Warnings: Jou-language and eventual puppyshipping.


Jounouchi always thought that he would be sent to Hell for a better reason than playing a children's card game. It's not his first time risking his life, since he's been in plenty of shadow games, but at least in Battle City, he fought to protect his friends and the world. Now he's trapped in the shadow world, with no real justification for it other than he let the wrong person provoke him into a duel.

He should have known that recently, a card game almost always means the same thing as a shadow game.

Glancing up from his cards, he meets Bakura's flickering eyes, an eerie pair of glowing red slits, terror amongst the bleakness that is the shadow realm. Darkness exudes from the very air itself, suffocatingly dense and almost painful to breathe in, like a sticky poison that he tries to exhale but finds stuck in his throat. When he looks away from the table they're sitting at, he can't tell if his eyes are opened or closed, met only with unforgiving black that seems to deliberately seep into his line of vision.

"Scared, mortal?" asks the demon.

Leaning back in his chair with his arms spread casually, Bakura's shock of white hair contrasts sharply with the backdrop of black. His lips twist into a demented smile that resembles a disturbing combination of the grinch and the joker, but Jounouchi finds Bakura far more terrifying. He's faced thugs and gangsters, beaten and been beaten, but his opponents never gave an impression so inhuman, regardless of how cruel.

"As if," Jounouchi spits out, hiding the chill that travels down his spine. "I'm not the one who always hides behind Bakura's face so I don't get my ass whipped, coward."

"That's interesting," the spirit says, sneer widening as he watches Jounouchi repress a shudder. "Especially coming from someone who always hides behind the Pharaoh and his brat."

At the reminder of Yugi and his friends, Jounouchi scowls, although he does wonder what his friends will think when he never returns from lunch, because no matter how he valiantly he fights, he doubts he will. He had wanted a moment alone on the roof, to gaze out over the city, bright under the harsh sunlight, but he never told them where he'd gone. His disappearances aren't frequent, but every now and then, when he needs to escape his own reality for just a few moments, he'll linger and watch the people and cars go by. Sometimes he'll focus on one, and he always marvels at how that person's life goes on without them ever suspecting that they'd been picked out of thousands, watched for a few curious seconds by a pensive ex-gangster.

No one will know that instead of a peaceful moment alone, Jounouchi challenged a psychopath to a game of duel monsters.

He wishes he'd at least eaten lunch first.

"I'm not the one who's been chasing the Pharaoh around for five thousand years and still can't beat him," Jounouchi retorts, years of spitting in opponent's faces allowing him to hide his growing trepidation. His voice doesn't tremble.

Bakura offers no immediate comeback, but he doesn't have time to feel smug, since the spirit throws back his head and lets out a terrible, delighted cackle. Jounouchi belatedly realizes that taunting Bakura maybe isn't the best idea, especially not when the spirit controls whether or not he leaves or rots in this realm, but too late now.

Do villains have to fill out job applications, Jounouchi nervously ponders, because it helps him keep his breathing under control. If they do, he decides Bakura fits the description perfectly. Creepy-ass laugh: check. Glowing red eyes: check. Aspiration to sadistically torture and unjustly murder the poor, innocent Jounouchi Katsuya: double check.

He snaps out of his musings when Bakura pauses, and Jounouchi's eyes dilate in fear when the demon displays the card he just drew.

It's the last letter of Destiny Board.

"You can't win," Jounouchi protests, but Bakura only gloats.

"I'm afraid I already have."

The shadows seem to grow darker and press forward. They thicken and swirl, making it impossible to determine where they start and end. Jounouchi drops his cards, stumbling backwards and tripping over his own feet, but not even caring because all he knows is that he needs to get away from the maniac sitting across from him. Falling on his ass, his arms and legs still scramble in an awkward, backwards crabwalk, his pride forgotten in irrational terror.

He always saves his most suave moves for when he's about to die.

"What to do with you," Bakura muses with mock concern. He leans forward, tapping his chin thoughtfully with a long, unnaturally pale finger. "What to do."

For a moment the spirit only stares, and then the pain hits. "Fuck!"

Jounouchi's head throbs with images and he feels that slimy bastard searching his emotions and disjointed memories for something to torture him with. A penalty game, specially personalized to torment him specifically. What a deal.

"Yes, killing you would be much too easy," Bakura is still speaking, his voice pulsing in Jounouchi's ears. "I've never been fond of the Pharaoh's lapdogs. I'd much rather prolong your suffering."

The teen hisses at the comment. He's not a dog, and he doesn't need Bakura ridiculing him when Kaiba's insults are already bad enough, that stuck-up, selfish, bastard of a rich boy—

"Now, what's this?"

Bakura sounds dangerously fascinated, and his victim shudders. The spirit can't distinguish between specific thoughts, but Jounouchi hates Kaiba passionately enough that Bakura detects who the emotion is directed at.

