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wings aren't what you need

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Ryou wakes up with a bang, a pained groan that echoes throughout the place when his head hits hard his empty desk.

This is the third time he falls asleep this morning and it’s not even study hall two periods before lunch break yet, though he had managed to catch himself the first few occasions he nodded off.

Next to him, Ryuuji straightens. He stretches his body over his desk, looking at their teacher with lazy, intent eyes. His fingers subtly digging into the woodwork the only thing breaking his facade of nonchalance.

“Sensei,” he drawls, that charming tone that always makes most people around him falter. Ryou’s only ever found it an annoying whine, but appreciates it from time to time. Now, for instance. “Bakura-kun isn’t feeling so well. Can I take him to the infirmary?”

When Ryou raises his head, twenty pairs of eyes are fixed on him. Either curious or annoyed. Glazed with apprehension or confusion.

The first to catch his attention are those of his best friend, but he smoothly avoids them by looking at their teacher standing in the front of the class. He takes a hand to prod at his abused forehead, bangs getting in the way from where he hadn’t bothered to do his hair that morning. His eyes feel puffy with each touch his lashes land just above his cheekbones. Ryou doesn’t really need to turn in Seto’s direction to know there’s that not-quite-concerned-but-close frown on his face, to know there is an inquisitive glint in his blue orbs.

Avoiding Yugi and his friends is trickier given his position in the back row and the view it allows, but he blinks tiredly just as his gaze is about to cross with any of theirs. From his peripheral he still catches the shape of Yugi’s worried eyes, Jounouchi’s furrowed brows. He ignores Honda’s form staring at him.

Sensei looks back at them, mildly miffed for the interruption but otherwise understanding.

She sighs. “Otogi-kun, do take Bakura-kun to the nurse’s office so he can be attended properly.”

She’s not even halfway through the sentence when he’s already steering Ryou out the door, backpack in hand.

“This is the fourth time you do something reckless this week, you moron,” Ryuuji hisses into his ear once they’re a good distance away from the classroom and out of hearing range, arm hovering around his back and hand a warm comfort on his shoulder.

He’s cold, and grumpy, but Ryou still gathers the energy to snarl playfully at his brother fretting over him. He grimaces at the shiver that goes down his spine, the way his ankle and wrist throb in dull pain.

“I specifically remember telling you to leave the cleansing of akumas to Ladybug,” Duusu chides from behind, where Ryou’s backpack rests on Ryuuji’s shoulder, tone firm even through the weariness. “I told you not to overdo it, chick.”

Duusu is looking at him under the rim of the zipper, something troubled in his expression. Ryuuji’s face is marred by an uncharacteristically discernible scowl.

In a way, Ryou gets where they’re coming. His Kwami has told him that even though Ladybug isn’t the only one able to purify a corrupted butterfly, she’s the most adept given her affinity to stability and order. Her Miraculous absorbs the source perturbing the balance, returning it to its original state once she cleanses it.

The wielders of the Peacock Miraculous are talented healers, making them the second most proficient heroe for the job. However, they do not possess the good luck of the Ladybug holder to help them bear with that kind of physical burden.

Duusu has warned him countless of times that, were Ryou ever try to purge the same disturbance, it would have repercussions on his body. That negative energy would have to go somewhere, backlashing on his health since he doesn’t have Ladybug’s give-and-take relationship with the environment.

Which is basically what happened after last night’s attack, when he took the akuma down himself.

“Neither Ladybug nor Chat Noir has been active since last week. Someone has to take care of Domino and stop Hawkmoth’s attempts if they aren’t going to answer to the threats.” He tries for soothing, but as always it comes out more rational than anything.

Ryou is aware that’s not the best way to go for it, especially when he’d react the same if the roles were reversed, but he’s touchy.

“And who takes care of you?!” His brother bristles, because clearly Ryou doesn’t understand. “If it hadn’t been for that fox coming out of nowhere and catching you before you fell from the KaibaCorp building, who knows what could have happened! You were already tired before that. I told you to stay at home and rest, you ass. If you die, I won’t get you that goddamn foiled monster card package you wanted for your birthday.” Ryuuji sulks.

It’s really sweet the way his brother cares. As unrelated as it is when temper comes into play, it reminds him of the way their mother talks about taking them to the hospital as soon as one of them—mostly Amane, with her allergies—sneezes twice in a row. It softens his eyes and makes something in his belly warm, makes him want to smile.

