by Apollymi

Genre: Romance, Suspense, Vague Paranormal
Word Count: 8,284
Disclaimers: I own nothing but the idea. All series and characters are copyright to their individual creators and distributors, of which I am not one. I make no money from this fan-created work.

"Graduation day at last!"

If Jounouchi-kun sounded extremely happy, well, he was just saying what they all were feeling, Yuugi supposed. He certainly knew he was glad to be done with school for good.

It had always seemed like the end of school was never going to come, between school itself and everything else that had happened in their high school career: the Spirits, Ancient Egypt... It all seemed so bizarre at the time, until they had laid Atemu to rest and life returned to what should have been normal. Only... after all of that, 'normal' life didn't seem so normal or even appealing anymore.

And even after a few years in classes with these people, he knew he didn't feel nearly as close to any of them as he did with the few people who had been by his side through that weird time when he still had mou hitori no boku and the Sennen Puzzle and all the rest of the attending weirdness that came with those times.

It wasn't just Jounouchi-kun and Anzu and Honda-kun he felt enormously close to. There was also Bakura-kun and Kaiba-kun, even if neither of them had elected to show up for the morning's graduation ceremonies. He couldn't say that he blamed either of them for not being here. It had been dull, dull, dull.

Kaiba-kun had only needed to obtain his high school diploma to solidify his ownership of Kaiba Corp, and once he had that, there was no reason to stick around any longer. Yuugi might have considered him a friend for his own part, but that didn't mean that Kaiba-kun felt the same way about any of them. He hadn't seen any sign of the man since exams had finished earlier in the week... and somehow it wasn't exactly a surprising thing. He had known for a long time that, while he considered Kaiba-kun to be a friend, the feeling had been entirely one way.

He was, however, a little surprised not to see Bakura-kun at the graduation ceremony. It had been dull, yes, but it had also been fairly short and painless. It hadn't appealed to any of them; in fact, he had only gone for Jiichan's sake, so the old man could sit through the ceremony and cheer at the appropriate points (and even a few inappropriate ones); but it seemed like something that would have definitely held some appeal for Bakura-kun. The white-haired boy enjoyed ceremonies for reasons Yuugi was completely unable to put words to.

Well, Bakura-kun liked to watch ceremonies. He loathed participating in them... and even that seemed like a huge understatement. He could certainly pull the biggest disappearing act possible when it came time for him to participate in anything that might drag him out of his carefully maintained isolation. Bakura-kun was willing enough to associate with them, usually, but sometimes he wanted to be completely alone and was apt to snarl at them if they intruded.

The events of their first year, when there were the Spirits and everything else, had left more than a few scars on all of them. On some of them, the scars were even physical. Bakura Ryou fit both of those categories. Today was probably one of his bad days, when he wanted absolutely no one around him, talking to him, or even looking at him.

"Okay," Honda-kun commented lazily, drawing his attention back to the conversation at hand, lounging easily over the park table they were gathered around, "confessions time. Who's doing what now?"

Anzu, predictably, jumped to answer the question first. "I got a scholarship to the--to a prestigious dance academy in America. They've been asking me to join since second year, but I wanted to finish up with you guys first before I left."

"Wow," Jounouchi-kun intoned softly, "that's... amazing."

He couldn't help a soft noise of surprise. "I'm not sure I would have stuck around myself, Anzu," he admitted. "I'd be worried they would have withdrawn the offer if I waited too long."

She shrugged easily enough. "If they had withdrawn the offer, I would have taken one of the other ones I got." She blushed slightly, but pride glowed bright in her eyes. "There were a few of them, after all."

He had known for a very long time that his oldest friend had a lot of talent and even more drive to go with it, but he supposed he hadn't realized just how much of either she actually possessed.

"Okay, I'm with Jounouchi on this," Honda commented. "That is pretty goddamn amazing."

She grinned broadly. "What about you, Honda-kun?"

He shrugged. "Got a job I like. I'm going to start working more, not just part-time anymore. After a while, I might see about getting another job, maybe working on bikes."

He suspected Honda-kun was being modest. The last time the two of them had talked about something like this, Honda-kun had mentioned an interest in designing motorcycles. Whether or not he was still planning to do something like that was totally in the air, though. It was a nice, safe plan he had right now.

Anzu nodded slowly. "That's a good plan. Jounouchi-kun?"

The blond shrugged. "Haven't put too much thought into it. I mean, Yuugi's granddad has been nice enough to let me work at his shop after school." And he hadn't even had to talk to Jiichan about it first. The whole thing had been his grandfather's idea from the beginning. "I can't do that forever, though."

"But it's something for the meantime, if nothing else," Anzu continued. "No one said that we have to have definite plans for the rest of our lives the same day that we graduate from high school."

"All the same, though," Jounouchi-kun continued cheerfully, and even he wasn't too sure if the cheer was for real or not, "what about you, Yuugi?"

He shrugged broadly. "I got a job offer from Industrial Illusions to test their games. I might take them up on it."

