A/N: My entry for the first round of the YGO Fanfiction Contest, Season 9 3/4. The pairing is Angstshipping, Malik Ishtar/Ryou Bakura, in an AU (modern world) setting, no background required to understand while reading. This pairing is actually my OTP, so I'm very glad I got these two. I enjoyed writing it a lot, and I hope you enjoy reading it! Reviews, as always, are appreciated.

The Capgras delusion (or capgras syndrome) is a disorder in which a person holds a delusion that a friend, spouse, parent, or other close family member has been replaced by an identical-looking imposter.


Outside the air is crisp and clean with the cold clarity of the new morning. From the apartment deck the world below is miniature, a rolling swath of toy-sized cars and people as fog and pollution settles like a blanket of mist and ash over the city. Far above the world, Malik Ishtar leans against the railing, fingers a cigarette in one lazy hand and, not for the first time, considers simply throwing himself over the edge.

Logically speaking, there was nothing stopping him; nothing between he and a twenty-story fall to his death but an old rust railing in all its chipped-paint glory. And, of course, whatever cowardice or weak will stops his leap, for after a moment, he puts out his cigarette and turns to the sliding glass door. It is not his day to die.

Just as it was not all the other times he'd considered it.


"How was work?" Ryou Bakura asks over dinner, lazily stirs a martini with a cheap foldable umbrella.

They'd eaten out tonight, a spur of the moment decision to try the new Mexican restaurant that had opened up a few blocks away to the applause of critics and the recommendations of several acquaintances. They had walked, held hands; and looking at Ryou swinging his arm beside him, Malik had almost been able to convince himself that they were in love, that there had been no screaming matches the last few months, that everything was going to be okay.

"I didn't go today." Malik replies absentmindedly, stares out the window and across the street. Though November has just seen its first Sunday, the stores have already broken out their decorations, and the lights lining the windows make for a pleasant glow along the street. "Stayed home."

"The apartment?" asks Ryou with a frown, a frown which deepens when Malik nods. Ryou takes a dainty sip from his straw, clears his throat; when he speaks, there are no questions. His voice is dry. "That must have been entertaining."

He knows a taunt when he hears one, and Malik only stares at Ryou until his wayward boyfriend glances away. His own plate of food is growing cold, any appetite he'd had fading fast.

In fact, he feels almost sick.

"Did you have a good day?" Malik hears himself ask, because that is the polite thing to do, the polite thing to reach out and oh, Ryou, darling, I'm trying so hard, don't you fucking see me

"Hm. You could have called, we could have—" The pause would be virtually unnoticeable were he anyone else, were they anyone else. As it is, Malik is well-versed in the study of Ryou Bakura, and such a thing does not slip past him. "—we could have done something together."

he's lying

"That's true." Malik continues conversationally, after a moment's silence. He hesitates, does not know why, nearly blurts out: "I could stay home tomorrow, too. We could…we could do something together."

Just like we used to, he thinks, but bites his lip before the words stumble past.

"I'm busy tomorrow," Ryou says, an almost apologetic look on his face, and Malik tastes something like disgust in his mouth. "Sorry, Malik."

he's cheating, the voice whispers.

"It's okay." Malik shrugs it off, pretends not to notice the way Ryou immediately goes back to his phone. The rest of the dinner passes in silence.


The next day he stays home from work again, this time for a headache that's about to split his skull. He calls Ryou three times between one and two o'clock, gets the voicemail each time.

"I stayed home again today." He says in the first one he leaves, chewing on his already chapped lip until it nearly splits before forcing himself to vocalize, "We could do something. If you're not busy. Give me a call."

"I'm sick," he leaves in the next one, half-laughing at how goddamn desperate and pathetic he must sound. "I think. I'm home sick and I'm bored and I'm lonely. Call me, okay?"

For the third he says nothing in honor of all the time's he's tried too hard, simply sighs before disconnecting without a word.


When he dreams he walks among smoke and ashes and the ache of his own inadequacies.

Who are you, he asks, does not know whom he addresses.

i am you, no one responds.

You are me?, he asks, as though to clarify.

well. in a sense, and this time the presence takes a voice, as though strengthened by Malik's address, by Malik confirming its existence. details.

He hates me, Malik laughs inside his mind, the dream-world around him swimming and slowed. He cares about a pretty face and a paycheck, that's all.

i'm ready whenever you are, his mind responds.

