Couplings: YnBakura/Otogi (one-sided)
Timeline: Several weeks after "Spider Web".
Disclaimer: Yu-gi-oh is the property of Takahashi Kazuki.
Notes: The story begins with a YnYuugi focus, moves on to Yami no Bakura at the scene shift, and becomes more neutral in the third scene.
Scruple \'skrupel\ n : reluctance due to ethical considerations 
"You have to stop, Bakura."
How many times had those words been said already? One would think the pharaoh would eventually tire of them, especially considering the circumstances, but apparently he was still deriving some type of pleasure from humiliating himself over and over again. Yami no Bakura smiled dryly, his red eyes fixated on the figure standing before him as he shifted slightly in his 'seat'. Even seated, he was still taller than the other spirit, although that might have been more because his throne was elevated. Such a reversal of roles, really.
"Haven't we had this conversation before, pharaoh? Do you really think it'll make a difference, or are you still just trying to placate your host?"
The pharaoh might have flinched if it wasn't for the fact that he had heard all of this before, and that he would probably be hearing it again. It happened once a week since that time, and it looked as if it might never stop. It certainly had never varied in pattern, although sometimes he would stay for a little longer than before. But then again, sometimes he would leave quickly, as if by saying the words he had completed his duty and had no reason to think of it further until the next time.
"This is not a game."
"It isn't? I think it is, trying to see how long you'll keep doing this. Probably until your precious host forgets, and he's not liable to be doing that any time soon, is he? I hate to tell you this, but going through the motions isn't enough. You have to at least sound like you mean it, although both you and I know that you don't. It's just a game, you see, to see how much longer you'll keep indulging the brat until you lose interest completely."
Yami no Yuugi did flinch this time, but he kept his eyes carefully trained on Yami no Bakura as the well-practiced lie fell from his lips, "I don't know what you mean."
"Don't lie – you're not good at it. You think you are but you're not, and just because you keep telling the same lie over and over again doesn't mean that you get any better at it. You fool those idiotic 'friends' of yours, but don't flatter yourself into thinking that you can do the same with me. I should know, since I've had to deal with your kind for all my decidedly long – your fault again, pharaoh – life. But are you really going to stand tell and tell me that you don't know what I mean?"
"What, do I have to remind you again? This part of the game is starting to get a bit old, to be truthful, but I'll play along a little longer." The thief was still smiling, but it seemed to be becoming more strained as he leaned back, resting his elbows on the arms of the nonexistent chair and looking almost as if he was the king while the pharaoh was the servant. "How long has this been going on?"
He wasn't going to fall into that trap again. He wasn't. He had the first time, but never again. Why did the white-haired thief continue to ask him that question then?
Perhaps the same reason why he carried on this little charade of caring?
But it wasn't really a charade, was it? It wasn't like he could have done anything before, just like he wasn't able to do anything now. He was trying, wasn't he? How could Yami no Bakura sit there and say that he didn't care when he didn't have to be here?
The silence dragged on, as it seemed that the other spirit had no intention of speaking until he spoke first.
Letting out a breath, he tried to remain calm and poised as he spoke, but nothing could stop the small quake that would have gone unnoticed by an unpracticed ear. But Yami no Bakura wasn't an unpracticed ear, and he knew what to look for.
"… since Yuugi found out about all of this. But what about before that, pharaoh?"
He didn't respond. He just glared, as if that would somehow change everything that had happened. Perhaps he could make the thief evaporate – that would solve plenty of his problems, at least. It would accomplish this task which would then satisfy his aibou, and then –
And then nobody would ever know.
He blinked furiously. Could it really have been that long?
"Three months," the thief repeated. Cold. Calculating. Perfect in every way because he knew all and saw all, and no amount of denial could ever make him back away from the truth. A strange ability for one as dishonest as him, but it served the thief well and he hated him for that. "Three months is a long time to ignore something like that, isn't it? Yet you managed to do it quite nicely – I wasn't even sure if you knew or not. It's always hard to tell with you, since you don't really have as much in the way of observation skills as you would like the rest of the world to believe. But you did know, don't try to deny it. And yet you did nothing to stop me.
"And you do nothing to deny what I've just said."
It wasn't true. He did care. He'd just missed it, that was all. Right?
