Title: A Persistent Shadow (Chapter 27)
: Ryou Bakura x Yami Bakura
: M
: The Pharaoh uses a spell to force Yami Bakura out of Ryou's body, but unfortunately for Ryou it doesn't work quite as well as intended.

Ryou blinked his eyes open, momentarily confused about where he was. He sat up and looked around, deeply relieved to find himself back in the museum. The glass mirror in the middle of the room was pitch black, and it now had perfectly symmetrical cracks radiating out from the center. The smoke was gone.

The spirit was on the floor next to him, still apparently unconscious. Ryou tentatively touched his face, wondering how he must feel after everything that had just happened. Ryou himself felt incredibly drained, and it hadn't even been his memory that they'd experienced.

The spirit's eyes opened, and Ryou quickly took his hand away. He looked the spirit over carefully, knowledge of what they'd just seen not far from his mind. The spirit sat up and scowled at him. I'm not a child, Landlord. You don't need to be so... concerned about me.

Yes, I do, Ryou thought back stubbornly, though he had to admit the spirit didn't sound like he was secretly distressed. Maybe a little vulnerable.

I am not any such thing, the spirit protested, crossing his arms. I suppose I should just be happy you're not trying to hug me again, he added disdainfully, glare shifting to the wall behind Ryou. His eyes darted back to Ryou's face for an almost imperceptible moment before quickly returning to the wall.

Yeah, that would be annoying of me, Ryou agreed, firmly wrapping his arms around the spirit.

The spirit dropped his arms to his sides, posing as though suffering some grave indignity. This is foolish.

I know, Ryou thought back, completely unconcerned.

"Hmph," the spirit replied, hugging him back with an exaggerated reluctance somewhat ruined by the strength of the embrace.

"That looks so strange," Yugi said, looking over from his spot on the museum floor. "It's like you're hugging thin air. Is he right there?"

"Yeah," Marik said, standing up and dusting himself off. "I can see him, too."

"He's here," Ryou said before he could think about it. "Hey, my voice is back," he added, letting go of the spirit to feel his throat with one hand. The pain was gone, and the skin was smooth, as though he'd never even had a sword pressed against it.

"That's good," Yugi said. He turned to look at the blackened glass in the middle of the room. "So, that's what... ah!" Yugi jumped up and ran over to the glass, kneeling down in front of it.

"What?" Ryou asked, fearing the worst. "What is it?"

"Is he okay?" Marik asked Yugi.

Yugi moved back a little, but didn't say anything. His eyes moved along a strange path, starting out aimed at the floor and ending up looking right in front of him, seemingly at nothing.

"The Pharaoh?" Ryou guessed.

"Huh?" Yugi said, sounding like his attention had been somewhere else entirely. "Oh, yeah, he's here. And he's mostly okay. Still a little sick because of the ghosts..." Yugi trailed off, clearly already distracted again.

That is weird to see, Ryou thought, wondering what the Pharaoh was telling them. He didn't ask, though, not wanting to interrupt him while he was talking about something important.

Please, the spirit said, rolling his eyes. He's just using the opportunity to go on about his noble deed.

You don't know that, Ryou protested.

"You saw it ninety-nine times?" Marik exclaimed.

Ryou wished the spirit wouldn't smirk at him like that. It's not an unreasonable thing for him to be talking about right now, he insisted.

Ryou surveyed the rest of the room, eyes widening when he saw the items – or rather, what was left of them – scattered around the floor near where Yugi had been.

Ryou got up and hurried over to get a closer look. What had probably been the Millennium Ring was now nothing more than a vaguely disk-like hunk of gold. The other items were in similar condition. There were a few bar-like forms that Ryou could identify as the scale, the rod, and the key based on size, while being fairly sure that the almost pyramid-shaped one was the remains of the puzzle. The necklace might have still been usable as a necklace, but only by someone with a very oddly shaped head.

Ryou thought the eye was missing for a moment, but he quickly saw that it had rolled into the corner of the room when it had escaped the bag with the other items. He walked over to it, wondering whether he should pick it up. Was it really just a lump of gold now? Was it safe to touch?

It's perfectly safe, the spirit told him, appearing at his side.

So destroying the items in the memory destroyed them here, too? Ryou asked, thinking it was almost too good to be true.

It was a shadow game, the spirit replied. In order for the items in the memory to be capable of summoning him in the real world, he had to link their fates to the real items. A strategy which obviously backfired on him, the spirit added smugly.

At least it can't happen ever again, Ryou thought, staring at the gold blob resting in the corner.

The spirit glanced over at the others, then looked at Ryou. Put it in your pocket.

What? Ryou asked, confused. Why?

It's no longer a Millennium Item, but it's still a large, valuable piece of gold, the spirit said impatiently. They aren't paying any attention. Even you could do it without them noticing.

