Ugh…I had SO much more planned for this fic; Merik and Malik were originally going to escape from the mental hospital, Bakura and Merik were gonna wreak havoc at the hospital where Ryou's at, there was gonna be huge drama with Merik, Malik, and Isis, more drama with Bakura and Yami-basically, Bakura's drunk and Yami helps him out- but…it all fell flat.

And I'm terribly sorry. I really am. I feel horrible. This wasn't supposed to be a monsterly long fig; but the bunny grew and mutated on me…and I haven't touched it in so long. And I'm not the same writer I was when I started this- I just don't have the motivation or ideas for it that I once did.

But I can't stand not finishing a fic. It bugs me to no end. So here it is. Finally, the last chapter. Hopefully, it doesn't fall short of your expectations…although it did mine. This whole fid did, really. But I finished it.

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last chapter: A New Day

The sun shone bright in a clear blue sky. Birds twittered and hopped from branch to branch, hidden among the light green leaves. Ryou pulled Bakura's jacket tighter about him and tilted his head back, basking in the sweet breeze and warm sun. Ah, it felt good to be outside, in nature, in the world, instead of looking through it behind glass, in a hospital bed.

The air was so fresh and clean out here. He inhaled deeply, trying to draw in as much as he could. He felt…well…alive. The sun warmed his sickly, pale skin. Instead of its usual alabaster white, it still had the yellow tinge of the deathly ill, and those stuck in the hospital for prolonged periods of time.

His leukemia was officially in remission. He still had to go for chemotherapy once a week, and his hair was still falling out. Right now, he had on a blue head wrap that matched his blue sweater. But he was out. He was going home with Bakura.

Ryou turned his head in his wheelchair, gazing up at his yami. Bakura looked down at him and grunted, but his dark chocolate eyes were soft. Ryou smiled sweetly and Bakura snorted as he pushed him towards the red, beat up Fire Bird car.

"It's so..so nice out here." Ryou sighed happily.

"It's supposed to rain later." Bakura opened the door, then gently lifted Ryou up, placing him in, then folding the wheelchair up and placing it in the trunk. Although he was released, Ryou was still very weak and couldn't stand on his own for long periods of time.

"I like the rain. It helps plants grow. We need it. Besides, it'll eventually stop and the sun will shine again." Ryou settled into his seat as Bakura came back, put the seat belt on the rail hikari, shut the passenger side door, went around and got into the driver's.

Ryou looked over at Bakura and frowned. "Kura. Seatbelt."

Bakura snorted. "Still bossy as ever." But he put the seatbelt on anyway.

Ryou smiled at him. Bakura was trying very hard to be his usual distant, dangerous self. But he knew his yami was happy to have him home. Bakura just wouldn't show it and ruin his image. Even if it was just him and Ryou.

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"Kura, why are you in such a hurry? Shouldn't we get my bags and wheelchair from the car?"

Bakura spat on the cement, making Ryou cringe. He held his hikari in his arms, carrying him into the house. They stood on the porch, Bakura sliding the key into the lock. He was still worried at how light Ryou was. Ryou had never been very heavy, but he was light as a feather now. He was too thin. The hospital hadn't fed him well. But now he was home, and Bakura would make him eat. Even if he had to shove food down the pale boy's throat.

"Screw it, we'll get that crap later." Bakura grunted, pushing on the door. It swung open and he stepped inside.

"SURPRISE!" Jou, Isis, and Yami with Yugi in his arms, jumped out in the living room. Ryou squealed, shifting in Bakura's arms, the yami almost dropping him. His doe brown eyes widened, sparkling as he gazed around the room. A homemade sign that read 'Welcome Home Ryou' hung by the doorway, and a few balloons and colored paper chains were taped to the wall.

Happy tears welled in his eyes and ran down his cheeks. "Oh, you guys!" He clasped his hands to his chest as Bakura carried him over to the couch, setting him down gently.