What he wasn't saying, however, was that until about halfway through second year, he had also had an offer of the same job on tap with Kaiba Corp. And then one day, completely without warning, Kaiba-kun had informed him in no uncertain terms that the offer was no longer valid. At the time, he had been too shocked to say anything about it, but ever since then, it had pinged him as very odd. Kaiba-kun had said nothing else about it, and honestly, he hadn't asked.

Every so often, though, he had to wonder about it. The offer had been there since just after Battle City, so over a year, and then suddenly it wasn't there anymore. It was Kaiba-kun's prerogative to decide who he hired for positions at Kaiba Corp, of course, but it wasn't like he had filled the position yet either.

"Now that's pretty damn awesome too," Honda-kun commented. "How the hell did you swing something like that?"

He shrugged, but before he could answer, Jounouchi-kun jumped in. "Duelist Kingdom and Battle City right?" He nodded. "They'd have to be crazy not to offer you something with them after winning both of those."

There had been a handful of other tournaments since then. While they hadn't all been the routing wins he had experience with mou hitori no boku nor tournaments to the same scale as those two had been, they were still solid victories in his favor.

He would have much preferred the job at Kaiba Corp. Kaiba-kun had a very solid reputation for treating his employees very well. He did tend to hold them to a high standard, expecting more from them than most employers, but he rewarded the loyalty he received in return quite generously. There was also the added advantage of Kaiba Corp being a lot closer to Kame Games than Industrial Illusions was. But if the offer was off the table, then it was off the table. He wasn't about to try to get Kaiba-kun to change his mind. Arguing with a solid wall might be more productive than trying that.

Anzu was frowning in thought, and somehow this did not seem like a good thing at all. "Kaiba-kun didn't offer you anything with Kaiba Corp. It seems like it would have been something he would do."

Jounouchi-kun snorted inelegantly, flopping down hard on the bench between Anzu and Honda-kun and leaning his back against the table. "He certainly could have used it for good press after Battle City."

That was true: the media had been particularly harsh to Kaiba-kun after the Battle City tournament was over. A lot of weird things had happened in Battle City, usually involving either the other Bakura or Malik Ishtar, though not everything had come down to those two. Kaiba-kun had organized the tournament, though, and so he was the one that got raked over the coals for everything that happened. That was probably why Kaiba-kun had never hosted another tournament again. In fact, there had never even been the faintest whisper of another Kaiba Corp-sponsored tournament on any of the dueling circuits.

Duel Monsters was still one of the more popular card-based games out there, though, so at least he had a skill set he could fall back on. Duelist Kingdom and Battle City were two major feathers in his cap in that regard.

"Speaking of Kaiba-kun," Anzu cut back in, "have you heard what he's going to be doing now?"

He shrugged. "As far as I've heard, he's just going to be working. He has a business to run, after all." They all snickered quietly, remembering how many times they had all heard Kaiba-kun say that exact same thing over and over again. "I don't see that changing any time soon. Why?"

She shook her head slightly. "I just heard on the news this morning that Kaiba Corp was moving its main branch out of Domino. I just thought if anyone had heard anything about it, it would be you, Yuugi."

And that was a bit mind-blowing. "Why?"

Anzu shrugged slightly. Oddly, it reminded him of Kujaku Mai, someone they hadn't seen in years. It was the same kind of simplistic but elegant gesture he would have expected from Mai.

"Of all of us, Yuugi, you're the one that Kaiba-kun talks to the most."

That was a little sad, since Kaiba-kun didn't exactly talk to him on a regular basis. If he got more than ten words out of him at a time, it was akin to a miracle. If those weren't in the least bit snappy, then he would have been taking Kaiba-kun to the nurses' office.

But that he was the one of them that Kaiba-kun spoke to the most... was no real surprise. After all, he was the only one who was willing to bug Kaiba-kun until he started talking. And he was the only one who would keep bugging Kaiba-kun until the conversation turned a bit more civil.

Well, he was the only one willing to go through all of that of the group currently assembled. Kaiba-kun was much more willing to spend time around Bakura-kun, at least when Bakura-kun wasn't in one of his moods. There had been many a lunchtime where he had been searching for Kaiba-kun or Bakura-kun to ask one of them about something, only to find them eating their lunches together in absolute silence.

He had always backed back out of the room or back into the stairwell off the roof before either of them could notice him and left it at that. And in truth, he had never given it a second thought. Maybe he should have. Because he hadn't know about Kaiba Corp moving. Because he hadn't known why Bakura-kun wouldn't be here today of all days.

"I didn't know" was all he could say through the shock.

"Well," Honda said brightly, obviously changing the subject, "what about Bakura? Have you heard what his plans are?"

He shook his head slowly. "He hasn't said anything to me about his plans." He shrugged helplessly. "I guess I always assumed he would be going on to a university, maybe learning anthropology and joining his father in the field."

Because it wasn't like Bakura-kun had ever said the first word to him about his plans for after graduation. Oh, they had talked about Yuugi's plans more than a little bit, a lot honestly, but he couldn't remember them ever saying the first word about Bakura-kun's plans. He couldn't help but feel now like every conversation they had ever had on the topic, for as long as he had known Bakura-kun, had been carefully steered in a different direction.

