Takes One To Know One?
Yugi and Ryou shared a comfortable silence as they dressed their beds and otherwise made their room more personal. When he finished with this chore, each sat on his own bed—Ryou on the left and Yugi on the right. At this point the silence became more strained. They were both trying to come up with something to say and break the quiet that seemed to be growing between them.
Finally, they both started with, "Well—" They stopped, grinned, and laughed together. The laughter served as a catalyst for conversation.
"How was your break?" asked Ryou. He knew it was a general question, but they had to start somewhere.
Yugi answered with enthusiasm, probably because he had yet to be asked by the rest of his friends. "It was actually great! Yami, Grandpa, and I went to Tokyo. We watched some really amazing traditional dance performances, went to a tea ceremony, and then went to see one of the old shrines. It doesn't sound like much, but we all had a good time, and that's what matters, right? How was your break?"
The other boy blinked. He honestly hadn't expected for his inquiry to be reciprocated. "Well…uh…Bakura and I stayed at home. Father was in China examining a potential exhibit for the museum."
"Well, you still had to have done something! You two don't share much with the rest of us. C'mon, what did you do? With you around, it couldn't have been anything bad." He smiled and tilted his head, encouraging a response from his roommate.
Ryou sighed at Yugi's oblivion. If only he had gotten the deranged, overprotective brother, then maybe he would understand. But Ryou could never wish that on him: he wouldn't be Yugi if he had been the one smothered by the brother who was his senior by fewer than two hours. Ryou banished the hateful thoughts of his brother. Everything he did he did because he loved Ryou; that was an undeniable fact. The boy could never condemn the result of love…at least not for very long. His head snapped up when his roommate said his name. He met the other's eyes with a sheepish expression. "I'm sorry, Yugi-san. I guess I got a little lost there for a minute."
"It's fine," Yugi replied. His expression held the tiny bit of concern that he could not conceal. This wasn't the first time Ryou had spaced out in the middle of a conversation. In fact, it seemed that whenever anyone managed to get him to say more than a few sentences, he suddenly drifted into another world. In a way, Yugi understood…because the same thing tended to happen to his brother Yami. When Yugi had asked what was going on when he entered an untimely silence, Yami had replied that his mind was wandering, delving deep into the thought that had been presented before it happened, far too deep to express in words. Like Yami, Ryou seemed to enter another realm when he fell silent, a realm in which he was wholly submerged. When he was there, his expressions were inexplicable by any but himself. This time, he had held a simmering something almost like anger, which faded into a sort of melancholy. "What were you thinking about?"
Ryou's face flushed. "It was…it was nothing," he began evasively. "You know me, always going into my own little world!" He couldn't keep his laugh from sounding forced.
The concern did not leave Yugi, but he decided that it was best to just let it go for the time being. "So, what did you and Bakura-kun do over break?"
It would be best if I just answered. "We spent most of the time out, going to bookstores and getting different flavors of ice cream every day."
His roommate's reluctance to answer puzzled Yugi. There was nothing bad or wrong or even weird about any of that. "How did Bakura-kun like the bookstores?" he asked.
Ryou shrugged. "As well as he likes pretty much everything else." With a cold indifference. There was only one thing that Bakura had ever shown an open interest in: his younger brother. To many people he appeared to have almost no preferences to anything. But Ryou knew better. He knew that Bakura's favorite food was onigiri, but he refused to eat plain rice. He knew that Bakura secretly listened to heavy metal bands even though he couldn't always understand what they were saying, then turned around and blasted European classical from his mp3 player. He knew that Bakura had read Battle Royale three times and would probably read it again soon, yet had taken a liking to some of the darker poets. He knew that Bakura enjoyed English class, hated Literature, and had devised every excuse imaginable for cutting math. Not only did Bakura have a personality, but it was a lot more complicated than many others'. "He didn't mind, though." He never minds.
"Did you do anything by yourself?"
"Not really." Bakura would never let me.
Though Ryou didn't voice it, Yugi could hear the unspoken truth. He thought of how the Touzoku brothers' relationship differed from the Mutos'. Between him and Yami, there were few secrets, because there was little reason for them. Because Yami was a year older, he was not constantly around Yugi. As twins—and rich kids—Ryou and Bakura were always together. This was probably the first year since they were born that they were not sharing a room. No wonder Bakura was so mad. It had to be distressing. Yami and Yugi had shared a room before high school, but their separation had not had anywhere near the same effect as the Touzokus'. Yami had been quiet after he and Yugi found out, no doubt pondering the complication. He hadn't really started talking much more after he learned that Yugi's roommate was Touzoku Ryou and that his own roommate was Touzoku Bakura, so Yugi had no idea how he felt about the arrangement. He didn't think that his brother would have a problem with Ryou.
