Ok. I know I should not do this. I said I wouldn't upload a new story until I had written it in its entirety. And, well...this story has not been written in its entirety. In fact...I'm not even sure it's half-done. But what can I say? I guess I'm feedback-motivated. I find myself getting bored with it because I've read over it so many times and no one else has even seen it. So I break my word to you. But never fear. Should you wish to read this story, you will get at least ten 'quick' updates, since that whole part is done and dusted already. If I don't get myself moving...it could slow down after that. But hopefully that won't happen.
Summary: Time changes people. And three years is a long time for change, as the spirits - especially a certain Thief King - discover upon their return to the modern world and their former hosts. For one of those hosts, it's a dream come true. For another, it's their worst nightmare. And for one, it's just another painful part of their downward spiral.
Disclaimer: I own nothing except the plot and any characters not from Yu-Gi-Oh.
Chapter 1: Homecoming
The first thing he heard when he awoke that morning was a hoarse, startled cry – the kind of sound you make when you're watching a horror movie and the terrifying, snarling CGI monster suddenly bursts out of the bushes and lunges towards you at inhuman speed, and you think it's going to eat you even though it only exists in the world of the T.V.
After a considerable interval, during which the surprise of the first sound started to wear off and he began to doze off again, the second thing he heard was the utterance of his own name, in a voice very familiar to him, even though he hadn't heard it in years.
He gasped and sat bolt-upright, all traces of sleepiness gone now.
And the third thing he heard was his grandpa banging on his bedroom door and telling him that breakfast was ready.
Yuugi blinked and looked around his room.
Empty. As always.
He sighed and lay back down. He'd been dreaming about his duelling days again, fighting side by side with the Pharaoh, and he supposed that well-remembered voice had been an echo from his dream, resounding in his sleep-fogged mind. An echo, a memory, and nothing more.
"Nngh…happy memories…" he mumbled, sitting up and stretching and forcing himself to leave the comfort of his bed. He crossed the room to his wardrobe and started rooting around inside for clothes. As he did so, he caught a glimpse of himself in the nearby mirror. He smiled slightly. He really needed to get himself some new pyjamas. Since he'd finally taken his much-due growth spurt at the age of nineteen, these kiddie ones with their yellow polka-dots were rather too small for him. He still wasn't exactly basketball superstar material, and probably never would be, but the bottoms of his pyjama trousers now only reached mid-calf, and that was good enough for him.
His dream had put him in a reminiscent sort of mood, so he pulled on clothes similar to his old attire; blue jeans, black tank top, and the first pair of matching sneakers he could find. His neck still looked oddly bare when he dressed like this, as if the look would just never be quite complete without the Millennium Puzzle on its silver chain.
"Yuugi! The food is getting cold!"
"Coming, grandpa!" he called, making one brief and futile attempt to make his hair sit neatly before giving up and going downstairs.
"Morning," he said as he entered the kitchen and poured himself a cup of tea from the pot on the stove.
"Good morning, lazybones," Sugoroku said as he sat down next to him at the table. "Honestly, I don't know how you used to make it to school on time."
"Neither do I," Yuugi admitted with a laugh, helping himself to a piece of toast and starting to smother it in peanut butter.
"I might need your help in the shop today," his grandpa said. "There's a big delivery coming in. You don't have college, do you?"
"No, gramps, Wednesday is one of my days off," Yuugi said. "I have some reading to do, but I can do it in the evening. I'll come help out."
"Thank you," Sugoroku said warmly, donning the oven gloves and retrieving the breakfast waffles from the oven, where he'd put them to keep hot until his grandson made an appearance. Just as he lifted the tray out, the doorbell rang.
"Could you get that, Yuugi?" he requested as he tried to find a surface to set the tray down on.
"Sure," Yuugi replied, jumping up and heading for the hallway, still munching his toast. He reached the front door and fiddled with the lock awkwardly with his one free hand. It eventually clicked and he turned the handle and opened the door.
"Hello, can I help-?"
