You Were Loved

By Lucky_Ladybug

Notes: As always, the characters aren't mine and the story is XD I may have taken a liberty or two with the dialogue in the scene where Rishid talks to Mrs. Ishtar, but we can just say I expanded on what was already there, yes? And that what I didn't include was still said as well? XD Good. We're agreed. Prepare for much SIBLING CUTENESS! The idea for this was sparked while watching my new nephew. So . . . I guess I'll give him the credit for it ^__~

The night was dark and quiet, the sort of calm night that sometimes precedes a spring or summer storm. The trees barely moved, their strong limbs reaching up toward the Heavens. Every now and then a soft wind blew through, but it was barely enough to rustle the smallest plant. Domino City's residents enjoyed the stillness as the hours wore on, one by one each settling into their beds.

Or most of them did. Seto Kaiba was hard at work in his office, hurrying to get a project done before the self-appointed deadline of tomorrow. Yugi Muto was going through his deck and worrying if there would soon be a new problem he and his Yami would need to deal with. Ishizu Ishtar was working late at the museum, studying the latest batch of Egyptian artifacts that had been brought to her. And Rishid Ishtar was looking for his younger brother.

The strong and stern man slowly entered the darkened living room, wondering if his brother was in here. The boy wasn't in his room, nor was he out on the balcony, which was his favorite place to go of late. Briefly Rishid entertained worried thoughts, as older brothers often will. Had Marik wandered out for a late motorcycle ride? No, the boy would have told him something. Perhaps the ex-Rare Hunters were up to their evil schemes again and the eerie stillness in the home was part of their latest plot. They were always trying to do something to hurt Marik.

But Rishid had no need to worry. When he clicked on the light, he found a teenage form sleeping quite peacefully on the couch. The man smiled fondly and came over closer, watching as Marik clutched at the pillow and then started to burrow into the soft cushions. The poor boy was utterly exhausted. He deserved a good rest after all the strange misadventures they'd had over the past week.

His body still showed the effects of a harsh beating he'd taken three days previous. Bruises and healing cuts were visible on his arms and exposed waist, and Rishid knew there were more on the flesh covered by Marik's shirt. Yes, the poor boy deserved every bit of rest he could get.

After glancing about, Rishid found his cloak draped on a chair and crossed the room to retrieve it. This, of course, was not the same cloak he'd worn during the treacherous Battle City. This was a different one that was a different color. He smiled as he came back to Marik and gently covered him with the material. He was taller than Marik and his cloak was quite long. It worked well as a blanket for the boy Rishid loved more than life itself. And Marik seemed to enjoy it. He snuggled under the softness, mumbling something in his sleep.

Rishid sat down next to the couch, lost in thought as he gazed at his slumbering brother. The boy looked so at peace and childlike. And memories tumbled over themselves in Rishid's mind. He recalled back to Egypt, when they had been forced by their mad father to live underground and never see the surface. He remembered how kind and dear Mrs. Ishtar had been. She was the only mother he had ever known. And she had treated Rishid just as any biological child.

Rishid smiled as he remembered when Ishizu had been born. Mrs. Ishtar had been thrilled, though her husband had been angry that the child wasn't a boy. But Mrs. Ishtar and Rishid both loved their new daughter and sister. Ishizu had quickly loved them both in turn and enjoyed sitting in Rishid's lap when he read stories and told her of the world outside, which he had been allowed to see a few times since he was not the Tomb Keepers' heir. She loved the man, though he wasn't a biological brother. Neither Ishizu or Marik had cared about that.

Ishizu had been four when Marik had been born. It had been a very rough pregnancy and delivery for Mrs. Ishtar, and Rishid could never forget when he had come with Ishizu to see her that last time. Or what her last words had been. He wondered if she was watching them from Heaven now and if she would be pleased.

Marik shifted his position, causing the cloak to fall and expose some of his arm. Rishid smiled, gently readjusting the makeshift blanket.


