He always thought that, when he finally made it all the way to full blown psychotically crazy, he would have known it ahead of time. He always thought that it would be easier to tell when the break happened, like a lightning bolt or some kind of ripping sensation, as his generally tenuous grip on reality finally broke away. He was a little disappointed that that wasn't the case. Instead all he got was an impossible voice in the back of his head, one that really should not be possible, and pain that just refused to stop. He should not be hearing that voice unless he had lost his mind or secretly died or was cursed or something.
Because, honestly, death was a fluid thing sometimes, especially when it came to a human body and magic, but a soul being ripped away? That was pretty permanent, he had thought.
*You know, for someone who deals with magic as much as you do, you're remarkably stubborn on this whole 'impossible' thing.*
And that impossible voice in his head was a smart ass. That just cemented the whole thing as even more unlikely in his mind. He had been growing closer to that voice's owner before... what happened, but they had not yet reached a level of closeness where sarcasm could be easily invoked.
And all he got in response to that was a purely mental snort.
And he had already run out of words to use instead of 'impossible'. *'Inconceivable' is always good option. 'Preposterous', 'absurd', 'unthinkable', 'unimaginable', 'unlikely'... Really, yami, it's not that hard.*
Fine. Fine, then. If the smart ass wanted to be that, then there should be a very easy way to prove that it was just him losing his mind, that it was a weird misfiring of his brain thanks to the bastard's machine and maybe even how it was reacting to his own innate magic. He just had to...
He had been wearing the Ring since he came back from the dead... again. He hadn't tried much with it. Oh, he had used to it to turn up things--generally shiny things he wanted, but also Mokuba once when the half-pint managed to wander off, much to Seto's worry--and he had once almost convinced Seto once to let him lock the entire board of directors of Kaiba Corp away in their own minds for a while. But there were a lot of things that the Ring could do that he hadn't touched since the bad old days of Zork. And frankly, he hadn't bothered trying going inside the Ring because... because...
Because it would just be him and the souls of Kuru Eruna in there, where before yadonushi had been there too. He hadn't particularly wanted to face that. He couldn't say what it was he felt for the boy who had been his host four years ago. It was different than what he had felt for Seth and what he felt now for Seto. If he had to compare it to anything, it was like what he felt for Mokuba.
They had shared a body for a year, but it was only in the week that Ryou had been held by the bastard Collector that he had started growing close to him. They had talked about a great many things, but then Ryou's soul had been slowly ripped to shreds and his body had been carted away, breathing only through habit. He hadn't heard anything from Ryou since then and had presumed that he never would again.
Diving away inside himself was difficult, especially as the Ring's power flared to life, in turn triggering the bastard's machine to pull more strongly. As his soul room formed around him, though, the pain eased. It became something tolerable, though it certainly did not go away.
It was a bit surprising that his soul room was still there. It looked different than it had the last time he had been here, but then, that had been four years ago. A lot had happened in that time. There was still plenty of Egypt here, the Egypt he had known and grown up in and died in, but there was a lot more Japan now. The bed, that was definitely all Japan. Hell, that was all Seto, truth be told: it was from the room they shared. It was a bit smaller here, meant more for one person to sprawl than for two people to share. The couch he had added just off Seto's office was here, shoved up against a wall beneath some of his favorite acquired loot.
Weirdly, to him at least, the clock he had also added to Seto's office was on the wall, right besides a golden sarcophagus propped against a stone wall. The second hand was even moving, ticking its way inexorably through the five o'clock hour. Given what he had just seen outside his body, he could assume that meant the five o'clock that was in the afternoon. Was it still the same day or not? How much time had he lost?
But more concerning, at least right now, was at the low table in front of him. His chair from Seto's office, the one he usually sat in while waiting on Seto to finish for the day, the same one he had just seen Mokuba occupying, was currently occupied. He would recognize that figure anywhere, as impossible--improbable, inconceivable, unlikely, preposterous, unthinkable--as it was, right down to the ratty old tennis shoes propped up on a table that he had hauled out of the tomb of some rich pharaoh whose tales and histories had been ancient already when he was first alive.
This was it. This was the proof he had finally gone around the bend. Because yadonushi was gone. There was no way Ryou was here.
"I think we've established that's not entirely accurate, yami."
