Disclaimer: I don't own Yu-Gi-Oh or any of its characters. I do, however, own the plot to this fic; so you can't take it.

A/N: Since this fic takes place in Ancient Egypt, no one who normally has an accent has their accent (e.g. Ryou doesn't have his English accent). Also, almost everyone in the show will show up at some point or time, even if they weren't actually originally around in Ancient Egypt. (e.g. Malik is mentioned in this chapter and plays quite a large part in chapters two and on.) Finally; the title has nothing to do with the Duel Monsters card Change of Heart.


Trials of the Changing Heart


Bakura paused for moment when he caught sight of the early evening light streaming through the tomb entrance, about twenty paces in front of him. He sighed in relief and ran a hand through his hair. He'd thought he'd never get out of here! Whatever rich stiff was here, he'd wanted his final resting place built to the equivalent of a children's wall maze. Truth be told, Bakura had felt like a stupid rat throughout this entire trip. But now, with freedom clearly in sight, all his anger slowly dissipated.

He unslung the linen sac from his back and began feeling around in it for anything that felt as if it might be worth something. He also took a mental tally of his haul, just to make sure he hadn't dropped anything while weaving his way through hundreds of compact, oddly shaped tunnels.

Bakura's fingers rested on something with a rather round shape, that felt unusual to the touch. Not soft and cool like gold, or warped and splintered, like wood. No, this was something different. He took it out of the sac and saw it was a sort of pottery; a jar, decorated with a painted face.

The tomb robber had a feeling he knew what this was, but he just had to check. He raised the jar to his nose and removed the lid, sniffing for odours from within the jar.

Bakura blanched and quickly turned his head away from the container, re- lidding it. This was an organ jar! Bakura scrunched his nose in distaste and he held the jar out at arms' length. It was worth staying in his haul, but he wouldn't be able to get much money for it if it still had that stench in it. But Bakura knew what he was doing. He'd think of something to fix the jar later. Right now, getting out of the musty tomb was first on his priority list.

The young tomb robber muffled a cough as dust from the ancient sandstone hallway settled in his lungs. He returned the organ jar to his bag and headed stealthily towards the exit, just a few feet away.

Right at the entrance, he turned and stared down the abysmally dark tunnel he'd just been through. He sneered. Whoever that bastard had been, he'd been in there for a long time. And he'd wanted to make sure that he'd go to the afterlife with all his worldly possessions, too. All those tunnels and hallways.those trap doors and the swallowing darkness. It was clear the man had anticipated a tomb robber's raid. But that wasn't enough to unnerve Bakura.

However, it did take the cake on Bakura's list of 'damnable potential pay- offs'. He scowled and made his way out into the light...and out of safety.

Evening was in its earliest stages. The sand beneath Bakura's feet was cooling with the setting of the hellish sun, the air in his lungs was becoming more refreshing. No longer muggy and humid. It was the best possible time for Bakura to run his almost-daily route. But still, he regretted not bringing a covering for his head. The sun was still in the sky, and its heat burned the tomb robber's face and head. He knew that later, he would bear the hellish disk's angry mark.

Bakura snaked his way behind a small sand dune and shrugged the sac from off his back once more, depositing it next to him. He ran a hand through his silvery, semi-spiked hair, scowling at the thick locks. It wasn't that he disliked his hair; quite on the contrary; he thought it was quite becoming. The problem was; it made him stand out. As a friend had once told him; his hair 'shone like spun silver on desert sand'. (He'd then proceeded to break his friend's jaw for saying something like that.in the tone he'd said it..and in public, too!)

The ability to stand out in a crowd wasn't a preferable attribute to possess, especially by a known tomb robber. Bakura was already fairly infamous within the surrounding twenty miles, and most people would recognize him as who he was on first sight. So he had to be careful.

His job had become even more dangerous in the past few weeks. Bakura had had the dumb luck of running into his friend while coming back from a heist, right in the middle of his comrade stealing half the merchandise from the majority of street-side businesses, and had invited Bakura to join him. They'd been seen stealing, and now every official within the surrounding five towns was patrolling the streets and surrounding areas for Bakura and his friend.

Bakura surveyed the terrain around him, and found it clear, save for an asp and a couple of scorpions searching for a place to retire for the oncoming night.

He grabbed his haul and jogged out from behind the dune. A soft sweeping sound made him pause for a fraction of a second, then he broke into a full run. Four years of experience as a tomb robber gave the sixteen year old an ear for danger. A half-second later, an arrow skewered the sandy spot where he'd just been standing.

