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Our Farewell

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//Can you still hear me?//

The voice was much softer now, so much quieter than it had been only days before. He bit his lip before letting his eyes slide closed and his attention turn inward. /I can, but just barely. Are you all right?/

//Are you?//

He should have known better. That particular question - as well as any of its ilk - would never be answered. /I'm fine. Is IT trying something? You sound so far away./

//I don't think so. Not yet anyway. Go back to what you were doing.//

What he was doing was biting his upper lip in worry as he opened his eyes again. He almost wished Yuugi was here. Even putting up with the older boy's other half would be worth some answers. He was worried about his other half after all. After the debacle that was Battle City, they'd hardly switched off at all. It almost felt like he was being punished for his inability to hold the third part of their mind at bay.

//That's not true.// His other half sounded like he was pouting. //I'm not punishing you.//

/I know. It's just-/ He wasn't going to say or even allow himself to think it really, but he was still steamed at both Yuugis for the whole Osiris thing.

//It's hardly your fault you're not bad enough to hold IT back.//

He pouted. /I am so bad./

His other half chuckled, and he had to resist the urge to preen. //You cheated on your Domino High entrance exam, and you cussed - once! Badly, I might add. Yeah, let's put you in line for the next great evil, little one.//

It was so rare that his other half sounded happy at all anymore. Not that he had all that much to start off with, when he first got the Ring from his father. Then he'd been sullen and withdrawn, certain he'd only be in this body for a short while, before either the body was destroyed by IT or the Ring was sold to escape the 'curse'. He didn't know how many bearers the Ring and its two occupants had been through before him, but evidentially few of them had been long-lived or particularly kind. He'd seen some of his other half's nightmares, and they confirmed some of his suspicions.

Well, he was determined he was going to be the last bearer of the Sennen Ring. He was the first to share a name with one of its occupants, after all: the great, nearly broken Thief King Bakura.

He'd been making such progress, up until Duelist Kingdom. Stupid other Yuugi. Stupid graveyard. Stupid eyeball soup. Stupid Pegasus. Stupid Yuugi. Stupid Change of Heart. Stupid creepy Millennium Eye licking. Stupid Honda. And did he mention stupid Yuugi?

//I believe you did, little one.// There was a chuckle in his other's voice. //But I might suggest answering your teacher's question now.//

"Bakura-kun? The answer please?"

It would have helped to know the question. "Forty-two?"

The tittering laughter from his classmates, as well as the teacher's put-upon sigh, assured him that he most positively had not guessed correctly. The answer to life, the universe, and everything though it might be, apparently it was not the correct one this time.

//Concentrate on school. I'll talk to you afterwards.// The voice faded further away, and he was left with only the faintest of impressions of his other still in his mind.

He slammed the apartment door closed behind him, clicking the locks home as he toed off his shoes. He started to drop his bag in front of the closet door. /Are you there?/ he called desperately.

There was silence for several seconds, till his fingers had tightened on the strap of his book bag and his knuckles were white. //I'm here, little one.//

He released a sigh of relief, his legs going boneless so he sank to the floor. "Thank God," he whispered aloud. /I thought- I didn't know what to think. I was so scared./ He let out another breath. /I thought you were gone./

//You're not getting rid of me so easily, you know.// The voice was softer now than it had been even this afternoon in class.

/I'm coming in./ He always tried to warn his other before slipping into the room in his mind that he supposed was his soul. He wasn't too sure, but he believed his other appreciated it.

//Not yet.// Was that a desperate note in the former Thief King's voice? Worry, just beginning to recede a bit, rushed back up through him in a cold wave. //Why don't you at least change out of that uniform and into something more comfortable first? Weren't you just telling me last week how uncomfortable the winter uniform is? Go change, then come in.//

He wanted to object and barge directly in. Every inch of his relationship with his other was built on him not pushing Bakura too hard, though, or not going beyond any point the thief felt comfortable with, and he didn't want to ruin that now. His other was probably just tired. Yeah, that was it: he was tired. There was no reason to go plunging in their minds and risk ruining what he'd spent so long building. He'd never be able to take the thought of his other thinking he was like that, like them, like those who had held the Ring before him.

He drew himself to his feet and trudged back into his bedroom. Once there, he snagged the first shirt and pair of jeans he could find and changed into them. It was only once he'd settled into the nest of pillows he'd made for times like this in the room that had once housed a giant tabletop version of Monster World, yami no game-style, that he realized he'd put back on the same blue and white striped shirt, the same teal overshirt, and the same blue jeans he'd worn throughout Battle City. He'd been avoiding the outfit ever since then, with the memories it dredged up; he'd even been considering burning it or throwing it out. Well, he'd do that later. He had much more important things to be doing right now, after all. /I'm coming in now,/ he warned again.

Without giving his other a chance to respond, he slipped into the room that was supposed to represent his soul. Since it was a copy of the room his body was sitting in, only with said giant tabletop Monster World game still intact, he didn't see how that was supposed to be. Given the state of his other's room, however, perhaps these rooms were the embodiment of their worst memories. He was willing to bet it wasn't like this for Yuugi and the other Yuugi; their rooms were probably all their happiest memories. Stupid Yuugis.

He maneuvered his way out of his own less than comfortable room and up to the doorway leading out. This was never an easy step for him to take. He knew his other's room was directly across from his own, but he also knew about that treacherous hallway that lay between them and seemed to widen every time he came through here. With one more deep breath, he pushed the door open. The distance was up to about five meters now; no wonder his other sounded so far away, with the rate the hallway was widening. After all, the first time he'd done this, there was barely more than a meter between the doors.

Hurriedly, he crossed the distance, rapping on the thief's door before pushing it open, slipping in, and closing it just as quickly behind him. Really, he did not like that hallway. He knew one direction led to control of his body, but the other was a gaping maw where IT resided, never too far away. If he were a slightly more paranoid person, he'd say IT was after him. However, he was a realist; IT wasn't after him - IT was after the entire world, starting with the other Yuugi.

A world-weary sigh crossed his lips. IT was making him and his other into pawns in ITS dark game against the other Yuugi. Railing at IT was pointless, though, since he was nothing more than a mortal in the shadow of a dark god, so he instead chose to blame the other Yuugi for continuing to play against it and thereby dragging them in as cannon fodder. They were so far beyond screwed.

"You're perilously close to cursing again there, little one."

He turned to see his other standing a ways behind him. In the dim light, he could just make out the circles beneath Bakura's eyes... and were those fresh bruises on his wrists and cheek? Either he'd been asleep - and for some reason, whatever happened to him in his dreams also happened to his soul's body - or IT had been in here somehow. Neither option was particularly pleasant, but either presented a possibility on why the Thief King hadn't wanted him in here immediately. As worn down as he looked now, it was probably a vast improvement over then.

He walked slowly closer to Bakura, careful to make no sudden movements. Whichever possibility it was, he knew the thief wouldn't react well to him moving quickly. Stopping before, he lifted a hand to the taller man's injured cheek, willing himself not to be upset at the inevitable flinch his other made. "What happened?" he asked softly.