"Or I've finally gone crazy. The yadonushi I remember wasn't a smart ass."
The Ryou sitting in his chair made a rude noise. "Oh, I was always a smart ass. I just wasn't a smart ass to you. You scared me--or the part of you that was Zork scared me. No, hell, you scared me too... up until that last week."
And if this was real--and maybe, just maybe, it was--then he knew exactly the week that Ryou meant. The Collector had grabbed Ryou two years ago. It had been two years before that since Bakura had been a guest in Ryou's mind, via the Sennen Ring, and things were different. There was no revenge, no Zork, and they had actually taken the time to finally get to know one another. Ryou had told him about his mother and sister and how their deaths had affected him.
That story had been in response to his own tale of Kuru Eruna and how his family and village had been used to create the Items. Hell, the whole conversation had been kicked off by the innocent question Ryou's part of whether or not Bakura still hated the Nameless Pharaoh and his own rather vehement 'yes' response.
But that had far from been their only discussion during that week. It had been... nice getting to know his former host a bit better. It had been torture, seeing what had been being done to him and not being able to do a thing to help. It had hurt worse than any of his own deaths to see Ryou's body being carted away. Which brought up the question...
"How?" Ryou tilted his head to the side slightly in an obvious question. "If this is really you and you're really still here, then how? How is it possible? Because I had to see what the bastard did to you."
Ryou looked a bit sheepish, pulling his feet down off the table and sitting up a bit straighter. "The Ring, actually." He was silent after that, clearly it would be explanation enough. Bakura, however, stared him down incredulously, until he finally elaborated. "I remembered what you said that week, about using the Ring to hide parts of yourself away from Zork. That last time, when the pain hit..." Ryou broke off, wincing hard as he clearly remembered the experience. "When the pain hit and I felt myself flying to bits, I took as many parts of myself as I could hold onto and put them in the Ring. I mean, it was right there in the room with us, so why not try it? What did I have to lose at that point?"
"I've been wearing the Ring for the last two years, though." And that was the really curious part. "Why didn't you say something before now?"
"I couldn't. I think I was asleep most of that time. I don't remember a lot of it. I woke up here in this room--the room of your soul, I suppose--and then I could talk to you because of, well, the machine."
The machine... It wasn't like it was something he could forget was there. He had managed to push it to the back of his mind, but that was about the extent of it. It was definitely still there.
The machine that the bastard Collector was using on him was the same one, presumably, that was used on Seto and that was used on Ryou as well. It worked, so why change too much on it? Of course, the one used on them had had an off switch, giving him time enough to regain their energies between sessions. On the other hand, he was mostly energy--or whatever it was that a spirit was made of--in a borrowed human body. He was also from the Unnamed Pharaoh's time and a Sennen Item holder: he had a lot more energy to pull from, at least until his hold on the borrowed body gave out.
Somehow he didn't think that that was going to be too long, not unless he could conserve some of his energy by staying here.
"So what," Bakura finally found himself asking, "you're just going to set up residence inside my mind?" Because now that he asked it, he could swear he could see a Monster World table slowly taking shape in a far corner. Because while Duel Monsters had been his game of preference, Monster World had most assuredly been yadonushi's choice.
Ryou bit his lower lip, clearly uncomfortable. "I... don't know. I don't really know how to go back into the Ring now that I've woken up." And he wasn't too sure he knew how to explain how to do it: like throwing yourself into an abyss but catching yourself before gravity got ahold of you. "I really don't want to be around with... you know... you and Kaiba-kun," he finished, a wholly improbably blush staining across his pale cheeks.
Oh gods, that was something he hadn't considered: the possibility of having a silent third person in their bed, one that shared space inside his head. It would be one thing if Ryou knew how to go back into the Ring; he usually took that off in bed anyway, given that various pointy prongs didn't exactly play well with some of the more fun things to do in a bed. Hell, they didn't exactly going along well with sleeping for that matter, but he had endured than millennia and was well used to it.
But at the same time, he didn't want to let go of yadonushi either. He had missed the boy more than he was willing to admit, after all. It would be like asking Seto to give up the half-pint at this point. He just couldn't do it.
"We'll come up with something," was all he eventually offered.
