Yu-Gi-Oh!

Closer Than Brothers

By Lucky_Ladybug





Notes: As always, the characters ain't mine (except for the mint-haired girl) and this ain't yaoi XD Also, just so y'all won't get confused, this takes place immediately *before* the epilogue of Stolen Memories. Thinking over it now, I realized that there was one very important character who was missing from that plot and I decided I needed to come up with a plausible explanation as to why he wasn't involved. ^_^





"Ms. Ishtar?"

Ishizu looked up at the sound of the voice. "Yes?" she said a bit tensely, standing up.

The doctor smiled. "Your brother is doing fine," he reported. "We have his wounds bandaged up and I think you can take him home."

"Thank you," Ishizu said quietly, relief washing over her.

So much had happened in the last few weeks that the Egyptian woman could scarcely believe it all. Her younger brother, Marik—who had tried for so long to obtain the Pharaoh's powers for himself and had struggled to lash out in revenge for an act he had thought the Pharaoh had committed against their family—had at last returned to the good side during the Battle Ship tournament. He, Ishizu, and Rishid had been going to go back to Egypt when Shadi told them that since the Pharaoh had been found, there was no need to. So they had opted to stay in Domino City. Then just the other day Marik had been struck down with amnesia and had had to become involved with Yugi and his friends again. They had forgiven Marik (mostly), but they still didn't trust him.

Until today. Marik had fought with his Yami—who had returned to inflict pain and chaos—and then had apparently perished in a deadly fire, but instead his life had been miraculously spared. Both he and Ishizu had sustained bad abrasions, but neither of them had been burned in the inferno.

She wrung her hands anxiously. Though of course she was immensely thankful that her brother's memories were back, she couldn't help dreading the question that he was certain to ask at any time. Something terrible had happened right after Marik had been in the car crash, and she didn't know how she would ever explain it to him.

"Sister?"

Ishizu's thoughts were interrupted as Marik entered the room, looking a bit pale but otherwise fine. He stood in the doorway, watching her from behind the soft blonde bangs. To Ishizu he looked like an angel from above.

The Egyptian woman ran forward and took him into her arms. "Oh Marik," she said softly. It was so wonderful to hold him close again. . . . She hadn't been able to embrace him and have him recognize her for what seemed days.

Marik hugged her back, looking again like the sweet, innocent boy he had once been. "Sister, let's go home," he pleaded, hating to stay in a hospital any longer than was absolutely necessary.

Ishizu took a deep breath. "Of course," she said quietly, keeping her arm around him as they walked to the elevator. Of course she would have to tell Marik what had happened. There was no concealing it. And he had a right to know. She just hated to burden him with something else right after this latest, horrible battle with the Yami.

"Sister, is . . . is something wrong?" Marik asked slowly, looking up at her with worried lavender eyes. He felt a certain knotting in his stomach. From Ishizu's protective grasp, he knew that she was trying to figure out how to tell him something. Something that he didn't want to know . . . and yet did want to.

Ishizu tried to think of the words to answer, but she couldn't. She simply couldn't. Not when she looked into those deep lavender eyes. Eyes that had often been full of such pain and anguish. How could she add to it? How could she possibly speak the words she had been turning over in her mind? She knew she should have told him before, but when he had had amnesia she didn't see how she could. And now it wasn't any easier.

Marik studied her, feeling his stomach knot up even more. "Sister," he said softly, "now that I have my memories back and I remember everyone, I . . . I realize that I have not seen Rishid. Where is he, Ishizu?" Instinctively he knew that whatever Ishizu was upset about, it concerned Rishid, and this made him quite fearful for his precious adopted brother's welfare. Rarely had he seen Ishizu this tormented!

Ishizu was at a loss for words. All she found she could do was pull her brother close again, tears in her eyes. "Oh Marik. . . ." She stroked his hair, feeling the softness under her fingers.

For a moment she was transported back in time and Marik was a terrified five year old, running to her after a fright and hugging her tightly. With childlike simplicity, he had felt that Ishizu and Rishid could fix everything. And sure enough, he always had felt better after snuggling with his siblings. She smiled slightly as she remembered how he had once looked up at her and grinned, saying that he was sure Ishizu was just like their mother would have been had she lived. Marik had never known their mother, nor seen what she looked like—but she had saved his life earlier today when the flaming building had collapsed all around him. He had known it was her. Somehow he had known.

