I'll Be There

By LuckyLadybug

Notes: Sibling and friendship cuteness abounds! The characters aren't mine and the plot is both mine and the Great RC-neechan's! She also owns Ariadné, Evadné, Rayjay, and Tyler And the sea creatures. I apologize for the removal of the song, but the new policy has forced me to remove it.

The night is lonely.

Rain pounds down on the roof and hood of the car I am in with my siblings as I lean down to gather my younger brother close to me. His body is so stiff, so cold. . . . Somehow I know that he is no longer here, but I can't bear to accept that. He cannot die because I will not let him!

Ishizu looks at me sadly as I finally, reluctantly pull away from Marik's form and hand the boy back to her. There are barbarians outside, ready to kill us all. Whether Marik is now dead or not, I still have a responsibility to protect our sister.

"Rishid, you are too weak to fight," she whispers, gripping my arm as I prepare to leave the safety of the car.

I lay a hand over hers gently, not speaking. That may well be true, but I must try. She understands that. She knows that I cannot stand by and do nothing while wicked men try to harm the ones I love. Even if I were half-dead, I would still struggle to save them.

"Rishid . . ." Ishizu pauses before she speaks again. "I do not wish to lose both of my brothers tonight." She clutches Marik's still form close to her heart, alarmed by the rigidity of his limbs.

My hand is already on the door. But I turn back, my heart wrenched as I realize what she must be going through herself. Our family is being torn apart by this. But I will not let it continue. "You will not," I say softly, smiling kindly before turning back to the task at hand. "I will not perish."

As I step out of the car, ready to meet the foes who are leaving the seclusion of shadows to attack me, a cold wind whistles through the branches of the ghostly trees overhead. There could not be a lonelier spot on this cold earth than here, where my poor brother is laying close to death, if he has not perished already. And now the same brutes who did this to him are returning to cause more anguish.

I narrow my eyes and glare at the demons as they surround and taunt me, daring me to fight. They have already hurt me before. But I do not care about that. I care about what they have done to my brother. My precious brother.

"Brave, noble Rishid," the one in the lead sneers. His face is badly scarred, with hair concealing the eye that he is missing. In his ruddy hands he carries a whip, which he cracks on the ground near me. "You won't let anything happen to your sister, will you? As if you could stop us! You couldn't do anything to prevent your brother from being . . ."

"Silence!" I scream. "You will rightfully suffer for what you did to him!" I am so angry. I am filled with rage. And I know what Marik must have endured when he was fighting the darkness. I want to make these people suffer for tormenting one so young who has already had enough pain. My brother was only sixteen. No . . . he is sixteen.

All of them burst into laughter. "You can barely even stand up after what we did to you before, when you were trying so hard to protect your poor brother!" The second one grins, allowing me to see every one of the yellowing teeth. "If I blew on you now, you'd fall over!" With that they all lunge for me.

I give no reply to the taunting this time and instead struggle to fight them off, even though I know that my opponents speak the truth. Wounds from earlier are reopening. I can feel the burning pain, but I refuse to let it hinder me. I promised Ishizu I would survive this. . . . And I have to save her and Marik. . . . I vowed to do everything in my power to keep them safe. I promised years before, when we were all younger. . . .

One of the men punches me hard, bringing me back to the present. In my weakened condition, this blow nearly sends me to the ground. Normally it wouldn't even faze me. I manage to stay upright, however, and I strike him back in defense.

When I turn, I see a second one making a move toward the automobile where Ishizu is. Furiously I grab him with all of my strength. "Leave her be!" I snarl. "She has done nothing to you!" The thought of him breaking into the car is too much. I can well imagine what he and his friends would wish to do with my poor sister.

The other five choose this time to all pull me to the ground at once, pounding and beating my body. I grab one of them by the ankle and drag him down, but I know that I cannot hold out much longer. Perhaps Ishizu was right. Perhaps . . . I am not able to fight.

"Rishid!" I hear Ishizu's panicked voice cry out, despite the glass of the car windows separating us. I know she wants to come help me, but there is nothing she can do. One of us must stay with Marik. And Ishizu would not be a match for these vultures, especially when I can't even do anything about them. I do wonder if I'm about to die.

"Oh poor Tattoo Face," the third one smirks, seeing my distress as I try to rise. "You're hurt, aren't you?" He raises a foot to strike me again, while at the same time I'm being beaten back to the ground by clubs.

Suddenly there is a bright glow that comes between us. A familiar form begins to materialize right in front of me and my attackers slowly back away in horror, their weapons falling to the ground.

"What's going on?" the one who had been about to kick me yells.

A voice speaks as the glow diminishes. A stern, powerful, angry voice. And I cannot believe what I am hearing. "Leave Rishid alone!" It is my brother's voice. Faintly I can see his form as the glow fades. I don't understand. . . . It's Marik . . . but how? How could he possibly be here? And why would he glow, unless . . . unless. . . .

I continue to stare at him in disbelief. "Brother! . . . Marik!" I gasp. He looks so healthy . . . so strong. . . . There is nothing about him to indicate that he was recently hurt so abominably. . . . He looks alive and well.

Marik turns and gives me a smile when he hears me speak. Everything about him is the same, except . . . I realize how transparent he is appearing. He does not possess a mortal body.

And I cannot understand. "How?" I manage to ask.

"You were in trouble, Rishid," Marik replies softly. "And so I have come to protect you, as you have always protected me." His form shimmers as he reaches out a hand to help me up.

I am too weak to stand, but I smile up at him as I take his hand. "Brother . . ." Though he is translucent, I still have a certain sensation, as if I truly am able to hold onto his hand. It comforts me immensely, especially in light of everything that I am realizing.

Vaguely I hear one of the thugs scream, "That's the kid we ran down earlier!" He and the others back away even more, their eyes wide with horror. Again memories flash through my mind. I hear Marik's cry of agony. I see his poor body laying on the ground. Again I feel the stiffness of his form as I had held him, trying in vain to comfort his tortured mind. But the hand I am gripping now is not stiff. It is warm and vibrant.

Marik narrows his eyes as he looks at the evildoers now. "That is correct," he says coldly. "You ran me down. You tried to kill me. But it doesn't matter what you do—you cannot stop me from coming to protect the ones I love from your madness. I won't let what you did to me happen to Rishid."

I gaze up at him as he defies the bullies. . . . He stands so firm, so regal. . . . He is my dear brother, willing to do anything for me, and for Ishizu and for young Mokuba as well. Everything that has happened in the past hours seems so unbelievable now. . . . We have been abducted, tortured. . . . Marik has been the victim of more madness that has since thrown him into a coma. . . . But now he stands before me, looking more alive and well than I have seen him look in a long while.

