brush the sore spot on your neck. It's not a professionally-done tattoo - the outline was scratched into your skin with a regular sewing needle, then filled in with ink. You can feel where the surface of your skin is split for the sake of art. "I just... felt like it," you tell her. You purposely look down as you say this. (She'll mention it to Yuugi later, over dinner maybe, and he'll say something wise about restlessness, and you wanting to reclaim your body, and doing something for yourself now that HE - capital letters, but no name, you don't know what HIS name was - is gone.
Yuugi will be wrong on all of these counts, of course, but it is good that neither of them will have to worry.)
After class, you decline Honda's invitation to grab a bite, dodge the usual group of fangirls waiting by your locker, and begin the walk home, alone. As you walk, your hand keeps reaching up to touch the side of your neck. It's an eye, scratched there. You read up on the legend of it: the Eye of Wedjat, ripped from Horus's face in battle. Every time you touch it, you expect the eye to blink and water.
It's not the only tattoo. They keep appearing. An ankh on your wrist. A double-crown on your collarbone. Permanent rings are carved around your fingers. The sun is on your right shoulder, the moon on your left hip. Your ankles and upper arms are adorned with bracelets. They keep appearing. You wake up with your head on your arms, kneeling in front of the vanity in the bathroom, and there will be blood on the floor and a needle in your hands. (The tattoos are getting hard to hide, especially in gym class. You've started wearing sweatpants, even though Karita-sensei rolls his eyes and says your pasty legs aren't anything to be vain over.)
You push down the (il)logical conclusion, but it seeps into you anyway, making your skin prickle and turning your feet heavy. (HE always came back. Honda could throw the Ring away and the pharaoh could crush HIM into pieces and the Ring itself could wrap the soul up with cords of eternity, but HE always came back. Your skin was just the veil HE walked around in, and of course one must never leave their things wandering about unattended.)
You get home. You try to remember where the key is - you've been moving its hiding place every few days, and now you're not sure if it's jammed down the sink in the bathroom on the first floor or buried in the plexiglass dirt of the potted plant down the hall. You finally find it in the coin return slot of the vending machine by the mailboxes, and can enter your apartment. It is yours, after all. Even if you can't remember where you keep anything anymore.
You carefully unload all the papers from your schoolbag. You left your English book at school - it was in your locker - but you have your trigonometry assignment and the chemistry notes you meant to copy over. You arrange the papers neatly on the kitchen table, laboriously write your name at the top of every sheet (you don't know HIS name, and sometimes you don't know yours anymore either, so it's good to have little reminders like this), and then survey your work. That's good; that's enough for today. You should make dinner now. You should -
When you wake up, it's nearly midnight. The tap is on, gushing water down into the sink and soaking your bangs. You stagger when you stand up, banging your hand against the vanity and accidentally stabbing yourself with the needle you're still holding. You're cold, you realize slowly, and that's because -
"Where the hell are my pants?" you mumble, out loud (because there is no one to hear you), and stumble into the hallway. You nearly trip over your abandoned pants. Your left thigh is covered with dried blood, but you don't want to know what your new tattoo looks like. Instead, you drop the needle into the wastebasket (how do you keep getting them you throw them out every time) and drag yourself into the kitchen. Apparently, you made ramen before inking yourself; there's a pot of cooked noodles sitting on the stove, although it's all cold. You eat it anyway, standing by the fridge.
HE always comes back, even when it is impossible - a white-haired miracle, every time.
Ridiculous, you say to yourself, then tell the pot, "HE never even liked ramen." (Neither do you.)
You are reclaiming your body, you think as the dried blood begins to itch. You are reclaiming your body, subconsciously, because consciously you are still (HIS) waiting for HIM - crap, that's not right. And you forgot to put your pants back on. You don't fetch them; instead, you scratch the blood away from your new tattoo with your fingernails. It's a big one, traced in pretty blue ink. You wonder where you got the ink - all the stores are closed at this hour.
A curving neck, carefully-etched feathers. A Bennu bird on your thigh.
(phoenix always rises up from the dead fitting image shoot it dead and eat it.)
Your stomach decides it hates ramen, and you end up back in the bathroom. After getting rid of the noodles, you think it might be best to get rid of the needles as well, and spend half an hour searching for them (losing your mind not that it was ever yours in the first place) throwing all the drawers open and scattering their contents everywhere.
You find all of Amane's abandoned eyeliner pencils, but no needles. You sit in the shower. The cold of the tiles spreads up through the thin fabric of your boxers and leeches away all your heat. The tattoos are warm, though, little spots of heat dotting your body. Fingerprints, you can actually feel them on your skin like bruises.
