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.

 

Another Source of Magic
Chapter 27: Panic Attack

By Shadow's Mirror

 

Ryou raced into his father's bedroom and skidded to a halt just inside the door as his wide eyes took in the sight before him. He gasped in horror. "Bakura! No! Don't move!"

The chibi looked up at the cry, the scared look on his little face sending a jolt right through Ryou's heart. As Bakura-chibi started to whimper and shift into a crawling position, Ryou took a deep breath to calm himself down. He knew he had to handle this very carefully. "It's all right Bakura. I'm coming. Just stay still. Please… stay still." But the little boy was too frightened to listen.

Bakura-chibi's wide eyes fixed on Ryou and he whimpered again as he began to crawl backwards. Ryou started moving towards him but he paused when his movement only made the small child cringe and crawl away faster. Ryou frowned in realisation. "You're… afraid of me…" His shock was interrupted by Bakura-chibi's sudden cry of pain.

"Bakura!" Ryou hurried across the room, barely taking the time to avoid the broken glass that lay on the floor. His yami-chibi was too hurt to care anymore about the bigger boy's approach. He merely sat in the middle of the glass, crying as he held one hand up in front of him. Ryou went pale as he saw drops of bright red blood fall to the floor. "Oh no…"

Ryou carefully scooped his injured yami-chibi up off the floor and into his arms. He held the little boy close, rocking slightly as he gently rubbed Bakura-chibi's back. "Shhh… It's all right Bakura. I have you now. I'll look after you." The little chibi whimpered softly and Ryou looked down into the child's wide eyes. He was puzzled by the fear he saw mixed with the pain in the chocolate-brown orbs. "What is it Bakura? Why are you so afraid of me all of a sudden?"

The little boy looked down and Ryou followed his line of sight. All he saw was the remains of the shattered lamp that Bakura-chibi had somehow pulled off the bedside table. He frowned slightly. "I don't understand." He looked back at Bakura-chibi and suddenly recognised a third emotion in the child's face. Guilt. "Wait… are you afraid that you'll be in trouble for this?" When the wide eyes filled with fear and the chibi shivered again, Ryou had his answer.

His heart filled with pain for his yami-chibi, as his soul howled in fury at those who had caused the small child to fear such things. Even knowing that they were now long gone did nothing to ease Ryou's anger. Only the knowledge that the little one was watching him closely made him able to lock his wild emotions away. He hugged Bakura-chibi. "It's all right, Bakura. I'm sure you didn't mean to do it. It was just an accident. What's important is that you weren't hurt… except for that cut on your hand. We'd best take care of that right away."

Ryou smiled gently at his yami-chibi as the little boy looked up at him. The child's eyes were still wide, but with wonder now rather than fear. The look made Ryou's heart ease just a little. "Really, Bakura. It's all right. I'm not mad at you." He looked down at the mess thoughtfully. "To be honest, I never liked that lamp anyway."

Returning his attention to Bakura-chibi, Ryou started for the door. "As soon as we're back in the bathroom, I'll see to your injured hand." His smile suddenly faltered as he realised something. Colour rushed into his face. "Um… just as soon as you're dressed again, that is… What is it about yamis that make you so eager to go without your clothes whenever you are in physical form? Or maybe it's just you… Oh dear… That is definitely not something I'll be asking Yugi about…"

* * *

By the time Ryou finished binding Bakura-chibi's injured hand and getting him dressed, it was time for lunch. By the time Bakura-chibi was through with his strained carrots, Ryou thought he knew why the image of Summoned Skull on the jar looked as though he was suffering from exhaustion.

He sighed as he studied his beaming yami-chibi. "I don't know why I'm surprised. I should know by now that you get messy whenever possible. Of course eating a jar of strained carrots would result in your getting more carrots on you than inside you. Not to mention around you… and on me…"

Ryou shook his head and smiled slightly as his yami-chibi giggled softly. "Oh, so you think it's funny, do you? Well I hope you're still happy with yourself in a few minutes. This means that we both need another bath, after all." As he carried his yami-chibi up the stairs, Ryou was almost as happy as the wriggling, giggling chibi in his arms. He liked baths.

* * *

Five minutes later, the house rang with the screams of a terrified chibi.

A few moments after that, the bathroom door opened. A small rubber duck soared through the doorway, bounced off the carpet and came to a sudden stop against the opposite wall. As the door closed again, Ryou could be heard apologising to his yami-chibi for accidentally scaring him.

