If someone had insisted to Youtai Bakura way back in late February (or even up to late March) that the slightly crazed smoker was going to become tolerant of the pale, thin, pinched-looking man named Bakura Ryou standing over there by the mailboxes, Bakura would never have believed it.

…In fact, Bakura would have laughed obnoxiously as he escorted this gibberish-spouting person all the way to Domino Hospital's psychiatric ward. (Then he would have gone back home to Ginmaru Apartments to creepily spy on and plot against Ryou.)

And even if Youtai Bakura actually did entertain the idea that he would one day come to a mutual understanding with one Bakura Ryou at that time, he certainly would never have thought about having amiable feelings for the man. (That was because he would have had a hell of a time trying to understand the whole I-will-not-strangle-the-highfalutin-bastard-in-his-sleep thing, let alone something like companionship.)

And even if he did have to admit to the idea that both aforementioned events (the idea that he and Ryou would someday be able to sit in the same vicinity without clawing each other up and the idea that they could be buddies) happened, Bakura would have thought that hell would have to freeze over before believing that upon surpassing those hundred meter high hurdles, that he could accept the notion that the socially awkward Ryou kissing and touching him were welcome advances as well.

All in all, that crap-load of occurrences would have been just ridiculous; in fact, it would have almost been as ridiculous as being told that Kaiba Seto had some kind of romantic relationship with Bakura's blond, scruffy, and apparently ex-bodyguard-of-some-sort neighbor one door down.

…Hmm.

September 16th of the very same year, Bakura witnessed Jounouchi Katsuya confessing that the latter has in fact been dating Kaiba for about a year, and then watched as the blond rode off with Kaiba and Kaiba's little brother in the most expensive car the white-haired man had ever seen.

Youtai Bakura was now waiting for King Enma to start passing out little ice lollies.


Bakura took a moment to go back to the whole 'accepting-the-notion-that-the-socially-awkward- Ryou-kissing-and-touching-him-were-welcome-advances' scenario.

In fact, he let it all sink in as he somehow found himself sitting in the front passenger seat in Ryou's car, whizzing along the highway towards the other side of Domino City on their way to Sunshine Nursery School to pick Kyouko up. Everything was sinking in pretty slowly, which was very good for the anxiety-prone game designer.

Bakura sneaked a glance over to the man in the driver's seat named Bakura Ryou. Bakura Ryou, who wore a pair of rectangular silver frames perched over his nose as he drove, whose polite speech belied an unbelievably high level of snark underneath, who wore a pair of gloves for a reason unknown to most people.

…Who had the ability to make Bakura act very odd with a simple touch.

Of course, Ryou wasn't touching him now; that was probably the reason Bakura could think relatively coherently at the moment. It was very strange how Ryou had the ability to both scramble his mind and clear it as well…

The man in question was currently peering over his glasses as he scanned the road silently, both gloved hands firmly at the wheel. Yet, perhaps Ryou's presence itself was getting contagious; Bakura was finding it difficult to think in general with him around, especially when the topic had to do with the two of them. For example, there was the nature of his relationship with Ryou. Then there was the strangely not unpleasant mix of nervousness and slightly excited stir that he felt when he thought about the nature of his relationship with Ryou. And of course, there was the nature of his relationship with Kyouko because of his relationship with Ryou.

Bakura briefly felt his eyes roll up towards the roof of the car and towards to the back of his head. They were going to have to figure out how to explain to Kyouko that he now had with Ryou, which was… complicated, to say the least, and something that he could barely explain to himself, let alone a five year old kid.

Luckily, Kyouko didn't have her father's awful temper.

Bakura let out a weak chuckle under his breath and blanched. The time will come when it comes, and not a moment sooner.

"Kyouko's school is about a fifteen minute drive from here, Bakura."

Bakura turned his head to face the man in the driver's seat again and watched blankly as Ryou shifted the bridge of his glasses higher with a finger; the latter then returned the gloved hand to the wheel as he turned the wheel slightly to slowly exit the highway.

"Alright," Bakura said faintly.

No, Bakura did not regret anything. In fact, he honestly could not remember the last time he had been so happy (rather, happy at all) about being in a relationship: Ryou had actually told him that he, well, that he liked Bakura. To someone who found it a pain in the ass to be in relationships and disliked people— namely young, short men with pointy, ridiculously colored hair named Mutou Yuugi— constantly wheedling at him about the former's lack of steady relationships, Ryou's confession was definitely special to him.

It made Bakura kind of self-conscious, actually. This was the first time he had some degree of feelings for a person who has expressed interest in him in return. He didn't know whether his own feelings were of attraction or something else, let alone how to reciprocate if it was in fact attraction.

Yet Bakura finally had the chance to figure it out. Ryou understood that. And that calmed him immensely.

He let himself look at Ryou again and saw a tuft of long white hair tucked behind Ryou's ear to allow clearer access to the road in front of them.

'Damn him and his neat hair,' Bakura thought good-naturedly to himself. 'Shit, I want to mess it up with my hands so bad—just to see what it's like.' He wondered briefly about the sensation and then snorted silently. Ryou would definitely not let something like that slide easily; they'd probably get into a good grapple—and they'd probably both end up off their feet— before Ryou would even look slightly mussed. A mental image of a scowling Ryou staring up at him with Bakura's fingers tangled tightly in the former's hair came into mind.

They would be breathing rapidly after a scuffle like that, Bakura thought to himself. Ryou would undeniably not be pleased, and would probably have that steely expression in his eyes and flip them over so that he could take a good retaliation attack on Bakura while on top of him— How would Ryou get revenge in a case like that? Bakura didn't think that Ryou would start to senselessly throttle his neck; that wasn't the man's style. No, Ryou would make sure that he had the upper hand before meticulously starting to counterattack…

The man quickly felt the feeling of amusement from that little fantasy morph into something distinctly less innocent. He flushed beet red again, and began to choke up a bit of expired air that he had kept in his windpipes for a bit too long.

"Is something the matter?"

"Huh?"

Ryou had looked away from the road and was now staring at him with concern, his glasses still perched a little low.

"…Uh, no. N-nothing," Bakura blathered hastily. "Nothing's the matter."

A smile stayed on Ryou's lips even after he turned back to face the front again. "You're cute when you do that."

Bakura was taken back, and the red shade of his cheeks flamed to a puce. "What?"

"You're cute when you blush," Ryou said again nonchalantly, easily turning the wheel to ease the car around a block.

"I am not!"

"I think that should be left for me to decide. What were you thinking about?"

"Nothing inappropriate!" Bakura immediately snapped back, suddenly finding the passing buildings on his window side very eye-catching.

"I never suggested that you were," Ryou said in a distinctly amused tone. "Should I be?"

"Shut up, Ryou!"

"Only because we've arrived." Ryou deftly undid his seatbelt and slipped off his glasses. "This might take a while. I'll return with Kyouko in twenty minutes or so." Bakura nodded numbly as Ryou briskly stepped out of the car and closed the door behind him.

With Ryou gone, and with no one else to bother him, Bakura finally had a few moments to himself to simply…exist.

There was so much unknown. So much— too much, that could go wrong.

Yet for once in a very, very long time, Bakura felt utterly unconcerned about it. Just as he drowsily thought that he owed Marik and Yuugi apologies at the very least, Bakura fell into a deep sleep, completely calmly for the first time in weeks.


It was foggy. Bakura wasn't exactly sure what the dimensions of the area he was in were; anytime he took a step forward, the dense, purplish fog seemed to move with him.

There was something heavy around his neck, he realized. He looked down. There was a very thin rope around his neck, and attached to the rope, held up by his hands, was a rather familiar heavy, circular golden disc. Attached to the inner diameter of the circle by its three angles was a triangle, and at its center was an eye. Yet the most interesting part were the five points on the outer diameter, all of which were pointing straight down.

"'The hell?" Bakura frowned. For the life of him, he could not understand why something he's only drawn on a computer program would be physically hanging around his neck. However, he did somehow understand that the points were supposed to lead him somewhere. What the hell did 'straight down' mean?

He looked at the ground. There was just more of that thick purple smoke swirling around. He shook it a bit. The points stubbornly stayed pointing at the phantasmagoric plane below him.

"Youtai Bakura." A deep, masculine voice cut into the fog. Bakura immediately turned his head about to find where the voice was coming from.

Slowly, the figure of a rather short man dressed in the garb of an ancient Egyptian and with a pendant of an inverted pyramid around his neck appeared. Bakura squinted. There was something familiar about that pointy, multi-colored hairstyle…

"What? Mutou?" Only it didn't quite look like Yuugi. This guy was definitely taller. And now that Bakura looked a bit more closely, there was something different about this man's eyes and the yellow jagged bangs that his effervescent coworker was so fond of.

"Shit. You're not real. You're— Damn it, what was the name again—" This was very obviously a dream. A silly one, at that. Hasn't he had enough of those already? "Oh, god, The voices are back, aren't they? —Only better. You guys are getting bodies now, too."

"No. This is the last time that you'll be hearing voices in your mind. You're fine now." Well, this voice certainly did not belong to Yuugi…

"…What?"

The Yuugi look-a-like ignored Bakura's question. "The Millennium Ring is of no use to you anymore."

"What do you mean, it's of no use?"

"The Ring cannot help you because what you seek is right in front of you," the man replied.

"So exactly what is it that I seek— Shit, I mean, what the hell is it that I'm supposedly looking for?"

"Your happiness, of course." And then, Yami Yuugi vanished.

A little while later, Bakura was aware of himself drifting absentmindedly about. He didn't have a body; rather, it was like he was just a free-floating entity that had no worries in the world.

"Let him rest. I think he needs it. We'll call him up when it's time," a voice said. This new voice also belonged to a man, although Bakura was certain that he had heard it before.

"Really?" another just as familiar voice asked dubiously.

'The lying bastard,' Bakura thought. 'There are still voices in my head.' He paused. Who was he calling a lying bastard again? It was someone familiar, he thought…

Either way, there was something different about the voices that were conversing in his mind this time that he couldn't put his finger on.

"Yes, of course. We'll be right here when he wakes up."

Bakura felt himself drifting away again.

Smack.

"Hmm?"

Smack. Smack.

What the fuck was that sound? And why was Bakura's left cheek hurting?

"Urmph."

Smack. Smack. Smack-smack-smack-smack—

Bakura turned over a bit, but now it was his right cheek that was taking in the hits instead.

"Gahhh…"

Smack. Smack. Smackity-smack. Smackity-smack. Smackity-smack.

Shit! One blow actually hit his nose—

"What the fuck…?" Bakura groaned, trying to get away from the disturbance.

"…We're waiting!"

"Ugh?"

"Ji-chan! Daddy and I are waiting!" the soft voice insisted, drifting in and out of Bakura's consciousness. "Wake up!"

"Huh?" Bakura managed again.

"Wake up, wake up, wake up! Do it now, or I'll smush you!" the voice cried, followed by a snort of disbelief belonging to some other person.

Suddenly, both the right and left sides of his face were being pushed together by a pair of warm and solid, albeit rather weak,five-fingered pudgy presences. Bakura opened his eyes slowly. Kyouko's large, bespectacled eyes stared at him back, and Bakura yelled out.

