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[Game for a Thief]: Chapter One - Phoenix


Title: Game for a Thief
Summary: In order to fulfill a debt to Bakura, Malik agrees to take part in his own ‘World of Memory’, armed with only vague information and a shaky alliance with Bakura’s ancient self.
Pairing(s): Citronshipping (Malik/Thief King Bakura)


Prologue

-o-

Game for a Thief

Chapter One - Phoenix

-o-


He existed.

His heart was in jagged pieces, all pressing against each other like the plates of the earth shifting over lava. It was more pain than any human heart should be able to bear, but still he existed.

He was also alive.

He breathed raggedly, each breath coming out as if it had to fight through that burning, shifting surface each time, but they did come. There was solid ground under his feet, and his limbs felt heavy.

For a moment, just one moment, he was free to observe that, the pieces of his heart floating with just enough distance for him to remain detached. That moment ended, and screeching filled his ears- the high, inhuman sound of something which hungered eternally. Bloodbloodblood, hatehatehate…

There were flames, sometimes purple and sometimes bright flashes like the sun, but there was nothing as beautiful as Re's light in them. They would destroy everything, and he was inclined to allow it. Why shouldn't they be destroyed?

What were they? The Pharaoh, his brother, his sister, the companions who stood by the Pharaoh? Or he himself? Perhaps they were all they. The screeching thing didn't care very much, as long as they died. Neither did he.

The flames parted, and he looked beyond them.

His brother lay before him, unconscious still from Raa's attack.

The screeching sound turned to the triumphant call of a predator which had succeeded in trapping its prey. Flames ran towards the bed, creeping upwards, reaching for his brother's body, and he began to feel the first stirrings of satisfaction.

Half of his heart had been sealed away by this brother of his. It was his to hold, perfectly reasonable feelings (it was right that he hate not just the Pharaoh but his father and brother and sister as well, those who followed this festering view of duty which had polluted their people for three millennia already), feelings which had nevertheless been suppressed. His brother resented and now feared him (as he should), and had sought to kill him and replace him.

Well. His brother would die, but no one would be replacing him. For a moment, he considered whether he should allow his brother the dignity of a proper burial. Would he leave enough of a body for it to be prepared for the journey to the afterlife?

He could leave nothing but charred remains, and then scatter even those ashes… There was a certain appeal to such total destruction.

…But no, his brother should not be separated from him so completely. It was not his place, to ever be free of him. His brother had served him well, in his own flawed manner. Perhaps just a few burns here and there? As long as he suffered as he deserved.

Yes, that would be satisfactory.

There was a sound behind him, perhaps of the door opening.

A moment later, dark power pressed about him, and before he could retaliate, he had been thrown against the wall. His head cracked against it, and his vision went black.

-o-

When Malik awakened, at first his eyes remained closed. He was in bed, and clearly not as well-rested as he should be, after all. But then he heard a sound nearby, and cracked an eye open. If it was simply Rishid, then he could return to…

Suddenly he felt ill.

It wasn't Rishid, however, but… "Bakura? What are you doing here?" Malik raised himself to a sitting position. He would have left the bed and stood, but he wasn't certain that his legs would support him yet.

Bakura, seated in a chair nearby in a pose which failed utterly at making him appear casual, smirked. "Shouldn't that question be the other way around? After all, it's you who's invaded Ore-sama's space here."

Looking about, Malik supposed that this wasn't his room, though the rooms in the blimp were near enough to interchangeable for it to be an acceptable mistake. When he blinked, his eyes were heavy, threatening to remain closed. He forced them open.

What had happened? Why was he here, and what had been done to him to cause the dull pain that stayed his limbs? His body…his other self… Rishid… Pieces clicked into place, as if a puzzle was being solved, but they grated together painfully.

Malik turned back to Bakura. "Rishid is?"

"The same as before. I intervened before you had the chance to do anything to him."

Malik nodded carefully. Away from Rishid, it was much easier to feel concern for him. That he had wanted to kill him was now a distant memory, but the knowledge still pulsed through his mind, ready to rear back into prominence the moment it encountered sufficient prompting.

Searching for distraction, he looked out the window. It was still dark, but the sky was beginning to take on color. Morning wasn't far, then.

"You failed to warn me that my mind would become so fragmented upon the absorption of my other self," Malik stated, ostensibly still looking out the window, but keeping his attention on Bakura.

"And how was Ore-sama to know what would happen? There's hardly much precedence for this sort of thing, after all."

"Your description of the process was rather vague, true." Malik hadn't been much concerned at the time, but now was beginning to wonder if he should have been. There was a dull pounding in his head, and warring thoughts writhed under the surface.

Did he want to kill Bakura?

One piece, at least, settled within him. No, he did not. Bakura was aggravating and untrustworthy, but he had his uses.

"And those flames?" Malik skirted around the edge of the memory, trying to focus on only that one aspect.

"Your soul was being ripped apart quite a bit, wasn't it? So something else came out that you weren't expecting." Bakura's voice was oddly dismissive.

"What?" Malik twisted around to face Bakura properly, and heat flashed through his body. The pain in his head was burning now, and, unable to care that he was displaying weakness, Malik placed a hand over his forehead. He breathed deeply, attempting to focus on that.