Apparently, an irrational fear of ducks was one thing that the spell hadn't affected.

* * *

As he relaxed in the warm bubble-covered water half an hour later, one hand lightly holding his yami-chibi as the child snuggled against his chest, Ryou gave a relieved sigh. It had taken him a while to calm Bakura-chibi down after the duck incident, but the child had finally forgiven him.

He smiled down at the little boy. "Well… it's been quite a morning. What should we do this afternoon? I'll need to put the washing out, but apart from that I can't think of anything that needs to be done." His smile faded as a little thought nudged at the back of his mind, refusing to be ignored. "I guess we should try to work out why you're like this, though. The spell won't break until your three wishes come true and without knowing what they are…" Ryou sighed softly and lightly stroked his yami-chibi's hair out of the little boy's eyes. "Oh Bakura… whatever were you thinking when you cast the spell? You were so angry… According to the book, you're in this form because it's the form you need to be in, so your wishes can come to pass."

Ryou frowned slightly as that made him think of something. "You grew a little older while we were sleeping, perhaps that's a clue? If your wishes are connected to this form, then perhaps you need to do things that a regular child your age would do? Let me think…"

He tried to concentrate but it was no use. His mind was whirling with too much emotion for him to think clearly about anything. So much had happened and he was trying to be strong, for Bakura-chibi's sake, but it was hard. Deep down inside, Ryou was scared. He didn't want to think about life without his yami at his side.

For years, long before Battle City, even before Duelist Kingdom, a part of him had known that he wasn't truly alone in the world. After he'd learned of the dark spirit's existence, it was that small part of him that had refused to allow his fear to guide his actions. He could have abandoned Bakura so easily. But he had chosen not to. Deep inside his heart, Ryou had seen something in his yami that the others had not.

Just as he was not all goodness and light, so his yami was not all evil and shadow. They were two halves of the same soul. Neither was complete without the other. Somehow, Ryou had never had any trouble accepting that fact. He even found comfort in it. Or at least… he had, until the moment when he had plucked his yami-chibi out of the duck pond. In that instant, his world had tilted.

Ryou sighed heavily, causing his chest to rise and fall more than usual. The movement caused Bakura-chibi to look up at him with wide eyes. Ryou smiled and lightly stroked the child's hair. "It's all right, Bakura. I was just thinking about things. I have so much going around in my mind right now. What I really need is a walk. That usually helps me sort through things like this." A thought nudged at his mind and he blinked. "In fact… maybe that's what we both need…"

He looked thoughtfully at the little boy staring up at him. "Bakura… how would you like to go for a walk? Maybe to the mall?"

* * *

Ryou soon realised that going to the mall with Bakura-chibi wasn't anywhere near as simple as going to the mall with ordinary Bakura. Not even ordinary Bakura in physical form, which was something that Ryou had promised himself he would never do again after the last time, when Bakura had managed to get himself thrown out of three shops in under ten minutes. Bakura was reluctant to go to the mall at the best of times, but at least it didn't take Ryou half an hour just to get him ready to go there!

"There… I think that's everything you could possibly need…" Ryou looked over the things he'd stuffed into his school backpack, frowning critically. "Diapers, powder, a washcloth, two bottles, a jar of Chibi Chow… mashed banana, your favourite… a spoon, another washcloth and a clean T-shirt. Oh, and my wallet and my keys. I've just changed you again so you should be right for a while. I think we're ready to go." He picked up the bag and winced at the weight. "Oh dear…"

With the bag over one shoulder and his yami-chibi snuggled against his chest on the other side, Ryou went out the kitchen door. He locked it, turned… and almost tripped over the sleek black stroller sitting on the back porch. Ryou blinked at the unfamiliar object, slightly dazed. "Oh my… that spell certainly does think of everything, doesn't it?"

Bakura-chibi protested with a soft whimper and wide pleading eyes when Ryou settled him into the stroller. Ryou smiled at him and lightly stroked his hair. "It's all right, Bakura. I'm not going away from you. I'm going to be right behind you. It's not a baby pram, so you can sit up and look out at the scenery as we go. It will be much more interesting and fun for you than just staring at my chest for the entire trip." Bakura-chibi whimpered again.

By the time they reached the driveway, Bakura-chibi was sobbing.

