DISCLAIMER: I wish, I wish… that YGO belonged to me!

NOTES/S: I'd like to give credit to Princess of Mirrors, for being so kind as to help me and be my beta-reader. hugs and kisses And this is where Act 2 rears its ugly head. On with the fic!

COME UNDONE: Their many meetings ( Unbeta-ed version )

Malik didn't know where the hell he was, in simpler words. One minute, he was enjoying his little drinks, and the next he was being dragged by some buff guy into a dark room. His thoughts were getting hazy, and he giggled like a little child as he was pushed onto something soft.

"Mmm… are you Mariku?"

The man standing above him paused in his rummaging through his pockets. "What?"

Malik squinted, trying to focus. "Wait, you're not Mariku… who are you?"

"Uhh… I'm…"

"Ah! I know!" the blond teen crossed his legs as he tittered yet again. The man was beginning to think that the effect of alcohol and drugs on his pretty captive might be dangerous, not only for the teen, but for him as well. "You're – the tooth fairy!"

"The what?" The man asked incredulously, immediately deeming the boy beautiful but demented. He suddenly remembered what he was supposed to be searching for, and discreetly shoved his hands into his back pockets again.

Malik pouted. "You're not the tooth fairy?" he said, stretching his body across the bed.

The man's jaw almost dropped to the floor at the sight of Malik stretching. His eyes roamed over the contours and planes that carefully formed the boy's body, and he had to keep himself from taking the boy right then and there. He gulped, as he finally found what he had been looking for.

"What's that? A magic wand?" Malik asked, slurring a bit. What was happening to him? Usually, alcohol just made his head spin. He had a high enough tolerance for it, and he could still do some serious dancing afterwards. But this time… he felt giddy, like he was riding on a cloud. But the longer he stayed on the bed, the less focused his vision had become. Not to mention his thoughts, which were beginning to get jumbled.

The man frowned at him. Was this one still fighting to keep his thoughts in order? Maybe he didn't put enough in the boy's drink. No matter, he had the numbing drug in his hands now. He slowly approached Malik, hiding the needle behind him.

"Wha – what's… happening to… me?" Malik thought, trying to regain control over himself. The man he had previously declared to be the tooth fairy approached his bedside, running his fingers over Malik's bare arm.

Then Malik saw it, the soft, silver glint of the needle, its tip adorned with a single drop of liquid.

Silver needle…

Memories, all of them unbidden, came back to Malik. His father, who he loved and trusted, who had betrayed him. His father, who drove away his mother and sister. His father, chuckling quietly as he drove a blade into his back. His father, who heard him cry and scream and plea but ignored him. It flashed like scenes from a badly-done movie, and he would see the blade…

The tip of the needle lightly grazed Malik's skin, before he savagely pushed the man backwards.

And he screamed, wanting to the drive the memories away.

The effect of the drugs, alcohol and his memories combined proved to be a formidable force that slowly took over Malik's entire body. The man stood up, not really affected by the blow and began approaching Malik again, a fierce glint in his eyes,

"Why you little shit! I'll teach you to mess with me…" He hissed, advancing slowly

Malik visibly shivered as the man took the needle out again. The man held it up in the air, squirting a little amount of liquid out of it. His lavender eyes widened to indefinite proportions as he backed away, trying to get up from the bed.

"Don't touch me – don't touch me – don't touch me…" He chanted as if it were a holy mantra. He wanted to fight back, but his vision and his hearing were steadily blurring. He could move, but not very far. That was what happened with his father long ago, he could run, but he could never hide. Ultimately, he would be caught, and he could do nothing but scream his pleas into the night.

"Don't touch me! Don't touch me! Please! Stop!" He yelled full-force, and the man hadn't even touched him yet, deafened by his shrieks. It was evident that his none-too-pleasant memories were beginning to take hold of him.

"Shut up! Shut up, kid!" The man on the other side of him yelled, and he lunged for Malik. The blond teen struggled fiercely whilst shouting, and he was able to dodge the needle again, but only by an inch.

