The time from when Malik and Bakura first meet to the last time they ever see one another is only ten hours long, but within those ten hours, they share three kisses.
The first is within minutes of meeting, barely five hours after the beginning of Kaiba's Battle City tournament. It's on a whim, though neither one of them is sure whose; just that one moment they're sizing each other up, subtly wrestling for dominance through manipulation and sharp words, and then suddenly Bakura has a fistful of Malik's sandy blond hair in a vice grip, and Malik's hands are up the back of his shirt, nails digging into smooth, supple skin.
The smell of salt and seaweed fills Malik's nose as he breathes in, and the sound of water lapping against the pier is lost in the sound of his pulse in his own ears. He licks greedily at Bakura's lips, tasting a faint tang on them that reminds him of blood and darkness. He finds that the flavour is almost comforting, simply because that's all he's ever known.
Bakura nips at Malik's bottom lip in response, a little too hard to be considered playful, and even his kiss feels dangerous, like sucking on a razor blade and hoping not to get cut. Their teeth clash when they finally open their mouths to one another, sharp angles slicing into soft flesh before they come up for air and peel away from one another.
They both take a step backwards in perfect tandem, like they've been repelled by a magnet, and fix identical glares on their faces, as if blaming each other for what they've just done. Neither says a word, and Malik isn't sure if the powerful feeling that surges in his chest as he stares at Bakura is hatred, or the urge to push him to the ground and kiss him again until his lips are raw.
Instead, he wipes his mouth on the back of his hand, and as if nothing has happened, says, "Your five minutes are up. Are you going to disappear now, or will you join forces with me?"
Bakura smirks at him. Malik wants to wipe the look off his face.
The second time is later that evening, on Kaiba's blimp, between boarding the aircraft and Bakura's duel with Yugi. Malik corners him in the empty hallway, and Bakura leans against the wall, arms folded and expression carefully measured so as to appear indifferent.
"I'm impressed," Malik says, propping himself up with a hand against the same wall. "Winning six puzzle cards in such a short time... maybe you will stand a chance in the finals after all."
"Ch'. More than a brat like you does." If Bakura's voice had been any colder, it might have frozen the both of them.
Malik doesn't take any offense, only grinning wryly and leaning in closer, putting his face right in Bakura's. "We'll see."
If he feels threatened – and Malik doubts he does – Bakura doesn't show it. He lifts his chin and squares his jaw, staring Malik down. "Yes, we will indeed."
This time it's definitely Malik who initiates it, grabbing Bakura by the shirt and shoving him back against the wall with a thump, tongue in his mouth, scraping against the uneven surface of the roof before he's even fully aware of what he's doing. Bakura grabs him by the hips, gripping them so hard it's as though he wants to snap Malik in two. He pulls him closer, until they're pressed against each other tightly enough that Malik can feel the jut of Bakura's bones.
"You're fucking maddening," Bakura mutters against Malik's lips when they break the kiss, and Malik belatedly realises that Bakura's thigh has slipped between his legs.
He's fumbling with Bakura's belt buckle before he knows it, face buried in soft strands of lilac hair to mask the increased tempo of his uneven breathing. Bakura mutters something about desperation, along with a few other choice words implying that Malik's a whore, and Malik sees red. He sinks his teeth into the exposed, pale skin of Bakura's neck just enough to draw blood, but all Bakura does is moan right in Malik's ear in a tone so dark and rich that it makes him tingle all over.
He's just wondering how far the two of them will go, right here in the hallway, when they catch the sound of footsteps echoing down the corridor, accompanied by faint snatches of conversation, and Malik leaps back from Bakura as though he's received an electric shock.
Bakura merely raises an eyebrow at him like he's entirely unaffected, but his lips are dark pink and swollen, and so when Malik walks away, he can't help but feel smug.
The last time is only a few hours later, but so much has happened that it feels like it may as well have been a week. They're standing in the shadows of Rishid's room, where Malik, once he'd explained everything that was going on, had assured Bakura his dark half would appear sometime within the next couple of hours.
"Isn't it funny how you can't accomplish anything without me?" Bakura says as they wait, but Malik is silent, eyes downcast, and doesn't respond to the bait. Bakura frowns. "You know, you were far more interesting when you frustrated me."
Malik just stares at him with melancholy eyes, suddenly looking years younger, betraying his real age, and Bakura clicks his tongue.
"Come off it. I'll beat your dark half with ease and then we'll both get what we want, so stop looking so sad. It's pathetic."
Something flickers in Malik's face, and his expression seems to regain a little more resolve.
"Thank you, Bakura," he says, so serious and solemn that Bakura can't help but look away and scoff.
"I'm not doing this for you," he reminds him.
"I know," Malik murmurs, placing one ghostly, translucent hand on his shoulder, and when Bakura turns back to speak, Malik leans in and brushes their lips together.
It's a phantom touch, like a breath of wind against his skin, because in a way Malik's not really there. And yet somehow, despite the lack of presence, the lack of raw power, there's something more to it than there was in their previous two kisses. Bakura doesn't respond, maybe out of surprise, maybe because he doesn't want to, but he doesn't make to move away either.
And it's funny, Malik thinks as he lets his eyes slip shut, because even though he knows they have a plan to of beat his other self, a chance of winning with the two of them working together, it feels strangely like this is a kiss goodbye.