Ryou is the type who's always cold in the mornings. Even with his thick Totoro sleeper suit and large fluffy Ravenclaw blanket with the fleece innards wrapped around him. But today his morning wake up is particularly chilly. He rolls over, expecting to snuggle into his favourite hot water bottle. Alas, he's met with an empty bed and a large cold spot. No wonder he's been able to starfish, since his hot water bottle... er, I mean boyfriend, usually hogs the bed. Slipping his feet into fluffy puppy slippers and wrapping the blanket around his shoulders like a cape, he pads down the carpeted stairs to the sitting room where his boyfriend, Bakura Sennen, sits on the couch juggling his video game controller and a bowl of cereal.
"Hurry up and attack the right tower, the thing's completely exposed you useless fuck!" Bakura urgently screams down his headset. The music is blaring from the game and a loud voice yells from the other end of Bakura's headphones.
"Bitch we'd have won already if you didn't keep dying," Atem shouts down the line, apparently in a perilous position.
"I have more kills than you and you're using an OP God!"
"You also have 4x as many deaths,"
"Well it isn't my fault they fucked over Loki!" Bakura huffs, glancing over at Ryou. Ryou gingerly sits beside him, watching him play with barely a sense of comprehending - he doesn't really play video games and this one has so many colours and distractions all over the screen it's hard to keep track. He likes to watch Bakura play though. He enjoys video games passively, which is also why he binge-watches JonTron. "I can't do anything with this 5-seconds Invisible bullshit,"
"Then stop playing Loki?" Another voice from down the line, Ryou's best friend Yugi. He can tell by the fluctuating pitch and voice cracks that always happen when it's exasperated, It's kind of cute, even if Yugi hates it. "You kick more ass as Hades anyway,"
"Loki is more fun though,"
Ryou, not really invested in this, goes into the kitchen and makes himself a bowl of cereal - but alas, when he picks the milk from the fridge, it's empty. Honestly one of the most heinous crimes the thief has ever committed. Ryou uses his yoghurt as revenge and walks back through, where the game is now over and Bakura is lying on the couch having a silent tantrum over their defeat. "Is that my fucking yoghurt??" He asks and sits up, wrapping an arm around Ryou and begrudgingly tugging him close.
"Hmm maybe," Ryou smiles a little, handing Bakura the spoon to pick at his cereal as well. He considers mentioning the milk thing, but doesn't wanna ruin this grumpy moment. Bakura tenderly pets his hair, which smells like coconuts from the shampoo.
"Oh, they finally confirmed the Pride venue after last year's shit-show with overbooking," Bakura explains. "It's at the concert hall in Queensbury, I got us Priority tickets," he feels Ryou visibly tense under his arm, snapping his mouth shut and almost shrinking into his blanket like a frightened baby turtle.
Bakura smiles, he's damn adorable. "Hey, it's alright," he assures. "I know it's your first time, but we'll be going in a group with people we both know. There's nothing to worry about, we'll be meeting Yugi and everyone at the University bar beforehand anyway," He reassures. Yugi is way better at this than he is, Bakura makes a mental note to text Yugi beforehand and have him help Ryou properly.
"I know, I know," Ryou purses his lips, still nervous. Bakura's heart id in the right place but we=ith last year's horrific disorganised planning and the hostile environment the news portrays, he can't help worry. But Bakura is right and there's no sense making things more difficult than they already are. This yoghurt has a bitter aftertaste.
The night before pride, Ryou is hiding out in the bathroom. He sobs violently down the phone to Yugi, feeling his nerves build up into a tightness around his chest. None of this is Bakura's fault but he's been so excited about pride that Ryou can't bare to put a damper on the event by talking to him about this. Bakura is currently doing his makeup in the sitting room mirror downstairs, having already decided he isn't sleeping tonight, and getting his pre-pride-drunkness on. He just thinks Ryou's in the shower, as the hot water crashes against the ceramic bathtub drowning out his anxious stutters between heavy breaths of trepidation.
