So, I'm still paranoid that I've written them all horribly OOC… but, hell. I've been told it's alright. ^.^;

As to Ryou's comments about sleeping around…. Well, you'll just have to wait until the next part to see what that's all about. ::grin:: Fortunately the next part is about halfway done.

The reason this took so long was because I wrote a part 2 out, had it about 3/4ths done, and then decided I hated it. Then I started writing this part at the same time I started writing the part that shows how things started, and so things went slower. But it's done now!

Something To Protect Part 2: A Straight Answer

"Gaaah," Ryou complained, getting off Honda's motorcycle. "I never should have agreed to ride that without a helmet."

"What's wrong?" Honda asked, turning to face his boyfriend. Upon seeing the white-haired teen, though, he grinned. "Oh."

Ryou's hair looked messy on a regular basis, though he did brush it. At the moment, however, messy was an understatement. The wind had swept the long hair everywhere, taking a hold of the pale locks and having a field day with them. Consequently, Ryou's hair now appeared stringy, greasy, and was refusing to stay out of his face no matter how much he pushed it back behind his ears.

Honda took note of the earrings, but said nothing.

"This is going to be Hell to brush out," Ryou moaned, running his fingers through a tangle. "If you ever try to pick me up without a helmet again, I am not going with you." He pouted, tugging at a knot in his hair, before giving up on it and letting his hand drop.

Honda smiled, putting an arm around the shorter boy. "I'll brush it out for you," he offered.

Ryou lifted his head up to see Honda. "Really?" He asked. His expression had instantly changed from peeved to overjoyed, a large smile appearing on his face. He leaned back against his boyfriend's chest, "Oh, it's been so long since anybody brushed my hair. Can you? Please?"

"Of course!" Honda wrapped his arms around Ryou. "Let's get inside – I'm sure mom won't notice if we use her brush."

Honda's house was familiar territory to Ryou by now, though the size of it (especially when compared with Ryou's small apartment) still made him want to accuse Honda of being 'rich.' It was a fairly average house, though – two floors, the bedrooms on the second. The basement was Honda's, where he kept his motorcycle. The rest of the basement was practically empty, save the cabinet where Honda's air rifle and the pellets were stored, and the foam targets hung up in the far end of the large room for target practice with said rifle. The first floor was a typical home, with a living room, kitchen, and dining room. Honda's mother kept most of the house clean, but it wasn't too hard since she and her husband were at the office so often that there wasn't much opportunity for the house to get dirty.

Honda's room was a mess, but the mess was confined to his room, and the floor was still (mostly) visible. The bed was unmade, the dirty laundry was piled up in a corner, and the desk was covered in various papers and other junk. Ryou'd tried to clean the room once, wondering why Honda didn't throw most of the things out, and had lasted an hour before giving up in exasperation. Still, he and Honda sat on the bed together, Ryou settling between Honda's legs, and the taller boy started to brush Ryou's hair.

He didn't get very far.

"Ow! No, you start at the bottom!" Ryou turned against Honda, taking the brush from the puzzled boy. "If you start at the top, you drag the tangles down and they get worse," he explained. "You start at the bottom, like this." Grabbing a knotted lock, he demonstrated. "And you work your way up."

"Well, damn," Honda commented. "My hair's not nearly so complicated."

"That's 'cause you just slap a handful of gel on it each morning." Ryou frowned, though he wasn't serious, and tapped Honda's nose with the hairbrush. "I am going to make you leave your hair down one day. It'd look cute."

"Not happening," Honda told him, taking the brush back. "I like my hair like this."

Ryou pouted and turned back around, crossing his arms. "I'm telling you, it'd look good."

Honda shrugged and started on Ryou's hair once more, starting closer to the ends and running the brush down. Ryou shifted uncomfortably, and Honda paused. "It's not your fault this time – it's just tangled really bad." Reassured, the brunet resumed brushing, somewhat awed at the way the texture changed as he continued. The pale tresses grew softer as he continued, working through tangles and pausing each time he felt or saw Ryou tense up. After a while, though, the knots had been vanquished, but Honda didn't stop. Ryou was relaxed, and though the brunet couldn't see it, he could practically sense Ryou's closed eyes and content little smile.

"That feels wonderful," Ryou breathed. "Though I get worried about what you're doing back there – you're not putting my hair in pigtails or something, are you?"

Honda snorted, trying not to laugh, but failing miserably. He set the brush down and laughed loudly. "I wouldn't know where to begin for pigtails," he grinned. "What gives you that idea?"

