Bad Girls Go To Domino


In Which Bakura Is A Bitch, Malik Is A Minx, And Marik Is Mischievous


Japanese

Aa – Yes (Informal)
Ane-chan – Older Sister (used when referring to one's own sister)
Chisaii Houko – Little Treasure
Gomen ne – I'm sorry
Koibito/Koi – Lover, Boy/Girlfriend
Minna-san – Everyone
Sugoi! – All right/Awesome!


Malik should have expected it. She'd thought after their group day at the beach that things would quiet down again. After all, Yugi and his friends had done their once a month 'hang out with the people on the lunatic fringe' thing. There was no reason to think one of them – the very same one as last time – would show up at Duke's door the very next week.

She knew that she was being uncharitable – not that that was much different from how she was normally – but still…

"A dance club?" Malik asked incredulously, frowning.

Nodding, Mai said, "Yup. A new one's just opened up, and I convinced Seto to go with me by making it a group event so I won't constantly be dragging him out onto the dance floor." She gave a wry grin and a toss of her head as if to say, 'Men!' "We're planning to go on Friday."

"And you want Duke and me to come?" Malik confirmed.

"You, Duke, Ryou, Bakura…hell, I'd ask Marik to come if we could find him," Mai said, shrugging. "The more the merrier, you know?"

Malik snorted and tossed her white-blonde mane over one tanktop-clad shoulder. She'd finally caved after the beach trip and bought a bra – just one – and had to admit that it was a great help. No more backaches, and not as many men stared at her.

Once she got turned back into a guy, however, she planned to have a barbeque and burn it in celebration in lieu of roasting her 'brother' over the coals.

"A dance club isn't exactly the kind of place you'd want to set Marik loose," Malik said. She rolled her eyes. "Ra, any place with people who are still sane isn't the kind of place you want to set Marik loose."

"Fine then; it's not like I can find him to invite him anyway," Mai dismissed. "But you and Duke are coming." Her voice was firm, resolved.

Just like it had been when she'd forced Malik to try on half a dozen bathing suits the weekend previous.

Inwardly sighing, Malik knew – from personal experience, yet – that it would be easier just to give in. "Fine."

"Sugoi!" Mai exclaimed, clapping her hands together. "Now all we need is to get you and Bakura something to wear." She headed towards the door, tugging Malik along behind her.

Malik's face fell. I should have known. This is Mai 'Shopaholic' Valentine we're talking about here. "We're going shopping again?" she asked tiredly, wiggling out of Mai's grip long enough to grab her wallet. She quickly locked the door, following Mai out to her car.

"After we pick up Bakura," Mai agreed. "We only need to buy clothes for her, though."

"Not me?" Malik asked, masking her disappointment with surprise. What, she didn't need to dress up to go to the club?

"No. You and I are almost exactly the same size now," Mai told her, putting the key in the ignition and turning the car on. Pulling out into traffic, she continued, "I figured there's no point in buying you something that you'll only wear once when we can most likely find something in my closet."

"Then what was with buying me a swimsuit last month?" Malik asked, frowning.

Shrugging, Mai admitted, "I figured Bakura wouldn't go along with getting one unless you did too, if only so you wouldn't feel singled out."

Malik's face fell flat. "So that whole utterly horrifying experience was all so Bakura would buy a suit?" she asked incredulously.

Mai chuckled. "Ah, c'mon, Malik, don't tell me you didn't enjoy the way Duke reacted to that bikini."

Malik blushed. She'd definitely enjoyed Duke's reaction. The whole day had been wonderful – even showing him her back hadn't detracted from how enjoyable it was – and falling asleep in his arms had ensured her a night of nightmare-free slumber. "That's not the point," she blustered, trying to cover up her embarrassment. "He would have reacted like that to any suit in your closet, I'm sure."

Mai shrugged. "Maybe," she said noncommittally. "But you also have a bigger bust size than I do." She seemed a bit putout by that: a guy – granted, a guy in girl form – having bigger breasts than she did. "And I was worried the tops would be too tight."

Malik made a face reminiscent of what one would make after sucking on a lemon. She just knew this whole day boded ill for her continued sanity.

Kind of like spending the day baby-sitting Marik back before he grew out of the 'Terrible Twos' stage. Only slightly more horrifying.


Two Hours Later – Mai's Apartment


"How in the nine levels of hell did you ever manage to talk me into this?" Malik glared at the pile of lilac-colored silk that Mai had finally decided on.

Just like with the bikini, without Malik's input.

"I can be extremely persuasive when I want to be," Mai replied smugly, taking the garment from Malik and carefully folding it into a box that also contained shoes and other…female accessories.

Malik huffed, folding her arms across her chest, which was once again clad in her lavender tanktop. "That may be, but still…"

Mai waved away the other blonde's protests. "Ah, don't worry, Malik-chan; Duke will love it."

Blushing – from either the nickname, or the reference to her sort-of relationship with Duke, she wasn't sure – Malik said, blustering, "And how can you be so sure?"

"He liked you in that bikini, didn't he?" Mai arched one blonde brow, a smile lurking around her lips.

Malik ducked her head and grumbled, "Be that as it may, he's never cared about this sort of thing before."

"He's a guy," Mai said, as if that explained everything.

"Current physiology aside, Mai, so am I," Malik said icily.

Finally tiring of listening to the two blondes' bickering, Bakura broke into the conversation. "If I have to do this, you have to do this, Ishtar." She leaned back against the wall and glared at her friend.

"Neither of us has to do this," Malik pointed out.

"Ah, girls, Duke and Ryou will be amazed by you," Mai told them. "Besides, you do have to go through with this; you promised."

"Like this would be the first promise I've broken," Bakura and Malik chorused.

"But not where it involves your koibitos," Mai pointed out, inwardly grinning as she saw how her choice of words caused the other two to blush furiously. She didn't know whether Malik and Duke had gotten that far, but she was pretty sure that they were both thinking about it. And while Bakura and Ryou may not have gone all the way, they definitely weren't completely unfamiliar with each other in a more intimate sense.

And even if they were, after tonight, Ryou, no matter how shy, and Duke, no matter how gentlemanly, wouldn't be able to keep their hands to themselves. Not if she had anything to say about it, or her name wasn't Mai Valentine!

"I still can't believe you talked me into this," Malik reiterated once her face had returned to its normal tanned shade. "I'm going to end up looking more feminine than Bakura." She looked aghast at the possibly, prompting a glare from the thief.

"You always look more feminine than me, Malik," Bakura said smugly. "After all, I've never worn pastels." She gestured to the lavender tanktop and khaki cargo pants the other was wearing, a stark contrast to her own torn blue jeans, bright rainbow tie-dyed T-shirt and worn brown sandals.

"Yes, you look very 'psychodelic,'" Malik quipped.

Calling on her great mastery of maturity, Bakura stuck her tongue out at the Egyptian.

"Girls, girls, calm down," Mai broke in, wanting to stave off the incipient fight she could see brewing.

Malik sighed in resignation and Bakura reluctantly returned her tongue to its harbor.

"Thank you," Mai said aggrievedly, before shaking off her annoyance. "Besides, it's a good thing you don't wear pastels, Bakura. With your coloring, they'd wash you out."

"Which is the reason why I like black," the yami said. "It also helps me blend into the darkness when I'm performing a little B&E on the Kaiba mansion." She smiled smugly, knowing Mai was dating the owner of said mansion.

"You look like a Goth when you wear black," Malik told her cattily. "You even have the fangs for it, and those dark red eyes really make you look so very bloodthirsty."

Snarling at the Egyptian, Bakura bared her teeth – pointed canines and all.

Rolling her eyes at their antics, Mai grabbed her keys and her purse. "C'mon, the mall closes in five hours, and we're going to need every minute," she said, pushing them both out the door. "We may have found Malik some clothes…"

"I can't believe you talked me into wearing a dress!" Malik exclaimed, aghast.

Steam-rollering over the Egyptian's words, Mai finished, "But Bakura still needs an outfit."

"We're doomed," Malik said fatalistically, remembering their last trip to said locale – and how she'd dreaded it then.

Rightly so, too.