Jounouchi gawks in confusion as a piece of darkness suddenly fades, a round hole of white glowing in front of him. The shadows squirm away, a picture of the normal, sane world forming in their place. A portal of light in a pool of black, like a circular television that hovers in the middle of a starless night sky.

Leaning forward, he peers down into the bright opening, observing desks and students returning from their lunch break, a snippet of their reality playing in a realm they don't know exists.

And then there's Seto Kaiba.

The man sits stiffly and arrogantly at his desk like he owns the place, and hell, he probably does. If not, then Jounouchi assumes the destitute public school is beneath his notice, considered undeserving of his oh-so-mighty rule.

A cruelly amused laugh interrupts his internal seething.

"Well, isn't this interesting," Bakura murmurs, his eyes alight with demented fervor. "I'm afraid all good shadow games must come to an end, but don't worry, mortal. I've already decided on your punishment."

"What are you talking about, you freak?" Jounouchi grinds out, gnashing his teeth in pain. Bakura ignores him easily.

"I've never performed one exactly like it," the spirit says, the golden ring around his neck glowing ominously while Jounouchi gapes in mute horror. "I generally find trapping souls in inanimate objects much more satisfying. But I think in this case, the results should prove to be quite...entertaining."

"What the hell are you—"

"I suppose I'm sorry to be dragging the priest into your punishment," Bakura continues as the pain in Jounouchi's head escalates. "Actually, no, I don't think I am," he chortles, correcting himself. "I never did like that pretentious fool."

Jounouchi gasps, his head throbbing as though ripping in two. The realm resembles a nightmare, but at least he'd felt real and attached to his body, although it was such an obvious thing he only notices now that he's unattached. He attempts to thrash, scream at the unbearable agony, but he can't, because he has no solid form.

"Remember this well," Bakura declares as the shadows surround his victim in cyclones of darkness. "Those who disrespect the Thief King will pay. Do my work for me and enjoy your hell on earth, you pathetic cretin."

The portal reappears, and once again, Jounouchi glimpses the students in their seats. For a moment, it seems Kaiba hears something, senses something because he looks up, directly at him.

Meeting Kaiba's eyes, their icy blue is the last color Jounouchi sees before the shadows entirely consume him.


~ooo~

Jounouchi groans quietly, scrunching up his eyes and squinting through them. The familiar sight of scratched wood enters his blurry, sleep-hazed vision, engraved with messily etched names and depraved pictures. Strangely, he doesn't recognize any, but it's not like he studies the carvings on a regular basis or anything.

Well, usually. Occasionally his boredom gets the best of him. He's just so artistically blessed, it seems a shame not to leave some of his own work behind to gratify future victims subjected to the horrors of trigonometry.

Cut him some slack, it's math class.

His head aches nastily, and lifting his head from his desk and a hand to his head, he idly deliberates whether he should credit the pain to the oddly realistic nightmare he'd just suffered, or his droning math teacher.

In the end, he decides to blame the immediate and potentially more sinister enemy trying to lead him to his demise.

Calculus.

Groaning again, he stretches out his arms, listening to the joints pop and feeling the muscles tighten. Several students turned to look at him strangely, and the teacher, even more strangely, doesn't scold him.

Neither reaction makes sense. He falls asleep easily, and he falls asleep often, but the students normally laugh at him, and he's always told off.

Looking around, disoriented, he also wonders why he's sitting in the back and not in his usual seat by the window. In fact, come to think of it, he can't remember when he arrived to class at all. The encounter with Bakura must have been a dream (it can't not be, he's alive), but he has no clue at what point he fell asleep.

He shakes his head. Yugi presumably helped him to class, bless him and his spiky head, and Jounouchi must never have fully woken up, sleep-walking back from lunch. Then the teacher switched the seating chart so Yugi brought him to his new seat, and maybe Honda even helped, since Jounouchi would have squashed the poor kid if he lost his balance.

His efforts to convince himself provide little comfort. Scanning the room, Yugi is nowhere in sight, which puts a hole in his Yugi-lugged-him-to-class theory, and everyone else occupies the same seat as usual, so there's no new seating arrangement, either. With growing trepidation, he notes that both Honda and Bakura are also absent.

He does feel just slightly relieved that Bakura apparently skipped (and it isn't because he's scared, except maybe it is), but combined with the other two, that means three of his friends are missing. Four, he notes, when he spots Anzu's empty seat. It dawns on him that if they're all missing, something damn important must have come up, because neither Anzu nor Bakura are the type to skip just for kicks.

They're probably off saving the world again.

Without him.

"Hey," he whispers to one of the boys sitting at the table in front of him, since his own table partner is either nonexistent or absent.

The teen turns to stare at him with wide eyes, seemingly petrified at merely being addressed, and Jounouchi pauses for a moment, taken aback and admittedly unsettled. He hasn't received one of those reactions since his days in the gang, but regardless, he has more pressing issues to address, so he decides to deal with the problem later. A little unwarranted terror never hurt anybody.

