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A Tender Moment

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Yami delicately prodded the lock mechanism, listening for the clicks of the pins moving into place that would signify his success. Yugi was trying not to interrupt his other self’s control of their body, but couldn’t help letting his unease and disapproval filter across their emotional link as he worked. 

I understand your reluctance Aibou, but this is the best way for us to figure out what the thief is up to,’ Yami reassured, inching his rake forward. 

I know you’re mad at Ryou for breaking into the game shop and stealing the Ring back from us, but committing the equivalent crime doesn’t feel like justice to me,’ Yugi replied, narrowing his eyes (emotionally, anyway, as far as his backseat spirit form allowed). He looked at the keyhole above the doorknob to Ryou Bakura’s apartment and sighed. ‘You have been at this for too long. It is starting to look suspicious.

Yami growled in frustration. ‘The thief was in our room in less than twenty seconds! I am out of practice.’ 

Yugi reckoned from recalling the security camera footage that Yami’s assessment was pretty accurate, low though the frame rate was. ‘You’re not a thief yourself, usually, so that stands to reason. And the man who stole from us was not your enemy but my friend. I would rather talk to him about this than snoop around his place. I still don’t understand why he would want to be re-possessed.

A pair of thieves then.’ The latch finally disengaged. ‘Aha!’ Yami turned the knob and pushed the door in. It was winter and getting dark early, so a soft wash of twilight blanketed the interior. He turned the deadbolt closed again and chose not to engage any of the lights, cautiously moving their body forward and inspecting what looked to Yugi like a completely normal college kid’s apartment. 

Anzu and the others were in the dorms, of course, and Yugi himself had elected to brave the longer commute to stay at the shop and help his grandfather, but Ryou was the only one among them who had a place like this. Yugi found himself wishing again that they were closer, but the emotional distance imposed by the events of the Battle City tournament, followed by his recent criminal behavior, had strained their relationship. They had chosen not to involve the police for loads of obvious reasons, especially since Yugi and Yami were both sure that the Spirit of the Ring had found a way out of the Shadow Realm and back into his host.

A short hallway led to a bathroom and two decently-sized bedrooms. On the left, the room literally contained a four-poster bed covered with a fluffy blue duvet, and on the right was an office with the organized chaos of an art studio. A small sandbox was propped up on bricks in the corner, and rooted within was an elegantly-crafted Egyptian palace. Large pyramids in various stages of painting were spread over newspapers in the middle of the room, and tiny figurines next to a paint set and thin, delicate brushes dotted the modest desk. Yami picked up one of the tiny people and admired it. 

Pharaoh, I think that’s supposed to be you,’ Yugi said with wonder, having to admit that the royal gold contrasted with the sun-kissed color Ryou had used for his skin was quite becoming even on a doll. Yami picked it up and ran the pad of his thumb across the robes, turning it carefully over in his hand.

“I have a bad feeling about this,” Yami muttered out loud, and then his head snapped up when they both heard the sound of a key in the lock at the entrance. 

Yugi blushed at the colorful string of curses that streamed from the pharaoh’s mouth as he returned the figure before swiftly and quietly dashing across the hall to the bedroom. He tucked them silently into the sliding doors of the closet, leaving a small gap so they had a good view of both the door and the bed. 

Aibou, I thought you said he had class until six!’

He does!’

And he never skips!’

He doesn’t! Maybe Bakura is being a bad influence on him.’ Yugi pouted then. ‘If that’s the case, then I suppose that makes two of us!’

Yami ignored the insult. ‘I wonder why he refers to that dark spirit using his own family name. It would be like you calling me Mutou.’ 

I think that life choice is the least of our concern at the moment, mou hitori no boku.

They heard Ryou’s long sigh and the thwomp of a bookbag on the floor as he entered. Yugi saw a little more illumination filter through to his hiding place as he flipped on lights, then heard some clinking of china and the rush of water from the kitchen sink. A few minutes later, the teakettle whistled and then quieted as Ryou presumably poured a cup of tea, before making his way down the hall. The dainty chime of a silver spoon stirring was the only sound in the silence as Yugi held his breath. Luckily, the pharaoh did too, still being in control of his corporeal body after all.

Ryou brought the tea on a saucer with him into the bedroom, setting it on his nightstand and sitting on the edge of the bed. He unwove his long white hair from its braid, dragging his fingers through the silky strands as it glinted like starlight in the soft glow from the window. Dark circles under his eyes marred his otherwise porcelain face.

“Bakura, I can’t keep on like this. I have to go to class. If my grades suffer then my father will stop paying for this place.”

The spirit of the thief started to materialize from the Ring that Ryou had pulled from under the neck of his shirt, slinking around his waist like a macabre belt before his full form solidified on the bed behind him. Yugi didn’t conceal his shock - it was really difficult for either him or Yami to pull off a visible spirit form, let alone one that had any physical realization. His ghost was still a little translucent, glowing faintly, but the effect was still impressive. Seeing a darker twin of Ryou’s unusual beauty was more alluring than it had any right to be. 

He imagined hot breath on Ryou’s ear as the thief leaned in to speak. “All distractions, Yadonushi,” he whispered, “you have more important work to do here.”

Ryou slammed his fists on the comforter in frustration. “I can’t do anything for you if I have dropped dead from anxiety and exhaustion. I don’t want to steal from my friends and I don’t want to commit any more crimes!” He grabbed his tea and took an angry sip before shoving the spirit away and flopping onto his back, hand draped across his eyes.

Bakura just cackled and floated back over him, a white hand reaching out to caress Ryou’s equally pale jaw. “Well I wouldn’t want you to be stressed, precious host. Maybe there’s something I can do for you that doesn’t involve abandoning all of the fun lawbreaking I have to do.”

Ryou moved his forearm and his eyes widened into chocolate brown plates as the spirit’s hand on his face turned into a hand on his ass instead, drawing them closer together.

“Ba...Bakura please, I…”

“So polite, of course I’ll indulge you,” he purred, leaning forward to press his lips to Ryou’s jutting collarbone, causing him to lose focus on his words and gasp. Bakura’s mouth traveled the line back to his shoulder, planting soft kisses along the way while his hands reached to undo Ryou’s belt and unbutton his shirt in tandem. 

When he reached the muscular curve between Ryou’s shoulder and trapezius, he bit down, eliciting a pained cry that morphed into a delicious moan as he arched off the bed. Bakura took that opportunity to tug off Ryou’s trousers, leaving him in a half-buttoned white dress shirt and conspicuously tented boxers.

Meanwhile, Yugi and his own spirit watched in complete silence, too stunned to even talk telepathically with each other. Yugi could sense a vague concern that Bakura’s Item would betray them and point towards the Puzzle, but the logical processing of the very real danger the pharaoh had gotten them into was entirely overwhelmed by a consuming lust at watching Yugi’s friend writhe like a marionette under Bakura’s talented lips and fingers. 

Ryou’s body flushed deeper as he whimpered, pushing his hips forward seeking some kind of contact, which the spirit denied. He made a frustrated sound and threaded his hands through Bakura’s hair above where his face was attached to one of Ryou’s aroused nipples. 

Bakura hummed and looked back up at him, head leaning away in the direction of the hair-pull. “Oh, that’s right, you’re sentimental aren’t you? I have to say I’m not much of a romantic myself, but I certainly don’t mind making the exception for such an eager vessel.” He licked his lips and then closed the distance between them to consume Ryou’s. 

Ryou’s eyes rolled back and he groaned, wrapping his arms and legs around Bakura’s form like a snowy white crab and deepening the kiss, hips rolling upward to grind on the equal arousal of the spirit.

Yugi could see their tongues glinting as they changed angles and pawed at each other, certain that all of his spirit blood (or whatever it was) had rushed to redden his face, and all of the blood in his body had traveled south to engorge Yami’s cock. It strained against the fabric of his pants and he shifted uncomfortably.

Aibou,’ entreated the spirit, breathless despite the communication being in their mind, ‘we should look away.’ 

Yep,’ was all Yugi could manage as their eyes remained hyper-focused on the entwined Ring Bearers. An image came to him unbidden, of the pharaoh wearing all those regal robes and gold that had been painted on Ryou’s figurine, pinning him on their bed in a similar position, and his brain did cartwheels. Oh gods... gods, he hoped he hadn’t let that fantasy cross the barrier into Yami’s mind, it was already challenging enough to maintain their cooperative friendship sharing a body without indulging a complication like the one Ryou and Bakura were passionately enacting.

Though, when Bakura slid one of his hands down Ryou’s boxers to grab his shaft, Yami did the same. Both Ryou and Yugi gasped, Ryou quite audibly and Yugi mercifully not.

Bakura impatiently tore the remaining fabric away from Ryou’s body and started pumping him as his lips worked purple hickeys into his host's neck and cries of ecstasy mixed with dark moans filled the room.

Yami quietly undid the button and zipper on their pants and struggled to free his erection; once he succeeded, the cool air danced over the hot flesh soothingly and he began to stroke. Yugi could kind of sense what was going on, but couldn’t really feel it until Yami dropped the mental barrier that separated their motor control. The result was a shared consciousness that they sometimes employed in a duel, but this was something else entirely, molten desire permeating through Yugi’s confusion in an instant.  

He felt the dexterous fingers of Yami’s other hand reach below as well to trail softly over the tightened sac, rolling his balls gently in between strokes as Yugi got lost in it - it really, really felt like someone else was pleasuring him, and his own explorations didn’t hold a candle to how incredible this felt. He was starting to get an idea of why Ryou had wanted his spirit back so badly despite his other sadistic qualities, and turned his attention back to the show.

Ryou’s breathing had turned into increasingly desperate pants as he moaned his own name wantonly. It may have sounded narcissistic to an outsider, but out of his mouth and into Yugi’s ears it was tantalizing and erotic. He wondered how his would sound in that melodic timbre if he were between Ryou’s legs instead. ‘Yugi,’ Yami cooed, not hiding his agreement with the idea. Yugi was too turned on to consider how uncharted this territory was for them.

Ryou’s pleasure crested suddenly and he yelped, spilling into Bakura’s hand and onto his own stomach, toes and fists curling into the duvet and then relaxing as beads of sweat trickled down his sides.

Bakura was just delighted, slicking his finger through the sticky fluid off of his host’s flat, heaving stomach and bringing it to his mouth, taking a long lick before switching it to Ryou’s, who devoured it greedily, sucking as if it were a cock and not a finger.

Yugi thought that he wouldn’t mind at all seeing Ryou get his face fucked, but the spirit had other plans and was chuckling darkly as he rolled his fingers in more of Ryou’s come and then slipped one into his ass. “Did that take the edge off, Yadonushi?”

Ryou’s breath hitched again and Yugi clamped a palm over Yami’s mouth as Ryou looked Directly. At them. He blinked for a moment, surprised, and that a smirk? Is he smirking? 

He knows we’re here.’

Um…’ said Yugi, mind blanking. 

Yami flashed a smirk of his own and kept stroking, unsure of how much Ryou could see but encouraged by the fact he hadn’t ratted them out to the thief, yet.

Yugi heated with embarrassment. ‘Yami what the hell are you doing?

Power move,’ the spirit replied, leaning back and bracing himself on a pair of boots in the corner. 

Bakura was scissoring expertly now, burying his middle finger to the hilt every few beats to press into Ryou’s prostate while he squealed, eyes flitting to Yugi and Yami, backlit by the glow of the spirit above him and the Ring that pulsed on his chest. One of the spines had gotten an erection of its own, pointing toward the closet where they were hidden(ish), but luckily the thief didn’t seem to notice as his host gently pushed it down occasionally. He moved to pull Ryou up and flip him onto his knees, but Ryou twisted them so that his ass was pointed toward the closet and his spirit’s eyes would be directed at the headboard when he was taken from behind.

Yami murmured a prayer to Min as Bakura doused his own cock in lube and sunk into the pliant man beneath him, thanking the translucence for being able to see the tight ring of muscle expanding to suck him in. Bakura grabbed on to two tufts of Ryou’s hair and pulled back like they were reins, grunting and thrusting as Ryou’s reinvigorated hardness quivered below them. Ryou moved to wrap his own hand around his shaft and matched his pace, whimpering more loudly this time.

Yugi was drowning in pleasure, and he let their moans fuel it as he inched toward orgasm. The pharaoh was teasing him, changing his pace and whispering sweet-sounding words in another language to Yugi through their telepathic link. It sounded like it was meant for lovers, and Yugi blushed at the implication.

He didn’t have too much time to be embarrassed again, though, as Bakura’s pace became frantic and his back rippled deliciously. “Ryou,” he breathed, arching as his climax overtook him.

Oh,” said Ryou, surprised as he too emptied himself again, this time onto the bed

Aibou, come for me,’ Yami commanded, and Yugi did, hot and hard, using every fiber of his willpower not to cry out as the spirit ran a thumb over the sensitive head to smear his come on the tip as it spurted out onto the floor of Ryou’s closet. 

Bakura had collapsed around Ryou, arms wrapped tightly around his waist as he slowly pulled out, groaning. Ryou turned and pulled him down into an embrace, pressing kisses to his forehead and cheeks that were dripping with whatever constituted sweat for the spirit. “I missed you, Thief,” he whispered, brushing some of spidersilk-white strands behind Bakura’s ears. 

Bakura snorted and rolled his heavily-drooping eyes. “Sentimental,” he repeated, nuzzling Ryou’s neck and gradually losing consciousness. Ryou carefully shuttled his dissolving form back into the Ring and hugged his chest, sighing and closing his eyes as he sat up and pulled his too-long button down around his waist like it was a bathrobe. 

When he opened them again, he looked toward the closet and winked. “You can come out now,” he said to the puzzled pair seductively, wiggling his index finger in a ‘come hither’ gesture that had Yugi gulping all over again.

Yami had retrieved a small towel from their interior jacket pocket (thank the gods he took Hitchhiker’s Guide to heart), and was nearly finished cleaning them and reconfiguring their pants when he met Ryou’s heated gaze. He grinned and spoke to Yugi instead. ‘Well, he’s your friend, Aibou, and now here’s your chance to talk to him.

Yami, don’t you DARE…’ But he’d already felt the familiar whoosh of control transfer to him as his other self chuckled from his retreat to the Puzzle. 

Yugi cursed all of the pharaoh’s gods and crawled ungracefully out of the closet with a sheepish look on his face. “Oh, hey Ryou, I must have gotten lost on the way home from class.” He looked around, noticing that a smug look had replaced the bashful blush on Ryou’s face. “Okay...really lost.”

“I have to admit I didn’t quite imagine myself as an exhibitionist, Yugi, but when I saw Bakura’s sworn mortal enemy looking out at me through your pretty eyes, it was rather thrilling.” He shivered in delight and swung his legs over the side of the bed, patting the empty spot next to him. His shirt provided a little modesty, at least. 

Yugi trembled as he stood, brushing himself off and tiptoeing over to the bed. “Is Bakura, um…”

“The only time I get some peace and quiet is after I let him fuck me silly. It takes a lot of energy to be physical for that long. Maybe if you allowed him to have his way with Pharaoh they would forget about their quarrel for a while,” Ryou giggled to a very embarrassed flush from Yugi. Yami had the decency to be appalled, but there was something else underneath it.

Yugi sat on the bed and sighed. Ryou scooted closer and put his palm flat against Yugi’s chest. Yugi caught his wrist and held it, but didn’t move him away. “I don’t appreciate you stealing from me, Ryou,” he said finally.

“I don’t appreciate you breaking into my home.”

Yugi cringed. “Fair point. Would you believe that it wasn’t my idea?”

“Yes.” Silence lingered for a beat. “And I apologize, for doing the same to you first. But, I didn’t steal from you. The Ring is mine.”

“I, um...think I get that now. But you could have talked to me instead of taking things into your own hands.”

“Would you have given it back if I had asked for it?”

“Well I may have. I can’t speak for the pharaoh. I’m sure he would argue that all the Items are his by birthright, and that your thief unlawfully stole the ones he ended up with.”

More or less,’ chimed Yami.

Yugi continued, “I didn’t know you were um... together though. I’m sorry we came between that.”

“The romanticism is rather one-sided, I’m afraid,” Ryou said wistfully, staring at the ceiling. Neither of them moved their hands. 

“Ah,” replied Yugi. “Well...I’m sorry for invading your privacy too. And I’m grateful you didn’t ask Bakura to kill me. I hope you don’t mind me saying that you are incredibly hot to watch, though.”

“Mmm, keep talking like that and I’ll be ready for round three.”

Yugi laughed and clasped Ryou’s hand in both of his smaller ones. Ryou wasn’t finished though, and said, “I certainly wouldn’t mind being a voyeur for the two of you, either.” Yugi choked on his next laugh and coughed, releasing the hand to rub his throat. Even more surprising than Ryou’s admission was the absence of an objection from the pharaoh.

“Oh man, I mean, we’re not…” 

“Mm hmm,” hummed Ryou sarcastically, leaning forward until their lips were inches apart. “Would you like to stay for dinner? I have everything I need for Beef Wellington except someone to share it with. My spirit will be out for hours.” He batted his eyes and Yugi battled a fever.

“Sounds delicious?”

“He will be pissed when he wakes up and goes through my head though, so if you want to fool around best get on with it soon after we eat.” Ryou had stood and retrieved a pair of lounge pants from his bottom drawer, giving Yugi quite the eyeful of his own bottom in the process, and Yugi was surprised he didn’t faint. 

Ryou swept his hair into an elegant ponytail and gestured for Yugi to follow him to the kitchen. Yugi obliged him nervously, feeling a curious quirk of an eyebrow and a chuckle from the Spirit of the Puzzle. 

Chapter Text

Ryou was an excellent cook. He knew this. He would pursue it professionally if not for the fact that he didn’t want to turn something he loved into a job. No, cooking for his friends was certainly enough, a delight, and seeing Yugi’s face light up with his first bite of the Wellington made it all worth it. He’d been getting better at making puff pastry from scratch too, and was particularly pleased with how that had turned out this time.

Blessed, merciful silence settled into his mind as they ate, with Ryou hearing not even a peep from the sated Spirit of the Ring. He was sure that would invert once he found out about their little stowaway, but he had time to stretch yet.

Yugi tore through the dish with the same voracity he exhibited on the less-couthly-cooked version of bread and beef at Burger World, finishing his last bites with a satisfied sigh and leaning back in the dining chair with his hands folded over his stomach. Ryou wanted to run his thumb over his satisfied smile. 

To say that Yugi and his passenger weren’t on Ryou’s list would be a lie; their attractiveness was striking and regal  - it was just that both he and Bakura had been sure they were absolute prudes. The pharaoh’s fiery stare from the recess of the closet negated that thought, of course, but Yugi had seemed self-conscious still, so...maybe the pharaoh was suppressing it on his behalf?

Ryou felt a stir of heat in his lower belly again at the thought. He thanked the spirit silently for the sometimes seemingly inhuman libido he seemed to imbue since the day he’d first been possessed.

“That was delicious, Ryou!” Yugi’s clear, cheerful voice broke through the silence as Ryou stood to gather the dishes.

“Thank you, Yugi. It is rather nice to be able to eat a full plate without having it stolen from me.”

“I take it Bakura likes your cooking too.”

“A little too much. Some days I barely get a bite for myself.”

Yugi giggled. “I suppose running interference with food is better than him punching people out in an alley.”

“Right you are.” Ryou winked and washed his hands, though he was thinking that it was more like ‘better than him slitting throats in an alley’. 

Yugi was standing up from the table to stretch as Ryou made his way over to the couch in the living room, sitting primly in one corner and grabbing the remote. He caught Yugi’s eye as his arm stretched above his head, opposite elbow bent, and fluttered his eyes while patting the spot next to him as he’d done in the bedroom.

Yugi’s semi-persistent blush was back as he froze in the stretch and widened his eyes, shirt hitching just a bit above his beltline to reveal a strip of creamy white skin. Ryou wondered how it would taste. “Come sit,” he said. “Unfortunately, I don’t have all night.”

“Wait, you were serious!?” Yugi lowered his arms.

“Why wouldn’t I be?”

“But, you already…”

“I’m insatiable,” Ryou breathed with significant seductive effort. A glint of the other one steamed through Yugi’s eyes for an instant and he looked away toward the wall, appearing lost in thought, but Ryou knew better. “Having a conversation?” he asked, tapping the side of his head with an index finger. 

Yugi blinked heavily and tried to refocus. “Yeah, um, kind of...I think it needs to be a longer conversation than this.” He chewed on his lips as he tiptoed hesitantly over to the couch and sat beside Ryou as he’d beckoned. 

Ryou pressed the power button on the remote; he had no intention of watching anything, but liked the flickering colored light that danced on the furniture when he left it on to fall asleep. The sound was muted. 

Yugi looked at the screen for a moment and then back at Ryou, who licked his lips suggestively and leaned over to rest his chin on Yugi’s shoulder. Ryou inhaled deeply, sweet mint and sakura infusing into his nose as he brushed his lips gently over Yugi’s neck.

The other man inhaled sharply and then held his breath. Ryou thought his own chuckle in response sounded more delighted than it should have when he heard it rise from his throat. He chanced ghosting a hand under his shirt at the waist to touch the skin he’d revealed earlier when Yugi spoke in a rush, “He wants to talk to you!”

Ryou pulled back to look at his face quizzically. “Hm?”

“The pharaoh wants to talk to you.”

“But you’re still here. He asks your permission to switch?”

“Yes…? I mean, most of the time.”

Ryou wrinkled his nose and grumbled, “Must be nice.”

“Ah, anyway…”

“Kiss before you go?” 

Yugi stiffened, but nodded, so Ryou leaned in and pressed their lips chastely together, tickling with his tongue until the other mouth parted slightly, and then ahhh, perfect...he tasted like fresh air and floral and fruit, which should have been impossible after that dinner, really. But just as suddenly as he identified the intoxicating flavors they shifted to something heavier, like desert heat and freshly-tanned leather, and he moaned before he could stop it, because the body he was wrapped around turned soft arms to sinew and his already coronal hair spiked wilder, and suddenly it was the pharaoh’s tongue in his mouth instead of Yugi’s. 

Just as he deepened the kiss by grabbing the back of Ryou’s head and pushing them even closer together, he pulled back and trapped Ryou’s neck in an uncomfortable arch with a strategic pull at the tips of his long white locks. If he was trying to be punitive, though, the pharaoh would find the maneuver would only serve to arouse him faster than anything else, which he communicated with a delicate moan as he bared his neck.

The dark laugh that elicited may as well have come from the Spirit of the Ring. “I have some questions before you get carried away, sekhat,” he breathed, using his other hand to gently restrain Ryou’s wrists. He didn’t wait for Ryou to affirm or deny the implied request. “I’d like you to tell me about the nature of your little art project in that studio down the hall.”

“Wouldn’t you rather revisit the bedroom, your highness?”

“Your commitment to this deflection is admirable, but I must insist.”

“I have a singular mind when it comes to seducing dark spirits, I suppose.”

“You draw that conclusion with your sample size of one?”

“Two-for-two actually. Regrettably, you banished the other one to the shadows,” Ryou pouted, nudging himself closer.

Realization dawned on him and he released his grip, laughing. “Yugi is incredulous,” he said, cheeks flushed with the effort. “He also retreated because he is nervous that he wouldn’t know what to do.” He trailed a finger along Ryou’s jaw to the tip of his chin and tilted it, kohl-lined lids and violet irises a vision of regal perfection as he gave an unshakable order, “Tell me, and I’ll show a thing or two to both of you.”

Ryou, who was pretty sure he’d had the upper hand until that moment, felt his own skin heat in an instant with a nervous energy he thought he’d banished when he tapped into the true power of the Ring. “Very well,” Ryou said in a haze. “I’m building a diorama for an exhibit my father is putting together with the Ishtars.” His unease grew as he wondered if there was some type of magic at work - could he have been immune before, and had exposed himself by suppressing his spirit?

The pharaoh’s tone shifted, assuming a more monotonous quality. “The thief is a liar, but not you. Care to expound?”

His words flowed more honestly than he intended. “It’s a half-truth. The other half is that Bakura is going to use it against you in a Shadow Game.”


“Revenge, I suppose.”

“I will feel much better when I defeat him if I knew what for.”

“I cannot cater to your feelings in that capacity, Pharaoh.” 

The monotone darkened. “It sure sounds like he needs me for this operation, but I fail to see why I need him. You made the mistake of telling me that he wouldn’t be around to protect you for a while...what’s stopping me from killing you?”

He rather hoped that Yugi was fuming at that statement. “I would assume mortal danger would change his protective capabilities, but I can’t say I’ve tested the theory.”

The pharaoh relaxed suddenly, eyes cast upward...another conversation, maybe. He leaned back against the opposite corner of the couch and spread his arms out. It was a rather vulnerable position for someone that had just made a death threat. Bakura would be thinking about how quickly he could retrieve the switchblade from under the couch and slip it between his ribs. 

“You’re right of course,” he spoke again, still not making eye contact. “You know my threats are empty. Yugi would never forgive me.”

No moral platitudes? Interesting. “I suppose I’ve discovered your weakness, then.”

“Nonsense. Yugi is my greatest strength, a lighthouse granting me passage through a storm of shadows. I lack the will to forsake him.”

Ryou leaned over, gently pressing their bodies together and bringing his delicate hands up to the pharaoh’s chest. He began gently working the buttons of his shirt open. “On any count?” His hair hung in a curtain on the side of his face, tickling the other man’s cheek and causing his mouth to twitch.

He chuckled but didn’t oppose. “Persistent.”

“And sentimental, remember? I don’t think you’re a man to go back on your word - I told you the truth.” Ryou extended his tongue and laved it up the pharaoh’s jawbone under his ear. A gravelly purr told him that the pharaoh’s resolve was diffusing, if it had been resolve and not Yugi’s hesitation.

“You said he’d be back for mortal peril, but how about mortal pleasure?”

Ryou changed his licking into a few bites, earning him a few high-pressure squeezes from the hands on his waist. “I have more influence over our cohabitation than he thinks I do. If you’re worried, though, you can keep this on your side.” He flipped the knife out from behind his back and it sparkled with the colorful lights of the screen. The pharaoh didn’t flinch, and Ryou had the Bakura-tinged urge to press the blunt edge to his neck anyway.

“I’m not sure a conventional weapon has much of a chance against a Millennium Item.” Nevertheless, he tenderly looped the chain of the Puzzle over his head and set it carefully on an end table behind him. He took the blade from Ryou and snapped it back in place before tossing it into the same spot.

Ryou, out of consideration and as a gesture to solidify their truce, did the same with the Ring. “Depends on how fast you are to slice open a femoral.”

“Ha! You are something else.” 

They didn’t say any other words for several minutes. 

Ryou shrugged off his own shirt and leapt at the other man hungrily, devouring his lips again and pressing as much of their skin together as the angle and unfortunate presence of pants allowed. He was warm, so warm, like the sun on the sands of Egypt, another generous gift from Ra. Bakura, of course, would never indulge his invocation of the pharaoh’s deities, abandoned as he felt by them as the surviving child of a mass murder, but Ryou felt like it was appropriate at the moment. Heat, from real cells burning energy beneath his wandering hands, was in such fierce opposition to the cool, non-corporeal ministrations of the Ring spirit that the comparison seemed inappropriate. As such, he abandoned it. 

The pharaoh slid his fingers under the elastic waistband of his pants, but Ryou reluctantly stopped him. “In a minute; first, I feel terrible that you had to take care of yourselves in the closet, filthy spies, so please allow me.” He licked his lips and started prying belts away from the others’ waistline, digging for his turgid prize beneath the underwear, and then capturing it in his mouth, forgoing any pretense of further teasing to swallow as much of it as his throat allowed. 

“Holy shit,” Yugi gasped, and he knew it was Yugi because the curse sounded foreign in his voice. Ryou chuckled around his length and bobbed his head. “Unng..oh..oh gods, please switch back or this will be over faster than you like,” he hissed to his partner.

“Good things are meant to be shared,” the pharaoh replied out loud, placing his hands on either side of Ryou’s temples and hitching his hips upward. And wasn’t that a concept? Bakura had been desperately selfish with Marik, which of course had led to Ryou retaliating by being rather reckless with the other one. Still, if that dark spirit had killed him it’d have been a hell of a way to go.

But Ryou could be as selfish as he wanted now, so he deepthroated without a care, the tip of his long tongue reaching out at the base to curl across their balls, and even the pharaoh wasn’t ready for that, because he moaned and threw his head back, cock swelling but miraculously not coming. Ryou continued to slurp his way around the tip, dancing his hands across the shaft, before taking him all the way again and repeating the motion with his tongue, until he felt an insistent tug on the back of his neck. “You spoil me. What can I do for you?”

Ryou wiped the corner of his mouth with his thumb and crawled on top, grinding their cocks together to a strangled growl from the other. “I want to ride you.”

“In what reality is that not also spoiling me?” The pharaoh reached his fingers around the curve of his ass only to arch an eyebrow. “What is this, now?”

“Oh, I slipped that in when you boys weren’t paying attention.”


“Maybe I just like wearing it.” Ryou reached back around himself and gripped the flared end of the plug, gently tugging it out and mewling at the loss of fullness before tossing the well-lubed instrument onto the floor. He retrieved another bottle of lube from where the knife had been stowed and anointed their cock generously with it, slicking his hand up and down to make sure it was well-coated.

“Very spoiled. I am hardly having to work. If Yugi thinks it’s this easy then next time we will have to start from scratch.”

“Next time? Who’s presumptuous now?” Ryou positioned and impaled himself in one fluid motion and the pharaoh was lost. 

Fuck are you still so tight after all that?” That deep, commanding voice was sweet lyrical syrup in Ryou’s ears and he fantasized about all the dirty things he wanted it to say. The pharaoh rolled his own hips and dug his hands into Ryou’s to guide him, eyes also on Ryou’s heavy shaft that settled between them. 

Ryou was already wordless again, moaning with each thrust, because he was riding another king, and if that didn’t foretell good luck for his future then what would? He grabbed at the spikes of Yugi’s hair, Yugi because his wide-eyed amazement would sift through every few bounces, and then swiveled his hips and squeezed the muscles in his ass when he was sure it was the pharaoh, fingers ghosting along pecs and then nipples, the ecstatic groans thrilling him beyond reckoning. 

At some point the pharaoh decided that he was now in control, and flipped Ryou on the couch so that he was pounding into him from above, sweat glistening on his brow as he worked. At some point, all the rest of the interfering clothing had been discarded, and Ryou couldn’t completely remember the circumstances under which it had disappeared, but wasn’t complaining when he found them completely naked and fucking with abandon on his couch.

He ran a hand up Ryou’s thigh and repositioned them so that his pale ankle hooked vertically up around his shoulder, and Ryou screamed as that hard cock slammed against his prostate. 

“Ah, there we go,” panted the pharaoh, twisting his hips to align with the clearly favorable angle and abusing the gland until Ryou’s shrieks were definitely disturbing the neighbors. He was still mumbling to himself. “Are you paying attention, Yugi?” He wrapped his fist around Ryou’s shaft, more lube having appeared somehow, and started stroking.

Ryou was very happy, of course, to do all the things he’d done up this evening and more...but there were some times, like now, where there was no substitute for getting absolutely fucked, and he could see his skin reddening down his chest and thighs as he vocalized his enjoyment of the pharaoh’s delicious capture of power. He didn’t know what to do with his hands, either, and settled for running them through his own hair to splay it out in a white storm behind his head as his bangs tickled his eyelashes. 

The pharaoh was talking nonsense, then, but it wasn’t quite nonsense, because some of the Ring spirit’s skills had rubbed off on him, and he recognized it as Bakura’s native tongue. “[You are so beautiful, perfect and bright, a blessing from the gods…]” He leaned over further and pressed his lips, then his teeth, to Ryou’s pale and sensitive skin, adding to the marks Bakura had left, and ohhh fuck his spirit was going to be angry when he saw that. But he kept going, and biting, and the execution of it was so fucking hot that Ryou came in the pharaoh’s hand, either his honorific or Yugi’s name on his lips, he couldn’t be sure, but he felt as radiant as he had been told at that moment and indulged in it. 

Only, he was coming, and coming, and surely this was magic, because the pharaoh’s hand was wrapped in a tight circle around his base and no fluid came out. The same feeling of orgasming pulsed through him, the pharaoh telling him to wait, the same pulse, the same waiting, and he lingered in the limbo of complete ecstasy for far longer than he thought was possible, before the man released his hand and Ryou’s essence shot far enough to catch his chin as he arched, clenching on the cock inside him and screaming.

He was panting, breathless, speechless, and if he looked as wrecked as he felt he imagined the pharaoh committing the image to memory, darkened gaze selfish and singular, like Bakura’s was all the time, as he rode out his own orgasm, Ryou’s desperate encouragement fueling his movements as he spilled everything they had into him.

He rounded over on top of Ryou’s body, heart rate declining, and slipped out gently to Ryou’s soft whimper, kissing the corners of his mouth and murmuring more words as they came down slowly. Those may have been in his native language, but Ryou’s mind was on another plane of reality and failed to comprehend them.

The pharaoh pressed his body flush, sweat mingling, and wrapped his arms around Ryou’s body, nose tucked in the crook of his neck and sweet kisses pressing against his jaw. Ryou wrapped his legs around them, deepening the contact and willing sleep to take him so that he could agonize about showering in the morning.

Unfortunately, he felt a tickle of consciousness from the Ring, then, and exhaled in frustration. The angular eyes of the pharaoh’s met his from above, questioningly, but knowing what the response was going to be. 

“As much as I would love for us to shower together, cuddle with you all night, and then make you breakfast, I think it would be prudent for you to depart,” he said reluctantly, pressing his lips to Yugi’s and lamenting their predicament. 

“Are you going to be alright?” came the pharaoh’s concern. 

“I’m very persuasive. Don’t worry about me.”

“We will anyway,” said Yugi, bashfully rising and trying to find his clothing. Ryou was pretty sure he’d donned the wrong shirt, but didn’t correct him as he looked back one last time before exiting the apartment. 

Ryou did basic maintenance in the living room, knife and Ring back where they were supposed to be, and then showered as hot as his pasty skin allowed, water dripping down the gold, the contact from the metal somehow scalding.

Chapter Text

After he had showered and gone to bed, Ryou slept hard. The release of tension from three mind-crushing orgasms was more somniferous than he had supposed, because he woke in the middle of his chemistry lab the next afternoon floating in Bakura’s subconscious. 

He was instantly suspicious since Bakura had 1) woken up, 2) gotten to class on time, and 3) was dutifully working through the procedure, measuring various liquids carefully in a graduated cylinder as a stir bar whirred in a beaker on the hot plate beside them. 


Good morning, Yadonushi. Or, I suppose it’s past noon now, so I should say good afternoon. Did you have a tiring day yesterday?’

Can I have my body back, please?’

Ohhh, I don’t think so. You clearly can’t be trusted with it.

It’s mine, so I can do what I want.

I knew you were a little cockslut after that business with the Other Marik, but this, Yadonushi?’

Bakura, please don’t be mad, they only broke in because of the diorama, and…

Mad? Who said anything about being mad? You fucked the pharaoh. I’m almost proud. I’m sure his affection for you is something I can use.’ Bakura’s toothy smirk looked back at him in the dim reflection on the glass cabinets in front of them.

He would be able to twist it into some kind of advantage, opportunist as he was, but Ryou was pretty keen on a repeat performance with the two spiky-haired duelists and Bakura was going to smart-ass his way to ruining everything. In addition, through their link, even as closed off emotionally as Bakura typically kept it, Ryou could sense a primal kind of anger bubbling at Yami and Yugi’s intrusion into their apartment, the true nature of the diorama they were building, and Ryou’s body.

As if on cue, Bakura spoke again in their minds, ‘In fact, no time like the present to seize the day. Let’s go talk to him.’

What? Bakura, no, hold on…’ But he had already dropped the pen he was holding, grabbed their bag, and kicked through the door on the way out of the lab past a very confused-looking teaching assistant. ‘ Hey! You can’t just leave without cleaning up...or finishing our work!...or…

I just want to talk to him.’

Oh gods, you’re going to start a fight.

I just want to talk to him.’ Bakura exited the building into the midday sun.

Can we please please press pause for a moment and…

I just want to talk to him.’

After several more minutes of Ryou pleading, resulting in the same reply on a loop, the Ring glowed and pointed a traitorous little charm that guided the spirit like a compass to Yugi’s standard permutation of friends who were clustered around Duke Devlin’s DDM Club setup on the quad. Yugi was laughing until he made eye contact with the rapidly-encroaching Ring spirit, and then he blanched. 

If you hurt Yugi I will throw the Ring in the ocean!’

Fucking try it.’ “Oh, hey guys!” Bakura said in Ryou’s most bubbly voice.

“Hi Ryou!” said Anzu with a smile. “Care for a game? Duke just released some new cards.”

“Thank you for inviting me, but perhaps another time,” the spirit said politely, and Ryou was so shocked by the acting he forgot to make another threat. “Yugi, may I have a word?” It was kind of surprising Yami hadn’t stepped in, honestly. Maybe Yugi was shooing him away, hoping that things would resolve peacefully. 

“Um...maybe we could catch up later?...on the phone?” The last three words were uttered in a squeak as Ryou felt the spirit’s expression darken. 

“Oh, of course! Let me check my schedule. When is good for you?”

“Maybe I could call in a few hou…”

“Looks like I have now available. How is now for you? I’m thinking now.” Bakura lashed his fist out to Yugi’s collar and he squealed as he was lifted into the air and then slammed backwards onto the table, figures and dice scattering onto the brick below. Yugi reached up two hands to his throat but Bakura’s grip was iron. Their audience gasped and stepped back, except for Anzu, who had always defended him.

“Bakura, what the hell!? Get your hands off of him!” 

He ignored her. Ryou couldn’t help but think how lucky he’d been that Joey and Tristan had headed down the street, presumably for more food, as they were approaching. Millennium Item or no, a rogue class against those two tanks wouldn’t hold well in a close-quarters, two-on-one brawl.

“Did you have fun playing around, you little shit? Don’t you know it’s rude to touch other people’s things without permission?” he snarled, brandishing a fist.

Seriously, where was Yami? Maybe he was just as worn out as Ryou, come to think of it. Yugi’s eyes narrowed into a determined, angry look then. “Bakura, that is rude! Ryou is not a thing that you can own!”

Bakura threw his head back and cackled. “Oh you delightful, hot little moron. I disagree, for the record, but that’s also not what I was referring to. That deviation had the same desired effect on Ryou as his tight, sweet body had on me a few hours prior. I’ll have you know that it felt marvelous to steal breakfast and pickpocket some tourists this morning without the constant lawful-good nagging about how it’s wrong, or immoral, or whatever those words mean.”

Yugi looked confused, and then the pharaoh must have found his bearings, because his eyes and hair changed when the Puzzle flashed, and Bakura didn’t even have time to dodge the fierce uppercut that caught him in the jaw. Ryou tasted blood and stars danced in front of their eyes as they reeled backward. He was just close enough to being able to regain control when he hesitated - seeing that righteous rage directed at him...well, at HIM...was so titillating that he couldn’t bear to intervene.

Bakura spat to the side and shed his trench. “You royal fuckstick, I’ll KILL you!” he screamed, lunging for Yami, who twisted away and caught the thief in a headlock. But Bakura and Ryou were taller, and heavier, and in lieu of turning the fight into a shadow duel, Bakura elbowed Yami right in the eye socket; it was sure to be a blue and purple shiner in a few hours.

Joey and Tristan had returned with boxes full of burgers and fries to join the crowd of spectators. “What the fuck?” asked Tristan, watching the fight devolve into a tussle in the patch of dirt under a nearby tree as the pharaoh fought for dominance. “Why are they fighting?”

“Beats me, let me figure out if we should break it up.” Joey paused and cleared his throat, before shouting, “Oi! Are you guys fighting over a girl?”

Bakura turned his head part way to look at them and fluttered his lashes, sweeping his platinum white strands over his shoulder as he sat straddling the pharaoh, the other man’s arms pinned under the weight of Bakura’s legs. “Close enough!” he said in return.

“We’ll let them work it out, then.”

“Are you guys crazy!? Oh my god, I need female friends,” muttered Anzu, dutifully collecting the remnants of Duke’s game pieces from off the ground.

“Get off of me,” the pharaoh commanded, and he was finally able to break away and put some distance between them. 

Bakura snickered, gleam in his eye. “That’s not what your host is going to be saying later.” He paused and tapped his chin. “Well, maybe get off on me.” 

The pharaoh stood up, panting and clutching his shoulder that Ryou vaguely remembered twisting at an awkward angle. He was flooded with guilt, suddenly, at what a mess Yugi was going to be and vowed to make it up to him. To do that, though, the spirit needed to give his body back!

Bakura was still talking. “My original point still stands. Don’t touch my shit. There will be plenty of time for that when I’m defeating you in our final game.” He turned around and looked curiously at the silent crowd. “Well? What the fuck are you all still doing here? Fight’s over, get lost!”

The crowd grumbled and started to dissipate, save for Anzu and Yugi’s other friends. Duke just looked amused. “I don’t think that was about a girl, Joey. It may have been about a boy, though.”

Joey shrugged. “Whatever makes Yugi happy. The other Yugi may want to stop hitting on whoever Bakura is pissed about, though,” he said, not realizing that he’d read the situation pretty well despite Bakura’s insistence that he was only angry about the diorama.

Bakura dusted off the front of his shirt and huffed, while Yami still stood by the tree in a defensive position. “My rage has subsided, Pharaoh. I’d like to talk to your host instead.”

“I think not.”

“Oh, come on. If I say something he doesn’t like you can always take over and attempt to kick my ass, right?”

Ryou watched his purple irises flit back and forth at the top of his eyeline for a moment before the pharaoh narrowed his eyes again. “Yugi and I disagree on the best way to resolve this.”

“Let me guess. Your way involves a futile attempt to best me in a duel or physical altercation, and his way involves some kind of diplomacy.”

“If by ‘physical altercation’, you mean my sending you to the hospital, and by ‘diplomacy’, you mean some sappy interchange of feelings wherein he tries to understand you as a person, then yes.”

“I don’t believe for a moment you would hurt me to that extent, or I wouldn’t have initiated this contact.”

Ryou started. The bastard was already trying to use the great sex against them, and not even for something the spirit particularly cared about - they’d landed in an emergency room before, after all. Predictably, Yami relented. “I suppose you’re right. However, your hold over Ryou will not last forever, Thief.”

“And that leaves…”

Yami sighed and spoke out loud, “This is not a good idea, Aibou.”

Yugi insisted, really he did, because any alternative would result in both of them with more serious injuries than simple first-aid would heal. He nudged the forming bruise at his eye with the heel of his hand and stepped toward the Ring spirit before Anzu interrupted.

“Uh, Yugi? Do you need any help here?” she asked, stepping in front of Duke and his other friends as if they were going to tear Bakura limb-from-limb at her command. 

He blushed and waved his hand. “, Anzu, that’s alright, just a small disagreement, nothing we can’t work out between men,” he finished with an edge, clutching the Puzzle and looking for a hint of Ryou in the brown eyes of his assailant. He was disappointed when he saw it, but recognized it as revealing the same giddy amusement as his possessive spirit. 

Bakura put Ryou’s mask back on and linked an arm with him at the elbow. “Quite right! I am so embarrassed for my earlier behavior. Shall we, Yugi?” He smiled, but it was for show.

“We shall!” Yugi said cheerfully, to the dismay of his other friends, practically skipping down the street with Bakura after the thief had scooped his jacket off the ground.

As soon as they were out of eyeshot, Bakura’s smile drooped into a crooked frown as he peered down at Yugi, who smiled up at him, brightly as ever. Suddenly, he jerked them into a storefront, bell clinging at his entry as he dragged the smaller man by the waist. “Follow, runt, or I’ll leave you in a gutter.”

Yugi wondered what kind of game Ryou would want him to play. He was good at games, after all. He wasn’t expecting Bakura to make goo-goo eyes at the pharmacist, though, as he explained that they’d been attacked by bullies and desperately could use some ice packs....oh but their wallets had been stolen! How tragic.

“Oh, thank you again, you’re too kind!” Bakura regarded on his way out, bowing deeply and, as soon as they were outside, chucking some ice at Yugi. “Put this on your stupid face, or your pharaoh will be just as pissed off about that black eye as I am about Ryou’s love bites,” he snarled, holding the other pack to his jaw. 

