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Bakura sifted his thick, work-worn fingers through the flimsy pages of the Al Wafd, scanning through the headlines, the pictures. It was raining, springtime. The humidity in the air tinted his fingers newsprint blue. He checked the finance pages with some care, scanned the entertainment section, not because he cared, but because he knew it was coming in three, two—

“If you’re not gonna buy anything, you can leave.” 

He smiled. Folded the newspaper, poorly. Grabbed a king sized Snickers from the impressive pyramid of sweets in front of the glass-enclosed register.

“How much?”

The slim, light-eyed boy behind the register squinted at him.

“For you? Dollar fifty.” 

He dropped six quarters on the counter in a neat little stack.

“Got tea today?” he said, putting the candy bar back in the pile.

“Just a second.” 

Bakura watched the boy go. Bare brown arms covered in gold bangles, the tight sleeveless shirt, the hair, god the platinum blonde hair. Bakura traced the muscular back with his eyes as the boy bent down to find the sugar cubes. He knew Bakura liked it like that, not the processed white shit the civs got.

“Here you go,” the boy said, handing him a paper cup through the partition.

Bakura slipped his hands into the pocket of his paint-splattered work jacket for more coins and the kid shook his head.

“On the house.”

Bakura sipped the tea and their eyes met. The kid looked bored. Irritated. 

“Malik, Malik,” he said, carefully enunciating the vowels because Bakura knew it annoyed the kid. “You’re cute, you know that.”

“Gross. Enough, you old perv.”

Malik turned away, leaning his back against the counter. 

“Hey now, am I that beat? I ain’t had the best life, but I’m only 28,” Bakura said, rubbing the white stubble that liberally salted his olive-tan skin. It was the white that aged him, he knew.

Malik turned back around, light cat’s eyes angry but playful, betrayed by the tiny smile.

“I’m twenty-two,” he said, crossing his arms. Bossy. “But you thought I was younger.”

“Cute and a mind reader. My kinda guy,” Bakura said, picking up Al Jazeera.

Bakura caught Malik’s reflection flipping him off in the glass case of smoking paraphernalia that stood locked behind the newsstand. He grinned.

He propped the newspaper up against a row of Drake’s Cakes and sipped the spiced mint tea, alternately reading the paper and Malik’s reflection. Malik was leaning over the counter on his elbows, hair in his eyes, one long slim finger idly scrolling on his phone. 

Bakura brought the paper to the register and placed it down, catching the barest glimpse at Malik’s phone before it was hastily slipped away. Jewelry. Luxury fashion jewelry, the kind worn on weekdays by the children of dynastic wealth. Understated, overvalued, very expensive. 

“Two fifty,” Malik said. 

Bakura reached into a particularly deep pocket on his canvas painter’s pants and pulled out a roll of hundred dollar bills, too thick to fit in a clip, let alone a wallet. He pulled a crisp 50 from the inside and slid it across the counter, toward a wide-eyed Malik.

“Keep the change, babe.” 

Malik watched him pocket the wad but didn’t move to take the bill on the counter. Bakura dropped his empty cup into the garbage. He opened Al Jazeera with a snap and tented it over his shoulder-length white hair before stepping out into the rain.

 

***

 

The rain made a mirror of the gray slate sidewalk on east 82nd street. Bakura watched the waxing-waning reflection of his lit cigarette. If you asked him, he didn’t smoke. And he didn’t—which is why it felt so good when he did.

In and out, easy flow, like the people walking by, cowled in their raincoats, pinched under the polyester aegis of an umbrella. He himself used no such cover. He liked the feeling of rain on his neck. 

He slipped among the civs, wearing anonymous New York black. Anonymity—it was a specialty of his, shock of white hair be damned. He’d tucked it under a skullcap today, just some whisps at his ears poking through. 

He walked along the park at leisure, killing time until the mall at 59th street closed. He arrived with a ten minute window. Easy.

Child’s play.