"I fell asleep," came the quiet admission.

He glanced around slightly. "And most of the torches have gone out." When he'd decided to add light to his other's room, he'd discovered the rather pleasing side-effect of it keeping some of the night demons from haunting the man.

The thief nodded. "And most of the torches have gone out," he repeated in confirmation.

He didn't really understand it, but somehow it was always a simple matter for him to stare at the dark torches till they relit themselves. As always, the sound of many-legged creatures skittering away accompanied the return of the light. He didn't like thinking of those creatures either; he didn't want to consider how close they may have come to his other before he received the Ring or what they might do to the thief if he was unsuccessful in his bid to free the man.

His other's room wasn't something he liked thinking about much either. Perhaps once it had been beautiful and proud, but now it lay in broken shambles, much like its owner. Blood-red linens hung from the walls and ceiling in tattered ribbons. Chipped artwork covered the broken stone walls. A bed that would have made kings sigh in pleasure took up most of one wall, but its white sheets were blotched dark in place, stained with its owner's blood. He frowned every time he looked at it. He'd begged Bakura not to go to sleep on it and to instead use the pillow nest he'd made for him in a particularly well-lit corner, much like the one his body now rested on, but somehow he got the feeling his other forgot from time to time. He'd slept there for thousands of years, after all. But even he knew some of what the previous Ring holders and IT had done to the thief in that bed. He wasn't going to touch him on it though; he didn't want Bakura associating him with any of those memories.

He held a hand out to his other. There was a long stretch of time till Bakura grasped it and gave it a light squeeze. He favored the thief a smile and pulled him over to the nest he'd created one of his first visits here. It was something of a relief how easily the Thief King came with him this time. Once upon a time, this never would have occurred, at least not so easily. Bakura was finally starting to trust him. He had to hold himself back from jumping up and down in joy. No sense scaring the man needlessly, after all.

It was probably another mark of how far they'd come in the time they'd been sharing a body - and at least part of a mind - that his other allowed himself to just lay down. At first, he'd been- Well, to him, it was scary. He couldn't deny his other was beautiful and he was definitely falling in love with him and he could see himself someday having sex with his other, but it had definitely fallen in the realm of weird and freaky when Bakura first did that artful arranging of his body and started whispering words that still made him shudder to think of.

Sometimes he wished the former holders of the Sennen Ring were still alive. He'd like to rip their throats out with his bare hands, much like Bakura had admitted to having done to the mind of the first one who touched him. But the Ring had been through many holders over three millennia, most of which were hardened, cruel men, and as time passed, one by one, they started breaking the thief. And, both fortunately and unfortunately, the last had died fifty years before he was even born, much less received the Ring. There would be no revenge to be had, and he wasn't too sure his other would understand why he was killing the hell out of those bastards anyway.

He settled down into the pile of pillows and blankets, leaning up against the wall before letting Bakura arrange him as he would. He held back his surprise when the thief draped himself over his lap, resting his head on his stomach and wrapping his arms around his waist. "Bakura?" he asked softly.

The Thief King shifted slightly. Almost against his will, he found his arms coming up to gently hold the other as well. Lightly, not too tight, he reminded himself. He didn't want his other to think he was holding him down or anything. "Hush," he intoned softly. "You worry too much, little one."

"I'm sorry," he answered as quietly. He brushed his hand through the thief's hair. "I just don't want anything bad to happen to you ever again."

His other let out of a soft sigh. It sounded content. "I think you're the only one who's ever worried about me before." He was pressed close enough that he could feel the taller man swallow nervously. "Thank you."

Again, he ran his fingers through the other's hair, marveling to himself as always how much softer it was than his own. This was something he'd learned early soothed his other: any form of soft, non-forceful touches, to his hair especially. "I wish-"

"You're always so nice to me, and I don't understand why," Bakura interrupted him. This was most definitely new. Bakura had never interrupted him before. This was, in his mind, a good sign. "You don't even ask me to do anything, even when I offered," he continued, his voice a bit muffled as he spoke into his stomach, but in this place, the words were easy to make out. "You've kept me safe and you've given me the light, and I can't give you anything in return."

"You keep me safe from IT," he whispered, a little fearful that saying ITs name might summon it. "You keep me safe too, and you've been my only real friend for forever." He hugged the taller man closer to himself. He wanted to say he loved him, but... How would he take it?

"I don't think I know how to love someone." Oh no, he'd actually said it out loud?! "I don't even know if I can anymore, if I could to start with. No one has cared for me since my family was... killed, except Diaboundo and you. I've always been alone."

"You're not alone anymore," he broke in. "I'm here, and I'm going to find a way to free you from the Ring."

"Why do you care what happens to me?" There was that note of curiosity in his voice again. "I'm not even what I was before. I'm not even a thief anymore, much less the Thief King!" Hysteria was edging into his voice, though completely without the self-pity he would expect from a lesser man, but he kept speaking into his stomach. "I'm just the spirit-whore of the Ring and-"

He yanked the thief back enough that he could meet his eyes. On some deeper, calmer level, he was surprised at his own strength, especially given how much bigger than him the Thief King was. "You are not a whore, Bakura! You never have and you never will be one! You were as much a victim in this as anyone!" A faint glimpse of fear crossed the other's eyes, and he took a deep breath to calm himself, willing his fingers to unclench from his other's robes. When he spoke again, he was careful to modulate his voice. "Please don't think of yourself that way. Think of yourself as the one I love."

He wasn't sure the shock and confusion he saw now was any better than the fear, but he'd take it. "But why do you love me? I haven't done anything to earn it."

He brushed the backs of his fingers against the bruise on Bakura's cheek, quietly surprised as it vanished beneath his touch. He would definitely have to remember that. "You don't have to earn my love. You're you. That's enough." That was more than he'd ever expected since he moved away from his family to prevent IT from getting too close to them.

"Even though I don't know how to love you back? Even though I'm not very good at protecting you from IT? Even though I worry you all the time - and I scared you that once?"

"I was thirteen! Half of what you said didn't make sense at the time." He chuckled softly. "Besides, I think I scared you worse when I jumped like a scalded cat." An almost timid smile covered the other's face, and he felt one building on his own in response as he touched his face again. "And yes, 'even though' all of that, I love you."

"Even though I'm trying to prepare him to face IT, and you don't like him?"

Maybe he shouldn't make such a big deal about his dislike of the other Yuugi where the thief could hear it from now on. "That's your," he floundered a moment for the word he needed, "job - your responsibility - as the spirit of the Ring. I couldn't think bad of you for it." He leaned down slightly to kiss his other's cheek. "And I think you're doing a very good job at it. The other Yuugi will be ready for IT when the time comes." If the other Yuugi had the sense the gods gave a stone, that was. The other being that inhabited the Ring wasn't going to be defeated in a simple game of Duel Monsters, after all.

"You're always so nice."

He grinned and even let out a giggle. "Not always." Before the confusion could really cross his other's face, he reached out and sought the ticklish spots he'd found along the thief's too thin ribs. Bakura howled in laughter, squirming to get away from him as he squirmed to stay close enough to keep touching, even letting his fingers wander inside his robes to better reach flesh.

