Naming the Flame


Note: *Shuffles feet* Ah heh…. Hi. *Extends hand* I'm Living Proof that Words Mean Approximately Shit. ^_^;; My schedule probably has never been more full than it is now - why don't we ever listen when people tell us junior year is busy?

Also, I received several votes on whether or not Sailing on Glass should be posted before or after Naming the Flame is finished. I want to thank everyone, E-Mailers and FFN reviewers alike, for your input. ^_^ The general census was to hold off on posting until NtF is finished, since NtF is hard enough to keep going (weren't nervous before? Betcha are now. ^_~). So when this is finished, then I'll start. ^_~

Chapter Nine

It was to the dull growl of passing cars that Ryou watched the play of headlights slip through his curtained windowpanes and experimentally graze the wall. When the street below fell silent again, Ryou felt the blessed weight of his black lashes dipping low over his eyes once more. Without sight to hinder his other four senses, the white-haired teen could now focus on touch and deftly trace the hieroglyphics emblazed on his armband. When touch also began to fade, his ears thrummed with the breeze of blood coursing through his veins, hazy mind recalling Malik's words in a soft echo.

"Everyone finds himself in the world where he belongs. The essential thing is to have a fixed point from which to check its reality now and then."

Cuddling under the arm his Egyptian koibito had draped possessively over his hip, Ryou wondered which of the two his koibito was to him. His fantasy world or his reality? In moments like these, with the Egyptian so close and curled around him like a protective feline, Ryou didn't believe in reality. That Malik, so beautiful it was sometimes blinding, could truly be as in love with him as he continually insisted was almost beyond the realm of practicality. What did he see in Ryou so precious to him that he could so readily abandon the possibility of future loves? Yes, in moments like these, Malik was a dream to him, a dream made a reality - or maybe something in between.

Sensing the unspoken praise (or the jab at his honesty), Malik drank in a sudden rush of air and shifted agilely closer to his koibito. When Ryou tilted his chin up to meet gazes, he caught Malik smiling hazily at him. "What time is it?" the Egyptian mumbled, most of his voice thick with an accent heavier than Ryou's soft Japanese.

Shrugging, Ryou turned his face into Malik's neck, away from the streetlamp's colorless brilliance. "Too early for you to be asking that," he replied evenly, shutting his eyes.

Malik maintained a fairly impressive moment-long silence before the lack of noise got to him. "What're you thinking about, my human blanket?" He squirmed under the Ryou cloak to emphasize his jibe.

Groan. "Are you determined to keep me awake?"

"That damn bracelet of yours woke me up, so yes. You don't know cold until you feel Egyptian metal freezing your stomach off."

"At least you found a new way to lose weight, you stick." Ryou smirked, made spiteful by customary morning antagonism. "I'll make it apologize in the morning."

"It is morning."

"Not in America."

"We're not in America."

"My sense of time is; now leave me alone."

"You're using me for a body pillow - I can choose to sleep in the guest room and leave you all alone."

Ryou turned a bleary, hopeful glance up at his koibito. "Would you?"

Malik tucked his hands behind his head and smirked. "Sure. And then you can spend the rest of the night tossing and turning because you can't sleep without clinging to me, you possessive octopus."

"…Shimatta." (1)

Chuckling, Malik threaded a casual hand through moon-softened hair, his breaths gentle and unstrained by Ryou's ear. For once completely at ease with his world. "Should we be worried about Sora and Riku?" he asked nonchalantly.

Ryou considered it for a moment, then shrugged. "It sounds like they have their own agenda to keep. And while I'm curious to see what they're up to, I'm too sick of world domination plots to care. I'm just ignoring it until it's over with."

Malik's sudden burst of laughter shattered the tranquil aura of the room like a cement block through a pane of glass. Ryou raised his head warily, eyebrows vanished under silver fringe. The blond, his head thrown back in hysteria, was nearly breathless with laughter, choking out gasps as his voice began to ebb.

"…." Ryou blinked.

Eyes flooded with mirth, Malik leaned up and settled his forehead against Ryou's. "You're so much like me sometimes it's frightening, tako," (2) he said, amusement belying the mock seriousness in his tone.

Ryou took advantage of the position to touch his lips gently to Malik's, smiling sweetly. "I do try," he said wryly. "And don't call me 'octopus'. You," he prodded Malik's collarbone emphatically, "have plenty of bad habits I can rag on, too."

Propping one of his elbows on the mattress, Malik lifted the other to play idly with his koi's tousled sidelock. "Name one," he challenged, almost absently laying a kiss on the soft plane of Ryou's forehead.

Wrinkling his nose in concentration, Ryou bolstered both elbows on Malik's ribcage and began ticking off fingers as he recalled his mentally-formed list. "You're paranoid, you're a neat freak of the worst kind, you refuse to eat out with me because of your unfounded dislike of meat, when we do go out, you deliver death scowls at anyone who so much as breathes at us, hm…since getting your butt kicked by Yami, your archrival is a cat…you still wear clothes sold in teenage girls' stores - "

"I said 'one'," Malik said dryly.

Ryou smiled angelically and nuzzled his nose against Malik's. "It's your own fault for being born human," he said with a shallowly restrained giggle.

Fondly, Malik smiled back. "Narcissus," he teased softly.

Ryou tilted his chin smugly. "Peasant," he said, proudly flitting his tongue out.

Lifting an eyebrow, Malik took him up on that offer and easily flipped Ryou on his back, snickering at the undignified squawk. "Don't make promises you can't keep," he taunted, pinning the younger boy's wrists over his head.

Ryou sputtered for a few seconds, eyes wider than the Ring he wore. Finally, after several fruitless stabs at coherent argument, he settled on, "Whaa?"

Malik smirked and closed his mouth gently over Ryou's. Any protests or confusion flickered once, twice, then melted away.

Oh, to Hell with it, Ryou thought exasperatedly and circled his arms around the Egyptian's neck.

Then, as if cued, Malik drew back, grinning. "Don't you have school tomorrow?"

Incredulously, Ryou gaped. "You can't be serio - "

Malik smirked and dipped closer to the other boy, his mouth mere breaths from Ryou's. Abruptly the white-haired bishounen clamped his mouth shut with an audible clap.

"I don't think your teachers would appreciate you taking extra courses behind their backs."

"What extra - mmph!"

Faster than fire, Malik made quick work of ending their conversation and snickered against Ryou's honeyed lips. Coaxed by the absent swipes of the Egyptian's thumb, Ryou relaxed his tense wrists and snagged one bronzed hand with practiced fingers. He gave Malik's fingers a lazy squeeze and tilted his head back, nudging the older boy's nose in an offhand Eskimo kiss.

