Disclaimer: I don't own Yu-Gi-Oh or any of its characters. I am in no way making monetary gain from this fic. So don't bother trying to sue me.

A/N: My apology for the long wait. I hope I'm not responsible for any aneurysms or high blood pressures. (My ego, ladies and gents, has inflated to the size of the better part of Egypt) I hope you enjoy this chapter. It just keeps getting sicker and stupider.....but don't be deterred. There's a little surprise (hopefully a good one.*is worried*) at the end of this chapter. Oh, and by the way; it's a landslide. Something perky this way comes. Yes, that's right; Yugi is imminent. He'll show up soon, okay (soon meaning the next chapter or two.)? Sorry to anyone who voted against him. *** I refuse to accept any flames about my incorrect placement of Jounouchi in the fic. So he was originally a slave....I decided to gift him with a position of power. He deserves it, really. He puts up with too much shit. ***I had the option of calling Kaiba either Seto or Seth (Seth being his actual name in Ancient Egypt). I opted for Seto. Just so I can laugh at him more.if you know what the name means. Nya-ha.

Warnings: None here. Discover as you go along.

~*~*~*~

Ryou inhaled through his mouth and blanched as the salty smell of rotting fish rested on his tongue by way of the rank air. He coughed and brought a corner of his cloak up to his nose, breathing in. The peppermint soothed him and helped dissipate the terrible odour that was sure to stick to the two secret travelers, if their long ride ever was to end. Ryou was sure that they'd been trotting down the same trail for at least four hours. Malik kept assuring him that it had only been an hour at the most. Soon, they would be at their destination, Malik told him.

"This...." Ryou coughed again. "Is vile." He whined. Surrounding them in the caravan was over a ton of smelling, stinking, rotting dead Nile fish. As the caravan hit a bump, a dead cod somehow managed to flop its way onto Ryou's lap, and he pushed it away with disgust. Malik sighed, looking none too happy occupying the space between two barrels of some creature that smelt particularly horrid.

"Do you think I'm enjoying this, Ryou?" He spat, sounding a little bitter. "I'm sitting here in a fish wagon, on my way to the Pharaoh's palace---the bastard---where I'm a known----and not too well liked, if you know what I mean-face, and they'll probably embalm me alive if they catch me." He shuddered slightly at the thought, and then gestured to Ryou casually. "The worst Pharaoh will do to you is make you back into his personal slave. At least you'll get to live."

Silence.

"But none of that is going to happen, now is it?" Malik asked the silver- haired boy. He didn't give Ryou time to answer. "Because you should know your way around the palace-you do, don't you?" Ryou nodded. "Good. And those guards and sentries are amazingly stupid. We'll have no trouble finding Bakura and getting him the hell out of that place, will we?"

"I guess not, when you put it that way." Ryou admitted. He knew he sounded unconvinced. He knew that he was probably going to start bawling his eyes out like an infant the second he reunited with Bakura.

He knew that after they rescued Bakura, he would have to return to the palace. Because this was unforgivable. After Ryou's other friends had been killed by the Pharaoh; Ryou had been too stricken, too terrified to do anything but take the running chance that they'd sacrificed themselves to give him. And he'd escaped. But now....nobody hurt Bakura. No one was allowed to hurt Bakura. Ryou, though he didn't fully understand why, felt an incredible, untouchable bond to the other silver-haired boy. His clever, harsh ways. His sweet look that he got whenever a frown wasn't present on his pale face. And something that just made Ryou want to be by Bakura's side forever, and never be parted. That's what he felt for the other boy. And he didn't know what to call this collection of feelings.

Ryou struggled with whether to tell Malik. Ask him what he was feeling. Malik was smarter than he let on, Ryou knew. But could he trust the sandy- haired, violet-eyed boy. The one who had taken him in with Bakura, fed him, guised him....flirted with him, yes, but still....

Yes, Ryou decided. He could trust Malik.

"Malik...?"

"Hm? What is it?"

"Could I ask you something?"

~*~*~*~

Bakura stayed perfectly still. He was awake, and his muscles were hurting from forcing himself to freeze up, but he wasn't being touched, so it was worth it. He could feel his entire body screaming for him to seek help. Things inside Bakura were broken, ripped, and shredded, though he didn't know it. To him; it was all just one big ache.

He could hear the Pharaoh humming absently to himself, waiting for Bakura to awaken. Well...he was easy to fool.

Twice the High Priest had come in, droning on about some matter or another, occasionally starting in on a lecture before Pharaoh said something back, and forced the priest to stick to only important matters. To not bother him when he was with Ryou. Damn that Pharaoh bastard to a thousand hells.

Bakura felt his cover was about to be blown before he knew it. A strange tingling sensation started at the bridge of his nose and worked its way down. Bakura scrunched his nose up, discreetly rubbed at it, but no success. It was inevitable.

Bakura sneezed.

Yami's attention snapped back to the real world from where it had been lingering in fantasies. He looked across the room at the silver-haired boy resting there, who was meeting his stare with huge, dark, panic-stricken eyes. "You were awake." Yami concluded flatly.

"...." Bakura's mouth was slack. How much would that cost him? How much more suffering had he sentenced himself to by tricking the Pharaoh-the bastard that had his life locked away like some plaything in a toy box?