He trailed off and stared wide-eyed when he saw the person on the doorstep. Without him really noticing, his half-eaten slice of toast slid from his hand and landed with a peanut-butter-side-down splat on the welcome mat.
"Mou hitori no boku," he breathed, hardly daring to believe it.
The ancient Pharaoh looked at him with the same amazed expression for a moment, and then he smiled.
"No, Yuugi," he said. "I'm Atemu."
What happened next was really a sort of blur for Yuugi. The next thing he was properly aware of was sitting back at the kitchen table, Atemu to his left and a very surprised Sugoroku to his right.
He kept expecting to wake up and find this was yet another dream. How could Atemu be here, in the flesh, after almost three years of complete absence? And he was, quite literally, 'in the flesh', which was bizarre in itself. Not only was he back, he had his own body now? The only times he'd seen the Pharaoh as a separate entity had been in the Memory World, and the Ceremonial Duel…
"How…how are you here?" he asked finally when his head stopped spinning.
"I don't know…" his look-alike confessed. "It just sort of…happened. One minute there was nothing, then a huge flash of light…and I was here in Domino. I woke up outside your school."
Technically it was his old school now, since he'd graduated, but Yuugi didn't even think about correcting him.
"But…but how?" he questioned meekly, too dazed and confused to say much else.
"I don't know," Atemu said again with a smile, "But I'm glad to be back."
Yuugi suddenly realised that he'd been so busy feeling shocked and stunned that it hadn't even occurred to him that he was happy to see his old friend again. All at once his heart swelled with joy until he thought it might burst and his face broke into a huge smile.
"I'm glad you're back too!" he said in delight as it finally sunk in that Atemu was here, really here, and he could talk to him and laugh with him again instead of just remembering. "I don't know how or why, but who cares? It's so great to see you again!"
He couldn't find any more words to express how totally euphoric he felt, so he just stood up and hugged his yami tightly, something he'd never been able to do before.
"Yes…I've missed you, aibou," Atemu said, still smiling. He seemed a little uncertain about the hugging thing, but at length returned the gesture tentatively.
"Well, I have no idea what's going on," Sugoroku announced. "But yes, it's nice to have you back. Would you like some breakfast?"
Both doppelgangers laughed at the older man's ready acceptance of this unusual twist of fate.
"Yes, grandpa," Atemu said gladly. "I'd like that very much."
"So…do you think you're back for good this time?" Yuugi asked as Sugoroku loaded their plates with syrup-soaked waffles and pieces of fruit. "Or is there just something you have to do?"
"I really have no idea," Atemu said. "I'd like to think it's a permanent arrangement."
"It must be," Yuugi decided. "You have your own body this time. It's so weird, I can just reach out and touch you…!"
"Indeed," Atemu said, looking amused by his incredulity. "It's pleasant to be able to just sit across from you, like normal friends would. Yes, it does seem more definite this time. My destiny with the Millennium Items and the Shadow Games was fulfilled…I don't think I've been brought back just to complete another task. Perhaps…we've been given another chance at life."
"We…?" he repeated, puzzled.
"Oh yes, I forgot to say…" the Pharaoh said. "It seems I'm not the only one who has been brought back."
"The other spirits too?" he questioned.
"Yes. At least, I thought I saw them in that flash of light. Mariku and…" Atemu hesitated for a moment, "And Bakura."
"What do you suppose they'll do?" Yuugi asked, concerned.
"Seek out their lighter halves, I suppose," Atemu said. "I felt compelled to come here. I was almost pulled towards this house, and I knew it was to find you, even though I had no way of knowing if this was still where you lived."
"Yup, nineteen years old and still living with my grandpa," Yuugi laughed.
"Nineteen? Is that how old you are now?" Atemu asked in bewilderment.
"That's right," Yuugi said with a grin. "All grown up. I bet I'm taller than you now!"
They stood up and compared, but Atemu proved to still be slightly taller.
"Not fair," Yuugi complained. "You must have grown too."
