Disclaimer: I do not own Yu-Gi-Oh.

His hands were bleeding. With each impact of his clenched fists the crimson stain grew and yet the stubborn door refused to budge.

Groaning, nearly sobbing in frustration Ryou Bakura slumped to the cold floor of his soul room. 'This can't be happening' but there was the door, locked. Locking him out of control of his own body, testament to the fact that the spirit of the ring, Bakura was back and back with a vengeance.

 Eyes scrunched tight against the truth Ryou tried to think past the panic that was beginning to assail his mind. 'I can't let this happen, I won't let this happen'. Ryou's face contorted as images of what his yami had done to him flashed through his head. 'Not now, not when things were finally going well' Breathing deeply, to calm his whirling thoughts, Ryou searched for a way out of this.

            Tap Tap Tap  

The unexpected noise snapped the boy out of his reflective misery. Someone was coming. Thrusting himself backwards on shaky limbs Ryou assembled his thoughts. 'I have to make him stop' Scrapings echoed from the other side of the door. With his face buried in his arms Ryou couldn't see his mirror image sweep into the room with an arrogant smirk.

Bakura crossed the cracked flagstones with silent grace. When he was within arms reach of Ryou he crouched to bring him eyelevel with the slumped figure.

"I'm glad you stopped. All that noise was giving me a headache. You wouldn't want that would you?" Bakura's scornful tones echoed in the chill air.

Ryou unfolded slightly to direct a dark glare at his counterpart exposing his tattered hands to Bakura's observant gaze.

The yami grunted and muttered, "You made yourself bleed, and here I thought I was the sadistic one." Clicking his tongue in mocking reprimand Bakura reached out and seized Ryou's chin, forcing him to look up. "There really is no point in resisting, can you not see that?"

Ryou resisted the urge to flinch, knowing it would give Bakura more leverage then he already had.

"Why are you doing this?" Ryou's hesitant voice made itself heard. Bakura removed his hand and rested back on his heels.

"To gain what is rightfully mine, of course" said Bakura, as if it should be obvious, "and because it's fun"

"Inflicting pain is fun? Why do you get so much joy from the suffering of others?"

Bakura shrugged, "It doesn't matter, you can't do anything about it anyway"

"I can so, I may not be able to completely suppress you but I can make it very difficult. This has been my body longer then yours. I seemed to do okay at duellist kingdom."

The scowling yami sat in thoughtful silence contemplating Ryou's words. They were true- Ryou had managed to facilitate his defeat when he duelled the pharaoh. "Why bother?" Bakura attempted to reason, "You could have anything you wanted"

Ryou turned his head away, disgusted. 'I can't abandon my friends' His eyes slipped shut remembering the shadow duel on Pegasus's island. His friends costumed and fighting for their lives. Joey, Tristan, Yugi and … Her. His mind lingered, there she was standing rigid in shock and fear, blue eyes wide and terrified. An expression he never wished to see on her delicate features again 'And besides, there is only one thing I want' Unattainable azure eyes fluttered open in his memory.

A harsh chuckle drew him back into reality.

"It begins to make sense now" Another chuckle. "No wonder you are so willing to continue this struggle. It is touching really that you care for her so much when she has never done anything to encourage it. Does she even know?"

"C-Care for w-who?" Ryou stuttered out, his mind racing. 'No he can't find out, if he does then her life is forfeit. He'll hurt her to hurt me'   

Bakura snorted, "You think you can hide something from me, I am you. Remember?" He stood up, towering over the crumpled form of the boy.

 "Although I must say for a weakling you do have excellent taste, she is exquisite" and he turned to leave. Midway to the door he stopped and turned.

"I propose a deal. You agree to stop fighting me and I won't allow any harm to come to your beloved".

Ryou froze "and the others?" he questioned. Bakura sniggered -answer enough.

"Look at it this way", the dark spirit offered, "Even if you do manage to stop me there will be someone else after the puzzle, she will be placed in danger. At least this way you know she will be safe"

Ryou was torn. 'I can't just desert my friends like this but...' Ryou clutched his head 'But Yugi, Tristan and Joey they're all tough, they can all take care of themselves. Yugi has Yami. Joey and Tristan are strong; they knew how to defend themselves. They stand a chance.' Does she? Could he take that chance?

