- The first time it happened, he chalked it up to coincidence -

"15! Ha ha, bad luck for you, Sora!" cheered the white-haired boy perched at the head of the table, fingers typing the data into the small computer screen. The tabletop was laid out for an elaborate game of Monster World, complete with forests, mountains, and the ominous castle hulking among the hills. Two lead figurines were set in the middle of the board, a small round monster and the Adventurer for this game.

"You got lucky this time, 'Kura! You'll get it next time!" the game master's opponent grumbled, trying not to smile. Sure, Ryou was shy, almost painfully so, but he was a great player, and not as bad to be around as everyone said. "So, what now? You want a snack or some...thing... nn..?"

Bakura Ryou looked around from where he was packing away the computer at the sudden noise, like something soft and heavy hitting the floor. Sora had collapsed.

"Hey, Sora! Sora!" He ran around and knelt down next to his friend, shaking him roughly. His blue eyes were half open and staring blankly. "Hey, wake up!"

He didn't move. Ryou stumbled to his feet and ran into the kitchen, fumbling with the phone until he dialled the right number, the number for the hospital. Why isn't Dad here, ­he fretted, glancing anxiously over his shoulder at the still shape of his friend. This isn't happening...

- The second time it happened, he thought he was cursed -

The ambulance pulled away, sirens wailing and lights flashing, leaving the crowd gathered around it muttering and spreading their versions of the tale to anyone who would listen. Ryou was curled up as tight as he could get on the front step, hugging his knees to his chest and trying to ignore the dark looks the others were sending his way.

"... second one this month..."

"... unnatural, I tell you..."

"... something wrong with him..."

He buried his face in his arms, feeling the points of the ring his father had given him dig into his ribs through his shirt. That was the last time he'd seen him, before he returned to that archaeological dig in Egypt where he'd found the artefact. They've probably called him by now; I wonder when he'll be home? Somehow, that thought made him feel even worse.

"Hey, um, Bakura."

Ryou looked up, recognising the boy in front of him by face, but not by name. One of Sora's other friends.

"Uh... Look, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but... we don't really want you hanging around with us anymore... You understand, right?"

"Y-yeah. Sure. Just... go. If you don't want me anywhere near you..." Ryou trailed off bitterly. He made it to his bedroom and slammed the door shut before the tears started to fall. The flashing lights filtered through the thin curtains, reflecting off the ring around his neck, and he could have sworn he felt someone watching him from the shadows in the corner. He threw himself flat on the bed and covered his head with his pillow, willing it to drown out the noise from outside.

- The third time it happened... he knew it was over -

"You're nothing but trouble, get out of here!"

It had happened again. A girl, Maya, one of the only ones who hadn't shunned him after the last time. They hadn't even had the chance to finish the game... she'd rolled a fumble, and beyond that, he drew a blank. When he came back to his senses, she was slumped over the table, not moving, her figurine lying on its side on the game board. She was lying in a hospital bed in a coma that showed no sign of breaking right now. Because of me. Maybe I am trouble...

He'd packed his bags and called his father that afternoon. He was moving out. Somewhere he could get a new start. Somewhere people wouldn't look down on him like he was a freak, where they wouldn't push him around or spit on him...

"Just hurry up and leave!"

Ryou climbed into the taxi, dropping his bag at his feet and giving the address to the driver. He leaned back in his seat, twisting the envelope he'd received from his new school in his hands nervously.

Domino High... I wonder what it will be like...

- The last time it happened... he felt like he'd been given another chance -

He'd walked into school the day after the event, his hand bandaged; carrying the model he had been up half the night making. The scars on his chest were gone, the ring was packed at the bottom of his drawer, and he was happier than he ever remembered being. Even Karita-sensei being back couldn't ruin his good mood, although he did seem to be trying his hardest.

The gang was waiting for him in class, and when he unveiled his diorama, he felt like he was part of something important.

"Let's go again one day..."

To Monster World...

Plot-bunnies are vicious things. This one attacked me this morning before I even got out of bed.

Constructive criticism would be appreciated, and I'd like to know how well I did at writing Ryou IC.