That settled it. This afternoon, as soon as he had some free time, he was going to go over to Bakura-kun's place and he was going to try to find out some answers to all of his questions.

Well, that plan was all well and good, up until he got to Bakura-kun's apartment, only to find the door open and moving guys in the process of wrapping up and boxing what looked like hundreds upon thousands of Monster World dolls. Maybe it was just hundreds, but it looked like a whole lot more than that.

Weird... He hadn't ever given any thought to Bakura-kun possibly keeping the dolls, not after the debacle of that time they were all trapped inside the game. By the same token, though, it wasn't like he had given up Duel Monsters with all the horrible things that the game had ended up involved with, so maybe he could see why Bakura-kun might not given up on Monster World.

It had always seemed to be his game of preference over Duel Monsters anyway. He liked a game where there was a game master of some sort guiding the action along.

Or maybe that had been the Spirit of the Ring? It might have been the Spirit, now that he thought about it, since he couldn't seem to recall a single time he had seen Bakura-kun pick up a card or a figure or even a gaming rulebook since the events of Ancient Egypt.

The events of that year certainly had left their scars, hadn't they?

There was no sign of Bakura-kun here. He could hear the workers talking amongst themselves, and from the sound of things, they were following a list of things to pack or discard. And as quiet as Bakura-kun was, he was fairly certain he would have been able to hear him if he were here and talking to anyone. So Bakura-kun wasn't here then?

He couldn't imagine Bakura-kun having left the city, not without all of his belongings, so he had to still be in Domino... somewhere. If he could just figure out where...

This was where it was that he ended up wishing he had done a better job of keeping in touch with Bakura-kun. He didn't know where he would be going or even where he might be while his things were being packed away. He wasn't even sure he could claim the title of 'friend' when he didn't know anything about what was going on with the other young man.

But he wanted to. He had wanted to be closer friends with Bakura-kun since That Year. If anyone would understand what it was to have a three thousand year old spirit residing inside you, it would be have been Bakura-kun.

To his shame, though, he had backed off and hadn't pursued the idea with any degree of consistency. If he recalled right, it had been right after one of Bakura-kun's bad days. It had been one of the first ones, he thought, and it had taken all of them by surprise. Thankfully it had hit in a gap between classes, so when Bakura-kun snuck out and was absent the rest of the day, most everyone was a bit relieved. He could admit that even he was guilty of that. Bakura-kun had been back in class two days later, and no one had spoken of it again... at least not until the next bad day and set of absences.

He remembered some of the teachers talking about getting some psychological help for Bakura-kun, because between the deaths of his mother and sister and his penchant for showing up to class injured, it seemed clear to the teachers that he needed some kind of help. The Spirit of the Ring was gone by then, but that didn't mean its effects were forgotten.

Of course, there was then the fact that the whispers from the teachers had stopped suddenly, much more abruptly than they had started. Come to think of it, that was right about the time that Kaiba-kun and Bakura-kun started hanging out together. Well, for a given value of "hanging out". It wouldn't have been that for him or Jounouchi-kun or even Honda-kun, but none of them were either painfully shy like Bakura-kun or extremely private like Kaiba-kun.

Kaiba-kun would probably know where he could find Bakura-kun.

Why it had taken him this long to realize that, he didn't know. He was going to attribute it to his mind being completely preoccupied today. Between graduation and all the rest of this, today had been a bit mindboggling. Frankly, he would much prefer to go home and sleep today off, but this wasn't going to leave him alone until he figured it all out.

So he had to brave visiting Kaiba-kun. Stopping by Kaiba Corp might have been the safest way to go, but that wouldn't work. He had wasted too much time as it was. It was well after the time of day when the guards at Kaiba Corp stopped letting people who didn't work there in the door. So he was going to have to brave Kaiba-kun at his home.

And that might have been about the most terrifying thing he had had to do in quite a while. In fact, the last time he had had to go into Kaiba-kun's house, Mokuba-kun had ended up challenging mou hitori no boku to a roulette wheel of poisoned food, if he recalled correctly. (He was pretty sure he did remember correctly: it was hard to forget the first few times, not to mention one of the more creative threats, someone tried to kill you.)

He was not looking forward to this at all.

Getting into Kaiba-kun's home had never been this easy before. Last time there had been guards and quiet shows of guns and a slightly demonic acting Mokuba-kun. Now he was able to slip in the gate as a moving truck was heading out.

How weird was that? Both Kaiba-kun and Bakura-kun were leaving and at the same time. He could understand why they would both want to get out of Domino; neither of them had had it easy here, from what he could gather; but it just seemed so strange that they were both leaving at the same time.

Then again, graduation had been today. Maybe they had both been waiting until that was over with to start leaving. That made more sense.

There had never been a lot of personalization to the grounds of the Kaiba mansion. There were no flowers planted anywhere, and the grounds were nearly bare of trees. It had always seemed sort of sad to him, like this place was nothing more than a really fancy, if stark, hotel.

