A/N: Batteryshipping - Yami no Bakura x Katsuya Jounouchi x Ryou Bakura for Tier 5 of Season 8.5 of the YGO fic contest here on ff-net - holy shit, I'm royally fucked. I never planned to write this shipping, but there you go. My mind decided otherwise and so, in just two hours, this was born.
This is set to Adam Lambert's Whataya Want From Me. And considering the lyrics, it's a very odd – and perhaps quite ironic – music choice for a fic like this. Trust me, I'm well aware of that.

ETA: Included minor edits that actually make a huge difference for the sake of this fic making sense.

Warnings: morbid content. Nothing overly explicit.

Disclaimer: Kazuki Takahashi and all associated companies are the rightful owners of the Yuugiou! franchise and I claim no association with any of them. No copyright infringement intended with this and no money is being made from this. Please support the creator by purchasing the official releases.

Kokoro No Naka

Ryou can't breathe. The air is hot and suffocating in the room, and the ties that keep his arms bound to the wall are drawn so tight that they bruise. There is a familiar nauseating feeling at the back of his throat; one that tells him just what is going on here. He wants to be free, he wants out, but there is no one there who could help him. Actually, he should be the one helping the other prisoner of this confinement escape, but he can't do even that. He no longer knows what is right and what is wrong in this world that has suddenly tilted off the axis so far that it's threatening to swing upside-down at even the lightest breath. The person who brought him here and unleashed the madness upon him is also the person Ryou should be saving because he is a friend, but…

"Now then, yadonushi, tell him…" the all-too familiar voice whispers darkly in Ryou's ears, and the coils holding his arms up loosen enough to let them down, but not enough to completely relinquish the bruising pressure on his wrists. Ryou feels ice-cold, as the voice propels him forward.

"It… It'll be okay," Ryou stumbles with his words because they aren't what he has wanted to say. Instead, 'Sorry. I'm so sorry. I never meant for this to happen,' but those words never leave his lips. They echo around in his mind, terribly hollow and perpetually trapped. His mind is screaming, but his lips twist up in a smile that doesn't belong.

"That's a good yadonushi," the voice praises in mockery.

Ryou feels his arms lifting – numb as they are – and his fingers curling lightly to rest against a clammy cheek. Just a moment ago their positions had been reversed. He can still feel the other's fingers upon his own face, digging painfully in his cheeks while he fights with everything he has to break free.

"I'll teach you how they will never leave you." It is a promise and a curse, and sweet, sweet poison to his desolate and desperate mind.

Ryou chokes back a sob in his mind because images flash across his conscious – terrible images of winding roads, dark rainy nights, bending metal, and blinding fire. Voices are screaming from within the fire and Ryou has a dreadful realisation that they are familiar, those voices. Not his mother's or Amane's – not anymore, not only them.

"You don't want to be left all alone again," the voice in his ears croons, and paints even more pictures. Sand scattering, people running, swords tearing through flesh, spears worming their way between bones, and fire, fire, fire. It's all so real. It's all inside Ryou's head. The voices are howling in despair, and something dark and terrible surges up from the ground beneath his feet. It is blood red and it clings to his legs, creeping up slowly and soaking his clothes. It tears Ryou apart and something within him splits with such blinding pain that he loses his eyesight and his mind.

Ryou comes to on the floor of his own room, dawn barely breaking behind the wide-open window. The open curtain swishes lightly in the wind, and Ryou feels terribly cold. At the tips of his fingers lies a small figurine, which he doesn't remember owning before – though it looks familiar. Shivering, he gets up, picks the figurine up and puts it in the box with the other Monster World tokens. There is quite a collection of those now – a proof of how many nightmares he's had prior to the trip to Egypt during which the spirit possessing him was banished.

Ryou has never remembered making any of these new game pieces after those recurring nightmare fits. Sometimes he vaguely recalls sitting down to create one, might even remember falling asleep in the process, but never remembers finishing it. Sighing and wondering what could have triggered a nightmare now, after all this time, he heads for the kitchen to make himself a nice hot cup of tea.

. . .

"You look awful," Jounouchi notes during lunch break months later when Bakura joins Yuugi and his gang on the roof. He has become a permanent inclusion into their circle after the last trip to Egypt – which Ryou remembers very little of – and which has, since, lost a member. "Stayed up all night crammin' for the test again, huh?"

Ryou laughs and rubs the back of his head sheepishly, but before he can say anything, Anzu has already jumped in to berate Jounouchi. Hands defiantly planted on her hips, she is ready for a fight.