By this time, he already had tears in his eyes, and he was so worn out that he couldn't even find the strength to wipe them away.

"Ah, this time, I've got you, pretty little doll…" He brought the tip of the needle to his skin. He noted with pleasure that Malik had already stopped struggling, and his eyelids were dilated in weariness.

"Please father, please…"

The man paused, raising an eyebrow. "Father, huh? You want me to be your daddy? Fine, I'll be your daddy, pretty golden baby…"

"I don't think so."

A soft grunt was the only sound that came from the man's lips as Mariku sharply hit a nerve in his neck. He fell to the floor with the needle in hand, unconscious. His gaze darted towards the boy on the bed who was looking at him through half-lidded eyes. He recognized him to be…

"Malik? Are you hurt?" He asked, praying that he remembered the boy's name right. He reached out to touch his arm, but he was pushed away with Malik's remaining strength.

"Don't – Don't touch me…"

Mariku's brow furrowed as he realized that this was probably drugs talking and not Malik. But surely Malik knew him, so why would he be scared? He didn't know any drugs that had this type of effect on anyone. Malik still had his clothes on, so he knew that he wasn't raped, and therefore can't be traumatized. Instead, he appeared to be in shock, but of what?

"Malik? Don't you remember me? We met a week ago, I think. It's Mariku." He gently pressed the boy, trying to touch his cheek.

"I said don't touch me!" He screamed as he flinched away.

"Malik!" A new voice was heard and Mariku turned. It was the silver-haired waiter that Bakura had the hots for. Speaking of the devil, Bakura himself stood behind the younger teen.

"Mariku? What the hell happened here? Another dope victim?"

Mariku tried to prevent a small smile. Bakura was always too blunt for his own good sometimes. But there was a more serious matter at hand.

"I think so. He was probably drugged with something other than dope, though." He replied, gesturing to the trembling blond beside him. Malik appeared to be breathing heavily, and Mariku guessed that any minute from now he would pass out.

"No, it has to be dope. He reeks of it." Bakura observed, and Mariku was silently amazed at how he could sense the drug when he was about ten feet away.

Bakura frowned as he looked at Ryou's worried face. It didn't suit his fair face at all, but obviously this boy on the bed was a close friend of his. "Ryou, go to your friend. Try to talk to him, see if he responds."

Without replying, Ryou made his way to Malik's other side. "Malik, please talk to me. Do you want to go back?" He asked softly, moving to touch Malik's arm. He was a bit hurt when Malik tried to pull away, clearly still afraid of something. Ryou stubbornly held onto his arm.

"Malik, I'll take you back to the dorm." Ryou whispered. Malik turned his head to look at Ryou, and the other boy was surprised to see tears staining his tanned cheeks. Ryou suppressed his own tears and fiercely embraced Malik.

"Oh, Malik… I'm sorry. I'm sorry." He murmured as he held Malik against him.

"Please – no more…" Malik slurred before going completely limp in Ryou's arms.

"If you want, I'll carry him back to your dorm," came the soft, sympathetic voice of Bakura as he stood beside Ryou and Malik. "I'll just go outside to check on the club and bring in some bouncers to pick this drug dealer up, and then—"

"No, I'll carry him back." Mariku interrupted, eyes soft as he moved to touch Malik's flushed cheek. Ryou eyed Mariku carefully, suspecting that he and Malik already knew each other.

Bakura nodded grimly, and he took one last, lingering glance at Ryou before he went outside to check on the club's condition. Fortunately, almost nothing changed. People were apparently used to screams coming from the back room, since the club back rooms were sometimes used as means to have cheap sex. It was Mariku's job to "listen in" on the goings-on inside the rooms, to make sure nothing fishy was happening.

"Akira! Ruko!" He called his two most trusted bouncers over.

"Yeah, boss? More trouble?" Akira grunted.

Bakura gestured to the opened back room. "Take out the dealer on the floor. Bring him to the second level."