The door was open, so he let himself in. From somewhere in the house, he could hear Mokuba-kun yelling something; it sounded like a question regarding if some item was to be kept or trashed. He couldn't hear the response, but a few seconds' later, there was a horrible crashing and breaking noise, so he was willing to presume that the answer was no, that item was not to be kept.

The main hallway looked... frantic, for lack of a better word. Boxes were piled as high as his head against every single empty space of wall. The writing on each box was some arcane mixture of Kaiba-kun's careful handwriting and a looping scrawl that could only belong to Mokuba-kun. So Kaiba Corp was definitely moving, and it looked like both of the Kaiba brothers were moving with it. Which made sense: he couldn't picture Kaiba-kun without Mokuba-kun, nor could he visualize Mokuba-kun without his big brother.

"Niisama's going to shit bricks when he sees you here."

And really, a statement like that could have only come from one person and one person alone. He turned from his inspection of one precarious stack of boxes, all of which were labeled 'Duel Monster cards', and of course, Mokuba-kun was right behind him. For all that he had made such a dire pronouncement, he looked entirely too gleeful. Or maybe it was the possibility of seeing his big brother lose his cool that appealed. He couldn't be sure. Mokuba-kun was never an easy person to try to read.

"Good evening, Mokuba-kun," he greeted the boy with an easy smile. Of course, Mokuba-kun wasn't really a boy anymore, was he? He was fifteen now, not too far from sixteen, and he towered over Yuugi already. He was already nearly as tall as his older brother, and wasn't that unfair? Everyone had hit a growth spurt in the last year or so except him.

"What are you doing here, Yuugi?" The complete lack of an honorific perhaps should have said something, but he wasn't willing to jump to conclusions, not just yet. "Or do you just show up to random people's house uninvited?"

He shrugged slightly. "I just heard that you and Kaiba-kun were moving out of Domino. I wanted to come and say goodbye before you left." It was partially the truth. From the look in Mokuba-kun's eyes, he had figured out that he was only getting part of the story and wasn't very happy with that fact. So Yuugi continued, "And I heard that Bakura-kun was leaving as well. I wanted to see if Kaiba-kun might know where he was."

"Why?" The question was all but spit out. "What do you care?"

"Mokuba-kun..." He had to say that he was honestly confused, and frankly, he didn't care if it showed in his voice. He wasn't sure what it possible could be that he had done to make Mokuba-kun so angry with him.

"What do you care about what Bakura-niisan is doing?"

And now he did have to wonder just how much hanging out Bakura-kun and Kaiba-kun actually did, if Mokuba-kun had taken to calling him 'niisan'.

"I care," he admitted. "I haven't been very good at showing it lately, but I do care. About Bakura-kun, Kaiba-kun, and you, Mokuba-kun."

Mokuba-kun snorted. "Funny way of showing it. We haven't seen any sign of you outside of school in years. I think you know when I mean."

Everything always came back to That Year, he thought dourly. "I know I haven't been a very good friend, and I'm sorry for that. But I would still like to be your friend." He sighed, fighting the urge to cross his arms over his chest. It was one of those things that he had been consciously trying not to do, since it was very much a mou hitori no boku thing; somehow he got the feeling that this was not the best place for his impression of his other.

"It's all right, Mokuba-kun." He nearly jumped to hear Bakura-kun's voice coming from one of the doorways behind him. He did end up whirling around to face the white-haired young man.

No wonder he hadn't been able to find Bakura-kun at his own home: he had been here. From the looks of things, he had been helping Kaiba-kun and Mokuba-kun get all packed up for their move, while the movers worked on his own place. At least, that was his best guess from the old ratty t-shirt and dust-covered jeans. It didn't make a lot of sense why Bakura-kun would be doing that, but why did it have to make sense? Maybe Bakura-kun just got tired of looking at his own stuff and came to help them instead.

From the looks of things, this was a good day. Bakura-kun looked fairly together. In fact, he looked very much like his old self, if it weren't for the fact he couldn't recall ever having seen him dressed so casually. Moving was dirty work, of course, especially when moving more than one household, so the old clothes were a must.

That Bakura-kun looked so comfortable in Kaiba-kun's house, that Mokuba-kun was apparently familiar enough with him to call him 'niisan', that he was here helping Kaiba-kun on graduation day instead of going out and celebrating... All of that spoke to something different, something he wasn't sure he was quite ready to tackle just yet.

Mokuba-kun held up both hands in a universal sign of surrender and headed through the door that Bakura-kun had just exited; somehow Yuugi got the feeling that Mokuba-kun was going in search of his big brother and, if he were wise, he would make this visit quick.

"What can I do for you, Yuugi-kun?" At least Bakura-kun sounded like he always did.

"We were talking about what we were going to do now that school is over, and I realized that I didn't know what you were doing, and I wanted to see if you were okay, and I didn't know that you were moving," he got out all in one single breath.

Thankfully, Bakura-kun seemed to be perfectly capable to following that long rush of words. "I'm sorry that I didn't tell you. I thought it would be for the best to just make a clean break of it."

But Kaiba-kun knew about it, his mind argued. Presumably Kaiba-kun even knew where Bakura-kun was going. He kept that thought to himself, though. There was no need to air his own insecurities, after all. "I see" was all he could make himself say. It was wholly inadequate, but it was still some words said. "Were you ever planning on coming back?"

