It was the boy from the bus-stop.

Bakura stopped hearing what his lunch appointment was saying as his eyes were drawn to the opposite sidewalk, where a white-haired teenager was shuffling along, a backpack hanging off one shoulder. Bakura had seen him before. Three, four times a week. He would be standing at the corner of Sixth and Picket, waiting for the bus. Bakura had first noticed him a month ago, and had kept noticing him since then.

There wasn't anything particularly striking about the boy. When Bakura saw him, he was always wearing black slacks and shoes -the uniform of retail or the service industry- peeking out from under a rather unfortunate coat. He stood with an unassuming posture, his shoulders slightly curled in, his back not slouched but not straight either. His long hair was, perhaps, a little unusual, but not exceptionally so.

He had a pretty face, but all together he was entirely unextraordinary, even drab. Yet for some reason, he'd come to fascinate Bakura when he'd be stopped for the traffic light and see the boy standing there, waiting for the bus. He'd mused, on more than one occasion, that if the boy wore clothes that suited him, or if he smiled, he would have been positively stunning.

He wasn't at the bus-stop today. He was eight blocks from the place Bakura usually saw him, and he walked with a hesitance, something almost shameful in his manner. If Bakura squinted, he could make out a redness around the boy's eyes, and somewhat above them, covered over almost entirely by his loose hair, a patch of purple was just peaking out.

Bakura's companion had stopped talking. After a moment he called Bakura's name; Bakura started to turn back to him and then froze when he saw the townhouse the boy had stopped at the door of. He knocked and a pretty girl opened the door and fussed over him for a moment, touching the boy's face and finally throwing a hug around his shoulders, before guiding him inside. Inside Bridget Forde's Place.

Bridget Forde's Place was a well-kept secret of the less moral half of society. It was one of the old Victorian townhomes, huge inside, with plenty of room for a wealthy Victorian family and their servants. Or for a dozen prostitutes.

"Bakura? Is something wrong?"

Bakura glanced back at his dining companion for a moment and then said, "Yeah. I have to go. I'll call you later." He pushed himself out of his chair and started weaving his way through the densely packed tables of the sidewalk café.

"Bad form, Bakura. You are not the center of the universe, you know. I do have other clients," the annoyed voice called after him.

"So take five-percent out of my commission or something and quit bitching," Bakura snapped over his shoulder, stepping free of the field of patio-furniture.

His eyes were trained on the Forde townhouse as he strode to the crosswalk and waited for the light to change. When it did, he jogged across and down the row to Bridget's Place. He rapped his knuckles sharply against the door and waited. The response took longer than it had when the boy arrived.

When the door finally opened, the pretty girl from before appeared behind it, blocking the entrance with her body in a subtle, practiced way that most people wouldn't have noticed. "Hello sir, how may I help you?" she asked sweetly.

"Is Bridget baking today?" Bakura asked quietly -he'd heard the phrase over scotch in a private club some months back- and the girl stepped back, holding the door open for him.

Bakura moved past her into the large entry hall. It was a tastefully decorated in a way that preserved the classic feel of Victoriana, the kind of front room one would expect from an upscale establishment like Bridget's. "Do you have an appointment?" the girl asked, closing the door behind him. "I didn't know anyone was coming in this early."

"The boy who just came in here," Bakura said, glancing around at the closed doors to the sides of the hall and the elegant central staircase directly ahead. "I want to see him."

"I-I'm sorry," the girl said, giving Bakura a dubious look. "He won't be available today."

"Is he new?" Bakura asked, turning to look at her.

"Y-yes..."

"I'm not here for the service. I just want to talk to him," Bakura said. "I... didn't realize he was in financial crisis." The statement was, technically, true, although the implication that Bakura actually knew the boy was patently false.

A slightly mournful look came over the girl's pretty face. "I see..." she said quietly. "Um, he's- he's just gone to settle in and... get cleaned up."

"May I speak to him?" Bakura pressed.

"I... What's your name?" the girl looked worried.

"Bakura."

She looked slightly relieved. "I... um... follow me," she said and turned towards the stairs.

Bakura followed her up to the second floor and around the balcony to one of the many closed doors in the silent house. She knocked softly and called, "Ryou?"

A muffled response came from within and the girl opened the door a few inches. "Ryou, it's- um, you have a visitor. N-not a client, it's- um- a Mister Bakura...?"

"... Who?" a quiet voice asked, sounding baffled.

"Um- He-he said he knew you," the girl said, frowning a bit and glancing back at Bakura.

"Actually, I never said that," Bakura corrected. The girl's eyes widened slightly and a look of outrage took over her features as a faint blush bled onto her cheeks.

"You-!" she started.

"I know you."

The girl went quiet, looking back at the boy, Ryou. "I mean... I've seen you," he mumbled, his eyebrows pinching together. "By the bus stop."

Bakura felt an odd warmth in the front of his chest momentarily, like the burn of distilled liquor, at the realization that the boy had seen him, even inside of his car, and taken some kind of notice. Bakura's eyes wandered over the purple edge of a large bruise hiding under his hair. Ryou noticed and pulled his hair over it, eyes darting away. "You were beaten by... your pimp?" Bakura asked.