“I think Ryou’s form of thievery suits you, Bakura.”

“I’ve learned a few things from Yadonushi, particularly, how to look pathetic when I want something.”

“Oh, is that how he knows when to take you to bed, then?”

Bakura stopped in his tracks and glared at Yugi like he was going to slit his throat. Yugi wondered if he had gone too far when Bakura howled with laughter. “My my, was that still you, little Pharaoh?”

“Oh, that that still you, Ryou?”

He saw, for an instant, the apparition of his friend smile and wink from within. Bakura’s hand jerked as if he was going to give a thumbs-up, but it fizzled on entry. The thief looked mildly irritated, and then pulled them into an alley. “I am not fucking around here, Yugi,” he said in a rush, pressing him against the brick wall with gentle pressure on his shoulders. Yami was protesting in earnest, now, wanting to clock him again, but Yugi resisted. The thief kept talking. “You see, I feel so very left out of your sordid soiree last night. And you, being the annoying friendship demon you are, would want everyone to feel included, right?”

Yugi clenched his sweaty palm and tried to stare Bakura down, but it was hard with a hand on the cold pack attached to his face. “Ye...yes. Of course. What do you want?” he asked breathlessly, relaxing a bit into Bakura’s grip. 

The thief’s eyes raked his body as he squirmed, and Yugi’s mind sorted through a very long list of extremely sexy things the thief could ask for, then a very long list of ways to apologize to Yami for indulging, before the thief spoke again. “Oh, Ryou appreciates your imagination, but I have something much, much more sinister in mind to torture my landlord and your pharaoh for the rest of the evening.”

And that’s how Yugi found himself in the second row of a movie theater, one that had those recliner seats and served beer, at the 4:30 PM matinee. Bakura was hoovering through popcorn like it was his only sustenance throughout the entire film, dutifully asking Yugi if he wanted more and retrieving second, and then third, rounds of beverages for them. 

By the time it let out, Yugi had a pleasant buzz and was so full of popcorn and candy that he’d be satisfied to forgo dinner. Committed to the ‘date’, though, Bakura had charmed the girl at the front counter of a swanky sushi restaurant to give them the corner booth and a complimentary bottle of chilled nigori sake. It was sweet, which Yugi appreciated, but the pharaoh wasn’t enjoying himself at all because he was so suspicious. 

Relax, Yami,’ Yugi reached out for the first time in a few hours. ‘Isn’t that what you told me last night? This is nice.'

Nice until he stabs us in the back, Yugi! Be careful!’

Yugi pursed his lips and shuttled another piece of yellowtail through the soy sauce and into his mouth. He licked the corners of his lips and looked up just in time for Bakura to deepthroat a long piece of eel he’d been eyeing for a few minutes, before winking and dabbing his mouth delicately with a napkin. 

He entertained Yugi with some of the stories he still held in his memory from when he was a tomb robber in ancient Egypt, and Yugi was completely captivated. Yugi had tried to draw out more about what his problem was with Yami, to no avail, but he did get him to talk about Ryou, at least. In particular, the bizarre game they had built to annoy the shit out of each other when one or the other had control of their body.

“So. Ryou would be horrified that you went on a real date and enjoyed yourself?”

“Who says I’m enjoying myself?”

“Your body language, words, and literally everything else about your demeanor.”

“I’m a very good actor.”

Yugi shrugged. “Fine by me. Personally, I’m enjoying myself!” he said joyfully, taking a dainty sip of tea and a bite out of his ice cream mochi that had, again, been complimentary thanks to Bakura. “You come here a lot?”

“Often enough to pay my rent by picking up the ass-du-jour for Ryou to enjoy.”

“He seemed um...pretty enthralled by you last night.”

Bakura chuckled even though he probably should have been annoyed. “It’s not quite the same, though, is it?”

Yugi...’ the spirit said from the Puzzle, trailing off into an unformed request. 

“No,” Yugi said. “Not quite the same.”

Bakura painted on his most lecherous grin and leaned back in the booth. “Walk me home?” he asked.

As they approached the Bakuras’ apartment door, Yugi started to get nervous again. He’d convinced Yami that his cooperation was more interesting for the thief, and therefore he should remain in control, but the relaxed, utterly unguarded Bakura beside them was so unlike anything they’d seen before in their duels or elsewhere that it made them apprehensive.

They walked down the final hall when Yugi finally cleared his throat. “So. You’re not, um...angry with Ryou for yesterday?”

Bakura shrugged. “Of course I am, for the part about revealing my extremely cool plan to kill the pharaoh. It’s not like I can punish him either, because that kinky little nympho gets a thrill out of being cuffed to a wall and berated.”

Yugi blinked as the pharaoh’s spark of desire coursed through him. Bakura swiveled just short of placing his hand on the doorknob and dipped down to Yugi’s lips. He gulped, and then his words were not his own. “Go on. I’m taking mental notes.”

Bakura howled with laughter. “Ohhh, Ryou will be so happy to hear that. He’s already deliciously annoyed that I got to go on a date instead of him and he’s going to love this part.” He closed the distance between their lips and Yugi gasped in shock, allowing Bakura’s tongue to ravage his mouth. Yami recoiled, which for some reason made the experience even more enjoyable. 

He drew away, trailing a thin strand of saliva, and brought a pale hand up to Yugi’s cheek. In that moment he realized some of the more subtle differences between the two; treebark eyes but a more forceful gaze, long, silver hair but more wild, ferocious grin, no, that was the same. Bakura had found the perfect host. He wondered if Yami could say the same. 

“Goodnight, little Pharaoh,” he said sweetly, finishing with one more peck on the lips and then tucking himself inside the door with a faint ‘click’ before engaging the deadbolt. Yugi stood there, stunned.

Thank the gods that’s over,’ grumbled Yami from the Puzzle, and if a spirit could brood that’s certainly what he was doing. Yugi thought that was a little unfair - sure, he’d been backseat driving yesterday, but the Ring spirit had gotten him suitably tipsy and left him on the porch. Just as he was about to argue with his other self, the door swung back open. 

“Ha, just kidding asshole, I’m not that good of a person. I bought you dinner, get in here and suck my dick.” 

“Wha…?” He felt his entire body pulled inside, and when the door slammed his form was flush against the door too, moulding itself completely against the flesh that had captured him, lips and all, in a heartstopping embrace that continued long enough for jackets to be discarded at the entryway. 

Yugi, having become quite familiar with precisely where the couch was, pushed Bakura back onto it and jumped on him, grinding his hips while placing soft, tentative kisses on Bakura’s jaw and neck. The other man moaned and ran his tongue over Yugi’s lips, hands playing down his sides, alternating tangling through his hair, before settling into his lap at his own belt, prying the buckle loose and pulling Yugi’s hand down to his groin atop the button and zipper. 

“Oh! You…”

“Did you think I was kidding?”

“I, ah...well, alright then. How hard could it be?” Yugi mused out loud.

“Agonizingly so, pretty much since the movie.”

Oh. That was...flattering, he supposed, managing to work at the metal button with one hand and peel the zipper down before his anxiety caught up with him.

He tugged at the boxers that separated him from what Bakura had asked for and grasped his length through the fabric, giving it an experimental tug and earning a very satisfied purr from the thief. His own arousal expressed its interest and he gulped, trying to remember what Ryou had done to him and Yami.

Thinking about the spirit caused him to reemerge. ‘Aibou, the best time to leave was five minutes ago when this deranged individual shut the door. The second best time is right now.

That hardly seems fair!’ Yugi pouted. ‘Besides, maybe he’ll tell us more about how he wants to murder us, and then…’ Yugi gasped as he was interrupted by a firm curl of fingers at his jaw, breaking their kiss. Bakura stared straight into him, mouth having settled into a thin line, white hair askew where Yugi had mussed it.

“Not you,” he said, pulling Yugi into his lap, and he tried not to blush, really he did, but if he was as red as the burn in his cheeks felt he hoped the dim light concealed it. “Not you, or your idiot friends. Just him. If you stay out of it, no harm will come to you.”

Yugi felt a shock of shame emanate from the Puzzle, but it was wordless, as if the spirit was trying to process the accusation that he’d put Yugi and his friends in danger.

“And what about Ryou in particular?” Yugi asked, trying to ignore his internal strife. “What happens to him?”

Bakura shrugged indifferently but his eyes softened slightly. “Once I win, he’ll be rid of me.”

Yugi cupped the thief’s cheek, confused. “Rid of you? He likes you. I think I do, too,” Yugi whispered, leaning forward against the thief’s ear, hand on his shaft gradually finding a rhythm, now fully rigid from all the talk about shadow duels and dying. Bakura moaned through a dirty chuckle and shifted his hips into the movement. 

“I’m afraid,” he said, voice darkened with lust, “that the only way to save me is by wrapping your lips around my cock and sucking as if your life depended on it.”

Yami was still silent, but then Yugi could almost feel the smirk. Relief flooded his mind but still, to be blunt... 

Pharaoh, if you really want me to go…

Stay. I’m sure his affection for you is something I can use.’ Yugi snorted and he thought he heard a similar sound come from Ryou, but maybe it was his imagination because Bakura was still panting heavily from the attention of Yugi’s fist and didn’t seem to be paying attention. 

He knelt on the ground at the foot of the couch and pried Bakura’s erection from his boxers, precum already glistening at the tip, and situated himself to do what he’d been too shy to participate in the night before. Leaning forward, he captured the head in his mouth and sucked tentatively, and the moan and buck that earned him was so fucking hot he almost came on his own time. It was salty, and sweet?, and full, such that his lips could barely encase it, and then with a tug on the back of his head it was sliding down his throat.

They hadn’t done this last night, so he had nothing to follow but Bakura’s physical manipulations and Yami’s generously-donated muscle memory, applying suction and darting his tongue out from time to time while avoiding teeth. I mean, he’d definitely watched enough porn to know that teeth were a bad idea, unless the guy was into that. Was Bakura into that? How does someone even go about asking that question? Did lovers have meetings before they got down to it?

His unanswered questions aside (from a deity who no doubt got exactly what he wanted the vast majority of the time), he was very much enjoying eliciting this kind of pleasure in another person, and gripped Bakura’s thighs as his fingers danced on the sensitive skin of the junction between his leg and his groin. It was another game, but everyone wins.

“Fuck, Yugi…” He loved the way his name sounded in that voice. “What did he teach you in there? If he was as good at running a country as you are at blowjobs this millennia-long conflict may have been easier to resolve.” Bakura hitched down his throat and tangled his hands in the maroon spikes of his hair, moaning with abandon and obviously very close. He was awfully confident that the pharaoh wouldn’t emerge and bite him, though.

But had the thief ever felt safe? Safe enough to let someone be intimate with him in a way where he could truly enjoy himself? The brothels he visited almost certainly excepted, had he ever felt what it was like to fall asleep in a lover’s arms? Yugi couldn’t claim that he knew what that felt like either, but...the times that Yami had sensed his stress and stayed up with him talking, had to be something like that, right? Only with blowjobs beforehand. That reminded him of something. 

He detached himself from Bakura’s cock with a soft plop and looked up at him with innocent eyes. Like Ryou had been the night prior, Bakura in the throes of arousal was an absolute vision - muscle glinting with the same dark power as the Ring at his chest, pupils blown out, and lips full. 

“Why are you stopping? You’re a fucking prodigy. Keep going.”

“I just thought you could tell me how to do the spirit thing.”

“The...what? You mean being physically there? I thought you knew how it wasn’t the same.” He pushed at Yugi’s neck to guide him back to where he wanted. He struggled. 

“Of course,” he lied, “but it sounds like it’s hard to explain. I thought maybe you and Ryou had some insight?”

“Make me come and I’ll tell you.”

“Oh, a hard bargain.” Yugi went back to it with even more enthusiasm, now that he’d developed some confidence in the technique. Bakura’s cock was already so swollen and dripping by that point that even his verbal detour hadn’t affected it. He twirled his fists around the lower shaft and traced the exposed ridge with his lips, increasing his pace as Bakura’s erotic verbalizations became more desperate. 

“Yugi...gods…” He threw his head back, squeezing his eyes shut, lustrous hair tumbling over the back cushion, and Yugi was certain he’d never seen anyone that hot enjoying themselves that much. He thought again about how porn couldn’t compare, especially when he was the one responsible, and he was sure that any friction at all in between his legs at that moment would cause him to burst just from the sight of it. 

As he dragged his tongue on the underside, up toward the tip, he felt the muscles beneath him jerk. Bakura tried to evoke a verbal warning, but it must have snuck up on him, because just as he groaned that he was coming a hot, thick liquid filled Yugi’s mouth. Instead of recoiling by instinct he swallowed gently and let up on the pressure, licking his lips when he was satisfied he’d gotten most of it. 

“Fucking hell,” Bakura panted, pulling the smaller man back into his lap, tucking his cock away and nuzzling Yugi’s face tenderly. “Pharaoh must really be offline today. You do that same shit to him?” His face was already showing signs of fatigue, and Yugi wondered if the post-orgasmic peace Ryou had been so fond of extended to his physical control as well. 

“It does,” those pink lips uttered, winking again, and then the Ring pulsed and it was just him and Ryou on the couch. 

“Hi,” he said, bummed that he hadn’t gleaned the secrets of ghost manifestations before the bigger Bakura had passed out. 

“He’ll try to tell you, later,” Ryou said nonchalantly. “He really did seem like he was going to. And didn’t suspect at all that you were lying about your experience.” He shifted and wrapped his arms around Yugi, drawing them closer. “You’re so hot when you work. A pleasure to watch.” His pale skin colored prettily as he squatted them both into a standing position and headed towards his bedroom.

“Um,” said Yugi, wrapping his legs around Ryou’s pale waist for support.

“I can feel what you want. We’ll have to save another lubricated adventure for the morning, though, because I am quite fatigued myself.”

“It’s fine, you don’t have to…”

“But I’ve been told my hands are my best feature.”

Yami and Yugi together were startled. This beauty, with flowing white hair, alabaster skin, and piercing eyes, was told his hands were his best feature?

As he brought them to the brink of ecstasy, sending them off the cliff with careful regard, they believed it. 

This time, Yugi dozed in Ryou’s arms as they drifted off to sleep together under the box-stitched down, slightly less worried that either spirit would possess them and kill the other one.

Chapter Text

Bakura had, miraculously true to his word, given Yugi some good advice about haunting the next morning, co-opting Ryou just before he was finished cooking to mow down an intimidating stack of pancakes drenched in butter and syrup. Yugi thought his table manners could use some work, but his fascination with Ryou’s taste in movies had turned out to be the key.

“I mean, poltergeists and shit are always clanging around at night to freak people out right, so they can definitely touch stuff. So I just thought about how I wanted to scare the crap out of Yadonushi and BAM!” He slammed the table, causing the dishes and flatware to rattle as Yugi stabilized his glass of orange juice. “I knocked over a lamp in the middle of the night and he screamed like a biiiiiitch,” Bakura chortled, now halfway through the large pile of bacon that was meant to be shared. Though, now that Yugi thought about it, he’d never seen Ryou eat pork...maybe he’d cooked it especially for the spirit. “Anyway, I worked on that for a while, breaking more and more of his lamps and plates and whatever, until I’d riled him up so delectably he tossed the Ring out the window. His face was so red when I made my way back, you know how he gets!”

Yugi giggled and rubbed his eye, now encircled by a blackening ring.

Bakura said, through a mouthful of bacon, “Fucking what’s funny?”

“You get that way too.” 

“Feh. Any lingering embarrassing physiological responses I blame wholly on Yadonushi.”

“You’re getting that way right now.” And it was true - Yugi saw the blush creep from his cheekbones toward his ears, a rosy highlighter above that pouty scowl. “You should take Ryou on a date.”

“Why?...Oh right, he’s a sap. All the dating he did to coax boys into bed was an inefficiency in our scheming that I solved, quite creatively I might add, with my newly-solid ghostly appendages.” The cackle was back as the last slice of meat made its way from his fingers to his mouth. If the pain in his jaw from the day before bothered him, he didn’t show it.

“Where was this attitude about ‘efficiency’ when you were ‘scheming’ with Marik?” 

Yugi jumped and turned around, noticing just now that Ryou’s spirit form had materialized behind him, arms folded and eyebrow raised, a devious smirk playing at his ghostly lips.

“Oh hello dear landlord, are you gracing us with your presence for a little demonstration?”

“You know, I was very happy to let you two have some alone time, but you are spoiling it with your...dishonesty.” The last word was whispered directly next to Yugi’s ear and he gulped when a cool breeze tickled his neck. 

“Marik was different! He was in on the schemes! Plus, it’s not like he wined and dined us or vice versa, that minx was ready to take us in that back alley within five minutes of my original proposition.”

“You liked him, admit it! You wanted to hold his hand, and rent a couples’ paddleboat out on the lake!”

“I liked his pretty purple eyes and tight, caramel-colored ass, and, OH YEAH, the goddam Millennium Rod he was using to mind fuck all of Yugi’s friends.”

“Uh, guys, I’m still here…” Yugi said meekly, cowering a little as Ryou phased into the table to lean over and tease his possessor. 

He continued, amused tone taking on a layer of righteous irritation, “And yet, instead of strategizing for your duels, or, you know, getting proper medical care for the gaping stab wound in our arm, you were a sweaty sticky mess at every interlude while I was locked away. And I had to clean up after you!”

“You had plenty of time too, that guy slept like a rock after I was through with him.”

“No, he didn’t.”

Silence. Yugi darted his eyes nervously and quietly slid out of his chair onto the floor to start crawling toward his bag at the entryway.

Bakura was still completely focused on Ryou’s glowing, faux-innocent smile now inches from his face. “Hmph. Your idiotic indulgence of the insane one nearly got us killed.”

“I can’t help that I like being choked!”

Updating mental notes,’ said Yami. After such a long period of non-communication, wanting nothing to do with the Ring spirit, the sudden burst of amusement in Yugi’s mind was surprising. He had just retrieved his winter peacoat from its hook and slipped an arm into the right sleeve.

I think they have some stuff they need to work out, mou hitori no boku.

I think we do too.

Yugi cringed outwardly, though he couldn’t help but agree. They’d both lost track of the argument at this point, though Yugi had just noticed with concern the acrid smell of smoke that indicated something was burning.

Before he could react, though, the cast iron pan full of bacon grease on the stove burst into flames with a loud fwoop and rocketed an inferno toward the ceiling. Ryou, having been a spirit, hadn’t smelled anything due to not being able to smell anything, and gasped. “Oh dear, I must have left the stove on…” Bakura’s impatience for breakfast must have forced a switch too early for Ryou to turn the knob fully to the off position. A few pops and the fire had leapt onto the counter in burning puddles.

Yugi saw Ryou’s eyes flood with worry, but he wasn’t looking at the fire - he was looking at Bakura. Who was frozen, flames licking his lids from the reflection in his eyes. If Yugi didn’t know better, he’d say the man was stricken with terror. It wasn’t an expression he’d ever seen on either of their faces and his brain was short-circuiting trying to process the dissonance when Ryou’s voice got through to him. “Yugi? Bakura is having some trouble and can’t switch with me. Can you turn off the heat and get the class B extinguisher from under the sink?” he endeared calmly. 

Now full of adrenaline, Yugi dropped the bag and jacket and rushed to the stove, shielding his eyes and twisting the knob until the gas popped off. He turned around and reached into the cabinet, removed the device, (“Yes, the white one!” he vaguely heard Ryou say), and pulled the pin, pointing it into the pan and pressing the lever gently as a cloud of white enveloped the flames. He snaked the stream to and fro until the flames were gone; the whole thing was over in probably fifteen seconds. 

Aibou, are you alright?’  Yami asked.

I’m fine! I’m just glad Ryou cooks so much and knew what to do.’ He wiped his brow and set the extinguisher on the counter next to the burnt pan. He glanced up at the other two and panicked all over again - Bakura was sitting on the floor, curled into a ball, with his hands over his ears and eyes squeezed shut, hyperventilating. Ryou’s arm was stroking his back, but his fingers were wafting right through the cloth of his shirt.

Yugi rushed over and came to his knees on the floor beside the distressed spirit, wrapping his arms around his shoulders and tucking his chin into Bakura’s neck. “Breathe, slow down, the fire is gone okay? It can’t hurt you.”

“They’ll find me,” hissed Bakura, tension still wound tightly into the muscle beneath Yugi’s fingers. 

“Then go hide,” Yugi whispered. Bakura opened his eyes for one, fearful moment, before they rolled back into his head and he fell backward. Yugi was still supporting his body, so he didn’t go far, and Ryou behind him made a choking sound before being pulled back into the Ring. It was his classmate’s eyes that finally peeled open.

“Ugh. I wonder why the fire alarm didn’t go off,” Ryou said groggily, sitting up on his own accord. Yugi’s arms were still wrapped around him in an embrace, so he returned it. “Mmm, still so warm.” He inhaled deeply and pressed a kiss to Yugi’s exposed cheek, making him blush. “Thank you for saving the apartment complex, Yugi.”

Yugi sat back on the heels of his hands and sighed. “Don’t mention it...and, I mean I know that was scary, I am wired right now, but Bakura seemed a little it than normal. Why was he so afraid?”

“Don’t ever let him hear you say that. And Yugi, I know it is hard to understand, but I can’t tell you the answer.”

“Why not?

“He asked me not to talk about it. He’d still be hiding from me as well if we weren’t forced by circumstance to share so much.”

“How did he help me with the Puzzle when I was in that fire before Battle City, then? Or was that you?”

Ryou got an intense look on his face, like he was trying to solve a complex problem without anywhere to write down his steps, before shrugging. “I can’t explain that to you either.”

“Can’t, or won’t?”

“It would betray another confidence.”

Yugi considered for another few moments and didn’t press. “I’m really worried about him, but if I asked you to keep a secret, I’d hope I could trust you.”

If his reaction is relevant to our predicament with the god cards or the Shadow Duel he is conspiring to arrange, then I disagree that concealing the truth from us is the right choice, no matter the agreement Ryou made,’ Yami communicated, hidden from Ryou’s ears.

Yugi wasn’t so sure; if you couldn’t establish a trust with another consciousness living inside your body, then how long would peaceful coexistence be possible? “Our lives are kind of complicated, huh?” he said to Ryou, after an awkwardly long pause.

As much as Yugi would have loved to spend all weekend on the couch with either of the white-haired thieves (platonically or not), they’d all been neglecting errands and Saturday was the perfect opportunity. By the time he and Yami had finally collapsed back at the game shop, groceries had been replenished, packages had been mailed, and Sugoroku was merrily dancing about, setting up new displays.

Yami, as always, had courteously offered to do most of the heavy lifting, but had otherwise been conspicuously silent. Whether he was agonizing about their brief glimpse into Bakura’s traumatic past or other...recent events...was unclear, since he’d closed off their emotional link as well.

To say the Spirit of the Puzzle meant a lot to him would be an understatement, but to say he’d considered a physical component to their relationship before the hand was literally in his pants, so to speak, would be a lie. They had always been cautiously distant when it came to privacy, and Yami had never intruded. It wasn’t until the shockwave of lust from their (very inappropriate) spying activity had tangled into their minds simultaneously that Yugi had even considered any of them sexual beings...well, okay, maybe he had checked out Kaiba’s ass once or twice, being practically eye-level with it and all (when he wasn’t wearing that ridiculous coat), but that was neither here nor there.

When the silence in their room stretched to the point where Yugi had showered and crawled into his bed below the skylight, he couldn’t take it anymore.

Yami, you’ve been awfully quiet for someone who told me he wanted to talk.’ He felt a flit of indignation across their link and laughed despite himself. 

We were busy.

And now we’re not! Want to do this the emotional way or the Ryou way? For either it would be easier if you came out, though.’

Yami’s spirit, eyebrow quirk and all, coalesced on the end of the bed, so Yugi swung his legs over the side to sit next to him. “What is ‘The Ryou Way’?” Yami asked.

“I throw myself at you and you give in after pulling my hair.”

His eyes heated in an instant, but it was a controlled burn. “Is that something you would enjoy?”

Yugi imagined the spirit’s fingers raking along his scalp and tugging sharply at the root, suddenly wishing he’d worn something more substantial than boxers to bed. He fidgeted with the edge of his white cotton shirt and tried to find an uninteresting spot on the wall to look at instead of maintaining eye contact. “I, uh...think I might, actually.”

Yami had drifted closer to him, ghostly hand hovering on the back of his neck at the base of his skull, and Yugi shivered as he felt two fingers slide up to his hairline. “It is difficult for me to think about scaring you, Aibou,” he whispered into Yugi’s ear, placing a soft kiss where the lobe curved into the skin. “I would rather induce pleasant feelings.”

The physical touch started fading, replaced with a cool mist. Yami grunted in frustration. “It is also energetically taxing. I will have to practice.”

Yugi whimpered at the loss of sensation. “Maybe I could try?”

“I would imagine that it is easier for the literal ghost, Yugi.” He passed a thumb over the ridge of Yugi’s cheekbone where the bruise from Bakura’s elbow had really started to settle in. “This is my fault. I’m sorry.”

Yugi laughed to dispel the tension. “You don’t have to apologize. Bakura started it. I can’t for the life of me figure out how Ryou makes all those bruises look sexy though. He was rubbing on it like a badge of honor, and the rest, well…” He paused at noticing the dreamy grin on Yami’s face. “You like him.”

Yami broke his reverie and snapped back to him. “Well of course, you’re looking at him with the same eyes as me, are you not? He is ethereal. If there were men like that in my harem I’m certain I’d have never left the palace.”

No argument there. “I mean, I don’t want to get in the way of you and Ryou or anything. Or anyone else. It’s not just me in here, you get to have a life too.”

He scowled. “Dismiss that notion from your head, Aibou. I appreciate the thought, but I wouldn’t consider for a moment indulging in anything without your enthusiastic involvement. Don’t trouble yourself with the reverse, though...this is your body first.”

He was taken aback, a bit. “And what about, On my own?…I mean, I look nothing like Ryou, but if...”

“And I am also a bit of a narcissist.” The room darkened somewhat, and even the moonlight from above seemed dimmer as the shadows curved unnaturally around the Millennium Puzzle at Yugi’s neck. “My hair and eyes were unusual, a ‘blessing from the gods’, the priests told me.” He pushed at Yugi’s shoulders gently until he fell back onto the pillows. “I would be a fool not to delight in someone who looks like you underneath me begging for release.”

Welp, halfway there, Yugi thought as the pharaoh straddled him from above, facsimile of the Puzzle dangling its menacing apex at his throat. Yami trailed his index down the real one, but he kept going past the end, lighting a fire all the way down to where he dipped into Yugi’s bellybutton. Maybe he should have worn a thicker shirt, because the sensation was nearly too intense for him to regulate his breathing and he was seconds from pleading just like the spirit wanted him to.

“Again, it is not as if I remember much from my time as Pharaoh. Some skills seem more...preserved than others, though.” He cupped the Puzzle again and grinned. “What about this? Ryou didn’t mention a soul room in the Ring but we’ve communicated in here before.”

Yugi swallowed, now so hard he could barely think. “Bakura did say something about…” he gasped at the connection of the spirit’s cool lips with his neck, “ung...chaining him up...probably not in his apartment…”

The next statement came at his ear again. “What do you say we work on this poltergeist nonsense later, then?”

The soul room was always a little hazy, like a dream, but the blurred edges of Yami’s eyes alight with desire didn’t make the moment any less exceptional. He had pulled them exactly where they needed to be, in a mountain of plush cushions surrounded by precious metal, tapestries, and flickering candles. Ryou would think it was romantic - Yugi wondered if they could bring him here.

His lurid fantasy of Yami in a king’s regalia returned, but he did a poor job of concealing it this time, and a deep chuckle vibrated into his skin where the spirit had reattached to his throat, picking up where he left off. “Interesting. Would you like me to conjure a throne room as well?”

Yugi moaned and arched up into him, now connecting with real flesh and earning an equally endearing sound of approval from the pharaoh.

With a flourish, the garments appeared around him, fluidly replacing whatever he’d been wearing before, now forgotten. As he pulled back he cradled Yugi’s face in both palms and looked into his eyes - gods even his eyes were different, glowing almost ruby instead of purple, heavily lined with kohl and just as intimidating as they were beautiful. To have that look directed at him, by this man , was so enchanting that Yugi almost forgot what they were doing. 

The reality of it came crashing back, though, as the pharaoh’s lips descended on his, commanding the kiss from the top down, employing the same sultry confidence with which he dominated his duels.

Yugi tangled his hands in the silk and pressed them closer together, tongue engaged in a duel of its own, deepening the contact until they were nearly one entity undulating on the velvet and carpet below. Which, Yugi noticed, wasn’t too far off from their actual circumstances. The spirit did spend his entire existence inside him, after all, which sounded lewd of course but the reality of it was already frighteningly intimate on its own without the sex. 

The pharaoh was making frustrated sounds as he pulled away the rest of Yugi’s clothes and clasped a firm hand around his aching cock, pulling skin at the base gently taut as he curled his wrist at the top of each stroke. It felt so satisfyingly similar to what he’d done with their physical body in Ryou’s closet that the memory flooded him with another layer of arousal. Still though, he was naked , in front of his other self, and it’s not like they’d never showered but this was very, very different. 

Yami must be able to hear everything here, because he picked up on his thoughts again. “Which one did you want to be?” he whispered sensually once his mouth had made its way down his torso to kiss his hip bones. Yugi whimpered, jutting his hips upward into the contact with Yami’s hand, before his tongue curved into the junction between his torso and thighs. 

He hadn’t really processed the question. “Which one...where? Oh gods, don’t stop…” 

The tip of his tongue trailed a long lick from his base to his tip and the pharaoh murmured again, “My position, or Ryou’s?” 

Oh. Ohhh. It was an echo of what Yugi had asked him earlier, but with much different implications. Any permutation at all with their bodies naked really, or as was the case right now, Yami himself draped in finery like a god. Just keep touching…wait what? He stared at the pharaoh wide-eyed, blushing like it was his first kiss, kind of embarrassed that he hadn’t really thought about it (having shared in Yami’s end of the fun in their earlier activities). He sort of wished the pharaoh would just command it.

He chuckled, and Yugi realized he’d forgotten about the unintentional telepathy again. The dark baritone of Yami’s voice took on a noble air when he replied, “If you want to be ordered then I’ll take a guess. Spread your legs.” 

Yugi did so eagerly, groaning at the loss of contact as the pharaoh moved away for a moment. “But wha...what about you? I could do, with my mouth, what I practiced with Bakura…”

“Oh, you’re going to take care of me, Yugi. Just not in that way - at least not today.” He smirked and plunged his somehow-slick right ring finger inside, twisting it as he went, and Yugi squirmed. I mean, it felt a little bit odd, the hole wasn’t made for that, right? But it’s not like his mouth was ‘made’ for sucking someone off either and yet that was extremely fun, so…

His train of thought was interrupted by the addition of a middle finger, which Yami pushed forward up to his knuckle, before curving his fingertips to drag across his prostate on the way out. Yugi screamed and pressed into the sensation, seeing stars, certainly understanding Ryou’s enthusiasm now that he’d felt it. Suddenly the thought of being filled in that way, while the hand that was stroking him continued its work, felt like a way to get a two-for-one deal.

After a moment and an eternity of deliriously pleasurable torment inflicted by Yami’s skillful hands, the pharaoh pulled his shendyt aside and lifted Yugi’s hips into alignment with what was underneath. Yugi gripped the plush under his hands and shut his eyes…

“Breathe, Aibou, let me work for you.”

He tried to exhale slowly as he felt something much larger and heavier than fingers pry past his entrance, stretching him, but by this point the intrusion was welcome, craved even. He moaned and rolled his hips like Ryou had, eliciting a hiss of pleasure from the man above him, who increased the pace of both his thrusts and his hand on hot flesh as they both climbed.

Yami was hunched over him now, dream-sweat glinting in rivulets down the side of his neck and Yugi grabbed his jaw, licking along the pulse point and moaning into his throat. He started whispering those sensuous endearments again, Yugi not understanding the words but feeling their intent... so tight...exquisite...divine . He shivered and hitched upward. With each hot drag across all those pleasurable nerves he felt the overwhelming urge to finish.

“Ask for it,” the spirit demanded.

“Wh...wha..?” Yugi panted, desperate for motion, but Yami had paused his rhythmic stroking and Yugi was certain this was torture because he was going to die.

“I said I wanted you to beg. I wasn’t bluffing.”

Oh my... Yugi was so desperate, the edge was almost painful, he obeyed without question. “Ple...please,” he whispered, trying to move toward him, but he was pinned by the weight of the larger man above him and could only struggle. 

“Better. And by that, I mean you can do better.”

Please, Pharaoh…

What do you want?” 

I wan...want to come, please, please, fuck me, I have to…

“As you wish.” He resumed with fervor, twisting Yugi onto his side and craning his hips to strike at a different angle, and Yugi was lost. Despite appearing to be two separate beings in the soul room, the blur between the individuality here and the shared experience of another partner wound a feedback loop that had Yugi hovering in orgasmic bliss with Yami. The limbo dissolved when something snapped and his whole body contracted, erupting white threads of come onto his stomach as a similar heat pooled inside him. They must have screamed, because his throat was hoarse and the sound lingered in the quiet room.

Their breath, frantic but synchronized, gradually tapered until they came down. Yugi dislodged himself from the pharaoh’s neck and the other man trailed kisses up his jaw, still lavishing what felt like praise in a foreign language, and Yugi couldn’t help muttering, “Why the hell haven’t we been doing this in here the whole time.” He’d been fucked beyond rational thought and hadn’t even gotten the spirit out of his clothes. He wondered if he should dress up too, and what Yami would like...

Yami laughed amusedly but had lost his words, the now-familiar energy drain of the activity sapping his strength. He pulled out slowly and laid beside Yugi, dragging fingers down his hip before wrapping around his pale waist into an embrace. He buried his face behind his neck and Yugi leaned into it, enveloped in warmth. 

He woke to a late-morning sun beaming through the skylight. It hurt his head; the newness and heaviness at how good he had felt the night before left a kind of aching hangover through his limbs and more sensitive areas. He gripped himself through his boxers, discovering a pooling of cold fluid, uncomfortable and sticky - well, that answered that question; whatever they got to in the Puzzle didn’t insulate them completely from their physical body.

Yami was either silent or still dormant, and Yugi felt with a pang that he couldn’t recall the entire order of events throughout their evening - hangover indeed. They knew from Yami’s persistent amnesia that the Puzzle was designed, somehow, to trap and conceal memories, but this?

Whether the soul room version compared to the spirit version remained to be seen, but if his fading recollection was any indication, then Bakura had been right on their date - it wasn’t quite the same.

Chapter Text

Ryou came to with a brush of frigid wind at his cheek. The last thing he remembered was scrubbing the kitchen of char and leftover fire suppressant after a dinner of takeout ramen, as he had been loath to attempt cooking again. Bakura had been silent, but not in the good way, and Ryou had figured it was only a matter of time before he whisked away control of their body and went on a bender. 

Which he supposed was a good explanation for why he regained consciousness here, on a park bench at the outskirts of the city, at sunrise. Gold and turquoise light had just started to peek over the horizon of the...lake? Were they at that park? Why?

He groaned and blinked the sleep from his eyes, before he noticed an insulated paper cup and a cardboard clamshell on the bench next to him. A thin snake of white steam still rose from the small opening in the lid of the beverage, and his nostrils flared upon inhale with the heavenly aroma of chocolate and fresh pastry. He certainly didn’t feel still drunk, or hungover, or any of the negative physiological responses he expected after one of Bakura’s ‘outings’; he was well-rested, energetic even.

Before the moment passed, he took a generous bite of the crepe in the box...strawberries and whipped cream...and then a body-warming swallow of the hot cocoa - the burn of peppermint tingled his throat on the way down and he arched an eyebrow. 

“I schnapps’d it,” said the spirit who had appeared beside him, looking quite satisfied with himself. His face, framed by the shock of hair that was whiter and wilder than Ryou’s, was angelic in the early morning light even though the man it was attached to was anything but. “Right interior pocket if you want it spicier.”

Ryou giggled as the warmth flooded his body, curling in on himself in the winter jacket Bakura had dressed them in and tugging on the black wool hat to re-cover his ears. His breath puffed out in front of his mouth in tiny clouds. “It’s a beautiful morning for boozy chocolate and a delicious crepe, albeit a little chilly for coming to the lake, wouldn’t you say?”

“I’d have added another layer if I’d remembered dumb details like ‘it’s winter’.” He paused, shifting a little uncomfortably in the mirror image of their attire. “So I got the right one?”

“The right…?”

“Breakfast thing. You eat sugary shit all day so it’s hard to keep everything straight, it’s all dessert to me.”

“Oh, the strawberry one? Yes, it’s my favorite! I can’t believe you remembered.”

“You’d think the recall would be a little easier since we share a brain.”

Ryou shrugged. “I’m not so sure. There is barely any crosstalk unless we’re both asleep.” He caught some of the whipped cream that had escaped the folds of the pastry with his thumb and lapped at it with his tongue. 

“You can see my dreams?” Bakura asked, carefully unemotional. 

Ryou was stunned that he’d given the thief a perfect opening for a joke about sucking cream off his finger and he hadn’t taken it. He must be in a genuinely serious mood, then. He finally replied, “I can see them as clearly as when the memory formed. Every scream. Every drop of blood. Their suffering, and yours, is tangible and frightening to me.”

Bakura deflected, “You lied to your friend. I haven’t told you shit.”

“Ah...I wasn’t sure you had caught that. I wish you would, though. A true accomplice could help you better than what I am now...just a gamer with a warm body.”

“It’s a great body though,” he grinned, rubbing his thumbs in circles where his nipples would be under the jacket. Ryou laughed as Bakura stretched his legs out into the grass.  “I couldn’t help but notice that despite your trespass into my thoughts...that you didn’t tell them anything.”

Ryou emptied the contents of the flask Bakura had indicated into the rest of the cocoa and took another sip. It was a statement of fact, but he supposed it was the closest he had ever come to a ‘thank you’ out of the man. “Of course not. It’s not my story to tell.” He went silent and looked around; the sun was fully above the water now and on its ascent into the sky, and a few joggers had appeared on the trail below their perch on the hilltop. “Bakura, why are we here at six in the morning?” he asked, having been previously distracted from that particularly obvious question by food.

Bakura scrunched his face and folded his arms, looking up and away from Ryou. “I think it’s understandable that I have a few problems with temporal awareness. I thought this was the lake where they have those stupid boats.” He gestured toward the short pier with a small wooden shack close to the shoreline.

Ryou’s eyes widened in shock. “ mean the paddle boats?” He let hope and a smile infiltrate his expression. “Is this a date?”

“I only figured that you were projecting some absurd fantasy of yours onto me when you were chastising me about Marik yesterday. It didn’t occur to me that it might be a seasonal activity, which is a shame because I was quite looking forward to you struggling to pedal the thing yourself while I ghost-laughed in your sweaty face.”

“Still, the thought is lovely. Thank you.” He reached out a hand to lay on top of Bakura’s transparent one, causing the spirit to look back at it and frown, grumbling.

“Intentions are nothing, only follow-through. If we’re still alive in six months I’ll give it another go.”

“We could invite Yuu-gi,” Ryou suggested, lengthening the name on his lips and batting his eyes. “Then we would have two people to pedal.”

“Great thinking, Yadonushi! I’ll simply toss him off the boat at the blinding speed of two miles-per-hour and hope he drowns. My revenge on the pharaoh will be complete.”

“You said you wouldn’t hurt him or his friends.”

He contemplated for a moment. “So I did. His involvement is unavoidable but his death is not, if he stays out of my way.” He smirked, but it was the dark, sinister version of the expression, instead of playful.  “How likely do you think that is, dearest host?”

Ryou started to say something, but thought better of it. He shifted gears in his head. “About as likely as me abandoning you, Kiseichuu.”

A flicker of surprise, and then the thief’s poker face returned. Ryou leaned in closer to him and pressed their lips together; he sensed Bakura’s eyes closing but he didn’t react, neither leaning into it nor pushing away. When Ryou pulled back, he looked flushed though, as much as a spirit could. It was astonishing to him that he could fuck so passionately and then freeze up because of a kiss in the park. It was endearing...almost.

“I thought all the mushy kissing garbage was for the end,” the spirit said with irritation.

“Oh, I have something else in mind for the end. How about we take this date on the move for now? There’s a delightful Sunday farmers’ market I’ve been wanting to investigate that’s just a few blocks from here.”

“Whatever you say, Yadonushi.”

He just knew Bakura would like this. After another hour or two playing cards in a coffee shop, they made their way to Ryou’s target; every vendor with free samples of food was more than happy to dish out the good stuff for the pretty thief, who greedily assumed control of their face when the offering was meat-related. After a particularly good curry, he smacked his lips and beelined for a butcher’s tent, chilled display cases gleaming with fresh cuts of beef, pork, and chicken. Since this was a rare occasion where they were co-piloting, Ryou selected a pork tenderloin and some applewood-smoked thick-cut bacon to wrap it with for dinner.

He felt a ripple of anticipation mixed with anxiety from the spirit and reassured him, “Don’t worry, I’ll do everything in the oven.” The response was a nonverbal kind of ‘hmph’, as if to insist that he wasn’t worried at all and how dare Ryou suggest such a ridiculous thing?

Stuffed with samples (enough to constitute lunch, in fact), Ryou had started out toward the subway entrance with their spoils when he passed a church he used to go to with his father when he’d first arrived in Domino. Small groups of people were milling around outside; afternoon service must have just gotten out. The weight of the bag tugged a little more heavily at his shoulder, which he used as an excuse to pause and stare at the stained glass windows for a moment.

I don’t care if you want to go,’ said the spirit indifferently.

Ryou felt a lump rise in his throat. ‘Probably not a good idea. I don’t want to get smited. Smote? You know, for harboring a demon.

Surely I’m not bad enough to draw the ire of your gods too, Yadonushi.

‘I wasn’t referring to you.

Another overlap of their unwitting exchange of information that he was sure he wasn’t supposed to be able to perceive - all but confirmed by the sudden silence on Bakura’s end, which persisted for several more blocks as Ryou pressed forward.

His eyes moved against his will to the street sign as they approached the station, and then Bakura seemed to overcome his contemplation when he interrupted, ‘While we’re in the area, I have a small, insignificant detour.’  

Ryou froze. ‘Are you asking me if it’s okay to take over?

Not remotely. Just warning you it’s going to happen.

He couldn’t help smiling. ‘ It’s more than you’ve ever done before, Bakura.’ 

That ‘hmph’, again, then Bakura relieved him of his control and ducked into a convenience store a half block down the cross street. A small, mustached man at the counter regarded him with passive distress and didn’t greet him.

Bakura looked up at him and waved. He held up their bag of perishables.  “Hey jackass, can I stow this in the walk-in? I have some errands to run.”

“Sure, sure, you got my money?”

“I do, in fact.” Bakura left an envelope for him on the counter but they didn’t exchange any other pleasantries.

He turned his attention back to his host. Bakura didn’t say anything, though, just dissolved enough control for Ryou to feel his own hand gently caress his cheek, before slipping him back into the dark.

Ryou got fragments of the next several hours - a visit to the art history museum (which would have been a wonderful date on its own!), another shady back-alley deal, a few drinks at a martini lounge down by the pier. Bakura did rouse him then, briefly, to ask if Ryou wanted him to pick up the flirtatious bartender, a fiery redhead with broad shoulders and a topknot, but Ryou couldn’t get the pharaoh and Yugi out of his mind and declined.

Once he finally regained full awareness, Bakura was lounging on the couch back at their apartment with his feet up on the coffee table. Ryou had asked him not to do that a million times, so of course this time he had also left his shoes on.

“Welcome back,” he said aloud, taking another swig from a bottle of sake he must have stolen and...gods he could at least have used an ochoko even if he wasn’t going to bother with the full set of ceramic-ware. “I’m hungry again.”

“Did you…”

“Tenderloin is on the counter warming up and I preheated the oven.”

Astonishing, truly. Ryou thanked the gods that Bakura cared enough about his food to help out from time to time. 

Bakura let him have his body to finish the prep work and seasoning, before he slid the pan into the oven and returned to the couch. 

“We have about forty minutes,” Ryou said innocently. “What do you want to do?”

The response came from inside the Ring, ‘Oh, that’s plenty of time for me to punish you for defiling this couch. And to reward me for tolerating all this inane dating.

