A/N: After 13+ years away from writing (2 jobs, 2 major computer crashes, "adulting," & life in general), I really wanted to get back to it. However, before I launch into finishing Revelation of a Nightmare or starting one of the other 2 - 3 stories I have rolling around inside my brain, I figured the best way to brush up my skills would be tackling a rewrite. I published this story a VERY LONG TIME AGO under a friend's account (because I did not have one of my own at the time). I'm updating it from the TAS timeline and setting it between TAS and DSoD, to include the retcon of Bakura's familial history (hence, huge swaths of the previous story have *poof* disappeared). Don't worry - some of our favorite Item Spirits - and maybe an Ishtar - will make an appearance. I think. The timeline shift creates new challenges and major changes, and this story is starting to evolve and take a life of its own, almost making it a completely new piece.
For those who favorited/followed/reviewed my previous stories - THANK YOU SO MUCH. Words cannot express the gratitude for the love I have received for those stories over the years. I do have a YYH/YGO piece queued next, hopefully satisfying both rabid fandoms.
Thanks for reading my story.
Disclaimer: If I owned any of it, I wouldn't be writing fan fiction, would I? Or would I? Just kidding - I don't own it.
The paper rustled beneath him as he nervously shifted his weight and absentmindedly kicked the edge of the examining table on which he sat. The hollow thunk reverberated through the small space, startling him at first, then providing a compulsory distraction for a few moments, before losing its appeal. Murmurs carried on whispers from nearby rooms occasionally grazed his ear, but those small snatches of conversation nestled amongst the hum of the other background noise long enough to become indistinguishable. Which was just as well – he really shouldn't have been trying to eavesdrop anyway. Privacy concerns and all that. He was just so bored. And cold. Why were doctor's offices always so chilly?
Bakura clutched at the oversized, flimsy cotton gown hanging off his slight frame and wrapped his arms around himself for warmth. As instructed, he left it open in the front, but every movement – every breath – shifted the coarse fabric, and another blast of cold air slithered across his torso. The additional coverage provided by his socks and boxers did little to stave the chill. Or his self-consciousness. Or mounting anxiety.
A soft knock at the door announced the doctor's arrival.
"Come in," Bakura replied, straightening up and suppressing a shiver as a blast of cold air snaked through the arm hole.
Dr. Sumida, Bakura's physician, entered the room, his nose buried in Bakura's file. "I see you've lost some more weight since I saw you last," he commented, closing the folder and pushing his frameless glasses up the bridge of his nose. "Still having night sweats?"
"Not as much," Bakura vaguely offered, "but I've kind of been leaving the window open at night, so…"
The doctor offered a non-committal "hmm" while scanning the room. "You didn't bring anyone with you?" he frowned reproachfully, peering at his patient over the rim of his glasses.
Sighing, the doctor set the file on the nearby countertop. He was well aware of the young man's…circumstances…and had been his physician for years, as well as the family's physician prior, but wished the boy had heeded his recommendation to bring an adult – any adult – with him for this particular appointment. "Technically, you're still a minor…" he began, trailing off and deciding against the compulsory lecture, witnessing Bakura flush nervously and bristle at his words. He wasn't a disobedient kid, after all, just…alone. Besides, they had already had this conversation during Bakura's last four visits. "But all things considering…well, at least you're here," Sumida continued. The young man had been reluctant to keep this appointment and miss more school, "let's have a look…"
Dr. Sumida peeled back the right side or Bakura's gown and gently pressed against his chest to lay him down on the examining table. He swept the teenager's hair aside and lifted his arm above his head. Bakura folded his free arm against his stomach, shivering more from the doctor's penetrating, clinical gaze than the introduction of more cold air against his skin.
"Does anybody know you're here?" the doctor inquired, snapping on a pair of latex gloves and straddling the rolling stool next to the examining table.
"Maybe the Trust? I dunno…I guess prob—" Bakura gasped and bit his lip as the doctor removed the sizeable, sticky bandage underneath his arm.
Bakura cringed again, nodding as Dr. Suminda prodded further. "Your hands are cold." His comment went largely ignored, as the doctor continued to poke the small wound and felt the area around it.
