Author's Notes: Um. Well, this was a long time in the making and is a tad bit random. Not that this is a new thing for me... Erhem.
Warnings: Not really Darkshipping although that was my original intent; it didn't go quite that far... ::cough:: May be some OOCness... you be the judge? And no, Yami and Bakura being civil to each other does not count as necessarily being OOC. ...So there. XP
Disclaimer: I continue to not own Yu-Gi-Oh!, and this fact continues to make me sad.
Dedication: To Snare-chan; I wrote this as a present to her. She's my inspiration as always. :)
On with the show.
If there was one thing Yugi could count on, it was that Domino City was at its quietest during the hours of early morning. It was for just that reason that he nearly fell off the ladder on which he was standing when a loud and angry pounding sounded upon the Turtle Game Shop's door.
The noise shattered the morning's quiet, much to Yugi's dismay, and he wanted things back to normal ASAP. As a second barrage of knocks made its way to his ears, he rushed to the door, resisting the urge to wake Yami and have him force the unwanted presence to make itself scarce.
He opened the door cautiously, in case the person was as furious as he sounded, and his jaw dropped upon seeing the shop's visitor.
"Ryou? No..." His eyes widened considerably. "Bakura! What are you doing here?!"
The white-haired former tomb-robber, who was both taller and stronger than poor Yugi himself was, shoved past him and into the shop, despite Yugi's protests.
"Where's that idiot of a Pharaoh? I've got things to discuss with him," Bakura ground out. He really had no desire to be here...
"I am here. Now what do you want?"
To most anyone else, it would seem as though Yugi's voice had merely dropped a few octaves. Bakura knew better. He spun around and, where Yugi had stood previously, now stood Yami.
"Hmph. Impatient as always, Pharaoh. You have bed-head, by the way."
To his credit, Yami looked unconcerned. Despite this, he unconsciously ran a hand through his fiery locks. Bakura smirked.
"Just answer the question," Yami snapped. He didn't appreciate Bakura's having barged into the shop and scaring his aibou, and he made sure to tell him so. "You nearly gave Yugi a heart attack, and I want to know what business you have here this early in the morning."
Shrugging his shoulders in a nonchalant gesture, Bakura wandered over to a case full of the shop's rare cards and studied them through the glass as he spoke.
"If I told you I've come to do some shopping before the crowds get here...?" he asked, even as he picked the case's lock and snatched a card from the display. Yami closed their distance in three strides and snatched it right back, much to Bakura's amusement. 'He's so easy to rile...'
"I would say that you are a liar and demand the truth," Yami growled in response as he locked the cards back up with a wave of his hand and motioned for Bakura to get away from them with another.
The thief walked a lazy circle about the room. "And what if I refuse to bow to your demands?" he asked, giving Yami a feral, fanged smirk. Yami resisted the urge to shudder. 'Insane...'
"Then you are wasting your time as well as my own. You will not be gaining anything out of this by not stating your purpose for being here. If you are going to be stubborn about it, then you might as well save yourself the effort and go. I have not the time for idle chatter – Yugi will be opening the shop very shortly," Yami said, giving the thief a pointed look. The smirk disappeared from Bakura's face; he'd been cornered.
"Very well," he said tersely, and Yami was instantly on-guard. The taller spirit reached into his pocket and withdrew what Yami recognized on-sight to be a Duel Monsters card. Bakura approached him very slowly – reluctantly – and Yami could see he was tense. When he held the card out, face down, Yami noticed that the other was avoiding his eyes. The obvious change in Bakura's demeanor was not lost on the shorter spirit, and when he took the card, he was very cautious about it. The moment it left his hand, Bakura drew his arm back as if he'd been stung.
Yami turned the card over slowly; his breath caught in his throat. He was holding Bakura's Dark Necrofear for the second time in his life. The first time, he had taken it from the other's graveyard in an official duel. He looked up from the image to see Bakura looking incredibly uncomfortable.
"Bakura... what...? Why...?"
Amber eyes rose to meet Yami's own amethyst, and – not for the first time – Yami was startled by the haunted look they contained.
