The room was dark, the only light being the dull blue glow of a computer screen. A man sat hunched over a desk, the steady clicking of keys perforating the silence. An ornate, gold plated clock sitting to the right of the desk read twenty minutes past midnight. A late night at the office indeed.
The room was quite huge in scope, the high walls panelled with highly polished oak and lined with many full bookshelves, housing hundreds of leather bound books. Richly woven rugs lay at various intervals over the plush white carpet, and a vast, crystal chandelier hung, dormant, from the ceiling.
The monotonous sound of the keys ceased, and the man sat back, sliding a slightly gnarled hand over his head, taking some time to reach his hairline. The years had sent it considerably behind the starting line. He reached into his shirt pocket, producing a glinting silver lighter, and opened a small, elaborately carved wooden box to his left, drawing out a cigar. A brief red flash punctured the monitor's steady blue haze, and soon swirling grey tendrils crawled towards the ceiling.
The man grabbed a half full glass of whiskey that had been resting on a coaster beside the keyboard. The light chink of ice on glass momentarily pierced the otherwise soundless room. After taking a sip, he returned it to it's prior position and pulled a large, brown envelope across the desk towards him. While it was blank, the man seemed to know precisely what it held inside. He tore the sealed end, and removed a file from it's innards. Flicking it open, he surveyed it's contents carefully.
Sitting up straight, seemingly snapping to attention, he seized the photographs that it contained and held them close to his eyes. He reached over and turned on a desk lamp, for an easier view.
"Interesting", he muttered.
He spread out the photos in front of him, eight in all, each showing a different boy. "What a batch!", he exclaimed quietly. "They've really outdone themselves this time, these are exceptional.".
He picked up the first two and looked at them closely. "Twins perhaps? Though they seem to be different ages...strange". Both had similar, bizarrely complicated spiked hairstyles, with no fewer than three different colours in it, and both looked quite alike, and both had the same violet eye colour, though one was far taller, and with a much sharper, more angular face. "Both quite stunning, regardless, they're absolutely ideal"
He put them back down, and picked up the next two. "Now these are definitely twins", the two looked almost identical, the same height, the same light brown eye colour, and the same long, oddly white hair, the only difference being that one had a much harsher face in comparison with the other's quite innocent, childlike one. "Excellent, all around, and the fact that there are two of them will be quite a draw".
Moving onto the next photo, he smiled broadly; this was exactly the sort he had been hoping for. The boy was exceptionally pretty and feminine, with a slim, petite, body , and certainly foreign, for his skin was quite tanned, contrasting with his platinum blonde hair, and striking lavender eyes. "He's practically packaged already, he even has makeup and jewellery on. Beautiful, just beautiful. This is already the best group they've sent yet."
Reluctantly moving on from the foreign boy, he found himself looking at a tall and handsome, yet faintly scruffy, blonde, with dark, chocolate coloured eyes, "Perfect, a more masculine one for variety, seeing as they've all been damn girly so far. This seems almost too good to be true."
The next was quite oddly dressed and, like the tanned boy, he had dark makeup around his impressively green eyes, with his black hair in an elaborate ponytail of sorts "Hmm, pretty, yet not quite girlish, ideal for a comfortable middle ground, they've really got a lot of bases covered". The final photo awaited.
"This must be some kind of a joke, it's just too perfect to believe, twins, prettyboys, hunks, and now this?". While the others all appeared to be in their mid teens, the final boy was much younger, certainly not a teenager yet, a vast mane of silky black hair surrounded a small, decidedly effeminate face, with energetic grey eyes. "Incredible. On top of the others, they even have a nice, pretty, younger one for the full package".
He gathered up all of the photos in his hand, and brought them closer, pressing them to his face. "This is simply incredible, I couldn't have imagined a more beautiful group. I'll give the pair the go ahead first thing in the morning". He looked at the last photo again, his own dull blue eyes boring into the boy's grey ones. "Strange, he actually seems familiar somehow, have I seen him before?", his brow furrowed for a moment, before he dismissed the thought, "Ah, no bother, it doesn't really matter who he is, anyway, or was, I should say".