The dear woman was cradling her new little son in her arms, smiling softly as the child blinked up at her and cooed, grabbing at a piece of her hair. "Look, my darlings," she whispered with pride as Ishizu and Rishid came in. "This is your brother." The baby was such a wonder! Only a few minutes old and already curious and interested in everything. Though this was not the first time Mrs. Ishtar had become a mother, the wonder still filled her soul. It amazed her how some people were certain everything had happened by chance. She knew it wasn't so. She knew there was a Supreme Creator behind it all and she had tried to instill that knowledge within her two older children. Silently she prayed that her new little son would be able to know as well.

Ishizu grinned, climbing up on the bed. "He's so tiny," she remarked, leaning over and saying hello to Marik. The baby made a gurgling sound of approval. He knew Ishizu was his sister. And he liked her already.

Mrs. Ishtar chuckled. "He'll get big quick," she replied and then looked at Rishid. "I'm afraid, though, that . . . I will not be here to see him grow up." She spoke very softly, not wanting Ishizu to hear. She knew her time on earth was drawing to a close. The woman had known since the delivery process had begun. But she didn't want to die. She wanted to stay and watch over her children and see them mature and grow! Many long hours she had prayed about her situation, pleading to God for just a little more time. But the answer she had received in her heart was "No." It was her time to come home.

Rishid stared at her in disbelief. "No, Mother!" he cried, forgetting to be quiet. Ishizu looked up, staring in confusion. She didn't know why Rishid had suddenly exclaimed in anguish. She couldn't know that he was feeling as though his entire world was crashing down around him.

Mrs. Ishtar smiled in a melancholy way. "You and Ishizu will take good care of him, won't you, my dear Rishid?" Her golden eyes, strangely like Rishid's own, shined with worry. "I know you can handle the truth, my son. And . . . I am afraid of your father. I know how badly he treats you and how indifferent he is to little Ishizu. Marik will finally be an heir for him, but he will not love this precious treasure as he should. Please give him and Ishizu all the love they deserve. All the love I wanted so badly to give them." Rishid opened his mouth to speak, but she quickly stopped him. "Promise me!" she insisted.

Rishid swallowed hard. He didn't feel that happy toward the baby at the moment. In his poor mind, he felt that this baby was what was killing his mother. And he was angry.

Mrs. Ishtar looked into his deep eyes. "Promise me, Rishid!" she said quietly. She wasn't a woman who yelled or screamed to make her point, but her gentle voice could pierce the soul even though it was so soft.

Rishid felt tears in his eyes, but he blinked them away. "I . . . I promise, Mother," he choked out. How could he deny her anything when she was upon her deathbed? She had given him everything.

Mrs. Ishtar smiled, relaxing into the soft pillows. She could sense Rishid's current feelings toward little Marik, but in her wise way she knew he would get over all of that. "I know your father says you are not truly part of this family, Rishid, but do not believe it!" she said now. "You have always been part of us. I was meant to find you that night by the well. You, as far as I am concerned, are just as much my child as Ishizu and Marik are." She reached desperately for his hand, her weak fingers trembling.

And Rishid reached for her, feeling the tears spilling freely down his face now. "Mother," he whispered, his voice cracking.

Their hands never touched.

Rishid's scream echoed all around him, but he knew it was his. Poor Ishizu was just confused. She didn't understand that her mommy was dead. Again and again she shook the woman, calling to her and pleading for her to wake up. But Rishid knew she would not. Never again.


For days afterward he distanced himself from Marik. He didn't know how he could bear being around the child. It would remind him of his mother and how she had died bringing Marik into the world. And it would also remind him that Marik would now be the heir instead of Rishid. It made him feel all the more like an outsider, in spite of his mother's dying words. Where did he truly belong?

Ishizu loved the baby, though, and brightened up immensely whenever she was allowed to hold him. And Marik adored her, making happy sounds and snuggling close. They were obviously meant to be siblings, Rishid thought to himself with a smile as he watched Marik grab at a lock of Ishizu's hair and giggle, enjoying the silky feel of it.

