DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fanfiction produced for entertainment purposes only. Yu-Gi-Oh! and all related characters are the creations of Kazuki Takahashi.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: The 'Physical Form spell' mentioned in this story comes from one of my other stories, 'Another Source of Magic'.
School was over for another week and the late afternoon sunshine seemed somehow warmer and brighter than usual because of it. Ryou smiled and hummed happily to himself as he walked through the park on his way home. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, the flowers were blooming, he had hardly any homework and his yami had managed to keep out of trouble for almost three days. Life was good. There was only one thing more that he could possibly wish for. One thing that would make his happiness complete. But he knew it was unlikely to happen, so he was content with what he had.
Ryou came to a fork in the walkway. As he did every day when he wasn't in a hurry to get home, instead of choosing the path that would take him directly through the park towards his house, he chose the more scenic route. As he entered the park's rose arbour, he paused and took a deep breath. His eyes closed as he drew in the delicious scent that filled the air. He had always loved roses.
'Why are we stopping? We're not home yet.' The sudden mental voice in Ryou's mind jarred him out of his pleasant thoughts. He winced slightly at the irritated tone.
'I was just...' Ryou hesitated, not really wanting to admit the truth to his darker half. He had a feeling that Bakura would laugh at him. But then again, he didn't want to lie to his yami either. 'I was just enjoying the scent of the roses, that's all.' He braced himself for Bakura's reaction.
'Why... No, never mind. Do what you want. I'm going to sleep.'
Ryou wasn't sure which surprised him more, the strangely soft tone in his yami's voice or the fact that Bakura hadn't laughed at him after all. He knew the cause of the strong surge of disappointment that ran through him though. Bakura had dismissed him as being unworthy of his attention. Again.
Ryou sighed softly and resumed his walk home, his slow steps taking him past the beds of roses that he no longer noticed.
The light from the nearly-full moon shone through Ryou's bedroom window, turning the white hair of the spirit sitting on the windowseat to silver. Bakura sat with his knees drawn up to his chin and his arms crossed on top of them, his head tilted so it rested against the window's cool glass. He stared out at the darkness without really seeing it, his mind going back over the events of that afternoon.
'He was happy. I upset him. I didn't mean to. I shouldn't have said anything. I just wanted to know why he was happy. No, that's not right. I wanted to know why he was happy... when I wasn't there. But the moment I spoke, his happiness faded. He didn't want to answer me. I can't believe he still forgets that I can sense his thoughts and emotions. Not that I'm going to remind him. It comes in handy sometimes. It didn't help much today though.' Bakura winced.
'I was going to ask him why those silly flowers made him so happy. Not that I cared. Of course not! I was just... curious. That's all! But... the way he got so tense when I spoke to him..." He sighed.
'Why did he react that way? Is he still... afraid of me? I wanted that once. But not now. No. I don't want him to be scared of me. I want him to be... happy. He was happy today... until I spoiled it by talking to him. I just don't understand him sometimes! He was happy until I spoke to him and then he got upset when I left him alone with his precious flowers again! I thought that was what he wanted! Cursed emotions! Why do they have to be so... so... confusing?'
Bakura abruptly turned his head, glaring across the room at the figure huddled beneath the covers of the bed. Ryou stirred, groaning softly in his sleep as his darker half's emotions struck out at him through their mind link. Bakura gasped, a slight hint of colour staining his cheeks as he quickly closed the link again. "What am I doing? Why am I taking it out on him? He did nothing. It was all my fault.'
Bakura's eyes closed and he slumped against the window as the thought sank in. 'My fault. What is it about guilt that makes it creep up on you? Here I was thinking that I'd avoided him all evening because I was mad at him, not because I was mad at myself. I've made a real mess of things.' He sighed and opened his eyes again, his gaze straying back to his restlessly sleeping light.
'What should I do? How can I make this right? I'm no good with apologies and he probably wouldn't believe me anyway. I know I wouldn't! What else? What would Yami...' Bakura grimaced. 'No! Absolutely not! I will not use the Pharaoh as an example! Someone else... Marik! Yes! He's an insane psychopath, but rather him then that cursed Pharaoh! So, what would he do if he upset Malik?'
Bakura's eyes widened and his cheeks heated as the answer immediately moved through his mind in a parade of images. 'Ah... Maybe not. I want to say I'm sorry, not scare him senseless.'
