Thief King Bakura offers priest-in-training Seto the greatest seduction of all: the promise of power.
Disclaimer: Yu-Gi-Oh! was created by Kazuki Takahashi. Nothing associated with it, including this fic, gets me any money.
Author's Notes: Contains elements of AU. Bakura and Seto are younger here than in they are in Egypt Arc - I peg them at about 16 and 20 here, and at 18 and 22 in Egypt Arc. I made up the part about how they met, of course.
He Breathed Night
"Priest," he said as he paced up and down the tiny room, "I must say that you look beautifully sly when you watch me." He smiled. "And you watch me all the time."
"King," the priest said, his tone sardonic, "you bear watching. Neither of us is foolish enough to pretend it's safe to do otherwise."
"But we have an alliance, Priest," the so-called king reminded him.
"Oh yes?" said the priest. There was a troubled note in the reply; this alliance was not, after all, something that she be. "As a thief, you must walk alone, and I do the same because I am called a demon for my blue eyes. Does that lead us to walk together?"
A careless shrug. "Don't sound so weary. There's nothing to trouble you here."
The priest tilted his head as he stared at the king-of-sorts, a pointed and cynical gesture - it meant: 'what else but you?'
"Now, Priest. That's not true." He halted his pacing as he protested against the look. "That is what I mean when I say we have an alliance. Trouble you? No. Harm you? Never. I would never touch you!" he said piously, and climbed onto the bed to slide over Seto's body.
It was Seto's kind of joke, and he roared with laughter. The not-at-all-king crowded him smugly, lying half-upon him with his cheek lodged against Seto's and one arm under Seto's chin.
He idly pushed the wooden headrest on the bed over to the side, out of their way. "Ah, forgive me. I don't mean to speak so much," Bakura said apologetically; Seto knew it was another little joke. in all the years he'd known Bakura, the man had never been quiet; he talked, ranted, and screamed perpetually. When he got serious, he talked even more. And then, when it came to fighting, his words were still many, but focused to carry a killing intent.
When he insisted they disrobe - to ensure that hidden weapons were out of reach or would come to sight - that was when he stopped talking so much. At those times his unhinged brain settled for some moments; he ate scraps taken from his pockets, spoke of nothing in particular and expected little reply, and then reached for Seto.
Just now Seto pushed him away. "You were early," Seto said, one arm over Bakura's chest to hold him against the mattress, "and you came in anyway. It was your idea to be careful about such things." They were not supposed to arrive one before the other, Bakura maintained, or a trap could be set. A seal was placed over the door each time they left that would reveal if someone had entered their rented room before the agreed time.
"You were only a few steps behind me, Priest. I saw you coming." He turned over, and Seto let him; he moved on top of Seto again. "Now hush."
He began to chew - it was nothing like a kiss - on Seto's shoulder. It was fortunate that fewer teeth were involved than when he ate, but it was mostly the same: he did it as if he were dying from the lack of it, as if he had done it all his life and would need to do it again.
His lower body thrust against Seto, impatient and misplaced. "Graceless King," Seto muttered, bending his leg and nudging with his hand to guide Bakura into a better position. "Where is the royal perfection?"
Bakura bit him savagely. "Don't talk about him!" he shouted wetly into Seto's neck, and bit him again. He jerked his hips at the same time, and in Seto's sight stars punched their way into a suddenly blacker world.
Seto frowned in the aftermath of the sensation and tried to calm himself by easing out a breath, but the exhalation turned ragged. The little worry fell away, and he clawed Bakura closer, fighting the fingers that dug into his shoulders so that they would press even harder.
He was not the type to forget such things, however. When Bakura heaved a satisfied sigh of conclusion and let his body relax, Seto said, "I was not talking of the Pharaoh. It's you who treats him as if he's everywhere you are."
"Priest," said the thief, "I told you not to talk about him now." Seto felt a wedge of something hard and wet on his neck, and surmised that Bakura was grinning, pressing teeth against his skin. He waited for another bite.