Bakura didn't look back. He just kept running, trying desperately to keep his footing in the soft sand and still hold onto his heavy haul of stolen items. He heard an arrow hiss through the air beside him, and he zigzagged back and forth. It proved a good choice in move, since a total of seven arrows struck sand that bore his footprint.

He risked a look behind him while on the summit of a large dune, hoping to catch a glimpse of how far ahead of the soldier he was. Bakura caught a glimpse of honey-coloured hair, and cursed under his breath. It was the same soldier who's seen him and his friend Malik stealing from those merchants! A young soldier..Jounouchi, he believed it was. Ah well, it didn't matter what his name was! If he was caught, he wouldn't stand a chance against execution.

It was at that precise moment that Bakura's footing slipped, and he went tumbling head over heals down the dune, finally slamming into something that caused his descent to stop.

He brought himself up to his hands and knees and, after hurriedly checking to see that his haul was alright, looked to see what had stopped him. A boy, about his age, was beneath him, staring up at Bakura with a dazed look.

Bakura's mind raced as he stared back down at the boy in pure rage. There was no way he could leave the boy here! He'd tell the soldier about him, without a doubt. There was only one other option.

Bakura grabbed the boy's hand in a death grip and pulled him to his feet. "If you make a sound, just one little sound; I will kill you." He told the shorter boy. Large brown eyes widened in fright, but no sound came from the boy's mouth as he merely nodded his understanding.

Bakura sighed in frustration. Nothing was going his way today.

He pulled the other boy along by his wrist, over dunes and around the odd half-dead tree or bush. Instinct told Bakura to keep running, but his body screamed for him to stop. The combined weight of carrying his haul from the tomb and pulling the reluctant boy along was weighing him down, and he knew that this chase wouldn't last for much longer.

The soldier's cries for him to stop running and give himself up could clearly be heard in the dead air. He couldn't be any more than one hundred paces back, just behind that dune that Bakura and his unwilling companion had just climbed over.

Bakura looked behind him again. It seemed clear, save the duo's own footprints, but Bakura knew better. The heat from the sun caused Bakura to pant, trying to swallow some cool air. He could hear the other boy behind him, gasping for breath while stumbling to keep up with Bakura's break-neck pace.

The silver haired tomb robber redirected his gaze to the front and saw what could be called nothing less than a miracle sent by the Gods. A muddy, slow moving river. Bakura couldn't think of a better hiding place if he tried!

He brought himself and the other boy to the riverbank and paused to suck in as much air into his lungs as he could.

"What are you doing?!" He heard the other boy screech in fear.

Bakura scowled. 'I thought I told him not to speak...' He thought to himself. He decided to let that one slip. With one swift movement, he brought the smaller boy in front of him and pressed the newcomer's back to his chest. Bakura wrapped an arm firmly round the other boy's waist, and gripped the haul of gold and pottery tightly in his free hand. With that, he made a running start and jumped into the murky waters of the river.

It worked precisely as Bakura had imagined. The boy was kept still and hidden from sight underneath Bakura, unable to alert the soldier chasing them of their position, willingly or not, and the heavy linen sac was grounding the both of them to the river bottom, only a few feet below the surface, but still fully concealed by the mud and sand swirling around them.

Bakura felt the boy beneath him squirm and writhe in his grip, but he didn't let go. There was no way he was going to let this kid give away his position. He just hoped the boy had had enough sense to swallow some air. And to keep his mouth shut. One little air bubble could be a giant 'come and get me' sign for the young soldier tracking him down.

He shut his eyes tightly to prevent grains of sand from the dirty river from getting in them. But still, Bakura listened intently for sound from above the surface while ignoring the screams from his lungs for new, fresh air.

He suddenly felt the water being disturbed, and a searing pain in his left arm. Bakura's eyes shot open, but only for a second. The discomfort of sand and mud caused him to shut them again quickly.

Bakura's mind became frenzied as his mind went into overdrive. His arm had been caught by one of the soldier' arrows. If he saw the blood, he'd know their position in the water! He had to cover his arm! But in order to do that, he'd have to let go of the boy! If he did that, the other would try to swim to the surface, giving away his position anyway! He was stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Suddenly, Bakura felt pressure on his cut. He recognized the shape of the applied pressure to be a hand. The boy was covering his cut for him, so the blood wouldn't leak and tell their position? Bakura smiled a bit and thanked the Gods, despite himself. Looked like the kid was quick to catch on, thank Ra.