He glanced over all of the photos once more, soaking in the beauty, before replacing them in the file. "I think I'll need to be quite careful with how I handle this group; I doubt there'll ever be such a perfect collection found again, so I'll want to be keeping this one for as long as I can. Perhaps just toning down the process, and stretching it out longer instead, might be the way to go. More time spent, of course, but for this group, I suppose it's worth it, if it has them in prime condition by the end."
His tongue snaked out, sliding over his lips, his mind already imagining the mouth watering results, as he anticipated the things to come in the next few weeks.
A ear splitting clattering shattered a previously peaceful silence, as an excessively obnoxious alarm clock set off it's bell. Yami shot straight up into a sitting position, looking around wildly for the source of the racket. Realizing the cause, he seized the clock roughly, turning it off, and struggling to resist the very attractive temptation to fling it against the wall.
Beside him in the bed, Yuugi stirred slightly, seemingly able to wake up at a comfortable pace from the abhorrent ringing, and sat up slowly. Yami found himself, once again, in a bad mood the second he woke up. Yuugi was clearly used to the alarm waking him up every morning, and had no trouble with it, but Yami was growing increasingly irritated at such a sudden wake up on a daily basis.
It had been two months since the Ceremonial Battle, and every weekday since Yami had been woken by the same alarm Yuugi needed to get up in time to go to school. While Yami most certainly delighted in sharing the same bed as Yuugi, this downside still made him wish there was space in the apartment for his own room.
"M-Morning", said Yuugi, stifling a yawn as he rose from the bed to get dressed.
"Good morning, Aibou"
"Sorry about that", Yuugi indicated towards the clock Yami was placing back on the bedside locker.
"You apologize every morning, I've told you there's no need, I understand the little....thing is necessary"
"Well, I still feel bad you're woken up so early, if you had your own room you wouldn't have to put up with it" Yuugi finished pulling on his uniform, and began slipping on his studded leather collar.
"As I said, it's fine, stop worrying about it, Aibou, if I didn't get woken up now I'd sleep in til past noon anyway."
Yuugi completed putting on his (mostly leather) accessories, and shifted nervously, "Ok...umm...are you...all set for today?". He turned to look uncertainly at Yami, whose expression grew apprehensive.
"It has to be done, so I suppose I have to be."
"You might end up feeling good about it all, though, if you just try"
"I know, I promise I'll do my best to get along. Though I can't speak for the others."
"They'll come round, too, I'm sure of it. Anyway I'd best head down to get some food before I go. What're you gonna do in the meantime?", Yuugi picked up his schoolbag and slipped in over his shoulders as he spoke.
"I guess I'll just help out down below, I've nothing better to be doing, really"
"Err, ok then, I'll see you downstairs before I head". Yuugi left the room, his light footsteps fading away as he moved down the stairs.
Yami sighed heavily and dropped back down, laying flat on the bed. He knew this had to be sorted out, they'd all been putting it off since the Ceremonial Battle. He had lost that duel, but had found he was unable to walk through the door, with the knowledge that he would never see his Aibou, or his friends here, again. While he had truly wished to return to his family and friends from his past life, he couldn't throw away the bond he had with so many people here, in Domino. He looked at it more as a delay, that he would see his family again only when he and his Aibou had lived their life out together.
Yuugi and the others had been lost for words when he had turned around, and decided to stay, and Yami would still smile whenever he thought of the look of sheer, unadulterated joy on Yuugi's face in that moment. However, there had, of course, been quite a few problems that had arisen from his decision.
The most obvious, was the lack of room Sugoroku had in his apartment for Yami to live in comfortably, before he had only been a spirit, in the Millennium Puzzle, but now he was very much here physically. Thus he had ended up staying in Yuugi's room. While he most certainly loved his Aibou in more ways than one, he had no idea if Yuugi felt the same way, making his nightly presence in the bed somewhat awkward.
The other obvious problem was that he, quite plainly, had nothing to do. He still had only a small amount of experience in the modern world, so he couldn't simply go out and get a job. He had found himself simply helping Sugoroku with the game shop during the day, while Yuugi was at school. Currently he was having thoughts of perhaps becoming a professional duellist, as it seemed the most fitting path for him.
