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Protect Me, Bakura!

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Dear Amane,

I hope you’re doing OK.

As always, I miss you. I miss Mom, too; please be sure to tell her that.

Dad is back in Egypt; he’s been there for quite a while. Although I’m not really sure what it is he’s doing, exactly, I know it must have to do with the Egyptian exhibit they’re setting up at the museum.

Most people my age would probably give their left eye to live alone at the age of 16, but once the novelty wears off...it gets really lonely. And tiresome. I suddenly feel as though I’ve taken everything he did for me for granted.

If I don’t do the shopping, I won’t have food.

If I don’t cook, I won’t eat.

If I don’t do my laundry, I won’t have clean clothes.

It all sounds so simple but, if you want to keep up with everything, you wind up constantly doing stuff out of necessity with every free moment. Time for myself is really hard to come by these days.

Perhaps, in the end, it doesn’t really matter whether I have free time or not, as I still don’t have any friends...but I’m transferring to a new school soon, so maybe--

 

Ding-dong!  

Ryou turned his head at the sound, abandoning the letter he had been composing, then rose from his desk. “Who on earth could that be?”

Once he made his way to the foyer, he opened the door just a crack and peeked through: a delivery man, holding a package, cocked his head in a playful way, peeking back at him.

“I don’t bite.” He grinned. “I promise.”

Giving him a bashful grin back, Ryou pulled the door completely open. “Sorry. I wasn’t really expecting anybody.”

“Well, I’m glad you answered. This package requires a signature.” He thrust the box in his direction.

“Oh. Sure.” He tucked the box under an arm, then signed the man’s clipboard.

Signature procured, the delivery man tilted his hat in his direction. “Thanks! Have a nice evening.”

“You, too...” he muttered, turning the package in his hands.

‘Who is this even from...?’

The box had apparently heard his silent question; in a manner not unlike a Magic 8 Ball, he turned the box once more to find his father’s name on the sender’s line.

“Huh.” After pushing the door closed, he walked into the kitchen, then grabbed a knife to cut through the tape on the box.

The first thing that he found inside was a note.

”Dear Ryou,” he read aloud, leaning onto the kitchen counter. “I hope you’re managing well without me. There’s still much to be done before I can return to Domino, so it will be a while before I can come back home to you.” His lips tightened in a little pout. “Perhaps that’s the reason why I was compelled to send this artifact over to you. Legend has it that if a person who is pure of heart dons this ring, the ancient spirit, Akefia, will manifest, and act as that person’s personal sentinel. Silly superstition or not, the idea of you having somebody looking out for you makes me feel a bit better. Be careful, and make sure to do your schoolwork. I miss you, son. Love, Papa.

He placed the note on the counter. “How intriguing.” Pushing the packing material aside, he dug through the box until he saw a glimmer of gold.

Jaw dropped, he pulled the artifact from its cardboard prison: a large, gold circle, the middle of which housed a triangle with an Egyptian-style eye that reminded him of the Eye of Horus in the center. The five spear-like ornaments that hung from it jingled a soft tune as he brought his other hand up to hold the ring properly.

“Oh my goodness...it’s beautiful!” A wide, happy grin graced his mouth. “I suppose I’ll give it a go...I hope that I’m ‘pure of heart’ enough for it to work.” Transferring his grip from the ring to the leather tie hooked through it, he took a breath, then looped it over his head.

A bright blue flash, like electricity, burst forth from the ring, temporarily blinding him. Letting out a scream, he fell back onto the refrigerator -- not so much out of shock, but more so, by force; it felt like the ring had expelled a huge mass of energy, and it sent him backwards...hard.

“Ugh...” Body limp, he slid down the refrigerator until he landed in a sit on the floor. “What was that?” He rubbed his eyes with his palms.

“It was me , FINALLY escaping from that damn ring.” The voice that spoke the words sounded a bit like his own, only gruffer...edgier.

...Wait a minute--

“AH!” Once he twisted his back away from the refrigerator, he backpedaled up the floor, away from what he could only describe as his evil-looking twin -- he was even wearing the same clothing as himself. “Wh--...who ARE you?”