Then Ishizu was back in the present, holding a terrified sixteen year old who was afraid that his brother was dead.

Marik clung to her, horrified. "Is he hurt, sister? Where is he?!" he cried, his voice climbing. Rishid had always been loyal and devoted to "Master Marik," as he always called the boy who was actually his adopted brother, and Marik knew that Rishid would have been around these past few days . . . if he was alright. "Where is Rishid?!" Marik sobbed again. "Tell me, sister!" He pulled back slightly, gripping her shoulders.

The elevator stopped and Ishizu looked at her brother soberly. She couldn't put this off any longer and she knew that. "We need to talk," she said in a quiet voice.

****

When they were outside in the car, Marik again pleaded to know where Rishid was. "Sister, if he is hurt, I must know," he said softly. Memories were tumbling over themselves in his mind. He couldn't forget how Rishid had always been there, never abandoning him. The boy could barely sit still with the agony of not knowing if the man was alive or not. Whatever Ishizu was about to say was deathly serious. Either Rishid was dead, or . . . or gravely injured and about to die.

Ishizu closed her eyes tightly, whispering a silent prayer for the strength to do this. Marik would never take this easily, and Ishizu feared he would blame himself. At last she sighed and turned to face him. "Marik," she began slowly, "on the night when you . . . you vanished, Rishid sensed that something was amiss. He went out looking for you, and . . ." She paused, weighing her next words carefully. "He didn't come back, Marik." Now she stopped, laying a gentle hand on Marik's shoulder. He tensed under her touch.

The youth's eyes widened. "Sister, what are you saying?!" he cried. Was Rishid missing?! If so, he would get out of this car right now and not stop looking until he found his precious brother! Marik's life could never be complete with Rishid.

Tears filled Ishizu's eyes, but she tried to blink them away. "Shadi found him later that night and brought him home, but he . . ." She trailed off and then started over. "Marik, Rishid was beaten very seriously. He . . . he almost didn't make it." There. She had said it. She had said the words she had dreaded. The poor woman leaned back, biting her lip and watching Marik worriedly. He was staring at her and unable to speak.

Marik couldn't believe what he was hearing. His newly remembered world was starting to crumble. "No, sister! Rishid could not be overpowered and beaten like that!" he screamed, finding his voice at last. "He . . . he could fight them off!" His voice continued to rise in volume as he tried to convince himself that it wasn't real. If he screamed loud enough, he would wake himself up. He would be back home, safe in his bed, and Ishizu and Rishid would both be with him, perfectly healthy and well. But Marik knew what Ishizu was saying was real. He knew with a sinking heart that it would have to have been much, much more than an average beating to have hurt Rishid so terribly, and Ishizu confirmed that with the next sentence she spoke.

The Egyptian woman looked at him sadly. "It wasn't ordinary troublemakers who hurt him, Marik," she said, touching her Millennium Tauk. "I have seen that it was Seth and his followers, and they did not simply use their physical strengths against Rishid—they used an evil, dark magic." Her blue eyes glistened as she relayed this news. When Shadi had suddenly appeared in the living room with Rishid's battered body, Ishizu's first reaction had been to scream. First Marik had wandered out of the house and hadn't returned, and then Shadi had brought back Ishizu's other brother, who was in a half-dead condition. Her life had felt like a nightmare at that point. And it felt close to one now. Oh how she had prayed that Rishid would get better and that she would never have to tell Marik about this! But it hadn't worked that way, and now she found herself in the moment she had dreaded.

Tears coursed down Marik's face. "Where is he, Ishizu? He's . . ." The boy swallowed hard. "He's not . . . dead, is he?" The thought was unimaginable. A world without Rishid in it? But Rishid had always been there! Ever since the day Marik had been born Rishid had been there. It wasn't possible for Rishid to leave! Not now, not ever! Rishid wouldn't leave him . . . and Ishizu. . . . He never would! He couldn't!

