A/N: This started as a oneshot, but because the story kept expanding on me, it turned into a five-chapter story, though this is definitely the longest chapter. It's all written, just being edited now, so there will be frequent updates. :)

Thanks so much to ChaosRocket for beta-ing this story!

Disclaimer: I don't own Yu-Gi-Oh!

Chapter One

Malik couldn't take his eyes off the prisoner. Even as the thief was led into the courtyard of the palace, his wrists and ankles bound in iron chains, Malik was thunderstruck by the thief's appearance. His wild white hair was exotic. The scar that ran down the length of his face, under his right eye, was devilish.

"After lengthy consideration by the Great Kenbet," one of the council members of the Pharaoh's court pronounced, standing above the congregation that anticipated the verdict, "this man has been charged with treacherous actions against the Kingdom."

The guard that led the thief toward the center of the courtyard suddenly shoved the thief forward, causing him to tumble to the ground, face-first into the cobblestones. The thief rolled over, lying on the ground, still bound by the chains, and glowered up at the guard. Blood slowly seeped through his white hair from the spot on his forehead which had smacked into the cement. The guard detachedly grabbed the thief by his arm and hauled him upward, standing him by the stake that had been erected in the center of the courtyard.

"He is sentenced to death."

Malik, standing by his sister Isis, beside the other council members and the Pharaoh himself, was transfixed. His insides had frozen at that statement. Yet another reason, he thought bitterly, to hate the Pharaoh that stood only feet from him, who had ordered the thief's death.

Pity gnawed on Malik's heart, to see this young, exotic man be sentenced to death, and by impalement no less. It was said that death by impalement meant one's ba, or soul, would become imprisoned on the ground of execution, and would be unable to follow the deceased into the afterlife.

Aknadin, a member of the Pharaoh's court, approached the thief, who stared straight ahead without fear or remorse, even as the blood on his forehead slid down the graceful curve of his face. Malik examined him with great interest and compassion. The thief was only wearing a waistcloth. His bronze body was bruised and beaten. Just as the thief was being brought in, Malik had caught sight of long, deep gashes in the prisoner's back, which had been lashed and broken open even before the execution. Malik felt sympathy swim in his stomach. Though Malik knew that this man had probably committed crimes worth of death, somehow he was compelled to think otherwise. To think that, maybe, he should not suffer such a fate.

"Thief," Aknadin addressed the prisoner. "Before you are executed, do you have anything to say for your actions?"

The thief said nothing. He simply stared past Aknadin, as though not even seeing him. Malik, watching on, thought maybe the pain from the lashings was so great, the thief could no longer feel anything. Perhaps he'd crawled into a corner of his mind to avoid the beatings, humiliation, and execution. His white hair was now streaked with blood and dirt. His eyes looked dead.

"How did you dare, thief?" Aknadin continued, undeterred by his silence. "How did you dare to enter the sacred tomb of one of our former Pharaohs and desecrate his belongings?"

The crowd that had gathered in the courtyard watched in interest, murmuring. Malik's heart twisted with hatred for the way this prisoner was being treated. The prisoner was given no name; he was merely called thief because to give him a name would be to acknowledge his existence, to recognize that he had some worth to the Kingdom.

But something compelled Malik to believe the thief wasn't wholly wicked. Something, and Malik couldn't fathom what, compelled him to save him.

Aknadin looked angry now. "Do you have no answer for us? You show no guilt for the sacrilege you've committed—stealing from the very tomb of a Pharaoh!"

The thief continued to stare forward, unseeingly.

This caused Aknadin to act in fury at being ignored. He grabbed a handful of the thief's hair and hauled him forward. The thief, with his ankles still chained, tripped and fell forward, only to be stopped by the merciless tug on his hair. Malik couldn't stand to watch this cruelty. The thief was simply being tortured in a pitiless game before death.

"Well?" Aknadin snapped, still holding the thief by fistfuls of his hair.

