China Roses

By LuckyLadybug

Notes: Nothing out of the ordinary XD The characters aren't mine, the story is, and this is sibling cuteness! I apologize for removal of the song, but the site's newly stated policy means that I have to.

Slowly I enter at the gate—the old, rusted gate that always mournfully creaks when I push it open—and make my way down the deserted path I have memorized by now. This is such a dreary place, so full of desolation and sadness. An old hoot owl looks down at me from a nearby pine tree, but I pay him no heed. Perhaps his heart is as heavy as mine is tonight.

The cemetery does not frighten me, as it might some people. But it weighs me down. I try to come here for comfort, but it usually depresses me instead. I see the many tombstones of those gone on and I wonder how many of those laid to rest here have loved ones missing them. As it is, I am not simply here for a midnight stroll. I have lost a loved one of my own.

I turned the corner and kneel down under the weeping willow tree, trying to smile.

"Well . . . I've made it through another week, my brother," I whisper. "I suppose it's an achievement, since I never thought I could make it past the first day." My eyes start to glisten with unshed tears.

"It's been a week much like any other since you . . . you were taken," I say now, looking down. "Ishizu has been trying to get over her grief. . . . She . . . she's better at it than I am, I'm afraid." I run a hand through my hair, shaking slightly. "I can't get over it, Rishid! I can't! You promised you wouldn't leave me, my brother! You promised!"

"But you did leave me," I sob, folding my arms over my chest. "Oh my brother . . ."

The wind wafts through the branches of the drooping tree above me. It watches over my brother's final resting place, crying when I do. At least . . . it seems almost as if it cries.

"I didn't deserve to have you as my brother," I whisper. "You were always so much better than me. You tried so hard to help me repent in the past. . . . I treated you so horribly then! Oh Rishid . . . how did you ever forgive me!"

Even through my grief, I know what Rishid would say if he were here. He would say that I am his brother and that he loves me unconditionally. And he would remind me that I have changed my ways . . . that I would sacrifice myself to save the ones I love . . . that he never considered the Battle City me the real Marik Ishtar.

Perhaps Rishid is here with me. I seem to sense his presence. He would never leave me if he could help it. And if he could stay with me even after he's passed away from this mortal realm, I know he would. But then again . . . it may only be wishful thinking that he's here now.

My thoughts wander, remembering the horror of getting the news that Rishid had been in the abominable car crash/explosion.

"No!" I remember screaming. "NO! Rishid is not dead! He's going to walk through the door any minute now! I know he will!"

Ishizu looked at me sadly. "No, Marik," she said softly. "No, he will not come back. No one saw him come out before the explosion."

I ran into her arms, weeping uncontrollably. "Our brother is dead! He is dead!" I repeated it again and again, unable to believe it was actually true. Somewhere deep inside, I knew that Rishid was gone . . . and yet I simply could not acknowledge it.

They never found your body, my brother. But your earrings and I.D. card were recovered from the accident site. You were there, weren't you, Rishid? You were caught in the explosion somehow. . . .

But why were you there? Why, Rishid! Now you are gone from me. You have gone and I cannot get you back!

Gently I caress the stone, remembering times when Rishid and I were children and he would tuck me into bed. I was a happy child then . . . with no inkling of the immense treachery that existed in the world.

"I love you, big brother," I said cheerfully.

Rishid smiled, pulling the covers up better around me. "I love you as well, Marik," he replied, his golden eyes soft and caring.

I smiled at him sleepily. "You'll never leave me, will you, Rishid?"

"Never," Rishid assured me.

My tears splash against the stone as my shoulders shake with sobs. "But you did leave me," I say softly. "I know you can't help it, Rishid, but . . . now my elder brother is gone! And . . . only now do I realize that . . . that there are so many things I never told you enough. Did I remember to tell you how much I love you? Did I remember, Rishid?"

