Yu-Gi-Oh!

The Pendulum Swings

By Lucky_Ladybug

Notes: The characters aren't mine (except the mentioned girl) and the story is! Bakura and Yami Bakura are really two of the most ambiguous and confusing characters in the entire anime or manga. And since Yami Bakura is apparently actually two spirits, it gets even more bewildering. I don't like to think that he's completely gone for good due to Atem defeating Zorc, so after thinking for a while, I came up with this. I apologize in advance for anything that might sound cliché, but I tried my hardest to put in some original spins! For timeline reference, it does not fit into any existing timeline of mine, but it could be thought of as a prequel to a different version of the mystery stories. Hence, Oreo is not here because she wouldn't have joined them yet. Thanks to Kaze, Lisa, and Crystal Rose for plot help!

All was quiet in the Bakura household the night of Yugi and the others' return from Egypt.

The abode's sole occupant had remained awake for some time, feeling strangely alone. For the first time in years, he truly was. He had reached up, tracing with his fingers along his neck and chest where the Millennium Ring had recently hung. Then he had turned away from the mirror, silently shuffling to bed.

It was ridiculous for him to feel any sense of loneliness, of course. The spirit of the Ring had gotten him into no end of trouble. Not only that, but he had endangered the boy's friends, too. And if he had truly been part of the evil Zorc being, as Tristan had finally admitted to the spirit's host, then it should be a relief to be rid of him.

It was a relief and yet . . . somehow, it was not.

Ryou Bakura tried, but he could not help his feelings. His father was almost always gone, either at the museum or investigating new possible exhibits and artifacts for the museum. His mother and sister were both dead, killed in a car crash many years ago. To cope, he still wrote letters to little Amane as if she was alive.

And, as horrible as the spirit of the Ring had been, he had also been company. For someone who had been virtually alone for years, any kind of companionship seemed better than the utter stillness and silence of the darkened house. Though the teenager feared the fiend, he was finding that he feared absolute solitude even more.

That was why Ryou Bakura lay in bed for some time, staring at the opposite wall, before at last drifting into a troubled sleep.

****

The poof of dark purple smoke, streaked with blue, materialized in the center of the room without warning. Gradually its essence dispersed throughout the enclosed space, revealing a badly wounded and torn figure in the midst of it. The form doubled over, clutching its stomach. A cough choked to the dry throat, though no blood came to the lips. The short, whitish-lavender hair was wild, falling over the pained eyes as well as sticking in every conceivable direction.

With a masculine grunt he tried to straighten up, but instead crashed to his knees. He gripped the floor, shuddering as the agony ripped through his tanned body.

Where was he? The last thing he recalled was something about a dark RPG game and the Pharaoh's lost memories. And Zorc Necrophades going into battle against the Pharaoh. . . .

Yes, he himself had been sacrificed in the RPG to bring Zorc to life. . . . But when the Pharaoh had defeated and destroyed Zorc, the personification of the darkness itself, the one sacrificed had felt like his very soul was being torn asunder.

And his own memories were all a jumble. Zorc. . . . Wasn't he Zorc? Or . . . no . . . he had been a human, a mortal, once . . . hadn't he? He had lived in Egypt, raised by thieves, until they had all been brutally massacred by the Pharaoh's armies. He, as a child, had watched them all be slaughtered. And he, concealed from the cruel and unfeeling blades, had been the sole survivor.

That had been millennia ago. Even so, he could clearly remember his ensuing path of hatred and revenge against that Pharaoh's son and his priests. But . . . he could not recall how it had all ended or how he had wound up trapped inside the Millennium Ring.

He did remember that even before his mortal death, his spirit had been controlled by and infused with part of Zorc's. It had started as soon as he had claimed the Millennium Ring for his own and had continued to this day. For centuries they had shared the same essence, his own hate-poisoned mind made darker by Zorc's takeover.

Now, for the first time in three thousand years, he was free. Zorc Necrophades had been destroyed by the Pharaoh Atem, both in the RPG and in the real world. But somehow, strangely, instead of being annihilated with the dark being, he was here, in this familiar room.

What was left of him. He coughed again, nearly losing his balance as he turned to focus on a movement that had caught his eye.

"Bakura," he muttered, catching sight of the white-haired boy laying in the bed, facing away from him. The boy who shared his own long-ago name but nothing of his harsh, hateful personality. Indeed, young Bakura could not be further from him, with his kind yet sad nature and his shyness. They were like dark and light---yami and hikari.

Yami Bakura. . . .