"Kill me now," Bakura agreed tiredly.


Three Looooonng Hours Later


"But I thought you liked leather," Mai defended her final choice.

"It's too short," Bakura reiterated her complaint. "And too tight," she added a moment later, squirming uncomfortably. "I can hardly breathe in this thing – either of these things," she amended. She growled under her breath, a string of Egyptian curses not quite loud enough to be heard by the only person nearby who could translate them.

Long used to living with someone who swore in another language when he was ticked off – which was often – Mai just gave the white-haired yami a look. "Then we'll buy them a size larger," she offered as a compromise.

Bakura grumbled, but sensing that the blonde would not be dissuaded, eventually gave in. "Fine," she spat out.

Mai grinned in triumph and headed back to the clothing racks to get the chosen items in the appropriate sizes.

"Thank Ra," Malik sighed once the other blonde had left. Leaning back against the dressing room wall, she massaged the headache that was starting to grow behind her temples. "I thought she'd never decide on anything."

"Yeah, Mai decided," Bakura grumbled.

Malik turned to her friend and snorted. "Oh, please. You weren't actually expecting to have any say in this, were you? I know I certainly didn't."

Bakura shrugged lacklusterly. "I'm just glad it's over," she voiced her opinion of the situation.

"Yeah, until next time," Malik pointed out.

Bakura's eyes went so wide they almost popped out of her head. "Next time?!" she squeaked, voice rising two octaves.

Malik gave her a pitying look. "You heard Mai the first time we did this, when we went shopping for swimsuits. Now that she has two – for the moment, at least – female shopping companions, you don't honestly think she's going to just let us go? Especially considering how clueless both of us are about women's fashions?"

Bakura whimpered.


Friday Night


"We're here!" Mai announced needlessly, pulling into a parking space, a bass beat echoing for blocks around the club to which the parking lot was connected.

"Oh, joy," Bakura grumbled from the passenger seat. "Remind me again why Malik got to drive here with Duke, but I couldn't come with Ryou?"

Mai smiled innocently, unlocking the car doors. "I thought you'd like to make an entrance. Ryou will freak when he sees you."

"Freak?" Bakura asked doubtfully as she followed the blonde towards the club. The last time she'd seen Ryou do anything that could be labeled as 'freaking' was about four weeks after she'd gotten her own body. He'd had a horror movie marathon one weekend, and had woken up screaming about a guy in a hockey mask, carrying a chainsaw, chasing him down Elm Street and saying that he knew what Ryou did last summer.

She could never understand why Ryou liked those movies so much if they scared him to death like that.

Men.

"In a good way, of course," Mai reassured the other girl. "Trust me on this: if it's one thing I know, it's how to make a guy want you."

"Ryou already wants me, Valentine," Bakura stated firmly, though she blushed at how brazenly blatant her statement was. She was very sure of herself on that point; even if mind-links couldn't lie, she'd know it by the way he looked at her.

As if she was the only girl in the world for him…and he was elated at that fact.

Mai pursed her lips in a mock-frown. "You know what I mean," she chastised the thief. "Once he sees you, he'll know the only reason you went through with it is because of him."

"And?" Bakura prompted, wondering where in the hell Mai was going with this.

"And he'll be extremely…appreciative, if you know what I mean." Mai wiggled her perfectly plucked brows suggestively.

Bakura blushed again. Yes, actually, I do know…

All right, so she'd go along with this 'entrance' thing. Ryou had just better enjoy tonight, because there was no way she'd be doing this again.

Famous last thoughts.


After paying their admission to the club, Mai left to find the others. Bakura used her and Ryou's mind-link to locate him without giving her presence away.

Might as well milk this for all it's worth, she thought dryly. She headed for the bar, where Ryou's aura was emanating from. Spying her hikari sitting on a stool at the end of the bar, facing away from her, she took a deep breath for courage. She strode towards him with false confidence – pointedly ignoring the suggestive leers and whistles sent her way – coming to a halt little more than a foot away from her lover, her shadow falling over him.

It took a few moments – during which Bakura talked herself into and out of fifteen different escape plans – but Ryou finally noticed that someone was standing in front of him. He turned from his idle contemplation of the club's nightlife…

…and his jaw dropped.

The phrase 'If looks could kill' had been applied to Bakura before…but never in such an erotic way. She looked like seven kinds of sin – and all of them deadly.

She wore leather, and little of it. Her habitual black combat boots were on her feet, but instead of the usual jeans accompanying them, an almost indecently short, low-riding miniskirt hugged her hips. Her deck – and most likely a hidden knife as well – was strapped to her left thigh with a matching band, not unlike the one Mai wore during Battle City. Her top was red, blood red; a satin bodice that laced up tight against her skin. Lifting and separating, it made the most of her small breasts, giving her actual cleavage.

And Ryou was familiar enough with his lover's body to note that she had either, for once, forgone underwear – or was wearing a pair so skimpy that they might as well not be there.

Gulp. " Lara Croft, eat your heart out," Ryou breathed.

"You like it?" Bakura asked coyly, sauntering over to her lover.

You know I do, Ryou sent, unable to voice his words aloud. You look…

Amazing? Incredible? Unbelievable?

Perfect?

Ne, not that he could voice his words aloud if he couldn't think of any.

Bakura grinned. "Thanks," she said quietly, almost shyly. Slipping up onto the stool next to Ryou, her smile faltered as she realized how tight the skirt was; the leather confines made it hard for her to move as freely as she normally did. Grumbling slightly, she crossed her legs at the ankle and leaned back against the bar, trying to ignore how the tight top constricted her breathing. "I can't believe I actually paid for this," Bakura complained. "These are some of the most uncomfortable clothes I've ever worn."

"The price you pay to look fashionable," Ryou replied absently, eyes avidly drinking in Bakura's attire. "And absolutely, utterly, drop-dead gorgeous," he added under his breath.

She sent him a swift look, having heard those last words. She smiled slightly, before huffing. "Well, it's a price I'm not willing to pay again. It was a waste of money; I'm never going to wear these clothes again."

Ryou looked crushed at that pronouncement. "You aren't?" he asked sadly.

Seeing the lustful look in her lover's eyes – and finding that despite how exposed, self-conscious, and downright uncomfortable she felt in the revealing clothes, she did enjoy Ryou looking at her like that – Bakura drawled thoughtfully, "Well, it is a woman's prerogative to change her mind…"

"And a man's prerogative to help you change it," Ryou murmured in agreement.

"You think you can, chisaii houko?" she asked, mirth dancing in her blood red eyes, one foot reaching out to knock against his.

"I'm certainly going to try, my little thief," Ryou said, capturing her wayward foot with his ankle.

She smirked, and let him hold her there for a moment, before pulling away. Footsie was a game to be played where neither of the participants could see how they were moving, after all.

Ryou smiled back, then did a double-take. Bakura tensed slightly as he reached out to her; his hand rose, hovering hesitantly in midair for a moment before finally settling on Bakura's right cheek. "It's gone," he said plainly, no other words needing to be spoken for Bakura to understand what he was talking about.

Bakura nodded almost imperceptibly. I was wondering when he'd notice. "I didn't want people staring at me," she said, trying to sound as if that were the only reason she'd done it, instead of the minuscule amount of vanity that had let Mai talk her into wearing first that bathing suit and now these clothes. While most of the women of her own time had been scarred by life, if not by knife blades, modern thoughts of beauty were that women should be frail, fragile, unblemished flowers.

She had never been frail. Her life – and afterlife – had ensured that she was no longer easily breakable. And if she could be compared to any piece of flora, it was a black rose, heavily thorned. Ryou was the only one who dared to – or even wanted to – pick her. Not that she thought Ryou wanted her to be perfect. But, doubts crept in where they weren't wanted.

Especially since Joey and Tristan had spent lots of time staring at her breasts, but none looking at her face. Not that Bakura liked them ogling her, but it was disconcerting that they wouldn't look her in the eye. One could argue that it was because they were afraid she'd catch them in the act, but that hadn't kept them from leering at her cleavage, now, had it?

It was one of the few times she'd been envious of Malik. Bakura was the one who was really female, but Malik was the one with a body that could stop traffic. She thought it was slightly unfair. But thankfully, Ryou didn't seem to feel the same way.

