My Immortal

By LuckyLadybug

Notes: The story is mine, the characters are not, and this is sibling cuteness! So much sibling cuteness! Ahh. . . . :snuggles the Ishtars.: Thanx to JP for his plot help! It does deal with racial prejudice, but I think I've handled things tastefully. I apologize for the removal of the song, but the new policy has forced me to remove it.

"And the rampage in Domino City continues with the attack and apparent electrocution of a man on 44th Street by the same mysterious figure who descended on the city several nights previous and has been causing destruction ever since. Nothing is known about him, save that he appears to be Egyptian. . . ."

Ishizu narrowed her eyes, shutting off the radio with determination. That was the last thing she needed to hear now, after a hard day at work. Again she had been staying at the museum late, struggling to decipher the meaning of a strange, mysterious tablet that had been brought in earlier this week. Much of it was scratched and missing and Ishizu had been having a rough time with the translation. But from what she had figured out so far, she had determined that it dated back almost to when Atemu had been Pharaoh. And that it could be the key to a secret evil.

In addition to this was the news of the daily attacks a mysterious Egyptian was bringing about. Ishizu rubbed her forehead. It was breeding hatred. Whether the one responsible knew or cared, any and all Egyptians living in Domino City were becoming feared and despised. Ishizu had seen in vision just tonight how the problem would escalate. And she couldn't bear to think of it. What if Marik or Rishid was targeted? She had seen hate groups formed against the Egyptians, assaulting and beating them as the strange Middle Easterner had been doing to them. But those people were innocent! They were not involved in the destruction that one man was causing. Ishizu closed her eyes sadly. All of the other Egyptians in the city just wanted to stop him.

Hurriedly she stood up and walked out the back door of the museum, locking it behind her. She had to get home to her brothers and tell them of what she had seen! She had to warn them before they were harmed. With the news of this latest attack, those who were racist in Domino City would waste no time in making their next move.

She frowned, taking her car keys out of her purse. The tablet she was studying would need to be sealed away someplace where no one could get at it. The last thing they needed was to have someone unleashing another evil upon the world—especially if that someone turned out to be one of the Egyptian haters. Ishizu would do all that she could to ensure it wouldn't happen.

The glow from the parking lights above her revealed two cars in the lot. One, a tan-colored, older car, belonged to her. The other was on the other side of the wide parking space, hidden within the shadows. As Ishizu passed by, heading toward her car, the headlights of the mysterious car abruptly came on. She turned to face it, confused at its presence. Who did it belong to? Ishizu had been the only one inside the museum.

And then it was barreling toward her. The action was very precise and deliberate. Ishizu knew that whoever was driving definitely was trying to kill her. The only thing she could do was turn and run for her own car as fast as she could. Her heart thumped in her chest as she heard the vehicle gaining on her. Would she make it in time? She couldn't allow the car to strike her. She couldn't. . . .

The harsh metal hit Ishizu's body and she screamed in pain. Then she was airborne, flying helplessly in space like a broken doll before crashing unceremoniously down onto the harsh pavement. For her, time seemed to stop. She felt the blood trickling over her beautiful skin and she knew her dress was torn. She knew that she had hit her head very seriously when she had fallen. And she knew that her breath was coming out very raggedly and raspily. But she knew nothing around her. She was too badly injured to attempt getting up and too dazed to consciously realize she needed to. Everything had lapsed into a state of limbo.

Was she going to die? The pain was so extreme that Ishizu was certain of it. Her blank eyes gazed ahead, seeing nothing, though she was not blind. She drew a deep, agonized breath, never hearing the footsteps approaching her nor the cruel voice that spoke then.

"Cursed Egyptian witch." The male voice was full of hatred and disgust as its owner gazed down upon the woman he had just harmed. "Maybe I should just leave her here to die slowly and painfully." He flicked a cigarette butt onto the concrete near where Ishizu lay and then stomped on it carelessly before removing a dagger from inside his jacket. "Or maybe I should further help the process along."

Detached memories swirled through Ishizu's tortured mind as she hovered between awareness and unconsciousness. She saw herself as a child, running to her fatally ill mother. Then she was crying over the woman's death, burrowed deep in her elder brother Rishid's arms. Rishid, stunned and sad, had tried his best to offer comfort, though he himself was filled with agony.

Rishid . . . where was he? Why wasn't he here with her now, comforting her? In Ishizu's current state of mind she couldn't understand why she was all alone now, left by herself to die.

The memories continue to envelope her mind and soul. There was Marik as an infant. Ishizu was holding him as best as a four-year-old could, giggling as he grabbed at her hair. Then he had grown up, little by little. But he had stayed so innocent and trusting . . . until their father had betrayed him, unlovingly and obsessingly forcing the hot knife into his flesh to carve the Pharaoh's Memory. Marik hadn't been the same after that.

Recollections of Battle City next tried to plague the poor woman, but she gave a weak moan as she struggled to push them away. The current pain was already overwhelming. If she had to remember Battle City now, she didn't think she could handle it. Somewhere in her subconscious, she knew that.