Yami's crimson eyes narrowed and sparked dangerously. Bakura saw sadistic malice welling up in the Pharaoh's mind at that very moment. And as his own ideas hit Yami; he smiled. Sweetly, almost. The sort of smile that one gets when they've just come up with a plan for revenge, but it forces them to hurt someone they love. "How long were you awake? Estimate for me, Ryou."

"A half stick." [1] Bakura whispered hoarsely, not taking his eyes off Yami, who started slightly.

"That long? You were awake that long, and I didn't notice?" He mused, not really directing his speech at Bakura. "My, my, you've learnt a trick or two, haven't you? And you were only out for a little more than a day." Yami rose from his seat on the edge of the bed and began sauntering up to Bakura.

Bowing obligatorily, though still on his knees, Bakura waited for the inevitable, impending blows. This was not a force to fight against. The Pharaoh was stronger than he looked, more powerful than Bakura had thought, and overall; the most malevolent person he'd ever met.

".....I'm not going to hurt you, Ryou." Yami said, stopping only inches in front of Bakura. He sounded sick of himself. Bakura looked up through his bangs at the Pharaoh, whose eyes glazed over slightly. "You know I hate it when you get that kicked puppy look. I can't even touch you when you look at me like that." Yami spat sulkily.

Bakura's eyes narrowed. A knife-sharp glint appeared in them, and he stood. Every muscle in Bakura's body protested the movement, and he stumbled slightly, but stood confidently once gaining his balance. Eye to eye with the Pharaoh-this evil man, this man who had forced Bakura to do unspeakable things, painful, humiliating, torturous things-was still, Bakura realized, just a man. Yes, he had control of the shadow monsters and their realm. And yes, he had control over the entire empire, and total power over Bakura's life, and every other life...but he himself was just as mortal as Bakura.

"I hate you." He hissed.

Yami crossed his arms over his chest. "Pardon, Miw-sher?"

Bakura's hands balled up into fists. "I said that I HATE YOU!"

Yami didn't even have time to flinch before Bakura's fist collided with his jaw. He stumbled backwards and fell to the floor, a hand to his jaw. Looking up at Bakura with wide crimson eyes in total shock, his hand slipped back down. A bruise was already forming. Yami could feel a tingling sensation where he'd been hit. He stood up slowly, readjusted his diadem.

"Get on your knees, Miw-sher." He ordered quietly.

Bakura growled, his fight, his stamina all rejuvenated. He was Bakura again. Tough, stubborn, untouchable Bakura. "No."

"What did you just say?"

"I said 'no', Pharaoh." He spat thinly. "This has gone on too long. Too long, do you hear me? Or is all that hair obstructing your mind's logic? You will not control me any longer. You will not beat me, rape me, injure me in any way; or so help me Ra; I'll skin you alive with your own damn dagger." Bakura ranted unstopped; Yami listening politely, an ugly purple bruise growing on his jaw. "I've taken my punishment."

Bakura revealed an intricately carved dagger he'd pilfered from Pharaoh's collection earlier. "Now...you get on your hands and knees." He murmured with something akin to rage so strong that it wasn't even possible in the world of mortal men.

Yami tilted his head slightly to one side. "You want me to get on my hands and knees for you?" He asked placidly. "You want to control me for a while, is that it?" He inquired politely.

"Actually, I had my heart set on carving various profanities all over you, then maybe cutting off an arm or leg and using the bones to make a rather nice ankh....but what you suggested doesn't sound particularly unsuitable." Bakura admitted nonchalantly, fiddling with the dagger.

"I'm inclined to prefer my own suggestion." Yami said flatly.

"Oh? And you're in control here?" Bakura snorted softly in amusement. His eyes had lost their newly acquired dullness and had now become alive with an adrenaline-initiated rush. The kind that gives one God-like will and strength for all of about two minutes before leaving you where you were before. A last, desperate, false hope. "Fine. I'll make you wish I was cutting you apart with this knife. You'll still be bleeding. From the inside. And then you can realize the pain involved when something very delicate inside you is torn to bloody shreds." Yami's crimson eyes shone with bitter amusement. "Now, Pharaoh; on your hands and knees."

Yami feel to his hands and knees without protest and looked up at Bakura. The chocolate-eyed boy stared at him in disbelief. "Well, Miw-sher, isn't this what you wanted me to do? What are you waiting for?" He asked in a silky smooth voice that was too sweet for Bakura to be unsuspicious of.

"What are you doing......?" Bakura demanded uncertainly, hesitating.

Yami laughed and shook his head in pity. "Poor Miw-sher....the outside world has changed you so much! You look different, act different...sound different. Even feel different." Yami looked up at Bakura smirking. "But you're divided right now, aren't you?"

"What the hell...."

"Half of you wants to destroy me. Break my mind, my body....everything. But another part-the logical, intelligent part......it tells you that I'm the only reason you're still alive. I could have killed you when I got you back, but I didn't. I like you, Ryou. And I don't like many people. I could have had you killed. Stabbed, bludgeoned, embalmed alive, if I had so wanted. But no......I still want you. I always will. And no matter what you do; you'll always be mine. And you know that, too."

"...."

"So do what you wish. If you kill me, how will you get out of the palace? Out of this room? A rotting corpse is going to make a wicked odour. It will attract attention." Yami reasoned. He was right, of course, Bakura knew. "But if you just punish me.....whip me, beat me, toy with me as you see fit, but still keep me alive and able to walk, then you'll still get revenge.....and still stay alive." He murmured silkily. Bakura's hand was trembling as it held the dagger.