Then, something happened. The longer the thief stared at Aknadin, the more the glazed, unseeing look on his face cleared. Suddenly, the thief's eyes widened and his jaw clenched. Before Aknadin could react, the thief ripped out of his grasp and elbowed him in his gut, moving quickly despite his chained wrists and injuries. He looked as though he'd been snapped out of a dream.

"Get your fucking hands off of me," the thief snarled, stepping backward several feet, his stance that of a wary animal. Malik watched, transfixed.

Aknadin looked surprised, but quickly recovered, and smirked. He approached the guarded thief. "So you're willing to talk."

"You bastard," the thief growled, now very aware of his surroundings. "You have no right."

Before the thief could do anything, Aknadin had grabbed the back of the thief's hair, causing his head to swing up, to look into Aknadin's hateful eyes.

"No right to do what? You're the thief that's been plaguing Egypt for over ten years." Aknadin's face twisted in disgust. "The Thief King. You're nothing but a petty criminal. You deserve to die."

At this, the thief spit right into Aknadin's face. Aknadin immediately released the thief's hair and stepped back, slowly bringing the fabric of his long sleeves to his face and wiping the saliva off in revulsion. He turned, and without a backward glance, addressed the guard that had brought in the thief:

"Kill him."

The guard looked more than willing to follow the command. He stepped toward the glowering thief and grabbed him by the arm, hauling him toward the stake.

Malik watched in fear. He's seen very few executions in his life, only because Egypt had been quite peaceful for the better part of his life, since the Pharaoh had ordered the creation of the Millennium items. But this particular thief, the Thief King as he was called, had been upsetting the Kingdom for years. Despite knowing that this thief deserved death for the havoc he'd wreaked, Malik couldn't stand to watch. In spite of the prisoner's crimes, Malik felt that the death penalty was unjust; the man hadn't murdered anyone, after all. He had committed a sacrilege, yes, but was mere stealing worthy of death?

The guard hit the thief, causing him to fall to his knees, and grabbed the stake, pulling it out of the ground, to ready for the impalement. The thief looked straight ahead once more, lost in a corner of his mind.

Malik turned toward Isis.

"Must we kill him, sister? Is there no other method to punish this man?"

Isis stared down at the thief, fingering the golden Millennium Necklace around her neck. "Yes, Malik, he must die. I have seen his past and seen the unspeakable sacrilege he's committed. There is no salvation for him."

It seemed wrong, somehow, to kill a man with such pure, white hair, and with eyes that sparked with loathing.

There was something deeper in the thief's hatred toward the Kingdom, Malik realized. He didn't steal merely to provide for life's necessities. He stole with vengeance. He wrecked with purpose. The misdeeds he committed came with a message, and the tomb he'd robbed—one of the most insulting things he could do to the Kingdom, aside from killing the Pharaoh himself—was branded with revenge.

This realization left Malik's throat dry and his heart beating fast. He wanted to save this man. This thief was trying to accomplish something, Malik thought, and he would die prematurely if the execution followed through. And maybe, just maybe, the thief's hatred for the Pharaoh ran as deep as his own.

As the guard raised the stake, about to strike the thief's bare back and impale him, the thief slowly looked up and caught Malik's eye.

His gaze was murderous. His eyes stormed with such animosity that Malik's breath left his lungs. He simply looked back. The thief's eyes narrowed, detesting the very sight of Malik. In those precious moments before death, he simply hated. He hated anything connected to the Kingdom, to the palace, and to the high court Malik was a part of.

Then, the guard's arm fell, stake in hand, and without hesitation, it struck the thief's back.

The kneeling man cried out as the sharp rod pierced him and ran through his flesh, spearing through his chest. Without remorse, without blinking an eye, the guard thrust the rod through until several feet of the bloodied stake had come out of the trembling man's chest and pierced the filthy ground.

