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Complex Marriage

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Jou plopped down into the sand, then leaned back onto his hands. He'd napped most of the afternoon away in the living room, and was trying to wake himself up properly. Talking to anybody was out of the question, as Bakura was still asleep, and watching Yami play video games was making him drowsy, so...outside, it was.

A cool breeze swept off of the Atlantic; it swirled about his body, making his hair dance around his face. Closing his eyes, he tried to lose himself in the bliss of having nothing in front of him -- no responsibilities, no traffic, no frenzied employees -- nothing but the abyss that is the ocean.

And just as he was making some headway, a troubling conversation from earlier in the day came back to haunt him.

#

Jou gave Atem a few comforting smacks on the thigh as he watched Seto usher Yugi out of the bedroom. When he returned his gaze to the pharaoh, he saw him staring at the doorway, mouth firmly set in a straight line and brow heavy with stress.

"I hate myself right now."

Jou tilted his head to the side. "Don't say that."

"It's true." The yami bent forward, resting his elbows on his knees. "I want to kill anybody who hurts him...I always have. And now, I'm the one hurting him."

He pulled a corner of his mouth taut. "I sympathize with Yugi -- I really do...but his upset can't invalidate your anger. You two are just deadlocked."

The yami stayed quiet for a moment. "That's true."

"I was hoping you and Yugi, or even you and Bakura'd made some progress before you left." He let out a sigh and leaned back on his hands. "This has been going on for way too long."

"I couldn't agree more. I just wish that I could find a way around this."

He shook his head. "I hate to say it, but I don't think that there IS a way around it. You've only got two viable options: One," he put a finger in the air, "you swallow your pride and try to get along with Bakura, or two," he held up another finger, "you somehow convince Yugi to drop it."

"Neither of those are viable, Jounouchi," he said, stone-faced.

He shrugged, then sat up straight, again. "If you believe having Yugi miserable IS a viable option, then keep thinking that way."

The yami made a little growl. "I hate that option the most."

"Me, too." Scrubbing his face, he grumbled in frustration. "I would've tried to come up with something better, but I was too much of a nervous wreck all morning."

"Why is that?" The pharaoh's features softened a bit.

"I was nervous that this trip with you two being at odds with each other might make things worse for you. That, and I was kind of lying to Seto about it."

The pharaoh blew a small laugh out of his nose. "What'd you say?"

"I told him that I was scared we would find out all of us no longer got along the way we did in high school." He smiled at the pharaoh. "It technically IS true, though."

Atem softened a bit more. "You didn't want to stress him out."

He nodded. "And I don't want you or your other half stressed out, either. You're my friends, and I hate the fact that you're--"

#

"Jounouchi."

The creaky, melodic voice broke him of his trance, and he turned in his spot to smile at its host.

"There he is! What's up, Ryou?"

Returning his smile, the elegant hikari walked up to him. "I was wondering if you'd be all right with a bit of company."

"I would love some." He patted the sand beside him.

Ryou tip-toed over to his left, then carefully lowered himself to the ground; despite his best efforts, though, his rear came to the earth in a horrifically adorable plop. Giggling at himself, he pulled his knees to his chest.

Unable to stop himself, he laughed, as well. "You OK?"

Ryou nodded. "I'm fine," he assured him, the echoes of laughter in his voice. "Ohh...it's so beautiful here."

"The view is part of the reason why we fell in love with the property." He watched the waves of water, which sparkled with the light of the near-setting sun.

"I have to admit...I thought you two were a little crazy when you told us you'd bought a house in the Hamptons. New York is so, so far away, but seeing this makes me understand it." They looked at each other. "Removing yourself from everything makes you feel less tempted to stress out; it feels like I've run away from it all."

He smiled at Ryou. "If you ever need to run away in the future, just tell me; I'll give you the keys."

The wind blew Ryou's white locks around his face, and he tried to push it out of the way. A bashful smile came to his lips. "You don't need to go that far."

"It's not far at all. I want my friends to be happy."

After staring at him for a moment, he grinned a bit wider, then nodded. "Thank you, Jounouchi. That's so generous of you."

He cocked his head. "What was that look?"

"Oh..." tucking a lock of hair behind his ear, he turned his gaze toward his knees, "it's nothing important."

"You can tell me."

Ducking his head for a moment, the hikari sighed, then looked back at him. "I was just thinking that...we've come a long way, you, Yugi, and I...that's all. And I'm so grateful for it."