"So it would seem…" Atemu agreed, looking down at the physical form he was still getting to grips with. "I wonder how?"
"Who knows?" Yuugi said with a shrug, attacking his plate of waffles. "So you think the other two are going to find Malik and Ryou?"
"I can only assume so."
"Hmm…we might be seeing Mariku soon, then."
"Hm? How? Isn't Malik in Egypt?"
"Nope, he came over here to study," Yuugi explained, "He attends the same college as me. Lives really nearby. He works part-time in the game shop, too."
"Really?" Atemu mused, thinking of the feisty young tomb-keeper. "Who would have thought it…?"
Suddenly his expression turned anxious.
"What about Ryou?" he asked. "Where does he live?"
"Oh…not too far away," Yuugi said vaguely.
"So if Bakura came back into this world around the same time and place as me, he could find him at any time?"
"Sounds about right."
"Shouldn't we try and contact him, to warn him that Bakura is back?" Atemu questioned, confused at Yuugi's apparent lack of concern. "He could get a terrible scare."
"I'm…more worried about Bakura, to be honest," Yuugi said with a dry smile, setting his cutlery down. Atemu stared at him.
"What?" he asked, suitably perplexed.
Yuugi shifted uncomfortably.
"After you guys left…Ryou, he…he sort of…changed," he said slowly.
Atemu thought of the shy, polite Ryou Bakura he remembered and tried to imagine him any different.
"What do you mean, aibou?" he asked.
"Let me put it this way," he said, spearing a piece of waffle with his fork, "If Bakura thinks he can just walk back into Ryou's life and take control again…he is very sadly mistaken."
"What a dump."
The white-haired yami looked up at the grimy tower-block looming up before him with equal measures of amusement and disgust. He knew his hikari was in there somewhere. Ever since he had inexplicably materialised back into this wretched world that morning, there had been an odd pulling sensation in his head and chest, tugging him in a certain direction, and somehow he just knew it was leading him back to his old host. And this was where it had taken him.
"Heh…you were always such a high-class little brat," he said with cold humour, examining some obscene graffiti on the side wall, "Who would have thought you'd end up in a shit-hole like this?"
He approached the main entrance. There was an ancient-looking intercom, with a buzzer for every apartment, but the door had been smashed half-off its hinges, so he just slipped inside.
He followed the pull of his connection to his light. It grew consistently stronger as he climbed the flights of concrete steps until he was standing outside a door on the second floor. The landing was dark, cold and smelled of damp. The door was green, with the paint flaking in places.
There was a doorbell, but he ignored it. Surely it would be a lot more fun to…surprise his little light.
He reached into the pocket of his trench-coat – he was wearing the same clothes he'd last worn in this world – and extracted one of many paperclips. Such useful little things. After unbending it until it was just a wobbly piece of wire, he inserted it into the keyhole and manoeuvred it carefully until he heard the lock click. He smirked at the satisfying sound and leaned against the door, pushing it open silently.
There was a radio playing inside the apartment, some cheery tune chirping away to itself. He stepped into the hallway and shut the door quietly behind him.
He advanced slowly, trying to determine his hikari's exact location. He was about to start searching the rooms one by one when he heard a movement behind him.
He started to turn around, but before he could see who or what it was that was lurking in wait, something connected suddenly and excruciatingly with his back.
He was sent sprawling to the floor, swearing in agony.
"You shouldn't make such a fuss. That's what happens when you break into someone else's house."
Bakura froze at that voice. It was devastatingly familiar, and yet somehow totally alien to him.
"Who are you? Turn around," the voice ordered.
His mouth twisted into a sadistic smirk. Yes…he knew that voice.
Ignoring the considerable pain in the middle of his spine, Bakura got to his feet and turned, keeping his head down.
"Hello, hikari," he said in a sardonically pleasant tone. He raised his head and locked eyes with his light.
