Chapter Twenty-Six
I Don't Care How The Questions Sound

By the time Ryou entered the kitchen, Bakura had already gotten out the teapot and was filling it up. "I'll do it," he said automatically. He didn't bother to hide his surprise when Bakura made no move to stop him from turning on the burner. "You're letting me?"

Bakura shrugged. "I've already done half the work." Ignoring his desire to take charge was difficult to say the least, but he figured he'd done enough taking charge the night before to last for several weeks. He sat down at the table and waited patiently for a steaming cup to be placed in front of him.

Ryou couldn't look Bakura in the eye. Not just yet, at least. He still needed time to pull himself together, plan what he wanted to say. What do I want to say?

Staring in silence took more self-control than Bakura had ever imagined he possessed. He had no more of an idea of how to approach the subject than Ryou. After all, he had never bothered to involve himself too deeply with another human being. Finally, he couldn't stand it anymore. "Ryou."

The boy's eyes snapped up. There was no more avoiding this. "Yes?" He had to face it, but he didn't have to start the conversation.

There was no reason to jump head-on into what had happened last night. "Marik's gone back to Egypt for a few days."

Ryou raised his eyebrows. "Really? What for?"

"Ishizu called just after you ran off. He asked the museum to forward urgent calls here if he wasn't there to take them—is that all right with you?" He took the boy's slight nod for a yes. "She asked him to fly home immediately, so he got on a plane to Memphis at five last night."

"Why did she want him home so soon?"

Bakura shrugged. "No idea. Even Marik didn't know, but from the look on his face, it didn't seem to be anything good."

"So," Ryou began, feeling a little guilty over his next question, "how long will he be gone?" He couldn't help the lacing of hope in his voice.

"A few days. Nothing definite. We have a while to ourselves to…sort things out." He paused, waiting for Ryou to speak. "Well? I'm sure you've got plenty of questions you've been dying to ask," he urged after a moment.

Ryou blinked. Of course he had plenty of questions he'd been dying to ask. But how could he voice them without sounding too desperate? Without sounding too heartless?

Bakura sighed loudly. He could feel the aura of uncertainty and reluctance surrounding the boy. "I don't care how the questions sound. You should know that."

That was all the invitation Ryou needed. "What is he to you? What have you two been doing while I'm at school? Why have you treated me this way? What am I to you? What was last night? How—"

"One at a time, please," Bakura interrupted. "What is Marik to me? I already told you last night. He's nothing more than what I consider to be harmless fun. He's just a way to fill all the spare time I have. Yes, I find him physically attractive, but who wouldn't? I never intended to be this…close to him. He was just supposed to be a guy I kissed a few times and then dropped. I let things get out of hand yesterday."

"I'll say," agreed Ryou with a little bitterness. "What happened? I came home to find empty Mountain Dew cans scattered all over the living room and you two upstairs doing…doing…" He didn't dare go on.

"We were going to drink some tea and spend the day like we usually do, but the tea had disappeared overnight." Bakura gave Ryou a pointed stare before continuing. "So Marik and I decided to go get some Mountain Dew at the supermarket."

Ryou narrowed his eyes suspiciously. "Define get."

There was no point in lying at this point, so Bakura shrugged. "Steal. We brought the Mountain Dew back here and I suggested a bet to see who could drink more. He decided that if he won, I had to let him stay the weekend, which in retrospect," he added quickly at the hint of darkness that crossed Ryou's face, "isn't in my power, really. My bet was that he could spend the weekend, but we would spend the rest of yesterday in my room. Marik drank six cans. I drank seventeen. As I'm sure you've been told, Mountain Dew has probably twice as much caffeine as coffee. We were both buzzed, and I made the stupid decision to kiss him with that kind of rush."

"And then I walked in," finished Ryou with a hint of a sardonic undertone.

"It's a good thing, too, because I was close to the edge of way too far, and Marik was in no position to fight. Now tell me," he said, changing the subject, "what happened to the tea?"