He crushed the butt against a trash can lid and savored the last exhale of smoke into foggy evening air. By the time he slipped past the front doors, his breath came low and slow.

He dipped between the rubenesque sculptures like a shadow and just as quiet. What would fit in the pockets of his close-fitting jeans would have to do.

Rings. Of course. He guessed for the size. Ten should do for a start. Enough to get the kid’s attention. 

He slipped through the corridor, out by the north end of 58th, disappearing down the escalator like a ghost.

 

***

 

Malik got to the deli at 3:45 in the morning. He kicked the piles of soggy papers, cursing the deliverymen for their carelessness in tearing the plastic sheath. He rolled the gate up, hefted a wet pack against his hip and edged inside.

Lights lit, papers placed, he went to brew the coffee. He was just settling in to count the till when the bells on the front door chimed—a customer already.

Malik sighed and turned toward the man in the doorway. He was stamping rain from his boots on the already damp mat. Malik’s face remained sour—he didn’t bother to put on his customer service smile until at least 5am.

“Don’t look so excited,” came a familiar voice.

Malik was startled to see the white-hair dropping free with the hat off. He hadn’t recognized Bakura without the work boots, the splashes of paint and concrete.

“This is early even for you,” he said, and decided to count the till anyway.

Bakura busied himself by the newspapers. Neither spoke for a good stretch. Long enough for Malik to finish opening the deli for business, long enough for him to brew and place two cups of spiced, sweetened tea on the counter, this time in painted china cups.

“I won’t get another issue of Le Monde till Friday.”

Bakura walked up to the partition and took the remaining cup.

“That’s fine, I didn’t come for the papers today.”

Malik blew on his tea, evaluating Bakura. Shaved clean, wearing street clothes—even half soaked with rain, he looked good. 

“When do you get off?”

Malik raised his eyebrows as if to say ‘really?’ Bakura raised his big hands in a shrug, then folded them over his chest. 

“Eight o’clock.” 

“In the morning?”

“At night.”

Bakura smiled, a shark’s flash of teeth.

“Buy you dinner.” 

Malik shook his head, laughing.

“You’re something else, aren’t you?”

“I’ve been called worse.”

Bakura fished a little velvet pouch from his pocket and bounced it in his hand.

“Heads up kid.”

He lobbed it through the partition and Malik caught it in the air.

“What is this?” 

Bakura leaned back against a shelf of chips.

“You tell me.”

Malik held the little pouch open to the light, stuck an experimental finger inside. His eyes went wide.

“Why did you—”

“I’d have brought you the west side highway if I thought thats’s what you wanted,” Bakura said.

Malik drew the bag closed and placed it on the counter.

“I can’t take this.”

Bakura shrugged.

“Suit yourself.” 

Malik nudged the bag toward him on the counter. Bakura placed his empty teacup next to the bag with a little clink.

“See you at eight,” he said over his shoulder as the door swung shut behind him.

 

***

 

Malik took a swig from a spiked bottle of Gatorade. It bit the back of his throat in exactly the same way the wind bit at the corners of his eyes as they walked slowly over the Williamsburg Bridge.

“What do you want out of this,” he said as he handed the bottle to Bakura.

Bakura fixed him with those sharp, dark eyes. 

“Same as you. I wanna get off and then take a nap. Forget about all this for an hour or two,” he said, sweeping his hand from Battery Park to Williamsburg. 

“I believe that,” Malik said with a laugh.

“What about you?” Bakura said. “What’s in this for you?”

“Aside from the swag?” Malik said, considering his own angular hand, stack of little gold bands on his middle finger. “Something to kill the monotony. I get so bored in that place all day.”

Bakura hummed and took a swig from the bottle. 

“I know you do. I saw you reading Zaat the other day.”

“Wow, I thought you bought the papers to annoy me,” Malik said, pursing his full lips. “I didn’t realize you could actually read.”

Bakura laughed, a sharp bark of laughter, harsh on the ears. Malik liked it anyway.