(Bruises are actually blood vessels breaking beneath the surface of the skin, and the blood of course flows. So should someone, say, grab your arm hard enough to bruise, the fingerprints left behind would actually be larger than the area that was grasped. Bigger wounds. Growing wounds.) (Say someone had grabbed your thigh right where the Bennu-bird was. Say they'd bitten your shoulder, ground their pelvis down into the moon on your hip. The bruises would spread, they'd get bigger. Till they covered you completely.) Gods, you don't even want to know how big the tattoo on your back will be. (Claw-marks. Laughing-marks, where his teeth slid wet and innocent against your shoulderblades whenever he laughed.)
You are reclaiming yourself. Even if you're really nothing to put forth that much effort over, not as you are now.
Your breath is singing in your throat. You feel like you've run ten miles at full sprint, all your (HIS) lovely tattoos burning away beneath your trembling hands as you pull at yourself, tug at your sweater and boxers and hair until you're naked in the shower - naked and panting and half-laughing. You reach up for the knob and cold water comes pouring down on you, cooling your skin and washing away the last of the dried blood from the bennu-bird.
"I am myself," you tell the showerhead. It sends stinging lines of water directly into your eyes. "I am not anyone's possession, certainly not HIS. I subconsciously want these - they're... pretty. I like them. I'm doing it on purpose, and I know exactly why -"
(Oh keep telling your lovely lies, laughs the showerhead, and the water changes to a river of stolen blue ink.)
"You're not looking so good," Honda says to you the next morning. You quickly check yourself over - your uniform has been washed thoroughly, all traces of ink and blood rinsed away, and you even ironed it instead of bothering to get in an hour of sleep. You drank your coffee, you put your shoes on properly, you joined everyone when you saw them sitting on the steps playing some sort of mutated cat's cradle. Everything was done right.
"I stayed up rather late... the English homework, you know..."
Jonouchi nods distractedly and somehow manages to tie his wrists to his foot. As Anzu and Yuugi move to untangle him, Honda glances sidelong at you. You smile blankly and twist the string around your thumbs.
Your thigh burns all day. You can't think of anything else. Your mouth is dry and your stomach churns because you're (excited and) worried about tonight's inevitable ink. (Not that HE would ever let you hold the needles and it's not HIM anyway, shut up.) After classes end, you manage to slip away again, but Honda is waiting by the gate, arms folded. You remember that he used to be a scrapper, and shift your bag a little so you can run easily if you need to. But he doesn't touch you.
"We need to talk, Bakura."
"All right." Your voice is very steady, very pleasant.
Honda studies your face for a moment, then sighs. "You look like crap. Have you been eating?"
"Of course," you reply in a puzzled tone. (Ramen eaten with your fingers, cold, straight from the pot. Which you vomited back up.) "I mean - I did forget my lunch today, but Miho-san gave me one of her curry buns. I'm fine."
"Have you been sleeping?"
"Yes," you insist, then say, maybe a little too (much like HIM) sharply, "Don't you have other things to worry about, Honda-kun? College entrance exams are coming up soon. We all need to study."
You smile a little too late and walk past. Before you make it beyond his reach, though, he spins to grab your shoulder. "Hey, hang on -"
You lose your balance. Then there's a strange, dizzy rush; all the warmth drains from your face and fingers. The ground collides with the back of your head. You've never fainted before, you think distantly as you stare up at the suddenly blinding-blue sky. It's not that bad. You remember from books that when a person passes out, they recall certain small details of the situation with incredible clarity. For example, you can see the underside of Honda's jaw, the eighty-six tiny hairs shadowing his chin and upper lip, the bob of his Adam's apple silhouetted against the azure (bloody azure, you think, but that makes no sense) of the sky. His lips stretch and bend as he turns back towards the school to shout silently. Everything turns bright white.
(HIS lips moved like open flames - touch here, touch there, never settle, always bring burning biting brilliant heat. The Bennu bird emerges from fire.)
Your eyelids feel crusted-over. You reach up to scratch with your fingernails, and someone seizes your wrist. You blink up at your nails, then shift your gaze to the faces surrounding you - pale faces, with compressed mouths and glittering eyes. It takes a few moments for you to recognize them - everyone, Yuugi and Anzu and Jonouchi and Honda and crap, even Otogi and Miho and for some reason Kaiba is brooding in the corner.
Anzu has your wrist. You tug a little. She gently presses your arm down by your side before letting go.
Your voice cracks. "Where...?"