Ryou leaned back against Hiroto's chest, tilting his head to see the other teen. "My little sister used to do that to me when she brushed my hair."

"Oh? You have a sister?" Honda asked, genuinely curious and once again reminded of how little he knew of Ryou's family life. Ryou had met both of his parents, but Honda didn't even know whom his boyfriend lived with, or if he had the entire apartment to himself.

Had," Ryou corrected, closing his eyes, but without the smile this time. "She's… dead."

"Oh," Honda didn't know how to respond to that. He was quiet, running his fingers through the soft strands of white hair, pulling them behind Ryou's ear. Ryou leaned toward his hand, and the brunet made a mental note to play with Ryou's hair more often. He didn't stop until Ryou's face had been relaxed for a long while, and his breathing was even and regular.

His hand settled on Ryou's shoulder, and he made a second mental note to find out more about his boyfriend. He'd have to ask about the pierced ears when Ryou woke up.

"Great job," a voice complimented nastily. Honda turned his head to see Yami Bakura leaning against the wall. "He gets really depressed about his sister, you know. Nice going."

Honda frowned. "I didn't know."

"Yeah," the dark Bakura agreed. "Ignorance isn't an excuse, though. You should know these things, unless my perception of modern life is completely wrong. But I was under the impression that a person's boyfriend should at least have been introduced to their parents." His tone was particularly acidic that night.

"They're never home when we go to his place," Honda defended, but it was a weak excuse. He didn't like the fact that the spirit was telling him this – he'd known it was a problem already. Having somebody say it was a harsh blow.

"You could have asked," Yami Bakura told him, leaving the wall and walking to the bed. "There are a lot of things you don't know about my landlord. You should make more of an effort." With that said, accompanied by a meaningful glare, the thief's gaze turned toward Ryou. The glare disappeared, and Yami Bakura reached a hand down to shake Ryou awake.

"Meuh?" the teen asked incoherently.

"You said your dad was going to call tonight. You should get home," the thief said, voice completely flat.

"Oh!" Ryou's eyes opened all the way, and he sat up straight. "I almost forgot!" Within moments he was up and at the door. "Thank you for waking me up," he called to the spirit. Then, with a sweet smile to Honda, "I'll see you tomorrow, 'kay?"

The brunet nodded. Ryou glanced to Yami Bakura, but a mental reassurance that his dark side was fine and was staying with Honda was all he needed before he rushed out of the room.

Honda sat on the bed, slightly bemused by the sudden departure, and Yami Bakura flopped down onto the mattress next to him.

"It was a lie, you know," he grinned, rolling on the bed to lay sidewise facing Honda.

"What was?"

"That his dad's calling." The thief closed his eyes, lazy grin remaining as he continued to talk. "He's getting good at keeping secrets – lying. I'd be proud of him, except I'm pissed that he's lying to me."

Honda stared, puzzled. "How do you know it's a lie?"

Yami Bakura rolled to his former position, lying on his back. "I wouldn't know," he admitted, expression turning thoughtful as he watched the ceiling, "except for the fact that we're bound. He doesn't know how to keep everything out. I know it's a lie… And I know where he's really going." A grin reappeared on the thief's face. Ryou's skills might have rivaled his own, but the boy still hadn't managed to completely hide the truth from the thief, and that slip allowed Yami Bakura's pride to remain intact.

When Honda realized that Yami Bakura wasn't going to elaborate on his own, he asked where Ryou was going.

"It's not my secret to tell," the dark Bakura grinned. "But he'll be gone for a long time – let's keep ourselves occupied until then, hm?" Honda had just enough time for his eyes to widen before the spirit pounced.


"You'll have to hold this on your lap – they slide around too much in the back."

Malik nodded in acknowledgement, pulling his seatbelt on. Ryou waited patiently for his passenger to get settled in, then passed the pizza over.

"I can feel the grease soaking into my pants," Malik deadpanned, resting the insulated bag on his lap.

"No, you can't." The car started moving again, and Malik shook his head.

"Fine," the blond muttered. "They're still really hot, though."

Ryou was quiet, focused on the road, despite the fact that it was shortly after midnight and his was one of the few cars out, if not the only one. The car moved along slowly, only accelerating after Ryou's foot had been on the gas pedal for a good five seconds, and the fabric on the ceiling was sagging (even with the staples). The windshield possessed one long crack that ran nearly the entire length of the glass, tapering off inches from the edge on the passenger side. Truthfully, it was a hunk of junk, but Malik refrained for pointing that out.