"To Boss Yami?"

"Exactly. Now go."


"Who dares to step into the pharaoh's throne room?"

Yugi almost rolled his eyes. He had to go through these formalities every night that he went into the Psychedelic Monkey. Why did Yami always insist on that, anyway? Probably for showing off, he thought, snorting.

He cleared his throat. "It is I, his humble consort." He smirked lightly, more than sure that the word 'consort' would get through the guard's head.

The guard, dressed in ancient Egyptian garb, blinked and tried to focus his eyes to the teen below him. Damn dim lights. If he had known that this was the consort of the 'pharaoh', he would have let him in instantly. The pharaoh's consort wasn't exactly one to mess with, since anyone who messed with him indirectly messed with the pharaoh. And no one should even dare mess with the pharaoh.

"You may enter, pharaoh's consort."

"Thank you." Finally, Yugi thought. Now he would get to see Yami, probably dressed in his usual Egyptian Pharaoh garb, a signal to everyone that he was basically the 'King' of the club.

"Hi, Yami."

The part-time teacher, part-time club owner almost fell out of his 'throne' when he heard his little one's voice. Yami turned and gracefully pulled his golden mask off. "Yugi? What are you doing here? I thought you had that test tomorrow?"

Yugi smiled, shrugging. "It's a pretty fast read, anyway. No big deal. Is everything okay?"

Yami nodded. "Yes, fortunately. There was a slight commotion before you came, but it's settled now… I hope."

"You hope?"

"It's probably just a couple screwing the living daylights out of each other," Yami smiled suggestively at Yugi, who blushed and hissed an indignant "Yami!"

"The worst case scenario would be if someone was drugged, or maybe even raped." Yami instantly regretted what he said for he saw Yugi's violet eyes darken.

"Yugi, I'm sorry. That was callous of me—"

"No, Yami. It's okay." Yugi said, lacking conviction. Yami noticed this, but he did not press the issue further.

"Yugi, come here." Yami gestured to his lap, only covered in a piece of white and blue linen cloth. Yugi smiled slightly at him before complying with his request. Once he was settled comfortably, Yugi wrapped his arms around Yami's neck, feeling the cold surface of the gold ringlet tickle his skin.

"Are these all real, Yami?" Yugi murmured, trying to divert their conversation to something else.

"Of course. I wouldn't seem so regal if it was fake, would I?" Yami answered, raising his hands a little to show the gold ringlets encircling his shoulders, wrists and arms. Yugi chuckled in reply, toying with Yami's golden earrings as he did so.

"You seem so fond of gold, Yami." He said, his fingers trailing from Yami's ears, to his cheeks, to his golden 'crown' in the shape of an eye, which was nestled comfortably between Yami's spiky blond bangs. His other hand patted the series of golden ringlets on Yami's waist that held his white robe together.

"Nothing but the best for the pharaoh." Yami retorted, looking straight into Yugi's eyes. The unspoken statement of "you are the best for me" lingered in the air, and both leaned in for a kiss. They could already feel each other's breath tickling the other's lips, they were so close, so close…

"Boss! We've got a dealer here!"

… And yet so far. Yugi sighed against his lips, clearly disappointed. Yami almost barked out an enraged "You're all fired!" if not for the imminent self-control that he possessed. Yugi shook his head and hopped off Yami's lap. Likewise, Yami stood up from his throne, his navy blue cape seemingly flowing behind his back.

"Bring him in!" Yami commanded. The two bouncers dragged a semi-conscious man to his feet. They harshly threw the man down, his face touching Yami's sandals. Yami sneered and Yugi winced quietly as he stood by Yami's side.

Yami turned to the two bouncers, who he recognized as Akira and Ruko. "Why is he like this? Did you do something to him?"

"Boss Mariku hit him in the neck so he could pass out. We just slapped him awake." Akira replied, smirking. Yami's lips curved into a dark smile. Ah, yes. Mariku's infamous blow could very well prove fatal to anyone who was on the receiving end of it. This man was lucky that he could still even move.