When he finally stopped, both were in a heap of limbs and out of breath. "I take it back, little one," Bakura panted.

"Hmm?" was all he was able to get out in reply. Even though he too had been laughing nearly as hard as his other, he was beginning to suspect that much of the reason he was short of breath was from how the Thief King was lying above him - and he certainly wasn't complaining!

"You are the next great evil." The thief sounded so amused and he was even grinning broadly, another thing he'd never seen the man do before. "You just hide it better than the rest of us." He leaned down to kiss his lips, and he nearly lost what tenuous control he had on himself. His thief had no concept of closed-mouth kisses, after all.

It had been three years since he'd tasted Bakura, and then he'd been a scared boy, too confused and frankly terrified to realize how good the thief tasted. His sister's romance books always assigned flavors to people; if his other was any flavor, if any flavor came close, it was dark chocolate: bittersweet but so smooth and sinful. He could get addicted. He tasted so good, and he was so beautiful, and he had no idea what to do to make Bakura feel as good as he was, but that was okay because the thief knew where to place his hands, and if Bakura felt half as good as he did, then he had to be melting.

He felt a shudder go through him, and he arched into his other's touch. It took another shudder for him to realize it wasn't coming from either of them. The thief was already pulling back from him, looking around in... what looked like a combination of terror, surprise, and anger.

"Wh-what's happening?" How long had it been since he stuttered? It was his other's expression that did it, really. He'd never seen the thief look like that before. Everything else had bled away to leave nothing but the anger.

The Thief King was climbing gracefully to his feet, taking his hand and pulling him up as well. This was the face Bakura showed the other Yuugi, especially when he was preparing him for IT. When he had this face on, his thief looked invincible, unconquerable, and a bit... well... evil. Was this how he'd looked before he was locked in the Ring all those years ago?

The confidence on his other's face, that his entire body showed... He couldn't help it - this Bakura was gorgeous, at least as much as - if not even more so - what he was used to seeing. He wanted to reach out and touch him, see if he felt, tasted, smelled any different when he was like this. No, bad self. No molesting his other because he looked hot and dangerous - because he was looking like that for a reason. As long as he had that firmly in his mind... "Bakura?"

"I think..." He trailed off, staring off at nothing. "IT's making ITs move."

"So soon?" He followed his other's gaze, but there wasn't anything to be seen. What did the thief's silvery eyes see that he couldn't?

The taller man turned his attention back to him, and for a second, the thief he usually knew was there before his eyes shuttered back down. Tugging the hand he had yet to release, Bakura led him towards the door. "I want you to get in your body and run. Just keep running."

"Bakura?" he queried. "IT's in my head. How is running going to help? It's not like I can get away from IT."

"It's harder to take control of a body in motion. We might be able to buy some time."

"For what?" The Thief King was silent, instead opening the door to that evil hallway. "What are you going to do?"

"Don't ask, little one."

He attached himself like a limpet to his other's robes. "I don't want to lose you! You're my only friend. I love you! I don't want to lose you!" He was repeating himself, but he failed to care. He'd rather condemn the world to darkness before he gave up his other now. He'd beg, murder, steal, anything to keep him, to protect, to keep him with him forever. "Please don't leave me."

"This isn't going to be our farewell yet. Now move. I'll hold IT here as long as I can."


The thief was silent, staring at him for a long moment. He fought the urge to squirm beneath that silver gaze and looked right back at him, trying to will his reluctance to his other through his eyes. The room shuddered around them again, Bakura's hand released his, and... And he was back in his body. The Thief King must have shoved him back here, and he had to fight the urge to go right back into his mind. He... should... "Bakura?" he called aloud. /Bakura?/

For the longest moment of his sixteen years, silence stretched out, then, as faint as a whisper... //Go!//

Without another thought, he pushed himself to stand and ran to the door, jamming his feet into his sneakers without bothering to tie them, and was out of the apartment. He didn't even notice if the lock was in place or even if he closed the door. He had to keep moving. If he kept moving, it would be easier on his other, right? Right?

He could barely draw in a breath. His lungs hurt, his entire chest ached with each breath he drew in. He had long since started tripping over his own feet, and each time it was harder to get back up. He fell again rounding the metal pipes (Bike racks? he asked himself in exhaustion), and this time he had to stay down a beat longer than every other time to catch his breath.

///Where are you going?///

That... wasn't his other's voice. Or rather, that wasn't just his other's voice; there was a scraping metallic overlying layer on it as well. IT, perhaps? Had his other been unable to hold it back any longer? This long was a miracle in and of itself, but...

He shoved himself to his feet, forcing himself to run down the alley. Where was he anyway? He wasn't any too sure where he was; he had just started running and kept going. Was he even still in Domino anymore? He'd left the apartment in the afternoon, and now a full orange moon hovered in the sky. What time was it? How long had he been running? However long it had been, he couldn't keep it up indefinitely. He wasn't the most graceful person by nature, and utter exhaustion wasn't helping that any. Even his mental voice was shaky as he wearily called out again, /Bakura?/

There was no answer save his own panting breaths.

At the end of the alley, it loomed, like some kind of tattered angel of hope. He didn't know where it had come from, but it was a Christian church. Weren't they supposed repel demons or something like that? He wasn't sure what IT was, but 'demon' seemed an applicable term. If what they said about churches was correct, maybe he could stop long enough for his body to recover a bit.

The doors opened easily beneath his hands. How odd that they weren't locked. That was like asking thieves to come in, he mused... or half-possessed people looking for an escape from one of the spirits in their bodies.

Then the candles at the altar began to light up, one and two at a time till the front of the church was awash in a soft light. It should have been beautiful, but instead it was the most terrifying thing he'd ever seen. This meant IT was here. "L-leave me alone!"

The voice spoke again. ///You can't hide. You have a mission to accomplish.///

IT didn't differentiate between him and his other? IT thought of them as the same person? "Mission?"

///Now the Sennen Items are in the hands of the Pharaoh and Shaadi, who will give his Items to the Pharaoh sooner or later, so all the Sennen Items will be in his hands. When the Items are collected, the Door to the Afterlife can be opened. You have to find and hide the eighth Item, a key.///

Oh gods, IT wouldn't be coming to him for this if his other... Where was Bakura?! And that ringing noise that accompanied ITs voice, it was driving him crazy! "I-"

But IT was ignoring him. ///The eighth Item is the key to the door of the Afterlife. Its secrets are hidden in the Pharaoh's memories.///

"I don't know anything about it!"

The buzzing noise ceased abruptly and around him, the stained-glass windows shattered, but there was no way he could really do more than just notice it peripherally. Something - IT was tearing ITs way into control of his body, and oh God, it hurt like he was dying, but even dying had to be better than this! To make matters worse, IT was still speaking. ///Nameless Pharaoh, when the door to your memories is opened, the ultimate dark game that has spanned three thousand years will begin.///

And worse than ITs speaking was ITs laughter. It drowned out everything: his thoughts, his attempts to hold onto control of his own body, his screams of pain.