"I guess I'm impressed," Malik decided, shifting beneath the pizzas. "You came out to talk to me without your bodyguards. I could just make you drive to my house and they'd never know until morning… and I know they both like to sleep in." The tone was halfway a jibe, but serious enough that Ryou frowned slightly.

"They're a bit more than bodyguards, Malik," he returned, but ignored the rest of the comment.

The blond in the passenger side leaned back in his seat. "How can you trust me this way, though?" He asked, voice careless. "Aren't you worried about what I'll do to you?"

The car slowed down for a red light, and Ryou quietly cursed the gap between when he pushed down on the brakes and when the car actually started to slow down. Malik waited patiently for an answer, and when the light turned green again, Ryou gave him one.

"Do you expect me to be able to answer that?" He drove slowly, knowing that a good deal of his attention was off the road. "I'm not blind – I can see how you act around Honda and… and the Other Me, and how you act toward me. But I'm here with you anyway, so…"

He signaled and turned onto a one-way residential street, dropping the serious conversation. "Help me find the house – hopefully their lights will be on… it's 616 on this street."

Malik snorted. "This is priceless, by the way. Pizza delivery boy Ryou. It's great."

Ryou didn't reply, stopped the car, hit the blinkers, and took the pizza out with him. Finally free to move his legs, Malik crossed them and his arms, waiting for the other to return.

What the Hell was he doing, anyway? Alone in a car with Ryou – and neither of the boy's fuck-buddies were there to stop him. Why hadn't he just pinned the white-haired teen to the seat and proceeded to molest him? Then again, the whole thing had thrown him off, and Ryou was the one driving the car, so tackling him would be a bad idea. Looking at it yet another time, Malik wondered why he wasn't the one driving; he didn't let even Rishid or Isis drive him places.

Yet when Malik's current object of infatuation had come knocking at the door (at 12:00 AM, no less) and told him they could either talk, or Ryou could go deliver pizzas without him, Malik had chosen to tag along.

Ryou returned to the car sans pizza and slammed the door behind him. The loud noise almost got a flinch out of Malik, who raised an eyebrow at the driver.

"What?" Ryou asked. The car started up with a jerk. "It's a piece of shit car – the doors won't shut otherwise."

"Well, I wasn't gonna say it."

"So," began Ryou as they turned onto a larger street, "what's on your mind?" Then, tempting fate and knowing it, "You haven't made a pass at me this whole time."

"I was wondering the same thing," the blond commented. "But you'd probably crash the car if I jumped you."

In seconds Ryou had pulled to the side of the street, parked illegally across somebody's driveway. The quick move jerked the car as they came to an abrupt stop, throwing the occupants against their seatbelts. The white haired boy hit the emergency flashers, then turned to face Malik.

"Now," he began, "I wanted to talk… I want to know… I mean…" He stopped himself, putting his thoughts to one coherent sentence. Malik watched, slightly taken aback by Ryou's change in attitude. Although a minor thing, Ryou was taking initiative to do something… but it seemed that he needed to be caught up in the moment to actually have the momentum to carry out his actions. After a moment of prepping himself, the question came out in a quick blurt, "What do you think of me? I want to know why you look at me that way!"

The white-haired boy bit his lip, somewhat abashed with his own audacity. Malik took a moment to stare at him, amused, before he actually decided to think about the question.

After perhaps a minute of silence, Malik realized he didn't know how to answer.

Ryou sat facing forward in his seat again, turning off the blinkers and steering the car back out into the street. He spoke up again, eyes on the road, "Did you like the fact that I'm easy to manipulate? I'm quiet… I don't speak up when people are mean to me." He glanced over at Malik, but the blond was staring out the window instead. "Or – did you notice that, and think that I should learn how to stand up for myself? Did you notice me, past my shyness, and want to get to know me better? Did you even care what I thought of you making advances on me?" His voice wasn't hurt or overly emotional, but Malik would have wagered that the thought had upset the boy before.

Then there was silence as Ryou drove them through the abandoned streets, until Malik decided that Ryou was done talking.

"Well, then," the tan boy shifted, tilting his head over to see Ryou. "What do you think of it?"

Ryou turned the car into the pizza store's parking lot. "I think you're lonely and bored, and just fooling yourself into thinking something you don't feel. I don't think you like me – that way – at all, but logically I'm the person you would like, if you liked a person that way." He parked the car easily and undid his seatbelt, then faced his passenger. "I believe there's somebody for you, but I'm not that somebody."

Malik said nothing as Ryou ran back into the store to pick up the next delivery. He didn't move until Ryou returned, again slamming the door loudly and handing the pizza boxes to Malik to hold. His seatbelt clicked into place and he backed the car out, Malik still quiet.