Ryou's head snapped up, a bright flush coming quickly to his cheeks and fury suddenly burning in his eyes. "I don't have a pimp!" he shouted.

"You need to leave," the girl said in a stony voice, glaring at Bakura. "Now."

Ryou's head dropped again, his face crumbling as soon as the yell had left him, and started fidgeting with his hair and stammering, his voice shaky. "I- I've never- It's not like- I wouldn't- I'm not- I don't- I don't have anywhere else to go!" he sobbed. "Mama-Bridget offered me a job but I didn't- not until today- I couldn't- what else am I supposed to do?"

"You don't want to be here?" Bakura asked.

"Sir! I asked you to leave!" the girl insisted and Bakura ignored her. After a few more seconds she turned and ran toward the stairs, shouting, "Jeffery!"

"I don't..." Ryou whispered, shaking visibly. "I don't have anywhere else to go..."

"Room, board and pocket-money. Everything Bridget would give you, significantly less 'work'." The words had left Bakura's mouth before he even realized he was speaking.

Ryou's hands stilled on the lock of hair he'd been worrying. He tilted his head just enough to look up at Bakura through his fringe. He was silent for a while as they just stared at each other. Finally he whispered, "...I don't know you."

He was right, and Bakura's offer, following the boy in here in the first place, was complete lunacy. What the hell was he doing? "You won't know most of the men who come through this door," Bakura said, deciding that he must have completely lost his grip on reality.

There were heavy footsteps coming up the stairs. Bakura and Ryou kept staring silently at each other until a man built like a tank was looming over Bakura. "Sir, I need to ask you to leave," the tank-man said in a warning voice as Bakura finally ripped his eyes away from Ryou. The girl from earlier was standing behind the tank-man, glowering at Bakura.

"W-wait!" Ryou finally opened the door the rest of the way and stepped clumsily into the hall, before freezing like a deer in the headlights. "I- I..." he stammered, looking up at tank-man before quickly moving his eyes to the girl behind him. "M-Mel, I'm sorry to have caused you trouble..."

"It's not your fault, Ryou," the girl, Mel, said, shaking her head. "Just go back in your room and Jeffery will take care of this."

"N-no, I mean- Please, just-" Ryou held up his hands in a hesitant 'stop' gesture momentarily before ducking back into the room. He ran over and grabbed his backpack off the large, ornate bed, before returning to the door, his gaze towards the floor. "Sorry, Mel. Sorry about this, I- Sorry for the trouble," he stammered, inching out into the hallway.

"Ryou, what are you talking about?" Mel demanded, looking alarmed.

"Sorry," Ryou whispered, shuffling forward and gingerly catching hold of Bakura's sleeve.

"Ryou, do you even know this guy?" Mel asked frantically.

The tank's hand landed over Ryou's wrist and he flinched, his shoulders curling in. "Go back in your room, Ryou," the tank rumbled.

"I haven't met with Mama-Bridget yet," Ryou mumbled. "I don't work here."

"Ryou!" Mel shouted.

The tank reluctantly let go of Ryou's arm and Ryou stepped closer to Bakura, still not taking his eyes off the floor. "Let's go," he whispered, barely audible.

Bakura didn't need telling twice. He put a hand on Ryou's shoulder and towed him quickly to the stairs and down. "Ryou!" Mel shouted, chasing after them. "Jeffery, do something!"

"Melody, he's right... And he doesn't want to be here," the tank said helplessly- if a voice like that could sound helpless.

Melody huffed in frustration and flew down the stairs after them as Bakura swept Ryou toward the door. "Ryou, he could be a serial killer or something!" she shrieked.

One of the doors on the side of the hall opened and another young woman poked her head out of it, looking exhausted. "For the love of God, Melly, it's quiet time," she moaned.

"Fuck off, Cynthia!" Melody snapped. "Ryou! Whatever this is, it's a terrible idea!" she insisted, following them to the door as Bakura pushed it open and stepped back into the natural light outside.

Ryou stopped and Bakura paused, looking at him. Ryou started to turn, and Bakura let go of his shoulder to let him. "Mel, it's okay," he said quietly, moving back up a step and giving Melody a timid hug. "I'll call you soon," he promised. He turned toward the street again and stepped down to Bakura's level, eyes cast down once more. Melody looked like she was about to burst into tears, but she didn't yell this time as Bakura laid his hand between Ryou's shoulder blades and lead him out onto the sidewalk.

Bakura headed for where he'd parked his car, his mind buzzing with just one question- what the hell was he doing? He didn't notice that his lunch appointment was still sitting at the same table where Bakura had left him twenty minutes earlier, until he was addressed in that sardonic tone that Bakura just hated.

"That's your emergency? Love at first sight?"

Bakura whipped around and glared at the blond. "What the fuck are you still doing here?" Bakura demanded.

"Eating lunch." He received a raised eyebrow.