By the time they reached the footpath, Ryou was pushing the stroller with his schoolbag in it with one hand while his other arm held Bakura-chibi safely against his chest. The little boy smiled happily as he rested his head on the bigger boy's shoulder. One little hand held on to Ryou's arm for balance but it was the other hand that made Ryou shake his head and mutter, "Once a possessive yami, always a possessive yami."

Bakura-chibi didn't relax his grip on the front of Ryou's shirt once during the walk to the mall.

* * *

Two hours, four stores, more strange women than he had been able to keep count of, a bottle of juice and a diaper change later, Ryou pushed the stroller out of the mall and winced as the bright sunlight not only hurt his eyes, but also caused the Rock Ogres pounding away inside his head to increase their efforts. He sighed. The headache was just one of many reasons why he would not be attempting another shopping trip like this one.

He hadn't realised how exhausting shopping with a chibi could possibly be. Especially a chibi who apparently had a magnetic affect on more than just mess. The females hadn't been able to keep away from him! When Ryou hadn't been trying to tell them politely to keep their hands off his chibi, he'd had to endure countless comments such as 'Ooh, she's so adorable!' and 'What a cute little girl!' That was the oddest thing. For some reason, every female had seemed to believe that Bakura-chibi was a girl and not a boy.

Ryou looked down at the small child nestled against his chest, where he'd insisted on remaining throughout the entire trip, and suddenly chuckled. "You know Bakura, I can't honestly blame them for thinking that you're a girl. With that mass of soft hair and those big eyes… You really are an adorable chibi." The little boy blinked up at him for a moment before returning his attention to hugging the Dark Witch plushie that Ryou had found in the toy store. Ryou gave him a gentle hug before starting off for home.

As he walked, Ryou had to admit to himself that it hadn't been entirely bad. Aside from the hoards of females with seemingly nothing better to do than stop complete strangers and insist on petting their chibi's hair, things had gone fairly well. At least Bakura-chibi hadn't tried to steal anything.

Okay, there had been the incident with the stack of cans in the grocery store… but honestly, that could have happened with any chibi who had kicked his little feet out while being carried past it.

And Ryou still didn't think it had been very nice of the salesgirl in the toy store to try to force Bakura-chibi to let go of the Dark Witch plushie while she rang up the sale. Honestly, what had been so wrong about the child's insistence on accompanying his new friend along the checkout counter and over the bar-code scanner? True, it might have been easier if he hadn't still been holding on to Ryou at the same time, but surely that had been no reason for her to speak so sharply to them both? If she hadn't been so mean, Bakura-chibi wouldn't have started crying and the store manager wouldn't have come to see what all the noise was about.

It had been awfully nice of him to give them the plushie, although Ryou suspected he had done it so they would leave the store more quickly. Still, by that time he'd been only too happy to leave. As it was, it had taken him almost ten minutes to calm his yami-chibi down afterwards. Fortunately he'd been able to distract the child with all the bright lights in the electric shop.

Ryou sighed as he glanced down at the box peeking out the side of the stroller. "I'm not surprised that they still had a few lamps like Father's, even though it's been a few years since he bought it. I doubt if there would be too many people interested in them. I do wish that the salesman hadn't given me that smirking look though. He made me very uncomfortable. It isn't my fault that Father has terrible taste in lamps."

He winced. "Honestly, if I hadn't needed to get one exactly the same as his original one, I would never have dreamed of buying a lamp with a glass base made in the shape of a… yes… well…" He winced again as heat rushed into his cheeks. "I still can't believe that I never realised what it was supposed to be… or that I worked it out at the exact same moment that the salesman came up behind me… and why is it that salesmen always sneak up behind people like that? He's lucky that he has such good reflexes or I might have seriously injured him with that lamp." He blushed again at the memory of him holding the lamp base as he swung around.

"I think for Father's next birthday I might get him another lamp. Preferably one that isn't shaped like a…" Ryou trailed off, his blush deepening as the memory of the glass lamp base's curves popped into his mind. His eyes widened as his traitorous imagination suddenly superimposed the image of Bakura's female form over the top of the lamp. According to his mind, from neck to hips it was a perfect fit.

Someone whimpered. It took Ryou a moment to realise that the someone was him…

He looked down at the small child snuggled against him and smiled weakly. "Bakura… right now I am very, very glad that you are a chibi. If you were in your usual form at the moment, with our mind link operational… I would never hear the end of it."