Unluckily for Ryou, however, Malik was hard pressed to follow his rather demonic tendencies that night and withdrew from the sweet kiss just as Ryou's lips parted for him. With a decidedly smug smirk, he said, "Besides, haven't you already taken sex ed?"

One warning Look and feverishly deprived kiss later, Malik opted to leave early-morning humor for the less early-morning-slaughter-happy.


Lavender eyes. Sanity lathered with dust. Mocha peppered with skin-deep crimson. A night like the oceans, blanketed with the ragged caps of froth…memories held underneath the snowy crowns…. A night.

Heat so intense it feels like ice, though he's only heard of the stuff in text.

Text…. Myths. Legends. Histories…. Duty. Family. Heritage….

Ice. Fire. Blood. Salt.









"F-father! IIIIAAAAA!"



Every ribbon of cozy silence in the Bakura household recoiled into nonexistence at the nightmare-invoked scream. The sounds of thrashing and repressed sobs followed, evidence of unhealed wounds slowly splitting open again. Only when a terror-possessed limb overbalanced the rest of his weight did Malik crumble from bed and slip free of the oppressive nighttime snares.

Muted by wild panic, Malik slowly pulled fragments of his composure together, his half-dazed mind then clumsily piecing them together. While reality cleared into better focus, flashes of his turmoil fought to reclaim him. Suddenly the blanket twisted around his waist felt colder than wire caked with ice.

Shivering, he rasped, "Ryou?"


Dropping his trembling hands like lead from his aching temples, Malik glanced sharply at the bed he had just vacated, lilac eyes sweeping the cool sheets in a panic. Gone. His koibito was gone.

No, he thought hastily, he must be at school.

When reality touched to the bottom of his consciousness, Malik scowled.

The fuck is he doing at school? I'm in the middle of a crisis, here!

Taking hold of the tousled blond sidelocks just behind his ears, the Egyptian pulled his forehead to rest on his knees, sighing shakily and forcing his subconscious to shut the hell up long enough for the room to stop blurring. Finally, the unshed tears fled his still quivering lashes, leaving his eyes looking sleepy and red.

"If having a shitty father figure in your life turns you gay, I must be fucking flamboyant," he grumbled bitterly, roughly raking fingernails through soft, blond hair.

The room was in sharp focus again, the vacant bed a foreign ache and the window framing a cloudless ocean his reprieve. Reaching the conclusion that neither sleep nor comfort would surrender to him without Ryou in close vicinity, Malik searched the room for the keys to his motorcycle.

"Where are they?" he growled in frustration after ten minutes of searching in vain. "I left them right here on the - "


Malik cried out at the sudden brush of silk against his ankle and twisted around to face his attacker. A furry little -

"Chibi youkai neko!" (4)

Apparently, the house wasn't as empty as previously assumed. "You spawn of Ammut! How did you get here?" Suspiciously, Malik's eyes narrowed. "Where are my keys, you drain-clogging hairball?" he snarled.

Tabibito, Isis' sweet-faced kitten, purred vociferously and mewled up at his mistress' brother.

Malik scowled. "Don't play stupid with me, neko - where did you put them?!"

"Rreeow? Prr'rawr?"

"I'm not by any stretch of the imagination in the mood for you, you wooly ankle-biter - now give me my keys!"

Tabibito blinked and turned on his heels, prancing out of the room with his tangerine tail held high.

With a disgusted groan, Malik shot a poisonous scowl at the heavens above, fully prepared to stare down the Powers That Be until his keys miraculously materialized when -

Jing jang jingjingjing.

Malik dubiously glanced over his shoulder and choked on his disbelief as the until now ignored kitten tail flickered from view through the doorway. His damn keys were looped around the demon's tail!

…I wonder if there's a difference between lucky rabbit's feet and lucky cat's tails? …Hm, I'll just have to hack one off of each and compare.



Ryou normally had Malik drive him to school, but due to reported complaints of motor noise shattering the morning peace, his sensei had demanded Ryou find an alternate means of transportation. I.e., the bus - large, rectangular, metal box from Hades…wheeled shoebox of the Underworld…not Malik's motorcycle….

A poor substitute if there ever was one, if you were to query Ryou.

So it was with great reluctance and sadness that Ryou waited for the bus, arms folded almost petulantly and gaze aimed at the traffic lights across the street. Baka residents - baka sensei - baka motorcycle - baka koibito sleeping in without me. I'll put meatballs in his spaghetti later on…that'll teach him. Hrmph.

Sighing, Ryou nestled uncomfortably in the bench, exhaustedly curled into his lumpy schoolbag. School nights - bad nights for playing the role of hormonally possessed, lovestruck teenager. The fact that his costar in said role was sleeping like a baby wrapped in his blankets did little to assuage Ryou's burned sense of justice. A mite of this dawn-dragged malevolence might have been avoided had Malik not abandoned him halfway through the night for one of the stuffed, lavender-furred cats Amene had slept with as a baby. Nope. None at all.

Neko seducing bastard.

"Oyaho, Ryou-baka!"

Speak of Anubis.

Wait, Malik?

Ryou's head repelled from its snug niche quicker than an anorexic faced with a double fudge triple-scoop ice cream boat. With almonds. "Malik?" He stared over his shoulder at the mock-cheerfully smiling Egyptian in paralyzed shock.

"What are you doing he…." Ryou stopped short and paused, eyes narrowing dangerously. "What did you call me?!"

Malik merely winked and vaulted over the bench agilely, landing directly beside his baffled itoshi. Then, careful to avoid eye contact, he yawned, felinely arched his back and plopped his head unceremoniously into Ryou's lap. Only then did he snap open his eyes and grin up sweetly at his snowy-haired bishounen.

Ryou blinked once, twice…then impassively smacked Malik upside the head.

"Iiittaaaiii!" whined Malik with a grimace, cradling his aching head between his palms. "Ne, that hurt!"

"So will this!" Ryou giggled, raising his hand again.

"Oi!" Sitting up quickly and warding off the playful attacks, Malik cried, "Hey, I didn't come all this way to get beaten by my abusive koibito, you know!"

Ryou paused thoughtfully. "What did you come for, then?"

After a moment's consideration, a slow smirk tugged at Malik's lips.

Ryou scooted to the other end of the bench quickly. "No. You wouldn't let me sleep last night and you're not making me miss school again."

"But you lied so well last time!"

Ryou's glare was warning enough. "Beginner's luck," he said with narrowed eyes.

"Beginner," snickered Malik. "Sure, koi."

Ryou smirked. "Speaking of beginners…aren't you normally supposed to cry when you wake up to an empty bed the morning after? What are you, new?"