Kyouko grinned from where she was currently, hunched over in a mid-standing position between the driver's seat and the front passenger seat. "Scared that I'll smush you to death, right, ji-chan?" she asked, puffing out her chest, her two braided pigtails flopping up and down as she nodded fervently.

Bakura snorted. "Yeah, whatever." He rolled back to a comfortable position in his seat, closing his eyes. Perhaps he could recognize the voices if he returned to that odd dream at the end…

"Why are you going back to sleep, ji-chan? We're already home! Get up, get up!"

"Shit, when did we get here? How long was I sleeping?" Sure enough, as Bakura craned his neck and looked out of the windshield, there stood the Ginamaru Apartments building that they lived in.

"I was going to wake you up when Daddy picked me up, but Daddy said to let you sleep. You slept through it all, ji-chan! I bet you could sleep through thunder!" Kyouko looked awed at Bakura's frankly useless ability.

"Er…right."

"Quite surprising, really," Ryou said offhandedly. "I could distinctly remember a time when you woke up because I was playing piano too loudly for your delicate ears."

"Ha ha," Bakura forced out sardonically.

"Come on, come on!" Kyouko began to tug at his sleeve again.

"Alright! Alright! I'm up," Bakura said impatiently, stepping out of the car.

"You're eating dinner with me and Daddy, right?"

"… Yeah, why the hell not?" Bakura finally said. As Kyouko cheered, flailing her arms excitedly, Bakura thought that he saw Ryou smile. Unfortunately, by the time he tried to get a closer look, Ryou had already turned around. Bakura grinned anyway. Letting out a groan as he stretched his sore arms, the man tried to recall the odd slumber he had been in just shortly before. Although he could not remember snippets of his first odd dream at all, he was no longer sure whether the second one was in his head or reality.

Bakura supposed it didn't matter.


After a warm dinner and Kyouko hurried off to bed, Bakura flopped down on one of Ryou's couches, drained of energy. Yet as he felt himself drifting off, his ears picked up the sound of tinkling china being set down on the table beside him while his nose told him what was in the porcelain cup; Ryou had placed a cup of tea for him there. Then there was a slight fwump sound as he heard Ryou sitting down in the sofa chair adjacent to him. Bakura made a grunt and opened his eyes. "Oh, thanks," he said as he righted himself and picked up his tea.

"Not at all," the other said nonchalantly, sipping at his own cup of what Bakura automatically knew was warmed milk. "How are you feeling, Bakura-san?" Ryou asked after a few moments of comfortable silence. "You're being rather quiet."

"Eh?" Bakura blinked. He hadn't realized. "I was?"

"Is something on your mind, perhaps?"

"…Nothing that I know of." The thing was that there was in fact nothing on Bakura's mind. It was just so odd that there was nothing to needlessly worry over, and the result was that the man was just…there.

Ryou's mouth twitched into a thin smile at his words, and Bakura had the faint, good-natured suspicion that Ryou took his words to mean that the man had nothing in his brain at all.

That bastard.

Then, something did come to mind: "Hey, Ryou."

"Hmm?"

"…Are you free this Saturday night?"

Ryou blinked at him. "I suppose, yes, I am." He paused for a moment. "Why do you ask?"

Yes, why did Bakura ask?

The answer to that question would have been as follows: Bakura had gotten a new tendency to suddenly act out on things. The days of meticulously plotting and such weren't exactly gone for good. Rather, the man was achieving grounds in previously unmapped territory, and— Never mind. He couldn't explain it. "Err… well, I was thinking that we should go somewhere. Just the two of us." Bakura felt the age-old flush crawling up his neck. Well, damn, this wasn't sounding like his intentions— which were perfectly pure, if anyone were to ask.

"…Like a date?" Ryou had no expression on his face as he said this. Just from that, Bakura had a suspicion that the man wasn't intentionally making fun of him. Bakura, himself, had rarely done this before—this asking someone out thing, seeing that he was never incredibly interested in the people he did sporadically invite on his whimsical outings. But Ryou was…different, he knew.

Yet Bakura still wondered again what in the world possessed him to suddenly ask the man out. Because that was what he was doing, he knew. He was asking Bakura Ryou out on a god damn date. If only the Youtai Bakura from February could see him now.

The Youtai Bakura of September felt the flush creep past his neck and onto his face. He didn't have the guts just yet to say that it was, though it was on the tip of his tongue. "…You don't want to?" he uttered instead.

Ryou blinked at him again before holding up his free hand in defense, looking taken back. "Oh, no—It's not that. I apologize…" Ryou shifted in his seat."…Do you have a place in mind, Bakura-san?"

"Err…Yeah, actually. A yakitori restaurant. A new one opened up on the other side of Domino Public Park and I want to see if the food's any good."

"…A yakitori restaurant?" Ryou repeated the words slowly. They sounded very foreign in his mouth. There was a very distinct frown on his face.

"What? What's wrong with that? I just thought that it'll be a nice place to go." Bakura began to build up an instinctual defense.

Ryou blinked at him for a third time, and the frown was hidden away. "No, Bakura-san. You want to go, so we shall go there." Ryou sounded rather soft as he said that.

"Really?" Bakura wondered whether Ryou was being so complacent to make up for their botched plans to celebrate the latter's birthday.

"Yes, really. What time is convenient for you?"

The conversation slowly carried on to other topics after a while. Bakura got over his embarrassment for his fumbled date planning and just became accustomed to sitting on Ryou's sofa, chugging down his tea. It was nice, simply being there next to Ryou— just his sitting there with that cup of milk in hand comforted the man.… Bakura felt utterly sated, even though he was doing absolutely nothing but chatting.

It was an unusual but completely welcome sensation.

And then, before Bakura knew it, it was late, and it was time for him to return to the room just several paces away. After they both stood up, Bakura to leave and Ryou to see him off, Bakura inexplicably touched Ryou's arm. There was no need to; feeling the warmth through the man's sleeve did not make Bakura any calmer.

Rather, it was the slightly quizzical expression on Ryou's face as he did so—the expression that showed slight curiosity but nothing like disgust or pain— that made Bakura content.


Meanwhile, now back at work lest Kaiba come and hunt his ass down for shirking off again, Bakura returned to Kaiba Corp the next day. Yuugi had tackled him with a hug the moment he had stepped foot off of the elevator, but had surprisingly said little else other than that the design floor was packing up the 'The King of Games' project. It made the white-haired man slightly nostalgic to see themselves both physically and virtually shelving the game away; after all, he had spent a lot of time on the damn thing. Bakura would never admit that out loud, though.

As he cleared the files off of his computer, Bakura gave a cursory glance at the dates and raised his eyebrows. It almost didn't cross his mind; the entirety of The King of Games' design had been conceived and ended between his very first meeting with Bakura Ryou up to their current relationship—whatever the hell that was.

Bakura felt his mouth tilt into a smile.

Friday night came soon enough. After dropping Kyouko off at Jounouchi's—and Ryou telling the chuckling blond man that watching the show 'Zorc and Pals' again was completely out of the question—the two set off on their outing.

The restaurant was quite noisy and messy, but the only reason for that was because it was a very popular place. After being greeted heartily by the chef manning the counter, the two managed to find an empty booth and sat down.

Amidst the colorful papers denoting the specials pinned up against the wall, the working stiffs with their suit jackets off, their ties loosened, and their sleeves rolled up, and the generally loud and bustling atmosphere of the restaurant, Bakura did have to admit that Ryou looked more than a tad out of place. The older man had carefully removed and folded his jacket beside him when they sat down, and was now looking about interestedly.

"Is this your first time in a yakitori restaurant or something?" Bakura asked. "You keep looking around."

Ryou pursed his lips. "I'm still a little unused to sitting so close to so many other people." Ryou's eyes met Bakura's widened ones for a moment. "It's really nothing to worry about," he reassured him. "I'm quite fine."

"Oh, shit… Sorry. It's been so long that— Fuck. I didn't think about that." Bakura felt the tips of his ears glow a guilty red.

"It's fine, really." Ryou held up his mug of hot green tea and took a sip, effectively and gracefully dropping the subject that way.

Well, this wasn't starting out well.

Somehow, a conversation about Bakura's work started, and if had taken a figurative step back, Bakura would have realized that this was very much like the times in which he massaged the man. Ryou listened attentively, and any superficial discomfort that he had initially dissipated into air. It was in fact better than those times; Ryou was not holding secrets from him, and vice versa.

It was invigorating.

And then there was something else that set this apart from those other times. Bakura wasn't exactly sure how it happened, nor could he trace the path that the conversation had taken to get there, but one moment he was reenacting animatedly a scene in which his boss had freaked out over something silly or the other, and the next moment—

Ryou was smiling.

It took a good ten seconds for the shock to set in past Bakura's skull. The man folded his hands together with his chin resting on top, elbows leaning lightly against the table— and smiled.

It was a different kind of smile than Bakura had ever seen on the man. It wasn't a 'I'm-going-to-murder-Youtai-even-if-it's-the-last-thing-I-do' kind of smile (Bakura has had the pleasure of not having to see that expression for quite a while now), nor was it a 'Thanks-for-playing-with-Kyouko' kind of smile (which Bakura still received now and then). It wasn't even the smile that Ryou gave him in the parking lot, the one that show how relieved he was that the two were no longer at odds with each other.

It was a smile that curved both ends of his lips up, exposing a hint of teeth. And it wasn't just the mouth. The smile reached to his eyes, which were oddly warm and at ease.

It made Bakura blush, and when Ryou blinked and asked him what was the matter, the man could do little else except garble something and quickly order for another asparagus stick.


Bakura stared blankly at his work computer screen the next morning, a bottle of water in one hand and his computer mouse in the other. That smile of Ryou's. It was really nice. Pretty, even (though it was likely Ryou would have his limbs taken off one by one if he said that to his face). The guy should smile more often.

"Huh…" he sighed out loud, very much still in his daze. That is, until Yuugi suddenly appeared and plopped down on his desk. That woke Bakura right up. "'The fuck, Mutou?" he shouted, smacking his rapidly pounding heart repeatedly. "Damn it!"

"New project, Youtai-kun!" the short man sang happily, flapping a pile of papers about in the air. He watched as Bakura continued to take whacks at his chest, posture very much like that of an old man's. Yuugi threw his head back and chortled for a good three seconds. "You're so funny," he said amusedly, as if Bakura had purposely put on a comedic show for him.

"Shit, Mutou! I'm not trying to be funny! That fucking shocked the shit out of me."

"Only 'cause you weren't not paying attention." Yuugi cocked his head to the side, a tiny frown pulling at his mouth. His tone immediately became more serious: "You've really been out of it almost all of September, Youtai-kun…And you just recently came back. Are you okay now?"

"I'm…I'm fine." Hell, for once, he was telling the truth.

Yuugi immediately grinned, the solemn look vanishing in a blink. "Yay! Okay, time to work."

Bakura and Yuugi set themselves into their new project. As usual, Bakura scribbled away as Yuugi read off the initial basic storyline to him. It was very much like the old days, other than one fact…

There was a rather large number of characters this time, and yet Bakura found his strength to be surprisingly steady as he worked through each of the character designs. That wasn't the most surprising event to note; rather, it was that—

"Whoa-hey!" Yuugi cried dramatically as he picked up the drawing on top of the completed pile.