But his lover's lips pursed into a kiss before Bakura heaved himself mostly off of Seto. "Y'know, I watch you too," Bakura said against his cheek, his voice an annoying scratch like a burr.
Seto frowned. "You had better."
"And that's how I found out that I know stuff you don't know." Bakura was even more relaxed than his sprawling body indicated. These days, Seto rarely found him slipping out of his excellent imitation of courtly speech when they were alone.
"Tell me, then," he said lazily.
"Did you know it's almost dusk?" Bakura's hand edged around his cheek and petted him, as if to soothe. He seemed to enjoy physical sarcasm.
Seto rolled his head out of the way with a huff of annoyance. "You cannot possibly tell that." He glanced at the door. The cracks in the showed only grey blankness, and the dim light inside the room had not changed. "My magic holds. It still hides us from the outside, and the outside from us."
"Only as much as it can. Your magic gets to its limits quickly."
"And what do you know about what my magic?"
"I could tell you," Bakura said.
Seto turned his face blank and studied the ceiling as he thought about that. He did not like the way Bakura's voice sounded. That tone had heralded a host of very bad ideas in the past.
"I could tell you if you stayed."
Bakura rarely failed to live up to expectations. That was such a bad idea that Seto could not help but to start in shock.
As his reaction was obvious, he did not bother to reply in words. He shook Bakura off and stood up. He carefully kept Bakura at the edge of his vision as he scrubbed himself clean with a rag.
The other man sat up, but remained on the bed. He was silent again, and true to his words, he watched Seto attentively. Seto kept Bakura on the edge of his vision as he prepared the guise of a peasant that allowed him to travel untroubled through the district where they met. He put on the tattered shenti, scattering a handful of dirt from the floor on it to make it look work-soiled, and picked up the wig from the table - and tensed as he saw Bakura turn abruptly. Bakura's shoulder muscles twitched visibly with tension, and he hit the wooden headrest they'd put to the edge of the bed across the room. It would have been more impressive if the room wasn't so tiny, but the anger in the gesture was nonetheless easy to read. Seto paused.
"We cannot linger together," he said, and turned his back decisively to Bakura. The other man was more than intelligent enough to fill in the reasons and recriminations. He should, of course, have been intelligent enough not to ask Seto to stay...
Seto narrowed his eyes and allowed a doubt to make itself heard, even as he settled the wig into place. Bakura did know they could not afford to stay together too long - and certainly not into the night - as Seto's duties demanded that he remain close to the palace; so surely he must have a good reason to ask for it?
Bakura caught Seto's thoughtful sideways glance with a triumphant smirk. He was always quick to pick up on weakness.
Seto gave up on pretence and contemplated Bakura openly. Many people in the palace had given him similar smug looks, meaning to belittle and infuriate him. On Bakura, it did not. Though Bakura was a peasant, Seto could do nothing but view him as an equal; he was too powerful and intelligent not to respect.
The smirk merely meant that Bakura was overly satisfied with himself - a common occurrence - after catching Seto's doubt. He was, by now, posing under Seto's scrutiny. With studied nonchalance, he leaned down to get his cloak from where it lay on the floor and draped it around him. His posture pretended at relaxed lounging, but looked more like the anticipatory crouch of a hunting cat. "I assume that you have dressed only partway because you wish to meet the cold of night with me?"
Well, he had already betrayed his uncertainty. "Would you hint to me what night will bring?" Seto asked, taking care to hold himself still, to give no indication of whether he would move towards the door or towards Bakura.
"Something of mine and something of yours," Bakura said. "Something you received as gift, but which was driven into me... Sit down, Seto."
Seto was used to the nuances of negotiation, and could read the offer Bakura made in that imperative. The words indicated that he could go to the bed to sit with Bakura, or choose to remained distanced and take the chair that they never used. That meant that Bakura only found it important that he stayed, no matter if as a lover, or otherwise...
He did not trust the situation to remain neutral. Bakura was a clever thief, and would find it as useful to use an apprentice priest of the palace as the apprentice would find it to turn him in. "Is this business or personal?" Seto asked.