Ryou's lips quirked up in a grin. "If you didn't want people staring at you then you shouldn't have let Mai dress you," he said dryly. "I know I'm not the only one enjoying the view…"

A hint of jealousy had crept into Ryou's voice, prompting a momentary flash of smugness from Bakura, before she subsided back into her worry. Huffing, Bakura looked down at her lap, her clasped hands clenching and unclenching anxiously. "So…"

"So?" Ryou prompted gently.

"What do you think?" Bakura asked, raising her head to look him in the eye. "How does it look like this?" She gestured to her now-unmarred cheek. "Better? Worse?"

Ryou studied her for a moment, his gaze almost unnerving in its inscrutable intensity. "Different," he said after a moment's thought.

Well, that's not vague… Bakura thought, giving a mental eye roll. Outwardly, she just raised one snowy brow.

Ryou laughed softly. "Really, that's it. Just different. Although…"

"Yes?" Bakura asked, thinly-veiled impatience coloring her tone – and covering up the concern.

Ryou blushed sheepishly. "I kinda liked you better with the scars. They're the real you, you know?"

A slow, genuine smile spread across Bakura's face. How I ever got so lucky, I'll never know. Maybe five thousand years in the Ring counts as atonement for a few decades of mayhem? "You're the best, Ryou, you know that?"

"And the best deserves the best," Ryou agreed, one hand reaching out to clasp hers, intent clear in his words and actions.


"Hey, Mai," Yugi greeted the blonde as she came up to them. He giggled as Yami whispered something inaudible into his ear, blushing slightly.

Mai shook her head at the two boys' antics. "Hey, minna-san," she said happily. "Is everyone here?" She glanced around at the table, noting both Joey and Tristan's presence, but not seeing Téa or Ryou anywhere.

"Téa's getting drinks for everyone, and Ryou's at the bar 'cause he wanted to people-watch," Tristan supplied.

Mai nodded and sat down. "Seto's got a late meeting; he'll be here in half an hour or so," she explained her lack of date.

"And Malik and Bakura?" Yami asked, as always worried about the more volatile members of their group. Granted, those two were on the fringes, but ever since he crushed the evil from their hearts, he felt responsible for them.

Mai smirked, a silent taunting of 'I know something you don't know.' "Bakura met up with Ryou over by the bar and Malik and Duke should be here any minute now."

Yami's eyes narrowed, but before he had a chance to say anything, Duke walked up to their table.

"Hey, guys," the dice duelist greeted, snagging a chair from a nearby empty table and sitting in it backwards.

"Hey, Duke, glad you could make it," Yugi said jubilantly.

"Wouldn't miss this for the world," Duke replied.

"Speaking of…" Mai said, a knowing smile on her face. "Where's Malik?"

Duke flushed at her suggestive look and cleared his throat. He was not going to be embarrassed about his relationship with Malik. No matter what Mai said.

Easier thought than done.

"Checking her coat, last I saw. If she doesn't get back in…" Duke checked his watch, "…one minute and thirty-eight seconds, I have her permission – grudgingly given, I might add – to send you after her to roust her out from wherever she's hiding."

"Why would Malik be hiding?" Joey asked dumbly.

Duke sighed and shook his head. He wasn't going there, no matter how much fun it was to taunt the blond. Wheeler could be so oblivious sometimes.

Luckily – to keep temptation at bay, anyway – at that moment, Malik walked up behind him, placing on hand on his shoulder. "Hey, lover," she whispered throatily.

Joey, Tristan, and even Yami's jaws dropped. Even Yugi's eyes widened a bit. The bikini Malik had worn at the beach was sexy, but this

Malik's attire gave new meaning to the phrase 'femme fatale.' The Egyptian girl was wearing a lavender dress. It was tight in all the right places, with a not-quite knee-length skirt made out of a shimmery, filmy material that caught the light just right. Her sandals were in a matching shade of pale purple, with ribbon-straps laced all the way up her calves. Her flaxen hair, normally left free, had been caught up in a loose knot at the nape of her neck, a few stray tendrils curling in casual disarray around her face giving her that 'just out of bed' sexy look. If one looked closely, they would notice that she was even wearing corresponding nail polish – on both her hands and feet. Simple golden ankhs hung from her ears, bands of the metal wrapped around her bare arms and wrists. Her neck was bare save for a matching ankh pedant, the shining color making her skin glow.

If the four friends hadn't known this was Malik, they never would have guessed that 'she' wasn't really a girl.

"Wow…" Tristan breathed.

"Ditto," Joey said dumbly.

Malik flushed and sidled closer to Duke, dropping down into a chair right next to him. She fiddled with one of her golden bracelets, obviously discomfited by all the attention she was receiving.

And from gay men, yet. True, 'she' was really a guy – but it wasn't like she looked it at the moment, was it?

Luckily, she was saved by the bell – in the form of one Téa Gardener.

"I'm back!" Téa announced, brandishing a tray of colorful drinks. "Hey, Mai," the brunette greeted. She started, blinking as she caught sight of the couple next to the blonde – or at least its female half – then smiled. "Duke, Malik," she said pleasantly. "Glad you could make it."

"Wish I could say the same," Malik grumbled, glaring at Joey and Tristan, both of whom had yet to shut their gaping mouths.

They blushed, mouths closing with audible snaps, and averted their eyes.

Téa gave them an exasperated look and took her place at the table, quickly passing out the five drinks she'd ordered. "Well, at least this evening shouldn't be boring, anyway," she said wryly.

"You got that right," Duke said under his breath, one arm snaking out to pull Malik closer. She smiled slightly and snuggled into his side. It may have been a girly action, but it felt nice, and it also had the added benefit of concealing her apparel from the two unattached males at the table.

It did, however, leave her in clear view of the lone, unattached female member of their group.

"That is a very nice dress, Malik," Téa complimented, taking a sip of her soda. "Where'd you get it?"

Seeing Malik was at a loss, Mai jumped in with, "It's one of mine, actually."

"And is Bakura's ensemble something you pulled from the depths of your closet as well?" Duke directed his question to Mai, though he was unable to take his eyes off his 'girlfriend' long enough to ask his question.

Shaking her head, the blonde said, "No, that we had to shop for."

"For three whole horrifying hours," Malik interjected, giving an exaggerated shudder for effect. "You have not known true terror until you've spent an afternoon at the mall with Bakura. And I've done it twice."

Joey and Tristan, for once, managed to look sympathetic instead of leering at Malik. Despite popular misconceptions, not even gay men liked shopping all that much.

Mai's lips twisted into a wry frown. "Yes, well… Looking good is a time-consuming process. Especially with the both of you balking me at every turn." She glared, though it held no heat.

Malik rolled her eyes, imploring the ceiling tiles with a 'Why me?' expression.

Mai shook her head. "Anyway, I knew there wasn't anything in my closet that would work for Bakura. Purple is my color; luckily, it's Malik's as well. But I don't own anything in red…"

"…which is definitely Bakura's color," Joey breathed, eyes avidly focused on the tomb-robber who was approaching their table, conversing with Ryou, who was at her side.

Tristan elbowed him. " Joey, do you want her to kill you?" he hissed.

Joey blushed. "Ah…no?" he guessed.

Tristan glared at him. "Yeah, 'no,' Joe."

Joey made a face, huffed slightly. He rose from his chair and stalked off. Tristan wilted as his friend left and also left the table, heading for the bar.

"When are those two going to get a clue?" Mai grumbled, eyes flicking back and forth between the two boys.

"Who knows?" Téa sighed.

Bakura and Ryou arrived at the table at that moment, so the two girls' conversation was cut short.

Ryou frowned, glancing around the half-empty table as he took a seat. "Where'd Joey and Tristan go?"

"Hopefully somewhere far, far away," Bakura said, hooking a nearby chair with her foot and dragging it near. "So I don't have to put up with them ogling me all evening."

"You said it, sister," Malik said tiredly.

Bakura rolled her eyes at the moniker. Dropping down into the chair she'd snagged, she sat sideways in the seat so she could face Ryou, arms folded along the back.