Bakura-kun shrugged. "Not really. I'm sorry, Yuugi-kun, but I haven't felt comfortable in this town in years, if I ever was comfortable here. There are too many bad memories tied up here, things I would like to forget."

Like the Spirit of the Ring, he presumed but did not say aloud. "I'm sorry to hear that," he offered instead. "Have you found a place?"

Bakura-kun shook his head briefly. "I have some traveling to do first. There are things I need to do, that I need to set right. Once that's done, then I'll worry about a place to stay."

That was... very vague, he had to admit. It was almost like Bakura-kun didn't want to tell him anything about what was going on. If that was the case, it was indeed Bakura-kun's right to do so, but that didn't mean that he wouldn't be sad not to know all about what's going on.

"Is Kaiba-kun going to go with you?" Damn it, he hadn't meant to ask that. That wasn't what he had been going to ask at all.

To his surprise, though, Bakura-kun flushed slightly, his gaze suddenly becoming fixed on his old battered tennis shoes. "Yes, Yuugi-kun, he's going with me. Mokuba-kun too, probably."

He swallowed something that might well have been jealousy and plastered a huge smile all over his face. "I'm glad to hear that. Taking a vacation by yourself has to be boring."

And suddenly, Bakura-kun was staring at him again, deep brown eyes staring at him searchingly. Whatever he was looking for, he seemed to come to some kind of a conclusion. "It's not a vacation, Yuugi-kun. I'm looking for something. Seto's going to help me find it."

That would explain why Bakura-kun was always gone over breaks: between years, summer, winter, and every long weekend, he would be out of town, even out of the country sometimes, but never with a word about where he had been once he got back. He couldn't even really think about to a time when Bakura-kun hadn't been doing that.

No, wait, actually he could. Bakura-kun certainly had never done this kind of taking off during their first year. The only trips he had taken during That Year were the one that brought him to Domino and the one to Egypt that they ended up involved in.

"What is it you're looking for?" he couldn't help but ask, his curiosity piqued. While the confirmation that Bakura-kun had been out of town every chance he got over the last few years certainly answered a few questions, it also opened up entirely too many more.

Bakura-kun opened his mouth to answer, but it was Kaiba-kun's voice that replied. "Something that is none of your business." The taller young man stepped into view behind Bakura-kun, leaning casually against the doorframe.

If his eyes exploded out of his head... Well, it was only to be expected. If Bakura-kun's casual dress had surprised him, then it made sense that Kaiba-kun's would only be even more surprising. He couldn't remember ever seeing Kaiba-kun outside of a few select outfits: their school uniform, a business suit, or one of those eye-catching trench coat combinations he had worn at Duelist Kingdom and Battle City. He certainly never would have suspected he would ever see Kaiba-kun in a pair of worn jeans with a long-sleeved t-shirt that clearly seen better days.

"What do you think you're doing here, Mutou?" Well, clearly the casual outfit did nothing to change Kaiba-kun's usual caustic personality. Thankfully, over the years, he had built up something of an immunity to it.

"I heard that you and Mokuba-kun were moving. I wanted to say goodbye to the two of you--and Bakura-kun too."

"Fine. You've said it. Now get off my property." Now that was certainly a good deal more brusque than even he was used to Kaiba-kun being, though granted, they usually only talked--such as it was--at school, where Kaiba-kun was bound by some rules of decorum.

What was surprising was that Bakura-kun said nothing at all to try to curb Kaiba-kun's acerbic comments or relieve any hurt they might have caused. In fact, he didn't really seem to care. That, at the very least, didn't seem much like the Bakura-kun Yuugi was used to.

The thought made him look a little closer. It wasn't just the clothes; something else about Bakura-kun seemed a little less like the friend he had known now for years, and more like... something else. Whatever it was, it was still familiar, in a very vague way.

In an equally vague way, it was also almost... threatening. There was something he nearly recognized in the back of Bakura-kun's eyes that made him want to curl up and hide somewhere safe. It weirdly almost made him miss mou hitori no boku in ways he hadn't in a long time.

No, there was no 'almost' there: he suddenly really wished that the Spirit of the Puzzle were here. He was a lot stronger now than he had been back during That Year, but that was for day-to-day matters, not... not something like this.

"A--All right then." A stutter had managed to slip into his voice, and he wasn't even going to feel a little ashamed. A little fear was healthy when faced with the mere possibility of something that should have been wholly impossible. "I'll get out of your hair, Kaiba-kun, Bakura-kun. I hope your travels go well, and..." He trailed off, completely at a loss of something to say and instead focused on backing towards the door that would lead out of this place.

"Stop." If he had ever heard Bakura-kun's voice so commanding, he couldn't remember when it had been. That did a lot towards freezing him in his tracks. And he had been so close: only five more steps and he would have been out of the door, and honestly, he would not have come back.

Bakura-kun even walked differently, a tiny rational part of his mind noted, while the rest of him remained stock still for the white-haired young man's way too close inspection.

"B--Bakura-kun?" he stammered.