Or his spirit does. Ishizu, in the automobile, is still holding our brother's body. But this . . . this doesn't mean that . . . that he is dead . . . does it?

There. I have spoken my fear—that my brother has perished. My worst fear. . . . It hasn't been made manifest. . . . It can't have been! I refuse to believe that it has.


This all began with a strange trip to a lakeside town where a crooked woman gives money to the greed-filled citizens so that they will do whatever she wants. The curator of the museum there wanted Ishizu to come study some new artifacts and so Marik and I accompanied her to the strange and eerie town. We soon found that Seto Kaiba was attending a meeting elsewhere in the business district and that Mokuba had come along with him. Mokuba promptly discovered the existence of some strange creatures in the lake and then the woman who manipulated the town decided that she wanted to find and sell them. Her way of finding out consisted of abducting Marik and myself in order to force Mokuba to tell her everything he knew.

The both of us were ambushed late that night behind the hotel we were staying at by several of the same villains who have attacked us again subsequently. We were quite able to hold our own during the first part of the battle, but then I saw Marik grappling with the woman hired to be in charge of this foul operation and about to be struck with a heavy pipe. Instantly I ran forward in a fury, snatching the pipe in my hand. "Do not harm this boy!" I warned, in my anger nearly causing the cylinder to bend.

The woman, who I leaned later was Ariadné, smirked at me. "So you know each other," she remarked, seeing the way I was regarding Marik so protectively. "I thought so. Both of you will be very useful to me." Without warning she kicked me harshly and pulled out another pipe, which she used to shove against my chest. I let out a gasp of pain, trying to get it away before it plunged through my flesh. This woman was strong. But I would not allow myself to be defeated by her.

Marik sprang forward then, shoving her aside. "Leave him alone, you witch!" he yelled, bringing her to the ground. Hatred flamed in his lavender eyes as he gripped her shoulders, pinning her down.

Ariadné's own eyes flashed. "You dare to call me a witch!" From her expression, I gathered that Marik had not been the first to say such a thing . . . nor would he be the first to suffer for it.

But Marik was undaunted nevertheless. "I do dare, and I'll say it again," he retorted immediately. From the look in his eyes, I could tell that he wanted desperately to get very violent with this person but was trying to restrain himself—which isn't always an easy thing for him to do. Always he has had a problem controlling his temper, though he has diligently tried of late to make a special effort to do so. He knows that it disturbs Ishizu and I when he explodes with rage, and he himself isn't especially fond of that part of his personality.

Furiously Ariadné threw him backward and stood over his sprawled, dazed form. "I'll show you 'witch'!" she hissed, raising a high-heel adorned foot to press into his exposed stomach.

Instantly I was there. "Harm him and I will show you no mercy," I growled, grabbing her ankle viciously and causing her to fall. I myself have a problem keeping my temper under control when I know someone is deliberately trying to harm my siblings. It angers me to no end. And I felt no pity for Ariadné when she fell. The heel of her shoe could ry well have pierced Marik's flesh.

Before I could help Marik up from where he was still laying on the concrete, a sharp pain abruptly struck me in the back of my neck. I stumbled back, reaching up to pull a dart out of my skin. Everything started to waver before my eyes and I knew I was about to go under. My thoughts, which were becoming less coherent and more absurd, were that I wondered if I were being punished for my feelings of rage only a moment previous. But then I knew that wasn't true. I had only been trying to protect my brother, even if I had been angry and hateful toward Ariadné inwardly. I would not be punished for trying to keep a loved one safe.

"Rishid!" Marik screamed. He leaped up and ran over to me. "Rishid!" His hand gripped my shoulder but I was barely conscious of it. I could hear the panic in his voice. He was very fearful for me. But I was fearful only of what would happen to him now that I wouldn't be able to protect him. Marik is a good fighter, but he can still be defeated. As can we all.

I felt him catch me as I descended into darkness.

Light and knowledge again flooded my senses sometime later. I do not know how long I was unconscious. I remember only reviving very slowly and discovering I was laying on a hard, tiled floor. A body was laying next to me, and when my vision cleared, I saw that it was Marik. A still and motionless Marik.

Quickly I pulled myself up and gathered him into my arms. The first thing I worried was that he was dead. He was so limp in my arms it was like holding a ragdoll. "Marik?" I whispered in concern, praying that he had only been rendered unconscious by a tranquilizer, as I had been. Carefully I brushed the long bangs away from his face, clearly seeing the slightly pained expression. I held him closer to me, vowing that if he was badly hurt, the ones who had done it would pay.

But his eyes flickered open, much to my immense relief. "Rishid?" He smiled weakly and looked up at me. "You're alright." And so was he.

Relieved that he had revived, I helped him to sit up and watched as he looked around.

"Where are we?" he asked in a rasping tone, leaning forward and letting his hair fall back over his eyes.

"I do not know," I replied quietly.

We both slowly stood up, looking for the way out. The room was very sparsely decorated, the only furniture being a low table and one or two lamps mounted on the walls. The only exit we could find was a door that was very tightly locked.

I was preparing to throw myself against it when it opened and several new thugs—numbering about a dozen—came in. "Well, well, so you're both awake," the one in the lead grinned. "That'll make it all the more fun to torment you." He tapped the club in his hand, a sadistic look in his dark eyes.

"What's going on here?" Marik demanded. He was not going to take this calmly, and neither was I.

Instantly one of the bullies leaned down and tried to grab him. "Oh, just a little plot that you're both deeply in the middle of," he smiled maniacally. "Evadné knows how to get what she wants. And the both of you are gonna help with this, whether you agree or not." Calmly he began explaining of Evadné's scheme to get the sea creatures, all the while trying to restrain Marik so that one of the others could strip him of his shirt and whip him.

Marik jerked away from his grip and I moved to stand in front of him. "You will not touch him!" I snarled.

"Oh, so you wanna get hurt first, eh?" The ruffian cracked his knuckles. "Fine with me!"

Marik peered out from behind me, looking furious. "You have no right to hurt him!" he yelled. Angrily he stepped out, fire burning in his eyes. I knew he would not let me shield him. If our roles had been reversed, I wouldn't have allowed it either. Both of us are more than willing to fight if we must. The last thing we would want is to endanger the other by hiding behind them and appearing cowardly.

Before I could prevent it, a club suddenly struck me harshly between my shoulder blades and nearly caused me to lose my balance. But I forced myself to remain standing. I couldn't let those monsters get at Marik. Always I will do everything in my power to protect him, no matter what it might cost me.

Then we were surrounded by all twelve of the diabolical fiends, each one brandishing a deadly weapon. They all charged at once, and we tried to fight them off as best as we could, but with twelve of them and only two of us it wasn't easy. Bodies flew past us and over our heads as we struggled, and every now and then I lost track of Marik in the melee.

