Chapter 1: Butlering for Great Justice!
Butlering for Great Justice!
"Good morning, sir. I see the assassins have failed again," Ryou said, entering his employer's bedroom and crossing to open the heavy draperies over the floor to ceiling windows.
As sunlight flooded the room, the lump under the blankets on the bed groaned, rolled over, and buried its head under the pillows.
"Really, sir—" Ryou crossed the room again, retrieved the silver breakfast tray, and placed it on the table beside the bed. "—It's almost three in the afternoon. Time for all good little billionaires to be rising and shining."
The lump on the bed shifted, groaned again, and finally deigned to leave its cocoon. A disheveled head of spiky auburn hair and blond bangs erupted from the blankets, and dark eyes glowered sleepily at Ryou, who smiled.
"Good morning, Master Yami."
"Please note that I am, as requested, rising," Yami growled, throwing back the covers to reveal a bare, tanned chest above silk pajama pants. "But I absolutely refuse to shine."
"Rough night, sir?"
An inarticulate sound somewhere between a snort and a snarl was the only response as his employer took the glass of protein drink that Ryou handed him. Fresh bruises littered Yami's back and sides, and a shallow cut had left a streak of dried blood smeared across his ribs. He tilted his head back as he drained the glass, revealing a necklace of bruises around his throat.
"Perhaps you should speak to Mr. Kaiba about upgrading your armor, sir?" The gentle suggestion was apparently ignored, though Ryou was certain his employer had not only heard him but filed the thought away for future consideration. "In the meantime, you have a board meeting in an hour. I thought the blue Armani?"
"Sounds good, Ryou. Thanks."
"My pleasure, sir." Pressing a slice of whole-grain toast into his employer's hand, Ryou dusted off his fingers and headed for the closet to retrieve the selected suit. "Will there be anything else?"
"Refresh my memory... What's this meeting again?"
"The proposed joint project with Industrial Illusions, I believe, sir."
Yami made a face that absolutely no one who knew him in his nighttime persona would believe him capable of. "Oh, great. That means dealing with that nut bar, Pegasus. Just what I need after the night I had..."
"Dare I ask?"
"The Tomb Robber broke into the Domino Museum after something from the Egyptian exhibit. I'm not sure what, exactly, because I interrupted him before he could get to whatever it was. Unfortunately, he got away. Fortunately, I'm sure he'll try again, so I can lay a trap. I'll need to do some research..."
Ryou made a mental note to add that to the search queue on the Cray array in the Cave.
"Bandit Keith was up to his usual nonsense. I left him dangling from the light post outside police headquarters." Yami paused in his recitation of the night's battles to dab a spoonful of marmalade on his toast. "There are signs that the Rare Hunters are back and active in the city."
Something else for Ryou to add to the search parameters.
"Then the Mind Control Kid escaped from the asylum, and I spent half the night tracking him down by the trail of 'mind slaves' he left wreaking havoc in his wake." All of whom Yami would have had to subdue, while trying not to cause undue injury to unwilling henchmen who were, in reality, themselves victims.
"And, judging by the state of your uniform--" Ryou scooped the battered remains of black, Kevlar/Nomex tri-weave armor from the floor. The suit looked as if it had been hacked, slashed, shot at, and burned. So, pretty much a typical night. "--when you found him, he tried to kill you."
"Nothing new there." Sighing, Yami finished his toast and reached for the tea. "All that was before midnight."
"And after midnight, sir?"
"I don't want to talk about it."
Oh, dear. "More villains?"
Yami was silent for so long that Ryou had just decided his employer wasn't going to answer when Yami muttered, "...and heroes."
Oh. Oh! 'Oh, dear,' indeed. Ryou fought a grin. "And will Mr. Mutou--" AKA 'The Game King'. "--be joining us for dinner at the manor anytime soon, sir?"
Pausing in the doorway to the en suite, Yami mumbled, "...Tonight," and vanished into the shower before Ryou could fully enjoy the sight of his employer blushing red all the way to the tips of his ears.
Alone in the bedroom, Ryou allowed the grin to escape. It wasn't an easy life, in the service of heroes. But sometimes it had it's small rewards.
Chapter 2: My Heart Belongs to the Handyman
Note: This one will only make sense if you've read my story "Undercover Pharaoh" and is AU for that fic.
My Heart Belongs to the Handyman
Ryou had come to the game shop to ask Yugi if he could spend a few nights in the back room... and met him. The handyman, who Yugi had hired to help out around the shopping center, was the most gorgeous man that Ryou had ever set eyes upon.
