In Memory

By Lucky_Ladybug

Notes: This fic doesn't have much plot. Mostly it's something I did because I wanted to know what the Yugi-tachi would say about the repented Marik if they thought he had died. The characters aren't mine and the story is. Oh! And the absolutely wonderfully fluffy and precious conversation between Rishid and Marik in the one flashback where they discuss friends belongs to both me and the Great RC-Neechan!

The Pacific Ocean lapped gently against the grassy banks in the canyons near Domino City, briefly startling the somber group out of their silence. The sound of the waves was cruel to the mourners gathered here, almost as if the waters were laughing and taunting. "We took him. You can never get him back. We took your brother. We took your friend."

Yugi Muto reached up furiously to brush away the falling tears in his eyes, but they only returned once more. He couldn't cease their flow, no matter how he tried. Desperately he clutched the lone flower of remembrance in his hand as if it were his last connection to reality. But then . . . he didn't like the reality. He didn't want it. He wanted things back the way they had been before . . . before this. But even as he acknowledged how shocked and horrible he was feeling, he knew that the deceased boy's family felt even worse.

Memories came to his mind. He remembered, unwillingly, Battle City—his first encounter with the deceased. Yugi had met a confused, angry, and very lost boy who had eventually found his way back to the light because of the support of his siblings. At first Yugi hadn't known what to make of this strange person. The impression he had gotten was that the other boy was a complete madman, bent on mindless destruction, but as he had come to know the truth, he had realized that the blonde boy felt that his family had truly been wronged by the Pharaoh whose tomb their family had guarded all those centuries and that, in his unstable mind, he felt that he was correcting a serious wrongdoing. As Yugi had later witnessed that tortured soul defeat his Yami and then surrender the duel against the very Pharaoh he had been bent on conquering, he had seen the inner goodness, buried beneath years of built up anger and rage. Yes, Marik Ishtar was good at heart. His true nature was not to be cruel and he proved this.

Then the happier times from afterward danced before Yugi's eyes. He remembered the mysteries. He remembered every time that boy had been there, assisting them. Marik had saved their lives more than once. He had almost died in a raging fire to save Joey, Tristan, Mai, and Ishizu from his Yami. He had suffered the treacherous wrath of Vivalene and of many nameless foes. And he had willingly sacrificed himself when he and Seto Kaiba were called upon to destroy a horrible beast. He was a warrior in many ways. The scars under his eyes and on his back were the marks of pain and anguish that he had overcome. Yugi could almost see the strong-spirited teenager standing before him now—the unwavering form, silhouetted in the oncoming twilight, his lavender eyes shining brightly with determination and his hair and earrings blowing slightly in a breeze.

And with a pang Yugi remembered the last time he had seen Marik Ishtar alive. It had been shortly after school and Yugi had been heading home when he had seen the other boy riding his motorcycle. Marik had seen him and stopped, removing his helmet.

~*~*"Hello, Yugi," he had greeted with his usual smile. His happiness at seeing Yugi had been genuine. It was ironic—the ones Marik had once despised with all of his heart and soul were now some of his dearest friends and among the ones mourning his untimely death. Marik would never be known by many people at all—especially none of high rank and birth—but in the small circle of those who knew him, he was greatly beloved.

"Hi, Marik!" Yugi had returned the salutation enthusiastically, but he had noticed a certain sadness in the Middle Eastern boy's eyes. Marik had been through so much in his young life and had matured greatly because of it. The pain he had seen and felt Yugi knew no one else on this earth could ever understand. Marik rarely hung out with Yugi and the others, but he always had helped them when new mysteries had appeared or when someone was in trouble. He had bonded with each of the gang in some way.

The two had talked for a bit about not much of anything and Yugi remembered asking Marik where he was off to.

"You could come back to the Game Shop for a bit if you wanted," Yugi had offered. "We could . . . I dunno . . . play some games or something."

Marik had smiled in a melancholy way. "Thank you, Yugi, but I'm going to ride around town for a while," he had replied. "It helps me when I have a lot on my mind." And so he had riden off into the horizon . . . and to his death.~*~*

No one knew how it had happened, exactly. But someone had called the Ishtars frantically with the news that they had seen Marik pitch off the side of a ravine with his motorcycle. Both had fallen into the icy waters. Neither Ishizu or Rishid could believe what they had been told, but the facts didn't lie: the motorcycle had been pulled out of the ocean, Marik's blood decorating the metal. Later more had been found on some nearby rocks. The stranger's tale had been truthful. The boy was dead.

That was why Yugi and his friends were gathered here at the water's edge, right near the very spot where Marik had plunged into the frigid tomb. It was sort of a graveside memorial service for one who hadn't deserved to die. It was only right to honor a life that had meant so much to them all. Though Marik had started out as their bitter enemy, he was their nemesis no longer. Not since Battle City had ended. And that had been so long ago now. He died as an ally and a friend.