But he hadn't lost track of me. A scream met my ears and I looked up to see him double over, blood seeping between his fingers as he tightly held his hand over a fresh dagger wound in his shoulder. I knew that I would have been stabbed had he not gotten in the way.

"Marik!" I cried, lunging at the evildoer who had hurt him. The fiend tried to use the dagger again, this time to get me and not miss, and suddenly pain exploded through my body as a hard crowbar struck me repeatedly from behind.

"Get away from him!" Marik yelled, jumping my attacker and struggling with him.

But I had already been badly beaten. My legs crumpled underneath me and I fell to the ground, unable to stay standing. "Marik . . . don't . . ." I rasped as I was hit one final time. I could hear Marik's cry of pain as he was thrown to the floor.

The thug now turned to face Marik as the boy shakily rose. An evil grin was twisting the villain's features as he held up the crowbar to strike Marik.

But Marik faced him boldly, his eyes narrowed in outrage. "You will pay for this!" he screamed just as two more of the bullies ambushed him. "You've hurt him! You've hurt my brother!" He fought madly against their viselike grips, kicking and punching.

I struggled to regain my balance. "Leave him alone," I growled, swaying violently.

"Yeah? Who's gonna stop us?" one of them smirked.

Marik punched him harshly and looked at me, his eyes wide with worry. "Rishid!" he cried, pointing to something behind me as he wrenched himself free.

Abruptly I was tackled by another of the creatures. I shoved him as hard as I could and then slid one of Marik's attackers across the floor, as I found I was much too weak to do much else. My vision was slowly starting to go by now and dark circles were reappearing every time I blinked.

"You're spoiling all the fun!" the sixth one hissed, kicking me hard.

"Stop it! STOP IT!" Marik screamed, jumping him from behind and striking him with a karate chop.

I watched in anger as our tormentor threw the boy into the wall and then I rushed at the evil man, thinking of nothing except forcing him to leave Marik alone. "Do not touch him!" I heard myself booming. Bringing him to the floor, I managed to overpower and render him unconscious. I prayed he would not regain his senses for a long while.

The third one hit poor Marik and then myself as well and stood back, enjoying himself and the torture he'd just caused. "I guess that's good enough for now," he said. "But the longer you two stay here, the more roughed up you're gonna be. Especially the kid." With a snap of his fingers, he and the others carried their injured cronies out and then locked the door.

I tried to make my way to the door before it shut, but I soon collapsed to my knees and was unable to. I had been hurt more than I was willing to admit. My body felt as if it were on fire. And my head was pounding. The urge to lay down and immediately sink into oblivion was overwhelming. But I had to stay awake. I fought for consciousness.


I looked up to see Marik coming over to me. He knelt down, his face mirroring his immense concern for my welfare. Blood dripped from his poor shoulder, but he ignored his injuries, as he always does.

"Are you . . . hurt badly?" I asked him, my vision beginning to swim again.

Marik shook his head. "No, Rishid. You are hurt far worse than I am." He laid his hand on my shoulder, staring into my eyes. "I need to help you before . . ." He swallowed hard. "Before it gets any worse. . . ." Carefully he brushed blood away from over my eye. I knew then that I must have had more injuries than even I knew about.

But I stared back at him, trying to smile. "Do not worry about me, Marik," I whispered, my breathing growing labored. "I will live . . . do not worry. . . ." I was certain I would live, though the pain was extremely taxing. How badly had I been hurt! And more importantly, what about Marik! Was he hurt more than I could see? Was the shoulder wound deep?

The boy embraced me then, his hands shaking. I slumped into his arms, unable to stop myself. I could feel his tears splashing on my head.

"Rishid!" Marik cried, his voice climbing. "Rishid! Say something!"

I struggled to speak again. "I am . . . alright," I managed to say. Realizing that I was going to swoon whether I wanted to or not, I choked out that I was sorry before again feeling the darkness overcome me.

The next thing I remembered hearing was Marik's panicked voice.

"Rishid?" he was saying. "Please wake up . . . please . . . don't leave me! Not now, not ever!" His voice cracked and he held me closer. I was still partially in his arms as he knelt on the cold floor. Marik wouldn't say so aloud, but I knew he was feeling scared and alone. He hates feeling alone.

I tried to move to let him know that I was awake. I felt Marik perk up when I did. "Brother?" he said hopefully. "Rishid!"

Forcing my eyes open, I stared first at the ceiling above us and then right through Marik as I tried to focus. All I could see were vague shadows and the thought went through me that I might be going blind. I wasn't sure how long this went on, but poor Marik apparently was afraid that I didn't recognize him. "Rishid!" he whispered now. "Can you speak!"

I couldn't at the moment, but I was able to give him a small smile. Slowly he became visible to me, much to my relief. I had not been rendered sightless.

Marik brightened and hugged me gently. "Rishid . . ." I could hear him whispering a prayer of gratitude under his breath. "You're alright!" he said softly to me, his head against my shoulder. Somehow I knew that he had not treated his own wounds, though he had tended to mine.

We gazed into each other's eyes again, each filled with many emotions. "Be . . . strong," I managed to quietly tell my brother. I wanted to add that he needed to clean and bandage his shoulder, but my voice had left me.

"I will, Rishid, I will," Marik replied shakily. "I won't give up."

He blinked when I managed to touch his wounded shoulder and then held my red fingers up for him to see. But he understood. Laughing softly, he promised that he would see about the injury. After that I slipped into a state of semi-consciousness.

The next few hours were such a blur to me. I barely remember any of it now. After a while Marik and I were forcefully separated and I was beaten unconscious once again, too weak to fight my attackers off. I still remember the biting pain of their sharp weapons. . . . The talons of the barbed whip. . . . And the crushing blows of the clubs. But fearing that Marik might be going through the same thing made it all even worse. I would have failed him for certain. Those were my last thoughts before the shadows had again claimed me.

When I finally came to myself once more, I felt a soft surface underneath me. Obviously I had been moved. And I doubted that my enemies had done it. My body still ached, but the pain had dulled a bit. I could feel that my hand was being grasped, and I prayed it was my dear brother and that he was safe.

As before, I tried to pry my eyes open. This time it was easier and I was able to focus almost instantly. Marik was, indeed, the one holding my hand, and accompanying him was a strange woman I hadn't ever seen before. But Marik didn't seem concerned about her presence, so I assumed that she was an ally.

"Rishid?" Marik said happily, squeezing my hand. His shirt had been removed and his shoulder was bandaged. He had various bruises and scrapes over his body, but thankfully nothing looked too serious.

"Marik," I rasped, looking over at him. Perhaps I couldn't show much emotion at this point, but inwardly I was rejoicing. Marik truly was safe! This meant more to me than anything else.