"What is it now, Mutou?"

"No, this has to be a fluke!" Yuugi took the entire pile off of Bakura's desk and examined each of the drawings. He gasped loudly. "I can't believe it!" he said, staring at Bakura with curious eyes.

"What?" Bakura snapped, quickly losing patience.

"All of the characters are smiling, Youtai-kun!" Yuugi exclaimed. He said it as if the act was utterly blasphemous.

Bakura snatched the papers back from him and began to sort through them; sure enough, each of the faces were completed with a familiar light curve of the lips.

"What gives? Have you found a muse or something?" Yuugi asked.

"A what?"

"You know! A muse! A source of inspiration!"

A muse? Hmm.

"…I guess you can say that," Bakura said after a moment. He thought of Ryou. A Ryou looking at him and giving him that smile. "Huh. He really is getting to my head, isn't he?" he muttered to himself affectionately. Damn it, he shouldn't have said that out loud. Bakura immediately sat up and glared at Yuugi suspiciously. "You aren't going to ask me about that, are you? Hell, I bet you're just dying to know what happened the last few weeks, eh? I thought it was strange that you didn't pounce the minute I got back."

To his surprise, Yuugi shook his head. "Nope! Not dying yet! I've decided—From now on, I'm gonna wait until you want to tell me stuff."

Bakura blinked. "Really?"

"Yup! I figured that you'll tell me when you want to. I'll be here to listen then, Youtai-kun." Yuugi patted the man on the back with a small yet reassuring hand.

Bakura was impressed with Yuugi's uncharacteristic maturity. Perhaps hope for the man to join the adult mind-set world did exist.

Yuugi's face suddenly broke into a wide grin, showing nearly all of his tiny (and surprisingly sharp) teeth. "Aren't I a super special awesome friend for doing that? You're proud of me, right?"

Bakura took back what he said.


Bakura was feeling guilty. While Yuugi had kind-of-but-then-not-really graciously declined accepting an apology that even Bakura thought was needed, Marik Ishtar was a different case entirely. For that reason, when Bakura finally found himself with some spare time after work, he gathered up all of his courage and flipped open his phone. After scrolling down to the correct name, his thumb struggled between pressing the 'call' button and flipping the phone shut. He wasn't sure whether Marik would be busy now, that with all of his doctor-ish duties and all. Sometimes, Bakura still wondered how the hell Marik made it through medical school. Marik Ishtar, his childhood friend: shallow, vain, and incredibly effeminate dresser. Yet, Bakura supposed that he had to have some brains, or otherwise he wouldn't be the doctor that he was today. Hmm. Either way, that was a puzzle to mull about for a different day, Bakura decided.

"Ah, to hell with it," the man grouched. He pressed the button to dial Marik's cell phone and waited for the worst.

"Hello, there—"

"Marik, I—"

The voice went right over him. "Is this thing working? Yes? Yes, I think it's working. Anyway, this is the Doctor Marik Ishtar. I am obviously not here right now, so leave me a message. And if it's Bakura, the frigging bastard, then he can wait until his next life. You hear that, you pasty prick? I'm talking about you. Alright. I hope that this has a long recording time and caught all of that. It had better, anyways. Toodles."

One side of Bakura's mouth twisted up as he glared at the phone. "Always the drama queen."

Damn it, Marik wasn't there. He hated leaving voice messages; it felt so awkward to ramble on and on into a machine when he should be talking to a person instead (not like he really preferred that, either). He rarely left messages, and usually just waited for the person on the other end of the line to call back later.

Yet despite his old habits, and the sudden desire to show up Marik, Bakura patiently waited for the electronic voice to finish suggesting to him the various actions he could take, and then waited for the beep:

"Look, Marik, I just wanted to call and say that I'm sorry for being such an ass the last time you came over, alright? We should get together some time, for old time's sake and shit." Bakura shifted his cell phone from one ear to the other. "Well, damn it, call me when you pick this up. Bye."

He set down his phone and sighed. Who knew how long it would be before the man answered his phone, especially with the tanned man's odd working schedules. His thinking was cut short when his cell phone suddenly rang. "What?" Bakura picked up the tiny contraption, reading the name 'Marik Ishtar' on the front. Flipping it open, he placed it against his ear. "Marik?"

"Bakura." There was an audible huff on the other end of the line.

"You're busy right now? If you're working, I'll contact you again later."

"Oh, no, I'm off my shift right now. I was just playing a computer game, actually, when I heard you ring."

Bakura tried to keep the incoming irritation out of his voice. "…You heard me rang but you didn't bother to pick up?"

"Well, I had to keep some of my pride, you twat! And anyway, that computer game is very impressive—It has weird vampires in it—"

"I don't care. You did listen to my message, didn't you?"

"Yeah, hold on— what the frig? That door just slammed in my face—"

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"I'm still playing the game— Wait, let me pause it for a second… What did you ask just now?"

"Damn it, Marik, I asked you if you got my message."

"Oh, that—Yeah, I was liste—" Marik suddenly paused. "No. No, I didn't. No idea what you said to me in that message," the man said. "Certainly not an apology."

"…You're a lying bastard."

"Oh, will you look at that; my phone's running out of battery…"

"Marik, don't fuck around," the white-haired man snapped, perfectly aware that he was being played. "Shit. I wanted to say that I was sorry."

"…And?"

"What the fuck do you mean, 'and'? That's it! That's all I'm saying!"

"You have to make it up with more than an apology, Bakura. Frig it, I am not putting off playing 'Bloodlines' because of you."

"Damn it, fine! What do you want? Hurry up and say it already."

"…I want a Halloween party! I've always wanted to have one! Halloween's coming up, you know. We can have one and talk, like you said in your message— I mean, like how I'm guessing you said in your message."

Bakura rolled his eyes. "What, you want me to help you set one up? Fine."

"Yes, there's that, but you also have to attend."

"What?"

"And in costume."

"What?"

"I think you'd look good as a pirate, Bakura. I'm thinking of going as one of those American-style cowboys myself—"

"No!" Hell if Bakura was going to spend a rambunctious and embarrassing night with the likes of Marik—

"I know you're not saying 'no' to my party invitation because you owe me. Big time, might I add," Marik said shrilly, effectively drowning out any other protests Bakura could make by talking louder. "…So I'll deduce that you saying 'no' to the cowboy idea. In that case, that's only because you haven't seen the costume I've picked out yet— Ooh! We're going to have so much fun picking out yours… And make sure that your star-headed friend stays far away from our inevitable Domino Mall man-date coming up, Bakura, you understand? Hmm… we have to get you one of those pirate hats…one with a cute, fluffy feather! And maybe a nice pair of new boots?"

Bakura groaned.


Amidst their general schedule for the next month, in which Bakura bought groceries and ate dinner with Ryou and Kyouko as he always did; he drew pictures for the little girl as he always did; he drank his cup of tea that Ryou brewed as he always did— they also went on a few more of their 'dates'. Jounouchi always gave them that one hundred watt grin every time they dropped off the kid at his door. Bakura still had a hard time believing that the blond was doing shit with Kaiba Corp's CEO, better known as Bakura's prone-to-giving-himself-heart-attacks, perpetually disgruntled boss. (It was still completely mind-boggling, in his opinion.) The pair had decided not to explain to Kyouko the point of her daddy's and ji-chan's many rendez vous just yet; she seemed to take it upon herself that the pair were going out as friends.

Yes, the two were friends. Yet surely simple friends wouldn't have the same levels of anticipation that Bakura had; he was thrilled to go on every single outing that they had. It was…strange. He eagerly looked forward to catching another glimpse of when Ryou would smile or laugh that way for him every time they were alone together.

The laugh was something that Bakura picked up on their third outing. Ryou had actually started laughing loudly and unreservedly. He was laughing at Bakura's expense—Bakura had somehow managed to narrowly miss falling into a public fountain when the pair walked by one as a teenage boy on skates whooshed past the two— and had needed to swing his arms wildly around in order to balance himself. To save his pride, he had tried to chase after the punk afterwards, shouting obscenities all the while, but Ryou seemed to think the human windmill impression was still too amusing to pass up.

Of course, Ryou would sometimes do something similar to those effects— the smiling and laughing, that is—that Bakura wanted to witness so badly when they were with Kyouko as well, or with other people.

But it wasn't quite the same. Bakura came to realize that particular tilt of his mouth and utterance of air whenever Bakura said something stupid of funny— he could never tell what Ryou thought of his words as— and he came to realize that he was quite selfish for wanting to be the only one who saw it.

As for the physical nature of their relationship over the course of the few weeks… Bakura didn't know what to think of it. They kissed once at the end of their trip to the yakitori restaurant. Ryou had simply leaned over silently just as Bakura was about to return to his apartment and Ryou to pick up Kyouko, and kissed him lightly on the mouth.

Bakura had let out his pitiful squeak in reaction and barely managed to reciprocate for more than a few seconds before Ryou leaned back, smiled thinly, said "Good night, Bakura-san," and turned his heel.

They mostly shared very chaste kisses after that, and even those were rare. That was fine with Bakura at first; he had the ridiculous need to start a school-girl-like blushing reaction every time. However, then quite a few number of their dates—god damn it, Bakura finally had the courage to admit that they were in fact dates by their sixth one—passed this way: Ryou would bend his head slightly, kiss him, and that would be all. Bakura didn't have the same guts to initiate the same; past relationships always had his sparse girlfriends pucker up first, and the man found it too difficult and embarrassing to start now.

Bakura's body was starting to have a hard time coping; Ryou's touches made him react as he always did, and now that he was not in denial about it, the odd urges seemed to flare out more.

The one time he did accidentally lose himself in a kiss was completely unintentional. The two had come back from a trip to Domino Theatre to watch a movie (of Bakura's choosing, now that the man thought of it). When they had returned, Bakura thought nothing into it and took the first step: He turned his head to face Ryou, grabbed at the man so that his shoulders were square to his own, and leaned in.

Bakura missed.

Bakura felt his entire body freeze up in utter mortification. His lips had smacked right against the corner of Ryou's mouth. Inside his mind, a tiny Bakura had just buckled down to his knees and smacked his hands against his face to hide it, jerking back his head and yelling in embarrassment.

Through touch, Bakura could tell that Ryou didn't move in reaction other than opening his mouth slightly. Most likely in shock. Bakura held his breath. If he was lucky, maybe he'd pass out due to asphyxiation soon.

But then…Bakura could feel a soft, amused exhale expel from Ryou's lips. He felt a gloved hand cupping his chin and a tilting pair of lips move slightly to the side.

Bakura felt himself unthaw. He let himself take a much needed breath of air. Smooth and surprisingly cool lips touched the burning skin of his own mouth, and Bakura almost immediately shut down again. His skin's already reddening hue flushed twofold deeper. Bakura's hands reached up to slide over Ryou's neck in an unconscious attempt to bring him closer.

