Card Shopping at 4:30AM

Disclaimer: Yugioh is a work of Kazuki Takahashi. All names and likenesses are used for non-profit gain. I'm just using these things for a little while.

Dedicated to mystralwind who wanted something with Marik and Bakura in it. Sorry it took so long.

A/N: I read somewhere that adults make a living off of selling cards. They go to the stores early in the morning to look at the new shipment of cards. The packs with the rare cards have something special about them so they know which ones to get. Then they turn around and sell those cards to students and the passerby.

Cool isn't it?

Buildings look like lego blocks late at night, Ryou first noticed. Without all the flashy lights and people coming out of them they seemed awkward, as if crafted out of the pavement like sand castles. They were almost dorky looking with all their cubeyness.

That was his initial reaction of being out of his bed at god knows what hour of the night (the karaoke place was closed so it must have been late or extremely early.) His body also seemed to be moving on its own, ignorant of the nighttime shiver, but that wasn't something new.

"Ah, so you're awake." His lips moved, though he hadn't uttered the sentence. He made to respond (though without control of his lips he wondered how he'd do it) when he felt a pull.

He had been accustomed to bullies pulling on his hair at school, as well as the occasional pull by the concerned passerby when he was just about to step into traffic. This tug though- it felt nothing like obnoxious eagerness or maternal vigilance. It felt like he was being extracted out of something- he was a liquid being poured into another container and he had the sense of being fluid instead of the regular human solid.

Whatever it was it came and left in just an instant and when the shock had settled he realized he was staring at himself.

"Hmph. It's better that you're in this form. Now I don't have to waste my energy trying to keep you out of the way of things." The face said. It's thin lips and angry eyes expressed grim amusement.

Ryou looked at his own form. His hands were iridescent so that he could see the street right through them. He remembered watching movies about ghosts and the supernatural. Some special effects were used to make the actors seem see through...

"A-a-am I dead?" He stammered.

The other laughed at him. "Wouldn't that be something..."

"Am I dead!?" He shouted again.

The other only walked away from him. Then he felt another irresistible tug and he was moving towards the other figure.

Or rather, he only called it moving because it was definitely not walking.

All thoughts of the horrifying supernatural were eased as he whisked away (above the ground he noticed). And with that Ryou Bakura was unbidden, stuck to his not-self's side. It was actually an enjoyable feeling to float just a few inches above the pavement, as he gave himself time to think about it. The feeling was a lot like a childish dream he might have had or something out of a Hayao Miyazaki movie.

...Or he would have found it as delightful if the harsh eyes of Bakura- for that is what the spirit had inherited when taking over Ryou's body - hadn't been shouting Don't annoy me, whenever he built up the courage to look at them.

He was naturally curious about the night's events but he contended himself to not ask the questions of how, when, where and why to the other. He had always doubted those questions meant any substantial when the means led to the ends anyway- and he instinctively doubted the body stealer would tell him the truth.

Instead, he focused on being out late at night. There was definitely a rush in it- something all those rebellious pre-teens must have discovered while he was studiously doing his homework. The streets were so amazingly empty and he noticed for the first time, they looked very tiny. Being in a city, walls rose up on all sides of him and he had the feeling of being in a maze of endless corridors made up of bike paths and alley ways.

How did these streets possibly contain the thousands of people which walked and rode on them everyday? It was a wonder even the city could contain so many people and still appear tiny to Ryou's eyes.

He wanted to pause and look down a passageway in hopes of finding some kind of great urban treasure or mystery. There was never a city without the magic of an antique shop or the bloodied trail of a mass murderer.

He wanted to but the other did not stop with whatever business he had in mind. Finally they arrived at neon signs and plastic windows.

Ryou looked up at the place of the Bakura's objective and was surprised to find the numbers 7-11 glowing brightly. Some morbid smile must have played on his face.

He'd come to expect much of the spirit that inhabited his body via the Millennium ring. Shadow games, possessed dolls, even deals signed in his own blood. If anything, the tacky orange and green numbers meant downgrading the psycho shadow spirit to mollified expresso addict. He wondered why the spirit hadn't just raided his fridge instead of walking all the way to the conveyance store.

The roaring engine of a motorcycle behind him broke Ryou out of his reverie.

"Now this is interesting." Said Bakura, smirking and glaring at the man on the motorbike.

"Long time no see," Said dark clad man with a casual slur. Ryou didn't need to squint through the darkness to see the weird spikes and still weirder eyes of Malik Ishtar's darker side. "I thought I had sent you to hell."

This made Ryou's counterpart chuckle. "Seems your guesswork is even worse than before."

"But I don't need to guess. I know what you're here for." Came the cocky reply.

"Of course." Bakura eyed Marik. "The new packs come out today, by morning this store will be filled with all the weaker duelists."

