Bakura wasn't sure if being a guest in the Kaiba mansion was a good thing
or not. For the 'not good' side, it brought back a lot of bad memories,
too many of which he'd hoped were buried in the ancient past. On the
other hand, Seto was nothing if not a generous host, and not only to the
(still) Thief King.
"So basically the moral of the story is love sucks?!"
Bakura snickered; he wasn't sure what Jounouchi was talking about, but the part of the conversation he could hear was amusing. Said teenager was currently sprawled out on the sofa, cell phone to his ear and a book open in front of him.
"Yuugi, dude, our teacher is on crack," the blond decided. "Hmm? Well, yeah, it's not easy, but I think we've done okay."
The silver- haired man frowned slightly. Since he'd returned to Domino, the only people he had seen or spoken to were Seto, Jounouchi (who scowled and insisted on being called 'Katsuya'), and Mokuba. Although he desperately wished to see the boy, Bakura had not ventured to contact Ryou. And he wanted nothing to do with the Pharaoh's other half, no matter how content Jounouchi seemed when talking to Mutou Yuugi.
Jounouchi's next words caught the thief's attention once more: "Can you spend the night, then?"
Bakura froze, eyes not seeing the book he'd been pretending to read. Dark memories rushed at him, pain and humiliation coupled with eyes that held mock-pity and contempt, eyes far too similar to those he'd come close to trusting before his time as Spirit of the Sennen Ring ended.
"-kura?" For a second, Bakura thought the voice that had spoken was soft, female, and familial. His dear sister's voice, speaking the name she alone could call him. Then the moment passed, the voice was quiet but masculine as it spoke again. "Bakura? You all right?"
"What?" He blinked at Jounouchi a moment before replying. "Yeah, just thinking."
"Oh." The blond frowned a bit, and the thief wondered if he was fooling the teen for even a second. "Yuugi and Ryou are gonna come over this evening. We've got some stupid English... thing that's due tomorrow, and I can't make sense of it. We'll probably just stay in the den, if you wanna come say 'hi' to 'em or anything."
No, he did not want to see Mutou, not at all. But, if yadonushi was going to be there too, maybe he could handle being around the shrimp for a few minutes...
//It's not the Pharaoh, it's not Atem, it's not him...//
Bakura repeated it in his hand like a mantra, crouched at the top of the steps as Jounouchi talked to the new arrivals in the foyer. So intent was he in convincing himself of this truth that he completely missed Seto's arrival at his side. It was only when the other spoke that he noticed.
"Bakura?" Seto asked softly, frowning slightly when the Egyptian jumped. Rather than dwell on it, though, he continued, "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, fine, I'm okay," Bakura replied, forcing a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. "Why do you ask?"
"You look like you're about to jump out of your skin."
The taller man stood up and stretched, eyes not meeting Seto's as he replied, "I said I'm fine, Seto. Now drop it before-"
The Egyptian's mouth snapped shut as both he and Seto glanced back down the stairs. Apparently Ryou had heard and recognized his darker half's voice as he was halfway between them and the main landing. Jounouchi and Yuugi were still on the first floor, a tiny frown on the blond's lips.
"It's really you, isn't it?" the pale-haired teen asked quietly, his eyes and face revealing nothing to the darker thief. Before Bakura had time to do much more than give a slight nod, Ryou rushed up the last few steps between them, arms wrapping tightly around the Egyptian's waist and face buried against his neck. Only now was Bakura aware of the tears that been (barely) held back by his yadonushi.
"I was so worried about you," Ryou sobbed. "I wanted you to be okay wherever you were, but I was afraid they'd send you to hell or something because of what Zork did."
"Shh, don't cry," Bakura murmured, his arms coming up to hold his lighter half. "I'm all right. Hell was afraid I'd take over so they kicked me out." He smiled softly at the giggle he drew from Ryou.
"I'd hoped you would come back," the teen admitted. "It wouldn't be fair if Atem was allowed to come back and you couldn't."
The thief felt his blood run cold at the words, a haze of panic settling over him. It was all he could do to keep it internalized. "Life's not fair at times, yadonushi," was all he could bring himself to say. He opened his eyes to see that Jounouchi's expression had closed off entirely; as Yuugi turned towards the blond, however, his usual cheery grin returned.
//A mask?// Bakura mused briefly before returning most of his attention to Ryou.
"You two can catch up for a while," Seto said smoothly as he stepped past them. "I'll supervise the children and make sure they actually study."
"Fuck you, Seto."
"You're not my type, Katsuya."
"Who's supervising the children?" Yuugi grumbled, the words belied by the amusement in his eyes. He turned and offered a gentle smile to the Bakuras. "Take all the time you want. It's nice to have you back, Bakura-san."
Amazingly, Bakura was almost positive he meant it.
27 August 2005
Wow, so sorry for the delay! Thanks to Nameless One, for the nice review on Fanfiction (dot) net; it inspired us to hurry up and finish this chapter.
I'll go ahead and warn you now that it could be a while before the next section comes out; Katsuko and I are both working on stories for a novella challenge, as well as stories for the Endless Loop saga.