His doppelgänger narrowed his eyes. “...Who do you think I am?”

Blink, blink. “Wait...you must be the ancient sentinel spirit! The one who’s here to protect me because I was pure of heart and put the ring on, right?”

Lips pursed, the other turned his gaze on a diagonal toward the ceiling for a moment before he looked back at Ryou, then nodded and shrugged. “OK, sure. That works. So, kid, how, uh...” he looked around the room, “how long you suppose I’ve been in that ring?”

“Well...I’m not really sure but, if you’re actually an ancient spirit, then...probably three-, four-, or even five-thousand years, or so?” He placed a hand on his chest in an effort to calm himself, while keeping the other on the floor behind him.

“That sounds about right,” he muttered. After a quick glance around the room, he looked him square in the eyes. “Got any food?”

“Uh, y-yeah...sure...” Even though his legs felt like jelly, he pushed himself up from the floor. “I was about to make dinner for myself, so it’s not difficult to make a bit extra.” Covertly blowing a nervous breath out of his mouth, he opened the refrigerator and peeked inside. “Any requests?”

“No bread.” The words were nearly barked at him.

“OK. I’ll, uh...just make some curry, then.” Confident as he sounded, his limbs shook with panic, and his mind went at a mile a minute as he gathered the ingredients for dinner.

‘I can’t BELIEVE this is happening! It...it’s impossible!

...Isn’t it?

And how can he be so cavalier? He’s so calm and composed...and rugged. I mean, I guess it makes sense, as he’s supposed to be a guardian, but somehow, something more soft and gentle comes to mind when I think ‘sentinel spirit’...then again, it’s not like I’ve put much thought into something I didn’t think existed AT ALL...

...Oh my God, there’s an ancient Egyptian spirit in my kitchen! WHAT THE HELL?’

“So.” He turned around with an armful of vegetables to find that the spirit had taken a seat on one of the stools at the counter. “Your name’s Akefia, correct?”

One eyebrow squished down and the other raised, the spirit gave him a look. “Akefia? That sounds made-up, or something.” He pushed his bangs out of his face. “My name’s Bakura.”

Mouth hanging open, he dropped the vegetables unceremoniously onto the counter. “Th--...that’s my surname!”

A sinister smile creeped onto Bakura’s lips. “Is that so?”

“It is! Don’t you think that’s strange? You don’t seem very surprised by it...as a matter of fact, if you don’t mind me saying it--”

“By all means.”

He dragged the cutting board in front of him, then braced himself on the counter. “You seem completely unfazed by all of this.” Gaze locked onto the counter, he tried to gather himself.

“Listen, uh...what’d you say your name was -- your first name, that is?”

“Ryou,” he muttered, glancing up at him.

“Ryou, I’ve been waiting in a ring for millennia to fulfill a purpose, and now...I’m finally able to do so: given the circumstances, would it make more sense for me to be shaken, or relieved?”

Blotting his lips, he slowly nodded as he rolled the sentiment around in his mind. “I understand what you’re saying. But the name...don’t you think that’s a bit out-there?”

Bakura’s shoulders lifted in a slight shrug. “I think it just indicates that I’m exactly where I need to be.”

Slowly sucking in a deep breath, he nodded. “This is all just...” he waved a hand in the air, “...a bit much for me, but...” he looked back up at his new guardian and tried his best to smile, “I look forward to getting to know you better.”

Tucking his chin ever-so-slightly, Bakura grinned back at him. “Likewise.”

 

#

 

After eating dinner together, Bakura and Ryou were actually rather quiet with each other. Ryou seemed nervous, but Bakura? He was just distracted.

Once he’d ascertained that his charge was asleep, the spirit decided to make his move and headed toward the front door.

‘I’m not sure who fed the ‘sentinel spirit’ story to this boy, but may the Gods smile down upon them; it certainly freed me from having to concoct an only slightly more ridiculous story of my own.