"According to the Battle City Tournament Rules, the winning duelist is to take—" the amber eyes flickered, a change that was almost imperceptible, "—the losing duelist's rarest card." A deep breath and an awkward pause. "And while I... appreciate that you did not take it during my... ah... unconsciousness, I must insist that the rule be followed through to its completion. You won our duel, and that is your reward."
Yami blinked at him, speechless. Bakura was reciting as though he had memorized and practiced the words. Yami recovered quickly enough and shook his head firmly, holding the card back out to the white-haired one.
"Bakura, I told them the day we dueled that I didn't need to take any of your cards, and I meant it. This is YOURS."
Bakura's head snapped up, his eyes wide with disbelief.
"You won't TAKE it? But that's ridiculous! I'm GIVING it to you! You have to!"
Yami could almost SEE Bakura's frantic thoughts racing in his mind. Apparently, his refusal hadn't been in Bakura's script.
Yami found himself staring in utter bewilderment at Bakura's entire deck as it was thrust into his free hand.
"If Dark Necrofear isn't rare enough for you, take your pick from there. Take the Ouija Board; take Change of Heart... take SOMETHING!"
"Bakura, calm down..." Yami pulled out the stool from behind the shop's counter. "You're acting strange. You should sit and—"
"FINE!" Bakura roared, and Yami's mouth fell closed as he watched Bakura stalk to the door. "You know what? I don't care. Take the whole fucking deck!"
Yami followed Bakura outside.
"WHY are you being so adamant about this?!" At Yami's words, Bakura whirled to face him, amber eyes narrow and flashing with anger.
"I suppose you wouldn't understand the guilt of being in an enemy's DEBT, would you, Pharaoh?" he hissed.
Yami took a step backward, despite himself. "My... debt? Bakura, you do not owe me anyth—"
"FOOL! When you defeated Malik, I was free to return to the Ring and my host. Accident or not, it was you that freed me. With that on top of my defeat at your hands, it is certain that I owe you at least the bloody card!" His voice dropped dangerously low; he was panting slightly from his shouting. "But you can't just be satisfied with the one, so now you have my entire deck. I hope you're proud of yourself, Pharaoh."
Yami stared as realization hit. "Bakura..."
"No." The word was snarled in such a way that told Yami that their conversation was through.
Bakura disappeared down the now-crowded street as Domino's inhabitants woke and began the day, filling the morning with their chatter. As patrons began to filter into the game shop, Yami relinquished control to Yugi, apologizing to him for disrupting his morning, although he did not offer an explanation. And so the next morning, when Yami gave Yugi a deck of cards and a note to give to Bakura, Yugi did not bother asking questions.
"Um... hi, Bakura-kun..."
Bakura glanced up from where he was sitting at Ryou's desk, the latter catching up on a bit more sleep before class started. Seeing nobody initially, he inwardly groaned, and looked down... down... down – ah, there – and his eyes came to rest on the nervous form of Mutou Yugi.
"Hn," was his only response.
The boy shifted from foot to foot, his eyes searching Bakura's face for signs of a threat.
Bakura narrowed his eyes. "Out with it," he demanded, wondering what in the world the Puzzle-toting mortal wanted.
"Well... mou hitori no boku told me to give this to you," Yugi said hesitantly, holding the deck of cards out for Bakura to take. The white-haired one took them carefully, if not a bit reluctantly. He began to shuffle through them, and when he reached the last card, his eye twitched slightly and he spun on the smaller boy.
"He didn't take ANYTHING!" he snarled.
Yugi blinked large, confused violet eyes at him, and Bakura let out an irritated sound.
"He didn't bother telling you why you're here, did he?" Bakura asked, already knowing the answer. When Yugi shook his head, he turned away. "Anything else?" he bit out nastily.
"Actually... there's a note, too..."
"Give it here." He fixed the mortal with a caustic glare.
"Of course," Yugi squeaked, handing him a folded piece of paper.
"You didn't read it?" Bakura asked, curious.
Yugi shook his head again, solemnly this time. "Yours."