Her assailant sneered as he watched soft tears emerge from Ishizu's eyes. "Afraid to die, are you?" He called her a foul name, but Ishizu took no notice of it. She was not crying over herself at all. Her tears were for her brother Marik. Her poor, dear brother Marik, who had suffered so long and so hard in his confusion and anger.

Where was he now? Why wasn't he here as well? Ishizu wanted to see him again. She wanted to see him and touch him, bringing him into her arms and holding him the way only a loving sister can. She didn't want to die here, all alone.

A dark shadow loomed over her, knife bared. But just as the weapon was about to be lowered into her delicate flesh, another shadow ran onto the scene and tackled the first, bringing it to the ground. Still Ishizu couldn't acknowledge what was happening around her. She was barely conscious, the only things she was able to see being past memories.

The shadows fought across the pavement, the knife between them. First one gained the upper hand and then the other, their struggle of mortal combat taking a deadly turn as the weapon slashed the bare arm of Ishizu's rescuer. He hissed in discomfort, attempting to shove the knife away from him. Then it was plunging into the murderous man's shoulder. He roared with anger as their life and death battle continued.

And then something pierced through to Ishizu's consciousness. A scream. A horrible, pitiful, heart-wrenching scream. "Marik," she whispered in stunned shock, her eyes finally focusing as she saw her younger brother fall onto his back and lay still. Horror eclipsed all physical pain Ishizu was feeling and she struggled with all her human might to get up. Marik was hurt! She had to get to him! She must! But she could not get up. Her body was too numb from the shock it had undergone.

Suddenly a second rescuer was running into the parking lot. With a furious cry, Rishid flung himself at the hateful man and threw him back from where he had now been about to stab Marik to death. The evildoer gasped, feeling his own knife cut into his flesh once again. With vengeance burning in his eyes he ran forward at Rishid, only to be snatched up and raised into the air. Truly, he was enduring the wrath of an angry brother.

"LEAVE THEM ALONE!" Rishid boomed, his voice loud enough to rouse the dead. Without waiting for a reply he delivered a swift knockout blow to the man and then looked up at his siblings with growing fear. Marik was starting to rise, thank heavens, but Ishizu could only remain on the ground, her breathing growing more labored. Quickly Rishid tied the would-be murderer up and then ran to his brother and sister. He didn't want the demon to awaken and try to catch them off-guard.

Marik rubbed at his head, willing the dizziness to leave him. He had been struck hard, but that had not been why he had screamed in pain. His opponent had known many secrets, including how to press against a pressure point just right to cause immense torment. But he pushed all thoughts of that aside as he stumbled to Ishizu's body. "Sister," he whispered shakily, feeling as gently as he could for any possible broken bones. Ishizu relaxed under his touch, looking up at him with clouded blue eyes. But at least she was looking.

"Marik," she responded, reaching a shaking hand up to touch the boy's cheek. "My brother . . . you . . . you have come." She smiled weakly. Perhaps . . . if she was to die . . . now she could do it in peace. But no . . . wasn't there something she was supposed to tell him? It was in the back of her mind and she couldn't bring it to light. Why couldn't she remember what it was!

"Sister, what happened to you?" Marik cried in anguish, finally determining that Ishizu's bones were not damaged. As gently as possible he lifted the older woman up into his arms, holding her close and having forgotten all about his own wound. He had known something wasn't right when Ishizu hadn't gotten home and he couldn't even reach her on her cell phone. That was when he and Rishid had come out searching for her. When they had arrived at the museum, they had found this catastrophe. If they had been only a minute later, Ishizu could have been dead, killed at the hands of the wicked man who had been standing over her.

Ishizu drew a rasping breath again. "It . . . does not matter," she assured him. For her it did not. Not at this point. All that mattered was that Marik was here. And Rishid as well. She could see him hurrying over.

"Rishid, we have to get her to Kaiba's infirmary," Marik told him as he looked up. His lavender eyes were filled with the fright the boy was feeling. "Our sister is hurt. . . ." He held her closer, as if he had some vain hope that by doing so, he could make certain that she wouldn't die.

Ishizu reached up, smoothing Marik's hair back. "Do not fear for me, my brother," she said softly. "If . . . if I am to live, I will live. And if I am to die, then I will . . ."

"No, sister!" Marik screamed vehemently. "No! . . ." He held her close, feeling her body going slack in his arms. "You can't leave me," he whispered.

Ishizu gave a weak smile, touching a finger to Marik's lips. "Shh," she rasped gently. "You will always have me with you." Her eyes slowly closed and her hand dropped.

Marik's grip on the woman's frail form tightened. His own body trembled, the shock penetrating through his veins. Every emotion possible raced over in his mind—hatred at the wicked man who had purposely harmed Ishizu, panic that she wouldn't survive, and fear that he wouldn't be able to stop it from happening. But he couldn't lose his sister. He couldn't! "Rishid, call for help!" he cried out. Then the tears spilled over and he began to sob into Ishizu's hair, unleashing pain that had been locked up for ages.

"I have," Rishid said quietly, gathering both his dear siblings into his arms. His heart was shattering. Marik was crying in a way he only did when he felt that everything was falling apart. He clung to his sister's body, screaming her name. Rishid closed his eyes tightly, silently holding the two and praying for Ishizu's recovery. He had noticed that Ishizu's assailant had regained consciousness and had escaped, leaving the broken bonds behind, but that wasn't his worry at the moment. He feared for both his siblings.

