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Metamorphose

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When he first returned to the land of the living, he was lost. He didn’t know where he was, or why he was here, or how he’d even managed to escape the Shadow Realm in the first place. All he knew was that one second he was nothing but a torn up soul drowning in a sea of thick, oppressive darkness, growing death to his own pained, terrified screams; and the next he found himself lying face down on the cold asphalt of a city alleyway, in a tangible body that was almost but not quite like his original body. He was fresh from the Shadow Realm but he had never felt stronger; he couldn’t remember feeling so alive, even when he was alive. This was a brand new body that had never known starvation, or fatigue, or pain; the weight of metal shackles around slim wrists nor the heat of the burning Egyptian sun on a bare back.

 

He sat up and brushed rocks and dirt from his cheek, expecting to feel the familiar mangle of scar tissue he’d grown used to in his life, but only finding smooth skin beneath his fingertips. He felt around his face with both hands, thinking that perhaps 3,000 years without a body of his own made him forget the size of the scar, or which cheek it had been on, but no; the crisscrossing of raised scarring on his right cheek was gone. He looked down at his hands, which had been rough and calloused from years of hard labor, but his palms were as smooth as a newborn’s.

 

His eyes lifted to his arm and he saw that he wore the clothing he had died in; a bright red cloak and a deep blue shenti, but even the fabric seemed newer. It lacked the fray of threads at the hems from wear and the old blood stains he was never able to scrub out when he washed his clothes in the river.

 

He pushed up his long sleeves and examined his arms. Then he looked down at his chest and stomach, and then his legs. He even pulled off his shoes to examine the soles of his feet. Every last scar, from the large gashes caused by enemy swords and daggers, to the hair-thin line on his foot he’d gotten from stepping on a piece of broken pottery as a child; every single scar he’d ever had was just…gone, replaced with smooth, brown skin.

 

He swallowed his breath and forced himself to remain calm. He left the alley and looked around, immediately recognizing the city as Domino once his eyes caught sight of the various screens and billboards advertising some sort of new duel disc. So he was back in Japan. But how, and for the love of all that was holy, why? He had no answers, and he knew he would find none just standing at the entrance to an alley and fighting his rising panic, so he decided to search for a familiar face.

 

Finding Ryou Bakura was the only thing that felt right to him at that moment, and the thought of being around someone he knew comforted his panicked, confused mind, even if he was sure his old host would not be happy to see him again.

 

As he walked down the sidewalk he noticed he was getting odd looks from almost every person he passed. Every eye seemed to turn in his direction to catch sight of his snow-white hair, his dark skin, and his strange outfit. No one spoke to him, probably assuming he was some sort of cosplayer, but he hated being so conspicuous regardless of what people thought of him. So he stole a pair of wallets from businessmen who looked like they needed to be humbled and found the nearest clothing store. He tossed the cards and used the cash to purchase something that brought less attention.

 

He bought a three pack of simple black t-shirts, a red and white hoodie that reminded him of the cloak he was currently wearing, a pair of dark blue jeans, and the most comfortable pair of sandals he could find. He also bought a backpack to keep his “old” clothes in, not having the heart to get rid of them even though they weren’t really the clothes he wore when he was alive. It was foolish, and sentimental, and took up space he’d need for things like food and hygiene products later when he was inevitably forced to live on the street, but he couldn’t bring himself to put the clothes in the garbage with his receipt and shopping bags.

 

He changed in the bathroom and left quickly after that, ignoring the employee’s attempts to help him spend more money. Back on the street he still got the occasional odd glance because of his hair, but he wasn’t drawing nearly as much attention now, so it didn’t bother him. No one gave him any trouble, and no one noticed when he lifted another wallet.

 

His old host had apparently moved out of the apartment he’d known when he was still the Spirit of the Ring, but he was confident he could still find his host. He could sense his host somehow, as if there was a magnet in his chest and one in Ryou Bakura’s chest, and they were slowly being drawn together. He used his stolen money to get a cab, not sure where he was going, but somehow aware he would know his host’s apartment when he got there.