The crowd around the courtyard was silent. Malik himself began trembling at the sight, and covered his mouth with his two hands to avoid throwing up, or crying out, or shouting at the merciless guard to stop. But saving this prisoner in broad daylight, before the Pharaoh and the entire court, would be treason. So Malik only watched, his pity driving him mad, compelling him to end this heartless execution.

The thief kneeled motionlessly as the stake struck the ground and kept him in place, unable to move or stand even if he had the strength to do so. Crimson, glistening blood slid in rivers down his back and his chest, staining the ground. He would live in this near-life condition for days. This was the particular cruelty of impalement—his death would be slow; he would kneel, breathing, before the entire court, for days, suffering humiliation and pain until the afterlife finally took him, whether from blood loss, hunger, or sheer exhaustion.

After some time, twilight neared and the courtyard emptied. The execution was over. The man would simply die in a few days' time. The Pharaoh and his court left. Isis stood, looking down at Malik, and asked why he still sat there, before this morbid sight.

"I…I think I'll head to the evening ceremony at the temple," Malik said as he finally stood, his eyes not meeting those of Isis.

Isis nodded, knowing that the ceremony would be a welcome event after this terrible execution. She simply bid him goodbye and left.

Of course, Malik had no intention of heading to the ceremony. He stepped down off of the high altar they had stood upon and looked about, to ensure that no guard or court member still lingered.

The courtyard was empty.

So without further thought, Malik strode across the dusty cobblestones and neared the thief. The man kneeled with his head down and his eyes closed, most likely unconscious from blood loss.

Malik grabbed the stake that pierced the thief's back and, giving no second thought to his actions, ripped the rod out, pulling it out inch by inch, swiftly and methodically. The blood, red and angry, spilled onto Malik's hands and the front of his robes.

Instantaneously, the thief's eyes snapped open and he was about to cry out when Malik pressed a bloodied hand to the thief's mouth. The prisoner bit his hand painfully, spluttering, clearly not understanding Malik's actions—he probably thought someone had come around to injure him some more.

"Shut up, thief!" Malik snapped as he continued to pull out the stake. "I'm going to get you out of here."

The thief struggled and managed to throw Malik's hand from his mouth.

"Get the fuck away from me!" he growled, tasting his own blood on his lips.

At that instant, Malik pulled the stake fully out of his bloodied back; he promptly threw the rod to the ground. The thief fell forward, having been suspended in that position by the stake, but Malik caught him before he could slam into the ground. The thief fell in his lap, his wrists and ankles still bound in chains. The blood that covered most of his bronze, bruised body seeped into Malik's clothes, and Malik felt the coppery smell engulf him, but he was unconcerned with these things at the moment. The thief was warm in Malik's arms, his body was solid and he was still breathing, though he'd fallen unconscious again. Malik's breath caught at how much more exotic the thief looked up close. A trail of blood had dried on the side of his face from where his forehead had hit the ground earlier.

Knowing that such gazing could be saved for later, Malik hauled the thief into a standing position and tore off part of his own robes to wrap around the thief's chest, over the large hole in the right side of his torso, so that the blood wouldn't flow onto the ground as they walked, and leave a trail for others to follow.

The thief was heavy and he was clearly older than Malik, and Malik prayed they wouldn't be discovered as he stumbled slowly out of the courtyard with the man splayed over his shoulders. His underground chambers were close to the palace and the cover of darkness helped as Malik descended down the steps to his home, through a hidden entrance he'd long ago discovered. The entrance led to a storage closet which stemmed from Malik's very room.

Malik gently placed the thief over an old blanket he'd dug out of his chamber, snapped off the chains around his wrists and ankles, and then rummaged about his home for gauze and medicine against infection. He kneeled by the sleeping thief, a bowl of water by his side, and carefully washed the wound that was over an inch in diameter. The stake had narrowly missed his lungs or any other vital organs. The thief was truly lucky, despite the severe damage he'd suffered—he might still live.