He opened his mouth to ask him to clarify, but stopped himself. Blotting his lips, he shook his head. "You know, Ryou...I don't think that I ever told you how sorry--"

"Jounouchi, stop--"

"I am for--"

"Please; I wasn't hunting for an apology, or--"

"Well, you're getting one, anyway," he said firmly, putting an end to their stream of interruptions. "I wasn't great to you in high school, and I'm eternally sorry for not being the friend that I should've been."

"Jounouchi..." Ryou whispered, seemingly unable to look him in the eye. "Please...it's making me feel bad."

"I can't imagine what hell you went through at that time: the bouts of unconsciousness, being stabbed, being mentally highjacked on a daily basis...and you went through it alone."

Ryou looked to the side and widened his eyes for a second. "Oh, I wasn't alone."

"You weren't?" He furrowed his brow. "...Oh, right. The cockroach."

The hikari's mouth dropped open, and a laugh tumbled out. "Cockroach?"

Eyes going wide in worry, he waved his hands in front of himself. "No, no, no! I didn't mean it in a bad way! He just reminds me of one because it's like...nothing can kill him."

Slowly, a smile crept across Ryou's face, and he laughed. Then laughed harder. And harder. "He really IS a cockroach, isn't he?"

"He even has the little antennae and all."

"He does!"

They both burst out laughing, Ryou wicking tears from under his eyes with the outer side of his index fingers. Their laughter faded, eventually, and they both went quiet.

"You know, Jounouchi...you really weren't bad to me in high school. To the contrary, I always found you to be quite sweet."

Shaking his head, he turned his gaze to the ground. "I don't think that I was."

"You were." There was a pause. "So sweet, in fact, that, after the smoke cleared from everything that'd happened, I actually had a bit of a crush on you."

Head whipping toward the hikari, his eyes went wide. "Me? You? A crush? For real?"

Ryou's head was cocked, making his smiling face look even sweeter than it already was. Letting out a giggle, he nodded. "Mmhmm."

"...Why?" The word seemed to just fall out of his mouth of its own accord, and he scrambled to catch it. "I- I mean--...not WHY, but...what did you...I--..." He pushed his hair back and sighed. "What I mean to say is: why didn't you say something?"

Ryou shook his head. "I didn't think you would be open to the idea. You put out a 'firmly heterosexual' vibe when we were in high school. You still do." A sheepish grin crawled onto his lips. "I figured you'd wind up with Mai, or somebody like her. I was quite stunned when you told us about Seto and yourself."

"I can't blame you. Hell, even I was stunned about Seto and myself." He grinned at the hikari, who giggled, in return.

"You two fought like cats and dogs in high school." Ryou looked at him. "It was, what...two months after graduation that you started dating?"

He nodded. "We've been together for a decade, now -- thanks to you."

Lips parted, eyebrows squished, Ryou cocked his head. "Me? What did I do?"

"Had you asked me out before we graduated, there'd probably've BEEN no Seto and myself."

Fingertips touching his top lip, the light haired man's jaw dropped open, obviously shocked, but those big, brown eyes sparkled in elation. "Jounouchi!"

One after the other, he slapped both hands over his mouth, squeezing his eyes shut. "Sorry," he squeaked from behind his hands. "That was supposed to be cute, but it wound up sounding douchey."

Ryou shook his head, placing a gentle hand on his forearm. "It's fine!" The words rang with laughter. "I'm just in a bit of shock that you liked me back."

Dropping his hands from his mouth, he revealed a shy smile. "I'm not sure how. EVERYBODY had the hots for you. Did you hit your head and forget?"

Cheeks flushing, he averted his gaze and fidgeted with his hair. "Some girls used to make me cookies, from time to time...that's all."

"Ryou, you straight-up had stalkers."

"And you, straight-up, are the friend who remembers everything from high school that people want to forget!" Ducking his head to hide his face, he dissolved into laughter.

Giving Ryou's head a friendly scruff, he snickered. "You can be embarrassed all day long, but it won't change the fact that I'm right."

"Ugh!" Ryou set his chin on his knees, grinning in relent. "I just...didn't know how to tell them, or anybody else, 'no.' So, I just tried to avoid them."

"That seems to've changed...especially when it comes to the cockroach."

"Well...it kind of HAD to change. I came to a point where I could no longer take it, and one day, I just..." he shook his head, "I snapped."

