I'm sorry it took so long. I'M SORRY! I really am. (grovels)


He was standing outside in the rain, alone and wearing a drenched shirt and jeans without shoes or a coat. It was barely two in the morning and muggily warm still, and his face was turned to the sky while he licked greedily at the rain.

He heard a window open somewhere on the street, and heard it slam shut just as quickly. If it had anything to do with seeing a ghostpale boy performing a strange self-made rain-worshipping ritual, he didn't give a damn.

Perhaps that was best.

Youth and love and life, power and madness and loss. Everything was about the past and he wasn't sure he wanted it that way. He had the here and now in all its beauty and painfulness, and what was history to intrude on that and warp it to its demands?

He ignored the answer, though he knew it all the way to the darkest corners of his mind. History was everything. History had every right.

His not to question why.

He threw his head back and screamed to the pouring sky.

The teacher had only been droning on about pyramids for fifteen minutes, and already Bakura Ryou was ready to pull a slip-sliding personality switch and start murdering things. Instead, he was forced to content himself to ticking off everything in the textbook that was wrong and to keeping track of how many times he and Yuugi twitched simultaneously. It was sort of fun.

"...and this pharaoh bore a striking resemblance to someone in this class, hmm?" The teacher's eye fixed on Yuugi as the class tittered. Ryou himself had to fight back a laugh as Yuugi developed a spontaneous eye twitch on one side of his face. He had a vague suspicion that the eye twitch had nothing to do with the class, but rather everything to do with the inside of Yuugi's mind, which made it all the more amusing.

Ryou hadn't been able to find his other half that day. This was slightly alarming, but it had happened before. He didn't plan to get really alarmed and start calling the morgues until at least the next morning.

When Ryou called the morgues, it was never for anyone of his own description. It was to see if anyone had come in either with stab wounds, horribly mauled by an unknown animal, or simply looking as though they'd had their soul ripped away. The morgue attendants were really starting to wonder just what kind of deranged fetishist it was that called them with a schoolboy's voice about once every two months or so. Or they would, if Ryou didn't remember to quietly steal down afterwards and take their memories away with him each time.

A new slide flashed up on the board with a soft click. "And here is where archaeologists discovered what they believe to be a disused mummification room. It wasn't labeled disused for the reasons you'd expect, however." There was a pause while the class blinked itself out of its stupor and looked mildly inquisitive. "It seems that in this room, seven items considered to be of great power were forged. All seven items have been deemed recovered and in good hands..."

Ryou ignored the teacher's long and complicated explanation of the financial complexities of a dig and looked sideways at Yuugi. Yuugi glanced back, then down at the Puzzle with an expression that thoroughly cursed the bulky shape which rendered it very unsuitable for wearing under a shirt. Ryou quietly ran one finger around the leather on his neck, pushing it further under his collar. The Ring was hidden, but Ryou was starting to have his suspicions about just who had provided the slides. The pictures looked incredibly like ones he himself had been forced to take, cursing the horrible lighting and inability to use flash the entire time. The sketch artist had been two weeks late, he'd remembered, and he'd stayed on until the man had finally showed. After that, he'd headed back to Japan, and all the complications that had ensued upon the receipt of one very well insured package.

"In this urn, some human remains were later found, dated to approximately the same time as the making of those seven items. Obviously this room had not been long disused..." It was another grainy photo, followed by a detailed sketch. Neither of them were things Ryou had remembered taking or drawing, but he remembered the urn.

He found that when he blinked, he remembered it in another context as well, feeling the souls shriek out from it and up through the floor when he walked through the palace doors. A devil-may-care smile and all the demons of hell urging him on was how he'd felt. Like Am'mit was yawning behind him.

But it hadn't been him feeling it.

His vision went painfully blurry, his eyes tearing up as he gasped for air. Even after so many years, one could feel the malevolent pain rising from the pictures, if one knew what to look for. He quietly stood, nearly fell over his books, and felt his way out the door without an explanation. The Ring was twisted in his collar and was choking him, so he ripped the fabric away and let the metal and leather hang free over his skin. It didn't occur to him that he was moving quickly, but by the time his teacher had looked out the door after him, he was gone.

He collapsed under the stairs, hands pressed over his face and tears streaming through his fingers. "Not me...not me not me not me..."