"I-I'm just so afraid... this is so new for me, I-" he chokes on a sob. "I want to be excited for Bakura but I just can't be! Does that make me horrible?!" that isn't the only thing making Ryou feel guilty, especially considering who he's on the phone to. Yugi has always loved pride but as this is the first year he's been on T, it's also the first time he's attending pride as an actual celebration. He feels like a terrible boyfriend and a terrible friend too. He's putting this entire burden on Yugi and ruining his excitement...
"Listen, Ryou. Bakura will understand if you can't do this, He knows about you anxiety and... ugh, what?!" Yugi's uncertain assurances get cut off by his ornery boyfriend. Yami tries to pry the phone from his ear and tug his arm towards the bed.
"I just wanna get close Yugiiii! C'meeeeere,"
"Yami, I'm on the damn phone!" Yugi whines. "It's serious!"
"Noooooooo!" Ryou can practically hear Yami's pout. "I miss your snuggles already! Give me your super special awesome cuddles Yugi!"
"I'll give you a foot massage..." Yugi pinches the bridge of his nose, sighing loudly down the phone. "He's too hyper to sleep. I need to go quench his torrential energy. You know how he is before an event like this," he chuckles, like this totally fits the tone of the conversation.
"It's okay," Ryou agrees, even though it totally isn't okay. He just feels numb to this entire thing now, like the only one out of everyone who's making it a problem.
"He isn't gonna leave me alone. I have to go," Yugi says, voice going serious again. "We'll all be there to support you tomorrow. I can promise you that much. Bye, Ryou,"
"Bye," the dial tone feels entirely appropriate for this situation, a ululating reminder of how alone he is in all this, in these feelings. Damn, why does he have to be like this? All he does in inconvenience everyone no matter how much they say otherwise. His entire life nobody wanted to be around him and now what, they're doing it for pity? He wouldn't even know half these assholes if it wasn't for Bakura and Yugi. They're their friends, not his. Their presence at pride doesn't mean shit to his anxiety.
The day of pride finally arrives, and Ryou wakes to blaring pop music from the radio downstairs. Energised and fun, it ain't putting him in the spirit of things, although he can feel his body reacting in a pleasant way. Additionally, a rapping on the door contributes to the irritating pain pulsing around his temples. Great, he wakes up with a headache, likely dehydrated because of all the crying. "Bakura...!" he calls, almost weeping at the end this is such a painful situation. He hears Bakura walk into the little alcove hallway and answer the door.
"Well if it isn't my partner in crime - dragging his ball and chain with him too!" Bakura announces happily.
"Shut it you," Atem scowls, that determined face of his still intimidating as Hell. Bakura knows that face and one look from Akefia confirms it - Atem hasn't had his morning coffee yet and the damn addict is having withdrawals. "Remind me why we had to come here, to this degenerate's apartment?" it's a house, Ryou frowns. He doesn't like how Atem insults his boyfriend, them and their entire lifestyle. He barely thinks Bakura is passable as a human never mind as Akefia's oldest and best friend, considering him a 'bad influence' on his boyfriend. Whatever the opposite of 'disaster bi' is, that's Atem.
He grabs his blanket and goes downstairs again, ready to defend Bakura if anything gets out of hand, as it has before. And to act as a buffer between them. since once Atem notices Ryou, his face softens a little. He once called Ryou 'a dove who's reputation is murdered by crows' whatever the fuck cryptic shit that means. He smiles as a welcoming host, resting his shoulder on the landing beam, blinking to let his eyes adjust to the sunlight. There's a window real close, the door window and the big one from the connected sitting room contributing to how fucking blinding this area is.
"Cause Bakura is the only pro SFX artist I know who agreed to do our makeup on the cheap," Akefia grins, sauntering into the living room and sitting in Bakura's gaming chair by the desk below the large, wide mirror mounted on the wall. Bakura's makeup stuff is scattered all over the dresser, having built up stains from spilled eyeshadow and foundation. Bakura's makeup consists of classily but thickly applied black liquid liner around his eyes and like the goth he is, crimson lipstick with black liner. If his eyes were any colour other than black it might've been unsettling. Additionally, he wears smokey purple-darl blue eyeshadow that he also curls in a spiral on his cheek. Bakura likes spirals.
