Pacifier (Spitting the Dummy)
Summary: He'd never felt for his host; it was merely his choice instrument of destruction, after all. But when it started hurting itself, he decided that perhaps his being recognized as a monster was bad for the host's health. Something had to be done...
Tendershipping - aimed to be flipped into something cute and bigbro/littlebro – style by the end.
Warnings: Some violence and blood at the start.
The whole bigbro/littlebro thing was inspired by the piece of artwork that is the fic's cover; 'A sunny afternoon - Yami Bakura and little Ryou' by at yourdreams, which is displayed as the fic's cover. Never done that sort of relationship in Tender before, wanted to see if I could run it without giving 'Kura an extra body or anything like that.
It is dying, the host.
He can only watch in shocked silence, as the nine year old staggers about its tiny bedroom as though drunk, though the plastic hilt protruding from its stomach says otherwise. It is dying, and he can feel it; liquid crimson spattering onto the floor as the precious host is ever so slowly drained of life, the already pale skin going paler and paler. It coughs weakly, tongue flapping as it tries again to get its speech right; then stops, starts, shakes its head and tries again, determined to get out its final sentence in a strong voice. It doesn't, of course; the words barely come above a whisper's volume – a laughable affair, if only they were not supplemented by the simple fact that these could be the host's last words:
He does not bother replying to that; the host couldn't possibly be aware of him, couldn't be telling him to clear off. It doesn't know he exists – and even if it did, he could not simply go away, tied to the Ring as he is, not to mention stunned by what the host just did; shirt thrown off in a sudden fit of anger, the blade of his little cheese knife sinking into a canvas of frail white, ripping it apart as though it were paper. He is a little frightened by its action, too, though he would never admit it – his host has just attempted to kill itself, for little to no reason he can see, the action coming smack bang in the middle of a peaceful crumpet–eating session, and threatening to destroy everything he's worked hard for. He wonders briefly if it has given up on life altogether–
–ah no, there is still something left for it to do; he can feel the host's mind surging against the agony its body is bringing it, as it now forces itself to move its slow limbs, crawling across the floor and clawing its way up a cupboard so that it can pretend it is able to stand. It leans towards the little mirror mounted on its dresser, and gazes into the glass as though it is… aware.
Seeing as his view is dominated by the haunting gaze of the host's reflection, he decides to try and make sense of it, peering into the brown irises as though some gem of wisdom might be hidden there – he needs to know if it knows of his existence, and fast. The effort of sharpening the focus distorts its eyes, however; the pupils shrinking a little, soft brown tainted by swirls of an almost electric amber before he can stop himself. He has accidentally revealed himself, and now he can only watch as the host's lips part a little, a rasping protest now emerging:
And it stops, swallows, tries again; a painful pause…
"G–get out of my h–head."
It knows, then. The host is drawing on memories to fuel its speech; remembering things it is not supposed to; too late, he realizes that it must have remembered them in the depths of its anxiety over the black–outs, so lonely where he had left it in its soul room. To his horror, the host's mouth curves in a sudden, knowing smile as he reaches this conclusion – damn, it can hear his own monologue! – and at this, it giggles; a coughing bark that only causes the liquid trailing over his jeans to flow a little faster.
"I… I know you're in there. A–and… if… if you try to take me over… I w–will…" It grips the knife hilt as though about to pull it out, a sad smile flickering over its face; it doesn't have to say 'die' to get its message across. The host wants to take him down with it, and it has arguably succeeded in doing so – because he was not considerate of it, and because he had made no effort to get to know it, he had not even realized what the host was plotting, not until the knife had suddenly showed up. But it's all too late for second thoughts now; he has lost, with the innards of his reincarnation now bleeding out onto the floor.
Maybe, if he'd cared about its thoughts, just a little bit, he would have… could have…
And staring at the gentle features of his host, strained as they are with the pain of its injury, he decides that he honestly did not mean for it all to end this way; the master of stealth detected by the very one he was trying to avoid being seen by, the host killing itself. If only he'd had his way, little R– Ry– ah, whatever his name was – at any rate, the host would never even have known about him; he would have simply have used the body, and the nine year old would have been none the wiser.
