Drakken builds a body, and now all Bakura has to do is put himself in it.
(AN: Less humor, more magic in this chapter - more like a Yu-gi-oh! episode and less of the humor of KP.
Note: there are some SPOILERS here for anyone who doesn't know anything about Bakura's Egyptian past.)
-- Interlude 4 --
Ryou was dreaming of Egypt, as he often did.
Memories of visits to archeological digs with his father blended with images from Bakura's life long ago. Hot sun, wide bright sky, and endless sand and dust were the same in either case. And almost always there were crowds of people: students of ancient history sifting through the dust for shards of pottery and bones; a solemn line of white-robed priests performing a ritual to the Sun; tourists gaping at the towering ruins of tombs; a noisy, sweaty group of workers pausing by gigantic blocks of stone to drink beer from earthen mugs.
He'd be following a figure who moved through the throng of people, always ahead of him, almost slipping out of sight. The man wore a red robe and had gold bands on his wrists and ankles, which were tanned and hard-muscled. His hair was the color of bleached straw, almost as white as Ryou's, but it was stiff and wild while Ryou's was a cloud-like mane.
The man would leave the crowds suddenly and stride along through the desert, heading toward the darkening horizon as the sun sank behind them. Ryou struggled to keep up, but his feet would sink into the sand and hold him back, while the other glided along as lightly as a cat.
Ryou tried to call out to him, but couldn't make a sound. Even so, the other heard him and started to turn around. He caught only a glimpse of a tanned face and bright eyes through a fringe of wild hair. Then the ground sank out from under him, he was dragged down, and the sand closed over his head before he ever saw the man's face.
In other dreams he saw the world through Bakura's eyes, where the sand and sun were the same but the temples and tombs were new and bright. In these dreams he wandered out of the sun into a cold night under a dome of icy stars.
The stars disappeared, and he was walking silently through dark stone passages where the air was warm and stale. He felt compelled to follow them as they twisted ever deeper into the heart of the earth. In the shadows above him, painted eyes stared down sightlessly. Then he'd be in a room of shrouded figures, statues of wood and stone with more blind eyes, the scent of perfumed oils and grains in the air.
The glint of gold caught his eye through the shadows. When he reached to touch it, it scalded him, but he couldn't pull his hand away as flames leapt up his arm.
While Ryou's own dreams ended buried in cool sand, Bakura's left him drowning and melting in a sea of molten gold.
Ryou woke up gasping for breath, clutching at the Ring. "I'm sorry!" he gasped automatically, before he realized no one was listening. Sorry for what, he was never sure. Bakura's spirit was a silent presence in his mind. If he'd shared in the dream, Ryou couldn't tell. They never spoke of Bakura's past.
Ryou caught his breath and lay back down again, his hand still holding the Ring against his chest. Dream images flowed into waking thoughts. The body would be ready in the morning, and Bakura would perform the ritual that would transfer his soul into the new host. Ryou felt strange using the word 'host' for someone other than himself. He felt a twinge of sadness, and also worry - but mostly he felt excited, as he remembered feeling as a child on the eve of a festival.
And curious. He looked back into his dream and wondered if he would soon see the face of the man he'd been following through the sand.
-- end Interlude --
Chapter 5, In which Drakken also has a Plan B.
"Rise and shine, boys! Big day ahead!"
Ryou poked his head out from under the blanket and peered up at Shego, who stood leaning against the doorway of his room. Bakura stirred in his mind.
'Boys'? he thought indignantly.
"Uh, yes, good morning," Ryou yawned. He wasn't his best at conversation or thought first thing in the morning, especially after lying awake wondering and worrying for a good portion of the night. Through his own mental fog he felt Bakura's excitement.
As he sat up and stretched, Shego came in and held out two objects to him. In one hand she held a take-out box with an egg in a biscuit and a large cup of coffee, and in the other -- his knapsack. He gaped at it. He'd left it in the hotel room several miles away, several days ago, before he'd called a cab to bring him here.
"Thought you might like some clean clothes for the occasion," she said.
"How did you...?"
Before he could finish she tossed a set of keys onto the bed beside him, including the hotel room key. He glanced over at the chair where he'd left his jeans neatly folded the night before. They were now lying there in a heap, pockets emptied.
Bakura found this amusing, but Ryou didn't. He snatched the knapsack out of her hand and scowled as he checked to see if anything was missing.
"Thank you, I guess," he muttered.
She looked startled for a moment. "Whoa, coming from you that's downright snappish. A bit tense about today, are we?"