Bakura showed no umbrage at his starkly suspicious tone, and closed his eyes for an instant's contemplation. "I truly couldn't choose between the two," he said, his smirk twisting darkly. "Both."
After all the time he'd known Bakura, Seto had learned what that particular smile meant: Bakura was thinking of the Pharaoh. It wasn't something that Bakura really talked about, but his hatred of the Pharaoh was such a raw, blunt force that it leaked quite obviously through all his actions.
Seto felt the familiar moment of horror at himself for the things that he did with this man. It was a foolish loyalty that kept him bound to Bakura. They had met as children, when Seto had run from those who shunned him as a demon and had met a hungry, lost Bakura in the desert; often Seto told himself that such an old bond could have been discarded long ago and allowed him to keep his honour. But Bakura was not willing to let him go, and perhaps Seto sometimes felt that their paths did run together easily as they each walked away from something else.
Seto took off his clothes, draped them over the chair and strode to the bed. He suspected that this moment was important, and so refused to show hesitation in his body language ... no matter how feral Bakura looked.
But strange as it was to see, Bakura suddenly beamed with happiness. "Priest! You came!" he cried, as if greeting him after weeks of separation. Seto was crushed nose first into Bakura's chest as Bakura wrapped every available limb around him. "You are staying. You will stay. Now I can show you /such things/, Priest..."
He was breathless - more so than physical activity ever made him - but Seto had no chance to ask for an explanation. "I must keep my guest occupied until the appropriate time comes," Bakura announced, and then used his tongue to a more pleasant purpose.
Seto was a little lost to thought for some moments after this distraction, but his wariness quickly came back. There was still some element of negotiating going on here; he could not afford to cede so much power.
"No, you don't really wish to leave," Bakura said, as Seto struggled beneath him...
"You want to stay," he said smugly, when Seto finally managed to pin him to the bed, twisting his arm behind him. The glint of Bakura's gold necklace was oddly beautiful against his skin; he made the strangest sounds when Seto paid back all those bites with one of his own and then used his tongue to play with the cool metal of the necklace and soothe the bites...
"You'll listen to me," he said, voice like a burr again; one that stuck in Seto's hair, his cheeks, his palm, and his mouth...
When night came, Bakura told him.
Seto looked at what he had done and felt the world make a wide, easy path before his feet. Those who thought him cursed now knew him blessed; those who wished him worthless had their words turn to sand in their mouths.
The faces around him were fearful. He felt fierce pride in that as he walked across the training hall after Priest Akunadin. He struggled to keep his face respectfully blank when they had reached the connecting smaller room and Akunadin turned to face him.
"Novice-priest Seto. What have you done?" the priest said with a grave intonation. But good humour and pride were hardly concealed by it, and Seto felt a resurgence of pride. He had been called openly by his mentor. He was good enough.
Seto had always been grateful that the priest who wielded the Great Burden and Blessing, the Millennium Eye, had taken an interest in him; he had not resented that this interest was mostly covert. Such a high priest could not afford to risk his reputation on a boy, no matter how talented, who had the eyes of a demon. But this time was finally different, and every other apprentice had seen it. Even the magic training master had gaped at them.
"I have learnt how to augment the power of my magic, my lord," Seto said.
"I guessed this, from what you managed to do out there." The priest's voice was even more sombre; but Seto saw a corner of the moustache twitch, as if with a smile. "Am I right in my guess that this is due to magic from an external source?"
"You are right, my lord."
"That is highly unusual."
Seto kept his bearing proud, though he wanted to duck his head like a child caught at a prank. "I have studied hard and learnt well, my lord."
"But where have you learnt from?" Seto had enough time to turn cold before the priest said, "No, you need not fear, Seto. I will not read your thoughts for the answer; I trust your good sense. It matters not where you have learnt this; I can see it will do much for you. But I do expect you to keep more careful control of it in future."