* * *

By the time Ryou walked into his bedroom, Bakura-chibi was nearly asleep. It had been a long day for the little boy and it was still barely mid-afternoon. Definitely time for a nap! As soon as the child was settled with his plushie on one side of the bed, Ryou arranged himself comfortably on the other side with the book he'd bought himself.

He'd originally gone into the bookshop with the vague idea of buying something to read to Bakura-chibi. Perhaps something with cute fluffy bunnies, like the ones on the cover of the magazine in the window of the newsagency. But then he'd spotted this book and he'd known at once that it was just what he needed.

It was titled 'Baby Mine: a guide for nurturing your baby'. Ryou blushed as he opened the book, remembering the speculative look the saleswoman had given him and Bakura-chibi as she'd rung up the sale. He mercilessly pushed the memory to the back of his mind and started reading.

A few minutes later, Ryou got up and went to find the measuring tape from his sewing kit. Bakura-chibi grumbled softly in his sleep as Ryou carefully measured him. The boy wore a faint frown when he returned to his book. Ryou was fairly sure that Bakura-chibi was about two years old, because the chibi looked exactly like he had at that age. According to the book though, the child was somewhat smaller than he should have been.

A page later, Bakura-chibi stirred as he was gently lifted up and carried into the bathroom to be weighed. He made a discontented sound as he was momentarily separated from his plushie, but he didn't wake up. He stirred again when he was placed back on the bed, snuggling into the soft quilt.

When Ryou lay down on the bed again, he looked at the sleeping child for a long moment before lightly brushing the hair back from the sweet little face. He returned his attention to the book, his heart breaking as he re-read the figures it stated. Not only was Bakura-chibi small for his age, but he was also considerably under-weight. Assuming that his current form was the same as how he had really been at that age back in Ancient Egypt…

"Oh Bakura… someone really didn't look after you very well, did they? I wish…" His whisper trailed off into a sigh before he continued reading.

A few pages later, Ryou froze in shock. His eyes frantically re-read the paragraph he'd just finished as he tried to force himself to ignore the wild thumping of his heart enough to concentrate on the words in front of him. The key phrases practically jumped off the page. According to the book, by age two most children were not only already walking, but they were talking!

Ryou jumped to his feet and began to pace across the room and back as he tried to work out what he should do. "Oh no… Bakura doesn't do either of those things… but he should be doing them both… Why isn't he walking and talking? Is something wrong? Is it the spell? Has it affected him somehow? That overnight growth spurt… what if it was a sign that something was wrong? How could I have just ignored it? Bakura! I have to help him! My poor little yami-chibi! He needs help!"

Bakura-chibi stirred restlessly as Ryou's fearful mutters grew in volume along with his level of fear. Ryou hurried to the bed to check on him and brushed the long silken hair off the child's face with a shaking hand. "Bakura… I know, I'll go call a doctor. I'm sure there's plenty of children's doctors in the phone book. I'll call one and find out what I should do!" He whirled around and gasped as he bumped into something soft. His eyes widened in shock as a pair of gentle hands caught him before he could fall.

"Hey! Easy there, sweet master! You could hurt someone doing that." The warm voice was laced with laughter. Ryou looked up at the smiling Shadow Monster who had appeared without warning in the middle of the room. Her smile shifted into a look of alarm as she saw the look in his eyes. "My master! What is wrong?" She pulled him into a comforting hug as Ryou started crying, suddenly overcome by everything that had happened.

"I… I'm sorry… it's just that I… Bakura… chibi… something's wrong and I… I… I don't know what to do!" The boy's words were hard to make out in-between his sobs but Dark Witch got the gist of things. She gently guided the boy back to the bed and sat down beside him, on the side where Bakura-chibi was starting to stir at the noise. Dark Witch turned and blinked down in shock at the child.

"Well… If I hadn't seen it for myself, I would never have believed it," she muttered before scooping the child up with one arm while she pulled Ryou gently against her with the other. She hugged the young light to her side as she cradled Bakura-chibi expertly. She studied the child for a long moment before returning her attention to Ryou. Dark Witch smiled gently at him.

"First off, Ryou, don't panic. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Bakura." She kept her voice low so as not to disturb the slumbering chibi.

"But the book says that he's too small and too thin," Ryou protested in barely more than a whisper.

