To the victor go the spoils.

Spoil, verb; To corrupt, to cause to go bad. He spoils her with his influence.


Take One

The Rod had been the last item he'd gotten. Logically, he should have gone after Marik first, as the Egyptian only had one item and anybody else had more than that, but he'd gone for Yuugi first. The partnership he had with Marik was still in effect, after all. It would have been pointless to turn on a potential ally until there were no other options left.

Even so, even after presenting Marik with an unconscious Yuugi to do with what he pleased, and thus ending their alliance, there was a twinge of something that resembled regret when he slid the rod from Marik's limp fingers and wiped the blood off on his shirt. He shouldn't have been bothered. Marik had told him, "you want the Rod, you'll have to pry it from my cold, dead fingers, bastard!" So he had obliged. There was no reason for the guilt.

Bakura was going to have a Hell of a time washing out all the blood from his hair and clothing, if he let his mortal host have control any time soon. Or if Bakura was even going to bother – he'd been rather lifeless and apathetic to an extreme since Yami Bakura had handed Yuugi over to Marik. The big-eyed boy's screams must have gotten to Ryou.

Yuugi, though he'd had more advantages, also had more weaknesses, and so Yami Bakura had gone for him first. He had a relatively simple strategy: Screw Yami no Games, just get somebody close to Yuugi and trade for the Items.

Getting Yuugi's friends was easier than taking control of Ryou's body. It was child's play to raise his voice to the boy's normal pitch, making them think that the Ring Spirit was dormant, and there was no challenge in imitating Ryou's standard mannerisms and gestures, as they were the same as his own. So he'd smiled and talked with Yuugi and his friends, and even played a game of Magic and Wizards against Jounouchi. The hardest part had been letting the blond win, and acting normally. Yuugi couldn't have known that he'd held back during the match; he'd kept his hand hidden throughout.

Then after that, he'd pulled Katsuya to the side and asked to see the Flame Swordsman. The request didn't come completely out of the blue, following shortly after their game, and so Jounouchi passed the card over.

The Ring glowed, and the tall body slumped over, without a soul to direct it.

Then it got a slight bit trickier. He'd moved the ring from Ryou's neck to Katsuya's, taking the blond's taller and stronger body, and pocketing the soul card in the school uniform's pants. Bakura's body fell to the ground, the boy not realizing he'd been given the reigns until a moment after the impact. Then he stood up, recognizing the spirit possessing Jounouchi's body for who he was immediately.

"Jounouchi" slipped the ring beneath his shirt, punched Bakura in the stomach, and left the now-unconscious boy behind him as he walked off in search of Anzu and Honda.

Finding them wasn't a challenge, and in Jounouchi's body it was a snap to get their souls. He didn't bother hiding the bodies, but left them to lie where they'd fallen. If Yuugi found them before he found Yuugi (unlikely, considering the Ring's abilities), it would be all the more incentive for him to agree to the terms that would be set.

He did find Yuugi shortly, and the boy saw through Jounouchi's body as soon as he'd turned around to see who was there. It didn't matter, though, and the spirit held up all three cards with a confident grin.

"Wanna trade?"

The three souls for the Millennium Tauk – instantly agreed to. He threw the cards at Yuugi once the necklace was in his hand, and turned to leave. Yuugi – now Yami Yuugi – shouted for him to stop, and demanded Jounouchi's body back as well.

Now, that would take a game to decide.

With a deranged smile, he transported the two of them to the Shadow Realm, knowing and enjoying the pain that it caused Yuugi to be pitted against his closest friend for a – what was it up to now? – third time. Pegasus and Malik had the right ideas. He should have tried this sooner. Better late than never, in any case.

Ah, thinking of Pegasus… the Eye appeared in his hand, and his smile grew. In the Shadow Realm, there was no opportunity for the Mind Shuffle. The Eye's ability, coupled with the Tauk's glimpses into the future, ensured his victory.

His best plan yet. The only problem was to get Yami Yuugi to agree to the game, since the odds were so obviously staked against him. And there was that whole 'friendship' thing that had been Pegasus's downfall. He wondered if they could still get to Yuugi from the confines of their cards. If they could, he had a chance of loosing. And whenever Yami Yuugi had a chance to win, he took it.

Still, now or never, and there was no time like the present.

So, the proposal: "I'll give you all three of my Items; the Ring, Eye, and Tauk. Your friend will get his body back. And you know what you can do to me if you have the Ring. If you win. Otherwise, I get the Puzzle. And you know what I will do to you if I have the Puzzle."

The chance to be rid of the Tomb-Thief forever was an enticing offer. And Yuugi never lost.

Except that one time he lost to Jounouchi…

There was no way for him to win this one. Jounouchi's face was twisted into the horrible mockery of a grin that the thief usually wore, and stared at Yuugi, reading his thoughts and taking obvious, perhaps exaggerated, pleasure in his palpable discomfort and fear.

Even if it was only Katsuya's body. Even if Yuugi clutched the Flame Swordsman card in his hand. Even though the stakes were all or nothing. His friends were trapped – if he'd  put off the match until they'd been restored to their bodies – but that wasn't possible, since Jounouchi's body was – his friends couldn't protect him.

There was no way to stop the Eye's powers in the Shadow Realm. There was no way to win.

He cackled as Yuugi's life points fell to zero.

Later he'd returned to Bakura's body, the boy still lying where he'd landed when the Tomb-Robber had struck him. Though Jounouchi's was obviously the better in physical qualities, Bakura was his physical reincarnation, and there was no denying the desire to have his body. Besides, being shorter had its advantages at times.

Not in Yuugi's case. But at times.