 

When he told the driver to stop they were in a completely different part of town, nearly ten miles away from where his host had last lived. He paid the driver and watched the cab speed away before glancing around. The closest apartment building was the one he was most drawn to, so he walked towards the entrance, staring up at it with a frown. It was a little older looking than the other apartment building, with dirty concrete balconies and moss growing on the grey brick façade. There was no code to get inside, which had him a bit worried for his host’s security, and he walked right into the lobby and up the stairs.

 

The pull inside his chest lead him to the 4th floor, apartment 409.

 

He pulled in a deep breath, steadying his nerves and preparing himself for the absolute worst case scenario. Then he reached out and rapped his knuckles against the wooden door three times.

 

The sun had only just begun to set when he’d entered the building, so if it was a weekday, his host should have been out of school. Despite knowing his host was asocial, it was possible he was out with Yugi’s little social group, so he didn’t expect the door to open.

 

However after a moment there was a shuffling inside the apartment, and a second later he heard a lock sliding out of place. The door opened smoothly, but the hinges creaked quietly.

 

His host had changed. Not by much, but enough that it was noticeable. His hair was shorter, styled differently, and the bags under his eyes were a bit darker. His host’s eyes were still bright and friendly, though, and the constant anxiety he’d been feeling since he awoke in the alley subsided when their gazes met.

 

His host’s smile was curious and polite for all of two seconds. Then his host seemed to recognize him, and his brilliant green eyes grew round in shock. His mouth fell open and he made a quiet noise, like air rushing out of a punctured tire.

 

“Nice to see you again, Landlord,” he said in response to his host’s stunned silence. He slipped his hands into his pockets, trying hard to look casual and undisturbed by their impromptu reunion, even though his heart felt like it was beating a hundred miles a minute.

 

“I-I…you- How did… You were…!” His host stammered in lieu of greeting.

 

He smirked and tipped his head to the side. “Where have your manners gone, Landlord? You’re supposed to invite old friends inside.”

 

His host’s shock melted away into anger, the expression on his face shifting between emotions so fast he felt a touch of whiplash. “My name is Ryou!” His host screamed at him. His host threw the door closed, but he moved quickly, managing to shove his arm through the crack before it could slam shut. He winced as the edge of the door smashed his arm, but he wrenched it open and stepped inside.

 

His host took several hurried steps back, his anger turning into fright.

 

“Don’t be afraid,” he murmured, kicking off his sandals at the genkan and facing the toes towards the door in a show of respect and uncharacteristic politeness. He dropped his bag to the floor next to his shoes and raised his hands to show he was unarmed. “I’m not going to hurt you.”

His host did not look convinced.

 

He closed the door.

 

The second it was latched his host was running to a craft table on the other side of the room. He grabbed an exacto knife and brandished the pathetic excuse for a blade like a dagger. “Stay back!”

 

This sort of reaction was exactly the kind of thing he’d been expecting, but the fear and anger he saw in his host’s eyes still hurt. It was justified; his host had every reason to be angry and afraid, and the memory of everything he’d done to his host made his chest feel unnaturally tight. He frowned and willed the feeling away, not wanting to dwell on the past. He was too preoccupied worrying about the present, as well as his future.

 

He held his hands up higher in surrender, further demonstrating his lack of weapons. “Landlord,” he began in a placating tone, but his host interrupted with another shout.

 

“My name is Ryou!”

 

Ryou,” he corrected in the same pacifying tone, his lips tilted up in a small smirk. “Old habits die hard.” He lowered his hands and walked forward, and Ryou walked backwards, and for a moment they matched each other’s pace step for step. But then Ryou’s hip met the edge of his craft table, and he nearly toppled over onto what looked like a handmade model for Monster World. Ryou moved sideways along the edge of the table as he continued to advance, until there was no more table to slide along and Ryou was backed against the wall.