“You really read Arabic?” 

“And French. And Akkadian. And Turkish. And—”

“Pretty worldly for a construction worker.”

“I could curse your mother in Greek and Aramaic.”

“My mother is dead,” Malik said lightly. 

Bakura paused, and Malik thought this must be what he looks like when he’s serious.

“Mine too.”

They walked in silence down a third of the bridge. Finally Bakura said,

“Why do you stay there? At the deli.”

Malik took the bottle from him and drank instead of answering.

“You’re smart and you’re beautiful. There’s a hundred other things you could be doing.”

Malik laughed at the word ‘beautiful.’ 

“The last time I tried doing something else, I ran away. Stayed on a friend’s couch. He found me. My father.”

“How old were you?”

“Sixteen. He broke my sister’s nose for losing track of me.”

Bakura grit his teeth. This was his least favorite type of story.

“I got it even worse when he dragged me back home.”

Bakura’s voice dropped low.

“I’ll kill him.”

Malik felt a sudden chill. 

“Don’t joke like that.”

Bakura took a deep and angry swig from the bottle.

“That place is a mausoleum anyway. Don’t let your dreams rot away and die in there,” he said.

“Keeper of the mausoleum, at your service,” Malik said with a bow. “Who would make your tea if I left to chase my dreams?”

Bakura laughed his jackal’s yip of a laugh.

“You would, tomb keeper.”

Chinatown crested misty and spangled with streetlights as they started to descend toward Manhattan.

“So where to? You wanna go to Verlaine? You like to party, we can kill some time and go to a club?” 

Malik chanced reaching out for Bakura’s arm. It was thick and firm, well-muscled like he would expect from a construction worker. Warm. He would not expect a construction worker to take him to Verlaine.

“Take me to your place.”

Bakura flashed another shark’s smile, neat white teeth in mean little rows. It had a predatory edge. Malik felt a little jump behind his bellybutton.

“Right this way.”

Bakura led them up first ave to a once-industrial block, narrow with cobblestone alleys. Old. Rows of warehouses, converted now for the rich and richer. 

Bakura entered a six digit code on the keypad of an unassuming door on an unassuming building, and they entered on a long hallway. At the end was an old freight elevator with creaking scissor doors and a dial crank for floor selection. Bakura held the door.

“There’s no way,” Malik said.

“Just as safe as the shit they put out now. Don’t get caught up on appearances.”

They got in.

The elevator shuddered and lurched and sent them up slowly to the top floor. They docked in the middle of a massive studio.

Malik’s eyes went wide. 

“Well? Shoes go over there. Make yourself at home.”

Mid-century furniture on Persian rugs, a Basquiat hanging next to a pair of jeweled scimitars, a taxidermied tiger’s head, a saltwater fish tank taller than the very tall Bakura and twice as long. Big domed skylight, a darkened loft space bearing god knows what, and a very large, very fancy bed in the corner. Malik’s head swam.

“Oh god,” he said, hand in his hair. “You’re a drug dealer.”

Bakura laughed well and long at that from the kitchen area. He came back with a glass of water.

“Hardly. Here,” he said, handing Malik the glass. “Now what do you really want to drink? Champagne? Tequila?”

“Tea.”

Bakura padded back to the stove and took some things from the cupboard. He opened a can of condensed milk and poured it into the pot with some water.

He motioned to the center island and Malik took a seat at one of the bar stools.

“Who are you? I mean, what are you?”

“You know, I literally shot someone for asking that once.” 

Bakura’s tone was light, casual. He was setting out a plate and pulling peaches from a set of nesting baskets that hung from the ceiling.

“You brought me here, so you must want me to ask.” 

“I,” Bakura said, sectioning a peach with a paring knife, “am a thief.” 

“You don’t lay concrete.”

“Sometimes.”

“Paint houses?”

“Sometimes.”

“And the other times?” 

Bakura offered a slice of peach, juicy coral pink in his big outstretched hand. Malik took it and their fingers brushed. 

