Yu-Gi-Oh!, How Can I Live

Title: How Can I Live [Ryou/Bakura]
Rating/Warnings: PG-13, because Ryou is fucked up like whoa.
AN: Written for the 2005 Sekrit Projekt, Track 19.
Summary:

I am your mirror image,
I’m all you left behind
You made me what I am,
Then who the hell am I?
–Ill Niño

Track 19: How Can I Live

The first time Ryou wakes up and finds himself staring at his own body from the outside, he’s pretty sure he’s dead since a lot of the late-night TV he watches talks about this sort of thing. But after a minute he realizes that when those people said they were looking down at their bodies, they never mentioned that their bodies were doing stuff without them.

Which is clearly what his body is doing. More specifically, it’s beating Moto Yugi unmercifully at Duel Monsters. Bakura doesn’t even know how to play Duel Monsters, although now that he thinks about it, he does.

It’s all very confusing, and Ryou decides closing his eyes and going back to sleep is the best plan. When he wakes back up, everything seems normal, he can wiggle all his fingers and toes, and if it’s midnight instead of morning, well, he hasn’t been sleeping well lately.

“You okay, Bakura-kun?” Yugi asks outside school the next morning. “You seemed a bit funny yesterday.”

Ryou blinks a bit, because he had been hoping that yesterday was a dream after all, and the look of unease that Jounouchi is giving him is proving that it wasn’t. The points of the Millennium Ring dig into his skin a little under his uniform.

“Sure,” he finally answers Yugi, and it sounds weak to him, but Yugi smiles and the Ring’s points relax. Suddenly, he notices Yugi’s necklace for the first time, which is ridiculous because it’s a huge gold pyramid. Why hasn’t he ever thought about it before? “Yugi, what is that?”

“This?” Yugi follows his gaze down to the inverted pyramid and closes his hand around it. “It’s my treasure. Are you sure you’re okay? You asked me that yesterday too.”

“That’s right, I remember now,” Ryou lies quickly, and Yugi’s other questions are thankfully cut off by the late bell.

Ryou puts the whole incident out of his mind and doesn’t think about it again until he wakes up one day and finds himself on an island with dozens of other Duelists.

******

When he sees the other Yugi standing on the board beside Yugi, Ryou is dizzy with the relief that he is not totally insane, or at least isn’t the only one. After the others are asleep, exhausted from their souls transferring back and forth to the Shadow Realm—and its even a relief to have Yugi give the place a name—he plucks at the grass he’s sitting on and asks Yugi all the questions he’s been bottling up inside for the last five years.

His hand keeps rising to press against the Millennium Ring, but it isn’t there. What he feels isn’t relief. Yugi doesn’t say anything, although he must notice, but his hands close protectively around the pyramid every time Ryou’s hand moves, and Ryou thinks that Yugi might understand.

“I thought I was crazy,” he murmurs for perhaps the dozenth time, and Yugi nods in understanding every single time. “But,” he says after he’s run out of other questions, “why is the other you good, and the other me is…”

“Well,” Yugi won’t meet his eyes and clutches the Pyramid tighter, “I don’t think he is, really. I used to black out a lot, and when I woke up, I’d be covered in blood sometimes…”

Ryou wants to cry with relief, because this had happened so many times he has taken to wearing all black so the stains don’t ruin all his clothes. He starts when Yugi hugs him, corporeal touch feeling prickly and intimate after the fingers that rifle through his brain with regularity.

“Who are they?” Yugi whispers, and Ryou shivers because he has no idea.

*******

It’s disturbingly, ridiculously good to meet Malik, because finally there’s somebody crazier than him. Ryou catches Yugi’s eyes across the room and Yugi nods, obviously feeling the same.

The relief dies a quick death when it turns out that Malik’s spirit is really just Malik after all. Yugi insists it isn’t the same—”I mean have you seen his back?” Yugi had shuddered—but Ryou isn’t convinced. In practice there’s nothing to be done, but Ryou still avoids mirrors for days on end, afraid that the person staring back won’t be him, or that it will be.

He’s lost track of how many days it’s been before the Spirit of the Ring wakes him up in the middle of the night by shaking his shirt roughly, sleep blurring the difference between Ryou’s bedroom and his soul room.

“What’s the matter with you?” the spirit hisses.

“Why do you care?” Ryou isn’t being flip so much as he is genuinely confused. He can’t see the other side of the room through the spirit’s head; soul room, then.

“I don’t care, it’s just pissing me the hell off!” The spirit punctuates the statement with another good shake.

“Why?” Ryou pushes himself up a little, voice rising. “Why did you push me out of Malik’s way? Why don’t you have a name? Why are you here?”

The spirit blinks, too stunned to hit Ryou for shouting at him, and Ryou can’t blame him because he’s probably just said more words in a row than they’ve exchanged since the Ring arrived.

“I mean,” Ryou’s voice is smaller, “are you me? Like Malik? Or…” He flounders for another explanation and comes up short, “…or what?”

“Why do you care?” the spirit asks, letting go of Ryou and rocking back on his heels.

“Am I crazy?” Ryou asks, looking up the thing crouched over him, wearing his face and thinking his thoughts.

“You’ve got two doors in your head and one leads to hell,” the spirit flicks Ryou between the eyes hard, “of course you’re crazy, but you were like that when I got you. You were a broken toy before I got here, host.” The spirit runs sharp fingers down Ryou’s cheekbone, and the caress makes Ryou much more nervous. “But useful.”

“Before you got here,” Ryou repeats, shoulders relaxing. “You aren’t me.”

“Of course I’m you.” The spirit backhands Ryou’s cheek casually with the hand he was just running over his face. “But I was somebody else before you and somebody else before that.” The spirit starts sliding forward, pushing Ryou back down flat until he is perched on Ryou’s chest, knees pinning him on either side. “And somebody else before that, back so far that if you think about it hard enough it really will break you.”

“Who were you before that?” Ryou furrows his brow and wonders why he’s never thought to ask before, “what was your name?”

“How the fuck should I know?” Bakura sinks fingernails into Ryou’s chest, leaning close enough that his breaths ruffle Ryou’s hair, and Ryou wonders why a five millennia old undead spirit needs to breathe anyway. “I’m Ryou Bakura now.”

He’s mixed up the first and last name, and for some reason this makes Ryou giggle. The spirit digs into Ryou’s chest a little deeper, but Ryou keeps on laughing. He is Bakura Ryou and the spirit is Ryou Bakura, and for some reason this makes him feel much better.

“Bakura,” he says out loud, and it fits perfectly for some reason, while Bakura is staring at him, flexing his fingers into Ryou’s skin with uncertainty.

*******

“Ryou!” Yugi calls the next morning, bouncing over across the schoolyard with some pocket electronic to show him. Jounouchi saunters up behind him, eyeing Ryou cautiously.

“Bakura-kun,” he offers, standing a bit behind Yugi as if he will be any protection.

“Yes,” Ryou says in relief, arms hugging his own waist. “Yes.”

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