Gods, he was so tired. Both the pain and the drain of the machine was less in here, but it was still more than he could deal with well at the moment. He wanted to sink down somewhere and just rest, but if he sat down on the bed or that couch, he was going to fall asleep, and even he had no idea of what would happen if he fell asleep inside his own soul room. He didn't know if he would be able to wake himself on his own or what. But it was getting very hard to hold himself upright, and there was no doubting that.
"Sit down before you fall down, yami," Ryou commented, his voice as dry as the desert air. That was never going to quit being surprising: that this sarcasm and dry wit lived inside his meek, timid, and sweet yadonushi. Be that as it may, there was no doubting any longer that this was indeed Ryou, even if he was now willing to climb to his feet, physically move Bakura over to the couch, and push him down on it, even going so far as to sink down next to him and put Bakura's head in his lap. "We'll talk more when you're feeling better."
Feeling completely nonplussed, all he could offer in return was, "Don't let me go to sleep. I don't know what sleeping in here would do." He turned enough that he could look up to meet his former host's brown eyes. "Promise me."
"Of course, yami." The words were said easily enough, but it was obvious from the somber expression on the boy's face that he meant them. "We can talk enough to keep you awake if you want."
Honestly, talking didn't sound all that interesting to him. He wasn't the kind to discuss feelings and such, but if it would keep him awake and keep yadonushi here, right now he would put up with just about anything. "What did you have in mind?" he finally asked. Because if Ryou had questions, he could at least try to answer them. That might even do a decent job of keeping him awake and help him ignore the ongoing pain.
That honestly seemed to stump Ryou briefly, but he admirably recovered. "How did you used to go back into the Ring?"
Ah, an easy one to start with. That was good. "It wasn't always my idea, if you recall." Clearly, yadonushi did, based on the snicker he let out. "It was like... like throwing yourself into an endless abyss but flying before gravity can catch hold of you." As a definition, it still lacked. It wasn't something he was proud of, but sadly it seemed to be the best analogy he could come up with at the moment, since that was the one that kept popping back into his mind every time the prospect came up. "It's not a perfect comparison, granted." He paused briefly. "I imagine there used to be a hallway in here between my soul and yours, thanks to the Ring." And Zork, but that wasn't something he was going to bring up at the moment. The demon was not a pleasant memory to say the very least. "You might be able to visualize it that way and use it to go into the Ring."
"Good," Ryou answered after a long pause where he seemed to be thinking the possibility over, tossing it about in his mind. "I really don't want to have to live in your mind all the time, yami. There's such a thing as too much togetherness."
He had to snicker himself at that pronoucement. Feeling a bit generous, he prompted, "Next question."
Immediately he winced hard. Damn, he had gotten lulled into a false sense of security with the softball first question. He should have known better, given that yadonushi was another part of himself in a way. "Pass."
"Nope, you said I could ask questions. I'm asking why Kaiba-kun. I don't see the appeal."
Oh gods, have mercy and just kill him where he stood. This was going to be painful after all. "Fine, fine. I think he's hot, and he lets me fuck him. What more do you want?"
"I will drop you on the floor, Bakura."
Ouch. No more 'yami,' huh? This was Ryou taking off the gloves, as the expression went. But he had a question of his own first. "What appeal don't you see about him?"
Ryou shrugged lightly. "He's a guy for starters. I take it that doesn't bother you?" Clearly he conveyed his thoughts on that matter with the dirty look and annoyed snort he turned on his former host. "Then why Kaiba-kun? He was my friend and all, but he's not exactly a nice person."
"I'm not exactly a nice person, yadonushi," he reminded the boy. "Fine. He used to remind me of someone I used to know. He doesn't anymore. I like how he takes care of his little brother. I like that he needs me around without ever saying it. And yeah, he's hot. Can we drop this subject now?"
"Who does he remind you of?"
Guess not. "No one anymore." The evasion was crystal clear, and he didn't like having to do it. But he didn't want to talk about Seth. He hadn't talked about Seth to anyone except Seto... and that had been two years ago, while the bastard Collector had him... and it hadn't exactly been a long conversation to start with.
But Ryou wasn't buying it. "Who did he used to remind of?" Fuck, when did the boy get so damned persistent?