Me? A sentinel? The only one I look out for is myself. But thanks for the hospitality, kid.’

A grin stretched his lips as he quietly unlocked the deadbolt.

‘And now, to hunt down the Millennium It--‘

“Meow!” A small cat sang at him, as soon as he opened the door.

Eyes wide, he nearly slammed the door shut. Trembling fingers couldn’t turn the deadbolt fast enough, and his breath moved in panicked huffs.

‘...No.’

He bolted across the house, he frantically looked for another door; thankfully, there was one off the kitchen...but the moment he opened it--

“Purr-reow!” Another cat stood, swishing its tail.

Slam!

The spirit turned his back on the closed door and collapsed against it.

‘NO!’

Placing a hand on his heaving chest, he squeezed his eyes closed.

‘I’ve only just escaped...how did they find me so quickly?’

After taking one more deep breath, he collected himself, and recaptured his resolve.

‘Fine.

It’s fine.

I’ve already waited this long...so, I can wait a bit longer.

As long as I’m inside of this dwelling or the ring, none of you can get to me.

But mark my words: as soon as I can find a way, I WILL evade you.’

After turning around to give the door a threatening look, he disappeared, back into the ring.

 

#

 

Ryou dreaded turning off the shower.

Last night was so painfully awkward; Bakura didn’t give off what he’d consider a ‘friendly vibe’...as a matter of fact, the spirit was one of the most difficult to talk to people he’d ever known. He hated the concept of trying to make conversation, but also didn’t want to avoid him. The morning shower was buying him some time, but he knew running into Bakura was inevitable.

They kind of shared a house, after all.

Realizing he’d been staring at the faucet for a troublingly long amount of time, he heaved a sigh, then turned it off.

‘I guess there really is no way out of this.’

Once he was ready for school, he entered the kitchen to find Bakura sitting at the table, gnawing on some food. The spirit turned his head, giving him a calculating look and, in return, Ryou plastered a big, friendly smile on his face that had absolutely nothing genuine about it. “Good morning!”

“Same.” His voice was flat as a board.

Forcing a happy giggle, he went to the refrigerator to grab something quick for breakfast. “I see you’re doing well with finding your way around the kitchen. Have everything you need?”

“Yeah.” He paused. “Do you care?”

“Of course not.” He poured himself a glass of milk. “Help yourself to whatever you like.”

“Thanks,” he muttered.

‘There’s that awkwardness again...GOD, I hate that!’

“Where did you find such huge fruit?”

Ryou nearly choked on his first sip of milk, but managed to hold it together. “I’m sorry?”

Holding up a (what he considered) normal-looking strawberry, Bakura waved it at him. “This berry...it’s enormous and sweet, like the rest of your fruit; how’d you find them?”

“How did I...?” Blink, blink. “Oh, right! That’s normal for us. Agriculture’s come a long way since your time; we’ve bred fruits and vegetables to be much bigger and more flavorful over the last few thousand years.”

“That’s an understatement.” The spirit took a bite of the berry. “You look like you’re going somewhere.”

He nodded. “I’m going to school; I should be gone for most of the day.”

Bakura’s eyes widened a bit. “Put the ring on before you go so I can tag along.”

There was a drop in his stomach. “Y--...you want to come...to school with me?”

It was the spirit’s turn to nod. “Uh-huh. Why wouldn’t I?”

‘Oh, God...’

Shifting his gaze to one side, he ducked his head. “Well, for one, you can’t just attend classes without being a student at the school.”

Bakura gave him a quick shrug, followed by an equally quick head shake. “I’ll just stay in the ring.”

“Oh,” he peeped, looking back up at the spirit. “Even so, you’ll be...um...b-bored. REALLY bored. It’ll bore you out of your mind. You’d be much better off, staying here and watching television, or something.”

After taking a moment to chew and swallow the remainder of the strawberry while giving him a long, probing stare that scared the hell out of him, he blinked. “How the hell am I supposed to protect you if I’m stuck in your house with no clue as to where you are? I’m going to school with you.”