Yugi swallowed hard. He had gathered his friends and brought them here. He knew he needed to be the one to preside over things, but frankly he didn't know if he could handle it. Even though he and his friends had had so many terrible experiences, never had they needed to organize a memorial service for one of their own. And Yugi felt that he was the least worthy to preside over something like this. He knew nothing about the proper way to do it.

~Yami, how can I do this?~ he said in despair through their mental bond. ~I've never tried to lead a funeral service before! What if I do something wrong?~

The Pharaoh smiled gently. **You can't do something wrong here, Yugi,** he replied. **Everything you will say is from your heart. And, perhaps, by trying to comfort the others, you will manage to comfort yourself as well.**

Yugi nodded shakily. He would try, of course. He just didn't want to do Marik an injustice. Marik had already had more than his fair share of injustices. Blinking back a new flood of tears, the kindhearted boy turned to face the others. Joey, Tristan, Téa, Bakura, Duke, Serenity, Mokuba, Seto, and Mai were all there, as well, of course, as Ishizu and Rishid. They seemed to blur before Yugi's eyes as the crystalline drops rose.

"I . . . I just want to say that . . . that Marik was someone special," Yugi managed to choke out. "He was brave and courageous to be able to overcome his Yami the way he did, and he was a great friend. I know we're all going to miss him. He was always there when we needed him and . . . and . . ." He trailed off, shaking his head helplessly. "And he was someone I looked up to," the boy finished. But he turned pink as soon as he'd said that, realizing how it could be interpreted. Of course he didn't really mean that physically, even though technically the vertically challenged Yugi *did* literally look up to Marik, and most everyone else. But no one made any cracks about the remark. They knew Yugi was serious. And they were serious as well.

Joey nodded slowly, staring out at the water behind his best friend. "It's kinda lonely," he mused in a melancholy tone, "not hearin' his weird voice call out to us."

"Marik has a dear voice," Ishizu said quietly, slightly offended, though she knew Joey hadn't meant any harm. She had purposely spoken of her younger brother in the present tense just now, for even though his body was gone, she knew that his spirit was still alive. "His voice is dear and I would give anything to hear him again." Slowly she turned away again, staying close to Rishid for comfort. They still had each other. They would get through this. Somehow . . . somehow they would. For Marik. He would want that.

Rishid laid his hand over hers. He was silent, as usual, but not emotionless by any possible means. His heart was completely shattered.

"You know," Joey said then, a slight bit of irony in his tone, "I thought I hated Marik during Battle City. I thought I'd always hate the guy for what he did, controllin' me and all that. But instead . . . he was one of my best pals. He really did change." Now Joey spoke with a certain awe. Of course he had always known Marik had changed since he had, but still, as he reflected on the vast difference between the Marik of Battle City and the Marik who had just perished, Joey did feel awed. "He seemed to understand so well when I had a problem. We never really got into any kind of deep conversations that much, but I remember one we had this one time. We'd been talking about fathers."

~*~*Joey had been sitting on the front steps of his house, angry about many things.

His father had always been an alcoholic and often went into drunken rages. Eventually he had completely abandoned Joey and the house the two of them had lived in and no one had heard from him since then, but Joey was afraid that sometime the man would come back from wherever he'd gone off to and start hurting Serenity. If that ever happened. . . . Joey shook his head, clenching a fist. He would protect Serenity, no matter what cost he had to pay. His sister was worth it.

"You look deep in thought."

Joey had looked up at the sound of the odd voice. That could only be one person. "It's nothin'," the Brooklyn boy grunted as Marik came and sat next to him.

"Yugi told me you've been angry lately," Marik said after a while. The boy was an enigma, sometimes elusive and taciturn, and other times very willing to talk and offer counsel to others. Which personality one got depended on the sort of mood Marik was in at a particular time. But the boy wasn't mentally ill by any means. He had overcome all of his madness. It was just that somedays he was rather anti-social, while on others he was cheerful, though still usually quiet. Now he gave Joey a sideways look. "He said it's because of your father."

"What about my father?!" Joey had snapped angrily.

"I don't know," Marik had replied calmly. "Why don't you tell me?"

Joey hadn't answered for some time. Marik knew about how Joey's father acted; once the man had thrown an empty wine bottle at the Egyptian boy, almost cutting him severely. But Marik had caught it in his hand, setting it down carefully on the table. "He'll come back someday and hurt Serenity," Joey growled. "I can feel it!" He slammed his fist into his palm before looking up at Marik angrily. "How do guys like that even become fathers?! They don't deserve it! They don't even want it!" His father had often beat him in his bouts of madness. Joey could remember so many nights of curling up to sleep, crying, after trying to nurse his wounds. His worst nightmare was that the same would happen to Serenity. Or worse.