"The High Priest, Seth. He and I used to be..." He trailed off. It was pretty obvious what he meant, and it didn't take Ryou too long to follow the train of thought, if the new flush building on his face was any indication. "We ended before the merry band of morons came to the Memory World, though, back about the time I got possessed by Zork." He sighed and rephrased that, "When I let myself get possessed by Zork, for revenge."
"For Kuru Eruna. I remember you telling me about that. Yami... I don't even know what to say to something like this. You slept with one version of Kaiba-kun in Ancient Egypt, and you're sleeping with another version of him now. What the hell does that say?"
"I wish to hell I knew," he admitted. "Seth is something we don't bring up." They probably should one day, because he had the distinct feeling sometimes that Seto had some mistaken ideas about where he stood in relation to Bakura's former relationship with Seth.
Ryou remained quiet for a few long minutes before offering a blinding smile. "I think it says you have a type, yami," he commented, laughter threatening to break through his every word.
"Maybe so," he allowed. "Now can we please have a new topic?"
Ryou grinned, unrepentantly laughed at his discomfort. "I can just imagine you and Kaiba-kun. The not-conversations the two of you must have. Is it possible for two people to have a relationship for years and not actually talk about it?"
"Apparently so." He was hoping he sounded as annoyed as he felt. Unfortunately, he suspected he sounded rather bitter instead.
It took Ryou a few moments to calm down enough to stop laughing and start talking again, but at least when he did, it was on a new topic. "Do we have anything resembling a plan of attack or escape or anything here?"
If he were Mokuba, he would cross his arms over his chest and pout at this point. Being slightly more grown up, he resisted the urge. "They took my lock picks. I don't think I can use the Ring to get out of the cuffs."
"Besides which, look at your arm, yami." Ryou nodded at his left arm, and he followed the boy's gaze. The cuffs weren't visible in his soul room, which was nice. What wasn't nice, though, was how red, puffy, and swollen it looked. The wrist and forearm seemed to be sitting at odd angles to him. "They look broken. Sprained at the very least. You must have put up one hell of a fight."
"I... don't remember." One of Ryou's eyebrows went up, a question clearly writ large on his face, and Bakura tried to shrug in answer. "I really don't remember. I should probably be afraid of what's behind the gauze and all too, shouldn't I?"
And that was a whole other kettle of fish, as Mokuba would say. If the manacles didn't come into his soul room, then there was no reason why the bandages someone had thoughtfully--yeah, right--given him would too. He had just assumed that they would. In retrospect, it was probably a stupid assumption. He couldn't be blamed, he didn't think, for not firing on all cylinders today. Not as far as he was concerned.
"So what's the deal? What'd they do?" He wasn't going to say anything that he was thinking: that obviously they hadn't removed the eye or anything quite so drastic, since he could see out of that side. The skin just felt a bit... stiff, in a way that was way too familiar to him.
"What do you mean? It's just your scar there."
And fuck, that was right: the last time he had seen Ryou, when they had both been guests of the Collector, he had been in a spirit form of his own body. He had had all his scars then because that was just how those sorts of things worked. His mind thought his spirit should show the same scars his body did, so his spirit had the scars.
"I'm in your body, yadonushi. I shouldn't have the scar," he finally settled on reminding the boy. He didn't add the obvious: that they had felt the need to add it, to give him enough of a makeover to look a bit closer to how he had in Ancient Egypt, back in his original time. That was something he didn't want to think too heavily about.
Obviously the bastard Collector knew more about the Nameless Pharaoh's dynasty than it should be possible for any one person not associated with it to know. They had known that two years ago. What was disturbing--more disturbing--now was how much he knew. There hadn't been any recorded images of what he looked like back then. Hell, his name hadn't even been recorded anywhere; if it had been written down, it was erased from history, keeping his soul from even being eaten by Ammut. That was why it had been so damn easy for the bastard Collector to snatch him up last time.
But the bastard had not possessed enough magic to see him. For that matter, Ryou had only been able to hear him. He had taken the time to describe what he looked like to the boy, since Ryou had professed some interest in the matter and talking about himself was always one of his favorite things to do.
Ryou shrugged, and it looked remarkably nonchalant for hearing that someone just decided to cut on your original body. Cut on it, and he might go as far as to say mutilate it. He didn't want to get up to look under his clothes to see if the rest of the scars were there. He didn't want to know that badly. No, he didn't want to know at all. He didn't even want to think about it more than he had to.