Bakura could hear the soldier's receding steps, but still he waited. His lungs screamed protest and he could feel the boy beneath him going limp. He hesitated, but finally released the boy, sending him up to the water's surface. Bakura himself clung to the linen sac with all its treasures, and pushed off from the bottom, propelling himself to the surface.

He broke the surface of the water noisily, and took in a giant gulp of wonderful, beautiful, live-giving air. Bakura whipped his head around, looking for the boy, only to see him coughing up water on the riverbank. Bakura sighed and began paddling towards shore. He slipped a couple of times going up the riverside, but eventually managed to pull himself up, dragging his linen sac with him.

Bakura collapsed beside the smaller boy. He flipped his muddy bangs out of his face and turned to the other, who was still spitting out the murky river water. There didn't seem to be any point to telling the boy not to run anywhere; he didn't look as though he could if he wanted to.

The coughing was agitating Bakura, and he scowled, glaring sideways at the boy, covered from head to toe in mud from the river bottom. Bakura sighed and slammed the palm of his hand to the center of the boy's back. A yelp and a cough later, and the smaller of the two teens was gasping for air..and one gallon shorter on water.

Evening was at its prime, now. The horizon sported a half-sun, surrounded by pink and purple clouds. High in the sky, stars could be seen strewn carelessly across the navy coloured expanse. But clouds were coming in. Soon the stars would be lost; veiled behind a blanket of darkness, their beacon gone.

Bakura sat up and shook his head vehemently, spraying the other teen with mud and dirty water. He turned to his sodden linen sac and sighed. Half the stuff in there had to be ruined by now.

He began rooting through it, searching for anything broken and disposing of it by flinging it behind him. It was then that Bakura caught a movement out of the corner of his eye. It was the other boy, crawling towards the river.

Bakura unsheathed a dagger that hung from a tie around his waist and scrambled towards the boy. "And what do you think you're doing, boy?" He growled menacingly, glaring down at the mud soaked figure before him. He placed the edge of the dagger against the boy's neck, ready to slash it open the second he made a wrong move.

The boy flipped his muddy bangs out of his face and met Bakura's gaze, but not with ferocity. His eyes were soft and gentle, and gave Bakura the distinct impression that this was not someone who could even kill a fly. "I- I'm sorry. I was just going to wash off." The boy said quietly, peering up at Bakura almost shyly.

Silence hung in the air before Bakura stepped away from the boy, much to his own surprise. "Don't be long." He muttered to the other, returning to his business of salvaging his earlier catch. "And don't think of running off somewhere..there's not a town for miles. And besides, you wouldn't make it ten paces." He told the other, glaring at him again through sodden bangs.

The boy nodded and seemed to realize and accept the insinuation. He got to his feet and walked quickly to the river, only to hesitate. Bakura sighed and turned to look at the boy in exasperation. "What's wrong? I thought you were going to clean yourself off." He said accusingly. The boy turned to him with a scared look.

"There's an alligator staring at me..." He told Bakura softly, staring at him with unbearably innocent eyes.

"Oh, for the love of.." Bakura ran a hand through his hair. He then realized how stupid that had been, and flicked his hand to rid himself of the excess mud. He really didn't want to watch as the alligator make his new companion dinner, so he opted for the nicer method. Bakura wasn't very accustomed to being nice so he wasn't very good at it. However, he believed he'd got the point across.

He removed one of the three water casks from his waist and flung it at the boy, hitting him in the rear with it. The boy yelped and jumped a bit, rubbing where the container had hit. He picked it up, however, and uncorked it.

Bakura looked back to see the smaller teen taking a swig from the cask. "Why the hell aren't you cleaning yourself off?! That's why I gave you the water in the first place!" He yelled shrilly, anger boiling up inside him. This boy was trouble, he just knew it.

"I'm sorry" The boy said, wiping his mouth. " I haven't had a drink all day." He informed Bakura apologetically. Those large, chocolate coloured eyes locked with Bakura's own hardened brown eyes. He quirked an eyebrow slightly as he noted that the other boy's eye colour was exactly the same as his.

Bakura felt his rage waning away, and he snorted quietly. "Just wash up." He ordered the boy, going back to unloading the items in the bag and laying them out for inspection.