When darkness swam up to swallow him, it was a welcome oblivion.

The oblivion did not last long enough. He felt like he'd been through a cheese grater, and sadly he was pretty sure this was a huge improvement. A cool hand lay upon his forehead. Where was he, that someone would touch him with such consideration? Not even his so-called friends would care enough to try to sooth his pain. Still, it felt so nice that he didn't want to even attempt opening his eyes yet.

"Time to wake up and play, yadonushi."

'Yadonushi'? He felt his eyes going painfully wide, and he struggled to sit up. Above him was the demon. IT wore the face the thief presented to the outside world, but he could see the mad glitter that declared this was IT, not his other. When had IT traded his overshirt for a long black coat? And more importantly, why was he in that forsaken hallway?! Where was his other?!

He shot to his feet and glanced around desperately, ready to try to sprint to Bakura's door. The door was fading, though, and fading fast. Then, before his eyes, it was gone. Did that mean his other... No. No time to worry now.

"Does this mean you don't want to play, my sweet little yadonushi?"

The demon's idea of playing probably involved lots of blood and body parts never designed to be seen suddenly being outside the body. "G-get away from me!"

A thin, delicate-looking finger reached out and trailed down his cheek, as light as a tear, before he flinched back away from it. "Beautiful, terrified yadonushi," IT crooned, ITs voice so like the thief's that he wanted to sob. "Your body is mine."

"No!" he cried out in automatic denial, but IT ignored him.

"Go hide in your soul, yadonushi, and watch as I destroy the Nameless Pharaoh."

That sounded like the best plan he'd heard in a long time, and carefully he stepped away, backing away till he hit the wall beside the door. There was no way he was giving his creature his back, which it seemed to find quite amusing. Quickly, he threw open his door, slipped inside and slammed it shut again, leaning heavily against it and closing his eyes to block out the sound of ITs laughter. The silence and near darkness of his room had never been such a blessing.

The disappearance of Bakura's door still plagued him. That meant the thief was gone, didn't it? If these rooms were their souls and Bakura's room was gone, then...

"Little one?"

No, it was too good to be true. How could Bakura still be alive?! This had to be some trick of the demon's! If he answered, then he'd hear that insane laughter at how easily he'd been tricked. If he opened his eyes, he'd see his own face, twisted and mad, not bronzed skin and silver eyes. "Bakura," he moaned out, completely unconsciously.

"Is that really you this time?"

It was the 'this time' that drew his eyes open. Even if it was a fake Bakura or one created by his mind, it didn't deserve any of what the demon would do it it - him. The blackness of his room was too close to absolute for him to see more than an inch before him, but if this room really was a copy of his gaming room, then there should be a light switch next to him. He groped for it, a full ten centimeters further than he'd anticipated. This wall wasn't set up like the RPG room, though, he thought to himself; it was more than his bedroom. He flicked the switch on and tried to contain his surprise that it was indeed his bedroom now! Not that he was complaining, but - how?!

No, that wasn't quite correct. There should be a wall separating the RPG room and his bedroom, a wall which was no longer there. It transformed his tiny bedroom that was barely big enough for himself into a spacious room better suited for two people. But there were also a few other differences, not the least of which being the man laying down on his bed with its suddenly different set of sheets.

He wanted to answer the man's question, but what came out was "Are you really Bakura?"

"I think I am?" It sounded like a question, and that drew a wet, thick sob from him.

His legs threatening to give out on him every step, he made his way over to drop to his knees beside the bed. "I was so afraid you were gone. When I saw the door to your room disappear, I thought... I thought you were..." He couldn't bring himself to say it. Even if this wasn't his Bakura, he couldn't say it, that he'd feared the thief dead.

"You're hurt." The words were shaky at best as the other man slowly sat up and turned to face him full on, a leg on either side of his still kneeling body. "What did IT do to you, little one?"

"Wh-what?" He couldn't think. All he could see were the long, lean lines of the thief's body - and all the new wounds that adorned it. Oh god, this had to be his Bakura; his own mind would never have created such a detail, and IT wasn't creative enough for something like this, and the Thief King had said he would try to hold IT off as long as he could - was this what that entailed?

A warm fingertip moved down his cheek, following the same path as the previous one had. He fought to hold back a shiver, and Bakura's hand instead moved to touch his forehead. "You're bleeding."

He reached up to his face, surprised when his fingers came away wet and sticky with his own blood. "It's where IT touched me." Bakura's hand returned to his cheek, and he leaned into it, eyes slipping shut as exhaustion began to catch up with him. "It doesn't hurt."

A loud noise like cloth ripping pulled his eyes back open. Bakura had pulled a long strip off the sheets and was dabbing at his face with it. "I don't like you being injured at all, little one, whether it hurts or not," he was scolding.

"What about you?" The thief really didn't look so good. If Yuugi's friend Jounouchi was here, he would probably say the man looked like he went three or four rounds against an entire gang. It might as well be the truth, he reflected. In three thousand years, the thief had never once gone against IT, and now he had. IT was never going to forget this.

"I'm fine." The Thief King's voice was terse, but that was probably because he was concentrating on his task of getting him cleaned up. He reached up to hold his other's hand still before he spoke again.

"Why the double standard? I want you to be safe and happy and not hurt too."

"I'm not important."

"Yes, you are. You're important to me. You're the one I love."

"Even though-"

This was definitely his Bakura. Only his thief could keep challenging him on whether or not he really loved him. He gently put a finger from his free hand over Bakura's lips. "Whatever 'even though' you can come up with, I'm still going to love you."

Bakura was silent for several long minutes then sighed. Once he moved his hand, the other spoke again. "You're very strange." He started to interrupt, but the thief kept speaking. "I don't know why or how you could even care for something like me. But I'm... going to try to be... whatever it is you want me to be."

"I want you to be you. That's all I've ever wanted from you, you know that. I love you." He leaned up slightly to kiss his other.

When the kiss broke a few moments later, the thief let out a soft breath, almost a sigh but not quite. "I can almost believe you when you say stuff like that." He gave the arm of his shirt a light tug to come up on the bed with him. "Come here, littl - Ryou."

This was certainly shaping up to be a night of firsts: the first time Bakura interrupted him, the first time he'd told the thief how he felt, the first time he'd seen the stronger side of the Thief King, the first time his name had passed his other's lips. If it weren't for IT, this would all be so perfect.

He crawled up on the bed and let his other arrange him. This, at least, he was used to. This was within his relative range of normal. Right now, thief kind of normal was what they both needed.

Forget the outside world. Forget IT - no, it was safe enough now to call IT by ITs name - Zork. They could all rot for all he cared. For him, there was the here and now. There, now it was perfect.

It was two days before he felt even slightly able to return to his own body, and even that was just to see out his own eyes. What he was able to see shocked him, and he hurried back to the room in his mind where Bakura awaited him.