The wait for news in the KaibaCorp infirmary was endless. It had been horrible enough in the ambulance, with the paramedics discovering that Ishizu's life was slowly draining away. The shock from the blow, they had informed a stunned Rishid and Marik after determining that Ishizu had been hit by a car, could have been harsh enough to on its own be enough to kill the poor woman. But the good news was that she wasn't dead yet. She was still fighting. And Marik knew that he and Rishid would never give up the hope for her survival.

But still the waiting was agony. Marik started pacing up and down the floor, seeming to grow angrier every time he passed by where Rishid was seated. His wounded arm was bandaged, the blood faintly seeping through the gauze. Marik didn't notice. At last Rishid stood and came over to the teenager he loved so much, laying his hands on the boy's shoulders. "Marik, this won't help," he said quietly.

Marik seemed to tense under his grasp. "I know!" he screamed then, whirling to face his elder brother. "I know it won't help. But I don't know what to do to help!" Tears were filling up into his eyes without him even realizing that they were appearing. Rishid knew Marik wasn't really angry at him, though his tone was rising. Marik was angry at the situation and at himself, frustrated that he hadn't been able to prevent what had happened.

"You spoke to the police, as I did," Rishid answered gently. "We told them all we could about Ishizu's assailant. They're looking for who did it now." But he didn't reveal what the officers had told him in private—that they felt the crime could have been racially motivated. There was so much distrust and hatred of Middle Eastern people in the city now that, tragically, Rishid knew such a thing could actually be possible. But he wouldn't speak a word of that to Marik—who would probably arrive at that conclusion anyway. The thought that Ishizu was laying at death's door because of her heritage would only drive the boy closer to madness. And what if it wasn't even true? They all had so many enemies. It could have been any of the people who were furious at the Ishtars for various things they had done to bring criminals to justice. One of them could have hired someone to hurt Ishizu.

"Oh, I doubt they'll find the person," Marik retorted bitterly. "And soon something else will come along that's considered more important and what happened to Ishizu will be put onto the back burner!" His eyes flashed and his heartbroken body trembled again. Marik was losing control of himself. He couldn't stand it when his siblings were unjustly hurt. He just simply couldn't.

And Rishid understood. Rishid had always understood. He knew every aspect of Marik's personality—the quirks, the dark secrets, the scared boy behind every action and word of anger. . . . He knew Marik better than Marik could ever know himself. Rishid was Marik's closest confidant, his fiercely loyal protector, and his dearly devoted brother. Gently he drew the boy close to him, into the shelter of his strong arms and broad chest.

Marik choked back an oncoming sob and weakly beat his fists against Rishid's chest, feeling so confused and so lost. He couldn't understand why someone would purposely hurt a delicate, sweet woman such as Ishizu. It just didn't make sense to him at all! But of course he wasn't trying to hurt Rishid now. His clenched hands fell lightly against his brother with not enough force at all to cause pain. It was one of Marik's ways of saying that he felt hopelessly terrified and that he wanted comfort. Instantly he threw his arms around the man, a shuddering sob racking through his body.

"It's alright, Marik," Rishid whispered. "Don't be afraid to cry. I know you're afraid. I am as well. But Ishizu won't leave us. We must adhere to that knowledge and continue to pray for her." He laid a hand in the soft hair.

Marik looked up at him slowly, attempting to comprehend. Then he hugged the man tighter, releasing more of the pent-up anguish. Whenever he had cried around his treacherous father, he had been sharply whipped or even beaten for showing such "weakness." And though he knew Rishid would never, ever punish him, especially not for showing a human emotion that right now symbolized his fear for Ishizu's life, it didn't change that he hated crying. But still he would cry if he felt he couldn't hold the tears back. And he couldn't now. He cried harder, starting to slump against Rishid in utter exhaustion.

Rishid kept a firm grip on the boy as he sat back down in the chair. He could tell Marik was falling asleep on his feet. The teenager just couldn't take the pressure. It wasn't that long before this that Rishid had been laying at death's door. And Mokuba had been abducted and beaten prior to that. Always it seemed to be someone Marik loved who was being hurt—and all too often Marik himself was being harmed. Rishid knew that Marik would rather be hurt or killed himself instead of it happening to his loved ones, but he also knew that the stress was just piling up too much. Marik was nearly at his wit's end. And if Ishizu died—Heaven forbid!—Rishid was afraid Marik might completely lose control.

Rishid had to smile as he held Marik's weary form. He was remembering how he had always used to hold Ishizu when she was just a child, telling her stories that he himself had read (and sometimes, had made up). Ishizu had always been a sweet yet outspoken child who adored Rishid—and later Marik as well—with all of her heart. During Battle City, she had strived to do everything she could—as had Rishid—to save Marik from the horrible darkness that had been consuming his soul. She was the best sister both of them could have. If Ishizu died, of course Rishid would be devastated. But nevertheless, he would have to lock his own grief away in order to be strong for Marik—at least, that was what he believed.

