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: This takes place between my story "Never Alone" and the Duelist Kingdom part of the series. I've always thought that Ryou took the news about his having a dark half far too calmly for it to have been a complete surprise ^_^
Ryou stirred and slowly opened his eyes. For a moment he was disorientated. The last thing he remembered was doing his math homework, but now he seemed to be… Yes, he was. He was lying on his bed.
Confused and more than a little scared, Ryou started to raise his head to look at his alarm clock. The pain caught him by surprise. He gasped, then had to struggle for breath when the reaction caused his chest to tighten as nauseating waves of pain coursed through his body. He could only force himself to lie as still as possible, in the hope that it would soon pass.
As he lay trembling on his bed, he knew that something was very wrong. It had never been like this before. It wasn't the first time he'd woken to find himself in his bed with no memory of getting there, nor was it the first time he'd woken in pain, but the other times had been different. He'd woken bruised a few times, and once he'd woken to find his wrist bound up and aching as though he'd twisted it or something, but this time he seemed to be seriously hurt.
Ryou fought down the flood of panic that threatened to overwhelm him. He had to focus! He needed to work this out, before anything else happened. Closing his eyes again, he tried to remember when he'd first noticed that something was wrong.
It had been a few years earlier, just after his father's trip to Egypt. Ryou remembered how he had woken one morning to find himself standing outside in his pajamas, with no memory of anything after he'd gone to bed the night before. He'd been confused; not only at his apparent sleepwalking, but also at the sense of panic that had woken him up. He had been a little scared at finding himself outside, sure, but the fear he'd sensed had seemed to come from another source. Thinking that he must have had a nightmare or something, Ryou had simply gone back inside.
That had been the first time, but not the last. He'd become used to finding himself places with no memory of how he'd come to be there. Ryou had even tried to talk to his father about it, but his father had been preparing to leave on a trip at the time and hadn't heard a word his son had said.
So Ryou had found himself alone with his growing fear. He didn't know what was happening to him and he was scared. Then, he'd had a dream. At least… he thought it had been a dream. It had seemed so real…
He'd been upset because his father had gone away again. He'd cried himself to sleep. That wasn't unusual. But then… something had woken him up... No, that must have been the start of the dream. If he concentrated though, Ryou could still remember waking to the feel of someone lightly stroking his hair. The touch had been so soothing that he had almost fallen asleep again, but then it had ended abruptly. Ryou had made a sleepy, protesting sort of sound and he distinctly remembered hearing a gasp, followed by a whisper of movement. He'd reluctantly rolled over and, for just a moment, his eyes had met those of another boy. A boy who looked just like him, only… wilder.
The boy had been startled, but there had been something else in his eyes. Loneliness. Ryou had recognised it. He saw it in his own eyes whenever he looked in a mirror. He had started to speak, but the boy had darted through a door, closing it firmly behind him.
Ryou had started to get up, intending to follow the boy, but had paused as he noticed the room he was in for the first time. Although it felt familiar, as though he'd been there many times before and knew instinctively that he was safe there, at the same time he had known that he had never seen that room before.
He wasn't sure what had happened then. The confusion he'd been feeling had apparently overwhelmed him. The next thing he'd known, he had woken to find himself in his own bed, in his own room. Something had made him search the entire house, but there had been no one else there. Certainly not a boy who looked just like him. Although it had been a dream, his feeling of disappointment had been very real.
After that, something had changed.
Ryou had started noticing gaps in his memory more often, and not just at night either. It had started happening during the day too. But then there were the other, more disturbing, things.
Sometimes he'd find messages that he didn't remember writing. Little notes, usually containing strange scribbled drawings that looked like the Hieroglyphs he'd once seen in one of his father's books. Once, he'd turned in a homework assignment and the teacher had been very displeased to see that he'd drawn a picture of a pyramid on the back of the page. He hadn't remembered drawing it. Several times he'd found his sneakers covered in wet mud when he knew that he hadn't worn them in days. Whenever it rained, it had gotten to the point where he was more surprised if he didn't come across at least one pair of wet socks after losing an hour or two of time. He'd also started waking with bruises, cuts and scrapes that he couldn't explain.
Most of the things were small on their own, but they all added up to give Ryou a great deal of worry. He was more than half convinced that he was going insane. At least he didn't have to worry about being bullied anymore though. It was the strangest thing, but the boys who had used to torment him each day now went out of their way to avoid him. Perhaps it was obvious to everyone that he wasn't quite in his right mind? Either that, or someone had persuaded them to choose another target. Ryou didn't think that was very likely.
Forgetting his situation, Ryou chuckled at the thought and was immediately reminded by the agony that his movement brought him. Whimpering, he struggled not to pass out from the pain. He failed.
The moment he woke, he knew he was dreaming. He was in the room he'd dreamed of before, the one where he'd seen the boy that looked just like him. Ryou sat up, eagerly looking around before he remembered. Wasn't there supposed to be pain? Looking down at himself, Ryou was surprised to realise that he felt completely fine. He was even more surprised to realise how disappointed he was by that.
"So… I guess this really is a dream after all." He sighed and then stood up, his attention on the door on the far side of the room. "Oh well, I may as well make the best of it. I wonder where that leads?"