Ryou giggled and rubbed his cheeks, admiring the hypocrisy since Bakura himself had gotten a spirited blowjob in the same spot. “I agree!” He made to stand up to head toward the bedroom, but felt his vision fade before he had the chance. 

Nope,’ said the spirit, cackling. ‘You’re coming down here.’

Ryou rather hoped so.

His banishment to the Ring was usually murky and plodding, but when the spirit was there it was rather abrupt; he felt rather than saw the sting of nails digging into his arms as Bakura twisted his wrists behind his back into a heavy, restrictive set of shackles attached to a chain.

When he finally found his vision, he saw the familiar perpetual desert moonlight filtering through the barred window, casting an eerie glow on the stone wall and wooden bench attached to it. Ryou wondered what facet of Bakura’s tormented mind had chosen a prison for this space, but all the spirit had ever told him was that it was just another cell the pharaoh had thrown him into that he’d eventually escaped from.

From behind, Bakura grabbed a huge handful of Ryou’s long hair and yanked, and Ryou moaned to an approving purr from the spirit, who used his other hand to trace his waist and the curve of his hip. As it had been with the pharaoh, his reaction below the belt was instantaneous, and the spirit wasted no time in tugging off his pants and boxers, leaving him bare.

He felt Bakura grind his own clothed arousal into his backside, biting his way down Ryou’s spine and pulling at the metal where his wrists were cuffed. He was flipped, suddenly, and shoved back onto the bench where he fell ungracefully and the chain clattered beside him. He did his best to look terrified, but it was difficult when the man before him was such a vision.

Because in this place, Bakura was the Thief King, a bronzed god in his own right clad in a bejeweled red cloak and unencumbered by his host’s slender frame and pale skin. The white hair against his brown face made him look like he was wearing a silver crown, but he had little time to continue his admiration as his head was yanked forward toward the thief’s leaking cock. Why bother with pants or a shendyt in a dream? He was certainly not going to complain about being eye-level with chiseled abs either.

He lidded his eyes and extended his tongue, relishing in the bitter salt of the head and sucking greedily as Bakura held him in place and thrust. 

Bakura grunted and stifled a moan. “You know, Yadonushi, you should get some tips from your little friend, he did this thing with his tongue…” He pulled Ryou’s head back and stared heatedly into his eyes. He’d been wondering when the chiding would start. 

Ryou felt a drip of saliva run from the corner of his mouth and smirked. “He was also using his hands, and you’ve rather tied mine. Why don’t you invite him to show me? He can demonstrate and I can follow - or we can work on you together…”

“On the blow-job training, I like it.” He shoved Ryou horizontal at the shoulder and crawled on top of him, red folds of the cloth hanging on either side of them like a tawdry privacy curtain. Ryou felt the shackles dig into the small of his back as he was pressed into the wood, whining as the pain of the restraint cut through the pleasure of Bakura’s hands exploring the front of him. 

The spirit alternated between tender caresses and sharp pinches at his nipples and his sides, causing Ryou to jerk uncontrollably and poorly conceal his delight at the slow torture as no attention was paid to his own aching arousal. 

His hands converged again at Ryou’s throat, thumbs crushing his windpipe and the circumferential pressure cutting off blood to his brain. 

His voice had turned to a harsh whisper as his hardness pressed into Ryou’s thigh. “I could kill you, Yadonushi. Press a little harder. A little longer. You don’t need to breathe here. You just think you do.” He leaned more of his weight into the choke and Ryou saw his vision tunneling as he fought for oxygen. 

When Bakura finally released his grip, the rush was euphoric, radiating out to his extremities as he inhaled a strained breath. The ghost of pain from thief’s hands, the adrenaline of their manufactured near-death, and the hot flush that had spread throughout his body was a consuming sensual experience that was dangerous to replicate in the real world. 

After another breath, he yelped as two of Bakura’s fingers pushed inside him forcefully, while his lips and tongue traveled over his stomach. “You know…” a sharp inhale, “ oh ...yes, right there!” He arched his back into the press against the pleasurable bundle of nerves, but the thief still would not touch his erection. “Let know, this is why Marik’s dark side almost broke me - you make it feel so fucking good.” 

The spirit chuckled and replaced his fingers with his cock, sheathing himself too quickly for Ryou to adjust and sending another bolt of pleasure and pain throughout his groin. He gasped and arched his hips into the downward motion, reveling in the rapture that clouded the mirth on the thief’s face as he pulled out to the tip and slid back in. 

As the tension and sweat on their skin built, Ryou was feeling particularly mischievous - he couldn’t grab the thief’s neck to pull him into a kiss, or his ass to force him to move faster, but he could still mess with his head. “What if you had Yugi like this?” he breathed softly. 

Bakura’s eyes rolled back and his eyelids fluttered shut. “Appealing,” he panted, “but I’m surprised Pharaoh didn’t tear my throat out for what I took already.” He finally, finally , wrapped his hand around Ryou and started stroking. He was so aroused by this point that he knew he couldn’t last long - then the thief could really take what he wanted. 

“Well then…” Ryou spoke again, “what about the pharaoh, then?” Bakura raised his eyebrows, and Ryou detected a sly notion of approval from the spirit, though its flavor was opportunistic and not necessarily lustful or affectionate. “Come on,” he continued, squirming around Bakura’s cock and thrusting eagerly into his hand. “Fuck him like this instead of in a shadow game. Doesn’t having him submit to you in bed sound more tempting than destroying his monsters from thirty feet away?” He willed his eyes to shift from brown to the pharaoh’s radiant violet, counting on the malleability of the soul room to assist. 

The reaction he wanted was immediate; Bakura lunged forward and captured Ryou’s lips in a searing kiss. “You’re a greedy little slut.” The pace of his thrusting became frantic.

“But am I an accurate greedy little slut?” he tittered, aching for another kiss. Bakura was about to give it to him when a dark chill permeated the cell in an instant, the moonlight extinguished. A shadow of wrath enveloped them and Ryou failed to contain a full-body shiver.

The spirit's expression turned exasperated with a hint of worry, and he sighed. “Go, Yadonushi,” he commanded, withdrawing regretfully.


Go.” He disappeared in a wisp of white smoke.

Ryou huffed. There was now a very unfortunate void in his ass and in his heart as he disintegrated the shackles, and he was most intent on following the spirit deeper into the Ring where he could give a piece of his mind to...

The sensation of elevator lines being cut, but in reverse, gripped him as his consciousness jolted back to his real body. It weighed heavily on the fabric of his couch, and his throbbing erection protested against the confines of his now overwhelmingly tight pants. He plucked a pillow from the corner and pressed it into his face, screaming in frustration. Of all the evil shit the demon planned to do, blueballing Ryou was one thing he would rue putting on the list the most.

Despite the interruption, he guiltily admitted to himself that he had missed this. Yugi had custody of the Ring for three painful weeks after the Battle City tournament had ended, and Ryou had felt fracture instead of relief. The shifting in and out of reality, the adrenaline rush, and Bakura winking at him with his own eyes in the bathroom mirror were a welcome, coveted distraction from the reality of the dark magic that imprisoned them. 

Luckily, he’d regained consciousness when there was still three minutes on his dinner timer; as soon as it dinged, he let the dish rest on the stovetop for a while and then portioned out two servings, hoping the thief would re-appear. It smelled wonderful, after all, even though pork wasn’t usually his go-to. Once it was clear that wasn’t going to happen, he put the leftovers in tupperware and tossed them in the fridge, hoping they would at least be able to share lunch in between classes.

As he showered and got ready for bed, Ryou tried not to notice the antique hourglasses that had appeared that day next to the sandbox in his studio.

Chapter Text

Yugi pressed his palm into his forehead, pulling his eyelids back as he hunched over in front of a library computer. The smell of old paper and wood wafted from the organized stacks as he embraced the mind-settling silence that could only be found in the University’s oldest and largest building.

He had a Chrome tab open to an article about the Kinsey scale, trying fruitlessly to come up with some kind of label for the confusion the last week had wrought on his sexuality, before the noisy approach of another person disturbed his concentration. The pharaoh, who had been curiously following along with Yugi’s ‘research’, recognized the footfalls of all things - Yugi forgot how perceptive he could be, sometimes.

He spun in the chair with a genuine smile on his face. “Hey Joey!” He was actually very glad to see his friend; he’d been more tied up at his job at the bowling alley lately because someone had quit, and they hadn’t gotten a chance to really talk about the bizarre developments in Yugi’s life. 

The other man slung his bookbag to the floor and settled into an adjacent chair, running his fingers through the blonde hair that fell in front of his eyes at the movement. “Hey bud. I knew I’d find you here.”

Yugi blinked, perplexed. “You did?” He was a good student, certainly, but hardly thought the average amount of time he spent in the library was something noteworthy. 

“Ha, yes. You still have location data turned on for me, nerd.” Joey waggled his phone and grinned proudly.

Oh, duh. “Geez, that’s worse than the Ring,” he muttered.

“Yeaaaaahhh, about that…Harumi said she saw ‘my famous friend with the spiky hair’ out on a date with one of her regulars last Friday, which had to have been the same day you were literally punching each other between classes.”

Yugi could kind of see where this was going and hadn’t completely decided how he wanted to handle it. ‘Um, mou hitori no boku...can I get a few moments alone with Joey, please?’

A beat, then a chuckle from the Puzzle, ‘Of course, Aibou. I will busy myself putting together the throne room.’ Yugi blushed furiously and looked back up at his friend. 

Joey’s already arched eyebrow inched up higher at the blush, before settling back down to complement a neutral, slightly sad expression. “Are we we have some privacy?” At Yugi’s nod, he continued. “You can tell me anything, you know. I don’t care if you’re gay.”

Yugi sputtered, “I’m not!...I mean, well, it’s not something I really thought about until the situation kind of...fell in my lap, as it were.” He fiddled with his fingers as Joey looked on skeptically. “I mean, yes, maybe I had a stray thought or two about some of the men I dueled at tournaments, and maybe I look at a few butts that don’t belong to women at the club when you guys drag me out, and the other me does have that sexy voice…” Come to think of it, Yugi supposed in hindsight it wasn’t that much of a stretch. 

“Yeah man, then I’ve got news for you, but...wait what?!”

“I still like girls too though! You know better than anyone that I still haven’t gotten over my first crush. And this guy Kinsey says all those thoughts are normal.” He pointed his thumb toward the computer.

“Yugi, of course they’re normal, you’re allowed to like whatever you like, but fucking what was that last thing you said?”

“I like girls too?”

“Before that.”

“Man butts?”

After that, please, I honestly thought that the pharaoh had some kind of responsibility in all this but I didn’t think the two of you were...involved.” He left the question on his face hanging as to how such a thing would work, in any case.

“Well we weren’t until recently. He kind of started the whole thing with Ryou in the first place when he was mad about the Ring getting re-stolen.”

“Riiight...okay. Yeah, you really should have powerful shadow artifacts under better security, but Yugi I’m not sure it’s a great idea to be that way...with a guy who’s an ancient magical king possessing you and also a guy that wants to kill him.”

Yugi nodded, since the same thoughts had occurred to him in one form or another, but he couldn’t help how desperately he enjoyed spending time with them. 

His other self, with that confident, commanding air of ancient royalty, had been a constant in his life for years already, and the current of affection bubbling away under the surface of their world-saving partnership taking on a physical element was something he wouldn’t have predicted but it felt right. Yugi certainly would have entertained the idea of ‘loaning’ his body for that sort of thing with another person if the pharaoh had asked, but to have been literally taken along for the ride was siphoned directly from the wildest, darkest corners of his fantasies.

And then there were the other two. Ryou had been in his life for longer than he was aware of the pharaoh even, a friend, a beautiful friend, but a distant one compared to his closeness with Joey, Tristan, or Anzu. He was courteous and polite to a fault, though his affinity for the occult gave him an edge that his spirit enhanced in true ostentatious fashion. The spirit’s particular brand of charm was a little rough, but underneath it Yugi could see a man who was trying to right some ancient wrong and had gotten a little too involved in the darker side of the magic that had once filled the world. 

But couldn’t the same be said of his own spirit? The pharaoh’s patron was literally the Dark Magician.

“I like them, Joey,” he said finally.

“You like everyone, Yugi. You ‘like’ a little recklessly, in general. I mean I was a dick to you for years and somehow you still wanted to be friends with my ugly mug.”

“You’re very handsome, and I think I can say that with some credibility now…”

“Heh, thanks. That actually means a lot.”

“...but doesn’t that support my point? Whatever is driving the Ring spirit’s revenge plot must be a lot to untangle, but if I can just get him to open up to me more we might be able to avoid another reality-threatening shadow duel and make another friend!”

“Mm hmm, friend. If anybody can wield friendship magic that powerful it would have to be you, Yug. Dropping a romantic bomb seems like a great way to turn the complicated-ness of the situation up to eleven, though. What happens when he finally decides to go after the pharaoh?”

“Bakura doesn’t want to kill him! At least, not yet, I don’t think…”


Yugi shrieked and must have jumped three feet in the air, because he knocked over the chair he’d been sitting in and tripped, but landed rather gracefully into the arms of the Ring spirit who had materialized behind the two while they were talking. How long had he been listening!? Bakura took advantage of their proximity to breathe deeply into the crook of Yugi’s neck. “Legend has it,” he said with a sultry lilt, “that one needs only to utter the name of the infamous Thief King and he shall appear to grant you a wish.” 

Yugi felt his heart rate spike and also the re-emergence of his own spirit as he reacted to the sudden shift in environment. “The Ring, I swear…” said Yugi under his breath, but the thief only laughed as Joey leapt up himself and brandished a fist, ready to start a fight.

“Nope, not this time pipsqueak.” He tapped the pocket of his jeans where part of a loose black tee was lazily tucked about his hips. “My host stole your phone when you boys had your little sleepover and enabled location sharing. I swear sometimes, do we even need magic?” He winked at Joey who made an exasperated kind of groan but didn’t throw a punch...yet.

“Jesus, Yugi, are you banging him too!? So much for my innocent ‘dates and hand-holding’ theory.”

“That question has a rather complicated answer, Yugi’s annoying friend whose name I have forgotten.”

“It’s Joey. I was literally also in the Battle City tournament with you and Yugi.”

“I spent most of that tournament balls deep in the Shadow Realm or a pretty Egyptian, so needless to say I was a tad distracted. Now sod off so I can talk to my new boyfriend.” He looked pointedly at Yugi, who stared up with him with as much anger as he could pull off without calling on his spirit. Bakura’s pale hands still lingered firmly on his shoulders, thumbs pushing what would have been pleasant pressure circles if not for his general rudeness. 

“Bakura, if you are mean to my friends I will never go down on you again.”

The spirit’s eyes widened in horror and Joey made a strangled, disgusted sound beside him. “Oh god, you are hooking up with him.”

Bakura released Yugi’s shoulders and pouted, crossing his arms. “Shit Yugi, anyone ever tell you you’re better at making threats than Pharaoh?”

“Okay, this is getting out of hand. I need you to shut up for two seconds.” Joey gently pushed Yugi gently to the side and got in Bakura’s face. 

“One…” said Bakura, looking at his watch.

“It doesn’t count if you’re counting out loud, jackass.”

“Yuuuugiiii,” Bakura said in a sing-song, flitting his eyelids bashfully to the side, “don’t your friends have to be nice to me, too?”

“Yes,” Yugi said. “Joey, please.”

The other man sighed and stared at Bakura, who stared back intently but didn’t say anything else. “Okay. Listen. I stand by what I said on the quad, which is that I want Yugi to be happy. If whatever this is,” he gestured between them, “is working, then fine. But if you or your stupid rivalry hurts Yugi or Ryou ever again I will personally use the University’s machine shop to melt down the Puzzle and Ring into a jock strap cup for Tristan.”

“Fuck, your threats aren’t too bad either, is he hung though?”

Yugi giggled to the annoyance of the pharaoh and Bakura shot him a wink.

Joey’s next sigh sounded like the hiss from an overpressurized tea kettle. “I wouldn’t know because I don’t have a reason to be ogling his goody bag.”

“Too bad, after you got ass-fucked by Ra for the blonde Kaiba was looking at you like a god card.”

Joey turned bright red and stepped back, his previously-rigid index finger drooping a bit by his head. “Yeah, well...even if I swung that way, Kaiba has been a huge jerk and bullying is a bad way to get in someone’s pants.”

Yugi contributed, “Yeah, if it worked like that I’d have been getting laid for years already.”

Joey and Bakura both snorted at the same time. The thief continued, “Can’t get past the gender issue for a tall brunette with pretty eyes? And a fuckton of money?”

“I’ll give you the eyes, man, but he has a creepy obsession with that dragon and it would not surprise me if he’d constructed an anatomically-correct sex doll of it instead of getting a girlfriend. Or boyfriend, if what you said is even a little right.” 

Bakura roared with laughter and Yugi sensed a shift in their interaction. “I inherited my host’s gaydar which I assure you is impeccable.”

“Of course it is.” Joey’s expression softened a bit. “For real though, Bakura, I’m just looking out for my friend here…”

“Yugi’s is still the superior threat, but I catch your gist from before. No intentional harm will befall either of your precious acquaintances, at my hand anyway.” 

Some mistrust lingered in his gaze, but he didn’t let it infiltrate his words. “Great, glad to hear it!” Joey replied, smacking Bakura on the back, a little too hard, but the thief just grunted and rubbed at the sore spot without retaliating. “I’ll leave you lovebirds to it then. Safe sex, get tested and all that…See ya later Yug...” he trailed off, pulling the strap of his bookbag over a shoulder and waving on his way off.

“Yeah, that probably would have been smart,” thought Yugi, out loud. 

Bakura flicked him with a ring finger. “Don’t worry about that shit. I’m pretty sure Ryou’s paranoia is single-handedly keeping condom manufacturers and those pharmaceutical companies that make the STD tests financially solvent. I think he even likes getting the blood drawn. I suppose he was a little careless and your pharaoh is an imbecile, but was my host wrong to be completely unworried?”

Yugi sighed too. He couldn’t help but think there was something sinister about Bakura playing nice while maybe plotting to kill them. But at least he wasn’t plotting to kill them with syphilis? “No. I guess not. Why are you even using my hacked location to talk to me, though? I was having a pretty nice heart-to-heart with my best friend before you came around.”

No apologies. “Ryou said I should go on another date with you before your pharaoh’s untimely demise and I think phone calls are dull.”

Yugi stared at him, wide-eyed, and parted his mouth for a question when…

“Obviously untimely because, you know, he should have been demised the first time I tried to murder him and trap his pathetic soul in the Shadow Realm for all eternity.”

“I think you mean overdue demise, then.”

“Yes! Very good standardized test word, Yugi. I can see how you got into this school. Landlord’s father had to make a few calls on his account.”

Yugi tried to hide a laugh with his hands but he imagined Ryou fuming. “What kind of date would you like to go on, then?” He felt shy, suddenly, and twirled his thumbs. “I was actually thinking of calling you for the winter carnival at the pier this weekend, but given your aversion to the phone…”

“Sure, fine, whatever. I’m just paying rent.”

Yugi steadied his breath, leaned in, and inhaled the scent of Ryou’s shampoo, trying to listen like they always seemed to do…

...Bakura stop being an idiot! You like him! Just tell him the truth that you want to go!

It is your stupid domestic fantasy bullshit that is interfering with my ability to reason, and I’ve already agreed, so stop talking to me or I’ll lock you the fuck back up.

Yugi blinked. They’d been able to get the gist of his internal conversations, so it stood to reason that he would be able to as well if he concentrated...he wasn’t expecting full sentences, though. He did realize that he was like an inch from Bakura’s lips, now that he was thinking about it. Some passersby had nudged each other to watch what happened with them so he thought now was probably a bad time to close the distance for a kiss. The thief had no such reservations. 

Soft lips enveloped his, and whether they were Ryou’s or his spirit’s was unclear, but he pushed back and wrapped his fingers around the taller man’s waist, because who wouldn’t reciprocate a show of affection from someone that attractive? A wolf whistle sounded from somewhere in their small audience.

“HEY,” screeched the librarian, “take your PDA back to the dorms!”

Bakura dislodged the kiss with a firm plop. “It wouldn’t be ‘P’ if it was back at the dorms, would it?” he said pointedly, smirking at her.

Saturday arrived before he knew it, and Yugi had been pleased to maintain a congenial back-and-forth with Ryou via text message, although some of the replies were clearly meant for Yami. Yugi teased him good-naturedly but quite enjoyed his spirit’s fond smiles as he read through them.

Bakura, as he had already made clear, didn’t like the phone and called it and related technologies ‘confusing modern sorcery bullshit’, so Yugi was content to flirt with the other two even though his heart ached to connect with the evasive one.

Well, tonight was his chance! He’d fished all of his black leather clothing into a pile and toggled pieces on his body until Yami’s hums in his brain grew less... appreciative, and more lascivious. The pharaoh was still uncertain about intimate involvement with the Ring spirit but since he hadn’t presented any overt danger since the altercation on the quad he seemed willing to...tolerate Yugi’s interest if it meant more time with Ryou.

And then there was his grandfather. Yugi had told him about the date over dinner the night before, to his delight, since he’d been insisting Yugi had been too wrapped up in tournaments and the shop to ‘get out there and have fun while he was still young’, but he hadn’t exactly mentioned that the beau in question wasn’t a girl. Sugoroku, of course, had insisted on ‘meeting her’ first, and Yugi had relented and told Ryou to meet him at the Kame Game.

He kind of had the vague hope that Ryou would arrive in control and use his masterful deference to get things off on the right foot, but alas, the man who knocked had the characteristic mirth of the thief in his dazzling brown eyes. 

Luckily, Yugi’s anxiety over the appearance of not-Ryou at his doorstep was allayed quite comfortably by abject awe at the sight of head-to-toe red under his signature black trench, topped by the shower of snow tumbling around his shoulders and a few regal gold chains about his neck beneath his top shirt buttons, carefully undone. Yugi wondered if he’d stolen them. The whole ensemble gave a new meaning to ‘What’s black and white and red all over?’ Yugi was certain that he was too, actually, except his pale skin under the black was surely flushed redder than the tips of his hair by this point. 

He tried to smile anyway. “Hi! You look amazing,” he said, scratching the back of his head.

“I know,” Bakura replied humbly, and Yugi rolled his eyes. 

“Come in for a moment?”

“What? Why? The car I took already has hot plates so we should probably get going.”

Yugi frowned. “You uh...stole a car?”

“Don’t get your scruples in a twist, I’m sure the police will find it in the parking lot at the pier in a day or two.”

“YUGI!” came a shout from deeper in the shop. Yugi rubbed the bridge of his nose and tried not to smudge his eyeliner. “Is that your date?” the voice asked. 

Sugoroku emerged from the back office, polishing a glass display box and depositing it on the counter before finally connecting his eyes with who was in the doorway. Brief confusion, followed by the same blinks of realization that Yugi recognized himself exhibiting on occasion. Bakura did have a graceful, effeminate look from a distance, so...

“Grandpa, uh...this is…” he looked back at Bakura, whose mouth had drawn into a flat line as he appraised the older man on his approach. “This is Ryou Bakura. He’s…”

“Oh of course!” Sugoroku reached out when he got close enough and pulled Bakura’s hand out of his coat pocket roughly to shake it, clasping his other hand and smiling broadly. The thief looked horrified and vaguely homicidal at being manhandled but kept otherwise mercifully still. “You were a finalist in that KaibaCorp tournament with Yugi, weren’t you? You played very well with that Occult deck, no wonder you caught Yugi’s eye! You must be very talented, young man.”

Bakura looked flabbergasted, and Yugi suppressed a laugh.

“Now,” continued Sugoroku, narrowing his eyes into his approximation of a serious look, “what are your intentions with my grandson?” His tone still had a humorous edge as if he thought it was his duty to be suspicious as Yugi’s de-facto father figure.

Bakura grinned then, seemingly over his initial shock. “I’m going to ravage his body and then extract part of his soul for the ultimate shadow game.”

Bakura,” Yugi groaned, wondering why the man had to be completely honest about the worst possible thing.

His grandfather was stone silent for a moment, and then he broke down belly-laughing, nearly in tears. “Oh goodness, you kids are up to some interesting things these days. I’m glad Yugi found someone he has so much in common with.” He let go of Bakura’s hand and reached out to poke him in the chest, at the exact spot Yugi imagined the Eye of Horus on the Ring was flush against the skin above his stomach. “It can’t be easy, being responsible for spirits trapped in the Millennium Items, after all.”

A dangerous gleam graced Bakura’s features for an instant, replaced with something that may have been begrudging respect. “You remind me of someone I did not completely hate in the pharaoh’s Court.”

“High praise, my boy!” He stared Bakura down for another moment before recapturing his cheerful disposition. “Have fun you two.” He patted Yugi on the shoulder and shuffled back off to finish his inventory, leaving his speechless grandson to gape, astounded not only by his admission that he had gleaned more about the Puzzle than Yugi had revealed outright, but also his complete indifference to the gender of his suitor. 

He took a settling breath and looked back at the thief. “What kind of car?” he asked.

They arrived at the pier around dusk, when the colorful lights of the fair were just starting to stand out like sparkling jewels against the backdrop of the ocean. Bakura parked the sleek, modern Cadillac he’d pilfered from downtown (from someone who wouldn’t miss it for days, he assured) and chivalrously opened the door for Yugi, bowing deeply and snickering as Yugi’s leather pants squeaked against the nappa on his way out.

“Heh, too much leather I guess…” Yugi said hesitantly.

“No such thing,” replied Bakura, giving him a lecherous once-over and then hooking their arms together.

Yugi laughed, but his expression sombered after a moment. “Bakura, why did you agree to this?”

He looked over at him on their walk, but he was leading them away from the main ticketed entrance. “Something about keeping your enemies closer. Speaking of which, Yadonushi would like to absorb our dinnertime to manipulate the pharaoh back into bed, if you’re amenable.”

“And I’m sure he phrased it exactly like that, and is not yelling at you at this very moment for your complete lack of tact.”

“Mm, you can hear us too? How unfortunate. All right, up you go.” Bakura crouched and threaded his fingers into a boost at the fenceline, far from the rest of the crowd. 

Yugi sighed. “I can buy our tickets.”

“So can I? What fun is that?”

Shaking his head, Yugi stepped into the proffered lift and swung a leg over the fence, straddling the top and offering a hand to the thief, who used it to pull himself up. They both hopped down on the other side. Yugi was dusting off his thighs when Bakura smacked his butt playfully with an open palm. He yelped and shot an offended look towards the fake-virtuous face of his assailant. 

“You missed a spot. Of dirt. I was only trying to help.”

“My hero,” Yugi said flatly, secretly ecstatic.

The evening was more temperate than it had been for the last week, even down by the water, so eventually Yugi and Bakura both had shed their jackets in favor of beer warmth and exertion in the form of ring toss and shooting galleries. Yugi had gotten stuck on one booth that had Duel Monsters plushies and wouldn’t let it go. 

“God damn Yugi, I thought you were the King of Games,” Bakura taunted as the baseball failed to knock over the milk bottles for the fourth game in a row. Yugi made a frustrated sound and forked over another twenty. The thief went on to say, “Also, these prices are straight up robbery.”

“That is rich coming from you. This isn’t exactly the type of game I normally play.”

“Probably because every dueling match is rigged in your favor, instead of against you. You have literal gods on your side.”

“Powerful cards aren’t useful if you play them wrong, without a strategy in mind, I mean. Marik’s entourage demonstrated that pretty handily if I recall correctly.”

“Hnh,” said Bakura, killing his beer and chucking the can expertly into a nearby garbage can. Yugi suspected that he deliberately avoided the adjacent recycle bin. “Come on, give up and let’s go drink on that bigass ferris wheel.” 

Yugi shrugged. “You’re right. Fine.” He smiled warmly, then, and extended his other baseballs to the girl that had just walked up with a few of her giggling friends. “May you have better luck than me!” he implored, turning back toward Bakura, who turned on his heel and strode away toward the rides. 

Bakura actually paid for more drinks before they stood in line, and Yugi was grateful for the distraction from his gaming failures to the point where he barely noticed the thief chatting up the weary ride operator before they were latched into a capsule.

They gradually made their ascent as other riders occupied the subsequent spots, until a steady flow was achieved as they summited and made their way around again. Yugi wanted to find it romantic, but Bakura was staring boredly out the window with his chin resting in his hand, opposite him. He tried to enjoy the view instead; it really was quite remarkable, the almost-black receding twilight on the sea in one direction and the industrial magnificence of Domino skyscrapers in the other. He almost reached out to Yami, who had promised him the evening alone, but a familiar glint from the gaze of his date on their fifth or sixth go-around gave him pause. 

And suddenly, the entire contraption lurched to a violent stop, passenger compartments rocking to and fro from the force of it. Yugi and Bakura were, fortunately or not, stuck at the very top where nobody had a clear sightline on them.

Yugi gulped and scooted backward even though he didn’t have far to go. The thief’s grin was positively evil now. Was this it? He was going to die, here, because he’d let his guard down while trying to convince a millennia-old criminal that going on dates was more fun than destroying the world with shadow magic?

The thief reached into an interior pocket of his coat where it was draped at his side, and withdrew...not a knife, or a weapon of any kind, but a small brown ball of fluff with wide, violet eyes, green feet, and yellow claws. “I jacked this from the baseball booth while you were failing to win anything.” 

He held it out to Yugi, who accepted it with wonder. “Kuriboh is my favorite,” he said quietly, patting it on the head and smiling brightly.

“Yes, I remember. For some reason it is unsurprising to me that the worst card in Duel Monsters is your favorite. You manage to see value in shit that’s completely unredeemable.”

“It…” he started, to defend how awesome Kuriboh was of course, but he was distracted by how Bakura seemed to glow in the electric light from the white bulbs that adorned the wheel, and by how he absently licked his lips as his hands made their way back into the pockets of his red Italian jeans. Yugi very much had a ‘fuck it’ moment before gingerly setting the plushie on the bench beside him and practically leaping at the thief. 

He pushed his tongue into Bakura’s mouth almost as soon as their lips connected, earning a delirious moan from the other man as he splayed his thighs out on either side and rolled his hips. Bakura came up for air panting, “ sub-plan to corrupt you is in motion. Fuck... very, very literally in motion…” He dug his fingers into Yugi’s hips and started fiddling with his belts as Yugi trailed his mouth down Bakura’s neck. 

“How much time do we have?” Yugi asked breathily, reaching for the zipper on Bakura’s pants. 

“At least a half hour. I slipped the dude a fifty to ensure a major malfunction right at the top.”

Yugi pulled back and stared at him.

“What? What’s the point of stealing money if I don’t spend it? Getting you back in my pants seemed like a worthy cause.”

“How ‘in your pants’ do you want me?” 

Bakura tangled his fingers in Yugi’s hair and he gasped. “I was angling for another BJ, unless you had something else in mind.”

Yugi, of course, had been dying to try out some other things after living rather vicariously through Yami and Ryou’s...interactions, but Bakura had been right about the contrast between spirits and flesh and blood. He knew he should probably have taken Yami’s advice to find another attractive man or woman, but well...there was something else here too, with the thief. Yugi suspected that he himself was almost certainly as sentimental as Ryou, after all.

He extracted a folded strip of condoms from his jacket pocket. “Pre-lubed and no cleanup.” Yugi cheered inwardly at the frank look of surprise on the other man’s face before removing the Puzzle and setting it next to them on the bench. He watched the thief’s eyes follow it warily.

“Well don’t let me stop you.”

Yugi had already clicked the buckles open on his boots, which he set aside, and Bakura started peeling off the leather pants while Yugi made a desperate effort not to lose his nerve.

“No underwear, nice.” Bakura cupped him from the front, trailing his fingers on thin, sensitive flesh, and wound them around Yugi’s shaft without delay, and started stroking. 

“Otherwise...hng...oh…” Yugi felt a finger twirl around the tip, collecting some of the lubrication and coating his hand with it to glide downward again. “Otherwise the pants...don’t look right…” He was struggling to talk already and hadn’t even gotten the man out of any clothing. 

He was nipping underneath his ear as Yugi moaned desperately and extracted the other’s cock through the opening he’d created in Bakura’s pants before giving it a few experimental tugs.

Fuck yes…” 

A cool wind echoed through the pod and sent a shiver through him now that he was half-naked. “A little help,” he pleaded, kind of unsure now that he was in the thick of it. Despite the lively sessions in the soul room and Yami’s increasingly successful ghost manifestations, the reality in an unconventional location was more daunting than he expected despite the buzzing arousal that pulsed through his blood. He’d at least expected to make it back to Ryou’s apartment or his own loft, but should have known Bakura would spring something on him early.

“Naturally,” the thief replied, tearing at the foil with his teeth and rolling the thing over his own pale shaft. He opened and wrapped another around his middle and index, then reached around to Yugi’s backside. Yugi breathed deeply and angled back as Bakura pressed forward with his hand, spearing himself on those long fingers and wincing at the intrusion as the lubrication from the latex smoothed his insides. He’d been, uh...playing around earlier in the day, with this kind of situation in mind, so Bakura’s delighted chuckle as his body adjusted quickly was a relief. 

“You were made for this,” he whispered, the wind causing his hair to dance around his face as he looked into Yugi’s eyes. He shivered again, but this time it wasn’t because he was cold. 

Bakura curled his hands around Yugi’s thighs and lifted him up just far enough to line up his entrance and sink him slowly down onto his cock, which pulsed inside him as he took it down to the base. He had to remember that his actual body had never done this, so it would take some getting used to, but the pressure and sense of fullness actually felt pretty good, until they began to move. Then, it felt awesome.  

Yugi met each of Bakura’s upward thrusts with a flex of his own, bracing himself on the other man’s shoulders as he rocked and sought that special angle on his real body that he knew would drive him mad. Tilting his neck back, he noticed passively through blinks and the sparkles behind his eyelids that their compartment had started to sway slightly with the momentum. 

“You exhibitionist little shit, I thought you were shy,” Bakura chided, thrusting into him more fervently as their time wore thin. They were still technically in public, after all, even though he was pretty sure nobody could see them.

“I thought Ryou was shy, too,” he mused, apparently out loud, because the thief laughed into a particularly hard bite at his clavicle through the leather tank top and grabbed his ass roughly to ride him out. 

Yugi re-tangled his fingers in that long hair and groaned to Bakura’s lewd whispers about how good of a fuck he was. “How pissed is Pharaoh?” he taunted, “to sit back in that Puzzle and feel you taking it from me ?” The rest of his thought came out in a low growl. “To have you want a real cock inside you so badly that you’d come to a man like me to get it.”

Obviously, obviously he got off on the power dynamic. Yugi would be lying if he told himself that the thought of getting lured into Bakura’s perverted game, whatever his motives, didn’t excite him a little too.

The pace increased, the sounds of slick flesh and fluid and latex, the primal moan as the thief approached his peak, was almost too much. His pupils blown out, pale skin flushed, sweat coating thin tendrils of his hair and sticking to his neck; he came almost silently, something low and rumbling in his throat as he ground out the last of his desire into Yugi’s taut, willing body.

For all his self-proclaimed wickedness, the man continued his insistent stroking of Yugi’s cock between them.

Bakura…” He felt the last throbs of the cock inside him

“Shhh mini pharaoh, I’ve stolen Yadonushi’s magic hands…”

Because that wasn’t selfish at all, right? He’d finished already. Or maybe he just liked the taste of come - because when Yugi erupted a few moments later after a particularly satisfying twist of the thief’s wrist, he let it pool in his palm and then licked the skin clean like a greedy cat, hooked fingers holding Yugi’s chin in place so he couldn’t look away. 

Yugi blushed like a virgin all over again because that was certainly...something. He cleared his throat and lifted himself off of Bakura’s lap, squeezing his eyes shut for a moment, and then gradually put his outfit back together on his body. 

Once the last buckle clipped into place, he pulled the Puzzle back over his neck, cradling the warm gold to his stomach. Sighing, he leaned back in his original seat, facing the other man.  Bakura was back to that passive stare out into the distance, having silently rearranged himself at some point while Yugi was occupied. 

The thief’s eyes narrowed suddenly, pale eyebrows constricting into a full scowl as he peered out over the edge. “The fuck are they doing down there? I’m almost out of beer.”

“You’re completely out of beer.” Yugi drained the rest of Bakura’s can he’d swiped from the floor on the way back into his pants and tossed it delicately at the thief’s head, who smacked it out of the way.

“Don’t think I won’t slice open your stomach to get it back.”

Yugi cringed. Right. Armed and dangerous. “ how are you enjoying Domino?”

Bakura sidled his eyes back to Yugi’s, unamused. “Really? Was your plan to fuck me and then pillow talk me out of my revenge with inane questions?”

Yugi shook his head. “I don’t think you understand how I meant it. There’s lots of things about the modern world that mou hi...that the pharaoh really likes and didn’t have before.”

“I’m not interested in anything he’s enjoyed.”

Yugi smiled softly. “Well, you kind of seem interested in me .”

Bakura smirked. “Smooth. I’m still not engaging you in conversation.”

“Okay.” Yugi peered over the side himself. They were so high up it was hard to see, but a few extra trucks and an emergency vehicle must have been summoned at some point.

Bakura must have underestimated Yugi’s tolerance for long, awkward silences, but he almost certainly didn’t know how lonely Yugi had been for most of his life, until he solved the Puzzle. Ryou had found him only after he’d been possessed by the Ring - or maybe even because of it. That’s why, while Yugi was content to let the stillness linger, the thief was not.

“Are we alone?” he said finally, under his breath, as if his own question offended him.

Yugi squirmed under the subsequent glare. “I uh...yes.”

“Hm. How much does he remember?”

Yugi considered that it may not be appropriate to answer that fully. Nor should he bring up the reaction to Ryou’s kitchen fire, but...“Not as much as you, it seems.”

He scoffed, either unaware of or ignoring the reference. “I doubt our situations are comparable enough to warrant the thought, really. Not a chance he ever had to fight for a decent meal, for example.” He looked out towards the side with the skyscrapers. “I like your city, I do. Any reality where I’m not sleeping in the streets or with some noble who wanted to pay to fuck a demon is definitely an improvement. I’d rob them blind afterwards, of course.”

Furrowed eyebrows, and sympathy. “I’m sorry that you had to do those things. Why did they think you were a demon?”

“My past incarnation happened to share my host’s unfortunate genetic predisposition for white hair, so one of the first things I ever stole as an orphan was a wig. It was unusual, so the thief child must be cursed, right? I mean, ultimately they were kind of right.” He snickered.

Yugi tried not to let the sadness he felt reach his face. “But your hair is so beautiful…” he trailed off.

“Aw, you think I’m pretty?” He stood to his full height, which was actually reasonably intimidating from Yugi’s seated position. His canines glinted menacingly in the light as he slinked over next to Yugi and slipped a hand around his waist as he sat down, tucking his chin at Yugi’s shoulder like a lover would, but there was something tense about it. “Now I see your plan. You want to lure me into a false sense of security before your pharaoh comes after me again.”

“No, Bakura.” He turned to face him directly. “I want to lure you into a legitimate sense of security. I meant what I said before, we want to help. But to do that you need to tell me what happened.”

“Well now I feel oh so terrible for having to ruin this date for you with something so gloomy.” Warm pressure from the thief’s hand wrapped around his throat, on the edge of threatening. “Yadonushi has been barking up this tree for years, but your genuine caring about my plight has truly moved me, Yugi Mutou of Domino.”

Yugi stilled a shuddering breath. He was being so blatantly sarcastic it was tempting to call out, which the man must have wanted so he didn’t have to be serious. As a result, Yugi decided to take it seriously. “Tell me. Please.”

The hand on his neck didn’t change its grip even though his tone darkened, and the shadows cast by the windows and their bodies changed their shapes strangely and swam like crude oil in pools on the floor. The Ring shimmered at his chest, causing the red fabric to glow. “Pharaoh made a deal. A hundred souls in exchange for these.” He used his other hand to tap the Eyes of Horus on the Puzzle and the Ring in sequence, but Yugi’s eyes were wider. “Guess whose village was chosen to burn?”

He shook his head, incredulous. “N...No...he wouldn’t do that...I…”

“Hm, yes, this sounds familiar. The pharaoh’s Court dismissed me too, when I told them...most of them, anyway. He really does inspire blind loyalty, doesn’t he?”

“There must be a way...a way to believe your story and reconcile what I know about who he is. He is kind, and fair, and not...needlessly cruel.” Scary when confronted with injustice, maybe...Yugi admitted that there was a longer trail of bodies than he was comfortable with on that front.

“You see Yugi, they’re not his Items after all. They’re mine. My people. The pharaoh made the deal and when the shadows came to collect he sealed us for a few thousand years until we found poor, cursed Ryou Bakura and you . Now I admit, I’m rather fond of you both, I used to be human, after all. And I killed all the pharaoh’s friends the first time around; I assure you that’s out of my system. So I’ll tell you again. Remove yourself from the game before I take what I’m owed and your pathetic life can go back to normal once I’m done with him.”

The gears in Yugi’s mind turned. There was something off, but...they really didn’t know much about Yami’s past, did they? Some secrets were brutally preserved by the tombkeepers, but even with his command of the gods restored there were still more questions than answers. This game was more complicated than Bakura was letting on. He shook his head, then nodded it, anxiety welling in the pit of his stomach. “You’re leaving out part of this deal. If it was a hundred innocents for the Items then the debt would already be paid. Another threat, something massive, must be what Yami was trying to stop.”

Bakura looked intrigued. “Nothing gets by you, does it? It’s interesting that you presumed they were innocent, though. And only…”

“You were a child.” Yugi felt tears start to well behind his eyes as his heart rose even tighter into his throat.

“But my parents and uncles and cousins were tomb robbers.”

“Your family didn’t deserve that no matter what they did.”

“The pharaoh would disagree.”

Yugi lost his composure then and sniffed, wiping away the rivulets that slid down his cheeks with the back of his sleeve. That was injustice - and isn’t that what he and his other self were fighting against?

“Oh fuck no, Ryou does this shit too, it’s why I don’t tell him anything. Cut it out or I’ll tell everyone you cry after sex.”

“I don’t care!” Yugi said in a defiant whine. At some point Bakura’s hand had drooped from his neck down to his heart, where Ryou’s had rested after he caught them in the closet - it must be an affectation they shared. He clutched it in his hands in the same manner he had before and kissed the tips of Bakura’s fingers. A look of shock passed through his eyes, replaced quickly by his usual indifference. “If the pharaoh would do something like that, or refuse to see it for the wrong that it is, then I wouldn’t be on his side anymore.”

The shock was back, doubled up. The thief’s eyes softened for the first time he’d ever seen - so much so that he thought Ryou may have replaced him. “You really would help me, wouldn’t you? What would your other lover have to say about such a thing?”

Yugi steeled. “Why don’t you ask him?” The thief’s nose wrinkled and Yugi sighed. “Not now, I seems like we’re going to be rescued here pretty soon. Whatever your bribe did must have caused more damage than intended.”

Bakura flicked his eyes to the ground, where a few ladders had been set up for the lower gondolas to evacuate, and an obnoxious hammering clicked away beside them. “Hm.” He turned back to Yugi. “The host is nearly done with my masterpiece.”

“Then I’ll help him finish, if he’ll have me.”

“Pfft, I’m sure he will. Yadonushi complains that I’m making him do it but he loves painting all that crap.”

“Does he really appreciate being called ‘host’ and ‘landlord’?”

“I’m not extra concerned about what he appreciates. I’m not going to dignify him with his name.

“Ohhh, I’ve definitely heard you say his name.” Yugi giggled and leaned his head over onto the thief’s shoulder to an annoyed grunt in reply. He fished a few mini bottles of fireball whiskey out of his jacket pocket and presented one to the man whose beer he’d stolen. “Peace offering?”

Bakura perked up. “Asshole, you’ve been holding out. I love these.”

“I know. Ryou tipped me off. I was saving them for the Tunnel of Love, but since we’re stuck…”

“Rather think I found my own up here though, don’t you?”

“Ha ha, that’s usually the joke, yes.”

“If the Palace had made anything like this boozy dessert they’d have gotten me to drink myself to death before I became a legitimate threat.”

Yugi paused to let the cinnamon soothe his throat. “What car are you going to steal for the way home?”