"You bastard." He whispered. His face contorted, and Bakura collapsed despite his best efforts. The desperate strength was gone. A defeated, grief-clouded haze glazed his eyes. "You bastard!!!!" He wailed, curling into a fetal position. Yami crawled over to him, pried the dagger from his shaking hand, and embraced him gently. Began rocking back and forth, and Bakura kept on wailing in fits of rage and sorrow and pain. Yami stroked his hair, his back, trying to comfort him. Eventually, he uncurled Bakura and looked at him kindly. With genuine concern, as one lover looks to another.

"Oh, Miw-sher.....I'm sorry." He said, and kissed Bakura chastely on the lips. Bakura recoiled from the contact. Yami snarled, shook Bakura's shoulders. "LOOK AT ME!!!" He shouted.

Chocolate eyes met crimson ones, and Yami kissed Bakura once again. "Ohhhhh, Ryou......" He moaned softly. Pushed Bakura onto his back against the cool floor. "You are so beautiful. It's enough to make me cry." He confessed, his hand wandering down Bakura's thin body. "So beautiful .....shh.....don't cry." He told Bakura softly.

Bakura sobbed into his hands, tears trickling down the side of his face. Yami began stroking him.

Bakura wailed, squirmed and wriggled, still crying into his hands. Yami continued. Forced Bakura to lie still, splayed out before him.

"Shhh......don't cry."

~*~*~*~

"Love, Ryou." Malik said, as if it was the simplest thing in the world.

Ryou paused for a moment. "Love?" He mused.

"Yes, of course! What else did you think it could be?!" Malik inquired, gesturing emphatically with his gold-adorned arms.

Ryou looked down at his hands. "Well, I don't know......I don't really know what love involves. Feelings, and that sort of thing."

Malik looked at his silver-haired friend, concerned. The gold trinket presented to Ryou by Bakura only earlier that day jingled merrily to the bumpy ride, its pointers colliding harmlessly. "Never know love? Not even what it is?" He asked incredulously. Ryou nodded. Malik rubbed absently at his jaw, remembering a fracture he'd acquired not too long ago.....why Bakura had become so affronted about his comment, he didn't know. He thought silver was quite a regal colour.

"Love is..well; it's what you feel towards Bakura." Malik informed Ryou, almost uneasily. The silver-haired boy smiled from ear to ear.

"I really do love him. I thought my feelings were just stupid."

"Not at all."

"Malik....." Ryou trailed off.

The sandy-haired boy sneezed, pushed a stray fish away from him. "Yes?"

"Are their different kinds of love?"

Malik blinked his large violet eyes at the question. Paused. "Well, yes, of course there are different types."

"What are they?" Ryou asked curiously.

"Uh..." Malik thought for a moment. "Well, there's true love, like the kind you hold towards Bakura-" Ryou smiled happily again. Malik smiled back. Ryou was almost unbearably cute when he smiled, Malik discovered. "And then there's love for family, love for friends, platonic love, passing love, possessive love--"

"Possessive love?" Ryou interrupted. Malik nodded.

"You know.....love of something you own. For example.....I love my archery set. Don't know what I'd do if I lost it." The look on Ryou's face told Malik clearly that Ryou was still curious. "Possessive love...it usually doesn't go away. You don't let go of the possession."

Ryou considered this for a moment. "Can possessive love turn into true love?" He asked inquisitively.

Malik blanched. "I should hope not. I don't love my archery set that way--- oh. OH." Malik suddenly realized the intent of Ryou's question. His violet eyes peered at Ryou gently, sympathetically.

"He said he loved you, didn't he? Pharaoh told you he loved you..?" Malik asked softly. Ryou nodded, looked down at the floor of the caravan.

Malik made his way over to the smaller boy's side and began rubbing his back comfortingly. "Ryou; you're not a possession." Malik told the silver- haired boy. "And what Pharaoh feels towards you is lust, not love. Never, ever think that you're bound by his love. He doesn't love you. He just thinks he does. He just lusts after you."

"I know." Ryou whispered shakily.

"Don't worry. He'll never touch you again. So don't worry about yourself."

Ryou looked back up at Malik. His large chocolate eyes were shining with a determined, serious light. "I'm not worrying about myself! Not at all!" Ryou exclaimed. "I'm worried about Bakura and what Pharaoh is doing to him! Has done to him!"

Ryou grabbed Malik's shoulders, shook him gently. "You don't know what he's like when he's angry! He'll beat Bakura to an inch of his life in this realm! He'll do terrible things! Terrible!" Ryou let go of Malik and slumped to the floor. Malik stared at him in frozen shock at the outburst. "I'm sorry. I just..the thought of Bakura being hurt....." He trailed off.

Malik's violet eyes were downcast. "We'll get him back, Ryou. Alive and well, we'll get him back. And teach that Pharaoh a lesson, while we're at it."

"No." Ryou said stubbornly. Malik turned to him in mild surprise at the set voice. "Bakura is our top priority. We get him out at all costs. Revenge is to be considered and dealt with after we have Bakura back. Alright?"

Malik nodded, a smile slowly appearing on his tanned face.

"What's so funny?" Ryou asked, unable to keep from half-smiling himself, his outburst forgotten.

"Nothing, really. You just...you sounded so serious. So strong." Malik told him. A slight flush graced Ryou's pale cheeks.

"You flatter me."