Abruptly Marik started awake again, breathing heavily. "Sister!" he wailed, apparently still partially in whatever dream he had been having. He looked about frantically, at last realizing where he was and focusing his gaze on his elder brother. Rishid had rarely seen Marik's eyes so haunted. It was all he could do not to gasp in stunned shock and alarm.

"What is it, Marik?" he asked softly.

Marik closed his eyes tightly, again seeing what had frightened him into awakening. "It was Ishizu," he said finally. "I kept seeing her . . . just out of my reach. . . . I'd go to run after her, but she . . . she kept vanishing." His body shook with the anguish. "And I heard her call to me. . . . She said 'Goodbye.'" He could still see the transparent form standing in front of him, whether his eyes were closed or not. He wanted it to go away. But it would not. It continued to stay with him, haunting him, letting him know that Ishizu would die.

Rishid felt a lump in his throat. Gently he reached out, brushing the bangs away from Marik's eyes so that he could see into them better. "It was only a dream," he reassured kindly.

"Was it?" Marik retorted. "We've been waiting for ages, Rishid! They won't let us in to see her! Why wouldn't they unless Ishizu is almost dead and they're trying to save her!" He averted his eyes. "And what if they can't." He wasn't a big fan of hospitals or doctors, though he knew the ones here at Seto Kaiba's infirmary were hailed as the best in the nation. "Almost every day there's something on the news about someone dying from a car crash."

Rishid sighed, knowing that was true. There wasn't a way he could tell Marik that nothing would happen to Ishizu. He knew very well that something bad could happen. And no matter how much they believed with all their hearts that she wouldn't die, she still might. Their mother had died, though Rishid had tried to believe that she would be alright after giving birth to Marik. The truth was that families were torn apart all the time by death. Theirs could be torn apart—again—as well.

Marik got up in determination, going over to the nurses' station. He was tired of this waiting. Now he would demand to know what was happening to his sister. But the nurse was looking so blasé and uncaring that Marik couldn't stand it. She never looked up as Marik came over, though it would be impossible to miss him there. Obviously she was ignoring him on purpose. "I want to know where Ishizu Ishtar is and how her condition is!" the boy yelled finally, slamming his palms down on the counter.

The nurse jumped, but then just looked up at him coldly. "You'll have to wait like everyone else," she hissed, adjusting her glasses. "We don't go around handing information out to . . ."

"She's my sister and I don't know if she's even alive!" Marik leaned forward, his eyes flashing, and gained a harsh slap. His head snapped back and he made a barely audible sound of stunned shock and pain. All he had wanted was to know about Ishizu, his precious, dear sister, and this person had just outright slapped him! Anger coursed through his veins. The woman had no right! Who did she think she was?

Instantly Rishid rose and came over stonily, looming over the desk with fire in his eyes. He could control his own anger no longer. He wanted to slap the nurse. "How dare you," he rumbled low. "Marik is in agony. How dare you lay even a finger on him to hurt him!" He touched Marik's cheek, trying to see if the slap had a left a mark. The flesh was tender and probably would be sore shortly, but still Marik took no notice. Shaking with rage, he faced the nurse with flashing eyes.

"What if that was your own sister!" he practically screamed.

The woman only glared. "Get away from me," she growled. "Both of you! Filthy Egyptians!" She stood up, pointing an accusatory finger at them both. "If you asked me, she got just what she deserved. Ever since you people moved into town, there's been problems!" She herself had been assaulted by the strange Egyptian only the other day. And now she was all for getting the entire Egyptian population out of Domino City. "All of you should just go back where you came from!"

Her unkind remarks were the last thing Marik needed to hear. With a strangled cry he lunged, trying to grab for her. Ishizu was the last person in the world who deserved such torment. Marik wouldn't stand for her being put down so atrociously by someone who didn't even know her!

But he felt strong hands grab hold of his shoulders and keep him from attacking. "No, Marik," Rishid said softly, though he himself wanted to give this person a good piece of his mind. It was so cruel, so unfair, to base an opinion on an entire race just because, in this case, of the actions of one madman! But having Marik charge at her wouldn't help at all. He could feel the teenage body struggling under his grip, trying to get free, but Rishid refused to let go.

At last Marik gave a shuddering breath and his shoulders slumped. He was resigning himself to Rishid's wisdom. He knew, of course, that his brother was right, but everything was overwhelming him and he couldn't stand it. Hearing someone speak so wickedly and thoughtlessly in reference to all of them and especially Ishizu pushed him over the edge.

"Excuse me?"

The smooth voice startled them all and brought three pairs of eyes to attention. Seto Kaiba was standing in the doorway, obviously having heard the entire exchange. He frowned, walking forward purposefully with narrowed eyes. His trenchcoat swept out, brushing against chairs and several potted plants. "Am I to understand," he said, addressing the nurse, "that you're refusing to tell these people about their sister because they're from Egypt?" He spoke in a cold tone, his eyes flickering ice to match.

The nurse stood up straight, at attention and now trying to defend her position. "Of course not, sir," she said, flustered. "The boy was just being violent and I was protecting myself!"