Dark Witch hugged him and smiled reassuringly. "Books like that don't apply the same way to every child. They're more of a guideline. Look at Bakura. He's happy and healthy, is he not?"

"Yes." Ryou nodded. He was starting to feel calmer, but he was still very concerned. "But the book also says that he should be walking and talking by now, and he isn't." He looked anxiously up at Dark Witch. "What if the spell had some kind of odd effect on him?"

Dark Witch blinked and looked surprised. "Oh, is that why you were in such a tizzy? Don't worry so, sweet master. Young ones always do that sort of thing in their own time. They don't go by what is printed in a book. Most likely because they are too young to read." She winked at him and he was startled into a soft chuckle. Dark Witch smiled and hugged him again.

"You aren't the first one to fear so. I remember back when the Witch of the Black Forest and Neo the Magic Swordsman first brought Nemuriko home. It was just after the sealing. They spent the first three hundred years terrified that they were doing something wrong because the child wasn't able to speak. Then one day, Neo went missing for a few hours. He'd been attacked and couldn't get home on his own. The moment Nemuriko saw him, he held out his arms and cried out 'Daddy'."

Ryou smiled. "And after that he spoke all the time, right?"

Dark Witch grinned wryly. "No. After that, he didn't speak another word for almost fifty years. Then one day he just started talking and that was that." She smiled and hugged Ryou close. "If Bakura isn't talking, it's probably just because he doesn't have anything that he wants to say. When he wants to say something badly enough, he will say it."

"Is that true about walking too?" Ryou still looked faintly worried.

"Yes. Nemuriko had been at the Castle of Dark Illusions for nearly seven hundred years before we discovered that he could float. One day we saw him crawl into the kitchen. When we followed him, we caught him floating up to the bench to get at D Human's latest batch of cookies. His reason was, 'why would I fwoat when I wike mama and daddy cawwying me?'" Dark Witch grinned as Ryou chuckled. He was suddenly feeling much better. He looked up at the Shadow Monster.

"Thank you, Dark Witch." Remembering her sudden appearance, Ryou looked at her curiously. "How did you know I needed you?"

Dark Witch looked at Ryou for a long moment, an odd look in her eyes. She suddenly pulled him close and dropped a light kiss on his forehead. "Dear boy…" She held him like that for some time before she spoke softly. "The Millennium Items are connected to the Shadow Magic. The feelings of their bearers, if strong enough, can sometimes be sensed by those of us with the power to feel such things. Today, the whole Shadow Realm knew you were upset. Because it was you, I came to see what was going on."

Ryou sighed softly and relaxed against her. "I'm glad you did. I'm afraid I was more than a little panicked."

The Shadow Monster chuckled. "It's not surprising. You're new to this and it is a very unusual situation." She studied the chibi still sleeping peacefully in the crook of her arm. "I thought the Dark Magician said that he had taken out the spell for turning someone into a chibi… Something about it being too dangerous if it fell into the wrong hands…"

"It's the effect of another spell." Ryou hesitated for barely a moment before he told Dark Witch the entire story. He knew Bakura wouldn't mind if the friendly Shadow Monster knew the truth. She had been their friend for quite some time and had helped them out of a few tricky situations in the past. Besides which, she knew quite a bit about magic. Ryou thought that she might be able to offer some advice about how to work out what Bakura's wishes had been.

Dark Witch listened to Ryou in silence, her frown deepening as he explained the situation. The more he told her about the state of mind that Bakura had been in when he had cast the spell, the more uneasy she grew. When he finished, she hugged him close while she studied Bakura-chibi more intently than she had earlier.

She could sense the Shadow Magic surrounding the child and was a little surprised at how strong the spell was. Whatever Bakura had wished for, he had made the wishes with all his heart and soul. Dark Witch concentrated with all her considerable skill, but even then she could catch no more than a faint sense of the outermost layer of the multi-layered spell. But what she found surprised her.

"This is one of the strongest spells in the Book of Secret Arts, and one of the most complicated. It isn't just one spell, you see. It's made up of a series of spells all interwoven to produce the right results. The spell sets things up so events have the most likely chance of coming to pass in the way that will grant the spellcaster's wishes. But because there's still an element of chance involved, the spell doesn't end until the final wish is granted and things return to normal. At the moment, the magic is still working on Bakura. As things happen, it reacts accordingly to keep events moving in the right direction. Usually, such changes are only slight. But in this case, I can sense that Bakura's first wish has been changed in mid-spell."