Marik had been silent for a time before finally answering. "No, they don't deserve it. My father had three children—one whom he hated, another whom he was indifferent to, and another who was just his heir but nothing more. He didn't truly love any of us. But though many of our days were black, even after he . . . he was no longer there to torment us, I believe that, in the end, we were stronger because of what we'd endured." He had looked at Joey firmly, his lavender eyes displaying his convictions. Now he wasn't just speaking about him and his siblings, but about Joey and his situation as well. "Many of the opportunities we've had to grow, we never would have had if not for the trials. It's sort of a . . . refiner's fire. The flames the silver—or whatever the object happens to be—goes into are hot and scorching, but when the object comes out, it is more beautiful than before. Like our spirits." Then he had smiled. "Ishizu taught me that, when I had been in the depths of despair after Battle City. She spoke the truth." There were still times when Marik went into bouts of self-hatred because of the past, but for the most part he had managed to come to terms with and accept it. Perhaps someday he would see Battle City the way Rishid and Ishizu now saw it—but for now it was good that he had stopped blaming himself and was finally able to start living a normal life.

Joey had thought about Marik's words. He had still been angry, but what Marik said made sense. He was stronger and wiser because of what had happened, as he, Joey, was stronger and wiser because of what he'd come through with his father. Most likely a lot of his personality came about because of the past. And maybe his father wouldn't come back. Maybe Serenity wouldn't be in danger from him.

Joey knew that in his heart he still carried much anger and hatred for his father. It was completely understandable and, as Marik had then told him, quite justified.

"But hatred isn't good for anyone to suffer. It can completely consume a person until their goodness is buried deep under many layers of pain and confusion. I suppose I should know that very well." Marik had smiled sadly, staring off into the distance.~*~*

The ensuing conversation between them had lasted long into the hours, with each boy coming away with a better understanding of the other. Joey had thought about it often since then, pondering on the rare glimpse he had seen into the other boy's heart and mind. "This was only a couple of weeks ago," he said then, coming back to the present. "And . . . and now Marik's gone." It didn't seem right. "He's never comin' back." His voice was sobered as the realization struck him sharply.

Téa reached up, plucking a small blossom from off a nearby cherry tree. "He always went out of his way to be kind to us," she said softly. "Maybe it sounds crazy . . . but I think Battle City may have helped him mature." In many ways, she felt that Marik was more mature and grownup than most of the others. He looked at life seriously and accepted the harsh reality of things, while at the same time holding on to the bit of hope he'd uncovered. He wasn't cold and closed off to everyone, as Seto Kaiba was. But he wasn't extremely open with people unless they gave him a reason to be.

"I believe you are right," Ishizu told her gently. "Much good came out of what seemed a black tragedy. Marik learned much about himself and about life. He had a completely different outlook after Battle City." She smiled, recalling just the night before his death, when he had sleepily hugged her before going up to bed.

~*~*"Thank you, Ishizu," he had said softly.

She had smiled, slightly confused, and had tried to brush the ever-present and always unruly bangs away from his lavender eyes. "For what, my dear brother?" she had asked, looking up at him. Though she was four years his senior, Marik was taller than her by five inches. He has grown up so well, she had thought fondly. Marik was a very handsome young man. Ishizu was amused as she thought of the many girls who had chased after him, but in vain. But it would take a special girl to understand his complex mind and heart. Ishizu wasn't sure if such a girl existed. But she had to admit, she had hoped Marik would stay uninterested in romance for a while. She wanted to have him with her and Rishid.

Also to her mind had come memories of when Marik had climbed into her lap as a child, sleepy and wanting to be with his sister. A stray chuckle had nearly escaped her lips as she had tried to imagine this well-built teenager climbing onto her lap now. And yet she had held him on her lap recently, when he was hurt and in need of comfort. But she hadn't wanted to think of Marik being hurt. She had wanted to think of him the way he was now—standing by her, smiling, his strong hands in hers.

He had smiled back, his expression more soft and peaceful than she had seen in a long time. "Just for being my sister through . . . everything." Marik had heard many tales of families that had disowned a son and brother for mistakes that had been made, and he had always been immeasurably grateful that Ishizu and Rishid had never been like that with him. They had always accepted him with open arms. The knowledge that they loved him unconditionally had been a strong winning factor in the battle he had fought with his Yami. Knowing that he had people to live for had given him the desire to go on in life.

Ishizu had watched him go up the stairs. Later she had opened the door to his room just slightly, observing the boy as he had peacefully slept. She couldn't have known that was the last time she would see him alive.~*~*

Rishid, who had continued to be silent, now tried to focus on the conversation Ishizu was having with Téa. His thoughts had been wandering. He had been thinking of the brother he remembered and his different personalities through the years. Cheerful, happy, eager to please. . . . That had been Marik before Battle City. Rishid could still hear his innocent voice calling "Rishid! Rishid!" and leaping happily into his arms after being lost in the many underground tunnels. Rishid was his shelter, his sanctuary from harm. And yet Rishid had almost brought harm upon him once.

