Warning – contains child abuse

Disclaimer- do not own.

"Talking"

/Thinking/

-Flashback-

--Dream sequence--

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--Dream sequence--

Ryou grinned at the page in front of him on the desk. It was finished! Finally! The last exam he would ever take before becoming-

And then it happened. The paper burst into flames, though he could feel no heat from the red and gold sparks.

In seconds, the paper was gone, replaced with a small pile of grey ashes that fell through his fingers to the ground.

Ryou couldn't help letting out a cry as the flames entwined round his body, heating him beyond bearable temperature…

--End dream sequence--

Ryou sat up in bed with a shout of fright. Well, tried to sit up. His arms were caught one above the blanket, one twisted round his back. His legs were even more entangled in the smothering blanket, both twined round several layers of fluffy, over-warm duvet.

He breathed a sigh of relief as his brain processed the fact that the burning was not a problem with his final exam, but just a too-thick blanket.

Disentangling himself, he climbed out of bed, his feet making barely any noise on the softly carpeted floor.

Checking the clock, Ryou sighed. 5am. He would have had to get up in an hour anyway, so there was no use in going back to bed now.

Making his way, slowly and sleepily, to the kitchen, he whacked the kettle to set it to the boil. The first time round, his eyes were so sleep blurred, he missed, and hit the work surface instead.

"Ouch! Dammit." Ryou cursed quietly, rubbing his hand ruefully. He had got into the habit of being quiet around his house when he was only 6 years old. When he was too noisy, his father would beat him for making his alcohol-induced headache worse.

Shaking his head, Ryou dragged his thoughts away from his depressing childhood and back to the kettle. Hitting it more accurately – the switch was broken, and had to be hit hard to make the necessary wires connect – he turned to the fridge –

–And walked straight into the corner of the table. "OWWWW!" he yelled, all silence teachings gone out the window in his moment of pain. "Argh! Is the entire kitchen out to get me? That was a rhetorical question, by the way" Ryou shook his head at himself as the pain subsided. Talking to himself? Nerves. Obviously. A new job today. It had to be nerves.

His new job… finally, he had the job he wanted! A classroom assistant and school counsellor? It sounded like the perfect job. He had seen the class he would be helping out with most. It looked like the perfect job as well. He crossed his fingers, hoping it would be what it appeared to be.

At any rate, the students he had spoken to had been polite and well mannered, though that was probably nothing to go on. It was always the best students who were introduced before the job was taken. Then you saw the ones that weren't so wonderful.

Anywho. What was he looking in the fridge for again? Oh yes, food. What food? Yoghurt? That's the one! Brilliantly done, brain. You have successfully discovered the meaning of… well, not life, but the fridge! Well done!

Ryou laughed at himself as he pulled the yoghurt out of the fridge. He hoped it was nerves! He didn't want to think about going mad. Not after his father drove his mother insane, by beating her until she was senseless, then lavishing attention on her. After three years of this, she killed herself. She had only lived that long to protect Ryou. After her death, the beatings were more frequent, more painful…

"No!" Ryou slammed his hand on the table as he berated himself for taking the trip down memory lane, then round to a dark, abandoned alleyway. "Don't think of it. Think about the job. Not Father. The job. The children who you are going to get to know, the teachers who will – hopefully – become your friends. That's better."

He pulled open the cutlery draw –

And the corner slammed straight into the bruise the table had left. "OW! Leave me alone! Stupid kitchen appliances. Aw… and no spoons left…"

Two and a bit hours later –

Ryou walked nervously into the reception, and up to the desk. He was dressed in dark blue trousers and a tidy blue sweatshirt with a curled up white tiger on the front. The tiger's coat almost perfectly matched Ryou's pale hair, though his had a slight blue tinge to it round the edges.

"Um… hello. Do I need to sign in or something? Or can I just go straight to the classroom?" Ryou asked the receptionist.

"Are you the new sixth form student?" She asked, looking up from the computer. She was not to be blamed for the mistake – Ryou had always looked several years younger than he actually was.

"No ma'am. I'm supposed to be the new counsellor. And classroom assistant." He shot an endearing smile at the woman, who immediately blushed.

"Oh, of course, I'm sorry. Yes, you do have to sign in. See that blue book?" Ryou nodded an affirmative "You have to write your name in the left hand column, then the time in the next, and then the date in the last."

Ryou obediently did so. "As you're an official school worker, you have your own badge." She fetched a blue, laminated badge out of the box beside her. "You have to wear this at all times."