Her brother's expression was so heart-breaking that Ishizu could barely stand it. "No," she said softly, taking his hand and squeezing it, "Rishid still lives." She paused. Even with that bit of comfort, there was still more dark news to be told as well. "But Shadi told me that the medical doctors couldn't help him and I must admit, I had to agree when he told me what had been done to him. Rishid is back at our home and Shadi is with him." Medical doctors couldn't have treated Rishid's injuries. The magic attack had wreaked more havoc than any mortal could cure. Of course Rishid was fighting and would keep fighting, but Ishizu knew that only a miracle could save his life now.

Marik was so distraught that he didn't even stop to wonder what Shadi had been doing in Domino City. "I must see him!" he cried. "I must see Rishid!" He grabbed Ishizu's hands in his own, his heart racing wildly. If one saw him then, it would be impossible for them to believe that he had once been the fierce youth who had dealt out destruction and danger during Battle City. Now he was what he has always been underneath it all—a frightened little boy who didn't want to lose his family.

Ishizu clasped Marik's hands and kissed them tenderly before letting go, a gesture from when they had been younger and Marik had been distressed about other things. "And so you shall, Marik," she replied as she turned the key in the ignition and started the engine. "But I must warn you, dear brother . . . he has been in a coma ever since he was found, and . . ." She couldn't finish. Her voice was shaking now and she just wanted to break down and cry. She loved Rishid just as much as Marik did. He was their elder brother. Many nights Ishizu had sobbed in solitude, pleading for his life, but never could she cry around Marik, she felt. She had to be strong for him. Marik needed strength from someone. She knew how lost and confused he was feeling right now. It wouldn't do any good for him to see her crying, she was certain.

"I know, sister," Marik said softly, tears spilling from his eyes, "he may never wake up."

His solemn acknowledgment at last made the tears flow from Ishizu's own eyes and her vision blurred as she turned the corner.

****

When they arrived back home, Marik leaped out of the car and into the house, not even waiting until Ishizu had put on the brakes. "Rishid!" he screamed as he threw the door open, "Rishid, where are you?!" His skin had gone more pale with the worry. He really wasn't well enough to deal with extreme stress such as this—another reason Ishizu had been so worried to tell him—and now he gripped the doorframe for support as he continued to call his brother's name.

Shadi emerged from one of the upstairs bedrooms. "Your friend is in here," he said quietly. He regarded Marik with his blue eyes devoid of pupils, watching him breathing heavily and trying to get himself under control. Shadi knew how much Marik loved Rishid. He knew how much this poor boy idolized his elder brother, and he knew exactly how much Marik would ache if Rishid passed on. For Marik's sake and Ishizu's, Shadi prayed that would not happen.

Marik stepped forward, releasing the doorframe and willing himself to stand without its aid. "How is he?" he cried. "Tell me how my brother is doing!!" His eyes narrowed and his body shook as he clenched his fists and tried to keep his temper under control. When would he be able to see Rishid? Why was it all taking so long?! It felt like an eternity since Ishizu had first told him!

Shadi shook his head. "His health is failing. I hate to think of the pain Seth and his lackeys put him through." He knew it was not time for a lecture on patience. That was not what Marik needed right now. Marik needed to be with his brother.

"He can't die!" Marik wailed, barely aware of Ishizu entering the house.

"I have done what I possibly could," Shadi told him, "but it may not be enough to save him." In his hand he held the Ankh. He had tried everything he knew of to sustain Rishid's life, including entering his mind and searching for any trace of Rishid's spirit. If he could talk with Rishid, perhaps remind him of his little family, he hoped it would give the weakened man strength to keep fighting. But he hadn't been able to talk with Rishid. That didn't mean he hadn't talked *to* him, however. He had been doing that ever since Ishizu had left earlier to find Marik. Shadi had told Rishid many things—how the man's siblings both adored him and that he was still needed by them and that he had to struggle for life. Whether he got through or not was something even Shadi didn't know.

Marik ran upstairs as best as he could, pushing past Shadi and running into Rishid's room. "Rishid!" the youth screamed, not seeing at first in the darkened room. Where was he?! But then Marik's eyes adjusted and he took a step back in horror, his eyes wide and brimming with tears again.

