A year and some late, horrid, and what not – but it's here. I'm done with this chapter; I've been staring at it far too long – it's up. Hopefully it wont' take a year to update this again, but no promises. Anyway, enjoy! And yes, a special character will make an appearance – consider it a loophole because I promised he-knows-who-he-is that this person would be in this story. So he's staying. Thanks for reading!

Part 9. The Game

It was very dark.

At first, Ryou scoffed – he had lived with the darkness in the back of his head for years, so sitting in it for a few hours wasn't so bad. In fact, he had laughed out loud and mocked that idiot Al for a while before laying down with his back flush to the floor. If it was dark he might as well sleep; or try. Ryou wasn't very tired and was still bored; it was hard to color when you couldn't see what you were doing. Ryou was still convinced that nothing that Al could do would be worse than Bakura and the shadow realm. Now that was a real nightmare with all the shadows and monsters and other creepy stuff floating around.

So he thought anyway, but it was too quiet and the sound of his own heart and breathing were near deafening by that third or forth or fifth hour; it was hard to tell how long he'd been here. Ryou shoved his face into his knees and kept his hands clamped over his ears as he curled into as tight a ball as possible. This room was suffocating him; it was hot and Ryou could barely tell if he was sitting upright. He wondered briefly how this could feel so bad when nothing was in the room to hurt him. That's right, there was nothing here but him. He was all alone.

Ryou really, really missed Bakura.

"Are you sure this is okay?"

"I know, Jack. I know." Al ran his hand through his hair. He'd seen some bad things in his Navy days, but this was starting to get to him. Maybe total sensory deprivation hadn't been the best way to handle the situation, but he'd made that choice and now he had to stick with it. Nothing else was getting through to the kid and they needed information on this spirit in Sam's head. Al had a bad feeling in his head about that guy that he couldn't quite shake. It was guttural and made him itch for his cigar more than usual. "But it's only been about two hours. If he doesn't crack by the end of hour three we'll let him out."

The assistant tapped his finger on the button for the lights. To be on the safe side of course. "Just as long as you're sure."

"I'm sure." Al hoped he was anyway. He then caved to his instincts and dug through his coat for a cigar; he was going to need it. The kid was lucky though that Al was starting to feel bad for him sitting there in the middle of the floor rocking back and forth. At least now he'd start behaving and cooperating with the rest of them. "On the bright side of things, it's not like he'll remember any of this when we're done."

"Great way to brush off trauma, boss."

"Oh shut up."

-----

"Are you morons done yet? I want to get this game done and over with before I'm old." Kaiba tapped his fingers on the desk as he turned the computer to the front. He had the game scenario set up and was ready to go once the others got their acts together. He didn't have all day to beat them into the table; not that it should take long. There was no way that brat Yugi was as good at this game as he was Duel Monsters. Kaiba was more worried about the white haired boy; if the room dedicated to Monster World was any indication; he played this game too much. "What are your player types so I can input the data?"

"Ah, well everyone but Malik, Rishid, Yami and Bakura should be in the computer." Sam gulped and turned to the others. He held up a the small box that held the tiny figurines from the last time everyone played the game together. "I hope you don't mind, but I assumed you'd still want your old characters?"

"Yeah, that's fine Bakura! It'll be fun being a beast tamer again." Yugi smiled and reached for the small piece. "I'm surprised you kept these."

"Well, you know." Sam laughed and rubbed his hair as the others grabbed their pieces and put them on the board. Jonouchi was already poking his piece and making fake sword swings in the air at Honda. Anzu looked amused none the less at her own figure. "And it looks like it paid off."

Yugi giggled and set his figurine at the starting point of the board on his half while Bakura set his own white wizard down. Yami was pretty excited too if the amount of energy Yugi was picking up from his half was any indication. "Yeah, this is going to be a lot of fun, Bakura."

"Um, would you mind calling me Ryou?" Sam decided this was as good a time as any. They were confusing the heck out of him calling him Bakura all the time and since both he and the thief would be playing this game it would be good to distinguish between the two of them. He actually wondered how Ryou put up with it before, though then again – it's not like Ryou was open to telling others about the spirit. "The spirit of the ring likes to go by the name 'Bakura."