The cart stopped. Both boys' faces suddenly became wary and alert. They listened carefully for any noise, and eventually heard footsteps approaching the caravan. "We're at the gate..." Malik whispered, sinking easily into the shadows of the caravan's corners. Ryou followed him and listened.

Muffled voices wafted into the back of the caravan. It seemed ages that the cart driver and the gate guards talked, chit-chatting over small matters. Eventually, just before Malik was vaguely considering sneaking out of the caravan and making a run for beyond the gate; the sound of coins jingling stopped him.

"Shokran (Thank you.)"[2] The driver said t whichever guard had given him his wage.

"Ala elrahib wa elsaa (You're welcome)"[2-2] The guard replied good- naturedly. Malik and Ryou both rolled their eyes.

A moment later, the caravan started up again with a jolt, trotting along smooth ground. Ryou and Malik moved to the front flap of canvas, awaiting their freedom. The cart stopped once again, and they heard footsteps approach them. "Ride's over, boys." The driver informed them with a cheery face as he released the canvas flap. Malik and Ryou gratefully breathed the clean air that rushed through the opening. They climbed down.

"Your pay." Malik muttered, handing the driver a few gold coins. The driver bowed his head in thanks.

"I wish you good luck. What you're here for-why you'd even want to come-I do not know. But you seem very intent on completing whatever mission you have here. So may the gods be with you." The caravan driver told them as he gathered the reins.

"Many thanks for your blessings." Malik replied politely. "But one question..."

"Yes?" The driver asked jovially.

"Why do you travel with camels? Horses would be much faster!" He exclaimed. Ryou stifled a giggle.

The driver laughed kindly. "True, true, I probably could have shaved an entire stick's time off this journey if I'd used steeds. But camels can last longer in the desert. They can stick a straighter course..and they're smarter than some finicky stallion." The driver reasoned, winking. Malik's face fell.

"Fair enough." The violet-eyed boy responded dryly. "Farewell. May you be profitable in all your future endeavors...and may your camel die of dehydration. Irony is lovely." The camel made an agitated noise and spat at Malik, who jumped away from it. The driver laughed.

"See? Smart creatures!" He called as he ambled away at the reins of his camel-driven cart. Malik swore under his breath.

"We'd best get going." He said to Ryou, grabbing the smaller boy's arm through the thin white fabric of the cotton cloak. "Staying out here in the open is a little too dangerous, even for me." He confessed. Ryou nodded.

"This way. I know a shortcut." The silver-haired boy informed the other.

They walked off, trying not to draw attention, though the courtyard was deserted.

~*~*~*~

Yami's flaxen bangs brushed against Bakura's lashes when he blinked. Cool gold was warming against Bakura's skin, and he could feel the Pharaoh's body against his. Yami's fingers were intertwined in Bakura's hair, and his chin rested in the groove of Bakura's neck. With Pharaoh half on top of him, Bakura was forced to breathe shallowly. If someone had been able to lift the roof and look in on the two; Yami's position would have seemed both possessive and protective. Bakura's fingers twitched as he stared up at the story on the ceiling.

It wasn't done..the story. It covered only half the ceiling, and stopped in the middle of a sentence. Bakura frowned. Pity. It was an interesting story. It seemed to actually be more of a series of things. Things written in riddles and old quotes and the old dialect. Bakura deciphered those parts as best he could. He sighed heavily, his lungs aching for a gulp of air instead of these pathetic little gasps he was taking. Pharaoh moaned softly in his sleep, and Bakura froze up.

"Miw.." He yawned, his fingers twitched in Bakura's hair. "Sher....go to sleep." He murmured drowsily.

'You dirty bastard..how can you sleep like this?' Bakura rebuked him mentally, huffing. He didn't go to sleep.

"Relax..mmm, relax, relax, relax.." Yami murmured again, absently stroking Bakura's abdomen. The move caused the silver-haired boy's entire body to tighten in a reflexive motion. Bakura shuddered violently. The Pharaoh took this as a sign.

Crimson eyes opened easily, a dozing fog lifted from them as Yami stared sharply down into Bakura's pain-dulled eyes. "What was that?" He asked mildly, his eyes at half-mast. Yami readjusted his position to better look directly at the boy beneath him.

"Nothing." Bakura said hastily, eyes wide. "Absolutely nothing." He said again, trying to mentally ward off Yami's impending advances. Yami laughed softly and sat up, straddling Bakura.

"You shivered." He observed confidently. He laughed again, but quickly returned his face to a neutral expression. "Hmmmmm," Yami hummed absentmindedly as he stroked Bakura's cheek.

Bakura shuddered again, his body involuntarily responding to the feather- light touch. Yami looked seriously at him, with a solemn face. His scarlet eyes shot hot sparks of anger and passion. "I would smile." He informed Bakura sulkily. "I would laugh." He continued. "But it hurts to do those things now. This bruise hurts." He told the silver-haired boy vindictively. Bakura commended himself on his good right hook..though it had been a moment of madness. All of his attention was focused on the Pharaoh; straddling him casually.

"You've never hit me before. Never. You're stronger than you look...physically stronger, that is," Yami amended thoughtfully. "Ra, but it hurts. ."

Bakura's breath was forced out of him as Yami's fist was unexpectedly thrust into his already pained abdomen. He coughed and tried to coil up in reflex. Yami's arms held him splayed out. "You never hit me. Don't start now." Yami warned, caressing the side of Bakura's pain-contorted face gently.