~*~*He still remembered when Marik had softly revealed that he had always considered Rishid as his brother. Never had his heart been wrenched as it had been then. Only a moment before he had been clutching a knife in anger as he had towered over Marik's still form. The rage and madness had taken hold of him briefly when he had felt angry that Marik would now be the heir instead of he. Marik would gain everything Rishid had wanted, including acceptance. But would Rishid have actually lowered the knife? No! Rishid was certain he wouldn't have, even if Marik had not said what he had then. It wasn't in Rishid's nature to do anything hurtful. He wouldn't have actually purposely stabbed Marik.

"I'm sorry, big brother."

Rishid had froze, the words reaching through to his heart and melting it. Marik had called him . . . what?! Marik thought of him as a brother?! Not a servant, as the father did? Marik loved him?! Rishid's anger had ebbed away, the dagger falling from his grasp. Instantly he had fallen to his knees, taking Marik's small hand in his own. Marik knew! Marik knew how angry Rishid had been! Marik had known Rishid was holding the knife over him, but he hadn't been afraid. His voice had held no trace of fear in it. Though Rishid had been holding Marik's very life in his hands, the child trusted him. He loved Rishid with every part of his heart and soul. And it was then when Rishid had realized he felt the same about Marik. He had a kindred spirit, a true friend. A brother!

Tears had fallen from Rishid's eyes, splashing onto his and Marik's hands and onto the floor. He vowed, there as he was kneeling next to this precious boy, that never would he betray him. Always would he protect him. Always would he love him. And that had been kept true.~*~*

Rishid's thoughts turned unwillingly. During Battle City, Marik had been confused and thoughtless. He hated to dwell on that point in time. Rishid had felt the strain between him and Marik then. And yet . . . even through it all, he could still feel Marik's love for him, somewhere underneath all the pain. The brother he loved had still been there. And never had Rishid felt the joy he had when the smoke had cleared during that final battle at Alcatraz Tower and Marik had been standing there instead of the yami. He had been exhausted. His body had looked about to collapse. But Marik's spirit would never collapse. Rishid had realized that so strongly then. Marik's spirit was beautiful and strong. Immortal.

He recalled a conversation they had had once, not long ago, when Marik had been a bit lonely and sad after Mokuba had found some friends closer to his own age.

~*~*"I'm happy he's found new friends, if they honestly make him happy." Marik had looked up at Rishid from where he was sitting on the couch, one leg pulled up to his chest while he let the other stretch out across the cushions. "But that doesn't mean I don't miss him."

Rishid had looked at him. Marik had been more than happy to be there with his brother. But still there was a certain loneliness in his eyes. Rishid had known Marik was feeling that he was losing someone else special to him. And Rishid spoke the truth when he had softly said, "I understand how you feel."

Marik had gazed up into Rishid's eyes, his own eyes questioning. Had Rishid experienced something similar?

Rishid had smiled slightly at Marik's expression. "Never mind," he had said then.

But Marik had still wanted an answer. "Do you . . . feel that way about someone?" he had asked softly, starting to understand. Of course Rishid had.

"I once did," Rishid had replied at last. "Missing a friend, I mean." Oh yes. He had missed a friend. A very dear friend. The one most special above all others.

And he could see Marik understood. Marik didn't have to say so aloud, though, and he knew it. "Is your friend back now?" he had wanted to know, smiling a bit.

Rishid smiled, squeezing his shoulder. "Yes." His friend was here, sitting beside him. And he wouldn't leave him. Never again.~*~*

Back in the present, Rishid smiled once more. Marik wouldn't ever truly be gone. Not from his heart.

After Battle City. . . . Rishid paused, his eyes narrowing thoughtfully. Afterwards . . . Marik had become quiet, reserved, and wise beyond his years. Still he had been hot-headed and rashly willing to deal out punishment and justice where he thought it warrented it, and yet . . . he had never again descended into the madness he had experienced in his earlier years. He was stronger than that.

"You've always been my north star. My guide."

Rishid gazed up at the Heavens. Always he had kept those words of Marik's in his heart. The boy had said that to him after Rishid had told him that the sky had to become very dark before the stars became visible. The thought that he had been able to help Marik in whatever little ways he could made his heart swell with happiness. And Marik had helped him as well. It had only been the previous night when Rishid had nearly been struck by a speeding car. But he had heard Marik screaming, "Rishid! Look out, Rishid!" and had managed to avoid it just in time.

Now, my brother, you are my guide, Rishid said silently, pain obvious in his golden eyes. Of course . . . to me you always were.

Marik was dead, but not lost to them. Gone, but not forgotten.