 

When he continued to draw closer Ryou raised the craft knife again as if he actually intended to use it. Seeing Ryou stand there with hatred blazing in his eyes, and his pale fingers clenched tight around the thick wooden handle made him want to call Ryou’s bluff.

 

Taking three large, quick steps forward he grabbed Ryou’s hand, yanking it and the knife closer to himself. Ryou growled and struggled, trying to pull his hand back. They both grappled for control of the knife, and he felt the blade slice into his finger, but in the end he was stronger than Ryou, and he pulled the knife close until the tip of the blade was pressed against the fragile skin of his throat. He gave Ryou’s hand another jerk and felt it pierce his skin. He could feel the blood well against the point of the craft knife and drip neatly down the length of his throat. He knew it was a small wound, barely a pinprick and hardly a nuisance, not even deserving a bandage really, but some part of him still hoped both the dot on his throat and the cut on his finger would scar.

 

“Well?” He said after a long, tense moment of staring into Ryou’s eyes. Ryou’s hand shook, but he made no attempt to pull the knife away or plunge it further into his throat and end his short existence. “Kill me if you’re going to. Really, I have nothing to lose. I only just got this body an hour or so ago, so I won’t even miss it. And I have no identification,” he added as if that was the cherry on top of a perfectly crafted, triple layer sundae. “No one would even know who I was and they would have no way of tracing my death back to you. If you clean up all the blood and toss me in a dumpster after dark you won’t even get caught.”

 

Another long moment passed spent silently staring at one another. Ryou’s green eyes were welling with tears he refused to shed, his jaw set stubbornly, as if debating his options. He could almost see the gears whirring in Ryou’s head; kill him, and prove he was strong enough to do so, but be saddled with the guilt for the rest of his life; or give in and be at the cruel spirit’s mercy once again. Ryou’s hand shook in his grip; his fingers tightened around the handle of the exacto knife, and then with a heaving sigh, they released abruptly.

 

The knife fell to the floor and bounced once, twice, and then settled against the vinyl wood flooring.

 

He sighed and released Ryou’s hand, his drying blood making their skin peel away from each other.

 

Ryou didn’t look at him, his eyes on the floor. He made a hiccupping sound and then asked, “Why?”

 

He shook his head. “Make us some tea and I’ll tell you everything I know.”

 

Ryou glared at him, looking like he would rather argue against the order than even consider making tea for his unwanted houseguest, but then Ryou turned and stomped into the small kitchen without a word. He followed, frowning as he looked around, now that he had an opportunity to do so.

 

This apartment was smaller than the one Ryou used to live in, and he was curious why his host would choose to live in a place that barely seemed able to fit all of his furniture. It didn’t even have a decent kitchen, and he knew how much Ryou loved to cook. Seeing the lack of counter space; the single convection burner and fish grill in lieu of a proper oven and stovetop; a convection oven on the counter; and the fridge that was only half the size of a regular refrigerator made his stomach feel unnaturally heavy, though he wasn’t really sure why. He supposed in some ways this smaller, minimalist, western styled apartment was nicer, and seemed as if it had been recently renovated since the inside was such a stark contrast to the old look of the building’s façade, but still… Surely this was a downgrade from Ryou’s larger, more traditional styled apartment?

 

He brushed the thought aside when Ryou set a kettle on to boil and opened one of the tiny cupboards above the hot plate. Ryou grabbed a plastic box full of small metal tins and began examining them. “What kind of tea would you like?” He asked with barely any emotion. Asking was just a formality.

 

“Whatever,” he responded with a dismissive wave of his hand, not really caring and not feeling as though it was his right to be picky about what kind of tea Ryou served. Asking for tea was just another formality.