"Fuck off, Yami. This is none of your Goddamned business," Bakura snarled.

"You are my business," Yami corrected, casually slipping a piece of fish into his mouth.

"Fuck you."

Yami's eyes wandered over Ryou, examining the wrinkled clothes and pitiful state the boy was in at the moment. "Hey." Bakura snapped his fingers as though trying to get a dog's attention. "Over here, dick. Something you need clarified or d'you just need a boot in your ass?"

"I'm just a bit curious," Yami replied, looking back to Bakura. "Five percent? Seems pretty serious. This also seems rather out of character, and I'm concerned you might be acting imprudently."

"Fuck you. That was five percent from my net, not five off of my fee."

"It's not my place to council you on anything beyond business matters, but I do hope you intend to practice discretion and keep your social and professional lives strictly separated." Yami turned back to his plate and cut another bite-sized piece of fish.

"Fuck. You."

"There's a meter-maid looking at your car," Yami said in a casual tone.

Bakura turned to where he'd left his car and there was indeed a meter-maid standing next to it, scribbling on his ticket-pad. Bakura growled and stormed toward to the lowliest of civil-servants, pulling Ryou along so Yami couldn't analyze him anymore. "A little over-eager there, aren't you?" Bakura called loudly and the meter-maid looked up. "There are three minutes left on that meter."

The meter-maid gave him a slightly disgruntled look and stepped back, disappointed at having failed to ruin somebody's day. Bakura ignored him, clicking the remote unlock and making his car give a cheerful chirp. "This is us," he said brusquely, letting go of Ryou as he split off to walk around the driver's side. Ryou hesitated a moment before stepping over to the passenger door.

Bakura pulled his sunglasses out of their clip on the dashboard and then paused, watching Ryou get into the car. Ryou took far too much care in sitting down. Bakura bit the inside of his cheek as he pulled his seatbelt around him and slipped on his sunglasses. Bakura observed Ryou quietly as the boy pulled the door shut and reached for his own seatbelt. He must have felt Bakura's gaze, and he glanced up, briefly making eye-contact before looking away again.

"...Do you want to go to the hospital?" Bakura asked.

"N-no!" Ryou yelped, looking up at Bakura again, for just a moment, with a startled expression. "I mean- I'm fine," he mumbled quickly.

"...Okay." Bakura turned the key and his car's radio burst loudly into life.

000

Ryou stared out the huge windows at the city streets and rooftops spread out below him. The condo was really high up. The building was one of the towering high-rises in the middle of downtown, nestled in amongst the big corporation buildings and businesses at the heart of the city. It was very expensive real estate.

It was a one-bedroom residence, but it was bigger than the three-bedroom apartment Ryou had grown up in. It had an open floor-plan, with the dining room and living room nearly indistinguishable from each other and the kitchen walled-in only by a bank of counters, its area defined by the distribution of tile on the floor. It was the kind of place you saw in movies, not a place real people lived. He found himself wondering, yet again, what exactly Bakura's occupation was. He had a strong feeling that it wasn't entirely legal. If at all.

Mafia. The word kept creeping into Ryou's mind. He'd known, when he left the brothel with the man, that he was doing something extremely stupid. He'd just been hired as an exclusive whore to some sort of gangster. Yes, this was probably the stupidest thing he'd ever done. He could hear his 'client' moving around behind him, walking back and forth across the apartment, picking something up in one of the rooms that actually had a wall and door separating it from the central area, then returning, then seeming to have forgotten something and going back.

He was nervous too. This wasn't something he did very often, apparently. That thought was comforting, at least. Ryou heard the footsteps move in closer and he stayed still, looking out at the city, as Bakura came up beside him.

"How long ago did that happen?" he asked.

Ryou was blank for a moment. He glanced at Bakura out of the corner of his eye, and saw that the man was looking at the bruise. The obvious one. "Eighteen hours, maybe," Ryou said, his voice small and slightly hoarse.

"... I don't suppose icing it now would do much good..."

"Probably not," Ryou agreed.

They lapsed into silence for a while, staring out the large living room windows. At length, Bakura ventured another question. "Are those the only clothes you have?" he asked.

"... Yes," Ryou whispered. He hadn't exactly packed. He'd put on the first shirt and pants he pulled out of the drawer, stuffed the photos from the mantle into his backpack, and got out the door as quickly as he could.

"... Have to fix that..." Bakura muttered.

Ryou wondered if his identity as personal-whore would have a dollish component to it. Would he be dressed up and paraded around like a trophy? Or maybe his wardrobe would consist of fetishy things, and he'd never leave the house?

"... Chinese or Italian?"

Ryou blinked slowly and turned to look at Bakura. "What?"

"I'm ordering in," Bakura explained. "Chinese or Italian?"

Ryou wondered how long it would take Bakura to get used to the arrangement and start treating him like a possession rather than a guest. "Either is fine," Ryou said quietly. It wasn't that he minded the awkward politeness; he just wished he could see how this... arrangement was going to play out.

