The tour bus pulled into the parking lot and gave birth to at least a dozen foreign families. They moved together in a crowd, cautiously captivated by the marvel that greeted them, treading their ignorant, photo-snapping feet into the heart of the Valley of the Kings. What had once been hallowed ground was now a tourist trap, billboards identifying the locations of hidden tombs, and repulsive mascot characters dotting the ancient landscape complete with informative Pharaoh Phacts for the kids.
At the head of the crowd, wearing a wide-rimmed hat and a smile that refused to die despite the heat, the guide with his thousand and one pieces of trivia garbled and gabbed about the way things used to be. About how explorers would find their way here with the help of some local villagers and brave the mortal dangers of each bottomless pit and labyrinthine cavern, seeking answers and fortune. Mostly the fortune. Graves turned upside-down and inside-out, all in the name of greed disguised as historical research. The noble legacy of the Egyptian kings.
"And now," he recited," we too tread in their footsteps."
But it was much safer these days, of course. The tombs were emptied of anything remotely valuable, and the traps had all been disarmed and replaced with haunted house style theatrics. The restless sounds of scurrying scarabs and the distant, ominous beating of drums pumped through speaker systems placed strategically within and around every attraction. For they were no longer burial grounds. The bodies they once contained had long since been moved to a more secure, populated area, replaced by state of the art animatronic interpretations of the deceased, dispensing abridged versions of their autobiographies in zany, offensive accents.
The group stopped beneath a billboard advertising the various themed lodges a visitor could reside in during their stay. Each pharaoh was represented by a different hotel, the richer the king the higher the standards you could expect. At the bottom right corner of the faded poster, beneath the King Aknamkanon Cabin section, was a ludicrous cartoon caricature of the once nameless pharaoh with a garish speech buddle protruding from his mouth, inviting people to also check out the newly constructed Atem Picnic Area, complete with family camping grounds.
The red-haired stranger standing on his own at the back of the tour group smiled up at the picture, as if recognising an old friend. While the rest of them were busying themselves with photographs or videos, he merely stood and took in the sight with his own two eyes.
It was so very hard for him not to laugh.
# # #
Marik straddled Bakura's bare lap, wrist twisting back and forth in urgent arcs as he allowed the other to finger the edges of his asshole. He had been jerking the dark spirit off for the last ten minutes, and every time he came close to climaxing, Marik would slow it all down and draw from him the most vicious growls. Bakura's cock was a furious exclamation mark, stabbing at the air and flexing harder with every eager stroke, veins flaring around the tip as excitement turned to frustration.
Their naked bodies clung together, Marik's beautiful bronze skin sweating bullets as Bakura's pallid complexion turned a light pink across his face. They wrestled against each other's desire, both wanting to please the other more, both wanting to be pleased. Marik's thick cock brushed enticingly between Bakura's thighs as he bounced upon his lap, ass slapping against his knees as he pumped his slender fingers up and down the length of Bakura's own modest member.
"Do you love me?" Marik asked, his voice strong amidst the breathless wheezing and wordless whispers Bakura had been mouthing.
"No," Bakura replied immediately, the muscles in his arms growing tired as he played around with Marik's ass, the imminence of his orgasm constantly in the back of his hot, clouded mind.
Marik seemed content with the answer, and his jerking grew more hurried and insistent, fingernails brushing the underside of Bakura's cock as he slapped and grabbed and pulled and kissed and moved his ass in circles to meet Bakura's dwindling grasp. His thighs slid up Bakura's lap, their erections touching in a moment of embarrassing closeness, and Bakura felt himself explode all over Marik's hand and cock as their lips met.
Bakura fell asleep five minutes later, while Marik watched and waited for him to begin snoring.
# # #
The tour guide led them past many of the amusing facades that had been erected to give the impression that the Valley of the Kings had once been a glamorous, extravagant place. As though the pharaohs' graveyard had been designed so that they would be forever rested in the lap of luxury. Pillars and flaming torches and monumental statues were scattered across the once hollow plain, all of them artificial, constructed from fibreglass or other material typically saved for a Hollywood movie set. Before these existed, there had literally been nothing beyond rumour to identify the place as anything sacred or holy. The whole point was that it had been out of the way, unnoticed. Invisible.
