Disclaimer: Aw, ma, do I hafta?

Notes:
This chapter is dedicated to Saturn, if you're still reading, who wanted to see more of Ryou and his roommates. XD This chapter also has a language warning and mild weirdness warning (I think... I dunno, weirdness is relative) for Bakura being angsty-ish. But he might not even be that... most of my angst usually ends up inexplicably morphing into humour... **shrugs** Oh well, I tried.

I'm terrible, I know, I deserve to be dragged out on the street and shot repeatedly for taking so long.

Reason #1: I've been trying to stick in the plot, which is partly why it took so long. Kinda difficult to include major revelations when it's only his second day of school. **tears at her hair** In the end, this is only half of my original intended chapter, as my beta-readers can attest, and I still feel like I haven't spent enough time on this (given that it's taken me over a month, that's really strange). I guess it's because I haven't re-read and tweaked it to the point of being sick of it yet, like I did to the other chapters. The dance scene has more clich├ęs than I'd like. On the plus side, this means I have a fair amount of the next chapter already written (I've got a beginning and an end and a big gapping hole in between). Should be out... oh... in a week, maybe? Depending on how my action scenes turn out. If not, you have my permission to wreak terrible, divine justice on me. **Three God cards prowl restlessly in the sidelines**

Reason #2: Spring term has sprung its disgustingly cheerful face and with history, English, French, psychology and anthropology, I've got roughly $500 worth of textbooks to read. **twitch** Think I'm joking? I wish I were. Is that enough to buy me a playstation 2?

Reason #3: Barely any resemblance to a valid excuse, I know, but I got stuck playing Golden Sun 2 for GBA and my bro got Starfox 64 for his b-day, so of course it's has been my unspoken sisterly duty to "test" it for him. **wicked wicked grin**

But look! I also did a piccie to go with this chapter:

w w w. ge ocities. c om/lizeth_hal/clubbing.jpg (take out the spaces and hope ff.net won't cut out the URL) or
w ww .an gelfire. co m/anime2/loft1050/clubbing.jpg

It's not coloured yet, but check back to that address in a couple of days, I might colour it.

Clarification (and a spoiler): Yes, Yami B. fixed Ryou's hand, but he's got a reputation to keep, so I didn't say it explicitly for fear of inducing Baku-muse's wrath. ^_^ It's a manga thing. Sometime during battle city, Bakura protected Ryou from a mental attack by forcibly taking over. The reason he gives Yami is that, in order to attain his goal (collecting all the Items), his host must be... well, healthy. Yami concludes that Bakura and he are somewhat similar if only in the fact that spirits of the millenium items must protect the lives of their hosts.

E-mail or review! Liz_Hallington@hotmail.com



Japanese glossary

Aa = (informal) "Yes"

Daijoubou desu ka = "Are you alright?" Drop the "desu ka" and it becomes "I'm fine."

Che = (interjection) "Shit!"

Hai = (formal) "Yes"

Iie = (formal) "No"

Kitsune = "Fox"

Ku = (sound) Used a lot in the manga by everybody, but mostly Bakura. I've seen it used to express everything from smugness to pain to annoyance to apprehension to amusement... (it slices, it dices and it even makes Jillian fries?)



Is This Normal?!

Chapter 8 - Join the Club

Behold, in all its stubble splendor, the bright educational facility known as Hokushin High. Sunlight filtered brightly through the incredibly fluffy white clouds in the sky above, providing just enough cover to keep the day from becoming blisteringly hot. Students proceeded groggily about their early morning routines. Teachers prayed for their continued survival against the daily onslaught of angst-ridden teens.
Birds sang. Breezes blew. Bunnies frolicked.

A picturesque image of peace, tranquility and...

Given the basic rules surrounding the life of one Bakura Ryou, aged officially, as of today, 17, and his roughly 3001-year-old yami (give or take a few years between birth and death) he should've known it was too good to last.

Ryou tugged absently on his ponytail as he locked his door, fully intending to grab a bite to eat before facing a full day of classes. The shower had helped. Hopefully enough to keep him from falling asleep during lectures... he was keeping his fingers crossed.

A pair of black, finger-less gloves covered both hands in a last-ditch attempt to conceal the white bandages around his right hand. It was stiff, cumbersome and painfully out of place given the uniform, but hopefully less incriminating than bare bandages out in the open.

/Ne, Yami?/ Ryou called, frowning.

//Mmrph.// came the gruff, sleepy reply.

/Ne, Yami, please listen. I kinda have a bad feeling.../

//Che, what the hell are you talking about?// the tomb raider asked grouchily, clinging stubbornly to the last vestiges to blissful, dreamless slumber.

/Bad feeling,/ the hikari repeated, a hint of sarcasm building in his voice as he realized the spirit wasn't actually paying attention. /Like standing under a particularly tall tree during a thunder storm or staring down out of a flaming aircraft without a parachute or having Doma the Angel of Silence tap-dancing on your head in a red smock singing "Danger Zone"... Yami!-/

"Ahem."

Yelping, the hikari whirled, back pressed against the door as a hand raised reflexively over his heart. It took him a few moments to put a name to the face.

"Mizu-san! Please, don't do that!" the transfer student breathed, staring wide-eyed at the guidance office secretary who seemed to have an uncanny ability to sneak up on poor, unsuspecting civilians.

The old lady smiled benignly, milking the I'm-just-a-helpless-harmless-little-old-lady look for all it was worth.
"Sorry," she offered cheerfully, without a trace of regret, "This came in for you today, Bakura-kun!"

Blinking, Ryou finally noticed the brown parcel in the secretary's age-worn hands and accepted it with a hint of apprehension, instantly wary. Mail could be a surprisingly dangerous thing, especially if you were a millennium holder. Inspecting the package, his face brightened considerably when he noticed the address that was printed on the attached letter.

