A/N: Reading the following note is completely unnecessary, but if anyone is still around from when I first posted this fic, the answer is yes. This story has been altered. In fact, it's almost a different story altogether.

Why did I take the old one down? Characterization, for one: In the old version, I'd made Ryou a pushover, and Yami Bakura was more of a typical jerk than a vengeful spirit. Their relationship didn't feel balanced.

In the original, I also included YGOTAS personalities for Marik and "Melvin", and I adore YGOTAS, but I think it was out of place. Moreover, Marik has a personality disorder: treating Yami Marik as the same type of entity as Yami Bakura didn't make sense, especially given the plot.

I've seen authors pull these things off. But I'm of the opinion that I did not. Of course, we're our own worst critics. If you liked the old version, I truly appreciate your support, and you're the reason I keep striving to do better.

And three years later, I think I can pull off something better, although it sure as hell won't be perfect. It's going to have the same premise as the old version, which is why I'm re-posting rather than deleting. Yami Bakura has his own body and has lost his powers. I won't say more than that, for fear of spoilers.

Seriously, though. If anyone is still reading this old thing, thank you.


ooo

Marik Ishtar, despite his justified hatred for his childhood, knew an impressive amount about the Millennium Items from growing up in the tomb. He knew about their origins, he knew about the blood magic involved, and perhaps most importantly, he knew about the soul bonds between spirit and host. He hated this knowledge, but his resentment didn't change the fact that the knowledge was there.

Before the Battle City Tournament in which the Pharaoh had "banished" his other self, and before he'd thrown his lot with Yugi and the Pharaoh, Marik had made a trade: his knowledge of soul bonds for "Yami" Bakura's assistance, since an offer of an alliance hadn't proved sufficient on its own. Still, now that he'd chosen the Pharaoh's side of the fight, he deeply regretted ever admitting such secrets.

He felt terribly guilty, but not all that surprised, when Ryou Bakura showed up at his door one day, wild and terrified and defeated.

"Please," Ryou Bakura asked desperately, leaning heavily against the wall. A bloodied hand held out a familiar, golden ring. "Put him back."

ooo

The spirit of the Millennium Ring hated Marik Ishtar. He had told the demon magics that would allow the spirit to gain its own body, rendering its host unnecessary, but Ishtar had failed to mention that the spirit would lose all of its powers as a result.

But Marik Ishtar currently lived in Egypt, so the spirit took out his anger on a different target: his precious, dear Yadonushi. The demon might have lacked its magics, but it took full advantage of its new body. It would solve the issue its magic eventually, already having started its research, but even with only flesh to defend itself, the spirit had a significant advantage over Ryou Bakura.

Ryou Bakura fought viciously, but viciousness wasn't enough to overcome the sheer, deranged pleasure that the spirit took in strangling him, slashing at him, or otherwise making him suffer. The spirit received its share of bruises and cuts, but in the end, the desire to hurt prevailed over necessity to hurt.

As time passed, however, the fights started to lose their satisfaction. Ryou Bakura landed plenty of his own punches and scratches, and after one black eye too many, the spirit decided a compromise might be best. It considered mortals weak and inferior, and it certainly viewed Ryou as such, but it could at least admire the boy's stubborn attempts. In a way, his mortality made the efforts even more impressive, because they were weak and utterly useless, but Ryou persisted nevertheless. The spirit had gained its own powers due to its own dedication to revenge, and maybe, in its blackened heart, it felt a sense of camaraderie with the child. The boy wouldn't kill or maim, a pathetic mortal weakness, but he had a sense of self-preservation at the very least.

Slowly, the bruises faded, both the ones on Ryou's neck and the ones on the spirit's nose and cheekbones. It resented its mortal body, but its hatred for Ishtar seethed quietly instead of lashing out at its former host, and they fell into a wary truce.

Now they sat together for dinner, an unrelenting cold silence between them, one that never broke. The spirit bit viciously into the provided meat, ripping off an impolitely large amount. The boy hadn't felt like cooking today, so they ate take-out, but the spirit hadn't complained. Food was one area in which its host remained stubborn, pointing out that the spirit did nothing to contribute, therefore, if it wanted to eat, it would eat what Ryou provided. No amount of hissing, spitting, hair-pulling, or scratching would change the boy's mind, and it only resulted in hissing and scratching in return.

"Why don't you tell your little 'friends' about me, mortal?" the spirit asked, and the boy actually jumped, he was so shocked at the spirit breaking their customary silence.

"You're mortal too, now," the boy pointed out insolently. He watched the spirit warily while he ripped off an even larger piece of meat than the demon had. For all that Ryou kept up a polite facade, he rarely bothered to maintain it around the spirit. It was only natural, the demon supposed, since it had lived inside the boy's mind. Politeness seemed aimless after learning someone's darkest thoughts.