"Why don't you wanna hold him?" Ishizu asked once, blinking wide, four-year-old blue eyes at her elder brother. She also, of course, couldn't understand Rishid's tumultuous feelings about Marik and their mother and the entire situation, though she knew the feelings were there. Children seem to have a sixth sense about those sorts of things, and with Ishizu being Ishizu, perhaps she even had a bit more of one.

But Rishid didn't intend to tell her more than she might already know. He tried to smile weakly. "Oh . . . I don't think he'd like me," he replied with what he knew was a feeble excuse.

"Of course he'd like you!" Ishizu responded, immediately standing up and struggling to walk to him while holding Marik. "You're the brother!"

Rishid couldn't help being amused and touched as he watched Ishizu try so desperately to get over to him. She was so little herself, but she was trying to hold the infant Marik and walk at the same time. And something opened in his heart. He stood up and came over, meeting Ishizu halfway. Slowly he reached his arms out to take Marik, remembering then his promise to his mother to always give love to Marik and Ishizu.

"Here!" Ishizu chirped matter-of-factly, grinning as she watched Rishid awkwardly accept the moving infant. Marik was a very cheerful and hyper baby, rarely crying. He seemed to like the attention he got from everyone living in this underground city and basked in it. Now, as Rishid took him, the child seemed to settle down. "Talk to him!" Ishizu encouraged. "He likes that."

Rishid just stared helplessly into the curious lavender eyes, wondering what to say. What could he say? Carefully he backed up into a chair, sitting down slowly with Marik in his arms. "So . . . you are Marik," he finally said in a quiet tone. "You're going to be the heir now. Do you understand that?" He sighed as the child made a gurgling sound. Surely the infant didn't understand his words. Perhaps he could vent a bit. He wanted to get his feelings out. "I would have been the heir. Then perhaps I could have felt that I truly belonged here. And . . . if it wasn't for you . . . Mother might still live." He spoke darkly in the ancient Egyptian tongue he was learning. Everyone in the tunnels spoke both Arabic and ancient Egyptian, but little Ishizu was too young to understand the Egyptian language yet.

Marik blinked at him, seeming to sense his brother was sad. Oh yes, Marik knew instantly upon seeing Rishid that they were brothers. Not biological brothers, but brothers still. Marik didn't see boundaries of blood or heirs and non-heirs. All he saw was a very sad young man who was his brother. He cooed softly, peeking out from behind the abundance of soft blonde hair that was growing.

Rishid had to chuckle at the sight. Gently he reached out with a hand, brushing the feathery locks aside. Yes, Marik was definitely his father's son. The hair attested to that.

Marik grinned, grabbing at Rishid's finger before the man could pull his hand back. He felt safe and secure with this person. He didn't want Rishid to leave him. And though he couldn't yet convey it with words, he tried with actions. You're my brother, his eyes seemed to say. I trust you completely!

Rishid looked startled at first. The child seemed to like him. He wasn't sure why. He hadn't spoken kind words to the poor boy. And as he continued to gaze at Marik, he knew that what he had said was uncalled for. It was hardly Marik's fault that he had been born and that he would be the heir. He was such an innocent spirit. If he really understood that his mother had died giving birth to him, Rishid was certain that young Marik would feel extremely guilty. Rishid didn't need to add to such feelings. And so he held Marik close, not trying to pull his finger free. The infant looked satisfied, starting to drop into a happy sleep.

"See?" Ishizu chirped, suddenly bringing Rishid out of his reverie. "He likes you!"

Rishid slowly smiled. "He does, doesn't he."


And over the years their relationship deepened. Though Rishid was sometimes irritated with the inquisitive and outspoken child, deep down he admitted that he loved him dearly. Ishizu loved her elder brother as well, and both her brothers adored her, but there was a certain bond that formed between Marik and Rishid that no one else could penetrate. At the same time, Marik formed another bond with his sister. He loved both his older siblings and idolized them.