 

He moved towards the small, two-foot by two-foot excuse for a dining table, stopping when he noticed the table was already set for a meal. At each side sat two plates of different sizes, two bowls, a glass, and a set of chopsticks sitting on a chopstick rest. Though the plates and bowls were devoid of food and he didn’t smell or see anything cooking, he couldn’t help but question the set up.

 

“Expecting company?” He teased, thinking he might be intruding on a date, or a visit from Ryou’s father or friends. But then he noticed the little doll set on one side of the table, almost at the edge, as if it was about to partake in the as of yet nonexistent meal. He raised a brow and picked it up, turning it over a few times in his hand.

 

He recognized it immediately. It was him. It was the piece Ryou had painstakingly hand carved to represent him in his final battle against the Pharaoh; the second shadow table top RPG that would decide the fate of the world. The little miniature had the same white, messy hair, the exact same shade of dark skin. It was dressed in the same clothes he, for lack of a better word, had been reincarnated in, the same brilliant red cloak with white patterns. The only difference, aside from the obvious ones like the miniature being made of cooked clay and paint and his body being made of flesh and bone and blood, was the painted on scar that broke up the monotony of brown on the little thief’s face.

 

He stared at it, not really registering what it was doing away from the rest of the ancient Egyptian game board, which had presumably been tucked away in storage, or destroyed, nor wondering at why the little doll had been placed at the table as if it were a dinner guest. He just stared at it, at the scar, and stroked his own face, shaking fingers searching for a scar that he knew was absent.

 

Without warning Ryou snatched the doll from his hand, holding it close to his chest with a scowl as if he were a stubborn, selfish child, reluctant to share his favorite toy with a classmate. Ryou offered no explanation as to why he had the doll out. He just spun on his heel and returned to the kitchen, which was separated from the rest of the living space by an island counter devoid of stools. With a frown, Ryou placed the doll safely on the window sill above the sink.

 

Now he stared at Ryou, trying to decipher some meaning behind his host’s actions. Why was the doll out? Where were the rest of the figures? Why was Ryou so possessive of the doll? Why was the table set for two? He wanted to voice these questions but he knew he would get no answers, so he sat at the table and watched as Ryou moved about the kitchen preparing their drinks.

 

Ryou spooned loose leaf tea into a porcelain teapot and poured the boiling water from the kettle over them. He set the lid in place and retrieved two mugs from the cabinet. It was beyond weird to see Ryou from an outside perspective like this instead of viewing him from within a shared headspace. They had never had a connection like the Pharaoh and his vessel had, so he had never appeared to Ryou as a spirit the way he remembered Yugi Mutou telling Ryou and the rest of his little friends about. He had the ability to, he just…never did. He suddenly regretted that choice very much.

 

Would things have been different if he had taken the time to get to know Ryou, as an actual person? Not just as his host, or a pawn to manipulate around a chess board. It wouldn’t have distracted him from his revenge, being Ryou’s… friend, but would it have made Ryou’s experience with the Ring less traumatizing?

 

“Here.” Ryou shoved a mug of steaming green tea in front of him, his tone curt. Hot liquid splashed over the side of the mug, but they both pretended not to notice. He just smirked and wrapped his fingers around the mug, raising it up as if toasting his host’s hospitality. He knew the tea would be too hot to drink, knowing Ryou would have heated the water too high on purpose, but he still took a defiant sip, barely tasting the earthy flavor of the tea through the burning he felt on his tongue. He hid his wince with a content sigh.

 

Ryou sighed as well, perhaps in defeat when he realized his act of pettiness had no effect on him. In any case it sounded far from content. Ryou sat across from him, in a generic wooden chair that matched the small, generic table. He clutched his mug in both hands like a lifeline, though he didn’t drink from it.

 

“Alright, I made you tea,” Ryou said in that same curt tone. “Now tell me how you’re back, and why you’re here, of all places.”

 

He took another drink and nodded, keeping his own hands wrapped around his mug like a warped, alternative reality version of Ryou.