"Good news?" Mizu-san inquired, although her eyes still lingered on his glove-covered hands.

"Hopefully," Ryou agreed, picking up the letter and looking a bit bewildered. "It's from my father."
In all honestly, he really hadn't expected to receive anything on his birthday. Yugi-tachi were never told that he was moving until too late and his father hadn't certainly hadn't given him anything since... since the day he gave him the Ring...

"All the way from Egypt too!" the secretary exclaimed, eyes twinkling with what appeared to be understanding.

"Yeah," Ryou smiled gratefully and turned back to his room, ruthlessly pushing down the odd feeling of bitterness and alienation that washed over him. Most other teens would be glad to receive a gift from their fathers but then, "most teens" didn't often include him. "Thank you very much for bringing this up, Mizu-san."

"Oh, you're welcome. These old legs needed the exercise anyway," the aged office worker pointed out wryly, before superciliously sneaking a careful glance into the boy's room.

Truth be told, she'd been recruited by Hanako to do a little research... well, snooping, basically... though you'd think a person her age would be well above that. Not so.

She sighed mock-mournfully in her mind. Leave it the young and spry to con a little old lady to do all her dirty work.

A person's room could tell you quite a bit about the person himself, although that quirk was somewhat muffled by the fact that student dorms could only be personalized to a certain extent. Ryou, she noted however, didn't seem to be terribly interested in personalizing at all. His room was clean, as most of his stuff was still stored in bags in the corner of his room. The rest, she assumed, was in his closet. His carefully made bed was turquoise, with black lining and his desk was littered with school textbooks. A dark trench coat was tossed carelessly over the room's only chair.

On the dresser, black candles were lined up in a pattern Mizu couldn't quite make out from her angle. Candles were, of course, forbidden in dorm rooms to help prevent the threat of fire, but they seemed to be more for show than anything else. And beside that, sitting innocently on the wooden accessory... an opened pack of cream puffs? (Mizu bit her lip to stifle her laughter)

Other than that, in a few minutes, it would probably be quite possible to remove any traces that Bakura Ryou was actually the current occupant of room 310D. She "hmmm"ed quietly to herself. A mark of someone used to moving around? Or someone used to running?

Studiously aware of the woman watching, and all the more nervous for it, Ryou carefully unlocked an unmarked metal box located on the top shelf of his closet and carefully placed the package inside. He had no intention of opening the package in front of anyone, especially not when his yami was lurking around the corners of his mind in a restless prowl. Packages from Egypt could be anything from a perfectly mundane collection of complementary keychains of the Sphinx to highly volatile Ancient Egyptian Artifacts of Sealed Power with the potential to make or break the known world... needless to say; a little paranoia could go a long way.

Is this why I feel so jumpy today?

Sighing, the hikari smiled at the secretary as he took a quick glance down the hallway, closing the door behind him. Although that smile was friendly, Mizu-san was under no delusion that the transfer student hadn't been anything but perfectly aware of her true intentions from the moment she'd handed him the package.

"Mizu-san, how exactly did you get in anyway? The floor doors are always locked and-"

At that moment, both turned at the sound of a door opening as Kanzaki Kanto stepped out of his room in all his morning glory, wearing absolutely nothing but a towel wrapped around his slim waist. His usually spiked red hair was mussed and flattened from sleep and on his feet, to Ryou's bemused surprise, were a pair of very fluffy yellow ducky-slippers, adorned at the toes with a pair of black button eyes.

Kanto stared.

Ryou blushed and coughed pointedly.

Mizu-san smiled a smile that caused her eyes to twinkle mischievously as she patiently removed, cleaned, and replaced her wire-rimmed eyeglasses.

"Ohayou gozaimas, Kanzaki-san. You're looking well," she greeted casually.

"Miizzuuu-san!!!" Kanto wailed in a strangled voice as he dove back into his room, face as red as his hair, and kicked the door shut behind him.

"Ku," Ryou winced as 'The Door', as it was now fondly nicknamed, took even more abuse. As if lock-picking, head-dents and kick marks weren't enough.

"Who let the female onto the floor?!" Kanto was ranting furiously from his side of 'The Door'.

"Oh, don't be silly, dear. I've raised nine sons of my own, you know."

Nine? Ryou thought with a bit admiration. He couldn't even begin to imagine...

Saito, who apparently had the room beside Ryou, stuck is head out, took one look at the secretary, the hikari and 'The Door', arched an eyebrow and promptly shut himself back up in his own room.

Ryou envied him.

"Ne, Kanzaki-san," the secretary's voice continued, calm and sweet though it was, couldn't quite conceal her amusement or the fact that the saccharine levels in her voice were well above normal. "Where did you get those adorable slippers? I'm sure my grandson would love to have a pair."

Kanto let out a violent string of muffled curses that left Ryou choking politely on air, ears red to their very tips. Oh yes, things could only go down hill from here.

The time was 7:42 am, September 2nd.

If this was normalcy, Ryou was very, very worried indeed.



After breakfast (throughout which Kanto sent nasty looks in his direction) Ryou stared fixatedly at the package on the desk in front of him. He had just enough time before class to open it. The question being... did he really want to?

It looked so ordinary, so harmless.

Biting his lip and steeling his nerves, he hesitantly reached out and grasped the pristine white letter that was attached and broke the seal, skimming over his father's familiar flowing handwriting.

Dear Ryou,

Happy 17th! I hope this letter find you well far from trouble-

Bakura snorted.

-The dig is proceeding wonderfully. Just yesterday, a couple of new professionals arrived to survey the site. Among them is an American named Prof. Arthur Hawkins... the man really has some bizarre ideas, I can tell you that much. Seemed really exited to be here too, but I digress.