He made two piles; one for anything that could bring in good money, and another that couldn't be considered anything more than trash, or could be sold for dirt-low prices. Then he spotted a rather nice looking gold statue of a cat, and decided to make a third pile; things he wanted for himself.

Five minutes into his sorting, he had four statues, three perfume bottles (it was amazing that any had survived out of the original seven he'd had), two wooden figurines, three nice pairs of gold and turquoise earrings, and a scarab-shaped ring in the 'to be sold at murderous prices' pile. He also had a bunch of wooden shit in the other pile(most of it was fine now, but would be warped in a few days from their dunk in the river), and his cat statue and a new snake shaped arm bracelet at his side.

"What are you doing, if it's any of my business?" A soft voice asked. Bakura jumped at the break of silence and turned to the other boy, scowling.

The scowl was wiped off his face as his jaw dropped in disbelief. The smaller boy was looking at him with a picture of pure innocent curiosity, large brown eyes looking at Bakura hauntingly. The boy, though looking about Bakura's age, gave the appearance of being quite fragile. The boy's skin was pale, and he looked fairly malnourished. Bakura could count every one of the boy's ribs.

Thin scars criss-crossed the boy's torso and shoulders, and what he could see of his back, as well. Some were white and clean looking, obviously old and long past healed. Others were still pink, a few even red, and raw around the edge. Bakura knew these types of scars by heart. He himself bore a few here and there. They were whip marks.

He swallowed a bunch of saliva that had suddenly collected in his mouth and stared at the boy. But it wasn't any of that that really shocked Bakura. It was the boy's hair colour: silver. Almost the exact same colour as his own. Just a few shades lighter.

"Why is your hair like that?" Bakura demanded harshly, staring the smaller boy down.

The other blinked innocently. "Well, if you must know, I inherited it from my mother...she was albino." The boy told Bakura sweetly, returning the gaze and snapping Bakura's hostility in half because of it.

'Albino, huh? Well, that explains it. But albinos are extremely rare..there's more to this kid than he's dishing out.' Bakura concluded silently. He scowled and decided to interrogate the boy for information later. He just really didn't feel like it now.

"Um..why is _your_ hair like that?" The smaller boy implored politely. "I mean, well, I've never seen anyone else with hair like mine.." He conceded, twisting his hands together nervously when he realized that Bakura's eyes were still on him.

"..Just born like this. No real reason." Bakura admitted gruffly.

Why was he answering this kid's questions? He didn't have to do a damn thing for this brat! Hell, it would've been easier to have just killed the kid on sight. But something prevented Bakura from doing that. Some strange pang that rose from deep inside him and made his chest constrict.

'Maybe he's some sort of sorcerer.' Bakura guessed, trying to explain away the strange feeling. 'Yeah, that's it. He probably just cast some sort of weird spell on me.'

He didn't believe himself. That wasn't even close to the truth, and he knew it. But the feeling was totally foreign, and some sort of explanation was better than none.

"So..my name's Ryou! What's yours?" The boy asked pleasantly, smiling softly at Bakura.

"..." The tomb robber didn't have to answer him. Besides, it was a potential mistake. What if the boy escaped, and told some soldier his name..? But one glance into Ryou's soulful, sincere eyes seemed to wipe the doubt slate clean. "Bakura." He said warily.

"Bakura? Well Bakura, it nice to meet you!"

Bakura quirked an eyebrow at the boy. "Are you insane, or just foolish?" He asked in mild surprise.

Ryou looked at him in confusion and hurt. "Neither. Why would you ask something like that?"

"You just said 'it's nice to meet you'. Now, in case you haven't noticed; I've kidnapped you, threatened you, almost drowned you.and threatened you. Again. Were you not paying attention?" He asked, his voice shrill.

" I was just trying to be polite." Ryou said apologetically. He looked down at the ground dejectedly, and something Bakura made him want to do something to stop Ryou from being so sad. But, I'd rather be with you than anyone else, you know!" He said brightly, smiling at Bakura.

Heat flushed to the tomb robber's face, and he wondered why, since the dusk was cool. "Why would you say something like that?" Bakura demanded gruffly, gathering up everything on the ground in front of him and shoving it back into the linen sac.

"Because.. I don't have anyone else." Ryou said softly. Bakura wanted to run away screaming. A foreign feeling bubbled up inside him, and it was telling him 'do something to comfort him. Now.'. Bakura suddenly found a blade of grass very interesting, but he couldn't resist asking-- "Why not?"