The thief smirked and swung an arm over Yugi’s shoulder, leaning in so the scent of him was the herbal sweetness and sting of the alcohol mixed with cologne. “What have you always wanted to drive?”

Chapter Text

“, no, Father, I’m not sure what those charges are for. It was probably something for school and I just don’t remem...ah, no, it wouldn’t be that either.” A pause. “Well, if you must know, I don’t think I’ve paid for a drink at a bar in more than a year. At...yes, at least I’m socializing! Uh, actually, yes I suppose I am seeing someone, how did you…? Oh...rather famous, around here anyway...oh, of course, a great student too. I’m...I’m glad you approve. Okay...okay, yes Father. I’ll talk to you again in a few weeks. Mm hmm. Goodbye.” The red circle on the screen pulsed for End Call, but his father must have hit it before him and the screen faded black again.

He rubbed circles into his temples and fired a spurt of annoyance at the spirit for using his credit card out of turn. Of all the times it actually would have been appropriate for him to steal…! Of course, Ryou suspected the spirit had done it intentionally to ‘prank’ him God knew how long ago. 

He pretended, though, for a few wistful minutes, that the thief had goaded the elder Bakura with a few suspicious charges because he knew that Ryou enjoyed hearing from the only person left on the planet that Ryou could call family. The man had been distant, using his money as a stand-in for love since all of his actual love was reserved for his ‘new’ family (‘The Replacements’, the spirit had said with derision. Ryou had put the Ring in the freezer and cried for days.)

He had seemed to take the news that Ryou was dating men about as apathetically as anything else, maaaybe tipping on the side of disappointment, but the reaction had certainly been more favorable for him than some of his gay classmates so he considered himself fortunate on that front. His father really only seemed to care if his studies were going well, since he paid for the tuition and very nice apartment (albeit with less-than-stellar security, if the pharaoh was able to intrude without even using magic). Maybe he saw his only son as some kind of investment? His wealth had come from the finance world, after all, and his interest in antiquities had come later, when Ryou’s mother insisted he spend more time at home. With her death came the disappearance of that obligation too, apparently, though his fascination with Middle Eastern history and archaeology remained.

A knock sounded at the door, light rapid-fire echoing through the wood and metal and breaking the silence that had lapsed since Ryou ended his phone call. He blinked and glanced at the clock on the microwave - 4:30? If it was Yugi, he was quite early. Aside from a few text messages, they hadn’t really interacted since he and Bakura had some version of a heated romp and row at the fair. Infuriatingly, the spirit could sift through his mind with minor effort - with the exception of their shared dreams, the reverse wasn’t quite so simple.

Through the peephole, blonde, black, and maroon greeted him, followed by curious purple eyes as Yugi tilted his head upward. Ryou smiled and gently pulled open the door. “Hello, please come in! You’re a bit early, I’m sorry to say that I haven’t started dinner yet…”

“Ryou! Oh my god, hi.” He looked nervous, frantic even. “Did you see? Oh man. Can I hug you?”

“Uh, of course, if you…” Yugi’s arms enveloped him and squeezed, and he felt heat spark at his heart before the shock settled and he returned the embrace. “It’s good to see you. Are you okay? I just got off the phone with my father, and…”

Yugi pushed back and looked at him, teeth bared in a nervous frown. “Oh man,” he said again. “I didn’t cause you any trouble did I? I feel horrible. I had no idea they were following us.”

“Why who were following you, Yugi? When?”

He rambled in reply, “I don’t really consider myself famous so it didn’t occur to me that anybody would care at all about my personal life, but some pictures of me and Bakura at the fair ended up on some shady tabloid site.”

Ryou raised an eyebrow. 

“OH GODS. Okay, maybe that didn’t come out right. None of that was on there, just some of us playing games and going on rides and...maybe kissing in the parking lot...but that’s it.”

Ryou took the phone he had outstretched and scrolled through the photos - sure enough, nothing explicit, but the content also left no illusion about the outing being romantic. He paused at one where he and Yami had gotten corndogs for dinner - Bakura had, shockingly, left him alone with the pharaoh and a nice flush from the alcohol for fifteen or twenty minutes (and then again once he and Yugi had dumped the Lambo on their return to the apartment). Another caught his eye as well - Yugi was playing some kind of game with darts with a huge smile on his face, but Bakura’s eyes from behind him were on Yugi’s face instead of the game. His expression was soft. If Ryou didn’t know the spirit better, he would have called it serenity, even affection. 

“Aw. Some of these are nice, Yugi. I’m glad of that, because my father saw them.”

“I’m so sorry, I…! Wait, you’re not freaking out?”

“No. He’s never been pleased that I’m seeing men, but if I’m going to do it I could certainly do worse than than the famous duelist, diligent academic, and upstanding citizen that is Yugi Mutou.” He tapped Yugi on the nose and led him further into the kitchen, locking the door behind him. “I appreciate you knocking this time, and then waiting to be let in, by the way.”

Yugi blushed. “No problem, um...what does Bakura think?”

“We haven’t been talking much. You?” 

Yugi looked like he understood. “We haven’t either. He’s been sulking in the Puzzle since the last time I saw you...r alter ego.”

Ryou could feel his face fall a little. “What on earth did you talk about on that Ferris wheel?”

Yugi crossed his arms and got that determined look on his face, the one he always got before a big duel. “Me helping,” he said firmly.

“You helping. You, helping the Spirit of the Ring.”


“So when you suggested a game night, your intent was to assist with the diorama?”

“I’m sorry I wasn’t more honest in my text.”

He was taken aback. “I’m grateful for an ally Yugi, and I’m glad you two are getting along, but I would prefer my apartment doesn’t get sent to the Shadow Realm because you’re antagonizing your spirit.”

“I’m…” He saw Yugi clench and unclench his fists as he turned away, partially. “I’m not trying to make him angry. I just want him to think about the fact that there might be a good reason Bakura feels the way he does. He said...that this fight, or whatever, that they have to have, for’s just between the two of them, right?”

Ryou stared, and then brushed past him on the way down the hall, Yugi following warily. “Well, since you’re early, we may as well get started on the figurines. I only have a few villages and some of the king’s guard left to finish, before assembling everything.”

Yugi stalled in the doorway to the studio as Ryou rummaged for some paints and brushes, back to him. “I’m not stupid, Ryou. Bakura didn’t show his hand but he was buzzing enough from the alcohol and the sex to let on that something a little darker than a tabletop revenge game was at work.”

“As if the Items would choose Bearers that were stupid,” came Bakura’s forboding reply before Ryou returned, massaging the back of his neck in irritation. “I’d make a comment about what a ditz Marik could be, but Bakura was convinced it was an act.”

“And you…?”

“I think wanting to shag something pretty makes people do dumb, silly things.” He hooked his middle and ring fingers into one of Yugi’s belts and pulled him around the table coyly, before shoving him into a folding chair and straddling his thighs. “And that not getting laid for a week results in dumber, sillier things,” he said at a whisper, breath tickling Yugi’s lips. He could feel the heart beneath his hands hammering as Yugi fought to control his breathing. The man still reacted wonderfully, even after all that they had done! 

Ryou had picked a small 3d-printed human figure with long hair and robes off the table and held it up between them. “You can start with this.”

“O...okay. What color are his clothes?” 

Goodness, he was taking his volunteer work seriously. “Sandy beige - commoners didn’t wear expensive dyed fabrics.”

“And his hair?”

“White. Like the rest of this village.” He gestured to a small enclave at the very edge of the room, far from the staged, drying pieces of the palace. “I like to add a few flecks of silver.”

They fell into an easygoing rhythm after an hour or so, with Ryou back and forth from the kitchen preparing something extravagant, he was sure. Yami hadn’t made a peep all day except to ask Yugi to save part of the soup he’d eaten for lunch - Yugi had ended up ordering another full bowl to-go (this restaurant made the best pozole in the city, and he’d defend that claim with every last one of his life points if it came to that). It was at least enough to convince Yugi that the pharaoh wasn’t truly mad that he had kept Bakura’s words in confidence, but he certainly had been projecting a contemplative, righteously-irritated vibe that had seeped its way between them.

Every so often Ryou would stop his detail work on one of the figures that Yugi had ham-handed and look at him, then giggle and look back down, licking his brush and dipping it back in black. Yugi felt the muscles in his mouth tug into a smile even though he wanted to lean in closer and hear what they were saying to each other now that it seemed like they were communicating more freely.

“You shouldn’t eat it,” Yugi muttered, finishing gluing another row of tiles onto a house. 

“It’s not radium paint, Yugi. Though that would be beautiful for some of the magic, don’t you think?”

“Probably safer to buy phosphorescent and a blacklight.”

He beamed. “What a wonderful idea!”

“Cool, I’ll pick some up after class tomorrow. Oh, what were you going to do for the god cards? The only monster I see so far is this one.” He held up a pearlescent white serpent he’d found in one of Ryou’s desert caves. 

“Ah. Well, Bakura can’t control the gods.”

He thought he heard the snort in Ryou’s head. “I suppose not...but I can.” Now that got Yami’s attention. 

I am entertaining this endeavor with Ryou because it seems very important to you, but I will not allow you to use the gods to help his delinquent spirit.’ 

Yugi hummed and noted that Ryou had frozen again in his work, but it wasn’t followed by any flirtatiousness this time. 

“He doubts your sincerity,” Ryou replied in a near-whisper, not breaking eye contact.

“It’s not my sincerity he should be worried about.” Telepathic grumbling echoed in his head. “Yami, maybe you should spirit out here.”

How about you retreat to the Puzzle and I’ll have a nice, long, private chat with this one?’

Yep, there it was - Yugi had no doubt that Ryou would be utterly complicit in allowing the conversation to be derailed by sex, too. Though...the chef probably wouldn’t allow his dinner to be similarly affected, so it was a tough call.

Yugi caught Ryou’s eyes again and gave him a pleading look, which seemed to work, because he said, “Bakura, you too. Don’t leave me alone with these heathens!” He winked and Yugi, curse his erratic blood pressure!, felt another blush creep into his ears. 

Not wanting to be outdone by each other, both spirits silently swirled out of their Items and perched behind their hosts, glaring.

“Look at all of us!” Yugi exclaimed, “hanging out, like friends!”

Ryou snickered and poked a finger at the shoulder of his near-twin, finger pushing through it like clouded, glowing plasma. Yugi knew he had to be a little bit careful...the last time he and the pharaoh had actually interacted in their bodies it had resulted in literal fisticuffs. 

Bakura decided to speak first, because Yugi knew it would drive him nuts not to get all his quips in. “How dare you use that filthy f-word in Yadonushi’s house.” 

“Silence, pest,” Yami groaned. “Your voice infuriates me and you have no right to speak to my vessel in that manner.”

“Can’t you two try to find something you have in common, maybe? I mean, you both like Duel Monsters, right?”

“Good thinking, Yadonushi.” Bakura tapped his chin, pretending to be deep in thought. “Something in common. Hm. Oh, I know! We’ve both been inside your host!”

Yami snarled. Yugi responded, holding his arm in front of the spirit as if it would do any good, “Okay, progress, I guess? You both think Ryou and I are alright?” His phone chimed and he looked down at the screen on the table absently. “Hooo boy. Looks like the rest of the cavalry got ahold of that article.” Duke had texted his own headline, Fangirls everywhere devastated as two of the hottest men in dueling go off with each other. Anzu responded, Fanboys slightly more encouraged, now believe they totally have a shot.  

“What article?” asked Yami. 

“Haven’t you been paying attention, Pharaoh? Some aspiring artist in the fine field of shitty Instagram photography got hot pics of me snogging your host after he rode me on the wheel.”

Yugi buried his face in his hands.

Ryou checked his notifications too as the two men continued to snipe at each other over their heads (at least they were talking?). “Oh my! Looks like Marik saw it too.”

Bakura halted his next insult at the mention of his favorite Battle City booty call. “Nice. Is he jealous? Tell him the only way to reclaim my love is to get on a plane right now.” He turned back toward Yugi. “Yugi, I will give up on my revenge at this very moment if you agree to a steamy three-way.”

“Done! Do you want to call Marik or should I?”

Aibou!” Yami stuttered disbelievingly. 

“Would you rather play the shadow game, Other Me?”

“Love?” Ryou asked quietly, but nobody heard him.

“Fuck, I mean, maybe the Ring should have picked you, Yugi.”

“Or literally anyone else,” Ryou sighed. 

“Ouch, Yadonushi. The Ring ended up with plenty of ambitious souls, who were all driven to madness by my incredible power.”

“More likely by your incredible ability to be aggravating,” the pharaoh responded, wafting his hand through a few of the stone monster slabs. 

Bakura appeared to ignore the jibe. “I’m serious, Pharaoh, what did your host want? To be good at cards? Ryou couldn’t be bothered with any of my gifts. Check this out.” He bent over toward Ryou and caressed his hair, causing Ryou to shiver - if this was another of his manipulative tricks…“Precious host. How would you like to live forever?”

This line of questioning again? But with an audience this time. “No, Bakura.” 

“See? He doesn’t want immortality or extreme shadow powers. He’s the worst Item Bearer of all time.”

“The box the Puzzle was in did say something about the ‘knowledge and powers of darkness’,” Yami said, frowning.

“Right?” Bakura agreed, “Taunts to attract powerful hosts for our Items, true titans of magic. And instead we got a couple of gay nerds.”

“I’m not gay!” said Yugi happily, and Ryou didn’t argue with him despite having substantial evidence to the contrary.

“I’ve rejected this premise a hundred times and if it has to be a hundred-and-one, then so be it. If I stayed alive here I would never see Mom or Amane again.”

“And there he is, Captain Buzzkill. You know, I don’t bring up my dead mother and sister when you’re trying to get me to accept the ‘power of friendship’ and shit.”

Ryou felt his expression twist with misery before he could stop it; he caught it mirrored by Yugi when they exchanged a glance across the room, both frozen with brushes in hand. The pharaoh, who had been diligently inspecting his transparent spirit nails, looked up and blinked.

Bakura frowned. “What?”

Ryou set his brush and figure softly on the mat in front of him and turned to face him. “You’ve never...I watch them burn almost every night, but you’ve never acknowledged them to me. Any of them.”

“Sometimes it’s hard to tell where my memories end and yours begin, Yadonushi,” Bakura replied, sounding actually serious for the first time that evening. “I don’t even remember their faces. When I have that dream, and smell the burnt flesh and twisted metal, I see your family instead.”

“What happened to them?” asked Yugi quietly.

Ryou flattened his voice without looking back at him. “Car accident. Before I really knew there was another mind in the Ring. The spirit saved me, but sometimes I wish he hadn’t.” He could hear his heartbeat in his ears and wondered if he shouldn’t have admitted that.

Yugi had crossed the room at some point to kneel before him, arm stretching to push stray white locks behind his ear. “I’m glad you’re here, Ryou.” It was said with such sincerity that Ryou’s breath caught in his throat, esophagus tight with the effort of concealing tears that he thought had dried up years prior. He couldn’t show that kind of weakness in front of the spirit again.

He wondered if the thief saw their position for the miracle reflection that it was - a modern copy of the pharaoh, bowing to him. Maybe that’s why he was so enamored with the fellatio, come to think of it - there was nothing lewd about Yugi’s gesture this time, though Ryou’s blood would have surged anyway.

The pharaoh looked at Bakura stoically, who flipped him off for good measure before absorbing back into the Ring without saying anything else.

The next time Yugi came over, he brought glow-in-the-dark paint and 3d-printed monsters in various stages of assembly. Ryou fawned over the Sky Dragon while Bakura eyed it skeptically from the back of his mind.

“Yugi the detail on this is incredible, did you code it yourself?”

“Oh, not really, I started with a Blue-Eyes template Kaiba posted and went from there. His second mouth still looks wonky because I’m not a very good artist. You are though, Ryou! Maybe you can help me out.”

“Ah yes,” he smirked, fluttering his eyes, “with your aesthetic and my programming skills combined, together we can be….mediocre.”

Yugi laughed. “Get the Venn diagram right and our stuff would be awesome!”

“We’ll get it right.”

They enjoyed a routine for several weeks, with Yugi finding time to assist every couple of days in between classes and tournament victories. He asked once which one of them was actually duelling and got a cryptic answer when Yugi was usually forthright - he said it was both of them, but with the pharaoh’s physicality and countenance, on account of him being more theatrical. Ryou watched the streams eagerly, to Bakura’s annoyance, but the only person he could see on the stage was the king.

Bakura had isolated him almost entirely during Battle City, of course, but Ryou never disclosed to Yugi or any of the others, even Marik, that he had put together the deck. As if the fact that he wanted to help the spirit with his mission was shameful...Yugi himself didn’t seem ashamed in the slightest. Then again, he didn’t exactly have enough information for it to be an informed choice. But, did any of them? Nevertheless, Ryou couldn’t entertain the thought of discouraging him.

“How many more sessions do you think we need?” asked Yugi one Sunday after a sweet brunch date that Bakura claimed ‘had given him diabetes’. 

“Hm, probably a few more days to finish the palace and put the final touches on the rest of the monster stones, before we pack everything up to take to the museum.”

Yugi set the three unfinished gods and a few of the other monsters in the sand and swirled it around. “You know, Ryou, what you and Bakura have come up with here is really neat. You should pitch it to Kaiba.”

“Seto said something similar to Ishizu. The Ishtars rambled about it being blasphemous, but something tells me the Ring spirit isn’t a stranger to sacrilege.” He smiled at the understatement. “What would Yami say?”

The shift was almost imperceptible with his back turned. Yami looked back at him. “Duel Monsters is based on our history, so it’s not without precedent. This feels a little more intimate though.” He hadn’t commented often, either hoping to conceal what he remembered or that he remembered very little. Neither Ryou or Bakura could discern which, even though Bakura kept trying to get a rise out of him with practiced jeers he claimed to have used the first time around.

“Our?” Ryou said sweetly.

“Mine and the Ring spirit’s, yes,” Yami said, not catching the edge. “He was as eager an architect of shadow games as the High Priest and myself, if Duelist Kingdom and Battle City...and this display...are any indication.”

This display indeed - the premise that Bakura had described to Yugi involved a shadow duel to the worse-than-death the first time around that had ended in both of them losing. Ryou suspected, though, that the former pharaoh had used his immense power and the Puzzle to put a pin in it, some kind of stalemate that had thousands of years to fester in the shadows of the Items. Maybe ‘Millennium Grenade’ was more apt since Bakura was planning to pick up where they left off.

And Plan should be capitalized in his head, because unlike Marik’s half-baked gambling schemes or Duke and Joey’s dice rolls to gain an unsure advantage, Bakura was well-aware that Luck - the concept, the probability, the deity, whatever she was, had never been on his side. The only reliable thing in the world was the meticulous Plan for revenge.

That’s why Ryou was so surprised to find the spirit so receptive to physical affection - first as a way to placate his host, but he made no effort after the first couple of times to conceal how into it he was. And then, on top of all that, he’d found himself liking Yugi. Well, those weren’t the words he used...he’d said something about not hating him, but that was practically a proclamation of love after how emotionally constipated he’d been since he first possessed Ryou’s body.

Any and all of that, though, had been met with quiet, dark opposition from deep within the Ring, that tolerated the pharaoh’s closeness until it didn’t anymore. 

Something triggered it when they met at the apartment that night. The first clue that something was wrong was a sudden pit of nausea in Ryou’s stomach. Yugi, concerned, had gone to brew ginger tea while the pharaoh and the thief prattled on with their standard bickering in spirit form. He could feel those hourglasses pulse from where Bakura had stashed them away in one of the cabinets above the window in the studio.

This wasn’t...he couldn’t, not now, with the diorama half-composed, the rest in disarray and staged for packing, in his gods-damned apartment and not the sprawling void of the Domino Museum basement. The Ishtars’ magic thousands of miles away; his lovers’ magic, too close.

He yelped as the spikes dug into his chest. “Bakura, it hurts...stop it…” he choked, five spots of blood emerging on his shirt and coalescing like a grotesque crimson inkblot. The other two misinterpreted the plea.

Yugi dropped the two saucers of tea he had returned with from the kitchen, rushing to his side. He looked frantically at the spirit. “Bakura, stop.”

NOW.” came the vicious command of the pharaoh who had grabbed the collar of his equally transparent counterpart.

“Let go of me!” Bakura growled.

“You let go of Ryou. What has gotten into you?”

“It’s NOT ME,” he insisted, voice uncharacteristically anxious. Oh, but he had cultivated such a careful alliance with the demon, right? "You have to...Ryou, you have to let me back in. Ryou. Ryou.”

His eyes...the same as when his family was murdered with fire. Utter dread. Still connected, he could feel both of their hearts break as they stared at one another.

Ryou hardened himself. He wasn’t going to stop this outright, and he certainly wasn’t going to throw the spirit back under the proverbial Shadow Bus, but he had magic too and could stall just like the pharaoh had. He had long before cast a protection spell for Yugi, back when Bakura had first expressed any interest at all, actually, and...if it was enough, to shield him now, then he could play the game…

Win this time,” he managed, to everyone in particular.

His consciousness collapsed, and with it, Bakura’s Plan.

Bakura’s perception didn’t even fade; one second, he was in Ryou’s second bedroom, and the next, he was in the midst of an aggressive procession in the pharaoh’s throne room, a dead body at his feet and a colossal white serpent behind, flanked by a dozen of his closest frenemy thieves. 

Yami stood before him at the throne itself, taller, tan, resplendent, his vermillion eyes cold and accusatory. 

“Ohhhh fuck...shit,” Bakura said articulately.

Chapter Text

This was early. This was way too early. His mind clamored for the words he had masterfully composed to give his ultimate revenge speech the grandeur it deserved, at this exact moment, when he intended the game to start. 

But instead of being up there he was, well, down here, and instead of him actually leading the charge from the comfortable recline of the game master, he was a player in the palace, unprepared in front of the one man he swore never to be unprepared to face again.

He looked to his right; a trio of well-endowed belly dancers, frozen with fear. He looked to his left; monsters shadow-summoned from the pharaoh’s entourage to attack his Ka, held back by a shield from one of Bakura’s dull-witted, but loyal, associates. Skyward, the palace was open to the stars, because Ryou had removed the roof to place the pharaoh’s guard.

Bakura. Ba-ku-ra. He felt the syllables on his tongue, even though his tongue was inside his brain. The name wasn’t his, it was something nonsensical purloined. But it’s what he kept turning over in his thoughts anyway, in lieu of something like his original name. 

All of these assessments he made in a fraction of a second, the fraction being the time he had left to decide what the fuck to do about the demon co-opting his host. He glanced back up at the pharaoh, magic congealed around both their bodies, dark and mired with the stale rage of a rivalry that neither of them had the detail of memory to really process. Yugi hadn’t even said as much, but it was obvious.

Yugi. Yugi, Yugi Yugi, Yugi. He didn’t care what Yugi thought. He didn’t care what his host thought! Whatever stupid bubble of contentment they had tricked him into entering had been popped with his dislocation from the demon, right? 

And wasn’t that something else? He had been so used to the shadows numbing his emotions that the feeling of being back in his own head felt ironically bereft. To think that Ryou’s magic, green and untrained, had been able to accomplish something of that magnitude...maybe he had underestimated his host after all.

So, was the enemy before him complete in his power, flush with the memories of his past, and ready to engage him in the first of many battles that had decimated his Court and trapped them in the Items?

Or...he squinted...was he just as confused and putting on a show? He gambled (something he hated to do) on the latter. His thieves had knives at the throats of the Necklace and the Scale, and he beckoned his Ka to slither toward the Ring-Bearer. 

“Greetings, Pharaoh! I do hope I didn’t ruin your little...celebration,” he chuckled, stepping forward and regaining his composure. “Unfortunately, I need the Millennium Items to complete my work, so if you’ll kindly hand them over…” 

“Bakura, what is the meaning of this?” the pharaoh hissed, practically pushing his loyals aside to approach him in a brazen display of a complete lack of self-preservation instinct.

“You know his name?” a brown-haired woman asked, eyes wide and looking even more confused than her king.

Some other moron said, “The seven Millennium Items maintain order in this world, and a miscreant like you could not possess one. Your heart is full of evil! Your soul will burn and…!”

“Oh good gods I completely forgot about you,” the thief interrupted. “Stop telling me things that excite me.” He smoothed down his red cloak, tapped his foot impatiently on the sarcophagus before him, and grumbled. His fingers itched for the Ring. A flash, then...of Pegasus unconscious, when he had used Ryou’s pocket knife to retrieve the Eye... it made him want to do it all over again to this piece of shit. 

The old man balked as if Bakura’d shat on his brother’s grave...which, considering that was precisely whose tomb he had plundered and whose corpse lay before them, made his whining a bit more understandable. 

The pharaoh was close enough now for him to put his Plan B into action, snatching a dagger from his belt and twisting behind the king to bring the razor-sharp blade to his pretty, cinnamon neck. Maybe the pharaoh wasn’t such an idiot after all; he went slack and didn’t fight Bakura’s grip on his wrists. 

“Get me the Ring,” he whispered.

Yami protested in a copied hush, “Why should I? These people are clearly on my side and I will order them to attack us and execute you without regard for my own life if you don’t explain yourself as I insisted earlier.” His eyes flitted between the Ring-Bearer and the serpent Ka. 

Bakura tch’d with his tongue. “Not exactly the best environment for that particular conversation, but if I can give you the short version that our hosts are fucked if we don’t figure this out I’d say it’s to your advantage to cooperate with me, wouldn’t you?”

The pharaoh of yore may have been able to disintegrate him with the Puzzle in this position. He may have been able to summon his god spirits to tear apart the thief’s Ka, tell his Court to attack, tell his servant girls to tear off their bras as a distraction, but his fondness for their hosts was so predictable it was musical. 

“Stay back,” the pharaoh commanded as they encroached. “Mahad, give him the Ring.” They, particularly the High Priest that resembled Seto Kaiba, looked dumbfounded. 

“Yes!” Bakura said, forgetting his speech. “Stay back! Except for the Ring guy.”

“My king!” exclaimed the Ring guy, “you cannot possibly intend for…”

“I do, Mahad. Please, trust me.”

“Idiot...I killed you for it last time. Hand it over,” Bakura demanded, becoming increasingly worried about the slightly less- but still-vulnerable tactical position he’d wormed into without a careful Plan in place. 

The stunned Priest looped the cord over his neck and thrust it out to Bakura, who snatched it with his free hand like it belonged to him, which it did.

He inched them toward a precarious exit, dull thump of blood tapping his wrist where it splayed across the king’s neck, and honestly, the other man’s heart rate should have been faster for all the adrenaline and fear that was definitely warranted by Bakura’s palace takeover.

Once he was sure he had a swift and faultless exit strategy, corridors of the Palace he’d cased a million times clicking into place within his reforming memory, he improvised. “Uh...fuck all of you. Bring the rest of Millennium Items to Kul Elna and I will return your king to you. Everyone else, retreat, we have what we came for.”

He didn’t wait around to see what happened as chaos enveloped the throne room. His Ka barricaded their exit and he flung the pharaoh in front of him, kicking at his heels. “Run, moron! Stables!”

Yami turned his regal head over his shoulder in a full-stop, blinking. Bakura sighed. “Left at the next corridor, down the stairs, right, more stairs, outside across the gardens. I’m not carrying your dead fucking weight over my shoulder. GO.”

He did.

The thief’s escape was so antithetical to his initial fiery-arrowed storm of the Palace Guard that nobody thought to even check the Royal Asshole Exit or whatever dumb title was carved into the stone at the entryway. His Ka had dissolved back into the contraption on his forearm, that he was certain he’d stolen, because nobody in Egypt was just granted the ability to summon monsters at will, nobles excepted maybe. They were half-again outside the city gates in the desert before the cadre of magical priests even realized they had bailed, Bakura was sure. 

“Let’s go Pharaoh, I’m kidnapping you,” he had said. 

The pharaoh snorted. “Please. I’m not Mokuba. This is just standard subterfuge.” He was conversing with a stable servant, who seemed to be grabbing a prepared set of items and configuring them on a couple of horses for them to take. Steal. Bakura was stealing. The horses, and the king.

The boy said something in their language that he didn’t quite catch, being substantially out of practice. “Did he ask if you wanted your ‘bug-out bag’?”

Yami raised an eyebrow as he affixed the pack to the most majestic horse in the stable, which had already been saddled by the servant. “Not the first time I’ve taken off in the night, if this young man’s account is reliable. Which, since this reality seems to be constructed from our memories, I would imagine it is...don’t worry,” he winked, “I’ve sworn him to secrecy.” 

Bakura was glad that it was dark. Otherwise, the king and the kid would have seen him flush with...pure rage. Anger and hate! He pulled his red cloak away from his pectoral and glanced down to check his skin...brown, good, and a nasty scar. Even better! No longer beholden to the practically transparent complexion of his host, he could blush with abandon and not worry about being accused of an unsavory emotional reaction. Which he didn’t have anyway, but he wouldn’t want anybody to be confused about it.

Away from the minor light pollution of the city, the sky was magnificent. The starscape above them was so different from the one he had observed through Ryou’s modern eyes he was shocked - no wonder he couldn’t recognize any constellations. 

They had deviated from a road Bakura knew well, its offshoots carefully constructed in the diorama, enough to avoid any standard palace pursuers, before the night settled into true darkness before the dawn. It was better to travel at night of course, when it was cool, but the weariness worked at his nerves as much as it must have been plaguing the horses and the pharaoh. Whose eyes were boring directly into him when he glanced over to check, as alert as ever. 

“We’re stopping here,” Bakura said, swinging his legs to the ground at a small oasis. The windchime tinkling of the Ring accompanied his descent, reminding him that he’d gotten it without killing anyone (directly, anyway). A disappointment and a relief, he supposed. The hours that had passed in absolute silence felt pretty remarkable considering he hadn’t been able to control himself for five minutes with the pharaoh’s host.

It wasn’t really the Ring, of course, no more than the Puzzle at the pharaoh’s chest was the Puzzle, though it shone in the moonlight like the real thing. He did look tired then, pressing the mass of his head and the golden crown against his palm for a moment, before starting to put together a fire pit.

“Assist, Thief,” he demanded, his first words since the stables. 

“Maybe you should have brought servants.”

He glared. “You’ve gotten us into this mess, the least you could do is…”

“The least I could do? I’m sure your host is very trustworthy and told you nothing, but surely you’ve gotten the gist of my displeasure by now.”

“His name is Yugi and…” he choked, turning away, fist curled around a golden cuff on his left wrist. He unclipped it and tossed it into the sand as if it couldn’t have fed a village for a year. “And I can’t feel him at all. Bakura, what happened?”

An empathetic void flared in his heart. Which...he hadn’t had a heart in thousands of years, so it was kind of uncomfortable. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “They weren’t supposed to be a part of this.”

The pharaoh held his fist above the pit and a fire roared to life, causing Bakura to step back on reflex. The king’s red eyes drank in the flames, such that the sudden realization of worry in them looked wrong somehow. His family’s penchant for this enemy-torching variety of primal magic is what had incited this confrontation, wasn’t it?

He pulled on its intensity immediately, and without comment, reducing it to a small, flickering ember instead of what it had been. Bakura didn’t dwell on it, just flattened out his bedroll closer to the bushes. 


The man he had been would have climaxed over an apology of any kind from the pharaoh, so why were his words so quick to stifle it? “Practicality has always outweighed my PTSD. It’s fine.”


Now, as he’d just stated out loud, Bakura was a practical man who definitely wasn’t looking at the way the offending firelight glinted off the pharaoh’s face, so reminiscent of Yugi’s but...eyes and angles that had carried something heavier. He wondered how similar their experience of being trapped in the shadows was. Ryou’s armchair psychology from his school course would have had a field day with the sudden tightening in his groin at the sight. Was it an old-baked fantasy of the pharaoh submitting to him fueling his attraction to Yugi, or the reverse making him wonder how different things would have been if Pharaoh’s ear had been receptive in the first place?

He was disrobing and removing his gold then, obscene in its mundanity, though certainly he had handmaidens attending to such things in the Palace. When his crown came off, and his collar, and the purple cloth that had covered his bare, toned shoulders, it was as though the man was reading his mind and tormenting him with it. It’s certainly something Bakura would have done, had he free reign of the king’s thoughts in return. 

“What are you doing.”

He looked up, seemingly annoyed for how stupid the question was. “Taking off all this gold. It’s heavy.” He paused, looking up at the sky and settling back onto his mat in front of the fire to uncuff the ankle pieces. “It’s meant to symbolize carrying the weight of responsibility for my people, but…” He smiled sadly, still not meeting Bakura’s gaze, “well...if I failed you so miserably, it seems I couldn’t do that either, could I?”

Bakura had conditioned himself to make the assumption that everything was a potential trap. That’s why it was so vexing that Yugi’s attention, physical and otherwise, was so unshielded. This was especially remarkable given the obvious and, frankly, justified opposition from his royal possessor. 

Even his own host was aloof in the same manner that Bakura had to be as a thief, associating with people for their utility but carefully avoiding any deeper attachments. His ‘friendship’ with Yugi and his social circle had been pushed by Bakura but executed so skillfully by Ryou that the man (men) had eventually crawled into bed with him. It’s not like that was a surprising thing, of course, since he had also succumbed to Ryou’s sensual charm. Not that he was complaining, because a satisfied host meant easier control of their game for Bakura.

Their relationship was transactional and he hated himself for wishing it wasn’t. Yugi gave freely and expected nothing, and it was such a peculiar state of being that Bakura, who had out of necessity been on his toes since the pharaoh had tried to murder him (and had succeeded in executing his family), didn’t know what to do about his addictive attention except fuck him.

So when the same thought crossed his mind about how similarly the pharaoh had just exposed himself emotionally, Bakura’s body ached to expose itself physically, right back at him.

“I thought that if I had you alone, truly alone, ever again, that I would throttle you until the light left your eyes without hesitating. Just because I’m hesitating, though, doesn’t mean I’m not going to do it.”

The king stretched and reclined, the soft glow of the stars and the fire catching the lean muscles of his arms in light and shadow. “I have no idea if you would be justified. Yugi seemed to think that you might be, but that you wouldn’t follow through with it even given the opportunity. What would death mean, in this place, anyway?”

Bakura rolled out his mat and laid down at a safe distance. Safe, for preserving a satisfactory reaction time to a surprise attack, and definitely not because he might lick the man’s throat if he was too close. “It’s careful magic designed to destroy you. I imagine it to be just like actual death, except your soul might also be annihilated in the process. Which, make no mistake, would bring me great joy.”

“And yet. I am on my back, gazing at the stars instead of evaluating and preparing a defense for your avenues of assault, and you’re contemplating what my host would think instead of killing me.”

“Get out of my head.”

“I eschewed my Court and the safety of the Palace to indulge you in this ill-conceived venture because I believe you are genuine in your desire to protect Yugi and Ryou from the demon trapped in the Ring.”

“Picked up on that did you. How astute.” He didn’t mean the existence of the demon, but that’s how the pharaoh took it.

“Yugi felt that thing before I did. Ryou’s defenses may as well be the Great Wall; I could see it from space, but without knowing anything about either side I had no idea what it was for. Its power I trapped in the Puzzle, guarded by my maze and the Dark Magician; its mind must be in the Ring. That must be very difficult for you and Ryou.”

“It was a very promising partnership until you interfered. Again.”

“Why would you make a deal with such a creature?”

“Why did your family?”

He sat up and pulsed the fire. “Bakura, I’m going to be honest with you because I don’t know how else to be. A few things have come back to me since I’ve seen...all of this...but I don’t understand enough about this contract to appreciate why you hate me so much.”

“Just go to sleep. We have a hot, shitty day ahead of us in the morning.” Evading difficult conversations was something he did well, especially when explaining himself would raise more questions than provide answers. “I’ll try not to murder you.”

From how Yami leaned on his hip and forearm, legs outstretched and thin ankles crossed, he was acting with a completely unjustified confidence, as though he hadn’t just been kidnapped at knifepoint from his own fucking house. He stroked the Puzzle with his long, thin fingers. “As we’ve seen, a copy of a god card can still wield incredible power. I imagine this can too. I gave you the Ring in this reality and I can take it away.”

“If threats get you off then go ahead and keep making them while I get some rest.” Bakura turned away from him and extended his middle finger behind his back before drifting into a choppy, tormented sleep.

Traveling through the desert sucked. He even recognized that the distance scale was distorted by Ryou’s arrangement, meaning that what would have taken him a week in his past took a day in the diorama, but it still sucked, and it was at that moment he realized that living in Ryou’s sexy body in the modern world had made Bakura, the Thief King, spongy and weak. In the head, anyway. His abs were still rock hard.

The attention they would have drawn at outposts in kings’ regalia (Bakura’s red robe stolen from a tomb, of course) would be unacceptable, so it made sense to go without. Yami had wrapped his hallmark hair in a headdress from one of his bug-out packs, offering one to Bakura as well, which he took eagerly but made a serious point not to thank him. A sandy, coarse cloak replaced the regal purple at his shoulders, and Bakura, this version of his body darker and more used to the unforgiving Egyptian sun, just freeballed it in a shendyt with no shirt to show off the aforementioned rippling torso for no particular reason.

After several hours, they sighted a tall, shiny pillar on the horizon.

“A landmark you would be familiar with?” asked the pharaoh, concerned.

Bakura, to his chagrin, didn’t have a hilarious reply. “Negative. We could avoid it, but it’d take a lot longer to bypass. Let’s hope it’s an item drop beacon for Ryou’s RPG?”

The reality, as always, was infinitely more hysterical. Bakura tried to conceal his glee as they got closer, but the outline and writing on the monument was obvious even from a distance. The flagrant, exasperated sigh and eye-rub from the man on the horse beside him indicated that he’d ‘gotten it’ too. 

Bakura encouraged his horse into a gallop to circle around it once they got close enough, cackling and waggling his knife at the plastic surface. “Got any empty clay pots, Pharaoh? You never know when this magical elixir may come in handy.”

The clear bottle towered several dozen stories above them, imposing and glinting and warm in the hot light of the sun. It was so unmistakably lube left in the sand of the diorama he should have picked up on it from the beginning.

Bakura asked, “Did your host accidentally leave this here, or did mine?”

“It is tough to say, considering how enthralled they were by each other when the two of us were being difficult.”

“I’m never difficult! And there was never any need for lube in the comfort of the Ring, though it did come in handy as a spirit on the outside.”

“To answer your earlier question, tapping this...resource...will not be necessary. Should you find yourself in a situation where you need to seduce an NPC, I have plenty of almond oil in my provisions.”

Bakura snickered still, but filed the information away. Luckily, Ryou had planted a bag of figs and beer nearby, so the venture wasn’t an entire comical waste.

The instant they came upon another turn of the Nile was pure relief, for both of them, though spoiled, privileged Yami showed it and Bakura did not. He swept into the cool river with a groan that Bakura recognized as pretty fucking similar to the one Ryou was able to elicit from him in the throes of passion, and tried to convince himself that the sudden burst of irritation was from the king reaching the water before him and not jealously fed by heat-delirium.

Bakura stepped carefully down the shore and into the current, cupping his hands to take a generous sip before sinking completely underneath, cool waves licking at his hair and relieving him of the dirt and sweat that had accumulated during their travels. It made sense to soak his clothes too, though he pretended desperately not to notice that Yami had shed his and was washing them with the shallow depth of the water lapping at his naked waist. He’d say that the river was concealing all the good bits but his torso and wet hair clinging to the sides of his face along with the determined expression was a pretty good bit too.

He submerged again and got a few good breast strokes in before gasping for breath at the surface, wringing out his white hair and shaking some liquid out of his ear ungracefully. He was tapping on the side of his head as the shendyt fluttered about his thighs when he noticed the king watching him. Not one to be outdone by a sensual display, he made his intentional by untying his only garment and wringing it out, arching his back as he did so and casting a Yugi-reserved wink at his enemy-turned-whatever-this-was.

The king colored very, very satisfyingly and huffed, pivoting away, but Bakura recalled a memory of Ryou tied up oh-so-prettily and asking him if he wanted to fuck the king, and it’d be hard to deny with his back turned and ass tantalizingly concealed by the semitransparence of the river.

He was gone then, though, filtering through the reeds and back to the horses, dressed in an instant, and Bakura pretended like he wasn’t disappointed.

Their fire that night was a little more lively given the temperature drop, and the uncertainty Bakura had showed the first evening he had carefully stowed away despite the unnecessary compassion and concern from his counterpart. They had found one of the thief’s favorite caves, rife with spacious accommodations and good ventilation, so he was in decent spirits.

“We need a New Plan,” he said after another agonizing twenty minutes of silence, melodically intoning the name of said new plan as if it were a holy text. Not that actual holy texts read aloud in the temples he plundered had ever given him any comfort. Grounding himself in strategy was the only way out of this mess.

The pharaoh blinked in between bites of dried fig. “What?”

“Whatever you and your host did to trigger this magic out of season has thrown my carefully-designed recipe for revenge into chaos, and you’re going to help me fix it.”

“What we did? It appeared to me that you and Ryou were the ones having difficulties before we were thrust into my throne room.”

“Mmm, say ‘thrust’ again.”

“Great Ra, can you focus?”

“It gets more difficult as every day wears on.” Mostly due to the disconnection, of course, and not because the pharaoh was teasing without even knowing that he was. He shook his head and pushed a tuft of white strands back across his forehead, thinking. “What was different about when Yugi came to the apartment this time?”

Realization seemed to come over the other man, then. “There was another minor break-in at the shop this past weekend. We brought the rest of the Millennium Items with us out concerns.” 

A tense cord snapped in Bakura’s head. “Oh you idiot. That concentration of powerful which of your tiny minds was it determined to be a good idea to protect the Items from petty thieves by bringing them to the doorstep of the greatest thief of all time?”

“Quit insulting me! They were still under our safeguard, ours and the Puzzle’s. We couldn’t have predicted that those in concert with the Ring would have such an effect.”

Bakura cackled, the truest supervillain laugh he could muster, to an alarmed and guarded expression from his original adversary. “Foolish Pharaoh,” he said, more delighted than he should be certainly. “You believed I only had the Ring? This is starting to make a little more sense to me now. With all seven of Its Items in one room I can understand why It became so eager.”

“How did…!?”

“I killed a couple guys, nobody will miss them. The only thing I regret is Yadonushi forcing me to learn how to launder bloodstains.”

“Hathor help us. Bakura, of all the irresponsible…”

“I know, right? We should have just bought new clothes but he gets emotionally attached to particular shirts.”

“That is not what I…”

Bakura held up his hand, a tacit command this time returning them to silence, which the king obeyed, incredibly, by shutting his mouth. He felt something in the deepest recesses of his rogue senses, undulled by the transition to the game board, and knew better than to ignore the instinct. The look in his eyes that Yami saw must have carried the same seriousness for it to put him on edge as well. “Who are you?” he asked, glancing toward the mouth of the cave. 

Nothing, for a moment. Then another. He smirked, because he smirked when he was sure. “Pharaoh,” he addressed, “someone has been following us since not long after we departed the palace. If I had perceived a threat I would have nullified it, but this presence seemed more watchful than dangerous, so I held my tongue to see what it would do.”

The pharaoh cocked an eyebrow and thumbed the Puzzle. “I sensed as much as well, but I had hoped…” He stood, turning his head toward the entrance. “...I had hoped it was Yugi making some kind of play.”

“If he has control of your side of the board, then that’s almost a certainty regardless.”

“And what side of the board are you on, Bakura?”

His thoughts fizzled out of his ear. “That should have an obvious answer.” As much to himself as to the pharaoh, because it should be obvious to both of them that his piece should be but was not being wielded by the demon, but it was baffling as to why that would be the case. 

“Reveal yourself,” the king commanded, and though his gold was tucked away on his resting horse, his presence was still so daunting a voice returned,


The brown-haired woman with the funny hat from the throne room popped into existence at the mouth of the cave, looking sheepish. She was twiddling her fingers and looking guiltily at Yami, who glowered. “Who are you?” he questioned.

Bakura scoffed. “I asked that five minutes ago!”

“Can you be silent for a single important moment?”

The girl had the gall to giggle as she erupted into a steep bow. She still looked kind of taken aback by the question, though. “Ah, well I...I am Mahad’s apprentice, my Pharaoh. Has this…” she glanced at Bakura, but there was no anger in her eyes, “...sorcerer affected your memory?”