He had babbled a bunch of lascivious nonsense (not entirely aware of voicing his thoughts aloud, but entirely unable to stop), while his entranced gaze followed the handyman's progress around the room as he went about his work. Dear heavens, but the man's jeans appeared to have been spray painted onto his posterior when he bent to place a stack of game guides on the floor. Ryou could feel himself drooling, though he vehemently denied it when Yugi accused him of doing just that.
While he'd been bickering with Yugi, the handyman had approached them.
"Hello," he said in a deep voice that sent delightful shivers racing along Ryou's spine. "I don't believe we've met. I'm Yami Green."
Finding his hand nestled in Yami's, it was all Ryou could do not to faint from the sheer, overwhelming presence of the man. He made no effort to shake Yami's hand, but he didn't let go of it, either.
"R-ryou. Uh, ahem, Ryou Bakura." Dazzled by the smile Yami directed his way, Ryou could only hold on and try not to spontaneously combust from the blush he felt rising up his neck. "It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Mr. Green."
"The pleasure is mine. And, please, call me Yami."
For one breathless moment, Ryou wondered if Yami was going to kiss the back of Ryou's hand. He was only slightly disappointed when, instead, Yami gazed deep into Ryou's eyes as if trying to read his very soul. Ryou thought he might faint.
After a moment that seemed to last forever, Yami gasped. "It's you!"
Ryou's heart felt as if it would beat right out of his chest. His entire body felt as if it were on fire, and he could barely catch his breath. It should have been frightening; instead, it felt as if every second of his life had been leading up to this single moment, and everything finally made sense.
Aware of nothing but the overwhelming sense of "rightness" that had flooded through him the instant his gaze had locked with that of the handsome man before him, Ryou reached out to lay his hand over the center of Yami's chest. The heart beneath it beat as swiftly as his own. He looked up into Yami's dark eyes and smiled.
"I've been waiting for you," Ryou said, and realized only then that it was true. He had been waiting for this moment ever since Yugi had given him that silly puzzle... and Ryou had solved it. He knew now that he had belonged to Yami from the second the final piece of the puzzle had clicked into place. "I'm yours..."
"Mine?" Yami echoed.
"Yes." Oh, yes!
"Yes," Yami said and bent to kiss (claim) him.
With joy in his heart, Ryou met him halfway.
Chapter 3: Speaker for the Dead
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Speaker for the Dead
Ryou Bakura saw dead people.
Not only saw them, but also heard them, felt them, smelled them -- constantly, at all hours of the day and night. Voices (whispering, singing, shouting) tugged at the fringes of his conscious awareness. Ghosts flitted at the corners of his vision, gray wraiths at the edge of vision, or danced and gibbered around him, desperate to garner his attentions. Phantom touches ghosted along his skin when there was no stray breeze to blame, and the fading scents of exotic spices and perfumes lingered in the stale air of his cramped, boarding house room.
There were not many true mediums in the world of the living, and those few were in great demand -- not by the living, but by the dead. They all wanted to be heard, to have Ryou pass their messages on to the ones they had left behind. Since the childhood fever that had given him his ability, he had not enjoyed a moment's peace and quiet.
Since finding -- some would say "acquiring without remuneration" -- the odd gold ring with the eerie eye at its center, things had gone considerably downhill.
"No, I will not steal that woman's necklace for you!" Ryou pinched the bridge of his nose, quite certain his brain was actually trying to hammer its way through the front of his skull to escape the increasingly strident protestations of the Tomb Robber within. "If you do not cease this behavior at once, I shall allow the Pharaoh control of my body for an entire extra hour tonight. Your hour, I might add."
The Tomb Robber's voice cut off as abruptly as if someone had flipped a switch.
Satisfied that he had made his point, Ryou adjusted his hat and continued down the rain-washed pavement at a steady clip. The chill wind of autumn nipped at his nose and blew the hem of his long overcoat around his lower limbs. His boots splashed through puddles, soaking the hems of his trousers. The day was damp and grey, the sky dark with clouds threatening to do more than spit a steady drizzle of rain over the city. He allowed himself a sigh and held the neck of his coat closer about his throat. If only the Tomb Robber had not used his scarf as a get-away rope (a not entirely successful bit of improvisation), Ryou would not now be courting a sore throat on his way to the docks.