"Well, as long as they're gone…" Duke said, turning to his date. "Wanna dance?"

Titling her head to the side, Malik appeared to give the idea due consideration. Finally, she shrugged and nodded. "Sure, why not?"

"Sugoi!" Duke grasped her hand in his and pulled her up from the table, leading her out onto the dance floor.

"Well, now, that sounds like a good idea to me," Mai said as she watched the duo head for the dance floor. A smile broke out on her face as she caught sight of a certain blue-eyed CEO making his way through the crowds. "And my preferred partner just walked in the door. Catch you guys later!" With that, she sauntered away from the table, leaving the yamis, their hikaris, and Téa as the sole occupants of the table.

But not for long.

Téa, no fool she, could sense the rising tension between the two yamis. Desperate to get away from the awkward silence that she knew would ensue – with Yami and Bakura at the same table, silence was the best they could hope for; a loud barrage of volleying insults the worst (and what they most likely could expect) – Téa turned to Yugi and asked, "You wanna?"

Exchanging a look with his yami and receiving a nod in reply, Yugi shrugged. "Sure."

And then there were three…

"You don't mind that Yugi's dancing with Téa?" Ryou asked for lack of any better opening conversational gambits.

"I don't like dancing that much," Yami dismissed. Seeming to feel as if he should continue the conversation, he asked, "You?"

"Me, neither," Ryou agreed.

Bakura just shrugged. Picking up a paper umbrella discarded from someone's drink, she started mechanically opening and closing it.

A tense silence held reign at the table, seconds ticking away like a countdown to an execution.

Whispers of unease cloaked by disgruntlement and self-righteous anger escaped from Bakura's tight control to whistle through the corridors towards Ryou's soul room.

The hikari, sensing that the tension between the two yamis was the cause of this, asked, 'Kura?

Apparently Bakura had been so engrossed in ignoring the Pharaoh that she'd lost herself in contemplation. Startlement was a quick flash of emotion along their bond before Bakura responded. Yes, koi?

This definitely needed to be resolved, Ryou decided. They couldn't go on like this, with both Bakura and Yami unable to be civil when they were in proximity to each other. Or, rather, with Yami unwilling to give Bakura a chance, and with Bakura unwilling – with good reason, he admitted – to make the first move. Maybe you should talk to Yami… he suggested hesitantly. Sort of clear the air?

Feelings of agitated reflection seeped through their bond. Perhaps I should, she reluctantly agreed. If only because I'm tired of him and his little group treating you like one of the seven plagues, she hastened to add.

Of course it would be because of him, and not because of any irritation on her part, Ryou thought, amused in spite of himself. I'll meet you at the bar when you're finished, Ryou sent and quickly got up from his chair. "I'm going to go get something to drink," he excused himself, and left.

Blinking in confused bemusement after the younger man, Yami said, "Huh?"

Bakura snorted, bringing the other's attention to herself. "If that's the extent of your conversational abilities, then I'm glad you don't acknowledge my existence," she grumbled.

"What?" Yami asked distractedly, still slightly out of it.

Bakura sighed. "You can't even stand to be in the same room with me without treating me like a nonentity."

Yami huffed. "You can't honestly say that you and I have anything – other than Egypt – in common."

"Maybe not," Bakura allowed. "But there's no reason for you to avoid my hikari – or Marik's. I never thought I'd see the day that the great Pharaoh Atemu was unsure of his magical abilities."

"What do you mean, tomb-robber?" Yami demanded disbelievingly.

Examining her fingernails absentmindedly, Bakura appeared once again lost in thought. "Well, you were the one who Mind-Crushed Marik and I," she reminded the other, waiting for his tentative nod before continuing. "You removed the evil from both of us…but you still seem to think we're evil."

"I do not," Yami blustered.

"You must," Bakura stated firmly. "Why else would you avoid Ryou and Malik like you do?"

Yami had no answer for that. Crimson eyes stared down at the table, avoiding her condemning red gaze.

"It hurts him," she said quietly, looking away from that troubled crimson gaze. It hurts me too…not that I'd ever tell him that. Rounding on the former Pharaoh, she said, each word a measured blow, "Ryou deserves better than a bunch of fair weather friends who follow your lead all the time and stay away from him because you're afraid of me."

Yami opened his mouth to speak, but closed it again when it was apparent that he could come up with nothing to say. Finally, he admitted quietly, "You're right."

Bakura blinked. Did I hear that correctly? "I'm afraid I quite didn't hear you, Pharaoh," she said dryly. "Could you speak a little louder?"

Yami's glare was without the heat that was normally directed her way. "You are right," he said grudgingly, deliberately accentuating each word. "The evil that once inhabited both you and Marik is…gone. And…I need to learn to come to terms with that." He let out a gusting breath. "We all do."

Bakura stared hard at Yami, taking in the defeat in the slump of normally strong shoulders, the tiredness etching lines around crimson eyes that held the withered remains of their normal arrogance, the rueful admission of his own hypocrisy that hung heavy in the air over tri-colored spikes of hair…

And gave a sliver of a smile, magnanimously hiding her smugness by not grinning maniacally. She could afford to be mildly generous now that Yami had admitted he was in the wrong. Giving the other a nod in acceptance of the truthfulness of his words, she rose gracefully from her chair and headed off to find Ryou.

Being that…nice and…polite…to anyone besides Ryou – or, on occasion, the Ishtars –always sent chills up her spine. And not in a good way.

She really needed a drink.


"I am so sorry," Malik said for the third time as they exited the dance floor.

Duke chuckled and shrugged off her apologies. "It's all right."

"No, it's not," Malik countered. "If I keep stepping on your feet, pretty soon they'll be so bruised up you won't be able to walk."

"Then you can carry me out of here," Duke joked.

Malik rolled her eyes. "Yeah, right. Even as a guy, I wasn't strong enough to lift you."

"Are you saying I'm fat?" Duke asked, pretending to be appalled.

Violet eyes narrowing, Malik hissed, "Duke…" A sense of humor is all well and good, but can't he be serious for five minutes?

Cheeks round with suppressed laughter, Duke waved a hand. "Kidding, kidding. But seriously…as athletic as you are, I wouldn't have thought you were that bad a dancer."

Well, at least he's not afraid to speak his mind, Malik thought dryly. "I'm not," she replied. "It's just that I kept forgetting that as a girl I'm supposed to let you lead."

Comprehension dawned in jade green eyes. "Ah…" Duke said knowingly.

Malik gave a humor-skewed scowl. "And it's really hard to get used to moving in these Ra-damned shoes." She glared at her feet, or more specifically, the sandals adorning them. "I swear, high heels must have been originally invented as some sort of ancient torture device."

Husky laughter filled the air. "You didn't have to get all dressed up for me," Duke said through his chuckles. "I wouldn't have cared if you'd shown up in jeans and a T-shirt," he said truthfully.

"Neither would I," Malik said, matching his honesty with her own. "But Mai 'Immovable Object' Valentine has a bit of magic known as the 'Irresistible Force' that even the Millennium Rod can't counteract."

"What, so you wouldn't have gone through all this just for me?" Duke asked jokingly.

Slanting him a quick look, Malik said softly, "Duke, the only reason I went through any of this was for you. If it'd just been me…" She shrugged. "I wouldn't have even bothered going to the beach, and I would have worn my normal clothes tonight."

Smiling slightly, Duke said, "Well, I'm glad you did go along with Mai's 'suggestions,' if only because I think you look very nice."

"Thanks," Malik said softly, ducking her head. She was very proud of the fact that she'd managed not to blush at his compliment. She'd become used to them as a matter of course over the last three weeks of their relationship. It did make her wonder if it was just the way Duke was with all his koibitos, or if he was only complimenting her because she was female.

Well, there was only one way to find out for sure, and she had no idea when that would happen. Marik had never stayed away this long before, and she was starting to get worried.

But, if only for tonight, she wanted to forget about her problems and have fun.

"How about we try that dancing thing again?" Malik suggested.

"All right," Duke said agreeably. He drew Malik out onto the dance floor just as a slow song started. He put his arms around her, drawing her into a slow dance.