Good thing Seto didn't like him because he was pretty, he thought direly to himself with a small and quiet snicker. If that were the case, then he was going to be shit out of luck. That was another thing he wasn't going to think about too deeply either. He knew why he was interested in Seto, even if he had a hard time putting it into words. He had yet to figure out what kept Seto with him. He wanted to know, but at the same time, he never really wanted to ask and find out. Part of that was because, frankly, he didn't like the idea of having to ask. He should be able to figure it out on his own. Until he learned to read minds, though, he didn't see that happening; he had managed to fall in l... to fall in with someone who was more secretive than even he was.
But Ryou looked more relaxed about all this than he felt, and that disturbed him a bit too. "You're awfully calm about this," he finally commented. "The yadonushi I remember wouldn't be this calm."
"The yadonushi you remember was still walking around in that body. It's not mine anymore. I mean, honestly, I thought it was just part of the magic at first, like how your eyes are blue and mine are brown, and now somehow that body is walking around with blue eyes." It was a ramble and almost made no sense at all. He had spent over a year with the boy, though, and long since determined how to sort out his rambles. This one was nothing, really. "I don't think I'm ever going to be able to take the body back over, and I'm... not sure that I want to anyway. It's yours now. I'm mad on your behalf that something like this happened, but it's not like it's me this is happening to."
Bakura held his tongue for a couple of long moments, thinking that over. So Ryou wanted no part of sharing a body anymore. They were just basically sharing the Ring at this point? Well, at least once Ryou figured out how to leave Bakura's soul room and go into the Ring, that was to say. It wasn't ideal, not by any stretch of the imagination, but it made sense. And yet at the same time, it made none whatsoever. "Why don't you want the body back?"
"I didn't say that!" The words came out as a yell, and that was enough to startle him into sitting up straight. The world decided to take a lazy spin around him, which really sucked; who knew vertigo could show up in one's own soul room? When Ryou spoke again, his voice was much quieter, more subdued. "I'm not saying I don't want the body back. I mean, hell, I was only eighteen when this happened. I feel like I barely got to start living my life before it was over. But I don't feel any connection to that body anymore. I don't think I could step back into it if I tried. I could want to go back all I want, but I don't think I can."
Well, that created a problem he hadn't anticipated. It solved some issues, but at the same time... "Do you feel a connection to any body?"
Ryou was quiet. Part of him wanted to say the boy was too quiet, that this level of quiet could not be good or healthy. But the boy had always been rather quiet. The last few years surely shouldn't have changed that... right? Granted, they had changed him quite a bit, more than he wanted to admit to. He had been alive and conscious through most of them, though, as near as he could figure. Yadonushi couldn't say the same.
"None that I'm interested in inhabiting." And if that wasn't a cryptic answer... Normally, he wasn't too much for any kind of crypticness, but today... Today he was just too tired to actively object to it. It just wasn't worth it. "Do we have anything resembling a plan for how to get out of this, yami?"
As a change of subject, it was abrupt and completely not subtle. It worked well enough, though. And frankly, it was a better topic as far as he was concerned. But it was also something that he wasn't sure he was ready to answer. "I don't."
"It doesn't have to be a good plan, yami, just as long as we have a plan."
But he shook his head again, leaning back to rest against Ryou's shoulder lightly while he waited for his soul room to cease its newfound dance ability. "I've only been awake for a few minutes and hurting like hell most of them. I haven't exactly been at my best for scheming."
"Does he want the same thing as he did last time?"
"I... haven't actually seen him. He sent Seto a note before the weekend, saying for him to pretty much watch his ass. He did say that he wanted Seto to help him complete his collection. I guess that means, yeah, he's up to his old tricks, the bastard."
Ryou winced slightly. "I'm not objecting to that. Why would he think that Kaiba-kun would be willing to help him this time? He nearly killed Kaiba-kun last time."
"Because he's crazy?" And it wasn't the fun kind of crazy either. It wasn't the kind of crazy that Bakura enjoyed... and wasn't that an understatement? Of what kind, he wasn't certain, but he knew for that it was a fact.
"He didn't used to be."
Well, of course, just because someone was crazy now didn't mean that they had always been. And...
Wait a damn minute here.
