"Where are you guys taking me?"

"Would you shut up and just go with this?"

"You don't have to be so rude."

Ryou rolled his eyes at Marik and Bakura's argument. "Please be nice today. Please? It's his birthday, after all."

"Fuck his birthday."

"Stop being such an ass!"

Ryou jumped in between them and took their hands. "Do I have to make you guys hold—"

"Very funny, kid," Bakura interrupted as he jerked away. "You know I wouldn't be here if Dad hadn't insisted I keep an eye on you."

"How would your dad have known if you hadn't come with us? He's in Egypt, for Ra's sake."

"He has his ways."

Marik frowned. "Like what?"

"Like calling."

"Have you ever heard your imitation of Ryou? It's flawless."

"He knows the difference."

"Why did he even want you to come with us? We're both seventeen, now! We can take care of ourselves."

"I think that's why," Ryou interjected. "He doesn't want two seventeen-year-olds running around by themselves on one of their birthday."

With a shrug, Marik sighed, "I guess." He looked down at his and Ryou's intertwined fingers and blushed. "Um…you can let go now. I don't think Bakura and I are going to fight anymore."

There was brief hesitation, but before Marik could think into it any more deeply, the hand had been withdrawn. Marik could have sworn he saw a faint rouge to Ryou's cheeks.

"Cut it out, lover boys," Bakura said as he eyed his brother and Marik. "I don't want to be associated with a gay brother."

The boy's cheeks flared. "I'm not…!"

"Could have fooled me."

Angry tears welled in Ryou's eyes.

"Leave him alone!" Marik cried.

"I will when he stops behaving like a fag. And gets a haircut."

"Your hair used to be just as long!"

"But I got it cut when I was fifteen. And I've kept it cut. Do I look like a girl?"

Marik turned from Bakura before he could give in to temptation and punch him. Instead he pulled Ryou to his other side. "Don't listen to him. You know it's just because he's mad he can't be out with his friends today." Marik understood Ryou's hurt at his brother's attack: the boy had recently admitted to Marik that he was gay. It had to be hard to live in an apartment with such a homophobe, and no recourse but a best friend who was still getting over his shock at the confession.

"So is this the scene where you tell me you've been in love with me since we met and ask if I'm going to freak out and not want to be your friend anymore?" The question was serious, but Marik was careful in making it clear that he didn't have a problem with Ryou's decision. He couldn't bring himself to. Ryou trusted him enough to be tolerant, even though he'd always expressed a faint disdain for homosexuality. The least he could do was be respectful of that kind of courage.

Ryou laughed, relieved. "Don't flatter yourself. Stick to the girls."

Despite the turndown, Ryou often made Marik wonder. Ryou was a physical person; Marik had known that since they'd become friends. But after admitting he was gay, he was constantly hanging on Marik. There had even been a minor incident between them just last month.

Ryou laid back against Marik as the movie started. After a moment he bolted upright. "Sorry," he murmured, embarrassed.

Marik just shrugged. There was no point in getting upset. As long as it never went beyond brief, unintentional contact, he could deal. He was the only person Ryou could be his true self around, and he didn't want to discourage that confidence by jumping every time they brushed against one another.

About thirty minutes into the movie, Ryou sighed. It was painfully obvious he wasn't enjoying it.

Marik had to admit it really wasn't Ryou's thing: it was something about guys from the United States military being given super-armor to go fight evil or whatever…G.I. Joe? Marik would gladly have changed it, but he really liked the plot so far. Then it hit him that it was rented, not just on television. "I can watch this later if you're bored."

"Huh?" Ryou's turned his head from the screen…or rather, the wall right above it. "No, it's fine."

"I really don't have to watch it right now. We can do something else. Really."

"I…" There was a long pause. "I…you really mean that? I picked the movie, after all."

"Don't worry about it. Thanks for picking it. I promise I'll get it back on time."

Ryou threw his arms around Marik. "Thank you! Thank you thank you thank you!" And without even thinking about it, his lips met his friend's. Seconds later he tore himself away and clapped his hands over his mouth; his face was blazing. "Oh my God." The words came out as no more than a mumble. "I'm so sorry."

The other was frozen in shock. It wasn't until Ryou stood to leave that he could find his voice again. "Uh…so…what would you rather do?"

They hadn't spoken about it since. Marik was jolted from his reverie when Ryou clutched his wrist and dragged him to the left. "Wha—"

"We're here!"

"Oh. Right."


The moment they arrived at the brothers' apartment, Bakura stalked into the bathroom grumbling about, "The most boring day I've ever had…could have gone with Sera for a drink, damn it…they're not kids anymore…fuck his birthday…" He could be heard dialing somebody's number on his cell phone.

"Sera," Ryou concluded as his brother started straight into an angry rant. "I rented another movie. I think you'll like it."

"Oh? What's it about?"

"Robots. Huge robots that morph into stuff. There are two teams, Autobots and Decepticons, I think. They're fighting to get back some Cube that will help them."

Marik rolled his eyes. It did sound good, but… "Can you sit through it?"

"I'll make myself."