Something trilled happily in Bakura's subconscious. Again, rather than feeling calmed by the other's touch, Bakura felt only more eager— though eager for what, exactly, he didn't know—

Ryou was going at the same tempo that he had always gone: slow and careful. That is, until Bakura bit down on the other's slightly parted lower lip in uncontained excitement.

Ryou seemed to freeze then and suddenly Bakura, through the haze, felt the extremely unexpected sensation of Ryou abruptly and roughly shoving his tongue into his mouth.

'Oh, holy shit on a—'

Bakura made a tiny sound that sounded like 'ahmph?' as any gentleness on Ryou's part ceased and the kiss, which had formerly been very sweet and tender, became almost violent in nature. Bakura would have thought something along the lines of 'I definitely did not expect this,' but anything of the sort had turned into a garbled mess and pooled viscously in a corner of his mind. What monopolized his thoughts was Ryou's presence, literally front and center. Teeth bit sharply at Bakura's lips and a firm and certainly ungentle hand groped—because there was no other word for it—his thigh, running up and down the side length of his upper leg. The grip tightened sporadically, as did Bakura's muffled squeaks.

Fuck, that felt good.

He couldn't calm himself at all. Bakura could only proceed to breathe more harshly and shiver more violently with every passing second—but this wasn't the same as his bouts of anxiety at all. In fact, this sensation was something new entirely.

It was now not only hard to breathe, but the atmosphere in general seemed to have become stifling. His legs felt weighed down, as did his chest, though there was no weight on either of them. His clothes— a long sleeved cotton shirt and a pair of jeans, felt constricting… Holy shit, especially the jeans—

Hell, the last time someone got a reaction like this out of him was…'Also Ryou—' he realized.

The roaming hand roamed a little too high, the fingers brushing against something that made Bakura jolt a little and hit his teeth against Ryou's. He let out another sound: an embarrassing mix of a guttural moan and squawk—

Ryou suddenly pulled back. For a moment, Bakura thought he caught a glimpse of darkened eyes holding an odd, repressed glow; it was a kind of heat that seemed subdued in a way, like a carefully tended flame on a stove top— but then Ryou turned, bid him an unusually throaty-sounding 'good night', and left.

It was only after Bakura had gotten into his cold shower and stared at his wet tiled wall for over fifteen minutes did he then realize that Ryou had been the one to stop first then as well.


...This bothered Bakura.

They were both grown men. Certainly he shouldn't be having such stupid qualms over the matter. Yet he still thought and he mulled and he brooded over the damn subject: He began to wonder why the hell things had stopped there that time after the movies. It wasn't like he wanted to jump into—hold the thought right there, Bakura felt another fire starting under his face—

It wasn't just the damn movie time, Bakura realized. He was beginning to get self-conscious of the fact that Ryou was very distant toward him. Physically. Well, not physical in the sense that he did not come near Bakura—that would have been a major problem— but physical in terms of—intimacy. There. That was the word.

It made the man flush something terrible thinking about it. Over and over, he wondered whether he was missing something important… Actually, he knew that it had to be something important.

Did the problem stem from Bakura? Was he doing something wrong?

That was what he feared most.

He would have thought that the days of needlessly worrying were behind them. They weren't.

Ryou did not bring up the subject the next time they met. That next occasion was where they were at this very moment; Bakura glanced over at the man sitting in front of him at the tiny table they were sitting at outside on a surprisingly warm, mid October night. They were currently at a grubby little food stall at the side of the street during the outing that the two were on currently. He had just been joking when he said that he wanted to eat there as they were going home from a trip to the grocery store: Bakura couldn't imagine seeing the man with his tie and pressed shirt sitting at one of those plastic chairs and slurping down a bowl of noodles like the rest of the men there— yet Ryou had simply blinked, nodded, and sat down in a dingy plastic folding chair next to him all the same.

Ryou was currently paying more attention to furiously wiping his chopsticks clean with a napkin than paying attention to him, but Bakura felt the need to flush anyway as he watched, agape, at Ryou's hands. He was gripping the plastic utensils with one hand and running the piece of papery-cloth against the length with the other rather forcibly, and—well, shit, Bakura hope Ryou wouldn't be that rough when he did that to—

—If Ryou ever did that to—

"Fuck, would you stop doing that?" he hissed, prodding Ryou with the ends of his own pair of chopsticks. "It looks—" 'Like you're mimicking something a fuck lot less innocent.' "Bad!" he said shortly. "The owner's gonna think his place is filthy or something."

Yes, very much like Bakura's mind. He had not been able to bring up the what-he-had-dubbed-as-the-movie-theatre-time either. He sure as hell was still thinking about it, though.

"…Well, I'm certainly not going to lick them clean," Ryou said sharply. Bakura positively choked on that statement, and the air around him seemed to get a lot hotter in a few seconds. That was quite a feat, seeing that they were surrounded by huddling, noisy people and hot steam and the sort coming from the brewing pots and pans around them. Ryou frowned at Bakura's embarrassing reaction, but then blinked again and looked away. "I didn't mean to snap at you. I'm sorry."

Bakura's blush became replaced with a frown. Ryou had done that again; there was something strange about this as well: sometimes, Ryou would snap at him on their various meetings, but the moment would never last for long. Ryou would always quickly change the subject, as if he was trying his damnedest not to let his temper flare…

Very odd.

Shortly after finishing their food, the two returned to Ginmaru Apartments. They decided to settle down the groceries first before picking up Kyouko at Jounouchi's, and were currently dropping off the goods at Ryou's apartment.

After hauling in the last bag filled with vegetables and other assorted goods that Bakura wouldn't be able to name unless they were labeled, the two decided that a short break was in order:

"Hold on—Move, you mother fucking piece of—oh, there we go." Bakura finally succeeded in prying the sliding door open, and stepped out onto the tiny stone balcony. He inhaled a deep crisp breath and exhaled slowly. "Shit, we won't be able to stand out here like this for much longer." Bakura stretched his arms fully and leaned casually against the railing. "It's going to get cold soon."

Ryou made a noncommittal sound as he walked outside as well and likewise stood against the balcony. "It's very nice out."

"Yeah, isn't it?" Bakura let out a long exhale. He drummed his fingers against the cold, hard banister.

The two gazed out at the sight of Domino City before them. Bright, tiny specks of light seemed to be sprinkled throughout the area in front of them, lighting up the night with neon signs, car headlights, and streetlight posts. In the distance, Bakura could slightly make out the glowing logo of Kaiba Corp. If he looked out far enough and turned his head, Bakura could make out the balcony doors of his own apartment…

A few minutes passed in comfortable silence until the elephant in the room that had been bothering Bakura for quite a while finally left the tip of his tongue."…Hey, Ryou." Bakura said quietly, still gazing out at the twinkling lights.

Ryou would talk about it, wouldn't he? He would let Bakura know.

"Hmm?" the man uttered quietly, not moving from his position either.

Bakura tried to find the best way to phrase his next words as he turned to face the man beside him. "Did you like eating at the food stall? …And answer me truthfully, would you?"

Ryou did not turn his head away from the lights ."…Not really," he finally said into the air. He sounded very monotonous.

Bakura was rapidly losing courage. He still took a breath, however, and tried not to let his voice shake.

"Then why'd you agree to eat there?" he asked. 'Why the hell did you do a lot of the stuff that you did?' he wondered inwardly. After waiting for a moment for an answer that didn't come, Bakura steeled his resolve and tried again. "Look, we tell each other shit, right?"

"…Of course," came the quiet reply.

"Then would you explain this for me?"

"I will if I can."

"Alright, then." Bakura exhaled audibly for a third and final time. " … I noticed. You've been holding something back."

"What are you talking about?"

"…You tell me, Ryou." Bakura said, trying not to sound too bitter. "You've been acting weird ever since you agreed to go to that yakitori restaurant: letting me choose every place even if you don't want to go, always stopping yourself before yelling at me. And the…well, after the theatre," he said simply. "It's… fucking unnatural and it's not like you at all…" He closed his mouth for a moment before asking in a quiet voice what he had been suspecting. "Is it…is it something that I did?" he asked.

Even if the smiles and laughs were things that Bakura looked forward to, he did realize the oddities.

Bakura did care.

Ryou turned to him, his face showing a rare instance of complete surprise. The expression cooled. Bakura did not think that it was intentional. "Why do you think so, Bakura-san?" he asked softly. His voice belied nothing.

Bakura was getting more agitated by the moment.

"Well…shit…" Bakura struggled for an answer. "Damn it, I don't know!' he snapped when nothing came to him. "That's why I want to know if it's my fault— I'll fix it if I could—Because, fuck, I want to make this fucking work, alright—?" He was stopped by a tender hand touching his upper arm.

"No, Bakura-san. It's not your fault," Ryou said quietly, looking at him. He was smiling thinly. The man exhaled slowly. Through the expressionless face, Bakura could make out genuine warm eyes. "…A while ago, I think I finally started to believe," Ryou told him. The voice was clear, but the words were anything but.

"…That…that what?"

"…That love for non-familial people can exist." Ryou turned back to face the city lights. "I have not felt it personally just yet, but I do believe that it is entirely possible…To begin to do so, you want to wish the absolute best for the other person no matter what. To support the things that they do. Is that right?"

"I…I guess." Bakura frowned again. Was Ryou evading the topic? "I don't see how that answers my question, Ryou."

"I remember what you said about wishing this not only to be about physical attraction, Bakura-san… But an actual desire to be together." Ryou said softly. "I want you to know that I understand and support that. That time at the theatre… I didn't want to bring it up myself because that was actually a moment of really blatant weakness on my part…because you were very…ah…willing that time." An uncharacteristic flush appeared over the apples of Ryou's cheeks. "Either way, I hope you forgive me." Ryou paused for a moment again. "It's just that…I plan on taking our relationship very seriously. So I had to stop what we were doing because I haven't received your answer yet."

"…I...still don't get it, Ryou."

"That's alright…Basically, I wanted you to stay, Bakura-san," the man continued patiently. "That is my primary objective. Everything else, including that after the theatre, is secondary now." He turned to Bakura then and smiled. "I tried to give you all that I could as well as support your decisions." Ryou paused here. "You say that I've been acting strange and wonder if it's your fault…in truth, it's simply because I'm not experienced with…" His voice took on a slightly lower timbre as he said the next few words. "…the right way to go about long-lasting relationships. I might have made many mistakes…But I did what I could for ours."

Bakura didn't understand completely, but he was beginning to. As usual, he felt a heated sensation travel to his cheeks. "Oh."

Ryou had let make Bakura make the silly decisions such as where to eat and what to do just because he didn't know what else he could do to support his choices. He had put in little input into everything because he didn't know what was best.

Ryou was genuinely trying.

"Oh," Bakura repeated lamely. "Oh, shit. I feel really stupid now. Fuck." He was turning bright red. "Fuck it…" he muttered through his hand, which he had clapped against his mouth in reaction to Ryou's words.

He didn't think that anyone else had ever done these things for him. He finally understood how far Ryou was willing to go for him. This entire past month—

It was both inconceivably humbling and flattering to hear all of this—from Ryou of all people—say such words. A tiny part of him, a part that had never believed that he would ever truly be able to find someone whom he would be able to stay with, slowly faded out of existence.