 

“Honestly? I have no fucking clue how I was able to return,” he began, his tone as steady as he could make it. It still bothered him that he’d returned at all, let alone in this odd form that was almost but not quite like his original body. It still bothered him that his scars were gone. “One minute I’m screaming myself hoarse in the Shadow Realm, and the next I wake up in an alley across town.”

 

Ryou frowned, the expression looking vaguely troubled. “You don’t know anything?”

 

“No.”

 

“Have any guesses?”

 

He shook his head.  

 

Ryou sighed and drummed his fingernails against the side of his mug. He watched, noticing for the first time that Ryou’s nails and fingers were extremely dirty. He had grey clay wedged up underneath his fingernails like dried blood, and green and brown paint, along with a bit of red from his blood, was smeared all over Ryou’s fingers, knuckles, and palms. He thought back to the model he’d seen on the craft table; the little patch of what looked like an enchanted forest, with tall, winding trees covered in mosses and vines; rich green grass that was decorated with all sorts of flowers and mushrooms. He suddenly wanted to forget this conversation and play a game of Monster World, convinced that Ryou had written up at least a few decently interesting campaigns since they’d last played.

 

Though would Ryou even want to play Monster world, regardless of who the DM was? The last time they’d played… His eyes fell to Ryou’s hands, and his stomach dropped when he recognized the starburst shaped scar on Ryou’s left hand standing starkly against his skin. He flexed his own hand as if he’d be able to feel the tightness and limited motion that came with a scar that large, but all he felt was his own smooth skin.

 

“Okay,” Ryou said slowly, turning his attention back to the present moment. “So you don’t know how you’re here. But why are you here, at my apartment?”

 

He glanced down at his tea in a show of uncharacteristic introversion. Ryou’s tone sounded accusatory, as if his presence in Ryou’s house was more than just an inconvenience.

 

“Well,” he began, watching his reflection on the surface of his green tea. He didn’t really have an answer, figuring Ryou wouldn’t be enthused to know they still had some sort of spiritual connection. Something had drawn him here, and he was sure Ryou wouldn’t want to hear of it. But he was always quick with a lie, and easily made up a little fib. “I did rent from you once… I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t take very good care of the place, but… I don’t know, I guess I was hoping you’d let me rent from you again.”

 

Even as he spoke the lie into existence, he realized the words held a note of truth to them. He wouldn’t mind living with Ryou again, as proper roommates, not as literal soul mates. He glanced up and when he saw the tense, pallid look on Ryou’s face he hurried to add, “A room. I meant a room. Or, fuck, I’ll take the floor if that’s all you’ve got. I know we…didn’t get along…” It was the grossest understatement in the history of understatements, and he visibly winced. “I mean… You know what I mean. Fuck, I don’t know. You’re the only person I could come to, and I know helping me is probably the last thing you want to do, but I don’t have anywhere else to go.”

 

Ryou didn’t respond. He stared at his own tea, having averted his gaze moments ago.

 

He sighed and stood. His tea had barely been touched and was still steaming hot. “I understand,” he said as he pushed in his chair. “Sorry for intruding. I’ll see myself out.” He gave a little bow of his head and turned on his heel, retreating towards the door. He was just about to slide into his sandals when he heard Ryou’s voice behind him.

 

“Wait.”

 

He turned around, one eyebrow cocked curiously.

 

Ryou stood in the entryway to the kitchen, staring at him with a hard, unreadable expression. He saw Ryou’s Adam’s apple bob up and down as he swallowed. “You really don’t have anywhere else to go?”

 

He shrugged. “I don’t have any friends, documentation, or money.” He waved a hand dismissively. “But it’s fine. I survived on the streets before, I can do it again.”

 

He was just being honest; he didn’t really care if he was on the street or not, though of course he’d prefer to have some kind of roof over his head. He hadn’t meant the words as a guilt trip, but Ryou’s face still crumbled with remorse.