He could see that Ryou was taller now than before, and holding a baseball bat, which explained a lot, but gave these things little thought. It was the eyes he wanted to see; to see them flood with sudden recognition and the usual fear, and then to see the boy fall to his knees and beg forgiveness for daring to hurt him, or just cower in a corner in absolute terror.
Those large brown eyes stared at him, and sure enough they widened in recognition. But there were no tears, no apologies, no screams of terror.
All the teen did was swing the bat again, cracking Bakura on the side of the head and plunging him into darkness.
"Man, I still can't believe you're back!" Jounouchi grinned. "This is too awesome!"
Yuugi laughed to himself as his friends all tried to get their heads around Atemu's unexpected return. He'd called them all to the game shop to tell them, and they were all now sitting on various crates in one of the stock rooms.
"The shop has certainly grown…" Atemu remarked, looking around.
"Yeah, we ended up doing a merger with Otogi's place," Yuugi said brightly. "We've expanded!"
"But Atemu…" Anzu spoke up. "You said the other spirits are back too?"
"Yes," he confirmed, nodding.
"Uh-oh," she said with a grimace. "Is that good or bad?"
"I don't know," Atemu said. "But I think perhaps we should forewarn Ryou and Malik…to lessen the shock."
"Yeah, we should warn Malik," he said. "As for-"
"Someone call me?"
A sandy-blond head poked through the plastic curtain leading to the adjoining store room.
"Oh, hi Malik," Yuugi said. "I didn't know you were here today."
"No rest for the wicked," Malik laughed. "What are you guys all doing here?"
"Isn't it obvious?" Anzu said teasingly. Malik looked at her dubiously before his lavender eyes found Atemu.
"…Pharaoh?" he gaped after a moment's stunned silence.
"Yes," Atemu said, looking amused again at the goggle-eyed reaction he was getting from everyone when they first saw him. "But really…call me Atemu."
And so the whole story – which wasn't really much – had to be related once again. Malik listened with astonishment and, towards the end, dread.
"So, he…Mariku's back?" he questioned fearfully.
"Yes. But I don't think he intends to cause you harm, Malik," Atemu said, placing a hand on the Egyptian teen's shoulder.
"I hope you're right…" Malik murmured, looking despondently at the floor and appearing distinctly unconvinced.
"What about Ryou?" Honda asked. "Should we go check up on him?"
"I'm sure he's fine," Jounouchi said, rolling his eyes. "Although, I would kinda like to go just to see the look on Bakura's face…"
"Please," Atemu said, feeling lost. "What are you all talking about?"
"It's like I said…" Yuugi shrugged. "Ryou changed."
"Yes, but…in what way? Why?"
"I think…he was angry about what happened to him," Anzu said sadly. "Y'know…for Yuugi it seemed like destiny that he received his Millennium Item. For Ryou it was more like bad luck. Yuugi was special, Ryou was unfortunate. You know what I mean?"
"I don't think we can really explain to you the way he is now," Yuugi said quietly. "You'll have to see him for yourself to understand. And to believe it."
Atemu looked at them all with a very troubled expression, worried that he and his old enemy's dabbling with time might have really caused serious damage to someone here in the present.
His head really hurt.
Bakura groaned slightly and raised a hand to his throbbing temple.
He opened his eyes and his vision filled with laminate wood flooring. He was lying on the ground. He sat up woozily, still feeling at the sizeable lump forming on the side of his head.
Where was he again-?
"Don't stand up."
At that voice it all came crashing back. Ryou had done this to him. Ryou!
He turned furiously in the direction of the voice.
And what he saw made his anger drain away.
The sight of Zorc dancing in a field of pink flowers whilst wearing a fluffy tutu and tiara could not have shocked him more than the sight of nineteen year-old Ryou.
He stood with his back against the wall, the baseball bat – which he seemed to use as a fucking self-defence weapon – still dangling loosely from his deceptively slender fingers. Bakura's first impression had been correct; Ryou was indeed taller now, though probably still not quite as tall as himself. He was as skinny as ever, but he didn't look as delicate as Bakura remembered. He wore a pair of faded jeans and a close-fitting black V-neck t-shirt. His feet were bare. His jeans were torn across the right knee, and that was wrong in itself – Ryou had always been so finicky about his appearance.