However, the most serious problem was not directly related from his presence, rather, it concerned the fate of a certain white haired thief. Yuugi, damn forgiving, pure little Yuugi, along with Ryou, had decided that everyone deserves a second chance. With this in mind, after Yami had decided to stay, they had quite literally begged the gods themselves to give this second chance to Yami No Bakura. Yami, and the others, had found this simply absurd, but Yuugi and Ryou had insisted. Eventually, the gods had agreed, and Bakura had been returned to life, albeit in a slightly different form. With the death of Zorc and the destruction of the Millennium Items, a large amount of Bakura's old self had disappeared. Now, he was more of a remnant of the Thief King Bakura, at least in terms of character, with vague elements of Zorc remaining.
To the outside view, he looked the same as before, and perhaps acted no less unpleasantly, however, the gods had assured Yuugi and Ryou that any actual evil in him was gone, and that any disagreeable behaviour they saw from him was simply the signs of a rather abrasive personality. He had also been granted his own body, and Ryou had wasted no time in taking him in, seeming quite enthusiastic about the prospect of "rehabilitating him".
Unfortunately, while Yuugi, Ryou and, after a few weeks, Anzu and Shizuka were quite happy to accept the thief into their ranks, provided he behave himself, Yami was not. He, Jounouchi, Honda, Otogi, Malik, Kaiba and Mokuba remained extremely suspicious of him. And it was to this end that today's dreaded event had been organised.
After school, they were to all come here, to the apartment, in order to sit down and work out their differences. Yami had doubts it would accomplish much, how could one evening of talk solve so much bad blood? Nevertheless, he had agreed to it, and now, he and the others faced the prospect of sitting down for a chat with Bakura. The things he did for Yuugi!
Dragging himself out of his cavern of thought, he got out of the bed, and pulled on his own (like Yuugi, mostly leather) clothes. Marching down to the kitchen on the ground floor, behind the store, he was greeted with a now familiar, but currently less than welcome, sight. Sitting at the table with Yuugi, who was eating, was none other than Malik Ishtar. He immediately rose to greet Yami, who felt merely exasperated.
Malik had returned from Egypt shortly after the Ceremonial Battle, and was staying in Domino for (to Yami's dismay) an indefinite amount of time. While he no longer had any ill feeling towards Malik, who had returned to his original, gentle and thoughtful self, Malik's reason for being here was rather tiresome. He had apparently come back to "make up" for his previous behaviour, and was now interested in making sure the Pharaoh had an easy time.
This, in practice, meant that he was constantly following Yami around, wishing to help him with everything. This had proved rather annoying, to be pestered so much. Yami knew that Malik meant well, and hadn't the heart to tell him he was overcompensating hugely.
"Good morning, Pharaoh, do you want anything to eat?", Malik sounded quite eager, as always.
"No, I'm fine, and please, I've told you before, don't call me Pharaoh, just Yami will do"
"Ok, sorry, Yami, well, I'll be around all day if you need a hand with anything, just ask"
No change there, thought Yami. "I think I might accompany Yuugi to school, just to have a walk before I start in the game shop"
"I'll come with you then, I could help you with the game shop too!" said Malik excitedly. Yami mentally sighed, wondering how exactly Malik had turned himself into some kind of servant.
"Also, Yami, Honda called, he needs to head out of town right after school, he's not going to be back til tomorrow, so he's not going to be here this evening, ok?", said Yuugi.
"Oh. Very well then, are you nearly ready to go anyway?"
"Yeah, two minutes and we'll head."
Yami had a sudden thought while he waited, "Actually, Aibou, if Honda can't make it, shouldn't we delay it to a different day?". Yami tried to keep his tone as neutral as possible, to avoid looking hopeful of a cancellation.
"No, we can't, Yami, this is the only day I could convince Kaiba to take an evening off for, and he's already made his arrangements, so it has to be today"
Half an hour later, the three found themselves outside Domino High School. Yuugi was already cutting it close in terms of time, so there was not much room for extended goodbyes. Yami briefly touched his fingers to Yuugi's cheek, exchanging a warm smile with him, before he had to scurry off, looking back momentarily to wave to the two boys remaining at the gate.