Trying to regain his wind, Bakura took gasps of air, the throbbing in his abdomen dulling to a low ache. Tactfully, gracefully, with a monarch's vain certainty; Yami captured Bakura's mouth.

Exploring familiar-yet somehow different, Yami observed-territory, the Pharaoh coaxed the silver-haired boy into responding. As Yami's tongue caressed each contour of Bakura's mouth, Bakura closed his eyes as his own tongue hesitantly intruded into the Pharaoh's mouth. Bakura imagined it was Ryou.

Yami felt Bakura's slender arms judiciously slide around his neck, loop around and clasp together. He smiled against his slave's semi-swollen lips. He slid off Bakura, allowed him to get to his knees. Torso against torso they kissed, Yami savouring this familiar meal with a new, somewhat spicy tinge; Bakura lost in his fantasy of Ryou.

Forcing himself to come back to horrible, tortuous reality; Bakura snarled into Yami's mouth. Ignored. Another warning growl. Yami did nothing.

A wicked idea, much like the braver Bakura would have, emerged in Bakura's fogged mind. Against the Pharaoh's busy mouth, he smiled his familiar smug smirk.

Yami shrieked as his slave--his sweet, innocent, and demure little slave-- bit down mercilessly on his tongue. He released Bakura, pushed him back against the floor. A hand went to his mouth, and Yami could feel wet, slick, warm blood against his lips and fingers. On the floor, blood trickled from Bakura's smirking lips.

"Damn you!" Yami cursed, spitting blood to the floor. He tentatively touched his tongue, his fingers bringing back blood. Unfortunately, Bakura noted, Pharaoh still had all of it. Ah well. Yami scrambled to his feet, a hand over his mouth. "Stand up." His muffled voice hissed.

Still smirking, Bakura stood, his hands on his hips. He relished the moment as his mind became clear, defiant..unmistakably him, again. Bakura licked the blood off his lips, peered mockingly at the Pharaoh; a boy his own age, just as mortal, just as breakable.

Yami laughed. From behind his hand, Yami let out an asinine, superior laugh, his sparkling eyes focused solely on Bakura.

Bakura's nerve began to desert him. Had he driven the Pharaoh insane? Or had the bastard already been a raving lunatic beforehand? With each and every possible explanation, Bakura's resolve and self began to crawl deeper and deeper into the confines of his soul, placing a wall between themselves and him. The smirk faded from his lips, his poise became less certain. He did not want to have to deal with a maniacal, raving mad Pharaoh. He didn't think he could.

Yami ran and embraced Bakura so suddenly that he didn't even see it coming. As the multi-colour-haired boy cuddled against him, Bakura's arms slid to his sides, his entire body frozen from shock. What, precisely, was he supposed to do in a situation like this, with a lunatic Pharaoh holding him in a fit of hysterical laughter?

A pained hiss escaped Bakura as an excruciating sting suddenly hit the side of his neck. As he tried to twist out of the Pharaoh's grip, he noticed that Yami was no longer laughing. He was, however, seeming to enjoy licking the fresh, warm blood on his lips into his mouth. Going back to the wound for more, Bakura felt a warm tongue lapping at the liquid; his own blood. He began struggling harder, squirming and twisting, trying to dislodge the other boy who held him tightly.

Yami stopped licking at the bleeding bite mark, letting himself judge the feeling of Bakura's body against his, struggling. He closed his eyes blissfully. "Yes." He murmured. "Yes, keep doing that." Yami encouraged the silver-haired boy softly. "That feels delicious."

Bakura felt ill. He shrieked and shoved at the Pharaoh. The action surprised the other boy, and he fell unceremoniously to the hard floor. Bakura took a running dash at the heavy double doors preventing his escape from this torture. He was tantalizingly close.

His fingertips brushed against the door handle, and Bakura could see his escape playing out before him. He tugged at the door, but was tackled before it could even open a crack. Bakura felt his entire body jar against the heavy wood, his head smack against a carving as stars flashed behind his eyes, and he could feel Yami's arms wrapped mercilessly around his waist, tugging him back. But his hand was wrapped tightly around the door handle, and he would not let go, not when he was this close!

"Ryou," Yami grunted, tugging the silver-haired boy back towards him, "What do you think you're doing?" he demanded crossly. "Let go!" Bakura grasped the handle with both hands. He began crying, despite his own will not to.

"No! I won't! Let me out!" He wailed, half in grief and half in rage. He kicked haphazardly at the pharaoh and hit him in the jaw, right where the purple bruise was. An undeniable rage flashed in Yami's eyes, and could see an urge for retribution developing in his cruel mind.

Instinct clouded over Bakura's judgment. Letting go of the handle with one hand, he banged his fist against the door. "Help!" He yelled, as loud as he could with his sore throat. "Someone, anyone, just help! Please!" He shouted pleadingly, yet knowing deep inside him that it was hopeless.

"Alright, Ryou." Yami snarled viciously. "If you want to be this difficult, then fine. You obviously just need a little lesson. Then you'll settle down. Come on. Let go." He ordered, his voice dangerously serene. Bakura kept on hanging on, and Yami gave one final, great pull on the silver- haired boy.

Bakura screamed the scream of a suffering animal as his hand was ripped from the door handle.

~*~*~*~

Seto had cringed when the banging and wailing had begun. He could practically see it; Ryou, poor, bloody, pain-ridden Ryou clinging to the door desperately in a sad attempt at escape. And Pharaoh, pulling him back to a painful, passionate darkness.

