Warning: Some strong language.
He watches his hands as they sand down her face.
"The cheeks are flatter; the chin more of a point. But I only know that because you do," says the voice.
Somewhere deep in his mind, he is numb with fear, but to any observer, he is just concentrating intensely on his work. The body that rightfully belonged to him cannot react the way it wants it to when the voice is inside his head.
Beside his workbench is a wastebasket of discarded, partially-completed figurines. Some were already at the painting stages but most are faceless, featureless wood. They are a haphazard pile of missing or mismatched arms, legs, hats and wands. At the top of the pile, one painted blue eye stares blankly up at him. But the body calmly goes back to work and the dusty hands diligently starts to sand again.
"This one will be perfect. Your hands learn slowly but this one will be perfect. Once it's complete, you may apply the lotion. Did you find the right one?"
His mouth loosens and he draws a shuddering breath, "Yes."
Ryou gasped when he heard the sickening thud but he couldn't help but turn the corner to see what had happened.
"Why the rush, Yugi?" Although his back was to Ryou, he could instantly tell from the person's girth and the bright yellow band around his arm that this was Ushio, the hall monitor. At his feet, barely in sight, was Yugi. "I've been wanting to talk to you for a week now but I can never catch you. Why'r you avoiding me, huh?" He gave Yugi a kick with a massive boot.
The bundle on the ground that was Yugi grunted something inaudible and made to squirm away but Ushio bent down and picked him up by the collar, "For something so damn small and bug-eyed, you sure are an ungrateful little bitch, y'know that. At least speak up for Christ's sake."
"I'm s-sorry," Yugi managed through the hold that looked like he was choking him, "I don't," he coughed, "I don't have enough money yet."
Ushio gargled up a snarl before throwing Yugi against the nearest wall. His head hit hard and he slid to the ground, seeming for a moment to have fallen unconscious but then moving with pained slowness to look up at his aggressor. His backpack fell from his shoulders, flopping over and spilling out its contents.
"No really," Yugi begged, "But, but I can get it for you. Just give me a few more days. Just a few more days, please!"
"So you wanna fuck with me, huh?" Ushio wretched the backpack away before Yugi could reach for it and dug through the remaining contents. "Y'know, you're lucky to have me to teach you about the real world 'cause in the real world, men don't negotiate with lying-ass little bitches with no money. It's bad business sense, y'know. For my golden advice, that'll be another two thousand yen."
Ryou's hand flew to his chest as a sharp pain stole his guilt-ridden attention. He hissed, closing his eyes and taking deep breaths until the pain ebbed. When he turn back to see what became of Yugi, he saw that the golden artifact around his fellow classmate's neck was glowing.
"What the f –"
"Yugi!" The artifact flicked off at the sound of a female voice and Anzu, shoes clicking against the ground, came sprinting down the hallway. She halted in front of her friend and knelt down beside him, ignoring Ushio (perhaps purposefully). "Are you okay, Yugi? Does anything hurt? What did he do to you this time?"
Yugi gave her a wiry, but assured smile, which quickly disappeared as Ushio clapped a large hand on her shoulder and not-quite-so-gently pulled her back, "Hey, we're talking here."
She raked her lower lip with her teeth and stood, hardened blue eyes trained on the person far bigger than herself, "If you need money so badly, Ushio, then I'll give you some of mine. But you'll have to leave Yugi alone from now on. He doesn't need your 'advice' or want it."
Ushio's face slit in a grin as his gaze slid up and down her body, "I'm sure you have lots of it, sweetcakes. But Yugi here promised and he has to learn to follow through. How's that afterschool job going, by the way?"
If she was at all fazed by the thinly-veiled question, Ryou didn't catch it. The girl maintained her ground, "I don't have a job."
"Which is why you have all that money, right?"
"Anzu, you should go. I have this under control."
"It's fine, Yugi." She squared her shoulders, hand looped through her backpack strap as if poised to swing at Ushio, "That's none of your business."
"And this," he gestured rudely to Yugi, "is none of yours. Unless…" his eyes slithered down to her skirt, "you wanna make a different kind of deal."
To Ryou's surprise, the girl eyes brightened and she smiled, almost exaggeratingly, at Ushio. She carefully tossed her backpack on the ground and, with practiced swiftness, flipped upside-down onto her hands and sent a well-aimed kick at his face. Her heel land square onto his nose, sending him stumbling backwards. Her skirt barely had time to flip up before she was back on her feet again, gathering Yugi's things into his backpack, throwing her own over her shoulder and pulling Yugi to his feet. Anzu, with Yugi struggling to keep up behind her, whizzed down the hall, right past Ryou. By the time the bloody-faced Ushio oriented himself again, they were already out the front door.
"A cloak will give her flair and cover her up. We want her to choose it, remember?"
Ryou panted, sweat misting his hairline and the back of his ears. His uniform jacket was hot and stifling and his back was itchy but it was taking all his strength to keep his hands on his lap. He curls them weakly before jamming both of them securely underneath his thighs.
"Pick up the pencil and draw her a cloak," the voice says.