You can open the package now-

Lifting his eyes once more to the tabletop, Ryou stared almost accusingly at the innocent seeming package.

//Coward,// his yami growled impatiently and Ryou suddenly found himself helpless as his own hand darted out without his consent and snatched up the parcel, ripping the brown paper wrapping apart.

Opening the box, Ryou gapped at a thin, intricately decorated black leather sheath, slightly less in length than his forearm. The slender gold runes that were encrypted into the length of the leather had a definite Egyptian air about them, and near either ends, two leather straps belted around into loose loops, designed to fit around the arm of the wearer.

Ryou looked back at the letter, vaguely surprised that he was actually able to do so. Apparently his yami had relinquished control again.

-I was walking through the market when a boy with lavender eyes caught my arm and shoved that thing at me. Almost gave me a heart attack before I realized he wasn't actually armed. Of all things, he just smirks at me and says, "Tell your son, Ryou, that Malik Ishtar and his sister say 'hi'" and walks away as if it's was the most natural thing in the world to shove potentially dangerous and possibly sharp objects at innocent bystanders-

Ryou sighed and rolled his eyes to the ceiling.

-You never told me you had friends in Egypt.

But here's the clincher. An exact duplicate of that sheath was found some days ago at the dig site... barring the fact that the version we found is a few thousand years older and still housed a blade.

Son, would you like to explain exactly how this friend of yours was able to come across an exact replica of an artifact sealed in a tomb that remained untouched for thousands of years and located, of all things, in what appears to be the bottom of a particularly nasty pit-trap-

Ryou grimaced. Not really, father, no.

-Anyway, barring all that, I've taken the liberty of replacing the bands with newer leather belts, since the original ones looked rather worn. Whatever the significance, I hope you like it.

I do hope to hear from you soon. I know I'm not home very often and that we don't see each other as often as I'd like. Please forgive me.

Best of luck,

Your father

Shaking his head forlornly, Ryou examined the sheath again, trying to decipher the hieroglyphs encrypted into the side.

//It says 'Feed the Darkness, arm of Hate',// his yami supplied quietly.

Wide-eyed, Ryou gulped, wondering at his yami's unusually quiet tone and gingerly set the item on the table top as if he were dealing with a live snake. /Are you sure it doesn't say 'Live long and prosper'?/ he asked feebly.

//Positive.//

Of course, Ryou groaned, Other kids get a car or study books from their dads on their 17th and I get a demonic Egyptian sheath. Only my father.

Suddenly finding himself a passenger in his own body again, he watched as the spirit took his newly acquired knife from under the pillow and slid it into the sheath with a soft click. Perfect fit.

Bakura snorted. //Figures, I suppose.//

/Ne, Yami?/ Ryou asked, confused by his yami's unusually subdued behavior. His yami was quiet for sometime. /Yami, daijoubou ka?/

//...It was mine, the duplicate your father found at the dig...// His lips were curled into a bitter sneer. //Damn Isis anyway.//

/What?/ the hikari asked, completely flabbergasted. He stared again at the knife and sheath in his hands as his mind processed the information. His mouth curved into a silent "o". /......At the bottom of a pit-trap?/

He felt the spirit bristle indignantly and glare. //You're late for class, bakayarou.//

"What?" Ryou jerked, whipping up to look at the clock. "Oh crud!"

Slamming the item into the box in the closet, Ryou grabbed his bag and dashed out the door, almost tripping over his chair again (he really needed to move that chair), leaving his yami to seethe quietly in the back of his mind.

He wouldn't pry, not yet.

Dashing down the halls, Ryou hastily opened the door to the classroom only to shrink back when he ran in to meet the foreboding, bug-eyed face of his middle-aged math teacher.

"You're late, Bakura-san," the teacher barked with a scowl and pointed sternly out the door, backed by the giggling of the class.

Besides, Ryou thought forlornly as he stooped down to pick up a pair of buckets by the door with a groan. I have my own problems to worry about right now.



Classes passed with agonizing slowness. Even after dinner, Ryou's feeling of apprehension still hadn't subsided and the fact that his yami was being irrepressibly silent didn't exactly help matters. Moreover, it was truly amazing how, with just three little words, that feeling seemed to multiply ten-fold, sounding in his head like the harbinger of death and destruction:

"You're going clubbing."

Doom, thy name is Shigure.

Now somehow, word had spread that it was his birthday (how, exactly, he couldn't quite figure out, since he couldn't recall ever telling anyone) and given the universe's twisted sense of humor, Ryou found himself conveniently cornered by the floor representative: a senior student named Shigure Aoiro.

Captain of the soccer team, Shigure had an impressive build, and was known to bark orders when necessary. Fortunately, it hadn't come to that yet, but Ryou was wary none the less.

"You have to come, Bakura-kun," Shigure insisted.

"Shigure-sempai, it's completely unnecessary!"

"Maybe," the senior student smiled wryly, "But we might as well put some of that student funding to use, and you're our excuse. I have to admit, it was one of Taro's better ideas."

Ryou frowned. Taro-kun's what?

"...We can't very well leave without you," Shigure continued obliviously. "'Sides, we can't very well disappoint all your adoring fans."

"...Fans?" Ryou repeated slowly, teetering on the verge of hysteria as his mind caught up with the information his ears were force-feeding him.

"Hn... you seem to have attracted half the female populace of the school. Apparently they think you're the 'gorgeous, vulnerable, mysterious lost puppy **squeal**' type," Shigure arched an eyebrow and suppressed a smile. Clearing his throat dramatically, he clasped his hands over his heart and gushed in a high falsetto imitation of a girl: "'Oh, his hair's so amazing, don't you just want to run your hands through it? And his eyes! They're so absolutely dreamy!'"