Another of his aliases, wasn't it? Or was it Zorc's alias? Or . . . blast it all, who was he? He had lived with Zorc for so long that now he could not even piece together his true identity. He was a shadow, a whisper, of his former self . . of any self. Zorc had dominated his personality from the moment of his spirit's arrival. At first the thief had not realized what was happening, and had thought that Zorc's thoughts were his own, but after his death he had realized otherwise and had tried in vain to regain control. He thought he had been in charge sometimes in the modern world, never having wanted to relinquish his mind, but had he ever really been in control? Perhaps it had still been Zorc all along, letting him think he was in control when he actually had not been. Maybe nothing he had thought had been his own idea at all.

He growled, swaying as he took a small step towards the bed. What was he even doing here? If he had survived, shouldn't he still be trapped in the Ring? Instead he was randomly in Bakura's bedroom.

And the pain of the parasitic spirit being torn from him had not begun to dissipate. If anything, it was growing worse. He really felt as though he was going to sink into oblivion any moment. Could a spirit fall into unconsciousness? Or even die? Was Zorc still out there, somewhere? Would he come back, if so? Or would he decide the thief was of no more use to him, as he had during the RPG?

Would they merge again? Did he, the thief, want to? It was so strange without him, so alien and empty. But did he want to go back to what he had experienced for the past three thousand years? It was familiar . . . and powerful . . . yet he had not been free.

Still, was he free now? He could not even determine who he really was. Was he Thief King Bakura, his identity from mortality? Was he Zorc, having become him after their long fusion? Or was he Yami Bakura, the shadow of this boy and a combination of both of his past identities?

Or was he even someone entirely different?

He sank to his knees, weakly reaching to clutch at a corner of the comforter. He had lived in hatred and madness for millennia. Zorc had encouraged and increased his dark feelings, while by contrast this boy had shown him a different way of life. Bah! His way was for the weak. Kindness, trust, forgiveness. . . .

And where had his own path gotten him? He had none of the power or the revenge he had desired. He was kneeling on the floor of a modern-day bedroom, no longer able to hold himself upright. If a spirit could bleed, there would be pools of crimson all around this room. His soul had been figuratively torn to shreds---though he doubted his physical appearance was much better.

The boy stirred, somehow sensing the tugs on the quilt. He rolled over, blinking away the sleep from his eyes as he tried to focus.

The old thief glowered at him. Would he be able to see the phantom in his room, even without the aid of the Millennium Ring? Or would he stare right through the spirit as if nothing was there at all?

Did he want Bakura to see him?

The teen's brown eyes widened in confusion. He could clearly see something, even if he was not sure what it was. He reached out, trying to touch the other. "Who . . ." He gasped as his hand went through. "Who . . . what are you?!" He rose up in the bed, gawking at the trembling form attired in the red robe and the dark kilt. Despite looking half-ready to tear past the ghost and out of the room, Bakura swallowed hard and stayed where he was.

"Oh my," he uttered now. "You're hurt. . . ." And as he leaned forward again, peering into the tortured lavender eyes, something clicked in his mind.

"No," he whispered. "You . . . you can't be . . ."

The thief's lip curled. "Who?" he hissed. "Who am I?"

Bakura kept staring. "You are him," he said. "The one from the Ring. . . . Yami. . . ."

"Yami," the tormented spirit repeated.

Bakura nodded. "My Yami . . ." In spite of his fear, he could not help but be moved with compassion to see the other in such a state. He wanted to help, to do something to mend the treacherous slices and lacerations, but he could not even touch the spectre.

"Your Yami?" The thief frowned. How had Bakura recognized him? He was different now; somewhere amid the pain and the wounds, he looked as he had in life---or so he had gathered from seeing his transparent, yet tanned, skin.

"Why would you care about him?" he spat, each word a torment to voice. He shuddered again, hating to show this weakness. He wanted to get out of here so he could think, but he could not even stand.

Bakura looked taken aback by the question. "Well, I . . . I wouldn't want anyone to be hurt," he said honestly. "But . . .your eyes. . . . I recognize something in your eyes, even though they're different." He stared at the other again, his heart twisting from not being able to help.

"I . . . I've missed you, actually," he admitted at last.

Now the tattered spirit could only stare in utter disbelief. "You?!" he retorted. "Miss me?! You should be rejoicing in my defeat."

"I know, but . . ." Bakura shook his head, giving a sad smile. "I'm not like that. Anyway . . . you did keep me from being alone. A couple of times, you didn't seem so bad. . . . I know you took the blast from Slifer the Sky Dragon for me. . . ."

Had he? Or had Zorc? Neither of them had been trying to do him any favors.

"It was only because you were still needed," was the growled reply.

"I suppose," Bakura agreed. "Still . . ." He frowned. "You don't seem like that horrible Zorc creature. . . ."

This time the thief did not reply. He turned away, gagging and choking on some unknown substance. Swiftly he released the quilt, grabbing at his throat.

Thoroughly alarmed, Bakura slid closer to the edge of the bed. "What's wrong?!" he gasped. "Oh, isn't there anything I can do to help?!"