Atem scoffs, leaning on the railing and smirking lazily at Ryou. "I do feel sorry for you, at least my boyfriend has a real job,"
Ryou scowls deeply, he's heard this before and not just from Yami. He wonders why they always say Bakura, a successful SFX artist with a mortgage doesn't have a real job, but when it comes to Ryou's online T-shirt printing business, people call him an entrepreneur. Bakura is wearing one of the shirts Ryou designed now actually, a blue one with white loveheart and spirals trailing diagonally down his torso. It's meant to symbolise 'love is love' or whatever Bakura said it means to him. Bakura makes more money from his SFX than Ryou dos. If Ryou was a more confident person, he might've posed this hypocrisy to Atem. But he isn't, and he keeps quiet.
"So what're we doing today?" Bakura asks Akefia, wiping down his skin with a cleaning wipe.
"Cover up the scar for one," Akefia quirks a grin. He's bouncing in his seat, just as hyped about pride as Bakura is. "I want the pan flag covering my entire cheek, can you do it like a fading effect, kinda like the first coating of painting a wall?"
"Say no more - I know exactly what you mean," Bakura begins mixing red and white liquid latex for the pink colour.
"With little pastel blue stars running through the pink - oh and white lipgloss... thanks, you're a darling!" He squeals. Atem rolls his eyes, getting more irritated by the second from his coffee withdrawals.
"We'll be heading to the cafe once I'm done here, love! I promise!" Akefia calls back happily, causing Atem to stop scowling so much, instead crossing his arms over his chest to express his mild distaste.
"Fucking pride, I don't even want to go. I'm being dragged by this asshole," Atem mumbles to Ryou, half-assedly gesturing to Akefia. Well, at least one other person doesn't wanna be there either, Ryou thinks to himself.
They leave the house, taking the quieter train into an offshoot area of the city. Atem and Akefia talk politics along the way, them being more alike than anyone would suspect. "How's the status of Pride month in Egypt?" Atem asks, sounding concerned. Akefia happens to be an International Political Analyst and although it isn't really his domain, he likes to keep up with Egypt and its political climate just because it's his home country. He has a keen eye for problem solving and political development but is usually ignored by diplomats, either for his strange appearance or the fact he's pansexual. It pisses Atem off to no end, but Akefia has learned to expect it.
"A couple of arrests so far - unfortunately," Akefia sighs. He doesn't want to talk about this, not on pride day. Atem always takes things to this despairing place. "Protesters. They everything right too, peaceful and shit, even gave the 3-Days notice. Totally complied with the law, but that stupid mortality law trumped all the rest," he sighs through gritted teeth, feeling pretty frustrated he's in this position of power, yet can't do anything about it except 'advise', and his advice is put through the shredder upon printing.
This talk is making Ryou nervous somehow, even if it isn't directly related to them. He wonders what issues they'll face today, at pride. His leg bounces, arms shaking involuntarily. Bakura squeezes his hand gently. "Are you okay?" He asks, Ryou swallows his discomfort and nods. Bakura tried to help by getting priority tickets so they could streamline through the crow, and by getting the off-peak train. He really cares so much, Ryou has to pretend this is okay. Yeah, he can do that.
The cafe is quaint and family-run, small rainbow flags hug from strings by the large window. Atem gets his quadruple-espresso fix, Akefia gets sweet lemon iced tea. "You eat too much sugar," Atem grumbles.
"You drink enough coffee to comatose a giraffe," Akefia snorts in his pint-sized pitcher of pure granulated goodness. "And at least I didn't get banned from using the coffee machine at work for skyrocketing the electricity bill,"
"That coffee machine was unsustainable for regular use!"
"Yeah well," Akefia looks away, innocently. "At least I don't get IDd for films rated 12,"
"It was one time!" Atem cries to the Heavens.