What do you mean?

He receives no answer and it is answer enough, somehow satisfies him. He is content.

When he wakes, he does so slowly, head thick and swimming with the weight of unreality.

Hunched over the bathroom sink under the harsh fluorescent lighting, his skin seems stretched and sallow; his eyes, distant, dark, dead. He's seeing too much again. Malik laughs.

When he checks his phone, Ryou has texted him.

Inside him, the emptiness grows.


"Have you taken anything for your head?" Ryou asks busily, avoids his eyes when Malik lets him in.

"Not yet." Malik admits, watching him closely. Ryou searches through his cabinets until he locates Advil and turns to him, stretching the bottle out to him with a hand.

Malik stares for a moment, hesitates before replying. "I don't want any."

"Are you crazy?" Ryou folds his arms and ah, he can see it, now, the irritation in his eyes, the weariness in his stance; he doesn't wantto be here, and vaguely Malik wonders if whatever affair he's having this week urged him to come. "You said your head hurts."

"It — It's better." Malik lies with a sigh. He's not entirely sure why he resists, only that it is true, his head feels better and there's something inside of him that wants the ache, wants to keep it a part of him though that makes no sense (for now).

"Then why did I come over here?"

"I don't know. You tell me." Malik drops into his armchair, rubbing at his temples for a moment before looking up at Ryou through his hands. He grins. Ryou looks away.

"What do you want, Malik?"

"Why do I have to want something?" Malik counters and he feels the grin stretch though he does not know why he is smiling. Suddenly he is elated, soaring and detached, as though everything around him, even Ryou himself, is all a dream. "Maybe I just want us to be happy again."

Ryou says nothing for a time, only watches Malik smile pleasantly with a look of evaluation and disgust. Finally he speaks.

"Dinner tonight?" He proposes stiffly, avoiding his gaze. "We have to talk. If you're feeling up to it."

he's breaking up with you, the voice murmurs, and the smile only grows.

"I'll pick you up at seven." Malik promises, and as Ryou turns to leave he feels something within stirring, the scaled slide and shift of an uncoiling snake.


He wakes and the headache is gone.

Slowly, laboriously, Malik begins to take note of his surroundings because his head is buzzing and he's felt like this before, after nights of drinking and crashing and waking up in a bed and trying to make sense of the world. The feeling is all-too-familiar, minus one factor. His head hurts no longer; he is hungover sans hangover.

A squint and a rub at his eyes reveals that he's in his own apartment, his own bed, and Ryou is beside him. This alone is stunning and confusing enough that Malik stares at him for a moment as if to confirm that this smooth shoulder and mess of clean white hair is, in fact, his boyfriend of three years.

As though aware of his eyes upon him, Ryou stirs, stretches and yawns and rolls over to face him. He blinks sleepily at Malik and smiles and Malik freezes because Ryou never smiles at him, not like that, not anymore, and if his eyes weren't upon him he'd pinch himself to see if he were dreaming. He does not remember drinking, barely remembers grabbing his keys and going to pick Ryou up with a pounding in his head jarring enough to make him nauseous and he certainly does not remember climbing into bed with Ryou.

"You're awake." Ryou greets, and Malik swallows thickly and nods.

"I — I know this sounds bad, Ryou, but —" He hesitates for a moment before plunging ahead anyway. "What happened last night?"

"Don't tell me you're going to play amnesia now." Ryou laughs lightly, draping the back of his arm across his forehead. "You weren't even drinking!"

"I wasn't?" Malik asks, face twisting in confusion and this time the barest hint of irritation crosses Ryou's face. Ryou sits up.

"Don't. Don't, okay?" Ryou says and he's looking at him seriously, smile gone. "Don't make me regret giving you another chance. Just — you know, if you always acted like you did last night, things wouldn't be so…like this, between us. So don't pretend you forgot."

"…Okay. Okay, I won't." Malik promises, voice a bit hoarse, still stunned. He clears his throat, voice wavering as he asks, "…Just to make it clear. How was I acting? …What changed things?"

Ryou is silent for a moment, stares at his hands, and Malik has all but given up on receiving an answer when Ryou replies quietly.

"Like you had life to you. You've been so distant and…well, boring, for a while, now, and you lost that damn pity-look, how you always look at me, like you know you've fucked up, and you want to fix it, but you're not trying." Ryou laughs harshly, bitterly, and shakes his head once, swinging his legs off the bed and reaching for his clothes. After a second he adds even more softly, "You weren't just like how you used to be. It was like…like you were different. Like you were a whole new person."