"I remember how he supported me when I was so sad thinking my Yami had died," Bakura said quietly. "He had been thinking that Ishizu was dead at the time, and so he . . . he really understood my pain and what I was going through." He didn't know Marik that well—not that anyone besides Ishizu, Rishid, and possibly Mokuba did—but that act had always meant so much to him.

Tristan agreed. They hadn't really spent too much time around each other ever, unless a mystery was being solved, but Tristan did remember a time or so when he and Marik had discussed motorcycles together. That was one interest they had in common. Tristan's other major interests, romance and girls, Marik had no desire to become involved with. He had told Tristan once that he just wanted to be with his siblings for the time being and not even worry about girls. Life was so short, he had lamented, and he had been estranged from Ishizu and Rishid for such long eons. Now that they were finally together, Marik didn't want anything to interfere. And he felt that some girl would definitely do that. Perhaps later he would feel different, but right then his life had been already complete. Tragically, he hadn't even been able to enjoy that very long.

"He always was fascinated by the bikes," the hazel-eyed boy said now, returning to the present. "It's ironic that . . . that riding one of those things killed him." He shuddered, idly wondering if some day he might meet a similar fate.

Mokuba, who had been crying silently into Seto's trenchcoat, looked up with a start. "Marik was a great buddy," he whispered, only being able to choke out a few words in his heartbroken state. "He . . . he's saved my life before." A smile played at the corners of Mokuba's mouth as memories of their times together swirled through his mind. "That was how we became really close. 'Cause he pulled us out of the trashed limo when it crashed. And then . . . then I was so scared and alone, not knowing if Seto would make it through the night. . . . But Marik stayed with me through all of it. He . . . he . . ." The young boy hiccuped and Seto held him close, allowing him to cry as much as he needed. "He helped me not go crazy when it was really hard."

Seto smiled comfortingly down at his precious younger brother. Yes, he may not have said it much, but he was grateful to Marik. Mokuba had needed a friend for when his brother was working, and Marik had served the purpose well. He had been a good listener whenever Mokuba was sad, a rational guide when Mokuba wanted to do something mischievous or too adventurous, and a time or so he had been Mokuba's lifesaver as well. And even though Mokuba had found some friends now who were more his own age, Seto knew that Marik was still Mokuba's dearest friend. And he always would be.

Heh. Funny how things work out, isn't it? Seto thought to himself. Marik was the last one he had ever imagined would want to be friends with Mokuba. He had always seemed so aloof, so reserved and quiet once Battle City had ended. And yet Marik had opened his heart to the younger boy, genuinely enjoying the friendship they had had. Seto and Mokuba had come through many rough scrapes with the Ishtars, and Seto now admitted to himself that, yes, even he would miss the Egyptian teenager.

Mai leaned against a tree, seemingly emotionless. But as she studied this saddened group, mourning the loss of a dear friend—and brother to some—her heart was touched. She, too, had good memories of Marik. Never could she forget the time Yami Marik had emerged from wherever he had been held dormant for so long and had abducted her along with Ishizu. He had mind-controlled Joey and Tristan and forced the two boys to keep Mai and Ishizu at bay. But Joey and Tristan had broken free of the control and then Marik had fought to again regain his body. He and his Yami had eventually split into their separate bodies and fought on a ledge, Yami Marik causing the shed to become alight with flame. At the end of the vicious battle, Marik had plunged into the fiery tomb, giving his own life to defeat the Yami. Mai had used the fallen Rod to hack through the wooden door and release her and the others before they could perish as well. And all the while she had heard Marik's voice encouraging her. Of course, Marik hadn't died . . . that time. His life had been miraculously preserved and, thanks to his dead mother's protection, he had escaped without any burns, though he had been cut badly from his fall. Mai truly had heard his voice encouraging her, as he had somehow astral-projected during that time. And Mai smiled. He hadn't been a bad kid. Certainly he hadn't deserved to die. But maybe . . . maybe he was just too good for this world. And yet Mai knew that Marik wouldn't be happy in the afterlife without his siblings. She looked up at the sky, feeling a twinge of sadness.

Serenity was clinging to Joey for comfort, but she brushed her hazel eyes dry and stood up firmly, her voice shaking as she clutched blossoms in her own hands. "I'll never forget how Marik saved your life, Joey," she whispered, but loud enough for all to hear, "that time when he struggled so hard to tell us about that awful woman who was trying to get revenge on us all." Tears caressed the little flowers as Serenity gently threw them out into the water. She had loved Marik, not in any sort of romantic way, but as a dear, dear, special friend. He had always treated her kindly and valued her opinions on things, the same way Tristan and Duke did, but yet it was different with Marik. Somehow Serenity had felt more at ease around him and more like she could be open about things since he wasn't vying for her attention and heart. It was hard sometimes for her to talk with Tristan and Duke about things, and even sometimes with Joey, since he sometimes got very protective and would yell. Of course she loved her brother and didn't hold that against him. But it had been good for her to have a friend such as Marik was.