"Hn." He should have known the innocent child wouldn't have read something that wasn't meant for him. Grumbling and curling his lip up to expose his fangs, he began to read:
I do not understand why you were so vehement in your want for me to take your cards, but in any case, I cannot do it. If you want to know the truth, I thought Kaiba's rule in Battle City was quite pointless, really. Why enter a tournament if your deck is not already good enough to duel with? It matters not; my point is that I neither want nor need to take your cards. I apologize if my decision angers you, but it is my decision nonetheless. And for future reference, you are not in my debt; I did not 'free' you from... wherever Malik sent you with intent to gain anything.
-Mou Hitori no Yugi
Crumpling the note in his fist with a growl and a bit more force than necessary, Bakura stuffed it in his pocket and turned to Yugi once again. He sneered, and the boy's wince was a good indication that he'd succeeded in looking properly sinister.
"While I appreciate your playing messenger, little Yugi, you may tell that arrogant prick of a Pharaoh that he can stuff his sentiments right up his—"
The bell for class rang then, and Yugi scuttled off, already locked in mental conversation with his other.
-He's very angry, mou hitori no boku.-
--I expected him to be.--
--Apologies, aibou. I should have given him the things myself.--
-Nah; you would have ended up in a Shadow Game with him. At least this way I'll make it to class on-time.-
Yami chuckled absently before dropping their connection. He paced the main chamber of his soul room in irritation. Rule or no rule, he could not bring himself to take Bakura's card – much less his entire deck. The only cards he'd been after during Battle City were the God Cards. Otherwise, he didn't like Kaiba's idea one bit.
He sighed. Surely Bakura must be trying to gain something through this act. 'But you thwarted that plan,' Yami assured himself firmly. The tomb-thief couldn't have actually felt guilty... could he?
The thought startled Yami. Bakura, have a guilty conscience? It was crazy. He had killed God-knows-how-many people in Egypt, had sealed countless others' souls into the Shadow Realm in the current day and age... the thought that he might feel remorse over something as simple as being aided in escaping the Shadow Realm was ludicrous. 'No,' Yami decided, 'He has to be up to something.'
Still... he couldn't help remembering the furious, almost frantic look Bakura had given him when he'd refused to take the offer. His behavior, as usual, was completely baffling, Yami thought unhappily. The former-Pharaoh did not like things – few as they were – that were beyond his understanding. Such things – or people, as the case may be – were worrisome, and Yami hated worrying. He had enough to do without needing to unravel the mystery known as Bakura.
For about the zillionth time, he wondered how he'd gotten himself into this mess. Not only was he stuck in a time and place he never should have lived to see, existed because of a golden puzzle on a chain, and couldn't remember how or why any of it had happened, but he had managed to drag Bakura along for the ride – another thing he knew nothing about. He often had a sneaking suspicion that Bakura knew all about him and his past, and he was certainly glad that Bakura did not seem to have realized the ammunition he had.
'This is depressing,' Yami told himself, shaking his head. 'Figure out your past first, THEN figure out that irksome tomb robber.' He had to stop himself from considering the fact that Bakura was a bit more of a current threat.
Loathe as he was to admit it, though, he felt bad that – for whatever reason – he had trapped Bakura along with himself. 'Even though I'm sure he probably deserved it,' he thought bitterly.
"Shut up," he told himself firmly, if not a bit angrily. WHY was he so fixated on this?
He needed a distraction – badly. So it was that when Jounouchi asked for a quick duel during lunch, Yami was pleased as punch to switch with Yugi and submerge himself in the familiar game.
From the relative safety of the school's roof, Bakura was free to vent his anger, which had been bubbling beneath his calm exterior the entire morning. Now, alone, his fury had come out to play.
"Damn HIM!" he reiterated, pulling the crumpled note from his pocket. He read it again. His eyes flashed with rage, and the note burst into flames, combusting of Bakura's own will. He held it till it singed his hand, and then crushed it once more in his fist, ignoring the pain it caused; relishing it.