Sometimes Ryou wished that Muto Yami was his older brother. He obviously cared for Yugi's safety, but he wasn't overbearing in his concern. He was quiet, but in a way that you just knew that there was some sort of philosophical contemplation going on in his head, not plans for elaborate tortures. He let his brother do as he pleased—within reason, of course—and spent time doing what he wanted to do, rather than following Yugi around. Yami didn't glare at any and every person who stared at his younger brother with a voracious expression, simply regarded them in such a way that they thought twice before approaching Yugi. He didn't lash out whenever someone bullied Yugi, but instead reprimanded them in his calm voice and then kept a slightly closer watch for the next week or so, until he was satisfied that they would not bother his brother again. He was a model big brother; Bakura was the model that had been set to hyper-protection mode. It was good to know that he was almost never in danger, but Ryou longed for the kind of freedom that Yugi enjoyed.
It had gotten quiet again, so Yugi spoke. "What do you think of the room assignments?"
"Ours?" He continued at Yugi's nod. "Honestly, it's…it's…nice. I think that it will be good for both me and Bakura to spend some time apart. We've kind of ostracized ourselves, and that's something that I would like to reverse. What do you think?"
"I'm kind of disappointed. Not because of you!" he added quickly. "It's just that…well, Yami is graduating this year. I don't know what he's doing after high school, but no matter which university he chooses, I won't see him much. I wanted to be able to spend this last year with him."
Ryou nodded even though he didn't really understand. His goal was to enter a university so exclusive that there was no way Bakura could follow him, even with the persuasive power of money. He had even considered continuing his education in America or Europe. They had money, but there was no way they could both study abroad and remain as comfortable as they were now. Ryou was certain that he would get the luxury of choosing whatever school he wanted. He wondered if Bakura would even go to university if he couldn't follow his little brother; it seemed that his sole reason for keeping up with school was to stay by Ryou's side. "Have you ever considered following Yami to university?"
"Yeah, but when I mentioned it, he got really serious and told me that I shouldn't choose the same university as him unless I really liked it and wanted to go there." Yugi's older brother was all about self-discovery. He didn't speak much, but when he did, people listened: almost everything he said could be taken as personal advice. Yami reserved most of this advice for his brother, everything from self-confidence to his own conclusions about love. Though their grandpa had taught him much, Yugi attributed most of his practical knowledge to Yami. "I would love to follow him, but I'm going to do a lot of looking before I make any decisions. He would be disappointed if I didn't. What about you and Bakura?"
"Um…I don't know. It all depends on what we want to do, and neither of us knows yet. We'll probably end up waiting until next year to figure it out."
"I don't know what I want to do yet either. It's crazy to think that soon we're going to be adults taking care of ourselves."
Bakura and I are already adults taking care of ourselves. They had been since they were old enough to figure out how to make simple food and dress themselves. Because that was about when the accident had happened…the car crash that had claimed their mother and their little sister Amane. They had only been six or seven years old at the time, but their father's work had forced them to grow up fast, too fast to enjoy childhood the way their classmates had. Bakura had automatically assumed the role of head of household, while Ryou had taken the more submissive, almost housewife-like position. Though Ryou never asked, Bakura would always help his twin with his self-designated chores, especially cooking—he was secretly an excellent chef, in comparison to the average person—and cleaning. He assumed the less desirable jobs, such as cleaning the bathroom, to spare his younger, more delicate brother the trouble. Ryou never complained, but deep down he resented Bakura's condescension. He didn't consider himself any less able or willing to do any of the work, even though Bakura had only evened their responsibilities. "I guess so. It doesn't seem like so much of an adjustment for me."
"I feel like it's going to be a big change." Yugi and Yami had been lovingly raised by their grandpa. Their mother was some sort of a performer, no one famous, but usually traveling; they didn't even know where to begin looking for their father. Even Yami didn't remember anything about him, so they knew he had to have left them when they were only infants. Yami had once speculated that Grandpa was their father's father, not their mother's, and that their father had died and their mother had dumped them on the only person she could turn to. Another time he had said that maybe it had been an affair that had lasted long enough to produce two children. Yugi had never voiced his own theory, because it seemed too ridiculous and messed up to be true: what if Grandpa was their father? They knew that they were closely related to him; there was too much of a semblance for it to be coincidental. Grandpa had never answered questions about their father, so each theory seemed as likely as the next. "But it can't be so much different from living here, right? Except that we'd have to make our own food," he finished with a slight grin.