"You're not vegetarian or anything, are you? Any allergies?" Bakura asked.

"No," Ryou answered, shaking his head. "Anything is fine."

"...Okay," Bakura said, nodding slightly. After a minute he walked away and Ryou could hear him ordering Chinese food over the phone.

000

Watching somebody eat should not have been this fascinating. Bakura found himself spending the entire meal watching the way Ryou moved. The way he held his chopsticks -the correct way- how he kept his elbows in close to his body and confined his movements to a small area. He moved his arm without moving his shoulder up or down, more small motions. Polite, refined, an almost feminine delicacy. When his hair started getting too much in his way, he'd give his head a particular little shake that Bakura found especially engaging.

Ryou spent the meal watching his bowl.

It was still early evening when they'd finished eating. It had been an early dinner, since Bakura had missed his late lunch and suspected that Ryou hadn't eaten very recently either. After putting the few dishes they'd used into the washer, Bakura checked his phone. Yami had sent him a file. Thank God; he had something to do.

"I have something I need to work on," Bakura said, leaning awkwardly against his chair, across from where Ryou was still sitting, staring blankly down at his hands on the wooden tabletop. "You can- whatever, if you want to watch TV or something..." Bakura had never felt so awkward in his life as this boy -and his insane idea to just take him home like some kind of pet- was making him now.

"Can I take a shower?" Ryou asked quietly, not looking up.

"Oh. Yeah. Of course." Bakura mentally kicked himself, the boy had been looking like hell all day and obviously something pretty bad had gone down earlier, and he'd probably just wanted to bathe all day while Bakura was bumbling around like a dazed moron, trying to figure out what the hell he'd been thinking. "I'll... find something for you to wear."

Bakura realized he'd failed to mention a rather crucial detail. "Er, the bathroom's the door on the right." He pointed across the living room. "There's towels on the shelves opposite the sink and whatever's in there, feel free to use anything." He stopped before saying 'make yourself at home,' which would have been just too awkward under the circumstances.

"Thank you," Ryou said quietly, pushing away from the table and standing up.

Bakura watched him make his way quickly to the bathroom and stared at the closed door for a few minutes before he reminded himself to move. He wandered slowly into his bedroom to find a change of clothes for the boy. He was in for the night, he wasn't going anywhere, he just needed lounging clothes, something comfortable to sit around in between shower and bed.

Bed. Jesus Christ, what the fuck had he been thinking? This had to be the stupidest thing he'd ever done.

Bakura shook himself and pulled out the bottom drawer of his dresser. Sweats and a T-shirt. That'd be fine. The pants had a drawstring so they could be cinched up to accommodate Ryou's delicate build. Perfect. He added a pair of boxers to the stack and then stood up and looked at the door that connected the bedroom and the bath.

He waited quietly until he heard water start running, then gave it the few seconds it took the shower to heat up. He then moved toward the closed door and tapped it lightly before turning the knob and carefully venturing in. The shower door was closed with the blurred image of Ryou standing behind the fogged glass.

"I... found some stuff you can wear tonight. The fit won't be great but- we can go get something better tomorrow... or something..." Bakura cringed inwardly at how ridiculous his nervous, halting voice sounded. He hadn't had this much trouble talking to anyone in years.

"Thank you," Ryou replied in a colorless voice.

"I'll put them on the counter here," Bakura said, depositing the pile of clothing next to the sink.

"Thank you."

"No problem," Bakura mumbled, God that sounded stupid, and retreated out the living room door.

He shut the door behind him and then stepped to the side so he could lean back against the wall, feeling exhausted, almost winded. Bakura dropped his face into his hands and shook his head. He was crazy. This whole thing was so ridiculously stupid it belonged in some kind of record-book. He knew he wasn't the first man who had taken a shine to a pro and turned them into a mistress. But generally those men knew the person ahead of time. And they rented them their own little loft apartments rather than taking them home.

Bakura was pulled out of his inner self-reprimand by a soft sound from behind the bathroom door, barely audible over the shower. He wouldn't have been able to hear it at all if he were two feet farther away.

Crying.

Bakura closed his eyes and bit his lip. "...Shit..." he whispered.

000

The shower helped. The shower helped a lot. It didn't make Ryou's body stop hurting, or change the situation he'd put himself in, but at least it washed away the filth, and got the smell of him off of Ryou's skin.

He looked at himself in the mirror behind the sink -the kind that covered the entire upper part of the wall, not just a little medicine cabinet- as he slowly dried off, and counted the visible bruises on his skin. Counting, quantifying some part of the experience, also seemed to help. After patting away all the droplets clinging to his body, Ryou wrapped the towel around his hair and picked through the clothing Bakura had left on the counter.

Bakura had to have at least twenty -more likely closer to thirty- pounds on him. He wasn't exceptionally tall, maybe six feet, give or take an inch, which still put him four or five inches above Ryou but it was nothing that would make him stand out in a crowd, and there wasn't any shirt-stretching, 70s-style brawn, but he also wasn't skinny like Ryou.

The boxers would have slid right off Ryou's hips. He glanced to the sweat-pants with a drawstring waist and shrugged to himself; how long was he going to be wearing these things anyway? So he forewent the underwear and pulled on just the sweat-pants and T-shirt before glancing to the floor where his previous outfit was lying. It was all filthy and he didn't want to touch it again, but the neat-freak in him wouldn't let him leave the mess to lie.

The size and shape of the whicker container in the corner suggested a hamper and Ryou carefully picked up his jeans between two fingers and went to investigate. He was right, and one by one he dropped the wretched articles out of sight. He kicked his shoes under the counter, they weren't the kind of thing you just threw in the wash, but he didn't want to look at them either right now.

A nice brush with rounded-off teeth between soft bristles made Ryou thankful that Bakura had long hair too. He hated the thought of having to untangle the mess his hair had become with a rigid comb.

Ryou must have spent more than a half hour perched on the edge of an over-sized kind of bathtub that you only ever saw in movies or plumbing stores –and in addition to a corner shower- brushing slowly at his hair, progressing gradually from tip to root. The slow, even strokes and visible, tangible progress was cathartic, and he kept brushing for a little while after he'd removed all the tangles. He grabbed the towel again and patted out the excess water that had been tied up in the tangles before as he wandered over in front of the mirror. He brushed it out once more, staring at his reflection.

He stood still for a while after that, forced to admit that his hair was entirely sorted and he couldn't just keep brushing it forever. He stared at himself silently for several minutes, before finally dropping his towel into the hamper and opening the door out to the living room.

Bakura was sitting in the corner of the modular sofa, poking a stylus at a tablet as his eyes flickered back and forth over the lit surface, studying something in great detail. Ryou watched him from the doorway for a few minutes before quietly walking out to the sitting area. As he crossed into Bakura's peripheral vision, the man looked up sharply, in a not-quite startled, but definitely over-anxious way.

"Ah, you're... done. Do- if you want to watch TV or something-" he started, sounding almost comically uncomfortable and Ryou might have laughed at some other time.

"Don't worry about it," Ryou replied quietly, drifting slowly in the direction of the windows again. "I'm sure that's very important." He nodded to the tablet Bakura was holding, and caught a glimpse of what looked like blue-prints as he passed. "I can entertain myself."

"...Alright. If you need anything," Bakura left the sentence open, incomplete.

"Thank you," Ryou replied, stopping at the windows and looking out again. It was getting rapidly darker outside, and the glass was becoming more and more reflective. Within a few minutes it was impossible to see any details but lights. Ryou glanced away from the image of his reflection freckled with street-lights, and his eyes came to rest on a bookshelf. It was out in the living room; there probably wasn't anything there that would be too sensitive for any guests that might enter Bakura's condo to look through, so there probably wasn't anything there that Ryou shouldn't see.

Ryou's eyes slid slowly over the spines of books, taking in their titles and quickly discovering that the shelves were organized by subject, certainly more useful than alphabetical order for a personal collection. On the right side, just below Ryou's standing eye-level, he found books pertaining to art.

Three books on Ming Dynasty porcelain. Four books on the masterworks of the Renaissance that had been missing since World War II. A book on originals of historic Japanese block prints. A book on antique Chinese folding screens. Six books on Picassos. A book on Stradivarius violins. Two books on Tiffany glass. Three books on Faberge. Four books on the leading names in jewelry design of the twentieth century.

From there, the shelf seemed to transition into books pertaining to jewelry and then to precious stones. Ryou looked the titles over, chewing on his lower lip and considering the content. He glanced down to the bottom shelf, which he'd noticed earlier. It was half-filled with one-inch binders containing pages run off a printer or copy machine, baring sticky notes or writing directly on the vinyl with what looked like product series numbers. Perhaps for security systems, Ryou thought idly and trained his eyes back on the art books. He mused that he might have an inkling as to Bakura's occupation now.

He pulled out the book on Stradivarius violins and wandered over to the couch. Out of the corner of his eye, Ryou saw Bakura drop his head slightly as he turned, shifting his eyes from Ryou back to the tablet. Ryou settled down with his back against the arm rest on the opposite end of the couch from Bakura and pulled his bare feet up onto the cushion in front of him, curling his knees in close to him as he slumped down and opened the book.

Ryou read silently for a while, the book started off with a little biography of Stradivari before it went into talking about why his violins were so special. "Ridiculously over-valued," Bakura said quietly and Ryou looked up at him. His eyes were still focused on whatever was on the tablet, but he continued in what seemed meant to be a conversational tone, although it was actually a bit strained. "Those things have been restored and rebuilt so many times to keep them from breaking apart, the only thing original on them is the maker's mark."

Ryou considered that for a little while, the statement, and also Bakura's apparent attempt to start a conversation. "So... you're saying they're glorified fakes and, in reality, worthless?" Ryou asked softly.

"Not worthless. They're great instruments," Bakura corrected, a hint of a grin tugging at the corner of his mouth. "See the people who've owned them really believe in the name, so the violins have always been restored by the best craftsmen using the best materials. They're the best violins you can find, they're just not the same ones Stradivari made."

