Notes: The previous part is very important to this fic. So important that I went back and wrote it even though I was going to skip directly to this one. Sorry for the misunderstanding; if one refers to the note on that chapter, they will see I was talking about how the prompt "Conspiracy" did not fit the chapter as a whole.
And thanks to everyone who has been reading and reviewing! This has been a wild ride. Horror never really was my forté, but Yami Marik suits it so well. I hope you'll stick with me through the next stories!
His stomach rumbled with impatience as he sank onto the couch with a chicken drumstick. The warmth, the smell, the promise of meat . . . it was all so tantalizing. Looking at it greedily, he tore into it with canine teeth bared. Most actually went into his mouth, but a few crumbs slipped free and made their way down his jaw. He attacked them with his tongue.
"I'm glad I don't have to clean up after you."
He grunted and looked up at Marik, who was suddenly standing in the middle of the room with crossed arms. "How did you get in?" he asked through a mouthful of poultry.
"Through the door," Marik said half-sarcastically, gesturing at the front door with a thumb. "Bakura said you were in here. He's shoveling the results of our current snowstorm, in case you didn't know."
"I know," Yami Bakura retorted. He had said he would join Bakura after eating the drumstick, despite his dislike of the cold. But there was no need to tell Marik that, as far as he was concerned.
"Have it your way," Marik shrugged. "You seem to be doing better."
"I suppose." Yami Bakura chomped into the chicken again, prompting Marik to look away in disgust. Not only were the thief's manners atrocious for anyone to view, but Marik did not like meat.
"You know, if you're planning to stay in that form, you should find some modern clothes in your size and style," Marik said to the wall.
"You like stating the obvious, don't you, Marik." Yami Bakura glanced down at himself. "I'll be taking care of that soon."
"Somehow I don't think any variation of Bakura's blue-striped shirt will look good on you now," Marik said, finally turning back to face him.
"It would look ridiculous, like I was some old sailor or pirate," Yami Bakura growled. "It's not even a consideration." He smirked. "I want something that better shows off my physique."
Marik eyed the open robe. "I should have known," he said, only half-dryly.
He sighed. "Have you heard back from Officer Valesquez about the District Attorney's decision?" he asked.
"We're to pay a fine for damages," Yami Bakura grunted, "but there really weren't any, just a few overturned construction devices. And I'm supposed to take a driving course."
"I don't think I want you on the road even with a license," Marik said.
Yami Bakura sneered. "Bakura has been concerned, too," he said. "But you'll both have to deal with it. I find I enjoy driving. I have no intention of not doing a lot of it."
"Ra help us," Marik muttered.
He lingered a bit longer before going back outside, leaving Yami Bakura to finish the drumstick in silence. The hungry man bit into it again, savoring the taste of the meat. In the back of his mind he could hear the sound of the snow shovel scraping the sidewalk, but he was too focused on other matters to think much about it.
It surprised him a bit, that Marik had come to talk to him. But, he supposed, it should not---not after Marik had felt responsible because of his Yami and had even helped Bakura pay the bail money.
Anyway, Bakura had told him something much more shocking a few days ago, when he had been telling Bakura some of the other torture he had undergone. His eyes narrowed as he remembered.
He looked up in surprise at the boy's hesitant voice. Bakura looked so unsettled.
"What is it?" he frowned.
". . . Do you remember the first night you opened up, when you mentioned how Yami Marik made you . . ." He shifted. "He made you think you were being attacked by wild beasts?"
Yami Bakura regarded him in a mixture of confusion and suspicion. "What's your point?" he asked.
Bakura ran his tongue over his lips. "Well . . ." He looked down. "I . . . sort of . . . knew about that part. . . ."
"What are you talking about?!" Yami Bakura demanded in disbelief. "How could you possibly know?!"
The boy looked up again. "I saw that in a dream," he said. "Then I came to and found you'd been taken. I went to Yugi for help, and . . ." He shifted, unsure how Yami Bakura was going to take this news. "We discovered Atem had sent me that dream, to let me know what kind of horrible trouble you were in. He told Yugi there was still a chance to save you, but we had to hurry."
Yami Bakura was just staring at him in complete shock. For a moment he could not even think what to say. "The Pharaoh?!" he burst out at last. "The Pharaoh did that?!"
Bakura flinched. "Yes, Yami," he said.
"Why?!" Yami Bakura persisted.
