Disclaimer: Yu-Gi-Oh! belongs to Kazuki Takahashi.
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Ryou glanced around his room in the castle, trying to remember if there was anything he'd left behind. He doubted that possibility, since he'd shown up with nothing but the clothes on his back and his deck, but double-checking his surroundings had become a force of habit.
When nothing seemed amiss, he picked up the pouch holding his deck from the chair he'd left it on, and started for the door. Then he noticed that his shoe was untied.
Ryou sighed. He could triple-knot those stupid sneakers, and they still would come loose. He was cursed, he knew it.
As he bent down to retie the laces, he let the pouch fall to the floor. It clinked.
He crouched and stared at the bag, which as of 24 hours ago had been holding nothing but a stack of paper cards. When he looked at it closer, he realized that the fabric was slightly misshapen for a rectangular deck. It hadn't looked like that last night.
Last night...last night he'd gone to bed around ten o'clock, had a nightmare, and spoken to Yugi at about four in the morning. He hadn't touched his deck since after dinner, when he'd set it down to go to sleep. And it hadn't clinked then. So there was no reason it should be clinking now.
But last night he'd woken up with grit under his nails--again--straight after the nightmare where his spirit had been alive and whole.
Ryou shivered, but picked up the bag and loosened the strings, emptying it onto the smooth stone floor. The cards of his deck scattered across the ground, and in the middle of them fell a gore-encrusted object.
No, he thought slowly. It can't be. There's no way....
He picked up the filthy item, noting its round shape and solid weight without believing. He rubbed its surface with his thumb, and the tell-tale gleam of gold winked up at him.
Ryou found himself unable to blink, unable to do anything but stare at the Item in his hand, and his mind snapped back to that a few minutes ago, when Croquet had told them that Pegasus was "ill." Oh, please...it can't be true!
He blinked back tears, then suddenly reached for the Ring's cord around his neck. I'll throw it into the fire as we leave, both of them, and it'll be over! he thought desperately. But as soon as he'd grasped the cord, a voice behind him said, "Don't try it."
Ryou jerked around, and his dream had been right, the spirit was there, anger and contempt in its immaterial eyes as always. "You killed him!" he shouted before he could think. "How could...."
His voice trailed off as something pulled inside him, and as Ryou watched the spirit grew more solid. Ryou stared in disbelief, not noticing the glow coming from the Eye in his hand or the Ring hidden beneath his shirt.
The slap almost knocked him over, but he managed to catch himself and wound up sitting rather gracelessly on the ground, still staring wide-eyed up at the cold spirit. The Eye bounced out of his hand and rolled slightly across the floor.
"Shut up, idiot!" He hissed, glaring down at Ryou. "Unless you want to explain to the guards why you're carrying the murdered Pegasus' eye," it continued.
Murdered....Ryou held a hand to his cheek, feeling everything inside him go numb.
It couldn't last, he thought dully. But I didn't realize it would return like this. I thought....
He didn't know what he'd thought. That Yugi really could help him, maybe.
He returned to reality when the spirit gripped his chin harshly, forcing him to focus on it. "Now get up and move. If I can separate Yugi from his little court before they reach the boat, it'll go much faster."
He glanced down at the stained Eye. Yugi....
"No," Ryou said quietly, not looking Him in the eyes.
The grip on his jaw tightened, and the spirit's voice was several degrees colder this time. "I said--"
"No!" Ryou cried out. "I won't help you kill him! I won't help you kill anyone!"
The hand let go of his face, and for a second Ryou was confused. Then it grabbed his arm and jerked him onto his feet, twisting his arm behind his back as it did. Ryou cried out in pain as his shoulder stretched painfully, threatening to dislocate.
"Apparently, the past few days have made you overconfident," the spirit said. "I'll fix that."
His shoulder was twisted further in the socket, and Ryou could tell there were only a few moments before it came out completely. "I'll warn him," he gasped. The spirit stilled. "You'll never be able to get close enough to Yugi to take the Puzzle," he added, wondering how long it was going to lock him away for this time.
There was a long, slow pause, and Ryou could feel the muscles in his arm straining. Then the spirit jerked upwards. The bone dislocated with a sickening pop, and only the terror of turning his body over to the spirit kept him from passing out. Ryou bit down on his scream, but sound came out anyway, smothered and dark and scarily promising in the confines of the room.
Then it let him go, and he fell to the floor with a thump, landing on his bad side with a yelp. Through the pain-haze, he saw the spirit disappear back into the Ring.
Ryou lay there, his mind fuzzy, and wondered if he'd won. Then he squeezed his eyes shut. He had to get up and find someone to help him--his arm was going to hurt until it was popped back into place, and he didn't think he could do it himself.
He realized someone was knocking on the door. "Bakura? Ya ready ta go yet?" came Joey's drawl.
"Joey!" he called. "Help!"
There was a rattling from the door, and the blond burst in. Ryou couldn't see more than his feet, but he figured that his fists were already up. "Bakura?" he asked, kneeling down next to his head. "What's wrong?"
"My shoulder," he managed faintly. Joey, an experienced delinquent and street brat, recognized the problem immediately. He pulled Ryou up with his good arm, then braced him and popped the joint back into place. Ryou sighed in relief.
"There. Good as new," Joey said, slapping his arm gingerly.
"Thanks," Ryou said gratefully.
"No prob'," Joey shrugged. "How'd ya do that, anyway?"