Ryou tilted his head a little and glanced back down at the pages in front of him. "What about the age of the wood? Isn't that supposed to give them a unique quality of sound?"

"Old-growth makes a better anything," Bakura said. "But I don't think Europe had a lot of old-growth, so I kinda don't think that's what the guy used." He glanced up from his tablet, gazing into empty space and looking as though he were trying to remember something. "It's not the wood itself that's making them better, it's something to do with vibrations. If it's an old violin, it's been played longer and had more vibrations in it. But violin makers nowadays can fake it by vibrating them with a machine or something."

"Huh." Ryou put his arm up against the back of the couch and leaned against it, thinking about the ability of modern technology to simulate time. "So then, a modern violin maker could make a better violin than Stradivari?" he asked.

"I think that gets you into philosophy," Bakura grinned properly, looking amused as he moved the stylus back and forth over his tablet. "There you have the question of which is more important, laser-precision or the kind of passion that makes a guy spend something like a year making one violin."

"Science or art."

"That," Bakura agreed, this time looking up at Ryou when he grinned.

Ryou felt his own lips pull upwards a little, but he threw his gaze toward the coffee-table. They lapsed back into silence that felt a little less awkward than before. Ryou went back to reading about violins whose relevance was apparently under assault by modern technology. He turned the pages slowly, looking at a printed photo and a line-drawing copy of the Stradivarius makers-mark.

Ryou was halfway through the rather small and picture-filled book when again Bakura broke the silence. "Hey, d'you have a regular job or something? You were always there at the same time- the bus stop... Just- if you want to, you can keep that," Bakura spoke in an awkward, halting manner, not as though he was having doubts about what he was saying, but like he wasn't sure if he was speaking understandably. "If you don't like it then quit, but you can just- whatever you want, y'know..."

"...Thank you," Ryou said, looking over his book at Bakura, whose eyes were trained on his tablet in a way that seemed more about trying to avoid eye-contact than being busy.

Three quarters of the way through the book, Bakura spoke again, this time sounding more awkward and nervous than he had any time earlier in the day. "You... Are- um- Are you actually queer or is that just a... business... thing...?" his voice trailed off a bit at the end of the question.

Ryou was quiet for a minute, watching Bakura, who was staring at his tablet but the stylus wasn't moving. There was tension in his jaw and brow, and he appeared to be biting his tongue or something. "...I am."

The tension in the lines of Bakura's face dropped away leaving behind a look of relief. "...Okay," he said quietly, and it seemed like it was the only word he could think of to put that line of conversation to rest.

When Ryou finished the book, he closed it and laid it against his stomach. He sat silently and watched Bakura work, sometimes pushing things around with the stylus, sometimes pulling up an on-screen keyboard and typing. Ryou's eyelids and body started to feel heavier after a while, and when his eyes were about half open he saw Bakura pause to check something and then look up at him.

"Sorry, I didn't realize how late it was," Bakura mumbled, poking the stylus against the screen a couple more times and then sliding it into its holder, the screen going dark. "I... I guess I'll take a shower now..." he said, awkwardness turned up to full.

"Okay," Ryou said.

"Okay," Bakura echoed and stood up.

Ryou sat where he was on the couch, listening to Bakura move around his bedroom briefly and then enter the bathroom through the door in the bedroom. The book he'd leaned against his stomach slid down into Ryou's lap as he sat up and stared across at the bathroom door for a few more minutes, listening to the water turn on, his mind blank. Finally he got up and returned the book to the space he'd found it, before walking to the bedroom door and taking a step inside.

Bakura's bedroom was mostly pretty tidy; keys, phone and other pocket-contents had been dropped on top of the dresser, and half the drawers had been left pulled out, but the clothing inside of them was neatly folded. Ryou pushed them shut, he didn't want to disturb any of Bakura's things, but he couldn't stand leaving the drawers like that. The bed was unmade as well. Over-all, Ryou supposed the room looked like one that had been cleaned the previous day and then left as it was after Bakura woke up in the morning; about fifteen minutes worth of careless cluttering on top of a generally well-kept space.

Ryou moved slowly to the bed and started straightening the covers. Making it up completely and tucking in the pillows would just be silly, of course, but he set the blankets straight and folded them back neatly. Then he climbed on top of the bed and sat with his back leaned against the headboard.

He stared at the wall across from him, his mind still blank. He curled his knees up closer to him and waited. The water turned off in the bathroom. Ryou stared at the wall; it was very empty, a kind of wall that would generally have a picture or something hung on it. There were a lot of empty walls in Bakura's condo. He had books about fine, incredibly expensive things, and he was knowledgeable about them, but there were no fine, expensive things decorating his home. Although, the condo itself had to be a pretty expensive thing, and as much an indication of wealth as an original painting or sculpture by a major artist would have been.