Yami carried Yugi over, setting him down near Ryou. Yugi reached over, hugging his best friend tightly. "It's so good your out. We've missed you."

"I was always here." Ryou laid his chin atop Yugi's head.

"Yeah, but it's different. It's like…like…" Yugi trailed off, trying to find the right words.

"Like we're both well. Almost." Ryou's soft voice was tinged with sadness.

Yugi kissed his sunken cheek. "We're getting better. Oh, hey! Check this out!" The petite hikari leaned back, bracing his weight on his arms, scrunched his cherubic face up, and wiggled his toes.

Ryou stared, gasping. "Y-You can move your toes!" He beamed at Yugi and pulled the shorter hikari in for another hug.

Yugi smiled up at him. "See! We are getting better! You're out of the hospital, and I can move my toes!" His voice was so happy, as if these were big, important accomplishments. And for them, they were.

Several feet back, Yami watched them, sadness swimming in his crimson eyes. "It sounds like such a big deal for them…and I'm happy…but…" He trailed off, whispering softly to himself. "They'll never be whole again; things will never be the same…"

Bakura snorted; Yami flinched, looking down. Bakura glanced around, making sure no one was watching, then put a muscled arm around Yami's thin shoulders and pulled him in close. Yami snuggled into his side. "Things never stay the same. Life happens; for better or worse, things move forward."

Yami smiled up at him. "Thanks, Kura." Bakura grunted, and kissed Yami's forehead. Yami beamed, laying his head on Bakura's broad shoulder. "We're together. It's enough."

"Oi, we gonna cut the damn cake already or what?" Merik hollered from the kitchen.

Ryou blinked; he knew that voice, but he hadn't heard it in so long. He looked with wide eyes at his yami. "Is-is that-"

Yugi hugged him, squealing and cutting him off. "Oh, we got a surprise for you! We didn't wanna tell you- HEY MALIK!"

Ryou gasped, hardly daring to believe it. Malik? Here? But he thought the boy was in a mental hospital. "MALIK!" he called out, breathing harsh. His heart thundered in his chest.

They were answered by the flushing of the toilet, a door slamming, then Malik appeared, grinning cockily. "Yo!" He sauntered over, plucking Yugi up and plopping down on the couch with him in his lap.

"Hey!" Yugi squirmed, not expecting that.

Malik just grinned and ruffled his hair. "You were sitting on the comfy cushion. The other one has a spring that digs into my butt." Yugi crossed his arms and pouted cutely, then sighed, shrugged and grinned. There was nothing he could do about it, and besides, Ryou was out of the hospital. Nothing else mattered.

Yami leaned into Bakura, smiling as he watched the three hikaris. Bakura looked around, trying to remain detatched, but the corners of his mouth twitched; he was grinning. As he heard Merik yell, though, something clicked in his mind. Kitchen. Merik. Knives. BAD combination. Dark eyes widening, Bakura took off.

Yami frowned as Bakura took off. He looked around, not wanting to be by himself. He looked at the kitchen, frowned again, then went and sat by Malik. Yugi held his arms out and Yami took his hikari into his arms. Yugi settled happily onto Yami's lap, and Yami kissed the tip of his nose. Yugi giggled, "Yami, you're silly."

"I'm allowed to be. You're my precious little angel." He kissed each of Yugi's cheeks, then Yugi grinned, reached up, and tugged on one of his bangs. "Hey!" Yami cried, and Yugi stuck his tongue out. Yami pouted, and Yugi pulled himself up and kissed Yami's cheek. Yami smiled.

Lap now free, Malik turned to Ryou. "Surprise." He smiled.

Ryou's soft lips moved, but no sound came out. He stared at Malik, hardly daring to believe this. He was dreaming, right? Or was he hallucinating? Was he still in the hospital, and they'd just given him more powerful drugs? Ones with psychiatric effects?

Malik took hold of Ryou's pale, thin hands in his one golden ones. One of his sleeves was ridden up, exposing a mass of thin scars. He looked down and winced. Gently, he shook Ryou's hands. "Hey, Ryou." The blank look wouldn't leave the boy's face. Malik frowned, then blew in Ryou's face. The pale hikari shook his head and blinked.