"I…took it all while you and Marik were in the living room Wednesday night. I really have no idea what I was trying to prove. I guess I just wanted to do something remotely like revenge."

Your revenge is what caused everything that happened yesterday. Bakura resisted the urge to voice this. "You did well. I never saw it coming. What other questions did you have?" he prompted.

"How do you and Marik usually spend your days?"

"We go wreak harmless havoc somewhere in the city, then—"

"Harmless? Havoc?"

Should have seen that one coming. "Sure. Scare a few children, kick a few puppies, behave as effeminately as we can in the most masculine locations we can find. All standard."

"Please don't tell me you're serious about scaring children and kicking puppies." Ryou had no doubt that the last one had been entirely true. It would probably have been funny if he hadn't been suffering severe pangs of jealousy for the past several days.

"Children, yes. Puppies, no. Kaiba does a good enough job of that every time he smiles. And then you already know how we've been spending the rest of our time."

Ryou could tell that he was open for a new question. "Did you spend Tuesday night watching me sleep? And looking through my notes?"

Ra. He knows? Damn it. He sighed. "Yes. I asked you a few questions about my past while you were sleeping. Explain the notes." I want to HEAR him say this.

The boy's face flushed bright red. "They're…I…um…" He did not want to admit to the dreams. But what choice did he have? "They're the 'not quite' ancient Egyptian dreams I've been having! I couldn't concentrate on school with them in my head, so I drew! Then I woke up on Wednesday and you had read them! That's why I've been avoiding you!"

"You passed out on purpose?" Bakura asked, just to confirm his suspicions.

"Yes! I used two bags of the tea! School was miserable, but at least I didn't have to deal with you two more than seeing you sleeping together on the couch!"

You interrupted my possible molestation time with Marik. "I wasn't asleep. I heard you fall down the stairs. You could have gotten hurt. Marik and I took you upstairs to rest."

Ryou hadn't known that he'd passed out on the stairs. He had assumed that he made it to his bed since that was where he'd woken up. "I didn't know—"

"You weren't supposed to."

"Oh." He decided on his next question. "What have you been doing to me for the past week? I've been confused. First we get so close, then you run off with Marik, then you act suggestively, then you kiss Marik in front of me, then—"

Bakura held up a hand to stop the list of contemptible things he had done to the boy who had been so kind to him. "I get bored very easily. I only intended on going for that one day with Marik to ease the boredom a little, but then I kissed him on the roof because I decided he was hot. I came back here and was reminded of just how much I wanted you, but then he came back and wanted me to be his boyfriend so I said yes because I couldn't think of any better way to spend time while you weren't around. I need something else to do while you're at school, because Marik's already gotten the wrong idea. I purposely gave you the wrong idea just to see how you would react. I shouldn't have." No, you shouldn't have. SHUT UP!

"No, you shouldn't have," Ryou unknowingly agreed with Bakura's inner voice. "You've been driving me insane."

"I know. It was amusing…until last night. I finally realized that I'd gone too far. I'm…" Bakura paused. I can't say it. His dream-self seemed to have no qualms over repeating the words, over and over, but for the real Bakura, they stuck in the back of his throat, not wanting to surface. At least not over something like this, something that he wasn't entirely remorseful for. "I'm…sorry, Ryou. It wasn't fair of me to play with you. You're…fragile. It was wrong to take advantage of that."

A slight frown crossed Ryou's lips at fragile. "I'm more resilient than I seem, Bakura." But it still hurt. "You aren't forgiven yet. You still have a lot to prove."

Bakura gave a dissatisfied grumble. This may turn out to be more work than it's really worth. The voice spoke. He's worth every second you put into it, you selfish ass. He repressed an irritated sigh. I'm only doing this because he's a part of me. If I could avoid it, I most certainly would. No you wouldn't.