He looked surprised for a moment and then turned his face back to the fire. “I don’t think so,” he said. “I believe my forgetfulness was my own doing, in one way or another.” He looked back up at her then, concentrating, trying to recall...he stepped forward, slowly at first, and then at a rapid gait, before catching the woman in an embrace that she seemed shocked by but returned eagerly. “I don’t know who you are, but I feel I can trust you.”

“A…” she started, before realizing her mistake…”I...I’m Mana. I’m your friend. You can trust me.” She pulled back and looked at him. “Mahad was very concerned. He sent me after you.”

“If they knew where I was going, then why…?” 

Bakura had had enough. He couldn’t recall this person being with the king at any of his royal proceedings. Everyone, including the Court of his Item-Bearers, had been just as distant with him as everyone else in the kingdom, what with their handling him like an untouchable fucking GOD, and he couldn’t count the number of times he’d looked at him from the rafters during some dumb holy festival and thought, ‘Wow, he looks as lonely as I am’. You know, only he deserved it. To have his fantasy of a suffering, king...unraveled was annoying. 

“Look, lady, I don’t know who you think you are but you need to fuck off before you get sucked into this nonsense.”

“Ahhh,” she said, dislodging herself from the king’s embrace and hopping over to him, like way too closely for it to be unintentionally close. Bakura could smell perfume and magic and suppressed the sudden urge to rip a dagger from his belt and stab her. The startled purse of his lips at his hesitance must have settled any residual trepidation the pharaoh or she might have had, because she plopped on the mat next to him in her short linen tunic and deposited her staff at the fire circle. “Okay. I think I understand now.”

“Understand what?!”

Yami walked slowly back over to them and sat on her opposite side. The only jewelry he’d put back on at the beginning of the day were his arm cuffs and belt, and they shone brightly and reflected off her eyes as she watched him, paying no heed to the very serious threat that Bakura was. 

“That was a very convincing kidnapping, by the way, the only reason you didn’t trick Mahad was because you asked for the Ring, Pharaoh.” She reached out and flicked one of the spines, and Bakura swatted her hand away, deeply offended as if she’d diddled one of his ticklish toes instead. “You’re the Thief King, are you not?”

She was looking at him. That was clearly a question for him. “No, I’m your uncle’s second cousin’s milkmaid, obviously, obviously, yes I am the Thief King.”

“More like Thief of Kings, am I right?” She nudged him with an elbow and winked, tittering. His countenance softened instantly. 


“Mana, I hate to agree with this ingrate about anything, but he’s right that you should avoid our confrontation. We don’t know how this is going to end.”

“Nobody knows how anything is going to end,” she said, capturing a dinner fruit from in front of Bakara like a thief in her own right and chewing on it thoughtfully. “We just wanted to make sure this was something you staged and not a legitimate enemy.”

“I am completely, on every conceivable front, a legitimate enemy. I have been designing this revenge for thousands of years, it’s just a little...premature.”

“Riiiight. Revenge. And…” She caught the pharaoh’s face then, twisted in concern but looking away from them, and stalled. “Um. Okay, well, I’m definitely not here to judge, but that seems a little harsh even for lovers.”

Yami balked and Bakura laughed. “Wait, I’m sorry, what is it that you think is happening here?”

She cringed and re-crossed her legs in the other direction. “I didn’t intend to cockblock, I will leave right now and camp out of earshot! I’m so sorry!”

Yami was nearly the color of his eyes, and Bakura relished in it while laughing. “Oh good gods. She thinks we’re fucking. I mean it’s not entirely far-off from what’s going on, is it?”

“It certainly is, very far off, and…”

“Wait so…” Mana started, trying to put incomplete pieces together. “I’ll go ahead and refresh your memory. The first assignment your father ever gave you was to arrest and execute the white-haired demon that was terrorizing the outskirts of the city with his band of thieves. You played this game for years, and would go on and on about how cunning he was, but he eluded you, only just, every time. Every other responsibility you ever assumed, magic or otherwise, you carried out with absolutely ruthless precision, so I just assumed that…” 

“So you think that I arranged for the Thief King to abscond with me because I am in love with him.”

Well, you were kind of an impetuous prince - you took off with a light-haired Nubian noble when you were fourteen and didn’t return for months. I mean, I can’t fault your taste though, he was incredibly hot and this one is even more gorgeous than he was.” She gestured with her chin toward Bakura, who flashed his winning smile, made slightly crooked by the raised scar on his cheek. 

“I take back everything negative I’ve said, Pharaoh. I’ve decided I like her.”

“Good to know that flattery is all it takes with you.”

“Go on, try a nice compliment out on your tongue and see how it tastes.”

“I did hear you tell Seth once that you were ‘impressed with his skillful tactical evasion’,” Mana contributed, imitating the last bit.

Bakura circled his fingers around his areolae. “Ohhh, baby, that’s so hot, tell me how sexy I am doing Ryou’s taxes next.” He and Mana erupted into laughter while the pharaoh moped.

She wiped a tear dramatically. “Who is Ryou?” she asked.

Bakura was finding it increasingly difficult to keep troublesome emotions off his face. “A co-conspirator,” he said flatly, hoping she would drop it.

“Mana, we are not...this is not what it, apparently, looks like,” the pharaoh said, rescuing him kinda sorta.

She sighed. “All of the magicians can feel that something is off. A lot of shadow magic is in the air. If this is a bad omen of the end for us, then you are wasting it being celibate.”

Mana, please I…”

She furrowed her brow and shook her head, capturing a serious expression that filled her brown eyes with the same concern she had shown earlier. “I understand, my Pharaoh. People you love are in danger.”

“I bet she has quest info we need to unlock a weapon, or something.”


“Well she’s clearly more important than an NPC, so I’m sure seduction is out of the question, but Ryou would have included something like this and Yugi would be smart enough to figure it out if he was playing the pharaoh’s Court.”

Mana’s look was blank. “I’m not going to pretend to understand who or what you’re talking about, Thief King Bakura.”

Bakura snapped his fingers. “Maybe that’s it.”

Mana and the pharaoh exchanged a look.

“I have a piece of it, of course. The demon from the Shadow Realm has a name. I have a feeling you will need it to use your Puzzle. You know as well as I that a name wields its own magic.” He paused, gesturing nonchalantly with the knife he was flipping over in his hand. “Marik’s little secrets suggested that you would need yours as well. Happen to know it?” he directed at the other man, pouting innocently.

“If you’re looking for something to scream out when you’re pleasuring yourself later, ‘My pharaoh’ will do fine.”

“Am I supposed to pretend like you weren’t eye-fucking me in the river this morning as you say that judgmentally?”

Mana had dissolved into giggles beside him, little sparks of electric magic shooting from her toes into the dirt.

He dodged, “And what exactly would you know about the Ishtars’ legacy?”

“I spent a considerable amount of time looking at the clan leader’s back, if you recall.”

The pharaoh looked at him coolly. “I have doubts that you can interpret that kind of scripture.”

“The kind that can only be recorded in flesh? Of course I can’t. I wasn’t raised surrounded by scholars hoping for the chance to wipe my ass. A creepshot photo wouldn’t have worked either, so I didn’t try it lest the same thing happen to the phone as what happened to Marik’s brother using the copy of Ra - yeesh.

“A memory though, a description, reproduction of the bits and pieces that weren’t dangerous on their own - that worked splendidly after coaxing an Ishtar Clan antiquities rival to fly from Cairo to Domino and translate it.”

“It seems pretty low to use both of them like that, even for you, Thief.”

“Ha! I’m certainly clever, no arguments there, but I’m not that clever with connections. The whole scheme was orchestrated by my host, who saw the opportunity to finally get something useful from his father besides cash...well, and the Ring of course.” Bakura jiggled the pendant and it shimmered. 

“That kind of appeal may have the desired emotional reaction from Yugi, but I’m just as impressed by Ryou as when he threatened to sever one of my major arteries.”

Bakura grunted in irritation. So what if he was trying to get a rise because of Yugi’s sentiment? That wasn’t the point, though. “Sometimes I wonder how you make it through the day. If my host knows what you need, genius, then so does the demon. Do you know your true name or not?”

He looked conflicted, like revealing this information was the final nail in the coffin that would be him admitting their temporary alliance was real. “Not,” he said, making eye contact across the fire, and the stare was heated but the flames weren’t the reason.

Bakura leaned forward and met it with equal fervor. The nerves beneath his skin tickled with the urge to hover closer, to press their skin together. “Then we have no real weapon against this thing. I needed your body and your Puzzle to unseal the gateway, you’re ill-equipped to protect either of those things, and you didn’t even have a defense strategy?” He changed direction to curl an arm around Mana’s shoulders instead. “How about you, love? Why did Yugi send you after us?”

Mahad sent me after you.”

“Of course, of course.”

“Bakura, kindly take your hands off of her.”

“Don’t worry, if he does something I don’t like I’ll stop his heart,” she replied like she was talking about the weather, skating her index finger across the thief’s bare left pectoral and batting her eyes mischievously. His traitorous nipple hardened into a point.

Well, fuck...maybe he did like women too the first time around; he’d been stewing in Ryou’s hormones for so long that his cock swelled for lean muscular types with pretty eyes, and before that, the only joy was plotting his vengeance, was probably best not to think too hard about. The word ‘hard’ bounced around in his mind a few more times like a pinball before he found his focus again. As he cleared his throat to speak though, she beat him to it. 

“If it’s his name you need though, I do know it. Few are permitted to speak it aloud now that he has become pharaoh, and I am not one of them, but...I could write it for you.” 

The king looked at the thief, with mistrust he still deserved, but they wanted the same thing for now, right?

The magician girl picked up her staff and looked at her king as if asking for permission. “Go ahead,” he said. “He can’t read.” Bakura scoffed.

She nodded, tracing hieroglyphs carefully into the sand, little pictures of birds and rocks and shit that the thief recognized from the writings he’d seen in tombs but indeed had no conception of how to interpret, any more so than he had when he had run his fingers over Marik’s scars. Adrenaline surged under his skin as he looked at it, but the demon was not in his head to take advantage of the powerful secret that lay before him. It almost felt like freedom, had the thought not occurred when he was trapped in a shadow game.

The pharaoh was pensive, sounding it out in his head presumably, before he took her hand and kissed it. She blushed just as handsomely as he had earlier in the reeds. “Thank you Mana,” he said softly. “I wish I could remember more about you. Can I entrust you to ensure that the rest of the Millennium Items make it safely to Bakura’s village?”

She exhaled. “The High Priest has already set out with a caravan, following your orders. No such village exists on any of our maps though.” She put her hand on Bakura’s shoulder and he tried not to recoil at the thought. “If you could be more specific…?”

“I don’t have to. The asshole with the Eye was there the first time. With two normal eyes, though. He can lead you right to it.”

She furrowed her brow. “Priest Aknadin? But he’s…” Her words caught on her tongue, “...the pharaoh’s brother…” she finished uncertainly. 

“Sent his most trusted lackey to do his dirty work, then? I can’t say I’m surprised.”

“The Items...they were created in your village?”

“They were created with my village,” he said darkly.

She swallowed and leaned back, eyes darting between the Puzzle at the pharaoh’s neck and the Ring at his own, comprehending them with a lick of fear as the golden graveyards they were. He didn’t blame her; it’s all he could see when he looked at them too.

What he didn’t expect was to see the same dread twist into the pharaoh’s mouth, briefly, as he looked down and cradled his own talisman. The Puzzle had been his grave too, of sorts. He’d have savored the thought of the man suffering in the shadows for millennia without form or function, like he deserved and...why was he thinking in the past tense? It’s what the demon had promised.

“Mana. Leave us,” the pharaoh commanded, standing. She scuffled quickly to her feet and walked with him to the mouth of the cave. They exchanged some words that Bakura didn’t care to hear, she bowed, and then she was gone. 

The pharaoh turned back to him, stern and unemotional now, sand swirling at his feet from a gentle breeze. Bakura usually didn’t mind palpable tension in the air, but he preferred the sexual kind to whatever this was. At least he wasn’t blubbering like Yugi. 

“I’m kind of feeling like you’re the cockblock here, Pharaoh. She was totally into me!”

“Bakura, enough,” he said, almost at a whisper. He seemed to crumble then, whatever carefully-composed regality he’d put to show for his friend dissolving back into the half-human spirit that had possessed Yugi. “I don’t...I don’t know what to say to you. Why didn’t you tell me?”

He felt his blood pressure spike. “Why didn’t...why didn’t I fucking tell you? Once your old man set you after me I sure as hell tried, but you wouldn’t listen. After you became Pharaoh I couldn’t even get close. Now, when I dragged his corpse to one of your tournaments at the palace, that got your attention. It’s what I attempted to roleplay here until the demon had different ideas. You chased me through the city with your Sky Dragon and I killed your Court as they tried to defend you.” He stroked his chin thoughtfully. “Well, except for Malibu Kaiba.”

“I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that the extent of your diplomatic skills is to desecrate my father’s grave,” he said wryly, walking slowly back to their campfire. He did something completely unexpected, then, removing the Puzzle and placing it at Bakura’s dirty-ass sandaled feet, sinking to his knees in the sand in a reverent movement that may have been a bow if they weren’t on even ground. “But I suppose my wearing this isn’t much different, is it? I can’t undo what happened and I would be foolish to think I could ever make it right, but Yugi would want me to try. I want to try.”

Bakura stuttered, searching for words to stop what was coming next, but this time he wasn’t quick enough. 

“I’m sorry, child of Kul Elna.”

He let out the breath he’d been holding through his nose in a rush, suddenly furious. “Fucking...what? No! You can’t just... apologize, and take responsibility, asshole, that is...that’s…” Deeply unsatisfying, his thoughts finished in lieu of his voice.

His emotions flipped over in an instant. His much more familiar and comfortable angry stare was back. “Then what do you want from me?!

“I want you to suffer! More than me! More than them!”

“Okay. I’ll…”

“The fuck do you mean ‘okay’?! You arrogant prick! Fight me!”

“Fight you? That’s all we’ve been doing for thousands of years, and look where it has brought us! Back to this!”

Bakura’s eyes raked his body where it was still kneeling. “My fantasies about you on your knees ended up a little differently.”

The king snarled and lunged at him, shoving fiercely with both hands. Bakura didn’t have far to go, having already been in a seated position, but the force of impact still knocked the wind out of him. He pushed himself up to brace for a counterattack. “Fucking asshole!”

“Like hell I’m going to let you do that,” he stated, voice buttery and deep, and Bakura could swear he knew exactly the nerve to twist to get a rise out of him.

I mean, if they were really trying to annihilate each other in this cave, they would have used those contraptions in their bags to summon shadow creatures to fight on their behalf, or just duked it out with standard magic, but there was something raw and visceral about an actual physical brawl that breathed life into Bakura’s needy blood. It was the same feeling that had overcome his senses long enough to trick Yugi into a date, and himself into enjoying it. It was the same reason both their bodies were littered with scars from slashing and swordplay in addition to the familiar soul-drain of shadow duels.

Not one to back down from a fight, but not wanting to mess up the king’s pretty face, he shoved back but allowed the momentum to topple them over so that Bakura was stacked on top. The man struggled quite ferociously really, wild mane of colored hair kicking up sand and jewel-tone eyes alight with anger and frustration as his thin wrists were pinned above him by the thief’s bruising grip.

Bakura bared his teeth in a salacious grin and then bent forward, sinking them into the pharaoh’s neck to a delicious cry of pain that inflected upward at the tail end into an unmistakable moan. He didn’t break the skin, but when he pulled back to inspect his work, dark blood was already pooling under the surface in a delightful mark the shape of the thief’s mouth. All right, now maybe that was the kind of ‘satisfying’ he was looking for.

“You bit me,” his captive said, voice strangled with surprise.

“You liked it,” Bakura replied, pushing his knee gently in between his legs where the pharaoh was already half-hard and squirming. He managed to free his hands and grasp the thief’s shoulders, and...

And he’d never be sure which one of them moved first, but their lips were suddenly smashed together, tongues writhing over each other in their own brawl for dominance, and yes, yes, yes, Mana had had the right idea; if they were heading into a fight that may end with the two of them ceasing to exist at all, then they were wasting time arguing about emotionally draining shit when they could be fucking like animals instead.

His mind and his libido fought ruthlessly too; his hands wanted to explore every plane of muscle on the pharaoh’s well-conditioned body, to tease his fingers across all the thin, sensitive skin at his groin, to lave his tongue and teeth at dusky nipples until the man arched beneath him and begged him for more. His cock, however, just wanted to fuck the shit out of him without preamble. 

Surely those two desires could reach some sort of compromise, he thought to himself as he fished for one of the small pots of almond oil in the bag and cracked it open, dousing his fingers and grinding their arousals together between the interfering cloth of the shendyts.

The king was wrapped around him, tongue probing and hands exploring Bakura’s scarred and muscular back, his neck, his ass, and he was so deeply distracted that Bakura had a lubricated finger probing his entrance before he knew what direction this was going.

He tore himself free of the kiss and glared, clear offense written on his face. “What makes you think…”

“Divine retribution? I hardly think a mere handjob is fair, after all, you wanted to know…” He decided to throw his words back at him. “What can you do for me?” He sunk two fingers past the tight ring of muscle and twisted them. The king gasped at the intrusion and fought a wince. Bakura felt a surge of heat that threatened to end him right there at the sound of it. “That’s a start.”

With his unoccupied hand, he pulled his own garment away, gratified to see himself brown and uncut like he was in the Ring; not that he minded his hosts pale and pink engorged flesh in its stead, but his masculine pride was certainly happy with this version of events as he coated it generously with oil and moaned at his own attention. 

The pharaoh was engrossed with his activities too, eyes wide and breath hitching as Bakura tore the rest of the clothing away and wrapped both their cocks in his generous fist, stroking in earnest and returning his other fingers to their probing. “Well?” Bakura asked, thrusting with ragged composure, a boatload of questions hanging in that one word. 

“Quit teasing me,” the pharaoh snapped, and of course, of course, he could turn getting his own ass fucked into an order, but Bakura was in no state of mind to start another verbal altercation. So, he did the sensible thing and lifted up the god-king’s pretty hips by the muscular round flesh, plunging into him, and oh fuck ...the way that lithe body opened for him, swallowing him to the hilt, it was glorious, magical - he loved the way Yugi’s body moulded around him, and to think that Ryou had been enjoying them both while Bakura had been sulking like an idiot was maddening now that he had the king spread so wantonly beneath him. The four of them could have been having a wonderful time, but no. Ancient rivalry. 

And the sounds he was making, certainly not the noises that would emanate from a man making any kind of concession, and the simultaneity of his anger and arousal at the thought spilled out in words as something like, “You…” Jerk? Asshole? Shithead? “You beautiful lied to me and you love it.”

The king chuckled and bucked, sinking Bakura’s cock back into him as he pulled back, seemingly as at home on his back as he’d been above Ryou and Yugi. “I’m very attuned to what my lovers want, and their joy is mine.” He grasped a handful of Bakura’s burst of white hair and dragged him into another long, passionate kiss as the thief rocked inside him. “I can struggle and complain if you like,” he continued between pants, eyes rolling back into his head as he flexed, keening.

“No,” the word tumbled from his lips before he could think, grabbing a copper thigh to hitch over his shoulder for a change of angle. The king screamed, clutching at handfuls of the blanket under them with one hand, nails digging into Bakura’s ribs with the other. “You’re no pharaoh here, on the floor beneath me...they call you Yami, your spirit…” In the light of the fire, silhouette of their passion dancing on the cave wall behind him, he was warm, glowing, radiant ...the nickname meant ‘dark’, but flushed with arousal in his own body he was anything but. 

“Atem,” he said, fingers entwined in Bakura’s hair as much as his limbs were around his body. “My name is Atem, and it is yours to do with as you will as my body is before you,” he rushed, and without the demon or Ryou in his head, the syllables were truly his to claim as he buried his face in the crook of his lover’s neck, lips caressing the cartilage of the pharaoh’s ear before he invoked the gift he’d been given. 

“Atem,” he repeated, guttural in his throat, the magic of it flushing the air around them with warmth unattributable to the dying fire. It was wrong for the thief to have such a thing in his mouth, for he hadn’t stolen it, and such power willingly given was a desperate and intoxicating ambrosia. And, not that he’d ever admit it out loud, but Ryou was right - feeling the king from the inside did satisfy something fundamental in his psyche that wound itself in his groin and snapped all at once. He pounded through his orgasm, hot and heavy, until he collapsed with his arms barely propping up his weight as the sweat glinting on Atem’s chest mingled with his own.

He felt rather than heard the whimper, and flicked his eyes up to meet the other man’s, smirk twitching at his mouth as he considered his options. Undoing the smug, smitten king with his tongue seemed like the best one. 

“Bakura, you don’t have to...ung…” The thief swallowed him to the base, nose tangling in a tuft of hair and gag reflex choking, but it was hot and he couldn’t help himself - he didn’t fancy himself having Yugi or Ryou’s natural ability to deepthroat, after all, but he wasn’t going to lose the game of satisfaction they’d started.

He slicked upward, hollowing his cheeks, and circled his tongue along the head, before sucking down the side of his shaft and extending his tongue along the taut sack and the puckered hole where his own seed was leaking. Ha, now that was fucked up and awesome, how wide his eyes got as he was rimmed after an activity like that, head thrown back in rapture, pulling the thief’s hair just so, he almost didn’t hear…

“Your name, too...I want to know what to scream…” He ground against Bakura’s face, lost. 

It was hard to talk with cock and other things in his mouth, but he managed between licks, “‘Bakura’ has felt more mine...than my own, whatever it is yours to savor, it has served me well…” He wrapped both hands around the pharaoh’s shaft and pumped, mouth teasing the tip, and when Bakura echoed through the cavern he drank in the hot liquid that spilled onto the back of his tongue, mingling with the taste of himself, and it was so disgusting and delectable at the same time that his brain short circuited and fired a drowsy hardness into his own cock again.

He trailed his fingers up Atem’s arms and across the smooth, warm gold, the true meaning of ‘afterglow’ seeping into his mind as he crawled up the naked torso and curled up on him, pulling the light blanket around their waists as he caressed the pharaoh’s hairline. His tongue captured salt under his jaw and the man moaned anew, wrapping his arms around Bakura’s body and kissing the crown of his head.

“You should have stolen into my chambers when I was a teenager and ravaged me then. If I had known, and acknowledged, sooner, then...” He trailed off, unsure.

“Ah...but without our epic battle and subsequent entrapment in the Items, we’d never have existed long enough to meet our hosts.”

He tightened his grip. “Don’t you think they would have been better off without us?”

Bakura chuckled. “You and I both know that, but they would, in turn, both be bitching to hear you say it.”

Atem dragged his hand under Bakura’s chin, pulling their lips up to meet again. He looked like he was about to say something else profound, but the sentiment died in the silence. It wasn’t an unwelcome death, though - the crackling of the last spurts of their fire and the wind whistling outside was enough. For now.

Yugi grinned, leaning out over the game board. The sands of the diorama rustled beneath his hands. “I have the Thief and the Pharaoh on the field, Zorc.”

The apparition of Ryou before him grimaced, annoyed. “How Did You Know…”

“You’ve underestimated all of us,” Yugi interrupted, eyebrows drawn into a stern, critical gaze that had withered greater opponents than this jerk, Kaiba among them. Duel Monsters was his comfort zone, but he was the King of Games, and would win this one too. “I roll for initiative.”

Chapter Text

“Hold still,” Atem directed, swiping the brush, black with kohl, along the top and bottom of Bakura’s eyeline. The man fidgeted so much that it was making his work imprecise; he definitely couldn’t be trusted to return the favor. He figured that with his own steady hand, he’d have more luck on his own even without a reflection to guide him. 

“I don’t see why I have to look pretty for you, I’ve already gotten you into bed,” the thief returned petulantly, but even with the scowl on his face he was indeed immensely beautiful. 

“It’s as much function as fashion, Bakura. My application lacks the intricacy of Marik’s, but I think you would be pleased.” He captured the thief’s chin between his thumb and forefinger, tilting his face to one side and then the other, checking for symmetry.

A pink tongue darted out to moisten his lips, and whether absentminded or by flirtatious instinct it still had the same effect on the pharaoh that Ryou’s similar behavior did. It was actually impossible to say which one of them was responsible, really. He closed the distance between them to plant a chaste kiss on the corner of his mouth, chuckling when the thief hissed and waved his hands animatedly between them. 

“What the fuck. Are you going to pat my bum and wish me a lovely day at work too? This isn’t a fucking sitcom.”

“Of course not, darling,” he played along. “We’re going to work together, after all.” That had a nice ring to it, he decided. 

“When we get out of this I’m going to plow Yugi until he can’t walk.”

“How romantic. Let’s focus on getting out of this first, as you suggested. I admire your confidence.”

“I admire your…” The thief puffed, snapping his head away, only just realizing that any smartass remark he was about to make the pharaoh would take as flattery anyway and was therefore futile. 

“Go asked me to try a compliment. It seems it may be good for you as well.”

“You first, then.”

“I admire your confidence.”

“You already said that, asshole!”

“I mean it this time.” He smiled. “You set out to avenge your people, to defy me and the gods, to seduce my vessel...and yours...and’re a brazen duelist and lover and I truly admire your confidence.”

The skin at the top of Bakura’s cheeks flushed a ruddy color, something Atem was certain he thought he could conceal with his complexion. It made the blood pulse in his body as well, even though the fire in the other man’s eyes was still that of annoyance. 

“...I like your ass.”

The king snorted, quickly repressed. “Thank you.”

“I’m not a hundred percent sure though, so I should probably check again.”

He leaned forward carefully, brushing some silver hair over the thief’s shoulder. “Of that you are welcome, but I fear we shall never leave this cave.” His lips connected with the bone of Bakura’s jaw beneath his ear, and he felt breath hitch and pulse quicken.

“Let Yugi fight that monster himself, then.” He grabbed the back of Atem’s neck and growled into another fierce kiss, tongue tracing his mouth and shoulders pressing toward him as they rocked back onto the outrolled carpet, chests flush, the skin contact inducing a soft morning sweat, the clothing they had already donned feeling like too much between them.

Atem wanted to protest, really he did, mostly because he was certain Yugi could use their help and wasn’t pleased with the glib way the thief dismissed their plight, but if Mana was right about him having a type, then the thief certainly hit all the right... yes, his hot tongue made its way down to his protruding clavicle, teeth nipping along the way, and this stone hollow was not so terrible a place to live forever in this shadow game, was it?

A clamor at the mouth of the cave redirected his attention then, four men on horses dismounting with swords and looking generally disheveled. To his credit, the thief was just as alarmed as he, which is to say not at all. He dislodged himself from around Atem’s body and stood, brushing himself off. 

“Rude,” he said to them. “If you guys want to fuck each other too you’re going to have to wait until I’m done here.”

Their ‘leader’, well, the one that stepped forward first, raised an eyebrow before looking back at his companions, who were whispering among themselves. “Are you...uh...are you the Thief King?”

Bakura grinned. “Oh, yes,” he said emphatically, “I see my reputation precedes me. Now go pound sand and I shan’t have to rob you. Ha, get it? Pound sand. ‘Cause we’re in a desert.”

The king chuckled as he carefully donned his clothing, golden belt and cuffs adorning his waist and arms, inverted pyramid looped around his neck, considering thoughtfully the rest of his finery carefully tucked away in the pack already attached to his horse.

“Yeah, shit, we do have a lot of gold on us,” muttered Bakura under his breath back at him, giving the king a once-over with his eyes. 

“What do you want?” asked Atem, addressing the interrupters. They shrunk a little but continued to move forward with blades brandished. 

“Shush!” said Bakura, and if it was anyone else giving him an order he’d have bristled. He continued, whispering in a low hush, “It was only a matter of time until one of my host’s pre-planned random encounters popped up. I’ll get us out of this without wasting any resources.” He turned back to them and cleared his throat, raising his voice. “And by pound sand, I mean dig! I have buried a great treasure in the back of this cave, but I was distracted by my fiery lover and completely forgot. For our peaceful retreat I grant you this charity.” Bakura extended his hand out beyond them, to where the cave curved around into a tunnel of darkness.

The leader looked at him with wide, greedy eyes. He turned to his companions and gestured with his head. “Let us make haste! The Thief King is not known for his generosity,” he said, stuffing his sword back into its hilt and handing the reins of his horse to one of his men, who also took two other sets from the remainder. 

Bakura’s horse was clomping in frustration of being boxed-in, so Atem stroked her nose softly and led both her and his own slowly past the three men traveling in the opposite direction. Bakura was on his heels grinning, hands casually hidden beneath his red cloak, gripping his knives. It wasn’t as though he or the thief couldn’t invoke their Items to address the thieves, but even Bakura seemed to know that that kind of magic would draw unwanted attention to their so-far well-concealed journey. He surmised that their route was circuitous, but while he had studied the layout of the diorama as Yugi and Ryou had worked, he lacked the detail of memory to understand what backroads the thief had programmed for himself or whatever part of his own mind had contributed.

Atem nodded curtly to the horse-wrangler on the way out, with the same in reply, and he was glad he wasn’t used to being bowed to, because his previous self was sure to be affronted by the disrespect. He hadn’t put his crown on since he had carefully lifted it off his head that first night in the oasis, however, and didn’t expect news to travel quickly of his...extrication, nor countrywide recognition of his hair, still untamed by riverwater and Bakura’s vigorous attention. That may have been a blessing with brigands, though, who were unlikely to be the type of model citizen who would kiss his rings and dirty their clothes in a kneel.

They were mounted and off into the rising sun; they may have a few hours before it became unbearably hot. He imagined the thief had carefully planned their route to handle such inconveniences, but they had refilled their water supply at the Nile before turning away from the river again to find the cave, and they could make it a great while before stopping again even at the peak of Ra’s influence. 

“That was...something,” he spoke finally, after they were well out of earshot. “Yugi must have gotten a hell of a roll for persuasion.”

“He must have given me a high charisma, which, let’s be real, is completely accurate.”

Atem raised an eyebrow. “You are neither generally likeable nor trustworthy.”

He bit back mock surprise. “Major ouch. Maybe I really did bury tomb loot in that cave.” He smirked. “Besides, who knows who or what Yugi’s been fighting with the High Priest’s convoy to Kul Elna; our little party may have gotten the soft end so far with my sneaky scenic route.”

“So we are still hidden from It, then.”

“This whole business was meant to conceal me from you and your ilk after I stole the Puzzle, so I assure you we are well-protected. Especially with Yugi’s help...fuck knows he has the greatest luck of any shadow duelist who’s ever lived.”

Atem smiled softly. “He is indeed remarkable.”

“Yeah, well, you’re the golden-child of the gods, so once you lost, they figured you needed some extra help against me the second time around.” Bakura traced the Ring at his bare chest. “I fought tooth and eye,” he fingered a spike hanging from the Ring and the Eye of Horus, “for a sorcerer I could preserve who was powerful enough to defeat you when you returned. Long before Ryou Bakura got you into bed I knew I’d found the right man,” he continued, running his finger through the mane of his horse. “ I kind of hope I was wrong.”

Atem flattened his mouth into a hard line. He would have told Bakura that he and Yugi would defeat the threat apparent regardless, but it felt hollow in the wake of the reality that their lover’s body was being used by that thing. It’s not like he had direct evidence of it, given that they had been pulled into the game rather rapidly at the outset but...despite his detachment from Yugi, he could still sense the great power of a shadow god taking advantage of the available magic - he should have seen it sooner, trusted his instinct when the Items, collected, had heralded doom before them. 

Though, if this is the way things had occurred, was it not destiny spelling out their fates in this world of memory? He glanced to his left skeptically. Bakura noticed his look, having cultivated some nervous energy since his last unanswered statement, and stuck his tongue out as a child would. Like Seto Kaiba, the thief had ‘Fuck Destiny’ written all over him; he’d seen the sights and bought the t-shirt. Whatever prescience the Necklace may have given the pharaoh would have been nullified, had he known how to use it. 

He allowed his mouth to curve back into a smile then, and the deeper it got the higher Bakura’s singular eyebrow traveled, and Yami wanted to kiss the muscle that connected to the corner of his eye so, no...he had been good about this. He was Atem, son of Aknamkanon, as Mana had written and as Yugi had delivered, and as beautiful as the cries were of the dark endearment, he reveled even more freely in the sound of his true name on the thief’s tongue in the throes of ecstasy. He wanted to hear it spilled from Yugi’s mouth, and from Ryou’s...simultaneously if he had his way...and if that wasn’t incentive to end this nonsense by winning he didn’t know what would be.

“Ryou is resilient,” he said finally, watching the tension ease out of the other man’s shoulders at the sound. “If he has a way to fight he will employ it as surely as Yugi would. I think that…” His horse neighed and bucked suddenly, rearing back onto her hind legs, and Atem watched as something unseen rippled beneath the sands.

Bakura reached into a saddle pack and flung some spring-like objects into the ground; they coiled and popped, trapping whatever monsters were about to appear, before he strapped his golden monster-summoning diadhank to his wrist and beckoned Atem to do the same. 

The monsters sealed in stone tablets may as well be eons away, though, and without those or cards as summoning beacons, Atem was at a loss.

Bakura was not, though, focusing a great energy from within himself to coalesce the great white serpent beast that had threatened him in the throne room, only now it lashed out in front of him with its forked tongue, silvery scales flashing in the sunlight and needlepoint teeth sinking into the Dungeon Worm and Worm Tokens that had breached the sand, shattering them on impact. Five more crested over the horizon and Bakura sighed. “Excuse me your royal highness, but are you going to help or…?”

“I…” Was this nonsense even turn-based at all? Bakura had clearly laid some traps and then attacked, but how was he supposed to summon something out of nowhere? Who was the Ka upon which he could call? His patron and protector was the Dark Magician, unformed as of yet in this reality though Atem was sure he was irrevocably connected to Priest Mahad, the previous Ring-Bearer. Obelisk and Ra answered to him but through Seto Kaiba and Marik Ishtar, so the direct link to his life force must be the monster Yugi had insisted on inserting long before either of them could have understood the gravity of their situation. His insight was astounding, sometimes, and Atem couldn’t believe that he’d gotten so lucky.

“Sky Dragon of Osiris, come forth!” he shouted, and the great beast descended from the suddenly-formed clouds in the sky, thunder and lightning trailing its magnificent red tail, scaly skin shining from its pointed tail to the two...mouths…

The cross-eyed thing looked at him, kind of, from its perch behind their horses, tongue lolling out of its primary mouth through crooked teeth while it’s wonky second mouth gaped at an odd angle on top of it. Not that he would criticize Yugi’s craftsmanship, but…

Of course, Bakura would, though - his raucous laughter permeated the desert and ground irritatingly on the pharaoh’s eardrums. “Oooo scary, Pharaoh with the power of the gods, what’s your plan there? Make these monsters piss themselves laughing?”

Yugi had tried to edit the design and printed a few more test cases, but each had turned out worse than the last. He had the latest ‘improved’ version whirring along on a 3d printer at the university, but the half-painted flub before him would have to do for now.

Maybe Atem should have been more honest with him.

Despite its...flaws, though, the dragon blasted expertly through the dozens of emerging monsters at the pharaoh’s command. Those that tried to hide, or dodge, found themselves cornered by the rogue-like quickness of sneak attacks by the white serpent, which seemed to employ short-distance teleportation to bewilder its opponents. It was also getting stronger - Bakura was absorbing their power into his monster with each defeat. Atem would have been loathe to face it in a Duel Monsters tournament. Luckily, the card and its kernel were rare, because in the hands of the thief during Battle City he may have even defeated Marik’s darker half. What a thrilling game that would have been! 

By the time the sands settled, the two men were exhausted, sweaty, and nearly drained of the Ba on the indicator at their wrists.

“This...blows…” Bakura panted, coming to a knee which indented the beige sand beneath him.

Atem tried not to let his fatigue show. “It is not ideal,” he intoned, seeing nothing but flat land with dots of greenery in every direction. Heat radiated in waves from above and below, cooking them. He took a generous drink from a waterskin before passing it to Bakura, who gulped his share sloppily and wiped the back of his mouth with a forearm. Atem could feel his heart beat in his lips as he stared at the other man’s, distracted. “How far are we until your next waypoint?”

“In this scale,” he breathed, pushing sweat from his brow with the head wrap before fastening it in place again, “it is hard to say. Maybe an hour or two?”

Six hours later, the oasis was lush, cool, and deliriously welcome. Bakura broke into a flagon of pomegranate wine that had appeared in a lootbox some many miles ago, too many to count, drinking enough to assuredly intoxicate him before passing it to the king. Atem did the same; once a comfortable buzz settled in it was enough to drown out some of the panic in his mind about what a true battle against the demon would look like. Two god-Ka were formidable, as they had demonstrated, but he hoped Yugi had more help to unlock with the secret key that was his true name. 

“It would be nice to travel through towns that had proper lodging...and a proper bed,” he said, lazing on his carpet with a few cushions strewn about to support his limbs. 

“You already look pretty comfortable, Pharaoh. Shall I gather a couple of palm fronds and fan you?”

“That will do, in the nude preferably,” he finished with a sly smile, twirling a blonde bang around his index finger. The thief gave him that look, the very same as he had in the cave, and a pleasant warmth seeped through his body at the carnal promise it imbued. Bakura crawled on all fours toward him, silver eyes gleaming greedily, as if Atem was the next great treasure for him to capture in a well-hidden tomb sprawling with gold, and he truly couldn’t think of anything more flattering as next they shared the same breath, the thief hovering centimeters from his lips. He leaned up in an attempt to complete the connection, but the tease pulled back at the last moment and chuckled, darting a glance over his shoulder. Atem whimpered in frustration.

“Patience Pharaoh, and believe me when I say it fills me with rapture to say that to you; it would behoove us to set some more complicated traps to discourage any unwanted visitors. The danger is increasing as we approach our final destination and I fear the simple spells we set on our previous nights will be inadequate. I certainly don’t want to be interrupted…” He trailed a finger down Atem’s bare chest and he fought a moan. “Do you?” He shook his head. “Marvelous. Meet me back here in twenty after you place some of those infernal fire traps at the sand boundaries north and east. I’ll handle the rest.”

He huffed, adjusting himself blatantly under his shendyt, before pushing the thief to the side and standing. “Make it ten.”

This oasis was much larger than its predecessors, and much larger than it had looked when they approached, so the king was wary that some kind of illusion magic was afoot. There was nothing alarming about the flora, though the blooms became larger and the colors more neon and wild as he approached a shallow spring. His fire traps would be ill-suited to a field with this much vegetation, so he placed the snares he’d seen Bakura use in their battle instead. He had to admit that fighting on the same side as the resourceful thief was exciting. He was wondering if the other two would be open to the idea of a double duel when his breath caught in his throat.

A person was standing in the shallows, surrounded by humid air dancing with fireflies. Though it was now dark, a luminous white glow seemed to spotlight from an unknown location above his head, bathing him in brightness, the gossamer strands of his hair floating about his pale face as if defying gravity. A translucent garment clung to the muscles of his frame, overlit with the lithe lines of his slender body beneath. A breeze caused it to hug him sinfully he stared upward at the canopy.


His voice followed his thoughts. “Ryou!” he said in a hushed surprise, and the man turned.

“Pharaoh?” Ryou asked delicately, coffee eyes misting over with emotion.  

Atem removed his sandals hastily and stepped delicately into the water; the magic here was thick, churning, and it muddied his thoughts. He had to get Ryou out of it. “It is I,” he said, but his voice sounded far away, and distorted as if traveling through liquid.

“Thank goodness,” he breathed, lidding his eyes and gracing the pharaoh with a soft, closed-mouth smile, extending his arms outward as if to beckon him. His words were melodious, enchanting, and he felt his libido answer before he could think, splashing forward until he caught the other man at the shoulders in an embrace. Though his gold and his royal robes were packed away, he still felt every inch the king, looking up into the soft, handsome features of the thief’s vessel...he would be so relieved...his lips were enveloped in softness, Ryou’s shy silky tongue probing his, and he leaned into it covetously, groaning as hands pressed their bodies flush together. 

He pulled back with immense difficulty, skin florid, elated but concerned. Ambrette and jasmine flooded his senses, overwhelming as the floral perfume around them. “Ryou...let us return to the campsite. With you, with the four of us, working together, we will be a force of nature.” He clasped Ryou’s cheeks between his hands, admiring the kiss-inflamed dark red of his lips and the lust in his eyes. 

He smiled, dazzling, and trailed his fingers up the pharaoh’s thigh to rest under the curve of his buttocks, squeezing gently. “Of course...I am so lucky you found me.” 

Perhaps he didn’t grasp the severity of their situation, because his lips dotted kisses down his chest and stomach, sinking to his knees in the water and lifting his garment even as the king stepped back in surprise. He was hard and aching, of course, but wouldn’t it be more prudent to return to…?

Suddenly, Ryou swallowed him to the base and his brain reeled. It was so incredibly potent, that pink tongue laving up his shaft, gentle suction on the tip, and curious hands fondling him below, he moaned and reached out to thread his hands in the snowy crown on his head. He moved his hips to bury himself deeper, and Ryou swallowed him thoroughly down into his throat, rolling the muscles of his esophagus and humming to encourage the vibrations from his voicebox to echo through the flesh and amplify his pleasure. It was an entirely different technique than Yugi had employed in the soul room, than Bakura had used to finish him in the cave, than Ryou had used to tease him on the couch in his apartment, was different from what Ryou did. It was different. He was lost in euphoria, but it was different.

The blue veins underneath Ryou’s hands abruptly ran black as night, protruding through the white skin, a perverted kintsugi wrapped in earnest around his cock as he continued to suck.

“Roll For Perception,” Zorc-not-Ryou demanded with a devious smirk, eyes drilling into Yugi’s from across the table. 

Yugi winced. “He would know.” The number wasn’t high enough. 

“Your Dice Say Otherwise.”

No, NO. He had to...concentrate. His secret movements of the thief and the pharaoh had been exposed, so he had no choice. With conviction, he moved the doll of Bakura to intercept them. 

“Your Grasp On The Thief Is Tenuous! He Will Resist Your Influence.”

“He has been resisting you just fine!” spat Yugi, warily evaluating the antique bronze and clear crystal curves of the two hourglasses that rested at his enemy’s elbows. Yugi had won the third, and it was emitting an acrid cloud of smoke on the corner of the sandbox, begging him to waste it. Not yet. Had Zorc even been paying attention? Yugi was counting on Bakura’s genuine affection to get them out of the demon’s trap.

Atem thought he could hear something in the ether above them but he was so close to coming that, just a little more and…

Water filled his lungs, warm, bile, choking, and suddenly he was heaving onto the shore, supported at his waist by an extremely angry Thief King.

“You fucking idiot! You’re getting siren’d!”

Atem coughed, glaring, but the thief didn’t back down. “And I knoooow it wasn’t a normal-ass trick because you’re pitching a tent that could shelter us for a week.” He gestured below the belt and Atem sighed. 

“The illusion was...convincing,” he drawled, satisfied with the amount of water he’d expelled from his lungs and standing, looking back. The light, the fireflies, and the flowers were gone, replaced by dark shadows of a nighttime spring barely visible by moonlight.

He must have shown the melancholy on his face, because Bakura asked after some hesitancy, “Who did you see?”

Atem looked back at him, seeing no reason to lie. “Ryou,” he said. “I thought he had found his way to help us.” 

Bakura squeezed some moisture out of the spikes of Atem’s hair, like his royal robe was a mere towel. The act had an air of reverence, though, so the pharaoh didn’t comment. “That Shadow Realm asshole isn’t above some rapey bullshit. He is very, very convincing about being on your side and giving you what you want. I...I wouldn’t be surprised if your family had gotten taken in by its promises just as I did. And the worst part of it? The fucker has actually kept his word. Powerful artifacts to save your country with magic in exchange for hot-blooded murder. Your suffering and my revenge in exchange for my allegiance and Its release. It sounds gross when I say it like that, but, you get the point.”

Atem threaded his hand around Bakura’s shoulder and squeezed. “You had a...physical relationship with…?”

“Well, what did you fuck for thousands of years? Dark Magician?”

Atem considered briefly, fishing for memories. When he found them, he figured he’d leave it cryptic enough, playing up a smirk and imagining Mahad’s straight purpleblack hair sprawled out on a pillow beneath him. 