"It's fine," Bakura said, voice mocking but surprisingly low. "Your body wants rest, so listen to it."

With Bakura here? Malik snorted.

But then, Bakura had been by him as he slept before, and his plans, whatever they were, clearly didn't call for Malik to be brought to harm. And really, was there anyone else on this blimp who he could turn to?

Whether it was advisable or not, Malik sank back down onto the bed and allowed his eyes to close. These concerns could wait a few hours, he supposed.

-o-

When Malik next awakened, it was late morning. His head pained him somewhat less, but the sunlight which spilled into the room did little to help. Reckless as the spirit was, he doubted that Bakura had bothered with practicalities such as medicine. If injured he could always retreat and allow his host to bear the pain, after all.

Bakura was still in the chair, his eyes closed, but the moment that Malik stood, his eyes cracked open. "Better?"

Malik didn't bother replying. To say that he was would be a lie, but there was no need to give Bakura a clear idea of how weak he might be, either. He glanced out the window again, and saw a tower…they had landed. "How long until the finals begin?"

"There's a preliminary match to decide who's up against whom, and then the finals will start. Depends on how long they take, really."

Malik froze. "You speak as if they have already begun that match."

"They have."

Every semblance of calm which Malik had built up fell apart. He reached for the Sennen Rod, thinking of stabbing Bakura, and for the first time realized that it was gone. No doubt Bakura had taken advantage of his incapacitation to procure it for himself.

The flames returned, as did the screeching, and Malik stepped towards Bakura. "We had an agreement, Bakura. You would be given the Sennen Rod if, and only if, you succeeded in obtaining Osiris's Heavenly Dragon for me. Since you failed in that task, you have no right to it."

Bakura shrugged. "Old bargains. Plans have changed, haven't they?"

Malik's eyes narrowed. "I still intend to kill the Pharaoh, and I still require the other two God Cards in order to replace him. Nothing has changed, but for the setbacks which you have brought about."

"The Pharaoh will die, Malik, but you're forgetting that you agreed to…" Bakura broke off, his gaze going to the door as a knock sounded against it.

The voice was muffled by the barrier of wall and door, but still audible. "It's locked…maybe they're in here?"

"Those idiots." Bakura swore, his voice low. He turned back to Malik and glared. "Well? It won't help anyone's plans if you stay like that, Malik. At least try to control yourself."

"Hn. You have only yourself to blame for this, Bakura. What manner of fool drags out the Kaa of a man whose heart has been shredded as mine has?"

"One who has a use for that Kaa to be put to," Bakura spat, and his gaze again went to the door. "Now hurry up."

"You have a plan, then?"

"Yes, so play along." Bakura closed his eyes, and the Sennen Ring vanished. He opened his eyes again, and his face had shifted, taking on the soft appearance of his host.

Ah, so that was it. Malik considered. It most likely was for the best that Bakura's reappearance remain a secret for now, and while the Pharaoh and his companions would soon discover that Malik had defeated his other self, it was unacceptable that their discovery occur now- linking him with Bakura's host would only bring further suspicion on Bakura, who might still be able to make use of his host's guise.

And it was certainly unacceptable that they know of the damage done to Malik when he absorbed his other self. No matter how this played out, it behooved him for his enemies to believe him stronger than he truly was. He could settle matters with Bakura later.

Malik exhaled and closed his eyes for a moment, focusing on that. His spirit reigned in, the flames withdrew. Malik opened his eyes again and nodded to Bakura, before carefully moving so that he would not be within view of the door.

Not sparing him a glance, Bakura went to the door. Malik decided to extend the favor, and looked aside. He wasn't in a mood for seeing the false smiles on the spirit's face.

"Bakura-kun, where did you go last night?"

That was Anzu. Briefly, Malik toyed with the idea of exerting control over her again in order to steer the conversation. But no, it probably wouldn't be necessary. He tried and failed to ignore the possibility that using that ability after his spirit had undergone such damage might be risky. Bakura appeared to have ripped his Kaa out, if the flames that manifested whenever he lost control over himself were any indication, and that boded badly for any other magical exploits he might attempt. Perhaps with the Sennen Rod, but…

"I guess you just missed me, then," Bakura was saying, sounding sheepish. "I'm sorry for worrying everyone."

"We're just glad to see that you're feeling better! ….By the way, Bakura-kun, have you seen Malik anywhere?"

At that, Malik tensed, and glared over at Bakura.

"Um, Malik…?"

"That's right, you were unconscious during all of that, weren't you?"

"It's Namu- his real name is Malik." That was Honda. "He's… I don't know how to say this, but he's lost it. And he has the Sennen Rod… He's dangerous. You should stay away from him, Bakura."

A rather delicate way of dancing around the subject of his other self. And Malik supposed it was largely true of him now, as well.

After a while the Pharaoh's companions left, and Bakura shed his guise. Malik felt oddly relieved to be faced with Bakura's natural appearance again. "Your plan?"

Bakura shrugged. "It can wait."

Hardly a satisfactory answer, but… His body was beginning to feel the effects of a long, stressful night. The damage done to him by Bakura would have to wait, but he should at least eat before doing dealings with the spirit. Perhaps further arrangements should wait for now, though he would hardly say such to Bakura.

"Suit yourself."

Chapter Two

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