"Did you search his pockets?"

Ruko nodded gruffly, pulling out a small packet filled with what Yami assumed to be dope, and an injection needle.

Yami crouched low, so he was eye-level with the man. "What is your name?"

"I… I won't tell nothin'!"

Yami growled, clenching the man's collar in his fist. He brought the man's face close to his own, and he noted with pride how the man shook like a little child in his grasp. "Don't make this hard for you. I'll ask again. What – is – your – name?"

"Ku-Kusanagi… Shi-Shiro…"

Yami grinned. "Kusanagi, eh? What is in that injection needle?"

"Num – numbing drug…"

"Who sent you here?," came Yami's abrupt question.

Kusanagi's eyes widened. He couldn't risk anything. Besides, he didn't have any orders yet and in the first place, he had acted on his own.

"No one… no one."

"Really? Are you a drug lord yourself, then?"

"N – no…"

"Yes, it seems so. You seem too foolish to be a drug lord. I'll re-phrase the question instead. Who do you work for?"

Kusanagi's heart pounded wildly. Oh, no. There was technically no escape now. But he couldn't risk saying his employer's name. Still, there was a chance that he would be released if the rumors were true.

"Why… why would I say it? You won't kill me anyway." He answered, daring to be arrogant. If the rumors that the 'pharaoh' of the club didn't kill anyone were true, then he would be safe.

To his surprise, Yami gave him a feral grin. "You think so? I wouldn't play that kind of game if I were you," He unsheathed a small but incredibly sharp dagger from his leg, and brought its tip to the man's trembling cheek. "Either you tell me who you're working for," He trailed the dagger from his cheek, down to the curve of his throat. "Or you could risk getting your precious head cut off. What do you say, hmm?"

The man raised his head defiantly, his rugged face becoming more visible with the light. Then suddenly, everyone heard a sharp gasp from Yugi, who had been silent all this time.

Without taking the dagger off Kusanagi's throat, Yami turned to Yugi. "What's wrong?"

"I recognize him." Yugi murmured, feeling dizzy all of a sudden. "He was – he was the one who drugged me, a week and a half ago. It's him! I know it!"

Yami felt his rage grow with every word that Yugi spoke, and he pressed the dagger's tip further into his captive's throat. Kusanagi cried out as the dagger pierced his skin, drawing blood.

"I'll ask again, and you will answer, or else you will die." Yami hissed low in his throat, and he was more than serious this time. He hadn't felt this dire need to kill someone eversince that one day during his and Bakura's childhood inside the Crawford Mansion, a day he personally wanted to banish forever.

"Who – do – you – work – for?"

"I ain't tellin'!"

Yami angrily slashed the dagger through Kusanagi's chest, and the crimson tint immediately spilled onto the man's shirt and on Yami's arm. The two bouncers remained passive, but Yugi put his hands over his mouth in silent horror. He felt the beginnings of tears form in his eyes, and he turned away from the scene, clutching his neck.

"Who do you work for?!" Yami repeated, his yell echoing all over the second floor.

Kusanagi groaned in agony as he clutched his bloody chest. More blood spilt from his mouth. "Craw… Crawford"

Yami's eyes narrowed, holding the dagger painfully tight in his palm. "Really? How funny." His voice held no humor in it as he spoke coldly. "May this be a lesson to your master, worthless creature. This will be his future, as it will be yours." He poised the blade directly above Kusanagi's heart. With one swift throw, he would be dead. Yami almost wanted to laugh in maniacal glee.

Small, slender arms wrapped itself around Yami's jewel-clad waist. "No! Yami, don't do it!"

"Yugi, let go."

"No." Yugi said stubbornly, burying his face in Yami's cape-laden back. He was shaking in terror as tears made its way down his cheeks. This boy wasn't the Yami he knew. This boy wasn't the Yami he loved.

"Yugi, he deserves to die. You know this as much as I do."