One night when Marik was about three, Rishid found himself being woken from a dead to the world deep sleep. At first he was irritated. Rarely was he able to sleep well in this seeming manifestation of Hades on earth. He was always on edge, wondering what would be done to him next. Their father hated him. It was obvious in the way he treated Rishid as a mere servant and often beat both him and Marik whenever the poor child did something he didn't like. Rishid, quite frankly, hated the man back. Marik was only a child! He didn't deserve the harsh punishments he got. And Rishid didn't feel deserving of the almost daily beatings either.

As Rishid slowly became more aware, he found a poor, shuddering form huddled up against him and sobbing. It was Marik, back from another of Mr. Ishtar's "dealings of justice." He wore only his underclothes, his robe having been taken from him so that he would feel the lashing of the whip much more acutely. His back was raw and sore to the touch. Rishid felt horror come over him. His anger toward what had woke him up melted away instantly and he swiftly took Marik into his arms, holding him close.

Marik clung to him, the sobs racking his body. "I didn't do anything wrong!" the toddler wailed. "I . . . I was just so hungry . . . I wanted a piece of bread. . . ." He swallowed hard, trying to hide himself in his brother's embrace. "Daddy caught me. . . . He said I was s'pposed to be in bed and that . . . that I wasn't to be allowed up for anything!"

Rishid's eyes narrowed in rage. He wanted to get Marik out of this pit of darkness. Every day he longed to take him and Ishizu away, far away from Mr. Ishtar and the Tomb Keepers and possibly even Egypt. This was no place for innocent children to grow up! Rishid had seen so very much down here that he knew was evil and wrong. His innocence had shattered long ago. He didn't want the same thing to happen to Marik and Ishizu, as it very well appeared it would.

Gently he released Marik and laid him down on the bed on his stomach. Carefully the man then began rubbing healing ointment on the boy's abused back, becoming more and more angry as his fingers found the cruel welts and broken skin. But he spoke not a word. Words were not needed between the two of them. Not always.

Marik tensed as the stinging oils touched his sore flesh. "It hurts," he protested, tears glistening in his eyes. Is my whole life about pain? he wondered. Is everyone's life like this?

Rishid smiled sadly, wrapping a soft cloth around the injuries. "It would hurt worse if I didn't treat it," he responded, giving Marik one of his own, old robes to wear. It trailed on the floor and Marik giggled, snuggling close to his brother as Rishid laid down again.

That wasn't the first time Marik had sought the shelter of Rishid's room. Many a night after that Rishid would awaken to find the child curled up against him in fear, wanting the safety of being with his brother. Rishid didn't yet realize just how much Marik idolized him and thought of him as a brother, but he did realize that to Marik, Rishid was someone who could calm the storms.


When Marik was about five, he and Rishid were playing hide-and-seek in the twisting, turning, and confusing tunnels that made up their home. It was the perfect place to play, Marik had declared, but the poor boy certainly hadn't intended to get lost down one of the winding ways. For hours he wandered about, helpless and scared and screaming for his brother.

And Rishid was looking for him. He worried to himself, wondering if Marik could have possibly found a way out of their underground prison and gone exploring. It was hard to believe how fond he had become of that boy over the years. There was something about Marik that made it impossible to not like him. And like him Rishid did. The promise he had made to his mother came back to him now and he looked ahead with determination. He would find the boy.

Now as he searched, he became aware of the child's frightened voice calling to him. "RISHID??! RISHID, PLEASE COME FIND ME!!" Then a pause, during which it sounded like Marik was sniffling. "This isn't fun anymore!" And he sobbed.

At that moment, Rishid thought he had never hurried as fast as he did then. But he ran to where the poor boy was crying in fright and then knelt down to speak softly to him, telling him that it was alright, that Rishid was here.