"Hey," the woman spoke up, "don't talk. You need to rest." She gave me a stern look.

But I ignored her, struggling to get my feelings across. "Marik . . . I . . ."

Marik gave me a kind smile. "What is it, my brother?" he asked, seeing that I found it vastly important to get my message across to him.

"I . . . I'm sorry," I whispered. ". . . Couldn't . . . protect you . . ." For though he was safe now, I knew that I had had nothing to do with that. He was injured! I hadn't been able to stop those demons from harming him, even though I had tried hard. And he could have gotten beaten as I had. I know it could have happened.

Marik blinked, looking surprised. "I'm alright, Rishid," he said firmly. "My brother, you did protect me! I'm certain I'd be dead if you hadn't been there." He looked at me with such conviction that he almost had me believing him. And perhaps . . . perhaps there was some truth in his words. They might have killed him back in that room. But he was alive still. And knowing that I may actually have had a part in keeping him alive comforted me immensely. Even though he was injured, he would get better.

I smiled weakly, feeling my eyes close again.

The next time I awoke, Marik was lifting me up gently and trying not to hurt me worse. He had his shirt on again and the bandaged wound was no longer visible to me. Seeing that I had regained consciousness, he spoke to me quietly as he tried to help me stand. "I'm sorry, Rishid. We have to leave," he said. "We've been found." As he said this last part, his voice took on a dark tone and his eyes narrowed.

I stared at the unfamiliar surroundings. "Where . . . are we?" It was a pleasant room that spoke of an obviously doting parent. Pictures of a little girl were everywhere, chronicling her short life. When I saw a more recent picture, I realized she was the same girl who had been helping me earlier. All of this baffled me completely. I couldn't imagine who the girl was or why she was assisting us.

"It's Officer Tyler's home," Marik replied then. Tyler is one of the only ones in the entire town who hasn't accepted the crooked woman's money. "He and his daughter have been helping us."

Ishizu, who had been there as well but had remained mostly silent, gently took hold of my other arm as I eased myself up more and leaned on Marik inadvertently. "Are you well enough to walk, Rishid?" she asked quietly, her blue eyes bespeaking her concern. "When you were found . . ." She trailed off, deciding not to say what was on her mind. But Marik was thinking of it. I could tell from his suddenly stricken expression. I must have been found in a state of deep unconsciousness, perhaps with blood all around me. My heart pained at the thought of my siblings finding me like that and becoming so distraught.

Wanting to assure them both that I was fine, I smiled and made an attempt to stand on my own. In this I failed, and my younger siblings hastened to catch me before I could fall.

"I will be able to walk," I said then as I took a deep breath, "with assistance. . . ."

I stumbled along, Marik and Ishizu supporting me, as we went to the back of the house and entered a dark tunnel. Suddenly noticing Seto Kaiba carrying Mokuba, I wondered what had happened. Quietly Marik explained that Mokuba had found out we had been abducted and had tried to save us both. Evadné had then kidnapped him and forced him to drink a truth serum, and he'd been ill ever since. Seto Kaiba and Tyler had then stormed Evadné's house and rescued us all, but Mokuba, understandably, still was not feeling up to par.

Without warning the wicked woman was suddenly standing in front of us. "Now, really," she purred, "didn't you think I'd know all the escape routes from your house?" I learned later that she had once been married to Tyler and had helped raise his daughter, Rayjay—who was from a previous marriage. "Aren't you happy to see me?" Evadné smirked now.

"Oh, it's always a pleasure," Tyler replied sarcastically.

In the darkness behind us, Kaiba growled angrily. I knew he was holding Mokuba close to his heart protectively.

Evadné turned to look at him. "Now. You know what I want. Give him to me!" Her voice boomed throughout the narrow tunnel, giving her the authoritative, commanding tone she obviously wanted.

"Never!" was Kaiba's resounding response. He sounded just as commanding as Evadné and full of the determination and stubbornness that he has been known for. Of course he would never give in. He loves Mokuba as much as I love Marik and Ishizu.

Tyler withdrew his gun at the same time Kaiba spoke, pointing the weapon at his ex-wife warningly. He was about to speak when Evadné gestured above us to where three of her henchmen were standing with rifles raised. "I'm sure you don't want any innocent people to get hurt," she said, satisfied with herself and this plan. "Give me the child!"

"NO!" Kaiba yelled, holding Mokuba's body close to his. "I'll never let slime such as you take my little brother!" His blue eyes burned and it was obvious that he would fight to the death for Mokuba's safety.

Abruptly Evadné froze up and fell over. I was puzzled at first, but then Rayjay emerged from the shadows triumphantly, a metal pipe in her hand. "Hey, Mother. Did you miss me? 'Cause I didn't miss you," she smirked, twirling the object about.

She looked up at the three gunmen. "Shall we see who's the better shot?"

The assassins dropped their guns in reply, not wanting to take a chance. Rayjay, I learned later, was the best sharpshooter in the town. The hired killers were wise to surrender.

We journeyed through the tunnel for a while longer in peace. None of us said much. I was still in pain and trying to concentrate on walking. Kaiba was worried about his brother. Marik and Ishizu both seemed lost in thought. Each time we turned a corner I thought we were almost to the exit, but the tunnels were endless. I wondered just how much of the city they snaked under. In some ways, it all reminded me of our home back in Egypt. But eventually we turned the last corner and came to a ladder leading to the outside world.

Marik, coming back to the present, looked at me worriedly, as did Ishizu. "Can you climb up?" she asked me.

I studied the ladder. By now I had regained some of my strength since the fight and thought that I would be able to scale it easily. "I can," I said at last. Slowly I managed to make my ascent and the others followed. I nearly lost my balance at one point, and it wasn't easy for Kaiba to climb up while holding his poor brother, but we finally did reach the top unscathed. Our problems were far from over, however.

A gun clicked as soon as we arrived outside and then Ariadné's foul voice came from the shadows. "Don't move."

Marik froze, his eyes narrowing angrily. The rest of us stopped as well, and I was grateful to be at my brother's side. If Ariadné tried to harm him, I could still get in the way and take the hit in his place.

"Now," Ariadné sneered, stepping out, "you know what Evadné wants." In her hands she held a revolver, which she clutched as if her life depended on it. Perhaps the woman might have appeared beautiful, had she not been engaged in such abominable acts.

"And she won't get it," Kaiba retorted, continuing to hold his brother protectively.

Glaring at him, Ariadné then trained the gun on Rayjay. "Unlike my sister, I don't care if you die or not," she said to the young girl.

She and Rayjay both fired at the same time, with Ariadné emerging as the loser as she gained a bullet wound in the shoulder. Rayjay again was undefeated.