But now, it's going to die; and with it, his plans, as useless as the clunky piece of jewelry hanging around its neck. The Pharaoh's reincarnation will surely win when it is reborn into this world, he will lose regardless, unable to raise a hand against the guy – because he no longer has a body, his one chance spent before he could fight for it, an automatic game over.
If only he'd cared about the host, just a little more, none of this would have happened.
Yes, if only he'd cared, he muses, as the host finally crashes to the floor, the noise alerting its parents; running footsteps pound on the staircase, though to him they are little different from the drumming of the heart, as it grows louder, more frantic, more desperate as it weakens, his surroundings dimming, until the world is nothing but a beat in his ears.
If only he'd cared…
His thought path, much like that of many ten year olds, is deceptively simple, yet somehow terribly twisted in its logic.
So when The Plan first creeps into his head - well, it goes a bit like this:
When I was nine, my imaginary friend had a voice!
Well, it wasn't really a friend, but all the same...
It had a voice.
He thinks such things often, in the manner of many a twelve year old, the same thoughts repeated round and round in his head. The voice is linked to that really obvious, clanky bit of jewelry he's got lying around, he just knows it - that one necklace his instincts scream at him not to put on. For now, he sticks with his instincts; but each time he thinks about it, the loneliness is just a little more, and wouldn't it be nice to have a friend he could talk to, a friend who would come with him everywhere? People have voices, people are friends, so this thing is sort of a person in a container - a friend, right?
And then, one day, when he's all alone and bored stiff, when the only thing he can really say about his day is that some jocks took his lunch...
Maybe it's worth a go.
He goes to the mirror, watching for any sign of someone standing right behind him. "Come on out, friend!", he calls; more for the ceremony than anything else.
And nothing happens.
Nothing at all.
When he next comes to, the host is perfectly unharmed – well, maybe aside from the scar across its stomach, the white very faint against the paleness of its skin. It is twelve years old now, bits of colourful ribbon now hanging off the Millennium Ring, and it is frowning into the mirror.
"Come on, you've gotta be in there," it pouts; but he can feel the host's insecurity – it isn't quite sure whether or not he will respond, its memories of him fuzzy and glossed over, replaced with what could only be a normal life, a dull life, class after class, shifting school with its parents. It has become bored, he notes; and in not really remembering the spirit's true nature, it has finally decided to try and do something exciting; something awesome. And whilst he isn't entirely certain that putting on a necklace could be all that amazing a deal, he is at least pleased that the host did it.
Browsing through the three years of life he missed, he sees that it has become more vulnerable, too; less likely to fight back – it has been left all alone in a flat for periods far too long for it to handle well, sent an envelope of money every now and then. Its sister has died, too; killed in front of the then–ten–year–old by some idiot in a truck. The host still cries a bit whenever it thinks about her, which is often; for it writes letters addressed to heaven in the hope that maybe she'll read them, and writes them every week. It misses her very much indeed, it seems – its heart left with a little hole in it, the name spelled out in peeling letters on its bedroom door. Amane is everywhere for the host, to the point where it still pauses a little when it gets home from school; it longs for a sister again – or perhaps a brother; some kindred soul for it to play with, fight with, argue with, lookup to, make mischief with. It is secretly hoping for a brother in what it calls 'the voice', it seems; by which it means what it saw when it was nine years old.
And with that, Bakura arrives at a conclusion: The host wants the thrill from doing something its faded mind is telling it not to, certainly. But more than that, more than anything - it is lonely. It wants a friend, so close as to be a replacement sibling...