"Yet more pain that bastard has caused me," he snarled, cursing Yami to the Devourer. "'Yami'," he sneered, "not even his real name. Imbecile; putting on a show for little Yugi and his merry band of fools, no doubt. It's not even Egyptian! Stupid people-pleasing Pharaoh. But he's too PIOUS to take my fucking card... bastard..."
The Ring glowed suddenly, and Bakura spotted Yugi and his friends. No, not Yugi – Yami had graced them with his presence and was honoring Jounouchi with the privilege of losing to him. Bakura scowled, recalling his own losses to the Game King, which were growing in number, much to his disgust.
He couldn't bring himself to watch, and so a bewildered Ryou was left standing on the roof, staring at his injured palm, as Bakura retreated to his soul room and began to pace.
The place was dark and drab, and he had never been terribly fond of it, but it was HIS, and the privacy it provided was a definite plus. However, it did nothing to calm him, and so he took to thinking aloud in a rather angry fashion.
"Idiot Pharaoh thinks he's too good for my cards. He's probably afraid they'll taint his precious deck. Arrogant prick," he sneered, echoing his earlier words.
After several more moments of Pharaoh-bashing, Bakura finally began pondering other possible reasons for Yami's refusal.
"Perhaps the paranoid little brat thinks I'm trying to trick him," he muttered. He knew the idea wasn't too outlandish. He scowled deeply. "Did he seriously think I wouldn't feel as if I owe him? I hate being in people's debt. He can't be – okay, he CAN be that stupid, but still..."
He stopped dead as something suddenly occurred to him.
"Why don't I go find out for myself?" he wondered aloud. He had placed part of his soul in the Puzzle; that was, in fact, how he had kept out of the Shadow Realm after Malik had defeated him. Yami had merely given him access to his host – and his control over the Ring's magic – again. But even now that he had returned to the Ring, he still had access to the Puzzle... he'd just hop on over and look through a few memories...
He nearly laughed at the prospect of digging through the Pharaoh's labyrinth of a soul room. The thought was sadistically thrilling...
"No need to think twice," he murmured, smirking. Concentrating, he transferred himself to the Sennen Puzzle, and found himself in the hallway between Yami's and Yugi's soul rooms. The door on his right, more ancient and foreboding-looking than the one on his left, by a long shot, was partially open, indicating that Yami was still in control of the body.
'Well that's an invitation if ever I saw one,' Bakura thought with a fanged grin. Quietly pushing the door open further – gods knew if Yugi could hear him from his own room – he eased into the chamber and partially closed the door behind him, making it appear as though it had never been moved. Checking behind him to make sure he'd left no footprints, and satisfied that he was still as stealthy as he'd ever been, he made his way up the nearest flight of stairs.
'Now...' he thought, scanning his surroundings. There were stairs and doors stretching as far above him as he could see, and none of them had any sort of distinguishing features. 'His most recent memories and thoughts SHOULD, logically, be closest to the bottom of the room, since they are the easiest to access...' he considered, silently marking the few doors closest to the floor level. 'Then again, Pharaoh never has made any logical sense...'
He decided, in the end, that he would just have to try his luck. Turning resolutely to face the door nearest him, he grabbed the handle, turned, and pushed the door inward...
...and immediately slammed it shut as a ball of flames filled his vision.
He growled, furious. 'He has TRAPS! I should have known this couldn't be so easy. Too bad, though; I'm not leaving until I find what I want to know.' Sneering, he moved on to the next door.
After what seemed like hours, Bakura had made it up several levels in the Puzzle. He was getting increasingly frustrated, however – he had not run into a SINGLE memory yet!
'This is ridiculous! How can all these rooms be empty?! Unless...' Unless he was hiding all of them in one room.
Looking down absently, Bakura's eyes narrowed. He could have sworn he had made it higher than that... and then his eyes widened considerably as he saw that the door he had entered the room through was firmly closed, and not of his own doing.
'Shit... his royal pissyness is home...'
"Having fun, Tomb Robber?"
Bakura turned around slowly, his features carefully guarded. "That's a rather rude way to greet a guest, Pharaoh," he said coyly, taking satisfaction in the spark of fury he saw appear in Yami's eyes despite the nervous feeling in his stomach. Bakura did NOT like being caught off-guard...