Being an adult is nothing like living here. Here is the lap of luxury compared to adulthood.
"Yes?" He hadn't thought he'd drifted for very long.
"Can I ask you a sort of personal question? I know it's going to sound kind of invasive and maybe rude, but—"
"Ask." He hoped that it didn't have anything to do with Bakura.
Yugi took a deep breath before turning his gaze to his feet and muttering, "Are you gay?" He looked back up to see bewilderment in his roommate's eyes. His face burned. "I'm sorry. That was dumb."
It took Ryou a moment to respond. The question had come from nowhere. He tried to track their conversation back and find what had sparked it, but there was nothing. Only when Yugi apologized was he able to answer. "No…no. It's…it's fine. I…I…just didn't expect it. Why do you ask?"
The other shrugged. "I don't know. I've kind of wondered since I met you. It's not that I would have a problem with it, and if you are it's not that it's blatantly obvious, but I just—"
Ryou stopped him again, before Yugi's voice could grow too shrill. "I think so. I've never been attracted to girls. What made you wonder?"
That's a good question. Yugi hadn't even consciously registered his curiosity until halfway through second semester last year. "Nothing big. It doesn't even have to do with your hair…that didn't come out right at all. After all, your hair is perfectly normal in comparison to mine," he laughed. His smile dissipated. "I think it's just…this is going to come out wrong again."
"Go on," Ryou urged. Now that it had been mentioned, he was curious as to what had given him away. Sure, he was more pretty than handsome, but so was Otogi, and he was as about as straight as a guy can get.
"Well…you just have this sort of softness, not like you're weak or helpless in any way, but more…delicate and sensitive." He huffed in frustration. "I can't put it into the right words."
"I think they're fine. They're ambiguous, but I understand how you mean them. I don't think there's a word for what you're trying to say that couldn't be taken offensively." When Yugi said those words, it was no doubt a compliment. And yet the same words from Bakura were condescending and hurtful, even though his tone of voice was always at its most tender when he spoke them.
Yugi allowed Ryou his silence, and used it himself. Now that he'd said them, Yugi remembered that once—when no one had realized he was present—Yami had used those very same words to describe him. It had never before struck him that he and Ryou were so infinitely similar and yet so infinitely unique.
"What about you, Yugi-san?"
"What about me?" the boy replied, pulling out of his own daze.
"Well…like you said, you wondered because of something so subtle that most girls don't even see it." Ryou paused for a moment, hoping that Yugi could catch his vague drift. When it was apparent he could not, Ryou continued. "Takes one to know one?" he tried.
A moment later it clicked. "Oh! Oh…" Yugi struggled for words. "I…I don't think I've ever thought of anyone in particular that way. Except maybe for Anzu-chan, but we have too close of a brother-sister relationship to ever even consider that. We could never risk losing each other. So…maybe it does take one to know one. But it's not something I sit and think about a lot."
Ryou thought of how his brother would react to this confession. He would chuckle so softly that Yugi would not catch it, then think, Impressionable and attractive. He would maybe even kiss him, just to say that he was the first. Bakura claimed to have no preference, but Ryou knew that neither of them ever had or ever would find anything sexually desirable in women that could not be found in men. Such was the result of having grown up so closely together. Ryou could see that he had raised a question that was almost alien to his roommate's mind, so he let him alone to consider this new possible aspect of himself and pulled out Bakura's mp3 player—they had traded on the train ride from their apartment across the city at Ryou's request, and had forgotten to trade back when they got off. He struggled with the strange earphones his brother had specifically requested. Once he had managed to get them on, he put the mp3 player on 'shuffle'. The song was one of the heavy metal Americans. He didn't try too hard to read the name and band; all he made out before he let the screen go black were the words 'simple' and 'breaking' on separate lines. Ryou allowed his head to bob to the beat as he sank into the music.
Wow. It feels like it took me forever to figure out how to start, but once I did, BAM!, two days. And a thousand words longer than the previous one. I think I have a good feel for this type of story now, but we shall see next chapter, as this is the last purely backstory chapter. Hopefully having basically planned next chapter over the time it took me to write through introductions will get it out faster.
I have another pop culture reference! What song is Ryou listening to, and who's it by? Bonus points for album! (I honestly don't know why I ask. It's just kind of fun to me, I guess...)
Aside from all of that...R-E-V-I-E-W. REVIEW! Thanks to all of you who do!