"Oh, of course." Yugi nodded at Bakura's, no Ryou's, hopeful look. "We can do that, right guys?"

"Yup! And now that crazy thief's got a name." Jonouchi gave a thumbs up. He paused and rubbed his hair for a moment. "Kinda weird you guys have the same name though."

"It is an odd coincidence, Jonouchi." Sam laughed with the others. This was rather pleasant; no matter how Bakura was grumbling about boredom in the back of their head.

Kaiba rolled his eyes at the chatter just kept going. When the brunettes looked like they were going to start adding in their two cents, Kaiba did his best to break it up. He could only deal with so much stupidity at a time. "Alright, well that settles it for half of you – what about the other 'four'" Kaiba made quotes around the four because he still didn't understand why the white haired kid and Yugi were playing two characters. Ah well, whatever floated their boat.

"I want to be a thief character!" Malik raised his arm and looked expectantly at Bakura. When he heard Rishid do that 'old man' sigh he remembered that he needed a piece, too. he thought for a minute at what character type would fit his sort-of brother and servant...and came up with nothing. "Rishid'll be the same."

Sam laughed and pulled out two pieces. He was starting to feel bad for that Rishid guy, but decided that not much could be done about it. "I figured as much and thought ahead. Well, for Malik anyway. I'm sorry Mr. Rishid, I didn't have time to make you a piece."

"When'd you make these?" Malik stared at the cute little piece of himself with a dagger. It looked just like him, save for the size. The young Egyptian had to give Ryou props for detail. Too bad Rishid got a basic character piece; maybe he should have invited him to play earlier. Or maybe he could get Ryou to make one for him later when he had some time. "They look amazing."

Sam smiled softly at Bakura's prompt He'd been letting his perpetual smile drop more often and that was a problem. Sam didn't know how Yugi managed to pull that off. "The other day while you were sleeping."

"Oh."

"Alright, enough." Kaiba moaned into his hand currently digging out one of his eyes. The young billionaire swore that if Mokuba hadn't convinced him to keep his word from the mall that he wouldn't be here. They were trying his patience and he was close to walking out. However, knowing his luck Mokuba would find out some how if he ditched. He was most definitely a Kaiba. "What about the other 'two'?"

Now, we're talking!

What's got you so excited, Bakura? The physicist could feel the 'oh boy' on his tongue when the evil spirit started snickering (maniacal laughter might be a more appropriate term) in his head. Whatever you're going to do, don't!!

Bakura started to laugh out loud as Sam yelped from the sudden yank. He had been waiting for his cue all day and Mr. Perfect wasn't going to screw this up. Bakura cracked his knuckles and smirked as his item glowed brightly calling the Pharaoh out to yell at him. Well, let him yell, cause it was time for this Evil Spirit of the Ring to have some fun. "I've got that covered."

-----

"Ready to talk yet, kiddo?"

Ryou's head popped up at the sound of the voice echoing in the room. He would have been relieved; had he not been hearing his own made up voices for a few hours or however long he'd been in there. He really hoped that he didn't need to see a psychiatrist again. "Are you real?"

"Whoo, boy." Al rubbed his eyes and tapped his finger next to the microphone in the control room. Definitely wasn't one of his bright ideas. This was worse than the 'Am I dead?' fiasco when they first met. He should have considered the possibility this kid had real mental issues. "Yes, it's me. Al, remember?"

"Yes?"

"You going to answer my questions now?"

"Will you turn the lights back on?"

Al almost smiled at the timid question. It was weird seeing such a young voice pipe up from out of Sam's body, but it only reminded him that sixteen year olds were still children. "Yup, just answer a few of my questions."

Ryou winced and took a deep breath. He really wanted that guy to turn on the lights, but he still felt like he shouldn't tell this man anything about the thief and the other realms. Bad things happened when people got involved with this stuff uninvited. "I'm not sure if that's such a good idea..."

Al paused and turned to his assistant while covering the mic so Ryou couldn't hear. "Go ahead and start turning the light's on slowly. It'll kill his eyes if we turn it on suddenly." He waited for the nod before turning back to the kid in the white room. He had a inkling that he wasn't going to like what came next. "What do you mean?"