Marik's head snapped up and he stared, blinking away future tears. Then his entire countenance brightened and he leapt up, flying into his brother's arms. "Rishid!! RISHID!!" he chirped happily, his sweet voice innocent and joyous. His brother had come for him! Rishid would always come for him. Perhaps rescuing him from the dark tunnel was a small thing, but it meant the world to Marik. And he continued to trust Rishid completely from that time on. Nothing ever shattered that trust. It was undying.

~End Flashback~

Rishid smiled to himself as he slowly withdrew from his memories and became reacquainted with the here and now. Marik had been a very sweet child. And as a teenager he still was. As the song "You're Still You" played on the radio in the background, Rishid felt that it described his own feelings during Battle City quite well. For no matter how Marik had lashed out at him then, and no matter how angry he seemed, Rishid knew that deep down he had always been the same sweet-spirited child that he was so fond of. Marik had been so very frightened and scared and hurt and had been covering it all up with his anger and rage. But Rishid had seen through it all. Nevertheless, he had never been more happy than when Marik had finally broken through all the barriers and had returned to him and Ishizu. It had been the boy's most important battle, and he had come through it victorious.

Now Marik seemed to stir a bit, pulsating with life underneath the borrowed cloak. In a moment the lavender eyes were open and he blinked up at his brother. Though he was sixteen now, the eyes had not changed. Rishid especially found them the same as before when Marik was just waking up, as he was now.

"Hello," Marik smiled now, becoming aware that he was covered in his brother's cloak.

"Hello," Rishid smiled back.

Marik set the pillow aside and started to sit up. "Have I been asleep long?" he asked, running a hand through his hair. He seemed to be in quite a calm mood tonight, for which Rishid was thankful. When he and Ishizu had found Marik bruised and beaten three days before, the poor boy had been quite delirious and screaming for his siblings. It had wrenched both Ishizu's and Rishid's hearts immensely.

"No more than you deserve," Rishid replied firmly. Marik never seemed to get enough sleep when he wasn't trying to recover from a disaster. And his elder brother sighed at the realization.

Marik yawned, blinking away the sleepiness. "I was dreaming," he said after a hesitation.

Rishid looked at him expectantly. Usually if Marik bothered to mention such a thing, he was planning to tell Rishid exactly what the dream had been about.

Marik smiled, drawing one of his legs up to his chest. He did, indeed, want to talk with his brother. ". . . Do you remember, Rishid," he began in a reminiscent tone, "when that cobra bit me?" He pulled the pant leg up slightly, pointing out the vague scars on his leg from the wicked creature's fangs. They had faded mostly, but if one knew what to look for, the marks could still be found.

Rishid narrowed his eyes. Oh yes, he remembered. He remembered so very well. And he remembered his own behavior after Mr. Ishtar had beat him viciously for not being able to prevent it from happening. It hadn't been Rishid's fault. He had tried. He had tried so hard to always protect Marik, but it seemed that something would always go wrong and Mr. Ishtar would be furious. After all, he couldn't have anything happening to his heir, could he?

"You remember," Marik said with a sad smile, bringing the man out of his thoughts. He gazed up at the ceiling briefly, but Rishid knew Marik wasn't really interested in watching the fan lazily turn round and round. "And . . . Father blamed you for it all." It was a statement, not a question. Marik had lain deathly ill while Mr. Ishtar had been beating Rishid, but somehow he had still known what had been happening around him. "You were angry about the way you were being treated."

Rishid stared at his brother. It was true. He had been angry. So very angry! And at Marik, though the child hadn't deserved it. But the thoughts of all Rishid could have perhaps had, with acceptance at the top of the list, had then driven him over the edge. Rage had inflamed his soul. But it had been then, in his darkest hour, when he had learned that he was accepted. And even better: That he was loved. Never had Rishid wanted Marik to learn of his thoughts and feelings at that time. He had never been so ashamed of anything else he had done! When he had taken hold of Marik's weak hand and held it close, crying, he had wished he could rewrite all of what he had felt. But he knew he never could.