Unseen by all of us while this was going on, Evadné snuck up behind Kaiba and injected him with a sleeping dart when he sensed her there and turned to grab at her. Marik spun around when he heard the other boy fall and witnessed Evadné taking Mokuba right out of his arms. She kicked Kaiba hatefully before climbing into a nearby automobile, along with Ariadné.

This infuriated Marik extremely. Here was his young friend, whom he cared so much about, being taken away from his elder brother when he was ill! "Come back here!" my brother yelled, charging forward. "I will not let you take Mokuba!" Using the Rod he managed to shoot off one of the side mirrors, but not even that blasted weapon could save him from what happened next.

The merciless driver sped up without warning and his car connected with Marik's body, causing him to fly up across the windshield. I heard the most agonized cry tear from the boy's lips as the weight of the automobile slammed into his form. Then he was falling down to the ground, where he lay so very still and never moved. The Rod slipped from his hand to fall beside him, covered in his blood.

A horrified scream echoed around us as Ishizu clapped a hand to her mouth. "BROTHER!" she yelled, running to his side as the vehicle drove off. "Marik! Oh Marik!" She touched his shoulder as gently as she dared and he moaned softly, trying to move but finding the effort too much. Tears gathered in Ishizu's eyes as she saw this.

My eyes were wide with alarm as I stumbled over and stared at his poor body. How could someone do this! I screamed in my mind. How could they! Marik hadn't done anything wrong! At first I could not think what to do. My mind was confused by the harsh blows I had received earlier, and it seemed all I could do was stare dumbly. It was so unreal to me. I absolutely could not believe it had happened . . . yet I knew it had. But still I kept telling myself that Marik was only stunned. The car hadn't hurt him badly and in a moment he would get up and scream that we had to get Mokuba back, the fire burning in his lavender eyes.

Gently Ishizu gathered Marik into her arms, panic washing over her. "Brother?" she whispered. She cradled him as close as she dared, silver tears cascading down her sweet face and adorning Marik's blonde hair. She knew the truth that I could not admit—Marik was hurt, perhaps seriously.

Barely conscious, Marik somehow reached up and grabbed at her dress. "Please . . . please get Mokuba back," he choked out, his voice pained. I could see that his bones had not been damaged, but he had obviously been through a horrendous shock. Yes, still he was thinking of his friend, as I had known he would, but he wasn't getting up. And a sick feeling enveloped me as I realized that he wasn't going to.

Ishizu held him tightly. "Do not worry . . . we will," she assured him, kissing his forehead.

At last the confusion left my mind and I knelt down next to him, tears pricking at my eyes. "Marik . . ." I could barely manage to say his name. My voice was breaking as I felt the tears rising to my eyes. It was hard to even look at Marik when he was laying like this. No longer was he the passionately vibrant, immensely stubborn boy I am used to. Now he looked so frail and helpless!

He looked over at me and smiled weakly. "Rishid . . . brother . . ." Shakily he reached out for my hand and groped for it, unable to find where I was in the growing confusion he was feeling.

Tenderly I took his hand between mine. Blood trickled through my fingers and immediately became diluted by the falling crystalline drops as his poor, tormented body went limp and his grasp on both Ishizu and me loosened. I watched in horror through my cloudy eyes.

Tears slipped down Ishizu's own cheeks as she cradled him in her arms. She could not speak.

"Marik," I whispered again, wishing for a response. I knew I wouldn't get one.

Vaguely I could hear Tyler saying something about getting Marik someplace where he could rest and Kaiba waking up from the dart and berating himself for letting Mokuba get abducted, but my attention was on my poor brother. I knew that it wouldn't be safe to take him to a hospital, not with nearly the entire city working for Evadné. But . . . how long would Marik last? Would he . . . would he. . . . No! He would not die! I wouldn't let him! I couldn't let him! I would sooner die myself than allow him to perish.

Over the course of the next few hours, we found a new hideout and Rayjay quietly left to get Mokuba back. She returned with him a while later, but he was suffering from amnesia due to the intake of the truth serum. He did remember Kaiba, much to the boy's relief. But he recalled no one and nothing else.

Marik hadn't stirred at all since we had brought him there and treated the various cuts he had sustained. Now Ishizu stroked his hair sadly and exchanged a look with me that said, What shall we do? Not knowing how to answer, I looked away and prayed that our brother would regain consciousness and be alright. But there was the very real possibility that he would not, no matter how I wanted to ignore it. Tenderly I touched the rough bump under the youth's hair. I didn't know whether the car or the sidewalk had caused that, but it didn't really matter which. What mattered was that someone had been so cruel as to deliberately run into my brother with their automobile. And now he wouldn't wake up.

Rayjay and Tyler began questioning us about the sea creatures Mokuba saw. Since he didn't remember, they hoped that he had told us about them in the past. I replied that we had actually seen one of the creatures in a cave not far from where we were. Before long we all were setting out to find this cave.

Ishizu looked at me worriedly as I lifted Marik into my arms. "Can you manage, Rishid?" she asked, knowing I was still very sore and weak.

I nodded in response, holding Marik's lifeless body close to me. It was painful to carry him, but I didn't care. Marik is my entire life. Everything I do is for him. Without him, and Ishizu, it would be impossible for me to find something worth living for.

As we climbed into the car and drove away, Mokuba's curious voice spoke up. "What happened to him?" he wanted to know, looking at Marik with wide blue-gray eyes.

"I'm told he was hit by a car," Kaiba told him slowly. From the way he said "I'm told," it was obvious that he was still blaming himself for not being able to fend off Evadné's attack and winding up rendered senseless.

Mokuba looked down. "Oh," he said softly, obviously not remembering his friend at all, but sad that someone had been harmed in such an atrocious way.

"He was hit trying to save you from Evadné," Ishizu put in then, feeling that Mokuba should know the whole story even if he didn't recall what Marik meant to him. Marik had struggled so valiantly to rescue his young friend, and now he had nearly been killed because of it.

Mokuba was silent at that, but I could tell that he felt bad that he didn't remember. Kaiba squeezed his hand comfortingly.

I chose this moment to gaze down at our brother again. Marik laid across Ishizu's and my laps, very comatose and unresponsive to all our attempts to bring him back to us. But still we tried. I remember touching his uninjured shoulder and feeling how cold his flesh was becoming. In desperation I wrapped him in my cloak. Marik would not suffer the coldness that nothing would warm. He would only endure cold from the surrounding temperatures. But never from death!

When we arrived at the cave, Ishizu and I remained behind to care for our brother. He made no improvements during the hour or more that we were there and by the time Tyler had brought a truck to haul the strange creature out of the pond in the cave and to the lake, Marik seemed to have gotten worse, if anything.

"If only we could do something!" Ishizu whispered, feeling helpless. "He is so selfless . . . so brave . . ." Gently she brushed his long bangs away from his closed eyes.