It was a good time to be leaving London. Not only was winter settling in, but -- despite the cold weather -- things were getting entirely too hot for Ryou's comfort. Not as content as the Pharaoh or some of Ryou's other "guests" to await an invitation to do so, the Tomb Robber had developed a penchant for taking over Ryou's body whenever the whim struck (and Ryou's attention sufficiently lagged). If Ryou's defenses were down, as they frequently were due to his perennial distraction (it being difficult to concentrate on any one thing when one was constantly bombarded by the very voluble dearly departed and their demands), the Tomb Robber would take over Ryou's body and get up to all kinds of mischief -- jewelry theft being a current favorite, though by far one of his tamer entertainments. Ryou still blushed at some of the memories the Magician-Priest (who did not enjoy being dragged along on the Tomb Robber's little excursions, but considered it his duty to try to keep the thief in line) had shown him.
Ryou hesitated in the shadow of a building. Tucking his chin to his chest to make it less obvious that he was holding a conversation "with himself", he said, "Now, I want you all to listen carefully..."
And, so, after a brief passage on a steam ship, Ryou soon found himself in France. He quickly found he did not care for the cities and the countryside was, sadly, wet and rather dreary. The foul weather seemed determined to follow him everywhere he ventured, as if he had been cursed with a little black rain cloud above his head. The Tomb Robber complained constantly about the lack of suitable occupation. The Pharaoh merely seemed bored. The other voices spirits were strangely (perhaps alarmingly) silent. Ryou worried.
Giving up on his initial vague plans to spend a month or two sketching the French scenery, be it urban or bucolic, Ryou departed for Spain, but the ill-tempered weather followed him from France to Spain to Italy and even Greece. Rain, rain, and more rain -- an almost constant drip and deluge, from morning mists to midnight thunderstorms. By the fourth week, he was heartily sick of wet shoes, damp clothing, and leaden skies. He was heartily sick of rain.
He decided to head for sunnier climes where rain was a distant rumor, somewhere warm and dry. Perhaps, the desert? And then inspiration struck him with all the subtlety of a half brick in a sock, wielded in a dark back alley.
Yes, Ryou decided as he wrung the water from his last pair of clean woolen socks and listened to the incessant patter of rain drops on the roof of his hostel. He would go to Egypt, the land of pyramids and pharaohs -- and, most importantly, very little rain.
At that moment, it sounded like the perfect plan. It never occurred to him that the voices in his head were, for once, all apparently in agreement -- and ominously silent.
This ficlet has since spawned its own series, a Victorian AU I'm called "The Light of Egypt" series. Look for it under that name here and on FFnet, if you'd like to read more stories set in this universe.
Chapter 4: Starting Over
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
His mother had always warned him to stay away from Collinsport, Maine. But, after her death, with his relationship with his father so strained by all that happened in Domino City (some his father knew about and most that he didn’t), Ryou had found himself in a rented car following coastal highways to this isolated little town overlooking the Atlantic.
Before he had even found lodgings for the night, he had taken the twisting, pot-hole marked road that led up to Eagle Hill Cemetery. Dead leaves crunched beneath his sneakers as he left the path and made his way gingerly between tilting gravestones beneath the gnarled branches of ancient trees. Here and there, the roots had forced their way up beneath the soil, throwing the markers off kilter and lurking in the tall grass for the opportunity to trip an unsuspecting pedestrian.
One such root caught Ryou unawares, snagging the toe of his shoe. His ankle twisted out from under him and he tumbled gracelessly, face first into the dirt. He sat up, spitting leaves and bits of grass, hands and knees stinging from the impact. One palm was scraped raw where it had caught the edge of a marble angel's plinth. He looked up into the carved face of the angel, its blank eyes filled with sorrow and moss, and only then noticed the fullness of the moon peeping over the tops of the denuded trees. In another day, it would be a true full moon.
The silver light illuminated the graveyard almost as clearly as if it were daytime, picking out highlights on the statues and tombstones. In the distance, further up on the hill, he could see the pale bulk of a family mausoleum looming over the run-down cemetery. Using the mausoleum as a starting point, he pushed himself to his feet and scanned the cemetery. For such a small town, there were certainly a lot of people buried in this little graveyard... Not so little, really, now that he got a good look at it. Row after straggling row of headstones -- some newer, some ancient -- meandered across the hillside, interspersed here and there by gnarled trees scraping at the sky with skeletal branches.
Driven by sudden curiosity and a need to move, to do something other than wallow in the still-raw grief he could feel rising to consume him, Ryou rose and began pacing slowly along the uneven rows of graves, reading the names on the markers as he passed. Some of them were so worn with age as to be illegible, but enough were readable. He found himself murmuring the names under his breath as he walked: Evans, Haskell, Trask, Collins... There were an awful lot of Collinses (Geoffrey, Edith, Gabriel, Edward...) and some of the older stones were so worn, he couldn't make out more than the general shape of the ubiquitous surname. Made sense, he supposed, to find so many Collinses in a town called Collinsport.