Now it was an eyesore.
"And on your right," the guide bleated, "you'll notice the statue of the pharaoh Atemu, once a nameless king, now believed to be one of the most noble and courageous…"
"Atem," the red-haired stranger interrupted.
"Please save all questions for the end," the guide continued. "… most noble and courageous of his kind. Any questions?"
"When was it built?"
"I'm sorry?" the guide lifted his hat up and squinted at the man in back, as though trying to remember if he had even been with them at the start of the Unseen Egyptian Mysteries Tour.
"The statue," the stranger said, indicating the wildly inaccurate depiction of Pharaoh Atem sitting on an equally inaccurate throne. "Surely you know when it was built."
The guide whipped a palm-sized data pad out of his chest pocket and thumbed at it with a stylus. After about ten seconds he shrugged and tucked it back in his shirt. "Thousands of years ago."
"Looks brand new," the stranger commented.
"That's the Egyptians for you! They were really good at this sort of thing!" The guide threw his hands in the air as if to say 'What are ya gonna do?'
The group continued to move, the stranger holding back for a minute and staring up at the enormous faux-memorial to the once proud King of Games. The hair was all wrong - a few too many bangs, and it didn't stick up unnaturally the way it once had. The only thing the artists got right was the powerful, blank stare. Unsettling, even in fibreglass form.
The stranger bowed his head, and then continued to follow the group.
# # #
Bakura was up against the wall, his brow driven hard against the concrete and his arms folded at awkward angles as he allowed Marik to penetrate him from behind, head tucked down as he grunted and groaned in acknowledgement of Marik's efforts. He had eventually gotten used to Marik's size over the last few months; when they first started fucking, it had been almost unbearable, taking in something so overwhelmingly large. Even fisting didn't feel quite so difficult - Marik was less sure of himself in that area, whereas when he was using his dick, he would put all his efforts into thrusting and stabbing with it, and Bakura would just lay back and take it.
This time, Marik was particularly hard, and it felt like they hadn't screwed in a long time. As a result, Bakura could feel his asshole squeezing ever so tightly about the girth of his cock, every brand new thrust would force his legs to shake and his teeth to clench and his stomach to hitch and his ass to grind backwards into Marik's hips. There was pain, of course, but it was nothing next to the pleasure he derived from knowing it was Marik back there, from knowing exactly what Marik's cock felt like inside him, and from feeling his hot breath on the back of his neck and knowing it was his, his breath, his lungs, his heart.
Another thrust, and he cried out, head snapping back as he felt Marik's arms reaching around his waist. Bolts of invisible lightning shot up his chest as Marik touched him there, stealing all self control from his body as he was driven into deeper. He could picture the boy's tanned, muscular thighs pounding away at him from behind, tattoo drenched in sweat and his ass cheeks pinched together as he rammed it all the way in. It was always so intense with him. Always. Marik didn't have any other setting. If he did, Bakura wouldn't have wanted to use a lower one.
"Bakura," Marik muttered into his ear, "do you love me?"
"Of course not," Bakura replied instantly, eyes locked tightly shut as he fixed his mind on the feeling of being drilled into, and none of the extraneous bollocks Marik was currently jabbering about. He spread his arms and legs wide and felt Marik pick up the pace, his own body rigid and locked in position as Marik's became a wild, spasmodic frenzy. Marik pumped away at his ass for a good minute before he finished, climaxing inside Bakura's asshole and falling forward against his back, their thighs still wrapped loosely together as he mumbled idiotically.
Bakura turned and guided their bodies to the floor, where they held onto one another until morning.
# # #
It was a gift shop now.
Where there had once been the final resting place of the supposedly 'nameless pharaoh', now stood a nondescript souvenir store, selling phoney baloney maps to the pharaoh's various treasures, and those cliché portable headsets that allowed you to take the tour whenever you pleased without the aid of a human being. There were even pricey virtual toys that, once strapped to your face, enabled to you take a digital quest through the deepest, darkest recesses of the most dangerous ancient tombs. According to the label, children under eight years were warned against operating the device as, in some rare cases, it had been known to cause myopia. If only the real tombs had been so threatening.