Seto crossed his arms. "Oh really," he said smoothly. "It looked to me like he was leaning on the counter demanding information that he has a perfect right to and that you simply struck him in reply." He had seen everything as well and was quite disgusted, though he hid most of that behind his emotional mask. But he knew he was about to have one less employee.

Marik and Rishid both were staring. Neither of them had realized Seto was there at all, and certainly they hadn't thought he would come to their aid, though Marik and Mokuba were close friends. Because Seto never expressed many—if any—feelings, it was hard to know when he would be willing to help someone or when he himself was revolted by something. But it was plain to see that he was on the Ishtars' side in this matter—and he wasn't afraid to say so.

Now the nurse didn't deny her actions. "I didn't want him getting close to me!" she cried. "You have to understand, Mr. Kaiba, he's . . . he's . . ."

"He's what?" Seto regarded her coolly. "An Egyptian? It's really alright. You can say it. It's not a dirty word." His expression never changed as he spoke, nor did he ever lock eyes with either Marik or Rishid. He wasn't here to socialize, but to right an obvious wrong going on in his building. "However, your conduct is most . . . disappointing, especially for one in your position. You were lucky to get a job here at all, you know. And you won't get any further by treating worried people like dirt." His eyes bored deep into hers. "In fact, I don't think you'll get any further at all. I'm terminating your contract."

Marik's eyes widened. Is this really happening? he couldn't help wondering. And will Kaiba help us find out about Ishizu? Slowly a new respect for the aloof businessman began to form. Oh, he had never actually disliked Seto Kaiba, but this was a side to him that Marik hadn't really seen before. A side that he was stunned and grateful to see now.

The nurse stumbled over her words. "What do you mean, sir?" she finally managed to get out.

Seto frowned. "Do I need to put it in simpler terms so you can actually understand? You don't work for me anymore, starting now. I won't tolerate such bigoted attitudes as you obviously have. Gather your belongings and leave." He gestured to her clutch purse in emphasis. "Now."

The woman bristled with anger. "You won't hear the end of this, Kaiba!" she spat. "I'll make sure your reputation is forever marred!" She took up her purse and glared maliciously at Seto and the Ishtar brothers before storming out down the hall. "And you'll regret standing up for those Egyptian barbarians!" her voice wafted back to them.

Seto merely turned away. Her threats didn't scare him. So many had threatened him by now. He was used to it. They always fell before him sooner or later.

Instead he finally faced Marik and Rishid, his expression still the same as before. He studied their shocked eyes with a bit of an inward smirk. They had never seen him do anything like that before, he could tell. At last he spoke. "I'll help you find out about your sister. Come on." That was all. No more, no less. He headed for the door leading into the Employees Only area.

Marik and Rishid exchanged only brief glances before following.

"Thank you," Marik found himself saying quietly. Now they would learn what had happened to Ishizu. The racist nurse wouldn't help them, but now Seto Kaiba would. But when it came right down to it, did Marik have the courage to find out about Ishizu? If she was gone . . . did Marik have the strength to accept it?

Seto only grunted in response to Marik's gratitude. He would help them, but he wouldn't talk about it or explain why he was doing it. And anyway, he was sure, they were more interested in finding out about Ishizu than about how Seto's mind worked. If Mokuba was laying somewhere hurt, that would be the only thing Seto would care about.

They met the doctor who had been tending to Ishizu not long after they passed through the door. Marik caught his breath. The man's clothes were covered in blood. Was it Ishizu's? The thought left him light-headed with despair. Though the possibility of his sister being seriously hurt—or worse—had been constantly with him and he had spoken of it often, now he knew he was coming face to face with this nightmarish fear.

Rishid laid a hand on the boy's shoulder. "What has happened to our sister?" he asked quietly, seeing that Marik didn't quite know how he could ask.

The doctor stopped short, an expression of alarm coming over his face. Obviously he had not been expecting for these two to meet him right here. It had been hard enough for him as he had puzzled over what to say to the brothers when he thought he would see them in the waiting room. And now he had to put his words together much sooner. But no words would come.

Marik felt a darkness come over him. "She didn't make it, did she?" His voice came out ragged and broken. The translucent figure that had been haunting him had been an ill omen of the truth. Ishizu was dead. Marik knew she must be. Now he didn't have Seto's talent for masking emotion, though he knew that in this case, not even Seto would try to mask his feelings.

A silence hung in the air. At last the physician nodded slowly, sympathy in his eyes. "No," he said softly. "We tried . . . but we couldn't save her." He had worked for hours, struggling to repair the damage caused by the car and to keep Ishizu alive, but neither he or any of the other doctors had been able to. The beautiful Egyptian had drawn her last breath.

Rishid swallowed hard. Ishizu . . . his younger sister . . . Marik's older sister . . . she was gone? It was impossible to believe. He loved Ishizu. He loved her so dearly. And now to think that she had passed on. . . . And because of a malicious act. . . .

He wasn't quite prepared for Marik's reaction, though. The teenager let out a cry of agony, his voice and eyes completely haunted, and then ran for the nearest exit. He had to get away. He had to confront the one who had done this. His sister had been taken from him and he would get his revenge. He could hear Rishid calling for him, chasing after him, but it seemed as if they were on different planes now. Marik didn't stop. He couldn't stop. Something forced him to keep running until he was outside in the pouring rain. And then he still kept running.