And the sweet, gentle kindness that had always been there, without fail, no matter the situation, seemed to have vanished. That heart-shaped face that had only ever looked upon him with timid awe and all-forgiving kindness, now observed him dispassionately, coldly, and those chocolate-brown eyes were just hateful.
The transformation was unnerving.
"Hikari, what-?" Bakura started.
"Don't call me that," Ryou snapped, stepping away from the wall. He sounded different too, which would explain why Bakura hadn't been able to immediately place his voice. Well, his voice was the same – of course, nothing short of heavy smoking and excessive drinking could really alter a person's voice – but it was heavily laden with biting frost, and his tone sported a harshness it had never had before. Still, despite his surprise at this apparent change of manner, Bakura felt his blood boil at his light speaking to him in such a way.
"I'll call you whatever I like," he growled.
"Shut up," Ryou said absently.
The rebuke was so unexpected that Bakura actually did fall silent.
There was a dining chair in the middle of the hallway, where Ryou must have sat at some point, waiting for Bakura to awaken. He grabbed it again now and sat down, albeit backwards, his long legs straddling the chair's high back. He folded his arms and rested his chin on them, watching his yami intently and chewing meditatively on his lower lip.
Neither of them spoke. The radio wasn't playing any more, so the apartment was swamped in silence. The hallway was getting dark now, with long shadows stretching across the floor, and Bakura realised he must have been out for quite some time.
"How are you back?" Ryou asked finally. "And why are you here?"
Bakura shot him a warning glare, not liking his impertinent tone. Ryou appeared unmoved.
"I don't know," he growled. "It just happened. I don't waste my time questioning these things."
Ryou looked at him witheringly.
"So why are you here?" he asked again.
"I don't know!" Bakura snarled. "We're still connected. I didn't have anything better to do than come and find you."
"And what do you want?" Ryou demanded.
"I don't know!" Bakura roared for the third time. "Damnit, what's your problem? I don't need your body anymore, and there are no Millennium Items left to fight for, so it's not like I came back just to hurt you-!"
"Bullshit," Ryou spat.
Bakura stared at him, stunned. The word sounded so wrong falling from Ryou's lips, as it would if a tiny child said it. It was like poison dripping from his tongue.
"As for what my problem is…" the teen went on icily, getting to his feet and moving towards him until he stood directly above him. "You ruined my life."
His grip tightened angrily around the baseball bat, and Bakura, from his spot on the floor, couldn't deny that he felt slightly threatened.
"You screwed up everything," Ryou hissed, pretty features scowling in a way that seemed unnatural and, again, just wrong.
He raised the bat above his head, his lean frame trembling with emotion.
"I could kill you right now," he said shakily. "I could hurt you like you hurt me."
Bakura was more shocked than scared, but either way he was lost for words.
Ryou's knuckles were white around the handle of the bat, and for a moment Bakura truly thought that the life he'd been given only that morning was fated to end right here and now.
But then the boy gave an enraged yell, perhaps frustrated at his own lack of brutality, and threw the bat savagely across the room instead. It hit the opposite wall with a resounding clatter. He raised his hand and slapped Bakura hard across the face. He was astonished by the strength in that blow, and how much it stung, and how it left his ears ringing.
"Get out," Ryou said quietly and coldly, not looking at him. "Get out of here. I don't care what you do with your new life, but stay the hell away from me. Now get out!"
He turned his back on him, limbs shaking. And for the first time he could remember, Bakura obeyed his light without a word, leaving the apartment in a rather undignified hurry.
Hoorah, chapter 1 is finished.
Ryou kicks butt! xD Ooh…what HAVE I done?
Call it OOC if you like :P Personally, it's something I've always wanted to see. Doesn't fanon!Ryou's typical subservience drive anyone else crazy from time to time?