DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fanfiction produced for entertainment purposes only. Yu-Gi-Oh! and all related characters are the creations of Kazuki Takahashi.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: In the cafeteria scene, Bakura and Yami are in physical form due to one of the spells used in another of my stories, 'Another Source of Magic'.

Face your Fear
By Shadow's Mirror

One moment, Ryou was eating his lunch in the school cafeteria and happily chatting with Yugi about an upcoming Duel Monsters tournament. The next, he was gasping in pain and the room was growing ominously dark.

The buzz of voices fell silent as most of the students looked around in confusion, then shrugged and returned to their conversations with more than a few references to 'sudden eclipses' being surprisingly common over the past few months. At the table where Ryou and his friends were sitting though, the topic was rather different.

"All right. Own up! Who was it?" Bakura glared around at the group from the seat beside his light. The seat which had been empty until the Spirit of the Ring's dramatic appearance.

"Bakura! What are you doing? I thought we agreed not to do this at school!" Yami frowned as he flashed into being in the seat beside Yugi. "And what are you talking about?"

Bakura pointed to Ryou. "Someone hurt him. Just now. I felt his pain. I want to know who it was!" His eyes blazed with fury as he looked around the group, peering intently into every face as though he was trying to see into their souls. "Now own up, so I can hurt you in return!"

Yami sighed. "Ingenious incentive, Bakura." As the other dark spirit growled at the insult, Yami held up his hand. "Before you go sending anyone to the Shadow Realm, perhaps you should ask Ryou what happened. I did not see anyone do anything to him, nor did I sense any Shadow Magic being used." He paused, studying the white-haired light thoughtfully. "Although, now that you mention it, he does look somewhat pale at the moment."

"Not that he isn't usually pretty pale but yeah, he's as white as his hair!" Joey blurted out the obvious, earning himself a glare from Bakura.

A flood of colour rushed into Ryou's cheeks as he found himself the object of everyone's attention. "I… I'm fine! Really! It's nothing…"

"Stop lying, Ryou. You're hopeless at it." Bakura scowled at the boy. "How in the Shadows can you be so bad at something I'm so good at?" His scowl darkened until he was in full 'furious dark spirit who intends to do some serious damage to anyone who crosses him' mode. "Tell me who hurt you! Now!" Bakura added for good measure when Ryou merely stared silently down at his plate, his cheeks almost crimson with his embarrassment.

"N…No one. Honestly, Bakura. It was just… I must have…" Ryou shifted uneasily in his chair for a moment before peeking timidly up at his yami from beneath the locks of hair that were falling over his eyes. He sighed when Bakura kept scowling at him. "I had a tiny twinge from one of my teeth, that's all. It's nothing to make such a fuss about. Really!"

As Bakura blinked in confusion, Yugi lightly touched Ryou's shoulder. The small boy's amethyst eyes were filled with concern. "You have a toothache?"

Ryou looked as though he suddenly wished that he hadn't said anything. "Um… not really. It's just a little twinge every now and then. I'm sure it's nothing to worry about."

Yugi frowned slightly and looked like he was about to say something when Joey slammed his fist down on the table with a loud thump that made everyone except Bakura jump. Bakura scowled at him, but Joey ignored the yami as he frowned at Ryou. "That's what I thought when I had the same thing a few months back, and I ended up having to get three fillings! You gotta take better care of yourself, Ryou! Go see a dentist first thing tomorrow!"

Ryou cringed at the 'd' word and quickly shook his head, his eyes wide with anxiety. "Oh no! I really don't think it's bad enough for that!"

Joey frowned and peered intently at Ryou for a minute before blinking. "Ryou… are you… scared of going to the dentist?"

Bakura immediately bristled. "Hey! Watch your mouth, mutt! There's no way my light would be scared of something like that!"

Ryou bent his head so his eyes were completely hidden by his hair. What little could be seen of his face was flushed crimson. "Um… well… I wouldn't say I was afraid, no…" Bakura smirked smugly at Joey. "It's really more like absolute terror." Bakura's smile froze. He slowly turned to his light.

"Ryou!" He glared at the trembling boy. "How many times have I told you? If you're scared of something then the only thing to do is face it! Once you face your fear, you won't be scared of it anymore! You are going, even if I have to take over your body to get you there! Understand?"

"Bakura!" Yami would have said more, but Ryou glanced up and shook his head slightly.

"It's all right, Yami. Bakura has a point. I know it's silly for me to be so afraid." Although he was still shaking slightly, Ryou took a deep breath and forced himself to meet his yami's gaze as steadily as he could. "I'll go tomorrow morning."

Bakura's eyes searched those of his light for a moment before his scowl relaxed. He nodded. "Good." He hesitated then added as casually as he could, "Just to make sure, I'll be keeping an eye on you."

Most of his tension eased out of Ryou at that statement. He even managed a small smile at his yami. "Thank you, Bakura."

"Whatever." Bakura looked away, the faintest hint of colour in his cheeks.

- - -

The following afternoon, Yugi stopped by Ryou's house after school to see how he was. The boy's absence from class had been a sure sign that he had followed through on his promise, but the fact that he'd stayed away all day suggested that the dental appointment had not gone well. Yugi expected his friend to be upset or in pain, so he was rather surprised to find Ryou in the kitchen, cheerfully preparing dinner. Bakura was also there. He was in physical form and seated at the table, leaning back in his chair with his arms crossed and a sulky expression on his face as he watched his light move gracefully around the kitchen.

"Oh, hello Yugi!" Ryou looked up and smiled as Yugi poked his head through the kitchen door.

"Hey Ryou! How are you feeling? Did you go to the dentist?"

Ryou paused in his movements, a tide of colour rushing into his cheeks as he nodded.

Yugi leaned on the counter and eyed his friend sympathetically. "That bad, huh?"

Ryou's cheeks became even more flushed. "Well… yes and no. The dentist said that I needed a filling and picked up the drill and then…" He looked away, busying himself with the ingredients in front of him in an obvious excuse to avoid looking at Yugi. "I'm not really sure what happened after that. I sort of… fainted. When I woke up, I was lying on my bed."

Yugi blinked. "You fainted? But…" He blinked again as he realised what must have happened. Because of their bonds with their darker selves, whenever he, Malik or Ryou fainted, their yamis' minds immediately took control of their bodies, as long as they were in their soulrooms at the time. Yami had once told Yugi that it was due to their instinctive need to protect their lights. Which meant… Yugi turned to Bakura. "You faced the dentist in Ryou's place, didn't you?"

Bakura scowled and looked away. "Bah. It's not like I had a choice!"

Yugi knew that wasn't the case. If Bakura had stayed in his soulroom, Ryou would have come out of his faint within a few minutes at the most. Bakura must have deliberately chosen to take Ryou's place. The thought of the Spirit of the Ring being so protective of Ryou made Yugi smile slightly.

Bakura was still ranting. "So much for him facing his fear! Which I still don't get. There was nothing to be scared of! It was just a guy using a drill with a really irritating sound." He glared at his light as the boy placed some carrots in the food processor.

"I know, Bakura. I'm sorry. I promise I'll try harder next time." Ryou switched the processor on, then turned to give his yami a grateful smile as the machine's high-pitched whine filled the room.

Ryou blinked at the empty chair. "Um… Bakura?" At the sound of giggles, he glanced over at Yugi and his confusion grew when he saw the boy shaking with laughter. "Yugi? What's so funny?" Then he caught sight of his yami and understood. He barely managed to keep from laughing too.

Bakura glared out from underneath the table, where he had instinctively taken cover.

"Not a word, Ryou. Not. One. Word."

The End