Bakura and Ryou split a large scone, loading it with butter and clotted cream and two kinds of jam, strawberry and blackberry. "It's rainbow themed!" Ryou explains with a smile, actually beginning to enjoy himself in this small group, in this calm place that's always pleasant to sit in. Bakura shrugs, it's as close as they can get to rainbow. Yellow butter, white cream, red strawberries and violet blackberries. Yeah it's a rainbow but it's in the wrong order.
The bell above the door jingles and in walks the rest of their friends, who convened to show up as a group apparently. Yami and Yugi are dressed as expected, Yami flashy and coated in leather bondage gear. On his wrist is the 'BDSM Pride' bracelet. Ryou fucking hates that, so does Bakura. It makes a mockery of pride and stereotypes gay people by reducing them to purely sexual niches. That's his opinion anyway. Yūgi wears a loose black button-down and rainbow tie tied loosely. Ryou grins, proud of his aesthetic. "Hey Yugi!" He jumps down from his seat to hug squeeze him into a hug.
"Ryou, you're crushing me!"
"Mm don't care, you're warm and comfy and I'm freezing,"
The come everyone's favourite mismatched couple. Seriously, nobody has a clue how they make it work in their open relationship but they must because they're married. Kisara is pan, which is fine, but she's also a total slut (as described by Akefia, a former total slut) while her husband Seto Kaiba is a biromantic asexual. Kisara greets everyone with wide hugs and kisses, Kaiba moodily stands against the doorway, glowering down at the peasants below him. So they don't just look like a random straight couple, Kiara has a jacket on with the pan colours and Kaiba's ordinary business suit has been subbed for extra skinny purple jeans, black boots, a black turtleneck and a whitish-grey trench coat. The ace colours. "Hmph, just sure you all know, I'm going out of my way to not be seen with you dorks in public," Seto scoffs, earning a light ouch from Kisara.
"Be nice," she whispers, her angelic nature causing her to add a "Pretty please? For me?" Which he just ignores.
"Aw don't worry Kisara, you can ditch that loser for me," Mai hangs her larger body over Kisara's petite shoulders.
"Stop molesting Kisara!" Yami calls, which Ryou snickers at.
"I don't wanna be an 8th wheel!" Mai whines. "You're all in couples and I'm single!"
Ryou laughs, feeling Bakura hold him close proudly. He really does like these guys, wishing they could just stay here all day, eating and drinking and talking like this. But alas, it's time to venture forth on the perilous journey to pride. Might as well be Mordor, he thinks.
On the way, the street begins to narrow and get more crowded with patrons of pride. A small stall sells flags. People are dressed colourfully and chatter fills the atmosphere. Ryou sticks close to Bakura, feeling apprehensive but still safe and protected as he is wrapped in long pale arms. Yami starts to sneer at passers-by.
"The fuck's your deal?" Akefia asks.
"I hate drag queens," he gestures to a group of tall men in thick golden makeup and flashy, sparkly dresses. "They're a mockery of the trans community. Yugi agrees.
"They make trans women seem like men in dresses," he clarifies. Atem nods in appreciation and so does Bakura.
"Uh, guys," Akefia laughs to himself. "I wear makeup, and dresses. What's the damn difference?" He gestures down at his dark blue mini skirt and black tights.
"You crossdress love, that's different," Atem shakes his head. "That's just wearing clothes. You don't do drag,"
"Define drag," Akefia challenges and Atem shuts up. "Mai, care to weigh in?"
She frowns, her confidence suddenly drained. She stares like a deer in headlights between her friends. "Uh, I don't know. It's a sensitive issue..." she mumbles quietly. Nobody but Ryou seems to notice he discomfort. He escapes Bakura's hold and boldly hangs back, feeling a bit more confident to move around in the crowd by himself. Plus, Mai's even taller and stronger than Bakura I'd anything goes down.
"Um, are you alright Mai?" He asks, frowning in concern. She smiles down at him sadly.
"Hey, don't worry about me sweetheart," she gives him a thumbs up and a wink that he can't tell if are superficial. "I'm okay. I don't know what I expected really, well so far I haven't been attacked yet," Mai is very early in her transition, less than a year and not on oestrogen yet.