The door to the bathroom opened and Ryou's eyes flicked to Bakura. Bakura wasn't looking at him, hadn't yet noticed him for the moment. He was wearing a plain bathrobe and pulling a band out of his hair that had been keeping it knotted up behind his head during the shower. He walked toward the dresser as he pulled the band out and dropped it next to his keys and pocket-things. His movements looked routine and comfortable until he caught Ryou in the corner of his eye and looked over at him, going still.

"... Should I strip or would you like to undress me?" Ryou asked.

Bakura's eyes widened minutely before he opened his mouth and tried to form an answer. "I... I realize that you've had a really terrible day. You don't have to-"

"In all honesty, I'd rather establish an idea of how this arrangement is going to work now, rather than brooding about it," Ryou cut him off in a flat, emotionless voice.

Bakura fell back on the same word he'd been using all evening, "...Okay." He looked slightly lost for a minute, as though altering routine had set him adrift like an ant out of its line. He glanced back towards the door and asked, "Do you... have a light preference?"

"Off, please," Ryou whispered.

The lights went off.

Ryou stared into the darkness and listened. Bakura was damned near inaudible, like he was in the habit of moving silently, and Ryou started very slightly when he felt the sheets go taught under his hand as weight pressed the covers down near the edge of the mattress. It was also disconcerting that the mattress didn't move under him at all; one of those 'revolutionary foam developed by NASA!' mattresses from the TV ads probably, with no springs tying it into a connected mesh.

Fingertips touched Ryou's cheek, hesitant but not clumsy; Ryou wondered if in addition to moving as quietly as a cat, Bakura could also see in the darkness of an unlit room. No, that was silly. He knew his bedroom and he'd seen where Ryou was sitting before he turned off the light. He just had good spatial perception.

Bakura's hand slid under his jaw and around the opposite side, gently turning Ryou's face towards him. There was a pause of hesitation, during which Ryou could feel breath buffeting softly against his skin and knew that their faces were very close, then Bakura's lips pressed softly against his. Ryou guessed that Bakura had never paid for sex before and wasn't sure how to approach the idea. There was no reason he should have had to, of course; with Bakura's face and body he could have easily been a playboy without dropping a dime. Although, he didn't seem to have the personality required for that sort of lifestyle.

Ryou parted his lips and kissed back, momentarily flicking his tongue forward, teasing. He knew how to be good, pleasing, when he wasn't in the mood. He knew how to be sweet and playful even if he was in pain or just plain terrified. And although he probably should have, Bakura didn't terrify Ryou. It was easy to kiss him and run a hand slowly up from Bakura's wrist to shoulder with a feather-light touch. His responsiveness seemed to put Bakura at ease as he kissed Ryou more firmly and put an arm around behind him, pulling Ryou away from the headboard and laying him down on his back.

Bakura must have discarded the robe before he got on the bed, and Ryou's hands slid over bare skin as he circled his arms around Bakura's neck. Ryou's fingers traced over a lot of definition in the muscles of Bakura's shoulders and back- not the protruding bulk of a body-builder, but the bandy, lean muscles of, perhaps, a climber. Upper body strength built for movement and scaling difficult surfaces rather than lifting. He slid a hand up Ryou's back, palm flat against his lats and ribs, under the loose T-shirt.

His kisses weren't very aggressive, seeming tempered by the same kind of subtlety that let Bakura walk without footsteps. He didn't nip at Ryou's lip with his teeth or press Ryou down and grip his hair to control his movement. Bakura had a pleasant kiss that demanded response rather than submission. It was a nice change of pace, and Ryou sighed softly into the kiss. He felt Bakura shiver.

Ryou pulled his arms free of the sleeves when Bakura started to pull at the shirt and Ryou's belly and chest were exposed to the tingle of cool air. Bakura's hands slid warmly over Ryou's sides and soft kisses trailed down his jaw to his neck, pausing there to suck at the space just above his collarbone. Bakura was taking such a long time tentatively surveying Ryou's skin... Ryou was suddenly horrified to realize that his eyes were burning.

No. He was not going to cry. This was going to be great sex, he could tell, and he was not going to cry. He pressed his lips firmly together and wrapped his arms back around Bakura's neck. Teeth had been introduced to Ryou's neck, not biting, just lightly grazing the skin, and fingers were playing with his nipple. The endorphins were finally kicking in now, and Ryou was starting to pant and squirm, his nerves lighting off and telling his brain it was time to switch to auxiliary power.

He was moaning by the time Bakura mouth trailed down his chest. This seemed like a month's worth of foreplay all at once, and Ryou wasn't having to push himself to warm up faster than his body's natural inclination. In fact, he was getting really horny and frustrated with the pace. Bakura's hand finally dipped under his waistband and Ryou whined through his teeth in frustration when the hand gently cupped his ass, Bakura's attention apparently still focused primarily on exploring Ryou's chest with his mouth.