He sat back up gingerly, turning to fix stern eyes on Ryou. "What does that mean?" Ryou shook his head slightly, like he didn't want to answer that. Well, too damn bad. A statement like that needed explanation. So he kept on staring until the boy wilted.
"I know him."
"You know the bastard? The Collector?" he corrected, using the title the bastard preferred for clarification. The nod Ryou made was tiny, barely noticeable... but it was there. "How?"
"I'm not pressing you for answers right now, yami. I think I get to keep one secret, right?"
"My secrets aren't actively trying to kill anyone," he felt compelled to point out. Yeah, he had some distinctively homicidal secrets over the years, but the ones he was keeping right now didn't fit that bill.
It shouldn't be fair for a nearly grown man to be able to sound so sad and pitiful. In fact, he was going to go out on a limb and say that it wasn't fair at all. Of course, this was his better half. If he was the darkness, the yami, then Ryou was the lighter part of their soul, his hikari. He freely admit that Ryou was the closest thing he had to a family outside of Seto and Mokuba. Even without the extra manipulation, he probably would have capitulated.
"Fine." It was begrudging at best. "But I reserve the right to ask again if the bastard does anything else to anyone."
"All right." Ryou sighed, raking a hand through his long hair.
Watching the boy who had been his host once make the gesture, he could now notice that his own hair had been chopped off short, and that made no god damn sense. How did this madman know so much about him and everything else about the Lost Dynasty? It just shouldn't be possible.
But Ryou was talking again, and right now it was important to keep listening. "It's too bad the Ring doesn't have all its old energy and that you're so tired. We could yami no game him into submission."
"I'm not sure I have that in me right now, yadonushi," he admitted with some difficulty.
Ryou went silent again, but this time, the quiet seemed speculative. That was probably a bit of a bad sign. Ryou might be his better half, but he was probably the more manipulative of the pair of them. It had been part of his stock and trade as a Monster World DM: pulling out surprises on players and manipulating them into situations he wanted them in. And he had been terribly good at it.
Well, whatever plan yadonushi came up with, at this point, he was almost willing to go along with just about anything. It was going to be tough getting out of here, and if Ryou had any ideas to make it a little easier, he was willing to entertain them. Well, within reason, he supposed. Of course, he considered a lot of things to be 'within reason'.
"You know who is always up to that sort of thing, though, right, yami?" he finally commented with a dark sort of smile. And maybe Ryou had been hanging out with him a bit too long if he could produce that kind of grin on command.
There were two possibilities that fit those qualifications: willing to play a yami no game on someone, capable of using that kind of dark magic, and someone that Ryou was familiar with. He was willing to immediately discard Zork. The demon was well and truly gone. Even if it wasn't, neither of them would be willing to end up possessed by it ever again.
That left only one option. It wasn't one he liked. In fact, it stretched just to the edge of what he could consider 'within reason,' as hard as that might have been. "No."
"He could do it, yami."
"Yeah, he could. He would yami no game the shit out the bastard Collector, but then he'd probably find a way to kill me for having any part of bringing him back. He got to go to the Afterlife, after all, the lucky idiot."
"I don't see any other options here, yami."
And that was the rub now, wasn't it? Either they tried to wait this out or they played right into the bastard Collector's hands. "You know this is giving the bastard Collector exactly what he wants?" The words were resigned. He really didn't see any other way. It was a horrible idea that Ryou had come up with, but it was also the only one they had at the moment.
"I still don't see any other options here."
"So we set Atemu loose on the world again, even though it's him that the bastard Collector wants and even though he's likely to have our heads for it?" He sighed and stretched as much as he could. "Fine. I'm in."
03 May 2014
I've had this chapter done for a bit over a week now, if not a bit longer; I started it on 20 April, if that says anything. Part of it is that I was waiting for a beta read. More of it is that I wasn't sure about releasing it into the wild. Don't worry: I love this story too much to quit writing it. I'm just less sure about posting it online. The views and visitors add up to a lot of interest, but the reviews seem to tell a different story. It makes me miss AO3's "kudos" feature.
Anyway, here's the promised Chapter 11. Chapter 12 is done, and I've almost finished Chapter 13. Hopefully I'll be able to get 12 released once I finished 13.
Finally, please wish me luck on an interview I have upcoming on Monday. I really need this job.