In other words, it's a perfect opening for him; a chance for him to fix his mistakes from last time and care a little bit. As he found out from last time, his plans cannot possibly work out if the host is not cared for – so why not seize this opportunity by the horns and–
–and it's been a good two minutes the host has been waiting now for a response – the boy frowns and sighs. "You're not real, are you…?" And for an instant, those big brown eyes are filled with a terrible doubt; then they cloud over in resignation, its head hanging as its clumsy little digits go to the Ring around its neck; soon enough, it is trying to remove it, pulling at the cord upwards, and he makes a leap for it to try and stop it, to save his plans, his much–prized second chance-
And he stops, stunned – he's just lunged straight out of his host's body, and now appears to be floating above it, his image slightly translucent, slight frame almost seeming to fade and blur at the very edges. He is now lying on his belly, with parts of himself going through the ceiling, he notes in surprise; he has become what the humans call a ghost, a being incorporeal, and presumably one veiled from the eyes of mortals–
Because the boy, having just looked up in confusion at the sudden cry, has seemingly seen him; his mouth falls agape as he takes a slow step backwards, eyes wide and frightened; and of course, utterly trained on the spirit. "Y–you're real," it breathes, awestruck for the time being; and he does his best to smile without appearing frightening to it; first impressions are surely going to make a huge impact on what he might be able to get out of this.
"Hello, Ry– I mean, Ri– what was your name?" And here, he bites back some snarky remark, instead pausing a while as he awaits his answer.
"Ryou Bakura. Who are you?"
He thinks fast; centuries of lying and improvising pay off. "Bakura Ryou. I'm your older brother, who was killed before he could be born or anything, so your parents didn't tell you, but then I ended up in your mother's necklace, which is that golden thing you were thinking about taking off, so I can be with you all the time, only I was in a coma, so–"
"You're my ghost brother?", Ryou interrupts before 'Bakura' can get any further, and the spirit almost yells at him for being so insolent – but then remembers what happened before, and changes tact, presenting a goofy grin instead.
"I guess so." Concentrating hard, he manages to float down to Ryou's level, though his sneakers only just touch the floor. "What do you want to-"
"Let's play," the pale teen decides; the spirit's lip twitches a little at how domineering it has become without him, but he ultimately allows himself to be ushered out the door.
And just for a moment, as they leave the room, he spies their reflections, captured for a moment in the light glittering off the mirror the boy was pouting at earlier. The sight makes his lip twitch a little in mirth; the host appears to be so damn innocent, so very exploitable, and he – well, he looks like a scruffier, roughier, older version of the kid, perhaps fifteen or sixteen. He hardly looks trustworthy, by any means; but he appears to be a fun, playful type; especially when he's practicing his smile in the windows of shops he passes on the street, careful not to grin too wide so as to accidentally show his fangs.
Fortune has smiled upon him, it seems.
Now all he has to do is care, just for a little while, and everything will be perfect…
The hos– Ryou, he reminds himself, because he's going to be using that name a lot today – anyway, Ryou's led him straight to a games shop. Boxes line the walls, the kid using a hushed, almost reverent tone to speak to its self–proclaimed brother:
"This game's the latest in tabletop RPGs."
The spirit already knows this – it was inside Ryou's head only fifteen minutes ago, by his reckoning; but he lets the issue go, instead folding his arms and nodding along as the boy then goes on to explain every single ruling to him. He knows how the host knows all this, too; it has been studying the game night and day, figuring that even if it can't have it, it might as well know a lot about it. And those figurines… come to think of it, they might be rather useful for storing sou–
He blinks in confusion at the odd word, then remembers that that's what he told Ryou his name was. Deciding to go for a distracting tactic, he puts his fingers through a box, capturing the boy's attention as he moves his hand back and forwards. "Why don't you buy one of these?", he asks, and of course the pale boy stares at his shoes; it's easily shamed, the spirit knows that well.
"I… I don't have enough."
The spirit taps his lip. "Well, I have lots - but I can't hold it to pay, y'see."
Ryou, naïve as it is, spreads its arms wide. "You're a ghost, right? Maybe you could possess me and buy the miniatures! Like in the movies!" And it grins cheerfully, as though this flash of inspiration was all its doing; how could it have known that the spirit was able to tamper with its brain? Not that he had changed much, mind - it had merely given him a small nudge in the right direction.