"The shadows might think it's cheating."

"The shadows?"

"It's not good to make them angry."

Al felt that sick feeling come back into his gut. If he were Sam, he was sure an 'Oh, boy' would have slipped out by now.

-----

At first he was concerned when Bakura took control, but then Sam felt the familiar pull of the leap and smiled to himself. He just knew that playing this game was the key to the mission! And they didn't even need Ziggy to confirm it. He just hoped Al could catch up with him sooner than later with this unplanned leap happening so quickly. As Sam opened his eyes however, he was greeted not with new surroundings and a new life to save, but with a giant Kaiba towering over him and a fake plastic game board. Looking down at his circular hands, it seemed that he was now a two inch tall figurine. "Oh boy."

I told you this would be fun. Bakura smirked down at the game board and all of the cute little figurines. He hoped Sam enjoyed his time as a model; it was a once in a lifetime experience after all. Seems having your soul ripped from your body feels exactly like this 'leap' of yours. Interesting.

"Tomb Robber!" Yami reached out and yanked the thief by his collar to pull him over for better eye contact. He could feel his Partner and friends as pieces in the game board and needless to say: he was pissed. Yami knew trusting the Tomb Robber was too much to ask. Why the hell didn't he listen to his instincts? Oh yeah, he did whatever his partner asked of him. Curse those puppy dog eyes! His words were clipped when he continued. "What did you do?"

Bakura smirked and tilted his head just so the hair would fall over his face. "Don't get your panties in a bunch, your highness." Bakura smacked the offending hand off of his arm and straightened his collar. "They're fine. I just figured a shadow game would make this more interesting. Landlord and Malik are down there too ya' know."

Yami tightened his fist and growled and almost slammed the table but thought better of it considering the figurines of his friends. "Damn you. So help me."

"Get off it! I already told you, it's fine. There's no consequence for the game. Once it's over everyone goes back to normal no matter who wins or loses." Bakura frowned at the Pharaoh. He really didn't need to explain himself to him. "You can't tell me that it isn't more fun this way."

Yami cursed the thief in his head; sadly enough it was more because he was right. A shadow game would make things more fun...no. He couldn't afford to think that way. There was no way of knowing if the thief had their best interests in mind; even if it was more fun. "What about rolling the dice? I doubt they can in their current form."

"We'll do it like last time." Bakura shrugged and picked up the dice in his hand. He rattled them about and stuck out his tongue. "We're on teams anyway, so now we've got our teams and you and I can roll instead of playing as actual characters."

"Aren't the teams uneven then? I'm surprised you're playing with a handicap considering you have three players to my four."

"I took care of that." Bakura pointed down to the field to the new figurine that the Pharaoh had clearly missed. Little Sam hadn't known he made that one, too. It was the perfect resemblance if he said so himself.

Said new figurine taking in its surroundings and noticing that there weren't any dark shadows to be seen – came to the conclusion that he was no longer in the Shadow Realm. The dark half of Malik's soul was pleased. "Ha! Now I can continue to conquer the world and destroy the Pharaoh..." Said split personality trailed off as he looked down at himself. "...as a two-inch tall figurine. Well, damn."

"You brought back Malik's dark half!" Yami was yelling now and had grabbed Bakura with both of his hands. He shook the jerk for good measure. "You brought back the ultimate evil from the shadow realm just so you could have a forth team member?"

Bakura grabbed both of Yami's wrists and squeezed; the other man refused to let go, but that was fine. The thief just continued keeping a tight grip while leaning forward until he was right in the pompous prick's face. "One, No. I am the ultimate evil. Two, yes."

Bakura! What's going on? Sam screamed through his mental link on the board.

Pharaoh's being an ass?

You know damn well that's not what I meant!

Get over it. Bakura put the little man out of his head. Let him play on the board with the others and be done with it. "Now, Yami are we going to play this game or not?" Bakura smiled pleasantly doing his best to mimic his landlord. "The sooner the game's over the sooner your friends aren't unconscious lumps on the floor."