Malik shivered as his hands came up past the edge of her dress to rest on the small of her back, on the expanse of cocoa-colored skin bared by lavender chiffon. She took in a slow breath and forced herself to relax.

This was Duke. She was safe with him.

And that sort of soothing, idle massage thing he'd started up on her knotted muscles felt surprisingly good, too. She'd never had a back rub before – for obvious reasons – apparently she'd been missing a lot more than just romance by shutting other people out.

Involuntarily she cuddled closer to Duke, arms wrapped around his neck, bodies swaying to and fro. She hummed in contentment, almost purring as she lost herself in the music, and the languid movements of their bodies.

Was this what Heaven was like? Being held safe in the arms of her love?

If it wasn't, it should be.


Of course, nothing that good lasted forever…

"What?" Malik asked.

The waitress – a pretty brunette whose nametag read Talyn in fuchsia and silver script – shrugged one bangle-clad arm and popped her gum. "I said that some guy at the bar sent you this drink. It's already paid for; enjoy." With that, she set the large frosted glass – filled to the brim with a pale blue froth – on the table and sauntered off back to the bar. But not before giggling and saying, "It's funny…he looked like your twin."

Her parting words ringing in Malik's ears, the blonde's lavender eyes widened. Marik?

"What is it?" Ryou asked, peering suspiciously at the oddly colored drink.

"I don't know, but I'm not about to drink it," Malik said, pushing the glass away. "I need to go look for Marik, see if he's still here."

"No need," Bakura said, her copy of the Millennium Ring flashing to life on her chest. It glowed briefly, the five points jangling back and forth for a moment, before it went quiescent, the light dying out. She sighed. "Gomen ne, Malik, but I can't feel his copy of the Rod anywhere near here. He's been and gone."

"How did you do that?" Duke asked, staring at Bakura's chest – or, rather, the golden Item now resting around her neck. I wonder if she used that spell she taught Malik?

"A spell," Bakura dismissed, before turning back to Malik. "Since when do you turn down a free drink, 'Li? You know Marik wouldn't poison it." She waved at her chest and mumbled something under her breath, the Ring winking out of sight once again as she waited for the answer.

Seems like it, Duke thought. That's what Malik did when she showed me her back.

Malik rolled her eyes and flushed slightly. "Apparently, that old saying about girls not being able to hold their liquor is true – for me, at least. Remember I told you how Duke and I met?"

Bakura chuckled and nodded; Duke and Ryou smiled slightly.

"Well, if you don't want it, I'll drink it," Bakura said, reaching out for the drink. "That saying has never and will never be true for me. Thank Ra." She plucked the blue paper umbrella out of the glass and took a tentative sip. Swallowing the small mouthful, her eyes went wide.

"What is it?" Malik asked curiously, slightly worried.

Bakura held up one finger and took another sip, tasting it cautiously. When she'd finished that mouthful, she said, "It's actually two different drinks mixed together…I think."

"You think?" Ryou asked. "Why?"

Bakura frowned contemplatively, her eyes narrowing as she stared thoughtfully at the glass. "Well, there's vodka in here, along with peach schnapps, cranberry juice and blue Curacao, which makes one drink – or would, normally. But there's twice as much vodka as there needs to be, and there's also Amaretto, Kahlua, and light cream."

"Okay, so what two drinks does that make?" Duke asked, not being up on the finer points of cocktail mixes.

Ryou also looked clueless, but Malik was snickering into her hand. The third time she, Marik and Bakura had gone drinking together, Marik had convinced them all to try some of the more erotically-named drinks in the bar. It had been an experience she wouldn't soon forget, not the least of which was because Marik had actually been inebriated enough that night to get up and sing karaoke.

Although he did make a pretty good showing considering he'd been singing Right Said Fred's I'm Too Sexy – one of the more comical songs of the late twentieth century – he'd almost gotten them kicked out of the bar by stripping his shirt and…other items of apparel off in accordance with the lyrics. He hadn't been wearing a hat, so he'd had to improvise – with his boxers.

Damn, she wished she'd had a camera to capture it on film. Or at least the look on his face when she'd told him about what he'd done. It was absolutely priceless.

Bakura smirked at her hikari, directing her words only to him. "Well, along with half the vodka, the peach schnapps, cranberry juice and Curacao make up Foreplay…" her smirked widened as she saw Ryou unable to contain his blush, "…and the other half of the vodka, added to the Amaretto, Kahlua, and light cream one is A Screaming Orgasm."

Ryou, knowing by the light in his yami's eyes that he should expect the second drink to be even kinkier than the first, had only pinkened up a bit more. Duke, however, choked on his soda.

"You're kidding!" he finally gasped out, throat vaguely hoarse from coughing.

"Nope," Bakura said easily, expression deadpan.

Malik chuckled lightly. "All you would have had to add is some sloe gin and orange juice and you would have gotten the full treatment, 'Kura-chan," she snickered lightly.

Frowning slightly at the moniker – and because she couldn't figure out what drink those ingredients two made – Bakura narrowed her eyes and asked cautiously, "What do you mean, Mali-chan?"

Malik just quirked an eyebrow at her in amusement. "Well, you've had the Foreplay," here the Egyptian blonde gestured to the glass in front of her friend, "but before you have the Screaming Orgasm, don't you think a Slow, Comfortable Screw would be nice?" She flashed her pearly white teeth in a slightly mocking smile.

Bakura blushed almost as red as her bustier top. Ryou's face was also flaming in a similar hue, but he didn't seem as taken aback as his lover.

Duke, for his part, was just watching the proceedings with a small smile on his face. Spending the past six weeks with Malik had let him get to know her pretty well – but he hadn't had much chance to watch her interact with her friends. He was learning things about her he knew he never would have otherwise. Like the fact that she had a very naughty sense of humor…

Ryou cleared his throat to dispel the tension. "Yes, well…" He looked at Bakura, trying valiantly to keep from bushing. "Maybe you should finish your drink?"

'Before something even more embarrassing happens,' remained unsaid between the four, but it was an obvious implication.

Bakura's reach for her drink was preempted, however. At that moment, the Ring flared to life and visibility on her chest again.

Malik blinked. "Is he back?" she gasped.

Bakura's grin was almost feral. "I do believe so."

Pushing his chair back from the table, Duke rose and offered his date a hand up. "Well, then… Let's go get him."


For all that he was cleverer by far than someone his apparent – or even mental – age should be…it was surprisingly easy to catch Marik.

Mainly because he wasn't trying to evade them.

"Cheeky little brat," Ryou grumbled under his breath as he caught sight of the aforementioned yami sitting at the bar, sipping a soda, legs swinging back and forth as if he hadn't a care in the world.

Contrary to popularly held belief, neither Ryou nor Bakura were very impulsive people. That didn't, however, stop the former from marching over and glaring fiercely at Marik, arms folded across his chest. "Hello, Marik," he said sweetly, foot tapping impatiently on the floor.

"Ryou!" Marik greeted the hikari cheerily, hopping down from the stool, leaving his empty glass on the bar. "How are you this fine evening?"

"Better than Malik is," Bakura growled, coming to stand next to her koibito. "At least he's his appropriate gender," she said pointedly, scowling at the wide-eyed look Marik gave her when the other yami caught sight of her attire.

Marik winced and visibly cringed. He gave a sheepish chuckle and ducked his head. "Yeah, about that… Did Malik get my apology drink?"

Ryou snorted, a gesture at odds with his normally refined demeanor. "What kind of apology is sending someone a sexually explicit drink?" he demanded. "Especially considering what you did to her?"

Marik shrugged and gave a meek grin. "The only one I could think of on the spur of the moment when I saw you guys here."

Bakura raised one snowy brow. "You didn't plan this?" She gestured to the hustle and bustle of the club-goers around them.

Marik scoffed. "Of course not. You think I wanted to do this in public?" He shook his head. "I hadn't planned on running into you here, but I thought now was as good a time as any to make amends. And those two drinks were the ones Malik liked the most out of all the ones we tried. I figured it was better than nothing."

"Better than begging for forgiveness empty-handed, you mean." Bakura bristled.