Bakura thumped his back, frustrated, and he coughed anew. “Can’t say that I’m surprised. With Yadonushi I...I always deliberately underestimated his abilities so that the entity I made the deal with wouldn’t be interested in him. I didn’t do so good a job of that the last few weeks. I got a little complacent with his enjoyment of seeing you and Yugi indulge him and I got careless. I think that’s why this blew up a little early.”

This had been blowing up for...well, since the Items were created,” Atem said, cupping the Puzzle and using his other hand to caress the Ring from the top of the circle to the bottom. It was warm against the other man’s chest. Bakura’s arms were still steadying him, so he pretended not to notice the skip of breath from his companion. “I’m sorry I was taken in by this ruse. I should know better.”

“You fucking absolutely should. Did you at least get laid? Or do I need to finish the job?” He boldly snaked his brown hand over the bulge in the cloth and stroked. The pharaoh’s knees buckled and his breath quickened. “I’ll take that as a no. And then a yes. In sequence.”

Who was he to object?

They arrived at the border to Kul Elna on the eve of the next day of travel. They had clearly beaten the envoy from the Palace, which gave them an advantage (maybe) if they played their cards right. Bakura, though, had become increasingly more restless, despite their passionate indulgences...Atem loved every second of it, as much the time to himself as the lurid fantasies in the interim of Yugi and Ryou joining him. 

“It’s good to be home,” said Bakura ironically, and Atem wanted to join him in his laugh but couldn’t conjure the stomach for it.

The assault was a trickle at first; a spirit here and there, attacking them, but no match individually for their collective Ka, thereby easily repelled.

The thief, however, was still distressed. “Ah, I remember him. A baker, his shop was right across from the saloon.” He broke off a piece of bread from their reserve. “ peel...his was all right, but it didn’t hold a candle to my mother’s,” he said proudly, biting down and appearing to bask in the nostalgia. Atem didn’t know what to say, so he said nothing. He didn’t even remember his own mother, and his memories of a matriarch from Yugi’s mind were sporadic at best; she may have been around when he was a toddler, but he hadn’t broached the subject since Sugoroku had set up the memorial marking two decades since her death. Yugi had been dismissive of it, so Yami had considered it unimportant. 

As they neared closer to the town’s center, though, the attacks became more fervent, three, four, five at a time. So, these were the white-haired villagers Yugi had first painted, not human at all but angry, vengeful spirits saturated with the same stale hate that the thief himself had cultivated into a harrowing magical ability that had ultimately taken on the Palace. 

Fires began to crop up. The buildings were unfinished anyway, given the haste with which the game had begun, many components still drying inverted on newspapers on Ryou’s floor, but the exposure to the elements added an eerie dimension of unease as they watched the spirits flit about inside dwellings as the screams of those who burned cracked the silence. 

“Diabound…” croaked Bakura, head in his hands, and the Ka emerged from his diadhank and encircled them, emanating a protective barrier, but there were too many, and Bakura’s heart wasn’t on the same side that had fueled their power the first time, so they were angry.

You,” one screeched, diving for him. He dodged, but the talons of the spirit's nails tore at his cloak. 

Traitor!” cried another, sharp teeth shining, white hair swirling in a cyclone above his head. And then, the cyclone of one man was a hurricane of a hundred, swirling around Bakura, who pushed his horse away and stood wide-eyed as the spirits who had once bolstered his attacks turned on him. 

No,” said the pharaoh, with every visceral edge of authority empowering his voice. He had left his own horse, lifting the thief to his feet, but his expression was blank. 

Diabound slithered up to them, wrapping the end of his tail around Bakura’s thighs. “Wait…” he started, but his neck snapped as Diabound dragged him from the eye of the storm. The king watched him go, glad that he had had the prescience to dress fully in his kings’ regalia before the sweltering day had begun. It had seemed like this time was important, especially after his embarrassing blunder in the oasis, so who was he to argue with fate?

Again, the pharaoh addressed the spirits. They circled around him, ground to cloud, a cylinder of white and red light. His eyes burned, dry from the air dehumidified by the fires that now engulfed them in a circle. He adjusted the golden crown that weighed heavily on his temple. “If there is blood to pay then it is me from whom it is due. My family did this to you. I beg you, please...your son has been loyal. Take me, and not him.” He didn’t make a move to summon any magic or monsters. The spirits abandoned Bakura entirely and converged on the King of Khemet.

Bakura caught his eye, frantic, aggrieved, and wasn’t that remarkably beautiful? The powerful force of his people were poised to enact the revenge he had so craved for these past millennia, he was sure Isis’ Necklace had foretold it, and he looked annoyed that it was coming to pass.

You can win without me, he thought morbidly. 

Over the horizon, he caught the golden glint of the flared wings adorning the Rod. The piercing blue glare of the High Priest was the last thing he remembered before the spirits of Kul Elna tore him apart.

Chapter Text

Yes, Bakura was annoyed. Partially conscious, possibly sporting a head injury among others, and also annoyed. Diabound hissed aboved him, and he loved that thing as surely as it was a part of him reawakened by the Game, but it annoyed him too. Cursed coiling serpentine beauty and his...shiny scales and...He blinked, hazy field of view obscured by dust and magic and...blood. Atem’s blood. 

He scrambled forward in a panic, wiping hot fluid from his chin while suppressing a smugness for having been smart enough to wear red. The king was not so lucky, all white silk and yellow metal, though what merchant wouldn’t pay top dollar for carmine fabric dyed with a king’s blood? It too was nearly destroyed, though even the scraps may fetch a price - he blamed his thieves’ instinct for that inappropriate supposition at the sight of Yugi’s spirit, cradled in his arms, cursing them both for not knowing if the liquid trickling down his cheek was remnants of said blood or his own tears. 

Pinpricks of ghostly attacks continued to bite at the thin skin of his wrists and ankles, and between thoughts of, ‘What the fucking fuck,’ and ‘Wake up, you asshole!’ he managed to pull the Puzzle from what was left of his lover’s corpse. It was then that he noticed the pharaoh’s tiny army encroaching, bubble shields of magic protecting them from the rabid spirits above. 

Diabound still loomed over them, a shield in his own right, but he didn’t react to the woman who pulled him to his feet as he was wincing at the mild pain in his knee. Okay, from an outside perspective, maybe he was screeching in agony, but for a torn meniscus or whatever the fuck it was it was certainly an overreaction from a once-battleworn thief. Again, curse Ryou’s comfortable modern life.

“They fear you,” he said to her, bewildered as they gaped and hissed back into the shroud of spirits, now emphatically driven back by the Rod-Bearer and his companion who had come to retrieve him. Diabound fell back into his wrist as his Ba drained.

“They ought to,” she replied, blue eyes to the sky as if her mere glare could ward off demons. Her voice was soft, polite, and the way she said it made him think that it was the meanest thing she had ever said in her life, though the conviction in the words didn’t allow him to doubt the truth of it. He’d never seen white hair outside his village, other than his own. His prejudice against his own features irritated him as his hindbrain categorized her as something dangerous and untouchable. 

Untouchable she clearly was not, though, because she dragged him by the waist to a large dwelling nearby as the glowing storm raged above them. The High Priest was guiding his cadre as well, repelling spirits and other monsters that had emerged from the ruins with bright bursts of magic, dismissively, as one would shoo a cat from their desk.

The woman sighed and slid next to him down a wall in the corner until they were both resting semi-comfortably. Bakura wasn’t ready to let any of what happened catch up with his emotions, yet, and settled his mind into a lax blankness as the others wielding all their morbid Millennium Items trickled in. He clutched the Puzzle possessively to his chest on top of the Ring with a clink of metal-on-metal.

The high-pitched shrieking of his people was dulled by the walls, but the callous indignation of the High Priest was not. He looked dead-on at Bakura, all seven feet of him including that ridiculous hat. 

“Arrest him.”

“Oh, come on,” Bakura pleaded, gesturing to his knee and then to everything else.

“You stormed the Palace with a team of wretches and kidnapped the pharaoh, resulting in his death. That is actually a series of offenses that warrant immediate execution, so I am being rather generous.”

“It must have been uncomfortable to get here all the way from the Palace with that stick up your ass.”

He raised the Rod and a sparkle glinted at its iris. Bakura, in the fog of war, could only think of how it reminded him fondly of Marik’s megalomania. 

Seth,” endeared his savior, and now that he was thinking about it, she was a real beauty. He’d have to tell her so if he survived this encounter. 

Whiiiiich was looking supremely less likely as his previous victim slipped through the door, slamming it behind him and raising his staff to ward it. Luckily, this grand entrance by another Palace clod distracted the High Priest in the middle of his spell to silence or explode him, and the previous Thief King would have used that lull in activity to slip away, and possibly stab a few backs in the process. 

But this version of him was injured, slow, and again, subject to his host’s stupid emotional attachment to these familar faces and the unfortunate death of his lover. 

“Illusion Magician, return,” the previous Ring-Bearer shouted, and the cloaked thing diffused through the wall to absorb into his diadhank, also desperately low on Ba as all the rest of them were. 

Three more explosions rattled the room from the outside, and all the people with stupid hats clutched them as they teetered precariously on their heads. Then, without warning, a ball of tanned skin and brown hair crashed through a window, unfurling in front of Bakura with her wide grey-green eyes popping open and closed. 

“Oh! It’s you!” she said in surprise. 

“You know this criminal?” inquired Seth, unimpressed, sealing the window with a glut of magic from the Rod. 

“I sent her after them,” Mahad added.

“He’s dead,” she said to Bakura, ignoring the High Priest and her mentor, and referring, obviously, to the obviously obviously dead king out on the street. The muscles in his neck tensed and his salivary glands produced an acidic, uncomfortable taste that he fought to keep from reaching his tear ducts.

“I couldn't...he didn’t even let me…”

“I know, I know…” She lifted herself into a seated position and caught him in a tight embrace, cupping the back of his head, and it was so unexpected he didn’t know what to do but lean into it. The white-haired woman who was still recovering next to him reached out to stroke his hair, trailing her fingers along his jaw as his eyes closed.

“Mana, what in the name of the gods are you doing,” Mahad intoned, without the inflection of a question.

“Same inquiry to you, Kisara,” Seth followed, Rod still poised for an attack that, if it lacked precision, would be a major problem for all three of them. The other two glared, ice-blue and grey-green challenging the notion that their compassion was unwarranted.

A priestess who was basically Marik’s sister spoke before anyone else could reply. “Your wife, High Priest, and your apprentice, Mahad, are acting in good faith. It is precisely as the Necklace foretold. The thief is not our true enemy. I know it is difficult to lose the king, but there will be time to grieve once this shadow game is over.”

Bakura didn’t know why Yugi found girls so difficult, he was absolutely smothered by three of the most beautiful women he’d ever laid eyes on and all he had to do was fuck up so hard that someone he lo...cared about, kinda, got killed doing what he did best. Being a self-sacrificial idiot.

“Where the fuck is Yugi,” he whined, to nobody in particular, clutching his hands around Mana’s waist and leaning into the other woman’s elegant hand. 

In the corner, unassuming and silent, was the keeper of the Eye, glaring at him. The gold flashed from time to time as he turned his head.

Yugi was fighting an enchanter of dice. That much was obvious from a previous shadow game when Ryou had impaled his hand upon a spire of one of his game towers to regain control of their body. The demon was cheating in the worst, most obvious sort of way, and Yugi had boffed the roll for the pharaoh’s life as a result. 

“ need him,” he said, baffled, staring at the malicious grin that had captured Zorc-not-Ryou’s beautiful face. “You can’t win without the pharaoh in play.” He tried, with difficulty, not to allow the apparent death of his friend... more than affect his reasoning. There was always... 

“The Thief Has Everything I Need. The Puzzle, And The Name.”

The voice was noxious, deep, a perversion of Ryou’s, and it made Yugi’s toes curl. “He…” The pharaoh had revealed that ? “I won’t let you…”

“You Have Another Choice, Of Course, Vessel Of The Pharaoh.”

They both looked at Yugi’s hourglass at the same time. Zorc’s grin revealed more shiny white teeth. He was still trying to get Yugi to purge a powerful magical token. What would Ryou and his spirit want?

Yugi exhaled in frustration, snapping his hand out to the hourglass, flipping it just as a knock resounded on Ryou’s door.


They arrived at the border to Kul Elna on the eve of the next day of travel. Those slow-ass disciples from the Palace were clearly behind, which meant they could sort out some of this nonsense before they started meddling. Atem, though, looked uneasy, despite Bakura indulging his every sexual whim, which more often than not involved the king getting ruthlessly penetrated. Who knew? It suited the thief just fine. He could definitely, definitely understand what Yugi and Ryou were so desperate to protect.

“It’s good to be home,” Bakura said, and Atem smiled but he looked nauseous doing it. 

The assault was a trickle at first; a spirit here and there, attacking them, but needless to say the ghosts were no match for their magic combined, and were easily gotten rid of.

Bakura, to his horror, recognized some of them from his village. He figured indulging in his nostalgia was healthy. So why couldn't he recall his own family's faces, conflating them with Ryou's? “Ah, I remember him. A baker, his shop was right across from the saloon.” He broke off a piece of bread from their reserve. “ peel...his was all right, but it didn’t hold a candle to my mother’s,” he said, suddenly grateful that he would not recognize her among the specters attacking them.

As they neared closer to the town’s center, though, the attacks became more fervent, three, four, five at a time. This was precisely what he had wanted the pharaoh and his entourage to experience - hate, vengeance, and the force of his magic that he had been so careful to prepare these past few thousand years. 

The small, but growing, licks of flame from within the buildings made him cringe. Most were unfinished, which mostly meant that those who had died in the flames were exposed, raw and howling, filtering from bodies to spirits and back again, screaming anew each time.

“Diabound…” croaked Bakura, dropping his face into his hands, and the Ka emerged from his diadhank and encircled them, emanating a protective barrier, and he wished, wanted them to understand, but they were one-dimensional bursts of evil energy leftover from the creation of the Items, and they turned on him.

You,” one screeched, diving for him. He dodged, but the talons of the spirit's nails tore at his cloak. 

Traitor!” cried another, sharp teeth shining, white hair swirling in a cyclone above his head. And then, one infuriated spirit was a hurricane of a hundred, swirling around him. He pushed his horse away and prepared Diabound for a direct assault.

No,” said the pharaoh, with every visceral edge of authority empowering his voice. He had left his own horse, lifting Bakura to his feet, but his expression was blank. 

Diabound slithered up to them, wrapping the end of his tail around Bakura’s thighs. “Wait…” he started, but his neck snapped as Diabound dragged him from the eye of the storm. The ruby eyes of the king looked after him as his knees dug into the dirt, but he twisted at the last moment and avoided a serious injury.

The bright, eerie cylinder of white and red, even in the daylight, made Bakura’s eyes water, and the snarling, black-eyed ghosts of his people shot after him, for a moment. Then,

The king spoke,  “If there is blood to pay then it is me from whom it is due. My family did this to you. I beg you, please...your son has been loyal. Take me, and not him.” 

That self-sacrificing, giant, fucking dickhead, shit fuck, really ? No! The thief should be allowed to kill him, or fuck him, or fuck him then kill him in a few decades, what was the difference? Call that Sky Derp Osiris no matter how stupid it looked, that thing could still repel these monsters, and…

The spirits abandoned him. Went after Atem. Even his own people were obeying the king’s command. 

He looked resigned then, glorious in all his bullshit gold, arms outstretched, and there were far too many for either of their Ka to combat. 

As the first descended as if compelled by gravity to ensnare the king’s throat, an ear-splitting roar echoed through Bakura’s skull and the ruins of his village. 

An iridescent white blinded his eyes, a blue, electric glow from the maw of the giant dragon balled into a terrifying burst of energy, and then Atem was enveloped of the arms of its rider, the seven-foot monstrosity of the High Priest with a blue-eyed glare to rival that of the beast beneath him.

Atem was safe, unconscious with minor injuries, but Bakura was not, so he took advantage of the calamity to slip away and tuck himself into the shadows of a temple, the irony not escaping him. 

The echoes of the shrieks of his people pierced his ears and he curled, he hid, just like he had when it had happened the first time and the pharaoh’s men had dragged people from their homes and burned some where they stood. The man with the Eye pervaded his memories; in his home, at the Door, how could he have forgotten that jackass?

A serene calm washed over him then, the kind that only solitude could bring, and he sunk back against a wall and rested. It wasn’t long before a figure darkened the doorway, white halo encircling the shadow of his head like an eclipse, and he knew what was going on without looking that closely.

“You can’t trick me,” he said with some effort, crossing his legs and glaring up at the intruder. “I’m not horny and gullible like the pharaoh.”

Ryou approached, alabaster skin cracked with black lines up his arms apparent through a deceptively vulnerable gauze nightgown. His face was similarly affected, but his eyes were brown and worried and very much his own. It almost looked like monochrome stained glass eyeliner, the way it framed his features.

“Kiseichuu…” he said, tears forming at the corner of his eyes, and the thief, despite his protests, cracked like Ryou’s skin.

“Ryou,” he croaked, standing and gliding to his host in an instant, that beauty in his arms and warmth mingling with his own, and it still didn’t feel right to be separated, but the man he was grasping was enough, he was enough…Ryou’s hands sought his erection, palming it to full mast as his lips traveled along the thief’s chest. Well shit. He was getting siren’d too.

He grasped Ryou’s shoulders and forced them apart before the demon’s lips could capture his own, staring unapologetically. “Where is he?” he asked, resolute.

“The Blue Eyes White Dragon Managed To Get To Him This Time,” It said in Ryou’s sultry voice, not letting up on his ministrations below the belt. 

“Obvious, and absolutely not what I meant,” replied the thief, smiling and pushing Ryou’s long hair behind his shoulder carefully, thumb lingering along his collarbone. The room around them was bathed in a soft white light, but no windows face the direction of the moon, and furthermore it was fucking daylight anyway, so the darkness that slicked around his heels was artificial. He stifled a moan at a particularly insistent stroke, certainly no longer blaming Atem for being taken in.

Ryou-not-Ryou smiled and laughed coyly, and it would have been convincing were it not for the demon’s manipulation of his body. He had never been this gentle or conceding in their other encounters, which told Bakura two things. The first was that the demon was rightly concerned about Bakura’s allegiance. The second disturbing, and perhaps game-breaking thing, was that he needed Bakura in order to beat Yugi. 

He willed his dick to soften but the thing didn’t obey his brain, as always. “Name your price,” he said, and they both had sifted through each others’ space for millennia enough to know what he meant. 

Ryou squeezed him from base to tip with both fists, exhaling hot breath into the crook of Bakura’s neck. A shift in the air induced a shiver as the demon released a scrap of control. “The Name and the Items in exchange for me,” he said, and it was his host because of how difficult the words were for him.

“Fuck, Ryou, I really fucking hosed us,” he spoke, saliva from his next swallow catching in his throat, his arms caressing the curves he had so many times before, and it felt like him. 

“I knew how this game would end well before you did, Thief,” he said, smile distorting the dark marks that curved at his lip. “I’m going to beg you not to help It, to scour the corners of your soul for some of the apathy you claim to have for me and leave this place to rejoin the pharaoh, but you won’t listen to me, will you?” His voice dropped to a whisper. “In bed you say that I am sentimental, but I think you are too. If you rejoin It I will fight you both.”

“Yadonushi, I…”

Ryou’s mouth twisted in pain and his eyes glazed, and the presence that returned looked angry. “Your Reunion Is Over. Release Me Through The Door And He Is Yours.”

Bakura swallowed. Zorc had never taken this form before, choosing instead to draw from the pool of the thief’s fantasies about beautiful things, or taking him in Its own vantablack corners of the Ring with inhuman appendages sight unseen. He was angry that It had copied Ryou, and angrier still that his body and mind responded in kind. 

So when the demon pushed him onto his back, gently peeled back his red robe, and untied his shendyt, he racked his mind for an inkling of motivation to resist. He was so beautiful, it was such an elegant reproduction, the spiderwebs of black contrasting with the ivory of his skin like an intricate full-body tattoo. In true demonic fashion, the welcoming brown of Ryou’s eyes were replaced with a bloody red, glowing pupil and a ring of smoky darkness replacing the iris and the sclera. It was haunting; if not for the circumstance, his host would probably love it.

“Mine,” It said in that distortion of Ryou’s voice, sliding in and out of him without urgency, and Bakura moaned and pulled at Its hips. One of Its hands stroked the Ring and the other pumped the firm flesh of his erection steadily.

I’m sorry Yugi, he thought as the familiar, tainted guilty pleasure flooded his mind as the demon's release flooded inside him, and he became Its pawn again.

Comfortable numbness settled into Bakura’s mind. With the union came also an emotion across their link, an evil elation from the demon at having access to what had been hidden from him since Ryou had split them apart. “It Is Time For Pharaoh Atem To Pay What I Am Owed.”

Chapter Text

The Pharaoh Atem, for all his amnesia surrounding the game in its homages to their past, remembered dying the first time. Well, if he really thought about it, he had technically died twice; once in the true timeline in which he and Bakura had fought as mortal enemies, and again in this game when he had sought to protect his lover and bring justice to his people by paying with his soul for his family’s mistakes.

The deja vu had ended when, of all things, Bakura had fallen to the ground when being dragged away by his Ka, and did not twist his knee. So when the cursed spirits closed in on his position again in their deadly hurricane to end him, this time he knew Yugi had changed something.

He did not expect to see Kaiba’s patron dragon plummet from the late-afternoon sky, igniting the field in a jolt of blue light with her burst stream of destruction, wilting the spirits to drop like moths caught in a bug zapper.

For all its precision, the attack did not spare the king; his consciousness faded as he felt the long arms of his High Priest gather him onto the back of the great beast.

His eyes dragged open again to see Mana, sparkling glass shards stuck in her wild brown hair, leaning over him with a concerned look on her face, visor askew. He took inventory of the rest of his surroundings carefully; most of his Court was present in this dwelling, six of the Items and the former Bearer of the seventh, Mahad, looking just as perturbed as his apprentice. 

A flaxen-haired woman in royal attire stood at the side of his High Priest, blue eyes warm despite their color, and Atem knew that she...they...had saved him.

He was grateful, but had other pressing matters to attend to. “Where is Bakura?” he asked Mana.

“If you mean the thief, he has disappeared, my king.”

“Disappeared? We have to find him; we can’t let that demon get to him first.” He thought of how that thing had appeared to him as Ryou, and a flash of fear in his nerves made him wonder if Bakura would be even more vulnerable to the appropriation than he was.

“I don’t understand your concern for that criminal,” Seth complained, and his wife gently gripped his shoulder in response. 

“He is important to our king, Seth,” she said softly, and Atem found himself in awe at how sharply her demeanor at present contrasted with the raw power he had seen take on the spirits of Kul Elna to save his life. He had thought the Blue Eyes White Dragon was the Ka of the High Priest, but the being before him was something else entirely.

He has clearly been bewitched by this thief, otherwise he would not have been so reckless!”

Atem countered, “The creation of the Millennium Items was an injustice that is my duty to correct.” He stood, because a king could not show weakness on the ground in front of his people. “Bakura and I were trapped in a harrowing replica of the Shadow Realm with a very patient version of one of its demigods for thousands of years before we reappeared here.”

A flash of gold from the Eye blinded him momentarily, and he shielded his eyes before glaring right back at his uncle, irritated.

A priestess who resembled Marik’s sister spoke before anyone else could reply. “This eventuality is not as the Necklace foretold. But, I do know that the thief is not our true enemy. I cannot, however, predict the outcome once this shadow game is over.”

“I am unsurprised that you, Kaiba, have flouted destiny again because you just will not let me die,” Atem chuckled, gliding toward his friend, who bowed curtly at his approach.

“Who is Kaiba, my king?” the High Priest responded knowingly, glint in his eye betraying that he knew precisely who his reincarnation was and what he was capable of. If that was the case, though, then…

Yugi breathed, deeply, restoratively, his relief only tainted by the fact that he had effectively traded the pharaoh’s life for the thief’s game piece. His heart burned for Bakura and his mind continued to race. 

Zorc, across from him, still wearing the shirt he had bloodied with the Ring at Ryou’s chest, had settled into a similar tenseness. His red pupils, alight with the fire used to kill Bakura’s people, flitted agitatedly between Yugi and his newly-acquired ally, standing tall and stoic behind him with his arms crossed and eyebrows narrowed. With the same measured composure as the High Priest, he swirled two dice in his hands like Baoding balls, provided by the black-haired man who had accompanied him into Ryou’s apartment, now standing protectively in the doorway between the art studio and the hallway. 

“How many dice did you say you needed again, Yugi?” Duke asked, green eyes not straying from Zorc’s face.

“A new set every time he rolls, or cleansed by your magic in between,” Yugi replied.

“I don’t think I have least, not like you guys do.” He tucked a stray bang into his headband. 

“You’re wrong. I understand why it’s hard to believe, though.”

“This is cute,” Kaiba intruded, also staring daggers at Yugi’s opponent instead of at the other two, “but when I received your text message, ‘Pick up Duke Devlin and meet me at Ryou Bakura’s apartment or I will never duel you again’, this isn’t what I had in mind.”

Was he insinuating something? Yugi sighed, “That is not the only text I sent you. I am sorry about being blunt, though.”

“Right. You also told me to bring my prized Blue-Eyes RPG figure, pick up your bastardization of the Sky Dragon from the University lab, and…”

And,” Yugi interrupted, “nothing else our audience would need to hear. How long?”

“Yugi, I am sure you have plenty of kinky shit going on with Bakura here that I don’t need to know about, but bringing me into it without disclosing your intentions is something I would expect from the thief. Not you.”

“I’m fine with it,” said Duke, “but I like girls, so if you want me to watch, one of you is going to have to put on a dress.”

As much as it would have made him blush before all this, at present, more than twenty-four hours into their shadow game, he was in no mood to flirt. “How. Long.?”

Kaiba checked his watch. “Maybe thirty minutes.”

“ENOUGH,” shouted the demon with Ryou’s tongue, rubbing his forehead. “It Is My Turn. Hand Them Over.” He rounded his fingers from a fist into an open palm, beckoning Yugi to return the dice. Yugi looked at Duke, who reached into the bag at his belt and withdrew two fresh, white plastic D20s and dropped them into Not-Ryou’s hand. The recipient looked profoundly irritated, but tossed them into the sand nevertheless.

Bakura was going through the motions, again. He caught the Key alone doing reconnaissance that he’d assumed was safe around where the Court had holed up with the pharaoh, and the Scale in a similar predicament in an alley before he even knew the thief was there. The Ring gave him a rogue-buff type of concealment, as it always did; it’s what had made it so easy to approach and manipulate Marik when he wielded the Rod in Domino before the tournament. That event seemed far away, geographically and temporally, but Marik’s blacklined lavender eyes pierced his memory and made his head hurt. 

He left their bodies under some rubble and returned to deposit the Items in the slots of the Door back at the temple. The rest of the Items would be harder to come by, especially the Puzzle, but his resolve had been restored to what it had been when he had first possessed his host. 

At least, with the Key in his custody, he wouldn't have to worry about the only man in the Court who wasn’t a total ass summoning Exodia. Shimon had given up his position after defending the capital the first time around, and hadn’t traveled with the High Priest’s caravan. A vague memory of speaking to his reincarnation hammered on the pain in his skull. Hadn’t he met the man when he was picking up Yugi for a date?

Yugi. His brain fractured.



A full-on migraine skewered his head and he collapsed onto his knees, the Scale clattering where he’d tried to fit it into its slot.

Cool fingers wrapped around his jaw from behind, comforting, consoling. He felt the soft tingle of painkiller diffuse into his blood. “Do Not Trouble Yourself With Difficult Mismemories,” Zorc said in a voice dripping with black velvet, pressing Ryou’s lips to his neck and carding fingers through his hair. “The Necklace Next.”

“What about the Eye?” Bakura asked, carefully avoiding the Rod and the Puzzle. His head throbbed.

“The Eye Is Already Mine.”

“Oh,” he replied, surprised. Why was he surprised?

Atem maintained a carefully neutral expression as Mana and Isis clasped their hands over their mouths, horrified. Shada had been found not far from their hiding place, throat slit, and it was not beyond conjecture that Karim had suffered the same fate elsewhere, since none of them had heard from him in several hours.

“He wouldn’t do that!” Mana pleaded, her voice unsure even though the words weren’t. 

“He is not just a thief,” Atem said, “he was the King of Thieves. Our underestimation of his capability is what led us down this path the first time around.”

“So you admit that you were taken in by his charm?” his High Priest said, scorn unhidden.

That was one way to say it. “I suppose, but the man I gave my name to is not one and the same as the man who committed these murders,” Atem told Seth, who balked.

“You told him your name!?” he asked, incredulous, and now the pharaoh was sure Yugi had conscripted Actual Kaiba.

Atem strode up to Seth with purpose, looking up into the face of that man whose teeth ground together in his jaw, incensed. “Yes. And I would do it again. If he would use it to destroy us, on his own or through the demon he conspired with, then maybe we deserve it,” he snarled, and he wished he’d been able to recall the full force of the recollection of their friendship that must be buried somewhere with his memories of Mana and the others.

Seth scoffed. “Let us just hand over the Necklace and the Rod then, and maybe he can take the Puzzle as he’s fucking your corpse and complete the ritual for his return to the mortal world.”

Atem was sure there existed nobody else in the Kingdom of Khemet that could have said that to him without facing execution. “I would prefer not to be a corpse while It’s fucking me, but I’ll hand over the Puzzle all the same. Don’t you see?” he explained to the rest of his Court, “I diluted and trapped this monster the first time; It can’t be destroyed at half-mast, we have to encourage the emergence of Its true form and then destroy It with the gods. I, or we, may deserve the reckoning that is coming, but the mortal world that my host and his friends inhabit does not. We have to prevent It from entering that world with Its true power by any means necessary.”

“Is That So?” trailed Ryou’s voice from the doorway, clad head to toe in hooded black wizards’ robes, and the contrast with his pale skin and glowing red eyes was striking. Mana and Mahad snapped into attack positions, while Seth subtly raised the Rod. Atem barked a sharp order to stand down at the sight of Bakura’s stolen host.

The demon did not react at all, nor did It pause in the address. “Because I Wonder What You Would Be Willing To Sacrifice For Such A Proposition,” It said, and it was then that Atem noticed the crimson-robed thief, having appeared out of nowhere, poised with a knife to Isis’ throat, eyes glazed. Her own eyes were closed and her expression resigned. 

“I mean it,” Atem said. “We will follow you to the Door. Spare the Necklace-Bearer.”

“Does It Matter?” the demon said, rolling Its eyes. “My Pawn Killed Them All Before.” Not-Ryou glanced at Bakura and nodded.

Bakura flicked the knife downward and plunged it into Isis’ stomach. She shrieked and convulsed, slipping to the ground in a pool of blood, and the demon laughed, melodic voice in stark contrast to the grotesque crime that had just been committed. Bakura, emotionless, unclipped and slipped the Necklace into a red pocket and disappeared into the shadows just as the magicians attacked, electric magic ricocheting off the walls and wide eyes glancing back to their king when it was clear that he had escaped. They turned their attention to his master, irate, as Isis heaved and bled out on the ground.  Mana rushed to the wound with healing magic, but it was unclear if she had acted soon enough.

Ryou’s voice gasped as Seth jammed the Rod up into his throat first, the sharp points of the wings around the eye cutting his flesh and causing black blood to ooze from his neck. “This Body Is Weak, I Admit - Poor Ryou Would Not Withstand Such An Assault From Your Court, Pharaoh Atem,” It said. Bellowing from the spirits and Its other monsters echoed from outside, promising to attack them as well if the situation escalated.

“Seth, stop,” he snarled, noting that Kisara had shifted from her position close to the door since the demon arrived, though when she had moved, it was too late to defend Isis. 

It had regarded her passively a few times throughout this conversation, actively now. “I Thought I Missed One,” It said to her. “Apparently, I Missed Two.” She did not acknowledge, as if doing so would grant a power It didn’t deserve. Atem found this quite remarkable; Ryou had inserted a powerful force into their game that may be capable of fighting the demon, without detection. What else has his magic concealed? He felt his chest swell with admiration in tandem with his grief for the three Item-Bearers that had fallen.

“How did you fool the thief into going back to you ?” demanded Atem, furious at both his own neglect for his Court and the demon’s trickery.

Not-Ryou gently pushed the Rod back up toward the High Priest and out of Its face, not conceding eye contact, and fished for an approximation of Ryou’s concern, and Atem was reminded of the siren of the oasis; his lower abdomen tightened with a bump of shameful heat at the thought, knowing that Bakura could not rescue him this time.

“He Never Left. You Served Well, My Thief,” It said with faux diffidence to the shadows in which Bakura had disappeared, slinking toward the pharaoh with a glassy stride and casually allowing the neck of the robe to fall demurely over a thin, pale shoulder. “He Brought The Pharaoh And The Items To His Village, Just As Promised.” He turned his eyes back to Atem. For all the evil he possessed, that body was absolutely glowing, exceptionally beautiful, and he hoped his friends were faring better than he was at remembering what an absolutely destructive force was upon them.

“Holding my lovers hostage may be effective against me, but you will not find Seth so inclined,” Atem said darkly, cradling the Puzzle and grinning toward his High Priest, who pulsed the power of the Rod, rippling the darkness around them as the sun set. 

“A Shame,” the demon said, caressing the side of the pharaoh’s face. “Now I Will Have To Destroy Yugi As Well.”

“You will do no such thing,” Atem retorted. “With or without my or Bakura’s acquiescence, you will not find him an easy target, or this shadow game would not have continued.”

Not-Ryou, snapping toward him with a burst of cold gravity and now inches from his face, looked at him with derision. Atem recoiled, but did not back down when It spoke again. “Your Vessel Has Placed More Of Your Loyals In My Path By Foolishly Asking For Help.”

“Something you do not understand, do you Demon?” He grabbed the scruff of Not-Ryou’s cloak and pulled them closer together still. “You manipulate and bribe and browbeat and murder your way to force people to your will, but you can’t understand friends who would assist freely, without compensation, do you?”

“I definitely expect compensation,” said Kaiba. “I am the CEO of a major corporation.”

Yugi sighed again.

“Nevertheless,” the demon continued, “You Will Bring The Three Remaining Items To The Door.”

Atem glanced between his magicians, his priests, and the dragon, fighting the overwhelming urge to lean forward and kiss Ryou’s dark lips until he snapped out of his trance. “Yes,” he said, releasing his grip and shoving the demon backwards. “We will.”

They agreed to meet that evening, precisely at midnight, despite the ample protests from the High Priest and Atem’s uncle. 

Not-Ryou stood, even in height with the Thief King, and Atem was finding that he missed the ridiculous quips. This subdued, subservient version of him was so unlike the man that had courted Yugi and seduced Atem on multiple, memorable occasions that he almost found himself bored by this encounter. The rest of the Millennium Items were already in place.

The air had the ozone-laden flavor of the calm before the storm, so he was wary. Seth went first, fitting the Rod into the slot with significant reluctance, huffing and adjusting his headpiece as he returned to the king and what remained of his entourage. 

His uncle went next, groaning in pain as he dug the Eye from his own socket, blood trickling in its wake down through his beard and onto his clothing, staining it. Atem felt guilty as he watched, carefully stepping forward and uncircling the Puzzle’s string from around his neck, a lump in his throat. He wished for the millionth time since getting pulled into this memory world that he could consult Yugi directly, and well...Ryou’s prescience to grant him a spell of protection had given him the power to control part of this game from the plane of the diorama, and knowing that Yugi was looking out for Atem as the gods did was comforting on an existential level that would be impossible to capture even in the words of a holy text. He wondered if that was what love meant to him, admiring a boundless quality for compassion and faith that Yugi and Ryou possessed as vessels that he and Bakura had taken for granted. 

The moment the Puzzle clicked into place, a dark energy enveloped him and his companions. Zorc-not-Ryou was a Cheshire cat of evil teeth and two red dots in the smoky darkness. With the last Item, and his name, It would be free whether the king willed it or not, but he felt some responsibility for the magic and spoke the words himself.

“I, Pharaoh Atem, son of Aknamkanon, hereby lift the spell of imprisonment my Ren has wrought on this creature,” he said, and the full force of the demon, all black skin and twisting horns, emerged from the Puzzle and absorbed Ryou’s body in its expansion. 

Bakura stood by, impassive.

“Oh my god,” Duke said, laughing, and even Kaiba looked like he was trying to conceal a derisive smirk. “That’s what you look like? Your weird eye-penis thing just flopping around out there, I mean fuck at least the Sky Dragon’s second mouth is on its fucking head.”

Yugi had covered his mouth with his hand, trying to avoid the conversation, but failing. “I think I kind of get why you’re so angry, Zorc,” he said, chuckling. “Working in the cover of darkness seems like it might be...beneficial for you.”

“SILENCE,” Zorc growled, baring Ryou’s teeth as he placed his figure on the field in front of the pharaoh. 

Duke tossed Yugi another red die from across the room. “Again,” Yugi continued. “I roll for initiative.” He tossed it onto the field and it bounced, coming to rest on an extremely lucky number. “That looks pretty good for me,” he said. 

Kaiba caught the next polyhedron from Duke, rolling it next to Yugi’s. The blue plastic taunted Zorc, who rolled low. 

“Me first, then,” the tall brunette said with his signature smug confidence. He returned a figure to the field, transforming Kisara’s token. “I summon the Blue-Eyes White Dragon! But that’s not all,” he continued, and Yugi noted that he had that look in his eyes like he was revealing a surprise strategy in a Duel Monsters tournament. “With my deferred turn from earlier, I also summon Obelisk the Tormentor!”

“Me next,” said Yugi. “Through the pharaoh, I call the Sky Dragon of Osiris!” The figure Kaiba handed him, intricate and colorful, looked a hell of a lot better than the one he had used for random encounters in the desert when he still had the thief. This was definitely not the plain white filament construction sitting in partial completeness on the printer at school. He’d expect nothing less than quality from his rival, though; he should have used his influence to recruit Kaiba earlier.

Suddenly, the sound of an aircraft shook the room, blades chopping through the air outside. It really shouldn’t be unexpected at this point, given the barrage of texts Yugi had sent in the last day and Kaiba’s affirmations, but it was still...unusual? To hear something that close?

Yugi heard a slam from the balcony door, signaling the arrival of someone else, who stomped down the hall and smacked the doorframe with irritation, narrowly missing Duke’s head. Duke shrunk automatically and blinked up at the newcomer. 

The bronze god of a man, covered in a sheen of sweat from rushing to their location (wearing forty pounds of gold, from the looks of it) and flush with adrenaline, held out an elegant hand to the dice master without looking at him.

A gold die flew through the air to join Yugi’s and Kaiba’s, coming to rest on a number still higher than Zorc’s, even though it was late. 

Yugi looked at the clock, noting thirty minutes to the second as Kaiba had proclaimed, and broke into a wide smile. “How did you get here?” 

“Private jet from Luxor. Then a half hour by KC helicopter to here. Seto Kaiba and I don’t exactly half-ass theatrics.” He turned a violet gaze brimming with hatred on the demon. “You’re going to let Bakura and Ryou go, asshole. If anyone is going to kill the pharaoh, it’s going to be me.”

“Hey!” said Yugi, now annoyed, wishing that Bakura was present to counter the sarcasm.

“Nobody is killing the pharaoh period until he duels me,” Kaiba complained through gritted teeth.

Who Are You,” Zorc growled at the newest intruder, who pushed a lock of golden hair over his bare shoulder and placed a hand on his hip in a blatant power stance. 

“Marik Ishtar, Clan Leader literally raised in a cult whose main tenet was ‘Zorc is a Bitch’.” He fluttered his eyelashes. “And oh yeah, obviously I’m summoning the Winged Dragon of Ra.”

Kaiba handed him another exquisitely-crafted figure of the god, and he placed it on the field with the other three between the pharaoh and Zorc. Marik fussed over its positioning and said, “Weren’t these shenanigans supposed to happen in my sister’s exhibit at the museum? It’s a little cramped in here.”

“Yeah,” said Yugi. “The Dark One got a little too excited with all the Items sitting around and…”

“Came a little prematurely, right in his pants?” suggested Marik.

“Ha,” said Duke.

You Fools Are All Risking Your Souls In The Ultimate Shadow Game. I Demand Respect!” 

Kaiba was bickering with Yugi now, though, and the lot of them were ignoring Zorc, which seemed to infuriate him even more. “I hope you know what you’re doing, Yugi, bringing Ishtar’s instability into this mess.”

“Fuck you Kaiba,” Marik said. 

“I’ll have that helicopter drop you over a cliff next time.”

“Both of you be nice, please!” Yugi demanded, retrieving his die to roll for his attack bonus.

The demon was no match for the onslaught that followed.

As Kisara’s eyes started to glow, blue and bright as the afternoon sky, her wings unfurled from her back and she grew into a shiny iridescent beacon of power in the ruins of the village in which she was born, late on the eve on which it was destroyed. How an infant had survived such a massacre was baffling - but then again, Bakura had endured too, perhaps a bit more resourceful at six than she was at a day. If he had known of her survival…? It was impossible to speculate. 

The towering stone wall of the god Obelisk emerged next, crafted from the air in an angry, imposing gust, and the Sky Dragon curled down from the clouds after him, ruby candy scales shining in the light of his own fire and sporting two very devastating mouths of attack force that had the time since last summoned. 

Atem smiled, even more brightly when the god Ra accompanied him, gold ostentation saturated with its own light in the absence of the sun.

In a move that was his birthright, empowered by Yugi at the helm, he called all their attacks at once.

The demon did not even get a shot off; it vaporized in the blinding light of the three...four...gods as the thief’s Ka froze in futility between them.

Zorc roared and flipped the second hourglass.



They agreed to meet that evening, precisely at midnight, despite the ample protests from the High Priest and Priest Aknadin. 

At least, that is what the enchanting manifestation of Ryou had told him when he had returned, unscathed, from his ‘meeting’ with the pharaoh after Bakura had dispatched three of the other Item-Bearers, including their prolific healer Priestess Isis. 

The perversion of his host showered him with physical affection, saliva-lubricated licks under his ear and along his tricep, delicate hands massaging his traps below his neck and his thighs down to his groin, and it should have delighted him as it always did, but had lost some appeal in the wake of Ryou losing his agency.

Zorc-not-Ryou stood, even in height with him, and the pharaoh and some of his Court emerged before them, like idiots that had agreed to something with an entity that was playing a very disagreeable game. He had a million hysterical things to say about how dumb they all looked falling hook line and sinker, but his voice was insulated. The king looked bored, almost, and Bakura wanted to be amused but felt the emotion sickeningly stifled. 

An old fucking man of a priest went first, the man with the...the Eye, was extra gross to see him dislodge the disgusting thing himself, though the tips of Bakura’s fingers itched to do it himself.

The High Priest went second, fitting the Rod into the slot with significant reluctance, huffing and adjusting his headpiece as he returned to the king. Yami slotted the Puzzle soon after and...that wasn’t his name. Was it…? Now, he couldn’t remember. The Door was complete.

Seth was forward and she was behind, so he couldn’t see it; as Kisara’s eyes started to glow, blue and bright as the afternoon sky, a blade emerged from between her ribs and she choked on blood filling her lungs. The wings that had started to unfurl from her back withered uselessly and dissolved into a sapphire smoke as she fell to her knees, turning her neck toward the origin of the knife in her back. 

The gaping hole where the Eye had been glittered gorily back at her. “My son will be Pharaoh,” Aknadin said, “but you will not be Queen.”

The High Priest rushed backward toward her, arms outstretched, clutching her just as she fell to the ground, eyes vacant and breath shallow. The blue god that had been ready to follow faded into the dust kicked up by the clamor. His eyes shone with the razor edge of tears toward the man who had just called himself his father.

Something in Bakura broke to see her paralyzed, an unrealized kinship between them that he didn’t have the bandwidth to process. The man came to stand between him and the...Host. Yadonushi. Lover. Friend and he...he couldn’t possibly be on the same side as the man that haunted his dreams, could he?

The pharaoh raged, pulling Osiris from the sky, as Ra exploded onto the field, the light of the sun in the dead of night.

Zorc too materialized in the game, power expanding.

“Kaiba, you have to attack with Obelisk!” shouted Yugi. Losing the Blue-Eyes after the latest time skip was a devastating blow to their strategy.

“He Cannot,” Zorc replied, 

“Besot with grief!?” exclaimed Kaiba. “I don’t even know her!” Watching his dragon fall on the field, though, shot anguish through his features that he couldn’t hide. 