Yami reluctantly released the thief and put his hands back down on the board. "You're positive that there are no negative consequences for anyone involved at the end of this game."

"Positive. Everything goes back to normal the moment it ends." Bakura snorted. "I told you, I owe Landlord a favor so every thing's going to be fine."

"Fine, fine. So you two are playing while everyone else takes a nap. Joy. Just get on with it and roll the damn dice!" Kaiba smacked the table and rattled all the pieces. Yugi and the albino gasped for a moment, but that was none of his concern. This chit chat was getting ridiculous.

Yami raised an eyebrow and looked at his long time rival before down at the board and his unconscious friends. "Five people pass out on the floor and you just tell us to continue on and roll the dice?"

"Do you have a problem with it?"

"Nope. Suits me just fine" Bakura smiled and rubbed his hands together while Yami groaned and held his head. "Team Evil's all ready to go."

Hey! Jonouchi shouted from the board. He'd been keeping his calm while the big guys argued but that was too much. Ryou's not evil!

Sorry, Jonouchi! Seems I've been drafted! Sam called across the board at Ryou's blonde friend. I guess we'll just have to put up with it.

Damn! I was hoping I'd never be this tiny again. Jonouchi grumbled. At least no one's going to die this time.

Anzu and Honda were keeping quiet for the moment. Yugi at this point had started to pat Jonouchi while what they all assumed was having a mental conversation with Yami. All in all, everyone hoped the thief was telling the truth; the fact Ryou was calm was seemed to be a good sign.

It'll be okay, Yami. I'm sure Bakura's just trying to make things more interesting. Yugi tried to cheer his other half. The poor man was fighting with himself because even Yugi could tell that this whole Shadow Realm game was exciting to him. But he felt guilty about it, too. That just wouldn't do. We should just make the best of it and have some fun. Yugi smirked. If you keep pouting like that than Bakura's going to win!

Oh he is not. Yami tilted his head up to look down at the little piece. I can assure you, Partner. We are winning this.

That's the spirit! Yugi laughed before turning to the rest of his friends to give them a similar motivational speech.

Malik in the meantime, was frowning at his other half. His dark half was sure to have figured out they were here by now. I can't believe Bakura called you here.

Ah, my weaker half seems to be here, too. How wonderful. The dark half of Malik's soul snorted. And there's Rishid, Bakura's little brat and what seems to be the Pharaoh's little gang of tag-a-longs over there.

What wonderful observational skills. Malik rolled his little figurine eyes and tried to hop closer to Rishid and farther from his other half. Bakura was getting hell from him after this. He'd argue now, but Bakura was looking far too smug up there to do anything.

The demented split personality, who could now also add annoyed to his list of descriptions, turned to the thief's host with a growl. The little one was the lesser of the two evils to find out what was going on considering his other options were his bratty weak half and the slave. Why the hell am I a figurine?

Sam chuckled nervously. He had no idea who this other person was. Um, Bakura wanted to make the game more interested? He looked over at Malik who was with Rishid. Something was amiss with this sudden doppleganger. Have we met?

Ah, I guess not. I should introduce myself than. The more evil of the Ishtar's chuckled darkly. I'm Malik's split personality created by anger and hate and what not for revenge. The sentence was finished with a bit of smug laughter.

Bakura owed Sam when this was all over with. How, um, pleasant. Nice to meet you.

"So, seems my team is set. What about yours o' Team Evil?" Yami smirked. If they were going to do this, they were going to do this right.

Bakura grinned. "As good as they're going to get."

As the two ancient spirits rose their adrenaline levels in anticipation of the fight, a certain CEO (while inwardly impressed at the other two's ventriloquism abilities) was losing his temper. Therefore, Kaiba said what was on his mind. "Roll the dice and start this game now or I'm leaving."

"Okay, okay. Don't get your panties in a bunch." Bakura smirked and flipped one of the dice with his finger. "Pharaoh's first."

"So be it, just be prepared to lose Thief." Yami smirked and picked up the dice. All the pieces were in play, both teams were shooting for the win. The Pharaoh let the dice hit the ground and it was time for:

Game Start!