But when the cries had stopped.well, Seto had offered up a prayer to the Gods for Ryou's safety. Pharaoh was generally not an unkind person..but retaliation-especially from those whom he favoured-was inexcusable in his royal eyes. Seto hoped privately that Yami wouldn't hurt his poor slave too badly for the attempted escape.

He himself rather fancied Ryou. He's only seen the silver-haired boy a few times in his life-Ryou had rarely been allowed out of Pharaoh's chambers-- but it was enough to set up a secret empathy for him. Ryou was a shy and delicate boy, who was smarter and stronger than he let on-or perhaps than he himself even knew. But Ryou had never before been so brazen...he was sure to be a bloody, achy wreck by the time Pharaoh decided to leave him be to recover, before resuming the routine. Seto shook his head and continued walking down the imposing cloisters, with its great view of the kingdom below, and in the distance.

Seto disliked the idea and practice of slavery. It had not been too long ago-a year, perhaps less, that he himself owned a personal slave. An uncouth, strong-headed, yet beautiful young boy who had made Seto's life a living hell as often as he could. He knew how to get under the High priest's skin. But Seto had grown bored and guilty, and was actually glad when the boy had escaped. He had refused acceptance of another personal slave.

Seto carried with him several hefty scrolls under his arm, which all contained records, of sorts. They were accounts of all recent foresights that Seto had been granted by the will of the Gods. They were disturbing.

Pharaoh didn't know of them, and Seto wanted to keep it that way. Yami was sure to be unhappy if he ever uncovered the scrolls; all filled with visions of death and destruction, of the world being split into two immortal forces, and of the one star of the kingdom being swathed by a black dungeon of self. All of these were alien and perturbing to even Seto; who had devoted all his life to deciphering the messages of the deities.

A sudden noise surprised the High Priest out of his reverie, and he started.

"My apologies, High Priest Seto, if I disrupted you." A voice came from a branch-off of the great hallway. A figure emerged from the shadows, and Seto released a breath of air he hadn't realized he'd been holding.

"Jounouchi," Seto sighed. "I thought you were supposed to be..." He trailed off.

"Be where?" The blonde boy asked, cocking his head to one side. Though Jounouchi's face was serious, his ocher eyes smiled at Seto.

"Anywhere but here." The blue-eyed boy muttered lamely, embarrassed. He shifted the scrolls from one arm to the other as the awkward silence settled on him and the entire hallway.

Jounouchi smiled. "What's wrong?" He asked lightly. "You look like you're facing the god Osiris himself!" He noted. Seto forced a small obligatory smile. 'Oh, Jounouchi, if only you knew.' He mused thoughtfully.

"Nothing is wrong. I just...I am pressed to return to my chambers. I have work to complete." Seto offered up the explanation hoping desperately that Jounouchi would take the bait and leave him be.

Seto despised Jounouchi.

Well, in all honesty, quite the opposite. It was the way Jounouchi made him feel that he despised. Whenever Seto was around the Chief Guard, his face flushed the hottest colour of red, his mouth and mind refused to work properly. He became a total idiot. Not at all the image he wanted Jounouchi to hold for him. "Work? Well, it seems you've got a lot of it. Perhaps I can be of some help?" Jounouchi proposed mildly, beginning to walk in the direction of the High Priest's chambers. Seto sputtered idiotically.

"Wh-what do you think you're doing?" He cried out to the retreating figure. Jounouchi turned around to face him.

"Maybe I can help you with some of your work. Organize things or some such occupation. At the very least, I want to help relieve some stress from you. You're always so uptight." Jounouchi told the other boy boldly. "Nobody should have to constantly be under stress. It'll catch up with you, Seto." The blonde boy said playfully, winking.

Seto's eye twitched slightly, and he sighed. Jounouchi was making this too easy. This was scintillating opportunity smacking him in the face here. The Gods must enjoy teasing him. "Jounouchi," He began, unsure of how to place his words. "There is no such stress that you speak of to which you would be indifferent to in aiding me."

A blank expression covered the other boy's face. "Huh?"

"I don't want your help!" Seto blurted out the lie without thinking. The barrier he held towards the other boy sprang up, and insults began flowing freely from his tongue. "Why on earth would I want, or be in need of help from one of Pharaoh's lapdogs? You have the mind of a child, and the attention span of one, too. You don't even dress properly! What are you thinking; flouncing around in a common soldier's attire?! I don't know why you would even bother asking me if you could help with my work. And besides.." Seto shut his mouth, horrified at the string of abuse he was handing to this poor boy, who'd had but the best intentions. "You're the cause of most of my stress." He finished, finally letting the truth fall from his lips.

Jounouchi looked hurt for all of about one second, before he flushed an angry red. "Well excuse me if I wanted to help out a friend! And I apologize if it offends you that I don't mind being near you, or dealing with your --incredibly boring, may I tell you-work, just so you won't be shut up in your room all alone every day!" He shouted, pointing accusatorily at the blue-eyed boy. "And I'm sorry if I'm the root of everything wrong with your life!" Jounouchi spat bitterly, stomping off huffily and leaving Seto alone in the imposing hallway, his arms weakly grasping the scrolls. What had just taken place, in that flurry of silver- tongued lies and outrage?

'Seto, you fool. Now you've hurt him', he told himself. 'He'll hate you now, if he didn't resent you before.' Seto sighed and continued down the hall, wallowing in guilt and something akin to sorrow; an emotion he was all too familiar with, though one would be hard-pressed to know.