His blond koi was not amused. "Ha." Petulantly, his arms circled around his chest, his exaggerated scowl rapidly dipping in maturity. "I'm never going to live like a normal teenager," groused Malik. "No parents to bitch at and no school to bitch about." A glare thrown askance at his koi. "But look at what I do have. A bitchy boyfriend." Emphasized with an intensified scowl.

Ryou tilted his head to one side, soulful brown eyes alight with a mischievous glint. "Just exactly what are you taking before you go to bed, itoshi?" he teased.

"Sleeping pills," Malik answered absently.

A moment of hesitation gobbled the comfortable banter between them, Ryou's eyes widening to the size of dinner plates. "Ma-lik!" Delivered with a sharp, hard slap to the shoulder.

"Itai! Enough with that! What's wrong with sleeping pills?!"

"They're drugs!"

"Prescription drugs!"

"Call them what you want, the word 'drugs' is still attached!"

A pause, shortly followed by a chuckle. "You're painfully cute when you're naïve, tako," said Malik.

Ryou glared venomously. "I'm not naïve! You're the one that had a cardiac arrest at the coming attractions at the movie theater!"

"It was the first time I'd ever been in a movie theater!"

"Then you had no excuse to jump at the end when the lights came back on!"

"I did so! You shouldn't have taken my shirt off!"

"You should have done it first before the movie was half over!"



A crackle of tension sizzled between them before the corners of their mouths lifted in similar affectionate smiles.

"Commoner." Nose upturned.

"Dumb blond." Raspberry blown.

"Tako." Smile.

"Baka." Kiss.

Major morning argument over and done with, Ryou returned to Malik's side and snuggled into the outstretched arm. "So," he said conversationally, keeping a keen eye settled on the street for his bus, "why did you come all the way out here?"

Malik shifted awkwardly. "Uhm…I'd rather…er. I'd rather not say."

Ryou frowned, turning his head painfully to inspect his koibito's expression.

Sighing, Malik buried his chin in the snowy tufts of Ryou's hair and frowned. "Had a nightmare," he said quietly.

Ryou's eyes softened in understanding. Silence thick between them, he eventually reached back and drew Malik's free arm around his waist, lacing their fingers tightly. Then solemnly, he nestled his head into the snug niche between the Egyptian's neck and shoulder, content with giving the mute reassurance.

"I'm sick of seeing it," murmured Malik against Ryou's temple.

Ryou nodded faintly, eyelashes dusting sun-drenched skin as he closed his eyes. "I remember thinking you were a mite off when you first told me about it."

Malik grimaced and thwapped his koi's hip. "Last time I tell you about my dreams."

Snorting, Ryou retorted lazily, "No sane person dreams about his sister's cat stealing his boyfriend."


"Um - wrong nightmare?"

Malik growled. "Wrong nightmare."

Ryou flushed and smiled sheepishly over his shoulder. "Well, that one was pretty traumatizing. At least for me," he added in a stage murmur.


"So, which was it this time?"

As he threaded slightly shuddering fingers through Ryou's hair, Malik said solemnly into his neck, "My father."

The Egyptian was glad to have already one of Ryou's hands tangled in his own, an extra measure of comfort despite the surprise in Ryou's tone. "You haven't dreamt of that in months," the younger boy observed, looking upside-down at Malik's serious expression. "Are you all right?"

Malik studied Ryou's face thoughtfully, feeling the tenseness in his shoulders melting from his high priority notice. Deciding with a smile that this was evidence enough that the nightmare was no match for Ryou on his list of priorities, Malik cast the warped memory to the back of his mind. He smiled and idly traced the contours of Ryou's armband through his school uniform. "Hai, I'm fine."

Ryou grinned and seized Malik's nomadic hand with his free one, making a show of curling the Egyptian's arm around his waist to join his previously captured one. "Good," said Ryou, still smiling wrong-side-up into Malik's amused gaze, "'cause I'd feel guilty if you woke up from a nightmare and I wasn't there to hold your hand."

Malik chuckled. "Asshole." At Ryou's squawk of indignation, he merely snickered and squeezed his arms ruthlessly around the lean waist.

A short scuffle followed, during which Ryou managed to use his knowledge of Do Not Touch areas against his breathless koibito.

"S-S-STOP!" Malik gasped out. "Y-your bus is coming!"

Lithe fingers made quick work of silencing the older boy, Ryou smirking as the blond gave frantic efforts to removing his koi from where he sat on his chest. "RYOU!"

"Hai?" Fingers dug into the Egyptian's ribs, in reaction to which Malik screamed and nearly swallowed his lip to keep from giggling.

"S-stop! You don't tickle tomb guardians!" cried Malik desperately.

Ryou paused pensively and rested his back against the slope of Malik's bent legs. "Is that what you are, now?" he teased. "I thought you were the flamboyant misfit."

Malik winked. "Anything for you, lover."

Ryou giggled and neatly avoided the sudden swipe of tanned arms, twisting off of the Egyptian's chest to land somewhat clumsily on the sidewalk. While Malik struggled with abused stomach muscles to sit up, Ryou winked and boarded the bus that had been resting dormant on the curb for the past few seconds.

The driver didn't bother making eye contact with either boy, the one boarding or the other incredulously staring from the bench, merely staring emotionlessly into the distance.

"That was fighting dirty, Bakura!" Malik shouted.

Ryou grinned proudly over his shoulder and waved at his deadpan koibito. "Ja, Malik-chan!" Emphasized with a rather vicious wink.

Malik rolled his eyes fondly as the bus began to shuffle away. Lazily, he glanced at the few passengers who dared gawk at him. The mere lift of his eyebrow was enough to send them scrambling fearfully for an alibi, raising wrong-side-up papers or hastily searching for glasses that perched elusively atop heads.

Absently Malik ignored their rush to hide their interest in him, instead quickly spotting Ryou and lifting his hand in a small wave.

Ryou glanced behind him, grinned, and turned around to blow a kiss at his Egyptian.

For the rest of the day, Malik carried with him a glow of pride in his koibito to accompany the remembered look of utter panic on Honda Hiroto's face as the bus waned into the rising sun beams.


In a wince-provoking demonstration of youthful agility, Riku flipped backwards and avoided meeting Shinigami (5) for the eighth time that morning. However, his move to elude death by the Heartless' weapon would leave him slightly disoriented when he landed. The Heartless closing in realized this as well and barked out foreign commands to those following him just before Riku's feet touched the ground.


Sora watched in horror as the armored Heartless drove his sword through Riku's waist, his fingers numb and trembling on the hilt of his Keyblade. Frantically he began mowing through the lines of less powerful Heartless that dared part him from his koibito, eyes glassy with protective fury.

Riku felt the rush of pain from his lower abdomen and muffled the instinctual cry of pain. Instead, he raised his wicked sword and brought it down viciously on the Heartless captain's helmet. A resounding clang split the air and in tandem with the falling creature, the blade was roughly dragged from his body.