Sometimes it was hard to tell if these were his own thoughts, or if Yuugi had somehow filtered into his mind. He hoped it was the former, although unconsciously he knew it was the latter. It had to be, or else he would have done something from day one.
But he hadn't. He didn't know why he had not, although he had tried to rationalize it as the weeks went by. Slow, mind-numbing weeks. Nothing seemed to change, so eventually he had dismissed it as some personal matter that he didn't have to get involved with. Even though as he thought those words, he could feel the thief smirking at him.
He'd never been close to Otogi Ryuuji – not like he'd been close to the rest of Yuugi's friends. It was similar to the way he treated Bakura, a vague sense of loyalty that was permeated with a suspicion that kept him at an arm's length from the teen. With Otogi, he could never really let go of the animosity that had colored their introduction to each other, and perhaps that was what kept him from really ever noticing.
Or really, from ever doing anything about it.
So he watched, although he tried not to. He didn't want to see anything that would invalidate his actions, or really the lack thereof. But all of that had changed, when his host had decided to go to the other teen's apartment out of concern. Otogi had been absent for the past couple of days, and although he had called in sick, Yuugi just had to be the perfect friend and take it upon himself to go and bring the class work even though everyone knew that when you were sick, the last thing you wanted to do was work.
It had really been an excuse though, to go see him. Sometimes he wondered if Yuugi has suspected something was wrong the entire time, although the teen was simply too naïve to ever believe that something as bad as this was happening.
The spirit had wanted to stop him, although he wasn't quite sure why. And because he wasn't able to justify it, he had kept silent. According to Yami no Bakura, it was because Yuugi seeing meant that he would have to do something. And based on his own beliefs… he wasn't sure anymore.
Yuugi had gone to the apartment, all smiles and oozing with a happiness that always made him a little sick to the stomach. The smile had remained on his face as he practically skipped to his friend's door, eager to see Otogi and perhaps impart a couple words of wisdom when it came to what type of soup he should be drinking. Yami no Yuugi didn't know. He didn't really know if he cared either because it was what happened next that had caused the rules to change so dramatically.
When the door opened, Yuugi was still smiling. But it only lasted for a couple more seconds because the smile abruptly slipped off, and the textbooks and papers had dropped to the ground as Yuugi stared at his friend in shock.
He had taken over, at this point. He had taken over because that's what he was supposed to do as Yuugi's guardian, and he had taken over in time to see Otogi thrown roughly to the side as the thief took his place at the door, leering at the pharaoh.
And that was when the game had begun, although if he were truthful with himself he would have known that it had really started a lot earlier than that.
Looking back at that incident, thinking about it… he wanted to curse the thief to eternal damnation. He didn't know why Yami no Bakura had allowed the teen to open the door, as it wasn't like he actually cared about giving rise to suspicions if there had been no response.
But Yami no Yuugi knew… knew, beyond any reasonable doubt that the thief had planned for this. It wasn't surprising, as Ryou had been with the group when Yuugi had announced his plans to go visit the raven-haired teen. The bastard had known about all of this, and it almost seemed like he had been waiting for all of this happen. Waiting for Yuugi to come, waiting for Yuugi to find out, waiting for this game to begin.
~ * ~
"It's a good thing you were around to shield your host's ears, hmm?"
The pharaoh had not been amused.
"Let him go, Bakura."
He'd smiled then. Of course he had smiled; he had no reason not to. There was a new player now, one that he could twist just as he had distorted the lithe creature lying on the ground into something that was beyond recognition.
He had needed a new challenge, as he had finally won his current one. The new game would not require any changes to this one, as he would be able to keep doing as he had done before with only minimal changes on his behalf. With this game, he could keep Ryuuji as a pawn while he watched the pharaoh fight between his saintly half and the true monster that laid beneath all those trappings.
"Oh, and since when did you start to care?"
The pharaoh hadn't responded, but he let it slide. There would be plenty of time later to exploit that crack, but at that moment he had needed to set up the playing field.
"Besides. I don't have any idea what you're talking about."
That had been a good response. The pharaoh's wine-red eyes had narrowed into oh-so-self-righteous fury, and he's laughed. The laugh had caught the other spirit off-guard, and he had taken that moment to grab Ryuuji by the arm and pull him up.