"He knows." Even though Bakura-kun was looking at him still, it was very obvious that he was speaking to Kaiba-kun, who looked equally dismayed at that bit of news, if the way his body was tightening up stiffly was any indication. "I'm not sure how, but he knows."

Kaiba-kun rolled his eyes. "Great. I bet I can guess how."

Bakura-kun--No, the Spirit of the Ring groaned. "It's not a hard choice. It always comes back to the gods-be-damned Pharaoh."

And that solidified his fear: this was indeed the Spirit of the Ring. Either it was somehow back or it had never left Bakura-kun. Apparently, Kaiba-kun knew--

"What will it take to keep you quiet about this, Mutou?"

--and, more than that, Kaiba-kun was working with it.

He summoned up every ounce of courage he had left in his body and made himself stand his ground. He might have been ill equipped to deal with the Spirit of the Ring, at least compared to mou hitori no boku, but he could try. "What's going on? I have to know what's going on here."

The growl the Spirit of the Ring let out was enough to make him fall a step back before he once more managed to gather his mettle. It was made no less threatening by the fact that the Spirit nearly collapsed a second or two later.

Mokuba-kun seemed to appear out of nowhere, grabbing one of Bakura-kun's elbows and keeping him upright. Only a moment later, Kaiba-kun grabbed hold of his other side to further steady him. By some unspoken signal, they wordlessly hauled him into the room Bakura-kun had emerged from, lowering him carefully onto a sheet-covered sofa.

This was his chance to get out of here, to leave while all three--all four?--of them were otherwise occupied. Instead, though, he found himself trailing after them, watching closely in an attempt to assuage his curiosity. The Kaiba brothers seemed like a well-oiled machine in this, Mokuba-kun moving Bakura-kun's legs up on the sofa while Kaiba-kun seated himself next to Bakura-kun.

"I'll go get some water," Mokuba-kun spoke up, the sound almost startling in the silence. Kaiba-kun nodded in agreement, and the younger boy was quickly gone.

"What's wrong with him?" he asked quietly.

The sigh Kaiba-kun let out was telling. It was worried and annoyed and concerned and frustrated and so many other things. It was actually a bit of a surprise when he answered. "Two people aren't meant to be in the same body for this long."

So if mou hitori no boku had not left after That Year, this could be him? Suddenly, he was almost glad that he had lost his other years ago. But that meant... What exactly did that mean?

"How is the Spirit of the Ring still here?"

"He never left."

Kaiba-kun sounded distracted, and in truth, that was probably the only reason why he was getting his answers. If Kaiba-kun's full attention weren't directly focused on Bakura-kun, the other man would never be answering any of them.

It was a little odd to the cautious way Kaiba-kun was brushing his hand through Bakura-kun's hair. It was... He didn't know the word. 'Achingly tender' was the best phrase that came to mind for it. It was a phrase he never would have ascribed to Kaiba-kun, never in a thousand years. Oh, he knew Kaiba-kun could be devoted to people in his own way, looking at how he was with his younger brother, but he didn't think there was anything so... so... so... something in Kaiba-kun.

"How is that?" he thought aloud, rather than focus on this new and wholly unexpected aspect of Kaiba-kun. "I thought he was banished in the Memory World."

"The demon was. I held on. I wasn't going to lose him, not him too." That was Bakura-kun's voice without a doubt. More than that, it was the version of Bakura-kun that had been his classmate. Mokuba-kun slid around Yuugi, handing Bakura-kun a glass of water. "Thanks, Mokuba-kun."

"Is he okay?" the younger man asked, grey eyes wide with worry.

Bakura-kun nodded. Yuugi tried to tell himself that the relief he suddenly felt was purely for the Kaiba brothers' benefits, but he wasn't too sure. A little of it might have been purely selfish. He still wanted his answers, now more than ever.

"I guess you want answers," Bakura-kun commented.

"I don't see why he should get them." That bit of nastiness came from Mokuba-kun, and frankly, he wasn't too surprised to hear it. He knew how aggressively protective the young man could get. The roulette game of poisoned food came back to mind.

"Mokuba-kun." He would note that only Bakura-kun was doing the scolding. From the look he was receiving, it seemed that Kaiba-kun might have agreed with his younger brother. "What do you want to know, Yuugi-kun?"

"How is the Spirit of the Ring still here?" That seemed to be the most immediate question.

Bakura-kun shrugged, taking a sip from the glass of water. "When the demon dragged you all into the Memory World, it took part of Bakura with it. When the demon was banished, I pulled that part of Bakura back to me. You may have been willing to give your other up, Yuugi-kun, but I wasn't. I've lost too many people to lose him too." He pushed a shaking hand through his hair, his breath equally unsteady. "Every place I've gone in the years since then has been trying to find a way to give him a body of his own before the situation gets any more dire."

"How dire is it now?" he had to ask.

Bakura-kun opened his mouth to speak, but Kaiba-kun cut in over him. "Dire, it's very dire at this point."


"There's no need in mincing words, Ryou." Wait a minute here... They were on first name basis? That was a bit more than he had expected. This was a lot more than he had expected. "If we can't find a way to get Bakura his own body soon, he's going to die."