Yugi released his waist, and Yami turned to him. "No… no, I don't know. I know what he did to me, Yami. But no one deserves to die like that. Not even him."

"Yugi, are you out of your mind?," Yami asked, disbelieving. "He drugged you! He almost tried to rape you! He would have killed you! Then what about me? If you died, do you know what would have happened to me? Do you? I can never risk losing you to this!"

His words would have been the sweetest thing that Yugi heard if not for the fact a man's life was currently resting in their hands. His voice was cracked as he spoke. "Please, Yami. Just let him go. Make sure he doesn't do anything like that again. But don't kill him."

Yami probed Yugi's pleading eyes, filled with tears. He hated seeing his love cry, especially if it was because of him. With a decision made in his mind, he put the dagger back into its sheath. He gestured to the two bouncers standing by.

"Bring him to the farthest back room. Tie him in there and make sure he can't escape. Inform Bakura and Mariku about him, and tell them to see me right now. Well, what are you waiting for? Get this fool out of my sight now before I change my mind and decapitate him."

Yugi almost backed away from the sheer cold in Yami's tone. Both watched as the two bouncers dragged the excessively bleeding man down to the first level. Yami wordlessly turned to Yugi, eyes softening as he saw his little one's tears.

"Yugi, please stop crying."

Yugi furiously wiped the tears away with the back of his arm. "I can't help it, Yami. I'm… not used to you being like… that."

Yami hung his head, his anger gradually disappearing to be replaced by remorse. "I'm sorry."

Yugi didn't know what to say in return, and he shook his head instead. "I think I need to go back to my dorm. I'll… I'll be seeing you around, Yami." He said, moving up to peck Yami on the cheek. The small kiss felt dull and lifeless, and it was so chaste it wasn't even enough to satisfy a virgin.

As he watched Yugi walk away from the club, Yami suddenly felt drained. He sat down on his throne, taking off the crown that covered his forehead. His blond bangs fell to his face as he clutched his temple.

He knew for a fact that Yugi was hurt inside. But he didn't know why. What was so wrong about wanting to protect the one that you loved the most?


Ryou, with an unconscious Malik held in Mariku's arms, entered room 1254 of the Domino High Dormitory. Mariku raised a light eyebrow as he glanced at their room in mild wonder. So this was where the two boys lived. To top it off, it was a very fine coincidence that the boys that he and Bakura had been, for lack of better words, chasing after were best friends. Very fine coincidence, indeed.

A smirk crossed Mariku's face as he remembered that Yami's little pet studied in that very school as well. Maybe they also knew a certain Mutou Yugi. Maybe they even had Yami for a teacher. What a twist of fate if they were all connected to each other in some way.

"Uhm… Osiris-san?" Ryou's soft, shy voice penetrated through his train of thought.

"Oh, right, sorry. Which bunk should I put him in?"

"Malik's on the top bunk, normally. But I figured it would be easier for him if he would take the lower bunk. I don't want him to fall out of the bed if he wakes up suddenly."

"Wise kid" Mariku complimented him as he set Malik down on the lower bunk as he was told. Mariku didn't resist the urge to smooth Malik's wheat-blond bangs off his forehead. He marveled at the younger boy's almost ethereal beauty as he sat down on the edge of the bed, then he turned to look at Ryou.

"If you want, you can skip work tomorrow. Kami-sama knows that Malik here needs special care."

Ryou blinked, then shook his head. "As much as I want to, I can't. I've really got to earn money for myself. But…," He lowered his head, clearly torn between two decisions. "I really do want to take care of Malik, too. I feel that it's partly my fault for not looking out for him."

Mariku shook his head. "It's not your fault, Ryou. It's no one's fault. Besides, you were doing your job."

At the mention of his job, Ryou paled visibly. "Oh, no. I left early and I was supposed to be there until ten. I'm sorry, Osiris-san!" He exclaimed, bowing apologetically.

Mariku chuckled, waving his hand in dismissal. "Don't worry about it. We'll still give your pay. It's almost nine thirty, anyway."