Showing no loss over their fallen leader, the five lesser Heartless extended rounded claws and formed a semicircle, blocking the wounded sword-wielder's escape.

Riku's back grazed the brick wall behind him and his eyes glazed with exhaustion and now weary realization. Suffering through engulfing pain, Riku raised the dark Keyblade with bloody and badly shaking hands. A Heartless to his right lashed out at him and while the distracted boy launched a costly attack on his attacker, another Heartless directly behind him buried a set of claws in his back.

Sora's cry ripped through the sudden silence, his own body aflame with horror as Riku merely grunted and tumbled to his knees, the Heartless' claws raking slowly down his back.


With an effort the older boy turned his head and met his koi's terrified gaze. Then, grimacing, he crumpled the remainder of the way to the ground.


Hell may hath no fury like a woman scorned, but even that pales in comparison to a protective lover with a Keyblade.

Desperation akin to a dying animal bled through Sora, his Keyblade felling every creature so bold as to block his path to Riku. They couldn't finish this alone, he realized grimly. The Heartless were nearly invincible, strengthened with some kind of spiritual power. They had easily taken down Sora the night before and today, Riku. This could not continue. They needed a better strategy.

Behind him, Sora heard the scuffle and scraping of supplementary Heartless. Apparently, they hoped to drown the two boys with an overwhelming attack. However, Sora thought sharply, they wouldn't get that chance. He drove one of the black-toned creatures into the ground fiercely and bolted down the alleyway to the corner Riku lay in.

Sora dropped to his knees before his fallen tenshi and quickly sheathed his Keyblade. Gently he pried Riku's own sword from his crimson-stained hands and slung it over his shoulder. Then, eyes awash with concern, Sora hastily drew Riku's wilted body into his arms, grateful that he'd become a bit stronger since his fifteenth year. Riku, ironically (and much to Sora's smug amusement) and now very luckily, had only grown taller. He hadn't gained a pound since sixteen. It wasn't as difficult to cart Riku's dead weight around as Sora had feared.

Riku was going to hurt him if he ever found out Sora's smug glee in his slender figure.

Glancing over his shoulder at the approaching waves of Heartless, Sora scowled at them all and darted off down the long stretch of alley before him. Riku would also hurt him for retreating, but even Riku would be forced to admit that they couldn't fight against masses this thick.

Their reason for running so impetuously to the borders of Domino City seemed sharper in Sora's mind now than it had been when it first arrived over their heads.




Sora dreamt prophetical nightmares before crises. Lost somewhere between sleep and Hell, the eighteen-year-old would frown and groan as if burned by some vicious fever, muttering protests against whatever scenes Fate rolled out for him. In some of the milder levels of these nightmares, Riku could dispel the discomfort with a soft kiss to his bijin's dry lips or by smoothing the wayward chestnut locks across the pillow. But with other degrees, the higher and more dangerous similar to the kind he was witnessing now, there was no preventing whom the wave of premonition would crush.

At one point during the haunting incident, Sora let out a chilling scream and nearly squeezed the blood from Riku's hand. Only when he'd calmed down enough to breathe somewhat evenly, Riku grimly stood up to shut the door. They didn't need Ryou and Malik finding out more than they absolutely needed to. The Heartless was their enemy to deal with.

In unison with the soft click of the locking door, Sora bolted upright in bed and looked around the room wildly. "Riku?!" he managed to whisper loudly, sounding panicked.

Riku crossed the room and knelt on the bedside, gently taking one of Sora's shaking shoulders into his hand's soothing grasp. Sora's head whipped in his direction and with only a stifled whimper for warning, Sora tackled him in a crushing embrace. More than used to occurrences like this by now, Riku calmly folded his arms around Sora's back, murmuring softly into his koibito's ear as Sora fought off the cold shivering.

Minutes later, Sora still shook in the warm circle of Riku's arms, but his voice was steady as he murmured, "Sorry. I thought you'd…left." A cold shiver ripped through his body violently. "Without me."

Riku brushed a consoling kiss on his bijin's forehead. "I wouldn't do that to you," he said reasonably.

Earlier, they'd argued over the best means to wrest the Heartless from this world. Sora needed to seal the passageway between this world and all the others, but he couldn't focus on this with so many adversaries in his path. Riku had told him in no uncertain terms that he would take care of the Heartless himself - which went over less than kindly with his paranoid koibito. In light of Sora's arguing, Riku threatened to leave in the dead of night when Sora was still caught up in dreams of the beautiful koibito he always spoke of - but he had thought Sora knew he was only joking. After all, you don't laugh at your boyfriend when he gives you an opening to agree with calling him good-looking.

Presently, Sora looked in no mood to laugh. Seemingly reassured by Riku's soft tones and mere presence, he relaxed against his koibito's chest and buried his head in his neck. "You won't go off without me?" he whispered. "You promise?"

Riku rolled his eyes. "No, Sora." His tone left no bridge for doubt.

Silence. Then, "I saw who we're up against."

Riku nodded encouragingly.

"It's Malik."


Yet, now, tearing down an unsightly alleyway with Riku motionless in his arms, Sora began to dismiss his nightmare as entirely idiotic. How could Malik lead the Heartless when he was always with Ryou? That he had suspected Malik at all was beginning to sound absurd. And yet, Riku had listened to his half-panicked ramblings and suggested they leave the house first thing in the morning to finish the job away from Malik's possible interference. Sora had to love him for that - not everyone would believe his boyfriend's distraught accusations against his cousin's lover. And to act on Sora's fears as well…if not for the deluge of vile, heart-swallowing fiends behind them, Sora would have kissed Riku for his cuteness.

But the current matter at hand worried him too much to consider this - or its possibilities of happening soon. Riku was seriously injured and Sora didn't want to know how permanently he was going to lie so limply in his arms. Despite his prophetical (and damnable) nightmare, Sora couldn't shake the feeling of dread at the thought of returning to Ryou's house. Maybe his dream was stupider than the idea of asking the Heartless to pause their hunt for a moment while he showed his appreciation to his kawaii koi with a kiss, but he couldn't bring himself to put Riku in possible danger if it turned out to be real.

So who could they turn to now? Ryou was their only connection to this world and Malik by extension. There were those kids Riku had met the other day, but Sora wasn't sure he wanted to take Riku to any of them - he didn't feel too kindly toward the belligerent busy blonde Riku had described. He'd prefer Malik over her.

But - Ryou had started school again, had he not? Sora's already ragged breath pushed out a sigh of relief as he saw the end of the alley. He could see Ryou about this. Ryou was Riku's cousin. He wouldn't betray them.

He hoped.