The dark presence of the spirit crawled beneath his skin, half taking him over. I can kill him before he ever notices the change, it whispered.
Ryou hesitated a second. "I got it caught in the bed," he said, the words sounding glaringly false to him. "I was reaching under and my wrist hooked on a spring and...." He trailed off before it became obvious he was lying.
"You spilled some cards unda there?" Joey asked good-humoredly.
The cards were still on the floor...the Eye! "Yeah," Ryou said, crouching down and covering the Eye with his foot. He picked up a few cards from the floor and straightened them.
Joey knelt down and scooped a big handful of cards together, stacking them into a haphazard mess. Ryou would have to sort them out later. "I don't blame ya," Joey said.
Ryou's eyes widened. "For what?"
"Bein' so eager to leave. I can't wait ta be outta here, either." Joey turned to pick up another card that had fluttered beneath the chair, and Ryou scooped up the Eye and slipped it into his pocket. It weighed him down in there, lumpy and awkward and still crusted with Pegasus' blood.
"Yeah," Ryou answered quietly.
"Are you okay?" Joey asked, turning to look him straight on.
Ryou stared back at him, feeling the spirit start to stir closer to the front of his mind. "Yes," he answered. "Why do you ask?"
Joey shrugged again. "You looked really tired at breakfast today, an' Yugi said ya had a nightmare or somethin'."
Ryou gave him a smile that felt much too weak to be effective. "I did," he nodded, "but I'm okay. Really."
Joey gave him that unsettling look for a time longer, and Ryou wished he would just stop, because the spirit was growing more restless with each second, and he was struggling to keep it back. He had to keep his eyes on the cards so Joey couldn't see the conflict in them. He didn't want to defy it again--he was already going to pay enough for this time.
"I'm worried about you an' Yugi," Joey said. "Yug' had that break down over his spirit, an' yours went around stealin' souls...." He pushed the cards into a more uniformed rectangle, and handed them over. "I just worry 'bout you two."
Ryou smiled at him again, meaning it more this time. "Yugi sounded fine when I talked to him this morning, and he dueled great today--you both did. I think he's himself again."
"What abou' you?" Joey asked.
Ryou tucked the cards into the pouch and tied the strings again. "I'm fine," he answered. "Just getting used to things."
Joey nodded and looked as if he were going to say something else, but Tristan's voice echoed down the corridor, coming closer. "Joey! Bakura! Did the two of you get sucked into a black hole or something?!"
"We're comin'!" Joey shouted back. "Hold your horses!"
"There aren't any horses here at the moment," Tristan called. "Just some turtles!"
"Better ta be a turtle than have rhino hair!" Joey yelled back. Tristan's reply was indecipherable to Ryou with the echoes of the corridor.
Joey declined to answer. "Smartass," he muttered, standing up and brushing off. Ryou slipped his deck into his pocket and glanced around the room one last time, just to be sure. There didn't seem to be any other Millennium Items hidden away in a corner.
As he glanced about, he could feel that the spirit was still active inside him, and Ryou thought it might be better for everyone if he just locked himself in the room.
You really have gotten too sure of yourself, He said, humor and malice in His voice. Ryou clenched his hands into fists, but didn't dare reply. There was nothing he could do. If the spirit had escaped even the Shadow Realm, he'd never be free of it, and he'd better not aggravate Him.
Joey had left already, and it sounded like he and Tristan were shoving each other in the hallway. Tea and a guard yelled at them.
Ryou slipped out the door, fingering the Eye in his pocket.
"Bakura!" came Yugi's voice from further down the corridor. Ryou's head jerked up. Inside his mind, he could feel the spirit surge forward, and he clenched the Eye until the embossed part cut into his skin. I will tell him, he thought, putting all the force he could muster into the statement.
There was quiet inside his mind. ...We'll see, He said, with the promise of punishment in it's words. Then it slipped away, returning to the Ring, and leaving him feeling exhausted.
That silence worried him more than anything else. "'Ello, Yugi," he said.
Yugi gave the further part of the hallway an embarrassedly amused look. "Joey and Tristan are getting yelled at for joking around," he said, folding his arms. "All the guards are going crazy with Pegasus' illness." He ducked his head, and Ryou could see a hint of sadness in his eyes. It's so much like Yugi to feel sympathy for someone who suffered, he thought, even an enemy like Pegasus. Even an enemy like him.
Ryou nodded hesitantly and slipped his hand out of his pocket. Before he could think of anything to reply, Joey came stomping down the corridor with Tristan and Tea on his heels.
"These guys 'ave way too high an opinion a themselves," he growled, "especially fer looking like rejects from Men in Black!" He shouted the last part over his shoulder.
Tea, who was blushing a shade of red commonly found on lobsters, grabbed his arm and started dragging him down the corridor. "We're leaving now," she said to Yugi and Ryou as they passed by, "before these two dorks get us all arrested."
Yugi nodded. "Good idea," he said.
"Hey! Half of this is Tristan's fault! Why aincha draggin' him around?" Joey demanded.
"Because you're the worst!" Tea snapped back.
They continued bickering down the hallway. Ryou fell in a little behind Tristan, taking care to walk far away from Yugi. The smaller boy shot him a confused look at first, but Ryou stared steadfastly ahead.
The Millennium Eye kept hitting his leg with every step.
"Ah! well-a-day! what
Had I from old and young!
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung."