Title: Coalesce - (from The American Heritage College Dictionary) 1. To grow together, to fuse. 2. To come together so as to form one whole, unite. (noun form = coalescence).

Warning(s): Rated "R" to be on the side of caution. Some parts can be construed to include a yaoi flavor, but that's entirely up to the reader, as I see options for either possibility, though since it was written for The Return, which does have yaoi, just consider yourselves warned.

Musing(s): A tribute or offshoot fiction to rayemars' wonderfully written The Return. Not at all her thoughts or ideas as far as her fiction is concerned, but rather my take on what could have happened during Battle City.

Coalescence

"There cannot be a God because, if there were one, I would not believe that I was not He."

- Fredrick Nietzsche

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The spirit of the Millenium Ring had always known that attaching a part of himself to the Puzzle, on that bright day back before Battle City, was one of his more clever moves, and that it would undoubtedly prove to be a useful decision. Even as Yami no Yugi sent him deep into the shadow realm, supposedly never to return, he had known.

He had always known.

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Oblivion spiraled above and around him. First it was black, and then it was blacker, and finally it reached it's blackest, just before fog took its place and headstones took shape among it. The Card Graveyard. The Shadow Realm.

The dark spirit surveyed his surroundings, snorting in slight disgust at them a moment later. This was no place for him. He had already passed this trial once before and had not planned on returning to it. Now he would have to use precious energy to leave, precious energy that he at this time did not possess.

The spirit sneered and reached out his mind to his 'landlord'. Contacting the worthless human may prove to be useful and the seasoned thief was not above using his every resource. Plus, he could always 'steal' whatever energy may be required for his return from his other…

Nothing.

The spirit frowned and tried again, this time exerting more energy than he really had to spare.

Again, nothing.

Fighting back an unexpected twinge of doubt upon the realization that he was utterly alone, the spirit moved about the headstones determined to find what he was looking for. Every thief worth anything had a plan; it was the truly good thieves that had many at their disposal along with a good bit of knowledge and cunning.

The Shadow Realm, like all dimensions, was built on principles. One of which was that all dimensions were interlocking and overlapping. All Yami Bakura had to do was find the one place where the Earth Realm intersected the Shadow Realm and pull himself through, forcibly or otherwise.

It was rather foolish of the Pharaoh to think that he had the power to shut himself in here permanently, Yami Bakura mused. No one had the power to actually separate a dimension from another; the power simply did not exist. Not to mention if one somehow did manage to tear the two realms apart how would they then be able to call forth their monsters to defend them later on?

In the Pharaoh's haste to be rid of a 'tomb robber' he would rip himself away from his own army, and the only source of power he had other than that whining, sniveling underling he called his 'other'.

That is, if he had had the power.

The spirit snorted disdainfully at the thought. Foolish Pharaoh.

A shadow twisted around and in on itself to the thief's left, and lightening quick reflexes had him turned and prepared to defend himself in a moment. The Card Graveyard swept outwards around him, and nothing stirred save the fog that never seemed to stand still.

Yami Bakura smirked, suddenly very amused. Danger had always had that effect on him. Rather than shrinking back from it, he purposely placed himself in front of it, daring it to take him on. He lived for the adrenaline and the crushing fear, but most of all for his inevitable victory.

Not to mention, he had already faced this creature once before.

"Card Reaper," his voice all but purred, towards something that any other person would have written off as a shadow crawling slightly behind a tombstone. The obscuration twitched slightly at its name and shrank back a bit more. It, too, seemed to remember their last encounter.

Yami Bakura moved on, the creature was worthless to him now anyway. A second glance had told him that. It was nothing to him now but a shivering specter, flimsy like a breeze and equally as useless. What he needed was power.

Just as he felt he was nearing the edge of the Card Graveyard, where the mist became thicker than anywhere else, and where the spidery grass became even more sparse, Yami Bakura began to wonder if he did indeed have a plan to leave this place.

The last time he and the Card Reaper had tussled a bit, and the awakening of the Millenium Eye along with Pegasus' damning of Kaiba's soul to the Shadow Realm had been his guide. He'd merely followed that, and thus found his way back to the Earthen Realm, at just the right time to rescue his ungrateful other and oblivious friends.