He looked up at her, ready to snap again. She stood there with her head tilted. Her dark, thick hair was a curtain hiding half her face. The eye he could see gazed down at him thoughtfully, not at all offended, not even very amused at his expense.
"I guess I am," he admitted. He ducked his head again, this time to take a sip from the coffee. "How is.... everything?"
"Dr. Franken-drakken says everything's nearly ready, going right along as planned. Well, actually, he sort of cackled maniacally in a way that I'm sure means everything is nearly ready and going along as planned. And he keeps ranting about, oh, you know, army of monsters, take over the world, blah blah... you do remember that part, right?"
"About giving him the Ring when it's... done?" Ryou said absently as he pulled out several sorely missed items from his bag. "Yes, I remember." He took another sip of coffee. He considered the fried egg and biscuit sandwich but couldn't convince his stomach to take it seriously.
Shego was still standing there, staring down at him, and something about her stare made him uncomfortable. He glanced up and smiled his best smile at her. "Thank you for bringing breakfast."
"Uh-huh," she said, sounding unconvinced by his sudden cheeriness. "Well, I'll just leave you two to get ready. Doc says it should only be about an hour."
He swallowed wrong and choked. "An hour?" he coughed, blinking back sudden tears.
Bakura seemed surprised into silence as well. Shego stared hard at him for a moment with a strangely knowing look.
"You've known all along, really, haven't you?" she said.
He blinked. Then blushed. In his half-asleep excitement, he'd forgotten what he wasn't supposed to know, and forgotten to act innocent and ignorant. It was too late now.
"Oh. Er, yes. Actually."
"So, how come you don't seem so happy to be getting this parasite out of your head?" she asked. "What am I missing here?"
"I am! I do want him out. It's just that, I, we... it's complicated."
He couldn't tell if Bakura was pleased with her shrewdness or annoyed that he'd given away part of their game. The spirit's thoughts seemed to be going in several different directions. To his surprise, he realized that Bakura was as nervous about this whole process as he was. Or was he having second thoughts?
He checked more carefully, nudging at Bakura's thought with his own.
??? he asked.
Nothing. It doesn't matter what she thinks, but there's much to think about. The ritual... and what Drakken might have planned... and...
The future? Ryou asked quietly.
That isn't a question. Our future is together.
Suddenly he became aware of Shego again. She stood in the doorway now, head tilted forward as she regarded him with a sly smile and a very knowing look in her eyes.
"Uh-huh, I think I'm getting a picture here and it's twisting my brain. So I'm going to leave you two sweethearts to think at each other or whatever it is you're doing while I go... file my nails."
She was gone before Ryou could make his mouth work to say anything.
Did she just call us sweethearts? Bakura thought, even more indignantly than when she'd called them "boys."
Ryou sighed and nodded his head. "She did. I'm sorry. I gave us away, I'm afraid."
After a moment, to his surprised, Bakura laughed. Actually, it's rather cute, he said.
Ryou suddenly had the feeling that it was going to be a very strange day.
It could not get much stranger, he thought an hour or so later. He was looking at a sheet-covered body on a gurney. The body was lying there in the middle of a lab full of whistling, bubbling, whining equipment, and all around him were vats and beakers of colored fluids that seemed to move of their own accord. An array of crystal pyramids, stolen gold jewelry, and blood-black stones were piled on top of the sheet covering the body. And over all of this, Dr. Drakken cackled and rubbed his blue-skinned hands together gleefully.
Ryou really hoped it couldn't get any stranger.
"Ready for the unveiling?" Drakken said with glee. He grabbed a corner of the sheet.
For some reason Ryou wasn't sure he was ready. In fact, he felt a little faint as the sheet began to slide away. He felt as if this was a dream where he was trying to yell something that wouldn't come out while sand closed over his head....
And then Bakura leapt forward to take over as Ryou really did faint dead away. He stared down at his body-to-be with a mixture of fascination and repulsion.
It had no face.
Drakken dropped the sheet across the body's chest and stared down at it stupidly, while Shego looked as if she didn't want to look but couldn't help herself. Bakura spared them a glance and then looked at the body again. It was a fully formed body, but it was disturbingly vague in the details. The head was simply a pale-skinned skull with no features.
"I don't understand," Drakken said, frantically checking notes and readouts. "The cloning process should have produced an exact replica. I can't imagine what went wrong. Just let me check..."
"Nothing went wrong, you fool," Bakura said, startling Drakken to silence for a moment. "It's perfect. Ryou's DNA only provided part of the picture, the basic outline if you will. My spirit will give the body its final form."
"Oh." Drakken said after a moment's pause. "Right. Heh. I knew that."