The two began a slow walk back the gameshop. They moved in silence for a few minutes, before Yami decided it was the ideal time for him to try and sort out the current situation with the Egyptian.
"Malik, you know I've told you this whole thing isn't necessary. You don't need to wait on me hand and foot all the time like this"
"It's fine, honestly, there's absolutely no need for any of it. I've long since forgiven you for any problems in the past, and you can go on with a normal life, like I'm doing my best to do"
Malik stopped abruptly. Yami ceased his own walk and turned to the blonde, surprised to see a deep melancholy appear in his violet eyes.
"I...I don't think you understand...this is something I have to do. You might have forgiven me...but I'm not so merciful, until I feel I've paid my debt to you, there's no normal life. I did such horrible things to you...and in return, you saved me from myself, you destroyed the other me. I owe my life to you. And I think this is the only way to make it all up, to repay you. Just helping you...it's helping me too"
Malik's eyes were beginning to look misty, and he bowed his head. Yami stepped forward, placing one hand on his shoulder, and lifting his face back up by the chin with the other hand.
"You have no debt to me, Malik, you're free of the past. Free of the other you, free of your father, free of the life of a tomb keeper, free of the Pharaoh. I understand your guilt, but I believe I can find a better way to absolve it."
Malik looked confused, his eyes narrowed, "I-I don't understand-"
"You believe you have to work to repay, but you don't need to, you'll learn to forgive yourself much faster, if you just be there for me as a friend, not as a servant. I'm not the Pharaoh anymore, I don't need slaves, I only need friends now, so just be that for me, Malik."
Malik seemed to be considering this idea, his eyes thoughtful. Several moments passed in silence while he mulled it over.
"Ok...ok, I'll give it a try, though I must admit, I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do different"
"Just be yourself, really. Don't worry about how to act, just relax. All of that stuff, the Millennium Items, the tomb keepers, it's all over now, and we can just go on with normal lives"
Malik smiled, and nodded. Yami removed his hand from his shoulder, and the two continued on. It was several minutes before Malik spoke again.
"So, er, what're your thoughts on this evening?" Malik's question had a distinct aura of awkwardness to it, as though he were trying to keep himself as neutral as possible.
"To be quite honest, I'm not looking forward to it. I'll freely admit I don't trust Bakura at all, no matter what they said. He'll have a long way to go to prove to me he's safe to be around"
"Me too", Malik confessed, more comfortable now that Yami had expressed his own dissatisfaction, "It's not like he's acted much different, he's still as coarse and snide as before."
"Indeed, but I suppose we promised, so it has to be done. I just hope they don't make this a regular thing."
They had nearly reached the gameshop, now on the same street.
"Sometimes I think that forgiving nature Aibou has, can be incredibly naive. He just assumed Bakura can turn into a model citizen based on pure optimism. It can definitely get-" Yami stopped suddenly, looking behind him.
"What's wrong, Yami?" Malik turned to look as well, but saw nothing out of the ordinary.
"Something...strange. I'm rather talented at this sort of thing, and I got the distinct impression someone was watching us."
Malik's eyes darted around nervously, "Watching us, who?"
"I can't be sure, it's just a feeling, it's not usually wrong though" Yami scanned the street thoroughly, seeing nothing odd, but still feeling an uneasy sensation down his back.
"Well, maybe we should move on quickly, then" Malik's tone was anxious, his voice slightly shaky.
"...yeah. Ok, let's go" Yami tore his attention from the surrounding buildings, and the two walked on, at a much quickened pace. They soon reached the gameshop, and wasted no time in entering.
The morning Sun's rays illuminated the street, light bouncing and scattering from the black tarmac in all directions. One such ray stuck a pair of tiny lenses, protruding from an upper story window across from the card shop, the minute glass glinting for a moment, before the binoculars that had been tracking the two teens' progress down the street were withdrawn.
Perhaps a little slow moving, but I'm still setting the scene, the ultra dark angst will come later ;).
I combed it as thoroughly as I could for any spelling or grammar errors, but please point out any I might have missed.
Hope it's not OOC in any places, I did my best to keep them IC