Notes: Wow! I finished in time for Christmas Eve This fic is gonna lead right into the next one, so thanx to all who've reviewed and I hope you'll stick around for the next installment! Merry Christmas to all! Sorry I had to remove the song, but the newly stated policy means I have to.


Epilogue

"Meow!" Oreo announced, pawing at the stereo and turning up the volume.

Bakura laughed merrily as he watched the cat's antics. "It's so good to be able to laugh again," he declared.

It was December 5th, the day that the drug payoff originally had been supposed to be. Instead, with most of the ring behind bars, our friends were able to relax safely in the living room of Yugi's home.

Yami Bakura grunted as Oreo jumped onto his uninjured shoulder and then into his lap, begging for some of the hot chocolate he was drinking.

"Cat! This isn't for you!" he growled.

Oreo responded by meowing plaintively and staring up at him with her bright yellow eyes. She knew Yami Bakura could never resist her when she did that.

Furiously he poured some of the liquid into a saucer. "There!" he grumped.

"You know, she's really not supposed to drink that sort of thing," Bakura remarked, "but she never seems to get sick when she does. She seems to think she's a human." He reached out to stroke the cat and Oreo purred.

"Not only that, she thinks she owns your Yami," Joey grinned. "And she probably does."

"Silence, mortal," Yami Bakura hissed.

Mr. Thorton twisted his tie. "I just hope that Del Vinci is caught before he can blackmail me again!" he moaned.

Seto crossed his arms, remaining silent and looking angry. Del Vinci was still at large. Somewhere out there was the person who had tried so many times to harm his little brother. And sometime soon, Seto vowed, he would catch that abomination once and for all. He wouldn't let Del Vinci slip through his fingers another time.

He turned to face Marik, who was resting peacefully on the couch with his siblings. Seto actually found himself smiling a bit in gratitude—an emotion he wasn't generally known for. "For what you did for Mokuba, I thank you," the young CEO told him gruffly. "You kept him alive when I couldn't." He didn't say so aloud, but he was glad that Mokuba had someone else he could depend on. His brother actually didn't have too many friends other than the ones here in the room, but Seto knew by now that they were all loyal and true. And that was what mattered.

Marik looked back at Seto seriously. "No," he replied in a quiet tone, "I may have kept him alive in the snow . . . but you did as well, though you were not physically present. Your love and concern for your brother, and his for you . . . that was what truly kept him surviving. He should have perished long before I even found him."

Both teenagers glanced over to where Mokuba was stacking a plate high with chips and dip, each thinking the same thing—that it was a blessing to see Mokuba up and around.

Thinking back on Marik's words, Seto began to think that perhaps the Egyptian boy was right. The brotherly bond he shared with Mokuba was extremely strong. In a way, Mokuba had been what had saved his life the other day—because of what the locket symbolized—so perhaps Seto, had then, played a part in Mokuba's survival as well, though he hadn't been physically there. It was a nice thought.

He put his hand in his pocket, touching something smooth and shiny. He had waited for the right time to present this to his brother, and this seemed as good a time as any.

Once Mokuba was done with his snack, Seto laid a hand on his shoulder.

"Hi, big brother!" Mokuba grinned, looking up at him.

Seto smiled down at the boy who meant more to him than anything else. "It's been so hectic the last few days that I didn't have a chance to ask about what happened at the buffet restaurant," he said slowly, "until today." He ruffled the boy's hair. "I was told that some kid made a call to 911 explaining about the planned shootout and that, thanks to him, no one was seriously injured or killed."

Mokuba blushed a bit but then gave a lopsided grin. "Well . . . that's good, then."

Seto nodded. "Very good." He knew it had been Mokuba, and he could tell that Mokuba knew he knew, so he left it at that, knowing that Mokuba would prefer it that way.

Now he again reached into his pocket, bringing out what had been hidden.

Mokuba's eyes widened to twice their side. "My locket!" he burst out. The last he had seen of it had been when Del Vinci had pulled it away in the canyons. He hadn't ever thought he would even see it again.

Seto put the locket around his brother's neck. "I repaired it last night," he said.

Mokuba smiled broadly and opened it with a click, looking at the picture of a younger Seto inside. Then he looked back up at Seto's own locket and blinked. There was still an obvious deep nick in the metal. "What about your own locket?" the boy asked, tilting his head to the side.

Seto ran his hand over the mark. "I'm leaving this here," he replied. "To remind me." There was so much he wanted to remember . . . so much he held even more dear now.

Across the room, Bakura was recounting what had happened as he and his Yami had plunged into the fiery flames.

"It was quite terrifying, really," the British boy exclaimed.

"How did you ever get away!" Téa gasped. "If not even your Yami could stop it from happening . . ."