After running through everyone else that he knew, and after coming to the conclusion that all of Ryou's friends were both weird and completely useless when it came to stuff like that, Bakura admitted defeat. 'It's no use. I can't think of anything! Why does Ryou have to be so difficult? If it were me, all it would take would be a present! I'd know that the one giving it to me wanted to earn my favour. But with Ryou...' Bakura paused in his mental rant and blinked. 'No... it couldn't be that easy. Could it?'
An hour later, Bakura jumped off the top of the six-foot high fence, landing lightly on his feet inside the park. He waited for a moment to make sure that there was no one around and then started moving towards the part of the park where the roses were.
As the cold night wind alternately pulled at his long hair and blew it into his eyes, Bakura shivered and pushed his hands into the pockets of the oversized black tracksuit top he was wearing. He scowled as the matching pants immediately started to slip down off his waist. Cold hands or no pants... what a choice! As if it wasn't bad enough that he'd had to raid Father's wardrobe for clothing appropriate to the occasion, the cursed clothes were too big for him! 'The next time Ryou goes shopping, he is buying something black, even if I have to take over his body and get it myself!'
Pulling the pants up for the eighty-seventh time that night, Bakura wondered whether his brilliant idea was really so brilliant after all. It had seemed like such a simple plan at home. 'Of all the things that make people happy, he couldn't like gold, jewels, rings, bracelets, bangles, trinkets or anything that I could steal from a nice, warm house could he? Of course not. My light likes flowers. And for my light, those pathetic, bug-ridden blooms in the neighbourhood aren't nearly good enough. He seemed to like the ones here. Now I just have to find them. Why does this cursed place have to be so big? It all looks the same in the dark. All I want is one little flower. Just one! So where...?' Bakura smiled as he rounded a bush and saw the rose garden spread out before him. 'This will be easy.'
Ryou stirred and slowly opened his eyes. He glanced sleepily at the clock before snuggling back under the covers for another few minutes. As he did every morning, he opened the mind link and sent a soft 'Good morning, Bakura,' to his yami. His sleep-fogged mind took a few moments to realise that on this particular morning, the spirit wasn't in his soulroom. It took another few moments for Ryou to process that information and sit up in bed, wide awake and in a highly nervous state. If Bakura wasn't in his soulroom there were only three other possibilities. Since he definitely wasn't in Ryou's soulroom, that meant that he was either somewhere in the room in his spirit form or... After looking around the room, Ryou groaned. The Spirit of the Ring was nowhere in sight. Which meant that he could be anywhere!
Some months earlier, Bakura had learned a spell from the Book of Secret Arts, a Duel Monsters card that he had brought into reality with his Shadow Magic. The spell granted the caster a physical form, which meant that Bakura and Ryou could both exist as humans, with their own physical bodies, at the same time. Previously, that had only been possible within the Shadow Realm. Bakura had quickly become very good at the spell, although his use of it varied depending on his mood. Apparently today was one of his 'I feel like being physical' days. They were usually the days when he managed to get in some sort of trouble.
Ryou sighed softly. Considering the bad mood that his yami had been in the previous afternoon, there was no telling what he could be up to. But he wouldn't know about it until Bakura either came home or sent him a cry for help through their link. Or until the police called. Which meant that he'd just have to be patient for the time being and go about his regular activities.
An hour later, Ryou was in the middle of washing up the breakfast dishes when there was a flash of light and Bakura appeared in the middle of the kitchen. Ryou jumped and barely managed to keep from dropping the plate he was holding. He put it down carefully before whirling around. "Bakura! What was that light? Were you in the Shadow Realm?"
"Yeah." Bakura shifted uneasily and looked everywhere except at Ryou. "I had... some business with Dark Witch." He shifted again, looking uncomfortable as he stood with his hands behind his back, rather than crossed in front of him as usual.
"Business?" Ryou frowned slightly as he slowly approached his yami. Bakura was acting very oddly, even for him. "Is everything all right, Bakura?" His voice was softer than usual, with more than a trace of anxiety. Usually, that would have earned him a sharp retort, or an equally soft response, depending on his yami's mood. But this time, Bakura only shrugged and looked even more uneasy. Ryou studied him for a moment and blinked.
"What in the world are you wearing? Isn't that one of Father's tracksuits?" He peered at the clothes more closely, then gasped. "Oh! Bakura! You're soaking wet!" He instinctively started to reach out towards his yami, then seemed to realise what he was doing. His arm dropping down to his side again, Ryou quickly turned and headed for the doorway, calling back over his shoulder. "Come on, Bakura! If you don't get into dry clothes quickly, you'll make yourself ill!"