Ryuuji had been especially pretty that day, if especially annoying too in the fact that the entire time they had been talking, he had just laid there watching the two. Not that the thief knew what a better response would have been, but he had been annoyed nevertheless at this behavior. But two days of such rough treatment were bound to make him a little more annoying than usual, and as long as he didn't flop over dead at an inconvenient time, Yami no Bakura didn't really foresee any immediate problems.
"Ryuuji?" His voice had been sickeningly sweet when he spoke the name, and the name choice had caused Yami no Yuugi's eyebrows to shoot up and throw a quick look at the teen. But it had happened far too many times for Ryuuji to react, let alone care, so he had continued in an almost blithe tone that really made him want to laugh. "Ryuuji, do you want me to let you go?" he'd asked as his grip tightened so that Ryuuji was whimpering ever so slightly. Enough so that the pharaoh couldn't pretend not to notice, anyway.
It would have been just his luck if Ryuuji had actually responded. He'd known that the possibility was there, but he didn't let it affect him. Why should he? It wouldn't have made a difference anyway, so he just waited for whatever should happen.
Which, in that case, had been nothing.
It was hard to tell who was more surprised about it. The pharaoh had only stared at the two as if they were both insane, and there was a dazed panic in those large green eyes that seemed to wonder the same exact thing. But if he hadn't spoken before, he wouldn't speak now.
"See?" he'd asked mockingly as he let Ryuuji drop to the ground. "Did you hear an answer? I didn't."
The pharaoh was still staring at the teen, his mouth opening and closing like a fish, but at those words he'd sharply turned to look at the thief, straightening as much as his diminutive frame could – which wasn't much and therefore not exactly impressive.
"Stop playing games, Bakura." Acid had dripped from every word, and he'd laughed again in response. "I told you to let him go."
"But you never cared before, did you?"
"I said, let him go!"
"Repeating yourself isn't going to change matters, pharaoh. Isn't there anything else you can talk about, or may I wish you a fond farewell?"
At this point, he'd looked down to find Ryuuji looking at Yami no Yuugi pleadingly. And he knew that the other spirit could see it, no matter how much he tried to ignore it. But you couldn't ignore something like that, not unless you were blind. Quite happily, the pharaoh didn't have that excuse, as being very stupid and very arrogant didn't allow one to constitute as being completely disabled when it came to observation skills.
Yet he still did nothing, instead standing there.
It amazed him, even now, although it was almost a lazy type of amazement that came as easily as an observation of how the sky was foggy one day. It meant more but he just didn't bother to feel any emotions to support it.
"This isn't over."
It hadn't even begun. The pharaoh hadn't even done anything except rattle off some useless words. He was supposed to do more. He hadn't.
Oh, this was going to be interesting.
"You are welcome to try again."
He'd felt like an entertainer, one of those players who put something underneath one of three bowls and mixed them up. And the pharaoh was a customer, blind and unsuspecting as he gave away a little only to come up with nothing. Despite the failures, he kept coming back too, over and over again as he tried to win just that once so he could finally walk away satisfied.
But he never would.
~ * ~
And here they were again. Playing the same old game without any variation, or at least no variation that could be seen by an unpracticed eye. But the pharaoh was breaking down, the repetitiveness and the lack of any real result starting to tear at him. It wasn't much – it never was – but it was there.
Yami no Bakura reveled in it.
"This isn't over, Bakura."
Again, saying that. Like it would make some type of difference, even though it never had before.
The thief smiled indulgently.
"You are welcome to try again, pharaoh." He usually stopped there, but for some reason decided to continue that day, "It's never going to be over until you learn to accept that you really don't give a damn about what I do. But you can't admit it to yourself, can you? You can't and you never will. Your conscience won't let you accept that you're just as dark and twisted as I am, even though we know you would be so much better off if you could just confess that particular little shortcoming."
Yami no Yuugi opened his mouth to say something, but the darkness was already starting to disintegrate and Yami no Bakura was beginning to fade away. And as he tried, again, to figure out exactly what had just happened, he could hear the thief's disembodied voice question him mockingly.
"Same time next week?"
A laugh, and then he was alone in the empty classroom.
 Merriam Webster's Pocket Dictionary, © 1995 by Merriam-Webster, Incorporated