That, however, is not a deterrent for him to roll his eyes in fond exasperation at how over dramatic he is.

Ryou tunes out Ryuuji’s ramblings as soon as they start, feeling only slightly guilty. He thinks he’s exaggerating. Even with his slight fever, the dizziness and shivers he still feels from time to time, it’s not that bad. His bones ache, yes, but all he needs is fresh air and a good night of sleep and he’ll be back on his feet as if nothing has happened.

He’s had tougher times while organizing Monster World campaigns, after all.

They are both so caught up in their own things, Ryuuji still hissing in his direction, eyes fixed to the ground in case Ryou’s limbs decide to trip on thin air and his mind a few clouds too high, that they don’t see the body standing in the middle of the hallway.

Ryou’s startled gasp comes as a reflex from Ryuuji’s surprised cry right in his eardrum, the other person cursing as papers go flying in every direction. His brother tries to stabilize them but only manages to put pressure onto his, admittedly, weakened body, which of course chooses that moment to send his head spinning and his stomach sinking and then they are toppling to the floor.

He twists his body a little so he doesn’t fall onto his knees, though his ankles resent that after last night. He braces himself for the inevitable fall, eyes closed tightly, worsening the headache already hammer-pounding his skull and waiting for the lightning of pain to stroke.

But the world does not, in fact, implode.

Ryou grunts, both startled and confused when his body hits a warm and solid surface, prominently cozier and way softer than what he knows the ground on a chilly autumn morning is. He trembles at the pleasant change on temperature soaking through his clothing. Ryou forces himself to open his eyes, even though all he wants to do is coo and bask in the warmth, only to blink blankly.

There is a young man groaning in front of him. Obviously the one who caught him, and he wonders for a moment if maybe he really underestimated that fever and is bad enough that he’s now having hallucinations, or if Amane’s endless talk of doppelgängers has finally gotten to his head. Then Ryuuji yelps, reaches out to help him stand properly as he stares at the person formerly holding Ryou, proving he hasn’t gone crazy yet.

It’s almost like watching a carbon copy of himself, too physically similar at first glance—skin as ghostly pale as his, though lacking the momentaneous sickening tone. Probably the same height since they’re both hunching slightly. The boy is a bit more built, muscle filling the uniform where Ryou’s physique makes his figure look leaner, but even the hair is the exact same tone as his.

His face, though. Ryou’s breath catches in his throat.

His doppelgänger’s features are sharper where Ryou’s are softer, and his hair is short, kept close to the boy’s chin and barely peeking to his shoulders. His bangs, unlike Ryou’s own, are stylized in a wilder manner. He has slanted eyes, noticeable even through the scowl marring his expression, and when he opens them is possible that Ryou chokes a little with how beautiful they are—two garnet gemstones amidst a snowstorm.

He makes an embarrassing, animalistic sound that oscillates between a whine and a whistle. It rolls up his ribcage, falling low and heartfelt in his throat. Ryou hears Duusu’s unnoticeable gasp though, and he really, really doesn’t want to know what it means.

Ryou clamps a hand over his mouth, and wishes he could die right that instant.

The boy gapes, nonplussed. He blinks, shakes himself out of his stupor and his frown is back. He looks more confused than offended, if a little thoughtful. After a quick moment of what Ryou recognizes as an internal debate, he straightens and extends his hand in their direction.

“Hn.” He nods curtly. “Touzoku Bakura. I just transferred here.”

Ryou’s natural ability to see through things tells him he’s not lying. Ryuuji makes a strangled noise that rivals his own.

Bakura’s frown deepens. He looks annoyed. Ryou understands; he figures all the noises they’ve been doing instead of communicating with actual words, like actual humans, would do that to a person.

“Sorry,” he laughs awkwardly, a hand coming to his nape, the other moving to take Bakura’s. “It’s just that. Well. I’m Bakura Ryou.”

Bakura stares in disbelief. Ryou chuckles lightly. The boy shakes his hand, suddenly looking tired, and Ryou smiles in sympathy. Or he’d have done so, had he not been stricken by a sudden sense of familiarity that his mind immediately hangs onto after having swallowed all the information he could get his hands on.