They'd gone a few blocks before Ryou, shifting in his seat, broke the silence. "So, should I keep talking, or …?"

Malik set his elbow on the small ledge next to the door's window and leaned his head in his hand. "I dunno," he admitted. "I don't understand half of what you said, yet. How can you be so sure I'll find somebody – Hell, why does it matter whether or not I love them, why can't we just have sex?"

A slight frown appeared on Ryou's face. "Love is an iffy word," he said. "Do you believe in love? It's so hard to define… I want to believe in love, but it seems kind of like believing in God, some days. Impossible – for me, at least."

Malik snorted, gaze on Ryou. "I thought the point you were making to me was that I didn't love you."

"Kind of…" The white-haired teen drummed his fingers on the steering wheel. "Like I said, it's iffy. But I don't think you're attracted to me, just that you can see … that you can see I'm not ugly, at least, and you probably wouldn't mind having sex with me. And just having sex is fine, as long as both people know it's just sex." He bit his lip.

Malik shifted his head in his hand and waited. Ryou kept his eyes glued to the road.

"I used to do that a lot," Ryou finally admitted, cheeks tinted red. "I had a lot of sex with a lot of people. It was – it felt nice while we were… but afterwards, I felt like a whore." He inhaled and continued, barely audible over the car's engine. "This relationship… got started that way. But now I don't want to, I'd hate to go back to the way I was before. If I had sex with you now, I'd feel like I'd, I dunno, betrayed them – I'd feel like shit. Being … in a real relationship, and being able to look forward to being with them, just spending time together, or leaning on them when I need help – it's great."

"You're glowing."

"Huh?" Ryou looked at Malik and tilted his head to the side.

"Oh," Malik grinned, "I didn't mean literally." Ryou relaxed. "I meant, you were really happy talking about them. Beaming."

Ryou's face flushed red for a moment, but the little smile was still there. "Ah."

The car stopped and Malik handed Ryou the pizzas.

 "If it makes you feel any better, I would have sex with you in a minute if I wasn't already taken," Ryou commented, one foot out of the car.

Malik took a second to stare, before asking, "Seriously?"

The white-haired boy nodded. "You're damn hot." Then with a grin he exited the car, Malik watching him hop up to the door and knock.

Minutes later the driver returned, still smiling. "I will never cease to be amazed with how many people order pizza this late at night," Ryou announced, the car bouncing the passengers as it began moving.

The next silence that settled in the car was comfortable, or at least an improvement from the previous feelings in the air. Malik watched the driver, mind mulling over what he'd heard over the last half hour or hour, or however long they'd been in the car.

"Why Honda, though?" he asked, the question seemingly coming out from of the blue.

"Why not?" Ryou returned, eyebrows raised.

"He's just – Hell, I dunno. He's normal. No item, no magic, and he actually looks like he's Japanese."

It was true. Not blond like Jounouchi, or with Yuugi's unusual eyes and hair, or even Anzu's bright blue eyes, Honda was dark-haired, dark eyed, and had a typically Asian skin tone. There was nothing that set him apart from any other Japanese male, and he seemed the blandest out of any of Yuugi's friends, always staying to the sidelines and offering support, much like Anzu.

Ryou giggled. "And here I thought you had a point."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Malik frowned, but before he could get too offended Ryou spoke again.

"None of that matters. Not at all." Ryou smiled, a slightly dreamy expression, and Malik wondered if he was paying attention to the road at all. "He cares about me. He'd do anything and everything he could, for me, even if I told him not to. And he'd do the same for the Other Me, even if they don't act it all the time."

Malik didn't know what to say to that either, so he didn't say anything for a long while as Ryou drove. 

Ryou stopped for a red light, despite the fact that the intersection was completely empty, and Malik watched him. As soon as the light was green Ryou was off again, and the tan boy laughed quietly. "The roads are totally empty, and you're obeying traffic laws?"

Ryou nodded. "I'm not supposed to be driving in the first place, so getting pulled over would be just about the worst thing that could happen."

Malik blinked at that, curiosity rising. "Do they know about this? I mean, Driver's Ed here is expensive as all hell." There was no question that the 'they' referred to, at the least, Ryou's lovers.

There was a nervous chuckle from Ryou. "Yeah, it is," he agreed, but said nothing else on the topic. Malik watched, waiting expectantly, but it wasn't until he asked again that he got a response.

"Malik, how old do you have to be in Japan to get your license?" [1]

There was a pause. Then, "You can lie?"