"B-but..y-you…" He stuttered, his face completely lost and confused.

Malik just grinned. "We got out a couple months ago for good behavior. Still have meetings with the psychiatrist twice a week, and Merik's medicated as hell, but we're here." His lips twisted. "Scars and all."

Ryou frowned at the dark humor. It wasn't funny at all- his best friend had nearly died, and Malik could sit here and joke about it!

"Hey." Malik said softly, shaking Ryou's hands again. "I was just joking." Ryou glowered at him. Malik released his hands, and pushed a bony shoulder. The glare didn't lessen. Malik did it again, poking him in the ribs. Ryou's lips twitched, then he broke out in giggles, squirming.

Bakura came back out of the kitchen, Merik in tow. The blonde yami was smiling but his eyes were glazed, like he wasn't fully there. And he wasn't; all the pills the doctors at the mental hospital had him on kept his mind in a fog-ridden daze. It was the only way to stop his morbid comments and thoughts. Before medication, even at the hospital and in a bare isolation cell, he'd tried suicide. The blonde yami was hell-bent on shedding blood, be it others or his own. Therapy had no effect. But a heavy dose of medication did. It bogged his mind down enough that he could be released, as long as he was kept under close supervision, which happened to be Malik.

Malik never was as self-destructive as his yami, and he had gotten better. Mostly. He still had his moments, but he had no desire to end his life. Maybe that was because he actually opened himself up and talked with the doctors. Or maybe he just wasn't as ill as Merik. Either way, aside from his dark humor, he was alright and not on drugs.

Merik had pushed his sleeves up, revealing the thin, criss-crossing scars on his arms. He glared at Bakura. "Okay, you're home with your hikari. Now, cake."

Bakura snorted, and Yami smiled softly. Things were getting back to normal. Or as normal as it could be. Yami sat down in a chair, Yugi snuggling into his lap with Yami's arms around him. Merik followed Bakura, who flopped down on the vacant cushion on the couch, then winced as a spring dug into his butt. There was no more room for Merik, but the yami just plopped down between Bakura and his own hikari.

"Hey! Watch it, jackass!" Malik glared, getting squished into Ryou. Not liking it, he grabbed Ryou and pulled the boy into his lap. Ryou gasped at the unexpected relocation, but then settled happily against the blonde hikari, laying his head on Malik's shoulder.

"Aww, aint' this cozy?" Bakura said with a sneer. Merik snickered, Yugi giggled, and the three hikaris sent him glares. Bakura just smirked.

"Oh, you're happy and you know it. So shut up already." Yami smiled, sticking his tongue out at the murderous glare Bakura sent his way. Bakura glared, then looked around the room. Really looked. Yami was smiling; Yugi was flexing his toes. Ryou was home. So were Malik and Merik. Their tan arms were scarred, not bleeding. They hadn't cut in a long time. He laid his head back, eyes closed.

They were all together again. Life wasn't grand and sweet; there was no happily ever after, no fairy tale ending. This was life, and right now it was okay. There would be times ahead when things weren't okay, but things would be okay again soon enough.

OWARI

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Wow. &blinks& I've been waiting for years, and years, to write that. Owari. It's done. Over. Finished. Finally. &stares into space for several minutes&

The journey was long. Ridiculously so. And for that, I apologize. But, see, I DO finish my fics. Feels good. I'd say I want this to continue, that I'm gonna miss writing it, but I'm glad it's over. I enjoyed the trip while it lasted, I really did. But it's over, and now I can work on some other stories.

And, on a parting note, I really want to thank you dear reviewers (and readers) who stuck with this. Especially those of you who've been there from the beginning. It's been a long time, and I thank you for your patience with me, and for not loosing faith (even when I myself lost it…). See! Miracles can happen! But, yes, thank you and I hope to see you again some other story!