His poor brother was laying in the bed, bandages covering the deep wounds in his body. Marik could only see a few of those, but he had a feeling that there were more underneath Rishid's clothes. The man looked pale and weak and very unlike his usual, strong self. His black ponytail was spread out on the pillow and his golden eyes were closed. The expression on his face was emotionless and unless one was very close to him, they would not be able to tell that he still breathed.

Marik swallowed hard, his hands shaking as he ran forward and climbed onto the bed. "Oh Rishid . . . who did this to you?!" he wailed, touching Rishid's shoulder and begging for a response. But none came. Rishid looked asleep, but Marik knew his state was deeper than that. Oh, if only he was just asleep!

"The abrasions are not the worst of his injuries."

Marik turned to see Shadi watching him.

"If they were, I would have seen to it that he was taken to the hospital," the mysterious man went on, crossing his arms. "But under the circumstances, they could not have helped him."

"What the devil else has been done to him?!" Marik demanded angrily, remembering what Ishizu had said about dark magic. His blood boiled at the thought of dear, noble Rishid being hurt again and again with every method of pain there was. If there was one man in the world who didn't deserve it, Rishid was that man. Of course Rishid wasn't perfect, but in Marik's eyes he and Ishizu were the most saintlike people who existed.

"From what I can tell, Seth and his minions tortured him endlessly with their dark magic," Shadi replied grimly. He knew Marik already had a knowledge of this, but he also knew Marik didn't know the whole story.

"But why?!" Marik sobbed. He held Rishid's hand close to his heart, the crystalline drops splashing upon it. He didn't care if he cried in front of others. Rishid might die! That was the only important thing right now. Marik's heart was breaking. So what if he looked lost and afraid. That was how he felt.

Shadi gave him a long look. "Perhaps he intruded upon their secrets, as you did, and they didn't want him to reveal what he had seen. Or perhaps . . ." He paused now, and Marik felt as though the man's blue eyes were piercing right through to his very soul. "Perhaps their motives were even darker." With that he turned and left, leaving Marik alone with Rishid's comatose form.

Even darker . . . what could Shadi mean by that? Marik pondered on it for quite some time and then suddenly let out a strangled cry, the color draining from his face. Most of Seth's new followers used to be Marik's Rare Hunters. They had wanted revenge on Marik for everything he'd put them through—and he couldn't blame them for that—but was it possible that they had decided to get their revenge by harming the one whom Marik considered his brother? That was it. It had to be it!

"No!!" Marik yelled, collapsing across Rishid's body. No matter how hard he tried, it seemed that he simply could not escape his past. Tears coursed down the boy's face as he embraced Rishid's unresponsive form. "I'm so sorry, Rishid!" Marik sobbed. "So sorry. . . . It should have been me!! I should have been killed by them!" He looked up at the window at the falling snow, his face tear-streaked. "Rishid is innocent—I am the guilty one!!" he screamed out at the Heavens. "DO YOU HEAR ME, GOD??! RISHID IS INNOCENT!!! He's innocent. . . ." Marik's voice trailed off as his body racked with the emotional pain. Never would he get over this. Again something he had done had hurt Rishid! Never could he forget when Rishid was struck by lightning. But he had thought those days were over. He had thought everything would be happy for him and his siblings now. And he was having a rude awakening. They could never have normal lives, it seemed.

Ishizu, standing out in the hall with Shadi, was horrified. "I dreaded telling him about Rishid," she said softly. "I knew he would take it hard, especially since it would again bring back the past he is trying to put behind him." But a certain anger burned within her breast. Why had Shadi hinted to Marik the true reason for the attack on Rishid's life? How would that help anything? All it was doing was shattering Marik's heart worse! Often she didn't understand Shadi's motives, but now she felt that he was simply being cruel.

Shadi nodded slowly, apparently unaware of Ishizu's feelings. "Your brother suffers much pain and sorrow because of his past actions. It will take him many long days to get over this." He crossed his arms, offering no explanation for his own actions.

Now the Egyptian man paused. "But Rishid may yet recover," he said at last. "Marik is the person he cares for more than any other. Perhaps Rishid will sense that his adopted brother is with him and then he will manage to revive."