Joey smiled at her fondly. No, he couldn't forget that experience Serenity spoke of either. Nor how happy Marik had made his sister. There weren't that many who had been able to give her such joy.

Tristan looked to Duke, who had one hand reaching up to grip at the branch of a tree and seemed to be staring ahead at nothing. "You've been pretty quiet, buddy," he observed.

Duke shrugged. "What do you want me to say? Of course Marik was a great guy." What he was remembering was when he and Marik had teamed up to capture a drug ring running rampant in Domino City. They hadn't always gotten along, but Duke was willing to acknowledge that Marik had done good and been a brave soul. "But you know me, I'm not really the mourning type." He flipped his hair.

"How can you be so cold, Duke Devlin?" Téa cried, stepping closer to him. Her blue eyes flashed with outrage. "Marik died tragically! And all you can say is that you're not the mourning type?! He was your friend! Mourn for *him*, at least, if no one else!"

Duke only looked away, his raven hair being blown gently by the breeze that had just picked up. "I handle things differently," he said quietly, "but that doesn't mean I don't care. I do care. Do you think I wanted to see Marik die? Of course I didn't." He closed his eyes tightly. He hadn't said anything to anyone, but the truth was that he had seen Marik pitch off the cliff. Duke had been there with one of his employees and they had both witnessed the accident. While Duke's friend had immediately gone to call for help, Duke had tried to pick his way down the steep canyon and get to the water's edge in case Marik was still alive. He had dove into the raging current, not bothering to remove any of his clothes first in his hurry to find the other boy. But he hadn't been able to find him. Later the motorcycle had been pulled from the churning waters, but Marik's body had not been recovered. Duke had only been able to find the Egyptian's earrings. Shaking from shock, Duke had given the earrings to a police officer and fled the scene before anyone could ask for his name. He felt too ashamed to let anyone know he had been there. He had failed. He hadn't been able to save Marik. If he had been able to get down the cliff faster, perhaps he could have saved him. The newspapers had all reported the anonymous boy who had given Marik's earrings to the police officer, but it had been too dark to see his identity, and Duke's friend had graciously not disclosed anything. That was the way Duke wanted it.

Yugi could see the pain in Duke's eyes as he stared down at the waters just ahead. He didn't understand what the dice master was thinking, but he did recognize that Duke's flippant comments were concealing a lot of pent-up grief. "I know you miss him too, Duke," he said softly.

And then Yami Yugi came out of the Puzzle to stand next to them. "But you do not need to feel guilty about anything," he said firmly. "Marik wouldn't want that."

Duke clenched his fists. "You don't know what happened," he muttered. "No one does." He was certain that Marik didn't blame him. But he couldn't stop from blaming himself. Couldn't he ever be in control? Couldn't he ever do something that would truly matter? Oh, he'd created a game that had gone international. But that didn't seem that important. The girls that always chased him would be going after a different idol before long. Duke felt that he would be forgotten someday. He was simply a cipher, a enigma, but more of one than Marik. Would he really be missed if he had been the one to die instead of Marik? Why hadn't it been he who was taken instead of the Egyptian?!

Ishizu stepped forward then, laying her flowers in the now calm ocean. "The pain is often too much to bear," she said, her voice clear and steady, though tears had formed in the blue eyes. "Sometimes all that is our saving grace are words of wisdom spoken by dear Marik himself." She straightened up again, clasping Rishid's hand as he came over to her. "He said them long ago to young Mokuba, but they apply well for everyone." With that she turned back to face the group around them, a sad smile appearing on her beautiful face as she repeated what Marik had said. She knew he would want them all to hear it.

"'Hearts will hurt when they love people. You can't try to lock yourself away because you can't stand the pain or you think someone else can't. Pain is a part of life.'"

Ishizu trailed off, looking to Rishid to continue Marik's speech. She knew how her elder brother was aching right now. Marik's death had hit him hard, perhaps harder than anyone else. Rishid had lived for Marik. Perhaps he would take comfort in doing this one last thing for him.

Rishid took a deep breath, knowing from Ishizu's gaze what she wanted. She was hoping that in saying what Marik had said, it would make him feel a bit better. Rishid was doubtful about that, but he would do as she hoped anyway. He shared Ishizu's sentiment about Marik wanting the others to know his words. And perhaps he did need to speak them. As he spoke, he did feel a peace come over him. "Marik then talked about the expression 'It is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all,'" the strong man spoke up. "And then he continued with these immortal words: 'It doesn't apply to just romantic love. It applies to any relationship that has left you a better person. People may die or move on, but what they taught you and how they made you feel will always remain. No matter what happens, you will never regret knowing someone like that. There may be pain at losing them, but it was all worth it just to know them." He took another deep breath before continuing. "'Don't push those away who love you, even if you think it's for their good. That will only hurt them worse. Believe me . . .'"