Blink, blink. "You...Ryou Bakura, the gentlest, sweetest, most patient person I've ever met...snapped?"

Culpability with just a dusting of pride overwhelmed Ryou's face as he nodded.

Sitting up straight, he turned toward the light haired man. "You've GOT to tell me what happened."

Ryou succumbed to a small laugh. "Where do I even start...?"

"How about..." he shrugged, "when it happened?"

"Mm..." Sparkling in thought, brown eyes turned in the direction of the ocean. "I think it was about...six months after he came back to me. It was wonderful to feel whole again but, despite the connection with darkness gone, he was just as pushy and dominant as he'd been when he'd initially came into the picture. Trying to exact revenge gave him purpose, and with all of that being more or less settled...I'm not sure quite how to put this..." he shook his head, "he just seemed so lost. It was like the drive to conquer was still there, but there was nothing TO conquer." Ryou looked at him. "Except me, I suppose."

"Sounds true to his nature..." Jounouchi sighed, then tightened a corner of his mouth. "So, what was it, exactly, that pushed you over the edge?"

"Maple syrup."

One eyebrow raised, he cocked his head. "...Maple syrup?"

Ryou nodded. "Are you familiar with the saying 'in the end, it's not the dragons that get you; it's the gnats?'"

He nodded. "Yeah."

"That was my situation, exactly. After being run down, walked on, and bossed around nearly every minute of every day, his inconsiderate, over-bearing personality finally got to me one morning. You see, I woke up a bit too early, and all I could think about were American pancakes. So, I researched a recipe, and made some. He partook...more than half, might I add...and I just smiled. He used the very last of the softened butter to top his off -- and took it just as I was reaching for it with my knife: I said nothing. But when he used every last drop of syrup and just said, 'we need more syrup,' then placed the empty bottle on the counter...well, the sentence I used was:"

#

"Are you FUCKING joking?"

Bakura's eyes widened, then turned in Ryou's direction. "...What'd you say?"

Stone-faced, he stared right back at him. "I said: are you...fuck-ing...jo-king."

Narrowing one eye in thought, he seemed to be assessing this out-of-character response. "No...?"

"And why is that?"

"...Because I used the last of--"

"Because YOU used the last of it!" If he'd been in his right mind, he would've been scared; his vision momentarily blipped out, as the words flew from his mouth in an other worldly shriek.

Mouth in a straight line, Bakura raised an eyebrow at him. "So, put some on the shopping list. It's not a big deal."

Not saying a word, he stepped closer to his yami, used an index finger to catch the underside of the lip of the plate Bakura held, and flipped it onto the floor.

The yami narrowed his eyes at him. "Do you understand how much of a spoiled fuck that makes you look like to somebody who spent his childhood having to steal every bite of food he ate?"

"I look like a spoiled fuck?" The question sounded more like a statement.

"Yes," the taller one spat.

"-I-...look like a spoiled fuck?"

"Yes."

"...Do I look like a spoiled fuck after I come home from the full time job I have, five days a week? Do I look like a spoiled fuck after I've paid for the groceries you devour all day long? Do I look like a spoiled fuck after I've paid all of my -- oh, I'm sorry...OUR bills every month? Do I look like a spoiled fuck when I'm making every meal we eat? When I take out the TRASH? DO THE DISHES? CLEAN THE HOUSE -- ALL WITHOUT HELP FROM YOU?" He paused. "Since you're so obviously confused about what a spoiled FUCK looks like, perhaps you should attempt to find your reflection in the puddle of 'it's-no-big-deal' syrup on the floor." He punctuated the sentence by giving the yami a small shove on the chest.

After looking down at where his hands had touched him, Bakura looked back into his eyes. "You don't want to go there with me."

"You wouldn't know what I wanted if it crawled up your urethra and laid eggs in it." He shoved the yami again.

Closing his eyes and taking a long breath, Bakura paused before laying his venomous gaze upon him, once more. "Be that as it may, I know you don't want to get physical with me." The last straps of Bakura's inhibition were very obviously about to break.

Getting so close to his yami that their noses nearly kissed, he brought his voice to a whisper. "Maybe I do."

BAM!

It'd been a long time since he'd had the wind knocked out of him, so when Bakura'd grabbed him by the biceps and slammed him against the refrigerator, that breathless feeling in his chest upon impact almost felt nostalgic.

"Pull yourself together. My patience is officially gone," his yami growled.