"I don't know what to say, Ryou. Shit..." He was at a loss for words. "Fuck," he said miserably.

"…It's quite alright, Bakura-san…"

"No, really. Damn…It's just that… I know I've always believed that it existed somewhere, even though I don't think I ever thought that it'd apply to me." Bakura rambled through the words he desperately wanted to say—the words that he needed to say. "Relationships, I mean. That's why… You know— well, fuck…This really works out well—two people like me and you talking about this shit…" He gave a nervous chuckle. Ryou waited patiently for him to continue.

Ryou was just standing there, waiting. He had said that he would, Bakura remembered. And he had upheld that to the best of his ability.

Bakura felt things suddenly click into place in his mind. He realized that it was not 'touch' that kept him gravitating towards Ryou. It was things like his actual person— his smiles and laughs and mean comments— Ryou's willingness to walk that figurative mile for the man—

"What I want to say is that—I'm glad this is happening. This meaning—us—" He took a deep breath. "I think that…I've realized. It's you. N-not the anxiety shit, Ryou. It's you."

The light wind blew past the trees then as the man smiled that perfect smile at him, making them rustle quietly; at that moment, it looked as if the world was dancing.


The next morning, Ryou ushered a confused Bakura and a gleeful Kyouko into his car.

"Where are we going, Daddy?" Kyouko bounced up and down in her seat even with the seatbelt restraint. Bakura had the same question, albeit without the bouncing; he made do with prodding Ryou instead. Yet Ryou simply smiled slightly at the two—taking a whack at Bakura's prodding fingers first— and said little other than 'I think that you'll probably find some level of sentimental value in it, since you seem to like such things" to Bakura.

They arrived in front of a tiny building: it was a tiny, squeaky-clean kind of ice cream parlor complete with the pinstriped awning hanging over the windows and glass door. "Hey! I recognize this place!" Bakura said, staring up at the familiar shop with a slowly widening grin.

"You do, do you?" Ryou said in a faux-dismissive tone, unlocking the car doors and opening the one on his side.

"Yeah. You took your kid here all the time," Bakura continued somewhat excitedly, grinning widely at the memory. "Shit! I thought you'd forgotten about this place already!"

Ryou turned back to face him in slight confusion, one foot already out on the sidewalk. "How did you know I frequent here with her?" he asked incredulously. "I only saw you there once."

"…Just a guess." Bakura cleared his throat and quickly hopped out from his side of the car.

Ryou snorted quietly in an obvious attempt to convey his blatant disbelief.

Damn the man.

Kyouko immediately scurried to an empty booth quite a distance away from the other customers, scooting onto the large plush leather seat with a few rear wiggles and swinging arms. Bakura moved to sit on her side of the booth, but Ryou held him back with a brief tug on his jacket sleeve. "Sit next to me, Bakura-san," the man said offhandedly.

"Huh?" Bakura turned his head back. "Why?" Ryou didn't supply an explanation as to his preference in seating arrangements, but simply smiled thinly at him. Bakura blinked, an eyebrow raising in spite of himself, but obliged; Bakura sat on the opposite side of Kyouko, with Ryou right beside him.

"What are you getting, ji-chan?"

"What I always get. Plain vanilla."

"Vanilla?" the girl repeated the foreign word dubiously. "What's that?"

"What, you never had vanilla before?" Bakura was momentarily confused, until he remembered the kind of ice cream that Ryou used to buy for his daughter: extravagant, expensive ones to desperately show the child how much he cared for her… Bakura fell silent for a moment.

"Nope. What does it look like?" Kyouko urged, tugging at his hand from across the table. That quickly brought the man back to the present.

"Eh? Oh…Well…it's, uh, white colored."

"Uh-huh!" Kyouko bobbed her head, waiting for a continuation.

"And, uh…" Bakura glanced over at Ryou. Ryou seemed content to see Bakura suffer by himself, and only smiled pleasantly in return.

Bakura'll say it again: damn the man.

"Does it have rainbow sprinkles on it?"

"No."

"How about chocolate fudge?"

"No."

"Candy?"

"Damn it, I'll order one and you'll see then."

"Okay! How about you, Daddy? Which one do you want?"

"I'm not hungry, Kyouko. It's fine," the man said.

"Don't mind your old man. He'll change his mind in a moment."

A few minutes after placing the order, a plain vanilla ice cream in plastic bowl was set on the table. "Here, have a bit at least." Bakura pushed the ice cream bowl in front of the child, who seemed most unimpressed by the plain sweet in front of her.

The little girl prodded at the white blobs dubiously with a spoon, holding the silverware with her tiny fist like a lance. "Mm…Okay," she said after a few more jabs into the rapidly melting sweet. Kyouko scooped up a tiny dab with her spoon and hesitantly stuck it in her mouth. She kept it in her mouth thoughtfully for a moment, and finally swallowed. She grinned a toothy smile, and took another scoop that was easily twice as large than her first one. "It's good!" she said happily.

"…You really like vanilla, Kyouko?" The plainest and most insignificant of the lot. Kyouko shoved the bridge of her round glasses back up on her face and nodded fervently. "…How about the others?" Ryou asked again. Kyouko began to shake her head the same way, but then stopped, and guiltily gave a single head shake.

"I have good taste," Bakura said snarkily. "That explains everything."

"I'll have to see about that," Ryou murmured enigmatically, apparently displeased at Bakura's smug attitude.

"Did you change your mind yet, Daddy?" Kyouko waved a messy spoonful of ice cream towards him. "Have some, too! Open up! You'll like it, too!" she said. "I promise!"

"Hold it, you're going to get it all over the table!" Bakura quickly steadied the spoon with the eager child, overlapping the tiny hand with his own. "Oi, Ryou. Try some, why don't you?"

Ryou hesitated again, but finally nodded slightly.

"Yay! Ji-chan, help me." Kyouko tried in vain to stretch out her short arm in order to read her father's face.

"You and your stubby arms," Bakura grouched. Keeping her hand steady by holding onto her wrist, Bakura leaned in to Ryou as Kyouko simultaneously clambered to her knees in order to lean over the table.

It must have been an odd scene, a man and a little girl holding onto a spoon and feeding another grown adult ice cream. Yet Bakura didn't notice the absurdity of the what must have been ridiculous sight, and only grinned toothily when the little girl was finally successful in shoving the spoon into Ryou's slightly ajar mouth.

"How is it, Daddy?"

Ryou nodded again, an odd smile trying at his lips. "Good, thank you."

"We should come here more often! Not only with Daddy, but you, too, ji-chan!" Kyouko said excitedly. Then she appeared to go into deep thought. "I've been here a lot with Daddy, but only once before with you here, too, ji-chan."

"Yeah. That was a really long time ago," Bakura pondered out loud.

"You said that time that you were going to help Daddy, I think. By being a good friend."

There was a long silence.

"He did," Ryou finally said, giving the man next to him a very faint smile. "Bakura-san is a very good friend." Ryou took a slow inhale. "Kyouko, do you remember asking if Bakura-san will help me with a kiss?"

Bakura blinked. It was dawning on him now. Ryou had told him that morning before throwing him and Kyouko into the car that something important was going to happen today.

…Ryou was going to do it now.

Kyouko hemmed and hawwed for a moment. "Yeah, I do!" she said after a moment, eyes lighting up at the memory. "But ji-chan said that he wasn't going to."

"Ji-chan lied."

"Hey!"

"Really? Ji-chan's kissed you, Daddy? Where? On the boo-boo?"

"Yes. Daddy's hands." Ryou shifted his gloved hands, turning them so that their palms faced up. Kyouko slowly patted the fingertips with her own tiny fingers.

"Is that why you didn't like touching, Daddy?" she said after a moment. "Because they hurt?"

"Yes, Kyouko."

His daughter remained silent for a moment, and finally drew her hands away. "How about Daddy's lips?" She suddenly sounded very stern, and turned to Bakura with large, unyielding eyes. Bakura began to blink rapidly, and felt the beginnings of sweat trickling down the side of his forehead. Kyouko spoke louder after waiting a stalled moment for his response. "Did you ever kiss Daddy on the lips, ji-chan?" she demanded.

"Yes. Yes, I have." He paused. "Many times," he added for good measure. Perhaps squeaking out the last part wasn't necessary. What the hell was it with this father and daughter pair that made it so hard to keep secrets?

Kyouko looked stunned. "'Many times'?" she held up a hand and scowled. "More than the fingers here?"

He shouldn't have said anything at all. "…Yes."

Kyouko's other hand came up. "How about now?"

"…Yes."

The little girl's eyes widened to Yuugi's purple orbs-sized proportions, the girl herself seemingly boggled by the amount. "Ji-chan—" she began.

Ryou shifted a bit forward to look more squarely at his child as she slowly put her hands down. "Kyouko—"

"Ji-chan's a—a— a prince!" Kyouko suddenly cried, smacking her fists on the table. She must have picked up the habit from Bakura.

"…Err. Run that by me again, kid?"

"You kissed Daddy on the lips! Daddy would never let just anyone kiss him there! You have to be a prince! That's what happens in all the fairy tales! Ji-chan's the prince on the white horse!"

"Kyouko, do you know what that means?" Ryou asked, voice low and steady.

"…Does it mean that ji-chan going to turn into a frog?" Kyouko turned to Bakura with wide eyes, as if expecting him to turn green and amphibious at any moment.

"What? No!"

"No, Kyouko. Two people…usually kiss when they want to be together."

"Like how you kiss me on my forehead, Daddy?"

"Yes, something like that. It's slightly different for me and your ji-chan, however."

"How come?" Kyouko sounded quite determined to get to the bottom of this.

"Ji-chan and I are together in the way that your mother and I were supposed to be," Ryou finally said after a moment, his tone slightly strained and pitched. For a moment, it looked as if he was not quite willing to go on.

"But I'm different," Bakura suddenly said. Ryou turned to him in surprise, but Bakura did not break eye contact with the girl. He could handle this. They were in it together, after all.

Kyouko began chewing on her bottom lip. "Because Daddy and her weren't in love. Does that mean that you and Daddy are in love? In love is what happens in all the fairytales."

Ryou shifted a bit in his seat. "Would you be happy if that's what happens?" he asked softly.

Kyouko tapped a stubby index finger against her lip. "The fairy tales always end off with them living happily ever after. And that makes me happy for them."

Bakura exhaled a breath he didn't know he was holding. Well, that had blown over incredibly well—

"Hold up!" Kyouko suddenly said.

No, never mind.

"Ji-chan has to be a prince because Daddy let you kiss him," Kyouko continued slowly. "But how come I've never seen your white horse?"


While the issue of whether Bakura was an actual prince with a missing horse or just the court jester— whereas Kyouko was the resident young princess and Ryou the undisputed king— was never resolved, that quickly became water under the bridge:

Ryou had graciously decided to help the man clean his apartment while Kyouko was off at school the next day. Bakura thought that it was unusually nice of him, and he was very much right. Ryou managed to shake his head and frown the entire time as he helped the man sort out his papers and pencils, which were strewn all over the place. He was probably doing that on purpose, the asshole.

