Notes: It's amazing the random ideas you can get from browsing The World's 50 Worst Monster Movies Ever.
This is a semi-gift fic for ivory_illusions, since I technically finished writing this on her birthday.
And the quote at the beginning is from The White Road by Neil Gaiman.
In my dream (for do not forget, Mister Fox, that this was my dream.
You look so pale) the house fascinated me,
the kind of curiosity (you know this,
Mister Fox, I see it in your eyes) that kills cats.
Ryo often went to movies alone.
It wasn't like he had many people to ask. Yuugi was always busy with tournaments or helping his grandfather, and because of the spirits it wasn't like it was fun to have one-on-one time with him. Usually, they'd greet each other and then Ryo would somehow find himself back at home (or in the hospital) with another long blank spot in his memory.
Anzu worked, studied, and had ballet to occupy every second she wasn't sleeping. Ryo liked to tell himself that if he'd asked, she'd have come. He just didn't want to be a burden.
Honda might have gone, but he doubted it. Besides, the other boy was always watching him, an edge of suspicion in his eyes, one hand usually balled into a fist until he realized that Ryo saw it.
Jounouchi hated ghosts and zombies, and Ryo simply didn't enjoy any other type of movie. And all of his other friends were just acquaintances from school, all of them girls--nice girls, sure--who would make more out of it than he meant it to be, and then they'd be hurt when nothing came of it.
After a while, Ryo had stopped going through the list of possibilities, stopped making up excuses for why he couldn't ask, and no longer had to avoid the fact that it all boiled down to that heavy gold weight around his neck. He didn't mind being alone, anyway; he still told himself that.
He tried to go see new movies as they came out each week, but there'd been a rare dry spell for suspense flicks before Persistence came out. While he liked to go on opening night when the theater was bound to be packed, for that one, he'd been sick and unable to. The week after that, the reviews had poured in, and they weren't good: it was trite, just a gorey shockfest, full of tired material. So Ryo put it off another week, not sure he wanted to waste the money.
When he finally got around to it, it was only because his friends were all out training for the next tournament. Even the friends who never actually played the game.
He wasn't feeling lonely, he told himself. He was just bored.
If Persistence was as stupid as the critics claimed, it at least wouldn't make him think too much, and that would be nice. He ended up being one of three people in the theater, which was disappointing, but at least let him pick the best seat in the house.
He waited until the previews started to buy a snack, and when he came back, the Spirit was sitting in the seat next to where he'd left his coat. He'd only seen the thief twice before, but never in public, and he glanced at the girls on the top row to see if they saw it.
But, Ryo reasoned, who paid attention to people in a moviehouse? Just because they didn't react didn't mean they couldn't see him. It didn't mean he was crazy.
Bakura looked at him, and smirked. Ryo pretended he hadn't noticed (too late), and carefully took his seat again, sitting with as much space as possible between them. Not that it was noticeable.
The previews started, and Ryo tried to take note of which movies he'd want to see later, and forgot the titles by the time they were over. The previews ended. The lights went down.
The movie started with a scream, but he didn't jump; it was fake enough to make him smile. (He'd long since stopped wondering how he had become so familiar with real screams that anything less amused him.) Of course, the heroine was just waking up from a dream, and it was a dark and stormy night...and when she went to wash her face, she looked in the mirror and saw her face decaying. Of course she woke up again--for real this time, because the sun was out.
The movie was such a patchwork of clichéd tricks that Ryo started counting them off in his head, and forgot all about the spirit beside him.
Halfway through the movie, the actress (who was clad only in a white terrycloth robe and bloodstained slippers) was tiptoeing through an old hotel, searching for the man trying to kill her. As she walked through a dark room, she stumbled over something heavy: the body of her friend, and surely the sound was going to bring the killer running.
Ryo reached for some popcorn as blood splattered on a window. Bakura snickered, and Ryo jerked so badly that he tossed the bag in his hand. Behind him, the girls' startled yelps dissolved into shrieks of laughter, directed at him now.