Marik dashed around a corner, his mind blank. Water splashed in every direction as he plunged into a puddle, but still he gave no heed. All he could see, all he could hear, all he could comprehend, was his sister's voice calling to him, telling him goodbye. Ishizu was dead. In a matter of only a few minutes her precious life had been crushed and stolen away from her. Someone had purposely murdered her. Marik couldn't forgive it. This was far worse than when he had thought his father had been killed by the Pharaoh. Ishizu didn't deserve to die, while their father probably had. Ishizu had never, ever done a mean thing to Marik, though their father had hurt him countless times. If there was ever a saintly woman Marik had known, it was his sister.

He flew ahead, stopping and doing a doubletake as he saw a woman on the other side of the street. She looked so refined and delicate . . . so like Ishizu. . . . For one split second, Marik thought it was her and that all of this—all of the hurt, the pain—had been the dream. But then, as the woman looked at him without recognition, he remembered the truth. His sister was gone. And for ages Marik stood there in the rain as it beat down around him, soaking up the knowledge once again. Tears coursed down his face, hidden by the streaking raindrops. He had lost Ishizu. He had lost her to a heartless murderer.

A harsh footfall drew his attention and caused him to look up. Before him stood the wicked man he had been searching for. In his hand he held a crowbar, which he was tapping against his other palm. Marik didn't know it, but the man had been stalking him, waiting for just the right moment to strike. He was determined to rid Domino City of all Egyptians. Now he had found another one, and with him in such a broken-down condition, the man felt it would be only too easy to take Marik out. He didn't care that this was only a boy, not even of legal age yet. That never mattered to him. Vaguely he found that Marik looked familiar, but he didn't remember why until the teen spoke.

Marik's features twisted in rage. "You killed my sister," he hissed, taking a step forward. "I won't forgive you."

The man only sneered. "I don't want your forgiveness. I want you dead, just like your sister." He shot out with the crowbar and Marik dodged to the side, producing the Millennium Rod to clang against it. This was what he had been waiting for. He wanted to fight this person. He wanted to beat him into the ground.

"You'll never kill me," Marik retorted, his eyes flashing. With that he sprang upon the man, bringing him to the ground and wrestling with him. He felt the harsh lash of the crowbar on his bare arms, but he was deadened to physical pain. All he felt was emotional pain. It coursed through him, wrenching his heart and causing him to behave the way he was. "This is for Ishizu," he said coldly.

The silhouettes against the wall of the building in the abandoned park struggled for some time. First the strong, cruel assassin had the upper hand, then the brokenhearted brother. After a while the harsh rain made it near impossible to tell who was winning. Both fighters locked in mortal combat were sustaining bad bumps, bruises, and wounds.

Marik hissed as he felt hands start to wrap around his neck, choking the life from him. But, undaunted, he kicked out harshly, landing his foot in the man's gut. With a gasp the grip loosened and Marik was able to gain control of the duel. Furiously he began pounding his fists into the wretched form, again and again. He ignored the growls of pain until they ceased, the man having fallen unconscious. Still Marik continued to attack the man, releasing every bit of his pent-up anger and hatred with each landed fist. But then he realized something in between punches.

Everything was so quiet. There was no sound of life anywhere. And Ishizu was still dead. Marik's actions were not bringing her back. Attacking this man wasn't even making Marik feel better. He still felt empty and hollow. And what if Ishizu was watching from Heaven, seeing him losing control in a blind fit of hate? Surely she would be saddened and disappointed.

Slowly Marik backed away, his body trembling. He had failed Ishizu. He had failed her in so many ways. With another haunting scream he fell to his knees. The tears overflowed. And the rain continued to beat down upon him.

Marik was still in this emotionally destroyed state when frantic footsteps grew closer to him. He didn't notice in the least, nor pay attention to the voice screaming his name. Blood dripped from a gash on his forehead, and from where his earlier wound had reopened, but the crimson trails meant nothing to Marik. He rocked back and forth slowly, whispering over and over that he was sorry and for Ishizu to forgive him. He knew she would. But it didn't ease the heartache.

Rishid collapsed to his knees next to the shaking body. He took in the scene in one glance—the unconscious body of Ishizu's murderer, the blood in the grass, and Marik hunched over—and instantly knew what had happened. They had fought, and though most likely Marik had been fighting for his life against such an opponent, he had also been attacking with hate, eventually rendering the man senseless. But Marik had stopped before he had done something horrible. A tear came to Rishid's eye as he took out a warm blanket from under his cloak and draped it over Marik's convulsing shoulders. (He would have given Marik his cloak, only it was completely soaked.) Marik possessed such strength in the face of horror, though he himself probably didn't think so at all. "Marik, I'm here," the man said softly. "It's Rishid. It's your brother. We still have each other, Marik."

Marik flung himself into Rishid's arms, clinging to him tightly. Yes, he still had Rishid and Rishid had him. Always accepting, always caring, always loving, Rishid would never condemn Marik for his actions. Rishid understood them so well. "I failed, Rishid," the boy sobbed, burying his face in the man's strong shoulder. "I couldn't control my hatred. And Ishizu's still gone! She's still gone!"