Bakura found that he did kind of enjoy that about Ryou. The man was not afraid to voice what he thought. But then, when had he ever done that? A memory of Ryou coughing exaggeratedly at a no-smoking sign in an elevator made Bakura snort now.

The man had pulled off his gloves to clean, leaving the thin cotton articles in a neat pile on the table. The idea that Ryou was willing and comfortable enough to bare his hands while soaking the rags to wipe things down with made Bakura feel comforted. Bakura had actually almost become too distracted by the rare sight of pale, slender hands moving about as they sorted out the living area and kitchenette.

The cleaning range moved into Bakura's bedroom before long. Ryou had never been there before, and he took a good moment to stare at the sparse surroundings. Bakura kind of wished that he had gotten into the habit of tidying up his futon every morning when he was younger. Years of not doing so caused the current unaesthetic state of his futon: the pillow was completely on the floor, the comforter rumpled and twisted to the side.

"Hmm," Ryou simply said. Bakura gave him a look and set off to chuck things out of his drawers. Paper: throw out. T-shirt: stay there. One-hundred yen coin: into his jeans pocket. Next drawer. More paper: throw out. Condoms: fucking hell.

Bakura stared at the mass of wrapped, tiny packages in his drawer. Where the hell had those come from? Wait. He had put them there. Way back when he had gone on that eighteenth-layer-of-hell mall trip with Marik and Yuugi.

Bakura and Ryou had not yet needed to require such things. They had just recently decided to get together, after all.

…Yes, Bakura knew how these relationships worked. He had gone to a private boarding school and shared a dormitory with hormone-addled teenage boys— A flush ran through his cheeks with record speed.

"Bakura-san."

Bakura dropped the incriminating evidence out of his sweating palms and slammed the drawer shut. "What?" he said, maybe just a tad too loudly.

"Get rid of all of your broken pencils." Ryou pointed at the pile of stubs and mechanical pencil parts that he had managed to sweep together on the floor.

"Oh. Oh, right." Bakura immediately went to dispose of the unusable supplies. Oh, good, Ryou hadn't seen—

"You should make sure they're not going to expire soon," Ryou said monotonously as he continued sweeping. Bakura nearly tripped over the floor.

After a couple of trips down to the garbage disposal area on the ground floor, Bakura made it back to his apartment.

Ryou had already gotten himself some water to re-hydrate himself, and was sitting beside the futon with another filled plastic cup beside him. He pointed to it, nodding as Bakura sat down beside him to drink.

"I think that Kyouko is going to need her own room soon," Ryou said after he drained his cup. "I can't sleep in the same room with her for much longer."

Bakura grunted as he continued to gulp down the refreshing water. "She's still young. Five."

"Even so. I have someone else in mind to share it with. Do you think that that is a good idea?" There was a definite hint of unconcealed amusement here, and now Bakura knew that the bastard was doing this on purpose— He choked on the water, smacking his forearm against his mouth to wipe off the liquid that had managed to spray out of his mouth.

Ryou was requesting that he move in with him— so that was why the man had so graciously helped him clean up everything— Bakura turned beet red again. It was a very touching gesture— hell, he wasn't sure how he was supposed to react to this. All this time, he thought he would live and die as a crabby bachelor. And now Bakura Ryou wanted him to move in to his apartment.

Old Man Tachibana was unquestionably not going to like this.

"…You're a conniving jackass, Ryou," he finally said petulantly.

Bakura liked the idea though. He supposed that was all that really mattered.

Ryou just laughed that laugh for him. There was a short silence that followed.

"I'm…very happy, Bakura-san." Ryou's voice was low and soft when he spoke again. The man knit his eyebrows together, staring down at the cleaned floor in front of him. "…I cannot convey my feelings as easily as you can." He turned to the other man, shifting so that he could press an open hand against Bakura's cheek. "I was never good at explaining things with words. You'll forgive me for that."

It was not so much as a request as it was an order. Yet that was the way Ryou spoke.

"I know," Bakura muttered, the ridiculous flush still on his cheeks. He knew. He understood now.

Ryou gave him that smile, the smile that Bakura had grown accustomed to desiring as he moved his hand slowly down his cheek and onto his neck. There was a light warmth in the touch. It was as if Bakura could feel all five fingertips running down his skin.

Bakura swallowed noisily, his Adam's apple nudging one of Ryou's thumbs as the slight protrusion moved in his throat. Having Ryou's hand cupped around his neck like that didn't feel particularly threatening, per se, although it did kind of look as if the man was about to strangle him single-handedly (and that wouldn't have been very pleasant.) Rather, it was another sensation that was making him feel off about himself; Ryou's steady gaze was creating a very involuntary flush to appear over his cheeks. The usually stern, hard, and cold eyes now started to hold a definite heated depth in them; Bakura couldn't really describe it; he was a bit distracted. It also didn't help that Ryou's thumb was now moving—no, stroking was a better word to describe it— over the more vulnerable parts of his neck.

Ryou was staring at his cheeks now, his reddening, blotching, embarrassing cheeks. Without the gloves, Bakura knew that the man could feel the ridiculous heat that must have been emanating from his skin, especially when the hand shifted from his neck back up to the side of his face.

And then Ryou closed the gap between their mouths. There was nothing inhibiting the man this time; Ryou made sure that this was known. Teeth immediately snapped at Bakura's lips more than once, causing them to quickly swell under the firm touch. Ryou shifted so that both hands were gripping Bakura's hair back.

Bakura pressed just as much force back. He accidentally knocked over his plastic cup, splashing a bit of water onto the floor. His own hands grabbed at the front of Ryou's shirt, bunching and wrinkling the fabric.

"…Shirt off," Ryou muttered shortly in his ear. "Now." The man had lost the ability to speak in complete sentences. Bakura suppressed a quiver and complied with a throaty exhale.

He scrambled to undo Ryou's buttoned shirt as Ryou deftly yanked Bakura's shirt over his head, tangling his arms in the cloth in the process. He finally managed to pull away Ryou's undershirt as well, and lips hotly returned to where they were, now traveling to other areas not inhibited by clothing.

Bakura had seen Ryou topless before—in a hotel room somewhere, if he remembered correctly— but actually being able to touch was a different story entirely. His hands clenched at the man's hair, their mouths not breaking contact even as Ryou's hands found the zipper to Bakura's jeans and quickly zipped it down.

Bakura leaned back for much needed air, aware that he had somehow ended up sitting on the futon. Ryou kneeled before him, still in his own trousers as the belt to Bakura's jeans unbuckled.

"Shit, Ryou—" he gasped. His jeans were unceremoniously pulled down to his thighs. "Oh, damn— Fuck—" He felt thumbs hooking into the waistband of his boxers, the warm knuckles pressing against his hips for just a moment before that article of clothing was pulled down as well.

Lips pressed against his gaping mouth again as hands stroked his thighs. Bakura's legs were beginning to feel weak. Somewhere along the line, Ryou completely removed his jeans and underwear. He must have looked ridiculous—completely naked and—The sensation of palms cupping his hips for a moment made him jolt, and then the hands were going up his sides.

He grabbed at the belt loops of Ryou's trousers for lack of anything else better to hold. Ryou's hands felt electric. Skating fingertips grazed over his skin all around him, and Bakura could do little else but squirm and wriggle about as sensations that felt like tiny zaps of sparks went off under his skin.

"Oh, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit—" Bakura repeated in a mantra-like hiss.

"Shut up," Ryou murmured amusedly. "You have such a disgusting mouth."

"What? Well, you— (A kiss on his jaw line made him pause here.) Have— (This pause was due to a kiss on his throat.) Disgusting— (Kiss to the collarbone—) Hands!" he snarled loudly when warm, slender fingers wrapped around—

The fingers immediately left, and Ryou leaned back, a dangerously dark expression on his face.

"Oh, god, I didn't mean that, Ryou. Fuck, that came out wrong—"

"…I know you didn't mean it." Ryou gave him a twisted leer. "It's just funny to see how quickly you wilted."

"…I think I hate you now." The long, slim fingers returned to where they were. "Damn it— Oh, fuck— Damn, Ryou—!" Conversation faded off into garbled sounds and then only rapid pants on Bakura's part. Ryou's other heated hand rested firmly on Bakura's hip. Bakura clasped his hand tightly over his mouth to suppress the embarrassing sounds that he kept crying out. Bakura had had some girlfriends who touched him like this before—a long, long time ago. Ryou was nothing like they had been; he did not try to come across as either intentionally and excessively seductive nor deceivingly innocent and fragile. He was on a different level entirely, and was on a level that could neither be surpassed nor replaced.

Bakura's knees kept hitting Ryou's sides, and his bare heels hurt from repeatedly scraping rapidly against the floor. Yet Bakura knew that nothing but the walls burning down around him would have made him able to stop. At this rate, he would have to be able to notice the burning walls first, let alone do something about them.

Bakura managed to take his hand away from his mouth, taking in a deep breath of fresh oxygen and expelling it just as quickly. His heart continued to beat in overdrive, thudding deliriously away. Bakura's palm had a thin sheen of sweat on it, as well as slight teeth marks and saliva. It joined its twin, grabbing onto the sides of Ryou's waist.

They slid down the heated skin until they hit jutting hipbones, trying to slide forward in order to undo the button of Ryou's trousers. He never made it that far; before his hands left their position on Ryou's hips, his fingernails scratched red lines down the skin when Ryou's thumb swiped roughly across—

"Shit!" he snarled as his hips bucked up. He caught a sight of Ryou's expression then— His cheeks were flushed a light pink, his mouth slightly open to reveal red lips that were no longer pursed into a thin line and the very tip of his tongue, which rested just between his teeth—

And there was only a strange kind of hunger in the other's eyes, where the black of his pupils enlarged until his warm brown irises appeared as nothing more than thin amber rings around the black.

At that moment, Bakura felt his entire body seize up at the sight. The tension reached to formerly inconceivable levels. He felt Ryou's lips against his mouth reassuringly again as unbearable tautness suddenly relaxed. A shuddering sound ripped out of his throat.

When Bakura felt himself settle into the world again a moment later, he saw a fuzzy image of Ryou languidly taking something out of his own trouser's pockets. Rather, two things, as Bakura realized when his eyes focused again. One was a familiar tiny square, and the other a palm-sized bottle filled with a kind of transparent, viscous-looking liquid.

There was a sound of a wrapper being torn open.

"…Oh…god. You—you took that from my drawer!"

"Yes. I checked, expiration date's not for another year, luckily."

There was a sound of a bottle being popped open.

"You…you were carrying that around with you?"

"Mhmm." The other man uttered nothing more than a low, throaty murmur.

"…Ryou… why the fuck are you smiling like that? Quit it, it's fucking creepy…"

"…You've done so well on the receiving end so far. Surely this time as well will be all right?"

"Holy mother fucking shit! Ryou—"

…That scheming bastard.


As October drew to a close, so did the amount of warm days of the year. In fact, by the time October twenty third hit, the weather was reminiscent of early late February, when Bakura and Ryou had first met. Ryou hadn't bothered to break out his classic black pea coat and blue scarf just yet, but Bakura figured that it was about time to.

Nonetheless, Kyouko held stubbornly to the idea that the three of them should have one last get together outside on an unusually warm day forecasted two days ahead.