He had to admit the thief was looking a lot better. The cuts, scrapes, burns, and bruises were all mostly faded. He was definitely sleeping better here in his room, with its infinitely safer bed and more reliable light source. With every passing minute, he was more the Thief King he'd seen for a split second before and less the abused, broken man Ryou had first encountered. He couldn't say he disliked the changes.

"So?" Bakura prompted, pacing the enlarged room. "What did you see?"

"Zork took the body for a joyride," he replied, hopping up on the RPG table. The thief stilled and stared at him in confusion. "I think we're in Egypt. I saw a lot of desert, I saw the Ishtars, and I saw Yuugi and his friends heading down to it already. It's time to retrieve the Pharaoh's memories."

He nodded slightly. "And with them, the eighth Item, the key to the Door of the Afterlife, whatever that may-"

The overhead light fizzled then went out completely with a popping sound, plunging the room into darkness. He couldn't help it; a short scream escaped him, first when the room went dark and again when a hand closed around his.

"Ryou..." That was Bakura's voice and so much closer than it had been. "It's me. Don't worry." He wasn't worried, no. He was terrified! He trailed his free hand up Bakura's arm to place him then threw that arm around him to pull him closer. "It's all right. IT's entered the Pharaoh's memories."

"So what about us? Aren't you supposed to be there?"

He felt an arm beneath his knees, and Bakura released his hand to move his other arm behind his back, lifting him easily. He had no idea how his other could see what he was doing, but he navigated them to the bed quickly enough. Bakura laid down first, letting him lie on top of the thief as they settled back against the pillows.

"Bakura?" he prompted again.

"I had already sold my soul to Zork for my family's revenge by the point IT's probably going to start the story." He could feel the air from the thief's sigh ruffle his hair. "Apparently, neither of us is important to the storyline."

"Th-that's good, r-right?"

The Thief King sighed again. "If the Pharaoh's ready."

He felt his blood run cold. Bakura was right. This was it. It was all down to the other Yuugi now. Strictly to himself, he lamented the world's impending doom, but for his other, he managed to get out, "It'll be fine. We've done everything in our power to show him what he'll need to now. He has learned that sacrifices will have to be made to win. He's learned some opponents don't fight fair." Beneath him, he felt some of the tension bleed from Bakura's body. "He'll defeat Zork. I know it."

"Liar." He almost started to sit up before he realized the undertone he'd heard in the man's voice was amusement. "You're just as worried as I am."

He laughed and snuggled closer to his other. "Terrified out of my mind. I mean, it's the other Yuugi. He's not exactly bright."

Bakura snickered, wrapping an arm around his back. "It's probably from all those time he hit his head."

"What?" Now this promised to be a story he hadn't heard about yet. "Why did he keep hitting his head?"

"Pure and simple clumsiness."

"The other Yuugi? Mister 'I'm a total god, look at my leather, prowl prowl'? He used to be clumsy?"

Bakura's snickering was getting worse. "The very definition of it. He couldn't walk a straight line, he couldn't sit down on his throne, he couldn't mount a horse. It was great entertainment."

"Now that I would have enjoyed seeing. Holier-than-thou other Yuugi, falling on his face."

Another laugh escaped the thief, and he felt lips brush his forehead. "And they all think you're so sweet and innocent."

His smirk was lost in the dark. "And for anyone other than the Yuugis, I am."

There was silence for a long moment. "You really hate them, don't you? The Pharaoh and his other?" He couldn't tell anything by Bakura's voice; it was completely neutral.

"I can't help it. I try not to, but I do anyway." He tried to move impossibly closer. "I don't like the way the other Yuugi looks at you or how they're all so quick to jump to conclusions about you and about me and about us."

"The Pharaoh's not supposed to like me. We knew he wouldn't when we started this."

He shook his head. "He looks at you like a bug beneath his feet." He sat up and looked down in the direction he guessed Bakura's face to be. "You're my other half; you complete me. I won't stand for someone treating you like that."

He heard the thief chuckle tightly. He could guess what Bakura was doing from that sound: he was still lying flat, the arm that wasn't perilously low on his own back draped over closed silver eyes, his expression a blank. "You're about three thousand years too late to stop the first person who looked at me like that, little love, and I'm sure the Pharaoh won't be the last. Ammut will look at me like that before she devours my soul."

He took a deep breath and released it slowly, gathering his courage to speak. "If I could, I'd rip the eyes out of each and every person who ever looked down on you, man, woman, or even the gods. I'd cut the fingers off anyone who raised a hand to you. And I'd eviscerate every last one of the men who... hurt you." There were two words he'd never been able to say, at least not in conjunction with Bakura: 'dead' and 'rape'. He held no illusions on the actions of previous Ring holders, but he couldn't say the word.

There was utter silence in the darkness. He knew it. He'd scared the thief away for sure this time. He had ruined it.

"Ryou?" He managed to get out a questioning noise through the tightness in his throat. "Would you really do something like that?"

"If I could, I would, in a heartbeat." And he wasn't going to say it out loud, but he'd like to do the same to the Yuugis. They kept the game going against Zork, after all, by continuing to search for the other Yuugi's memories.

"You do say the nicest things sometimes, little love." Bakura pulled him back down to his side. "I guess you are my other half, after all. You can't be all sweetness and light all the time, not and be part of me."

He smiled against the thief's robes. "Neither of us is all that good, are we?"

"Of course not!" He could hear the amusement in his other's voice, and his own smile grew to the sound of it. "You're the next great evil, the one they'll never see coming, and I'm the almighty Thief King, the biggest pain the Pharaoh's posterior to ever walk the earth."

"No hope of redemption whatsoever for the two of us ."

"Not a chance."

It was as good as it was going to get.

He couldn’t say for sure how much time passed in the darkness. Minutes? Hours? Days even perhaps? Every second passed strangely here, both dragging and passing at the speed of light. He and Bakura talked a lot, the thief regaling him with tales of his conquests, him struggling to impart each little nuance of his boring, staid life before his other’s arrival. Amane in particular seemed to fascinate him, since his own sister had died along with the rest of his village. To himself, he made a mental note to bring Bakura to Tokyo sometime and figure out a way to make introductions. Somehow he didn’t think ‘Amane-chan, Tousan, this is my half’ was going to quite cut it.

On a lark he’d tried to summon up some of his favorite foods for Bakura to try, especially some of the foreign dishes his father had introduced him to after his trips abroad. His first few attempts had been dismal, though he had improved with each try – and the thief had complimented each one in turn, even the failures. It was actually quite sweet, even if the occasional glimpses he got in game let him know some of what the Thief King was used to eating. He didn’t think he’d ever really hated the other Yuugi till then. Was Ancient Egypt really so different from any other kingdom, that the ruler didn’t care that his subjects ate scraps or that the palace guards had been the first ones to who… hurt him and had been the ones to carve that scar on his face.

Bakura was asleep now; he could tell by the man’s breathing; so he reached over to run his fingertip over the smooth flesh of his scarless cheek. The thief stirred beneath him but did not wake. Since this new darkness had descended upon them, he’d gotten very used to touching the Thief King and not worrying if he was going to hurt him, and he’d definitely become accustomed to Bakura’s more confident hands on his body.