Malik cleaned the other wounds on his back, carefully and tenderly moving the thief to the side to do so. Several times, as Malik ran a cloth over the lashes, the thief hissed or moaned, but otherwise, he didn't awaken. Finally, Malik applied soothing ointment over the bruises and cuts, feeling the soft skin of the man, and bandaged his wounds with gauze. As he cleaned the wounds, he caught sight of a tattoo inked on the inside of the thief's right arm. When Malik examined it closely, he realized it consisted of three images aligned in a row: that of a wicker stool, a loaf of bread, and a flax wick. Despite his curiosity at the meaning of the tattoo, he decided not to mention it if the thief awoke, for now.

And then Malik waited.

He waited for days, checking on the thief every few hours, but the man didn't awaken. Malik did not leave his home over those days, but Isis didn't notice. She'd revealed that the prisoner had disappeared, much to the surprise of the entire city. But the Pharaoh's court mostly suspected that he'd managed to rip out the stake in his back and had crawled into some deserted part of the city to die. Nobody had faith that he'd lived.

After the third day, Malik was beginning to lose faith as well.

But finally, after those three days, when Malik walked into the little storage closet that stemmed from his room, he saw that the thief's eyes were open and that he'd managed to sit up and lean against the wall.

Malik was struck by vivid gray eyes, which steadily met his, wary and narrowed. Relief flooded Malik's heart momentarily that he was still alive.

"You," the thief addressed Malik, who stood stunned by the doorway, unable to believe that he'd sat up after days of immobility. "Who the hell are you?"

At that tone, Malik stepped fully into the room and closed the door, his relief ebbing just a bit.

"My name is Malik," he revealed. "And I expected a nicer greeting from a criminal whose life I've just saved."

The thief's eyebrows rose slightly. "So I'm not dead, huh?" He looked about the cramped, dusty little room. "I could've sworn I was in hell."

Though Malik had been kind up until now, his fuse was short.

"Look, thief. These are far better conditions than the ones you faced on that stake. You could be a little more appreciative of what I've done for you."

The thief was unimpressed. "I didn't ask to be saved. Especially not by a vermin of the Pharaoh's court."

"Vermin?" Malik's eyes narrowed. "How dare you talk to me like this? After all the work I've done, getting you out of the palace and into my home and keeping you alive for this long!"

The man continued to look indifferent. "A lot of worthless work that was. I have a fucking hole in my chest and my back is ripped open. How long do you expect me to live? You've just prolonged my death—that's all you've done."

Malik's jaw clenched, unable to believe his ungratefulness. "Bastard. I should have just let you die."

"Yes, you should have," the thief replied emotionlessly. "That would've been the smart thing to do. After all that I've done, I can't think of a single reason why an elite member of the court would want to keep me alive."

There was a question tacked on to the end of that sentence.

"I don't need to reveal my reasons to you," Malik answered it, glaring.

The thief smirked. "Well then, Malik, I won't dig for reasons. But if that's the case, then you've only brought the devil into your home."

Malik scoffed, not liking the way his own name had flown mockingly out of the thief's mouth. "The devil, indeed. Perhaps one with a tongue. What could you possibly do in your condition?"

"You must be naïve, to think that a thief is ever a defenseless man." Warning swam in the thief's eyes. "You should be afraid of me."

Malik smirked, now convinced that he was bluffing. He had sat very close to the thief, and now kneeled by the bloodied blanket he'd given him earlier. The man could probably hardly move. Malik was clearly at great advantage, so he simply replied:

"You might have a sharp tongue. But I'm not afraid of you."

Unfortunately, the man had been waiting for that. In an instant, he grabbed Malik's hair and pulled it down roughly, swinging his head upward, and with his other hand, revealed a dagger, which he pressed to Malik's bare throat.

Malik's eyes widened. His heart immediately jumped into his throat, thudding quickly, momentarily thrown by what had just happened.