The Millennium Ankh and Scales were obtained without too much hassle, after that. He'd found Shaadi easily enough with the Ring, and the man had not even bothered fighting – Yami Bakura had twice the amount of items. It was almost annoying, that somebody would give up that quickly, but he did not question that good fortune.

He'd only stopped to tell Shaadi, "you should have killed me."

The man nodded, hoop earrings bobbing. "I know."

That had left Marik.

It had almost seemed like the Egyptian hadn't expected him to try for the Rod. Which was foolishness – he had six of the items, why stop there? He practically had his own body; all the resistance was gone from Ryou. So he'd approached Marik, and the boy had fought a battle he'd known he would lose.

Yami Bakura knew from experience that there was no greater torture than fighting something that you knew you could not win. He'd watched gleefully as Pegasus destroyed Kaiba in the same way, knowing that Seto would not forfeit what was obviously a hopeless match.

Had Marik been crying when he slit his throat with the knife end of the Rod? It didn't matter, now, though. Marik was just as bad as the boy Ryou was, if he'd had any hope that perhaps he wouldn't kill anybody in his way of all seven items.

Anything that he wanted, now. Each item glowed, resonating and feeding off each other, a cycle of power that even Yami Bakura had his doubts as to whether or not he could control.

He was the greatest thief that had ever been, and now he had anything and everything he wanted.

Marik's dull purple eyes stared up at him, as though asking, "well, what do you want? You've been staring at the Sennen Sets for a fucking fifty minutes without doing anything. Hell, wait too much longer and my body'll start to smell."

He shook his head. He knew what he wanted. Power, control over everything, and nobody – especially if they were dead already – was going to stop him.

With a thought the tan body disappeared, the Rod briefly dimming before continuing it's alluring glow. Now there was no possible guilt trip from the corpse. He'd killed hundreds before – why did Marik's body have a seeming hold over him?

From the back of his mind he heard Ryou sniffling. There, that was one thing he wanted. His own body and mind, not to be shared with any. Gripping the Ring he forcibly expunged Ryou from his mind, causing the boy to fall out of the air before him in a physical manifestation. It was not a true body, though – he had the body now, and Bakura was just a projection of the boy's mind, which would soon be obliterated.

The white haired boy lifted his head to lock eyes with the thief. His green eyes shined with liquid that dripped down his face like clear blood.

With a thought, he and all guilt associated with him was gone. Like the Rod before it, the Ring dimmed for less than a second.

Now there was nothing to prevent him from getting what he wanted. Nothing to stop him from …

A voice that sounded like Marik whispered in his mind, "what do you want?"

Then a sad, reproachful thought that sounded like the now-banished Ryou, "you have absolute control."

He shook his head forcefully, Bakura's white hair whipping about. What he wanted was to be free from that regret! They'd all known he would do it without hesitation, they'd all known that he wasn't the indecisive and wavering mess that Ryou had been. There was no reason to feel that maybe he'd done something that he shouldn't have. He'd told Shaadi that the man should have killed him, and Shaadi had agreed.

What did he want?

Without Marik there, it was lonely. Without the Pharoah to challenge and insult and try to kill, there was no goal for him.

Without Ryou there, begging and crying for him not to hurt them, his mind felt empty.

He screamed angrily, and nobody heard.

What did he want?

When he was younger he'd just wanted a chance. Yet there was no chance in Ancient Egypt for one to change their position, not within the iron caste system that kept the lower class in their place and allowed none to rise in status. The Pharaohs married their sisters to keep that control over the people and slaves.

So he'd broken out of that system and cursed his own soul, his ka, stealing from the tombs and selling the gold. Then he'd wanted the impossible, which was companionship. He'd killed that desire, ripping it to shreds and knowing that he needed nobody, that a companion would hold him back. Yuugi's friends, while they'd helped him before, had ultimately been his downfall.

Then, when he'd been caught, his goals had changed. Revenge. Revenge on that god damned pharaoh and all others.

He'd gotten his revenge. Now what did he want?

He screamed again. Screaming was nice. It was a way for him to let out his rage without hurting himself. Maybe he should have kept Ryou around anyway, for when he got angry like this.

He could, he realized, get Ryou back. He could bring any back and send any away as he pleased.

A thought flickered through his mind: Hell, with the Tauk's ability over time, augmented by the other Items, he could go back.

But why would he want to do that? Go back, yeah, to where he and Marik weren't any closer to their goals than when they'd started, to where the Pharaoh bested them at anything they threw at him, to where his only companions were a confused teenage Egyptian and a sniveling brat he shared his mind with.

Companion? Marik had been that. As had Bakura.

He didn't need any one else, though, and he'd gotten rid of them accordingly.

It didn't stop the fact that he now felt empty and alone without them. That was what having allies or, Ra forbid, friends, did to you.

"So," his mind asked in Marik and Ryou's voices speaking together, "what are you going to do?"

Even if he did go back, what was to stop him from doing it all again, less he remembered? Besides that, the satisfaction of finally emerging victorious against them all, of coming out on top after so long, was something that he did not want to let go of. And he couldn't have any of them remember, if he went back. None of them would know that he'd won. And he'd wanted to win. That desire had overwhelmed all others.

So, no. He'd gotten this far – he'd won, finally! He was not going to let go of any of it.

Because he'd find something else that he wanted, eventually. Now that he'd gotten his revenge and the items, now that he had control, now that nobody could hurt him any more, he could be content. Couldn't he?

Ryou's body cried, wailing and screaming, pulling at its hair and clenching its fists.

Nobody came to comfort it. Eventually it tired and fell to the ground, breathing heavily.

Hours later the white-haired child – that is all a teenager is; a child – had not yet moved from lying on the ground. It lifted its head, eyes taking in the circle of gold that floated above it.

The Tauk dimmed briefly and the items scattered.