"The nurse's office," Yuugi says. He doesn't look you in the eye. Instead, he's staring at your chest -
You jerk up, as well as one can jerk through air thick as molasses. Your jacket is gone and your shirt is unbuttoned, sleeves rolled up almost to your armpits. The tattoos on your wrists, your shoulder, your arms, are all exposed. They look small and unimpressive in the fluorescent light, their colors bleached and all the wobbles in the lines accentuated. You automatically brush a hand against your thigh and thank the gods that your dear friends didn't remove your trousers too. (The Bennu bird is still puffy and scabbing; it would not bode well for your mental health.)
Jonouchi speaks first. "'Kura - Fuck, Bakura," he growls, jamming his fists into his pockets. "You did all those?"
"I thought so," Anzu murmurs, glancing at Yuugi, "but I never imagined... You know, Bakura, even if you don't think talking something out will help, you shouldn't just keep bottling things up until -"
"- till you go psycho," Otogi finishes, and Anzu whips around to glare at him.
You don't say anything. You just carefully and meekly roll your sleeves back down as you wait for Yuugi to speak. Because that's what everyone's doing, just waiting for Yuugi to talk to you so you can bond over the experience with your respective HIMs. Because Yuugi can solve everything. Even you.
Yuugi chews his bottom lip, then takes a breath. Before he can begin, however, you whisper, "Does it feel like... like you're empty?"
Everyone immediately looks at the walls.
"Empty...?" he asks. You nod. He glances to the side, scratches the back of his neck, automatically reaches for the empty space where the Puzzle used to fall against his chest. You don't mimic the motion, even though you know there are raised scars on your chest where the Ring's spires used to pierce. "...Well, not - not empty, I guess, but... there is something... missing." He touches your shoulder. "So that's why you...?"
"No," you say, and almost-laugh, a choking, hiccupping noise. "No, it's not. And that's why."
(fill you up, reinforced like concrete with steel bars buried inside, like the mud-blocks that formed the pyramids with simple reeds holding the pitch together. You cannot break, not even with the passing of millennia. Fingers drag in vain across your back.)
They all dissolve into blurs after that. You breathe in and out and count the throbbing places that mark your tattoos. Eventually, after the windows have dimmed into evening, it's decided that someone will have to go home with you. Honda volunteers, but his nephew needs babysitting and god forbid a child be exposed to your apartment and its inhabitant(s). Yuugi and Anzu are out - too small to hold you down, if need be - Otogi hardly knows you, Kaiba left an hour ago. Jonouchi ends up the lucky winner, and he keeps hold of your elbow as the two of you hobble back to your building, as if he needs to support you or keep you from running away.
He looks particularly perturbed when you retrieve your key by unscrewing the eternally-broken lightbulb on the second-floor landing and shaking the key out into your hand. "It's never been fixed," you say, awkwardly. "It's - ah - I don't think it ever... will be, so..." He continues to blink. You sigh and open the door. "Would you like some tea, Jonouchi-kun?"
"Uhh... Got any kocha?"
You shut the door behind him and lock it. (No needles tonight. HE should realize that, it will only lead to trouble if the others get involved...
...But there is no pharaoh to scatter the embers anymore, and so what can any of them do to you?)
Jonouchi oversleeps. You know this because when you open your eyes, the weave of the foyer carpet is imprinting itself into your cheek, and the sun has already seeped over the fold-out table, across the kitchenette floor, and into the hallway. The top of your head is very warm. The rest of you itches, but you cannot move to scratch.
Jonouchi trips over you as he stumbles towards the fridge, mumbling sleepily about milk. Then he's fully awake, yelling and pulling at your clothes and dragging you all over as he tries to find the phone, and then yelling some more when your arm swings up and fixes the needle you were still holding firmly in his arm. (don't touch what's not yours, touching flower petals makes them die sooner and he is making you bloom blood all over the floor.) There are lines of hieroglyphs traced across your ribs, beautiful symbols sprouting from your skin in brilliant red (HE is trying to talk to you, shut up so you can hear what he's saying) (the Bennu bird looks like it's flying, it lifts off your thigh and perches on Jonouchi's back as he stands above you, both of them howling) and you start your choking laugh again and hold out a cupped hand towards Jonouchi's face -
"Pay your rent, please - The yadounushi demands rent for your stay. Pay up!"
(there is no emptiness there is only a burning something where HE used to be and it is stippling you all over the fire licks through the lovely ink-stained cracks in your skin he would like them you know he would Shut the fuck up, you bastard, and give me what you owe.)
