Playing Card Games Is Just Like Making Love
Summary: Marik is about to enter a new Duel Monsters tournament when Bakura comes back and changes everything.
Rating: K now, will go up to M
If he turned his head to the left, Marik would see the bright lights of Luxor in the distance. But as he slammed down the kickstand and removed his helmet, his attention went to the right.
The dig site of the Millennium Items.
Over the last few months, millions of Egyptian pounds had been poured into what looked like piles of rocks and sand. But he, as well as the team of museum officials running the project, knew that the site possessed something far more valuable than dirt. After the pharaoh had entered the afterlife, all seven pieces of gold had sunk into the sand, gleaming one last time before being sealed into the desert's depths.
And now, three years later, they were being dug up again so that they could be displayed at the museum. Marik could imagine their vision: the number of visitors they'd attract from around the world just to see the gold items inside the glass cases.
He neared the site, taking quiet footsteps in the shadows. It was hard to mask the sound of his sneakers as he walked across the sand, but he did his best. He knew that he wasn't supposed to be here. If the guard who was patrolling the dig site saw him, there would be questions. And then it would get back to everyone who was working at the site that he'd trespassed, and they would be suspicious of his motives.
Fortunately, he didn't think the guard would see him; it was dark, and he was close to the site now, standing behind a large rock to remain unseen.
He felt a sudden spark of irritation at the fact that he had sneak around like this. He didn't mean any harm by being here. He wasn't even sure exactly why he'd come, but he certainly didn't plan to cause trouble. He supposed he just wanted to see the place where Ishizu and the others were digging. He'd offered to help with the digging, but they'd declined his offer. Though they didn't come right out and say it to his face, it was obvious that they still didn't trust him. He knew that his sister loved him, but he often wondered if he had truly redeemed himself in her eyes. And with the others in his town, he didn't even have to wonder- he knew they still regarded him with suspicion. They didn't think he was a trustworthy person and they didn't accept him as one of them.
And really, it wasn't fair.
At that moment, the anger he'd been holding back for so long threatened to boil over. He'd been telling himself that the way they felt about him was understandable; that it took time to earn back trust and respect. But it was starting to seem like they would never trust him; they would never respect him. They would never accept him as a good person and treat him as an equal, no matter what he did. He'd spent the last three years of his life trying to be good, trying to do right, trying to help out, and it still wasn't enough. He'd been feeling more and more resentful lately. He'd tried to force himself to deny those feelings, to rationalize the behavior of his community towards him, but he didn't know how much longer he could do that.
Three years ago, Marik had shown the pharaoh the markings on his back and given him the two Millennium Items he'd held. Then he'd gone back to Egypt to finish his duty to his family. And once the world was no longer in peril, once his duty to his clan was done, he'd tried to better himself so that he could fit in as a normal member of society. He'd gotten a job, and now he was supporting himself, making an honest living, paying his bills like everyone else. He'd also been going to school, trying to get the education that he'd missed out on in his younger years. It was slow going- he didn't have much time for classes because his job at the museum kept him quite busy- but still he persisted.
He worked at same museum where Ishizu worked. Ishizu held a good job with lots of prestige attached to it- not to mention money. Of course, it wasn't the same for Marik. He worked a lowly position and was paid little. But he was a responsible worker; he always showed up on time and did a good job. Just like he was being responsible and doing the right thing in every other area of his life.
And none of it mattered. No matter what he did, no matter how much he tried to be helpful and do good, it wasn't enough. The reason he'd volunteered to work on the dig was because he'd just wanted to help out, to do something good for the community. And of course, he'd been denied even that.
And even now, he still wanted to impress them and redeem himself. He wasn't sure how to go about doing that, but he had an idea. He'd seen postings of an upcoming Duel Monsters tournament in the city of Luxor. It was a stretch, but if he could win that tournament, maybe he'd win some respect, too. People who won Duel Monsters tournaments were always regarded with respect, even awe. Win enough tournaments, and you could become famous. Maybe then the people at the museum, and the people in his city, would stop shunning him.
And they did shun him. Despite his best efforts, he was still treated as an outsider. Hell, never mind respect- he didn't even have any friends. He'd been back for three years, and his entire "social life" still consisted of his brother and his sister. The last time he'd had a friend- in fact, the only time he'd everhad a friend- was the last time he'd been entered into a Duel Monsters tournament, back in Battle City.
Of course, this tournament would be different. There would be no dark games; no danger of anyone getting killed. Just a regular card tournament with a big cash prize for the winner. So really, it should be much easier than the Battle City tournament where things had gone so wrong for himself and his former friend and partner in crime.