For all that meeting your soulmate consists of being healed by or healing their wounds, the way you connect with each other is always different for those fortunate enough to find them.

He hasn’t met a lot of people who have a soulmate, but his mothers encounter is always described to them as homemade chocolate, mint leaves and honeycomb. Before this instant, he still couldn’t completely comprehend what that meant, same as Ryuuji, even when Amane always nodded starry-eyed and understanding. But he always found that enthralling, and it never failed to make something within his being stir, made him eager to discover that sensation for himself.

Ryou’s own experience feels like winter: a snowflake dipped in his favorite cup of coffee, cinnamon-powdered profiteroles and late night patrols. Comparable to watching a sunrise when you’re still drowsy, like oh, it really is happening.

It’s as if something just clicks into place. It’s waking up at home last night after the attack, someone who cared enough about his well-being spiriting him away before he could get more hurt, a loved one silently treating his wounds.

He surveys enraptured as his bruised wrist goes back to its healthy color, the hollow ache on his bones slowly disappearing. The discomfort on his stomach unties from the knot it was twisted into, and he can breathe freely.

His gaze snaps back to the boy in front of him, and his face mirrors the amazement Ryou feels. At first sight he doesn’t seem hurt, but he must be somehow, because it’s written all over his face that he went through what Ryou did. He tilts his head up, stares back at him with an astonished, if slightly constipated look, and with no idea of what to do.

That makes two of them, then.

Ryou yelps when he’s suddenly pushed back into Bakura’s arms, looking at Ryuuji over his shoulder in surprise. He risks a quick glance towards the teenager holding him firmly but still gentle, finding the same emotion on his face. His brother dumps his backpack on his arms though not unkindly, still considerate of Duusu hiding inside.

Before any of them can say anything, Ryuuji says, “Great. He’s not my problem anymore.” Voice filled with both exasperation and joy.

He turns around and starts walking in the opposite direction, going back the way they came. It’s only when he almost reaches the end of the hall that Ryou hears him mutter something that sounds suspiciously like if you still want to go to the infirmary just use protection, out loud.

Ryou and Bakura stand in the middle of the hallway, gaping at his back until he enters the classroom. It’s as if a spell is broken, because at that exact moment it dawns on Ryou what has just happened.

“That little shit!” Ryou shrieks in outrage, his ears hot. His body tenses as he prepares to go after him, but the arms around his frame tighten their hold and laughter fills the hall.

It only makes Ryou hyper aware of the situation, because he met his soulmate.

Bakura’s chuckles die in his throat, slowly, and he looks at Ryou with a blissed out expression. He feels his cheeks warm.

“H-hello.” Ryou squeaks, the epitome of everything a peacock is not.

Seriously, why did Duusu even choose him?!

Bakura’s eyes glint with the outside light, kind but amused. “Hey, there, Sweetling.”

At this point, Ryou’s face probably resembles a strawberry. He rolls his eyes and tries to step away, but Bakura still won’t let go.

“Would you mind?” He frowns, though not convincing enough thanks to his blush and the slight stutter at the end.

“Oh, I certainly wouldn’t mind.” Bakura purrs, smirks. He narrows his eyes at that, and is pleased to learn that his soulmate does have some self-preserving skills when his arms finally unwrap from around his body, even if his hands slide down to his wrists. Ryou doesn’t mind that a bit. “I guess we have some things to discuss, don’t we?”

It’s obviously rhetorical, but he still nods. 

He hums thoughtfully. “Let’s go to the inner gym. The AC is broken and nobody uses it with this weather.”

“My, my. First day of school, and my soulmate is already corrupting me and making me skip class.” He grins widely, clearly delighted.

It reminds him of something but he can’t quite put his finger on it. It’s a fleeting thought though, so he lets it slide.

“T-that’s not it!” He splutters. “I didn’t mean right now, we could go on our lunch break. I-”

Bakura covers his mouth with his hand. His grin doesn’t falter, but his eyes soften almost unnoticeable. “I know. I’m just teasing you. We can do that. I still need to get settled, after all.”

Ryou’s soulmate is going to be the death of him.

His lips tremble under Bakura’s hand, a giddy smile forming. He takes Bakura’s wrist with gentle fingers, caressing the inside. He nods.

“Yeah,” he says softly. “Let’s do that.”

The future, Ryou thinks, looks promising.