Another crash echoed from down the hall, followed shortly by the appearance of two more friendlies in Ryou’s studio. “Delivery!” shouted Joey from the doorway, Anzu and enough Chinese takeout to feed a palace in tow. 

“You.” A cryptic syllable.

“Not now Kaiba, how do you think I’ve been able to pee and eat over the last day or two?” Yugi admonished, but his annoyance was softened by the appearance of his other friends. 

Joey, maturely choosing not to engage the needler, said “Tristan is at the entrance to this bougie apartment complex in a dark suit and sunglasses scaring the shit out of anyone trying to get in.”

“Also, I pulled the fire alarm on the way up,” Anzu contributed, hooking her pinky. “Anyone else not scared by the secret agent helicopter storm of the building is on their way out.”

“Thanks guys,” Yugi said sincerely. “But in case you haven’t noticed, still waist-deep in shadow game here. Kaiba, are you prepared to…?”

Kaiba took an angry bite of egg roll courtesy of the carton Joey had shoved in his face and turned to Marik. “Take off your shirt,” he said. 

All the eyebrows in the room raised a little, Duke’s a little higher than the rest.

A caress at the back of the thief’s mind distracted him. Zorc latched onto Ra’s throat, raw sound of screeching bone on metal scorching his ears, and he should have been psyched to see it but instead he felt uneasy. The Eye-Bearer { MURDERER, COLD BLOOD , his subconscious screamed} had transformed into the Great Shadow Magus to blitz the remaining dragon.  

Diabound was doing the snake equivalent of pacing behind him, waiting for the demon to command him. But, the black, towering, kaiju of a monster was swaying between him and the battle line before the pharaoh quite enjoying himself in taking bites out of the gods as his host’s countenance snarled with glee behind It. 

Ryou dug with his bare hands, sweating, deep into the dirt beneath the wooden bench in Bakura’s soul room. The moonlight was nearly gone, a straggling sliver that had been waning since the demon had trapped him here. His nails were stubs, caked in black and aching, but the red-pink pulse of light he sought shone through the last layer, the promise of hope.

He had hidden it here during a long-ago shadow game, on the island during Duelist Kingdom, when Bakura was still entrenched with Zorc but showed Ryou glimmers of individuality that had made him the great Thief King. 

Bakura had lost that game too, and each time he dragged himself back out of the shadows of the Ring, the man Ryou really hoped he was revealed himself a little more. It was simple things, at first; the lazy preference for dozing on Ryou’s couch watching a movie, postponing an important milestone for the diorama to seduce the chemistry professor’s handsome research assistant for his host to escalated, of course, to protecting Marik (and bedding the man himself) instead of abandoning him during Battle City, and soliciting Ryou’s companionship romantically , even though he may not have described it that way. When the pharaoh parted Ryou from the Ring, he feared all the progress they had made was lost and...that a part of him was missing with it. Breaking into the game shop wasn’t even a question after that, though he certainly couldn’t have guessed where that was going to lead.

The demon’s grasp had been so tenuous for so long that Ryou had hoped it would eventually slip away. The drive for the power in the Puzzle, their recent proximity to the pharaoh, and Bakura’s burgeoning preference for the company of the king’s vessel eventually became too much, when the full power of the Items was within reach. 

Ryou was only perceiving scraps of the game, exultantly when he realized that Yugi had succeeded in tearing the final thin strand of influence between the demon and the thief, disconnecting them as Ryou stalled Zorc’s plunge into the world of memory. Now that his claws were deeper in Bakura’s soul than ever, he was again the malicious spirit that had taken over his body unrepentantly and put his once-friends into comas.

He grasped his hands around his prize, lifting it up before him. He meant what he’d said in the moment Zorc had given them together in the temple, that he was prepared to fight them both. He believed Yugi would win, with a little help of course, but before he committed he was determined to give the thief one final chance to escape.

Chapter Text

Marik stared back at Kaiba, bemused. “Seto Kaiba, I had no idea. If you wanted to get me out of my clothes, you could have just asked during Battle City.”

“I’m asking now. I have an academic interest. In addition, you seemed a little preoccupied on my airship.”

That sure didn’t sound like an outright denial to Yugi, who kept his hand carefully over his mouth to hide his inappropriate grin as he’d done earlier, seeing as Zorc’s forces were chipping expertly at their monsters’ health bars in the meantime.

“Ohoho, is that what they’re calling it now. ‘Academic interest’,” Marik imitated, sidling up to Kaiba, who remained stone-faced and immobile, like the god he couldn’t summon.

A sharp tssssssss pervaded the room from the corner, where Joey had cracked a bottle of Heineken and handed it to Duke, who took a generous swig. 

“Wish I’d picked up popcorn too,” Joey said, elbowing Anzu, who had dissolved into giggles in between bites of noodles. “You need a beer Yug?”

Yugi was suddenly parched. “Gods yes.” Joey walked over to him with another open one, wiping off the condensation with his shirt before handing it to his friend. “Thank you.”

“No problem pal.” Joey ‘accidentally’ kicked the leg of Zorc’s chair on the way back across the small room and he and Duke snickered while the demon’s red pupils glared at them. He fumbled his next roll thanks to Duke’s legitimately fair dice.

“Can you interpret the magic on his back?” Yugi asked, turning around to address Kaiba. The brunette’s eyes were tilted toward the corner of the ceiling, carefully avoiding Marik’s fluttering lashes and well-muscled, sleeveless arm perched on his shoulder at the elbow. 

“As clearly as I could read the text of Ra. It’s a summoning ritual - more specifically, a fusion of the three gods.”

“So it’s like a souped-up Polymerization magic card?” Joey observed. 

“That is, astoundingly, a reasonable comparison for a man who usually has the intellectual processing capability of a third grader with a head injury.”

“Fuck you Kaiba,” Joey replied, and Yugi thought they should make it a drinking game for every time somebody said that, in general. 

Except this time, Marik said, “Amen to that,” and licked his lips.

“Well?” he glared at the tombkeeper. “Get on with it or I will lose my turn. If the thief figured it out, then the demon knows what he has to try to prevent.”

The man really did know how to stay on-topic. Marik was now making a show of slowly unzipping his hoodie, finger following the zipper pull between his pecs and the dividing line of his abs. Of course he didn’t have anything on underneath it. Yugi could appreciate how Bakura had found the tombkeeper distracting during the tournament.

“So impatient,” Marik purred, finally disconnecting the zipper and shrugging the garment elegantly off his shoulders. Duke whistled. 

Kaiba rolled his eyes and turned him around, gently brushing some long blonde hair off over his shoulder to reveal the entire design. Yugi saw a spark of discomfort in Marik’s eyes, so quick he almost missed it, and wondered if it had hurt physically or in another way Kaiba didn’t perceive. He was about to express his concern when Zorc laughed. 

“Your Pretty Scars Will Not Save Your Party,” he said, pouting with Ryou’s lips and licking the pad of his thumb before placing it in the sand next to the fallen blue god. “Obelisk Is Neutralized.”

“Then I will have to do some editing,” Kaiba responded, unsheathing the spear from the Rod. 

The sharp shing sound it made caused Marik to gasp with palpable fear this time and he spun around, arm cocked for what was sure to be a brutal punch to Kaiba’s handsome face. Kaiba, more nimble than he looked given his imposing height, dodged expertly and held up his unencumbered hand. 

When on earth…? He must have retrieved it from where the pharaoh had stowed it with the other Items in Yugi’s duffel. “Whoa, hold on…” started Yugi, at the same time his other friends spoke out. 

“The fuck!?”

“Outta line, man.”

Marik was fuming. “Didn’t they tell you what I did to the last piece of shit who took a blade to my skin?”

“I imagine something similar happened to him as what happened to Gozaburo the last time he picked up a whip,” Kaiba said in a monotone. “Don’t mistake my urgency for a lack of empathy. The spell has to be etched in flesh, but it doesn’t have to be yours.”

Zorc’s mole Aknadin may have been onto something - after observing Seto Kaiba over the years, Yugi had no trouble believing that his previous incarnation, High Priest Seth, would have been a worthy successor to the pharaoh, borne by blood or coup. His heart hurt for Kaiba’s suffering as much as Marik’s, but...if only he had an ounce of diplomatic ability.

“Hold on, I thought you didn’t believe in this ancient Egypt destiny bullshit,” Joey interjected, confused. 

“Destiny is for the lazy and uncreative,” Kaiba retorted. “I am neither.”

“Your Destiny Is To SUBMIT to ME,” Zorc growled, becoming more enraged by the minute despite Its tactical advantage.

“My point stands then,” said Kaiba.

“What are you going to do?” Marik said through gritted teeth, still in a defensive posture that he’d assumed after his failed punch.

“You think I didn’t do my research on your family after you co-opted my tournament, Ishtar? Magic has rules. Not knowing them puts me at a disadvantage. A Kaiba never willingly accepts a disadvantage.”

“What could possibly replace Obelisk?” Yugi asked incredulously.

“The fuck is your motivation for this?!”

Kaiba answered Marik. “I have not been unclear about that. I will defeat Yugi in a duel, or the pharaoh, or both of them, because I am the best and I Deserve. To. Win.” The steel blue of his eyes stared down Marik like it was the most obvious thing in the world. “This trivial side plot is a simple inconvenience.” 

Marik pursed his lips and looked at him vacantly and Yugi wondered if Ryou’s assertion that he was a little scatterbrained had more merit than he’d originally thought.

“Do you have a lighter?” Kaiba continued, as if he hadn’t been interrupted. Marik, expression unchanged, blinked at him and shirtlessly pulled a Zippo from his pants pocket, flicking it open. A steady orange flame flitted to life under the cap and Kaiba ran the sharp edge of the pointed weapon through it, slowly. Marik’s eyes, worried, looked over at Ryou’s body; its possessor was ignoring him, suspicion firmly entrenched on Yugi and Kaiba.

“So, is this the right time for a ‘flaming’ joke?” Duke said, now well into his third beer. 

Joey choked on his next swallow trying to stifle a laugh, which, come to think of it, would have been hilarious to call out too.

Kaiba had to be the wet blanket on the senses of humor though. “Yugi.”

Yugi cleared his throat. “Uh, yeah?”

“Do you like him?”

“Excuse me?”

Kaiba let out an exasperated sigh. “Ryou Bakura. The thief. Do you really like him? Do you trust them?”

It was a fair question given the Ring spirit’s wavering allegiances, even during this shadow game alone. And yet...he thought about falling asleep in Ryou’s arms across the hall. The exultant look on the thief’s face when he’d pilfered the Kuriboh and successfully hotwired the Lamborghini at the pier. His Puzzle spirit’s dark chuckle at one of Ryou’s morbid puns as he looped his arm around the man’s shoulders while they watched a terrible movie on the couch (Bakura had spent the evening trying to sweet-talk Yugi out of his incorporeal pants, of course, saying something about hot ghost sex). 

“Yes,” he said finally, even though it was probably only a few seconds since his friend had asked the question. 

“I do too,” said Marik quietly, eyes downcast before looking at Yugi with renewed determination. Yugi nodded. 

“A Mistake,” Zorc intoned. “The Thief Is Mine.”

“Like fuck he is,” Marik snapped.

Kaiba used the hand that wasn’t holding the Rod to grab his silver briefcase and flop it onto a flat part of the sand in the diorama, unhinging the clasps and gesturing with his chin once it opened to reveal the cream-of-the-crop of his Duel Monsters card collection. “Third stack up from the bottom left corner. Sixth card from the top. Hold it up for me.”

Yugi pulled the deck and shuffled through it to card six, turning it over carefully so as not to reveal it to his opponent. His eyes widened. “But this is…”

“Obviously,” said Kaiba. “Hold it still.” He studied it carefully and Yugi tried desperately not to let his hand tremble.

“You Cannot Afford This Delay.”

“I’m rich. There’s nothing I can’t afford.” He pierced the apex of the Rod like a scalpel into the skin of his own palm without flinching, tracing the rectangle outline of a powerful card.

Ryou slipped the heavy item into a crossbody leather satchel at his hip, recognizing that now he’d have to use the backdoor he’d tunneled from within Bakura’s subconscious over the years. Yes, the thief had insulated him during their most recent tournament, but he had chosen to forgo the advantage in order to respect Bakura’s...privacy. It was more than the thief had done, certainly, in the first year or so of their coexistence. 

He found and revealed the hidden opening, settling gracefully onto his hands and knees in the sand, and started crawling through a winding, narrow passageway.

The relationship with the thief had settled into a semi-peaceful symbiosis, though the construction of the diorama had been conceptualized and initiated long before Battle City. Ryou couldn’t pinpoint the exact moment he’d recognized the third consciousness amongst their brainwaves, but Marik may have had something to do with it. For all the tombkeeper’s insistence that he hated Yugi’s god-spirit that had (unwittingly) forced his abuse by a cult, the demon had vehemently objected to his proximity on account of Marik’s being saturated by the pharaoh’s magic and protection under their gods. 

Ryou could understand why he himself was an attractive host for the Ring spirit, seeing as how he didn’t answer to them. Still, he had suppressed Zorc on the thief’s account - any enjoyment, carnal or otherwise, in the mortal world was something he wanted to encourage so the thief would choose to live if given the chance. 

Well, Ryou was about to give that chance to him, if he could just

He shielded his eyes; the moonlight almost blinded him now, after (what felt like) hours in the dark, exposed only to the pupil-preserving red light of his precious cargo.

But it wasn’t moonlight after all. The moon was but a pallid dot in the landscape before him, because where he emerged was beneath the superlunary splendor of his spirit’s Ka. Large, winged, having absorbed the monsters it had destroyed, including some of the pharaoh’s, no doubt, it hissed an ear-piercing, intimidating sound as it went toe-to-toe (well...tail-to-tail) with the Sky Dragon of Osiris on the field. 

Diabound paused in her attack to look down at Ryou, tongue darting out to sniff the air, and Ryou had no idea what or who he looked like to the mighty, divine creature, because he’d never actually seen her. He wanted to cry; the power of the monster filled the air with electricity and light, so antithetical to the shadow creature that had infiltrated the thief’s mind that he wanted to scream, ‘Can’t you see, Bakura? You do not belong to a dark, minor god of the underworld.’

He must have said it out loud, however, because his spirit turned suddenly in all his regal red attire, silver hair scattered in the wind from the bursts of energy emanating from the battle, and his eyes brightened. “Ryou,” he said, and Ryou could probably count on two hands the number of times he’d heard his first name from the Ring spirit, and the sound was so real, so right, he couldn’t imagine never hearing it again. 

“Please,” he started, but Zorc had caught on by then and apparated Its facsimile of Ryou between them with a sickening crash of air, causing actual-Ryou to fall back and catch himself with his wrists in the sand as Diabound recoiled. 

The black, body-hugging robes and dark lines and creepy eyes made him look great, really, but Ryou worked very hard at being hot, and this thing would not be allowed to conscript his image on top of everything else. 

“How Did You Escape?” It demanded

“You manipulated the thief, NOT me,” he answered, pushing to his feet with difficulty. Bakura, in recess and stalling his Ka, looking perplexedly between them. 

“I Am In Control,” It said, clenching Its fist, and Ryou’s heart caught in his throat when he saw Diabound shrink at the long-ranged attack of Zorc’s Shadow Magus on the Winged Dragon of Ra, followed by Bakura dropping to his knees and clutching his chest. 

Ryou struggled to his feet and rushed to Bakura’s side, Zorc’s insane laughter trailing him, and hugged him around the shoulders, his peasant-brown cloak (and face, most likely) now caked in dust. “Bakura...Bakura you have to listen to me…”

By some miracle, the Sky Dragon stopped its next attack on Diabound and slithered itself between the Magus and Bakura, while the black-appendaged embodiment of Zorc’s monster form encroached menacingly from its previous battlefield. Ra followed the Sky Dragon and the air stilled as the king emerged in all his regal magnificence between them. Bakura and Ryou were caught in the middle. 

It was an Old Western standoff between the pharaoh and the demon - Ryou thought he could almost hear the ominous drums and see the tumbleweeds. “Pharaoh…” he whispered, and the man looked at him with brilliant, concerned ruby eyes, and then back at Bakura, narrowing them. 

“Ryou,” he greeted, “speak your piece.” 

Since they were homonyms, he didn’t know whether his lover had meant ‘piece’ or ‘peace’. The implication would be very different. The wind whistled through the now dormant battlefield. 

He took advantage of the silence. “Bakura,” he started, “we have lived together for too long for this to be the end, for us, for my world.”

“Yadonushi, why did you come here,” he interrupted flatly, silver eyes dull even with the reflection of the brilliance of gods and monsters before him.

“Because I care about you, Bakura! We care about you. I want to give you the chance to do the right thing, not because of any moral or divine obligation, but because it’s your existence. Zorc sees you as nothing but an expendable gamepiece.”

“LIES,” screamed the demon. “I Have Given You Everything You Wanted. You Are Obligated To Uphold Your End Of The Deal.”

Ryou could interrupt too, “It abused you in the shadows for millennia. I don’t blame you for what you did to survive. As a child, you didn’t have a choice when this thing took advantage of your vulnerable soul. This time is different.

“Choose another chance at life. Choose Yugi and his spirit. Choose Marik, choose me. Reject the demon that took the choice from you by taking it back.” 

He reached into his bag, pulling out the glowing double-lobed red stone and holding it flush against his chest, looking up into Bakura’s eyes and finally allowing the hot tears that had been pooling to spill from the corners of his eyes. He extended Change of Heart toward the Ring spirit and dared to hope.

“Please, Bakura. The magic that can sever you from the demon’s influence again can only work if you want it to.”

Kaiba carved the intricate design with the golden tip of his Millennium Item, ebbing the bloodflow with a styptic pencil in between longer cuts, until he had a beautiful red liquid etch twinkling on his left hand. It was an awkwardly-weighted implement for the task, but like everything else Seto Kaiba touched, he had wielded it expertly.

He looked toward Yugi, and then made eye contact with the tombkeeper. “Marik…” he said with the first glimmer of hesitation since he’d walked in the door with Duke. 

“You have to,” Marik said, back to him, but his voice trembled uncertainly. “Otherwise it’ll all have been for nothing. Bakura did more than this to save me, I owe him at least something this simple.”

“I’d hardly call months of comprehensive research and my impeccable timing in synchronizing a response to Yugi’s haphazard text messages ‘simple’.”

“Yeah, yeah, your impregnable plan was thrown into chaos because all your resources were set up for the museum, I know, I listened to you bitch for an hour on my flight and I’ll have to listen to Bakura bitch too when he’s in his right mind. Hurry up before it clots, asshole.” 

Kaiba continued forcefully, “You also need to consider the implication that if this works at all, it may only save the pharaoh.”

“Not to mention the world as we know it,” Yugi replied, a little irritated at Kaiba’s less-than-full disclosure, and the fact that maybe Yugi himself had a very personal, vested interest in saving them both.

Marik folded his arms and narrowed his eyes at Yugi. “Consider it an inconvenience fee, I guess. The Clan would say that preserving his Will is why I exist at all.”

“Very well. Remain still,” he said gently. Marik squeezed his eyes shut as Kaiba’s palm connected with the likeness of Obelisk on Marik’s scarred flesh, blood on skin, and the magic sizzled between them as the possibility materialized in the game. Marik flinched but didn’t pull away.

The air swam thick and heavy around them, a pocket of the Shadow Realm descending even deeper into the dark. The lines on Marik’s back, though, were all bright light, as if the sun god himself was shining from within his chest. The outline of the creature overlayed on Obelisk was different; a vibrant, pulsating red-pink. Marik wavered on his feet and his pupils dilated, breathing shallowly, but Kaiba steadied him. 

“What now?” asked Anzu, distressed, setting the takeout boxes she’d collected for the garbage to the side and looking between Joey and Yugi.

Yugi rolled his latest die replacement from Duke. “Now,” he said, “it’s up to the pharaoh and the thief.” 

Please, Bakura, he thought, and he could almost hear Ryou’s overlapping plea.

Bakura hated headaches. Somehow, his host’s favorite card was standing before him, half of him illuminated by Diabound and the other half shadowed by the dark monster. The angle he was looking from even made it look like one of each of their wings was sticking out his back. And his eyes, his eyes, they’d been Bakura’s eyes too, really, when he’d stolen the body for himself, but now they were crying. He couldn’t take this man anywhere. Hmph...sentimental. It was the thought of Zorc erasing those bright eyes from existence that finally got through to him.

“Gods fucking dammit Ryou. You couldn’t let me have the easy way out, could you? It had to be friendship, love...fucking,...garbage difficult emotions…” Bakura trailed off, snatching the stone from Ryou’s hands and cradling his host’s head to his chest under the red cloak, the salty rivulets on his stupid gorgeous face rubbing off on his clavicle. The moment he touched it, some tense cord of magic snapped, and his head throbbed, but it actually felt like his head .

Ryou let out a pained, strangled noise, but it sounded like relief and he wrapped his arms around the thief’s ribs and back firmly, just like he had a hundred times in the soul room of the Ring trying to explain what a ‘hug’ was, and the thief couldn’t recall if he’d really caught it until now. 

Because choosing to abandon Zorc for good had unveiled other things. Bubbling to the top was not the image, immediately, but the feeling of his mother hugging him tightly after he’d returned from getting lost with an older cousin for a day or so. It wasn’t a big deal, really, and maybe he was a little young to be stealing beer from merchants and passing out in an alleyway, but he was fine! What was she being so mushy about? 

Still...the scent of her hair, the sound of her voice as she admonished him through tears in their uncouth dialect this far out from the Capitol, the warmth of her skin as she carried him to his sleeping mat. The feel of her nose on his forehead in their version of a goodnight kiss. The love in her eyes. His mother’s face. Not so dissimilar from Ryou’s mother’s after all, but distinctly, uniquely his memory. 

The change in the serpent’s allegiance was abrupt when Bakura pressed Change of Heart through her skin; she disappeared in a flash, only to pop back into existence behind the Shadow Magus, landing a crushing blow to the back of his skull as he howled into the night. 

Through the reinvigorated cacophony, Ryou tightly wound in his arms, he caught the eye of the pharaoh, with the golden bolts and red tips of his hair glowing beneath his crown, and thought with derision how nobody ought to look that good after nearly dying, and actually dying, and getting the shit fucked out of him by the Thief King in the desert sand for a week straight. He was smiling too, damn him.

Ra roared and towered above them all, golden plates of armor damaged but unpierced by Zorc’s offensive, and as he looked directly at Bakura with an irritated but relieved glint of lavender, and...the fuck? “The fuck?” he verbalized his last thought. “Marik?”

He pretended he could hear what the Egyptian would say. ‘You fucking idiot! This is the worst scheme of all time! You should have just run away with me! ’ He almost wished he’d forced Ryou to make an avatar for him, but specifically avoiding the possibility of him or Yugi ending up in the game was the whole fucking point. Fat load of good that had done, when doubtlessly they had both given him the proverbial finger and inserted themselves in other ways. ‘Phrasing,’ Pretend-Marik said, and Bakura chuckled. 

“Bakura,” the pharaoh addressed in the voice he probably used to appoint nobles to shit like ‘Chief Aqueduct Architect’ or something. “Welcome back.”

“Glad to be here!” he said sarcastically. “For my final act, I’d like to kill this asshole and get the FUCK out of here.”

“Yugi and I have a suggestion,” the pharaoh replied, holding a hand cautiously under where the Puzzle would be; it started to glow. 

From across the ruins of Kul Elna, a pinprick of light from the hand of the Rod-Bearer on a hill answered it, where the High Priest was cradling the fading body of his wife and immortalizing her in stone as the Blue Eyes White Dragon. 

Bakura looked down at his own chest; the shadow game Ring was in the Door, but the real Ring still hung at his host’s neck in the real world. He could invoke it naturally as his soul had been bound to it, and the skin under where Ryou’s paperwhite palm splayed against his chest added a third holy light from the souls of his people to their proposition; he could see it in his minds’ eye, swirling permutations of god monsters combining to form the pharaoh’s ultimate weapon.

“Hey, does it help that I’ve fucked you both?” Bakura asked, kind of seriously, but delighting still in the displeased frown he’d invoked from the monarch.

“Doubtful,” the pharaoh said. He imagined Marik either snickering or wrinkling his nose and huffing jealously. 

“Just thought I’d ask.” 

Bakura directed Diabound to wrap around Ra, as the pharaoh commanded the Sky Dragon to entwine itself around them both, and the candy-cane image shifted into a towering white-gold beacon of light, illuminating the sands and pyramids beyond as if it were day.

“I, the Pharaoh Atem, fuse these gods with the magic of my birthright to summon The Goddess Horakhty, Creator of Light!”

The mighty goddess, golden wings unfurled, burst into existence and opened her eyes to stare into the pointy-toothed black maw of the shadow creature that had dared to usurp humanity. 

“NO,” shouted the demon in the game.

“NO,” shouted Zorc-Not-Ryou back in the apartment as dark clouds filled the atmosphere and Ryou’s skin erupted with larger, scaly black patches traveling up his arms and neck. It reached out a distorted, clawed hand and clutched the third hourglass at its narrow neck, turning it over and slamming it into the diorama.

“You have got to be kidding,” Marik groaned.




A caress at the back of the thief’s mind distracted him. Zorc latched onto Ra’s throat, raw sound of screeching bone on metal scorching his ears, and he felt uneasy. 

The Eye-Bearer, no, the Great Shadow Magus, NO, the COLD-BLOODED MURDERER, was being...had been devoured by Diabound.








The stolen Ryou-version of Zorc looked up and down, left and right, horrified, as a glowing spell circle erupted around him.


Horakhty continued to form, powering up her attack with the pharaoh below, arms to the heavens. 








Bakura felt Ryou turn his face slightly so that one eye faced the demon. He thought he also felt his host’s lips curl upward into a smug grin. He felt the vibrations of his voice, but he did not let up on the strength of his embrace. “I thought I would add a little something extra under the sands of Kul Elna in the diorama, thanks to Yugi’s phosphorescent paint,” he laughed quietly.

“He Knew,” snarled the demon.

“Yes, Yugi did,” said Ryou. “And he activated it when you tried to use your last time token.” Ryou detached himself from Bakura then and marched up to the demon, and Bakura was all, “No, no no...Ryou what are you doing?”

The demon’s eyes were wide, red pupils aflame, sharp nails bared at his fingertips, but Ryou did not relent. “May this Solemn Judgment repay you for disrupting my sex life,” Ryou snapped, jabbing his finger into the collarbone of his doppelganger.

“Your Stopping My Last Time Manipulation Is Inconsequential. The Spell For My Passage Into Your World Is Nearly Complete,” Zorc gestured to the spirits of Kul Elna, whose magic had finished the tunnel to the real world and were dissipating to make way for Zorc’s monster.

“It is,” said Ryou. “But you won’t be around to use it.”

“Bakura, Its name,” the pharaoh implored. 

“You Can Stop This And Have Your Revenge!”

“I am so sick of your shit.” He turned to the pharaoh. “Zorc Necrophades,” said Bakura nonchalantly. “A name for a name,” he added, with more sincerity, smiling into the red eyes of his enemy-turned-lover, really smiling, before letting it shift into his characteristic smirk. “Kick Its ass.”

“TRAITOR!” Zorc bellowed, but it was too late. 

“Great Horakhty, Creator of Light, banish the demon of darkness Zorc Necrophades and end this game once and for all!” Atem charged, godly power hugging his body as the unstoppable fusion, bolstered by the Rod-Bearers and Bakura, launched the final attack. A blinding liquid light crashed like a tidal wave from the palms of the great goddess, and all the shadows were erased as the red-eyed beast disintegrated into nothingness.

Quiet descended, a pause in the commotion of the field and in his mind. He heard his own breath shudder in his lungs, and his heart beat. The cylinder of light shooting into the sky and the spirits that trailed its circumference remained. His pupils were so dilated from the influx of everything that it was affecting his hearing. 

Mana was screaming something at him, the pharaoh was screaming something at him, and his host was smiling sweetly, pressing his lips to Bakura’s, and he tasted like bright citrus, even here. After a long drag of his tongue and a soft bite on his lower lip that made Bakura moan embarrassingly, he crouched over the hole from which he’d emerged earlier to give Bakura the Change of Heart. His was the only voice he heard, as if they were still in each other's minds. “You should actually listen to her, Kiseichuu. I need to go this way,” Ryou said, before disappearing in an instant beneath the rock. He was quick...would have made a good thief.

Mana knocked on his head, literally knocked, with her knuckles and everything. “Fucking ow!” he complained, snatching her wrist, but the rush of sound from his surroundings returned in a millisecond.

“Come on now, or you’ll miss it!” she said, smiling with that wide-eyed innocence that Yugi liked to use to get Bakura to steal a cooler car or buy the bigger banana float. Meaning, he couldn’t exactly refuse. 

“Fine, whatever, miss what?” But she had already taken off running.

The pharaoh, beside him, linked their elbows together and erupted into a gallop in pursuit, looking back at Bakura’s face animatedly and nearly tripping over his own shorter legs in the process. “The gateway,” he said, slowing on approach, and Bakura gaped at the sun emerging from the ground. 

“That sure looks like it’ll vaporize us, Phara...Atem.” He turned to Mana. “What about you, Beautiful?”

“Don’t worry,” she said. “We’ll see you soon. Time doesn’t really make sense in the afterlife. You two have a few things yet to do.”

“Hm.” A loud crack echoed from ground to sky, and the tunnel of light fluctuated.

“Time to go,” Atem said, holding out his arms for Mana, who wrapped around him briefly before pulling back. “Thank you, Mana. Please thank Kisara and the others as well, for their sacrifice.”

She nodded, stepping back. The pharaoh threaded his fingers through the thief’s, then stepped into the inferno, pulling the other man with him. Bakura felt a transcendent peace settle into his bones, even though the magic looked and felt like fire. 

And then a tremendous ache in his actual bones. The fuck had Zorc done to his host’s body out here?! He grumbled and sat up onto his knees, rubbing his eyes, just realizing he was straddling Yugi on the floor in the remains of the wreckage of Ryou’s diorama. He thought of Ryou agonizing over vacuuming immediately.

But...Yugi wasn’t underneath him at all. Red eyes blinked up at him expectantly, followed by a serious blush at realizing their position and their audience. 

Bakura braced himself on the pharaoh’s chest for good measure, letting his eyes adjust. He caught Actual Yugi’s worried, thrilled violets first, both hands clasped over his mouth, and then sought the familiar lavender of Marik’s, who the corner with...Kaiba. All right then. 

“Holy fucking shit,” Marik said, eyes sparkling in that way he was all-too familiar with.

“Like what you see?” asked Bakura, flexing underneath his red robe and striking a pose to an unenthusiastic ‘oof’ from the man underneath him getting squished.

“’re separate,” Yugi said breathlessly. 

“You’re hot,” Marik contributed. Yugi scrunched his face.

Ryou whimpered in pain, clutching his chest where the dried blood of the assault from the Ring still covered raw flesh, trying to right himself in his chair. Black scales were receding across his arms where they were uncovered, leaving pale skin behind that looked like it was freshly healed.

“Ryou…” Bakura started, but he found pushing to his feet more difficult than he expected. 

Kaiba was across the room then, Rod dropping to the ground with a clang, fingers to the pulse point on his host’s neck, counting off on his watch. He tapped a button on his cell with the other hand. “Send a medical team to my location,” he demanded. He looked disinterestedly at the very separate, as Yugi had observed, bodies of the thief and the pharaoh. “And a couple of ID packages.” His nostrils flared and he sniffed. “And some soap.”

Right away Mr. Kaiba,” came Isono’s voice over the speaker. 

“I have a shower, Seto,” Ryou strained, “and I think I’d like one myself.”

“Has he had any water since you started this idiotic adventure?” He glared at Yugi, who had also stood, rather shakily. 


“Zorc wasn’t exactly used to being corporeal,” Ryou said weakly, extending his arms to the two brown-skinned newcomers on the floor. 

The pharaoh squirmed. “Get off of me, Thief!” he ordered, like they were in the fistfight on the quad all over again.

“I’m fucking trying! I’m tired from saving your ass!”

Yugi saved us, and Ryou saved us,” the pharaoh corrected.

"Okay, they helped a little."

“King of Games, bitch!” Yugi was beside them now, smiling that wonderful smile of his and helping them both up while landing a good-natured smack on Bakura’s shoulder. “Ryou came in clutch with those two magic cards at the end. Brilliant” he trailed off, staring at Bakura as he adjusted the purple shendyt under his robe. Bakura responded to getting checked out by winking at him with the eye on the good side of his face.

Poor Yugi’s brain seemed to process everything all at once, then, and he tried to look away, but only succeeded at seeing the pharaoh stand and adjust his crown, preening. By then he was practically hyperventilating. Even Kaiba let his stoic mask slip for an instant into a curious appraisal, but was in no way subtle about raking his eyes from the the tips of the king’s hair down to his elegantly-sandaled feet and back up again, taking his time.

If the king noticed, he didn’t say so. “Aibou,” he said with reverence, bending down to brush their noses together. “Ryou.” He pressed a kiss to the other man’s jaw, leaning on Kaiba to do it, who definitely jumped a little. “Thank you. We owe you our lives, as does the world.”

“Team effort,” Ryou said, slowly creaking his way into a standing position and gesturing to their other friends filling the small room. He leaned toward Bakura to cup his face. “I missed you, Thief,” he said softly, and Bakura really hoped Ryou didn’t see him choke back a sob because he’d never let him live it down.

“Shit Ryou, I think you’re taller,” Marik interjected, shattering the moment but kind of rescuing Bakura from the emotional hostage situation, so he couldn’t find it in himself to be mad about it. 

Ryou could, though. “There are some things I didn’t miss,” his host muttered under his breath, and Yugi laughed.

“Don’t worry, you all look like the same shrimp from up here,” Kaiba said, leaning back against the wall and then heading toward the door when he heard the curt knock. Hopefully it was his corporate guys showing up with a metric fuckton of IV hangover cure.

“Don't exchange bodily fluids with anyone until you’re vaccinated,” Kaiba shouted on his way. “Our modern immune systems will probably kill you, but for good this time.”

“Tell me he’s not coming back,” Joey piped up. “Also, you’re goddam right Ryou, teamwork! We were on snack and booze patrol!”

“And a great job you did!” Yugi complimented.

“This whole thing honestly turned out less destructive than I thought it was going to,” Anzu said, noting that the building was actually still intact.

A whole assortment of people filtered in and out starting a few minutes later. Tristan was with Kaiba’s entourage too, fitting right in with the black shirts and sunglasses crowd except for his frantic questioning of what he’d missed. Even Bakura had no clue what it had looked like from out here - he secretly hoped they were watching him rail the smugass king the whole time.

Once Kaiba’s medical professionals were satisfied, Yugi’s friends gradually filtered out to give them some space to rest. Kaiba himself lingered long enough for Yugi to shake his hand in gratitude. “I don’t know how we can possibly thank you,” he said, sincerely. “Without your resources…”

“Then I take it you are amenable to discussing my compensation.”

“Oh?...oh. You were serious?”

“I am always serious.”

“Don’t worry Yugi, I’m sure Kaiba accepts cash, check, or sexual favors,” Bakura said.

“And Bitcoin,” Kaiba added.

“Holy shit, was that an actual joke?” Marik asked, still cautiously distant from the rest. Bakura was a little disappointed he’d put his shirt back on.


“So you do accept sexual favors,” Marik confirmed.

“I’d be foolish not to consider it if the indebted party looks anything like you.” His usual sour expression and deadpan delivery still hadn’t changed so it was impossible to tell if he meant it.

“You would be able to make a compliment sound like an insult.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“Of course you will.”

“In any case, it’s time to leave, Ishtar. We have to go explain this nonsense to your sister so she can help the pharaoh finish his...duties, whatever they are, and then we can finally duel.”


“At the museum with your brother, very impatiently blowing up my phone that I did not give her a direct number to. Did you think I’d have brought you alone without your wranglers?”

Marik sulked, but followed him to the door. 

At the last moment, hand on the knob, Kaiba turned and pointed at the King of Games. “Yugi.” Yugi shrunk a little bit. “Don’t think I’ve forgotten about our conversation just because it was hijacked by Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dee. You’re going to duel me, on camera, separately from your royal alter ego, and when I beat you both...”

“Which one am I again?” asked Bakura.

“The dumb one,” said Marik. 

“Is that because I gave you the ‘D’?” Bakura waggled his eyebrows. 

“Your flirting is painful,” the pharaoh lamented.

“Is that so? Because I didn’t hear any complaints when I had you bent over in that…”

“ALRIGHT, Kaiba, thank you again, I will call you, you too Marik, you’re the best, GOODBYE!” Yugi said in an embarrassed stream of consciousness before gently shoving the door shut and pressing his back to it, wiping his brow.

Ryou was tittering delightedly from the couch, adjusting his saline bag on its roller cart and crunching his way through a huge bag of cookies he kept on hand for ‘emotional emergencies’. “I take it you two have decided to get along then. How wonderful,” he said.

“Yes, well, I considered the negotiation tactic you proposed the last time I had you in the dungeon, and it turns out the pharaoh was no match for my charm after all.”

“Oh? I imagine you were simply taking direction from your libido. Yugi, and Bakura, I must say,” Ryou continued, “that your descriptions did not do the pharaoh justice.” 

Yugi swallowed heavily and the pharaoh smirked. “Oh man, understatement,” Yugi admitted.

“Ryou,” the pharaoh said in a deep, guarded voice, “we are all weary from this trial, but you are injured. What can we do for you?”

“You are too kind, Atem. One of Seto’s nurses is going to check on my puncture wounds in a few hours. I should only need basic first aid after that.”

“Of...Aibou…? What’s wrong?”

The blood had drained out of Yugi’s face. “I, ah...what did he call you?”

“Atem?” suggested Bakura. “His fucking name?” Hadn’t Yugi been the whole architect of its delivery in the game?

“I didn’t...for me the information was written, I didn’t know how to...your name is…?”

“Atem, Yugi. As much for you to speak as for them.” He brushed his thumb over Yugi’s cheekbone and then bent to kiss the spot, only Yugi was holding his breath. He chuckled. “Yami is still fine if you’re going to lose oxygen over it.”

He exhaled hurriedly. “No!...No, that is, not unless you want...Atem,” he tried it out, warmth returning to his cheeks. “You’re…”

“Yes, yes, he looks like a literal god, even Kaiba was practically drooling. On the scar count I think he won too, because I’m pretty sure he gave me this,” Bakura drew his finger over the indented tissue on his face.

“I think it makes you look dashing, Thief,” Ryou said, batting his eyelashes. 

“I can’t think about how he and Bakura are both here at the same time and not in our heads, Ryou,” Yugi said, rubbing his eyes. “I am so filthy. I think there’s even sand in my shoes.” He tapped the left one with the heel on his right.

“Well, Ryou doesn’t have enough hot water for four, so I suppose we’ll have to share. Be right back!” Bakura proclaimed, scooping the shorter man up by the waist to a very satisfying shriek and fireman-carrying him down the hall. 

“Bakura! You can’t just…”

“What? I can’t count on Yadonushi to bathe me anymore, so you’ll have to do it.”

“But they…”

“But they clearly would like some time alone with each other, or were you not reading the room?”


Bakura plopped him on his feet and turned the shower lever, testing the water with his hands until it felt hot enough. He went to work on the buttons of Yugi’s shirt, who miraculously didn’t protest at all until he was down to his boxers.

“Bakura!!, we…”

“Practicality, my dear Yugi. There will be plenty of opportunities to take my magnificent dick for a test drive going forward, but for now, wash.”

“The hell with a test drive, maybe I’ll just buy it outright,” Yugi said, dreamily, batting his eyes.

“Buy!?” said Bakura, taking offense. “Have I not corrupted you at all?”

“...with stolen gold,” Yugi finished. He disrobed entirely and stepped into the stream of hot water before the thief could process what he just said. 

Bakura gulped. The King of Games always surprised him, which was hard to do, and pretty deadly in his profession of thievery come to think of it.

Now to the task at hand - Ryou was blessed with his fancy apartment, which had fancy apartment amenities, like a stone shower stall and a separate large jacuzzi tub that had jets and everything. Bakura knew exactly how the man liked his baths and fished out all the oils and bubblebath, and bombs, and shit he used from under the sink while trying to ignore the fact that Yugi was naked seven feet from him.

Once he had a steady stream collecting froth in the tub he side-eyed Yugi, who had flattened his hair out on the back of his neck and was scrubbing behind his ears dutifully, eyes closed. 

Silently, Bakura shed his robe and shendyt, slipping in behind him and dropping his hands to Yugi’s slick waist. Yugi yelped, but his mouth was quickly covered by Bakura’s open palm as he pulled him back flush against his chest and let the water cascade over them both. “Shh! We have five minutes while the tub fills so be quiet!”

“Mmmph!” Yugi said, and it sounded like annoyance but Bakura didn’t really care to move his hand, instead dropping the free one down around Yugi’s thigh and between his legs. He slotted his fingers to let Yugi complain, which was pretty nice of him. “I am pretty sure they knew what you were up to!” Yugi whispered, with frustration, but at least he was whispering. 

“I’m going to be thanking you three for saving me for a while so I’d like to get a head start,” he replied, smoothing his fingers up the wonderfully erect shaft already straining for touch, and he fucking loved that shit about Yugi, he was so responsive even to ounces of affection. An investment, really, that returned three times what you put in and...well, maybe that analogy was better suited to be used by Kaiba with his lovers, whoever they were.

Yugi cried out again, and Bakura cursed as his hand snapped back over his lips, burying his new face in Yugi’s ear and growling on his own account at the pleasant friction induced by his ass hitching back with each stroke.

His hair was getting wet now, and it was probably dirty so that suited him fine. A heavy cloud of steam surrounded them in the shower stall as the slick sounds of his hand and Yugi’s muffled moans bounced off the glass. Bakura ground his groin forward desperately, and why didn’t Ryou have lube in his shower? Not now, not now, he reminded himself. Focus.

This position was an easy handjob, because he’d taken over Ryou’s right hand to get them both off a hundred times, so when the erection twitched under his insistent stroking he doubled down on the mouth clamp and nearly came himself at the orgasmic keen that erupted from Yugi’s throat and traveled throughout his body, releasing a tension he was certain Yugi hadn’t even been aware was there from the chronic effects of such a long shadow game. 

He reached out with his tongue and pried apart Bakura’s fingers, and then latched on with his teeth, sucking, and fuck that was hot. When the hand reached back to grab onto him though, it took everything left of his shredded willpower to defer. “Later…” he breathed, kissing up the curve of Yugi’s neck to a wrecked whimper. 

He reluctantly pried the shower door open and shoved him out, and Yugi actually laughed. “I’m going to get you.”


Bakura did normal shower stuff doubletime and caught the towel Yugi tossed toward him, squeezing water out of his hair and then wrapping it around his waist. Yugi’s own hair had already started to pop back up into spikes, which was incredible really, some other type of magic that he’d never figure out. 

Yugi cut off the water to the tub, which was now a fragrant sparkly monstrosity of bubbles, and fished some white t-shirts and boxers out of the clean laundry hamper just outside the door. They were Ryou’s, so Yugi swam in them and they were a little tight on Bakura’s super ripped awesome thief body, but it would be fine for now. 

Yugi padded down the hall with Bakura in tow, the thief half-expecting to find the other two naked and going at it on the couch, but he’d forgotten that the pharaoh was too good a person to coax an injured man into sexy shenanigans, so they merely appeared deep in conversation. 

“Aibou,” he straightened as he saw Yugi return. 

“Grab him,” Bakura said. 

Atem chuckled and scooped up Ryou into his arms, bridal style, to a very boner-inducing, “Oh,” from his former host, and Yugi wheeled the cart with the IV bag on it down the hall close behind them. 

The pharaoh and Yugi disrobed Ryou carefully while Bakura ‘supervised’ lecherously, and when they lowered him into the hot bath the arch of his neck and the look of his face in repose fired through his nerves all over again. But…”Ryou, the punctures...I forgot, I…”

“They’re not deep. I can re-dress them,” he said sleepily, “or the nurse can.”

“Well, one sin or a hundred then...I’m going to open the pinot gris in the wine fridge for you.”

“That sounds lovely.”

He returned with a cold glass for Ryou, and then took a generous swig right out of the bottle for himself, passing it to Atem like they'd done in the desert. 