The thief leaned in, feeling Malik's shallow breath on his cheek. He whispered in Malik's ear:

"Don't underestimate me. Even in this condition, you have every reason to fear me. I can slash your throat without a second thought."

Despite his fear, Malik glanced down at the thief, catching his eye.

"Then why are you hesitating?"

For a moment, the thief only regarded Malik coldly, as though trying to understand this boy that had saved him. Then, appearing to have decided something, he pulled the dagger back and released Malik's hair.

"Because you haven't given me a reason to kill you yet."

And he placed the dagger by his side, close by his hand in case Malik suddenly regretted his actions and decided to kill the thief after all.

Malik stepped back several feet, uncomfortable with being so close to him now that the thief had proved he wasn't that weak, despite his deep wounds. Regardless of the danger he'd just been in, however, he realized that the thief had only meant to warn him. To say that if Malik tried anything, he could be killed.

"Where did you get that knife?"

The man looked up. "The dagger? I found it in this storage closet, where you've left me. You should be more careful where you harbor criminals. They don't trust anybody, not even those that are disillusioned enough to help them."

Malik ignored his own short fuse for once, and didn't address the insults. There was something particular he wanted to know from the thief, something that might eventually help Malik. So, he asked, "Why are you a criminal?"

The thief's eyebrows rose. "What kind of question is that?"

"I was merely curious," Malik said. If this man truly hated the Pharaoh as much as Malik believed, then they might actually see eye to eye. If he didn't jump down Malik's throat with that dagger again, he briefly thought. "What drove you to steal from a Pharaoh's tomb?"

The thief didn't look as though he wanted to answer that. His eyes narrowed.

"I have no desire to tell you."

Malik felt put-off. "Honestly, is that all the thanks I'm going to get for saving you? Not even a morsel of information? Not even a how or why you've been plaguing the Kingdom for ten years now?"

The man kept his mouth shut.

Then Malik thought of something, so he changed tactics.

"I've noticed, you know. The things that you've stolen and the havoc that you've wreaked. You're not merely stealing to live, but to send the court a message. You're trying to accomplish something."

At that, the thief looked up sharply. "What the hell are you on about? What type of message would I want to send—and to the fucking court no less?"

Malik shrugged, smiling slightly, glad that the thief looked perturbed now. "That's what I'm trying to figure out."

The man looked at him for a long moment. He searched Malik's face, as though all his thoughts might be written upon it.

"Why did you save me?"

But Malik felt oddly empowered and stubborn at that moment. So, mockingly, he said, "I have no desire to tell you."

That was the wrong move, however. In an instant, the thief grabbed Malik's robes and yanked him forward, so they were nose to nose.

"Don't give me that bullshit," he said in a low voice. "You're forgetting whom you're dealing with. I can slip that dagger into your heart if you give me enough reason."

"And then do what?" Malik said in an equally low tone, showing no fear this time. "If you kill me, where the hell will you go looking like this? You'll be executed—again—the moment you step into the city. You're not in much condition to order me around and demand that I answer your questions, especially when you refuse to answer mine."

The thief's eyes narrowed. He obviously hadn't expected Malik to fight back. His grip on Malik's robes tightened, bringing their faces even closer together.

"Answer my question then, and I'll answer yours," he growled.

Malik smirked, feeling particularly defiant.

"Tough luck. I asked first."

The thief's eyes widened momentarily, unable to believe Malik's childishness, and then he shoved Malik backward, throwing him onto the floor.

"For fuck's sake—what are you, two years old?" the thief snapped. "Will you just answer my damn question already?"

Malik sat up, glaring. "I would if you weren't so stubborn."

The thief simply stared at him impatiently.

"Alright," Malik finally relented, seeing that they were just going in circles at this point. "The reason that I saved you. It's quite simple, really. You see, I've noticed that the types of misdeeds you do tend to revolve around the Pharaoh, one way or another. Always stealing priceless things from the palace—never the markets or any other places—and desecrating old Pharaohs' tombs. You're obviously bitter about something the palace—or more precisely the Pharaoh—has done."