"He would do anything for either of us and Mokuba," I agreed, blinking back tears of anger and worry. If only we could take him to a hospital and determine his condition! But under the circumstances, such was impossible. If we stumbled upon the doctors working for Evadné, they would do everything in their power to make certain Marik died. No, he was safer with us. But still I feared for his life.

Ishizu's voice broke into my thoughts. "That he would," she nodded shakily in agreement, placing her fingers under his choker to check his pulse. "He is noble and kind." Discovering that his pulse was faint, but steady, she smiled softly. Our brother still lived.

The lake seemed quiet enough by the time we arrived, but that was only what our enemies wanted us to think. Soon Rayjay and Tyler left to help Kaiba and Mokuba get the young sea creature into the water. I had learned that Mokuba had regained his memory in the cave while talking to Kaiba and now felt sick about his best friend being struck by a car.

"I'm sorry," the young boy whispered, tears gathering in his eyes as he turned to leave. "This is my fault. Marik's hurt because of me. . . ." He gazed at his friend in horror, unsure of what to do.

"No," Ishizu replied with conviction. "Marik did this freely. You have nothing to be sorry for, Mokuba. Just be grateful you have such a friend." She smiled softly, holding our brother a bit closer.

Mokuba at last smiled faintly as well. "I am," he acknowledged, touching Marik's shoulder. "Well . . . I . . . I guess I'll see you later, buddy." He spoke in low tones to his friend, his voice catching as memories came into his mind. "Just . . . stay here for us, won't you?" Marik didn't move and Mokuba sighed sadly as he turned away. "I don't want you to go," I heard him whisper.

I wanted to tell Mokuba that Marik would, of course, stay here. But I couldn't know for a surety that he would. And it made my heart ache anew.

The minutes passed slowly at first. The rain started to fall shortly after the others departed, the mournful plink-plinks adding to the sadness of our situation. That was when I heard a slight noise behind the car and saw our enemies approach. We were under attack. I would have to fight once again. And though Ishizu protested vehemently, there was nothing she could say that would change my mind.

"I will die to protect you both," I told her. And I nearly did—until our dear brother's spirit came to assist me.

End Flashback

"So. Does anyone care to go against me?" Marik asks, crossing his arms. His hair blows slightly in the wind and his eyes are cold. Though he has already seen much pain and sorrow, he stands ready to accept whatever is dealt out to him now. The marks under his eyes appear to be battle scars from a war in which he has emerged the victor. He looks majestic.

"We can't fight a ghost!" the first bully retorts angrily, obviously drawing the conclusion that Marik is dead. To prove his point, he reaches out and his hand passes through my brother. All of them gasp.

A cold chill comes over me at this sight. Marik cannot be dead. . . . It wouldn't happen. . . . It never could. . . . These thoughts have been almost inseparable from me in the past few moments. I simply cannot fathom that my brother will no longer be in this mortal realm.

At last the third attacker speaks up. "Forget him! Let's get down to the lake and not waste our time here!" His eyes are wild with fright as he drops the fierce weapon he has been holding. All he wants is to get away from my brother.

The others are quick to agree with him and soon they have all fled into the distance, screaming something about ghosts.

I smirk at them and then look up worriedly at the spectral form hovering in front of me. "You aren't dead . . . are you, brother?" I ask, dreading the answer. But still I must ask the question, no matter how much it pains me. Marik is so transparent . . . and yet I can still see all of his features clearly. His skin is still obviously the same tan . . . his hair is still the same blonde . . . but I am able to see through it all to the trees behind him.

Marik looks at me and shakes his head. "Not really," he tells me. "I'm not really dead." This can be interpreted in several ways, however, and I am not certain what he means by it.

Quickly he changes the subject before I can ask. "But are you alright, Rishid?" he asks worriedly, seeing how I struggle to stand and fail.

"Yes," I reply, grabbing for the nearest firm object. "I will be fine."

"Then . . ." Marik pauses, looking out at the lake. "Perhaps I am needed elsewhere now. . . ." He looks reluctant, however, and I sense he doesn't want to leave me here in my condition.

"Go to them, brother," I rasp. "I will get back in the car with Ishizu and be fine." I long to tell him to return to us, but the words won't come.

Marik lays a translucent hand on my shoulder and tries to help me stand up straight. "Tell Ishizu not to worry," he whispers, vanishing into nothing. "And I love you both!" his voice calls.

A tear falls from my eye. "I love you as well, dear brother." I don't know that I will ever see him again in this mortal realm. My heart has never felt more shattered. Marik's words . . . they were almost like a goodbye in some ways. . . .

What if they were? What if Marik has said farewell?

I cannot help it. The tears overflow.

Marik's Point of View

I don't understand what's happened to me.

It feels so strange . . . to be out of my body this way. . . . Even I do not know if I will be able to return to it. I only know that I was allowed to come to the aid of those I love more than life itself and I am very grateful for this. But when this is over, I just want to go back. That isn't so wrong, is it? To want to stay with my siblings and Mokuba? That can't be wrong.

After talking to Rishid, now I have materialized near the lake, right in front of Mokuba. "Hello," I greet the fiend who is trying to shoot the boy with a tranquilizer dart.

His mouth drops open and he lets loose with a scream, which increases as the sea creature suddenly bites him on the leg. Mokuba kicks him in the same spot and then looks up at me in astonishment. "Marik!" he exclaims, his eyes wide.

I chuckle. "Well . . . kind of," I reply, rubbing the back of my neck.

Mokuba stares at my transparent form, but I can tell he doesn't quite comprehend things. Then again, I really don't either, so we're even.

The thug is still screaming. "Ghosts . . . vicious monsters . . . bratty kids . . . what next!" He rubs at his injured leg, looking angry enough to punch through metal.

Kaiba smirks, coming up stealthily. "Older brothers," he says, delivering a knock-out punch. "Never let yourself get distracted." He stands over the fallen body coldly, his trenchcoat blowing out in the breeze.

Mokuba grins at us both. "Thanks!" he exclaims. He hugs his brother and goes to give me a high-five, but a squeal alerting us all to the fact that the sea creature has just gotten stuck trying to cross over a huge log in its path stops him. I am a bit relieved, actually. What if Mokuba tried to high-five me and my hand went through his? It's true that earlier I had been able to touch Rishid, but I think that was felt through more mental abilities than anything physical. And perhaps, for some reason, it wouldn't work at all with Mokuba.

My friend looks up when he hears the wail. "Oh great," he sighs once he sees the sea creature's plight. He and Kaiba struggle to push the animal over the log while I float about and stay on guard for any possible attacks. Sometimes I am able to stay on solid ground, but other times I seem to take flight without me actually doing anything. I don't know why this is.

