You are what you eat. Ryou's father had said that to him once a long time ago, when life was normal and he didn't know bad things existed in the world. His father had been simply chiding Ryou for eating too many cream puffs, and it had worked temporarily. Young Ryou, fearing that he'd literally turn into the soft creamy dessert, had put away his favorite snack for the rest of that day.
As Ryou sits here at the café table with Yugi and Marik, and they're all floundering to find a decent conversation topic, this memory pops into his head. He never gave up completely on his favorite sweets, and now he wonders if he's not just a soft cream puff himself. All fluff but no real substance. Years of living with an abusive voice in your head would make anyone soft, right? He'd lived with no control of his life for so long, he didn't know what to do now that he had it.
The three of them had already exhausted the Duel Monsters conversation topic, and quickly burned through asking Marik how he felt about being back in Japan. So now they were left with listening to Yugi ramble on about adjusting to college life because Yugi could never stand silence for very long. The atmosphere is somewhat tense because honestly if he thinks about it, they're not really anything close to being friends with Marik. At least they shouldn't be, considering his antagonistic past, even if Marik seems to be full of guilt and regrets about that now.
But Yugi's one defining trait is the ability to optimistically reach out to anyone, to see the good underneath and latch on to it. Maybe if Yugi talks long enough, this awkwardness between the three of them will go away.
But as soon as Ryou thinks that, Yugi notices the time and apologizes for having to rush home to help his grandfather. He promises to meet up with them more now that Marik is staying in Japan for a while, and then he is gone.
Ryou thinks about how a cream puff would probably melt under extreme heat and how Marik's piercing gaze directed towards him now feels like a burning spotlight. He is a stupid cream puff after all.
"Are you taking college classes too?" Marik asks, continuing the previous conversation topic. His gaze is calculating, like there's possibly a wrong answer to this question and he's waiting for Ryou to slip up and say it.
"I'm taking a few business classes at the local university," Ryou answers with a shrug. He doesn't explain that his focus of study was a half-hearted decision, just the first thing that came to mind when he signed up. College for him is mostly just a way to delay getting a full-time job.
"Cool" is Marik's only answer. He looks away and observes the other people in the café instead of talking to Ryou. Clearly, he's trying to think of something else to talk about or an excuse to leave too. It's almost comforting to know that Marik thinks this meeting is as strange for him as it is for Ryou. Almost all of their previous interactions had been between Marik and the Thief. And Ryou remembers very little of it.
But it's been months now, almost a year, since the Thief was banished for good. Ryou is tired of being soft. There are some days when he really wants to put his life back on track and move on from everything that happened in the past. Looking at Marik, he can feel a spark of that motivation again. A lot of time has passed since Battle City. Maybe Marik wants to leave that in the past too. Possibly.
"Hey Marik," Ryou begins quietly, but enough for the Egyptian to shift his focus back to him. "If you want to, I can show you around Domino City sometime. You probably know all the touristy places by now, but if you're staying a while..." He trails off, suddenly losing a bit of resolve in the wake of that intense gaze, but he's sure he's said enough for Marik to understand.
Marik's eyebrows rise up ever so slightly at the offer, but he looks as though he's seriously considering it. Perhaps more so than anyone else, Marik understands what it's like to have your whole world shaken up. Maybe that's the common ground they share.
"Sure," Marik nods. It's hard to read how he feels but the sentiment seems genuine.
They spend a few minutes hammering out the details of how to contact each other and when to meet up. It feels more like a business transaction than anything else, but Ryou didn't expect things to suddenly be less awkward now. But when they part ways outside the café afterwards, Ryou feels satisfied. Like he'd just consumed a whole box of cream puffs and the stomachache hasn't set in yet.
I'm sorry these ending words might be annoying to work with talisa_ahn