Ryou laughed softly again. "I live with the King of Thieves, Malik. I'm bound to have some illegal things – and there is no way I'd be able to legally afford Driver's Ed, anyway."

"That's true enough," Malik agreed, rolling down his window and letting the wind rush in to mess up his hair. Not as good as a motorcycle, he decided – definitely not as good, especially since he wasn't driving – but riding in a car wasn't half bad. "Especially if the size of your birdhouse apartment is any indication of how much cash you have."

"Hey! Are you insulting my apartment?"

It was a few hours later that Ryou's shift ended and he drove Malik back. Their conversation had continued, no longer broken by long silences, but also no longer on serious topics. Malik's laughter had slightly unnerved Ryou when he the conversation became humorous, since before when Malik had laughed it was always in triumph, or maniacally, or both. And though the tan boy wasn't cackling, it was the same voice laughing. Eventually, though, the two were able to giggle together at the types of things that are only funny in the wee hours of the morning.

Before the blond left the car Ryou had given him a small peck on the cheek and made empty threats about what would happen if Malik told anybody anything about that night. The blond agreed, if only for the fact that he didn't want people to know he hadn't been the one driving, or so he claimed. Then Ryou left, and half an hour later he was climbing the stairs to his apartment.

When he opened the door Yami Bakura was waiting on the couch for him, sitting on the sleeping Hiroto's lap, an opened Coke can on the table in front of them. "Good morning," the spirit greeted as Ryou entered.

The teenager started, before calming back down and shutting the door behind him. "Hey," he mumbled, staring at the carpet. He was too sleepy to deal with this – he wanted nothing more than to lay down in bed, pajamas or no. "I'm sorry."

"For what?" Yami Bakura leaned back onto Honda, who didn't seem to notice. A wide grin slowly appeared on the spirit's face. "I'm proud of you – though I'm pissed that you kept secrets from me, or tried to." His expression darkened for a moment, eyes narrowing and grin disappearing, before he once again looked amused.

"Um…" Ryou was slightly taken aback. "Thank you?"

Yami Bakura waved a hand, dismissing the subject, and stood up. "Anyway, he," a gesture to the still-snoozing Honda, "wants to know your secrets." There was a glance toward Ryou to gauge the teen's reaction, but the boy's face remained blank. It was the neutral expression he often wore in public, around people he didn't know, and Yami Bakura said nothing else on the topic of Hiroto asking about Ryou's life.

"Get some sleep, then," Yami Bakura ordered.

With a nod, Ryou toed off his shoes and stumbled through the living room. Upon reaching the couch, he leaned down and brushed Honda's forehead with his lips, careful not to disturb the sleeping brunet. Honda continued to sleep deeply, face relaxed in that way that nobody's is until they're asleep. When Ryou stood straight again he was still wobbly, but began to make his way toward his room.

"Oh, for fuck's sake," Yami Bakura muttered from directly behind Ryou. The younger one was too tired to feel surprised at his dark half silently creeping up on him – it happened often enough that he was beginning to become desensitized to it – but his eyes did widen when the thief bent his knees and picked Ryou up off the ground, throwing him over one shoulder. As the spirit headed toward Ryou's bedroom, the teenager relaxed, nearly falling asleep on top of his other half. Yami Bakura startled him back into a semi-conscious state by dropping him on the mattress, but Ryou was too far gone to do much more than mumble and turn on his side, moving to set his head on the pillow.

The spirit stared for a moment, and then bent down over his landlord. Brushing the boy's bangs out of his face, then brushing the rest of the messy hair off Ryou's neck and behind his head, Yami Bakura placed a soft kiss, no more than brushing dry lips against skin, on Ryou's forehead. He stood up, head turning to check that the two were alone, and then silently left his landlord's room.

Back with Hiroto on the couch, Yami Bakura stared at the brunet's forehead. A few brown strands had fallen free of their gel, so that Honda now had a few short bangs. Yami Bakura brushed those out of his way, hand resting on the side of Honda's face, and copied Ryou's motion once more, expression still unchanged from the neutral stare he'd given to Ryou's sleeping form.

His thumb casually traced Honda's eyebrow, then moved down the brunet's cheek, and that was when Yami Bakura frowned and took his hand back.

There was a flash of light, still not enough to wake the sleeper, and Honda was left alone on the sofa.

[la fin]

[1] In Japan, one can't get their driver's license until they're 18 years old. Driver's Ed is, unless I'm mistaken, some thousands of dollars. It's also that expensive in France. Be thankful you live in the USA, and please don't drink and drive.