"An amusement park?" Bakura made a face when Kyouko first suggested the idea, and turned to roll to his other side and face the back of the sofa. "That's such a teenager dating spot! Besides, there's all that noise and mess. No way."

Kyouko whacked his back with a stuffed animal repeatedly. "But ji-chan! It'll be too cold to go later! Daddy says that tomorrow's going to be the last warm day of the year! If we don't go now, it's gonna start to snow and everything and then we'll have to wait 'til next year!" Kyouko pleaded.

"Then count me out. I don't want to go anytime of the year." He'd take the cotton-stuffed blows of Kyouko's plush cat anytime.

"But ji-chan!" Kyouko said again, grabbing at his exposed ear and tugging at it as she yelled. "I want you to come, too! It'll be so much more fun if you do!"

Bakura had too much of a soft spot for the girl.

It seemed that everyone in Domino Park had the same idea that the miraculously warm weather needed to be taken advantage of. Practically everyone was in short sleeved shirts. Even Bakura had given in to temptation and decided to only don a thin cotton tee shirt and jeans for the day. Ryou, of course, stuck to his usual long-sleeve button downs and trousers even at a place for fun, the weirdo.

After getting on a roller coaster with the two (and almost simultaneously vowing never to go on one again when the little boy in front of his seat upchucked a meter away), and then trying his hand (and failing quite miserably) at quite a large number of (most definitely rigged) carnival games, and after which they went on something called the 'Ultra-Spin' (which had that prefix for good reason), Bakura resigned to eating ridiculously overpriced food with Ryou and Kyouko at one of the smatter of tiny food stalls scattered around the park.

"Shit, it's hot," he muttered, fanning himself in vain with a hand. The luke-warm soda going down his throat wasn't helping either. "Ahh, I should've just stayed home."

"Maybe you should put your hair up in a ponytail, ji-chan! That's what Daddy always tells me to do when it gets too hot," Kyouko suggested brightly, slurping her own sugary drink with gusto that only a child could achieve.

"What? No, I look ridiculous when I do that."

"I'd rather put up with your embarrassment than your whining," Ryou said, setting down his sandwich. "Kyouko, let Daddy have one of your scrunchies." Kyouko obediently undid one of her pigtails and handed her father the bright pink hair tie with a rather ridiculous plastic cartoon figure's head on it.

"Aw, hell, no! You are not putting that in my hair—"

"Don't force me to take drastic measures, Bakura-san—" Ryou snapped, leaning over—

Bakura seldom put up his hair; first of all, it made the tangles in it very apparent if he didn't meticulously use a comb or brush while doing so, and secondly, it made him look—

"Ji-chan! You look so cute!" the girl bearing the twin hair tie exclaimed. "You should keep it up all the time!"

"I look like a girl!" Bakura snapped, trying to undo the horrifying pink monstrosity. "Shit, it's not coming out— Damn it, Ryou! Ouch, it's stuck!" Bakura pulled at the tie, yanking at the strands of hair that were tangled in it as well. "Oi! You did this on purpose!"

"What are you blathering about? If you combed your hair on a regular basis, then you wouldn't be having this problem. Just leave it there; I didn't bring a comb with me." Ryou innocently took a sip of his iced tea.

"What?"

"Yay! Ji-chan has to wear it all day now!"

Bakura groaned, smacking his forehead against the tiny (and probably germ-infested) table they sat around.

After a visit to the fun mirror house, and cackling loudly and obnoxiously when he watched Ryou walk right into a deceivingly normal mirror (and receiving a painful cuff from the annoyed man over the head afterwards), the three resigned to walk around the park for a bit.

"…Oh! Oh! Oh! Let's go on that one next!" Kyouko pointed eagerly at a purposely dilapidated building to their right after the three finished their food. 'Haunted House: Ride At Your Own Risk!' it read in blood-reminiscent kanji and hiragana. If that didn't clue one in on what freakish monstrosity it was, the drawn posters of visitors clasping at their faces and wailing in silent agony portrayed all that was needed about the attraction. "Can we, ji-chan?"

Bakura gave the building a once over and blanched. He was never incredibly fond of these kind of rides. There was something about random things purposely jumping out and scaring people that he found highly immoral. "…Ask your dad."

"Can we, Daddy?"

"Ask if ji-chan's afraid of a little haunted house."

"Ji-chan, Daddy asks if you're afraid of a little haunted house."

"Tell your dad that he's a jackass."

"Daddy, ji-chan says that you're a—"

"Bakura-san, watch your mouth. You will say no such thing, Kyouko."

A little while later, Bakura found himself staring at the plastic cartoon face attached to Kyouko's hair tie, listening to the awful creaking sounds of their cart rolling on the tracks through the dark building of the attraction. The little girl had decided to sit in the front of the four passenger cart all by herself, leaving her father and Bakura in the back.

Bakura could feel a cold sweat working over his entire body. "I don't know how your kid can stand this kind of stuff," Bakura hissed, palm flat against his rapidly beating heart as yet another mummified figure pounced out. Kyouko had just shrieked delightedly and clapped her hands in amusement. He glared at Ryou, who was sitting incredibly calmly with one leg over the other, hands folded on top of his knees. "And you, too! What the hell?"

"I happen to like 'this kind of stuff', Bakura-san. I find the occult and supernatural fascinating."

"…I always knew you were at least a little creepy."

Ryou snorted. "Either way, it's not my fault that you're so timid."

"I am not timid—" The burst of denial was quickly swallowed by the man's scream as a coffin on the side popped open.

"Of course not. Anyway, if you really are uncomfortable, just look for the exit signs. That should help you realize that this is fake." Ryou was giving him a disapproving look. Bakura could always tell, even in the pitch black.

"I know that this is all fake—" Cue another yelp as a loud scream erupted somewhere above them.

"Then perhaps you would like to hold my hand?" Ryou asked condescendingly. "Maybe that will help."

"Stop making fun of me!" Bakura snapped, which unfortunately came out as a whine instead.

Kyouko's joyous giggles echoed loudly, contrasting with Bakura's sudden yelps and screams as the ride continued.

Shortly after that fiasco, the three took a ride on a Ferris wheel that seemed to overlook the entirety of Domino City. The ride had thirteen cars attached. It looked like a death trap.

"We're so high up!" Kyouko yelled, peering out the glass plane of the window to look outside. She had placed her knees on her plastic seat, pressing her face and hands against the thick glass. "Daddy, ji-chan, look outside! It's so pretty outside!"

Bakura spared a glance outside. "Yeah. Nice." He didn't have much of an affinity for heights, either.

"We should stay here forever!" Kyouko suddenly said, whipping her head to the side to face her father and Bakura. "Can we?"

"You wish, kid," Bakura grumbled, rubbing tiredly at his face. He gave a half-hearted stretch. "I can't wait to get home."

"That's what I mean! We should stay in Domino City forever! Me, Daddy, and ji-chan!" Kyouko jumped out of her seat and plopped herself unceremoniously between the two adults, landing on one of either of their laps. "Sorry, ji-chan!" she quickly said when Bakura squawked out loud and nearly doubled over at the unexpected weight. "Can we?" she asked again, cocking her head back to stare at them above her.

"…Of course, Kyouko," Ryou said softly, patting her head and readjusting her glasses, which had tilted in her jump.

The other white-haired man stared out at the bright sky, noting the slow, fluffy clouds drifting drowsily by. "…Yeah. That would be nice, I think," Bakura added finally. "That would be really nice."

The three had some cotton candy— Ryou's treat— shortly afterwards and decided to call it a day. As they crossed the park towards the entrance, though, Kyouko urgently pulled them back with sticky hands: "Wait, wait! We haven't gone on that yet!" She pointed at the carousel located right on the left. "Can we go on that one before leaving? It has horses!" She paused. "Though the ones that ji-chan draw are prettier."

"You are going to get sick if you ride on that." Ryou was aghast, and shook his head firmly. "You just ate!"

"Aww, but Daddy…"

Bakura, who was quite pleased by the indirect compliment, decided to interject. "It doesn't matter; we'll just throw up in your dad's car anyway if anywhere. He'll be the one to clean it up," Bakura said nonchalantly to Kyouko, who nodded fervently to Bakura's logic.

"That's what you think, Bakura-san—"

"Let's go, kid," Bakura said loudly, effectively cutting off Ryou. "Last ride of the day!"

"Yay!"

"I'll wait at the side. Don't expect any sympathetic words from me when something happens."

The two wormed their way into the carousel line and waited their turn. It was a pretty big attraction, complete with the grainy, music-box-like sound and bright light bulbs adorning the sides. In the bustle, Ryou had disappeared among the masses of other parents with their children. After he made sure that Kyouko was hanging tightly to the pole attached to the gigantic, extravagantly adorned and colorful pony, Bakura swung a leg over his own ride right beside her, on another just as decorative steed.

As the ride started, Bakura could hear Kyouko squealing with glee. And soon, they were spinning at such a speed that made everything rather blurry. The only way Bakura could tell that Kyouko hadn't flown out of her seat was by her laughter, high and cheery. And yet, even as the world spun around the two, Bakura was pretty sure that he could make out a white-haired man with a stern expression and gloved hands standing just outside the gate surrounding the carousel.

Bakura knew that it was pointless to wave at the figure; it was doubtful that anyone in the crowd would be able to see him, especially since the ride was going so fast. Yet there was another reason as well:

Bakura knew that Ryou would still be standing there afterwards.

After taking a needed bathroom break, the three began their journey back home. The sun had already begun to set by the time Ryou made it to the highway, creating a rosy glow in the sky that sighed warmth despite the late time of the year. Kyouko had fallen asleep in the back seat sometime during the ride, leaving the two adults in the front by themselves.

"Shit. What a day." Bakura groaned a bit as he attempted to stretch his arms in the confines of the car. "Oh, fuck, my back hurts. I'm definitely going to feel that tomorrow."

Ryou made a noncommittal sound.

"Damn it, Ryou, don't you care? I'm in pain here."

"Don't be so dramatic; you're acting as if you're an old man."

"Hey! I am in pain! And I'll have you know that my birthday's coming up. I'm not getting any younger."

"Yes, I know. November eleventh," Ryou said, and then muttered under his breath, "But still an age where you should hardly be complaining about body aches."

Bakura pretended that he didn't hear that last jibe. "Well, shit. I didn't think you'd remember." Bakura had to admit that he was slightly flattered.

"Yes, well, whatever imaginary pain you're feeling, you'll heal by the time your birthday comes around," he said off-handedly as he drove the car onto a highway. Ryou turned to him then and smiled a quirky little smile before going back to face the road.

"You're such a horny bastard, Ryou," Bakura muttered petulantly.

"I know. I don't consider that as a complaint."

"Fuck you."

"Hmm. Is that my gift to you, then?"

"Oh, shut up." After a few minutes of comfortable silence, Bakura spoke up again. "Hey, Ryou." The topic of birthdays gifts had rung a bell in his head. In particular, the gift that Bakura had gotten for Ryou. He was rather surprised that it had never surfaced in his mind. But then, the present and future were much more promising than remaining in the past. Either way, it seemed like now would be a good opportunity to ask…

"Yes?"