Ryou sighed in relief, smiling at Mariku gratefully. "Thank you."

Mariku nodded. "No problem. So, I guess you'll be coming to work the day after tomorrow?"

"If it's okay with Yami-san and Bakura-san, too…"

"I'll take care of those two for you. You have a reasonable enough excuse to miss work. They'll understand. Yami and Bakura are good people, although they've both had tough times."

Ryou tilted his head in mild curiosity. "Tough times?"

Mariku cursed inwardly since he almost gave he and his friends' secrets away. He looked up to find Ryou's wide, hazel eyes staring at him, as if he were looking right through him. Strangely, he felt as if he couldn't exactly lie to the boy just like that. "Yeah, tough times. Did you know that they're technically brothers?"

Ryou's face had the most bewildered expression on it that Mariku just had to chuckle. "They don't look alike at all, I know. But they are, if you look at legal documents and all that shebang. There it says in bold letters, 'Crawford Yami and Crawford Bakura'. The same man adopted them both. Yeah, their last names don't fit, right? That's one of the reasons why they had to switch back to their real birth names when—"

"… When what, Mariku-san?"

Mariku caught himself just in time. Now that part of Yami and Bakura's past wasn't in his place to reveal. "Ah, nothing."

"But you also implied that there are more reasons to them changing their last names. What happened to their adoptive father?" Ryou knew that he shouldn't pry into something that was most likely intimate, personal details, but this was a chance to get to know Bakura. He wasn't the type to just let opportunities go by that quickly.

Mariku really had to commend Bakura's taste. Ryou had both beauty and brains, and was a very perceptive kid, to boot. Still, he wasn't one to go around spilling details about their pasts. "If you want those questions answered, you should go to Bakura. It's really not my place to tell you. Sorry, kid."

Ryou's curiosity was piqued even more with that, but he decided to give up on Mariku. "I understand."

Well, at least he knew his limits, Mariku thought. "I'll be going now, so you take good care of Malik here, okay?"

"Expect nothing less, Mariku-san." Ryou replied, smiling at the sight of Mariku lovingly caressing Malik's cheek in a gesture of farewell.

The older blond teen stood up from the edge of the bed, bidding goodnight to Ryou and silently wishing that Malik would recover soon. It looked like Malik had incredibly tough nerves, to withstand the alcohol and the admittedly small but nonetheless still dangerous amount of drugs. He still wondered what got him so shaken up when he tried to touch him, though. Well, he'd probably find out soon if Yami's interrogation was through. Or maybe he'd even find out from Malik himself.

That is, if Malik would ever set foot in the club again. Surely he would be terrified after what happened to him inside…

He distracted himself by humming idly while he walked the streets back to the club. As soon as he was about to go inside however, Akira hounded him instantly. "Boss Mariku! Boss Yami and Boss Bakura are waiting for you on the second level! Urgent business!"

Ugh. Those two impatient bastards. They were probably already pissed at him for being later than they expected. "Yeah, thanks for the info, Akira," he said in reply, setting his gaze upward to the second level. As expected, two pairs of eyes looked down at him, waiting.

When he finally ascended the stairs, he was a bit surprised to see that Yami and Bakura weren't snarling at him like rabid dogs. Instead, Yami looked dejected while Bakura's face was contorted into a rather uncharacteristic look of worry.

"Mariku, you're finally here." Yami greeted him, and there was emptiness in his voice.

"Something wrong, pharaoh?" He asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Of course there's something wrong, you twit. Someone was just drugged right under our noses." Bakura snapped at him.

"Not that. I mean, yeah, that's one of our troubles. But it looks as if Pharaoh here has other problems to deal with. Mind sharing some of them? I know Bakura here's an idiot when it comes to giving advice," Mariku ignored the heated glare and the clenched fist that was sent threateningly in his way. "But you know, if we can't help you, no one else can."

Yami stared at him, and Bakura's face turned serious as he murmured a barely audible "He's right, Yami. You have to tell us before it eats up what's left of your soul."