"What?" the hikari squeaked, eyes round, "But it's only been two days!"

The soccer captain shrugged carelessly. "Girls... But y'know, come to think of it, I think you've snagged some of the guys too," Shigure reflected with all seriousness, stroking his chin thoughtfully.

Unsuccessfully fighting a blush and feeling dangerously light-headed, Ryou covered his face with a hand and groaned in utter despair. He could never just be normal, could he?

Shigure pointedly ignored that and draped his arm companionably around the smaller teen's shoulders as he steered the unwilling hikari through the door. "C'mon, Bakura, it'll be fun. Practically the whole dorm's going. And who knows, if you keep this popular streak up, maybe you'll even charm Kurokaze-yarou...san."

Ryou looked at him with an expression that was a combination of horror and doubt. "Kurokaze-san hates me."

The senior smirked. "Well, y'know what they say about love and hate..."

"Shigure-sempai!" the hikari looked utterly horrified now.

Chuckling, the senior student shoved him along. "You're coming," he ordered with finality.

Up the stairs.

"No..."

"Be sure to lock your room before you go..."

Onto his floor.

"Nooo..."

"...And try not to hog all the girls."

Down the hall.

"No..."

"We're leaving in an hour."

"No?" Ryou sighed helplessly, perfectly aware that he'd lost the argument before it even started.

//Y'know, you've got pretty good posture for someone without a spine,// his yami commented sarcastically.

/Not helping.../ the hikari groused, but was secretly pleased that his yami had seemingly shaken off whatever was bothering him earlier. A grumpy yami was a dangerous one. A sarcastic yami, he could deal with.

But alas, his relief was short-lived.

Collected in the hallway, Saito, Kanto and Taro were talking leisurely, all of them looking prepped ready to go. They turned when they noticed the two figures approaching.

"I leave him in your capable hands, gentlemen," Shigure said with a flourish as he deposited the unfortunate transfer student in front of his dorm mates.

"..." Ryou favored them all with an apprehensive look and the senior student patted his back in a not-so-reassuring manner, grinning and nearly taking out the hikari's lungs in his cheerful enthusiasm.

"See you there, Bakura-kun!" the floor rep. chirped as he quickly dashed in the opposite direction, leaving the white-haired transfer to his fate.

"Eh?! Shigure-sempai, wait-!" the hikari called nervously, suddenly noticing that the other three teens were sporting very toothy grins. Kanto, in particular, looked impishly vengeful. Taro was still slightly cool. Saito, on the other hand, looked vaguely amused and somewhat sympathetic. Not by much, though.

"You're not planning to wear that to the club, are you, Bakura-kun?" Kanto asked all too sweetly, pointing at the hikari's beige v-neck sweater and turquoise, collared shirt.

Ryou sweatdropped.

Somehow, he was going clubbing.

Somehow, he was also utterly and undeniably doomed.



"Kanto, drop the boa," Saito ordered flatly, taking pity on the traumatized transfer student.

"Don't you think it contrasts nicely with his white hair?"

"...Would you like to explain exactly why you have a pink boa currently in your possession? To match your ducky-slippers, perhaps?"

".........Dropping the boa."



11:34 pm

Not for the first time, Ryou found himself standing under a dark, turbulent sky and asking that age old question that had plagued the equally turbulent minds of man-kind since they first developed the ability of rational thought.

Why me?!

After much debating, the terrible trio had let him keep his turquoise shirt, but confiscated the sweater and replaced it with one of his dark jackets. The Ring was hidden under his shirt, since a large, obnoxious golden item tended to attract the wrong kind of people. His hair was tied with a black band, contrasting starkly against his hair and his pants were made, not from leather, that just wasn't his thing, but of a comfortable glossy material that was thicker than silk, but shared a similar texture.

Standing outside the crowded entrance of the Tremor, not only was Ryou at a social gathering that didn't revolve around duels of any sort, he was in a social gathering that didn't revolve around duels wearing "decent" clothing, designed specifically by his so-called friends to attract the opposite sex. His other had barely had enough time to discretely strap on his new sheath (when his "helpers" weren't looking) before he was dragged bodily onto a bus and shipped to the club.

He felt naked.

Somewhere, someone giggled.

He felt really naked. Every few minutes he felt the urge to check that he wasn't trapped in one of those nightmares where you showed up at school in nothing but your underwear with people pointing and laughing. Or maybe it was an "Emperor's New Clothes" thing? But no, his clothes were still most definitely intact and he was still most definitely awake.

But dang it, why did they have to giggle so much?

"Relax, Bakura-kun," Taro whispered, noticing the other's nervousness.

"I am perfectly fine," the hikari countered crisply, putting some of that cool British attitude he'd inherited from his father to use, eyeing his surroundings shiftily only to jump a mile high when he felt someone deliberately brush up against him. "Th-th-Th-t..."

"Yeah, I can see that," the blonde smiled wryly. "C'mon Bakura-kun. For all of Kanto's jibing, you clean up pretty good and we'll make tonight a night to remember," he said, hooking his thumbs into his belt and turning to look at the fast approaching entrance.

"Aa, that's what I'm afraid of," Ryou muttered forlornly. Taro chuckled. At that moment, any attempt at escape was banished as Ryou was blasted with the rhythmic beat of insanely loud music and pinned under the glare of a burly, dark-skinned bouncer.

"Mmmm, new blood," the man boomed, his grin showing off a set of even white teeth.

"Eheh..." Ryou laughed nervously.

Taro shot the bouncer a thumbs up and grinned. "Shigure-san already paid upfront, didn't he?"