"'I speak from personal experience.'"

The third voice joined in, but the quiet tones sent a noticeable jolt through everyone there. They all recognized that voice. That strange, odd, yet gentle and sweetly sad voice. All of them had heard it before, but not for days now. And no one could get any words out in reply. They could only turn in stunned shock and disbelief, staring at the silhouette coming from behind the trees in the twilight hour. It was a ghost. It could only be a ghost, come to share in their mourning and offer comfort.

"I'm not any saint," the boy continued softly, stepping into the light. "But still . . . I like to think that perhaps I made those I love happy by being with them." Marik smiled tiredly, the damp bangs flopping in his eyes once again. His clothes were torn and small open wounds were visible on his arms and waist. Slowly he reached out a carefully-bandaged hand to the person nearest to him—Ishizu—hoping that she would snap out of her trance.

Ishizu stared, allowing the weak fingers to brush against her cheek. At the slightest touch of the boy's flesh she knew he was real. This wasn't some spectral form come to visit them—this was Marik, truly her and Rishid's precious brother, come back to stay! With a sob of joy she pulled the boy close to her, crying uncontrollably as she felt his soft hair under her chin once more. All she could say was his precious name again and again. "Marik! Oh Marik . . . dear brother. . . ." A part of Heaven had come back. The angels had sent back one of their own to watch over his loved ones once again! Marik was by no means perfect. He was an angel with a bit of a crooked halo, but still an angel nevertheless. Ishizu held him closer.

And then Rishid was there, holding both his siblings close. He was overwhelmed. Of course he didn't know how this miracle was possible. He didn't understand it. But he didn't need to understand how. All he needed to understand was that his brother was alive. Absolute joy came over him, his golden eyes lighting up as he pulled Marik closer. His dearest friend had returned to him again.

Yugi and the others stood around, unsure of what to say or do. They didn't want to interrupt the family reuniting. But they also wanted to cry for joy and let Marik know how much they all had missed him. How was this possible? They had been holding a memorial service for Marik and here he was! Duke, especially, looked shocked and full of disbelief. Here was the boy he had wanted to save. He had thought he had failed and that Marik had drowned because of him. But no! He was here, now being embraced by an ecstatic Mokuba Kaiba and laughing happily! Marik was safe. He was alive. And he was back.

Marik looked up, still embracing Mokuba, and smiled at the group of gawking teenagers standing around. He knew exactly what they must be thinking. He only hoped none of them thought he had been sneaking around for a long time, just not making himself known. No, he had only come upon them now, and he had realized they were holding some sort of memorial service for him. It touched him as he looked into the joyous eyes of Yugi, Téa, Joey, and the rest. They all did care about him. They were truly overjoyed to see he was still alive.

Joey was the one who broke the reunion moment. "Alright! Time out!" he cried, making the sign with his hands. "What the heck are you doin' back?!"

Marik just smiled. He was used to Joey's impulsiveness now. "Aren't you glad to see me, Joey?" he retorted calmly. He remembered fighting against the harsh current after falling in. Something had been holding him down and for the longest time he hadn't been able to tear free. But then he had been able to get away after a struggle which had cut one of his hands. He had managed to reach a distant shore and then had collapsed on a large rock. The experience had left him injured and without any way to contact his loved ones. His leg was sore and bruised from where he had been held down by the chain underwater. If his family and friends looked closely, they would be able to see he was limping slightly and favoring his left leg.

Marik, luckily, hadn't been without a few supplies. He had been carrying a miniature First Aid Kit in a waterproof case and he had cleaned his wounds, bandaging the worst of them. Then he had struggled to get out of the canyons and back to civilization. Only now had he managed to find those who made up his world.

Joey glared. "What?! What kinda thing to say is that?! Of course I'm glad to see you, you crazy Egyptian!" With that he ran forward, high-fiving Marik, and grinning his special Joey grin.

And then Marik was encircled about by his family and friends as they all greeted him joyously. He was loved and cared about. He had what he wanted—a knowledge that he had touched all their lives in some way for good and that he would be truly missed if he perished.

"I'm so glad you're alright, Marik!!" Yugi exclaimed, his violet eyes bright. "We . . . we all thought . . ." He swallowed hard. Still this was so hard to believe. Marik had died! Someone had seen him go over the edge and hit the water! But instead of drowning, he had come back.

"It takes more than a plunge into the ocean to get rid of me," the Egyptian replied with a slight smirk.

"Well, that's good," Mai smiled. "It was getting kind of lonely without you around."

Tristan, Bakura, Téa, and Serenity were all exuberant as well. In turn each came and spoke to their restored friend. Tristan gave him a friendly slap on the back. Bakura talked to him softly and shyly. Téa greeted him with a kind smile and a chirpy "We've missed you!" And Serenity ran up to him and took his hands, smiling happily with joy.