Malik paused to gauge the thief's reaction so far. He simply looked back impassively. So Malik continued.

"I'm also bitter toward the Pharaoh." Malik paused, because what he was about to reveal was rather secret. "A generation ago, there was a prophecy which predicted that a young Pharaoh would emerge, and would need a way to leave behind a secret. My family, which has always been close to the court, was chosen for this duty. I've long suspected that the current Pharaoh's child will be this prophesized Pharaoh; even my sister, Isis, has foreseen the Tombkeeper's Initiation I must endure when the Pharaoh finally leaves behind his secret.

"They'll inscribe the secret in my back with a searing knife," Malik continued, his gaze terrified. "I'll live with these hieroglyphs in my back my whole life, in these underground chambers, and then my firstborn son will endure the same thing. It'll be an inescapable cycle, if I don't do something about it. It's not the life I want to live. And I'm willing to defy the young Pharaoh, kill him even, to object to these duties."

For a moment, the thief simply stared at him.

Then he sneered. "So that's what it is? Poor little Malik can't stand to live underground, get a few scars on his back, and have prepared meals and baths whenever he wants—every damn day of his life?"

The thief looked thoroughly pissed; his fists had unconsciously clenched. Malik had flinched when his name was uttered with such venom.

"Is that all you have to complain about?" he continued, enraged. "You live next to the fucking palace and have three meals a day and clean clothes. You never worry about getting sick or dying. You never wonder what the hell it would be like if your family was still alive—"

At that, the thief paused, as though out of breath. As though he couldn't continue, because suddenly, these notions hit too close to home. He looked away, sick of staring at Malik.

Malik sat quietly, wondering if that's what the thief's life was like. Having to steal to survive. Being in constant disease and poverty. Having no family.

"Alright," Malik finally said. "So I don't live a terrible life. But just because I don't go to bed hungry or don't worry about getting sick or dying on a daily basis, doesn't mean I don't also despise the way the palace has treated me. Or rather, the way they will treat me whenever this Pharaoh emerges."

The thief had nothing to say to that, though he still wouldn't look Malik in the eye.

"The point is, we have common ground," Malik continued, finally feeling as though they were getting somewhere. "We both hate the Pharaoh and the palace. We both need a way to extract revenge for what they have or, in my case, will do."

The man finally glanced back at Malik. His tone was scornful and disinterested as he said: "So? What are you suggesting—that to accomplish this, we work together?"

Malik nodded. "That's exactly what I'm suggesting."

The thief scoffed. "You're a mere child. You'd only get in my way."

"Child?" Malik frowned. "I'm sixteen! I'm hardly a—"

"A child," the thief finished derisively. "You're still a boy. You haven't had any real-world experience. You've probably never stolen anything in your life. You've never faced real danger before. Even if you were twenty-five, and as coddled as you are by the palace—I'd still call you a child."

Malik pursed his lips. "Fine, so I'm inexperienced. You, however, are on the brink of death. You'll need strength of any form if you intend to keep stealing and defying the Kingdom."

The thief simply shrugged, and Malik briefly wondered if that movement was painful at all, or if the thief was merely hiding his pain to disprove Malik's statement.

"Wounds heal with time," the thief said.

"In that case, experience also comes with time," Malik retorted. Then, before their conversation could get too sidetracked, he said, "In any case, now that I've answered your question, you'd better answer mine. Why are you a criminal and why did you steal from the old Pharaoh's tomb?"

"That's technically two questions," the thief said, and smirked briefly when Malik threw him an aggravated look for being so difficult. "But I'll answer them both."

The thief paused momentarily, as though gathering his thoughts for a long tale. His eyes narrowed, as though the thoughts he was gathering were rather unpleasant ones.