Feeling the last bit of hope that he could talk Bakura out of coming along extinguish itself, he nodded. “I understand.”

A sadistic half-smile came to the spirit’s lips as he rose from his chair; he then grabbed the ring from the counter so he could shove it over Ryou’s head. “There.”

He looked down at himself, then back up at Bakura, pulling a side of his mouth tight.

Patience obviously thinning, the spirit scowled at him. “What now?”

“It just...it’s a bit...” he shrugged, “loud, don’t you think?”

“Loud is good. Especially when it’s gold. Gold and jewels make you look rich. That’s the kind of attention you want .”

“Not at school, though. As a matter of fact, for all I know, the teachers might say it’s against the dress code and confiscate it--”

“Then wear it under your shirt--...jacket...thing!” Bakura unbuttoned a few of Ryou’s uniform jacket buttons, causing him to blush. “I need to be around you, or there’s no point in me being around, at all!”

Closing his eyes, he yielded to Bakura, allowing him to push the ring inside of his uniform. There were a few tugs, along with angry puffs of breath from the spirit’s nose that warmed his face, before he felt nimble fingers re-button the jacket.

“Done.” His eyes fluttered open to find Bakura staring down at his chest. “You can’t even tell you’re wearing it under there.”

He looked down at himself, then nodded in approval. “You’re right.”

“Of course, I am. And I’m right about going to school with you, too.”

“OK...” he nearly whispered. After collecting himself, he drew in a breath, then turned to grab a lemon poppyseed muffin. “Well, you might as well go back into the ring now; I need to get going.”

 

#

 

Having a host was awfully nice.

Before Ryou had decided to wear the ring, Bakura’d sat in deafening silence and darkness, lying in wait.

But now, he could see and hear everything that Ryou could...

...making it much easier to plot his escape.

All he needed to do was find the right moment to hop out of the ring and ditch the kid, but every time he thought he’d found an out--

“Mew!”

“Hmhm!” Ryou giggled and waved at a cat, perched on the hood of a car. “Hi, kitty!”

‘Damn it! They’re EVERYWHERE!

Ugh...maybe, I’m just being impatient.

What I SHOULD do, is learn this boy’s habits and patterns...that way, the ideal time to run off will present itself. I’m just over-thinking it.‘

When Ryou’d put up such a passive fight that morning, he’d been about ninety-nine percent sure that the boy was lying to him about how boring school would be -- that Ryou was hiding something from him. As the day progressed, though, he realized that his assessment of the boy was both wrong and right. Yes, school was just as boring as Ryou’d made it out to be...because, aside from him politely side-stepping a group of doe-eyed, lovesick girls who greeted him in the morning, Ryou didn’t utter a word to anybody the entire day. It doesn’t take the world’s foremost intellectual to understand why a person would want to hide the fact that they’re an outcast.

Bakura’d been close to nodding off when a few bells sounded.

‘School’s finally over, Spirit,’ Ryou’s thoughts echoed throughout the ring, as he picked up his bag. ‘I hope you weren’t too bored.’

The sentence made his lips curl into the faintest of smiles, but it was one, nonetheless. ‘I’ve been through worse.’

He heard Ryou make a tiny gasp. ‘Y--...you could actually hear that? ...And I can hear you?’

‘Of course. When you’re wearing the ring, we’re mentally connected to one another.’

‘You can’t hear...ALL of my thoughts...can you?’

‘Should I save your dignity, or tell you the truth?’  He full-on grinned, this time. ‘You look innocent...but you’re one naughty--’

“Mm!” The anguished sound Ryou made with his actual voice almost made him feel sorry for the boy.

...Almost.

‘Relax, kid; I only hear the thoughts that’re meant for me to hear.’

He could see Ryou rip his shoes from his shoe locker. ‘That was really mean...’

‘I was teasing you; it was just a joke.’

The boy slipped into his street shoes. ‘Why people consider cruelty to another person while they laugh a ‘joke’ is bewildering; why the same people expect their target to laugh along with them is completely beyond me. That’s not comedy; it’s bullying.’  Once he secured his school shoes in his locker, he stormed out of the building.