Ryou found it highly amusing, really. Domino High School's Grapevine of Adolescent Girls (fondly nicknamed GAG by the male population of the school) spread word of Ryuuji and Jounouchi's argument on school grounds in less than a day. If Ryuuji had had any worries about how his relationship with the duelist would be received and affect his day-to-day life…he had been completely justified to panic until the sun turned purple.

At lunch, Ryou approached the miserable older boy with a sense of ease he had grown accustomed to as a result of two years of Malik's goading. Ryuuji had sullenly stationed himself underneath a tree, arms folded sourly as he scowled into the street. Had Ryou not dealt with the worst of Malik's tempers at all hours of the morning, afternoon, evening and "too fucking early to tell", he might have walked away then. As it was, though, Ryou merely stretched out serenely on the grass beside his schoolmate, waiting for Ryuuji to start ranting as he knew he would.

The older boy's jaw tightened before he looked down at the slightly amused face of Bakura Ryou. His mask of hostility faded into something almost defeated. "Konnichiwa, Bakura-kun," he said quietly, then resumed his watch of the busy traffic.

Ryou smiled faintly and folded his arms behind his head. "Daijobu, Otogi-kun?"

"No," Ryuuji answered dourly.

Ryou nodded. Fair. Nobody had left the rumor alone since it began and by now, in public in the faces of his peers where he was usually so loved and now most vulnerable, Ryuuji was surrounded by some of the most hostile opinions he had ever confronted. It was understandable that he'd be irritable. Luckily, one of Ryou's best advantages with his friends was his distant position. No one had to worry about him being so close as to choose sides.

"Has Kaiba-kun heard yet?" questioned Ryou. Obviously, he must have, but he hadn't yet seen the brunet - not, in fact, since the face-off at Eien An'ya during their vacation.

Ryuuji snorted bitterly. "He heard, all right. Apparently he's furious and trying to transfer to another school. Aho."

Ryou bit back the urge to smile. Kaiba and Ryuuji could be so similar at times - little wonder why they hated each other so potently. Even Jounouchi was fonder of the champion duelist than Ryuuji. Now even more so than before.

A small lapse in conversation followed, but Ryou was comforted by the air of thoughtfulness in place of the earlier tension.

Caught out of the corner of Ryou's eye, Ryuuji frowned. "Jounouchi left school an hour ago. He looked terrified."

I'll bet, Ryou agreed silently. I would be, too.

"I want to leave, too."

Ryou peered up and squinted against the sudden break of sunbeams through the tree's arms. "Why don't you?" he asked.

"I want to end this idiocy before Jounouchi comes back to school."

"Do you think you can?"

"If I borrow Yuugi-kun's necklace for a while, I'll bet I could. Or that spikey circle of yours."

Ryou rolled his eyes and unconsciously drew his fingertips over his chest where the Ring lay underneath his school shirt. Ryuuji knew more than a little about the Sennen Items by now - very few of Yuugi's friends didn't after Battle City. Ryuuji seemed to find it amusing, however, to pretend as though he didn't know a thing. (The fact that it annoyed Jounouchi to no end didn't weigh in at all.)

"You're lucky."

Ryou's eyes widened. Not a phrase he heard often.

"You are." Ryuuji frowned pensively into the street. "You and Malik. I didn't expect anyone to have fuzzy feelings about you two in the beginning, but how long did it take for everyone to leave you two alone?"

Ryou smiled amusedly. "Otogi-kun, we never told anyone about us."

Ryuuji's eyebrows lifted. "Nani?"

"Yuugi-kun knew - I'm not sure how - and I guess Jounouchi assumed…. I'm not quite sure how everyone found out. But we knew they did when they started staring at us like they expected us to - " Ryou stopped, clamping his jaw shut on the stream of words that would have followed. Koibito no hentai, he groaned inwardly. I'm not going to talk like him as well as think like him.

Silence again, broken only by the occasional snicker from Ryuuji. Ryou blushed.

Malik's paying for this severely when I get home.

"Yuugi-kun's been acting strange lately."

Taken by surprise yet again by Ryuuji's stream of consciousness, Ryou asked, "How so?"

"He's been staring at you for days. You haven't noticed?"

"No." Silence. "Do I want to know what your theories are behind this?" asked Ryou warily.

Ryuuji smirked at him.

Ryou blanched. "Hai, I don't," he said hastily.

"You might want to talk to him before Malik finds out. You know how jealous guys can be." His tone was more than somewhat self-mocking and Ryou frowned sympathetically to hear it so punctual in Ryuuji's usually casual voice.

"He probably won't blame you for this forever," he said lightly.

"Who?" Ryuuji snorted. "Kaiba or Jounouchi?"

Ryou smiled thoughtfully. "Oh, no. Kaiba you'll have as an enemy probably closer to forever than Jounouchi."

Ryuuji shook his head in wonder, glancing at the younger boy in something between amazement and amusement. "You're a weird kid, Bakura-kun."

Ryou giggled, "So I've been told." He thought of his golden-haired koibito and rolled his eyes fondly. "Frequently."

With a glance at his watch, Ryuuji sighed and stiffly rose to his feet. He met Ryou's calm gaze and smiled. "Arigatou, Bakura-kun," he said sincerely. "You probably saved a few lives today."

"Why's that?"

The older boy stretched his arms over his head and grinned. "Because now I feel like strangling only half the school."

Ryou smiled dryly. "Glad to hear it. I'm in the fifty percent that lives, ne?"

"I'll consider it."

"You're too kind."

Ryuuji laughed. "Ja, Bakura-kun!"


Even after lunch had long since ended, Ryou lay still in the spattered golden beams beneath the tree. He was content to rest between worlds of consciousness and a light coma until school ended. The day was simply too warm and too beautiful to spend all day indoors. Malik would accuse him of wasting his procrastination skills if he put it off for a better day.


Strong, panicked hands grabbed his shoulders and rattled his disorientated head in tandem with the rest of his body. His eyes shuttered open and made out the fuzzy, shaking outline of his cousin's koibito.


The brunet released him and sighed a breath of relief. "Hai." He rocked back on his heels and waited for Ryou to sit up.

As soon as he did, Ryou spotted his cousin lying in the grass at Sora's side, ivory hair spilling across his blank face. "What happen - "

"No time," Sora broke in hastily. "He'll stop bleeding, but whenever I move him, the wound opens." He looked around suspiciously and said, "Where's Malik?" in a voice Ryou found he really didn't like.

"At home. Sora, what's this - "

"Please, Ryou," begged Sora desperately, "I'll explain everything, but we can't go back to your house."

"What?" Ryou's heart began to slow in dread. "What - what's happened?" An image of his house burned to the ground while some fiend cackled over the ashes burst before his blinking lids. "Malik - I've got to get home!"