"You don't think of yourself as one?" The accusation made Bakura glare.

Ryou, who had been idly floating around behind Bakura, now had the answer to his questions. Bakura had dragged him out of the comfortable realm of sleep to get first dibs on the new cards released that day. Though he couldn't blame the spirit for his enthusiasm he certainly would have preferred to sleep in and grab the cards on his own time.

Silence followed but it was just a matter of time before either of the two would break it with their maniacal laughter. Marik was the first to cock his head and cackle.

"We'll make a bet then. Whichever of us chooses the best packs-"

"You dare challenge me- a thief to find the best treasure." Bakura laughed.

"I never said I challenged you." There was an irritable yet sadistic feeling in Marik's voice. It was then Ryou realized that he had lost the ability to shiver or sense physical feeling. That didn't mean, however, that he couldn't feel the psychological chill from Marik's evil eyes. Eyes which seemed to stare at the immaterial that was himself.

"Tch, you can see him can't you." The angered man in Ryou's body demanded.

Marik nodded. "Our hosts- our lighter sides- will challenge each to see who gets the best card."

Bakura glanced sharply at Ryou, though there was a certain warmness to his glare. It was the look a feral cat would give to its kitten- Bakura even seemed to have the eyes of cat sometimes. After a moment of contemplation Bakura looked at the other man.

"Fine." Ryou grew nervous. If the two of them played games like they normally did... "Need I remind you that this is a Shadow Game. What is your wager?"

"All of the rarest cards go to the winner." Ryou almost breathed a sigh of relief, until he realized that Marik wasn't quite done talking. "And the loser is at the winner's mercy."

Ryou turned to Bakura, as if to find a reassuring expression on the other's face. Of course, what he got was just the opposite of what he had felt earlier.

Now it seemed he was being pulled into his body by a tremendous force, as if gravity was making up for being absent in his presence. The feeling lasted only a second (just like before) and Ryou was back in his body, now with a reinstated tactile sense of vertigo. When he had settled himself he was surprised to find that the Dark Marik was now by his side. Ryou got a good look of the veins on the man's face. Creepy.

Marik breathed into his ear, "And no helping either." His whispered voice cracked and Ryou realized it was much too intimate to be just a warning. Though it was completely irrational, he couldn't help but feel that it was a lustrous act on the others' part- and that he was a bit swooned by it as well. Attraction was a funny thing.

When Marik received no response from Ryou (for he was still in a state of shock), he reverted to his lighter side. Malik blinked at him, then at his surroundings and then curiously at the tacky neon sign.

"Well you heard them." Resigned Malik as he made his way into the shop.

Ryou followed him. He squinted as he entered as he felt the overbearing lights pound into his retinas.

To the average person the store would have looked like a rinky dink urban pit stop. It was clean, but that was all. There was nothing about it that made it stand out from the millions of other conveyance stores stretched across the city.

But to the gamer it was a haven. Ryou felt the high that an anime fan might have felt watching a new episode of his or her favorite anime. Right in front of him, eyeing him with all their shininess, were the gleaming new booster packs. Each one displaying the newest monsters, each one seeming to pulse with the promise of victory.

Or maybe that was over dramatic. They were displayed by the counter right next to a very tired looking employee. The employee was busy unpacking the rest of the cards from a cargo box and carefully laying them next to their brethren.

Ryou looked at Malik. For 4:30 in the morning (as the clock in the conveyance store had confirmed) he seemed rather pensive. The other stood there as merely an observer to the whole scenario and something which reeked of calculating probability rates was exuding from his eyes. He couldn't call Malik his rival in this game. He was just as much a victim, but Ryou sure as hell didn't want to get stuck with Yami Malik for the day (or however much longer it was).

An ultra rare card is contained in every two to four packs. A secret rare card... now you're pretty lucky if you get one of those. The words came, echoing from a time in Ryou's early teenage years when the card game had first come to Japan. A friend had told him the statistic and he had remembered it every time he bought a pack. But two to four packs out of how many? And how had he known, was there something special about the booster pack that let seasoned duelists know it contained a rare card?

Ryou picked up a few packs from the display. He studied them thoroughly, noticing their weight and cover design, how the cards beneath folded pliantly under his fingers: the cover art (some massive snarling monster), the back, the barcode, the font of the text, so much information on such a small piece of foil.

After a few minutes he realized there was nothing he could discern from any of them. It was equally frustrating that he would sooner try to glare a hole in the package than try to find an inane difference. But of course he wouldn't do that, it would freak him out too much.

Malik passed him and took a few card packs himself. It only took a second to look at them before he handed them to the cashier. His expression was grim, but Ryou was sure he enjoyed buying new cards.