"I dunno, Ryou," he murmurs quietly; lowering his head so as to conceal the glint of triumph in his eyes. "That might not be a good idea…"And he pauses a while, as though in doubt; though inside he is laughing.
"Nah, nah. I trust you!", the host sings; and at that, the one known to it as Bakura Ryou knows that he's got exactly what he wanted from it. A declaration of trust; one that will haunt the host for the rest of its pathetically short lifespan.
"Well, I guess I could try…"
The host grins up at him, and he smirks back, feeling pretty chuffed that he'd finally got the hang of this whole smiling thing, his eyes dancing mischievously in the yellowed light of the afternoon sun. They are sitting on a grassy hill, surrounded by their spoils; boxes of figurines and game boards, trading cards, empty paper bags which once contained delicious buns, even some tickets to exclusive gaming tournaments, given to the host by a very impressed manager (how could he have known that it was the spirit's skills he was seeing?). Somewhere in the distance, a dog is barking; dancing around its handler at the bottom of the hill. The spirit lazily observes the ball thrown to shut the creature up; how the animal becomes a tan blur against the greens and browns of the hill, speeding after its prey - then, in one leap, it-
"Thanks, Bakura", the host is yawning now, leaning back on the slope beside him and gazing up at the sky; he turns his attention back to it with a sigh. It really is rather demanding; but being kind to it for now will reap dividends in the meantime; so he holds his tongue and does not scold it for its decidedly slothful behaviour. "It was a really great day", it mumbles, for all the world a twelve year old exhausted by long hours of celebrations, its mind now pliable.
"Hey, it's not over yet!", he laughs in reply, almost throwing an arm around its shoulder before remembering that he's still a ghost; and besides, there's still one thing left to do.
"First, I need to–" And for a moment, his form is gone, and the host's body is suddenly not its own anymore; he is pulling a camera from the pocket of his jacket, where the spirit hid it. "Ah, here we are!"
The boy shivers a little as control is returned to it, the spirit once again hovering next to the body. It twitches, looks about it in confusion – then beams at the sight of the thing it is holding. "Hey! How did you know I wanted it?"
"I saw you looking," he lies; of course, he had simply read the kid's mind in the shop, easy as blinking, but it's probably best not to tell the host that. He lies, too, that he bought it; he technically did, but for an absolute bargain price of zero dollars exactly, the same price as every other thing he's managed to get for the boy.
"Wanna take a picture of us?", he murmurs softly in its ear after a while, having watched it in some amusement as it attempts to take photos of the world around it, though the camera is being waved about so much he doubts the images will be at all recognizable when they are printed.
The boy's eyes widen. "Yeah! C'mon, Bakura!"
And before 'Bakura' can stop it, it has gone rushing up to some poor dog walker, shoved the camera in her face, and basically demanded that she take a picture of it and its friend. Her eyes stare straight through the ghost as he floats over, meaning that Ryou has to aim the camera so that his supposed brother can be in the picture as well; though her two yappy terriers certainly show no remorse in biting and snapping at the airspace corresponding to where the spirit's ankles would be, if only he was solid. In his boredom, the ghost wonders for a while if he is correct in his theory - if the mirror showed his reflection, then perhaps the camera will produce an image...
It takes much positioning, barking and skepticism over whether or not the ghost actually exists, but eventually, the photo is taken – and just as 'Bakura' predicted, his ghostly visage shows up on the little display screen, much to the dogwalker's shock. Ryou hurriedly thanks her, maybe twitches a bit - and they are both out of there before she can launch any kind of investigation into why exactly that extra person randomly appeared in the photo; the host deciding to get the photo printed at some touristy kiosk or other on the way home. He grins to himself as the twelve-year old trots off down the street; a nasty sort of smile, though he's quick to replace it with something more tame whenever the boy goes to speak to him.
Soon, he thinks, he'll have this one nice and submissive.