"You're... looking kinda down. And you've lost a lotta weight. Are you okay?" Ryou frowns.
"Yeah... I mean I'm proud. And the smaller I am, the prouder I become. I need to pass somehow right?"
"Mai..." Ryou starts to choke again, trying to contain his tears. He had no idea that- fuck. This isn't the time or place for this, not that he knows what the time or place would be. "We really need to talk about this but please, for today, promise me you'll be healthy. Okay?"
"I promise Ryou," she smiles at him again, smaller this time. "And are you okay? I know this isn't your scene,"
"I'm fine," is his immediate response. She has her own shit to deal with, she doesn't need his too.
"Ryou," she quirks an eyebrow, warning him not to lie.
"Fine... it's loud and I'm not used to this kind of crowd. I like it all I really do... it's just not me," he tries to explain and fails. Mai just laughs.
"Ryou, Pride is about truth,"
"Isn't it about pride?"
"No. Uh... yeah," she scoffs. "Yeah, but it's also about awareness and getting the right information out to people. Pride isn't some homogenous hive mind like you think. It's your first time right? You don't know if it's your thing or not. You just know the makeup and parades and flags aren't your thing. We'll find you your thing - there's something for everyone here!" she pats him on the back, making him jerk forward a little.
Mai might not have perceives what the problem was but she's right about something, Ryou hasn't given this a proper chance. He's seen what Pride is on the surface and not let himself experience the truth. He sighs, disappointed with himself for being small-minded, and jogs to catch up with the others.
The main event is taking part in a large, open park similar to a music festival, not that Ryou's ever been to one. He thought he'd be able to compare this to a convention but he can't, the open loud environment totally different than what he's used to. Bakura buys a flag on the way in, draping it around his own shoulders the way Ryou wears his blankets in the morning. "Okay everyone!" Akefia grins, placing his hands on his hips. "What's the itinerary?"
"I need another coffee," Atem says immediately, lingering by the Cadbury's booth and staring lustfully at a hot-chocolate coffee. They stamp a rainbow on it for free if you have a flag with you.
"I feel like dancing," Yami decides, which Bakura seconds. "Yeah. Ryou, can you come to the concert with me?"
"Um.." Ryou begins, but catches Mai's encouraging gaze. "Okay," he slips his hand into Bakura's. The group walks at a slower pace than the music would encourage towards it, enjoying the adjacent lake, spotting rowing boats and kayakers who they smile and wave to. Bakura picks up a beer along the way, getting one for Ryou too and Yugi. Akefia gets a margarita and Atem doesn't drink - a religious thing, settling for his rainbow-stamped coffee. "Yugi, what do you do here when you don't want t.. party, I guess? Like is there a quiet thing?" he asks as they walk down alongside the floats.
"Hm, not in the main park," he admits, uncertainly, eyes scanning like he'll find something to the contrary. "But wait, they actually have a Quiet Time tent!"
"A Quiet Time tent?" Ryou asks. Kaiba overhears.
"Yeah, it's for LGBT - er, I prefer GRSM - people with autism or sensory issues or whatever to go if they're in sensory overload. I actually own it, it can be pretty depressing, but it's out of the way and a calm atmosphere if the party itself gets too much for you,"
Ryou keeps it in mind for later. For now, they reach the big stage, some of the first few dozen to find a spot and sit on the grass, close to the stage itself. Currently there's a kind of upbeat rock band playing, the drummer is hot. The volume is low enough they can still have a conversation, and Akefia downs a Dragonsoop. When he gets drunk he tends to ramble, and he's currently going off on Yugi about how much of Akefi'a big dick energy is actually deserved, apparently not much.
"Oh by God they have crowd surfers!" Yami nods up, where a particularly flashy Angel Gay-briel is rding the wave of the crowd.
"Yeah let's go!" He grins. "Ryou, are you coming?"