Ryou gasped. "Was that why he grew last night? He was only about a year old yesterday," he added in explanation as Dark Witch shot him a confused look.

"Ah! Yes, that would have been why. But this is very unusual. I don't think it's ever happened before, but then again this particular spell isn't used all that often." She looked thoughtful.

"What does it mean? Is something wrong?" Ryou anxiously looked from Dark Witch to his yami-chibi and back again.

Dark Witch smiled and hugged the worried boy. "No, nothing's wrong. It just means that in the process of granting Bakura's first wish, the spell has found that it has already come to pass."

"So… it's only going to grant him two wishes now?" Ryou winced. His yami would not like that.

Apparently Dark Witch was thinking the same thing because she chuckled. "I'm sure Bakura will be happy to know that's not the case. The spell simply shifts the other two wishes forward and adjusts itself so that a new third wish is also granted. That is why he changed. Apparently the original first wish worked best if Bakura was an especially young chibi, but the new wish will come to pass more easily if he is older." She smiled gently at Ryou as she finally felt the tension in his body ease.

"So… he's really all right?" Ryou asked softly as he leaned against Dark Witch. He suddenly felt very tired. Panic and worry was exhausting. The Shadow Monster hugged him lightly.

"Yes, sweet master. He's fine." She grinned and lightly patted the plushie that the sleeping chibi was clutching tightly to his chest. "He also has excellent taste."

* * *

Ryou was still thinking over what Dark Witch had told him about the spell as he cleared away the dinner dishes that night. Although she hadn't been able to tell him exactly what Bakura's wishes had been, she had erased his doubts and fears that his yami would be a yami-chibi forever. The spell was working perfectly, so it was only a matter of time before Bakura-chibi was his usual self again.

Thinking of his yami-chibi made Ryou instinctively turn to check on him. He smiled. The little boy was crawling towards the kitchen bench with an adorably intent look on his small face.

Before he'd started making dinner, Ryou had washed the kitchen floor, barricaded the doorway and made sure that there was nothing dangerous within a crawling chibi's reach, so Bakura-chibi could safely crawl around. The little boy had happily crawled all around the room as Ryou made dinner, constantly getting under the older boy's feet and threatening to trip him. As soon as he'd eaten his dinner of strained potatoes, peas, chicken and gravy, Bakura-chibi had stared longingly at the floor, until Ryou had finally lifted him off his lap and set him down. He hadn't been still for a moment since.

Ryou watched his yami-chibi approach the bench and then disappear behind it. He chuckled and turned back to the sink to continue washing the dishes. He knew what Bakura-chibi was trying to do. There was a teatowel hanging over the edge of the bench. Ryou had used it earlier to wipe up the mess he'd made when he'd accidentally ripped a bag of flour open a little too hard. He had been in the middle of making the gravy at the time, so he hadn't had time to do anything more than wipe up the excess flour and sit the bag on top of it so it didn't make any more mess. The dangling edge of the teatowel was a definite temptation to a crawling chibi, but Ryou knew that it was out of reach.

Hearing an odd noise behind him, he idly looked over his shoulder. He gasped when he saw the bag of flour being dragged across the bench. "Bakura!"

Ryou didn't quite move fast enough. He rounded the corner of the bench just as the flour began to fall, but that wasn't what caused him to freeze in shock.

Bakura-chibi was standing up! He was also pulling on the teatowel, which was now in easy reach.

The little boy shot a startled glance at Ryou just as the bag of flour fell on top of him. He cried out in fear and surprise, then began to sneeze violently as the clouds of flour covered him from his head to his tiny sleepsuit-covered toes. His eyes screwed tightly closed against the invasive stuff that was attacking him as he instinctively turned towards Ryou and stumbled forward a few steps.

"Oh dear." Ryou came out of his state of shock at the sight of his scared yami-chibi trying to get to him. "It's all right, Bakura. I'm here. You'll be fine. Don't worry. It's just a little flour." He lifted the chibi into his arms and coughed as the movement disturbed the flour covering the little boy. "Make that a lot of flour…"

He gently wiped the worst of it off Bakura-chibi's face, until the child could blink up at him. Ryou smiled and hugged the little boy close, then he blinked as the realisation of what he'd seen finally sank in. Incredibly happy, Ryou swung the surprised chibi up into the air, spinning them both around in a circle before drawing the child close again for another hug. "Oh Bakura! You can walk! You really can walk!"