I'm not stealing anything, Ryou thought adamantly.

Technically, the Pharaoh stole the eye from us to begin with, the spirit pointed out.

After you stole it from Pegasus, Ryou thought back, not remotely swayed by the spirit's argument. He picked up the piece of gold and set it on the table next to the box. He was about to go retrieve the other items from the floor when he noticed the little figures on top of the box and remembered why Marik had brought them. He took the paper Marik had given him out of his pocket and read it over again. It really wouldn't be that difficult, would it?

The spirit said nothing.

Ryou put the paper back in his pocket and picked up the figure of himself. After a moment's thought, he grabbed the one of Yugi as well.

That was apparently worth a comment from the spirit. Really? You want to give him a body even after everything he did?

I want to give you a body even after everything you did, Ryou pointed out. And anyway, I don't think it's really my decision. Ryou handed the figure to a bewildered Yugi.

"Um. Thanks?" Yugi said. "Isn't this part of the diorama you made?"

Ryou nodded, a little surprised that Yugi had even remembered it. "Could you tell him what it's for?" he asked Marik.

"Yeah," Marik said, smiling warmly. "There's a knife in that one," he added, pointing to one of the display cases.

"Thanks," Ryou said, retrieving the knife from the case as Marik explained the spell to Yugi. He put Yugi's bag and the rest of the items on the table to get them out of the way, then set the figure down on the floor. He sat cross-legged in front of it.

"Are you sure we have a sympathetic bond?" Yugi asked Marik, not sounding so certain of it himself.

"I'm sure," Marik said, putting a hand on his shoulder. "It's the only reason you can see him right now – since the exorcism was successful in your case, it can only due to a bond you both formed voluntarily."

Yugi didn't say anything, and Ryou was too busy reading over the spell to see his face. He recited the words under his breath a few times for practice. Once he had them memorized, he handed the paper over to Yugi. He was about to start the spell when he realized he didn't have a bandage for his hand once he'd cut it. He hesitated for a few seconds, then took off his outer shirt, too impatient to do the spell to wait for better preparation. I never liked this shirt anyway, he thought as he cut a few strips of fabric off, then set the whole thing in a neat pile next to him.

It is of the worse examples of your fashion sense, the spirit agreed, appearing on the floor on the other side of the figure.

Ryou held his left hand out over the figure and readied the knife with his right. He said the short spell he'd memorized and made a small cut in the fleshy part of his hand, wincing a little at the pain. He set the knife down and squeezed his hand to drop blood on the figure, then said the words of the spell again.

The effect was immediate. The spirit was sucked down into the tiny figure, which already looked more lifelike. Ryou barely had time to grab one of his makeshift bandages before the figure began to grow. It quickly lost the appearance it had had as small doll, the blue clothing becoming flesh colored and then losing the form of clothing entirely. The skin darkened into a tan as the form grew larger. By the time Ryou had wound the bandage around his hand and tied it off, the figure – no, the body – was almost as big as he was.

Soon the body was even bigger than Ryou's, and it eventually settled on the same size and shape as the spirit's body in the memory. The eyes blinked open, not in confusion, but in an obvious test of the body's ability to function. The mouth opened and closed, fingers bent and formed into fists, and toes wiggled. The knees and elbows bent one at a time, then all together at once, and then the whole body stretched out and sat up.

Ryou barely noticed Yugi take the knife from the floor and move to the other side of the room.

The spirit... no, he wasn't a spirit anymore. What should I call him? Ryou wondered. Akefia?

That got a sharp look in response. "No," the person in front of him said, or rather, coughed. "No," he said again, this time in a normal speaking voice. "Thief King will suffice."

"I can't just call you Thief King," Ryou protested, though he didn't have anything much better in mind. In its own way, the thought of calling him Akefia was even stranger than calling him Thief King, since it made him think of the little boy the spirit had been in the past, rather than who he was in the present.

"Really?" the Thief King asked, in a tone that made Ryou very, very conscious of the unclothed body right in front of him. He blushed slightly, trying not to look at the area his eyes were suddenly being drawn to. The Thief King only grinned, pushing him to the ground and climbing right on top of him. "I seem to remember having this discussion before," he said, face directly above Ryou's. "I'm not sure why you think you're more likely to win this time."

"Er..." Ryou said intelligently, face turning bright red. He very distinctly remembered their last... discussion... about whether or not Ryou would ever call him 'Thief King'. The spirit had managed to reduce Ryou to a complete mess, and he'd only been, well, a spirit. He hadn't had a strong, warm body like the one pressing Ryou into the floor right then. Ryou hadn't been able to touch his chest and feel a heartbeat, and Ryou certainly hadn't been able to feel any physical signs of the spirit's interest against his thigh. At least we know that works, Ryou thought, already somewhat dazed.