"What a coincidence!" His voice faltered as his knee connected with his yami's groin. The grip fell away from his arms as Bakura stooped in pain; he slipped away from him, putting the kitchen island between them.

Breath coming in pants, Bakura tried his best to adopt a true vertical posture, but was failing miserably. "You BITCH!" The yami hucked a mug full of coffee at him, which he narrowly dodged; it smashed against the cupboard, brown liquid flying everywhere.

"That's the closest thing you've done to housework the entire time you've been here, you lazy Kemetic FUCK!" Ryou grabbed a saucepan from the drying rack and returned fire; Bakura moved just in time, and it made a hollow clang against the refrigerator.

"I may not do housework, but I've helped your ass more times than I can count," the yami snarled, before chucking an unopened bag of rice from the pantry across the room. After narrowly missing Ryou, the bag of grains hit a block of chopping knives on the counter, like a bowling ball.

"Helped me?" Ryou threw a ladle at his evil twin. "HELPED ME?" He threw a spatula. "Everything you did was for YOU!"

"You ARE me, you stupid slut!" Bakura snatched the glass of orange juice he'd poured for himself off of the island and chucked it at him; it smashed against the counter, getting juice all over Ryou.

"You made my life hell!" His weapon of choice was a box of cereal this time, and finally, it made contact; the bottom corner thumped the yami right in the forehead before it fell away, a shower of cereal flying everywhere.

The yami pawed at his forehead. "You don't KNOW hell, princess." The next thing he knew, Bakura was holding a plate of lemon poppyseed muffins, and threw one; it hit him right in the chest.

"HEY! I just made those, you--" Another one hit him in the face. "AH! They hurt more than you'd think!"

"Yeah, you feel that? They were dry as hell."

After giving Bakura a look that could melt stone, he reached over the counter and grabbed a bottle of soy sauce, which he threw at his yami like a boomerang. Bakura grunted as the bottle bounced off of his hip.

The yami placed the plate of muffins onto the island. "That's it." He rummaged through one of the cupboards until he pulled out a cookie sheet, then started around the island. "I'm ending this."

Eyes narrowed, he grabbed a frying pan from the drying rack, then ran to close the short distance between them. Loud clangs rang out as they blocked each other's blows, but eventually, Bakura landed a painful one to Ryou's dominant elbow.

A sadistic smile curled the yami's lips as Ryou backed away from him, holding his banged up elbow, and he raised the cookie sheet above his head before he sped at him.

Stepping out of the way at the last possible second, Ryou used the other's momentum against him; he gave the yami a hard push to the back, and he went, face-first, into the wall.

The dazed yami fell to his knees; Ryou slid his fingers into his other's hair, clenched a handful, then threw him onto his back. Knees falling onto the crook of either shoulder, he straddled Bakura's chest.

Jaw clenched, teeth bared, Bakura snarled and struggled beneath him: it was clear that there was still fight left in him...that it wasn't over, and that simply wouldn't do.

Without a word, he reached over and grabbed the bottle of soy sauce he'd thrown earlier by the neck, then smashed it against the island...he brought it to the yami's neck, pushing a longer, jagged edge against Bakura's throat with one hand, and grabbed a chunk of his hair with the other.

Finally, Bakura was still. A psychotic smile curled his lips, as he stared up at him. "Well...go on. You've earned it."

Gazes locked, he dragged the bottle an inch or two down the flesh of his yami's throat. "You want me to?"

"I'm hardly in a position to tell you what to do right now, am I?"

He tilted his head. "Is that your messed up way of conveying your will to live?"

"Possibly."

"Then, why didn't you just say 'no?'"

"Because I love that a part of me both fought and won the chance to play God with a human life...even if it's my own. I love seeing my own face, staring down at me, looking the way you do now...completely in control."

They both went silent, just staring into one another's eyes.

CRASH!

Ryou threw the bottle against the island and, as though they were of one mind, met his other's eager mouth in a mad kiss.

Biting, scratching, licking, grinding, pawing at each other...it was a blur of passion so intoxicating, Ryou could hardly remember exactly how he had come to be pushed up against the wall, naked, with his legs wrapped around his other half.

"HAH!" Eyes squeezing closed, he reveled in the sweet pain, as his yami roughly pushed all the way into him.

Their gazes met. Placing a hand on his yami's face, he parted his lips to say something, but--

"Don't apologize to me."

