Wow, OK. This is my first fanfic in six years and my first time writing anything Thiefshipping, which is a pairing that I adore but am still trying to feel out. So, I hope you enjoy this. And I hope I've rated this appropriately.

I set this post-series, and somehow Bakura has returned and has a body separate from Ryou's. How did this happen? Maybe I'll figure that out for my next fic. Just roll with it.

Disclaimer: I don't own YuGiOh.

The world had changed before Bakura had the chance to realize.

Sometimes he was surprised by how much of his ancient past he could remember. But then, he had been granted a lot of time to remember it. Thinking back on it, he remembered that it had been surprisingly exciting to be human. The brevity of human life ensured that. When you travel through time knowing that eventually it will run out, you gain a passion for the simple things. Like a mother's arms around you, or the taste of really pleasing food, or the feel of a vengeful knife as it pierces its way through flesh…

Yeah, those were the notions that made being human a real experience. Those were the things that Bakura had loved, the pleasures that he had remembered while isolated in the Ring's darkness.

There was no need for sleep in his golden prison, hunger did not consume him, and his eyes had been useless against the pressing, unending black. If the bright Egyptian sun had been shining on the outside of the Ring, rising and setting, glinting off of sharp metal, Bakura had not been even slightly aware of its light from the inside. So all he could really do was wait, plot revenge and stew in anger, and remember the time when he had been real.

Bakura is in a state of almost-dreaming when a prickling on his skull wakes him. His eyes open slowly as he comes back to full awareness, mind registering the soft bed beneath him, and that the warm presence at his side is non-threatening. Marik is slowly running his fingers through Bakura's hair, his slender body pressed against Bakura's side. Bakura glances sideways at him, and Marik hesitates a bit in his gentle stroking when he sees that he is awake, eyes going wide with what looks like fear. It only lasts a fleeting moment, and Bakura wonders if Marik expected to be scolded for interrupting his sleep. 'Maybe later,' Bakura thinks dully.

Then Marik's body moves against Bakura as he lifts his torso from the bed and bends an elbow to prop his head up on a hand. A feeling that Bakura can't quite identify reaches the pit of his stomach. It's a little like hunger, but a lot less unpleasant. He's still getting used to this body, but he's had this feeling before, and he thinks he might have identified it as lust. It's a feeling he only gets for two things: blood and Marik.

Bakura turns his head slightly to meet Marik's gaze. The room is dark but there is just enough light slipping in through the blinds that Bakura can see lavender eyes shining down at him. The thought crosses his mind that even if the room were enveloped in complete darkness, he would still be able to see those eyes because they are just so damn bright.

"What's wrong, Marik?"

Most of what he remembered while waiting in the darkness was a hellish image of fire and smoke. The sounds of his own choking on the thick fumes. He remembers some blood, and a lot of screaming, and a tear or two (on his face or someone else's? He can't recall). He remembers bodies crashing together as they tried to flee, and bodies limp and as still as stone that he tripped on because, for some reason, they were abandoned in the middle of the street. And the most incredible, horrible heat as he watched his family's flesh melt into the flames. He remembered these terrible things and they scared him, and they angered him, and they made him passionate. He resolved to act on this passion when the darkness was finally over.

Marik rolls to be on top of Bakura, pressing his face shamelessly into Bakura's neck and bringing up a hand to gently touch the side of his face. Marik is trembling almost imperceptibly, and he makes a noise that sounds like choking. Now Bakura has another feeling in his stomach, only this time he can identify it as dread. It's something he's felt before, a long time ago. Bakura reaches up to put his hand to the back of Marik's neck, and he knows that something's really wrong. Marik's skin feels much too hot, like it's burning, and he's making little noises somewhere between a gag and a moan. And then, suddenly, he lets out one hot whoosh of air against Bakura's neck and goes quiet and perfectly still. There is a pause, and now Bakura is really panicking and he's about to take action and flip them over and check Marik's eyes to make sure that their light is still visible.

But Marik beats him to the punch.

"Hey Bakura?" comes Marik's surprisingly calm voice.

"Hmm?" he replies, because he's already asked Marik what was wrong and he'll be Ra-damned if he's going to ask again, and besides, his voice would probably shake.

Marik's voice comes quietly this time. "Do you ever feel like you're fading out?"

Bakura feels what he could have sworn a moment ago was hot, melting flesh running down his neck, but now realizes it's a cold tear. He wonders what kind of nightmare Marik's had this time.

He sometimes remembered pleasant things. Things that had happened before the flames. Small snippets of memory that his young mind had retained from his short life in Kul Elna. He could especially remember his mother, a beautiful, strong woman. As a human boy, he valued her every word and gentle touch. He remembered how she would come to him at night, when he had woken from a nightmare, sweating and scared and feeling so small. She would stroke his head and whisper to him that soon Ra would return his light to the world and the desert sands would sparkle again with heat and radiance and warmth, and their people would be untouchable.