"Ryou, you don't have to—"

"It's your birthday. If you don't like the movie, then we don't have to watch it. But from what I've read about it, I think you will."

"Do you think you will?"

"It doesn't matter." Without giving Marik any more time to talk him out of it, Ryou picked up the DVD and hurried into the living room to put it into the player. "Come on!"

Hoping against hope that Ryou would like this one, he followed him and sat on the couch, soon joined by his friend.


"I guess." He watched Ryou press play. "I really hope you don't make yourself suffer through the movie. I can't enjoy it if you don't."

Color rose to the other's cheeks.

Marik vaguely wondered if maybe Ryou's feelings for him had changed since the day he confessed. At the time, he really hadn't seemed to like him like him. But now, more than ever, he seemed like a girl with a crush. Marik wouldn't be surprised if that was the truth. His mind slipped into the movie; he noticed as Bakura sat on Ryou's other side. He hadn't been aware that Ryou had been sitting in the middle of the couch. Had he moved? Marik believed so. He couldn't concentrate on anything outside the movie, though. Ryou had been right: he loved it. He glanced over, and saw that the boy seemed to be just as engrossed as himself. Even Bakura looked mildly interested.

The end credits jolted all three of them back to reality.

Bakura was the first to move. He muttered, "That was stupid," before heading back to the bathroom.

"That was a really good movie, Ryou. Thanks."

He was the last to break free of the trance. "Huh? Oh, you're welcome! It was a really good movie. Who knew American actors were any good?"

Marik looked at the clock on top of the television and jumped. It read ten-thirty. "Whoa! Isis's gonna freak! I told her I'd call to check in at nine!" He pulled out his cell phone and dialed her. "Hello? Yeah, I'm fine. Sorry, Isis. Ryou and I were watching a movie, and… Yeah, I'll be there soon… Yeah. See you soon. Bye." He looked at Ryou. "Isis and Rishid are having a sort of party for me, too. I have to go."

"Oh? It's only—"

"I know. But I promised them that I'd be on time this year, and I'm already an hour late. Sorry for having to skip out on you." Marik stood and started for the exit.

Ryou jumped up and hurried after him. "It's fine, just…" He stepped between Marik and the door.

Marik tilted his head. "Yes?"


"Yes?" he repeated.

"I…well…um…you…I haven't given you…um…" Ryou groaned, frustrated. He threw his arms around Marik's neck, hugging him so tightly it was almost a chokehold. "Bye."

Marik tentatively returned the embrace. "I've really got to—" He was cut short by Ryou's lips. He knew that this time wasn't an accident. Marik tried to will himself to pull away, but something kept him frozen in place, allowing him to experience a thousand feelings at once; every one of them was wrong, soo wrong. But it was all there, in that moment. Strongest of all was the desire for more as Ryou pulled away, with a crimson face and averted eyes. Marik's hand wrapped around Ryou's wrist when he tried to slip out from between his friend and the door.

"I'm…sorry…I really didn't…well, I did, but…I shouldn't have…see you tomorrow?"

"Probably." Marik pressed Ryou back against the door. "I can get out of it."

Ryou's responding, "Huh?" melted into a sigh when Marik kissed him back.

"How did I know?"

Marik and Ryou leapt apart at the sound of Bakura's voice.

He stared for a couple of seconds before speaking again. "All right, get out of my way. You're right in front of the door," he clarified.

The first to respond was Marik, who took Ryou's wrist and pulled him to the side.

"You're not going to say anything?" the boy asked his older brother.

"What? No. I really don't have a problem with it. Marik was right: I was just really pissed off about not getting to hang out with my friends today, but that's passed. Sera didn't end up going with them because she had to baby-sit her friend's puppy. We both missed for babysitting purposes. Go figure. Anyway, she and I are going out together now. As long as you don't waste anything, you have permission to go through my cabinet. Consider it your birthday present from me." Bakura laughed before exiting the apartment.

Marik looked down to see Ryou's cheeks, flared brighter than he remembered ever seeing them. "What?"

"Ig…ignore him about the cabinet. It's nothing important."

"What is it?"


Despite Ryou's persisting pleas, he entered the bathroom and opened the mentioned cabinet. He choked. "Whoa. I…didn't know that Bakura…"

"Look, that's why I stay over at your house sometimes! Get out of there!" His face was on fire.

Marik couldn't resist. "Get in here." He grabbed Ryou and pulled him through the door.

"Please…" The request wasn't as urgent as his previous words. It seemed that everything was just as new and exciting to him as it was to his friend. He put up no struggle as the door closed behind him. He willingly took the backward step that put his back against it. "Is it safe to say that we're going to be explaining this to Isis and Rishid?"

"Eventually, yes. But forget about it for tonight."


Sorry for being late! I seem to have a problem with that... Anyway, I'm working on my - also late - Christmas fic. I may end up just getting up a New Year's. Maybe. Anyway, hope you enjoyed and please review!

Um, by the way, to me "Marik" does not mean Yami no Marik. It means Marik Ishtar. Hope that didn't throw anybody off.