"You should try it sometime, Jounouchi. Your marks aren't exactly stellar."

Jounouchi balks. "And if I end up lookin' like Bakura? No dice!"

"You're just afraid that using your mind will hurt you."

"Am not! I ain't afraid of anything!"

"Not even Kaiba?" Anzu taunts, a knowing smirk on her face.

"That moneybags? He's just a good-for-nothin'…"

Ryou laughs at their banter and reassures them that, "I'm okay, really. School has been stressful lately, that's all."

"No joke," Yuugi pipes up. "Last few weeks we've had so many tests! Why do they always do this right before the breaks?"

"No more talk of this!" Jounouchi jumps in – literally and figuratively – with his fist raised to punctuate his words. "Change of subject!"

The subject changes, but the little lies stay. Occasionally, Ryou keeps telling sweet little things which his friends want to hear; or rather – they just slip out on their own accord, as if his mind isn't entirely his own. Sometimes, he finds that, venturing to say one thing, he ends up saying something completely different. It's been a while since he has stopped wondering about that.

. . .

With the school letting out for the last time and the passing of the graduation ceremony, it takes Ryou a while to meet his friends again. One day, he runs into Jounouchi at the mall where the other is picking up some books for his sister, and they exchange a few words on the go. That same night, the nightmares return again.

That night, there is a chapel with exploding panes of stained glass, thousands of candles blowing out in a fierce gust of wind that follows right after. Moonlight streaks in through the gaping window holes, casting lines upon lines of light and darkness across the floor and the pews. Somebody is screaming, but it's not Ryou; not this time. His wrists are bound again; invisible coils drawn painfully tight around them while somebody holds the other ends in hand, pulling them this way and that. His chest feels tight, as if a monster is trying to break out from within his ribcage. Ryou feels on the verge of breaking apart, of turning inside-out, and he shakily takes his steps forward in a daze – as if this is some grotesque dance which he must dance with the shadows.

"Your friends will never leave you, yadonushi," the voice whispers in his ears, as it has for a long, long time now. "I have shown you how they stay by your side forever. Now, show me how well you've learned your lesson."

Ryou walks forward, straining against the bindings that hold him suspended halfway between himself and somebody else, somebody dark.

'I'm sorry,' he wants to say, eyeing Jounouchi who is strung up by the altar and only now regaining consciousness. Instead, "It'll be okay."

"Bakura?" Jounouchi's voice is faint. He is still dazed. "Where… where are we?"

"Safe," Ryou assures and means anything but. An unspoken 'I'm sorry' remains trapped between will and willpower, suspended by a chord of you-shall-not. Dark arms wind around his torso, bringing the darkness ever closer.

"Good," it croons, and blood that stains its hands seeps into Ryou's striped t-shirt. "You're so beautiful like this. Such a good little yadonushi."

"I'm going to take care of you," Ryou explains to Jounouchi. "You're going to be okay."

"Bakura, what are you…" Jounouchi is trying his hardest to process everything that's going on. He looks around the demolished chapel, not recognising the place. He takes notice of how dazed and confused Ryou looks in the moonlight. He seems… lost, somehow. "What are you doing? Bakura?"

"Guess again," the darkness hisses and his roiling laughter turns the air in the room stale.

"Dark Bakura!" Jounouchi wheezes in sudden realisation. If he strains hard enough, he can make out a ghostly outline enveloping Ryou. "But… You were banished!"

"That's what you think," the darkness hisses again, red eyes burning like two coals on both sides of Ryou's head. "What was banished was Zorc. I'm not him. I am my own. – Darkness," he adds the last word as an afterthought before flooding into a series of low chuckles that raise the hairs on the back of Jounouchi's neck.

"No… No way!" Jounouchi struggles against the binds, but they hold fast. "You were sealed away! You were banished! I saw…"

"What did you see?" the dark spirit snarls and Ryou lurches forward in response to his anger. "You only saw what I allowed you to see."

"The being of Light said…"

Bakura's uproarious laughter cuts him off. He spits the next words out once he has calmed himself down, "What do beings of light know of Darkness? Do they know where Darkness hides? Where it dwells?"

Jounouchi shakes his head, disbelieving. Terrified. Doomed.

"No. No way! Snap out of it, Bakura! Snap out of it! You've got to… you've got to fight it!"

But Ryou slowly advances, an empty look in his eyes.

"I'm going to take care of you," he repeats and reaches out to touch Jounouchi's cheek.