He laughed as he started towards the door, his yami-chibi snuggled against his chest. "This calls for a celebration! I'll get you a nice dish of ice-cream… as soon as we have another bath to get rid of all this flour."

* * *

Ryou stretched and yawned before climbing into bed. It had been a long day and he was exhausted. He rolled onto his side and smiled at the chibi lying next to him, his Dark Witch doll in his arms. "You certainly love that toy, don't you?" Ryou chuckled. He reached out and gently brushed the child's hair out of his eyes. Bakura-chibi giggled and hugged his plushie. Ryou smiled, but his expression shifted slightly, becoming thoughtful and a little sad.

"I wonder if you'll be like this tomorrow as well." He shifted slightly until Bakura-chibi was lying nestled at his side, his little head resting on Ryou's shoulder and Ryou's arm curled protectively around him. Bakura-chibi yawned as he snuggled contentedly into the bigger boy's warmth.

Ryou sighed softly. "Bakura… As much as I miss having you with me as you normally are, I must admit that a part of me will miss you when you are no longer a chibi. There's just something about seeing you like this… You're so small, so helpless… You really need me. You're usually the strong one… the protective one… It's so rare for you to show even a hint of vulnerability, or pain and even when you do, you just scowl and tell me not to fuss. I don't often get the chance to look after you."

He sighed again. His exhaustion was pulling at him and he knew that sleep was not far off. But there was something that he had to do first. He smiled gently at his yami-chibi as the little boy's eyes drifted shut. "I would never dare say this to you, normally. I can only imagine how you'd react if you knew. But right now… I can't resist. I know it's safe. Dark Witch confirmed my guess that your mind has changed just as your body has. You won't remember anything that's happened when you do return to your normal form. So… Bakura… there's something I want to tell you."

The little boy made a muffled sound as he shifted against Ryou's shoulder, pulling his doll closer. Ryou took a deep breath. "No matter what form you are in, or what spell you cast… Whatever you do, or don't do… Whatever you say or don't say… You are my yami and nothing will change that. But if you ever seal any of our friends' souls into a card again, or try another stunt like the one that caused all of this in the first place, I will personally see to it that you not only apologise to everyone concerned, but that you are suitably chastised and punished for your actions! Malik has already volunteered to 'whip you into shape', as he put it."

Ryou frowned slightly as he remembered that particular conversation, and the gleam that had been in Malik's eyes at the time. "Although… I'm not entirely certain that he didn't mean it literally." His frown deepened. "Or that he was thinking of it as a punishment, for that matter…"

He looked down at the little child lying against him and his frown faded back into a smile. "Don't worry, Bakura. I would never let anyone hurt you." Shifting slightly, he brushed his lips against his yami-chibi's soft cheek in a gentle kiss. He settled down again, his eyes starting to close as his exhaustion began to claim him.

"Besides," he muttered sleepily, "Malik has his own yami to torment and play with. You're mine, and I love you far too much to let him… anywhere near… you…" He sighed softly as he drifted off to sleep, a small smile on his lips.

* * *

Bakura-chibi stirred and opened his eyes, disturbed by the sudden silence. He looked up sleepily at the bigger boy, wondering why the soft voice had stopped. He loved that voice. It always made him feel good, not like mama's voice or… He shivered at the loudness that echoed in his memory and quickly snuggled against the boy again until there was nothing except the nice warm feeling that had been in his tummy for most of the day.

He didn't know what it was, but he loved it. He loved the boy too. The boy hadn't yelled at him for being bad and he smelled nice and he gave him good things to eat and he made baths fun with those pretty sparkly bubbles and he'd given him a nice soft toy… Bakura-chibi hugged his Dark Witch plushie happily. He had a soft bed and he was as warm and comfortable as any chibi could possibly wish to be. He was also happier than he could remember ever being before. Not only did the boy hold him better than mama, but he held him more than mama too! He held him when he was scared and sad and hurt and happy and tired and wet and even when he was none of those things and he just wanted to be held. He loved being held.

Bakura-chibi snuggled into the boy's warmth and sighed happily as the boy's arm shifted instinctively to hold him close. The little boy yawned and his eyes slowly closed.

"Boy wawm…" he whispered softly.

 

To be continued...

 

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