"Yeah yeah, go on in brats," but not before he pulled off Ryou's right glove, hand poised with a marker, only to encounter glaring white bandages instead of skin. Hastily, Ryou pulled back his hand as if it was burned, deliberately avoiding anyone's gaze.

The bouncer pressed his lips together.

"Other hand," he ordered stiffly and Ryou very reluctantly obeyed. He watched nervously as his hand was stamped before the bouncer gave him back his gloves without a word and opened the door.

Wincing, Ryou was steered into the club by a stoic Taro. Had he really thought that the music couldn't get any louder? He was wrong. Inside, the music combined with the thrum of conversation was so overwhelming, it threatened to break his eardrums. It was as if someone had decided to crank up the noise levels to just barely below the point of human intolerance.

He stared at the squiggly mark on the back of his hand. "Why didn't you get one of these?" he yelled reproachfully over the din, still extremely embarrassed at being caught with bandages around his hand.

"'Cause I'm not underage!" Taro retorted indifferently and said no more.

For a moment, Ryou was afraid the taller boy would press the issue, but he was extremely grateful for the fact that Taro didn't seem to want to pry. He didn't like lying, but if the other boy told anyone... He really couldn't afford that. Biting his lip, he slid the glove back over his right hand but kept his left hand bare, stuffing the other glove into a pocket.

"Ne, Taro-kun..." he cleared his throat nervously.

The blonde pinned his blue-grey eyes on him. "Iie, it's none of my business, right?" he said, not unkindly.

Ryou nodded in relief, "A-arigato, Taro-kun..."

"There you guys are!" a cheerful voice called and both teens turned towards the source of the call, Ryou infinitely glad for the interruption.

Kanto bounced up, Saito following at more sedate pace with a long-suffering and somewhat apologetic smile. The redhead draped his arm casually across the hikari's shoulder, all traces of animosity about the towel/Mizu-san incident apparently forgotten or forgiven, and gestured at the expanse before them with a flourish. "Welcome to the Tremor Nightclub!"

Really looking for the first time, Ryou was instantly startled by the sheer number of people that had congregated under one roof. The club was at least two stories high, and the large metallic spiral staircase in the distance suggested that there was a subterranean level too. The second level seemed to be more for relaxing and overlooked the dance floor below. Coloured lights flashed in random sequences, bathing the dancers in an almost eerie glow as the music pounded loudly away.

Kanto giggled. Giggled and Ryou turned to stare apprehensively at the teen attached to his shoulder, noting distantly that he too had a squiggly mark on the back of his hand... and a bottle of something in the other.

"Is he alright? Is that..."

Saito nodded wryly.

"But he'd underage too!" the hikari exclaimed, utterly appalled. Not that he wasn't aware that a good number of teens didn't much care if they were underage, but one night, Jou and Honda had convinced him to have "a little something" and that little something had changed into "a lot of something" and one thing had lead to another... He still had nightmares. Having the buxom, burly faux-blonde from the tattoo parlor en route to school smirk and waggle her overly-thick eyebrows knowingly at him the morning after had put him off drinking for at least another couple of decades, if not his life. He shuddered. There were some rules that were better left unbroken.

Saito looked extremely amused. "Like that's ever stopped him before. But if it makes you feel better, it's not really the alcohol that's getting to him so much as the tub of ice cream he ate on the bus."

"Yeah," the redhead pouted, suddenly sad. "S'not fair that Taro gets all the good stuff."

The said blonde was busy pretending that he didn't know them.

Ryou sweatdropped as he attempted to extract himself from the moody redhead's grasp. Taro-kun probably had the right idea.

"Sa, where to first?" Kanto crowed, doing and another 180-degree mood shift.

"Sorry, boys, but I think I'll have to steal Ryou-chan from you for a moment..." said a distinctly female voice.

Interrupted for the second time in minutes, all four boys turned and stared.

Smiling silkily, Jade Zwan stood dressed in a pair of dark red leather pants, with heels to match. Her black silk shirt was frilled around a v-shaped collar and her hair was pulled into a loose bun. Her make-up, as usual, was flawless.

"Jade-san," Bakura acknowledged in his usual rumble as he took over without a word. "What are you doing here?"

"Business," she replied, arching an eyebrow. "And you?"

"Pleasure," he countered, chuckling easily at the running joke between them.

Jade shook her head ruefully, but shot him a pointed glance. "Walk with me a bit, hon."

Twisting expertly out of Kanto's grasp, Bakura pointedly ignored the "You know her?! ...Can you get me her number?" message the male redhead was attempting to send discretely, and feel into step beside the owner of The Jade Concubine.

"Out of the grasp of one redhead and strait into the arms of another," he smirked.

Jade laughed softly as she linked her arm through his. "I hope you like me better?"

"Aa, Kanto-kun was too clingy for my taste," he said sardonically.

She stifled a snort. "Can I get you a drink, Ryou-chan?" she smiled slightly. "This might take a while."

/Nononononononononononono-/

"Sure," the tomb raider concurred, watching surprise flicker across the woman's face with a certain amount of satisfaction.

Ryou let out a tortured groan from his soul room.

"You weren't kidding when you said pleasure." She eyed him with furrowed brows and a pout. "Marcus?" she called, gracefully setting herself before the bar. "Luv, how 'bout a Bloody Mary and a Mai Tai?"

Leaning one arm in the table, the man jerked his chin at the yami. "Not allowed to serve him. You know that, Jade."

The tomb raider growled softly and Jade placed a hand on his arm, her friendly countenance unwavering. "Not even as a favor for an old friend?" the redhead asked, smiling coyly.

"And lose my job?" the man said, smirking slightly as he raised his eyebrows.

"No chance of that," came the cheerful reply.