"You promise you won't let her get hurt?"

Bakura smirked, knowing that he had won. "Tomb Robber's honour"

* * *

The motorbike ground to a violent halt, stopping inches from the smirking albino who barred the way along the alley, arms outspread.

A tanned youth dismounted from the bike, prying the helmet off his head allowing flaxen hair to spring free.  Cool lavender eyes regarded the pale wrath in front of him, decidedly unimpressed.

"Let me pass"

"No, I require something you have"

The golden-haired one hiked a curious brow in unspoken question.

Bakura elaborated "Your millennium item" When no reaction was forthcoming he continued in a menacing growl, "That wasn't a request"

"Why should I mortal? I have no times for these games," retorted the scowling blonde. To his surprise the apparently young man across from him merely sniggered and muttered quietly to himself.

"Oh no, not a mortal. Never a mortal" The dingy light of the alley way was lost as Bakura extended both hands, fingers splayed, a few centimetres in front of his chest and began to glow. The blonde observed this stoically. With one final bust of light and a strange humming sound a large; gaudy item appeared on Bakura's chest between his outstretched hands - the Millennium Ring.

The youth with white hair looked up "Impressed?" he questioned. The other's face stayed blank, however inside he was quick to calculate. 'A millennium item, he could be dangerous. That's something I can't afford now, the Pharaoh and his power- that is my goal. The blonde shifted his gaze from the iridescent charm around Bakura's neck up to his face and came to a decision.   'Plus with a millennium item and an obvious knowledge of how to use it he would be a most useful asset. The longer I can stay hidden the better, he can duel for me. Once I have the pharaoh's power the Millennium Rod serves me no purpose, I won't mind parting with it. An alliance would indeed be profitable.'

"Marik" At Bakura's raised eyebrow he explained further "My name is Marik" reaching behind him he pulled a short gold staff from it's hiding place. "And we appear to be evenly matched"

"So it would seem," stated Bakura, eyeing the Millennium Rod.

"However" continued Marik, "I see no reason for us to fight, I have no problem with parting with my millennium item"

"And the catch would be?" Bakura locked eyes with the one in front of him. 'Does he think I was born yesterday?'

"I require you to do something for me, tell me do you duel?"

"Yes. I have participated in a number of shadow duels" The albino searched Marik's face for signs of surprise of which the blonde showed none merely continuing on with outlining his idea.    

"I will give you the rod freely if you duel in my place against the Pharaoh Yami" Bakura snorted at the mention of the former ruler then sneered at Marik.

"Why too scared to do it yourself?"

"It is not … prudent for me to reveal my identity just yet. However defeat the pharaoh, retrieve the puzzle and his god card Slyther the Sky Dragon for me and the Rod is yours," said an increasingly irritable Marik. 

"What do you want them for?" Curiosity was evident in Bakura's tone.

"To have my revenge upon the pharaoh and to have what should be mine by right" answered Marik growing impatient "Do you agree?"

"What is to stop me from simply taking the Rod now?"

"I know the location of other Millennium Items-like the Millennium Necklace and of course when I do seize power you will be in an excellent position. Also judging from your reaction before there is no love lost between you and Yami. Do you not wish to see him crushed in battle then sent to the Shadow Realm. He is a powerful opponent but together I believe we stand a much greater chance of defeating him."

Bakura considered 'This would seem to be an excellent bargain. If I so choose it should be easy to remove the Puzzle from this 'Marik's' possession later.' He grinned wolfishly 'It is also a superb chance to fulfil my promise to my weakling Light.' After deliberating Bakura turned to face Marik fully and spoke.

 "Very well, I will get you what you want", he paused.

"And in exchange I give you the Rod and reveal the location of the other items. Yes, Yes …" Marik waved an impatient hand. Bakura cut him off with a glare and his own angry gesture. After Marik feel silent he continued. 

"I want one other thing. The Pharaoh's friend- the girl Téa … Téa Gardener"