The Spirit of the Ring--Bakura, to use the name the two of them were using--was dying? That must have been what Kaiba-kun had meant about two people weren't supposed to be in one body for a long time.

"It seems," and Bakura-kun was speaking to him again, "that there aren't that many bodies out there that can hold Bakura's spirit, aside from my own." He paused to eye Yuugi speculatively. "And presumably yours as well and maybe Malik-kun's. If we put Bakura into a body that won't hold him, he'll die then too." He sighed. "Before, he could go back into the Ring to rest, but since the Ring has been destroyed, that option's gone."

And honestly, Yuugi almost felt bad about that. Not bad enough to offer to let Bakura borrow his body or anything, but at least mildly guilty.

"I hope you're able to find something." He felt a little surprised to hear himself say that. The Spirit of the Ring had been the subject of some of his worst nightmares over the years, but this was more for Bakura-kun and Kaiba-kun and even Mokuba-kun than it was for the Thief King. "Is there anything I can do to help? Aside from vacating my own body?"

Bakura-kun shook his head, but again Kaiba-kun was the one who spoke. "Don't tell anyone about this." Anyone else might have added a 'please' on there, but that just wasn't Kaiba-kun.

"Of course I won't." And he was a little surprised yet again by how much he meant that. "I promise," he added on before anyone could ask for that.

"Good." And really, Kaiba-kun needn't sound nearly so relieved. He sounded like he had been absolutely certain that Yuugi was going to do the exact opposite, maybe even find a way to bring mou hitori no boku back just to deal with the Thief King. Maybe he would have been they had had this conversation, but now? Now there was no way in hell he would consider doing that.

"I'll walk you out," Bakura-kun offered, moving to sit up around Kaiba-kun. The taller man immediately moved, either to brace him to stand or to hold him in place, Yuugi wasn't certain.

"Don't. You look like you need your rest, Bakura-kun."

The white-haired man offered him a tired smile. "I'm good enough for now. And I would like to say goodbye, Yuugi-kun."

Reluctantly, Kaiba-kun and Mokuba-kun helped him to his feet. A sharp look from the elder Kaiba brother prompted him to come take Bakura-kun's elbow, gently and carefully keeping him relatively steady on his feet.

The way Bakura-kun fondly rolled his eyes at Kaiba-kun was certainly telling too, but hopefully that was a whole lot more benign than the other secret he had found out tonight. In fact, he was pretty sure it was the same look he gave Jiichan when the old man was being a bit too overprotective and he found it both exasperating and endearing.

As Bakura-kun led him back to the hallway, he noticed that neither of the Kaiba brothers got back to their packing, instead keeping a close eye on Bakura-kun. That certainly answered any questions he might have had on that front.

"You look like you still have questions, Yuugi-kun," Bakura-kun commented once they were in the hall. He might not have been able to see Kaiba-kun's and Mokuba-kun's eyes on him anymore, but he had no doubt they were still listening. He would be, if the situations were reversed.

"Just one." He lowered his voice, until it was hopefully low enough for only the pair of them to hear. "You and Kaiba-kun... You love him, don't you?" It was way more abrupt than he normally would have dared voice, but if they were leaving soon, this would be his only chance. There was no sense of being cautious about it now.

"It's sort of obvious, isn't it?" Bakura-kun laughed, keeping his voice as quiet as Yuugi's was.

"What about the Spirit... I mean, what about Bakura?"

"You remember what it's like to have an other, Yuugi-kun."

And that said a lot right there. Because he did remember what it was when there was mou hitori no boku. "I remember..." he whispered, regret painting his words. Because, yes, he did sometimes miss his other, like right now.

"We both love Seto, and Seto loves both of us," Bakura-kun baldly stated. "You remember what having an other is like, for the other side of the pyramid, as Bakura would say."

"Bakura still terrifies me," he admitted. "In fact, he still scares me a lot. But I hope you're able to find a way to save him."

It was pretty easy to tell that the hug Bakura-kun gives him was completely spur of the moment. "Thank you, Yuugi-kun. Thank you."

After one final tight squeeze of a hug from Bakura-kun, he headed out the door, feeling both heavier and lighter than when he first went in.

The letter, when it finally arrived, was sitting in his mailbox at Industrial Illusions. It was nondescript: a plain white envelope with careful handwriting and a foreign post stamp and return address without a name. He wasn't going to try to figure out where exactly it had come from.

In fact, he hadn't been too sure on opening it at all. A good deal of his foreign mail was generally trying to tempt him away from II, and he wasn't about to do that yet. Jiichan had just retired a few months ago, turning Kame Games over to Jounouchi-kun, and he did want to continue to stay as close to them as he possibly could.

In the end, though, he had given up and opened it.

Yuugi-kun, it began with, please accept my apologies for how long it has been since the last time we spoke. It doesn't seem like it has been that long since that day at Seto's old house, yet somehow it's been four years already.

Bakura-kun. It was from Bakura-kun.