"I'll begin by explaining who I am," he started, looking into the bloodied blanket without seeing it, as though he might see the story printed in its fabric. "I was born in the village of Kul Elna, a village of thieves and criminals. One day, when I was young, a man leading a powerful army invaded my village and attacked everyone in it. He killed mercilessly. He burned children and women alike. He murdered my family before my eyes."

His tone was even and short, as though it wasn't his own tale that he was recalling; as though it wasn't his bitter memories that he was spilling.

Malik's eyes widened. "What? Why?"

The thief was lost in his story. He didn't even notice Malik's reaction. "I was the only one who survived. The spirits of my people remained, damned to wander the village until they had attained revenge for what those troops had done."

For a moment, Malik didn't know what to say. So this thief had been wronged, his village had been murdered, and clearly, he was the only one left to avenge his people. But something didn't add up.

"I understand that you'd want to get revenge on whoever murdered your people," Malik began. "But what does that have to do with the Pharaoh? With the palace?"

The thief glanced up, as though just realizing that he was still telling Malik his story. Then, he suddenly let out a bark of laughter.

"Oh, yes. I forgot the most important detail. It turns out that the murder of my village wasn't simply a coincidence; it wasn't simply a bloodbath. The troops that attacked my village were part of your Kingdom, acting under the orders of the present Pharaoh. And their purpose was this—to use the bodies of my people to create a ritual. A ritual that, as I later found out, gave rise to the Millennium Items."

Malik recoiled at these words. His insides froze with disbelief.

"What?" he uttered. "That—that was the ritual for the Millennium Items?"

The thief nodded. "It required the death of ninety-nine people, and your Pharaoh ordered their creation, so he could protect his own Kingdom." His eyes narrowed with bitterness. "He killed my people to save his own."

Malik took a moment to absorb these facts. Though the thief was probably a good liar, Malik had no doubt that these statements were true. It explained, perfectly and clearly, why the thief hated the Kingdom and the Pharaoh so much. It also confirmed Malik's suspicion that the thief would do anything to extract revenge.

"I had no idea," Malik finally said quietly. "The Kingdom has always believed the Millennium Items to be god-sent gifts. Their powers are suited for the capture of criminals, for unleashing punishment against wrong-doers. Who could have known that their birth was a murderous one?"

The thief simply continued staring at the blanket splayed around his feet. He looked deep in thought, perhaps contemplating the death of his family and his people again. Malik felt sorry that he'd brought it up, but now that the facts were between them, something could be done to avenge them, and free Malik of a lifestyle he didn't choose.

Malik rose from the floor, deciding that he'd found out as much as he needed to know from the prisoner. He glanced at the thief's wounds, resolving to change his bandages the next day, if the thief even let him near.

As Malik walked toward the door, he suddenly thought of something, and turned again.

"Thief?" he questioned, and the man's eyes rose to regard Malik. "What's your name?"

The man looked caught off-guard for a moment, as though surprised that Malik asked such a question, and then he smiled slightly.


The name settled in Malik's ear, as foreign and exotic as the man it belonged to.

"Bakura," Malik ran the word over his tongue. "I'll bring you a meal soon, and tomorrow I shall change your bandages. In the meantime, you should sleep to recover your strength."

The thief—Bakura now, Malik had to remind himself—looked startled by Malik's well-meaning words. His face softened a bit, as much as was possible for someone who most often scowled, frowned, or smirked.

"I suppose I misjudged your character," Bakura said, looking thoughtful. "Thank you—Malik."

And this time, Malik's name flowed from Bakura's mouth without sarcasm or derision, causing Malik to smile as he turned away and closed the door behind him. He ran Bakura's name over and over in his mind, thinking how strange it was suddenly, to think of this man as real and human, not merely a thief—simply by knowing his name.

A/N: Thanks for reading!

I hope you forgive the non-canon tattoo I mentioned on Bakura's arm; I thought that since Bakura usually wears those red robes in the anime, him having a tattoo on his arm would be a plausible concept. Also, the tattoo will become important later on.

Please let me know what you think! :)