He rolled his eyes. ‘I won’t do it anymore, then.’

Ryou paused. ‘...Thank you.’

‘You’re welcome.’ An evil grin spread across his mouth. ‘So...what WERE you thinking about that was so embarrassing?’

Ryou let out a frustrated sigh.

‘You’re a teenage boy...so, I’m assuming it was--’

‘I WAS WORRIED YOU’D THINK I WAS A LOSER FOR HAVING NO FRIENDS, OK?’ The words bellowed so loudly throughout the ring, they vibrated through him.

(‘Like I care...’)

He let out a quiet sigh. ‘Whether or not other people are close to you doesn’t determine your value as a person, and believing that way is self-inflicted cruelty. You said that I was bullying you earlier, but if you diminish yourself like that, you’re your own bully...not me.’

Ryou’s gaze went to the pavement. ‘I never thought of it that way before...’

‘Too busy thinking about getting nailed, huh?’

There was a snort of stifled laughter, and it made Bakura smile...

...but the little white and brown cat who began to trot alongside Ryou took it away in a hurry.

“What’s so funny, wimp?” The voice was an unfamiliar one; Ryou turned to look at its threatening owner, but Bakura only had a moment to size the boy up before his host quickly averted his gaze.

Not saying a word, Ryou’s gait picked up speed considerably. ‘Oh no...not again!’

“You know I hate it when you ignore me, twerp!”

Losing his footing as he was yanked backwards, Ryou made a pitiful sound. “Let go of me...please!”

Bakura felt himself grin.

(‘I’d love to kick some ass...it’s been far too long.’)

The bully -- who was considerably taller and much bulkier than his host -- was in Ryou’s face, but there was just enough field of vision available for him to see that little cat, observing the altercation a few feet away.

(‘Shit.  I can’t risk it.’)

“How many times do I have to tell you to stay away from Tamako?” The bully, who had a hold of Ryou’s wrist, pushed him roughly onto a brick wall.

“But I have stayed away from her! I haven’t spoken a word to her!”

‘Come on, Ryou...punch this asshole!’

‘I can’t, I...I--!’

Bakura grunted. ‘Right hook to the face; he’s totally open!’

‘I don’t even know what that is!’

‘Shift all of your weight to your right side, pull your arm back, rotate your hip forward, and follow through!’

‘Then what? He’s going to kill me if I fight back!’

He didn’t know what was more frustrating; the fact that he couldn’t help, or the fact that Ryou was right: he might be able to land a decent hit, but the guy would annihilate him afterward.

“Then WHY did I see you with her this morning outside of school, huh?”

“She and her friends came up to me...I tried to shake them as soon as I could, I swear!”

The bully glared at him, lips quivering in rage. “So, she can’t bring herself to stay away from you, is that what you’re saying? You cocky little PRICK!”

WHACK!

Bakura could almost feel the backhand delivered to his host’s face.

“Don’t you EVER let me see you around her again.” He released Ryou with a shove, then stormed away.

There were a few stuttered gasps; it wasn’t difficult to tell that the boy was nursing his left cheek.

‘...You OK?’ It was all he could think of to say.

The only response from his host was a tearful coo, as he pushed himself fully to his feet and rushed toward his house.

‘Ryou?’

Silence.

‘RYOU.’

But the boy didn’t utter a sound; he just jogged all the way to his front door, then dashed inside.

And the moment the door closed, he escaped from the ring to find his host kicking his shoes off in the foyer.

“Why wouldn’t you answer me?” The frustrated question was nearly shouted at Ryou’s back.

The slighter one stood in silence for a moment. “Why didn’t you do anything?”

He shifted from foot to foot, trying to come up with an answer. “The timing, it--...what would that kid’ve told everybody if a spirit popped out of your shirt and kicked his ass? What would everybody think of you?”

“I don’t care what they think of me.” His voice was soft and trembling.