"I do not beg, tomb-robber," Marik growled, conveniently forgetting the time when he'd begged her for his life.

Sensing that things were about to get heated, Malik decided to intervene. Stepping forward, Duke following in her wake, she said, "Marik."

At the sound of his other's voice, Marik whirled around. His eyes going wide, he gaped at the sight of her, obviously stunned by her attire much more than he had been by Bakura's.

But then, Bakura's clothing was just out of character. Malik's was out of gender.

Catching sight of Duke – who'd placed one arm possessively around Malik's waist – Marik's eyes narrowed. "I see you made a new…friend," he said, infusing the last word with veiled innuendo.

Malik nodded curtly. "Well, it wasn't like I could hang out with you these past six weeks, now could I?"

Marik had the grace to look ashamed at that, but quickly covered it up with indignation. "You weren't supposed to be enjoying this," he hissed, glaring at his hikari. His eyes raked Duke up and down, clearly insinuating what kind of 'enjoyment' she'd been having.

Intervention is a bust, Malik thought, trying to reign in her temper. Out of the frying pan, and into the bonfire. She huffed, folding her arms across her chest. "What, you're mad at me for making the best of a bad situation–"

"Bad?" Duke asked, one eyebrow arched a smile lurking on his lips.

Malik flushed slightly and scowled at her boyfriend before turning back to Marik and amending her words. "–all right, a not-entirely-bad situation – that you caused?"

"Yeah, Marik, I think it's more than slightly rude of you to be mad that Malik isn't suffering as much from her 'punishment' as you intended her to be," Duke put in.

Marik grumbled under his breath, but otherwise remained silent. A tense silence reigned, until a new party was heard from. Their argument had caught the attention of the other members of their group, and while Yami, Yugi, Téa, Joey, Tristan and Seto hung back, Mai felt compelled to add her two yen to the conversation. She'd never say it, but she had become rather protective of the two newest 'females' in their group, long-repressed maternal instincts coming to the fore as bonds of sisterhood.

Walking up to stand next to the other blonde, Mai gave Marik a hard look. "So, now that you're back…" she started.

"Does that mean you're willing to change me back?" Malik threw in.

Marik looked back and forth between the two blondes, taking in the foreboding expression on Mai's face and the hopeful one on Malik's. It was the second one that did him in. "I might as well," he sighed. "It's not like I have any other choice, considering Bakura's holding a knife on me."

The assembled group of friends and lovers turned to look behind Marik, finding the thief holding a rather wicked-looking dagger in her hand – and pressing it against the small of Marik's back.

Bakura shrugged with the arm that wasn't holding the knife. "I don't like it when people mess with my friends," she said dismissively.

"Aren't I one of your friends?" Marik asked, craning his neck to watch her with wary suspicion as he cautiously turned around.

"Yes," Bakura agreed pleasantly. "Which is the reason why I didn't gut you on sight."

Marik gulped and gave a nervous chuckle. "Awfully nice of you, 'Kura."

She just glowered at him. "Fix Malik. Now, twerp."

Sighing, Marik turned to face his hikari. "All right, all right, hold onto your knife," he grumbled. He slipped his copy of the Millennium Rod out of his pants pocket and gestured Malik closer. " C'mere, ane-chan."

Malik scowled as she strode over, coming to a stop not a foot away from her yami/brother. "I can still beat you up with one hand tied behind my back, Marik," she warned him.

Marik rolled his eyes. "I know, I know," he said sarcastically. He held the Millennium Rod out in front of him, the Udjat Eye on the scepter-like end facing towards Malik. Releasing the twin blades from the golden 'wings' on either side of the Eye, he closed his eyes and focused his command of the Shadow power, causing the Item to glow with a bright light, bathing his hikari in its luminescence.

Luckily their small group blocked the sight from any passersby, or Marik might have had to wipe the crowd's memories of his little magical display.

The glow of the Rod diminished into nothingness as Marik lowered it back to his side, blades retracting. His indigo eyes snapping open, he stared at Malik.

Who appeared unchanged from her female state.

"That's it?" Duke demanded disbelievingly.

"Aa," Marik agreed, shrugging carelessly.

"But Malik's still a girl," Téa pointed out.

Marik blinked. "Of course she is. This isn't an instantaneous transformation, you know."

"No, actually, we didn't know," Malik said sarcastically. One sandaled foot tapped impatiently against the floor. "Why am I still female, Marik?"

Marik heaved a sigh. "Do you remember when you first realized you were female, hikari?" he asked in caustic tones.

"I woke up that way," Malik answered immediately, not needing to think about it in order to remember. She'd spent the past six weeks analyzing everything that had happened before and after her transformation and had all but memorized the events.

"Exactly," Marik said, sounding as if he wanted to add 'Duh!' to the end of his one-word statement. "I cast the spell before you went to bed, and you changed in your sleep. It would be painful if you were awake for it – considering your body was changing on the atomic level – therefore, I had you change while you were unconscious. You'll revert to your true body the same way you changed in the first place."

"Which means…" Malik prompted testily, inwardly unable to help a smile as she heard what Marik didn't say – that despite the fact that he was angry with her, he hadn't wanted to hurt her with the spell.

"That you'll go to sleep tonight female, and wake up male," Marik said slowly, as if speaking to a young child.

Malik gave her yami a measuring look, searching for any hint of deceit hiding in his indigo eyes. There was none; his expression was as open and honest as it ever got – which wasn't very, except with her, his hikari. Finally she gave him a curt nod and said, "All right. I believe you."

Marik shuffled his feet nervously and looked down at the floor, unable to face her. "I am…sorry…about this whole thing," he said softly, not wanting to be overheard.

Malik softened. She knew better than anyone how hard a time Marik had had adjusting to having his own body. It wasn't an excuse – especially not for turning his hikari into a girl for six weeks – but it was at least a glimmer of an explanation.

At least she knew it wasn't because he'd been bored – which was why he'd done a kamikaze raid on those pigeons in the park the one time she'd tried to teach him to drive her motorcycle.

"I know," she replied, voice equally as low. I forgive you, she sent through their link, breathing a silent sigh of relief as she felt that he wasn't blocking her out anymore. It had been difficult getting used to sharing her mind with Marik at first, but once he'd gotten his own body, he only kept the link closed when he was mad at her – or when he was hiding from her, as he had been for the past month and a half – and his sudden departure from the back of her thoughts for such a long time had left her feeling rather…empty. More alone than she ever thought she'd feel with him gone.

It was good to have him back.

Thanks, he sent back, giving her a small, yet genuine smile. She smiled back and resisted the urge to roll her eyes as Marik started, remembering where they were. Coloring slightly, he turned and walked back to the bar, picking up his drink.

Malik resisted the urge to shake her head at his forced nonchalance. Marik was, for all that he'd grown up a lot in the ensuing months since his materialization, still a typical guy. Emotions really bothered him – probably because he'd never had much experience with them, aside from the more negative ones.

Not that Malik was all that much better, but at least she could manage to accept an apology with some amount of grace and goodwill.

Giving a mental eye roll at the predictability of her other, Malik turned to walk back over to the group of waiting friends. Before she'd taken two steps, she was accosted by her boyfriend. "Huh?" She made a questioning noise and turned her back to the curious glances she was receiving from the aforementioned group.

"Are you sure he's telling the truth?" Duke whispered in Malik's ear, flicking a glance towards Marik. He obviously didn't want to broadcast his doubts to the group at large – or the yami in question.

Marik was watching the two carefully, unaware he was observed in his surreptitious endeavors. Malik, however, knew how good Marik's hearing was – and that despite her declaration of forgiveness, Marik would still be feeling guilty and need more reassurance. "He's never lied to me before," she answered, voice low, but pitched to carry across the few yards towards the bar. "And I don't believe he'd start now."

Out of the corner of her eye, Malik caught the sight of a small smile creeping unbidden across Marik's lips, before he scowled at her and Duke's cozy proximity and stalked out of the bar.

Slightly crestfallen at her yami's reaction to her koi – but having expected it, since Marik always got jealous when she spent time with anyone who wasn't him – Malik sighed and leaned back into said boyfriend's comforting embrace as they walked over to rejoin the group. "Take me home, Duke," she requested, looking beseechingly up into his jade green eyes. "The sooner we get home, the sooner I can go to sleep." And the sooner this whole crazy thing will be over and I can talk to Marik without wanting to strangle him.