Even like this, touching the man blind, he could feel the rougher textured flesh of his scars. They had to be from before he was sealed in the Ring; anything that happened in here always healed quickly, usually disappearing in hours. Still, there were so many! What he couldn’t give to have just a day alone in a room with the other Yuugi and an assortment of knives.

A faint shudder went through the room, but it was enough to wake up Bakura. How could it not? The man operated on instincts that the rest of the world could only dream of having. “What’s going on?”

“I don’t know,” he whispered. Why he wasn’t sure, but nonetheless he kept his voice soft, even as he sat up and made his way to his feet. “I’m going to go check on the body.”

“Be careful. Something feels strange.”

And if he hadn’t felt paranoid before, he certainly did now, but he certainly wasn’t about to let that show. Even if Bakura couldn’t see his face, he wasn’t going to let that little bit of information out. He moved quietly across the room, memory telling him where everything was so he didn’t trip, till his hand was on the door. He pulled the door open…

… and fell back into his body. Exhaustion plagued him as it never had before, and all he wanted to do was go back to sleep. His stomach growled loudly on cue. And eat; eating would be very good. He seriously doubted Zork had bothered to stop for food, so it had been at least two days since he’d eaten. No wonder he was starving.

Somewhere below him, there were people talking. That seemed as good an option as any for where to go, so he slowly pushed himself to his feet and stumbled down the steps. The closer he got, the more recognizable the voices were. There was the other Yuugi, Yuugi’s friend Jounouchi, and… Kaiba Seto? What was he doing here? Better still, where was here?

Maybe they finally heard his faltering footsteps or maybe he finally came into view or maybe he was just in Kaiba’s way, but now he was presented with all five of them staring at him like they’d seen a ghost. The blond, Jounouchi, was the first to recover his voice. “Bakura!”

“Everyone?” Yeah, it did look like the whole gang was there: Kaiba Seto, Jounouchi Katsuya, Mazaki Anzu, Honda Hiroto, and even the other Yuugi. Everyone he usually kept up his innocent victim act up for was present and accounted for, so it was easy to slip back into that role. “Where are we?”

“’Where’?” Jounouchi sputtered. “Don’t you remember?”

He remembered more than he’d ever let any of them know, but that was completely beside the point. “Oh yeah. Something seemed to be chasing me, then…”

Abruptly, his body gave up its struggle to remain upright and he fell forward. If Jounouchi hadn’t been there (and hadn’t been more willing than Kaiba to catch him), he’d have certainly ended up crashing into the floor face-first. “Bakura!” the blond yelled, nearly in his ear. “Are you okay?”

“Bakura!” the other Yuugi echoed. If he weren’t so tired, he’d sneer at the bastard.

“I’m so hungry!” he managed to get out before blackness swam back up to greet him.

There was no hallway, no doors, none of the things he’d grown so used to the past few years. Of course, Bakura’s door had vanished, but he’d at least been expecting that forsaken hallway. Instead, he was catapulted back into his room, nearly skidding into the side of the bed. Was it possible to get rug burn on your soul, he absently wondered. “Oww,” he muttered, sitting up stiffly. Bright silver eyes stared down at him from where Bakura sat on the bed, utter confusion on the thief’s face. “Well, that wasn’t fun,” he quipped, trying to break the tension.

“What happened? Are you all right?” Strong arms pulled him up on the bed, both patting him down and lifting his shirt to check under it for injuries.

“I’m fine. I think Zork’s finally-“

Before his eyes, Bakura’s form wavered. No!  He wasn’t losing him! Not after all of this! He didn’t even take a second to consider and pounced, wrapping both arms around the thief and holding him tight to his body. Whispers of prayers he hadn’t said in years escaped him, mingling with his sudden fearful tears.

Slowly, slowly, he calmed as he felt Bakura’s arms around him as well, heard the words he was speaking: “It’s all right. I’m here.”

“Wha- what happened?” He eased his grip a bit but did not let go; he knew his other appreciated the gesture as he squirmed slightly, rearranging them both into a more comfortable position.

“Someone took the Ring.” The thief sounded so tired. “My existence is still tied to it.”

“Shouldn’t that have put you back in the Ring then?” he whispered. Even if he wanted to, he couldn’t have made his voice come out any louder, not while he was still terrified of losing his other.

He felt the Thief King nod. “It should have. You were too stubborn to let me go, though. I guess I’m yours.”

“Of course you are,” he answered immediately. Sudden white, bright terror shot through him with his next thought. “Unless you’d rather not be.”

Bakura chuckled, laying a kiss on his hair. “You’re mine also, little love.”

“So what does this mean?” Finally he leaned back and blinked. How had he not noticed the lights were back on?

Apparently his other noticed his confusion as he chuckled. “They came back on when you left. As for what this means…” He shrugged, and he held the taller man closer. “I don’t know. This is new territory to me. I guess now I’ll be around as long as the Ring is.” The thief dropped a brief kiss on his lips. “So, the way I figure it is, as long as the Pharaoh doesn’t blow it and somehow get rid of the Items, I’ll be with you the rest of your life.”.

“Then what?”

That got a laugh. “You’re definitely my other half. So many questions. I don’t know after that. With the two of us in here, who knows how long you’ll live anyway. You may even be immortal, little love.” His chest warmed with pride and pleasure. Now that he certainly wouldn’t mind, an eternity with his other.

“Then the other Yuugi had better not screw up if he knows what’s good for him. If he costs me you, I’ll hunt him down and kill him in the most imaginative ways. You’re the most important person to me.”

“You do say the nicest things, Ryou. Still, such strong language. You’re going to lose your status as the innocent one here if you keep it up.”

He could almost curse the lights being back on: surely the flush he could feel heating his cheeks was glaringly obvious. “I thought a worse one a few minutes ago.”

“Oh?” If he wasn’t laying on him, the thief probably would have perked catlike. He sounded much too eager, and the temptation was there to compare him to a kid at Christmas. “What was it?”

He buried his reddened face in his other’s robes. “I… kind of thought to myself… that the other Yuugi is a bastard.”

Bakura let out a loud laugh, startling him. “I’m so proud of you! That was great! I wish you’d said it. Then I could have seen his face.”

Oh yeah, if the other Yuugi took Bakura away from him now that he’d discovered this happier, more relaxed, and much more cheerful side of him, there would be no end to his revenge.

On Bakura’s urging, he’d woken his body up and eaten. It hadn’t been the best meal he’d ever had, but he’d been eating to support two souls. He was just thankful it wasn’t three souls anymore. While he’d been finishing up, Malik had wandered in. The Egyptian had looked…

//Like something I’d kick back in the scrap heap?// Bakura had questioned helpfully.