His train of thought was suddenly cut off as he felt an inexplicable but strong urge to move closer to the dig site. He didn't want to go down there; the last thing he needed was to get himself in trouble. But the pull he felt wouldn't be denied. He didn't even feel like he was in complete control of his actions as he slipped out from behind the rock and began to move closer.
He stopped himself before he could go too far, getting an idea. He spotted the guard a ways off and, while still remaining hidden, he scooped up a rock from the ground and threw it as hard as he could to the right of the dig site.
In the silence of the night, the sound of the rock hitting the ground might as well have been an exploding grenade. The guard's head snapped up instantaneously, and as he stood slowly and walked in the direction of the noise, Marik's lips curved into a smile. He slipped forward through the shadows, slinking by the mounds of dirt.
Though the diggers had been working here for months, they'd had very little progress. Not a single Millennium Item had been discovered yet, though there were dozens of holes throughout the site to prove their efforts. They knew the Items had sunk in this general area of the Valley of the Kings, but the entire chamber had collapsed after Yugi's ceremonial duel, so no one knew exactly where they had been sealed.
The tug Marik felt grew stronger and more insistent. He strode carefully around the excavation site, nearing one of the holes. His motions were still completely on auto-pilot, as if he were in a dream. He should have been worried that something was controlling him so powerfully, but he allowed the guidance to move him forward fluidly and quickly.
He carefully dropped into one of holes, which was roughly half of his height, all the while hoping the guard was still occupied at the other side of the site. Marik glanced at one of the side walls. And then, without any self-restraint or speculation that what he was doing was crazy, he started digging.
The dirt was loose and dry between his fingers. The wind picked up, rushing through the silent desert. He dug slowly and carefully to minimize the noise he was making. He felt exhilarated, somehow. The pull still guided him, and he dug as if he knew exactly where to look.
Suddenly, Marik touched something smooth and sharp. His breath stilled as he ran his fingers over the object. He followed the shape of it and as the realization dawned on him, the hair on the back of his neck raised.
He pulled the Millennium Ring out of the wall.
He stared at it for a whole minute, holding it tensely in his two hands, trying to decide if he was dreaming or not. Was this a trick? The diggers had been here for months and yet it had taken Marik only a short while to find the Ring. He traced the curve of the gold, shivering. What sort of power had drawn him here?
But he couldn't waste time wondering. If the guard discovered him now, there really would be questions. And he was definitely not ready to explain the strange tug he'd felt leading him to this particular spot.
He climbed out of the hole quickly, keeping an eye out for the guard. Marik strode in the opposite direction that he'd come in to ensure that he and the guard didn't cross paths, and stepped out of the excavation site. A little ways off, he found his parked motorcycle and started the engine.
Marik was suddenly reminded all too strongly of its owner again. The only person he'd ever considered a friend, aside from his siblings. It felt strange to own something that defined him. It felt even stranger to separate the two. Bakura and the Ring. The Ring and Bakura. Even three years later, that name was still painfully familiar on Marik's tongue.
He slipped the Ring over his head, sliding it under his shirt. The cold spokes lay against his bare chest, feeling frigidly intimate on his skin. The tug he'd felt earlier was still pressing on him and, realizing that he was still in the vicinity of the excavation site, Marik kicked up the kickstand and rode off.
His home was nothing special.
It was a one-bedroom apartment he rented with the little money he scraped together every month. The walls were peeling or faded in some places and the gas stove was awfully temperamental. His rugs were well-treaded and mismatched and his neighbors were very noisy. The only thing he couldn't grumble about was the quick walk to the market.
Still, he couldn't complain. Compared to where he'd grown up, this arrangement was heavenly.
Marik threw the motorcycle keys on the kitchen table and opened the little fridge. He had half a mind to just jump into bed because he was bone-weary from the day's work, but his grumbling stomach disagreed on that note.
As he poured himself a glass of water, he suddenly felt the Ring's spokes on his lower chest, gently clinking. He pulled the Ring out from under his shirt, finally taking a look at it under the bright fluorescent lights.
It was still smudged with dirt, but shining nonetheless. Marik felt the Ring's sheer power in his fingertips, resonating throughout his entire body. It was the same force he'd encountered the first time he'd met its owner. Powerful, cold, and riveting. Marik recalled all the times he'd felt breathless with the knowledge that he'd found his equal.
Suddenly, he felt something odd. Almost like a nudge in his head, or a jab in the very fabric of his mind. Marik's grasp on the Ring tightened. Strange...it felt a lot like...
And then Marik's eyes widened. In his shock, he dropped the Ring to the floor. It clattered against the tile, shattering the silence of the apartment and the stillness that came with three years of missing that voice.
And the words that reverberated in his mind:
"It's been a while, hasn't it, Marik?"