"Do we?" the Thief King asked. "I don't believe we've tested it thoroughly enough to say." He kissed Ryou, more softly than Ryou would have expected.

Ryou groaned, burying his fingers in his hair. They'd kissed before, but it had never been anything like this. The Thief King's mouth was hot and wet and breathing, for that matter. The quick panting coming out of him may not have been as obviously desperate as Ryou's, but it was still there, and every hitch in his breath sent a thrill down Ryou's spine. I can affect him as much as he affects me!

Ryou was starting to lose what little awareness he had of their surroundings when a canvas painter's tarp was thrown on top of them. Ryou blinked up in surprise, eyes meeting an embarrassed-looking Marik.

"You can finish your... um... testing later," he said, cheeks tinged with pink.

"R-right," Ryou said, trying and failing to sound normal. This isn't a very appropriate place for this, he thought. He looked around, finding both the Pharaoh and Yugi staring at them, Yugi in innocent, wide-eyed shock, the Pharaoh in mild distaste. Ryou didn't know if it was because of what he was doing, where he was doing it, or who he was doing it with. All seemed equally plausible. Ryou slid out from under the Thief King, not wanting to shove him off and accidentally subject his friends to more things they probably didn't want to see. He pulled his knees up to his chest.

"Relax, Landlord," the Thief King said. "There's no reason to get worked up over what people think."

Ryou didn't agree with that, but he disputed a different point. "I'm not really your landlord anymore."

The Thief King looked unconcerned. "I never said I was moving out."

Ryou felt a new warmth in his chest. He hadn't given much thought to where the Thief King would stay after he had a body. Before that day, he'd always assumed that he'd disappear as soon as he'd gotten what he needed. Ryou didn't think it would be a problem if he stayed – it wasn't like his father would notice. Of course... "Um. Technically Ishizu is our landlord right now," he said, looking at Marik.

"He can probably stay while you're staying," Marik said. "Since he helped to stop Zorc. He'll, uh, have to wear clothes, though."

"I'll do my best to obtain some," the Thief King said, looking far too pleased by the thought.

"You can wear my clothes," Ryou offered. Please, please don't steal anything.

"I'm not wearing those," the Thief King replied. "They wouldn't fit me anyway."

Ryou realized he was right about that. Both the Pharaoh and the Thief King were too big to fit into his, Yugi's, or even Marik's clothes. The Pharaoh had wrapped a painter's tarp around himself into a sort of skirt, but he didn't seem pleased with the material, or with the dirt on it.

"I think we have some spare uniforms around here somewhere," Marik said. "For the janitors and security guards. I'll go grab them." He walked over to the door and opened it, then backed away immediately. "Er..."

"What is it?" Ryou asked.

He got his answer when Detective Lawson walked into the room and looked around, eyes immediately fixing on Ryou. "You! I should have known you would be involved in this somehow."

"Involved in what?" Ryou asked, the accusing tone in the detective's voice making him nervous. "What's going on?"

"We've been trying to get in here for nearly an hour," the detective said. "Someone saw smoke in the window," the detective gestured at a small window at the top of the outside wall, "and called in. The fire department determined that there wasn't enough heat for it to be a fire, but we couldn't get the door open. Why did you have the doors locked?"

"We didn't," Marik said. He pointed at the door handle. "These doors don't lock from the inside."

The detective inspected the door, and quickly realized that Marik was telling the truth. He took a key out of his pocket and tried in the lock. It turned easily. "That... we tried this key several times and..." The detective shook his head and handed the key to Ishizu, who had quietly followed him into the room. "Here's your key back, ma'am."

"Thank you, Detective," Ishizu replied, somewhat overly patiently.

"What exactly were you five doing in here?" the detective asked, looking back and forth between the Thief King and the Pharaoh. Ryou was relieved to see that the Thief King had pulled the tarp around himself into a makeshift skirt much the way the Pharaoh had.

"We were practicing a historical reenactment," the Thief King said smoothly. "One of the artifacts we were using broke unexpectedly, releasing a strange smoke into the air. We were all unconscious until a few minutes ago."

"A historical reenactment?" the detective repeated, sounding like he didn't believe a word of it.

"Yes," the Thief King said.

"I'll just go get their normal clothes from the supply closet," Marik said, moving toward the door. "So they can, uh, change out of their costumes."

"Hold it," the detective said, putting a hand in front of Marik to stop him from leaving. "If your story's true, you're all going to need to be checked out by the paramedics."

"I'll get their clothes," Ishizu said. "You can take them to my office to be checked out."

After being looked over by the paramedics, the five were each questioned about what happened by Detective Lawson, thankfully while still in the same room. Ishizu brought the spare janitor's clothes from the supply closet, having no difficulty figuring out what Marik meant.

Ryou kept his own story vague, so that he wouldn't have to remember invented details or risk contradicting anyone else's story. The Thief King kept trying to prompt him with more details in his mind, which was more distracting than helpful.