"Not you?" Yuugi found him there under the stairs some minutes later. He had left one body there to sit and look bored in a cramped classroom several hallways away while he himself pursued his friend. "Ryou, what is it?"

Ryou swiped at his eyes and looked up with a laugh. "I'm forgetting which one I am. It happens, you know, when you're the right one. You start to melt around the edges a little. I could have told him that, when he was so worried. I was already getting mixed up by then. It's only gotten worse now, though. I was there, you know. I took those pictures. The teacher will tell you it's through the generosity of my father that we have them, but I took the pictures. It was right before I came here and got the Ring seven years ago. And I was there again, however many thousands of years ago that it was. And I don't know which one is the real memory."

"Probably both," Yuugi said softly. "I think I know what you mean. I haven't had this as long as you have, though," he added, touching the Puzzle. "You know, is it me, or is our teacher looking very oddly at this thing?"

Ryou's eyes went distant. "I hate it when people give us that look," he said, and Yuugi instantly realized that the 'us' did not mean 'you and me'. "Better watch yourself."

Yuugi twiddled with the Puzzle vaguely. "You know, the last time I saw that look, I think the man who made it was eaten by Am'mit. Or maybe he turned into a zombie. Actually, I think both happened." At Ryou's look, he continued, "This was before you moved here."

"I'd guessed," Ryou said. "When I get that look, the headlines aren't about zombies. They're about Jack the Ripper copycats."

"Though there was one incident with rabid lemmings," Yuugi said thoughtfully. "That was the headline, anyway." He stood and offered one hand to Ryou. "This is one class I think we can skip."

The two drifted out of the building amidst quiet talk of a seashore visit, an odd jeweler, and a very angry Kuriboh.

We'll leave it to your imagination as to what kind of hell yami no Yuugi was raising in that Ancient History class.

It was in books that I found sanctuary. At least, as far as she was concerned. Thanks to Darien, I was fully literate in three languages, and spoke another in my curses and my dreams. Her language was something else entirely, but I didn't much care.

I wondered if my quick absorption of Greek, Latin, and Arabic had been from living in Darien's mind, or if I was just a quick scholar. Either was likely, but I didn't dwell on it much. There were scores of books in Greek, brimming with history and myths and legends. The hexameter got to be a little tedious after a while, but the content was far better and closer to sane than I'd been in ages. I also found a handful in Arabic, one of which was called Alf Laylah wa Laylah.

One thousand and one nights.

It made me want to laugh and cry and scream, all at once. Forever and a night, as it were. In my own language, 'one thousand' was the same as 'all'. Everything, and then one night more.

My life felt like that sometimes.

So I read it.

It was from the book that I learned stories, from the book that I learned to tell them. From the book that I learned to weave them together and into one another, so that everything that fell from my mouth was intricate tale-lies.

I knew that she spoke no Arabic. And I started to see a way to distract her, just a little. I didn't need to sleep or breathe or eat, though I did all three for my own purposes. So one night when she found me by following my chains, she yet again begged me for a story as she had not since I had nearly killed her, that one time.

So I smiled at her, something that made her eyes flicker and her breath go oddly, and started weaving lies and truth and fables in the hated link between her mind and mine.

If she loved me so well, I could feed her insanity with my own warped and twisted mind.

We're all mad here, I told her, and she certainly believed me.

I had forgotten how wonderful it felt to destroy something, even something as trivial as the remnants of her sanity.

In a small, cramped classroom, one new teacher of Ancient History was fuming over how badly his class had gone once that Mutou Yuugi had gotten his mouth started and trying to figure out how he was going to talk two of his students into giving him their very expensive jewelry.

Wandering the hallway outside of this small, cramped classroom was a soaking wet, slender white-haired young man. He didn't have any shoes on. He didn't know what he was doing there. All he had was the idea that something was very wrong, and that it was coming from this direction.

"There has to be some rule about flamboyant jewelry that would allow me to confiscate this. Or perhaps in payment for the slides? God, I need the money. 'Recovered and in good hands', my ass. No one knows where the hell they went, but the spin story's too good and too well paid for by that deranged family. I need the money..." Bakura curiously followed the voice and found himself dripping his way into a classroom that his other half would recognize easily.