"Look out!" I cry suddenly, spotting the treacherous sisters Ariadné and Evadné coming towards them in a boat. Evadné is holding a tranquilizer gun again, which she now raises threateningly.

"Keep on pushing him!" Mokuba calls to his brother, running down the dock and apparently intending to leap on board the approaching boat to delay the sisters' approach. But that is foolhardy!

"Mokuba! It's too dangerous!" I yell, floating down beside him. Mokuba stops and glares up at me. He seems about to say something, but then is interrupted by the sound of crashing waters.

Abruptly a huge wave has begun to build as the creature's parent heads for the shore. Mokuba's expression changes from irritation to surprise and then to a mischievous grin, watching as the boat is overturned while the mother goes to get her child. But the danger has hardly passed.

"The wave is coming this way," I warn. Mokuba nods, fleeing back down the dock. But not in time.

The water splashes over everything and everyone, leaving people, trees, and the dock drenched. I feel nothing as the liquid goes right through me, and the realization of this is eerie. When the wave recedes at last, Mokuba is nowhere to be found.

My throat constricts in alarm. "Mokuba!" I call frantically. "Where are you! MOKUBA!" He is only a child. . . . What if he has been swept away by the icy water? He wouldn't be able to withstand a harsh current! If only I had my blasted body back! I could have protected him. But instead I was unable to do anything for him.

Kaiba, soaking wet and unhappy, is also calling for the missing boy. He realizes at the same time as I do that he must be in the water, and at that moment Mokuba breaks through to the surface, gasping for breath.

"I'm caught on something!" he screams before disappearing below once more. Bubbles rise to the surface ominously and my friend does not reappear.

Kaiba and I both dive into the water instantly, searching for him frantically. The water is dark and it is almost impossible for either of us to see anything. Fish swim past us, looking almost annoyed that we have entered their turf. But Kaiba ignores them, pressing on to find the light of his life.

Mokuba is near the bottom. We discover that his leg is being wrapped in some of the rope that runs under the dock. He is trying desperately to untangle himself, but he is fading fast.

"Mokuba! Hold on, we'll get you free!" I yell, unaffected by the water all around me. I want to help Kaiba undo the ropes, but my hands pass through. Mokuba seems to have fallen unconscious now, and he doesn't notice. I am not certain he even realizes we have come for him.

Kaiba at last manages to set him loose and breaks through to the surface again. I quickly follow, becoming increasingly frantic as I see that my friend is not moving or breathing. He lays still in Kaiba's arms, his young body drenched and his long hair sticking to every part of visible flesh. His complexion has turned a sickly shade of pale blue. I fear the worst.

"Mokuba?" Kaiba whispers, laying Mokuba on the dock and trying to press gently on his chest. "Come on, kid . . . please . . ." He cares not that the tears are gathering in his eyes, nor does he care that anyone is watching. The only important thing to him now is that Mokuba isn't moving.

Rayjay comes over to lend her assistance and I stand by, watching them worriedly before laying my hand on Mokuba's shoulder. "Please . . . fight, my friend," I tell him. "I know you can do it!" Surely . . . he is not dead. In my current condition . . . wouldn't I see his spirit if he was?

Now Kaiba's tears splash onto Mokuba's pale face. "Little brother . . . I love you so much," he says softly. I have never seen the cold-hearted businessman act so lost and alone. When I had first seen him back during the onset of Battle City, I hadn't been certain if he even had a heart at all. But when I saw how he cared for his younger brother, I knew that he had to. He just kept it bottled up and hidden. As I myself had at that point.

Suddenly Mokuba tenses, coughing violently as breath returns to him. He chokes on the water he swallowed and then shivers horrendously from the cold.

"Mokuba!" Kaiba cries happily. His entire demeanor brightens as he gazes at the younger brother who is his very reason for living. Mokuba is alive! His brother and my friend has not left us!

I relax now, knowing that the child will be fine. "You're going to be alright, Mokuba," I say quietly with a smile. I see him open his eyes very briefly and look at me before he is engulfed in a hug from his brother that he weakly tries to return. Yes, Mokuba will be perfectly fine.

What I said to him are my last words to him or to anyone. I am vanishing once more. And now I do not reappear back with Rishid and Ishizu. Instead I am in a realm of eerie stillness and quiet. No one else is around. I seem to be lost in time and space, perhaps doomed to float through this strange limbo forever. I scream for help, for someone to come tell me where I have wound up . . . but no one answers. My voice echoes down the vast and endless darkness. And I realize that I am alone.

End Marik's Narration

Slowly I pull myself up, struggling to get back to the automobile. It is an immense effort to even walk several feet. The ground seems to stretch on endlessly in front of me, dizzying me worse. Each step is a new adventure in pain. I barely manage to stumble to the car's door before I collapse on the floor in sheer exhaustion. But slowly the small location stops spinning in my vision and I am able to partially relax.

Ishizu looks at me in horror when I fall. "Rishid!" she cries, knowing that I am hurt very badly. I try not to reveal when I have been injured, and if something happens that forces me to do so, then she is very much aware of the fact that it must be serious.

I gaze up at her, seeing Marik's still body laying on her lap. "How . . . how is he?" I try to ask, not worrying about myself. How could I ever even think about the cuts and bad bruises I have sustained when Marik is practically dead! That is . . . if he is not dead already. I swallow the growing lump in my throat, but another immediately appears. My brother . . . my brother Marik. . . . The inward voices are screaming his name again and again as memories of him coming to my rescue replay in my mind. We are brothers, as he has said so many times. Though I often called him "master," it is not a truthful title. Marik never called me a servant. Will he ever . . . say anything to me again?

"He has not moved," Ishizu says sadly. I feel my worst fears coming true. "And . . . I cannot find a pulse." She, of course, had witnessed the entire scene outside. "What . . . what did he say to you, Rishid?" Her eyes stare into mine, pleading to know. I see her own fears made manifest in the aqua depths.

I give her his message, adding quietly that I don't know if he's coming back. Her news has sent me reeling, even though I was partially expecting it. Marik does not have a pulse. . . . His heart has either stopped entirely or is beating so faintly it cannot be heard. And with ever-sinking hopes, I am almost certain it is the former.

Tears fall from Ishizu's eyes as she cradles his limp body. "Dear brother. . . ." She smiles shakily. "He will always find a way to come to the aid of those he loves." Gently she kisses his cheek. She is trying to make sense of this madness, but she cannot. Neither of us can comprehend why Marik had to be struck down so cruelly. Surely it could not have been meant to happen! Hasn't Marik suffered enough?

I climb up onto the seat, breathing heavily. I am able to see Marik more clearly now. His expression is calm, almost tranquil. He looks asleep, and I fancy that he is. He is just sleeping, wrapped up in my cloak. Only sleeping . . .