"Uh, no," he frowned. "I'm sorry - I could video you though,"
Bakura hesitates, leaning in closer to Ryou, resting his chin on his shoulder. "Are you okay? We don't have to sit here if you don't want to - I don't mind and if the others do, fuck 'em,"
Ryou smiles a little. "I'm sure. I'm not having a hard time and I want you to enjoy himself. Besides, I'm gonna bet Yugi a fiver the crowd can keep you up loner than Yami,"
"Go for a tenner - trust me,"
"Oh, are you that confident?"
"Come oooon Bakura," Yami's already standing.
"Alright, alright," he drains his beer, scrambles to his feet and jogs after Yami to the stage, where the song is picking up. Ryou and Yugi make their bet and nod their heads to the beat, video cameras at the ready.
The crowd falters when Bakura jumps into them but he easily stays afloat until the edge, where the last person lets him down. Yami almost makes it too, but the last group gives way and he's dropping into the congealing group.
"Hah! Pay up, loser," Ryou grins, feeling the hype build up inside himself too,. It took a while, but finally he's enjoying himself. Yugi rolls his eyes and reluctantly parts with his tenner. "Don't pout, I'll get you a Rainboba tea later on, okay!" he says to cheer Yugi up.
They spend an hour there, having fun. They sing along to the songs, sometimes poorly, and get absolutely hammered in this giant piss-up of overly floaty, happy drunkards singing along and dancing really awkwardly. But soon the crowd swells, becoming more generic, the music changing to an upbeat crappy pop, finally beginning the muzak section of pride. It hurts Ryou's ears, the pitch just doesn't agree with his sensitivities. The time to leave is finally decided when someone starts a silly-string fight and ends up soaking them in the stuff by accident, then when Atem objects complaining they're the ones at fault for being in the line of fire.
"Fucking cock-suckers, I'll rip their fingers off," Bakura growls to himself.
"I mean, isn't that like the pot calling the kettle a kitchen appliance?" Akefia chuckles at him, then winks. "From what Ryou tells me anyway,"
Bakura shoots a mock glare in Ryou's direction, who whistles innocently.
Kisara walks over to Ryou, smiling softly at him and asking quietly. "We're going to the Quiet Time tent, it's been too loud for us for too long. Would you like to come?"
Ryou looks over at Bakura, who gives him a thumbs-up. "Maybe take Atem too," he advises, knowing his high-functioning anxiety might be acting up around all these overly elated people. Ryou nods, going over to speak to Atem. They return together and go to the tent.
It's dark, but lit cosily with battery-powered lamps hanging from the bones of the tent. A mat sits on the grass and rows of plastic tables do too - a small section of hand sanitiser and towels to clean the tables. Food sits under silent paper covers branded with the KC logo and they take the last empty end table.
They sit in silence for a few minutes, drinking water from the dispenser and recuperating. Ryou tries to control his breathing and it works, the change of scenery choking him just as much as the outside environment did. Eventually, the nerves in all of them calm down. "So Ryou, this is Pride," Kiara smiles at him. "What do you think of it?"
"I guess, I don't really understand it," Ryu frowns, that isn't right. "I mean, I understand it, but - the main events just aren't for me,"
"There's a lot of stimulation," Atem agrees.
"That's what this place is for," Kaiba agrees. "I've texted Yugi, he should be here shortly,"
"Bakura should have kicked the shit out those siller-string assholes though," Atem decides. Ryou hums.
"No, I don't think so. 'Gay Man Arrested at Pride Festival for Assault and Battery' might put people off who would actually like it here - it'd make me anxious to try out the festival,"
"I'll just charge them asshole tax if they ever buy equipment from me," Kaiba decides. "But what we all really wanna know is, will you come with us next year? It'll be great if you do, but no pressure. It can be a challenge and I didn't go for years after my first time,"
"That's cause everyone hated aces back then," Kisara reminds.
"Hey, lots of the community still doesn't accept us," he reminds his wife. "But anyways, what do you think Ryou?"
They look across the table where Ryou is smiling softly, hiding his eyes behind his fringe. "I think - yeah, I think so. Today = overall - was really great!"
"Well I'll toast that," Atem raises the plastic cone cup of water, everyone else dong the same.