The guide was busying himself with the people's questions outside the store, while the stranger relaxed on a nearby bench and investigated his new purchase. A box claiming that its contents were 'perfect replicas' of the legendary Millennium Items. They had been hidden atop one of the racks, just above the various pharaoh action figures in the kids' section. Upon paying for the Item set, the shop assistant had informed him that his son might be very happy to know that he was receiving a collector's item, as the set had been discontinued due to lack of interest.
"I don't have a son," the stranger had replied.
"Oh," the assistant smiled sheepishly, "for you then?"
He opened the box forcefully, not caring about any perceived collector's value. He didn't intend to keep the set, or even to sell it on. The box, much like the tour itself, was like the final punch-line to a joke he'd been hearing his whole life. He reached inside and pulled out not seven, not eight, but nine individual 'Millennium Items', all of which had been misrepresented. The only ones that came close to their real life counterparts were the Eye and the Puzzle, due to their prolific presence in mainstream media. Yugi and Pegasus had, after all, worn them in plain sight for the world to see in their many tournaments back in the day. Still, after such a long time, it was a wonder they had even gotten as close as they did to the real thing.
"History makes fools of us all," the stranger mused, holding up the tiny plastic Millennium Shield, one of the additions they'd made to the collection, presumably so that it might work as an action figure accessory.
The tourists had all gathered together again, downing their bottles of soda or chattering about their exciting expedition. A few more interested individuals were talking to the guide, who was clearly in over his head. Perhaps he was new to the job, or perhaps he only knew the more 'exciting' aspects of the area's history. Either way, he was managing to tread water in the middle of the desert - an impressive feat, to say the least.
"So the Egyptians just left these tombs completely unguarded?"
"Not quite!" The guide began. "For it is said that if the traps could not dispose of any intruders, the pharaohs themselves would rise from the dead to ward off any unwanted guests."
The stranger cocked his head. Not too far from the truth after all.
"But surely that's just folklore," a lady pointed out, fanning herself. "Didn't they have anybody out here to protect things from falling into the wrong hands?"
Setting the box of plastic trinkets aside, the stranger got to his feet and walked around to the side of the store, leaning against the wall and listening half-heartedly to the dim-witted back and forth. He brushed a hand through his short, strawberry hair and clicked his tongue at the sky as if disapproving of the cloudless expanse.
"No, no," the guide responded, "although there are some historians who argue otherwise, there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that anyone lived all the way out here in the middle of nowhere."
"What about that?" the stranger said, loud enough for all to hear his voice and react.
"What about what?" the guide asked, following the path the stranger's finger had cast. There, amidst the sand, was a windswept stone about the size of a coffin. It was buried in the ground like a solitary tooth jutting from a giant's maw. If you hadn't been looking for it, you might have completely missed it amongst the revelry of the amusement park parading itself as a burial ground. "What is it?"
The stranger turned, and the look in his cold eyes turned the guide's expression from confusion to concern.
# # #
They had fucked so often that Bakura had started to know what to expect. Not that this was a bad thing. What some may have found to be a ritual rigmarole was instead intimate and familiar. He knew it the way he knew what it felt like to move, or to hear, or to laugh. It was old, but only because it had been with him for so long, because he wanted it so bad. It was part of him, part of his life, of his soul. It was important to be fucked every day, every morning, noon, and night. And it was most important that it was Marik he was fucking.
Currently, he was laying flat on the bed in Marik's chamber, naked with a sizeable boner, suitable for riding. Marik was atop his body, knees spread outward as he lowered himself ass-first onto his cock, letting it slip easily inside, and then pulling up, teasing the erection into a firmer, angrier shape. Bakura watched Marik's chest rise and fall almost in time with his body, clutching at the sheets with his hands as he enjoyed the way his partner treated him like a plaything. That dark, sexy body of his grinding up on him as his cock flexed up into Marik's ass. It was his favourite position - maximum pleasure, minimal effort.