The paramedics found nothing wrong with any of them, but they were amazed at the state of both the Pharaoh and the Thief King's bodies. "It's like you've never been sick or injured in your whole life!" one had exclaimed.

Eventually, Detective Lawson left. "There doesn't seem to have been an actual crime committed here," he said, though he sounded somewhat doubtful about this, and clearly still didn't believe the story they'd been telling. He had, at least, taken their word for it that the Pharaoh and the Thief King were Yugi and Ryou's cousins, respectively. Ishizu had taken the offhand declaration that the Thief King was staying with Ryou in her house remarkably well, giving absolutely no sign that she'd never heard anything about it until that very moment.

Once the detective had gone, walking out the door muttering something about needing a normal case for once, Marik gave Ishizu the real explanation of what happened.

"Well, he really can stay with us if he agrees not to cause any trouble," Ishizu said afterward. "It's a relief to know that the most terrible future I saw with the necklace will definitely never come to pass."

"We're all relieved at that," the Pharaoh said.

"We should celebrate," Yugi said, bouncing up and down.

"I'll call the others," Marik said, picking up the office phone.

The Thief King made as though to leave, but Ryou caught his hand.

I don't belong with these people, Landlord, the Thief King told him. And your friends may be upset with you if I'm there.

I don't care, Ryou thought. And he really didn't, he realized. He knew the others might be upset with him, especially when they heard about how he'd lied, but he was content with the way things had worked out.

Alright, the Thief King agreed.

The party at the museum lasted until midnight, cut short only by the fact that most of the participants had school the next morning. Everyone in Domino with a connection to the items had come and listened to the story of their destruction. They were all horrified by the tale of their creation and glad that they had been destroyed – all except for Kaiba, who had been dragged there by Mokuba and thought the entire story was nonsense from start to finish. They gave everyone a look at the ruined items before locking them away in one of the museum's safes.

Afterwards, the event had turned to more normal party activities – music, eating, and dancing. The Thief King had been annoyed to see that Yugi's friends had basically accepted him after they'd heard the whole story, and had made a point to liberate most of their things from them. Fortunately, Ryou had noticed before the party ended and had forced him to give the things back to their original owners. The Thief King had spent the rest of the time eating like a complete maniac – or perhaps just like someone who hadn't eaten anything in months.

The Pharaoh and the Thief King seemed to have formed an unspoken truce, avoiding each other the whole time instead of fighting. Once the party was over, the Pharaoh had gone off with Yugi and his grandpa, barely giving the Thief King a second glance as they passed by. Ryou supposed it was as good as could be hoped for.

Ishizu had brought them all home and retired to her room after telling them not to stay up too much later. Marik had gone to his own room after assuring Ryou that he would never, ever go into his room while the door was closed. "Never, ever, ever. No matter what noises I hear. See you tomorrow."

"Good night," Ryou said, leading the Thief King to their room.

The Thief King immediately rid himself of his shirt and plopped down on the bed. He leered at Ryou. "I'd say this is an appropriate place, don't you think?"

"But not an appropriate..." Ryou was overcome by a yawn. "Not an appropriate time," he finished. He slipped off his clothes, intending to put on his pajama bottoms. The Thief King pulled him onto the bed before he could slide them over his legs.

"Are you sure about that?" the Thief King asked, giving Ryou's body a very tempting caress.

"Mm. Yes, I'm sure," Ryou said, managing to get the pajama bottoms on in spite of the distraction. "Aren't you tired?" he asked. Ryou himself felt like he hadn't slept in days. In a way he hadn't, given how much time they'd spent in the memory.

"I never get tired," the Thief King declared. The effect was ruined by a yawn toward the end of the sentence. The Thief King scowled. "I never get too tired to do what I want to," he amended.

"Well, I do," Ryou said, turning off the lamp and plopping down on top of him. Ryou cuddled up to him and pulled the blanket over them, enjoying the feel of bare skin against his chest. He gave the Thief King an enthusiastic, if sleepy, kiss. There's always tomorrow morning.

I'm holding you to that, Landlord, the Thief King thought back, shifting the pillow around until he found a comfortable position. He wrapped his arms around Ryou.

Good, Ryou thought, already half-asleep. His breathing slowed as he relaxed into the warm body beneath him. He soon dozed off, distantly thinking that if he could have this every night, he'd have a very happy life.

A/N: So that's it. Wow. Thanks to everyone who stuck with this story! I hope it was worth it :)

I'm already thinking about my next story. It won't be a sequel to this, and it's probably going to be very different from this one (being Marik x Ryou, for one thing). I'll be posting the first chapter sometime soon, so be on the look out for that if you're interested.

Once again, thanks for sticking with this story through over 100,000 words! (I still can't believe I wrote that much)