"My powers will return," the spirit hissed in return, inhuman red eyes glinting unpleasantly. "Even if I must sacrifice my flesh to regain them. This body means nothing without my original purpose for it."

Ryou shrugged, and went back to eating.

"You failed to answer my question," the spirit spat impatiently when it became clear that the boy considered the conversation done. "Why have you not told?"

Ryou eyed him distrustfully. "Maybe I hadn't thought of it. Should you really be giving me suggestions?"

"You value your own skin enough to have tried already," the spirit said disparagingly. "I've been prepared with a trap for the Pharaoh if you brought him, yet it's been months, and you never have."

The boy chewed his food carefully, swallowing with an audible gulp. He stared down at his greasy fingers, not bothering to lick them clean, frowning thoughtfully.

"I probably shouldn't tell you this," Ryou sighed eventually. "But when I told the Pharaoh that you'd lost your powers, he said that it was a fitting punishment, and he saw no need to challenge you so long as you lived quietly. He doesn't think you can hurt me, now that you're 'defenseless'," the boy frowned dubiously at that, clearly quoting the Pharaoh. "He said I should just kick you out, but..."

"But?" the demon sneered disdainfully. "You think you can redeem me? Does kicking me out when I'm apparently...defenseless hurt your delicate sensibilities?" And this was exactly why mortals were weak, unable to kill to attain what they wanted.

"No," Ryou shook his head. "Surely you've felt it? When you hurt me, you hurt yourself. When I hurt you, I hurt myself. We're still bonded. It's faint, but...I don't want to risk you going out and getting yourself killed. I don't particularly want to die because of a bond to a deranged ghost."

The spirit had noticed. It had ignored the connection, for the most part, since brief phantom pains could hardly quell the demon's bloodlust, but once it had gotten over its initial wave of anger at Ishtar, it had decided damaging its host was counterproductive. The fights achieved nothing and they weakened him in return. As satisfying as lashing out might have been, in the end a compromise was much more beneficial.

It was unlikely the boy would die because of the bond, given the faintness of the doubled pain, but the spirit decided this information best kept to itself, on the off-chance that the mortal decided to kick out the spirit as a result. The regular meals and shelter meant more than proving a mortal wrong.

"Besides," Ryou continued, this time his voice containing a dark promise. "The Pharaoh might have written you off, but I know better than to underestimate you. When you try something, I'll know, and I'll stop you."

The demon laughed at that. After all, a mortal, no matter how viciously he fought, would never out-maneuver the king of thieves.

ooo

They rarely spoke, but after that conversation, it no longer seemed daunting to break the silence. A few fights resulted, and finally, for the first time, the mortal won a complete victory. After a particularly ferocious battle, the boy had somehow managed to pester the spirit into helping him cook and doing a minimal amount of cleaning.

"You bit me," the demon had said incredulously in the middle of the brawl, looking at the marks on its forearm incredulously.

The boy had actually broken the skin, the teeth cutting fairly deep, the injury much more painful than the usual scratches and bruises. Despite Ryou's thrashing and bites, the spirit had managed to keep the boy pinned beneath its body, and at the comment the boy finally fell limp. The demon knew better than to take the lack of struggle as acquiescence, however, since past experience showed that Ryou was only biding his time.

"You're hardly in a position to complain," Ryou commented sullenly. He squirmed half-heartedly, his hair a wild mess. He spat out a few strands with distaste. "You've bitten me before."

This was true, the spirit recognized, suddenly unsure of why it found it unnerving that the boy had retaliated in the same way. The demon hid its disquiet with a cheshire smirk.

"Well, then perhaps I should return the favor instead of complaining, Yadonushi," the spirit hissed in the boy's ear, leaning close so that its breath brushed over his skin. It placed its teeth on his neck, scraping slowly-

And Ryou kneed the spirit between the legs, seeing the opportunity, and the demon collapsed, cursing its mortal body for the terrible level of agony. Ryou wasted no time, rolling them over so that he had the demon pinned instead.

"You will help with meals and clothes," the boy announced determinedly. The spirit didn't reply, still suffering from mortal pain. One more reason this body was useless, having such an exploitable weak spot. Why had the demon wanted its own flesh in the first place?

Oh, that's right, the spirit thought scathingly. Ryou Bakura was just as troublesome when it fought for control of his mind as when they fought with their fists.

The King of Thieves played by its own rules, though, maintaining its own odd sense of honor. The mortal had won, and so the spirit assisted with a few menial chores. And perhaps the demon also helped because the chores provided a distraction from the thought of its teeth scraping against Ryou's neck, with the boy red-faced and breathing hard after they fought-

The spirit truly hated its mortal flesh.


ooo

A/N: I'll probably add to this chapter as I write more for this, since I don't want to bug people with updates for a story that they thought was finished. Any kind of feedback is appreciated.