"And the sooner you can get your dick back," Bakura joked. Having sheathed her knife once Marik disappeared from sight, she was now standing next to Ryou once more.

Duke snorted.

Malik rolled her eyes at her friend's characteristic bluntness. "Exactly," she agreed.

Tilting her head to the side, Téa rolled her eyes at the juvenile behavior. Female Malik might be – for the moment – but her mind was obviously still male. And Bakura…

Well, she'd best not let her thoughts dwell on that, or she'd lose what little was left of her sanity after all the Shadow Realm craziness that had happened in Domino City.

"Glad your time as a girl is almost over?" Téa directed her question to Malik.

The platinum blonde nodded vigorously. "So glad," she said happily. "I cannot wait to get home."

"Speaking of going home…" Bakura said leadingly, inclining her head towards the exit. "It is getting rather late." Not that midnight was all that late – especially considering all the members of the assembled group were teenagers – but considering all that had happened, a somewhat early night would not be a bad idea.

"Yes, we really should be going," Ryou agreed, eyes widening as his girlfriend's hand strayed from its normal position around his waist and went venturing into territory further south. He resolutely kept himself from squeaking as she pinched his ass, but couldn't hold back his blush. Thankfully, his red cheeks went mostly unnoticed in the colored lights of the club.

'Kura? he sent a tentative question.

Hesitation and desire filtered down their link. Sorry, I just…

Want you.

Though the last two words remained unsaid, Ryou could tell what they would have been. Isis may have held the Millennium Tauk, but sometimes you didn't need a magical Item to see what might have been.

"Me, too," he whispered, one hand reaching out for hers and giving it a firm squeeze. Always.

Bakura smiled softly at him, and they turned to go, oblivious to the looks they were receiving from Malik and Duke.

They were stopped in mid-egress, snapped out of their love-induced reverie by Yugi's voice.

"Oh, hey, wait!" Yugi piped up, waving to catch the other yami/hikari pair's attention. Seeing that he'd done so – but was receiving something akin to a death glare from Bakura – he quickly said, "Before all you guys leave – I was thinking about holding an end of summer 'one last bash before we have to go back to school' party. Would you be up for it?"

"Sounds like fun," Duke put in, and Malik nodded her agreement.

Bakura just looked at Ryou for the answer, unable to concentrate enough of her cogitation on the question to actually come up with one of her own. Besides, it wasn't like she'd go unless he wanted to, so it made sense to find out what his opinion was.

"I'm up for it," Ryou managed to get out, tearing his attention away from his lover long enough to focus on Yugi. "Call us with the details, all right?" he said raggedly, inching further towards the exit.

"Will do." Yugi nodded, and the four said their farewells to the group.

"Ja ne!" Ryou called as they exited the bar.

As he watched until the four were out of sight, Yugi asked Yami, "You think things will finally start getting back to normal around here? Now that Malik's going to be back to his old self?"

Yami snorted. "Normal? Since when have things ever been normal around here, aibou?"

Téa chuckled. "Too true."

"Yeah," Tristan added. "Most we can hope for is that things don't get any weirder."

Joey nodded in agreement.

Seto scoffed, startling the other five, as this was the first time in the evening they'd spoken with him. "Normal for this group is weird. The status quo has always been that something out of the ordinary is going on. If something unusual wasn't happening, then I'd worry."

Mai titled her head in acknowledgment of her lover's words. "He has a point. Weird is business as usual for us."

"Yeah, but how much weirder could it get?" Joey asked. "I mean, Bakura turnin' out ta be a girl was pretty odd. And Marik turnin' Malik inta a girl was even weirder. But da only thing that could surpass dat is all of us ending up as girls." He grinned. "And what are da chances of dat happenin'?"

They all burst out into peals of laughter – save Seto, who shivered, awareness of being observed by a not-quite malevolent presence prickling at the back of his neck – none of them noticing that the bane of Malik's sanity – also know as Marik – was lurking in the shadows.

Lurking in the shadows, a wicked gleam in his eyes and a smile on his face.


The next morning dawned warm and sunny, a harbinger of a beautiful day.

Even more beautiful than the bishounen gracing his bed, Duke thought.

Malik had been on edge with Marik's reversal of the spell, and hadn't wanted to spend the night alone. Not that they had actually slept in separate beds since that day at the beach, but this was the first time Malik had had any reservations about it.

Probably because, not only was 'she' worried about whether or not she really would wake up as a guy again – not that she doubted Marik's word, but what if he'd done the spell wrong? – but also how Duke would handle going to sleep next to a girl, and waking up next to a guy.

Despite the fact that Malik had wanted to try and get to sleep as soon as they'd gotten back home, she'd been apprehensive about actually getting into bed.

But only until Duke had started the pillow fight.

Fifteen minutes, four pillows, three instances of bedside table ambushes, two knocked-askew lampshades and one tussle on the floor over the right to wield the blue cotton comforter as a weapon later, her concerns had evaporated. They'd both collapsed on the bed, cuddled up to each other, laughing as feathers drifted around them, the bedroom a total mess.

With the cessation of the pillow fight, Malik's uncertainty about staying with him that night also left. Though it did take quite a while before she was able to fall asleep, her nervousness keeping her so rigid and tense that she was unable to relax for over an hour. Even when she had drifted off into the land of Nod, Duke stayed awake awhile longer, just watching over her. It would be his last chance to see Malik as a girl, and for all that he knew she hadn't entirely enjoyed the experience…he would miss 'her.'

But 'he' would be there to take 'her' place, so it wasn't as if he would actually be missing an important part of his life. Though Malik would probably move out once he was back to normal…

Finally, sometime after two-thirty, his doubts and fears were subsumed by his tiredness. He was unable to keep his eyes open any longer.

When he next opened them, Malik was a guy once more.


It wasn't the warmth of the rising sun, or the light of said yellow star that woke him from his deep slumber. It was the feeling of being watched – watched with desirous intent – that did it.

Muffling a jaw-cracking yawn with the pillow beneath his head, Malik's eyelids fluttered up and he gazed blearily at his bedmate.

His bedmate whose wide-awake, jade green eyes were focused on him, a silly little smile on his lips.

"Good morning, beautiful," Duke said lightheartedly.

Beautiful? Malik thought wryly, a tinge of pleasure at the term making his lips turn up slightly despite his irritation at the much-too-early in the morning awakening. What, Devlin, you have a thing for bed hair and pillow creases on skin? Malik rolled his eyes as best he could while his face was still mashed half into the pillow. "What's good about…it?" He blinked and looked cross-eyed at his mouth from which his words had just left. His mouth from which had his words had just left in his male voice. Shooting straight up in the bed, he stared down at his chest – his once again flat chest.

"Well, not that I really had a problem with you being a girl, but I thought you would consider it a good thing that you're not anymore," Duke said teasingly, rising up to sit next to Malik.

"Oh, I do," Malik agreed with alacrity, still staring down at his T-shirt-clad chest. Throwing reticence out the window, along with modesty, he quickly pulled off his shirt so that he could become reacquainted with the sight of his masculine body. "No more bras – ever. Thank Ra," he said with ardent zeal.

Duke snickered at his koi's actions, drawing Malik's attention to him.

Ack! I forgot he was watching. Coloring, Malik resisted the urge to try and sink through the floor. He instead covered up his discomfort by quickly turning around and pulling his shirt back on. I don't really mind him seeing my back – who am I kidding, of course I do – but I would prefer not to act like an exhibitionist and put it on display. "What?" the blond demanded testily of his lover. "What is so funny?" Even if he could read hieroglyphics, it's not like I've got 'Egypt's Funniest Home Tablets' emblazoned on my back…

Duke shook his head, averting his gaze so his boyfriend couldn't see the mirth shining in his eyes. "It's nothing," he dismissed.

Malik cocked one golden brow. "Oh?" There was a wealth of meaning in that one syllable.

"Well…"

"Yes?" Malik prompted.

