The sun was high and hot, making the sand-ladened wind only that much more miserable. It stung and pounded against his skin. The smell of countless sweaty tourists pressed around him as they milled through the market. Stupid tourist traps.

"I know you're nervous-" Malik began.

Ryou shook her head. "I'm not nervous. It can't be nerves when you know something will go poorly."

"It's dread," Bakura said.

Ryou nodded and leaned back into the shade of the alleyway. It wasn't a nice situation. The dig site was only a short drive from this little market, but his father had already chartered a jeep to bring them to the site. They'd gotten this far by themselves with shadow portals. The rest of the way, they'd simply have to wait.

The longer he stood here waiting, the more the sense of impending doom seemed to grow.

The letter weighed a thousand pounds inside of his pocket. It had been folded and unfolded so many times that the creases had been flattened smooth, and the words contained within were half memorized. All of his father's letters had a tinge of disappointment written into them. But it was particularly blatant now. It was his father's fault, but Aren would never acknowledge the fact, and Ryou wasn't even going to try to convince him.

It was all very simple. Unlike Neville, whose Grandmother was finally proud of him, Ryou's father was disappointed in him for his interference in the Ministry. He had wanted Ryou to keep his head down. This didn't play into the plan.

Yes, sure, he was concerned about how Ryou had come into contact with the dark magic. He'd long had his suspicions about the Tomb Keepers. He knew Ryou associated with them. He could draw his own conclusions.

Ryou reached out, his hand finding Bakura's. Bakura didn't say anything. It was enough that he laced his fingers through Ryou's and impressed a soft, reassuring warmth over the mindlink.

Malik's eyes went wide when he saw. "Wait, don't tell me-"

Ryou rolled his eyes. "Don't be a teenage girl about it," he chided, but the reddening of his cheeks was not just the flush of desert heat. "But… Ah… Yeah."

He smiled pensively, and Bakura pressed a swift kiss to the corner of his lips. Ryou waved it away halfheartedly.

"I taste like sand."

"As if that bothers me," Bakura purred, pulling Ryou closer.

"I friggen knew it!" Malik said, grinning wildly. "I mean, I thought something happened at Christmas, but you assured me there wasn't, but I was still thinking-"

"Malik!" Ryou laughed.

"I'm just saying, I support this. A year ago maybe not, but Bakura, you're kinda different lately. Don't know why, but it's definitely a good change, I think."

"I'm not any different than before," Bakura scoffed.

Ryou shook his head. "No, I think you definitely are. I can't explain how or why, but you've acted different since…"

"Since the Memory World," Bakura said. His eyes narrowed by degrees. "Where's the psycho?"

"Sitting this one out, and don't change the subject," Malik said.

"Why is he sitting this one out?" Ryou asked.

"He left a dead bird in Ishizu's bathroom again and we told him what would happen," Malik said. "But that's not important right now-"

"Again?" Bakura asked. "How often does he do this?"

"Like every couple of weeks maybe, sometimes he loses control. He's getting better. But really, Ryou, what-" Malik jumped violently. A beige jeep had rolled to a stop just outside the alley's mouth and the horn honked loudly. "Friggen hell!" Malik complained.

"That's our ride," Ryou said, ducking out of the alley. A surging tide of bodies pressed around him, making it difficult to weave through. Bakura followed at a short distance, hand still entwined in Ryou's.

With some effort, they climbed into the jeep. Bakura grinned. His free hand held two leather wallets and a watch.

"How the hell?" Malik asked, just as Ryou smacked the back of Bakura's head.

"I told you not to!"

Bakura cackled. "I couldn't help it! They were so unaware! And this is Egypt, Ryou!"

Ryou paused, then grinned mischievously. "Surely a king of thieves can go after better targets than such low hanging fruit," he said.

Bakura's smile melted away. "Low hanging fruit," he muttered mutinously. "I'll show you low hanging fruit…" Bakura's glee was gone. Ryou just hoped he wasn't emboldened by this.

The drive was a slow stop and go for a long time. The dense crowds made it impossible to drive anywhere quickly. Ryou sat back and listened to the two bicker. The A/C at least felt good.

The dread returned with full force. In less than an hour, he'd be seeing his father face to face for the first time in six years. Ryou's finger strayed near the window button. There was a slight chance he was going to be sick.

"Are you staying out when Ryou meets his father?" Malik asked.