They can't stay at your apartment forever. Anzu has dance classes, Yuugi has his aging grandfather, Jonouchi has his job at the garage, Honda has his sister's son and entrance exams and a terrible fashion sense, for gods' sakes take down that ridiculous spike of hair. They come by a lot. They're kind people, so very kind. You do appreciate it. Would they like tea? Soup? Ramen? You have lots of ramen. What article did they pick to discuss for psychology? What do they think of this opening paragraph for the English essay? No, you don't feel up for a duel. Please come again soon.
You go to school, and eat, and sleep, and in the shower you can see the exact places where your sleeves end - that's where the tattoos stop, the bodies of the animal-headed gods all drawn with the heads cut off right at your wrists.
You breathe and the tattoos change shape. But they are there.
(HE is all around you. You are burning down.)
(He always liked the nape of your neck. He'd bite around it, slam you headfirst against walls - without touching you, he never liked to touch you at all unless he was - mm - but he never touched that spot, said it was white as desert sand.) (Which makes no sense, the Nile made black sand and the desert was red sand, and your hair is whiter anyway.) You lift away your hair and the hieroglyph of a heart is there on your nape, the symbol for love. (But he always did like to mock.)
(Then again, he had a very poor sense of humor. Wouldn't know a joke if it lay gasping beneath him. Wouldn't know you either.)
Your name is written in ballpoint on your palm. You open your eyes and your name has changed to the stinging symbol for "robe."
You bathe in ink.
In the dream, he's wearing red - the red robe the thief wore, slithering with stolen gold. But it's your face, your hair - the sharpened features you used to see in the mirror, jaw like a knife-cut hooked over your shoulder and laughing in your ear - familiar. Bakura. Your name, not his, but it will do for now. "Because this is just a dream," you say aloud, and the words solidify as steam around his leering face. You face each other in the darkness.
"Sure, but that's no reason to be rude." He leans forward; his hair brushes your forehead, but there is no touch of skin on skin. His eyes are hollowed, rimmed with the blackness of kohl and insomnia. "You look awful - I knew you'd fall apart without me around. When are you going to let me in?"
You stay still. To speak, you have to inhale the words he exhales. Salt and myrrh and greasy roasted duck. "This isn't real. Hell, it's even a lucid dream - look." You raise your hand to brush your fingertips along his cheek. They leave behind a blackened, oozing burn. He barks a laugh as you snatch your hand guiltily back.
"Let me in." He's the one who reaches up now, jabs a finger delicately into your mouth and pries your lips apart. He peers down your throat, then shakes his head in irritation. "Come on, come on." He jerks at the bottom of your shirt. You smack his hand away, but only long enough to pull it off on your own. His hands run up and down your skin, poking hard at your collarbone, shoulder, ribs, arms, wrists, neck - specific places that burn with contact when he touches them, and the need for contact when he doesn't. His eyes are narrowed to long thin slits, black slashes of desperate concentration that used to leave you with headaches for days at a time. He grabs your upper arms. "You have to let me in," he says, shaking you, "I can't -" His voice cracks. "You can't do this to me, you're not allowed - You -" Your cheekbones are pressed together, bruising; your face aches. Every line you ever scratched into yourself has turned into a gaping hole now, somewhere for Bakura to reach in and fumble around blind in and come away empty from. Both of you, empty. His hands are still clamped around your arms, but his groping ghost fingers are stabbing all through you and you're still empty. You are voids into which you spill blood and ink.
"- going fucking insane, yadounushi," he hisses, breath puffing over your eyelids.
Then he opens his mouth, carefully takes one of your eyes in his teeth, and swallows it.
Everything goes dark again. You lunge forward; your hands clench in the thick hair at the nape of his neck. In turn, his hands curl around your face. Your skin peels and flakes off with the heat of his fingertips.
"Oh," he says, sounding somewhat surprised. "I've gone blind."
Honda and Jonouchi go to the library with you - the public one, because you want to get a broader array of research done than the school library can offer. "The French Revolution," you tell the woman behind the desk. She raises her eyebrows at the three of you - a nearly-transparent-skinned stick flanked by two thugs-in-the-making - but leads you to a small section in back. You sit on the floor and page through enormous volumes studded with flowery French words. Your sweater rides up; the hieroglyphs on your spine press against the leather-bound spines of dusty books.
Jonouchi and Honda are huge and awkward, hemmed in by shelves, trying not to look directly at you but unwilling to let you out of their sight. Half from pity, you send them off to find more books. Jonouchi bounds away, relieved. Honda sends a suspicious glance over his shoulder at you, but you're much too deeply buried in a biography of Robespierre to notice.