A footstep from somewhere in the shadows made the High Priest jump once again. "Jounouchi, is that you?" He asked hopefully. No response. "I'm very sorry about what I said. Please, forgive me...Jounouchi?" He asked curiously. A figure emerged from the shadows, and Seto took a step back in surprise. "Who are you?" He hissed.

Cunning violet eyes sparkled in amusement as they took him in. A simpering smile appeared on the stranger's caramel face. "A messenger from the Gods, High Priest." The boy replied confidently.

"From the Gods?!" Seto exclaimed in disbelief, staring suspiciously at the strange boy. "Of all ways to send a message...the gods choose a skinny little street rat like you?" He mused aloud. The boy's face became dark.

"If I were you, O High Priest; I would be careful of how I went about speaking to the gods' messenger. Insults are not the way to win me over, you know." He hissed darkly, crossing his hands over his chest.

"M-my apologies."[3] Seto stammered. Such a strange and audacious boy...surely this could be no ordinary boy, having gotten through the palace gates unabated. This must truly be a messenger form the Gods.

"If you're kind enough, perhaps I will tell you more than I should...perhaps I will help you." The boy enticed Seto with a confident drawl.

"May I ask, if I may..why is that you are here? And how, pray tell, shall I address a messenger from the Gods?" Seto asked in awe, clutching the scrolls in his hand tightly.

"How shall you address me?" The boy asked uncertainly, looking back into the impenetrable shadows. He paused for a second before turning back to Seto. "You may call me Namu."[4] He informed Seto easily. "And I am here to give you an important message, indeed."

Seto waited in amazement.

'This is too easy' Malik thought to himself in amusement. "I have been sent here, to you, High Priest, to inform you of an upcoming time of war."

"War!" Seto cried in incredulity. "But there have been no wars for many years! The entire empire is peaceful! There have been no-"

"Stop!" Malik cried, raising a hand to silence Seto. "None shall contradict the messenger of the Gods! There will be a war, yes......but it shall not reach the people." He said softly. "It will not go beyond those who dwell inside these walls, in fact." Malik gestured to the imposing cloister, where hieroglyphic columns supported the polished sandstone ceiling, making Malik's voice echo ethereally.

Seto stood in silence as Namu continued solemnly. "Your Pharaoh has committed an awful deed; one that angers the Gods such that they must right this terrible wrong. Your Pharaoh and his allies shall collapse, and their agony will be known by all. A cry will rise from those who have impossible power, and the Pharaoh Yami shall fall. The guised shall be saved from the clutches of evil, and become as Gods. This is my message to you, High priest" Malik finished his speech in a murmur, complimenting himself on his visionary-like, persuasive lie. And on short notice, too.

Seto's mouth was slack, he could not speak. Namu's words wrung true in his mind-they matched his visions precisely, and even made them clearer! "Tha..thank you, o messenger." He whispered to the violet-eyed boy. "Your memorandum shall be realized in the history of the world." He offered solemnly.

Namu nodded his approval. "Good. Now, High priest Seto.." He walked up to the High priest, whose eyes widened in fear. "To deal with you." Namu said softly, looking up at Seto appraisingly.

"Forgive my many sins." Seto whispered hopefully, sure that Namu would rip out his very heart right then and there for insulting him earlier. Namu laughed softly, and it was to Seto like the wind of the evening desert-cool and gentle.

"You've no convicting sins to your name, High priest. My offer to you is to aid you." He informed Seto lightly, smiling a cleverly.

"Help me? How?"

"I can sense...that you are in ruins. Your soul is being shattered very slowly." Namu observed, looking suddenly very serious. "You are haunted by feelings of insecurity and guilt." Violet eyes bore deep into Seto's heart, and Seto felt that this odd boy before him was reading his very soul.

"You feel that, should you allow the one you love into your heart, that you will hurt them." Namu murmured. Seto's eyes widened in shock. How could this boy know?! "You will not. He wishes only to help you, be with you...love is stronger than insecurity. And pain is, after all, an inseparable part of love. But you have suffered enough, and made him suffer enough. If you would simply be brave enough to open your heart to him, you would fill that empty void that is consuming you."

The blue-eyed boy stared down into strong, inhumanely purple eyes in awe. "Is what you speak of true?" He asked hoarsely, almost in a stupor. Namu nodded.

"Every word." Namu said. Seto continued to stare. "Well, what are you waiting for, a red flag?! Go and find him!" He shouted, cuffing the High Priest on the side of the head. Seto nodded and whispered a hurried thanks before running off.

Malik sighed in relief and slumped against a limestone column. From deep in the shadows, Ryou appeared. "You're very good at improvisation." He smiled down at the sandy-haired boy. Malik smiled back.

"A necessity for a 'skinny little street rat'." He replied a little crossly.

"Why did you help him, though? I would have wanted to get away before he might figure out that you're actually not a messenger from the gods. He might have had you killed." Ryou said thoughtfully.

"I helped him because he's in pain from his own love. He wants to be with the one he longs for. Nobody should have to be apart from their love for any reason, eh, Ryou?" Malik asked tenderly. Ryou smiled softly.

"Of course, you're right."

Malik pushed himself to his feet. "We should continue, before we're discovered..by someone who I can't lie to. I think I heard something from down the corridor." He added lightly, walking off. Ryou followed him, and both boys stuck close to the shadows.