At the sound of voices abruptly approaching, I turn my attention to the window, wanting to make certain the parties coming toward us are friendly. Thankfully, it is the Kaiba brothers who emerge from the shadows. They seem deep in conversation. As they get closer, the words are distinguishable.

"Did . . . did Little Spot make it out?" Mokuba wants to know, apparently talking about the sea creature. He is dripping wet and his brother is carrying him. Obviously they have had some sort of disaster on their end of things. I wonder if Marik was able to help them, as he had wanted.

Before Kaiba can answer Mokuba's query, a strange sound meets our ears that almost sounds like a cry of "Byebye!"

Kaiba smirks. "Yeah . . . there he goes, with his mother," he says, pointing toward the waters. His long bangs blow across his face, partially concealing his eyes. "And you made it out too." He smiles softly. "Even though you almost drowned."

Mokuba smiles and then goes silent. "Is . . . is Marik dead?" his quavering voice asks now. His eyes reveal that he wants to know the answer and yet at the same time would rather not know.

There is a long silence. "I don't know, kid," Kaiba replies at last. "I don't know if he's dead."

"Where is he!" Mokuba demands. "He was here . . . he was over with us at the lake just a minute ago!" I gasp at this revelation and then smile a bit as I look back toward my dear brother's body. Yes . . . Marik had been there. I should have known he would have found a way to help his dear friend after protecting me. "He told me that I was gonna be okay . . . and then he was just gone!" the young boy cries. "He disappeared. . . ."

"I don't see him around," Kaiba agrees gravely.

Another silence. "Where's his . . ." Mokuba chokes, but not from the water he had swallowed.

I look away, realizing that he meant to ask "Where's his body?"

Ishizu sobs, burying her face in Marik's hair.

Kaiba's voice comes to us again. "I think Ishizu has . . . him," he tells Mokuba after a brief pause. I am certain he was about to say "it" and then thought better of it. "Look, kid, we're almost at the car now."

Mokuba looks up at him. "Can we . . . can we see them?" he whispers.

". . . If you're up to it," Kaiba answers slowly. He looks doubtful about whether he should allow Mokuba to do that. If Marik is dead, he wouldn't want to traumatize his younger brother by letting him see his friend's body. It is traumatizing me to look at him. He looks so much like he is going to open his eyes any moment.

But Mokuba's response is firm and final. "Yeah . . . yeah, I want to."

Kaiba studies him for a moment and then agrees. He comes over and knocks on the window of the car. Ishizu looks down and then motions that they can come in.

"How is he!" Mokuba blurts out as he is carried in wrapped in Kaiba's trenchcoat.

Ishizu simply shakes her head, unable to gather the strength to reply. But I cannot even manage to acknowledge them as much as she has. The fear is growing within me that Marik will never move again. If he is going to move, why won't he!

Tears fill Mokuba's eyes at our actions and he looks up at Kaiba, who holds him comfortingly as he settles down on the edge of the back seat where we are.

I reach out a shaky hand to my brother and take his limp, cold one, pleading for him to give us a response. Ishizu strokes his hair softly and Mokuba whispers a plea of his own. It seems so hopeless. . . . Dear Marik . . . why will you not answer us!

Suddenly the seemingly impossible happens. Our brother's body pulses with life once again and he stirs, responding at last to our gentle touches and words. He acts, indeed, as if rousing from only a deep sleep and not from the throes of death.

Instantly Ishizu perks up. "Marik!" she exclaims. I can see the light entering her eyes as she tries to keep a hold on his moving body. She is so thankful that he is moving that she does not whisper for him to keep still.

My heart swells. There are not words great enough in any language to describe my feelings as I witness Marik beginning to move about. I feared he had departed. But no! He is here still. My brother remains with us in the land of the living. I lay my hand on his shoulder, attempting to speak. Now I am so joyous I do not know if I can form words. But I manage one—perhaps the one most important word I could utter. "Brother . . ."

Mokuba has looked up as well. "Is he okay! Is he okay!" he cries, gripping at his brother's arms. Eagerly he tries to raise himself up to gaze at Marik better.

Marik stirs once more and then opens his eyes, smiling up at us. "I'm back," he announces weakly.

Our sister gives an exclamation of the pure joy we are all feeling. "Oh Marik!" Ishizu embraces him warmly, tears of happiness falling into his hair.

Marik hugs her and then reaches his arms out to me. I never thought I would see such a thing again, nor ever more feel the touch of his hug. But now I am. I enfold him in my arms in awe, whispering to him in our native language. There is so much I want to say. . . . So much I want to tell him. . . .

"I can never thank you enough for what you did, my brother. . . ." Words are so inadequate. Saying "thank you" does not even scratch the surface of my feelings.

Marik looks up at me and smiles. "You have always been there for me, Rishid. And you were protecting me just earlier today. I couldn't let those vultures hurt you again, not when I could do something about it." He almost looks awed that he is still here and I wonder if he experienced something not so pleasant after leaving the Kaibas. But he says nothing of the kind. If something frightening did happen, I imagine he would much rather forget it entirely instead of speaking of it.

"Marik!" Mokuba now cries happily, wanting his friend's attention. He scrambles out of Kaiba's arms and crosses the short distance between him and Marik to leap into my brother's embrace

Marik looks down at him. "Hello, my friend," he greets him with a gentle smile.

Mokuba grins. "Hey. It's good to see you back to normal," he says, pulling back slightly to look up at him. "I was so scared when . . . when I realized you were transparent. . . ." He swallows hard. "I thought you were dead. . . ."

Marik chuckles at Mokuba's first comment. "It's good to be back to normal," he replies as Rayjay and Tyler climb into the vehicle. "I thought I was dead myself. And I really didn't like the idea."

I smile down at him as we are driving off. "And we are so glad that you are not dead and that you are back with us, dear brother," I say, feeling my strength slowly beginning to return. Perhaps seeing Marik revive has given me a certain ability to fight against the pain of my injuries. "So very glad. . . ." I trail off.

Marik leans against me gently and looks up into my eyes. "Are you alright, Rishid?" he asks in concern, studying my torn clothing and the broken flesh underneath. Now I have new wounds to tend to, but I don't wish to deal with them just yet.

"Yes," I tell him firmly. "I am very much alright because of you . . . Marik, my brother." I wrap my cloak closer around him, not wanting him to be cold. "Because of you . . . I will live."

Marik smiles broadly and hugs me again. He wants me to always call him "brother," something I have been striving to do of late. It pleases me to discard the word "master" from my vocabulary. I have a brother, not a master. A best friend, not a dictator. I have one who will always stand by me.

Ishizu now joins in our group hug, her blue eyes shining happily as she places an arm around each of us. We both embrace her as well, saying our prayers of thanks that we are all reunited again.