“The other times I go and take the things I want.”

Malik ate the slice of peach. Sweet. The sticky juice ran down his fingers.

“Is that what you’re doing right now?” 

Bakura grabbed Malik’s wrist where it lay on the counter and brought it to his lips. He licked the juice off in a warm little swipe of his tongue.

“You’re not a thing,” Bakura said. “But I do want you.” 

The hissing sound of liquid boiling over broke their eye contact.

“Might have burned the milk a little. You gotta excuse me, you’re pretty distracting.”

Malik watched as Bakura dropped cardamom pods and cloves and tea leaves into the pot. 

“How sweet?”

“Medium sweet.”

Bakura measured out some raw sugar in his wide palm and dropped it in with the spices.

“Just a minute now.”

Bakura took out two glass teacups, tall and embossed in gold. They triggered in Malik a terrible nostalgia, and he bit his lip hard to fight back images of his sister, his mother. He got up from the barstool and stood next to Bakura. The finished concrete floor was icy on his bare feet.

“Let me help.”

Bakura handed him a little sieve and stepped aside. Malik moved easily in the kitchen, like he belonged there. He stirred and strained the tea.

“Here.”

Bakura took the little cup. It looked like a toy in his hands.

“It’s a little burnt but it’ll do.”

So they stood side by side leaning back against the dark granite of the counter and drank the tea in quiet. 

Malik moved first, placing down his empty cup. Bakura was quick to follow, turning fast to trap Malik against the counter, thick arms resting on the cabinet overhead as he leaned down to brush his nose to Malik’s.

“What’ll it be, little tomb keeper? I have a copy of The Golden Ode, you could read to me till your shift starts.”

Malik arched his narrow hips, grinding his jean-clad erection into Bakura’s thigh.

“I have a better idea.”

Bakura sunk his hands into the Malik’s hair and kissed him long and slow. Malik tasted like burnt sugar and cardamom and the faint edge of alcohol. Malik squirmed up against him, inching their shirts up so the skin contact hit them sudden and hot. Bakura shoved Malik’s shirt up the rest of the way, breaking the kiss to peer down at the jeweled nipple ring under his thumb. 

“You little slut,” he said, as though he was beholding a holy thing.

“Take your shirt off,” Malik said, light eyes darkened with hunger.

Bakura lifted his black tee shirt over his head and tossed it on the ground. Malik went quiet and still.

“Not what you were expecting?”

Malik reached a hand out to trace one of the long, deep, keloid-white scars that criss crossed Bakura’s chest with his finger. That one was an old scar. There were newer ones in gradients of pink and brown He bent his head to trace another softly with his tongue.

Bakura wrapped his arms around Malik and crushed them close together. Malik’s fingers danced up the small of Bakura’s spine.

“Come lay down.”

They clasped hands and Bakura led them to the freestanding bed by the corner. Bakura flopped back, crossing his arms behind his head.

“Go on, tomb keeper.”

Malik pulled off his shirt. He unbuttoned his jeans but left them on. He knelt on the floor between Bakura’s legs and draped himself over Bakura’s hips, cheek pressed to Bakura’s tight, scar-pocked stomach.

“Is The Golden Ode in translation?”

Bakura laughed short and quiet, muscles thumping against Malik’s cheek.

“Parallel text.”

Bakura sat up, sinking a big warm hand into Malik’s platinum hair.

“Can you get it please.”

Bakura pulled Malik up as he stood. He palmed the back of Malik’s neck and pressed him with an open-mouth kiss.

Malik dropped down onto the bed when Bakura released him. Bakura crossed the studio to consider his small but curated library. He took a moment in finding the little leather volume with the well-creased spine.

By the time he got back to the bed, Malik was fast asleep.

 

***

 

Malik woke to the sound of running water and the feeling of sun on his face. He was tangled in the soft black sheets of Bakura’s bed, gazing up at a skylight full of mid-morning sun.