"There's nothing," the spirit rasped. "Zorc's spirit was pulled from me upon his destruction by the Pharaoh. This is what's left of me. I don't doubt I'll be destroyed before long too."

"No!" Bakura cried, shaking his head. "No one should have to die like this!" For the moment he was only half-processing the other's strange statements. The main thing he was focusing on now was that the spirit of the Ring, his Yami, was hurt. No, he was more than merely hurt---he looked as though his entire being really had been torn and mangled. The sight was alarming and sickening, but he could not look away. He pushed himself off the bed to kneel next to the other.

The former graverobber looked to him, stunned. The boy was truly, sincerely worried about him. There was nothing that could be done, but still he wanted to try.

They really were worlds apart.

The rest of the night was a blur. He could barely focus on anything other than the damage done to his spirit. At some point he fell to the floor, writhing in agony.

Bakura never left him. Though he could only watch, helpless, he remained through the hours. Occasionally the thief was able to focus and he would see the boy there, gazing at him in a worried panic. But even when he could see nothing, he could still sense the other's presence.

It was in his darkest moment, as the pain was washing over him with a sore vengeance, when he heard Bakura pleading in desperation. But he was not addressing the thief.

"Please," the boy begged, his voice choked with panicked emotion, "please help him! I can't do anything, just like he said, but . . . I can't stand to watch him here like this! Please, there must be something that can be done! . . ."

That fool, was the spirit's last coherent thought. As if any god would listen to you, let alone do a thing to help me!

"Don't be so certain," a vaguely familiar voice informed him. "You may yet have a part to play in a future battle between good and evil, Spirit of the Ring."

Future battle . . . what on earth. . . .

He sank out of awareness.

****

The morning light touched on his face, warming it from the chill in the house. At first he burrowed away from it and into the soft pillow, grunting somewhere in his throat. But then, as if fully realizing what he was doing, his eyes flew open and he stared.

He was laying in a bed. Not just any bed, but Bakura's. It was impossible, yet somehow he could feel it. The pillow was against his cheek, the mattress under his body. The comforter had been spread over him. He could feel its warmth, and the contrast of the morning chill on his face since the heat was not operating. That was not all---bursts of warm air were hitting the pillow and going back onto his face. He was breathing.

He rose up, letting the quilt slip from his shoulders. His gaze darted about the room, as if somewhere there was an explanation.

Bakura was sitting in a chair next to the bed. Though he had started to doze, now he was wide awake again. "You're awake!" he exclaimed with a smile.

The thief growled. "What is this?" he demanded. "This is impossible!" He could feel again, and in a way he had recently only done when he had taken control of Bakura's body. But now, clearly they had separate bodies. And they were both three-dimensional; he was no longer transparent, and he could see Bakura was not, either. It did not make sense.

"Well . . ." Bakura hesitated, as if trying to determine how to explain.

"Out with it!" ordered his companion.

"You were dying!" Bakura said. "I was sure of it. But I kept pleading for you to be alright. Then . . ." He shifted. "There was this girl. . . ."

"A girl?" the former tombrobber snorted.

Bakura nodded. "An angel, I suppose," he said, "with mint-green hair. She came here with Shadi. She told me that because I cared that much about you, and . . . er, something I didn't get at all . . . you were going to be given another chance."

"Another chance?! What are you talking about?"

Bakura shifted, nervous as the perplexed yet annoyed eyes stared him down. "Well . . . then Shadi said that he wasn't in favor of the plan, but those higher up than him had ordered it because of some great danger on the horizon. And he gave me that thing you're wearing . . ."

"Thing?" Lavender eyes stared downward, at the silver ring against his bare chest. He remembered feeling it as he had awakened, but having been still half-asleep and so used to the weight of the Millennium Ring, he had barely paid attention. This new object looked somewhat similar, but instead of having a pyramid in the center, it bore the infinity symbol.

"He told me to put it around your neck," Bakura said. "I didn't see how that would be possible, but I did what he said, and instead of the rope just falling through your spirit, it held fast. And then your wounds seemed to begin closing."

He glanced up at Bakura from where he was scrutinizing the new jewelry.

"Shadi actually said you have to earn the right to have a second chance," Bakura said. "The only reason you're solid right now is because of that thing . . . I believe he called it the Infinity Ring. And the effect doesn't last indefinitely."

"Infinity Ring?" He took the pendant into his hands, staring at it. He had never heard of such a thing.

"He wouldn't tell me what it is or where it came from," Bakura said, sounding almost apologetic. "I suppose maybe it's something to be learned later? . . ."

"Your story is only growing more confusing with each passing moment," the thief said, looking back to the boy.

Bakura looked nervous again. "Shadi also said something about you playing a part in some future battle between good and evil, but I don't know what he meant," he said. "He said that wasn't supposed to be revealed yet."