He regretted asking when Ryou's eyes teared up, and the strange feeling simmering inside Bakura rose to a full boil.

"I was a slave, until yesterday." He said, pausing to look solemnly at Bakura. The tomb robber was about to congratulate the boy on winning his freedom, but Ryou continued, seeming to know what Bakura was going to say. "I should still be one...but I'm not, all because of my friends. Well, they were my friends." Ryou said, his quiet voice trembling.

Bakura listened intently, even if he didn't show it. 'So, this kid made it out, too. Must be stronger than I thought.' He noted mentally, glancing sideways at Ryou.

"But they were caught helping me." Ryou admitted silently. He rubbed at his eyes and sniffled quietly. Bakura ignored the signs of weakness and waited for the other to continue his story. "I watched, in hiding, as the Pharaoh himself killed all my friends! He just.. murdered them, all of them, without even blinking. It was horrible. But, I knew I had to get away fast, because they'd be looking for me, so I ran out here.I thought I was going to die right there, where you found me and pulled me along." Ryou told him. Bakura silently sympathized for Ryou, then reprimanded himself for doing so.

This boy was weak! He couldn't even watch someone be killed!

...But they had been his friends.

He couldn't even walk one day in the desert!

..It can be hellishly hot. People can die in a matter of hours. He lasted a long time, considering.

But then something struck Bakura as being very odd. "Why would you think they'd be looking for you? Slaves-"

Bakura watched as Ryou flinched when he said that word. He really couldn't blame him' it brought back bad memories for him, too. But he refused to go soft. Sympathy got you killed. Caring got you killed. But still...just one question. "Slaves are never missed. Just replaced. Why would they be searching for you?" He demanded coldly, his eyes searching Ryou's.

A guarded look came over the smaller boy's face as he answered Bakura. " Because the Pharaoh said I was one of his favourites...and that I 'must be brought back at all costs'." He informed Bakura, his voice full of hatred that seemed out of place on Ryou's innocent features.

The tomb robber's eyes widened. So this boy, Ryou..was one of the Pharaoh's personal slaves? Sympathy flooded Bakura; for he knew what the Pharaoh did to his slaves. It was the same as what the High Priest did to his. And those were unspeakable things.

But still; sympathy got you killed, so Bakura forced it all down and placed his mask back on before he let something slip.

Ryou was crying now. Tears streamed down his face, leaving dark streaks on the already damp, pale skin. Silent sobs wracked his delicate frame, and he hid his face behind a veil of thick silver hair.

Bakura refused to go soft. Caring got you killed..he had to keep repeating that. If he showed compassion, it would be showing weakness; and people took advantage of weaknesses.

Clearing his throat, Bakura rose to his feet and slung his damp linen sac onto his back. "Get up." He ordered Ryou, kicking him swiftly in the shins to get his full attention. Ryou recoiled slightly from the blow, but got up. He looked at the tomb robber imploringly? W-wouldn't it be safer to stay here for the night? I mean...it's dangerous to travel at night, isn't it?" He asked frantically, his eyes wide.

"It's more dangerous to stay put, what with both of us being hunted down." He reasoned, turning back to the smaller boy. "So let's get going before someone finds us. Hurry up!" He barked at Ryou.

Ryou ran to Bakura's side and whimpered softly. "What is _wrong_ with you?" Bakura demanded harshly. "Afraid of the dark or something?" He asked sarcastically. He could see Ryou nod affirmatively through the almost pitch- black of the moonless night.

Bakura snorted contemptuously. "Would it help if I held your hand?" He asked patronizingly.

The tomb robber felt a blush creep across his face as he felt a delicate hand slip timidly through his own and curl their fingers together. Bakura grew rigid as heat rose to his face. He made a mental note never to be sarcastic around Ryou.

He also made a note to check on his arm in the morning to see if the gash on it had become infected.

They walked in silence for what must have been no more than two minutes before Ryou's voice broke the silence that fell on the two travelers like a damp velvet sheet. "Where are we going?" He asked quietly.

Bakura paused for a moment, considering how smart it would be to actually go to his intended destination with Ryou.


"A friend. We're going to visit a friend of mine." He replied. 'I really hope I don't regret this.' He thought as they continued on, walking willingly into the oppressive silence and darkness of a moonless, starless night.


End Chapter 1 ______

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