The large guard had put his hands on her, and she had begged Bakura to run as fast as he could across the desert sands. He had, but had been surprised to find them murderously cold beneath his feet, and when the chill had become too much he had turned back to find his mother's warmth. The only warmth he had found had been that of the flames that took her flesh from her bones.

He would take his revenge for his people, but especially for her.

Marik shifts to rest his head against Bakura's chest, relaxing a bit from his previous stiff position. Bakura runs the fingers of one hand through Marik's soft hair, his fingertips on the other stroking the skin of Marik's side where his shirt has wriggled upwards from the waistline of his boxers.

"It started out like normal, but when I left the tomb I wasn't in Egypt, I was in downtown Domino. There were people everywhere, and I was afraid that they would see the blood on me and know what I'd done." Marik pauses, and Bakura thinks that maybe he knows what's coming next.

"And then I thought 'I want them to know what I've done, because I'm filthy and I'm wrong and this needs to be acknowledged.'"

Bakura stiffens beneath him. "Marik, you're not…"

"I know Bakura, but it's just a dream, okay? So I still had the Rod in my hand and it was bloody, so I walked up to a stranger and showed it to them and said, 'Hey I just killed my father,' all calm and matter-of-fact. And I got nothing! Not even a sideways glance. It scared me, even more than what I had just done.

"I knew you had an apartment in the city, so I went there to find you. On the way, there was this little kid who looked a lot like Ryou, and he was running down the street. I didn't see him until the last second and before I could skirt around him we met, and I passed right through him! Like I wasn't there! That was when I started panicking, thinking that somehow the gods had erased me from the world for what I had done. And I worried that you wouldn't be able to see me either. That I was just gone. And if I'm gone, then what the hell is the point of what I've just done? Because I did it for me, and because of me it happened, and what was the point if I'm no longer there?"

Bakura is reminded of his earlier panic. He pauses in his stroking of Marik's side to place a gentle hand on Marik's chest. He feels cooler now, but more importantly Bakura can feel the gentle rise and fall of Marik's chest, deep down, the beating of his heart. Bakura releases a sigh of relief, a surprising show of emotion for him, Marik's body relaxes a little more.

"When I knocked on your door, it was you that answered, and you could see me. You smiled and said 'good to see you Marik.'" He pauses. "Haha, I guess that's kind of funny. You're funny Bakura!" His body is now trembling with laughter, but Bakura remains stoic and silent. Soon Marik's laughter subsides, and Bakura feels him relax the rest of the way. When he continues, his voice is sounding comfortable and sleepy.

"Anyway, you somehow suddenly had the Rod, and you walked through the door and stabbed me with it, and you said ' you're the only one left who can feel it', and then I woke up. I guess it was kind of silly."

Marik seems content to end the conversation here, but Bakura has to get the last word.

"Marik… I would never stab you."

"I know."

"Marik… don't fall asleep."

"Why?"

When he got bored, he would remember the times after the fires. He had trained himself to be someone worthy of the title "The Thief King." He could tunnel his way into any tomb, sneak his was into any household, and he never paid for his meals (with the exception of one woman who sold fruit from a stand in the market and whose kindness reminded him of his mother. He made sure to always pay her, and sometimes he slipped in some beautiful piece of jewelry. He suspected that she knew who he was, but knew she would never say). He was a master at his art, but that wasn't the best part.

The best part was the getaway. That feeling of having done it, having taken what you wanted without getting caught, of outwitting the palace guards or the wealthy landowner and then getting to admire your prize. Holding it in your hands, knowing that it was yours and you didn't have to give it back. As he would run across the desert to his hideout, he would relish in the feeling of the sand kicking up around his legs and the wind rushing past his ears. He could smell the desert, see the glint of his treasure reflecting the moonlight, and he was free.

But run too long and the sand started to feel cold, as cold as that night, and he sometimes wondered if the desert itself had been drained of its life-blood with the setting sun.

And then he would be back in the ring's darkness, and the glittering treasure would be swallowed by the black, and he would wonder what he was doing wasting his time with memories when he should be planning the Pharaoh's death.

This time, Bakura has successfully flipped Marik onto his back. They are locked together, moving with each other, and Bakura thinks that he can feel the trapped warmth of the Egyptian sun radiating from Marik's body. At this time of the morning, heat has mostly abandoned the desert sands, leaving them surprisingly cold, but Bakura can still feel intense heat coming from the sand-colored skin below him, and he could swear that as he runs hands up Marik's hips he feels sand crumbling off of them. Their mouths meet, lips and tongues battling each other, teeth clashing, and Bakura thinks that he can taste some kind of sweet Egyptian fruit, knows that he can smell the desert. Marik's hair glints in the light creeping in to the room, and Bakura thinks of treasure. His treasure. He's desired it and stolen it and gotten away with it and now it's in his hands and it belongs to him. Marik belongs to him.