Sora caught the frightened boy around the waist and pushed him to the ground forcefully. "No! Listen to me…." He hesitated, then glanced at his koibito's lifeless form. Whatever doubts he must have been harboring vanished in light of the danger he might put Riku's life in. "We think Malik's the one leading the Heartless," he said quickly.

Ryou stared. "You think Malik's leading the Heartless," he repeated tonelessly.

Sora nodded slowly.

"I think civilization was too much too fast for you, Sora," Ryou said, a touch spitefully.

Sora's eyes flashed with something akin to anger. His lips parted to fire back an acidic retort, but a muffled groan from the grass clapped his teeth back together.

Riku's hand slowly curled into a loose fist, seemingly searching for the hilt of his Keyblade. His bijin swiftly tangled his fingers in Riku's and squeezed gently. A moment later, Riku's eyelashes shivered and started to rise. "Sora…?"

Sora smiled. "Hai, itoshi, it's me."

"What happened?"

"One of the Heartless used your back for a cheese grater."

"Oh. …Do you mind knocking me out again?"

"Mmm," Sora smiled, ruffling Riku's hair fondly. "You know, I do?"

"Sora," growled Riku warningly.

Ryou watched the exchange for a moment, patiently, then said slowly, "Let me see his back."

Riku's eyes narrowed and Ryou frowned in concern to see the glassy look of pain that shone there. Sora, however, consented to Ryou's request and gently eased Riku's black shirt up to his shoulder blades. Riku let out a long hiss of pain, clutching the grass in tufts rather than lowering his dignity and holding Sora's proffered hand.

Ryou rolled his eyes - exactly like Malik. At Sora's insistent shoving, Riku grumbled and lay on his stomach, arms pillowing his head. Slowly trailing his gaze from Riku's petulant scowl, Ryou nearly gagged at the sight before him. Blood trailed in rivulets from four jagged slices between Riku's shoulder blades. Sora was silent, eyes downcast and worried.

"We can't take him to a hospital," the brunet said at length, voice grim. "We can't risk staying any one place for too long."

Riku nodded and winced as he sat up, looking dizzy until he submitted to the daze and fell into Sora's arms. That he would allow such a drop in pride worried Ryou more than the injury. Malik never would have permitted babying, either, unless half of his blood was smeared across Domino City.

"Why does it matter if you stay at the hospital?" asked Ryou. "They're not following you now."

"No," said Riku. "But the Heartless know I'm injured and they'll tell their leader. He'll probably be smart enough to assume where we'd go in that case."

Sora looked down at his koi and grimaced. "You're washing my shirt after this is over," he grumbled.

"I'll do nothing of the sort," growled Riku, "you'll go around shirtless and like it."

Sora grinned at Ryou. "See, it's more mental damage than physical."

"Pa'a ka waha," Riku muttered fiercely.

Ryou blinked. "What language was that?"

Sora rolled his eyes theatrically. "We visited his grandmother in Hawaii last year," he explained in a suffering deadpan.

"So what's he saying?"

Riku smirked. "Honi ko'u 'elemu!"

Ryou grinned sweetly in return. "Askut, yebnen kelp." (6)

Riku blinked. "That wasn't Hawaiian or Japanese."

"I know." Ryou winked. "It was Arabic, compliments of my itoshi."

Sora and Riku exchanged a Look, which was shortly interrupted by another hiss from Riku as he gave an admirable effort to sitting up on his own. His efforts were rewarded with a cuff to the back of his head and a scowl from Sora.

"Stop moving until I can wrap that!"

"I can't help it - it itches!"

Sora froze. "It what?"

Riku pulled back slightly, enough to meet Sora's frightened eyes seriously. "What's the matter, bijin?"

Sora's face slowly drained of color, his arms circling Riku tightening. With a haunted look at Ryou, he yelped, "That was part of my nightmare!"

"The one where you ate a paopu fruit with Wakka?"

Sora facevaulted.

Riku smiled sheepishly. "Wrong nightmare?"

Sora slapped him upside the head.


However distracted from the normal route of sanity Ryou believed Sora to be, he reluctantly agreed to go home ahead of the other two and pull Malik out of the house for a few hours while Riku recuperated. Sora suspected ulterior motives - Ryou mentioned Eien An'ya and Malik's overcharged hormones in the same grumbled sentence.

Just the same, it left Riku and him some time alone that didn't involve fighting black bubble-headed tools of death. "Come back to the house in an hour," Ryou had told them at the park's entrance. "Stay upstairs if you're so paranoid about my koibito. I'll keep him downstairs." Riku had been tempted to ask how he would keep Malik distracted, but Sora beat his hentai thoughts to their conclusion and sent him a warning Look. "Look" in this case translated to "no comfort sex after you're recovered".

For their hour in the park, Sora decided to shred his shirt into ribbons and wrap Riku's back and hip the best he could. Riku gave very little dispute to this since his pros list was several dozen bullets longer than his cons. Seeing Sora half naked took up about ten of these bullets.

"So, bijin," he said, taking in the sight contentedly. "What else was in this nightmare of yours?"

Sora's forehead creased. "I'd rather not talk about it. It was too weird."

Riku struggled a moment with his weary body and lifted himself up on one elbow. "Indulge me, weirdo."

With a chuckle, Sora paused in his task and smacked Riku's nose sweetly. "In your condition, sweet thing?"

"…American sitcoms are despicable."

Sora hmm'd thoughtfully. "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy isn't that bad."

Riku smiled. "So that's why you've been dressing better."

"Fuck off," Sora laughed.


Sora sighed and splayed his hand over the dressed wound. "I told you once already."

"No." Malik weaved their fingers together and kissed the back of Sora's hand. Resting their clasped hands on his chest, then, he grinned, "You told me about the paopu fruit nightmare three nights ago."

Sora growled.

Unperturbed, Riku continued, "The only think I heard about last night's nightmare was that you saw Malik opening some door."

Sora bowed his head and tied off the ends of random bandages. "Hai…."

"You missed the other ten minutes you were screaming in."

"No, I didn't. I neatly avoided them."

"The hell you did; tell me." Riku's depthless eyes almost shimmered in the sunlight and Sora scowled.

"You're an asshole."

Riku smiled lazily and folded his arms beneath his head. "You never complain."

Sora flushed crimson. "You're going to give me a nosebleed if you keep that up."

"Again, you never complain; now - what else was in this dream that scared you half to hell?"

"Interesting way of putting it." Riku's face began to tighten into a glower. "All right, fine," sighed Sora. "I saw…I saw Tidus."

Riku frowned skeptically. "The kid from the island? Messy blond hair, sexy blue eyes?"

"He was thirteen the last time you saw him!"

Riku shrugged, beaming. "And I was fifteen. Doesn't change the fact he was cute."