"Okay."

"Do you want a student to show you round?" She asked.

"Yes, if it's not to much trouble." Ryou was glad of the offer. Otherwise he would have had to find his way to the classroom unaided, which, knowing his sense of direction – or lack of it – would take hours. Literally.

We all know the boring stuff about what comes next, so lets skip straight to 10 minutes later, when the child has left Ryou outside the right classroom-

Ryou knocked cautiously on the door. A faint voice came through the glass window, asking him to enter the room.

The voice belonged to a woman in a beautiful blue dress. Her voice was kind, somewhere in the mid-alto range, while her eyes were a strange mix of blue and grey, and her long hair was a shining blonde, strung through with gentle blue highlights.

Ryou stood, nervous and blushing slightly, by the door, waiting for an invitation to approach the sensei.

She frowned at his presence, then at a piece of paper on her desk. "Are you supposed to be here?" Obviously, the woman was slightly absent-minded.

"Yes ma'am. I'm supposed to be the new assistant?"

"Supposed to be? Are you only pretending to be the assistant?" She smiled slightly at him.

"I beg your pardon, ma'am?" Ryou cocked his head at her, confused by the strange statement.

"Oh, sorry. I forgot, not everyone is used to my sense of humour. I remember now. Ryou Bakura, right?"

"Yes ma'am." Ryou nodded his head in acknowledgement.

"Good. Stop calling me ma'am. My name is Li Haring, short for Leanne. You can call my Leanne or Miss Haring, whichever you prefer, but I would like you to call me Li."

"Yes ma'- Li." Ryou caught himself just in time.

"That's better. Now, I need to introduce you to the class." She turned to the children, who were staring at Ryou's hair, in awe of its length and soft blue sheen. "Children, this man is Mr Bakura. He is going to help me with classes, as there are so many of you now! He is also going to be the school counsellor. That means that if you are worried about anything, you can go to him, and he'll try and sort it out."

When she paused, Ryou broke in- "Please, call me Ryou. Mr Bakura… well it reminds me of my father. I don't like to be reminded of him, really."

One of the children, a boy with short brown hair, spoke up. "Why don't you like to be reminded of your Dad? Don't you love him?"

Miss Rocker frowned at the boy, but Ryou answered the question with a sad smile, "Yes, I do love him. He didn't love me very much, though. He was a bit mean to me when I was small. About your age, actually."

"What-"

The boy started to speak, but Ryou gently interrupted him. "I think Miss Haring might want to start the lesson now. You can talk to me afterwards, if you want."

"Thank you, Ryou. Actually, this is probably dumping you in at the deep end, but can you hold the class for a while? I have rather a lot of marking to do. It would be such help if I could have an hour or so before break to finish it off. Its show and tell time. That really explains itself, doesn't it? If you get into trouble, just give Hilary a shout. She's teaching 4SB, next door. She'd be glad to help, I'm sure." And she was off out the door before Ryou had a chance to protest.

Most of them cheered, though one or two of the children groaned. Those one or two looked like they were nervous of going up to the front of the class, so Ryou carefully avoided making any of them go first.

"Ok… boy at the back, with blonde hair. Can you come and show me what you brought?"

The boy in question opened his eyes wide in amazement. He never got picked first! "Me?"

Ryou smiled. "Yes you. What's your name?"

"I'm Osuma." The boy got to his feet, but as he took a step towards Ryou, another boy tripped him up, then sniggered when Osuma clambered up red-faced.

"You. What's your name?" Ryou snapped out. He hated bullies.

"James, sir." The boy radiated innocence, but Ryou wasn't fooled.

"James. Come here. I refuse to tolerate bullies in any class I help with. Stand outside. In silence."

"Sir, that's two things. Should I go there or stand outside?" The bully even tried to talk back.

Ryou sent him a glare. "Outside! Now!"

The children in the front row flinched. Ryou hadn't even raised his voice, but that soft and angry voice, with its gentle English accent, held them all in silence.

The guilty boy slunk out of the door.

"I want to make this clear. I am usually very easygoing. But, on the few occasions that something really annoys me… I get like that. Which isn't nice for any of us. Only a couple of things really get to me. Two of those things are bullies and people who talk back. Right. Where were we? Ah yes, Osuma, come to the front, please."

Osuma did as he was told. Quickly. Very quickly.

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R&R!

Kazuki.