Which in turn reminded him of his own dilemma. Well, he couldn't put up with just looking at the cards for one more instant, he marched over to the cashier and laid them on the table.

This action decided his fate he was sure. As much as he loved the card game he loved playing just for the fun of it as well. He hated the idea that people like Malik and Bakura twisted it into sadistic death games. However, if that made the other duelists play at their best so be it. He was ready to play at his best as well.

There was one problem however... the price said ¥2153 and he didn't have a bill on him.

Had Bakura purposefully walked out of the house without a wallet with the intent of buying cards... no, of course not. Bakura was thief, which made Ryou imagine just how many of the cards in his current deck had been stolen.

But no time to think about that now. The cashier, through droopy eyes, was looking at him quite sternly. The sting of embarrassment was starting to rise in him like the intensity of the man's gaze. It was now or never...

"Let me take care of it." Malik came up from behind him and handed the cashier the bill and change. The exchange was quickly followed by the bagging of the cards, a pat on the back and an ushering out of the store into the cool night air. Or maybe he had just imagined the pat on the back part- he wasn't sure.

Ryou stood on the sidewalk unable to ward off his embarrassment, the bag of cards held tightly in his grip for tangible support.

"T-thank you Malik-kun." Ryou said shyly. He didn't know Malik well at all and a person who bought him any kind of gaming material he was sure to label as a friend (the key word being bought and excluding those scary girls at school).

Malik only smile-smirked and moved under the light of a street lamp to open his card packs. The freshly disclosed cards reflected the light of the street lamps so that Malik seemed to be holding little mirrors in his hand. If those mirrors could reflect they would have contained an expression of content and calmness and lavender eyes.

Ryou followed after Malik to stand under the light. The cards held in the other's hand were powerful and absolutely ferocious. They made Ryou grasp onto his bag even more.

"Now I can see why this part of the game is so much fun." Malik said without turning to look at him.

"Hmm?" Well of course the game was fun, or else they wouldn't be playing it like they had been doing.

"This is the first time I opened a pack of cards." The confession came out with a mature kind of glee. To Ryou it was almost bizarre that one of the highest ranking duelists in the world hadn't opened a pack of cards in his life. He almost asked why when Malik chided, "I've done my part. Now it's your turn."

As he reached into the bag for the crisp packs he remembered that Malik hadn't needed to open a package of cards. He had been the leader of the Ghouls and already possessed some of the best cards. Not that Ryou had seen any of them at work... sometimes he wished he had been awake during Battle City to witness the epic duels that everyone raved about. Damn Bakura...

But that was a different story. He held his cards in front of him, their thin surfaces glinting from the light. He could relate to Malik's excitement of opening his first pack of cards, it still gave Ryou shivers of excitement despite having done it for so long. He eyed his cards excitedly looking at each one as a new opportunity to participate in the game he loved so much. Malik was also behind him, blatantly eyeing out the competition.

His eyes caught the sight of a particular card and he paused to look at it.

"Invader of Darkness?" He heard a whisper behind him. Of course, there was no need to proclaim the eight star monster, one of the secret rares of the set released. The power to negate Quick Spell cards and with a 2900 attack power, it would be formidable in any deck which used fiend cards to their highest potential. Ryou couldn't resist grinning. He'd done it, he'd chosen one of the few packs with a secret rare card.

He also couldn't resist concern though, when Malik resigned defeat with a "You win."

Light flashed from Ryou's chest and the Millennium Ring (he couldn't even recall he'd been wearing it) glowed with a burst of something that felt ancient and sinister. Then Bakura was standing next to him in a manner not so different from Kaiba's holograms.

"Well then hand them over." Said the spirit gesturing towards Malik's cards. Ryou was surprised when the cards were given to him, though considering Bakura was transparent and probably not very solid...

"And for our other part of the bargain." The spirit smirked. Something in Malik's eyes gave off the sense of viciousness and for a second he thought he was looking into the eyes of Yami Marik. Hadn't Yuugi defeated him and exorcised him? It felt weird asking the question to himself when he hadn't thought to ask it before upon first seeing Marik. He'd have to ask Malik how the spirit had come back- but more importantly why? What did bodiless spirits hold onto when they had given up on their grudges? Pride must have been one of those things.

"It's not fair." His reasoning spoke out loud for him before he had processed what he said.

"What?" Came both of their replies though Bakura added a "Why not?"

"Malik-kun bought all of these cards so they are rightfully his." He said to them, forcing the cards on Malik who was sporting a distant look on his face. Some of the cards fell to the ground and Ryou hastily picked them up, as if they would loose some of their magic if left on the pavement for another second. "Here Malik-kun, these belong to you."

He hadn't realized he had been sealing his own fate. Malik's hand grabbed his arm and pulled him to his chest, which wasn't really Malik's anymore. Marik looked at him with disturbing eyes.

