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nobody here but us ghosts

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Ryou wakes up at a quarter past seven every morning, and has done for the past several years of his life. Ryou is a boy of routine. He eats lightly and dresses for school while listening to the news, absently attentive, in case any deaths or non-fatal assaults of suspicious circumstance have been noted. It never hurts to be careful.

Today, Ryou wakes up at 7.30.

There is blood on his pillow—he knows the smell of it well. He blinks twice in quick succession before lifting his face with a small, tired noise, and from his skin sticking to the fabric he can tell that there is more of it on his face, going up along the curve of his cheek. He touches it, frowning. It is still very slightly damp to the touch, just a little: recent but not brand new.

"This isn't funny," Ryou says, to nobody but himself. (what difference would it have made if his hands were not yours?)

-

He opts to stay home that day. He practises his sick-voice twice before calling his homeroom teacher and he knows she does not doubt him for a moment—Ryou is very trustworthy. She says after school she will send over one of his friends, most likely Yugi, bearing his homework, that is if he will be in? He says of course, and smiles gently for her, even though she cannot see it.

Ryou makes himself tea, and sits at the kitchen table, wondering about muscle memory. He spares himself one quick, pointless glance down—almost a formality—to see if the steam has fully dissipated and that the sugar and milk both have mixed in properly and when he looks back up Bakura is sitting across from him. Ryou does not react save for a quick tensing of his fingers around the handle of his mug.

"Ah," Bakura says; he is opaque like patterned-glass, the wallpaper behind him still barely visible but warped. "Hasn’t it been a while? I hope you missed me." 

"Stop it," Ryou says. He doesn't know if there's any meaning behind that. At this point, it's almost play, just words and action with no substance. "What do you want?"

Bakura leans over and in close but of course it is an illusion: yes, Ryou thinks, action with no substance. Bakura is not physically any closer to him than he has been for a thousand years now or a thousand years before that. "I want to hand you down my crown," he says, so self-satisfied in his mystery, and before Ryou can offer but another word he is gone.

-

Ryou falls asleep on the living room couch a little later that morning and when he wakes up just after noon he is standing in the bathroom. In the mirror he sees now the blood upon his face has mostly worn away. "I think you know what to do, don't you?" Bakura says, standing behind him.

"No, I don't," Ryou replies, but in one hand he is holding a spike of the millennium ring, rolling it between his fingers, slow, unthinking.

For two seconds, Ryou closes his eyes, and by the third his hand has shot up to his face; there is metal, clean and sharp, a cold centimetre from the surface of his skin. Again he does not react save for his knuckles turning white, just a little, around the chain of the ring's-spike. Action without substance. "What did you try last night?" he asks, quietly. Out of the corner of his eye he can barely see Bakura's face at his shoulder.

"Your bare hands," Bakura says, like musing, like idle thought. "But this body is weak. I couldn't."

Bakura moves in closer and closer until Ryou cannot tell where one of them ends and the other begins. His hand has not moved, has barely even trembled. “Do as you like,” Ryou says, but nothing comes, and so again he closes his eyes for two seconds and opens them upon the third, and when he does, he finds Bakura is gone, and that the ring is conspicuously absent from both around his neck and in his hand.

Ten minutes later, he finds it in his bedroom, laid upon his blood-stained pillow. "You have to do it yourself," Bakura says, rough and impatient, like Ryou should know this. "If you do I'll leave you alone. Maybe even them too, for a little while—ah, now, don’t think there are any secrets you can keep from me. That's the bit that matters to you, isn't it?"

"Oh," Ryou says, as evenly as he can muster, "you're quite sick, you know." But oh, what worthless words to exchange, may as well as be jokes—so they are playing a game! so they are acting parts! So Ryou will put himself down upon the altar knife-in-hand and all, because knowing he has not surrended any blood but his own is almost like winning in and of itself, just a little, and he knows better than to think he will ever have more than the smallest of victories. Tell me, Ryou, do you recall how it felt to be truly alone? Bakura says, this time in the very back of his mind. It is no doubt only because Bakura know it will never cease to unsettle him, that sensation of something beyond your control, in the center of your own consciousness—such intimate of invasions. The state of your head with nobody here or anywhere but for you and I? What a pair of old ghosts we are, my landlord.

I am not like you, Ryou thinks, like a sigh, knowing there is no answer that will help him here. He wishes there was somewhere he could look where Bakura's eyes would not be there to meet his.

Bakura smiles. That's right, he says, sickeningly amicable. You're not.

It goes unspoken: and that's your problem.

-

"How many?" Ryou runs his thumb over his cheek, frowning. Bakura motions on his own face: one vertical, two notches across. Just under the right eye. "Alright. Should—should I get a knife?"

"No," Bakura says, looking pleased to be asked at all, and Ryou, knowing, grips at a spike of the ring again. Bakura wraps his fingers around Ryou's own but they do not touch. Their worlds do not even intersect. Funny, things like that. "Oh, no, I think this is fine."

-

Beneath his hand, skin bursts, a spray of red across the bridge of his nose—"oh, oh fuck," Ryou gasps, careless of blood but trembling purely from the pain, from top to toe, "oh my god, I—"

-

(He passes out before he can make the last cut but comes-to on his feet with it done for him. Little victories, always.)

-

That evening, Yugi, as promised, comes by Ryou's house to drop off his homework for the night. He wishes Ryou well and does not inquire about the bandages over one of his eyes, falling near halfway down his face, even if Ryou can see clearly that he is staring. Ryou says he will probably not be at school for a few days but it is nothing to worry about; Ryou invites him inside for tea, if he likes, but Yugi politely declines saying he can't hang around long. Ryou is secretly relieved since immediately after offering he realised he had not gotten to finish up scrubbing the bathroom floor clean of blood.

Bakura does not make his presence known once, inside-or-out, for the entirety of their interaction, and although it is admittedly short Ryou still finds himself surprised, pleasantly so; he wonders if Bakura will keep this promise, and for how long. Ryou does not think very often about the future whether it be ten years from now or ten days. On his face, scarring begins to form.

Ryou wonders.

Before Yugi leaves, Ryou takes a handful of change from the pocket of his coat. (what difference would it have made, if your hands were his?)