Sora clapped a palm over his eyes and murmured condolences to himself.

Eyes glowing with amusement, Riku chuckled, "So, what about Tidus?"

Sora sobered and threaded light fingertips through the fringe of Riku's hair. "He's alive, Riku."


Yami no Yuugi lit a candle in the corner of his soul room, shelling light on a sealed door. Athari stood patiently behind him, one hand resting steadily on his lover's hip. "That's the one," he said, his Egyptian accent almost comic mixed in with the Japanese words.

"You're sure?" Yami no Yuugi lifted a suspicious eyebrow.

Athari nodded, strangely solemn as he inspected the hieroglyphs on the door. "Open it."

"I can't."

This set the Egyptian thief off a bit. "Why?"

Yami no Yuugi smirked and tugged a sable lock of his koi's hair. "It's sealed, Athari," he said mirthfully.

The thief grinned. "Not a problem."

"Oh, yes, it is." The former pharaoh blocked Athari's meddling hands from touching the door with a warning look. "I'm not letting you open doors at random inside of my soul, Athari."

"Really?" Athari leaned in and stole a short kiss from Yami no Yuugi's skeptically-pursed lips. When he pulled back, his koi abandoned the ever-present look of sarcasm and smiled faintly. "Then you call this…what?"

Yami no Yuugi tilted his head and snagged Athari's hand, twining their fingers deftly. "You know what I would call it," he said smugly.

Athari sighed dramatically. "Yes, well, it isn't as though I don't try to detach your heart from your hips."

Chuckling, Yami no Yuugi folded his arms around Athari's neck and idly toyed with the midnight-touched locks. "You're much more attractive now," he said impishly.

"You're building your pyramids upside down, Khetire," warned Athari with an arched eyebrow.

With a wink (a gesture he picked up from Jounouchi), Yami no Yuugi pressed a hand to the back of Athari's neck and pulled the chuckling thief into a kiss on his own terms. Assured Athari wouldn't move or tease, Yami no Yuugi slipped his hands down to the younger Egyptian's waist, gently stroking his thumbs against the golden skin of his slender waist. Athari grinned, unseen by his koi, and bit down impishly on Yami no Yuugi's lower lip.

The former pharaoh groaned. "Much more attractive."

Athari smirked and shrugged his robe to his elbows, exposing the sinewy chest tauntingly. "Such a shame we have to spend all this time trying to find a safe way through the door…."

Yami no Yuugi's eyes narrowed. "Yes, very disappoint - "

Long, tapered fingertips skimmed his lean stomach, ending all suspicions at least in Yami no Yuugi's mind. Kohl-smoothed eyelashes fluttered closed and Athari snickered, lowering his mouth to his lover's neck. A few moments later, Yami no Yuugi choked out, "All right, all right! I'll open the door!"

"I thought you'd see it my way, baby."

Blond eyebrows rocketed to the crest of Yami no Yuugi's forehead. "I'm sorry?"

Athari grinned. "Saw Ryou's cousin watching American daytime television once."

Yami no Yuugi sighed, palming the curve of his koibito's shoulders. "We must find more constructive ways for you to spend your time in your soul room, my love."

"I've planned out a few." Hands dipped underneath the older Egyptian's shirt and played wickedly with Yami no Yuugi's reflexes.

"Celibacy in the Ring did nothing to dissuade your stamina, did it, Athari?" teased Yami no Yuugi.

Shivers trickled down his spine at the feel of fangs gingerly threading the niche between shoulder and neck. "Disappointed?"

"Extremely. You might have to prove your restraint to me, my Ring guardian."

"Next millennium sound appropriate?"


Oh, how green the candle burned the night the Puzzle related that romp.


To be Continued…

I caught the tail end of "Dungeon Dice Monsters" a few hours ago (I rarely watch TV, and the minute I do - ^___^) which is the reason for extra Ryu. I love him. ^__~ You know, before I wrote this, I couldn't see Jounouchi with anyone save Seto. Thanks to this…I'm as big a fan of them as I am of Yami no Yuugi and Yami no Bakura. ^___^ How's that for broadening horizons?

Just a random note - Pirates of the Caribbean has amazing fan fiction. ^___^ And I don't mean the het. ^_~

Whee! Review replies!