Giving the woman a hard stare, the bartender finally sighed and relented, grumbling as he went to fetch the drinks.

Bakura set himself casually on a stool, turning his attention from the bartender to the redhead. "Why'd you pick me out, Jade-san?"

"So serious today," she jibbed lightly, crossing her legs neatly.

"Iie, now you're stalling. You wouldn't have called me away in front of so many witnesses just to say 'hi'," the tomb raider commented dryly. "I doubt they'd believe me if I told them you were my well-wishing aunt."

Wordlessly, Marcus set down the Mai Tai in font of Jade and placed the Bloody Mary in front of the Spirit of the Ring, rolling his eyes when Jade blew him a kiss in thanks.

Wordlessly, Bakura took a long gulp of his drink and Jade arched an elegant eyebrow as she watched contemplatively.

"That was pretty smooth for someone who doesn't drink. You realize that there's vodka in that?"

The tomb raider smiled grimly. "Yes." Already he felt the added warmth as the alcohol burned its way down to his stomach. His hikari had practically no tolerance, and while it made falling into a drugged stupor much easier, and therefore somewhat convenient for his purposes at the moment, it was also rather embarrassing. He gave the barest of sighs before turning his unwavering gaze to the woman beside him, careful to take smaller sips. Another thing he'd picked up from past experiences was that those of his profession couldn't safely afford to get stoned out of their minds unless they were stupid or suicidal.

Jade, however, was more interested in studying her guest than talking at the moment. It was very rare that Ryou-chan would accept a drink. In fact, for all the time she'd known him and for all the times she'd asked previously, he'd turned her down. What had changed? Her eyes flashed up to meet his.

Deep, turbulent ruby, like the colour of her favorite wine.

He was... troubled? Or was she reading too much into his easy acceptance of a old offer? Such an enigma...

"Ku, Jade-san, are you going to stare into my eyes all night?" the yami asked, dryly amused.

I am not going to blush, the redhead repeated to herself firmly. I am nine years older than him... eight...

"At least your mouth still works," she sighed, swirling her drink. "Listen, Bakura-san (Bakura arched an eyebrow at the formal title), I'm not sure exactly what it was you did, put you've got the Underground talking about you. Keith's got a price on your head."

Bakura smirked. "I'm curious as to how an idiot like Keith managed to swindle top-spot-"

"Iie, you misunderstood. Keith's only trying to save his own neck by catching you. You're still new at this game, Ryou-chan. Although I'll grant that you're extremely talented, you're getting in well over your head."

The spirit leaned back against the table and regarded her with an expression that was half amusement half indignance. I've been playing this game about 3000 years longer than you have, kitsune.

"So tell me, exactly what am I getting myself into?"

The woman sighed, tracing her finger around the rim of her glass. "You know I can't tell you that, least of all here-"

"-You've already said too much?"

Jade glared. "I hope you don't mean that in a general sense."

Bakura pulled his best 'Who me? I'm just an innocent little hikari' impression.

"An-" Jade started.

"Hey, doll, ditch the boy and dance with me?"

Looking up through her eyelashes, Jade turned to the newcomer, a man with a 100-watt smile and slicked back hair. "Maybe another time, hon."

"C'mon baby, don't be a prude," he whispered, running a hand deliberately down the side of her face, totally missing the dangerous flash of her eyes. "A beauty like you shouldn't waste her skills on a child."

Jade pushed his hand away in a slow deliberate movement. "Not interested," she punctuated coolly.

"Babe-"

As the man reached out again, the redhead grabbed his wrist and twisted painfully.

"Ow! Crap!" the man exclaimed, bending in an attempt to lessen the pain.

"Don't make me repeat myself a third time," the geisha smiled silkily and released him. "You can ask again when I'm working."

"Bitch," the man snarled as he tried to soothe his pride, glaring as he stepped forward threateningly.

"She's promised the next dance to me," Bakura cut in.

Both adults turned to look at the teen, having forgotten he was there, and the tomb raider arched a pale eyebrow.

In one final glup, the yami polished off his drink and leaned in towards the enraged man. He smiled darkly and murmured in a low grumble, "Got a problem with that?"

"A..." his words turned into an unmanly squeak as he felt a cold mental blade puncture through his expensive shirt, right over his heart, with just enough force to draw a minimal amount of blood.

"Aa...?" The yami prompted, dragging the blade down an inch. His entire expression read 'give me a reason'.

The man's eyes went wide. "N-nope," he corrected, gulping. He shivered when the teen shot him a feral grin, eyes glinting sadistically.

"Pity. You give up far too easily."

"S-sure buddy, whatever you say..." he stuttered and backed away, before running like the hounds of hell were on his heels when he reached the fringes of the crowd.

Jade looked after the retreating form in amusement. "Well, that's one potential customer lost... I think you've scarred him for life."

"It was barely enough to make him bleed," the spirit countered idly as he slid the knife back into its sheath, knowing full well that that wasn't what the geisha had meant.

Turning back to the teen, she stared the open hand offered to her and up into the face of its owner.

"Ryou-chan?"

"I think you owe me a dance now," the teen prompted wryly.

Chuckling, Jade accepted the hand easily and walked into the crowd.

"I suppose I owe you just one, for being sweet and defending my honor."

Bakura growled in annoyance. "You seem to be under the mistaken impression that I'm a 'nice' person, Jade-san. His presence was about as enjoyable as an infestation of wasps."

"Ah, I see," she replied agreeably, but her tone suggested otherwise.

The tomb raider glared.

Listen as the wind blows,
from across the great divide,

In the throng of people, Bakura tilted his head slightly to the side.

"Y'know, body movement is generally thought of as a requirement before one can be classified as 'dancing'," Jade prompted with a smile, her own movements smooth and sensuous. "Work with me here."