"But--" Bakura's mouth connected with the flesh of his throat and did something so wonderful, it made the breath catch in his windpipe.

"You're the only one in this world who's ever shown me sympathy..." Bakura breathed against his neck, thrusting hard into him, "the only one who's ever cared about what I've been through..." thrust, "the only one who's ever given me a second chance..." Thrust. "You were right...I AM the spoiled fuck."

"Why're yo--...AH! ...--telling me...th-HAH!-hiss...n--...ow...?" He wrapped his legs even tighter around him. "You sh--...ooooould've sa--...hid it...UH! earli--...HER!"

There was a low, short laugh before the yami gave him a smothering kiss.

#

Mouth hanging open, Jou stared at Ryou, his eyes as wide as an owl's.

A flush came across the hikari's pale cheeks and nose; he rubbed the back of his neck, as his gaze sank to the ground. "I...probably shouldn't've been so graphic in describing the last part."

"NO! I mean...no, it's cool, it...it added to m-my understanding of...of-of the situation, and..." Blink, blink. "What were we talking about again?"

"Jounouchi...!" The other covered his head in obvious embarrassment, and it made him laugh.

After gazing for a few moments at his friend, who seemed to be more blush than man, he finally spoke. "I'm proud of you, Ryou."

The hikari peeked at him. "For what?"

"For finally putting him in his place."

A shy, modest smile just slightly curled the light haired one's lips as he gave one definitive nod of thanks.

He fell back onto his palms. "And it certainly clears up a few things that I was curious about."

"Like what?"

"How you can be so blunt, or even aggressive, with him. It's kind of out of character for you, and it's astounding that he accepts it."

"That's because it IS out of character for me." Ryou straightened a bit. "If we're ever going to heal the damage to our soul, we both need to inspire growth within one another. Deep down, I crave control and confidence, while he craves structure and security...so, we try to meet the other's needs."

"Is there something that the both of you want, together?"

"Yes. More than anything...we both want to be at peace."

There was a small cracking sensation in his chest, like his heart broke a little. "I can understand that..."

Pull yourself together, Jounouchi.

He cleared his throat. "Anyway, it seems as though what you're trying to say is that you each have what the other wants..." He averted his gaze as he rolled his thoughts around in his head. "Seems to me as though the only way to interrupt each of your old patterns of behavior is for each of you to become more like the other."

Blink, blink. "I'd never put the sentiment to words before, but...yes. That's precisely what it is." Ryou smiled at him. "What an astute observation, Jounouchi."

He sighed. "Why does everybody seem so stunned whenever I cough up something halfway coherent?" It was difficult to keep himself from grinning, but he was successful in doing so.

Covering his mouth, the light haired one burst into laughter. "That's not what I was stunned about!"

Finally, he gave into a grin. "Just...do me a favor."

Eyes sparkling, he maintained that amused, happy expression. "What is it?"

"I know you need to change and grow, but...if you can...save some of the original Ryou Bakura -- the one I've known for all of these years. I'd miss him if he were to ever disappear, completely."

Ryou's expression fell; his brows pushed together and raised, and his smile softened around the edges. "Jounouchi..."

A few strands of the hikari's hair blew over his face and, without even thinking, Jou brushed them back for him. Attempting to weave the strays into the rest, he brushed the unexpectedly soft locks on the side of Ryou's head a few times, immersing his fingers completely. Even though he had every intention to pull away, his hand seemed reluctant to escape the snowy forest of hair...especially upon seeing Ryou's closed eyes and flushed face.

He's unreasonably beautiful...

As if it were acting of its own accord, his hand pulled out of the hikari's hair, then slowly delved back in, but this time, his hand pushed against the scalp, cradling his head.

'...I actually had a bit of a crush on you.’

Quietly releasing a sigh, he dragged his fingers out of the hikari's hair. "You should put your hair back tonight."

Ryou's eyes fluttered open. "...O-oh..." He blinked a few times, looking as though he were recalibrating. "You think?"

He nodded. "The wind's probably going to pick up even more."

"Maybe I will, then." Ryou put on a polite smile.

"Speaking of which: It's finally gotten dark. We should go inside and start kicking asses into gear for the fire."

Giving him a bigger smile, the hikari nodded, then tucked some hair behind his ear. "And I need to begin my search for something to keep my hair at bay."

He hopped to his feet, then offered Ryou his hand. "Shall we?"

"Mm." He put his delicate, cold hand in his.