Now Ryou guarded over the Eye along with the Ring, neither of which he had any inkling of a clue of their power, and for that Yami Bakura was both pleased and annoyed. In his quest to keep his other out of his way, he may have written off a useful resource as far as the Item's knowledge went.

A small ache started in his chest, and the spirit frowned. He felt…alone.

But that wasn't possible. He had always been alone, in the sense of the word. Ryou was never a part of anything, his mind either blissfully unaware, or shocked into denial about all the happenings of the past year. He couldn't feel being alone since that was all he had ever known, hadn't he?

Yami Bakura shook his head and took a step into the deep fog. Now was not the time for such trivial thoughts. To anyone who was not nearly so familiar with the Shadow Realm, it would have appeared that the thief was walking on a shifting mass of cloud once he stepped into the fog. This was not entirely untrue.

The spirit walked farther into the mist and found himself suddenly no longer on cloud, but rather walking on stone. The Doors spread out before him, rows and rows of them, hundreds upon thousands probably.

The Shadow Realm was not merely just the Card Graveyard, but it had the Doors. The Doors were the places of the decks. Wherever a child created a deck another door would appear and the cards spirits were placed there, waiting to be called upon into battle, be it virtual or lunch table style.

Yami Bakura frowned a moment later. He had nothing to guide himself though. Yes, he had a way out, but the power it would take him to pull through was too much, and Ryou was severed from--

A sharp pain lanced through the thief's chest at that moment and it took him a moment to regain his bearings after it had subsided.

Fear…

The tomb raider swallowed and pushed away the feeling, steadying his heartbeat before continuing on. What had caused that, the spirit wondered, glaring about his surroundings, looking for an unseen attacker.

The spirit swallowed thickly once more, forcing another wave of apprehension back. He didn't know where these feelings were coming from, the fear, the doubt, and now worry? This wasn't like him.

What he needed to do was think. He needed power, power strong enough that it could pull him through the Shadow Realm and into the real one. Power like…

Power like the Millenium Puzzle.

The thief grinned wide, and held his head at an impassive angle now as he surveyed the doors. Like a beacon, the Millenium Ring pulled at him almost immediately. He had his guide, now all he had to do was find his power.

The memory of that bright morning had resurfaced, and now Yami Bakura knew exactly where he had to look. The phantom Millenium Ring gave off an almost silent peal of sound, and Bakura skipped an entire row of Doors all together. He was getting closer.

Finally the ring was shrieking at him, and in his triumph the tomb robber didn't care. He reached his hand out and took hold of the handle--

Only to have his hand pass through it.

Shock reeled through him, and Yami Bakura glared at the Door. This was a trick. He was no ghost. He was as solid here as he was when he was in control of his other's body. And this was the door he needed open.

Pain sliced through his chest again, similar to the feeling of someone holding his heart in their fist and squeezing until he either cried out or died. Yami Bakura did neither.

Fear…

It rang in his ears, and he set his teeth hard and clutched his side, allowing his vision to bleed back into normal sounds and colors before taking his panting breaths back down to level ones.

"Trickery," he snarled, the receding pain evident in his deep voice. He drew on the last bit of energy he thought he had in his body and grabbed the handle, wrenching it open.

He was falling and going end over end if his bearing was any good. It was too dark to see even himself anymore, and there was no sign of light anywhere.

Again with the blackness, the thief thought sarcastically. He had already had his fill of this once before. Suddenly he was no longer falling but standing instead. And Yami Yugi and his other's Mind Hallway stretched out before him. Two doors were on either side of him, one incredibly old, the other wide open with light spilling out into the dark corridor.

A scream pierced the air.

And then another, both were of pain, and Yami Bakura was confused, since his had, at least for the moment, dulled down into a slight droning in his head and a small ache in his chest.

The ancient door swung open and the Pharaoh stumbled into the hallway, followed by an equally as pained looking Yugi from his own door. The teenager groaned in absolute agony before falling to his knees beside his respective door. The Pharaoh reached a slender hand out to comfort his other, but doubled over almost immediately in pain.

A royal-violet eye cracked open a moment and settled on Yami Bakura who was still watching the scene indifferently, trying to gain his bearings on what to do from here.