He bends forward, his demeanor like someone who'd just gone for a long run. Strained, his leg reflexively jerks, his knee hitting the underside of the work table and causing the wooden Elf figurine to tip over. The voice speaks and the other knee hits the underside of the table, this time, causing it to fall to the ground. The wet coat of navy blue paint of her outfit is instantly covered in sawdust but the face stays dry. Two blue eyes stare up at him.
"Now we'll have to start all over again," says the voice. And it could have commanded him to move; to use his hands to do what it wanted. But then he would have been done a long time ago and he would have been alleviated much sooner. This slowness, the repetition of acts that frightened him; that made him feel guilty; that he had to watch his own hands perform, was his punishment for resisting.
Nausea stirs in his stomach as one hand frees itself to pick up the Elf figurine and toss it in the wastebasket with the others. It was the most complete out of all of them and would have been considered done had the voice not told him to continue.
His legs stand and his hands grab another plank of wood. The table saw screeches to life and the wood is sent searing through its blade. He was not allowed gloves so his hands come dangerously close, the little splinters scratching and irritating his skin as he works.
In these beginning stages, when he has already repeated the action many times over, the voice gives him sleep.
And when he gives himself to oblivion, it is always to the sound of screaming machines.
He nearly jumped out of his skin when the hand grazed his back.
"Oh sorry! Did I startle you?"
Ryou flushed, trying his best to button-up his shirt as inconspicuously as possible. He was paranoid she'd thought he was doing something else, even though there was nothing suspicious about the way she was looking at him. In fact, it was suspiciously unsuspicious the way she was looking at him.
"Just," she shifted the box under her arm to get a better grip, "can you give me a hand with these? I'm pretty sure they're going to slip any time soon and," she squirmed some more, "yeah. Thanks."
"Oh, of course." She breathed an audible sigh of relief when he pulled the long paper rolls out from under her arm and took the bags she was straining to hang onto, which were a lot heavier than they looked.
"You're Bakura, right?" she asked kindly as they walked, "Mazaki, Anzu. It's nice to meet you. You're pretty well-known around here, you know. How are you liking it so far?"
She laughed, "Being at a new school! But I wouldn't be surprised if you like the attention as well. I know some of my guy friends would love to be you right now."
"Ah well, it's certainly different," he replied softly, glancing at her through the locks of his white hair, "I'm not really one to be surrounded by people. That's to say, a lot of people. I'm not adverse to people or anything, just big crowds. I'm not particularly fond of big crowds."
"By the looks of it, half of the school didn't get the memo then." She stopped at a bulletin board, "I'm going to be putting the first one here, if you don't mind."
He wasn't sure what she meant but loosened his arms to give her access to the rolls when she reached for them. While he held the unrolled poster flat against the wall, she removed some thumbtacks from the box and pinned each of its corners.
"So what do you think?" she asked.
"You were in class when I made the announcement today, right?" Anzu smoothed out the poster, "Do you think people will be interested?"
"I'm sorry, but can you remind me?" He laughed uncomfortably.
"The peer counselling group," she replied, without missing a beat, "I think there's a need for it."
"I mean," she picked up her things and started walking and he fell into step with her, "The school counsellors are really helpful and I'm glad we have them but I don't think people want to be pinned for going to see a 'counsellor,' you know what I mean? And I personally think people are more willing to talk about stuff with people that deal with the same issues. We do that with our friends anyways."
They stopped at another bulletin board. This time, she held it flat while he did the pinning. "I think teenagers talking to other teenagers isn't as bad as people think. My friend from another city says the peer counselling program at her school is working out really well."
"Aren't teenagers more judgemental though?"
"I think most are."
"Well then they wouldn't make good candidates for volunteers, now would they?"
There was something about talking to her that made him hyper-aware of his own negativity. He felt the need to think very hard (even harder than he usually did) before saying anything and had to work to keep the conversation going. Normally he'd find a way to quickly end things when it got too awkward and get away as painlessly as possible but, for some reason, he didn't want to leave her thinking he was some sort of 'Negative Nancy.'
"Hope I'm not overstepping, but I notice that you hang out by yourself a lot for someone so popular." She kindly touched his elbow.
"Well," he stopped to think, "it's just the way I am, you know?" He tried to smile.
She gave him a quick thanks and took the bags from him, dropping the box inside. "You're welcome to volunteer, if you'd like. I think you'd be good at it."
"No worries," she tapped his shoulder, "only if you want to, of course."
He squeezes a small drop of lotion onto his hand, rubbing both palms together and carefully smelling it before applying it onto the Elf's face. It leaves the wood oily and slimy but he does it again to the Elf's hands, and then its shoulders. With the tips of his fingers, he massages its bare back while its cloak, carefully polished and freshly painted, dries a safe distance away.
"I'm impressed that you found it so quickly. It's not common, what she wears," says the voice.
The bottle is small and expensive, but there is still a lot left over after he's done with it. From the corner of his eye, he can see the wastebasket and contemplates burying it somewhere near the bottom, where he wouldn't see it and, he hopes, he would forget about it.
"I don't think so."