The old Egyptian frowned, tracing the infinity symbol with a finger. "So they allow me physical form in the hopes that I will help them?" he sneered. "I help no one but myself."

"You can refuse, of course," Bakura said. "But the girl said the Infinity Ring is also helping heal the damage to your spirit. If you reject the offer, you'll go back to the state you were in last night." He looked down. "And you might not recover."

"I will always endure," was the smirking response. "I don't want to work for anyone."

But he did not really want to go back to what he had been before, either. With a physical body he could do so much more to further his goals.

Yet . . . what were his goals? The Millennium Items were gone. He could no longer use them to conquer the world. And this Infinity Ring . . . clearly it had immense power, to allow a spirit physical form even for a short while. Maybe he should investigate it more.

"What was this about having to earn a second chance?" he mused.

Bakura watched him. "I believe Shadi said that if you fulfill your mission well, the Infinity Ring will recognize your efforts and you won't need it any more in order to keep a physical body," he said. "You can't access its full power unless you're found worthy."

"Worthy!" he snarled. "And what does it consider worthy?"

Bakura looked uneasy. "I'm not sure what that meant, either," he confessed. "But . . . then they were gone and you . . . well, you looked more at peace. And when I reached out to you, I was able to touch you." He blinked in wonder at the memory. "So I helped you into the bed. . . ."

The thief stared down at the medallion again before letting it drop back into place. Remembering something, his head snapped up again. "What was that 'something you didn't get at all'?" he demanded.

Bakura flushed and looked away. ". . . It's kind of embarrassing, actually . . . I can't imagine what . . ."

"What was it?!"

The boy rubbed the back of his neck. ". . . The girl said you had something to learn from me," he said at last. ". . . Then she amended it and said we needed to learn from each other."

Lavender eyes stared at him. "Bah!" the former graverobber snapped. "Ridiculous." He looked away again, running a hand into his short, wild hair. "I don't even know who I am anymore," he muttered. "How would I teach anyone anything?"

Bakura hesitated again. "Maybe I could help you figure it out?" he ventured.

The other froze. ". . . That wasn't meant to be overheard," he grumbled. "And how could you help?"

"I don't rightly know," Bakura admitted. "But . . . I do know one thing."

"And what's that?" he growled.

"You aren't Zorc," Bakura said. "I mean, you said yourself that his spirit was pulled from yours. But it's not just that. . . . You just don't feel evil like he did. Well, from what I remember of him anyway, which isn't too much. . . ."

A darkly amused smirk twisted his features. "Do you honestly believe that one could live with another spirit for three thousand years without becoming him in some way?" he said.

"No . . . I suppose not," Bakura conceded.

"I'm probably more Zorc than I am myself. And I myself have done terrible things, even without Zorc." He sneered. "I could tell you countless horror stories from ancient Egypt."

Bakura swallowed hard. "Yes, I'm sure you could," he said. "Still, there's something you have that Zorc didn't---you were once a mortal human. And I'd say that has to count for something." He weakly smiled. "You must have good in you somewhere. And maybe we can find it."

The smirk was still there. "You are hopelessly optimistic, aren't you?" he said. "You will never find any good in me. Anything that could have been there died long ago."

But Bakura shook his head. "I don't believe that, Yami," he said. "You did save me during the Battle City finals."

Yami again. . . . Hmmm. Well, maybe just for the time being, he would accept that title once more. He had some kind of other chance, though why anyone would dare to give him one was beyond his understanding. And he was amused and in some way intrigued by Bakura's determination.

"Very well," he said at last. "You can foolishly search for this glimmer of goodness. And since I don't have anything better to do for the moment, I will linger here. But when this preposterous quest has come to an end and you have been forced to concede defeat, I will leave."

"Fair enough," Bakura said with a smile. "But what if you have to concede defeat, Yami?"

"That won't happen," he replied.

"Maybe not," Bakura cheerfully said, "though I really don't understand why you would be trusted with this thing if there wasn't some good to be found inside you. After all, they wouldn't want to unleash a complete villain on all of mankind."

"But that's just what they have done," he sneered.

In spite of Bakura's attempt to just smile and brush it off, he could not help the slight shudder that went down his back---something the old thief noticed immediately.

"You're frightened, aren't you," he said. "You were always afraid of me."

Bakura averted his gaze. "Well . . . yes," he said.

"And yet after everything I did to you and your little friends, you can muse over the ridiculous concept that I am not entirely evil."

Bakura had to admit, he was not entirely sure himself what he was doing. To put any level of trust in such a dangerous being could result in disaster. What he had said a moment before about the thief being given this chance only if he had some good had been to convince himself as much as or more than the other. But when he thought about the experience from the past night, his confidence grew.

"Yes," he said then, "I do. It sounds strange, I admit, and it is difficult, but . . ." He took a deep breath. "I'm going to have faith in you, Yami."

For once, Yami Bakura had nothing more to say.