"A whole new person." Malik repeats, somewhat doubtfully, and Ryou gives him a wry smile over his shoulder before pulling his sweater over his head.

"Yeah. And I liked this new Malik." Ryou affirms, grabbing his keys off the nightstand. "So don't let him get away, okay?"

After Ryou dresses he kisses his cheek and leaves, and Malik goes to the sink, splashes water on his face and looks at his reflection. The man in the mirror has water on his face, dripping from his eyelashes and the tip of his nose, and the man in the mirror looks clearer, more real than Malik himself feels.

i'm ready whenever you are

The headache is gone, and Malik laughs.


Malik still remembers Ryou's hair neat and tied back in a ponytail, his Ryou so clean and neat and manicured, all wide eyes and ironed shirts and straightened ties. He remembers just as he is sure Ryou still remembers how Malik, too, used to be, Ryou's Malik so trim and professional.

He remembers a time when they'd made time, time for walks in the park and remembered anniversaries each month, a time before Ryou barely bothered to brush his hair for Malik, before Malik wore the same work pants three days in a row and ordered takeout and bought cheap beer and called it a date.

Their relationship, in the beginning, had been shining and sparkling and bright, simple and uncluttered before it had fallen stale, broken open and rotted and decayed like a split fruit in the sun. When he looks back, Malik knows he cannot place the blame entirely on Ryou. Something like the gap that had grown between them takes two, and two it had certainly taken; he had whined about headaches, Ryou had stopped caring, and they had grown sloppy, lazy, content, bored. He'd caught him cheating twice in the last year alone and Malik supposes the saddest part of it was how unsurprised he'd been, how little he had cared. Even the way they had looked at each other — Ryou with just the appropriate amount of shame, Malik with a hint of disgust — they had smoothed things over and quickly returned to business as usual, mostly due to Malik's apathy.

Malik had wholly doubted that things would ever be the way they were again, that he would be ever again be able to look at Ryou the way he used to when all that was good between them had gone sour like maggots under flowers…

…but now he's texting Ryou to meet him for lunch, and Malik thinks. Malik thinks about their past, about their present; he thinks about Ryou's words, it was like you were different, like you were a whole new person.

He thinks that whatever it is, it has given him another chance, and Malik has never been one to look a gift horse in the mouth.


After some reflection, Malik eventually comes to the conclusion that his own particular brand of amnesia was a product of stress, thinks nothing more of it, and walks to meet Ryou for lunch. Over sandwiches, Malik tries not to talk too much, unsure of how exactly he'd acted last night that Ryou had approved of so much. He can tell Ryou is disappointed by his silence but he tries to string the conversation along anyway until they fall silent.

The almost-peace is disrupted when the bill is brought out. Malik opens the check to slide his credit card in, when

through let me through let me through you i

he's doubling over, hand pressed to his forehead and face scrunched up at a sharp, painful twinge in his temple.

"What's wrong?" Ryou asks, and his voice is distant, so distant. Malik looks up through his fingers and nearly replies headachebefore he remembers how many times he's given this excuse before. Ryou's expression is one of wariness ready to shift into irritation should he continue, and so Malik

will i will let me through let me THROUGH

lies, "it's nothing", pays quickly and stands to leave. He notices Ryou's hesitation and suddenly he's noticing everything, noticing the shine of the buttons on his shirt and a spot of dirt on one of his nails and everything is Ryou, Ryou, Ryou. The world is suddenly in clear focus and he is noticing everything and he feels detached and distant from his own body.

Malik feels his mouth stretch into an easy smile he did not mean to give, watches himself tuck in Ryou's chair and grab his coat for him. Blood roars in his ears and fear pounds bitter in his chest and the sounds of the world around him are dull.

Somehow they make it to the car and Malik can feel himself laughing, now, is even more surprised to see Ryou laughing, too. The feeling is strange but somehow he manages to convince himself that this is normal, another effect of the insomnia and stress so present in his life as of late, and when Malik pulls into the lot he barely remembers a single thing he's said.