Kira-Kura - Brilliant? *Blush* I have a review with the word "brilliant" in it? And "sophisticated"! Eee! ^_________^ I'm ecstatic! Hehe! Arigatou, shoujo! O__O And that was only for chapter one. ^__^ I love reviewers. schu-chan - I was rec'd? Really? Wow. __ Whee! I was rec'd! LOL! I didn't know so many people were fans of Kingdom Hearts! Makes me all glowy inside. ^__^ Bishie Babe - Aww, I'm so glad you liked it. ^__^ Ooh! I converted! I love converting people to the wonder that is Malry. ^__^ Annie - Well, since you said "please" and all…. ^__~ onlyHAUNTED - Dang. Three days? Well, not counting this chapter, the story's 116 pages. O_o That's something I didn't see coming. Yuugi's currently single, yes. Why? Because I cringe to think of him paired with anyone. He's much too young and…small. I think I'm one of the four people alive that doesn't see or like Yami no Yuugi/Yuugi. Then again, I'm one of the four that pairs Ryou with Malik instead of Bakura. ^__~ It's all good, ne? Well, you got your hope with Riku and Sora! I missed writing them. Plus I was writing Sunkissed at the same time - word to the wise, writing stories at the same time will cause them to bleed into each other. ^__^ Glad you liked it! Sailor Comet - Yay! Another returning reviewer! *Gives Tidus plushie* Hehe. I'm on a KH binge this chapter. Notice? You notice you hit half of the vowels in your review? "a, e, o". Good work. ^__~ I'm so glad everyone likes Sora and Riku. I figured, "Hey, I love them, they will too" in that kind of "If they don't, tough cupcakes" (cupcakes: a Very Aggressive pastry) way. Yami no Malik will return in his lunatic glory next chapter. Promise. ^__~ Who's Magus? Bakuraluva - Aww, thank you. ^___^ You stayed up all night to read it!? O__O Wow. Impressive. *Claps* Yay! *Hands over Ryou and Malik chibi plushies* Hold 'em together and their noses attract because of the little magnets inside! (Ever gotten those? Aren't they cute?) Hehe, don't worry about every chapter. Just so long as you review, I'm happy. ^__^ You Smell Like Stink - Okay. Have fun. Kilam - ^___^ You have to love Riku and Sora. Anyone who can both confuse and embarrass Ryou at the same time without breaking a sweat or feeling bad has to be cool. ^__^ Hehe, thank you. *Blush* The motorcycle scene is actually one of my favorites as well. I'd love to see Ryou's hair afterward. ^__~ Doumo arigatou, Kilam. ^___^ I'm actually speechless for once. So instead of making myself sound like a total airhead…. *Glomp* Arigatou! ^___^ See, now I'm just a scary author. ^__~ As for the superfluous parts of the story…. That's actually what I was aiming for, and I'm glad someone noticed. ^__^ I wanted to have breaks in between the action so people could get the feeling that real life could go on during all of this. Besides, I think hostile takeovers would take longer than a few weeks, ne? ^__^ Keaira - Whee! Kyra-chan! *Glomp!* Yeah, sounds like it's just you. But we love you anyway. *Cracks whip* Update, thou lazy author-san! ^___~ American BadAss - Actually, Yami no Malik means "Darkness of Malik". Though if "Yami" were only a name, like Bob (hehe), you'd be right. In this case, though, "Yami" is Japanese for "Dark" or "Darkness". Hope that cleared things up for you. Kyrene (once Blood Roses) - Hehe, Sora and Riku made their glorious return - don't worry, I wouldn't leave them out for long. ^__^ I don't think you're full of it. Quite the contrary, I'm impressed you figured it out. ^_~ I used to watch Days of Our Lives with my grandma and sister, so that's why I made fun of it. I always thought they were slightly melodramatic…which matches Malik perfectly. *Grin* (Ie: "I want my body back!" *Snicker* He sounds like a four-year-old.) Renee the Rabid Squirrel - Hehe, arigatou. ^__^ I don't think reviews of any story of mine has made me blush so often. Grammar is my biggest pet peeve, so I'm glad I'm doing it right! ^__^ Jess-chan - ^______^ Arigatou! I love your reviews, hehe. They take up a page in Word! Whee! Hehe. Ooh. Cake-flinging is good. Next chapter - promise. ^__~ Mud wrestling I can work in - thanks to The Thunderstorm. *Grin* Oh, sure, everything is Trei's fault. Hmph. ^__^ Aww, glad you like it. And of course they're meant to be - they're MTB! ^___^ I think we should change the pairing title. "Angstshipping"…they're not angsty! Riku is a dork. But he's cute, so we forgive him. LMAO! I love that scene! ^____^ Poor, dear Hiei. Yami no Yuugi is strange period. ^___^ He just hides it better than some other midgets we know. *Eyes Yuugi* Malik's the stereotypical Jealous Boyfriend. Except without the fear of prison. He still has his Rare Hunters hidden somewhere. *Grin* Aww, arigatou. ^__^ Malik is the hottest villain. Bakura's the hottest bad guy. There, no feelings hurt. ^_~ o_O You're not serious. Yuugi and Kurama are the same seiyuu!? Eugh! That's just…ew. Poor Kura! Working on that. Cameos are hard to fit in here now, thanks to Tidus. Oi. Hehe. I'll try, though. We have Slasher Logic, Yaoist Logic, Shounen-ai Logic…it never ends. ^__~ Aw, c'mon. You know I love rambling reviews. It makes me feel important. ^___~ You're right. Seto/Ryou's probably never ever going to even get evidence, but hey, we always have Malik/Ryou to hope for. ^____^ Topazia - That seems to be everyone's concern, though I have no idea why. ^_~ I won't forget about NtF! I love this piece of silly nonsense too much to give it up. Ooh, sugar. Good idea! Good thing it's lunch time. ^_~ BishounenzAngel - Hehe. *Sheepish look* ^__^;;; Thank you though. ^__^ Another frequent reviewer! ^__^ Crying Forever - Wow, I love reviewers! ^_____^ I'm so glad I'm writing them well. It's not even second nature anymore to pair them together. It's gone straight to first. ^_~ Writing Seto/Ryou's hard…I can't get out of the Malry state of mine! Bah. Oh well, I'm trying. ^__~ Shadowy Fluffball - Okay! Okay! Okay! Okay! Okay! Okay! Okay! Okay! Okay! Okay! Okay! Okay! Okay! Okay! Okay! Okay! Okay! Okay! Okay! Okay! Okay! Okay! Okay! Okay! Okay! Okay! Okay! Okay! Okay! Okay! Okay! Okay! Okay! Okay! Okay! Okay! Okay! Okay! Okay! Whew. ^___^ Reen - Aww, thank you. I know the feeling. When I don't look around for a while, I can't believe all the things I missed! Thank God for that review section in our login screens. I'd be entirely lost without it. Froz Flame - ^___^ Arigatou! I love sap. It's the One True Way. ^__~ Kiirar - You hentai! *Scolding Finger of Doom* Yami no Malik ain't gettin' near Malik in this story. =P So there. ^___~ Maybe not a Heartless in a birthday cake so much as a…oh, that's right. Can't tell you that either. *Grin* chibi_ai - Yami no Malik's a heartless wench - he's probably going to do something bad. *Nodnod* Thief!Yami no Bakura would look gorgeous with black hair. ^___^ If I could make hearts around that, I would. ^___~ Sarith McGregor - ^__^ Konnichiwa, Sarith! Good to hear it was worth the wait. I certainly wasn't expecting everyone to be so kind about it. I was expecting bombs to go off in my ears. …That was the oddest thing I've said all chapter. -_- *Shrug* Sorry, my mistake. ^__^ I'm a Ewan McGregor fan. ^___^ Gorgeous Scot that he is. Darkest Side of Death - Hehe, thanks. Usual stuff works. ^__^ Elle-FaTe2x1 - Aww! *Blush!* See! Told you! Blushing again! Oi. I guess I can no longer claim that I never blush…oh well, there's always lying. ^_~ Arigatou! Also, thank you for staying with the story so long! I love seeing repeat reviewers. ^__^

1 - Shimatta (damn)

2 - Tako (octopus)

3 - Ia! Khalouni! (No! Leave me alone!) - Egyptian Arabic

4 - Chibi youkai neko (little demon cat) -- see also chibi youkai (Hiei) --

5 - Japanese god of death (Gundam Wing fans should know this quite well ^_~)

6 - Mokuba's age isn't officially given (I've found every age from ten to fourteen) - so for the purposes of my story, he's sixteen, two years younger than Seto (don't you love fiction?)

7 - I was going to leave it as is, but I figured you'd want to know what they mean. In order: "Shut (the hell) up", "Kiss my ass", and "Shut up, son of a dog". I could have gone for worse, but this is PG-13 after all. On FFN anyway. *Whistles innocently*

**Here's a picture of Tidus, The Final Fantasy X Bishie:

http:// www. ffworld. com/ images/ff/ff10/overdrive_ tidus.jpg (take out the spaces - it won't let me post links for some reason) *Sigh* Isn't he precious? He'll be a major part in upcoming chapters. He's gonna get his own bijin as well…think you can guess who?**