Bakura drank in the rhythm of the people around him, standing like a rock in troubled waters, studying their motions intently.

It seemed relatively simple, although he did notice a lot of variation. The ones that caught his attention were the ones that danced like Jade-san, fluid and easy in their moves so that the line between one action and the next was blurred.

Voices trapped in yearning,
memories trapped in time,

"So exactly why did you come here?" the yami asked with a side-long glance at the curvaceous redhead.

"To advertise," the woman smiled seductively and pulled a particularly daring move, incidentally attracting a couple of open mouths from the surrounding males (who in turn, attracted a number of painful whacks from their girlfriends).

The Spirit of the Ring barked a laugh and wove his way between bodies, slowly starting to get into the beat.

/Yami, what are you doing?/ Ryou asked bewilderedly.

The night is my companion,
and solitude my guide,

He fell into step with the music. It had been so long since he'd tried to simply be... and exist. Granted, existing was just about all he could do for 3000 years, but that wasn't by choice. Control was the one thing he'd strived for his whole life. Like so many others: Seto and Malik and Pegasus... Control over God, Destinty, Death...

All failed in the end.

But there was an odd sense of unity; to dance in a crowd of this size. And an equally odd feeling of solidarity. Dancing to the same rhythm in a way that was your own. So insignificant in a sea of bodies that moved as a disjointed whole.
To be more than yourself.

He snorted, why exactly was he doing this? He refused to believe that the sheath Malik... or was it Isis? had sent could effect him so strongly, but it did. In the past it had all been so clear-cut. He had been ruthless as a thief; feared. He had a goal and was willing to push all boundaries to attain it.

The Millenium Items.

So what the hell was he thinking, going along with his pathetic hikari to a place where the Items might as well be out of his reach, without even a word of protest at the time to satisfy his pride? Here... was he only a shadow?

/Yami?/

Bakura laughed, the edge in his voice drowned out by the thrum of the music, the red glint of his eyes camouflaged by a spectrum of flashing lights. His hair swayed wildly, an odd array of flexible spikes.

3000 years come and gone.

Would I spend forever here,
and not be satisfied?

He danced.



"Boss," a teen hissed urgently. "Boss, it's him again!"

Blearily, Hoboshi, field-leader of the Machines looked out into the crowd and snapped out of his drunken haze of self-pity, face morphing to sport a ferocious sneer.

The white-haired figure below was easy to pick out if you knew what you were looking for and that same white-haired scrawny punk had made him look like a fool in front of his peers, marring his reputation like a vindictive kitty's personal scratching post. The can of beer in his hand crunched at the unexpected pressure placed upon it, spilling its contents all over his hand and table.

Keith had chewed him out royally, not only for running but running into the cops. Never mind that he hadn't been the one who chickened first. Or that he'd actually tried to pound some sense into his merry band of sheep. He'd failed and that was that and now he was the laughingstock of the whole frickin' neighbourhood. Bile rose in his throat. Two-faced cowards, all of them!

Because through the whole embarrassing ordeal, he couldn't help but remember the veiled apprehension he'd seen in his superior's eyes. Keith was afraid. Of Whitey. Just like everyone else.

What the hell was it with the fraud that The Bandit Keith would have Whitey as an ally rather than an enemy?! Couldn't he see that he was just another pushover punk wannabe?

He snorted, sounding more like a wild mammal than a human.

The answer was obvious.

So now, not only was he, Hoboshi Ijime, the Underdog of the Year. He was the underdog in charge of recruiting the Albino Freak. Dramatic irony rears its ugly head and bites like a rabid monkey.

"Boss," the lackey called again, fearfully. "What are we going to do?"

Looking instensely at the oblivious teen dancing in the crowd, Hoboshi drank in the sight of his prey, lips slowly curling at the ends. White hair highlighted in the dimness. Slight, slim build. So fluid in his moves. Graceful and almost effeminate.

Pretty, pretty white-haired freak.

With a low laugh, he set down his drink but a sharp thunk, flicking his hand to get rid of the foamy amber liquid it was coated with.

"Let's go give the bastard a proper welcome," he slurred, wiping spittle from his mouth with the back of his hand. Well la dee da. I'll show them all...

Not moving his gleaming eyes from the dancing figure, Hoboshi stood, chair scraping roughly against the floor. "You know what to do if he refuses."

"S-sure, Boss," the other teen nodded and swallowed, darting nervously back into the crowd.

Pheh. Hoboshi licked his lips in sadistic anticipation.

Whatever it takes.

TBC





100 REVIEW BONUS!!! (Well, kinda)

Since 100 is an all-important number, I thought I'd share with you a little something I learned in HISTORY 200 (That would've sounded so much better if it were HISTORY 100, but in any case, the lowest university course code is 101, so that's a realistic impossibility). HIST 200 is History & Film, in case you're wondering.

This was actually printed on the back of the course outline sheet handed out by my prof, bless her heart. ;) You might've seen it before.

THINGS I HAVE LEARNED FROM THE MOVIES (Author Unknown)

At least one in a pair of identical twins is born evil.

Should you choose to defuse a bomb, don't worry which wire to cut. You will always choose the right one.

Is does not matter if you are heavily outnumbered in a fight involving martial arts: your enemies will wait patiently to attack you one by one by dancing around in a threatening manner until you have knocked out their predecessors.

When you turn out the lights to go to bed, everything in your bedroom will still be clearly visible, just slightly bluish.

Honest and hard working policemen are traditionally gunned down three days before thier retirement.

Rather than wasting bullets, megalomaniacs prefer to kill their arch enemies using complicated machinery involving fuses, pulley sytems, deadly gasses, lasers, and man-eating sharks, which will allow thier captives at least 20 minutes to escape.