"How in the netherworld did you get in here?" the former-monarch asked, obviously upset that his soul room had been so easily infiltrated.
"It matters not," Bakura said primly, waving the inquiry off casually. "I've come to find out why you did not take any of my cards. Your little message was... ah... less than satisfactory, not to mention scatterbrained." Much to Bakura's surprise, Yami's anger suddenly dissipated regardless of the insult.
"Oh," was all the fire-haired spirit had to say to the comment, and Bakura pressed on in agitation.
"Are they not good enough for you? Or perhaps you think I am incapable of human feeling..." At Yami's guilty look, Bakura suddenly felt his own anger flare up, vicious as it had been that morning.
"I knew you were stupid, Pharaoh, but this is pathetic," he spat, suddenly turning his back to Yami and making his way toward the next door. Now he was just mad, and revenge seemed like a wonderful remedy. Yami quickly started after him.
"Bakura, how was I supposed to know—" The white-haired spirit whirled around.
"Don't play innocent, Pharaoh," he seethed. "I enjoy being in your debt just about as much as I enjoyed living under your rule. You know damn well how little my nature has changed over three millennia..." He trailed off at the sudden wounded look in the amethyst eyes. 'What the hell is his problem...?'
"You're wrong," Yami murmured, looking away slightly; just enough that Bakura noticed the other was avoiding his gaze. "I DON'T know..."
Bakura glanced the other up and down. 'This is a really sad attempt at a joke...'
"What do you mean, you don't know?" Yami visibly forced himself to look into the confused amber eyes of his fellow spirit.
"I cannot remember."
Bakura blanched as the full realization hit home. THAT was why all the rooms had been either traps or empty...
"Nothing?!" he asked incredulously.
"Not even my real name," Yami said quietly; sadly. His fear had been confirmed – Bakura remembered all that he did not. And now the other knew.
The former tomb thief took a step back from Yami, slowly going over this new information in his mind. The other did not remember a thing from his past – Bakura was certain of the statement's truthfulness. He could not decide which was worse – remembrance or ignorance. While he remembered every tragic happening of his past life, Yami could not even recall who he was. Bakura shuddered as he realized that without his name, should Yami ever die properly, his soul would be left to wander aimlessly for eternity. Did he even remember that Egyptian belief? Did it plague him? Did he remember ANY of his previous beliefs and ideals? Somehow, his newfound knowledge didn't excite him nearly as much as he felt it should.
Yami's discomfort over divulging this bit of information was not lost on the white-haired spirit. They stood in awkward silence for a long while. Yami was the one to finally speak.
"You are not in my debt, Bakura, and I am not taking your cards. Consider the weakness that you just uncovered as the exchange if you wish, but that is my final decision." He paused, then glanced at the ground. "I do not know how you gained entry to my soul room, but I would like for you to leave."
Bakura watched him wordlessly for a few moments, then, seeming to make a decision, disappeared before the shorter spirit's eyes.
Back in his own soul room, Bakura began pacing, as was his habit. He was now owner of a very important piece of information regarding his most hated of enemies. So why wasn't he happy? It made precious little sense.
"He wasn't lying," Bakura reassured himself. The Pharaoh had too much pride to lie about something like that. But still...
"Perhaps it is less than enjoyable because he merely... TOLD me. I didn't even have to torture or duel it out of him..."
The more he mulled it over, the less sense it made. Why would he just give it away so easily? The other's words suddenly came back to him –
"...Consider the weakness that you just uncovered as the exchange, if you wish..."
The thief paused in his movements.
"Perhaps I will."
End Notes: Wrote it partially as a gift for Snare-chan, and partially because I wondered why Bakura never really exploited the fact that Yami couldn't remember their past (assuming he remembers it himself). It made sense (to me, at least) that if it was in exchange for something, it'd be worth it to him. That and I'm a hopeless case and think Bakura has some sort of conscience. It just doesn't dictate all his actions. XD
Hope you enjoyed; please R&R.