Bakura gave a helpless shrug. "He didn't want you to suffer," he said. A weak smile came over his features. "You see, Yami, despite the fact that you've been enemies for three thousand years, he hasn't let any ill feelings for you get in the way of doing what's right."
Yami Bakura grunted and looked away. That was too much to process right now.
And it still was. He did not know what to make of it at all. It kept bothering him, too, even when he tried to push the thoughts away. Someday, he vowed, he would see the Pharaoh again and he would find out directly why his nemesis had intervened in his plight. . . .
Was that a wild-haired man with a cruel grin reflected in the window?! He whirled to look, his heart gathering speed. No . . . no one was there. He slumped back against the couch, his expression twisted in frustration.
Even now, he often still heard Yami Marik laughing and thought he caught glimpses of the madman out of the corner of his eye. Despite his best efforts, nothing conclusive had been proved. Bakura could never hear or see him, but as far as Yami Bakura was concerned, the wretch would be able to make sure that only his victim would be aware of his presence.
If it was really him and not Yami Bakura having lost his mind, then Yami Marik had not likely anticipated this new twist---Yami Bakura had discovered a new sense of purpose and increased strength and resolve. And over time, he had decided to completely ignore Yami Marik---something he had tried before but had failed to do, in his distraught condition. Somehow, the fact that Bakura now knew what was happening with Yami Marik's supposed appearances made it easier to handle. And gradually at first but much more noticeably now, Yami Marik was bothering him less and less. The fact that he would not respond or lose his temper was likely making the demon bored and annoyed.
"Ah, wasn't that touching," Yami Marik sneered now, speaking from an unknown location. "My creator coming to visit you, someone he doesn't even like."
Yami Bakura gnawed on the chicken bone, wanting to get every last morsel of meat. "So?" he grunted, deciding not to appear ruffled at the sudden voice.
"Oh, so you're talking to me again," Yami Marik observed.
"Only to tell you one thing," Yami Bakura answered. "You have no power over me. I knew that once, but you devastated me so thoroughly that for a while I forgot. It was Bakura who reminded me." He stood up, his robe swirling around him. "You failed in what you attempted to do! You didn't, and never will, tame me."
Yami Marik snarled. "You might think you've won now, but just wait," he threatened. "I wasn't destroyed. I'll be back in the flesh before long."
"And you'll be beaten back again," Yami Bakura said. "You're forgetting that in spite of everything you did to me, it was I who cast you back into the darkness, where you belong."
"Keh! You got lucky. Don't expect it to last."
Yami Bakura ignored him now. Instead he threw the bone into the garbage can before pulling his robe close around him and then taking Bakura's father's coat off the rack. It was a bit of a tight fit, but it would do for the moment. After also stepping into the other man's boots, he threw open the door and regarded the piling white stuff in distaste.
Bakura was down on the driveway, waving to him. He went across the porch and down the steps, heading over to his friend while cursing the freezing, falling snow.
"Will Father like you using his things?" Bakura asked in concern as he approached.
"He's in Austria," Yami Bakura smirked. "I doubt he'll know."
Bakura slowly nodded. "I suppose it's alright. . . ."
"How much is left to do?" Yami Bakura asked gruffly.
Bakura glanced around. "The rest of the driveway and the sidewalk in front," he reported.
Yami Bakura took the shovel from him and started scooping up the powder. But as it continued to fall from the sky, he glowered at it in irritation. "Is there even much point in this?" he said. "By the time it's shoveled, the same amount will have landed in its place!"
Bakura scratched his cheek. "Well, that's better than if you had to shovel it all at once," he said. "Then it would be so much heavier!"
Yami Bakura just grunted.
"Snow really isn't so bad, Yami," Bakura said cheerfully. "There's all kinds of things you can do with it. When you're done, I could introduce you to some of them."
"Like what?" Yami Bakura gave him a suspicious look.
"Like . . . snowballs?" Bakura suggested.
"You roll the snow into a ball. So what?" Yami Bakura tossed the latest shovelful onto the mountain that had been piling up at the edge of the lawn.
"Then you . . . well, you throw it at someone," Bakura said, beginning to wonder if he was digging himself into a pit.
"So they'll get angry at you?" Yami Bakura growled.
"So they'll throw one back," Bakura said. "It's actually quite fun. . . ."