To himself, he had agreed. Aloud, he’d asked what was going on. Malik’s deadpan answer had chilled him, but maybe Yuugi setting the other Yuugi off to the Afterlife would free them from the fear they themselves would be found out. All the same, it was a scary proposition. That was why he had come to watch what the Yuugis did – and why he stood to the back of the group, as far from the Egyptian as he could manage and not be obvious about it. Malik was more perceptive, even in this broken state that reminded him eerily of the Bakura he’d first met, than anyone gave him credit for being, and he wasn’t going to risk anyone finding out Bakura was still around.

Bakura was keeping up commentary on the duel, some of it even aloud for him. It was just as well. He couldn’t concentrate on the duel if his life depended on it. That was actually kind of funny now that he thought of it; in a way, it did, and he still couldn’t concentrate on it.

//When did you turn into such a fatalist, little love?//

/The Yuugis did this to me. If my hair wasn’t already white, they’d have turned it that color./

Bakura snickered but then silenced abruptly. //The end is about to happen.//

/You think so?/ Absentmindedly, he tuned back in – to see Yuugi wipe out the rest of the other Yuugi’s lifepoints. /He should have brought back Black Magician instead of Osiris. Do you think he just let Yuugi win?/


The Yuugis were talking. For all he knew, they could be discussing who would be on top between Kaiba and Jounouchi (//Is it possible for two people to be on bottom?// put in Bakura), but somehow he was a little distracted by the fact Yuugi was crying awfully hard for someone who’d just won against the King of Games. Didn’t he have any pride as a duelist or as an other half? In his own pathetic way, Yuugi was helping his other half; he should feel gloriously pleased with himself. The Yuugis were such strange creatures.

The other Yuugi stood and started towards the door, which opened for him. It was so hard to keep his sneer contained as the man’s leather faded away into what he could only think of as ‘Pharaoh garb’, though really he could have designed better in a game of Monster World. What a prima donna. The once-Pharaoh walked through the door, and he let himself breathe a sigh of relief. It was finally over.

//Ryou…// Bakura began as the doors closed behind the other Yuugi.

He turned his focus inward in the near-silence as the echoes of the doors closing slowly left the room to quiet, save the sound of a few people crying. /What is it?/

If Bakura said anything, he lost in the rumbling. The tablet where the seven Sennen Items lay shattered to reveal a huge pit, and one by one, the Items winked out of sight into it. He felt a pain like nothing he’d ever imagined before, like part of his mind was being ripped away. Somehow he managed to stay on his feet and look up to see the Ring vanish into the abyss.

/No! Bakura?/ Silence greeted him from his mind. /Bakura?!/

Around him, the temple began collapsing – and somehow he could bring himself to care. He hurt so much, and Bakura was gone. What was the point of moving? Let the rock bury him here with his love. It was only fitting after all.

“We can’t stay here!” Who said that? Who pushed him to run towards the door? Oh, Yuugi’s grandfather. Hmm, Yuugi…

A faint smirk built on his face when they stopped running outside the tomb. Everyone else was staring at the dust-filled doorway, but not him. His eyes were fixed on Yuugi. The other Yuugi had escaped him, but this one wouldn’t.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Malik looking at him. This time, he met the Egyptian’s gaze straight on and smiled. It was probably reminiscent of some of his other’s more insane ones, but Malik returned it in kind. The Yuugis were responsible for hurting both of them; the remaining Yuugi would suffer for it. He would suffer like no human had suffered before or would again… and he would live for every moment of it.

It started out small. He knew the value of a dramatic buildup; it was stock and trade for a Monster World DM. First he’d just left Honda and Mazaki threatening notes printed off a computer at Kaiba Corp; Mokuba had been gracious enough to let him allow him access when he told the boy his home computer had a virus.

No one knew Malik was in Japan so it was easy for him to take things to the next level. It certainly helped that Malik enjoyed killing things, even if it was just Honda’s dog and the stray cat Mazaki had been feeding. It was difficult to restrain himself from letting loose with one of his other’s more maniacal laughs at their expressions and their sobs of ‘Who could be doing this to us?’ the next day they came to school.

Holding Malik back from killing too soon had been a little bit more difficult, but when he’d finally allowed the Egyptian to do as he pleased, even he had been surprised with the results. Of course, he had been a great deal more pleasantly surprised than anyone else. The man had skills with a blade that bordered on genius. He couldn’t wait till the coroner released that they had been alive for the entire experience, even when he’d filleted the skin from Mazaki’s face or when he’d showed Honda what color his stomach really was.

Now he just had to wait for the star of the show to wake up. It had been terribly easy to grab the boy from his house. All he’d had to do was show up all teary-eyed and bruised. He certainly hadn’t wanted anyone catching on just yet – and Malik had barely objected to beating the crap out of him. He certainly had looked convincing, so some bruises were worth it. Leaving a few clues (like pieces of the other two) pointing to the spiky-haired freak had been fun too. It was all going according to his plan. Now if Yuugi would just wake up. But wait… Ah, here he came.

“Welcome back,” he greeted cheerfully as purple eyes raised to meet his in confusion. “Did you enjoy your sleep? I know I did; you were finally quiet for once.”

“B-Bakura-kun?” No no no, this wasn’t where Yuugi was supposed to speak yet.

“It probably looks to all of you like I’m holding together well. It may even look like I’m happy to be alone. Alone… That word should have a whole new meaning for us now, shouldn’t it?”

“He probably has no idea,” Malik cut in, his voice a low growl, stepping into the light. His knife was nowhere in sight, but he didn’t really need the knife to be intimidating, if the look in Yuugi’s eyes was any indication.

“I don’t know. I think you know what it feels like, don’t you, Yuugi. You’re just as alone now as we are. How do you stand it, this silent darkness where our others used to be?” He didn’t give the shorter boy time to speak, instead moving over to stand closer to him. “I think sometimes the silence is driving me insane. I keep waiting to hear his voice or hear him laugh or… There is always silence now, and I want it to go away! I want to scream and cry and rant at the world, you, and the gods till they give me my other back! I can’t take the silence anymore!”

He unfisted his hand from his hair, unsure when it had tangled there. When had he started tugging at it? Such things the Yuugis did to him… Well, it was only fair to return the favor, he supposed as he swung his hand down and around to catch Yuugi sharply across the cheek with the back of it, snapping his head to the side. A short cry escaped the smaller boy before he looked up at him. “Bakura-kun…”

“Oh, I’m sorry. Did that hurt?”

Malik laughed at that, a frightening sound like shattered glass. “I could make him hurt, Ryou.”

“Not yet. He doesn’t understand yet.” He turned his attention back down to the boy he’d bound to a chair. “I know what you and your friends used to say about me. You all thought I’m better off alone. You think I’m happier alone. You think we both are happier this way,” he gestured to Malik now, “and you’re the only one with this gaping hole inside you. Well, damn it, you’re not! You took my other away and left me broken inside. Your other did worse than that to Malik. Damn you! And damn your other too! There isn’t a curse strong enough for the hatred I feel for the two of you. You should be glad he’s gone. In whatever secret corner of the Afterlife he’s hiding, he’s safe from me and the revenge I’ve been planning. My other was right; I’m the next great evil you never saw coming. You and your friends keep taking my other from me. You probably cheered when he went too, didn’t you? One of your friends made me have to hunt for the Ring during Duelist Kingdom. Do you think I enjoyed hunting through those woods in a blind panic, trying to find where the Ring landed? Do you?!”