Yami sighed, massaging his temples as he purposely ignored Bakura's somewhat snide remark. "It's Yugi. Basically, he saw me torturing that dealer for information."

Mariku frowned. "So what? He's seen you in your worst moods."

"No. This has to be the worst yet," Yami answered, digging his fingers deeper onto his forehead. "I almost killed the guy because Yugi said that he was the one who drugged him a week and a half ago."

Bakura's previously narrowed eyes immediately widened. "You mean it was him?"

"Yes. I… I guess my self-control just slipped away, and I just wanted to slice him open so badly… Yugi stopped me, and I made Akira and Ruko take the dealer into the farthest back room. Then Yugi left, and he's hurting. But I don't know why."

Bakura approached him and patted his shoulder without any sign of hesitation. "He'll come to his senses soon. He… he loves you, right? And you were only doing it to protect him."

Yami closed his eyes. "But it still doesn't change the fact that I tried to kill the dealer. And I honestly would have done it, if it weren't for Yugi."

Mariku stared at him and Bakura for a long moment, before he broke the silence with his slowly whispered words,

"But – we promised never to kill again. No matter what. Right?"

Yami and Bakura looked back at him, and replied in perfect, grim synchrony,



A few hours passed with no trouble for Ryou and the still-out-cold Malik. Before anyone knew it, morning had come to herald the start of a new school day. As much as Ryou would like to skip classes to take care of Malik, he couldn't because of a particular History Exam. And so there he was, standing in front of their vanity mirror and fixing his black tie, but still feeling no less troubled.

He could almost hear Malik's teasing voice behind his back, chiding him with a loud "Ne, Ryou, Didn't I tell you that you'd look prettier if you braided your hair?" He didn't know why, but Malik had always tried to coax him to braid his hair, even attempting to tie him to a chair and braid his hair himself. Of course, that didn't work in the end because of a certain talent that Ryou had at escaping any kind of bindings.


It wouldn't exactly hurt to actually grant one of Malik's long-time wishes. He allowed himself a small smile as he picked up a black hair band perched precariously atop one of the wooden edges of the mirror. Carefully, he separated his hair into three different parts and began to braid it to perfection.

He reached behind to secure the end, then tucked a few strands of silver hair that had escaped from its confines behind his ear. He was almost afraid to look in the mirror, thinking to himself that he must somehow look ridiculous, not to mention all-too feminine. He already had a face that was too effeminate for his liking, and he knew the braid accentuated that particular feature.

He turned away from the mirror and quietly picked up his school bag. Feeling the light weight of his braid hit his back, he almost swatted at it irritably. Then he turned to look at Malik's sleeping form on the lower bunk, and he sighed. If only Malik was okay…

He went outside and locked the door to their dorm, and began to walk the corridors towards his first class. He passed by a few lower classmen who knew him and they waved at him, and he returned it in kind, albeit weakly.

He entered his homeroom class without many fanfares, aside from the occasional compliment of his "new hairdo". Then Yugi came in, looking forlorn and beaten-down.

His brows creased as Yugi sat down next to him. "Yugi, what's wrong?"

Yugi's head snapped up to look at him, and he could see the red in the smaller teen's eyes as though he had been crying buckets of tears. "Oh… Hi, Ryou. I didn't see you there for a second." He laughed weakly and forced a smile.

Ryou clearly did not appreciate that much. He already had an unconscious Malik to deal with and here was another stubborn, possibly sick friend who wanted to play guessing games with him. "Yugi, what happened to you? Lately, you haven't exactly been yourself. Tell me what's wrong."

Ryou swore that Yugi almost looked panicked for a second, but Yugi lowered his head. "No, nothing's wrong, really," He looked back and stared at Ryou to try and divert the conversation. "Wow, Ryou, I like what you've done to your hair today. You look… pretty."