They walk you back to your apartment, all of you lugging books. (For all their muscles, they are puffing before the trip is half-over; you remain pristine and free from perspiration.) The key is retrieved from its mundane hiding-place beneath your welcome mat. You take their loads, thank them, tell them to pass on your regards to Yuugi and Anzu. Honda catches the door before it shuts. "You... doing okay?" he asks. His eyebrows are drawn together into a heavy dark line. "You seem... well... different."
You study your shoes for a moment, then smile up at him through your bangs. "Actually, I... I do feel better," you say quietly. You curve your shoulders forward as you speak, like hands cupping around a whispered confession.
He straightens. "That's good," he tells you, a little loudly. "That's good. I mean - It's okay to be okay. You know?"
You nod, smiling. "Yes."
You close the door on his and Jonouchi's backs. Then you reach into your backpack and pull out the two thick volumes you slipped into the pile at the checkout counter - a book on Egyptian-Japanese translations, and a hieroglyphic dictionary.
The work takes all night, longer than when you could just black out and let the tattoos ink themselves. (It's also more expensive, considering that you actually bought supplies instead of snatching them.) You sit hunched before the mirror, a perversion of the pretty princess awaiting rescue. With steady hands, you craft a line of hieroglyphs that starts from your hairline, goes over the bridge of your nose, splits the delicate lining of your lips, curves along the underside of your chin, and begins its winding journey between the older tattoos all the way down to your pelvis. (How like him, leaving hardly any room for you to work with. But whatever.)
When you give the last jab, just below your navel, you suddenly become aware of the ache in your shoulders and neck. It's done. You crack your spine, sigh, and rinse the needle off in the sinkful of purple water. You don't bother to blot the blood away - you've made your point already, with the needle and ink and effort. The reflection in the mirror is a stranger, with Amane's eyeliner velveted across its lower lids and a track of blood leading to its sand-white hair. You like it.
The ink is still wet when you touch it, and leaves blue marks on your fingertips. "I want you back, you bastard," you recite. You trace your fingers across each symbol as you speak them. "I don't care what you want, but I want you back, so hurry up and come if you're going to. I will let you in." You reach the last word, tucked between your hipbones, and leave your hand there for a moment.
Heat rolls from your skin in waves. Flames peer from Bakura's tattoos. You are stuffed with fire, and you know what it is you are trying to reclaim.
You snap the light off, face your black reflection, and wait.
Anzu's face is white. The skin stretches over her shifting bones as her jaw falls open. "Bakura-kun..."
You smile at her; the movement makes your cheeks crackle with pain.
"Your f-face... You..."
"I know. It is my face, after all," you say. You flick a stray chunk of hair out of your eyes. "I like it."
"B-But it -"
You widen your smile, spin, and walk away. The students part around you, muttering, on your way to homeroom. You smile at all of them. The marks on your cheeks stretch in response, bulging mockeries of the familiar shapes.
When you reach the classroom, Yuugi and the others already know. They're waiting just inside the door, as if they were going to pounce on you and bang your head against the floor a few times. (Honda certainly looks it.) Yuugi, however, is the one who steps forward.
"What did he do? How did he -?"
You glance down at his fidgeting fingers, reaching for the Puzzle, and laugh again - a real laugh this time, not a disguised hiccup. "Not him," you say. "Remember, I've been doing this myself. It's self-reclamation." You politely incline your head before stepping around him and proceeding to your seat. They all stare at you. Their eyes are hot on your back.
The tattoos you inked a few days ago have faded a little by now - sky-blue instead of indigo. They divide your face perfectly in half. It's the handprints that are getting all the stares, though - the handprints seared into your cheeks, like someone cupped your face before kissing it. Fingerprints spot your temples and the soft place where your jaw connects to your neck; the blackened heels of the hands curve perfectly around your mouth. They should be bandaged, such serious burns, or they'll be permanent scars. But you don't really care about that. What you care about is that the first symbol you carved of your own will, the one in the center of your forehead, has blistered and cracked.
(The more romantic read novels laced with passages about burning kisses, but you're willing to bet that the ones you get outdo any of their pretty phrases.)
Yuugi's fingers slowly curl around his collar as you take your seat. They all stare, blinking, eyes watering.
"It's all right," you insist, and laugh to show them so. "It's all right. Everything's fine now. Everything's the way it's supposed to be." You laugh again, stronger than ever. "Everything is just... beautiful." As you laugh, you raise your hands, spreading your fingers wide to examine the rings tattooed there, in inks of gold and red. You laugh. You're happy, happier than you'd remembered you could be. You're satisfied now. You're no longer empty. You laugh.
And, silently, so does HE.
A/N: Yayyyyy. Ryou-chan may not be mentally stable, but at least he's grown himself a spine!
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