 

“You’d go back to stealing,” Ryou said. “Or hurting people to get by.”

 

He shrugged. He’d already stolen a few wallets to clothe himself and pay his cab fare, and if he had to steal more to feed himself, so be it.

 

Ryou shook his head. “You don’t have to. I-I guess you could stay here for a while. Just long enough to get your affairs in order.”

 

He stared at Ryou, his own dusty lilac eyes wide in shock. He felt a weight he hadn’t realized he’d been carrying fall from his shoulders, and the relief he felt made him dizzy, his fingers tingly. “Thank you.”

 

“But you have to pay rent,” Ryou continued as if he hadn’t heard, hands on his hips.

 

He nodded. “Of course.”


“Actual rent. Money. No more souls in dolls.”

 

He smirked and nodded again. “Done and done.”

 

“And you can’t steal any of it.”

 

The world came to an abrupt stop.

 

“What?”

 

Ryou crossed his arms now. “You heard me.”

 

He stared at Ryou for an almost comically long moment before shaking his head quickly side to side. “No way. You can’t be serious. You actually want me to get a job?”

 

“I’m very serious,” Ryou snapped. “I’m not going to let you into my home just for you to repay me with stolen money.”

 

“But…” His mind raced with excuses. “But I don’t have any skills that would be useful in a job setting. I’ve got no fucking experience. No one hires a thief, and being a thief is all I’m good at.”

 

Ryou raised an eyebrow at this, and he prepared himself to be kicked to the curb. But then Ryou was grinning and rubbing his chin thoughtfully. “Well, no, you’re right. People don’t usually hire thieves. But I know from experience you’re also a giant nerd…I know a few people who would hire a nerd.”

“What?”

 

Ryou shook his head. He glanced at the clock on the wall above the TV and frowned. “Never mind. I’ll explain tomorrow. I have work in the morning and right now, all I want to do is sleep.” He walked over to the little craft desk and began screwing lids on jars of paint and wrapping up his clay. Ryou grabbed the cup of paintbrushes and headed for the sink, pausing to pick up the dropped and forgotten exacto knife from the floor. Ryou stared at it for a second before his gaze turned to the smears of blood mixed with paint on his fingers. Then Ryou’s eyes were on him again.

 

“You cut your finger, right?”

 

He blinked and glanced down at his injured hand. The cut was small, and had long stopped bleeding. The blood on his hand was dry and flaky. “Yeah, but it’s not bad.”

 

Ryou tipped his head towards a door near the front door. “Bathroom’s through there. I should have some bandages on the shelf above the washing machine.”

 

He frowned and looked more closely at his finger. “I’m fine.”

 

“As much as I’d love for you to bleed all over my carpet, I really must insist you put a bandage on.”

 

He cocked a brow at Ryou’s sarcasm. “It’s not even bleeding anymore.”

 

“I don’t care. At least wash the blood off your hands.”

 

“Fine.” He snorted and switched on the light before stepping into the bathroom. It was small and cramped, with barely enough room for one person to move around. The tub was short, but deep, with the shower head hanging down out of its socket. The sink was part of the toilet, resting on top of the water reservoir, and he grimaced a little. The water was obviously clean, but he was still pining for Ryou’s other apartment, where the toilet and sink were in a separate room from the bath and shower. He was already dreading having to step in last night’s shower water, which would inevitably pool despite the drain set into the floor, just to take a piss in the morning.

 

He washed his hands with cold water, forgetting to tap the button for hot and feeling too lazy to navigate the small space again just to go outside and turn it on. He also wiped the little rivulet of blood from his throat. He dried his hands on a cloth hanging from a ring beside the toilet, and then turned to the washing machine. It was tucked into a little alcove opposite the toilet, with three shelves sporting towels, toilet rolls, and extra hygiene products just above. He located a plastic storage bin that served as a first aid kit, digging inside for a bandage and securing it around his cut finger.