As they walk back from the kiosk to the flat, the ghost deliberately controls his behavior so that the closer they get to the flat, the quieter he gets; Ryou is soon shooting him worried looks from time to time, when the boy thinks he isn't looking.
"What is it, Bakura?", he asks at last.
"I-I have to go", he says, with a face full of regret. "But I'll be back, okay?"
The spirit sighs in what could easily be interpreted as a sign of sadness (though it is just as much a sigh of exasperation than anything else, that fact is known only to him), then kneels to the boy's level. "Just remember the photo. I'll be watching over you – if anything's not working out, I'll try to help you, okay? I can't talk to you or anything, but I'll try and help out. Just… Promise me one thing."
"Yeah?" Big brown eyes focus on him, the kid swallowing back tears, and it's all the ghost can do not to laugh; this kid's a total sucker, so long as he acts nice. Yes, he's won this round without a doubt; this boy doesn't even realize that 'Bakura' is in fact responsible for that little incident, three years ago.
And so, at last, he may deliver his final instruction, the last piece of the puzzle needed for Ryou to be a good host and submit to his control for evermore. He smiles when he does that, too; and in a rare treat of his, that smile is genuine. "Don't take your pendant off, okay? I can't keep an eye on you unless you have it. Promise?"
The boy swallows. "P-promise. Big brother… You're the best brother ever."
He smiles again, sympathetic and stoic to the very end. "Thanks…" And then, before he can accidentally damn his cause by throwing back his head and letting loose a cry of evil triumph, he's managed to force himself back into the Ring, allowing himself to sink under the surface of the oily lake that dominates his soul room, drifting further and further into the placid depths of his inner self, remembering how he used to trap Ryou in here so that the host would sleep, how someday he will do it again and make him drown...
Time for a celebratory nap, he decides after a moment's thought; relaxing into the eerie quiet and the peaceful dark, the muffled cries of his host breaking down somewhere in the outside world muted and dulled. They are irrelevant now; for he has its total trust, and thus can guarantee that it will not be fighting his control for some time.
Yes… putting up with it for a while has certainly been rewarding.
He's lost in the labyrinth of Mei and Kyuu with his friends, the Paradox Brothers laughing at their efforts to find some hidden door or secret exit. And he's starting to give up, too; maybe they really will be here forever, their bodies left to rot in this dungeon.
I can help you.
"Did you say something?", he asks Anzu; but she only shrugs in reply. He continues to run his hands along the bricks of the wall, praying that–
Put me on. If you don't, you and your friends will stay here… – and now, a slight, teasing pause– …forever.
You're evil, he tells it. I'm not trusting you, not after what you di–
–but then he stops, suddenly remembering the ghost with the happy smile. And just for a moment, that voice sounded so trustworthy, so friendly; it couldn't be HIM, and yet...
Have you forgotten me? The photo?
He shakes his head slightly, to show that he has not forgotten it - in fact, he's never really stopped thinking about it. Pulling a battered picture from his jacket pocket, he stares at it a while, remembering that one day where everything had been all right. He's carried that image around all these years, through the blackouts and the bullies mysteriously disappearing as he plods through life; even when he realized that the Ring was bad, he still hoped that maybe, maybe...
Well, maybe things could be like that again; the happy photo etched into the depths of his brain, the best thing that ever happened to him, someone caring...
I just want you and your friends to be okay, brother. I don't want you to be trapped.
The voice is gentle now, lulling; though he is of course half-certain that the spirit is simply faking kindness, the word 'brother' still calls to him, in a funny sort of way. So, it knows about that, he finds himself musing; Ryou has questioned it many times over the time he spent with the ghost, asking the Ring Spirit if it was in fact THAT spirit - but never really got an answer.
Maybe, just maybe, if its speech is truthful, if it really means to help; then his brother can come back...
Remember our promise?
Well, that settles it, he decides; if the spirit remembers the promise now, he should honor it.
I can protect you, if you'll just put me on...
and he puts the Ring on
rough cord around his neck
just like a noose
and it's tightening
it's strangling him
and he falls into darkness.