The hand around Ryou's tightened and Ryou noticed that Bakura was looking at him. His expression was like the shadows: icy and dark. "Yes," Bakura said simply.

Ryou smiled weakly.

"Well hello, snow bunnies," a twisted voice said. Ryou flinched. Marik had appeared in the jeep, sitting on Malik's lap. The fit in the jeep had gone from tight to painfully cramped.

"I told you not to show up!" Malik protested. He flailed and tried to shove Marik back into the Shadow Realm. It didn't seem to be working.

Bakura looked down his nose. "Psycho," he said by way of greeting.

"Klepto," Marik responded with a nod and a gleeful, half-deranged grin. He turned to Ryou. "Mini-Kura."

Ryou wriggled to make a bit more room for himself. "Afternoon," he said.

"Marik, there's not room in here," Malik argued, shoving Marik around. "And you're still in trouble!"

"I left an apology in your room," Marik said.

Malik stilled, then groaned. "Please tell me it's not…"

Marik was gleeful. "It is!"

"What's happened-" Ryou started, but Bakura shook his head.

"You probably don't want to know," Bakura said. Maybe it was smart to just forget it. Ryou wasn't so sure he really wanted to know after all.

The drive went faster than he expected. Despite the complete lack of space in the vehicle, the chaos inside kept his mind off what awaited him. In time, they pulled up to the fenced in area with the crunching of rocks and sand under the tires. Ryou halfway tumbled to the sandy ground. A gap in the fence was guarded by a man in a yellow hat.

"I'm here to see my father, Aren Bakura," Ryou said, stepping forward. He flashed a lanyard badge which had been included with the letter.

"And they are?" the guard asked.

"Friends. They won't cause trouble," he said.

The guard nodded and waved them in. "Alright. Go right on ahead."

"You wouldn't happen to know where my father is, would you?" he asked.

The man nodded and pointed to the back of the cluster of tents, one sitting very near the excavation site. "Should be in the blue one at the back."

Ryou thanked him and they started back. As they went, they attracted a few stares.

"The site's run by wizards and nonwizards," Malik whispered. "The muggles found it first, so the cursebreakers had to hurry in to make sure no one got cursed." Bakura chuckled and flicked a tiny wisp of magic through his fingers.

"Don't," Ryou warned.

"Low hanging fruit," Bakura echoed with a grin, but he let the wisp disappear.

"Go back to your soul room," Malik complained as Marik leered at another muggle.

"Don't want to," Marik disagreed.

"Remember what happened last time?" Malik asked, and Marik's back went rigid.

"You wouldn't," he said.

Malik narrowed his eyes. "Just watch me."

Marik vanished. In full view of everyone else, his image shimmered like a mirage and disappeared. One or two people did a double take, but Ryou kept walking, ignoring it. His hand found Bakura's again outside the blue tent. Inside, they could hear soft mutters. The voice stung Ryou's heart. He recognized it, even after all these years.

/It's been so long.../ Ryou said, looking over at Bakura. /Last week's letter was the first in months. Before that, the last letter had been a year ago. He's… He's going to be upset and so disappointed in me.../

/Forget your father's judgement/ Bakura spat the word father with disdain. /His opinion ceased to matter when he cut you from his life. He needs only know what you tell him, and if he's disappointed, well, let him be!/

Bakura's hand clenched tighter. Malik gave him an encouraging smile. Uraeus stirred slightly in Ryou's pocket.

/All of us here, we're here to support you. We're on your side, Hikari. Thick and thin, good and bad. Life will always be somewhere in the middle, and that's okay. So forget what he thinks. Get through this, and when it's over, we can do whatever the hell you want to do/

Ryou's eyes were watering. /Thanks, Bakura. That means so much. I'm glad you're all here/

Bakura smirked. /I'll always be here… Ryou/

A bloodcurdling scream split the night. The stench of shadows was in the air.

Ryou sat bolt upright in his bed, writhing in terror. Above him, Bakura's expression was grim.

The nightmare had returned.

For those interested, the sequel is posted! It isn't on this account, but rather on another. It can be found in this account's favorites or under story id 11925676! Thanks for being awesome this whole time, you guys! This has been a great four years and I'm so glad you stuck with me this long. Here's hoping I see some of you on the other side! (And by that, I mean #2!)

And hey, if there's any scenes that you really enjoyed, feel free to leave a review mentioning it! Who knows, maybe there'll be more like it in the next one :)