I try to recall the last conversation I ever will have with Rishid in this life, but it doesn't come to me. Everything is one jumbled mess in my mind. I pray that my last words to him were ones of kindness and brotherly love.

Now I curl up on the grass, hugging my knees and gazing out at the cloudy skies. It seems that it may start to rain soon. Oh well. That weather would match my mood now anyway. What do I care if it rains?

I shiver slightly as the cool breeze brushes against me. If Rishid were here now, what would he say?

I can imagine him looking at me disapprovingly. "Marik, you're going to catch pneumonia!" he would scold. "Here—put this on!" And he would hand me his cloak, making certain that I wrapped it around myself.

I have to chuckle, but soon the laughter dissolves into sobs again. I miss him so much, so very much! How can I laugh when he's dead? How can I ever laugh again!

Now I remain in silence for quite some time, just pondering on everything and longing for things to be different.

"Well . . ." I gaze at the china rose Ishizu had placed on the monument. "I . . . I suppose I should get back now. . . . Ishizu will be worried. . . . And I know you would be as well, my brother, if you knew I was out here this late in the cold." I manage a small smile. "I love you, Rishid. I always will."

An image comes to me. I remember a time when I was thought to have been dead. When I finally returned home, Rishid had become so traumatized that he didn't even recognize me. But then at last he did and we were reunited. If only . . . if only. . . .

You know, I used to believe that because they had never found Rishid's body it meant that he was still alive. But I do not anymore. It's been too long—nearly two months. If Rishid was alive, I would have seen him ages before now. No, he is dead, and I must learn to accept it.

The tears continue to spill from my eyes. I cannot bear to get up . . . but I know I must. I can't stay here forever. I am not even certain why I come here. Rishid's body is not in this place. But still . . . this is his memorial. Perhaps I hope that this is a place where he might visit.

I shake my head. That is actually quite absurd, I decide. If Rishid were to come anywhere, he would more likely appear in our home than in a cemetery.

Wherever his spirit is, does he remember me? He . . . he wouldn't forget me, would he? What if . . . what if perhaps the separation from his body would cause him to lose his memories?

"I miss you, Rishid," I choke out. "I'll never forget you. Never!"

I stand now, forcing myself to turn and leave. The tears have not slowed yet, and a branch of the willow tree touches my shoulder, almost as if in comfort. Some days are just worse than others, and this is one of the worst ones I've had. It all struck me right in the face . . . the fact that Rishid truly is gone. I know he is, but it's so hard to handle! Have you ever lost someone so very dear to you? If not, you will never begin to understand what it feels like.

"I know you're always with me in some way, Rishid," I say as I walk back down the path. "It's just hard for me to remember that sometimes. I want you right here, physically, to walk beside me!"

A soft, sad rain begins to fall as I go out the gate and shut it carefully behind me. It reminds me idly of a song I'd heard on the radio recently. It said that there are holes in the floors of Heaven, that our loved ones watch us through them, and that their tears mingle with the rain. It's a strange song. Sometimes it, like the cemetery, comforts me—but other times it only makes me feel worse. Another line says how much they want to be with the ones they love on earth, and that makes me wonder if that is what is happening with Rishid.

What is Ishizu doing now? Maybe when I return home, we can remember the happy times we had with Rishid. We have done that sometimes since he's been gone. It helps to ease the pain a little bit and make it seem almost as if he hasn't left. We are a good family, Ishizu and I, but it's not just complete without our brother. I want to hear his voice and feel his strong arms around me. Right now I just feel so lost.

A cloaked figure steps out from behind a tree and regards me with unseen eyes. I gaze suspiciously, trying to understand what he wants.

"Who are you?" I demand.

He remains silent for a time and I wonder if he's going to draw a knife on me. Then I take a closer look at him. His cloak is tattered and torn, and his hands are bleeding. His clothes are torn as well, revealing other painful-looking wounds in his muscular body. He makes no move to pull a weapon and I realize that he has no intention of doing so. Something seems so familiar about him . . .