Seto resisted the urge to glance out the door to where lay evidence of his new strength. The main chamber was the assigned venue for apprentice priests to practise their magic; because of him, fifty workers were shouting and heaving at the pile of rubble where a wall had been at the beginning of the lesson. "Yes, my lord," he said, and was unable to still the upwards twitch of his own mouth.
"I also expect you to show me what you can do. I can help you as well as few others can, and I intend to do so." Now the priest looked and sounded perfectly serious.
Seto detested bowing; he had been degraded enough times by those who thought him demonic to avoid doing it of his own volition. But now he sank to the floor, head almost on his knees. "Yes, my lord."
The silence that followed was long. Seto appreciated it. You could not be handed all your dreams at once, and remain completely composed.
"There is no need to make yourself so humble, Seto." Akunadin's voice was low.
"I am grateful." It was a simple truth, and he did not adorn it with an honorific.
The priest walked closer, and his hand landed on Seto's shoulder. Seto looked up and found a hand extended to him. He hastily accepted it, letting it guide him to his feet. "I will be honoured to learn from you," he said.
The priest did smile this time; it seemed odd somehow - wistful? "We shall make arrangements later, Novice-priest. You may go."
Seto bowed once more, a swift dip at the waist, and turned away. He clenched his hands into his robes, trying to maintain his calm. He looked around when he reached the middle of the training room - at the targets and the walls, and the astonished apprentices - and wondered with an irrepressible grin how much more he could do.
"What will you tell me today, Thief?" Seto grinned up at Bakura, settling himself where he lay after having been pinned unceremoniously to the bed.
"What need I tell you?" Bakura leaned down and clenched Seto's hair in a fist. "What will you tell me?"
Seto pushed Bakura closer so that their foreheads touched. "Anything you wish. I promise this." He thought of all that he had gained since Bakura had told him those secrets, and released his lover to laugh in the joy of accomplishment.
Bakura sat back, resettling himself on Seto's hips. The urgent, dark look on his face faded, and he regarded Seto languidly. "You fool, I'm a criminal. You can't promise me things like that."
"I'm a criminal," Seto retorted. "I should be whipped or jailed for consorting with a thief like you. Why do you trust me if I betray my /Pharaoh /this way?"
Bakura's head snapped up and he looked into the middle distance with an expression of profound consternation. "I never thought of that!"
"Be quiet if you're going to be an idiot. Tell me instead what I can do for you."
Bakura shook his head as if to clear it, then looked thoughtful - and perhaps a little sly. "Tell me why you trust /me/."
Seto lifted his hands to rest them on Bakura's hips. "Since we met when we were children, you have not once really intended to harm me. You have saved me. And with the gift of this magic, you have given me far too much not to repay."
Bakura's mouth curled into a grin of satisfaction. "You've learned the give and take of the shadow magic well."
"Will you tell me more about it?" Seto asked, sitting up so urgently in his excitement that Bakura fell off him and halfway off the bed. "Tell my why this is my gift, but you say that it was driven into you. Why is it different? Why can only certain people use shadow magic? How did it start? "
Seto was hit in the face by a knee as Bakura clambered back onto the bed. "I have told you not to question how this magic was brought into the world," Bakura said as he kneeled beside Seto, lifting his eyes to the ceiling as if in exasperation. "I said that was the most important part, if you recall. The night magic is my business. It is enough that you know it was brought to this world in my village - through my family."
Bakura lay down slowly. "But, Priest..." he said, then paused to wrestle his legs between Seto's. In return, Seto put his arm around Bakura's neck; the only defence against Bakura's tendency to overwhelm with obnoxious physicality was to meet him halfway. "Seto ... you cannot ask more of me when you still have not told me the promised /anything/."
Bakura touched the hand that rested on his chest, from the arm Seto had around his neck, and toyed with the fingers. "Your allegiance is most satisfying." It was a hiss as dark as that made by the shadow magic; then Bakura sighed and said with a contented grin, "I will ask you soon enough."
Seto wanted hints, at least, of what awaited them. "Whatever I could tell you later, I'm sure I could tell you now."