Any part of Rishid's heart that hadn't already shattered completely broke now. "No, Marik, no," he whispered, rocking him gently. "Ishizu will never be gone. We love her too much to let her memory fade. And her spirit will always be watching over us." He wrapped the blanket closer around the shivering form. Marik didn't know it, but he was freezing. "And you haven't failed, my brother. Not at all. You realized what you were doing before the situation became irreversible. And you backed away. You have proven your strength. Ishizu would be proud, as I am."

Marik looked up at him in disbelief. He was starting to pass into oblivion from his injuries, which were worse than he was willing to admit, but his eyes were still clear. Rishid meant what he said. He meant every word. And somehow Marik wanted to believe him. He wanted to so badly.

"Rishid is right, my brother. I am very proud of you."

The voice seemed almost to carry on the wind, but Marik could see that Rishid had not heard it. Only Marik had. He choked back a sob, again embracing his elder brother tightly. "Sister," he whispered. Ishizu truly would always be with them.

Rishid smiled sadly, starting to stand. "Come," he spoke in a gentle tone. "I have to get you inside before you catch pneumonia. I . . ." His voice caught. "I can't lose both my siblings tonight."

Marik smiled as well, a new thought coming to him. "Rishid? Do you think . . . that Ishizu is with Mother now?"

Rishid started to walk out of the park, watching the police cars drive up to collect the assassin Marik had fought. "Yes," he assured the boy, "I'm certain of it." He felt Marik's body go limp and began to panic. Nightmares of his brother slipping into a coma and never awakening filled his mind. But he couldn't lose Marik. He simply couldn't. "Marik!" he screamed, giving the teen a very gentle shake. "MARIK?" Immediately he hailed one of the police officers to request a ride back to the KaibaCorp infirmary. It was granted to him.

Marik floated over and over in the air, his shirt flying up and his hair blowing in every direction. He felt light, almost like a feather. Anything seemed possible in this dreamlike state he was in. It was dark all around him save for a very bright light up ahead. He blinked, trying to see. "Sister?" he called hopefully. Was she here? Had she come to see him?

He felt a gossamer hand touch his. "Wake up, Marik," Ishizu whispered. "You're only unconscious." His sister appeared, her form shimmering. She smiled, brushing his bangs aside. She looked as he'd always remembered her—beautiful, kind, caring, and wise. Though she'd always struggled to bottle many of her emotions up, Marik had always seen the glint in her eye, a glint that was sometimes full of pain, wistfulness, or even happiness. Today there was only love, sisterly love, all about her. "Don't forget your elder sister," she pleaded gently.

Marik grabbed for her in horror. "No!" he screamed, feeling like a child again—helpless and afraid. "Ishizu, no! Stay here!" But his cries were in vain.

With that he snapped awake, breathing heavily. His bangs flipped in his eyes, but he didn't care. Quickly his gaze darted about. He was laying in a soft bed, a gentle quilt over him. His forehead was bandaged and he discovered bruises on his arms. He was wearing different clothes, but thankfully, he noticed, no hospital gown. What he noticed most, however—and what was best of all—was that he wasn't alone. Rishid was here!

As soon as he saw Marik awake, the man ran to his side with shining eyes. "You're awake," he said in relief. With a rueful smile he laid a strong hand on Marik's shoulder. "You had me afraid that I would lose you, my brother," he whispered. Again the memory came to him of Marik's body going limp and he shuddered inwardly. Slowly he sat on the edge of the bed, putting an arm around the young boy he had vowed to protect. Marik was very much not limp now, for which Rishid gave thanks. He had sustained a rough blow to the head from the crowbar, wounds from a knife (most likely the same one as before), and various bruises, but nothing life-threatening. Marik would live.

The boy looked up at him. "I saw Ishizu," he said softly. "She told me to wake up."

Rishid smiled kindly, as one who knows something another does not. "Would you like to see her again, my brother?" He gazed into the deep, emotion-filled eyes, watching the incredulity, disbelief, hope, and finally, childlike joy.

"What do you mean, Rishid!" Marik cried. "The doctor said. . . ." He fumbled over his words, his brow narrowed in confusion. Rishid wouldn't give him false hopes. What did he mean? What was happening? "We thought . . . I thought. . . ."

Rishid hugged him close. "The doctor," he proclaimed, "has never dealt with an Ishtar before." It was true—Ishizu had survived after all. Her heartbeat and breath had slowed so greatly that not even the machines had been able to pick them up. But then she had gasped, her body noticeably jerking, and the physicians had realized she was still alive. Rishid himself had only found out upon bringing Marik in. Seto had met him at the door and told him. Since then Rishid had barely been able to control his eagerness to tell Marik. He had told the boy while waiting for him to wake up, though he had known Marik might not—and apparently didn't—hear him then.

Marik stared, trying to allow this to sink in. He had thought Ishizu was dead. He had been so sure of it that he thought it would cause him to go mad. "Where is she, Rishid?" he demanded to know, feeling a whole new wave of guilt wash over him. What if he hadn't been able to control his anger? What if he had even killed the man instead of backing away as he had? The hatred had welled in him so strongly. But if he had committed the crime, he would have shamed himself and his siblings. He would have, perhaps, caused a new reason for the city to hate Egyptians. And he wouldn't have forgiven himself, not after realizing how it would crush Rishid and Ishizu both. He let out a shaking breath, wondering what had actually stopped him.