As he crossed the room, he became aware of an odd feeling somewhere within him. It felt like… the memory of pain… An uneasiness began to build and his steps quickened with instinctive urgency. Something was not right in this dream world.
As he opened the door and stepped into the hallway beyond, he heard it. Someone was crying. No, not crying… whimpering, and not in sorrow or fear. There was pain in that voice. Something in Ryou's heart seemed to freeze at the sound as his eyes darted around, seeking its source. When he caught sight of the door on the opposite side of the hallway, Ryou headed for it without hesitation.
The room beyond the door was cold and dark, the only light coming from flickering candles set into the walls at wide intervals. Ryou didn't really want to enter the forbidding room, but the sobbing was coming from somewhere in the darkness and everything within him urged him forward. He took a deep breath and followed his heart.
As Ryou walked through the room, his eyes adjusted to the darkness and he began to make out a few details. There wasn't a lot to see, but what there was bore a striking resemblance to the photos Ryou's father had shown him of Egyptian tombs. The bed at the back of the room wasn't Egyptian though. It was just a plain, ordinary bed, exactly like the one in Ryou's bedroom. It was also identical to the one in the room Ryou had woken up in. It wasn't the bed that held Ryou's interest though.
The white-haired boy lay curled up miserably on his side with his back to Ryou. He cradled one arm protectively against his chest while his other hand was fisted in the sheets as though that touch was the only thing keeping him bound to consciousness. His breaths came in harsh, uneven gasps and he seemed to be struggling for every one of them. At the same time, his body shook with the force of the sobs that were apparently beyond his control to ease.
Ryou hurried to the boy. Acting on sheer instinct, he climbed onto the bed and gathered the shaking form into his arms. The boy tensed immediately, then shuddered at the pain the movement caused.
As he tried desperately to stop his childish whimpering, a part of Bakura couldn't help but be glad of his light's presence. It was that part of him that made him lean into the boy's gentle embrace, and that part of him that drew comfort from Ryou's touch as the boy lightly stroked his hair. While the rest of him was horrified that Ryou had seen him in such a state, that tiny part of his soul whispered that he'd be all right now. He didn't have to face the pain alone any longer.
Bakura hadn't meant it to go so far. At first, he'd taken on the cowards who bullied Ryou because he was bored and wanted to feel the thrill of excitement that such activity had always brought him. He wasn't sure when his goal had changed, but he'd soon found himself doing it because he wanted revenge on them for everything they'd done to his light. He'd succeeded too. They'd been too afraid to bother Ryou. He should have known it was too good too last. He should never have become so overconfident that he let down his guard. But then again, he'd never expected them to all join forces against him!
One, or even two or three, at a time and it wouldn’t have been a problem. But when over twenty burly teenagers had surrounded him in the park the night before, Bakura had known that he was in serious trouble. Still, he consoled himself, he'd put up a pretty good fight. More than half of them would be in worse shape than he was that morning! Well… okay, maybe not worse, but at least as bad… and maybe not half of them… more like a third… But he'd done some damage anyway!
They'd caught him by surprise so he hadn't had a chance to prepare himself for the fight. He knew he'd paid a price for it. His arm had been broken in at least two places and he was pretty sure a couple of his ribs were bruised, if not broken too. He'd had that happen to him before so he recognised the pain.
It wasn't so heavy a price, or at least it wouldn’t have been if he'd only been able to stay conscious. He'd managed to get home without any hassle, but the stairs up to Ryou's room had proven too much for him. He'd barely been able to make it to the bed before he'd collapsed. Naturally, once that happened, his control over Ryou's body had slipped. He didn't regret what he'd done, but he did regret what he hadn't been able to do. He hadn't been able to keep Ryou from feeling the pain.
As soon as Bakura had seen the ring of teenagers surrounding him, he'd known that he'd be spending at least the next few days in control of Ryou's body. He could get a bit of help with healing from the Shadow Magic, but it would still take time before Ryou's body was healed enough for Ryou to be able to use it without too much pain. His losing consciousness had almost ruined everything.
Thank Ra the boy had been unable to withstand the pain for long. When he'd fainted, control of his body had automatically gone to Bakura again. Although… Ryou's finding him was a complication he hadn't expected.
Bakura tried to concentrate on the problem, but he was too exhausted by the effort it took for him to remain conscious and in control of Ryou's body when he was so badly hurt. At least he'd finally stopped whimpering. His light's touch was so soothing… Bakura couldn't remember ever feeling so calm, or so exhausted. His eyes drifted closed as he relaxed slightly against his light.
It would be a few hours still before the Shadow Magic started to take away the pain, and in the meantime Ryou's presence was proving to have much the same effect. Bakura didn't want to tell him to go, even though he knew how risky it was for Ryou to stay. Surely there would be no harm in his enjoying the company and attention of his light for a little while longer. It wasn't as though Ryou would remember it. With a few carefully timed subconscious whispers, Ryou would come out of all this thinking that it had been nothing more than a bad dream.
After all, it had worked with Ryou's discovery of Bakura's existence.
Bakura was smiling slightly when he slipped into sleep. Ryou looked down at the sleeping boy and smiled too before closing his own eyes. Soon, Bakura's soulroom echoed with the soft breathing of two sleeping souls.