Marik laughed softly at poor Rishid's expression of stunned shock and alarm, but it was a gentle sound and not one of scorn and reproach. "It's alright, my brother," he said, laying a hand on the man's shoulder. "You see . . . I've always known."

If Rishid had been stunned before, now he was absolutely floored. Marik . . . had known? He knew Marik had known about how awful Mr. Ishtar was treating Rishid. That was always what he had thought Marik had been saying "I'm sorry" for. But . . . Marik had also known about Rishid's anger? Had he also been apologizing for that, feeling that he was responsible in some way?

Marik's eyes took on a faraway look. "I know exactly how angry you were, Rishid. And I know that you picked up a weapon and advanced on me, intending to use it. But . . ." He looked directly into Rishid's guilt-ridden, golden orbs. "I was never afraid, Rishid."

Rishid could barely get any words out. It was so much to suddenly digest. Marik had known all along . . . but he didn't hate Rishid for it and he hadn't been afraid? How could that be? At last he managed to speak one word, summing up all his questions. "Why?"

Marik pulled Rishid onto the couch with him, muttering an "Ow" under his breath as a wound was jarred. Then he wearily leaned against his brother, speaking thoughts at last that he had kept in his heart for over a decade.

"It was because I trusted you completely, Rishid," he replied softly. "And . . . I think sometimes I saw things you did not. You were so tortured, only wanting acceptance and love. You didn't realize you had it. I could see all of that. But I also saw something else. Your heart is pure, Rishid. Even if you were overcome by momentary anger, you wouldn't have harmed only a child. When I said I was sorry . . . I meant for so many things. . . . That Father never treated you the way you deserved . . . that I had been hurt by the cobra and all of that had happened . . . and that . . . that you didn't realize that you have a brother and sister who love you."

Rishid stared into the lavender eyes, again feeling the tears fall as they had those years ago. "Marik," he whispered softly, pulling the boy close to his heart. He loved the boy so much. How could he not have ever seen before the cobra's attack that Marik always thought of him as a brother? He had always assumed that Marik and Ishizu thought the same as Mr. Ishtar did: that he was only a servant. But it was not so. He had the loving family he had always wanted.

Marik smiled, returning the embrace. "I'm just grateful that you finally realized it, Rishid," he told the man gently. "I was so ill I couldn't properly show it . . . but I was so happy when you came and took my hand in yours and promised to always be there for me and to be my brother. I'd prayed for so long that you would understand that you're my brother. And then you did."

Rishid smiled, joy coming into his eyes. Marik held nothing against him. The boy never could. But there was still one thing he puzzled over. "You always knew . . . but you never said a word about it until now. Why?"

Marik paused, pondering on the answer. "Perhaps I never felt I needed to until now," he said at last. "But I don't know why suddenly now would be the right time. . . ."

Rishid pulled back slightly, looking deep into Marik's wide lavender eyes. "I believe I know why," he replied quietly. For while he had been pondering over the memories of when Marik was so little, Rishid had also had flashes of memory, unwillingly, of the exact incident he and Marik had just been speaking of. And, as had happened so many times, Rishid had felt his heart being pierced with agony. He had never wanted Marik to know of his anger . . . and yet . . . he had known someday that he would have to tell the boy. It wouldn't be fair to not. But now he knew he didn't need to. Marik had always known. And Rishid's heart was at peace. "I needed to hear your words. I needed to know that you had known, brother, and that you haven't been angry at me for the terrible feelings I had during my moment of madness." Rishid smiled in a way that was both melancholy and happy, again pulling Marik close to him. "I needed to know that you would still love me."