Ryou decided it was a good enough cue and dropped his hands down to untie the draw-string holding the pants tight around his hips. Bakura seemed to take the hint and slid his hand down Ryou's leg, pushing the sweatpants down and then pulled them free of Ryou's ankles. When that hand came back it went straight to where Ryou wanted it. Ryou moaned lustily and leaned back his head. Bakura slid his other arm behind the small of Ryou's back, forming the suggestion of an embrace, his forehead leaned against Ryou's stomach, as he slowly stroked Ryou's erection.

Ryou just let himself moan, without having to force the sound, his body swaying and squirming with each stroke of Bakura's hand. The breath breaking against the skin by Ryou's navel was getting shakier and the strokes were getting faster. When the hand left, Ryou let out a pitiful little whine; he felt Bakura lift his knee, shifting their positions, spreading Ryou's legs apart and moving between them.

Oh God, he hadn't seen lube anywhere. Ryou bit his lip and tried not to tremble, lust getting displaced by apprehension, trying to quantify, like he had with the bruises, exactly how much this was going to hurt. An arm slid under one of his thighs, lifting gently to the side as that hand came around and molded to Ryou's hip. He just started to register that the angle was wrong when lips brushed against him. Ryou's breath caught and he froze.

He felt the movement of breath and then a tongue pressed against the underside of Ryou's erection and traveled slowly up from base to tip. Ryou dug his fingers into the sheets below him and stared up into the darkness, his breath starting up again very fast and heavy. Bakura's mouth closed around the head of his penis and Ryou heard his breathing take on a truly panicked sound.

Bakura moved the hand that wasn't holding Ryou's hip and a moment later it was pumping and caressing everywhere Bakura's mouth wasn't at any given moment. Ryou thought that he might have been moaning far too loudly as he writhed under Bakura's touch, but it was hard to tell because the blood pounding in his ears was so deafening.

If Ryou had made a table of things he'd been expecting, this would be under the couch cushions on the other side of the room. Because it was 'bitches who give the head.' Ryou lost his capacity for higher brain-function as everything everywhere became irrelevant except for hands and mouth and the shoulder his thigh was resting against and cheek-hair-ear that sometimes brushed past the sensitized skin. It was so hot and wet and amazing.

And then he was orgasming hard and twisting and pulling at the sheets and yelling wordlessly. It took ages to regain his bearings and hear anything but his heartbeat. When he could, what he heard was a muffled coughing and throat clearing. Oh for the love of God, please say he hadn't choked Bakura. Then there was a little, giddy sounding chuckle, just two notes.

"Wow."

What did that mean? What the hell did that mean? Ryou silently panicked as he continued failing to catch his breath. He felt Bakura move, crawling up over Ryou until an elbow landed below his shoulder and he could feel Bakura shifting weight onto it. Then he was nuzzling and kissing Ryou's neck. Softly. Sweetly. Ryou put his arms back around Bakura's shoulders panting slowly and staring into darkness.

"Wh-what is 'wow'?" Ryou demanded softly.

"You're loud!" Bakura laughed against his neck. He started kissing up Ryou's jaw to his ear and slid a hand up and through his hair on the other side. Bakura's breath was still shaking and the mouth suckling Ryou's neck was very insistent. Oh shit, that's right.

"You're not finished," Ryou whispered.

"Oh God I'm close though," Bakura murmured.

"Do you have any lube?" Ryou asked combing his fingers through Bakura's hair and staring up where the ceiling would be.

Bakura stilled. "...Whoever did it to you tore you up, didn't he?" he whispered, his voice shifting from giddy to serious. "I'm not making that worse."

"That- that's not-"

"No," Bakura said firmly.

"B-but-" Ryou mumbled uncertainly. "Then I- I'll-"

Bakura rolled sideways, pulling Ryou with him so they lay facing each other, then caught Ryou's hand and guided it to his erection. He leaned his forehead against Ryou's and made soft, needy little sounds while Ryou brought him to completion with his hand.

000

000

New 'verse! Actually last month or something I got a review about how happy my reader was that I wrote within the normal Yugioh verse instead of doing AUs. I had just started planning this series about a week before getting that review and I was like 'oh... damn...' But, uh, anyway, here's an urban-AU that's been kicking around my head for about a month and a half, maybe more, can't remember specific dates, but I was holding off on it until I finished FE. Now FE is finished, and this one can start living!

Melody is Miho's official English name (the blue-haired girl from season 0), most of the places where I use obscure or minor characters are in supporting roles and random OCs are all going to be unimportant-to-the-story kind of characters or plot-devises that we don't really care about too much. The setting here is a generic city, North America-ish because that's where my strongest cultural reference point is, and generally non specific and unimportant. Any interesting sounding places mentioned are probably made-up and based on generic archetypes. The scenery as I picture it has a look similar to Vancouver, with Victorian houses and urban architecture of every decade mixed together.

Um, hm, trying to think of any other points to address... and failing... Oh, uh, for reference there's going to be a lot of 'wow, that's some pretty angsty back-story' in this fic because it is the result of me watching 12 years of Law and Order: SVU on Netflix pretty much in a row. I promise more sex to come and more srs business and more Yugioh characters.

Please comment/review, my lovelies.