"I pray that he will." Ishizu turned away, unable to bear hearing Marik's heart-wrenching screams. Or facing Shadi right now.

"Rishid!!" Marik pleaded now. He was struggling to push his feelings of guilt behind him and concentrate on reviving this precious soul. Rishid wouldn't want him to blame himself. Marik knew that. But it was so hard to not. "Wake up, Rishid!!" His voice quieted until it was barely a whisper. "Please wake up," he sobbed. "Please . . . look at me. . . . Look at your younger brother!" He bent over Rishid again, a stray tear splashing on the man's closed eyelids. He didn't respond. Marik stared at the comforter quilt, disheartened.

****

Marik brushed aside his tears and stared forlornly at his old friend and brother, who hadn't changed position at all and still looked very dead unless one was looking for lifesigns. Marik refused to try to imagine what life would be like without Rishid. He had already vowed that he would never need to. Rishid would live, Marik told himself over and over.

It had been hours now, with each one passing much like the one before it. Ishizu had came in and sat with Marik, comforting him and reassuring him that in no way was he responsible for any of this. He wanted to believe her words, and he did try, but still the guilt kept coming. Now Ishizu had fallen into an unwilling doze next to the bed. Marik knew she needed to sleep and didn't try to wake her.

"Oh Rishid . . . stay with me, my brother!" he begged, gripping Rishid's shoulder again. "Oh, I've been such a fool these past months! I should never have been trying to take the Pharaoh's power. He . . . he wasn't even the one who killed my father, as I'd thought for so long! Instead it was my own Yami! Why couldn't I have seen it before?!" He ran his hands through his blonde hair in frustration. "Instead I organized the Rare Hunters and became bent on getting revenge on the Pharaoh, who wound up being innocent of what I'd thought." Tears filled his eyes again. "You stood by me through all of that, Rishid, even when I was being outrageously cruel to even my own henchmen. But now . . . now they've taken their revenge on me by harming you. I deserved anything they would do to me, but you didn't! You never hurt anyone, Rishid." He leaned back, his hands on his knees. Never had he felt so anguished. How could this possibly be happening?! It still seemed like a horrible nightmare . . . one that Marik couldn't awaken from.

Now Marik took his adopted brother's limp hand and held it close. "It was through my own absurd actions that you have been injured," he whispered. "My henchmen turned against me because I was so treacherous to them." He paused. "If you . . . die, Rishid, I will consider it my fault." The tears splashed over Rishid's hand and Marik's own. Everything he was saying was sincere. He believed every word, which made it all the more heart wrenching.

"I have tried to repent of my atrocities," the boy wailed now, "but perhaps I have simply done too much to ever hope to be forgiven."

"No, Marik. That is not true."

Marik looked up at a young girl standing in the doorway, her mint-green hair flowing out around her and framing her kind face. Ishizu was still asleep and didn't stir at the arrival of this strange child, but Marik was wide awake.

"Who . . . are you?!" he cried. "And how did you get in?!" He had perked up immensely, but somehow he knew that she meant no harm to anyone there. There was nothing to fear.

"Through the door," the child smiled, coming over to him. "What has happened is not a punishment for what you did in the past," she whispered softly. "It does not work that way, Marik. Rishid was not being punished for your actions, nor are you." She touched the tan-skinned hand with her own pearly white one, smiling with unconditional love.

"Then why did this happen?!" Marik demanded, not removing his hand from under hers. He felt her touch comforting in some way.

"People have free agency on earth, Marik," the girl said softly, "and they can choose to do good or to do ill. Your brother should not have been harmed, but it certainly was not your fault at all that he was. True, you did mind control your henchmen in the past, but they *chose* to hurt Rishid because of it. Their actions are their own. You can't think that you were responsible." Now she moved her hand up to his shoulder. "It is Satan who is making you feel such guilt. You must let it go, Marik."

Tears slipped down Marik's cheeks. In his heart he knew this, but he couldn't accept it. He *was* at fault, he told himself angrily. Perhaps if Rishid would recover, then he could accept the truth—but if Rishid died, he never could.