Marik stared up at his brother in stunned shock, the bangs cascading down into his eyes as always. "Rishid . . . after the way you've always been here . . . always patient, kind, and caring, even when I've been at my worst . . . how on earth could I not excuse one mistake you'd made so long in the past?" He smiled gently. "It's past, Rishid. Let's not worry any more about it. There's no need. You told me once that every bad thing in the past helped bring us closer together. And so, in a sense, everything bad actually wound up serving a good purpose. I believe this, my brother." The teenager laid a hand on Rishid's shoulder in earnest, displaying all the wisdom of his sixteen years: a life that on one hand was very short, and yet on the other, contained enough heartache, learning, and knowledge for several lifetimes. Marik was displaying his indomitable spirit, lasting and immortal. "I believe that if the horrors we went through hadn't happened, we would never be as close as we are today. And . . . that you may never have realized you do have a family that loves you," he added quietly.

Rishid knew in his heart Marik spoke truths. But as he held the boy in his arms, he realized another. "I would have realized, Marik," he said with a soft smile. "Somehow . . . I would have realized. And I would have realized that a life without you and Ishizu wouldn't even be a life worth living. There would have been no bright spots in my life after Mother died if it wasn't for my brother and sister." He brushed the bangs aside from Marik's eyes, as he remembered doing so many times before, and looked directly into the deep lavender orbs. As always, many emotions flitted through them. Today most, if not all, seemed positive. Foremost among the emotions Rishid saw brotherly love and a childlike happiness. Marik was so very happy being here with his brother.

Now the boy settled down, looking exhausted and sleepy again. Rishid held him close, covering him with the soft cloak. Marik smiled, clutching at it with a tan-skinned hand. "I believe that brothers as close as we are can never have our relationship torn asunder," he declared, starting to drift back into his slumber. "It wouldn't matter how many dimensions or realms were between us. We'd always find each other again." Before Rishid could reply, the boy was asleep, his breathing growing soft and even.

But Rishid laid a hand gently over Marik's and watched his brother's slumber, replying anyway. "You are right, Marik," he whispered. "You are very right." And he remembered a pact they had made once, not that long ago. Both of them prayed that such an occasion would never come to pass, but just in case it did, Marik had spoken these words:

~*~*"Whichever of us dies first, Rishid, he will do everything he can to come back and be the guardian angel for the other and for Ishizu." That had been right after Marik nearly had died once, after laying in the snow protecting Mokuba for hours. The boy had looked up at Rishid with a melancholy smile as he had lain by the fire, getting warmed up.

Rishid had gripped Marik's shoulder fiercely. "There will not be the need for such a thing," he said sternly, unable to bear the scenario of Marik dying. And he himself didn't want to perish either. He wanted to stay with his siblings. "We will both live long and stay with our sister." And, even though it was unlikely, he did pray that they would all die together, such as in an accident. None of them wanted to have to think of living without the others.

Marik had weakly grabbed Rishid's hand. "I hope not," he had admitted quietly, "but we really don't know what might happen, do we?" He had looked up with sad eyes.

Rishid had sighed, finally squeezing Marik's hand to seal the pact. "No," he had whispered. "We do not."

Marik had squeezed back, relaxing when he had known that Rishid agreed.~*~*

Long into the night Rishid stayed with him, making certain that his sleep was untroubled and peaceful. When at last the door opened and Ishizu came home, she sat with them as well. The two elder Ishtars talked about many things, not the least of which was their life back in Egypt. Ishizu agreed with Rishid that Marik's words were true and that all of them were closer because of their hardships. For, as she wisely added, it only cemented the strong foundations of their family when they emerged from a cloud of trials triumphant.

"We are blessed," she said with a smile, pulling up the cloak quilt over Marik's shoulders. "Very blessed." Gently she squeezed Rishid's hand and he returned the gesture before carefully adjusting Marik into his arms once again. The boy snuggled close, feeling safe. And though briefly his dreams focused on the pain their father had caused all of them, it didn't last. Soon Marik was dreaming only of safety, peace, and love. Never again would he be the frightened child of so long ago. How could he ever be when he had Ishizu and Rishid here with him? Never again!