"I was just thinking…" Duke started.

"A new endeavor for you, I'm sure," Malik interrupted, a smile on his face.

Duke scowled, glaring at the laughing Egyptian standing in front of him. "I was just thinking that you probably jinxed yourself by saying that you'd never have to wear a bra again."

Malik's brow furrowed. "Huh?"

Shrugging, Duke said, "The universe loves irony, and it would be only too ironic if you ended up a girl again sometime in the near future."

Eyes going wide with shock, Malik said, "Don't even say that!"

Duke chuckled. "You know it's true." He looked thoughtful. "It'd be even more ironic if I ended up as one as well."

Talk about jinxing things… Making a noise of disgust, Malik shoved the covers off and climbed out of bed. "I'm leaving before this conversation gets even more surreal. I'm gonna go take a shower," he said, heading for the bathroom.

Duke smirked at his koi's retreating back. "Let me guess – you're planning to spend the next couple of hours staring at yourself in the mirror, aren't you?"

Malik froze, blinking startled violet eyes at the doorway as he processed Duke's not-quite-a-question. How in the world…? "That's kinda creepy that you know me so well," he said, slowly turning back around to face Duke.

Duke just raised one raven brow.

"That's actually what I was planning to do," Malik explained, laughing a little at his own foolishness. But I have a right to be foolish – I haven't seen my dick in six weeks! he thought defensively. "How'd you know?"

Duke shrugged, trying to hide his pleased blush at Malik's smile behind his bed-mussed hair. "Because that's what I'd do if I spent six weeks as a girl and just got my own body back." A calculating look came over his face.

What is that look for? He's up to something… "What?" Malik frowned slightly and cocked one platinum blond brow in question.

Feigning nonchalance, Duke looked away from Malik's probing gaze, instead taking the chance to examine his fingernails. "Well, it's just that I've spent the past six weeks with you as a girl, and I haven't really spent all that much time with you as a guy…"

"And?" Malik prompted. I'm not sure I like where this is going… he thought.

Though, I don't necessarily not like where it's going… a little voice – he thought of it as his 'Inner Isis' since it always seemed to want what was best for him, but also always seemed to be diametrically opposed to his subconscious, (plus it had first shown up a few days after he'd been turned into a girl) – countered. At least not yet.

Duke grinned and gave him a suggestive look. "And, if you wouldn't mind, I'd kinda like to spend the next couple of hours with you."

Staring at my naked body in the mirror, Malik thought, not quite able to wrap his mind around that thought. He…wants to see me naked?

That's a good thing, right? his Inner Isis prodded.

Well…yeah, he admitted. But why do I get the feeling I'm going to be cutting my self-admiration celebration short in favor of more…carnal activities?

His Inner Isis snorted. Because he's obviously hot for you, and you're hot for him.

Malik blushed at the blunt tone his inner voice had taken. But that doesn't mean I'm going to just jump right into bed with him, he countered.

Mirth bubbled up from Inner Isis. It doesn't?

Heaving a mental sigh, Malik ruefully admitted that maybe his own personal internal Devil's Advocate was right. He had always been impulsive, and holding himself back from what he wanted – whether it be world domination, the Pharaoh's power, the last piece of triple chocolate fudge cake, or, in this case, sex with Duke Devlin – had never been his style.

Realizing that he'd been lost in his own internal musings for a few minutes and Duke was still waiting not-so-patiently for an answer, Malik decided to rejoin the land of the consciously aware and answer Duke's implied question. "I'll make a deal with you – I'll let you ogle me if you help me get this thrice-damned nail polish off," he bargained, holding up one lavender-manicured hand.

Duke's eyes lit up. "Deal," he agreed. He jumped off the bed and headed over to Malik. Glancing at Malik's hand, he stifled a snort and asked, "How did you ever let Mai talk you into that anyway?"

"Who said there was talking involved?" Malik asked, one eyebrow raised in disbelief. "She did it without even asking me – just like everything else involving my appearance last night." She frowned. "You have no idea how annoying it was having to sit there for over an hour while she put all that make-up on me."

"An hour to put on something that took you two minutes and a warm washcloth to remove." Duke snorted. "Doesn't seem worth it."

"I don't think so, either – but you weren't complaining last night," Malik pointed out. "I think the word 'beautiful' was bandied about a few times…" More than a few times, Malik thought with self-conscious pleasure, before his musings took a downward turn. But I wonder… Now that I'm male again, does he feel the same way? Beautiful is for girls – or so most people think.

Most people are idiots, his Inner Isis spoke up.

True.

Duke, however, for all that he didn't possess any Millennium Item, let alone Isis' Tauk – or even Malik's Inner Isis' innate ability to understand Malik – seemed to be able to read Malik's mind. "You are very beautiful, Malik," he said matter-of-factly, one hand coming up to cup the Egyptian's cheek. "That doesn't rely on any amount of makeup or fancy clothing."

"It doesn't?" Malik asked faintly.

Duke shook his head and grinned lasciviously, pointedly looking Malik's body up and down. "I'd think you were beautiful naked."

Snorting at his boyfriend's antics, Malik said, "Well, you'll get the chance to test that hypothesis in just a few minutes, won't you?"

"Yes, I do believe so," Duke agreed readily.

Malik shook his head. "You're incorrigible, Dev."

"Well, then you'll just have to do your best to 'corrige' me then, won't you?" Duke joked.

"That isn't a word," Malik said laughingly.

"If it isn't, then it should be," Duke replied easily.

Malik rolled his eyes. "Sure it should. It should be in the dictionary right before Dungeon Dice Monsters," Malik said facetiously. "Definition: noun. Greatest dice game on the face of the planet. And in parentheses: 'or so says its creator.'" He smirked at the expression on Duke's face.

"How dare you mock the greatness that is Dungeon Dice Monsters?" Duke demanded, pretending to be appalled. His expression of dismay melted into a pout and he shook his head, tut-tutting under his breath. "If I didn't love you so much, I'd pelt you with some of my dice."

Malik's eyes went wide. "L-love?" he mouthed, barely any sound behind it. He swallowed. "You're kidding, right?" he asked almost plaintively. Last week…I know that he said something like that, but those three little words have more than one meaning. Japanese is funny about things like that.

Duke's eyes softened at the sight of his koi's panic. Malik could risk life and limb in a life or death game of Duel Monsters without breaking a sweat, but he didn't handle emotional commitments all that well.

Not like I'm all that much better, Duke thought wryly. Keeping a sharp eye on the Egyptian directly in front of him who was currently masquerading as a scared bunny rabbit to make sure said rabbit didn't bolt, he shook his head. "No. I'm not kidding," Duke said softly. "I realize this may seem sudden, but…I like you." He chuckled ruefully. "More than like you, obviously."

Malik smiled tentatively, silently urging him to continue.

Duke obliged. "I enjoy spending time with you. You understand me better than almost anyone. And…" He let out a deep breath and looked Malik in the eye. "I'm really going to miss you once you move back in with your family. The shop seems so empty when you're not there." He ducked his head and murmured, "The shop, here at home…my life…"

Malik's breath caught in his throat. I don't want to leave him, either. Does that mean I love him? Swallowing the lump that had formed where that shuddering gasp had halted, he said, "I…I've never been in love before, so I don't know if what I'm feeling now is love." He licked his suddenly dry lips and continued, "But, I…I think I might be…with you." His smile was blindingly bright despite the happy tears gathering in his violet eyes. "And even if I'm not, I…I think I could learn to love you."

The sweetness of hearing those words washed over Duke, bringing a rare, truly genuine smile to his own lips, one that wasn't in the least bit phony or forced because of expectations. " Hope you'll help me with the lessons," he returned softly, before leaning forward the scant few inches needed and kissing Malik with unrestrained gentleness.

Malik had time for just two thoughts before he was lost in the haze of passion they were creating. How he could ever have doubted Duke's feelings for him, Malik would never know.

And two: that getting reacquainted with his male self could wait awhile. Whatever carnal activities that ensued from this kiss would take precedence.

Hey, one had to have their priorities, right? And right at this moment in time, Malik's number one priority was Duke.


To Be Concluded In Everybody Switch!