"I see…the fact you're ticklish has nothing to do with it, correct?" Dr. Sumida's eyes twinkled – more so when the teen blushed furiously. The heat continued rising to his cheeks and Bakura turned his head away from the doctor as the older man continued his examination over the next few minutes, kneading and pressing his fingers against his neck, armpits, and…Bakura choked back a yelp, feeling a bit…violated…as the doctor checked a few more…personal…areas to finish his assessment. He offered an apologetic smile. "Well, everything looks ok, relatively speaking. A few new bruises, but I don't see any infection, nor feel any new lumps. Let's remove these stitches."
Dr. Sumida rolled his stool backwards, grabbed a small pair of scissors from a nearby instrument tray and snipped through the threads. Bakura involuntarily shuddered as he felt the strands pulled through his skin. Sumida hastily taped a fresh bandage to the wound. "Keep it clean and covered a few more days – just in case." He placed a hand under the young man's shoulder and grasped his hand, easing him back up to a sitting position. Bakura pulled the hospital gown across his chest and prepared to dismount the examining table to re-dress. "Don't get dressed yet," the doctor ordered. He poked his head outside the room, and nodded to someone outside of Bakura's vision.
A second doctor entered the room, acknowledging the teenager with a sort of passive, bland smile. He was older, balder and fatter than Dr. Sumida. And even shorter than Bakura, who wasn't all that tall himself. "Bakura Ryou, this is Dr. Otawara Tatsumi. Remember during your last visit we talked about getting another doctor – a specialist – to look at your results and maybe come in to chat with you? Fortunately, Dr. Tatsumi had some time available in his schedule to come down here today…"
Bakura nodded suspiciously, "yeah…"
"I had him review your file. He's an oncologist…"
"Oncologist…" Bakura rolled the unfamiliar word around his tongue. Oncologist…oncologist…he turned it over in his head, waiting for it to click.
Once it did, he wished it hadn't.
He realized he was sick…but not that sick.Was he? It was just supposed to be the latest crop of mono going around the school…or something…he wasn't sure…the tests…they were just supposed to be a precaution, right? Bakura started feeling numb…vaguely nauseated….
"He's one of the best in the field," Dr. Sumida continued, "and he's my brother-in-law, so I know you'll be in really good hands…"
"No…" Bakura involuntarily moaned, swaying slightly.
Dr. Sumida saw the young man blanch and quickly placed a steadying, comforting hand on his shoulder, "Bakura…Ryou…" he lowered his voice to an almost fatherly tone. "We ran the biopsy twice. The CT scan confirms it. It's Hodgkin's Disease. We need to start treatment."
Bakura swallowed thickly, a tight knot rising in his throat. "Hodgkin's…" he choked, his mind racing. Hodgkin's…
One of the kids in his old school – a senior in Class A a few years ahead of him – had cancer a year or so ago. He didn't really know the guy – couldn't even remember his name, in fact – but knew he missed a lot of school. And then one day he was gone.
Would he, too, just disappear like that?
Bakura blinked once, then several more times in rapid succession – a mixture of shock and suppressing tears – as the diagnosis began to register.
"Am I gonna die?" he whimpered.
"We'll do everything we can to ensure that does not happen," Sumida tightened his reassuring grip on the boy.
"Your prognosis is 'cautiously optimistic,'" Dr. Otawara stepped forward, producing a new file, and placing it in the trembling teen's hands.
"Hodgkin's has a very high survival rate in young people – 90…95% - and we caught it early. With aggressive treatment – "
Aggressive treatment.Bakura nodded mechanically as the first tears broke through, landing with sharp slaps on the new folder and marring its crisp surface. He felt lightheaded…fuzzy…like someone had wrapped a thick towel around his head, dulling his senses. The more Otawara droned on about the treatment plan, the more he wanted to crawl inside his own mind and avoid the overwhelming amount of information lobbed his direction. Scant fragments registered like dull scratches on the surface of his brain. Chemo port… (how many?) rounds (did he say 10?) … various medications he'd never be able to remember (what's a cytokine?) … Thursday…
"Wait…this Thursday?" his attention snapped back into the conversation. Today was Tuesday.
"Of course," Dr. Otawara pressed, "the sooner we begin – "
He had a math test on Friday.
"but school…" Bakura balked weakly.
"—can wait," Sumida interrupted, giving the young man a gentle squeeze. "Ryou, this cannot."
"Your very life depends on it."
Anzu elbowed Yugi as they patrolled the roof at lunch time, looking for the rest of their friends. "Hey, there's Bakura…I'm sure Jonouchi and Honda aren't far behind."