Ryou made another face to indicate that the other's reaction had not passed by unnoticed. "I need to get ready for school." He abandoned his teacup and hurried back upstairs before Bakura could sense the deeply hurt truth beneath his collected façade. The conversation had been going relatively well…and then it had just stopped. He felt like nothing had changed last night, that Bakura was just continuing his twisted game of Confuse the Ryou. Only now he was being blatantly obvious about it. After all, wasn't that what he'd just said at the table? That he'd been giving Ryou the wrong idea—the idea that he liked him—all week, the same way he had been with Marik? Or had he said he had spent the week giving Ryou the idea that he didn't like him? I'm so confused. The conversation had gone in a full circle, leaving him just as perplexed as he had been for the past six days. Ryou pulled on his school uniform and brushed through his hair, staring at the mirror, not seeing his own reflection. Bakura was there, laughing his head off, less bored than ever before. Even though he knew it was just his imagination, it stabbed through his heart.

Downstairs, Bakura was physically punishing himself for his behavior, hitting his forehead against the table. I REALLY messed up this time. The words he had spoken ran through his head. "I need something else to do while you're at school, because Marik's already gotten the wrong idea. I purposely gave you the wrong idea just to see how you would react." At the time they had seemed direct and clear, but now—after the fact, of course—he could see how they might get twisted until Ryou got it into his head that Bakura was playing the exact same game with him as he was with Marik. And I'm NOT. I never HAVE been. He could imagine what was going through the boy's head now as he got dressed in his room, no doubt pondering their failed attempt at communication. How the HELL will I be able to put THIS straight? As this thought crossed his mind, Bakura heard Ryou patter down the stairs. This would be the only chance he had to clear up every misconception he was certain the boy had before he disappeared for eight hours. Bakura jumped up and managed to grab Ryou's hand just before he laid it on the doorknob.

The boy turned to face him. His face was a thin mask, barely concealing exactly what Bakura had feared he was feeling. "What do you want, Bakura? I have to leave or I'll be late."

Bakura knew that Ryou would not stay for any words he might be able to get out. He knew he would only be given about ten seconds to respond before Ryou wrenched away and left. He had to act. And so, he pulled him close and pressed their lips together, holding back the side that wanted so badly to demand more.

The gesture caught Ryou entirely off guard, though in truth he knew he should have expected it. Despite his mind's protests, despite everything he had just considered upstairs, his hands curled around the lapels of Bakura's jacket and pulled him closer.

At this, Bakura nearly smirked—it was funny in a way. But this kiss would already be filled with even more miscommunications, so he resisted and pulled away, ignoring every part of him that screamed, Further!

Ryou was left in a breathless daze. He stared blankly, trying to gather himself and just leave before anything else went wrong.

The expression on Ryou's face gave the strong implication that this hadn't been nearly enough. Bakura laid a hand on his shoulder to keep him from leaving, though he had made no move to do so. "Let's talk when you get home this afternoon. There's a lot more to say, and we both know it."

Those words lifted the fog in the boy's mind. He wrapped his arms around Bakura's waist and murmured, "Okay." Then he left, feeling much lighter than he had in a long time.

Bakura stood in front of the door for a long time—wondering what was going wrong with himself—before turning away and plunging into how he would spend the day. It proved to be a sufficient distraction.

This wasn't exactly what I planned, not even the end—which has been on my mind since I decided on how to make Ryou sad enough for "Evil Angel". It kind of took a weird turn there in the middle. Personally, it's a little muddy, but I am as happy with it as I would be if I were to spend three weeks editing—and editing is so not something that happens too often. So, here it is, chapter twenty-six. Please please please review. I love hearing what you all think, and I am sad that I don't hear as much anymore. I know I get lots of views and visitors because my traffic graph tells me so. I'd like to have as many reviews as I have visitors, but that's a silly wish. Those of you who are considerate enough to do so, thanks in advance!

(Bleh, I sound so whiny sometimes. XD)