The teacher stood up quickly, eyes flicking to the Ring on Bakura's chest. "Oh! Er. Bakura-kun. Did I mention that I wanted to thank you and your father for getting those slides? I, er, hope you're all right after today. You. Er. You're here to find out what's on the test tomorrow?"

Bakura's eyes narrowed. "You want this," he announced derisively, pulling the Ring away from his chest casually. "You want it for all the money it'll bring you."

"Er," said the teacher.

Bakura laughed, and the sound echoed awkwardly in the room. "I admire thieves who know what they are. But you're not that sophisticated. You're a piece of cheap trash, and you know what makes it worse? That you're going after this." Again with the tug on the Ring. "This is mine. Bound to me body and blood and soul. I get everything from this. Madness and love and hate and knowledge and myself. I get..." Here he smiled, trying to figure out just how to phrase it. "I get the boy who must sit in your classroom, editing the textbook whenever it's wrong and wearing this under his uniform. I get him."

"But you are him," the teacher blurted. "Aren't you?"

Bakura shrugged, insolent and graceful. His lips pursed as he gazed at the ceiling, fingers twisting around the Ring's cord. "Sometimes the lines blur, and sometimes people get confused. Sometimes it's both at once."

"Look," the teacher said desperately. "I know that your necklace is stolen property, and I can fix it up for you. I want to help you."

Bakura's eyes narrowed. "Of course it's stolen property. It's made of the blood and bone of my family and friends and people. I took it from the dead neck of one of the pharaoh's priests for all the power it held. And it stole my soul over five thousand years, ripping me six ways apart. And the seventh time? I'm finally starting to come back together. And if you think that you can change that, you're a fool and cursed into the bargain."

"Just give the damn thing to me!" the teacher finally burst out.

Bakura's fingers went to the small of his back and removed the item held there. "Mortal man. I don't even know your name," he added with contempt. "But you have no idea what I am. And you chose the worst day in the history of the world to try and fuck with me! I've seen royalty die! I've dragged them from their tombs and spat on their bones! I'm the tool of Ones you can't imagine and I've molded gods from my soul! And after my world ended, some human still wants to destroy my life. You're not even close to a god. I doubt you know what one is." The knife glimmered in the low lighting. "But I'm going to introduce you right now. Starting. With. Me."

"What is that thing you're copying?"

"It's a document of family history. I'm translating it."

I eyed the original, then the copy. "You're leaving things out and putting new things in," I said critically.

I expected a smack across the face for mistranslation, but was instead rewarded with a strange, off-kilter smile from Darien. "Lost in translation," he said simply, and went back to his work.

"You're deliberately changing history," I interpreted. "Why?"

Darien looked up at me with impatience. "I am the first to translate the history of this particular civilization. I can alter the history in a way that suits me."

"How will changing history help you?" I demanded. "It already happened."

"The victors write history," Darien said. "But I can depose those victors by erasing what they have written. Tell me, how did the lord of the lands to our east come by his property?"

"By inheritance," I said lazily. "Like you."

"And what tongue do his people speak? And by his people, I include his lawyers."

I eyed the translation. "Probably that one," I said, stabbing at it with a finger.

"According to this translation, who fell in line for the kingdom?"

I didn't even bother to look this time. "You."

Darien smiled again. I was beginning to wonder if the world was going to quietly end sometime soon. "Exactly. I shall be a king, if I play this right."

"He's not going to just hand over his kingdom to you based on a translation you wrote," I said scornfully.

"This translation will not be made in my name. It was a commission to a freelancing scholar, and it will stay that way," Darien said. "And he won't be alive to hand over his kingdom. He has no heirs, and he is unmarried. It will be kept that way."

"So you want me to knock him off," I said. "Right. When?"

Darien looked at the document. "You will take this to him in person first. He does not know you, or at least not well enough to understand what such a thing means."

I picked it up off the desk, inspected it, and put it back. "Messenger of death."

"You are more useful than a cadre of assassins," Darien said, scooping me onto his lap. I promptly elbowed him in the ribs and stalked away from his reach. "You will sit at the right hand of a king, my death-slave."

"I've been there," I said vaguely. "I much prefer the throne to any surrounding chair."

"Your time of power is over," Darien said, "and mine is only just coming to fruition. I will be as a god. I have told you this before."