“What time is it?”

Bakura answered from the kitchen.

“Ten thirty, give or take.”

Malik sighed a long sigh.

“The store…I was supposed to be there an hour ago.”

Bakura stood in front of the stove in his boxers, freshly showered from the gray dampness of his hair and the beads of water still clinging to his broad shoulders. Malik realized with a faint sense of horror that there was a deep diamond-shaped scar over the kidney that matched a puncture wound in the front. A through-and-through injury? It was too big to be a bullet wound. 

“Listen, I don’t want you to worry about that place anymore.”

Malik got up slowly.

“You don’t understand. My family, my sister—”

“Is a doctoral candidate at Columbia. She’ll be fine.”

Malik took a seat on a stool at the kitchen island.

“You researched me.”

Bakura slid him a plate of pancakes.

“Malik Ishtar, youngest son of the Ishtar family. Old money family, not oil, possibly opium. Maybe antiquities? Black market stuff either way. Your father fled here with you and your siblings twelve years ago. The deli is a front he uses to launder money.”

Malik chewed the inside of his cheek. It was all right. Still, the deli wasn’t just a front. It was his job, the only structure in his life, and though he would never admit it he took some pride in running the place.

“Old man Ishtar leaves you alone to keep the front up while he goes and does…what does he do now?”

“I don’t know any better than you,” Malik said, and it was true.

Bakura stood with his own plate of food. He split the pancakes with the end of his fork and took bites as he talked.

“It seems to me like all that matters is that the store stays open, not solvent. You don’t need to be there every day.”

“You don’t understand, we have a way—”

“The bookkeeping? I know. I found your brother. Rishid.”

Malik’s eyes went wide. He put down his fork.

“What the fuck are you talking about?”

Bakura poured two glasses of orange juice. He placed one in front of Malik.

“We have an arrangement. Hired some neighborhood kids on reasonable shifts. He’s going to check in twice a week to make sure everything’s going as it should. You’re free to cook whatever books you need to from the comfort of home.”

Bakura took a big bite of pancake, chewing as he added,

“Which is here now.”

Malik stood and the sound the barstool made as it slid across the concrete floor echoed sharp off the high ceilings.

“Okay. I don’t know what you think you’re doing, but this is crazy. You stalk me for six months, pretend you’re someone you’re not to gain my trust, you manipulate me with gifts and all that smooth talk. You violate my privacy in god knows how many ways, you do what the police never bothered to do when my brother went missing, I mean I thought he was dead and you’re telling me you not only found him but you got him to come work for the family?”

Bakura had a Cheshire grin on his face as he pressed the piston on a pot of French press coffee.

“And now you’re saying I live here, with you, a stranger I barely know, a dangerous stranger. And you say it like it’s not totally insane. Fuck you.”

“Talk dirty to me. I like that.”

“I mean it. Fuck you. I don’t care how many scars you have or who you shot, you can’t treat me like I’m some game you want to win. This isn’t a heist.”

Malik’s hands were shaking. Bakura grabbed him gently by the arm.

“Easy. Calm down.”

“You want me to calm down? FUCK you,” Malik said, jerking his arm. Bakura’s grip hardened just enough to still him.

“Listen. I’ve been working with Rishid for over a year now. I’ll tell you all about it if you want me to.”

Bakura’s voice was even but it bore a subtle edge. Malik’s anger ebbed and he met Bakura’s dark, unreadable eyes with his own.

“Your father doesn’t interest me beyond what I already know. My sights are on the guys above him. I staked out the deli for intel. When I saw you there, it was like when you see those Saudi assholes with a lion on a chain, cooped up indoors somewhere for the hell of it. It doesn’t sit right with me.”

Bakura let go of Malik’s arm.

“You don’t have to stay here. I want you to stay here. But you can do whatever you want.”

Bakura tucked a strand of platinum hair behind Malik’s pierced ear.