 

By the time he was done, Ryou had finished washing out his paintbrushes and was now dragging a spare futon from a closet with clean, paint-free hands. He laid out the mattress and sleeping pad and then began unfolding the extra sheets. Ryou yawned, hiding it behind his hand, and glanced up when he closed the bathroom door.

 

“You find the bandages?”

 

He momentarily wished he’d cut his middle finger so he could proudly display the bandage. But he’d cut his pointer finger, so instead he nodded, something vastly different than cuts and bandages on his mind. He watched as Ryou tucked the sheet underneath the sleeping pad, shifting his weight from foot to foot before he finally got the nerve to speak.

 

“Hey, Ryou?”

 

Ryou didn’t look up, but he did make a humming noise that he assumed was a go-ahead.

 

“You mentioned work earlier.”

 

“Yeah?” Ryou still didn’t look up, too busy spreading the blanket out over the futon. “What about it?”

 

“Well, you’re still going to school, right? I thought they had rules against students having jobs.”

 

Now Ryou looked up at him, his white fair falling into his face. He brushed it behind his ear. “Oh, right. I actually graduated a few years ago. Now I’m just working while I decide on a university.”

 

He felt his heart skip a beat before he could even process Ryou’s words. He’d been in the shadows for years. That information shell shocked him, and he stood motionless for a time, just staring wide eyed at Ryou.

 

Ryou looked up as he rolled out the coverlet. “You okay?”

 

He forced himself to blink and nod. “Yeah, I just… I didn’t realize it had been that long…”

 

Ryou nodded understandingly, but said nothing as he grabbed a pillow from the closet and began fluffing it. “I don’t have a spare bedroom,” Ryou explained, and he was grateful for the change in subject. “I mean, this is a two bedroom apartment, but the other room is set up for gaming and has a whole bunch of junk in there, so you’ll have to sleep out here in the living room.” Ryou looked up at him with a half-hearted smile that didn’t quite reach his tired looking eyes. He held out the pillow. “That okay?”

 

“More than okay.” He walked over to Ryou and took the pillow from his hand. Now that he was standing so close to Ryou without a blade against his throat to distract him, he realized he was a few inches shorter than his old host and frowned to himself, even as he dropped the pillow onto the futon. “I’m not good with the whole manners thing,” he began, looking at the futon instead of Ryou. “But, you know… I mean, I appreciate you letting me stay. I… I don’t deserve your hospitality, but I’m grateful for it anyway.”

 

Ryou smiled again, but the expression was still stiff. He wondered if Ryou’s smiles would ever look natural when he was around. “Everyone gets a second chance. Just prove to me you deserve it.”

 

He nodded, staying silent, not sure what he could say. He had absolutely no interest in redeeming himself to the Pharaoh’s vessel and his pack of hounds like that fool Malik had if that’s what was considered a second chance these days, but when he thought critically about it, he supposed he could live a normal life. He’d keep his hands in his own pockets and work at a dead end job like anyone else, solely for Ryou’s sake. Because if Ryou Bakura, the person he’d undoubtedly hurt the very most in his quest for vengeance and justice, was still able to show him kindness like this while wanting nothing but him obeying the law while under his roof, then he would never steal again if he could help it.

 

The two exchanged an awkward goodnight, and as Ryou headed for the sliding bedroom door, he slipped out of his hoodie and settled down onto the futon. He sighed softly as his body sank into the sleeping pad beneath him, feeling warmer and more comfortable than he’d ever been. He couldn’t remember if he’d ever bothered to sleep while he was in control of Ryou’s body, but even if he had, he was sure it wouldn’t feel as good as it did right now.

 

“Oh, by the way.”

 

He heard Ryou’s voice from the doorway and raised his head to look at him. Ryou stood at the door, halfway inside, his fingers curled in the handle. His brows were furrowed.

 

“What’s your name, anyway?”