Taking rice

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Warnings/notes : AU, Yami/Bakura, mentionings of Seto and Mahado.

Disclaimer : I don't own Yu-Gi-Oh. This ficlet is part of 'Feast of the king's shadow', meaning its title is taken from this novel by Chaz Brenchley.

written at 12th october 2003, by Misura

Note : I'm pretty sure they didn't eat rice in Ancient Egypt but ...

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Breaking into the royal palace probably wasn't the smartest thing Bakura had ever done. But it had been fun because of the challenge all those guards presented. Besides, everyone knew the Pharaoh had stored loads of delicious food in here, which he was too greedy to share with the people he was supposed to take care of.

Bakura would have loved to find out if there really were rooms filled with pastries or juicy melons in this place, but he didn't have the time for it, regretfully. Every second he stayed here, the odds of running into some sort of guard grew and the rope he had used to get over the main-wall might be discovered as well. He intended to use it for a quick escape, which had meant having to leave it behind and accepting the risk that someone might find it. If that happened, he'd be in -deep- trouble.

Dismissing such pessimistic thoughts from his mind, Bakura sternly told himself he ought to stop thinking about all those 'what if's. He was in here now, so he might as well make it worth his trouble by snatching some valuable loot on his way out.

It wouldn't even be stealing in a way, since all the riches that had been gathered here were robbed from the Egyptian people by the Pharaoh. Not that Bakura had any problem with robbery himself, but at least he was honest about it. He was a thief (and a damn good one at that, if he did say so himself), and if he got caught, they'd throw him in prison.

-If- he got caught. Which might happen for dozens of reasons, some of them his fault, some of them simply a matter of bad luck. Still, the spoils were worth a little risk, he thought. And at least he enjoyed his job, unlike the laborers he saw walking to the fields every morning at dawn, with as much spirit in them as so many sheep. He'd rather die than become like that.

As he rounded yet another corner in the labyrinth of corridors that made out the ground-level of the palace, he arrived at some sort of round chamber. Crossing it hastily to reach the door across, he only noticed the person who was standing in the shadows when he was halfway.

"What are you doing here? I don't know you." A bright, clear voice demanded. Bakura's mouth went dry as he spun around, his mind frantically trying to come up with a believable lie to explain why he had every right to be in this place.

xxxxx

Yami eyed the stranger with some suspicion and a good deal of curiosity. On a closer look, he looked much too young to be an assassin. It had been the first thing on his mind, which probably went to prove Yami was going a bit paranoid in his seclusion. He did want to get out more, but there were simply so many things he needed to do.

His advisors seeing conspiracies behind every bush didn't help much either. Seto and Mahado did what they could to keep them honest, yet even they couldn't be everywhere. Plus, they had obligations of their own, concerning Egypt's magical protections against the darkness that was always threatening it. Compared to the dangers coming out of the Shadow Realm, human corruption was a petty danger.

"I'm a thief." The young man raised his head, holding up a bag. Yami blinked.

"You ... " Who in his right mind would confess to having entered the royal palace to -rob- it? Of course, Yami would have known if the young man had lied to him but ...

"I steal things." By the way the boy was gazing at him, Yami could tell it was -his- sanity that was in doubt here. "That's my profession. I make a pretty good living out of it too."

"Oh." Yami replied weakly. "Haven't you ever considered finding an ... honest job?" Yes, his health of mind was definitely being questioned here.

"I only steal from rich people. Like the Pharaoh. Or nobles." Yami didn't quite understand why that made it more honest. Neither did he have any idea why he hadn't called out for the guards yet.

"But ... why?" Yami asked. The boy shrugged.

"I'm hungry." He did look kind of skinny under his wide robes, Yami had to admit. Yet his advisors had assured him the temples were providing enough food for everyone who needed it.

"Don't the priests hand out food?" He felt odd, inquiring after the state in his kingdom by a boy hardly his own age. Still, all answers he had received thus far had seemed to be honest.

"Not much. And it's mostly really bad quality, like, so bad it makes people ill." The young thief grimaced. "I bet the Pharaoh thinks it's a waste to feed the poor."

Yami opened his mouth to indignantly deny that, then reconsidered. While it was true that he hadn't thought that, that he hadn't even been aware of this state of affairs, it was also true that he -should- have known these things happened.

"Who are you anyway?" The boy continued, a glimmer of curiosity in his eyes. "I'm Bakura."

"My name's uhm Yami." He grinned a bit sheepishly as Bakura's jaw dropped, silently cursing the fact that he hadn't had the presence of mind to give the boy a false name. Or at least one that was a little less well-known. According to his birth-tablet, he had at least a dozen of those.

"You're joking, right? -You- are the evil Pharaoh?" Bakura stared at him with wide eyes, like he was some strange, dangerous animal that was on display in the market-place.

"Not evil, at least, I hope I'm not -that- bad, but yes I'm the Pharaoh." And he'd never before felt an urge to blush or apologize for that fact. It wasn't a feeling he enjoyed, though Mahado would probably tell him it was good for him to be humbled a little every now and then.

"Hmmm. Do you think I could kidnap you for a big ransom?" Bakura inquired wistfully. Yami had the impression he wasn't entirely joking, even if the idea sounded rather funny.

"You'd never manage to get me past all the guards." Yami informed his former kidnapper-to-be. "Unfortunately." he added with a sigh.

"Too bad." Bakura agreed. "Ah well, I'd have had to kill you if they wouldn't pay the money anyway, so maybe it's better that I don't try it. You don't seem so bad, Yami. In fact, I kind of like you."

For no rational reason, that remark made Yami blush again. "Thanks. I think. For a vicious thief you're pretty nice too. I'd hate to have to order you thrown in prison."

Bakura snorted. "Then might I hope you won't? Because I sure'd hate hearing you order that too."

"Only if you put back everything you've taken from my palace so far." Yami said sternly, trying hard not to laugh at the indignant expression that had appeared on Bakura's face. "I'll give you food to take home."

Bakura seemed only moderately mollified. "All right then, though I think it's very unfair. Ah well, next time I'll simply have to be more careful." Yami preferred to pretend he hadn't heard that last part.

"Come on then. The kitchens are this way."

xxxxx

"Now, this bag of rice comes with a condition." Yami held up the food. Bakura rolled his eyes.

"Another one? Geez, what is is now? I hope you don't expect me to give up being a thief, for I assure you that's -not- going to happen."

Yami smirked. "I want you to become one of my advisors."

"You what?!?" Bakura appeared to think he had lost his mind again. Yami sourly thought he'd get along just fine with Seto, who often looked at him that way too.

"I could use someone who's honest to me. You said there are a lot of things going wrong, so now I offer you a chance to do something about that situation." Yami explained reasonably. "And ... " he bit his lip, uncertain if he ought to add the other reason for his proposal, " ... I'd like a friend."

"An exchange." Bakura countered. "I teach you how to be a thief and you can do your best to turn me into an advisor. You never know when such skills might come in handy after all."

"Deal." Yami smiled, extending his hand. Bakura shook his head, with an odd gleam in his eyes.

"Thieves don't seal promises that way. They do it like this." Soft lips brushed past his cheek, while a hand reached out to take the bag of rice from his powerless grasp. Bakura chuckled.

When Yami opened his eyes again, without remembering when he had closed them, Bakura was gone. In his place, there stood Seto, eyeing him puzzledly.

"I think I'm in love." Yami told him. Seto's reaction was most satisfactory.

-ending of this snippet-