He wanted to tell Marik he was beautiful, but stopped himself. He always stopped himself when he wanted to compliment the boy. He used to think it was because he didn't want to inflate his ego, or because he knew that he'd only be teased about it later. But now he knew better. It was because if he said all those things, he'd never be able to say them again. It wouldn't be like the sex. Once you fuck someone, it can - and in Marik's case, did - get better. You don't look back at your first time and think 'Remember when it was that good?' You were always finding new things to do with your cock, new places to put it, new ways to get it to shoot its load.
Words were different. You tell someone they're pretty, and the next time you have to tell them they're beautiful, and then the words just run out. There's nowhere to go from there, and you're backed into a vocabulary corner. You tell someone anything, compliment them, and they're always waiting for the next iteration, the next stage of flattery. If you keep on repeating yourself, no matter how true it is, no matter how much you mean it, it starts to ring hollow. Tell someone you love them, and it means less and less each time.
"Tell me you love me!" Marik begged, his asshole buffeting against Bakura's cock as he bounced vigorously.
Marik's butt moved with even greater force, and Bakura felt a coil of hot energy rushing to the tip of his member, tightening and then releasing with sudden and unexpected immediacy. He came inside Marik and moaned louder than he had in weeks, the sheer surprise of it all knocking him for a loop. Wiping the sweat from his eyes, he flushed and pulled Marik down, wrapping his legs around the boy and pumping more and more of his hot fluid inside him.
"I'll get you to say it one day," Marik declared, biting Bakura's neck as punctuation.
"Not in a million years."
# # #
The stranger sat cross-legged in front of the gravestone, his face shadowed and still. Some of the onlookers thought they saw pain in his eyes, and they wouldn't have been far off the mark. The guide walked up to him, anxious to continue the tour but not wanting to look insensitive.
"How'd you know this was here?" the guide asked, gesturing to the stone. "I mean, most people they come here to look at the tombs. You seem to be more interested in this rock."
"It's not a rock," the stranger said bluntly. "It's a grave. And if you knew anything worth knowing about this place, you would know who it belonged to."
"All right," the guide sighed, "who does it belong to then?"
The crowd of foreigners were becoming visibly distressed by this odd turn of events. Some of them were less concerned than others, but for the most part he could see them watching him like he was some kind of misfit, as if he had any less right to be here than they. He stood up at once, silencing what little conversation existed, and turned to address them all.
"Despite what this guide believes," he began. "Despite what any of you may believe. This valley, in fact this spot in particular, was home to a long line of tomb keepers. Descendants of the ones that the nameless pharaoh decreed would protect his secrets with their lives."
He stepped through the crowd of tourists, all of them looking at him, some with bemused disbelief, and others like he was their messiah preaching the holy word of God. The guide watched cautiously, ready to shut him up should he begin to question the strength of his acumen. But the stranger wasn't interested in calling attention to the wild inaccuracies he'd been spouting. All he really wanted was the chance to tell this story.
"They lived here for thousands of years," he continued unabated, "within the confines of the underground tomb. Never going outside. Never allowing themselves the chance at a real life. It was torture. It was days of endless darkness followed by nights of much the same. Until one boy, one single child, chose to leave - completely against his family's will."
He stopped himself. He had walked in a semi-circular pattern, passing by each of them, and now he was back at the graveside. Stooping down, he brushed the sand away from the stone's surface, seeing the faded lettering and wondering how long it had been since they'd marked it so. He placed his hand to his lips and tasted the dryness of it. The ancient stillness, the erosion of time. He'd been telling the story like it was some old fable, some TV special you'd see about someone who lost their child or fought the system. Now it was time for the truth. The hideous, reprehensible truth.
"He murdered his father," he continued. There were a few exaggerated gasps from the women listening, though their children's eyes merely lit up with interest. "And spent a good portion of his life trying to destroy everything they'd sworn to protect. He was christened in blood and cast out into the world. Some feared him. Others loved him. Others…"
His voice wavered and he fell to his knees beside the grave. He reached down and touched the gravestone, his tears spoiling its arid face. He mouthed the words. Couldn't say them anymore. Couldn't feel them. They were gone.