I looked at him emptily. "I've seen gods die. I don't think I've ever mentioned that to you."

"Are you trying to intimidate me?" Darien asked, puffing up.

I shrugged. "Don't you have a translation to finish?"

Ryou picked up the phone and touched the speed dial number four.

The door swung open as the line clicked and connected. "Hello, Domino City Morgue."

Ryou's eyes met Bakura's, but he didn't hang up. "Could you tell me if someone's come in just now who looks like they've been done in by Jack the Ripper?"

"What? Why...yes," the mortician said, sounding startled. "This is the police?"

"Something like that," Ryou said softly, and hung up. "You have excellent timing," he said, heading for the door.

Bakura grabbed him as he passed and kissed him long and hard. Breaking away without a word, he filtered into the shadows before Ryou's eyes could focus on him.

"I'll be back in a bit," Ryou whispered to the empty house, and walked out into the pouring rain. There was blood smeared on his clothes and his mouth now, but Ryou didn't much care. He'd had worse.

It wasn't a long walk to the morgue if you knew which road to take. Ryou's preferred route usually went through the Shadow Realm.

"...and then they just hung up! God, I hate the loony factor in this job," a woman was complaining when he walked in the front door. The guard nodded sympathetically, then turned to look at him with bored curiosity.

"Good evening," Ryou said quietly, and smiled.

Five minutes later, the guard and the woman were both cheerfully unaware of any loony quotient for the day, the body of his teacher had been fed to hungry zombies in a certain badly-lit dimension, and the table had been hosed down. Ryou bit his lip thoughtfully as he scanned the room for anything else to fix, then proceeded to the phone. He scanned through the recorded list of caller ID, then deleted the lot.

It had been a while since the mortician had done so anyway.

When he went back into his house, he realized that he was still all over blood, despite the rain. Perhaps if he'd actually walked from the morgue, it would have come off, but Ryou had other things to do that night than lark about under the small lake that was being upended over his city.

"Where are you?" he asked, looking around.

Bakura said, after a long pause, "Here."

Ryou found himself yet again being grabbed and held against wet clothes that reeked of blood. "What happened?"

"You need a new Ancient History teacher," Bakura said. "Though you never needed one in the first place. I could tell you all you needed to know for that class."

"I knew that look was trouble," Ryou said into Bakura's shoulder. "I hate that look."

Bakura's eyes drifted closed. "He had forgotten the gods, so I reintroduced him. He wanted to break us apart, though he didn't understand what he would do. He was so...naïve."

"I did think that about him," Ryou said. "There won't be any repercussions." Holding Bakura back at arm's length, he looked critically at his other half. "You're soaked through and freezing. That can't be comfortable."

Bakura looked a bit bewildered, then said, "I hadn't really noticed."

"I know," Ryou said. "It's why I told you."

Bakura smiled, tired and full of quiet sin. "He tried to take you away."

"I think sometimes I forget which of us I am," Ryou replied, and this made perfect sense to the both of them.

"Everything twists into each other and you don't remember which way is out," Bakura mused. "Did I ever tell you about that?"

Ryou shook his head slowly, starting for his room. "No. Come tell me where it's warm."

Bakura drifted after him. "Give me a minute to find something else to wear," he said, and Ryou smiled lazily into the darkness.

hmm. one more chapter. if you want to know anything about any of the hosts, TELL ME NOW. the plot will be winding down. yes, there is a plot. you didn't notice?

Kooriya Yui: Sleep? What is this sleep you speak of?


Cymoril Avalon: "Yaaaaaaami! Stop laughing at the murders on TV, there's girls in the house!"

Bakuras-Hell: I live to serve. In many, many ways.

Kerei Kitsune: I'm so sorry this took so long.

Manda Podima: Menthols just confuse me. And I can totally imagine Bakura saying 'mrr'.

Liviania: Mmm. Irish crème to a whole new level.

QueenOfGames: Ee. I'm a little afraid now.

Scoodoo58: Hoodies of Magic Protection +5.

SweetMisery: I think they're both just raving mad.

Esther'nEra-guardians-ofChaos: Sorry this took so long.

Sweetlilbee: Weeeeell, you haven't degenerated into threats on my life over my slow, slow updating, so you're pretty unique. (grin)

please review. you can see i'm updating faster these days. i really am.