He looked up to tell the strange girl exactly that, but instead he found that she had vanished. Blinking in utter surprise and shock, Marik stared at the spot where she had been only moments before and then turned his attention back to Rishid. He continued to hold the man's hand tightly, praying desperately for a response. It was a complete mystery to him—who the girl could have been—but he appreciated her coming to him. Later he would try to figure out her identity, but for now he just wanted his brother back. Was it too much?

It had been a long, exhausting day for the boy—he had regained his memories, fought with his Yami, nearly been killed trying to save Ishizu and his new friends, and then had found that his adopted brother was nearly dead. He didn't know if he could take much more. Sobbing uncontrollably, Marik fell across Rishid's body and slipped into a troubled sleep.

****

When Marik slowly awoke shortly afterward, he felt a strong hand on his shoulder and he looked up to see what was happening. "Rishid?" he asked hopefully, recognizing the touch. Partially still in his dream, he fancied that Rishid was perfectly alright and was holding him close by the fireplace in the living room. In reality, the man was still unconscious, but he had apparently sensed his beloved brother's presence and had put his arm around the boy to comfort him.

And Marik *was* comforted. More than anything else, this comforted him. "Oh Rishid . . . you do know I'm here, don't you?" he said, his eyes shining. "You do know! You've known all this time!" He embraced his brother warmly, certain now that Rishid would recover. Now his spirits had been buoyed up. He was encouraged.

It wasn't long after this when Rishid did revive.

Yes, he had always known Marik was with him. His precious brother. . . . And he had known of Ishizu's presence as well. He was surrounded by love. And finally, with his siblings' beside him, he had the strength to return to consciousness. "Marik?" he asked softly, his golden eyes opening. It was fitting that the first sight he saw was his brother. He loved that boy so much!

Marik perked up, his heart thumping wildly again, but this time with anxious joy. "Rishid? Oh, Rishid, are you awake?" he cried in delight, his eyes bright and happy. It had been so long since he had seen those eyes. . . . And they were just as he remembered them—full of endless brotherly love and kindness. Rishid would never change. He would always be devoted to Marik.

"I . . . I was looking for you, Master," Rishid managed to say. "I couldn't ever find you. . . . I . . . I am so sorry. . . ." He shakily reached out a hand and brushed away a tear from Marik's cheek. He berated himself for getting injured this way. Of course, there was nothing he could have done to prevent it, but still he was angry. All he had wanted was to find Marik, the one he loved. The younger brother that he would do anything for.

Marik laid his hand on his adopted brother's shoulder. "It is alright, Rishid. I am the one who should be sorry. You see . . ." He looked down, tears slipping over his cheeks. "If . . . if I hadn't been controlling my Rare Hunters, they wouldn't have turned against me and decided to hurt you as revenge." He spoke in a whisper, ashamed to look Rishid in the eyes.

Rishid looked shocked. "Marik, this wasn't your fault," he reassured him. Oh, this poor soul! He blamed himself every time something happened in which the ex-Rare Hunters were involved. Somehow it had to stop. Rishid was determined to make Marik see that it wasn't his fault. "I could never blame you for this—or for anything." He reached out weakly and pulled the boy close. "Please, Marik, do not blame yourself! Never blame yourself again!"

Now Marik sobbed, joyous because his brother was going to be alright, because he did not blame Marik for what had happened, and also because he himself had finally seen the error of his ways and had repented. It was all so wonderful! So miraculous!

Rishid looked down at Marik with his golden eyes. "Marik, are you alright?" he asked worriedly, feeling the boy shaking in his arms as he cried.

Marik chuckled, his eyes shining as he looked back up at him. "Rishid, I am more alright now than I've been in ages," he said softly. "And I am so blessed to have such a dear, devoted friend and brother as you. Again my world is complete."

Rishid smiled. "I am the blessed one, my brother," he replied. "You and Ishizu make life worth living." He looked up at Ishizu, who had been awake for a while and now watched her brothers reunite with teary eyes. Joyously she came forward, embracing both of her precious family members. Now she could say it was truly over. They were all together once again.

Shadi, watching silently from the door, now turned away in satisfaction. "Everything will be alright now," he said softly. "My work here is done."

Kasumi nodded slowly in agreement. "Yes," she said. "Now that Marik knows that his adopted brother will recover, perhaps his own wounds can begin to heal as well."