It started with a scream, and degraded into sobs. No marks; that was the rule. No marks. But pain didn't have to leave physical marks – not when that pain could infiltrate his nightmares, and haunt his every living thought with misery and agony. Not when he could walk down the street and his minds eye would strangle every being he could see, or when he would imagine that the model he passed on the bulletin board would be covered in blood, with her stomach ripped out.

At school, it was all the worse – his minds eye tore his friends limb from limb, and scattered their bloody carcasses across the classroom. He would look down, and his hands would be permanently covered in blood. Blood would smear across the pages of his assignments, and in those smears of blood, he would see Bakura, smirking from the page at him.

No marks. But while his body wasn't broken, his mind was beginning to. It would encourage him to kill, to hurt, to maim… especially to do so to the one who deserved it most. The thief of lives, and happiness. Every day he would sit there, making the most innocent conversation, laughing and playing games, content in his knowledge that his partner would be in a good place. But he was all too aware that Bakura was not. And he took joy in that knowledge.

Even had Ammut devoured Bakura's soul, Ryou doubted he would have been any better off. Instead, fragments of Bakura resided within his brain, planting thoughts and images, able to do very little else anymore. And Ryou knew Bakura meant to control him, again, though in different ways than he had before.

Before, love had controlled him, and desperate loneliness. Oh, he'd been aware of everything that had gone on. He'd known what Bakura was up to, and at times, he had even assisted, hoping to please the one who'd stolen many things, among which was his heart.

Bakura had been so kind to that particular theft. He never took advantage, even if there were times that Ryou had so wished he would; he merely told Ryou that it was his most sacred, and precious treasure, and that doing anything cruel with it would be beyond sin.

But here they were, now… Bakura was infecting his mind. He wasn't sure what else it could have been, that would take over his every sense, his every thought process in such a complete way.

Or what could influence him to cause so much harm… so much…

If there was one thing Bakura had taught him, it was that guns and knives weren't needed to thoroughly destroy a person; nor were they needed to kill. And one day, his minds eye and his own finally saw the same thing:

The door to their classroom was locked, the teacher was no where in sight, and was unable to get in. Blood seeped under his fingernails, as he slowly crushed Yuugi's throat in his hand – oh he hadn't been first. But he was the one that all sensations of warmth came from. Students were cowering in the corners of the room, staring in shock and horror at their most timid of classmates, and at the four bodies around him.

Even once Yuugi's heartbeat had stopped entirely, Ryou's hands never released his throat. He dug his fingers in, fully intending to remove the boy's throat from his neck. However, he had not quite made it that far when the police arrived, knocking the door in.

Being shoved into a jail cell, Ryou felt no remorse, barely conscious of the fact that what had happened was no trick of the eye, for once, and that the blood on his clothes, on his body…

He licked at a finger, and closed his eyes with a little purr. Strawberries would never taste as sweet as this. This was beyond revenge – and those with him praised him softly in the dark for his actions. They were no longer in his mind, but on either side of him. Their hands caressed his hair, and face; a mouth wrapped around one of his fingers, licking it clean of blood.

One whispered sweet nothings against his ear – Bakura. It was so good to hear his voice again. The other licked with a catlike tongue at the blood on his fingers… Akefia. They were finally with him again, and anything that occurred was worth it to not be alone again.

The psychiatrist appointed to determine his sanity appeared to believe he was thoroughly insane, especially so when Ryou explained that there was always blood everywhere, that what he'd done already existed every day. Oh he sounded sane enough, in his speech, aside from the fact that the words coming out of his mouth where so far from his grasp of reality.

Instead of jail, the boy found himself in a straight jacket, in a little padded cell. There were brief moments of lucidity in that room, where the walls were truly white, and the dark fog around all the edges faded away, but when it faded, everything came back twice as badly.

Bakura would pace the room in front of him, cursing and yelling about what right the doctors had to stab his host every morning with needles. It completely enraged him to think that they thought they had any sort of say in what ought to happen to the boy's body.

Akefia merely sat quietly most of the time, stroking Ryou's hair as he drifted in and out of consciousness, and in and out of sanity.

"Bakura…" Akefia stated one morning, as Ryou lay asleep in his lap. "You really shouldn't have let him believe you were gone. You may have destroyed his mind for good."

Bakura looked up from the corner he sat in, fully intending on murdering the doctors if he had the ability at this point in time. "I'm trying to fix it, Thief King," he looked off a bit again. "Every time they put those damn needles in him, it breaks again, and I have to start from the beginning. And even if we manage to fix it… by these peoples' laws… they may kill him."