"Then let me wash my hands before we continue, please."
"Ah, but it smells so nice. And it was, as you already know, expensive."
But he's granted permission to wash his hands anyways. The hot water is almost unbearably scalding but the vigorous scrubbing with the bar of soap eases the pain and, eventually, he adjusts to it. His arms flex with the force he uses to scrub off the stubborn, oil-based lotion and when it's all gone, his hands are bright red, a stark contrast from his arms.
He barely has time to dry them before his legs take him back to the workbench, where he'd have to handle the array of women's makeup. With hands unfamiliar to such cosmetics, they patiently apply the blush, lipstick and eyeliner. The end result is an uncanny resemblance to the original; a work of art that far surpasses the Elf's comrades and obviously so.
Next was the perfume. Distinguishing it from the lotion had not been his own feat, he is sure of it, because his keenness with such things had never been very good. His hands spray it into a napkin and fan it in the air, his nose indulging in the scent before it uses it on the Elf.
Yet there is something not quite right about the end product. The perfume's potent smell doesn't fade like it would on human flesh, or human clothes. It is there, strong and stinging his nose; a reminder of the artificiality of the wooden thing in front of him.
And he thinks that maybe he hasn't lost just yet; that maybe there is still hope.
His sheets felt rough and strange under his fingers and when he moved, his bed made a strange crinkling noise. He felt the familiar heaviness and he tried to make himself wake up but when he finally came to, he realized he didn't recognize the place. He closed his eyes, wondering if it was a dream, but when he opened them again, he still didn't recognize the place.
"Hey," a sweet voice, "are you alright?"
Ryou panicked the instant he saw her and attempted to push himself up, but the soreness got to him and he flopped heavily back onto the pillow. He stared up at her helplessly, sure that she'd found about his strange affliction. Although he braced to explain himself, he secretly prayed that he didn't have to.
"Jounouchi and I found you unconscious on the gravel field and we brought you here. You have some scratches on your face but the school nurse says you should be okay. She thinks it's heat stroke."
His hair dragged against the sheet when he turned his head. Beside his pillow was a damp white cloth and he figured it must have slid off while he was under.
"Yeah, I get that a lot."
"Do you want some water?" she asked.
His mouth felt cottony and his lips were dry, so he accepted. He was, however, embarrassed when she had to support his head as he sipped from the straw.
"Maybe you should see a real doctor about it. This is really dangerous for you, Bakura. If we hadn't found you, who knows what would've happened."
"I have," he lied.
"He told me to wear a hat when I go outside."
"Then why don't you?"
"I don't know. I tend to forget when I'm in a rush."
"I've never seen you in a hat, actually."
"You haven't known me for very long."
She laughed, "That's true."
Ryou stretched his neck, already feeling better, "And I don't want to get hat hair."
"It happens to me really easily, okay?"
"And falling face-first on a gravelly field isn't worse, huh?"
A rare grin, "Only marginally."
Somewhere in the room, an analogue clock ticked loudly away. It was hypnotic to his tired ears and he closed his eyes, suddenly too wiry to care what Anzu thought. He couldn't, however, really doze off because the strip of florescent lighting right above his head was blaringly bright.
Ryou slid a hand over his stomach – the way he usually slept – and felt a metal point through his shirt.
"Yes?" he murmured.
"Anything bothering you lately?"
He cracked open an eye, anxiety creeping in, "Not really. Why do you ask?"
She shrugged. "Hanging out with Yugi, I see strange things sometimes."
"Sorry, but I'm not sure what that has to do with…" he tried to sound calm but the vague comment was just too close to home.
She smoothed out her clothes and picked a stray hair from her jacket. The delay was too long, perhaps purposefully so. "Never mind. Sometimes I think out loud, it usually happens when I'm tired."
"You don't have to stay here. It was more than enough that you stayed while I was out."
"Nah, I need a break anyways. I have a million things to do and going out there means I have to do them. So," she leaned back in her chair, "being here is my excuse. You trust me, right?"
"—that I won't, you know, steal your stuff or mess up your hair or whatever while you're asleep, right?"
"Well, no." Ryou turned to his side, curling up as his stomach started to hurt, "I don't see why you would do that."
"Just wanted to let you know you can trust me."
He rolled his tongue in his mouth.
"Still, it's up to you."
His mouth spoke, "Of course."
His hands lock the glass cabinet as soon as the Elf is safely placed in its spot. He presses them against the glass and peer inside, ensuring that it would stay in place. When the anticipated ring of the doorbell finally comes, the fingerprints barely have time to fade before the guests are welcomed in.
Inspiration: "The trigger went." from"The Outsider" (originally "The Stranger" or "L'Étranger") by Albert Camus. The author applied existentialist theory in this novel in creating an oddly detached protagonist who, when narrating the moment he had to shoot someone, worded it so that he incriminated the weapon itself rather than the person handling it (himself).
I realize this isn't exactly how the relationship between Ryou and Yami Bakura works but it was interesting to just try it out. If it did work that way, it would have been a promising way for Yami Bakura to establish dominance over Ryou.