Bakura leaned forward. "Well . . . that's perhaps the most curious thing of all. You see . . . someone rose from the flames and caught us both. And . . . I recognized him. . . ."

"Well, who was it!" Joey asked, looking intrigued. "Spill!"

Bakura suddenly found the floor very interesting to look at. "Oh . . . you're all going to think me quite mad," he said, "but I know it was really him!"

Duke glanced over at him from where he was on the other couch. He had been treated at KaibaCorp's infirmary several days ago and then released shortly after. The doctors had all been shocked that nothing vital had been pierced by the bullets, but Serenity had smiled and insisted it was an early Christmas miracle. She was sitting by him now, with Tristan looking displeased and insisting on sitting by her other side.

Yami Bakura chose this moment to get up and wander into the kitchen. Yugi sighed as he watched this, wondering what the thief would plunder from the fridge this time.

"It was Shadi," Bakura said at last, looking up firmly.

Silence immediately prevailed as many pairs of shocked and disbelieving eyes turned to gaze at the silvery-haired boy. Shadi! But . . . he had been killed! It couldn't have been him!

"Perhaps he was an angel or . . . or something to that effect," Bakura said hurriedly and then blinked in shock as he remembered something else. "But wait. . . . The Middle Eastern man!"

"What about him?" Tristan asked, raising an eyebrow. He didn't know what to make of what Bakura was telling. Maybe he had been so delirious that he had thought he had seen Shadi, the hazel-eyed boy thought.

"That was Shadi!" Bakura cried excitedly. "He is Shadi! Perhaps . . ." He paused for a long moment. "Perhaps . . . he isn't really dead after all. . . ."

Yugi could hardly stand it. He wanted to leap up and cry out that it was true, that it was Shadi and he hadn't died, but he didn't know if he was supposed to. But if that were so, then . . . why had Shadi allowed Bakura to see him? Surely he would know that Bakura would tell of what had happened.

Ishizu smiled softly. She knew of Yugi's thoughts, and she also knew that Shadi would had to have intended for all of this to transpire exactly as it was. "Perhaps he is not," she agreed aloud, taking hold of each brother's hand. Her heart overflowed with the joy she was feeling on this day. Marik and Rishid were both alive and well. The ex-Rare Hunters were in prison, where they could torment them no longer. One of those two boys—Taylor—was treating Marik better now. (He had come to see him during the time when Marik had been laying unconscious and nearly dead and had said that he hoped "Blondie" would get better. Ishizu supposed that was an improvement over "Girly-boy." It was certainly an improvement over throwing painted snowballs.) And now Shadi seemed to feel that it was safe enough to begin letting the others know that he still lived. "What Serenity said is quite true," the Egyptian woman said now. "But instead of one, we have had many, many miracles."

Yugi firmly nodded and then the others all joined in with complete agreement.

"We have so much to be thankful for," the normally quiet Rishid spoke up. It brought him such joy to see his younger brother look up with kind, loving eyes and smile. After the horrible scare they had had, it meant more than ever to him.

Maniacal laughter resounded from the kitchen and Bakura ran to look in. After a moment he chuckled embarrassedly and turned to face the others once more. "I'm afraid Yami is feeling thankful for fruitcake this year," he said, rubbing his neck.

Yugi laughed. "Well, we have plenty of it around. He's welcome to have all he wants."

Another silence fell over the group, but now they were simply contemplating upon everything wonderful that they had in their lives. Good food, warm homes . . . and family and friends above all.

"By the way, Bakura, what happened with Frances?" Yugi asked now, realizing that he hadn't heard Bakura say anything about her for some time now.

Bakura sighed. "Well, quite frankly, I don't know. Neither does Father," he admitted. "He woke up in a taxi being driven to his home, and when he got inside he found a note in his pocket from Frances. She said she had to leave for a bit but that she would come back." He had mixed feelings about this. If Frances truly was unsavory, then he was glad she had left. But if she was good, then he was a bit sad. In any case, his heart broke for his father. Mr. Ryou had been so certain that he had found someone who was like Bakura's mother. Losing her without an explanation was a terrible blow.

Everyone blinked at the news of the taxi.

"How the heck did he get in there!" Joey wondered. "Did Frances drug him and send him home!"

"He says the last thing he remembers is being punched, but he doesn't remember who it was," Bakura replied. "I think I know, however, and if it was him, it's better that Father doesn't remember." He glanced toward the kitchen, where Yami Bakura continued to munch away at the fruitcake. Everyone else glanced with him in sudden understanding.

"Well, I'm sure that things will work out somehow," Yugi said encouragingly.

Bakura smiled weakly and said that he hoped so.

Now the rest of the song played on the radio and everyone turned their attention to the words, each one echoing them silently in their hearts. They knew that their problems weren't over yet, but they had all been given renewed strength to overcome whatever was put in their way.