The stranger shook his head and cleared his throat, and spoke aloud a question he hadn't asked in hundreds of years:
# # #
"Why do you need me to say it?" Bakura asked.
"Hmm?" Marik woke up suddenly, having been asleep for all of ten minutes before Bakura felt the nerve to speak. "Whaa? What happened?"
"Why do you need me to say it?" He repeated. "Why do I have to tell you I love you?"
They were in bed together, Bakura's leg draped around Marik's, following one of their late night sessions. This time, Marik hadn't asked him to say the words. But then, Marik didn't always ask - just on certain occasions, the question would come up. Even so, it always stuck in Bakura's ears, like every time they screwed he felt as though he were going to be tested. He had feigned for a long time that it didn't even register, that it wasn't something he even thought about. But he thought. He dreamed about it. Dreamed about being asked, and being able to say, shout, scream his affections.
Marik smiled at him, face half obscured by the mess of his hair and the pillow beneath. "You don't have to."
"So why even ask?" Bakura sat up, agitated. "Why make such a big deal out of something if I don't have to do it?"
Marik sat up to meet him, wrapping his arms lazily about his chest. His mouth made odd clucking noises, and Bakura merely snorted in response. He wasn't in the mood to be cutesy about this. This wasn't another of their games, this wasn't banter. This was something that mattered, if only because it shouldn't have mattered at all.
"Do you feel guilty that you can't say it?" Marik asked.
"I…" Bakura began. He gave the question some time to sink in. "Yes. I do. But even if I didn't, I should HAVE to say something if I don't want to."
"Of course not," Marik agreed. "Bakura, it's not about whether you say it or not."
"Eh?" came Bakura's response. Marik looked as though he were already falling back asleep on his shoulder, and Bakura gave him a sharp nudge with his elbow. "Keep talking."
"Cheesy as it might be," Marik explained. "As dorky as it might sound. I know you love me. I've always known. The way you talk, the way you act, the way you move. Everything about you tells me."
"Even when I tell you I don't?" Bakura blinked.
"Especially then," Marik smirked. "Bakura, if you ever actually came to me and told me you loved me, I'd think something was seriously wrong. Like I was dying or something."
"Right," Bakura nodded, a smile creeping back onto his face. "I guess it's more about what you don't need to hear, than what you do."
They kissed, Bakura moving to roll on top of Marik, and neither one said anything more for the rest of the one had to.
# # #
The tour bus pulled out of the parking lot, while the stranger sat alone at the back, watching the Valley of the Kings recede into a garish speck on the horizon. He felt nothing. Not sadness, not relief, not pain. Most feelings had long since abandoned him. Now all he was left with was memory.
A young boy with scrappy blonde hair and a shirt depicting a cartoon version of Atem saying 'Get your tomb on!' came over to him, holding a familiar looking dusty box.
"Mister, is this yours?" he asked, offering the box of faux Millennium Items to him. "You left it back at the gift shop. I was gonna keep it, but my mom said no."
"That's all right," the stranger replied. He reached into his shirt collar and pulled out an impressive golden necklace, and showed the boy the Millennium Ring - the one authentic piece of Egyptian mythology that still existed in this place. "I've got my own right here."
"Who was that person you were talking about?"
"An old friend," the spirit of the Ring replied.
"How'd he die?"
"I don't know," the spirit said, truthfully. "I lost touch with him a long time ago. Heard he was buried here. Came to find out. Turns out…"
The stranger covered his eyes. Not so much to hide the fact that he was crying, but that he wasn't.
"This is the first time I've been able to come here in five hundred years," he said. "And you know, for the life of me, I still couldn't say it to him."
"Well," the boy said, no hint of condescension in his voice, "maybe you don't have to. Maybe he already knows."
"Maybe," the stranger agreed wistfully, slipping the Ring back under his shirt. "Thank you. Please, keep the box."
The boy scurried off down the aisle of the bus, leaving the stranger to his thoughts.
"Not in a million years, I told him," he chuckled sardonically. "I suppose it's just a matter of time."