He figures he must have told a joke because Ryou is laughing, again, smiling at Malik like he used to and he decides even the strange sensation of being on autopilot is worth this, worth their happiness. Malik opens the door for Ryou like a proper gentleman and helps him out, excited to be doing something right, and when they get up to his room his only fumble is locating the key and getting it into the lock.

The apartment is quiet and dark and Malik swallows, ears popping like he's underwater. He feels his mouth stretch into a grin until he feels it will split the skin.

"Did you have fun?" He hears himself ask, voice confident: of course Ryou did, of course he had fun, of course he's feeling fine. He is saving their relationship, after all!

"I did indeed." Ryou replies with a pearly-white smile, lidding his eyes coyly at him. It takes only a step for Ryou to be in his arms, for Malik to wrap his arms around him and crush their lips together and then —

and then reality glitches again and they're in bed. The feeling of depersonalization is stronger than ever and Malik's head is buzzing as he straddles Ryou's hips, watches a hand tangle in Ryou's hair and realizes a slow moment later that it is his own. Ryou is smiling at him like he used to again, and Malik is soaring with happiness, and Malik leans down to kiss him on his open mouth and jaw and neck and then a snarl

what are you still doing here what are you still doing here go back get BACK My body Mine MINE

and before he knows what has happened he is spiraling down into darkness.


He half-wakes groggily and the world takes a long time to spin into focus and register. Malik sits up in bed, clutching his head, and, suddenly remembering, glances around quickly — Ryou is not here. There's a note on the nightstand in his writing but Malik does not bother to read it, only stands shakily, head spinning.

He stumbles to the bathroom with the sick taste of fear heavy in his mouth like copper and rust and stares at his reflection in the mirror. His eyes are wide, there's a dark shadow under his eyes, he feels strained and stretched and he's almost afraid. Something is wrong, something is very, very wrong, he can feel it and he doesn't know what to do, if he talks to Ryou he'll be upset, he'll be mad that Malik is ruining things again but something is wrong and —

stop panicking

"I — I'm afraid. I don't know why. I-" Malik rasps desperately, unsure why he is bothering to respond to himself.

you're not responding to yourself

Malik stiffens, heart in his throat. After a moment he manages hoarsely, "What?"

stupid you're so stupid you're not talking to yourself stupid

He stands there for a few minutes, unsure of what to do, how to respond; his hands shaking, and finally: "Who are you, then?"

i am you

"Then — then why am I talking to myself?" He asks again, smiling nervously. He's being silly, that's all, getting worked up over nothing.

you are STUPID i told you you're not talking to yourself stupid stupid stupid

"Stop." Malik says aloud, painfully aware of how idiotic he must look talking to himself alone in the bathroom."Stop that. This is weird."

i am you but i am not you

"What do you mean?" He asks, his brow knitting.

i am you

but i am better

i will show you

His head snaps up and Malik is looking at the mirror, looking right into his own wide, scared eyes and as he watches, his expression curls into a sneer.

"I am you, stupid." His mouth forms, and Malik feels something like vague horror. It must be a dream, it has to be a dream and: "But I'm better. I am everything you, yourself, wish you could be, Malik Ishtar. I am everything you are incapable of doing on your own."

There's — there's someone else in my BODY — Malik thinks because he can no longer move his mouth, a silent scream and within him, he hears mocking laughter, something stirring and shifting and murmuring all at once: he knows, he knows, finally, he knows. He realizes — Then — I did black out, and — and Ryou —

"He can't tell the difference between us." Malik feels his jaw work as the beast shifts on his feet. "Must not care about you very much if he can't even tell the difference between us."

Watching his body move from the inside, Malik feels a twist of pain and jealousy. Ryou is his, Ryou has been his for years and how dare he, how dare he say things like —

"What does it matter?" The not-Malik in the mirror shrugs as though he can hear his thoughts, and now that Malik thinks about it, he probably can. "To him, he's still with Malik. After all, I am you! You created me to handle the fact that you couldn't keep your silly relationship going, and to fix it where you could not. I am Malik Ishtar, the real one, the better one. Malik Ishtar, the one and only."

you are NOT me, Malik thinks with a surge of hatred, and watches his reflection wince, clap a hand to his temple. With a thrill, he thinks that perhaps he can break through, assume control of his body again, thinks with greater strength as though to force his way back to the surface of his mind — you are not me not me you are not me NOT ME NOT

"Stop!" The beast snarls, Malik's hands twisted into claws at his temples. With a sudden mental shove Malik almost feels himself forced down, stunned at the disembodied feeling. The not-Malik in the mirror grins at him, licks his lips.