"Bakura?" Yugi glanced in the direction Anzu pointed. Sure enough, Bakura was propped on the ledge against the fence, flipping through a folder and eating an apple. "Huh…He wasn't in homeroom this morning. I thought maybe he was out sick again today."
"He showed up about halfway through second period," Anzu explained, dragging Yugi behind her, "ugh…that math test. It was brutal. The teacher held him after class to finish it. I don't know that he even made it to third period gym. You'd have to ask Jonouchi or Honda."
"Wow…" Yugi felt badly for Bakura – as much as Bakura disliked gym class, he hated missing classes even more – he had been out sick yesterday, and late or out sick quite a bit the last few weeks, "he's been out a lot. I wonder…Hey Bakura!" he called, waving to get his friend's attention.
Bakura glanced up from his reading, mid-bite. He held the apple in place with his teeth, snapped the folder shut and crammed it into his messenger bag. He gestured them over with one hand, using the other to cover his mouth while he finished chewing. "Sorry," he apologized, swallowing a mouthful.
Anzu shrugged off the apology – at least Bakura had manners and tried not to speak with his mouth full. Unlike some of their other friends.
"Whatcha reading?" Yugi craned his neck to glance at the folder Bakura had stashed in his satchel.
"Oh…nothing important," he feigned a dismissive wave, kicking the bag shut and tossing the apple core in a nearby trash bin.
"Is that all you brought for lunch?" Anzu frowned, starting to poke around in her bento box.
"I'm not hungry," Bakura leaned further into the fence. Anzu thought he looked a little paler than usual – his skin almost the color and transparency of paper. She made a mental note to ask him about it later; it wasn't unusual for Bakura to get caught up in creating his Monster World campaigns and neglect other aspects of his life – like sleep and food. Someone needed to remind him of that every once in a while.
"You sure?" Yugi asked, tearing into his own lunch, "I'm starving! You want some?" he thrust half his sandwich in front of Bakura's face.
"Thanks, but I'm good," Bakura politely declined.
"Ok. Suit yourself."
"Hey, hey! What's up?" Honda greeted, bounding into view with Jonouchi trailing a few steps behind.
"Man, that test sucked," Jonouchi griped, flopping onto the ground between Yugi and Bakura's leg and rummaging around in his bookbag for his lunch. "Isn't that right, Bakura?" he playfully smacked Bakura's shin.
Bakura flinched. "It was ok, I guess. I don't think I did that well."
"Seriously?" Jonouchi sputtered, his mouth full of food, "Oh man…if you don't think you did well, then I'm really screwed!"
"So what else is new?" Honda snickered.
"Hey! Who asked you?"
Anzu and Yugi busied themselves with their drinks to avoid snorting out loud, and even Bakura managed a slight smile.
A cell phone chimed; four of the five teenagers dove for their bookbags, rummaging for their phones. "Mine," Bakura confirmed, producing a small silver phone and hitting the answer key. "Hello?" he hesitantly answered.
"Who?" Anzu mouthed at the other boys; she had never seen Bakura answer his phone before (mostly, he played games on it during lunch), much less take a call at school. Her inquiry was met with silent shrugs.
Noting their curious stares, Bakura excused himself and withdrew from the group, turning his back and hunching his shoulders for a bit of privacy. Honda, standing closest to Bakura caught snippets of the conversation, but nothing useful to pass along to the others. "Uh-huh…ok…" Bakura sighed, gloom overtaking his features. "Yes…n-no…of course," he stammered, "ok. Bye."
"What was that all about?" Jonouchi tactlessly blurted, earning an elbow from Anzu, as Bakura hung up his phone and slid it into the pocket of his pants. "Ow! What?"
"Nothing," Bakura quickly – too quickly – replied, seizing his bag and shouldering it. His eyes refused to meet theirs. "Um…I really need to get going...bathroom and all, before class starts." Without waiting for an answer, he waved and hastily disappeared among the rest of their classmates loitering on the rooftop.
"Huh. I wonder what that was about," Anzu mused, her voice touched with worry.
"No idea," Yugi's response echoed Anzu's concern.
"Well, whatever it is, it smells fishy," Jonouchi sniffed.
"Nah, that's just you. You really should shower better after gym class."
"Oh! Look who's suddenly a comedian. Screw you, Honda."
The class bell put an end to further bickering. Or speculation. But just in case, Yugi promised himself to chat with Bakura after school.