In the familiar darkness, he had plotted and stewed in his bitterness and kindled his hatred, and he was ready for action. He craved success and was prepared to die trying (again). He wanted to feel the flesh of the man who had wronged him, to strangle his neck with bare hands, to take up the rustiest dagger that he could find and draw it slowly across the man's back, chest, face, until he was satisfied and could sheath the weapon in its final resting place, the man's heart. Nothing would satisfy until Bakura felt the man's mangled, rotting flesh in his own two hands.

Bakura runs his hands along the scars on Marik's back, making Marik shiver and pull away a little. These scars are ancient memory and tradition and honor. They disgust Marik, they fascinate Bakura. For a moment Bakura indulges himself, running fingernails sharply over Marik's back, pretending that he held the dagger that made those marks. He is thrilled with the intensity of such a notion, but realizes the recipient of his attentions is less thrilled, and instead switches to running a gentle hand over the skin that he has scratched. Another shiver from Marik, but this one sends him closer to Bakura as an understanding passes between them.

But the world had changed before Bakura had the chance to realize. He had spent so long in the darkness with only the past as company that he had not had the capacity to imagine the future. He had not considered that vengeance might alter its definition over the course of three-thousand years.

When the time came and the light flooded the darkness, he found that the body he had been lent was that of a young boy, very different from the toned and able body of his ancient past. He wondered how he was supposed to drive dagger into flesh with such weak hands, and with that soft voice in his head whispering 'Hey Bakura, you know this is wrong.'

The Pharaoh had also changed. He was sometimes the Pharaoh and sometimes a young boy, and although Bakura considered himself truly tainted, he didn't really like the idea of killing some kid he barely knew. He remembered being a kid himself, after all. And besides, the skin that he had dreamed of ripping to shreds was not Yugi's. That skin had been stronger, it would have put up more of a fight, it would have been much more satisfying to hear the first pop of bloody flesh as sharp metal penetrated it. Even the pharaoh's memories had been taken, and without those, the reason for Bakura's hatred had been lost to the past. The pharaoh of this lifetime would not scream with the realization of the massacre of the people of Kul Elna.

Ra damn-it, they weren't even in Egypt. They were in some reeking city where the lights were too bright and the food tasted like chemicals. Nothing about this place felt genuine. Nothing was what he had counted on.

But the worst part was that honor had changed. Bakura had been in the darkness nurturing his grudge for such a long time that he had had ample opportunity to plan out how he would feel about acting on it. In the rough world of ancient Egypt in which he had grown up, if you wanted to kill someone you got a knife and you got in their face and you killed them. You took pleasure in their pain, felt ecstasy when they cried out, and felt pride in the fact that you had done this deed, intently, without remorse. An eye for an eye. That was honor. That was how to kill. That was real.

In this new world, you needed only pull a trigger or beat them at a fucking card game. This world knew nothing about passion and deadly hatred and memories bubbling up over three-thousand years of radiant Egyptian heat.

So what was the point of his being here at all?

And if this world was only about card games, then he had lost all of his life points in the end anyway. So fuck it.

Finally, Marik cries out Bakura's name, trembling and moaning and gasping for air. Bakura is not far behind him.

Marik once again settles down on Bakura's chest as their breathing evens out, and Bakura uses this rare opportunity to actually study the scars on Marik's back. He thinks about the story that Marik told him about the day he got the scars, and the other story about the day he killed his father. Suddenly, something occurs to him.

"Marik," Bakura calls softly.

"Hmm?" He's tired, and Bakura knows it won't be long before he loses his companion to sleep.

"Maybe that dream you had earlier wasn't about you being banished and invisible," Bakura begins. "Maybe everyone else was invisible, and you were solid, and they passed through you rather than the opposite. Maybe you were the only real one."

"Oh," is the only response, and Bakura knows that Marik is lost until the morning.

He thinks about Marik's nightmare, and how dream Bakura stabbed him. Bakura hadn't been lying when he told Marik that he would never do that, but, well, if he did, he was sure that Marik would appreciate the gesture more than the average person. That he would be the only person to really feel it. Because Marik knows about sharp, skin-splitting pain, and about the honor of hand-carving flesh. He knows about ancient tradition. He knows what it's like to hold anger in your heart and a passion for getting the job done at your own hand.

And Marik tastes like Egyptian fruit and his body holds the heat of the Egyptian sun, and his hair is the color of stolen gold, his skin is the color of sand, and he smells like home, and-

"Marik," Bakura whispers. There is no response, but Bakura continues.

"I might love you."

Bakura is half hopeful that Marik is only pretending to sleep, but that doesn't really matter right now. For a moment in time, Bakura is content, because after lifetimes of darkness and of sharing a body and of feeling out of place and disappointed, he has finally found something that feels real.

Thanks for reading! Don't forget to tell me what you think! I will humbly accept constructive criticism.