Twigs snapped under their crashing footfalls, ragged breath piercing the serenity of the forest. Marik collapsed, clinging to a thin tree trunk. “That was,” he panted. “The stupidest stunt…the fuck were you thinking?”
“Oy,” Bakura hissed, skidding to a halt on the damp leaves. “What else were we going to eat?!”
“How were they not going to notice?!”
“Well if you had been distracting them like you were supposed to!”
Marik’s eyes narrowed. “That is not the point here. They’re going to be looking for us now, Bakura. Where will we get our food then?”
“I don’t know how you’ll be getting it,” Bakura sniffed, unwrapping the loaf of bread. “But I’m going to be getting it however I can. If that’s above you, your highness, then you don’t have to eat what I steal. Starve, for all I care.”
Marik’s eyes flashed, his knife flicking out and easily slicing through the crust. His fingers curled around Bakura’s mud-splashed shirt, pulling him to his face. “Fuck. You.” he hissed, glaring him down. “We won’t be stealing all of our food. I’m not a thief—”
Bakura let out a barking laugh. “Since when?! Since you turned all goody-goody like your precious sister wanted? Like the Pharaoh wante—”
Marik snarled, throwing him to the ground. “And for that,” he said coldly, “You’ll be sleeping alone tonight. Without the blankets.” He flicked the thick slice of bread into his hand, swinging his bag up onto his shoulder. “And you can freeze…for all I care.”
He stormed away, winding between the trees until he could barely see Bakura’s hair through the foliage.
Night fell. Marik stared out at the dying embers of Bakura’s tiny campfire, brooding. All he could hear was his his sister’s voice echoing through his head, scolding him. It had practically been the first thing she said to him when he had first returned home. “Welcome home brother, have you been, So glad you made the right choice.”
“Well now that you’re home, we can finally be a normal family, what we’ve always wanted Marik. If you want, I know a few departments at the museum that have positions open if you want a job.”
The smile on her face had said it all, the barest hint of nervousness in the corners of her eyes. You’ve changed, haven’t you? Please tell me you’ve changed…
She had never said it out loud, but that look was always there. That prayer that he’d never go back to ‘his ways’ from the time after the tomb, the time of the Ghouls and the rod, and stealing the Egyptian god cards. Stealing rare cards from other duelists, stealing his follower’s free will, his own brother’s free will…
It was as if she knew. As if she could see behind the facade of regret Marik had put up at the end of Battle City, that those absent months afterward hadn’t all been spent in penitence for his sins…but perhaps creating more. When Bakura showed up, it could only have confirmed those suspicions. He had been so careful not to mention him before then.
I thought I could do it, Marik growled inwardly. I told myself I could. I got a job like she wanted, I went to every museum banquet and smiled at every one of her coworkers she tried to push at me. And none of it worked. Why?”
Bakura? He could easily blame Bakura for all of this. If he hadn’t lived with Bakura after Battle City, the repent could have become real. Even if he had, but Bakura hadn’t returned from the shadow game, perhaps it wouldn’t have taken too long to delude himself that this was his life now, that he could have done it. That his smiles could have been genuine, and he could have drowned out the monotony of work and parties with thoughts of…of…
What could that future have held? Nights of sitting in front of a TV, bored out of his fucking mind? Lying in bed, torturing himself with memories of what he had been and could have been, with memories of Bakura, because those were a little better than the nightmares? Replaying their fight over and over again and unable to get the what ifs out of his head, like what would have happened if he had gotten to him in time, seeing Bakura disappear into the depths of the chamber again, and again, and again…
Rage leapt through his chest, a sickening hatred burning in his throat. He grabbed his knife and swung, driving it into a tree trunk with a grunt of frustration. Frustration because he knew, he had always known. He couldn’t have lived that life. Even without Bakura, he would have ended up leaving, or at least slipping back into stealing somehow. It would have been that or dying of boredom. Getting a job, going to work day after day, flirting with women who could never ever have matched the connection he’d had with Bakura, going home to bemoan how far he’d fallen? How could anyone consider that living?!
Today, he’d woken up in a new town than the day before. He and Bakura had fucked until the sheets were torn and stained beyond repair. They’d stolen their only meal of the day, and had to run from the police into the woods. His heart pounding, sweat pouring down his face, stomach swooping as he glanced at Bakura and found the exact same smile on his face as on his own. More alive than he had felt over the two years he’d lived with his siblings. And that joy, that adrenaline, wasn’t that the reason he’d left in the first place, at least part of it? It had outweighed the guilt of leaving his siblings behind. After all, wouldn’t it be better this way? They knew now, they had to know that he couldn’t have kept it up, couldn’t have lived their life. It was better than what could have happened, the number of things he could have turned to…most of which ending up disgracing the family name even more, and the police bringing him home in a body bag. This way they wouldn’t have to know. The rumors would fly for a bit, but all they’d say was that he was off studying somewhere. Odion would come up with some cover story, he always had, and Ishizu would agree that was better than the truth. No more worrying about the Egyptian police showing up at their door. No one to know. Even they’d be spared the details, and only he and Bakura would have to know. And Bakura had no right to judge, as his siblings did and had.
Marik sighed, yanking the knife out of the tree and gathering up his blanket around his shoulders. He crept silently over towards the campsite, his eyes narrowed on the slight glimpse of Bakura’s hair. Curled up too close to the fire, Bakura shivered, his brows furrowed painfully. He twitched, eyes swiveling under his lids, gripped in the thrall of a nightmare. Marik stood over him for a few minutes, watching him expressionlessly. Bakura’s could get as bad as his, countless nights of both of them waking in cold sweats, screaming or swearing the pain away. It was always worse to wake up from them alone.
He sat down slowly, laying a light hand on Bakura’s shoulder, rubbing it gently with his thumb. He rolled him away from the fire, throwing the blanket around them both as he lay down beside him. Bakura’s face relaxed slightly as Marik settled down beside him, closing his eyes. Red-black eyes flicked open for a moment, a smirk slithering across his face as he pulled closer, his forehead just touching Marik’s as he drifted back to sleep once more.