He had worried when he didn't hear anything from either of the Kaiba brothers or Bakura-kun for months after they left town. There was eventually news that Kaiba Corp had set up its new base of operations in London, England, and that its CEO lived outside the city with his partner, but there hadn't been anything since then. And now he had a letter from Bakura-kun, like it had been only weeks.

I've been hearing about Mazaki-san's successes in America, and Mokuba-kun has told me about some of the work Honda-san has been doing with motorcycles. I must confess that they're a bit beyond me. I think Mokuba-kun has one of Honda-san's first models, but I can't say for sure. Really, it's all a bit beyond me!

Seto has told me that you've retired from tournament gaming. I must confess I was a bit shocked by that, Yuugi-kun, but I suppose when it feels like it's time, then it's time. It's odd for me to think, though, that the only one of us who still games is Jounouchi-san. Duel Monsters was never really my game, though, to be honest.

But these are all just pleasantries. I enjoy them, and I've been indulging in them now because I must admit that neither Seto nor Mokuba-kun are fond of them.

I have put off sending this letter for far too long. I've put off writing this letter for far too long.

I wasn't sure if you were being honest that day when you were leaving or if you were just being polite when you said you hoped we were able to save Bakura. So much of me hoped--and still hopes--you were being honest. It makes writing this a lot easier.

It took nearly a year, but we did it. We never managed to find a body, but we found a wizard--a real wizard, Yuugi-kun!--who was able to recreate Bakura's body for him. I haven't the foggiest on how it was achieved, but Bakura has had his own body for about three years now.

Three years... It was impressive to think that Bakura had been back that long and the world hadn't ended. Of course, he had been giving it some thought over the last few years, and he had decided that perhaps most of the things he had attributed to the Thief King might have been the work of the demon instead.

So maybe it wasn't a total shock that the world was still standing. Maybe it was more a shock that it had taken Bakura-kun three years to write him about it.

I suppose I was waiting to write you for a number of reasons. Part of me was terrified that the magic wouldn't hold, and we would lose Bakura anyway. It was the most terrifying time of my life, Yuugi-kun. I think you more than anyone can appreciate the gravity of that statement from me. I thought Seto was going to worry himself into the hospital. I still think sometimes that it was a close thing.

I also worried that maybe you hadn't meant it. It seems perhaps a bit silly now, but at the time, I was terrified that if I told you Bakura was back, then I'd jinx it and lose him. I worried that you hadn't meant it and somehow might bring the Pharaoh back to get rid of him. I apologize for thinking that, Yuugi-kun. I don't do well with the thought of losing someone I love, it seems.

But the rest of the reason I had not written was that I've been too deliriously happy these last few years. I think leaving Japan was a good thing for all of us. Despite all the worry and the stress and Seto's work, I've been so happy with Seto and Bakura. With Mokuba-kun here while he goes to college, it's like having a full family again, and that's the best thing in the world.

I think you know what I mean. I remember saying to you back then, Yuugi-kun, that you are the only other person in the world who knows what it's like to have an other. You are the only other person who would understand the sense of completeness I feel right now and hopefully not begrudge me that.

The address on the envelope is our address, should you ever feel like writing back. I felt like you should know, Yuugi-kun.

I am closing the letter here, but Bakura wanted to leave you a note as well. It's on the next sheet of paper.

Thank you for being a friend to me, Yuugi-kun.

Your friend,
Bakura Ryou

He was almost afraid to switch to the next page, for fear of what the former Spirit of the Ring might have to say to him. He couldn't imagine it would be complimentary.

With that in mind, he flipped to the next sheet. Bakura's handwriting was very different from Bakura-kun's. It was much more loopy and chaotic, like he couldn't contain himself, even on paper.

The note itself was very short, though: only a few lines.

I'm told you're getting a letter from my better half, Mutou. There's a spell to drag the Pharaoh's ass kicking and screaming out of the Underworld and into a new body if you want it. The guy who gave me my body told me about it, and it seems legitimate. Let Ryou know if you want it.


Apparently, he had made some of an impression on the Thief King--or else he appreciated someone helping Bakura-kun, even to the limited extent he had four years ago. At least the note was not riddled with threats, as he had been expecting. Either way, he still found Bakura rather terrifying, even more so now, when he was being helpful.

It probably said something that he was almost immediately considering the idea. Even though it had been over six years now, like Bakura-kun said, he was the only other person in the world who knew what it was like to have had an other.

But he wasn't going to make any sudden decisions about this. This wasn't the kind of decision to be made rashly.

Instead he took out a pen and hunted down some paper from the stock room two floors down, closed his office door, and started slowly writing.


I'm glad to hear from you...

25 October 2012

Okay, so here's the last bit of what I started for the summer writing months. In fact, this is something I worked on during July. It took me a while to finish it, since I wanted Belladonna and Of World to Fall to be done before I started on it. (And yes, I know I should have been working on Betrüger instead. That one is being difficult.)

I hope you enjoyed this little story. It was quite a lot of fun to write. The idea was to write Bakura/Kaiba from Yuugi's point of view. Somehow it turned into Bakura/Kaiba/Ryou along the way, but it was still a whole lot of fun.

Thanks, everyone!