I step forward slowly. "Rishid?" I whisper. It can't be him, but still I fantasize.

Now the mysterious man reaches up and pulls the hood on his cloak down, revealing his tired, golden eyes and sad expression.

I take a step back, my eyes wide with disbelief. "No . . . no, it . . . it can't be. . . ." My gaze falls on the hieroglyphic tattoos, carved by his own hands out of the desire to share my pain when he could do nothing else to help me. "It can't be you . . . you're dead . . . you're dead. . . . Oh Rishid! RISHID!" I run to him, grabbing on and refusing to let go.

He engulfs me in a tight hug, tears slipping from his eyes. "My precious brother. . . . I am not dead. . . . I am here with you again. . . ." His voice is exhausted, yet happy. He smiles at last, holding me close to him.

Many questions run through my miind. How is he alive? Where has he been? Why didn't he contact Ishizu and me? His blood drips on my arm and I know he must have been through a living Hades.

"Rishid," I sob, unable to believe this still, "Rishid, where were you! Ishizu and I, we . . . were so heart-broken!" I glance back down the path. "I . . . I have been at the cemetery. . . ."

Rishid silences me gently, pain in his eyes. "I am so sorry . . . so very sorry. . . . It was out of my control. . . . Oh my brother. . . ." He pulls back and looks at me. "I have never wanted to do anything to hurt you. . . ."

I stare at him, my body racked with sobs. "You couldn't, Rishid," I say then. "Never!" I hug him again, listening to the sound of his beating heart. "I have missed you so, my brother! I missed you, but now you are back! You have returned to me!"

Rishid gazes down at me, his younger brother. I do not realize I am shivering, but he notices immediately. Tenderly he removes his tattered cloak and drapes it over my shoulders to keep me warm. "Yes, I have come back," he agrees softly. "Finally I have."

I smile up at him and then reach into my pocket. "Rishid . . . these are yours," I say then, holding out his earrings. "They were found in the wreckage from the explosion. . . ." I trail off.

Rishid takes them from me, his hands still bleeding. Slowly he puts them back on and then embraces me again. "Brother . . . I do not know how I got away from the explosion," he admits. "I do not know at all. . . . But I have been in captivity for most all of this time."

I look at him in horror. "Rishid . . . who did that abomination?"

He sighs heavily. "I cannot remember that either," he admits. "I have been without my memories for most all of this time." I can see from the look in his eyes that he hadn't wanted to tell me that, but that he felt I needed to know why he hasn't been here.

I am stunned into silence by this revelation. Rishid was held prisoner by unknown enemies for almost two months, suffering both amnesia and brutal physical torture? It's too loathsome for words to believe that anyone would hurt such a gentle soul as Rishid, and yet I know there are those who would.

"I remember now, brother," Rishid hurries to assure me. "I remember you and Ishizu. I never forgot either of you. Even during my battle with amnesia, I kept you both in my heart."

I smile shakily, wondering how he managed to get free, but I do not ask. I am just so very thankful that he has come back.

"I am so sorry for worrying you and our sister," Rishid whispers.

"Oh Rishid, you couldn't help it," I object, hugging him. "What matters is that you have returned, and I will never stop giving thanks for that." I smile again, completely ignoring the rain as it falls on us. "Let's go home, my brother. Let's go home to our sister."

Rishid smiles as well. "Yes . . . let us go," he agrees.

Ishizu meets us down the road, having been worried about me being gone so long. She stops then and gasps, going chalk white. Rishid gives her a hesitant smile, whispering her name.

"Rishid!" she cries. "Elder brother!" Without waiting for an answer she runs into his arms, hugging him tightly.

He hugs back and then I move forward, entering the embrace as well.

"Dear Rishid . . . I . . . I thought you were . . ." Ishizu closes her eyes, tears escaping down her cheeks.

"I know," Rishid says gently. "But it is alright. I am home now."

The rain still falls around us, but none of us notice or care. We only care that we are together again.