If there was another thing he didn't like, it was half-hearted attempts to distract him from more important matters. And he was just called pretty, which he didn't exactly like, either, since he was a boy. ( He seemed to conveniently forget the fact that Bakura had called him "beautiful" just the night before, and he didn't mind it at all ) The only one he knew who liked being called pretty was Malik, and he didn't really count, since Malik was insane and vain and… drugged.

Ryou suppressed a shiver down his spine as he opened his mouth to try to talk to Yugi again, but he was stopped as a hand gleefully fingered his braid. It was Jounouchi.

"Jou-kun!" Yugi exclaimed, a huge and ultimately grateful smile overtaking his face as he looked up at the sunshine blond-haired boy.

"Hey, Yugi! Hey, Ryou!" He greeted, still not letting go of Ryou's braid. "Nice braid you got here, Ryou! You look like… like an angel! Was it Ishtar who did this? If he did, he could definitely be a hell of a stylist in the future!"

Jou and Yugi did not notice the way that Ryou stiffened at the mention Malik's last name. "Malik isn't coming to class today, he's – sick… so I did this myself."

"Sick? That blond bimbo is sick?" Came the dignified voice of one Kaiba Seto as he too, entered the classroom and went towards Jou and company's direction. "Somehow I find that hard to believe. He's got one of the toughest nerves of anyone I know," He turned to Ryou and raised a fine eyebrow "Are you sure he isn't playing hooky or off fucking someone's brains out?"

Yugi's light blush and Jou's indignant squawk all paled in comparison to Ryou's sharp glare. "Seto-kun, I won't take kindly to you insulting Malik when he's clearly too sick to defend himself."

Surprisingly enough, Seto nodded and mumbled a barely audible "Sorry" at Ryou. The silver-haired boy wasn't a pretty sight at all when he was angry. Didn't they always say that you had to watch out for the quiet, beautiful ones because they were the ones who could cause a real ruckus?

The bell rang, and everyone took their respective seats, abruptly ending the four's exchanges. It wasn't Yami-sensei who entered when the second bell rang, but rather it was their principal, and in tow was a tall, brown-haired boy about their age.

"Class," The principal called out to get their attention, and everyone went silent. "You have a new student joining you today. Please introduce yourself."

The boy nodded, and he beamed at the whole class. "My name is Honda Hiroto and I'm a student transferee from Kanagawa. It's nice to meet you all."



In the next chapter, the new transfer student unexpectedly takes a liking to Ryou, Malik is still bedridden and… what's this? Bakura comes for a visit? Looks like Ryou and Bakura's romance is finally going to go somewhere! all the fluff fans rejoice But what about the three club owners' pasts? How is that connected to anything? Find out in the coming chapters!

Oh, and take note of Ryou's "talent", because I think it'll come in handy in the chapters to come… hint hint On another sidenote, you may recognize the one I described to be Yami's pharaoh get-up since it's his real pharaoh garb in the Anime's Egyptian arc, episodes 201-202.

A big, huge THANK YOU to my encouraging reviewers:

koumori wolf, Rikainiel, December Jewel, Elle-FaTe2x1, Wizzu, citcat-chan, Maruken, DreamingChild, It'sHardToBelieve, Sugar-Kat, scryed, AngelStarFire Hikarist: Ack! I updated already! Thank you for the praise and support, and I hope you guys enjoyed this one as well.

Princess of Mirrors: Everything I've wanted to say to you was already said in our emails, still, thank you for everything.

Yamiyugistalker: Err… Somehow, I've never taken to praise that much, especially praise of your kind. My humble servant? Oh my... you make me blush, really. It's great to know that you think this is a cool idea, thanks so much for that.

person6: Aah! Yeah, Crawfords are screwed, aren't they? Well, all I can say is that Kaiba is definitely not the blue-eyed guy from last chapter. How many acts will there be? About three, I guess. Also, as much as I would want to, I can't tell right now if Crawford will die in the end ( Read: I don't know myself . Ehehe...). There wasn't much fluff in this one, but the next chapter will be loaded with it, as far as I can tell. Thanks and much love!