"Hey," he starts again in a raspy whisper. His voice sounds strange, but he dismisses it quickly in favor of investigating the more pertinent dilemma. "Where's Yugi and—"

"Kaiba-san," the teacher cuts him off and the kid turns around in record speed.

Jounouchi leans back in his seat with much more ease, trying to look innocent. The teacher glares right at him, though, and he peeks subtly to his left and right and over his shoulder, trying to find the rich prick who had been addressed, but Kaiba is absent too. Yeah, it's definitely one of those days, one where the end of the world is near, and Jounouchi is stuck in math class while his best friend, most hated enemy, and everyone else fights an ultimate battle against evil.

It's a matter of course that Jounouchi prefers playing card games with the world at stake over sitting through calculus.

"Kaiba-san," the teacher repeats, her voice gaining an edge. Ohh, Kaiba is in for it, and normally Jounouchi would be rubbing his hands together with uncontained glee, but Kaiba isn't there.

"Er, Mori-sensei—" Jounouchi begins, deciding to just break the news and tell her that Kaiba had ditched her class, and hey, since he's a nice guy, he'll even leave out the you're insane, woman at the end.

He never finishes his revelation. Instead, he chokes on his own words, unprepared for the sound of his own voice, or rather, the voice that isn't his own.

"What—" he automatically reaches up to grasp his throat, and suddenly, all the pieces he'd so blissfully been unable to put together click with a snap, or maybe that's the sound of his sanity.

Long fingers graze his throat, brushing the edge of his school uniform, the collar buttoned all the way to the top and snug around his neck. It certainly doesn't help with the fact that he feels like he's suffocating, because the realization comes crashing down on him that this isn't his jacket, this isn't his desk, that isn't his voice, and shit, those aren't even his own fingers—

It doesn't really register that he's stood until he hears the chair scraping behind him, the resulting screech causing several of his gawking classmates to wince. He steadies himself with two splayed hands on the table, only distantly aware that they're shaking.

"Kaiba-san, are you feeling all right?"

The teacher studies him with concern now, but that only drives Jounouchi more on edge, because why the hell is she looking at him while talking to Kaiba?

More stares. Deciding them irrelevant for the moment, he lifts a hand to his face, dazedly observing the unfamiliar skin, nails, wrinkles, and veins. His head feels light, and it isn't just because of the verging panic. Touching his scalp, he notes that he has considerably less hair, and none of it falls in his eyes. Grasping a piece of it in his alien fingers, he pulls it into his line of vision and discovers that his blond hair has been replaced with brown.

Ignoring the shouts of 'Kaiba-san, are you all right?', he stumbles drunkenly for the exit, unaccustomed to his long limbs but making it quickly out the door driven by desperation alone. He escapes into the empty corridor, where there's no one to witness his clumsy escape, his movements growing only slightly more controlled as he becomes used to the foreign body. His uneven, running footsteps echo down the hall, as does the slam of the door to the thankfully empty restroom.

Roughly, he kicks the trash can to block the entrance and staggers over to the mirror, bracing himself against the sink and grasping each porcelain edge with a tightly clenched hand. The surface feels slimy, filthy wet, but Jounouchi is too busy staring into the slimy, filthy mirror to care or even notice.

He never thought in a thousand years that he'd see the unflappable, stick-up-his-ass Seto Kaiba lose his composure. He doubts that even if the Pharaoh spends another five millennia with the guy, it'll never happen.

It's an ugly sight, but Jounouchi experiences none of the triumph he thinks he might have enjoyed under different circumstances.

Pale, clammy skin. Ragged breaths. Wild blue eyes, more vibrant than the dull navy of his school uniform, and a manic gleam underlying their normally impassive surface.

"No," Jounouchi shakes his head in denial, and watches as Kaiba's reflection does the same, the lips forming their own 'no'.

Raising a trembling finger to point at the mirror in horrified disbelief, his finger meets Kaiba's, forming a cold connection between his hand and the chilled glass.

"This must be some kind of cheap trick," Jounouchi whispers in Kaiba's voice, uttering the first phrase that sounds appropriate in his deep baritone.

Fate seems to decide in that moment that since he hasn't already had a nervous breakdown (or at least, it isn't escalating fast enough), it obviously hasn't fucked with him enough, so it better change that so it can fulfill its goddamn cosmic quota for the day.

Jounouchi loses his grip on the sink and stumbles backwards, crashing into the bathroom stall as he takes several terrified steps back, clutching his head with his grimy fingers.

There's a tingle, or maybe a stir, in the back of his mind. A foreign, subconscious thought that most definitely doesn't belong to him. The murmur is weak and far from aware, but in that moment, Jounouchi knows. Physically, no one is near him, but in his mind...

He isn't alone.


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