He was inside of their soul bond. The spirit almost laughed. This was more than even he had hoped for. By attaching himself to the Millenium Puzzle he had created a weakness in their almost impenetrable bond and was now residing within it like a poison.

"Get out." The words were hissed, and Yami Bakura narrowed his eyes.

"Send me back," he said. "Send me back to the Ring or I will tear this place apart along with you and your other half." With that he took a step forward, closer to Yugi's door and the boy screamed again, clutching at his chest in a way that the thief found all too familiar.

"You're tearing us apart!" the younger boy sobbed, gasping for breath and trying to slide backwards into his room, where he thought he would be safe. The Pharaoh fixed his eyes once again on the tomb raider and held them.

"You don't know what you do. You are hurting yourself as well by being here." He said, through grit teeth.

The thief laughed. "I feel perfectly fine, Pha--"

It was like a high-pitched sound was shot through his mind, and that familiar squeezing around his heart came back, and this time Yami Bakura wasn't sure it would leave. Along with it came emotions, ones he thought himself almost incapable of feeling.

Fear, Pain, Loneliness, Dread, Longing, Abandonment…

Yami Bakura sank to his knees as well, almost wishing that he could crawl back out the Door and at least die in the chilly air of the Card Graveyard. The Pharaoh watched, his breath coming a little less strained as Yami Bakura started to back away and towards the Door.

"You are a fool, thief," he ground out. "I had forgotten as well, though, until you came here."

Yami Bakura only continued to glare, the pain flaring in the back of his mind, causing his vision to turn a caustic red around the edges.

"We are bound to them, thief," Yami Yugi stated, letting his eyes slide to Yugi, who was curling into a tighter ball as the moments past. "They are us. We take the term 'other half' too lightly it seems, when it is, in fact, everything that it says."

"What are you talking about?" Yami Bakura snarled at him. "I know we are bound. Why do you think it hurts you so much for me to be here? An Item is only built for two souls, Pharaoh, even Ishtar knew that. I put a part of myself in that Puzzle you wear and now I have come to destroy you from the inside out."

The Pharaoh didn't seem to hear him; his eyes kept coming to rest on Yugi, who was crying slightly, and…fading? Yes, he was paler it seemed, and not in the physical sense, but in the existence sense. Red-violet eyes slid back to rest on muddy brown ones.

"Being away from Ryou is killing you," Yami Yugi stated, and Yami Bakura felt that familiar feeling of loneliness well up inside of him, cold and paralyzing. The Pharaoh snorted. "How foolish of me. It's probably destroying him as well."

FEAR…

Yami Bakura groaned clutching at his head until he fought the feeling back. If Ryou died, he would die as well. He hadn't felt so mortally bound to the boy until now, it seemed.

Yugi made a choked sound and finally managed to slide into his Room, the door slamming shut behind him. Cold swept through the hallway, it's icy breath permeating every pore of Yami Bakura's exposed skin, the Pharaoh seemed to feel it as well and shuddered.

Taking a deep breath and then letting it out, the pain of it causing his body to look as those it was trembling, Yami Yugi spoke. "Leave this place. I will not force my other to suffer as you are forcing yours to suffer. It--" the Pharaoh paused. "This is too much. I need him, tomb robber, just as you need Ryou. You will destroy yourself and him if you stay here. Is defeating me worth your existence?"

"I need no one, Pharaoh!" The dark spirit's voice rang off the walls, echoing in the silence that followed.

"You're fading away…" Yami Yugi whispered, gazing at him with steady eyes. "You're fading without him, and you know it."

Yami Bakura bit back a moan of pain as doubt slithered up his spine and settled in his lungs like cold, heavy stones. He lifted a hand and peered at it, sure enough, he too, was starting to fade away.

"You were the one who banished me, Pharaoh," he bit out, his breath coming hard and causing a vapor to float about for a few moments in the now frostbitten air. "It can be said that my other's suffering is because of you and you're trying to destroy me."