“That’s why we cut off Honda’s hands then?” Damn, he’d almost underestimated how much the other Yuugi had broken Malik. Maybe he’d been like this before, and no one noticed it. It suited his purposes though. Malik was an evil genius, yes – or he had been when he was a whole person – but even now he was a force to be reckoned with. And the Egyptian was enjoying just as much as he was. This was the grand finale to both of their revenge after all.

He held out his hand, and with a sadistic grin, Malik placed one of his knives in it. He took a moment to test the sharpness and to decide where to cut before he carved a small gash down one of Yuugi’s cheeks. A scream escaped the other this time, and he made a few tsking noises of dismay. “That hurt too? Really? That was nothing.”

“Bakura-kun…” Hmm, it was acceptable for Yuugi to speak now, so he silently tilted his head to the side in interest to hear what he had to say at this point. “I didn’t – Mou hitori no boku and I thought Bakura was hurting you. We just wanted to protect you.”

Of all the things Yuugi could have said, that wasn’t even on the list, he mused in surprise. “He’d never hurt me! What would make you think something like that?”

“The cut on your arm.” Yuugi was panting, his voice tight with pain.  How adorable.

“My arm? Oh, in Battle City. He did it to himself. I never felt a thing till the deal with the other you. So that I ever felt any pain was entirely your other’s fault.”

“Were you helping him, Bakura-kun?” He sounded so resigned, even keeping his eyes fixed on the floor. Had it really taken so little to break him?

“Of all the stupid-!” he sighed in exasperation. Malik was snickering. A laugh escaped him as well. It was actually rather funny now that he thought about it. “Of course! He was my other! Your other was too stupid be ready for Zork without us preparing him.” Purple eyes shot up to him again. “We never wanted your stupid Puzzle.”

“Zork,” the Egyptian behind him helpfully piped.

He nodded. “True. IT did want the Items. We didn’t want it to get them, but we’re not the ones of the Prophesy. No, that just had to be you and the other Yuugi. So my other had a responsibility as a spirit of the Items to prepare your idiot Pharaoh for that creature.” He sighed. “And now, of course, the Sennen Items are gone, fallen into endless darkness, and probably destroyed. Do you think those souls are free now, though, or are they just wandering spirits?”

“Th-They’re free,” Yuugi barely got out. What was Malik doing behind him? He glanced over his shoulder. Oh, just playing with one of his knives. “I think they’re free.”

“Well, you’re an optimist,” the Egyptian spat out, fingers clenching around his blade. He didn’t even seem to notice any pain it might have caused, only casually licking the warm liquid off his hand.

“I think the only souls that made it to the Afterlife were those priests of your other – and of course, your other himself. The almighty Pharaoh can’t be left waiting, now can he?”

“Gods forbid,” came the deadpanned answer behind him.

“Do you think he even misses his other, Malik?” he asked. “He seems so much happier and whole than us.”

“It’s probably because he had a choice in the matter,” the Egyptian muttered. “Saying I wanted to take responsibility for my actions didn’t mean I wanted him completely gone.”

This was why Malik was his perfect companion for this little adventure. He felt the same pain he himself did, even if his other half wasn’t a spirit of the Items. He reached behind him to place a hand on the Egyptian’s shoulder in what he hoped would be a calming gesture. “He’s going to be missing him soon, Malik. You know that.” The other nodded, and he turned his attention back to Yuugi. “You fixed us both up so well, Yuugi. There’s not enough left of the other Malik to try to retrieve, and I can’t even go get my other back this time. I’d spend days – weeks! months! whatever it took! – in Pegasus’ damn forest looking if it meant escaping this silence. I hate it!” he snapped suddenly, screaming at the spiky-haired freak. “I hate it! And I hate you! Why did you have to take him away from me? He didn’t do anything to deserve! He just wanted to help the two of you! And if you were so anxious to get rid of the other you, did you have to fix it so the other me can’t come back too? It’s not fair! I never asked for the other me to be taken away again! I’m still waiting in the silence to hear him say something – anything - to me! The silence… Always the silence!”

Arms wrapped around him from behind, and he collapsed into them. Maybe if he pretended hard enough, Malik could be Bakura. Maybe Malik was pretending he was his other half too. It was a pleasing fantasy and helped to calm his nerves, almost as much as the Egyptian’s whispers of “It’s okay, Ryou. Calm down. It’ll be all right. Let’s just finish it up and it’ll be all right.”

“Are you going to kill me?”

He could kill Yuugi for that if they didn’t already have plans for him. He gathered himself as best he could, taking a deep breath or two before he let himself speak. “Of course not. It wouldn’t accomplish anything, even making us feel better. You see, we want you to feel what we’re feeling, and you won’t feel the same empty loneliness if you’re dead. You wouldn’t get to breathe that same despair we breathe in every day if you’re dead.” He pushed himself to his feet shakily, Malik supporting him, before he managed the same adorable face he’d used to disarm them all at Duelist Kingdom. “Besides, didn’t you always say I’m the good one, Yuugi-kun?”

“Is it time for you to go already?” Malik sounded a little saddened, but behind it… There was a sense of excitement. When Ryou left, he would get to play after all. Maybe he wasn’t allowed to kill Yuugi, but he could still have a bit of fun.

“Yeah, it’s almost time for the press conference. Jounouchi’ll be waiting.”

That got Yuugi’s attention, as planned. “Jounouchi-kun?”

He smiled innocently at the tied up boy. “The police found… souvenirs from two recent serial murders hidden away in your room. You remember: Honda Hiroto and Mazaki Anzu?”

Now Yuugi struggled, the chains they’d used to secure him rattling loudly as he tried to get loose. “You did it! You’re the ones that killed my friends!”

“You two killed our other halves!” Malik yelled back. “Hiroto threw the Ring into the forest, and that Anzu girl would have supported the Nameless Pharaoh if he said to kill off half the planet.”

He put a hand on Malik’s arm. “Anyway, Jounouchi and your grandfather are holding a press conference, asking you to turn yourself in. Jounouchi asked me to be there for them, seeing as how it was you who beat the shit out of me. Jounouchi was the one who found me and got me patched up and all.”

“That was a stroke of remarkable timing and luck,” Malik put in. “You don’t know how many people I had to work over to get Katsuya to show up just then.” The Egyptian turned him around and straightened his clothes a bit. “Be careful. I’ll see you in a couple of hours.”

“Have fun while I’m gone. Remember: nothing too permanent.” He could already see the gleam in Malik’s eyes as he turned back to inspect his knife collection for the proper tool to start with. “I’ll be back soon enough, Yuugi. We’ll have to talk more then.” He walked out of the dockside warehouse to the sounds of Yuugi screaming, like the finest symphony. Malik was playing him like an instrument. In a way, he was: he was an instrument for both of their revenge.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, he could almost hear Bakura saying ‘Good job, little love’.

It wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough to start.