Yami Bakura glanced up at him as he reached the end of the driveway and started on the sidewalk. "Tossing wadded-up ice crystals and getting people cold is fun?" he said.
Bakura rubbed the back of his neck. "If you throw it good enough, they shouldn't really get cold," he said.
"How?" Yami Bakura returned.
Bakura reached for the mountain of snow, taking a small portion and clumping it in his hands. "Like this," he said, and aimed for part of the coat. It struck the right shoulder, several pieces flying onto the astonished Thief King's face.
Both of them stood for a moment, not quite sure what had just happened. Then Yami Bakura reached up, brushing the snowflakes away from his tanned skin. "So," he said, "that's how you avoid getting people cold."
Bakura swallowed hard. "Um . . . I'm sorry, Yami, I really didn't intend for it to happen like that!" he gasped.
Yami Bakura leaned the shovel against the fence, taking a menacing step towards the hapless boy. He grabbed at the mountain himself, taking up a lump of snow.
Bakura did not wait. He fled around the side of the house, arms raised to the sky. "Help!" he exclaimed.
Yami Bakura tore after him, cutting a path in the thick snow blanketing the grass. "Come back here and take your snowball like a man!" he yelled, as the neighbors peered out of their windows and yards with google-eyed curiosity.
"I knew there was something strange about that cousin of the Bakuras'," one gossipy woman declared.
"If you ask me, they're all odd ducks," said another.
High above them, observing in the divine pool, the former high priest and pharaoh Seto shook his head in disbelief. "And that's the fearsome King of Thieves," he said.
Atem looked amused, watching with crossed arms as Yami Bakura finally got close enough to heave the snowball at Bakura's back. They both went down, struggling and wrestling in the snow.
"I don't know," Atem mused. "I think he's still fearsome."
Seto turned away from the pool. "So . . . he's been saved," he said, changing the subject. "The miracle happened, just like you said."
"Thanks to Bakura, yes," Atem said. "And the others. He might not have been found if it wasn't for Marik."
"And you," Seto said, looking to him. "Don't forget, you're the one who let Bakura and Yugi know there was still hope."
Atem slowly nodded. "There's still a long way to go," he said. "Not with his recovery, necessarily . . . but Yami Marik is still at large." He frowned. "They'll have to banish him again when he comes back."
"It's hard for you to accept that your mission is over, isn't it," Seto remarked. "You wish it was you down there banishing him."
"Is it wrong, that I can't help wanting to be with them . . . with Yugi?" Atem said. "Yes, I wish I was there."
He sighed. "But . . . I know they'll be fine. You're right---my time there is over. That's why we weren't able to directly interfere. It's Yugi and Bakura and the others who will be the next generation of the world's protectors."
"Both Bakuras, if he'll accept it." Seto crossed his arms.
"I think he will," Atem said. "If nothing else, to protect Ryou."
Both of them stared into the pool again. Bakura had somehow pinned Yami Bakura to the ground, but it was doubtful it would last; he was dissolving into hysterical laughter.
Yami Bakura grabbed him, pulling him down into the snow. "Take that!" he declared.
Bakura yelped. "Yami, now you're getting me cold!" he exclaimed.
"Serves you right!" Yami Bakura said. He sat up, brushing the snow out of his hair.
Bakura sat up too, clumps of white all through his white hair and dark coat. "I'm glad you're feeling better, Yami," he smiled. "I know this wouldn't even be happening if you weren't."
Yami Bakura grunted. ". . . There's still the shoveling to finish," he said.
"After that, how about we go inside for hot chocolate?" Bakura said hopefully.
Yami Bakura looked to him. "That's one winter tradition I like," he said.
Bakura perked up further. "And we can have marshmallows," he said.
"In the chocolate?" Yami Bakura said, looking incredulous.
Bakura nodded. "Or we could roast them in the fireplace," he said.
"I'll take my chocolate by itself," Yami Bakura said as he got up. "It doesn't need anything else in it to make it more interesting." He brushed himself off, then headed for the sidewalk.
Bakura scrambled up after him. "Yami, wait for me!" he called.
"Well, hurry up!" Yami Bakura retorted as he went down the driveway.
Atem nodded in approval, while Seto just looked appalled.
"They're an odd pair," he said.
"They are, but they'll be fine," Atem determined. He smiled a bit as the shoveling resumed, punctuated by Yami Bakura grumbling about snow. "Just fine."