"If that's the case you must know how this game ends." The man whispered harshly in his ear. There was none of the previous attraction like what had been hinted at earlier in Marik's actions, now it felt possessive and hollow. A rough hand grabbed his wrist and made the cards on his hand drop and fall to the ground like painted leaves.

He caught the expression on Bakura's face which also seemed possessive and hollow. But the concern was there- really it was. After all, if this was anything like a game, Ryou thought it would have been Battle Ship- blindly attacking points until you hit something that really hurt your enemy.

An arm snaked around his waist brining him closer too his captor. It felt like being crushed against a pulsating brick wall and his body shudder when he saw the veins pulsating as well.

"That's enough! This isn't fair either." Malik declared. He appeared ghost-like beside Marik, scowling at him. "He chose the winning pack of cards so it should be him who's the winner of all this."

Bakura grinned wickedly. "Well Marik... you wouldn't want a penalty for cheating would you?" Marik only hissed and reverted back to his original form.

And there stood Malik, who had helped Ryou, now about to be treated more or less the same as the other boy. Ryou couldn't think of a way around the flawed game or way to convince Bakura that no one had really won or lost. He sensed the pull again, which this time he knew was the feeling the of his soul being sucked out. Bakura wanted to claim his prizes as well.

He resisted. That's when the process started hurting, as if all his energy was being drained from him and thrown into a place where dark things fed on it. The more he resisted the more those dark things grew and demanded more until he was turning paler and falling to the ground.

Something caught him and he knew it was Malik. Who else was there? "Stop it! Can't you see what it's doing to him." Malik's angry glare was now directed at Bakura.

"It's not me." Bakura replied openly. "This is a Shadow Game and it is punishing the loser of this game."

"He didn't lose!"

"I'd be careful what you say or the shadows will come after you as well." Bakura's voice seemed to fade away.

Ryou then heard cursing on Malik's part on the loop holes of such mindless games and dealing with the shadows.

What exactly was the true nature of a Shadow Game anyway? Ryou was sure there were different penalties and even cheaters weren't punished for their actions sometimes. Were the shadows dependent on the game or the player? Could the shadows ever make a mistake?

The dizzying curiosity finally made Ryou blank out.

Malik growled in frustration and went over his options. Which weren't many and far between because he long since realized that all the shadow games he'd witnessed eventually had one common victor.

With his mind made up he collected the cards and Ryou Bakura's form onto his motorbike.

All paths led to God or hell and since he was already dealing with hell he figured he'd plea to the gods for some help. The night air rushed on him and despite his panic he felt strangely free.

Ryou felt like he had just been up half the night using all his muscles to do some extraneous exercise. When he remembered everything it wasn't far from the truth. He opened his eyes and noticed he was laying on his own sofa and the morning sunlight was peering through the blinds. Malik was sitting next to him.

Ryou wasn't a person to demand much from people even when the basic instinct would have been to demand where had been and how he had arrived to that point.

It was just as well because Malik eased the silence.

"You fell unconscious so I asked the Pharaoh to dispell the shadows from you." Of course, Malik knew first hand that the Pharaoh was good at doing things like that.

Ryou also presumed that Malik hadn't mentioned Bakura or Marik to Yuugi because the Millennium Ring was still firmly around his neck. Or maybe Malik had told Yuugi and Bakura was just back again like he always was. Ryou suddenly didn't feel the need to ask why Yami Marik was still with Malik anymore.

Malik handed him a glass of water and then proceeded to open the blinds. The first thing that caught Ryou's eyes were the sparkling cards, all laid out on the table absorbing the sunlight into what seemed like a whole new power.

Card shopping had just become a whole lot more dangerous and a whole lot more exciting before his eyes. A whole lot more fun.

Malik then returned to his seat next to Ryou.

"I suppose these are yours." He gestured to the cards. Ryou started to decline but noticed the tired look in Malik's eyes. He realized that the other had been taking care of him all the time between 4:30 AM and sunlight.

"I think we should share them." Ryou said to him, throwing all his logic out the window because really, how did you share cards with someone who lived half way across the globe?

"That sounds nice." Malik sighed, shifted and fell asleep on Ryou's shoulder. Ryou drowsily looked over the cards and had the oddest feeling that Invader of Darkness was smiling at him.

Ryou fell back to sleep smiling also with the feeling of Malik at his side.

A/N: They have 7-11's in Japan, too. They sell mostly the same things as American 7-11's, however, I was very amused to find they sell Oden there as well.

Card notes: I used the Invasion of Chaos set for the newly released cards because it seemed to fit in the time line I was going for and well, it had chaos in the name and those are the kind of cards Malik and Ryou are interested in.

Thanks for reading. Tell me what you think if you can.