"So he is now as eternally trapped as we are," Akefia stated sadly, stroking the sleeping boys' hair.

"… No. His soul is not yet trapped in that Ring, so if he were to die, he would be released from this world permanently," the wine-eyed man sighed, moving to sit near his landlord with an almost sad look.

Ryou began to stir, and a hazed green eye focused on Bakura's knee for a moment, before trailing up to his face. A drugged smile lit his lips, and a pleased sigh escaped him. "We did it," he murmured, "we did it, Bakura, we did… we finally got him back… finally got him for you… he suffered, he really did…"

The pride in the boy's voice caused a regretful ache in Bakura's heart. "You screwed him up good, you did," Akefia muttered at the wild haired man, annoyance very evident.

Bakura's eyes closed, and he reached a hand to join Akefia in the stroking. "That you did, Landlord… that you did."

"Did I do good, 'Kura? … Did I finally do good?"

Akefia's eyes moved to Bakura's, and Bakura lowered his gaze to Ryou, then shifted to lay down, facing him. "Yes, Landlord. You did very well… You really are the most precious treasure of all we have stolen."

Ryou smiled that same drugged smile as before, shifting to look at Akefia. "'S it true, 'Kefia?"

The Egyptian didn't have to pause or think to answer that question. Instead, he simply leaned to kiss the boy. A short, chaste kiss, which Ryou protested the end to. "Yes, Ryou, you are our most precious and dearest treasure. We are blessed to have you."

Ryou's eyes closed again, content with their praise for the moment, although Bakura and Akefia were both well aware that Ryou would forget this once the doctors arrived with that daily needle. That would be the time Ryou again lost touch with the Ring, and the spirit world in which they were forced to reside.

"It isn't fair to him," Bakura sighed, "to be stuck in this Ra forsaken room because of… because of me."

"The only other choice is to seal him with us… But he would still need to die to be released into this realm," the mahogany eyed one shifted, finally to lie beside Ryou, hugging him around the waist. "And it is no fairer to him to kill him."

"At least if he was still attached to the Ring, that damned needle wouldn't shatter what I'd pieced together again!" the red eyed demon growled in annoyance, then looked up to the door as a metal key could be heard being inserted. "Do it. Do it quickly."

Akefia sighed, using what little magic he could send to the mortal realm to summon the Ring back around Ryou's neck. Bakura nicked a bit of skin, just above Ryou's heart, and waited for it to seep through the straightjacket and onto the Ring. Just as the doctors entered, the Ring gave a bright flash to indicate that it accepted Ryou's offering to it, and that it acknowledged the relation to the blood that created it.

The doctors were taken completely aback by the nearly freezing temperature of the room. Ryou's straightjacket had been removed, by the spirits of Kul Eruna, who now existed invisibly in the room at Ryou's side. Blood was leaking from a small star-shaped wound on the boy's chest and, most miraculously of all to them, a large golden item hung from around the sleeping boys' neck.

The pair refused to enter, heading back to report the strangeness of the room to others, which satisfied Bakura just fine, as they wouldn't be puncturing Ryou's perfect alabaster skin again just yet. Akefia had begun a soft chant to seal a portion of Ryou's soul, and all around the three, the spirits began to chant as well.

Ryou stirred slightly, just as Akefia's murmuring began to wear off. "Perhaps he can be taught to tap properly into the magic of the Ring, now. Perhaps we can get him out of here."

"Perhaps we can just fix his mind for now, and hope that there's a way to help him regain his sanity," Bakura muttered. "Think first, would you? There ought to be priorities."

The Thief King nodded, just hugging Ryou a little tighter. The spirits around them murmured a soft lullaby to their sleeping descendant, which settled him back into his peaceful sleep. Akefia delved into Ryou's dream world, to keep it calm, and keep the blood and demons from invading his dreams again, while Bakura simply continued at his work, attempting to piece together the fractured glass of Ryou's sanity.

In his sleep, all Ryou dreamt of was the beauty around him. He dreamt of Bakura, and of Akefia, and of a building full of strawberry bushes, where they walked, picking the berries from the bushes, their juices running down his hands. This morning, there was no blood, there were no deaths…

There were only strawberries. And he was perfectly content with that.

A/N: Inspired by a head cold. Man, I really shouldn't be allowed to get sick when things like this are what come out of it. I was originally thinking I'd write the story and have no dialogue in it what so ever… but then I wasn't sure how to get across that Bakura and Akefia weren't just figments of Ryou's insanity without them actually talking, and interacting so! You guys got dialogue after all. Sweet dreams, guys, 'cause now I'm going to sleep and hoping this stupid head cold will disappear very, very, very soon.