Finally, he stumbled (almost literally, as a cloud passed over the moon, obscuring his path) over the headstone he was seeking.
He knelt beside the stone, stretching out a hand to caress the deep carving of his mother's name: Angela Marie Jennings Bakura. His father hadn't wanted to bury her here, in her hometown, but it had been stipulated in her will. This was where she had wanted to be laid to rest. She hadn't ever asked much of Ryou Bakura Sr., rarely complaining even when his job took him all over the world, leaving her home to raise their two children practically alone. She had even let her husband choose their names (Amane, Ryou Jr.), though she had insisted on picking Ryou's middle name herself. (That he even had a middle name was a surprising concession from his father; perhaps it wasn't much of a stretch that the name she'd chosen for him was as unique as everything else about her. He'd never gotten the chance to find out why she'd picked "Quentin," though.)
Tears pricking at his eyes, Ryou knelt and ran his fingers over the deeply carved words and the dates underneath. He lingered a bit longer over his mother's maiden name. Jennings... He wondered how many of the Jennings family had lived in Collinsport. Were there others who shared the Jennings name, other members of his family, still living here? Maybe he could ask around in the morning, find someone (someone who had known his mother, someone who shared her eye color or had his nose...) to talk to, to anchor himself again... He glanced around at the profusion of Collinses again. He'd have to remember that his ancestors might have married into other families, sharing the other names displayed here. Heck, maybe he even had a Collins relative or two?
With a sigh, Ryou rose and trudged back toward the iron gate guarding the entrance and the deserted stretch of dirt road where he had left his car. He was tired from the long drive, and he needed to get into town and find a place to stay. As he picked his way through the rustling grass (more careful this time of stray roots), the wind clashed through the bare tree branches, sending grotesque shadows twisting on the ground all around him. His own shadow seemed to writhe in agony, losing all semblance of human shape.
Shivering, Ryou told himself to stop being foolish. He had faced Zork, a soul-stealing thief, and the Shadow Realm. What was there to fear in this silent place? But it was with gratitude that he settled into the driver's seat of his rented car and started the engine. Feeling foolish, he locked the doors and cranked up the heat before turning the car back toward Collinsport. Over the thrum of the engine, he never heard the agitated howling of the dogs that arose in his wake.
And, in the dark sky, the bloated moon lurked like a tick gorging on blood. Tomorrow was Ryou's twenty-first birthday.
The moon would be full.
Note for those not familiar with the original "Dark Shadows": Thanks to a curse inherited from Quentin Collins (via the Jennings line), Ryou's about to become a werewolf.
Chapter 5: It's Only Industrial (Light and) Magic
It's Only Industrial (Light and) Magic
Tongue between his teeth as he concentrated on the tiny piece of painted balsa held in his tweezers, Ryou hunched low over the table, putting the finishing touches on the diorama of an ancient Egyptian city surrounded by "desert" sands.
"Hey, Bakura," came a friendly voice from somewhere behind him. "That looks great!"
"Thanks." Smiling, Ryou straightened and waved his friend over. They stood for a minute, surveying the work of a week's worth of overtime. "Finished it just in time, too. They start filming the 'Dawn of the Duel' episodes tomorrow."
"Yeah. Yami and I are going to go over our lines tonight." Yugi Mutou, co-star of the hit television show King of Games, returned the smile. "Wanna come over to my place for dinner later? Everybody'll be there. We're gonna send out for pizza and then play games."
"Sure, sounds great."
"Cool. See you at seven, okay?" With a parting wave, Yugi left Ryou (who was the head model maker and chief of miniature effects for the show) to his work.
Humming with contentment, Ryou turned back to his diorama, which would be featured in the upcoming story arc. Thinking of all the things that happened on the show (mayhem and madness, souls stolen or trapped in inanimate objects, the fate of the world resting on a card game), he was very glad it was all make-believe.
Reality was so much better. He had loved making models and miniatures since he was a kid, and couldn't imagine a better job. He had good friends, work he loved, and a close-knit family (Mom, Dad, and his sister Amane). Which reminded him, he would need to give his mother a call and let her know he wouldn't be over for dinner, since he was hanging out with Yugi and the gang, tonight.
Get-togethers at the Mutou's house were always a blast, and Ryou was pretty sure that Yami (Yugi's twin and the other star of their show) had been flirting with him the last couple of game nights. Maybe tonight he'd throw caution to the winds and finally ask the handsome actor out on a real date...
Ryou grinned as he reached for his cell phone. Really, he couldn't imagine a more wonderful life.