“Should I pull out the couch for us to sleep on, Ryou?” Yugi asked.

“We can all fit in a king,” he said, not realizing what it sounded like, and Bakura snorted. 

“There are three to choose from,” Atem whispered, right behind his ear, as he began to peel the silks and gold off his body with Yugi’s help. 

“Oh man,” Yugi kept repeating as his head threatened to explode. It was adorable, really.

“I think we are all too sleepy for a raucous orgy, though I’m unopposed to the idea.”

“Blasphemy!” said Bakura, yawning. “I gave up my revenge, so Yugi owes me a four-way.”

“I believe I agreed to a three-way.”

“Pick one of them, then.” He gestured with his chin at his seraphic former host, surrounded by the rising steam of the bath, long white hair dipped by the ends in the literal glitter on the surface of the water, and the once-king of an empire knelt beside him in all his golden glory with a heated gleam in his eye.

“If you pick Atem, can I watch?” Ryou asked.

“Oh man.” His hands were shaking, now.

“Come on Yugi, let’s warm up the bed.”

Three minutes after he assumed his big-spoon position with Yugi, sleep stole him like a thief in the night. The Puzzle and the Ring rested, dull and lifeless on the dresser, appearing tarnished despite the fact that gold did not tarnish. 

For once, Bakura’s dreams were blank warmth, soft, restorative.

Chapter Text

Yugi hadn’t slept in what felt like days, and was possibly literally days, because he hadn’t exactly checked a calendar before...before what? The call to his ‘recent memory’ function returned void. 

It was a startling, unexpected void, because when consciousness once again fully reclaimed his mind he reached out for his other self and felt no response. Mou hitori no boku, he whimpered, feeling both his mental connection and his vocal cords vibrate, but the sound that his waking ears heard was a smothered cry.

There was no reachback in his mind, but warm hands cradled his clenched fists, then his face, and a shower of soft kisses rained on his cheekbones.

Aibou,” came the deep, familiar whisper, in front of his mouth instead of in the back of his skull. “I am here.” 

He tried to pull forward, but was restrained by firm hands wrapped around his waist, and a viscous,, snore? Right next to his ear. And then a monosyllabic, hushed laugh from the location of the original voice.

He blinked his eyes open, blurry, unfocused, but connecting with the ruby-reds of the pharaoh, who had arched a devious eyebrow and continued to whisper, “The thief is clingy and he snores - who knew?”

Some if it came back, then. When he stayed the night it was typically Ryou who did the mundane human bodily maintenance functions like sleeping, so his quiet countenance wouldn’t have betrayed any of Bakura’s habits.

Yugi murmured back, “I suppose you would know about that now, would you?”  

“We did spend a few weeks camping in the desert.”

Right, that...Yugi had ousted Zorc from his thoughts the moment he saw the sickening red pupil diffuse from Ryou’s possessed eyes, choosing instead to focus on the very real bodies of their Millennium Spirits, materialized out of thin air and into Ryou’s apartment. In true human fashion, the gravity of defeating a demonic god from the Shadow Realm took a backseat to the obscenely attractive people manifested in front of them like a fever dream - Duke and Joey were probably the only ones in the room not attracted to men at some level and even they had been awestruck.

Atem’s lips were back on his knuckles then, and...that’s right, Atem, Nameless Pharaoh no more, smiling softly across from him in Ryou’s bed and...Yugi leaned up a bit, enough to see over Atem’s spiked hair in the moonlight cutting in through the sliding door to Ryou’s bedroom balcony to see Ryou himself, as asleep as his spirit behind but not making any noise about it. His arms, though, were curled possessively around the pharaoh in a very intriguing mirror of Yugi’s own situation, and he blushed hard, and even though it was dark he was certain Atem could tell. 

“I need to…” He wiggled a little, and his partner laughed in a hush a little harder at Yugi’s expense. “Help?” he begged pathetically. 

Atem peeled Bakura’s fingers off Yugi’s waist, one at a time, and held his hand, and it was enough.

Yugi gently, and reluctantly, removed himself from Bakura’s embrace to relieve himself of the white wine his liver had processed, and came back to a very enticingly-embarrassed pharaoh sandwich after Bakura had sought in his sleep to cling to the next warm body in line. Yugi couldn’t express how badly he also wanted to be caught between the tousles of white hair splayed erotically on the blue pillows behind their heads in the pharaoh’s place...or in addition to him, preferably when they were conscious and had control over their tongues.

It shouldn’t have been the first time he thought this relationship they’d gotten into was unconventional, but it shouldn’t have been a surprise given he’d just had this exact thought with the word ‘they’. Did such an arrangement, physical or otherwise, even exist as a possibility for them? The media, even legitimate Duel Monsters tournament publications, had been in a frenzy over himself and Ryou ever since the tabloid report, and this? How would he even explain it to his grandfather, let alone in an interview? Would the identities Kaiba was constructing even lend themselves to such a thing?

Surely Kaiba would have some idea, being the subject of many-a gossip article himself; he’d been tied to actresses, musicians, heiresses, other business moguls, and had shut down everything save for a carefully-crafted narrative on account of his very well-paid PR team. He was currently dating a respectable tennis player and a lingerie model, off and on, never at the same time of course, if Yugi could remember correctly.

Kaiba, to his credit, didn’t seem to contest Yugi’s affections when he had etched the Thief King’s Ka into his own hand, even though it had differed monumentally from their original plan. Yugi had hoped, even at the first fateful meeting with the CEO, that there was a way to save them both, and Kaiba had insisted that he choose before the decision was made for him in the shadow game. He couldn’t, of course, no more than he could choose his left atrium or right ventricle to get stabbed. Kaiba had sighed, dramatically, rubbing the bridge of his nose in that way he did when faced with a stubborn employee (which Yugi was not), and told him he’d think of something if it came to that. What he’d come up with, though...Yugi wasn’t sure there existed adequate compensation for the trust that bestowed. 

Marik had come through too, ultimately, and while Yugi was unsure whether jealousy was part of his vocabulary given the now-obvious four-way he was clearly entrenched in, it was still confusing to think about how much...or how little...Marik had meant to Bakura. Ryou had seemed indifferent at best, but Yugi wasn’t the type to begrudge anyone their feelings, and if he indulged Ryou’s bond with Bakura, why couldn’t he indulge Marik’s?

His head hurt as he scooped himself behind the thief and reached out for the pharaoh’s hand, given enthusiastically in a tight squeeze. “Rest again, Aibou,” Atem said, and even though the voice and emotions attached to it weren’t in his mind like he wanted, the command still afforded almost the same measure of comfort as if the pharaoh’s soul had still been in the Puzzle affixed to his neck. 

And this was better, wasn’t it? His other self, now his own person, untethered to Yugi and in control of his own emotions and choices and body. It was everything he ever wanted for his closest friend, his confidant for years, his lover and his heart. He deserved freedom; from his obligations as a king, from Zorc’s twisted manipulations, and even from Yugi himself. 

His eyes closed and the void was comfort instead of emptiness.

Atem had turned over sometime in the night, facing toward Ryou instead, so when Ryou awoke to the taller, tanner manifestation of the lover usually in his arms facing him with a sleepy expression he was startled, but only enough to grip the other man’s wrist in his fingers and allow a sharp intake of breath to betray his surprise. 

“Atem,” he whispered, swallowing to suppress the desperation the moniker would have implied otherwise, but the pharaoh was not fooled. 

“Ryou,” he said, and the weight of it from the mouth of a god was fire in his veins. He wouldn’t be bold enough to kiss a deity, but a king got to do what he wanted and he wanted precisely the same thing, devouring Ryou’s lips with his own, shirtless arms snaking around his torso and gripping the muscles of his lower back as he inched forward. 

A sharp, synchronous rattling emerged from the bodies beyond them, and Ryou couldn’t help the snicker as his tongue invaded the pharaoh’s mouth. A chuckle answered his own as the first flecks of dawn light tickled their eyelids through the window due to the undrawn curtain at the glass. He tasted the familiar heat and hide of the lover he’d first seduced, this time untempered by his host. 

He was pleased to see Yugi beyond his former spirit though, ankle hooked at the thief’s calf, despite his smaller stature. Bakura was...enchanting, with a white hand splayed against the brown skin of his chest, drool collecting at the corner of his mouth on the pillow side while Yugi’s drool collected at his left shoulder-side. 

“Do you…?” Ryou whispered to the pharaoh, without finishing the sentence. 

“Yugi was always a night owl,” he replied at the same volume. “”It stands to reason that Bakura would be as well, traveling the cover of darkness.”

Ryou giggled silently and arched against the pharaoh’s body, nipping at his neck. His reward was a stifled moan that was very unbecoming of a man in his position, physically or, er...bureaucratically. 

“I want you,” Ryou said matter-of-factly, tickling his fingers from the pharaoh’s knee up his thigh. “All of you,” he continued, relishing in the delightful body arch of his new brown-skinned captive, absent of Yugi’s inhibitions, perfectly willing to...he stopped himself. His spirit wasn’t in his head...he had no reason to be feeling this way. Unless he wanted it. Had he been such a reactionary when the Ring had still been in control? Maybe it preyed upon desires that were already there - because his sexual need for the pharaoh hadn't waned with his disconnection from the thief.  

He blinked upward, across the bed to the other two. Nor had it disappeared for the pharaoh’s vessel, or Bakura himself. At least that was something interesting? He’d professed that he wouldn’t be opposed to an orgy, and...was that...he only had two hands. And a mouth. And an...okay then. Absent their possessions and two new bodies maybe he’d still be able to process this, mechanically.

Zorc was a distant memory, as discarded as the condoms he left in the trash with the usual parade of lovers Bakura was so kind to share. But was he suppressed, or gone for good? Seto and Marik would know for sure - that was a future awkward conversation, he supposed. Not that he minded his spirit’s attraction to the Egyptian blonde, but his attachment to Yugi had certainly been more utilitarian for removing them from Zorc’s iron grip on their psyche. He’d watched Marik go, expecting a jolt of annoyance from the Ring but...hadn’t felt it. They’d been disentangled by then, right?

The sexy hitch of the body in front of him back into his groin interrupted his thoughts, and his own arousal pulsed in want for the hardness that erupted between them. Pharaoh or not...that man knew what he wanted and had never been shy about it. Could they be quiet enough not to wake Bakura and Yugi, though? Would they even want to be?

The pharaoh answered for him with a finger to his lips and a quiet “Shh,” beneath the sheets as he grabbed them both in hand, and come to think of it, Yugi was the only one who managed to leave his boxers on before climbing into bed, to stifle Bakura or retain some sense of modesty for the two new...ish people between them he couldn’t say.

The hot, hard, flesh-on-flesh of Atem’s grip, and the spoken decree that he remain silent, coursed electricity through Ryou’s veins as he thrust into the fist and against the other erection, breathing heavily through his nose as he wrapped his mouth around the shushing finger and sucked. 

Atem was not so receptive to his own instructions, a distinct aroused groan erupting from his lips, and Ryou abandoned the finger to capture his mouth instead. 

They both moved against each other to a silent, pulsing completion, Ryou’s fingertips denting Atem’s shoulders as they came down from the high. Two sets of warm, sticky fluid coated the pharaoh’s hand, and he raised it to Ryou’s mouth so he could lick the palm and digits greedily clean.

The sun protested their sleepiness in earnest now, glaring orangered through over the balcony, and if the pharaoh was up at sunrise then so should he be - who knew or cared if he had class today, though. 

“Tea?” he whispered, swinging his legs delicately over his edge of the mattress, and the pharaoh didn’t relent with his sultry, invigorated gaze.

“The whole breakfast spread if you’re taking requests,” he chanted, dragging a finger down Ryou’s back as he shivered and retrieved a robe from its hook by the bed.

Somehow, Atem had enticed Ryou into cooking all of their favorites into one meal; it was far too much food for two, but it wasn’t exactly for two anymore, was it? Yugi had woken to it nearly cold, rousing Bakura who responded with an annoyed grunt until he realized it was for food.

Yugi, starving despite Joey’s influx of snacks throughout the shadow game, ate with abandon and lavished praise on Ryou’s cooking from the first bite. Though, he hurriedly transferred the bacon heaved onto his plate by Atem surreptitiously onto Bakura’s, who ate it before the pharaoh could realize, licking his lips and making uncivilized sounds as he devoured poached eggs and wheat toast in tandem.

After the sixth unread text from Kaiba lit up his phone screen, he finally decided to acknowledge them. 

“Who that,” said Bakura, spearing a slice of avocado from Ryou’s plate and shoving it into his mouth. 

Yugi sighed as he scrolled through the messages. He decided to summarize. “Kaiba. He wants to meet up.”

“With us?” asked Ryou.

“With me,” Yugi replied, cutting the power and placing the device face down on the table along with his own face, groaning as he did so. 

“Did Marik text you?” Bakura asked Ryou through a gulp of fresh-squeezed orange juice. 

Ryou shrugged. “Phone is in the bedroom. Didn’t you check when you woke up?”

“Still don’t like the phone,” Bakura said. 

Atem looked contemplative, his hands steepled under his chin above his coffee, before addressing him. “You can’t read,” he said.

“A fact you made abundantly clear when you were making fun of me in front of Yugi’s large-breasted envoy in the cave.”

Yugi squeezed his eyes shut and opened them again, not sure he’d heard correctly. Had Bakura noticed a physically attractive quality in a woman?

“No,” said the pharaoh, his intent seemingly lost. “I knew already you could not read any of our written languages from the past. Despite your time with Ryou, though, you avoid it in this time as well. Why?”

Ryou furrowed his brow. “If that’s the case, how did he do half my work in Laboratory? Surely I would have noticed if…”

“Copied what other people were doing,” Bakura interrupted.

“How did you know when to take over when I came upon a location you were, er...interested in, in Domino?”

“Landmarks,” he said.

Something wasn’t adding up to Yugi. Bakura was intelligent, good at puzzles, good at magic, around tombs and hieratic and hieroglyphic writing on the walls since he was a child, so some absorption must have occurred.

“Did you just memorize what the Duel Monsters cards did?” asked Ryou with surprise, rinsing his dish in the sink.

“Of course not,” Bakura scoffed. “I skimmed your memory and tricked Marik for the ones Kaiba didn’t explain during Duelist Kingdom.”

Maybe it was Yugi’s imagination, but he thought he saw Ryou’s eyebrows narrow and skin color slightly before the dish clattered into the stainless. He recovered quickly though, washing his hands with a little more vigor than normal.

“I don’t recall Kaiba being particularly helpful to us at any stage during that tournament,” Atem said, rubbing his jaw. 

“He didn’t need to be,” Yugi deflected. “We were better than him as a team from the beginning.”

“That’s true,” Atem said, smiling knowingly at Yugi and winking at him. To have that happen in front of him, where everyone could see, wasn’t something Yugi was sure he could get used to.

“You also tried to kill him, Pharaoh,” Bakura reminded. 


“Of course, I held a knife to your throat and then you let me have my way with you in the dirt, so maybe that’s a turn-on for you.”

Ryou’s eyes lit up. “Oh, yes! That! I want to hear all about it!”

“Which time?” the thief asked, counting off on his fingers like he was trying to recall, and Yugi felt his face catch fire. 

The conversation derailed easily after that.

It turned out that Kaiba was anxious to meet that very morning, at a coffee shop close to Ryou’s apartment, at a time deliriously inconvenient considering the sexually-charged conversation that had been initiated upstairs. His well-armed entourage lingered transparently at the exits, which he hoped was to discourage paparazzi speculating about a rendezvous between the King of Games and his most famous rival, and not anything else unwelcome.

“My people got most of what they needed for their identification packages the first night, including photos,” Kaiba started, nitro cold-brew in-hand and avoiding Yugi’s questions about the tombkeepers while spreading two neatly-stacked piles of documents in front of them on the hardwood.

The first night? Had it been more than one since they’d returned? He wouldn’t be surprised if they had actually slept for an entire day.

The photo of Bakura, clearly taken with an excellent cell phone camera, looked like he was mid-sneeze, and the pharaoh just had his eyebrows narrowed like he was annoyed to be interrupted from whatever he’d been doing, which was likely doting on Ryou as he received the most medical attention. They both made the normal inconveniences look like a magazine shoot, but Yugi couldn’t suppress a laugh at Bakura’s cutely-flared nostrils. Maybe he was trying to look menacing, like a charging rhino? He’d appropriated Ryou’s features so expertly when he was still a spirit possessing his friend’s body that, aside from the skin and eye colors, it was hard to tell the difference. 

“I need names, though I will recommend that it would be safest to make them Ishtars given’s...history...of adoptions,” the brunette continued with a bit of striation, mouth constricted in a flat line and apparently indifferent to the extraordinary generosity he was bestowing at present. 

“I’ll...ask them,” Yugi said carefully, unsure. “Kaiba…” he continued, trailing off, looking up into the cold blue eyes of the pharaoh’s greatest ally who could have been his greatest enemy if not for his dragon. “You must have talked to this really over? Did we get It?”

“You were closer than anyone. If the pharaoh had divided the demon’s power in the Puzzle, and is no longer connected to it, you would be able to tell if Zorc tried to use it since, no? 

“I’m not sure. By the time I realized Ryou was concealing...and, uh...subduing...something, I’d already told you about Ishizu’s museum commission from his father.”

“His work isn’t done, of course,” Kaiba continued. “He doesn’t have all of his memories, presumably, but that should remedy itself once he crosses over.” 

“Cross...what?” Yugi said, confused. 

“The whole point of this. Once all the parts of his soul are united, he can move on, or whatever it is.”

That was... not what Yugi wanted to hear. But could he really deny his other self the peace he had fought so hard for, against the dark force that had plagued him in his Item for thousands of years? And if not…?

“What about Bakura?”

Kaiba looked annoyed, but at least it was an emotion. “Who knows? He was destined to stew in the shadows, I’m sure, but that man eschews his destiny as soundly as I do and I can’t imagine he would accept the ancient Egyptian conception of death any more than I would personally. Especially,” he added, “since he made a deal with the same entity my fa...that Priest did to create the Items in the first place, binding himself to the Ring.” He paused. “Would you take a chance with any of these deities after that?”

That was unusually short-sighted of his rival; both Bakura and Kisara had, demonstrably, possessed Ka capable of tipping the balance in the fight. 

As if he’d realized it, Kaiba assumed a resigned but determined posture, folding his hands together on the table between them with a little less energy than he normally would have. “There’s a reason I insisted on this one-on-one instead of allowing Marik and his ilk to harass you,” he said in a softer tone, but still not one that suggested any sympathy. “They are a little...zealous in their beliefs and protections,” he said carefully.  

That much was clear from their infiltration of Kaiba’s tournament, but...hadn’t Marik rejected that ideology, in the end?

Kaiba cleared his throat and took another large sip of his coffee. “If your…the pharaoh and the thief...” his nose wrinkled distastefully and Yugi nearly giggled as the other man struggled with what to call them. Friends? Boyfriends? Lovers? “...your associates would like to make different arrangements, I will not interfere, but I cannot speak for the tombkeepers.

“In addition, you and Ryou are exempted from the remainder of your semester on a special assignment for KaibaCorp, if you wish.”

Kaiba reached into his jacket pocket and extracted an eggshell-white business card with Gothic typeface and held it out to him with a middle and index finger.

Yugi reached out and plucked it from his hand, careful to avoid any direct touch of their fingers. “What’s this?”

“It’s the contact information for my therapist. She specializes in identity crises.”

“Therapy?” Yugi questioned, though not judgmentally, he hoped. “I guess I just didn’t expect that from someone as self-assured as you, Kaiba.”

“Court order,” said Kaiba.


“That actually was a joke.”

“Ah...ha,” Yugi laughed weakly, setting his teacup down and coughing into his fist. “This is...all actually very thoughtful. Thank you.”

“Don’t mention it.” He paused again, longer than the last. “I mean it. Don’t mention it. You’re signing an NDA.” He nodded to one of the sunglasses crew, who laid a document and a fountain pen in front of him. 

Yugi was running out of sighs for Kaiba.

The little pharaoh had been gone for fucking hours, or maybe forty-five minutes or so, if the clock was any indication. Bakura hated the one with the stupid bright numbers in Ryou’s bedroom, that alarmed with horrible sounds, so when he wanted to know the time he trudged to the kitchen to look at the one with the physical hands instead. It didn’t have numbers at all, only notches as reference points for the angles that represented the time, and it didn’t swim when he looked at it.

“Have you no shame?” came a delicate voice from the couch, where Ryou, still clad in a red silk robe that Bakura had stolen from a high-end department store, was sipping on his early-evening tea.

Early evening? really had been hours then. He’d fallen asleep again. Yugi must have gone to the game shop after meeting with Kaiba. 

Had his host said something about shame? He looked down, just then remembering he was still naked. “None at all, Yadonushi. You should know this about me by now.” He crept slowly to the couch and then crawled on all fours over the cushions until his face was nestled firmly in Ryou’s neck, planting a soft kiss below his ear, eliciting a shiver that traveled through Bakura’s lips and directly to his groin.

Ryou didn’t seem to let it affect his voice, though. “I suppose I really am your landlord now,” he said, chuckling. 

“Mmm, and you look like a proper Thief King draped in red,” he replied, continuing the uncharacteristically gentle assault with his lips on Ryou’s pale chest. He finally felt the low vibrations of a moan from the vocal cords in contact with his nose and leaned into it.

“Do not admonish him for his lack of clothing, please. It will obstruct my view,” Atem said, appearing at the entrance to the kitchen after emerging from his third shower, wrapped in one fluffy white towel and drying his spikes with another. 

“Listen to the King of Showers, Light Magician,” Bakura purred.

“I am still finding sand in my hair. It is infuriating sorcery,” he growled, pouring his own tea and leaning provocatively over the counter. 

Bakura had, of course, been sprinkling a little bit at a time from the wreckage of the diorama on his scalp when he slept, and he was glad his face was otherwise occupied, because the smirk would have given him away. 

“We should go to the beach,” Ryou said huskily, nearly tipping his tea as he leaned backward and let Bakura’s hands slip inside the fold of the red silk to clutch his waist.

“You’ll burn to a crisp,” he said through mouthfuls of skin, snaking the fingers of one hand into Ryou’s long white locks while the others caressed his hipbone. Ryou was harder to break down than Yugi, but the maneuver still got him the slightest hint of an arch as he felt the pulse quicken under his mouth.

He carefully avoided the punctures that were still bandaged; the wounds from the Ring were healing miraculously fast, whether it was because they were inflicted by a magical item or the result of proximity to Yugi and Atem’s godly magic he couldn’t say. In any case, he had decided that Ryou was healed enough to get the ravaging he deserved.

Atem chuckled darkly from the island, “This feels a little like deja vu.”

“Get back in the closet, then.”

“I prefer him...ung...out of the closet, Thief.” Ryou’s composure was crumbling deliciously as Bakura massaged the naked junction at his thigh.

“As an observer or a participant?” the pharaoh said with mock innocence. 

The heated, and slightly annoyed, gaze of his former host toward his also-former enemy sent a new spark of arousal through Bakura’s veins, and he took advantage of the energy to leap up and twist thin wrists up above and behind Ryou’s head, so that he was nearly prone on the couch with his chest jutting forward. Bakura had partially untied the robe so it fell open to reveal a flushed chest and delightfully hard nipples. Bakura knew they were abhorrently sensitive, too, because he’d had to deal with it.

The pharaoh processed across the living room, pulling some pretty rings off his fingers that he apparently wore while showering and, oh...ha, Ryou was writhing and whimpering at seeing that. He hoped Pharaoh remembered where the lube was. 

“We are going to have to get a bunch of bondage shit to tie you down Ryou, I nearly forgot you were such a fucking squirmer.” 

“In the meantime, us holding him down will have to do,” the pharaoh said matter-of-factly, bracing his weight across Ryou’s chest and ignoring his erection to slide two newly-slick fingers into Ryou from below. He attached his perfect, god-king lips to one of Ryou’s nipples at the same time and the man wailed and threw his head back, cheeks red, looking at Bakura from his inverted position like he was going to burst without even getting his cock touched. 

Yugi chose precisely that moment to return, of course, and Bakura couldn’t be more delighted by the timing. The deadbolt unlatched and the door pushed open, Yugi dislodging his key and then getting an eyeful of the three nearly naked men (okay, one totally naked) entwined on the couch.

Atem detached himself from Ryou’s chest to look up, smiling, but didn’t stop the probing with his fingers. “Welcome back, Aibou. Care to partake in this spectacle?”

“Yugi, help!” Ryou breathed.

Yugi was a fucking deer in headlights, every time. At first, anyway. Then again, there had always been two bodies and four minds, not four-and-four. These other two seemed to be adapting perfectly well, so Bakura wasn’t about to give the King of Games a handicap.

“I…” Yugi said, the only thing he could get out, and ehehe Bakura got such a rush out of that blush he tightened his grip on Ryou’s wrists and yanked, causing Ryou to lift off of Atem’s fingers and then slide back down in a fluid motion. Atem added a third and Ryou’s eyes rolled back. “…?” Yugi asked for instructions.

“Touch me,” Ryou begged, thrusting his hips upward into nothing, all of Atem’s physical attention carefully avoiding the issue. “They are...ah...ah…” A twist of fingers, “...being mean.”

“Ohhh, if you’re going to be insulting then I shall have to give you something else to do with your mouth, Yadonushi,” Bakura said, shoving his dick insistently along Ryou’s cheek and leaving a smear of salty precome in its wake. Bakura’s eyes squeezed shut at the jolt of pleasure from the wrapping of lips around his head and tonguing at his slit, very pleased that Ryou didn’t need telling twice. His moans reverberated throughout the erect flesh, and with their eyes closed none of them registered Yugi kneeling next to the pharaoh.

Atem plunged his fingers into Ryou and wrapped his other hand around Yugi’s neck, pulling him into a long, deep kiss that left Yugi breathless. “Remind him of your skills,” he said to Yugi throatily, pushing his head toward Ryou’s straining erection. Yugi gulped. 

“Yes,” said Bakura, “like that, only with his cock down your throat.”

Yugi whimpered nearly inaudibly, but his pupils were dilated when Bakura peeked to check, and the sight of him swallowing Ryou whole while the pharaoh fingered him was something that would be seared into his memory for as long as the gods allowed him to keep it.

He buried himself deeper down Ryou’s throat, while he was at it, earning a satisfying gag and a delighted moan as Yugi worked his magic below.

The pharaoh had crawled further up, latching himself to Ryou’s neck, fingers still deep and splaying every few thrusts, and using the pauses to come up for breath to whisper praise into Ryou’s ear as his lips slid up and down Bakura’s shaft.

Yugi was almost too good at his job, because Ryou tensed moments later and screamed, coming harder than Bakura had remembered as a spirit, and Bakura really tried to hold back, but the scene before him was too erotic and he too lost it on the back of Ryou’s tongue. Luckily, Ryou loved swallowing come almost as much as he did, because he bottomed out greedily as he rode out his own orgasm into Yugi’s face and hollowed his cheeks.

“This is the best,” murmured Yugi, licking the last spurts of come from the tip and adjusting himself unsubtly in his pants. 

Ryou was panting, wrists still restrained by Bakura, who let them down gently so Ryou could wipe the sweat from his brow and the lingering dribble of come at his lips.

“Why have we only been having sex with one man at a time, Kiseichuu?” Ryou sighed pushing his semi-naked body into a seated position

“Every two-way with us was kind of a three-way anyway,” he observed, grabbing Yugi by the scruff of his shirt to a surprised yelp. 

Ryou cast a seductive gaze toward the pharaoh and tugged at the towel around his waist, now temptingly tented. “You too. I believe ‘you two’ owe me a show, actually.”

Owe?” the pharaoh said incredulously, not protesting as Ryou followed Bakura down the hall where he was still kind of dragging Yugi by his neck.

When he got to the bedroom he tossed Yugi onto the duvet, and Ryou, in a very amusing display of strength, picked up the pharaoh and placed him beside the other bashful man, robe parted sinfully at his thighs and sporting a wicked grin that rivaled Bakura’s itself.

“Commence your punishment for spying,” Ryou said, sitting on the stool at the vanity and crossing his legs while possessively cupping Bakura’s ass. Bakura had literally no objections to any of it. 

“It’s only fair,” Atem said, crawling on top of Yugi like a predatory cat, and Yugi leaned back and shifted away, smushing his spikes into the mattress and leaning back. 

Atem, but…” he started, the beginning of an argument that may have materialized if the half-naked pharaoh hadn’t already begun peeling away his clothing.  

“You are far too clothed, Aibou,” he cooed. “Ryou and I will have to institute a clothing maximum; everything in Egypt was oh-so easy access.”

Ryou and you?” Bakura frowned, but Ryou’s lips bending down to his neck allayed his annoyance. He had stood again and...oh, fuck. He was taller. It was pretty hysterical, though, when Bakura considered that his former host was the neediest bottom of the lot.

Yugi got a determined look on his face, then, and pushed the pharaoh backward to an ‘oof’ as he ripped the towel away and palmed his erection before grinding it against his own, and Ryou gasped. 

Good gods, beneath that robe he saw Ryou’s cock twitch...he must have had the refractory period of a woman, on earth would he know that? It wasn’t like porn was educational, or realistic, so in his previous life he must have…

The pharaoh crying out interrupted his thoughts and he blinked at the sun twinkling through the curtains as it set, casting a rainbow sherbet light on the bed, and the two Puzzle Bearers glowed as they kissed and ran their hands over each other. A faint sheen of sweat bloomed on their skin and oh...they still moved like one person, and when the again-lubed fingers of the king slipped around to Yugi’s ass and he moaned, Bakura was hard again right along with Ryou.

What he didn’t expect was for Yugi to be wearing one of Ryou’s plugs, one of the bigger ones actually, and his eyebrow arched in surprise. “Yugi, you little minx. You put that in before your meeting with Kaiba?”

“No,” he said breathlessly as the pharaoh chuckled and tugged it out to a mewl from Yugi, interrupting his train of thought momentarily. “I...holy...oh gods...had my own at the game shop. I figured you three would be up to something before I got back.” The pharaoh replaced the void left by the plug with three of his fingers and Yugi cried out all over again. 

Ah. Not one of Ryou’s after all. He nudged the other white-haired man with an elbow. “Good call,” he murmured, but Ryou was already too far gone to acknowledge him. 

Yugi laughed then, still composed, and popped the cap on the bottle wrenched from beneath Ryou’s pillow to coat his own index, before giving the pharaoh a taste of his own medicine. 

His eyes widened, open, translucent rubies catching the last glint of sunlight, a look of surprise and betrayal and arousal at Yugi’s audacity to penetrate him

“Yugi, you…”

“Oh, I just figure Bakura missed you, so you ought to be ready before he gets too excited.”

Bakura’s whole body caught fire and he fisted his now full-mast erection. “Yugi, you’re a man after my heart,” he said sincerely. And, “Ryou, I can’t take it anymore.”

But Ryou had finally shrugged off the robe and pounced without him, smothering Atem’s lips with his own and allowing Yugi to guide the king’s straining erection directly inside him, and Bakura knew how it felt for the man he possessed for years to finally be filled and he shared in the joy though it was something he personally would rather avoid.

Yugi rolled to the side of the bed and stood, lean pale muscle shadowed in the light, crown spikes a halo around his head, and beckoned him with a finger, and only a straight man could resist that, so Bakura growled and caught him by the neck, pressing him into the bed next to his former spirit that was now fucking Ryou from below with abandon, chuckling. 

Ryou leaned back on his forearms and slammed himself down onto Atem’s pelvis, screaming wantonly as his long hair bounced around his shoulders, and if it wasn’t for Yugi straddling Bakura and taking his cock into his mouth as he’d done to Ryou earlier, he would have been distracted. The fuck did distracted mean in this situation? He could hardly concentrate between Yugi’s violet eyes staring up at him from between his legs and Ryou’s screams as he rode Atem. Surely the gods hadn’t meant for him to be this blissed out by anything, ever, so he questioned his reality for a moment before a mischievous look from Ryou pulled him back out of it. 

“Atem,” he breathed, “from the side, please.” 

The king obeyed, twisting Ryou onto his side so he was facing Bakura and hoisting his leg up so he could fuck him again, all the while Ryou was crawling towards Bakura’s crotch, licking his lips and hair already fantastically tousled. 

Yugi, if anything could be said about him, knew how to share, and Bakura felt the tickle of a memory in his soul room of Ryou suggesting a dual blowjob, so he figured it was destiny and that was one destiny he’d accept graciously. 

Bakura groaned. He could definitely chance the Duat after seeing these two pretty little vessels laving their tongues over his erect cock and making out over the tip of it, especially when the one that looked like him was getting unabashedly fucked by a pharaoh.

“As much as I hate to say this,” he hissed, “cut that shit out and get on my cock before I explode...” … “...again.”

Yugi and Ryou shared a sultry glance and scrambled toward each other, lips smashing together as they grabbed at their bodies in the transition, and the pharaoh was just as entranced as he was at watching them enjoy each other. 

The darkness had descended by this point, the last vestiges of twilight highlighting the sweat-covered, lithe bodies of his lovers. He felt drunk, the fantastic pulse of serotonin licking through his blood like Yugi had licked him during his transcendent blowjob. 

“Why don’t the three of you just line up bent over, and we can play cock roulette to see who gets my come.”

“Selfiiiiish,” Ryou whined, capturing Bakura’s lips with his own, and he felt a tight, warm ass envelop his aching erection. 

The pharaoh grunted, pliant and wanting from Yugi’s generous preparation, and holy shit, it was the king and not his host, and also holy shit. Did he mention that?

Yugi, fucking Yugi, was behind Ryou sinking inside him, and if that man wasn’t a switch then who was? Oh yes, Atem. Maybe they had quite literally rubbed off on each other. Still, Bakura was beside himself, and arched into the pharaoh as he had so many times in the desert, but this time Ryou’s and Atem’s cocks were in his fists, and Yugi’s lips were in his mouth, and he wondered how many men it would take to satisfy him? And apparently it was three.

Because Bakura swore he could still feel the feedback loop of ecstasy coarse through his host, except he could be on the outside with him, as one of his lovers, instead of picking them up at the bars.

“Bakura,” the pharaoh panted, thrusting and clenching the muscles in his groin, and the thief could detect with his incredible sense of deduction that he was close to coming all over his chest, and he wanted nothing more than to be painted with his lovers’ come, so when Yugi slammed into Ryou’s prostate with orgasm-inducing pressure, he flicked a finger under Atem’s ridge and pushed him over the edge.

Yugi groaned, “Fuck, Ryou!” as he came and pulled Ryou’s hair, and Bakura figured they owed the Puzzle-Bearers at least one, because he too unloaded into the pharaoh, bronze chest heaving in the moonlight as both Ryou and Atem splattered onto him, the burning fluid lighting up his skin like a brand, and he wished he had the vocabulary for how spectacularly hot that was, because he was sure it was someone’s responsibility to write it down.

Bakura licked the come off his hands and kissed Ryou, then Atem, as everyone’s gyrations slowed, and Yugi pulled out with a satisfied sound and trailed his fingers down Ryou’s back to an enticing shiver. 

“Yugi,” Ryou moaned, “that felt new, even though it’s been inside me before,” he said with wonder, swirling his hips backward, and Yugi was certain that if someone that extraordinarily beautiful kept up that kind of motion that he would be turned on again in no time at all. 

“Ah, well, not entirely untrue.”

Everyone seemed too wiped to take advantage of Ryou’s ample bathing luxuries, so they just laid there, basking in the moonlight and lighting fingers along everyone’s skin, past conflicts forgotten, at least for the moment. 

The pillow talk inevitably devolved into who between the pharaoh and the thief had the bigger cock. Ryou insisted, “They are the same!”, but the pharaoh kept going on about how he should win because his cock-to-height ratio was larger.

“Ryou, we will never settle them for good, will we?” Yugi said sleepily, pulling Ryou into little spoon and groaning. 

“It will be more interesting if you’re right,” he whispered, giggling, and Yugi laughed along with him while pulling the sheets around them, as much a cuddler as Ryou was. 

Yugi fell asleep to the dulcet tones of their darker halves arguing.

At Kaiba’s insistence, Yugi had entered his next tournament, and while they hadn’t really worked out the logistics of whether or not the others wanted to play, Ryou was content for now to cheer him on from the sidelines. After his performance against their enemy in the shadow game none of them doubted his abilities, would be the first time he played without the pharaoh in a long while. It was bittersweet for Yugi, who only mentioned between rounds that it was lonelier to be on the dueling arena platform without his other self. 

In the end, Yugi was the king of the slow game, no pomp and circumstance, and it had always been there as an undercurrent for the pharaoh’s duels in between flashy distractions, but Yugi had a way of making his opponent feel like they were really going to win, right up until the end when he pulled the rug out from under them. 

It was especially devastating for Kaiba, who he eliminated in the second round to a chorus of cheers, and nobody was surprised to see him take home the winner’s trophy after that, wielding Diabound in a surprise strategy that wiped out the other finalist’s life points in a near-record three minutes. 

When Ryou stood and looked in the seats beside him, he saw Atem and Bakura, hair pulled back in a lackadaisical disguise, share a look so tender when they saw her on the field that he had a hard time believing they were dark, cursed spirits just a few weeks prior. No matter the mistakes they had made to get there, or what they would have to answer to for the gods, nobody deserved to languish in the shadows forever...right? 

As Ryou felt a cold tendril of regret grip his heart, the moment between the others persisted as they watched Ryou move toward the stage; he met Yugi as he descended and planted a kiss on his cheek, on the advice of Kaiba’s PR team, who had also suggested that Yugi shouldn’t be too overt with the ‘harem thing’ (though the pharaoh especially resented the implication). Bakura suggested he put them all in collars, cuffs, and chains to be contrary, and where on earth would he have gotten an idea like that?

Maybe a part of Ryou would miss the soul room - but the other, larger, blisteringly happy part relished how much he had to look forward to. And he wasn’t particularly interested in taking up dueling again, but if he played the cards he had left well, perhaps there were a few other wrongs they could right.

Chapter Text

Marik sat across from them in the dim lounge, pillowy red leather fanning out behind him in the booth’s singular chair to accommodate a party of five. The lingering collection of old smoke in the leather made the air smell like tobacco, but it was not unpleasant mixed with the expensive whisky. 

Ryou thought the man had been delayed, or stood them up altogether, but instead he had been perched in a secluded location at the bar scoping them out for at least twenty minutes after their arrival, and was probably seated long beforehand, casing the place. 

He was still beautiful - all imposing height, spiced skin and gold earrings and cut musculature - not to mention the amethysts recessed into his face that passed for eyes, and oh dear he could see what Bakura did in the first moments he’d dismounted his motorcycle before the Battle City finals. 

Though, if Ryou saw his approach from within then that meant Bakura probably did too, or had even noticed upon entry and hadn’t cared to out him. Still...Ryou found it rude. 

“You’re late,” he said, with the quiet composure of a schoolteacher reprimanding a student who had tried to make it to the corner store for a pack of cigarettes during the lunch break. 

Marik shrugged, sculpted deltoids inching toward his ears dismissively, and refusing to look in Ryou’s direction, instead glaring at Yugi and back and forth between the others.

Ryou had enough fashion sense to shop for and dress the two reincarnated spirits in the types of things becoming of young professionals - not that he didn’t trust Yugi’s judgment to adorn them in the equivalent of bondage-wear...and not that he minded that particular aesthetic. It was only that the topic at hand was delicate enough without introducing any elements of unwanted attention from other patrons.

That turned out not to be a problem though; one of Seto’s bodyguards flanked them at a high-top behind Marik, clicking a stiletto against the stool and pretending to be absorbed in the baseball game on the small screen above the bar. Whether or not she would be a match for Rishid, or the Ghouls surely hiding in the shadows, he hoped they wouldn’t have to find out.

“I don’t see why it matters that I’m here at all,” Marik retorted eventually. “You know my family’s position on this issue.”

“We want to know yours.”

“Oh ‘we’ now, is it?”

“Marik, quit being a shithead,” Bakura glowered, polishing off his drink and reaching over the table to steal the rest of the pharaoh’s, to a regally-annoyed ‘tsk!’. 

“My position is the same. The Items need to be returned to Egypt and destroyed. Defeating the Dark One in a shadow game does not mean that our work is over. He,” Marik gestured toward the pharaoh, “has responsibilities here and in the realm of the afterlife that will cause more suffering if they’re abandoned. I think I, personally, would know a little something about the consequences of pursuing my own selfish desires.”

Ryou grabbed Atem’s hand and continued softly, “If you would just listen…”

Marik was agitated now, maybe flustered. “I am not going to sit here and allow…!”

“I am prepared to fulfill my duties as your scriptures have prophesied,” the pharaoh interrupted, a king declaring an edict, and Ryou would just love to see him on a literal throne sending lawbreakers off to the dungeons with a wave of his regal hand. His memory though, with the Puzzle, was still fragmented.

“Wait, what?” said Marik, expression bewildered.

“What?” said Yugi, his face falling.

“What?” followed Bakura, muffled through a mouthful of pretzels, because he didn’t want to be left out. His eyebrows narrowed at the king, though.

Atem rubbed the bridge of his nose and accepted Ryou’s drink that he offered, to replace the one pilfered. “I have been granted a second life by the gods, despite my wrongdoings, as has Akefia, …”


“Yes, yes, Bakura…”

Bakura scoffed, “You think the gods are responsible for this? I’m seeing Yugi and Ryou as responsible for this.”

“Your Ka literally merged with two other gods to save the world,” Marik explained, “if you don’t get an Ammit bypass for that then I don’t know what would do it.”

“Dirty,” replied Bakura. “All this talk of merging will get me going. Also, I’m an Ishtar now, so we’re practically married, Marik. Doesn’t marrying a noble get me an exemption too? I figure I’ll stack all the decks I can get.” He batted his pretty silver eyes in Marik’s direction, earning a wisp of a blush.

“I don’t think that’s how it works.”

Married?” squeaked Yugi. 

“I certainly hope not,” the pharaoh said suddenly. “I don’t think Kaiba would be pleased to discover I was that kind of family.”

The bodyguard choked on her wine.

“On the subject of Kaiba,” Bakura started again.

“Please, don’t…” begged Yugi, tugging on the sleeve of his crimson button-down.

On the subject of Kaiba, were you too busy flirting with him to notice that he stole the Rod right out from under your nose?”

Marik clenched his teeth. “Some assets were...compromised. Kaiba is a back-stabbing traitor.” He loosened his jaw and swam his eyes over the shocked expressions. “Okay, poor choice of words.”

“Maybe especially since he literally stabbed himself.”

“So did you during Battle City, asshole.”

“Touché, even though technically I stabbed my host. New Plan, Marik and I seduce Kaiba and steal back the Rod.”

“Oh, how exciting!” Ryou tittered, clapping his hands and trying to ignore the tight skin of the scar on his tricep. 

The blood had drained out of Yugi’s face and he was now white-knuckling the copperplate table. 

Ryou cleared his throat. “We have gotten off track,” he recentered, fingernails digging this time into Atem’s palm. He thought he heard a pleased sound in the deep depths of his throat, but couldn’t be sure over the din of the jazz band on the stage. 

Sekhat, it is all unfortunately relevant,” Atem said with measure, casting his red eyes downward and then looking back up at Marik in earnest. “If the gods granted Ak...Bakura and I absolution and an escape from the shadows, then I don’t believe it is right that I, as one of them, allow another consciousness to continue suffering…” He swallowed, and Ryou gripped his shoulder to steady him. “Especially... especially when it is I who is responsible,” he finished, and Ryou saw the recognition hit Yugi and Marik’s eyes simultaneously. The depth of that admission was something even Ryou wasn’t prepared for.

Bakura didn’t look alarmed but still spoke first, possibly more panicked than annoyed, “Ryou, he tried to kill you. And by extension, me! Which is very important! I love me!” 

“Not on purpose,” Ryou beseeched.

“He definitely tried to kill Atem and me on purpose,” Yugi said, narrowing his eyes at the king. Atem ignoring it in the moment was sure to develop into a tiff before bed. 

“We would need the Rod,” Atem continued. “And your permission. The other Items, scorched by the Dark One, have been unfruitful in opening a pocket to the Shadow Realm.” 

Marik stared back with an impressive poker face that would have made even Seto Kaiba blush.

Ryou held his breath.