"I'm the real Malik," he says with a purr, eyes vicious. "And I won't be going away anytime soon. I've rather liked this taste of life, you see."

you're not me, Malik thinks weakly once more.

"I'm close enough." His body straightens. "He doesn't know. He thinks it's you. What does it matter?"

it matters it does

"Too bad." And with that, Malik feels himself shoved down into darkness once more.

I'm sorry.


The days begin to blur into weeks, time that passes around Malik to the green of Ryou's eyes and the whisper i can take your mind as long as i please.

Once he wakes next to Ryou, and bites his lip before blurting out: "Are you happy?"

"What do you mean?" Ryou asks, surprise and confusion clear on his face. "What kind of question is that?"

"I…I was just wondering." Malik shrugs, looking away. "I want us to be happy."

Ryou eyes him warily before letting out a nervous laugh.

"This is the best we've ever been, Malik." he says pointedly, as though this is an obvious fact that Malik has simply forgotten, silly him. "Aren't you?"

"…yes." Malik lies because any other answer would be unacceptable, guilt swimming in his chest.

"Then don't worry about it." Ryou smiles (and Malik notices, for the hundredth time, how much more Ryou smiles nowadays) and kisses his cheek. "C'mon. Let's grab breakfast."


Once the monster forces Malik to the front of his mind, to the place where he floats hazily just behind his eyes, to show him just how well he is replaced.

look how much better I am, it gloats as it kisses down Ryou's neck. Malik feels ill. Were he not disembodied he's certain he'd feel his stomach contract sickeningly at the flush in Ryou's cheeks, at how goddamn obvious it is that he's enjoying himself when Malik's not even there.

and the funniest part is he doesn't even know it's ME— not-Malik grins and kisses Ryou's neck, and not-Malik licks a stripe across Ryou's collarbone.

i don't even care about this — he hears him think, groping at Ryou — or this — and Ryou gasps, arching his hips — or even this— and he drags a moan out of Ryou, his Ryou, and Malik feels angry and sick and he sees red.

this is revenge, malik ishtar, revenge for keeping Me buried, for letting my existence grow like a tumor and then keeping Me in the back of your mind to ROT

and Ryou kisses Malik's lips and Malik hates them both.

He doesn't care about me, Malik realizes with a sick feeling in his gut, a feeling of sinking and drowning and suffocating all at once and if he had control of his mouth, a laugh might escape him. Not anymore, he can't even tell the difference.

At this thought he is overcome with despair, and as he fades into darkness, he hears the beast's purr, a sound of agreement and malice and amusement all at once.

It aches.


"…Ryou, you'd miss me if I were gone, right?"

Malik breaks the silence with a question on a rare afternoon of peace when they are content to simply sit and think and talk.

"…Well, yeah, I—"

"No, no, I mean, really miss me." Ryou blinks at him bemusedly. "Like, not just miss dinner and…and when I make you laugh, I mean me. Would you miss me?"

"…Yeah. Yeah, I guess I'd be sad." Malik wilts a little under Ryou's strange look, though he deserves it. The topic is inappropriately heavy for a Sunday afternoon. "Why?"

"Nothing, it's just…sometimes I feel like…" Malik gestures helplessly. "Like I'm not me anymore, alright? Like there's someone else there. It's not just me anymore. …Do you ever feel like that?"

His tone turns defensive in the last few words at Ryou's look of disappointment, at even the hint of incredulity on his features as though to say are we really discussing this, are we really?

"No." Ryou purses his lips and looks at his hands for a quiet moment. Malik winces. "No, I don't."

"…Ryou, I —"

"Look, just…don't start with this, okay?" Ryou cuts across him with a frown, and Malik's hands clench into fists. "Things are finally good. We're good. Isn't that what you wanted?"

"…Yeah." Malik whispers, avoiding his eyes. "…I want you to be happy."

"Then I don't want to hear this, Malik." Ryou says, voice frustrated. "We're good, we haven't fought, we're finally together, we're both finally together, so don't go bringing this stuff up. Don't."

"Okay." Malik agrees, heart sinking in his chest. After a moment: "…Ryou, do you love me?"

"…What kind of a question is that?" Ryou raises a brow at him, half-frowning.

"I'm just wondering."