"And I would let you die, tomb robber," Yami Yugi bit out sharply "if Ryou's life didn't hang in the balance as I now know it does. I had forgotten…I had forgotten that our existence was in their hands. Their pain is our pain, our triumph, our failure, our existence, as much theirs as it is ours. We are bonded." Yami Yugi closed his eyes for a moment in quiet thought and the thief couldn't help his malicious nature and stepped forward. His own mind screamed at him that this was not his place as he inserted himself deeper within their territory, farther into their combined souls.

Yami Yugi reeled back, a choked noise wrenching itself from his shocked lips. The spirit didn't get to revel in his enemy's suffering for long though, as the pain became blistering hot in his own chest and he thought for a moment that he was going to die.

The propped himself up against a wall; thankful for breath as Yami Bakura fell back at his own pain and he could again gasp for air. Every second that past was tearing them apart from their others, apparently it didn't happen as quickly in the Shadow Realm where the effects were slowed considerably, but in the real one it spread like a cancer, quickly and deadly.

Yami Yugi looked at his hand, much the same way as Yami Bakura had and found that he was also fading. Time was running short and this tomb robber's insolence would kill them all.

The Pharaoh took a shuddering breath and leveled the tomb raider with his gaze.

"Get. Out."

Yami Bakura would have taken another step forward just to have been spiteful had his heart not screamed at him as though it didn't have oxygen. He didn't want to get out. He had to get out.

As much as he hated the Pharaoh being right, and as much as he hated having to turn his back on such an opportunity to cause him immeasurable pain, it wasn't worth his own life.

The world around them both seemed to blur and Yami Bakura found himself in his spectral form outside a familiar apartment complex. His body ached as though it had been beaten and he forced himself to climb the stairs to the third floor. He had to get back…

His breath came harder and harder until he found no joy in breathing and only pain. It was something that his body forced him to do now. His vision slanted as he came to the door of the apartment and he fell to his knees in front of it. He reached his hand towards the door and for the second time in however long he had been gone his hand passed through a doorknob. He couldn't go any farther.

A cry of pained happiness came from somewhere, and shuffling was heard. Yami Bakura felt a twinge of relief, like an alcohol on a cut. It hurt, but at least one knew they were being healed. The door was wrenched open and Yami Bakura's heart stopped it's pounding now to a dull ache, as though it was only bruised.

When Ryou reached out a hand and gently touched his shoulder the pain vanished completely and the teenager cried out in relief, the thief was proud that he had managed to smother his own.

Ryou dropped to his knees, and there in the dim light of the hallway of the small apartment complex his grasped onto his other like a lifeline. The tomb raider sat dumbly on the floor; unable to comprehend the relief he was feeling at being back. Relief flooded him, cooling and comforting and everything he didn't want to admit came with being a bonded soul. The pain had stopped and his mind had cleared. The longing had vanished and the feeling of loneliness along with it.

He reached a hand out a smoothed the hair down Ryou's head, not knowing what to do exactly. In the light of no longer thinking he was about to die, he realized his feelings for his other had not changed at all, but that his hatred of the boy had increased.

He was bound to him.

Not just by the Item, but in spirit as well. He had seen the Pharaoh and his other. He had seen the pain on Yami Yugi's face when the door had slammed. His existence depended upon this…this child.

"I will make them pay," Yami Bakura snarled at nothing in particular. Kneeling as he was, soul-bond clinging to his shoulders, Yami Bakura vowed revenge. He vowed it on the Pharaoh for forcing him to realize this. He vowed it on the gods of Egypt for choosing this child as his bonded. And most of all he vowed it on the world for no particular reason.

Ryou buried his face against the spirit's shoulder and just kneeled there, praying that his other's anger would be saved for another night and that he could just stand in the relief of not being torn in two any longer. His other had been gone for almost two weeks, and as each day had passed the misery had increased, and the pain that caused him was far more than any his other could give him. He eventually stood and lowered his head to stare at the ground. He was ashamed at having relief in his other's return, but relieved none the less.

Yami Bakura stood as well, glaring down at the top of the other's lowered head.

"I need you," he snarled. His voice conveyed the emotion that the words could not. He was attached to this boy and he hated it.

Ryou tried to lower his head more. "I'm sorry."

"Get inside, I'm tired." Ryou nodded and Yami Bakura followed him into the room. The door closed and nothing remained in the hallway except for a slight mist that passed in a few moments.

End.