"About your birthday. You know, in September."

"Yes, my birthday is in September, but thank you for clarifying. What about it? It's passed already."

"I know that! I meant my gift!" Bakura swallowed. "The gift that I got for you— the drawing that I made," he elaborated rather ineloquently, in case the man couldn't remember. "Do you…still have it or anything?" he asked, trying to sound indifferent.

"Of course. It's at home." Ryou said in reply, undivided attention on the road ahead of them. There was heavy traffic on the highway, and the car came to a complete stop before long.

"…Oh." Bakura cleared his throat after a moment. "Well, did you like it?"

Ryou turned to him and blinked rapidly behind his glasses, as if he was taken back by the question. "Of course," he said again. "Haven't I ever thanked you for it?"

"Err…No, actually."

Ryou blinked again. "That's right, I haven't." A corner of his lips tilted into the familiar curl again. It was odd how quickly the look had become so natural on him. "…But you're expecting a 'thank you' now."

"Well…" Bakura trailed off and immediately scowled. "Well, if you're going to get all shirty about it..." he snapped, turning the other way so that the man couldn't see his expression.

Ryou supplied him with another smile. "Thank you. It was very beautiful. You have a lot of talent."

Bakura grunted.

"You don't think I mean it?"

"How would I know if you meant—" Bakura began to grouch. But before he could finish his sentence, Bakura suddenly found his head being cradled by a careful hand and his lips against Ryou's again. The kiss was brief but warm, and as usual, it left Bakura very breathless. Bakura traced his hand over his lips afterwards and felt the old heat rushing to his face.

"I'm not very good with words, as you know…so I hope that conveyed my gratitude a bit better."

Bakura nodded weakly.

"Did it?" Ryou's tone was slightly teasing.

Bakura immediately flushed puce again. He didn't think he'd ever be able to stop turning that particular shade. "Yes, damn you! You know I can't think when you do that!"

Ryou laughed; it was the crisp, clear sound that made Bakura turn a deeper hue of purple. It was strange how this sound became so natural on Ryou as well. When his laughing died down, Ryou gave the man beside him another thin smile. "Thank you, Bakura."

"You said that already," Bakura snapped accusatorially, noting that Ryou had dropped the usual honorific from his name.

"No." Ryou took hold of Bakura's hand and squeezed gently. Even through the glove, the man could tell Ryou's hand was very warm. Bakura blinked dumbly up at the smiling man. "Thank you for everything."


A while later back at Kaiba Corp, the Great Exalted Ruler known as Kaiba Seto was once again having a self-induced heart attack, this time over some internet phenomenon called KOGTAS or something. After the aggravated shouting of 'I'm going to sue the pants off of this guy' and 'This is what he's going to get for messing with Kaiba Seto' carried over onto another floor, Bakura simply rolled his eyes and went back to work.

The Big Man was without doubt going to have himself in a hospital bed before Christmas rolled around. That was saying something, seeing that the holidays were just a few weeks away.

A few minutes of drawing away on his tablet later, then man sighed. The white-haired man could tell when he was being spied on. And he was definitely being spied on at the moment. "Mutou, quit lurking around," Bakura said, not even bothering to look away from the computer screen. "You're utter shit at hiding your hair."

"Darn it!" a voice coming from behind an (unusually colored) fake, small Christmas tree at the side of their workspace said. Yuugi popped into sight over the tiny green foliage. "Was I that obvious?" the man pouted, sitting in his seat.

"Yes," Bakura deadpanned, continuing to draw on his graphics tablet. "Extremely obvious. So obvious that a blind person could have seen you."

"Wow, Youtai-kun! You're expressive today," the shorter man said, taking this as his cue to roll over on his chair. Resting his chin on his palms against Bakura's desk, Yuugi stared at Bakura.

"What?" Bakura grouched after it seemed pretty apparent that Yuugi would have been content eyeing Bakura for the rest of the day in that position.

"You look happy today, Youtai-kun. So I'm glad." Yuugi beamed widely.

"Shut up. You're just filled with that cheesy crap, aren't you?"

Yuugi simply laughed again, and settled down to watching him with that grin again. Bakura opened a new bag of chips; he still had a liking for them, although the need for the stuff certainly wasn't as strong as it was before… because of Ryou.

Aware that Yuugi was still happily watching him, Bakura realized that he would have been lying if he said that he wasn't the slightest bit sorry for neglecting Yuugi for the past… month, now that he thought about it. He had made up with Marik a long time ago; rather, Yuugi had been the one to say that Bakura needn't explain to him about whatever was on his mind if the man didn't want to.

But it was perhaps just still a sliver a guilt that caused him to say:

"I had a dream with you in it a while back, I think. At least, I'm pretty sure it was you." Bakura frowned. He wondered what made him think of that dream all of a sudden. He could no longer remember how the man in his dream was dressed like, or the exact things that he said. He did remember the hair, though— who could ever forget that hairstyle? Hmm. It was probably Yuugi then; no one else that he knew had anything remotely like it.

Yuugi immediately lit up like Bakura thought he would. "Really? What was I doing? Did I say something really deep and mind-blowing?"

Bakura grunted, rubbing his chin slowly as he tried to recall it. "I don't really remember. You were just kind of standing there. And you said something weird in it. Weirder than what you say in real life, I mean."

"Oh, wow, Youtai-kun! That's so super special awesome! I came to you in a vision?"

"What the hell? When did a little dream become a fucking vision?" Bakura rolled his eyes towards the ceiling. "I don't remember what you said anymore, anyway."

"Even so, Youtai-kun! I bet it has some really important significance. Like predicting the future! Or fulfilling your destiny!"

"Yeah, you're definitely filled with that cheesy crap today."

"Aww, don't be like that!" Yuugi scooted closer in his chair. "You know, Youtai-kun. I said it once, but I'll say it again: You look über happy today! What gives?"

Bakrua grunted, but didn't respond.

"And," the man sang the word, "I've been noticing that you've been leaving as soon as you can lately again." Yuugi elbowed him in his side. "Could this smiling, talking side of Youtai-kun possibly have to do with that?"

Bakura frowned. Did he not smile or talk otherwise? "I'm pretty sure that we had this exact conversation before, Mutou. What happened to the whole I'll-wait-until-you-tell-me shit?"

"I got bored of that," was the pointy-haired man's casual answer.

"…Figures."

"Oh, come on! I really want to know!" Yuugi wheedled childishly. "If you finally tell me, then I wouldn't have to keep asking you!" Bakura rolled his eyes at this statement. They were back to the old days, it seemed. "I promise!" Yuugi continued. He put on his kicked-puppy dog face. "Don't you trust your super special awesome friend?"

"I trust you about as far as I can throw you," Bakura answered snarkily.

"Wow! That would be really far! You trust me that much?" Yuugi whacked a hand over his chest, roughly where his heart would be. "T-That's really flattering, Youtai-kun! I'm really touched!" Yuugi's eyes had turned runny, like large purple raw eggs.

Bakura groaned. "Oh, you're not going to start sniffling on me, are you?" Yuugi shook his head, biting his wobbling lip almost comically. After giving the other man a long study, frown still deep set on his face, the white-haired man leaned back into his chair and thought for a moment. He'll admit it (though never out loud, and certainly never to the short man in front of him), Yuugi was a good guy. He never did apologize to him, even if Yuugi did imply that it was alright that he didn't… Maybe he should let Yuugi into the loop for once. The guy did wait all this time, after all.

"Fine, damn it." Bakura slowly reached for a chip from his potato chip bag and crunched on it. After thinking about how to explain everything for a moment or so, a smirk surfaced on Bakura's lips as he said this: "Remember my neighbor? I'm doing him…"

Yuugi nodded understandingly, waiting patiently for Bakura to finish his bite so that he could finish his sentence. "You said this before. A favor, right?" he supplied helpfully.

Actually, what Yuugi suggested was kind of true. Ryou had in fact convinced him to pick Kyouko up after school today; the other had some extra things to do at Satou Prep and wouldn't be able to make it to the school in time.

As such, Bakura's grin became wider. Yuugi was going to have an absolute field day with this. Ah, well. Might as well get comfortable. He casually placed another chip in his mouth before leaning back in his chair.

"That, too."


Author's Note:

I love uproar endings, don't you? I think this is why I ended with Bakura and Yuugi talking with each other, rather than something else, like Bakura and Ryou talking or doing something. Haha, I really love Yuugi in general, and I have a bit of a soft spot for him especially in this fic (shameless me). I've always imagined those two ending this story, with Bakura finally 'giving in' to Yuugi's demands. Yuugi gets what he deserves! XD

Whoops, almost forgot: *puts on the song 'So Contagious' by the artist Acceptance.* This was the song that the lovely Raine20oo used for her manga music video for this fan fiction. The link to the Youtube video can be found on my profile. It was suggested by the helpful KuroTsubasaKun to put this song in the story, but I really had no idea where I could fit it. So here it is in the ending credits, eh?

I would have split this chapter up into smaller bits—I try to make each chapter about eight thousand words each, but because of my crappy updating skills, I've just been finishing chunks and chunks that are close to or about twice that amount and uploading those. Hahaha… That's why this is how a bunch of updates for this story happened, I think. I'd have split this chapter into two if I managed to update sometime between August and December of last year. T_T

It's the second year anniversary from when this story was published! Exactly two years ago on January 15th, 2010, I posted this up on this site. Finished it just in time for the virtual celebration. Here's some apple cider for you!

References! First off, Domino Park does exist in the original Yugioh! series. Yuugi and Anzu went on a date there, complete with a roller coaster, a 13 car Ferris Wheel (though the cars exploded on Yuugi's date), and even an Ultra-Spin in the background. For YGOTAS, there were three references to the show! One was Marik playing the game 'Bloodlines'. The second one was the dressing up as pirates and cowboys… And I don't need to point out the third one, I think. Ahh, I hope that last one made sense.

Ryou with his canon fascination with the occult and supernatural does appear in another fan fiction: the first one I ever posted up, now called 'His Iron Throne.' Currently, I am still drafting the rewrite.

Ahh, that damn M-rated scene. That option in the poll won in a landslide victory. 55:13 ratio. 80 percent of voters voted 'yay'for the explicit scene, and 19 percent (doesn't even add up to a full one hundred ._.) for 'nay.' Majority rules, I guess… I tried my best with the scene. *headdesk* As you guys can see, I like writing stories with no iron-wall seme/ uke relationships unless there are very specific reasons.

Did the title of this chapter clue you in? 'Muse.' To tell you guys the truth, I kind of wondered why the hell I chose such a silly title for this story at first: 'Of Elevators and Muses,' but now I guess it's all for the best. Ahahahaha. Click on the chapter title scroll option. See the title of the first chapter? This truly has been a story about elevators and muses, hasn't it?

This isn't the end of my fan fiction writing career, I hope. If you enjoyed this story, please feel free to read the other stuff I've posted up. There are still many new stories I have yet to write as well! Whether you've been around since this story was just published, came here via deviantART, or just decided to pick this up and read this story just now, thank you all for reading.

Peace out, my friends, and please leave a few words of thought on your way out. :)

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