“You cared what I thought of you.”

“That’s different.”

He quietly took a breath. “You seemed really sensitive about the way people treat you, so I...” Looking down at the floor for a moment, he paused.

‘Even I’M not buying my bullshit.’

Ryou turned toward him: his eyes were red, his cheeks were wet, and the trauma to his face was evident...but, despite the shame and alienation swimming in those big, brown eyes, he locked gazes with him. “You were supposed to protect me.”

There was a painful lurch in his chest, and he almost felt compelled to close his eyes, so as not to have to endure the sight before him. Before he could even open his mouth to speak, Ryou disappeared into the house, leaving only the sound of footsteps and a door closing behind him.

Pushing his hair back, he blew a breath out of his mouth. “Shit.”

 

#

 

Bakura sat at the kitchen counter, in the dark.

The sun had set about an hour before and, seeing as he didn’t have much else to do, he just sat with his thoughts.

Ryou hadn’t made a sound, let alone tried to leave his room, so he had all of the reflective silence he needed.

He crossed his arms.

‘This is stupid.

Why should I feel guilty, for even a second.

This whole ‘sentinel’ thing is a total farce; I never had any obligation to him, whatsoever.

And it’s not MY problem that he’s too weak and soft to protect himself...or that he doesn’t seem to have any kind of parent around to help him.

...However relatable that may be.

...NO. No! I was once that weak and vulnerable orphan child.

Yes, it was tough...and dangerous...it kind of sucked, but I LEARNED, damn it, and he will, too.

The last time that I had a real home was so long ago, that I--...I don’t need one, anymore. I’m used to it. I’m used to not having a family or friends; I don’t need any of it.

Besides, he’s never done a thing for me.

...OK, he fed me...and was decent to me...but that’s about it.

I’m here to collect the Millennium Items, not guard some kid -- a kid who isn’t even speaking to me, anyway. So, I might as well just leave.

If he has the ring, it’ll sustain me, and I’ll be able to do what I need to do.’

He looked over at the back door.

‘...As long as those cats don’t drag me to Duat, first.’

After pushing himself away from the counter, he got to his feet, took one last look around, then grabbed the knob of the back door.

“It’s been real,” he whispered.

Once the door was cracked, he peeked outside: No cats.

A breath of relief escaped his lips, and he stepped out into the night.

‘OK...fenced-in yard...where’s the gate to get out?’

Peering through the darkness, his gaze followed the perimeter of the fence, searching for some kind of difference to indicate an entrance, but--

“Mreow?”

Whipping around, face stony with horror and determination, he spotted his assailant: a grey short-haired cat, who strolled over to him. The more he backed away, the closer the cat came...and, as he was in a fenced-in area, space was getting increasingly hard to find.

Finally, his shoulder blades hit the wooden fence; he tried to sidle away, but the cat followed.

“You stay away from me,” he growled.

“Mreow?” The cat’s erect tail swayed in the air, as she made her way closer.

He turned, reached up and grabbed the top of the fence, then pulled himself to look over it...only to find three more cats, sitting around, waiting for him.

Practically panting in fear, he dropped back to the ground. His hands were shaking, his eyes were wide, and he didn’t know if he could make it back to the house, considering both his and the cat’s positions.

A snarl crossed his face.

‘You can try to take me, beast, but I promise you: I WILL find a way back!’

Bracing himself, he turned his head to the side, hugged the fence with his back, and closed his eyes.

“Don’t worry; I’ve got him.”

Opening one eye, just enough to peek, Bakura found Ryou standing a few feet away from him, holding the cat in his arms.

‘He...saved me...?’

A wave of relief fell through him; how did he get this lucky?

The cat rubbed her face against Ryou’s, eliciting a sweet giggle from the boy. “No, it’s not your fault. Kemetics just have a complicated relationship with kitties, is all...isn’t that right, Bakura?”

After a hard swallow, he gave Ryou a hesitant nod. “You...I don’t...” He shook his head. “You know...thank you.”