Mokuba grinned, hugging his friend tightly around the waist. Marik was back! His friend had come back to him! He hugged tighter, his fingers discovering small wounds in Marik's back. "Marik, you're hurt," he whispered in alarm.

But Marik just smiled gently. "It's nothing," he said softly. "I'm still alive, aren't I?" He ruffled Mokuba's hair. So many times he had nearly died. He was certain that one day he would not be so lucky, but he wouldn't worry about that time happening. His life had been spared so far. It was obvious that he was meant to stay on earth, and he was most happy about that.

Mokuba looked up happily at his friend. "Yeah," he agreed in awe. "You're still alive, buddy."

Even Seto looked pleased. He hadn't ever wanted Marik to die. And he had known how it had been weighing on Mokuba and crushing him down. To know that he wouldn't have to be sad about it any more was a great relief to Seto. When he made eye contact with the boy, the businessman nodded ever so slightly in acknowledgement. He was a person of few words, and even fewer displayed emotions. Marik nodded back, something wordlessly passing between them. They were not enemies.

Duke, also finding words strangely inadequate at the moment, finally just smiled and told Marik he was happy to see him. He wouldn't have to suffer any longer with feelings of guilt. Marik had come back from his watery grave to rejoin the others. Duke could honestly say he was glad. He hadn't thought he would be able to get over his self-loathing. He had hated himself for what he perceived as a failure that had cost someone his life.

Marik could see the immense relief in Duke's eyes. He knew something had happened that was not being said, but he wouldn't push it. Duke would tell him if he wanted. He spoke to the dice master briefly, but nothing was revealed.

Then he felt Rishid's strong hand on his shoulder and he looked up at the man he loved so dearly as his older brother and special friend. Rishid had always been there. Somehow Marik felt that he always would be, too, no matter whether he died or not. Rishid's expression now seemed genuinely puzzled, while at the same time joyous and ecstatic. Marik gave him a questioning look.

Rishid smiled down at him. "Brother . . . I do not know how, but I was nearly struck by a car last night . . . only I heard your voice warning me." He had thought that had confirmed Marik had indeed perished and had came back as a guardian angel to save his brother. But obviously that was not the case. Rishid was curious as to the explanation for what had actually happened, but it wasn't necessary. He merely wanted to let Marik know of the experience, as he felt it cemented their bond all the more. All Rishid had ever wanted was just to be loved and accepted. And Marik and Ishizu did exactly that for him.

To Rishid's surprise, Marik gasped and blinked, turning around to give the man his full attention. This news startled him gently. But not for the reason one might think. Marik stared at his brother for some time before finally answering.

"My dream wasn't just a dream then," he said softly.

Rishid stared. "What do you mean, brother?" he asked, stunned.

Marik looked at him seriously. "Last night I was trying to stay awake while I crossed over the rocky part of the canyon covered in dead trees from that fire in autumn," he explained. "But somehow I wasn't able to. I wound up falling asleep under a large overhang and then started having a dream about you in danger. I saw a car coming toward you and I knew you would be struck. And I screamed for you to look out. Apparently I screamed so loudly I woke myself up." He smiled wryly, but then instantly sobered. "I couldn't figure it out. I prayed that you weren't really in danger, but I had the feeling you had been." He squeezed Rishid's hand. "I understand now." The boy's eyes took on a far-away look as he contemplated. "You might have died, Rishid. I would have came back and found my brother dead." The thought horrified him, especially as he thought of what it could have been like for Rishid if he had been hit. He imagined his brother dying peacefully, thinking that he would get to see Marik again in Heaven only to discover that the boy was still among the living. Marik shuddered uncontrollably.

Rishid pulled him close. "Then . . . I did hear your voice," he said softly. "Somehow. . . ." His mind was not plagued with the same dark thoughts Marik was having. Rishid was thinking only of having his brother with him again. It was truly a miracle from above. And their bond was so strong that Marik had been able to protect him from afar. What could be more wonderful?

Marik hugged him. "Yes," he agreed. "Somehow you did. . . . And somehow I protected you. . . ."

Ishizu joined their hug then and the three siblings embraced joyously. "Let us go home," Ishizu whispered. "We shall leave this spot behind, but never forget it. For it is the site of a miracle. It was here that you returned to us, dear Marik." And always afterward Ishizu found the spot sacred.

Marik smiled. He had returned. And he would never leave again, if he could help it. He never wanted to leave. He wanted to always stay with his loved ones.

And so the group slowly left, all of them together. They climbed into Seto's limo, filled with feelings of joy and happiness. A warrior had come home from his latest battle victorious. Their brother and friend was back with them. It was the most wonderful miracle that could have possibly happened. And they were all saying prayers of thanksgiving for it.