"Why so nervous?" Bakura asked, his grin visible mostly because Ryo knew it was there.
Ryo just stared at him, hearing his pulse in his ears, feeling his mouth go dry. He glanced anxiously at the girls, then back, silently begging the spirit not to hurt them.
Bakura snickered and brushed popcorn off of Ryo's jeans. Conveniently the Spirit had chosen his lap, he noted, where the girls wouldn't notice popcorn magically floating off of him.
Convenient for other reasons, too.
"Don't," he whispered.
Bakura studied him for a long, silent moment (well, silent except for the panicked cries of the actress and Ryo's barely-controlled breathing). And then he brushed his thumb over Ryo's chin, down over his neck, and Ryo had to fight not to jerk away.
"Relax," Bakura replied, and seemed to turn his attention back to the film.
It was a stupid request, there was no way to relax after that, but Ryo tried. The film drifted by and all he noticed was the presence beside him. The last scene was jarringly bright compared to the rest of the film, deep blue sky and vivid green grass. And the actress--her throat slit--dressed in a bright white wedding dress, held up by a mannequin stand. The murderer kissed her lifeless cheek, and the credits rolled, an abrupt darkness that left Ryo blinded for a moment.
He felt something against his ear, almost intangible but undeniably real. The lips--no, it, whatever it was, he told himself, refusing to put an image to it--brushed over his neck, and then was gone. The girls stumbled down the stairs and out the exit. He stayed through the credits, until the lights went up, and then--slowly--he looked at the seat next to him.
The Spirit was gone. Somehow it frightened him more than finding him there in the first place.
He stayed there until the theater employees came in to clean, and then it was a long, quiet walk home.
Things went back to normal after that, except that he stopped going to movies. But who knew that besides him?
When he noticed the Spirit, it was only because he'd hear a stray sentence in the back of his mind, and only when he was around Yuugi. His friends smiled at him at school and he went home alone. Sometimes, he'd go make dinner and come back to find his books pushed off the sofa, as if they had been taking up too much space.
Once he woke up in the morning to find the Monster World dolls of his friends (which he had long ago taped up in a box and thought about burying) sitting on the coffee table, lined up like soldiers facing his bedroom. It took him all day to stop shaking.
The question, "why", burned in his mind until it was a mantra. But he never asked out loud.
Of course the Spirit knew what he wasn't asking; every thought Ryo had was open to him. But all he heard was a snicker, and at night as he was drifting off he would groggily note the feel of an arm draped over his hip, the weight of another person against his back. It didn't take long for him to stop trying to wriggle away. It didn't take much longer for him to stop feeling guilty over giving in, either.
When he came out one morning to find the newspaper open and laid out on the coffee table, he suspected he knew what it was open to and dreaded looking. Which friend, he wondered as he poured coffee. But he slapped the thought away and ate breakfast standing up in the kitchen.
How many obituaries...? But again, he pushed the fear away. He counted very carefully that day, and went home almost positive that everyone at school was alive.
Even so, he left the newspaper lying there, the only noticeable mess in his entire apartment, for two days before he gave in. He told himself, promised himself, that he wouldn't look at it, that he'd just wad it up and toss it in the recycle bin, or out the window, or somewhere he'd never have to actually see it. Ryo broke a lot of promises.
What he noticed first, as he walked towards it, treating it like a wounded animal, was that the Spirit had taken the time to circle things in red ink.
What he noticed next was how neatly the Spirit had arranged it, all the edges perfectly aligned, just waiting for him. At least the mess was tidy, he thought dully.
But what he noticed last--and what he should have noticed days ago--was that it wasn't the obituaries. It wasn't the editorials, it wasn't the foreign affairs.
There, circled in bright red ink, were the local showtimes.
The woman screamed, and the music blared. Behind him, a woman yelped and her boyfriend laughed.
Ryo watched, silent, still, relaxed.
Beside him, the Spirit smirked.