Ryou bustled in and out of the bathroom getting towels and the hairdryer in-between raiding his closet for warm, dry clothes for his yami. The whole time, Bakura watched from the doorway with a bemused look on his face. When Ryou finally had everything ready, he turned and smiled gently. "There you go! I'll leave you to get changed now." He moved towards the door and frowned slightly when his yami didn't move aside. "Um... I can't get past with you standing there, Bakura." He eyed his yami warily.
"I know." Bakura looked up, meeting Ryou's eyes for the first time since his sudden appearance in the kitchen. His dark eyes held an unfathomable expression. "Before you go... I..." He shifted uneasily and looked away, then brought his arm out from behind his back. "Here." He thrust something out at Ryou, causing the boy to gasp and blink in surprise.
Ryou stared at the object in his yami's hand, trying to work out what was going on. Surely it couldn't be what he thought it was. "Bakura?"
"Take it." Bakura glanced quickly at his light, trying to tell what his reaction was. All he could see was the shock in Ryou's wide eyes. That didn't tell him anything. "If you don't want it, throw it out or something, but just take it already!"
He regretted the sharp words even as he spoke them. He regretted them even more when they caused Ryou to flinch. Before he could put his foot any further in his mouth though, Ryou looked up at him. Bakura's breath caught in his throat as he witnessed the shock in his light's eyes transform into wonder, and then into joy.
"You mean... it's for me?"
Ryou's hand lightly brushed against Bakura's as he accepted the white rose his yami was offering him.
Bakura watched as his light inhaled the delicate flower's rich fragrance, the scent causing Ryou to close his eyes and smile softly in pleasure. There was something about the sight that made Bakura suddenly sure that he would go through the whole tiresome night all over again, if it would earn the same response.
The thought startled him and he quickly moved out of the doorway, slipping past Ryou and into the bedroom. He needed to get changed. Obviously he'd been in his wet clothes too long and was starting to get feverish! Just the thought of what he'd gone through to get that cursed flower was enough to send a shudder through him. There was no way he was ever doing anything like that again!
He'd searched the entire rose garden and had been unable to find a single rose that was suitable. All he'd wanted was a white rose... preferably one with a scent that didn't remind him of the time he'd accidentally offended the woman at the perfume counter at the mall and she'd sprayed him in the face. It had seemed like a reasonable request. But that cursed garden had been annoyingly uncooperative. All of the roses there had been either the wrong colour, too small, too big, not open enough, too open, unscented, too smelly or too thorny. Bakura had searched the whole garden without finding a single rose that was anywhere near what he wanted. Besides, he hadn't really wanted to give his light something that would only have lived for a few days.
When he'd failed to find anything there, he'd done the most obvious thing he'd been able to think of. He'd gone to see Dark Witch to see if she knew a spell that could create a white rose that would never die.
It had not been an uneventful trip. He'd been chased by a Man Eater Bug, been tripped by more vines than had a right to exist in a forest and ended up soaking wet when the weather had decided to burst into rain right above his head. And only right above his head. To add insult to injury, the wretched stormcloud had then followed him all the way to the Castle of Dark Illusion, Dark Witch's home.
One of these days he was going to have to learn the spell she had used to send him back. She'd been able to get him directly from her hall to Ryou's kitchen without him having to step foot outside.
All in all, getting that cursed flower had been more trouble than he had expected it to be when the idea had first come to him. But... the moment when Dark Witch had created the rose for him... Bakura had to admit that in that moment, he had forgotten everything that he'd gone through. His only thought had been that the pure, delicate, thornless, beautiful flower was the perfect gift for his light.
Bakura was so intent on his thoughts that he almost missed hearing Ryou's soft question. He turned and blinked in surprise at the uncertain, almost shy, look on his light's face.
"Because..." He paused, the words he had meant to say sticking in his throat. He had intended the rose to be an apology for his actions the day before, but suddenly his reasons for the gift didn't seem quite so simple. Why had he gone to so much trouble for something as unimportant as that? Looking into his light's eyes, Bakura suddenly realised the truth.
His light was happy. Nothing that made his light happy could ever be unimportant.
Ryou blinked at his yami. "Because... why?"
Bakura smiled slightly. "Just... because."