"Of course you didn't. But it doesn't matter. All that's left is for me to perform the ritual. Then... we'll see, won't we?"
Are you ready, Yadonushi? he thought as Ryou's consciousness stirred back to life.
I guess so. I'm sorry I fainted. You didn't tell me it wouldn't have a face! That's just... creepy.
Bakura chuckled. I didn't know what it would look like, but I assumed it would not be the final version. Now, be prepared. This may feel very strange, perhaps even painful for a moment, but you have to stay strong and remain conscious if you can. I'll have to bring the Ring out where they can see it, but you must not let them touch it!
Never, Ryou thought with all his determination.
Bakura smiled. They'd never seen Ryou when he was determined. He wished he could watch, but he was about to be busy with other things....
Drakken and Shego looked on from opposite sides of the gurney as Bakura began his preparations. He placed the seven crystal pyramids in a line along the body, above the head, on the forehead, on the throat, the chest, and the stomach, and on the sheet covering the lower belly and the groin. The gold chains and jewelry were arrayed around the body and on arms, wrists, thighs, and ankles. The Dragon's Blood stones were placed on spots over the heart and other organs.
While he arranged these things Bakura began to chant low in his throat. It sounded wordless to Shego, but the sound of it seemed to crawl up her spine and into her brain.
When everything was placed as he wanted it, Bakura stood at the foot of the gurney, and the chant grew louder and richer as he raised his arms in front of him. To Shego it seemed as if the normal sounds of the lab faded and the light grew dim. The chanting seemed to throb from the walls and floor and vibrate through her. The air filled with a strange odor of dust and decay, and pungent incense.
Shego felt as if her heartbeat was slowing to the rhythm of the chant, as if the unheard words were wrapping themselves around her mind and taking control. She narrowed her eyes and flexed her fingers, making sure she could move of her own will. Drakken seemed rooted to the spot, only his eyes wandering nervously around the room and constantly back to the body, nervous yet fascinated.
But his fingers twitched as well when the glowing circle of light appeared in the air in front of Bakura, growing outward and taking on a solid form. The Ring hung in the air, still attached by its leather cord around Bakura's neck. Its dangling points raised themselves and pointed toward the body.
Shego leaned forward, itching to grab it, but Drakken caught her eye and gave his head a small shake. She forced herself to wait and see what was going to happen next.
The chant suddenly grew louder, as if other voices had taken it up. With a start Shego realized that the other voices came from the Ring itself, as if a hundred other spirits were awakened within it. She shivered, though the room had grown warmer.
When it happened, it was more sudden than they'd expected. All at once the Ring flashed a blinding flame of violet light. She instinctively threw up her arm to shield her eyes, but peeked through to see rays of energy shoot from its points into the crystals. The light split into brilliant rainbows that were absorbed into the body.
The light disappeared in seconds, leaving her eyes seared with a purple silhouette of Bakura standing with his hands outstretched against a background of red fire.
As sight and sound returned to normal, she immediately realized that it was Ryou standing there now instead of Bakura. His soft brown eyes stared at nothing for a moment, then his outstretched arms dropped as he swayed, head drooping. He suddenly looked as fragile as a doll made out of paper, she thought; a little pastel-paper origami figure of a boy. The Ring hung flat and dull against his chest.
She sprang for him. At the same moment his legs seemed to give out and he folded to the floor. With a grin of triumph she pounced on him, pushing him backward and grabbing the Ring.
Ryou opened his eyes and looked up at her. She froze. They were certainly Ryou's eyes, but there was a glow in their depths like red coals ready to explode in flame. The Ring in her hand and his body beneath her both rumbled like an earthquake. She would have let go and jumped away if she could, but it was too late for that.
"No!" Ryou shouted.
She had a fraction of a second to be surprised that it was his voice and not the other's before the force of it hit her like a bolt of lightning. She had a strange vision of the room as she flew backwards through the air, right up over the body on the table, to slam butt-first into Drakken's chest. She heard his "oomph!" of surprise and pain, and thought in a flash "that'll come out of my paycheck!" They both hit the floor and things went black.
Ryou sat up and shook himself. He picked up the Ring and looked at it. Then he looked at the two in a heap on the floor. Shego moaned a little, as if trying to wake up but thinking better of it, and Drakken twitched.
"Oh dear," he said first, and then added with satisfaction, "So that's how that works."
He hoped they'd be okay. Then suddenly he remembered he had other things to worry about. He scrambled to his feet, shaky and light-headed but determined. He stepped up to the gurney.
His heart gave a lurch when he saw what, or rather who, was lying there. It was, literally, the man of his dreams.
continued in part 6