Jounouchi recoils and tries to find a way to fight back, but Ryou's hands hold his face fast. He can see the gleaming coals of eyes disappear behind Ryou's head before they glide right through it, reflecting in Ryou's pupils. Pits of bottomless darkness stare Jounouchi down for a moment, and then they are already moving forward, ghostly features emerging from Ryou's face. The creature leans in, drawing close, so close…

Jounouchi screams. It's the only thing he can think of doing, and it's his gravest mistake yet. Icy-cold lips of a ghost press against his mouth, swallowing his scream and drawing out his breath. Ryou's chest feels tight; so, so tight, as it is forced to accept a foreign breath, as it is forced to expand to accommodate what his darkness pulls out of the other. His mouth is slightly agape and he is panting. Red-hot fire is running up and down his body, his vision blurs, and his body feels like it will break. Centimetres from his face, Jounouchi is suffocating, choking on every move of cold lips against his own. His body strains and protests, his mind is howling in pain, but Dark Bakura dominates his mouth and everything that comes out of it. Vaguely, Jounouchi realises that cold hands have wrapped around his torso and currently icy fingers are worming their way into his back; gripping at his ribs and forcing their way between them to squeeze his lungs, to drain them of the last bit of air. Dark Bakura's touch is so cold that it burns.

Ryou is burning up. His lungs have inflated painfully and they press against his ribcage, strangling his heart, which struggles for each agonising beat. He feels lightheaded and feverish, and wants nothing more than for this to stop. He is running short of breath as well, unable to exhale while his darkness breathes in air from Jounouchi's lungs. Ryou chokes and wheezes when Dark Bakura finally moves away from Jounouchi's lips, able to breathe again. Now, Bakura is drawing out Jounouchi's soul. Pearly white and see-through, it streams from the other's parted lips, and the most terrible part of it all is seeing Jounouchi's eyes. They are alive; they still process everything that's going on, and there is so much pain written in them. Ryou is forced to watch how the light in them slowly dies out, knowing that the sparks of hatred in them are all directed at him – and at the same time not at him. He also knows that he will forget this moment, the same way he has forgotten all of the previous ones. He can only remember them, or rather, remember remembering them at this one moment when Bakura is partially outside of him, too engrossed in feasting to fully control him.

"I'm sorry," Ryou attempts to mouth out the words, but it's lost on Jounouchi. His eyes are beginning to gloss over, and Ryou knows that soon it'll all be over – for him, for Jounouchi, for his memories of this moment, and those countless moments before this. It's just like the first time that night many months ago in a room that wasn't Ryou's own, in a house that was friendly and familiar before his darkness emerged and tipped the scales.

Bakura draws the other's soul inside his own, absorbs every last bit of it, and grows stronger. Slowly, he settles back into Ryou's body, taking full control over him again. He withdraws his hands from Jounouchi's back, letting the lifeless carcass fall back in its restraints, and spreads his arms over Ryou's sleeping soul.

"Lovely little yadonushi," he croons, settling over him like a blanket of darkness. He rests his cheek against Ryou's, and then shifts so that his lips brush his ear. "I'll show you a wonderful dream since you've been so good."

His arms circle Ryou's torso, keeping him securely anchored against his own chest. He tilts his head and bites the other's neck playfully, watching how the sleeping soul tries to squirm away from him.

"Look," he whispers against Ryou's ear, spinning images in his mind. "Look."

Fire blooms behind Ryou's closed eyelids, blood runs down and over every surface, and everything burns golden, golden. Somebody is screaming from deep within his soul.

When Ryou wakes up, the window of his bedroom is wide open again. The curtains do not swish in the morning wind this time. Instead, the gentle patter of the first raindrops filters in, promising a bleak and overcast day. There is another figurine at the tips of Ryou's fingers and he picks it up with a sigh. He drops it into the box with the other tokens and, rubbing his goose-bump-covered arms, goes to close the window before proceeding to the kitchen for a cup of hot tea and one of those creampuffs he bought yesterday at the mall to warm himself up.

A/N: The title can be translated as either "within the heart" or "within the spirit", both of which I find oddly fitting for this piece. It's also a very overdone title in this fandom, from what I've seen. But nothing else sounded right for this, orz.

ETA2: My reasoning for the canonic plausibility of this? I refuse to believe that Bakura was completely destroyed along with Zorc. He's not the kind of person to throw everything onto a single card, and even going into the final battle would have considered the possibility of it not being exactly final. Also, he is a Horcrux.