“Just do me a favor and stay away from that deli. Find something you actually like. Go to school, party all night. Paint or something, I don’t care. Just don’t go back. You’re too good for that.”

Bakura turned back to the stove, poured some coffee for the both of them.

“At least eat. Here.” He pushed a mug into Malik’s hands. 

Malik growled and sat down, staring very hard at the cup of coffee. 

“My stuff, my apartment—”

“That shithole in Midwood? I’ll have it cleaned out by the end of today,” Bakura said over his coffee cup. “If that’s what you want.”

Malik looked up. He was tired.

“Let me take a shower and I’ll think about it.”

 

***

 

The shower was as impressive as the rest of the place, and just as motley. Industrial, expansive, and dotted with decadent little touches. Plush, deep red terry towels, cloisonné candleholders, even a little onyx Venus fetish on a shelf, all to warm the chrome and glass and concrete. Malik stood under the stream a long time.

When he stepped out of the shower, Bakura was waiting for him, a red robe and towel over one of his muscular arms. 

“Were you watching me?”

Bakura spread the towel and wrapped it around Malik’s shoulders.

“Do you mind?”

Malik didn’t mind. It made him feel wanted, watched and hungered for in a way that was completely new to him. He wasn’t a stranger to the lustful eyes of others, even to some degree of affection. But this was something else. 

“I think I’ll stay for a while. Until I figure out a game plan.”

Malik used to towel to dry to his hair, bare body open to Bakura’s hungry stare.

“Stay as long as you want.”

“I want to talk to Rishid.”

“I can arrange that. He’ll be back in town in two days.”

“Does my sister know?”

Bakura shook his head and helped Malik into the long red robe.

“I’ve kept my distance from her. If Rishid wanted to contact her he would have.”

Malik finger-combed his damp hair. He watched himself in the mirror, Bakura looming behind him. Malik put his hands down and considered their reflection.

Bakura slid his big hands around Malik’s waist and pulled them tight together. They looked feral and hungry, Malik with the red robe open on his lean chest, Bakura with the scars and the wild white hair.

“I’ve got a meeting in two hours,” Bakura said, pressing his erection into the small of Malik’s back.

“I’ve got all day.”

Bakura licked the shell of his ear.

“No. You’re coming with me.”

Malik squirmed until they were facing one another.

“So we’ve got two hours.”

“Plenty of time, to start.”

Bakura dropped to his knees, pulling the robe open with him. He touched the flat planes of Malik’s stomach, eyes wide and hungry. He pressed a sucking kiss to the place where Malik’s thigh met his hips.

“You’re a vision, tomb keeper.”

Malik spread his fingers through Bakura’s thick white hair and pushed.

“You suck at giving nicknames.”

Bakura took Malik in his open mouth and ran his tongue flat up the underside. Already there was moisture beading at the tip. 

“But I’m good at other things,” he said, drawing Malik so deep into his mouth that his nose pressed into the little golden nest of hairs at the base.

Malik’s eyes slid shut and he listened to the quiet rhythm of the wet slide of Bakura’ tongue and their ragged breathing in the resonant bathroom. Bakura brought him twitching to the edge and then stopped, and Malik groaned.

Bakura’s hands were moving over him, pawing, rough and ruthless, and Malik found himself facing the mirror again. He watched, eyes wide, as Bakura dropped his boxers. He was huge.

“There’s no way. Impossible,” he said, but dropped to his elbows just the same. He glanced over his shoulder to watch Bakura pump his thick length with those big hands and his mouth went dry.

“Tell me where you want it, Malik.”

Malik shrugged out of the robe and spread himself with one slim, angular hand.

“Read my lips,” he said, hissing a little as Bakura dripped cold lubricant over his fingers.

Malik worked himself slowly, first one finger, than two. Bakura added a third, sliding carefully in and out until Malik’s bitten back moans pressed him a little too far.

“Be as vocal as you like. I own the whole building,” he said, pressing the impossibly thick head between Malik’s cheeks. 