A strange smile came to Ryou’s mouth; it seemed equal parts reluctant and proud, with a hint of shyness. “It was nothing.” He walked up beside him, gave the cat a few kisses on the cheek, then guided her over the fence. “I could tell you were uncomfortable, and it took zero effort to help out.”

All he could do was stare at his host, a thousand different feelings twisting in his chest.

‘Shit.

...Again.’

Giving him a sad smile, Ryou nodded to him. “Well...have a good night.” Once he pivoted, he began to walk away from him.

“I’m sorry.”

Ryou stopped, turning to look back at him with an innocent expression on his pale face.

“I--...” he looked away from his host, “...I was irresponsible. And I was cruel. I should’ve kicked that guy’s ass before he could even open his mouth, consequences be damned.” He shifted in his spot. “Look, even though I don’t know you really well, I can tell you’re a good kid. This guardian shit is just all really new to me and, frankly...I suck at it, but...” he made a shrug, “you know...you make me...kind of want to get better at it...” He grabbed the back of his neck. “Kind of. Well...y--...I mean...you do.”

Even though the words he’d uttered made him want to eat his own eyeballs out of pride, he glanced over at the boy; he was smiling again, but this time, it was overcome and genuine.

“I guess what I’m saying is...I hope you’ll give me another chance. And...sorry.”

Pausing, Ryou just smiled at him for a moment. “I’d like that. And I not only accept your apology, but appreciate it, too. More than you know.”

Squirming around a bit, he averted his gaze from his host, once more.

‘I’m seriously pissed off at how relieved I am.

...Maybe even happy.

Bakura...STOP IT.’

“Thanks,” he grumbled. “I’m just wondering if you could do one favor for me, though.”

“And what’s that?” Ryou’s smile grew even bigger.

Finally, he looked at him again. “Keep cats away from me.”

He giggled. “That’s no problem at all.”

“And I mean all of them, all of the time.”

“I will.”

“Are you sure you can even do it? They seem to follow you.”

Ryou laughed, once more. “They just like me because I’m always feeding them. As a matter of fact, I was giving them treats from my bedroom window when the little grey one wandered off; I jumped through the window to see what was going on and found you. But don’t worry; I’ll make sure they leave you alone.”

He let out a sigh of relief. “Thank you.” But realization wasn’t too far behind. “...Wait, you WHAT?”

 

#

 

Ryou strolled down the street, holding his school bag.

It was Friday morning, and he’d made things right with Bakura; there wasn’t even one awkward silence the entire morning.

‘I feel so content that it’s almost scary!’

Closing his eyes, he let out a little giggle of happiness.

“Still laughing at nothing, huh, twerp?”

As his bully came barreling toward him, he came to a standstill.

‘Oh God...’

The bully smirked, coming closer and closer to him. “This morning, I’m going to make sure you stay away from Tamako.”

Flash!

The blue light that heralded the arrival of his guardian spirit cracked through the air; completely bewildered, the wide-eyed bully stumbled backward at the sight of Ryou’s evil twin.

Bakura turned his head to the right. “Hey, Host; don’t forget to take the four-leggeds with you.”

He grinned. “I won’t.”

“W-who the hell are you?” The bully’s voice cracked, as he just barely managed to squeak the sentence.

Grinning as well, Bakura turned his head back toward the bully. “I’m the garbage man.” Without uttering another word, he advanced on the boy, who looked too stunned to do anything -- even when Bakura pulled his arm back and walloped him, straight in the jaw.

“AH!” The bully fell to the ground, just barely catching himself with his right hand on the pavement.

But Bakura wasn’t finished; once he kneeled down, he pushed him over, and grabbed him by the waist of his pants and the back of his shirt. With a grunt, he hoisted the boy up, walked forward, then heaved him into a nearby dumpster.

Bakura peeked his head into the container. “Now count to 100 before you leave, my little trash gremlin...and don’t even THINK about cheating.” He looked back over at Ryou, with a grin. “You go on ahead...and give my regards to Tamako.”

“Hmhm!” He snickered. “I will!”