"…yeah. Sure. I guess." Ryou sighs, running a hand over his hair. "…Don't bring this up again, okay?"

"Okay." Malik agrees hoarsely, despair sitting heavy in his stomach. In the back of his mind, he hears laughter ring.


He soon learns that time passed buried within his mind flies in no time at all. If there is one thing Malik can be grateful of it is this, that he cannot feel how quickly and rapidly he has been replaced.

Some days he likens himself to a bird, a bird caught in a hunter's net singing till his lungs burst as though each fallen note might somehow tear through the web binding him.

All birds and men are sure to die but I will live forever.

The dates begin to blur into one another, and he almost wants to despise Ryou for being unable to tell the difference, for not caring enough to hear when Malik thought something was truly and terribly wrong, however irrational he knows this train of thought is.

The not-Malik, the beast he created, grows bolder and bolder from what little he sees. Some days he catches a glimpse of needles and the smear of Ryou's smile as he giggles across his vision. It begins to happen more and more, occur more frequently. Only once does Malik try to argue.

no no don't it's dangerous don't

relax, MOM the entity laughs at him, you're the one that had it in your office — he didn't even know how fucked up you were — relax relax — i am malik ishtar and i know how to have a good time

For a moment Ryou's face flickers across his vision, a cathartic smile and heroin-bliss eyes before him and don't look in his eyes don't look in his eyes don't look don't

it's dangerous it's dangerous not ryou make him stop stop

"No." his mouth shapes aloud and Ryou laughs, a high-pitched sound that pierces Malik's heart.

When he regains control of the body it is with a surge of something like panic. Ryou lies beside him, and Ryou does not move.

Malik searches for a pulse with a shaking hand and the taste of regret in the back of his mouth.


you wouldn't, the not-Malik taunts him to the end. not really.

Malik ignores the voice, putting out his cigarette with a fumbling hand.

you're too afraid.

"You're poison." Malik says hoarsely, shakes his head. "I should have done this a long time ago."

oh? what brought this on, then? was it your boyfriend?

"You ruined him." Malik says, and his nails dig into his palm. "You — You led him on some path, on some fucking stupid trip of how fun and exciting I could be. You hurt him."

i saved your relationship. he hated you. he was going to end it —

"You killed him." Malik sucks in a deep breath of air, shaking his hair out of his eyes. "I loved him."

There is no response. Conversationally, Malik continues.

"You know, it's kind of funny." A chuckle escapes him, and he almost grins. "I used to think about jumping from here all the time. Always stopped myself, though. I've always been a bit of a coward when it comes to things like that."

maybe you'll wake up and this will all have been a dream,it sneers.

"I hope so." Malik muses idly. "That'd be nice. It's what we deserve. What Ryou and I deserve, anyway. You deserve to rot in hell."

i am you. if i go, you go.

"I know." says Malik, closing his eyes. "That's why I have to do this. Even though I keep talking, and stalling. I think I'm afraid. My hands are shaking. But I have to."

oh?

"You're cancer." He leans against the railing and looks down as he has so often done before. "I can't cut you out. I won't let you hurt anyone else."

he loved you, the voice mocks. he loved you because of me.

"I love him, too." Malik replies, shivering a little. "I always loved him. Even when things got bad."

it was just for fun, you know. it's his own fault.

"I'm sorry, Ryou." He whispers, ignoring the other Malik, the darker Malik within him. "I've been so pathetic."

you won't do it. not really.

For a minute he stands still, nausea and lightheaded-ness buzzing through his head.

"Watch me," he finally says, and then he's heaving himself over the railing like he'd so often pictured himself doing.

Inside him he feels the beast claw for control though they both know it will do no good. Malik closes his eyes and lets himself enjoy the idea of falling, of cleansing and purification, of cutting the two of them — one of him? — out of the world for all they'd done.

He thinks once more of Ryou with his hair back, Ryou on sunny days in the bright room, Ryou's smile, Ryou all love and shine in the sunlight and Ryou laid down on his bed for him to kiss and touch and hold and love. He thinks of when things were good between them, pure and whole, and he does not allow himself to think of Ryou smiling for the not-Malik, does not allow himself to think of Ryou's discolored tongue and blue lips from the alcohol and drug overdose, and he has just enough time to remember the two of them and to think

i'm sorry, i'm sorry, i loved you all along

and then the ground is rushing up to meet him.