“Oh god—”

Bakura grabbed Malik by the shoulder and the waist, pushing slow and even until he’d sunk his length to the hips.

Malik was stiff, back bent over the pressure in his guts. He whined a little through his bitten lip. 

“Relax,” Bakura said, rocking softly back and forth.

When Malik finally relaxed, Bakura’s hips snapped back and then forward again, forcing a moan from Malik’s lips. Malik watched him in the mirror, fixed on the animalistic rippling of his torso as he worked them raw. Bakura came undone in stages, gritting his teeth and huffing like a bull, sweat rolling down his corded neck.  

Bakura slid his hand down to grip the weeping head of Malik’s cock. He kept an even grip and let the force of his thrusts work the skin back and forth until his hands were dripping. He felt Malik tighten up around him and he closed his fingers, rocking himself to orgasm as Malik spilled hot into his fingers. 

Malik was panting, cheeks flushed, hands splayed on the counter. Their eyes met in the mirror, unfocused hazel on fathomless indigo. Bakura pulled out, dragging his hands up Malik’s waist, smearing the soft tan skin with cum and sweat. Malik’s eyes flashed hunger and fury at him in the mirror, but he stayed bent over. Pliant but defiant—Bakura’s favorite. He left Malik there, dripping and panting, and went to turn on the shower. 

When Malik slipped in behind him he didn’t even try to hide his delight. He formulated an apology in his head—he was counting on being late for his afternoon meeting. 

 

***

 

“Ryou, this is Malik,” Bakura said, gesturing between them. “Malik, my cousin Ryou.”

Cousin. They had the same white hair, the same full lips, the same sense of not-all-there. They looked enough alike, and yet. Ryou was slim and pale and soft spoken, more almond in the eyes, exceedingly polite, as though someone had taken Bakura and turned him inside out.

“Nice to meet you.”

Malik tried to place the faint accent but couldn’t. 

“Pleasure’s mine.”

Ryou’s office was neat and tasteful, sparse like Bakura’s studio but warmer, more inviting. They sat in plush leather chairs on the other side of a wide oak desk. Couple of house plants in pots, some hanging near the window. An accountant’s office, or maybe a lawyer. 

Ryou looked young, too young to have such a nice office. But his eyes had an edge that made Malik wonder if maybe he wasn’t older than the both of them.

“Ryou handles my business. He’s technically our landlord,” Bakura said. “Malik here’s gonna need a set of keys.”

“To the warehouse?”

Bakura popped his knuckles and shrugged.

“Make him a whole set.”

“Even the storage unit?”

“You heard me.”

Ryou arched his brows but smiled. 

“All right.”

Bakura crossed his legs. He took up an inordinate amount of space in the office, drew all the energy in. He was a sinkhole, quicksand  Malik could practically feel him radiating a dark authority.

“Any news?”

Ryou glanced at Malik. Malik felt like he was made of glass, like Ryou could see right into him and through to the other side. But Ryou had a gentleness, a placidity about him that lulled Malik into an unguarded ease. Malik knew it was a tactic but he couldn’t help but play along. Ryou looked back to Bakura.

“I can speak freely?”

“Go on.”

“The artifact has been moved. We have it on good authority that what was left at Kul Elna is an copy—a good copy, but still.”

“Moved where?”

Ryou tapped his pen to his lips.

“Of all places, Japan. The target has ties outside Tokyo.”

“You like sushi?” Bakura said, looking over at Malik.

“Sure.”

Ryou picked up a note pad and jotted some notes in a script Malik could neither read nor recognize.

“You’ll be going yourself?” Ryou said.

“Not yet. Gotta do some research first.”

Bakura stood and Ryou stood with him. 

“I’ll call you about the unit in Cairo. Good work, landlord.”

Ryou gave him a little bow. Asian, Malik thought, finally placing the accent.

“Your sister, she’s an anthropologist?”

Malik didn’t like where this was going. He nodded.

“Let’s go uptown. You can introduce us.”

 

***