As the turned a corner, they both heard rapid footsteps coming towards them. It was too late to run back, they would be seen. Malik froze and tried to hide Ryou behind him as the footsteps came closer.

"Malik, What do we do?!" Ryou whispered frantically.

Malik said nothing.
~*~*~*~*~

End Chapter Six.

_________

Well, there you have it. Are you curious about your surprise? If so, scroll down. If not..well, then just review. Or do us both a favour and do both!
I'M HOLDING A FIC CONTEST!

Yes, that's right. Horrified yet? No? Good. If you're interested, read on.

Rules/Regulations: All fics must be Yu-Gi-Oh, and only Yu-Gi-Oh. Please refrain from AUs and crossovers. Fics can be anywhere from 2-10 pages in length, size 10 print. Leniency is given, so if it's a little longer, that's okay. Must be yaoi/shounen ai. Het or yuri secondary pairings are fine, but the main coupling must be yaoi/ shounen-ai. Pairings are open to opinion. Due date for all fics is May 7th. No exceptions. Fics can be sent to dragon_chylde13@hotmail.com. All authors should include their ff.net name, their gender (if alias is unisex) and what genre their fic is. NO SELF-INSERTS/ORIGINAL CHARACTERS AS MAIN CHARACTERS. Please stick with actual characters, unless extras are needed for small parts.

Requests: Please try to refrain from shotakon or incest, unless it's presented tastefully, and with good raison d'etre. I'm sorry, but there's little appeal in Mokuba being pleasured by Seto or Rishid and Malik getting it on*shudders*. But remember, in all honesty; I'm not against it! *sideways glance to KikuitadakixSakumo shrine* Hehe...^^' I humbly request that there be no pointless character deaths. (i.e.; Yugi being eaten by a shark while visiting an aquarium) If somebody has to die, make it worth it. No G-rated stuff. I'd like to not waste my time.

Point bonuses: 1 POINT BONUSES ARE GIVEN IF: a) Handcuffs are involved

b) FLUFFY handcuffs are involved

c) Leather is involved (vinyl also acceptable)

2) 2 POINT BONUSES ARE GIVEN IF: a) You get me laughing (and not because of your writing skills)

b) A Yami (any yami) does something really stupid (e.g.: agrees to any sort of bet with Ryuuji)

c) A Hikari (any hikari) is purposefully seductive

d) Kaiba's the uke..to anyone.

3 POINT BONUSES ARE GIVEN IF: a) The UST can be cut with a knife

b) Millennium items are involved *nudge nudge, wink wink*

c) Any sort of frilly skirt is involved

d) Yugi's the seme (I'm going to regret that, aren't I?

4 POINT BONUSES ARE GIVEN IF: a) Ryuuji is the uke to someone *grins*

b) Two characters fight for who gets to be seme.

c) The fic gives me a nosebleed (probably won't happen. I'm a veteran in yaoi/shounen-ai related matters. I've seen it all. I've read it all.)

d) Jounouchi gets called a dog/dressed like a dog/treated like a dog, etc...

e) All original names are used. (Dubs must die!) ***The dub 'Yami' may be used. In fact, please do use it. "Mo hitori no boku/mo hitori no Yugi" is just too long.

5 POINT BONUSES ARE GIVEN IF: a) The fic involves a HikarixYami pairing (in that order)

b) There's a rare/unique pairing (e.g.: BakuraxRyuuji)

c) You scare me (not easy to do.)

d) There are admirable insinuation techniques. (For those who've seen/read Yami no Matsuei, take for example...Muraki and the wine glass)

e) I'm forced to use a mantra to keep reading.

6 POINT BONUS: Yami Malik is the uke (willing or not) to someone OR Someone gets a taste of their own medicine (e.g.: Ryuuji is forced to put on cat ears and a tail and go 'nyan nyan' ('meow meow' in Japanese)
Summary: 2-10 pages, yaoi or shounen-ai, due on the 4th of March, impress me.

The Prize: The prize for the top fic will be the title of 'King/Queen/Pharaoh/whichever royalty you want of Short-Notice Yaoi fics' (non-patent) as well as a little thing of my own creation which I think you'll all like. I like to call it a Citrus Count.

Citrus Count-everyone knows about the three main citruses, which stand for levels of *ahem* 'action' in a fic. Orange= Fluffy; huggles and kisses Lime= Vaguely described sexual scenes Lemon= Heaven for yaoi fans; vividly descriptive sex scenes.

The winner of the contest gets to order me around by giving a Citrus Count on this fic! She/He can either send it as one lump sum (E.g: There must be a total of 4 BakuraxRyou lemons, 1 SetoxJou lemon, and 5 limes) OR chapter by chapter (E.g: Chapter 7 must contain one BakuraxRyou lemon, one lime, one orange). IT'S ALL UP TO YOUR DISCRETION. YOU'RE IN CONTROL.

So enter! And have some fun!

Ne, what do you think, minna-san? *worried* is it worth it? Tell me, and review this chapter, ne?
[1] Remember; The Egyptians used incense sticks as measurements of time.

[2/2-2] "Thank you"/"You are welcome" in old Arabic. It's the best I could do w/o the ability to use hieroglyphics.

[3] *laughs uneasily* Sadly; they were that gullible, most of them. Kaiba should be no exception.

[4] *shrugs* It was an easily-accessible alias.

*** This chapter has many errors, and I know that. For some reason, things just aren't working out..
Click on the box below and review!!!!!