All beds have special L-shaped cover sheets that reach armpit level on a woman but only to waist level on the man lying directly beside her.

All grocery shopping bags contain at least one stick of French bread.

You're very likely to survive any battle in any war unless you make the mistake of showing someone a picture of your sweetheart back home.

Should you wish to pass yourself as a German or Russian officer, it will not be necessary to speak the language. A German or Russian accent will do.

The Eiffel Tower can be seen from every window in Paris.

If a large pane of glass is visible, someone will be thrown through it before long.

Word processors never display a cursor on screen but will always say: "Enter Password Now".

Even when driving down a perfectly straight road, it is necessary to turn the steering wheel vigorously from left to right every few moments.

All bombs are fitted with electronic timing devices with large red readouts so you know exactly when they're going to go off.

When they are lone, all foreign millitary officers prefer to speak to each other in English.

~~~~~

And thanks to everyone for over 100 reviews! Wai! GROUP HUG! **readers run screaming in abject horror** ^____^



End Notes:
Oooo... Someone's set his sights on our resident white-haired terror. **evil grin**

Again, I'm very very very very very sorry for the lateness.

The lyrics used in the dance scene was a part of Sarah Mclachlan's Possession.

Yes, Ryou's b-day is supposedly Sept. 2nd, leaving precious little time to get settled into boarding school....
What are the chances that you'll find a guy running around in a towel? **evil grin** Never went to the boys' side of the hall in the mornings but we had had no problem walking to the bathroom in bathrobes... I suppose I should be glad I wasn't on the floor with unisex bathrooms... @_@ Then again, maybe I shouldn't be telling you this. ^_^

The clubs on campus marked the underagers with big black "X"s on the back of their hands with permanent marker. So the next day, you'd wake up, take a really long shower and go to lectures with an "X" on your hand. X_X

Hope the weirdness didn't put people off.

P.S. Out of curiosity, does anyone know if Ryou's sister was older or younger than he was when she died?

Thanks to:
Shi-koi, :P, me-cat, Jan Michael, Yami Jenny, AuroraDragonKaya, Gyakutenno Megami, Ori, Saki, RyouBakura, littlepinkwolf, Rena, Alana, Alana, Hafae a.k.a. Hufflepuffer242, Sailor Comet, Shinikaru Bahitsu, Marika Tairys, cat, Songwind, Wingleader Sora Jade, LorayT, miki, Kaitourei, Chibi Chibichi, Lady Yami, seishi shino kasumi megumi tomoe hikari yue kai (that's one long name...:), Gyakutenno Megami, Yami Krissy, Oracle Mizuno, Crossover Authoress, AngelsKitten, Fiona Keith and Stranger who reviewed.

Benign sadist: I try very hard to keep my OCs from sticking out like a sore thumb and I'd like to think that they all contribute either to plot development or character development, but we'll see. It's getting harder now, since there's more of them floating around.

DarkAngel: My "first time"? **snicker** Sounds kinda kinky... ^_^; Sorry... anyway... no, this isn't my first fanfic. It's my second Yugioh one, but I think the first is gonna get trashed or overhauled.

Devious-Duo: Yeah, a lot of people seem to like Ryou's imitation scene. ^_^

ElvenRanger: **chuckles** I'm sorry ppl are being confusing. I guess I either have to start throwing more obvious hints or drop the hints entirely... eh... but not quite yet. XD Wait two more chapters. ;)

Fifth grade freak: Yay, I'm on another favorites list!

Melinda The Digimon Poet: Wah! I'm sorry for not replying to your e-mail, but I'm replying here. x_x The one thing I suffer from is a really mad memory. Comes with being a genius. **coughhack** Joking. ;) Anyway, I write in notepad (which is why my grammar sucks), where I can code everything in html but I do make use of online dictionaries and thesauruses (is that word?!).
Nope, looked up Rishid in the name meaning...thing on the internet and it didn't pop up at all. There was a Rashid, however.
Hanako reminds you of Tea?! @_@ Well, actually I see the similarities too, now. That was purely unintentional.

Mira-chan and Yami Mirakai: o_O Wow. Mini-script. That's one long review.

Neko-chan: If you keep writing your stuff, and I'll keep writing mine, deal? :D

R Amythest: I might take you up on that sometime. :)

RogueMoon: UPDATE Forth God!!!!!!!! And The Ties That Bind!!!! Y'know, I offered to do a piccie for that once, and I never got around to it... **gigantic sweatdrop**

Rosz of the Angel: GOOD. The OCs aren't supposed to subtract from Ryou-kun and Bakura-kun. They're supposed to be supportive characters. If you don't mind them, I'm perfectly happy.

Shenya: Don't worry, I don't intend to drop it... I've just been feeling ridiculously brain-dead lately. Frankly I think it's lack of sleep. -_- Glad you like my version of Ryou-chan!

TAFKAE: I've never lost a review, but I've lost e-mails, and I hate that just as much. **chuckles** I'll send chapter 9 your way.

TeeDee: Trying to make it longer. Lookie! Longest chapter yet!

TJ: Wow, thank you for your thoughtful reviews. I'm rather proud of my Bambi quote. ;) And you've hit the nail right on the head: I like writing other people's impressions of Bakura/Ryou. I like reading fics like that too, in general, but they're few and far inbetween.

tuulikki: I love your long rants. :) Checked out your latest story; looks like you figured out the italics thing without my help. ^^;

S. A. Bonasi: **snortlaugh** Radish...

SilverScreamer: I'm waiting.

Special thanks to:
DruidessQueen and Kitty who beta-ed!

Whew! This is getting harder to do! Hope I didn't miss anyone... **sweatdrop**