He waited for some teasing reply, and when it did not come he tilted his head to look at what he could see of Bakura from that angle. Bakura rolled his head away under the gaze. "Lie still, priest."
It was an odd thing for such an accomplished liar to avoid Seto's gaze. He had an urge to tell Bakura so, but instead settled down as asked.
Bakura was so good at bald-faced lying that Seto had to remind himself frequently that Bakura had more than one motive for his actions. When they'd met by chance in the desert as children, he had definitely befriended Seto because they were lost, he was injured and Seto had had food. When Bakura had helped him return to the city, a large part of it had likely been because he realised Seto was rich, and had hoped for a reward for his return. When he'd offered himself as lover, he'd possibly had some idea of building trust that could get him into the palace to steal to his heart's content. But only on the night that he'd told Seto of the shadow magic, wrapping the darkness from the corners of the room around his body like a cloak, had Bakura begun to avoid Seto's eyes.
He had told of the shadow magic, and of how he felt it resonate with Seto's magic. He had displayed the power until he was delirious with it, and he had taken it into his own body until he breathed night. When Seto had managed to call the shadows to himself, Bakura had flung himself onto the bed as if exhausted, and continued to give Seto advice on the magic with bouts of excitement and taciturnity that changed as swiftly as the breeze. When they had eventually left the room to return to their separate lives, Bakura had used the shadow magic to seal the door, and he had spoken words that Seto remembered the exact intonation of.
"What do you think of my family's secret? Is it good enough?"
Seto had hardly noticed the sound then, but thought now on how soft those words had been, shaken by an undercurrent of rage. On that night, he had been overexcited, and had replied with words jumbled in gratitude and awe, saying that he had never seen anything so amazing. To that near-incomprehensible babble, Bakura had said the oddest thing as he turned to walk away:
In those words there had been a sincerity that he had not heard from Bakura since they were children. There was something within this secret that Bakura could not bear to divulge - that made him speak in a voice that almost trembled and engendered rage that forced him to hide his face. Seto did not understand why, but he knew that Bakura had never trusted him with something so true before.
Seto's already too-strong loyalty left him responding to this trust in kind. If the thief could trust him with something that was clearly near to his heart, he would trust Bakura to avoid harming that which was in Seto's heart.
Seto's loyalty was not so easily bought that this power would cause him to favour Bakura over his Pharaoh. He trusted Bakura to understand this; and because he could not let doubts cloud his mind, he had made his vow.
"You should know it's not safe to sleep while I'm here, Priest," Bakura said, abruptly breaking Seto's reverie. He had stopped playing with Seto's fingers, instead holding Seto's hand spread flat on his chest.
"I am not asleep." He was simply content. It was hard not to be, with all he suddenly had.
"Ah. Then shall we...?" Bakura's voice rose suggestively.
"Perhaps not tonight."
Bakura nodded, and his hair tickled Seto's ears. "Not tonight," he agreed. "Not when the conversation is so stimulating."
Nonetheless, he remained still. Seto reckoned that this probably meant that there were only a few more minutes until Bakura's boundless energy caught up with him. Well, they could always go to an inn and have a meal to conclude their meeting.
"What do you plan to do with this power I've given you?"
Seto smiled at the heady thoughts that question brought up. "I will live better than before ... I'll make things the way I always wished they would be."
Bakura turned his head, nose in Seto's ear for a moment, then shifted back a bit. Seto noted that his meant Bakura was at last looking at him again. That was better; it wasn't natural for Bakura to be hesitant about /anything/.
"Good!" said Bakura. "That's a good start."
"A start for what?"
"That's a different secret."
Bakura wormed closer and buried himself against Seto's side again. Seto was stiff for a moment, wondering if those last words had been said in that voice that mean a bad idea was coming ... but he had promised himself that he would show trust. He /would/.
Seto let the quietude wear into him, focusing on the feeling of the hard wood beneath the thinning mattress, the cloying scent Bakura dumped on his unwashed hair to make it smell tolerable, and the dust lingering in the air. With the lover he had chosen, he knew enough to value moments such as these while they lasted.