"She is in the next room," Rishid said softly. "She hasn't regained consciousness yet."

Marik started climbing out of bed. "Is she going to be alright!" he exclaimed, still trying to get his mind to process that Ishizu was, indeed, alive. He felt that he wouldn't be able to accept it until he actually saw her again and could see her breathing and could feel her embrace him. He wanted to go to her now, even if he wasn't quite ready for it yet. His legs folded underneath him and he very nearly hit the floor.

Strong hands grabbed him under his arms and helped him stand. "You're weakened, Marik," Rishid told him gently. "Here, I will help you." He carefully draped Marik's arm over his shoulders, supporting the teen as he walked. Marik never protested, so anxious was he to get to their sister. "And yes," Rishid then said in a tone that bespoke his own happiness, "they believe Ishizu will recover."

Ishizu was laying still when her brothers entered her room. She was adorned in one of her favorite white Egyptian dresses, but the quilt concealed most of it. The heart monitor beeped slowly but steadily, much to Marik's awe, and the woman's chest rose and fell as she softly breathed on her own without the aid of a respirator. Her eyes were closed, but she looked almost peaceful as Marik came closer.

"Sister?" he said in awe, taking her hand as he eased himself onto the bed. It was warm within his own and he perked up, his eyes brightening. Yes, Ishizu was alive! She hadn't left them!

Rishid smiled, sitting down slowly on Ishizu's other side. He had been in to see her when the doctors had tended to Marik's injuries. She hadn't awakened then, but it had given Rishid immense peace just to find her alive. He could see that Marik felt the same way. "I am back, Ishizu," he spoke softly, brushing the stray raven locks back from the woman's face. "Marik is here now, too. We miss you." His golden eyes were warm and loving, but the kindness didn't look out of place despite his often forbidding appearance. Rishid was gentle at heart.

Marik leaned down, hugging Ishizu close. "Wake up, sister," he pleaded. "I thought you were dead. . . . I want to talk to you again." He laid his head on her shoulder very gently, relaxing as he listened to the sound of her soft breathing. The boy started to unwillingly doze, exhausted from everything that had occurred this night. He was so tired . . . so very tired. . . .

Tenderly a soft hand reached up, its owner smiling as she pulled part of the quilt covering her over Marik's worn-out body. Her sweet brother was so innocent when he was falling asleep. He looked almost ten years younger then, with no cares or worries, only peace.

Rishid smiled too, seeing Ishizu starting to rouse up. "Hello," he greeted softly, laying a hand on her shoulder. He had longed to see her awaken . . . to see her kind blue eyes looking up at him. And now she was waking. She was very much alive.

Ishizu weakly reached up, touching his hand. She gazed into Rishid's eyes and then felt Marik move as he sat up happily and gazed at her. "Sister!" he cried joyously, pulling her into a warm embrace. He made certain to be gentle and Ishizu smiled and held him close before drawing Rishid into the hug as well. The last thing she remembered clearly was what had happened immediately prior to the accident, though she did vaguely remember her recollections of the past, Marik holding her injured body, and her speaking to him before unconsciousness claimed her. Now she was thankful to see that her brothers were both safe and that she hadn't left them.

"We were so afraid for you, sister," Rishid said quietly.

"The doctor said you were gone," Marik added, wondering how he would ever tell Ishizu about his actions then, if the need ever arose to do so. He would prefer that she never would find out. Especially after everything they had gone through during Battle City. Now he just wanted to concentrate on the joy of having Ishizu there, alive, to be with them.

Ishizu smoothed his bangs away. "I am sorry that you were misinformed, my brothers," she said in her kind voice. Perhaps when she felt better she would tell Marik that she already knew of what he had done. And what he hadn't done. She smiled softly, wanting to hold the boy close again but feeling very weakened.

Marik could see this. Carefully he knelt on the bed and pulled the quilt up around her. "You should rest, Ishizu," he said, though he longed to speak with her, to tell her how much he loved her and how she couldn't ever go away. . . . To tell her that he had always idolized her and that he was sorry for anything he had ever done that had hurt her. . . . He said it all with his eyes instead. And Ishizu, understanding, squeezed his hand tenderly as only an elder sister can and settled back into the pillows.

She gazed up at Rishid. The danger wasn't over yet. They both knew it, as did Marik. There would most likely be others lurking about that would hate Egyptians due to the madman's antics. And Rishid knew there would be the court trial of the man who had tried to kill Ishizu—and most likely Marik as well. They would have to testify against him. But it would all be well. They still had their friends who were loyal to Egyptians. Even Seto Kaiba was apparently on their side. Most of all, they still had each other. As a family, they could deal with what was thrown at them. And that was what mattered.

Rishid smiled. "I am glad you are back with us," he whispered.

"As am I," Ishizu replied, embracing both him and Marik once more. Then she looked back at her younger brother. "Marik?" Her strength was fading, but she to say this. She knew she had to tell him now, not later.

He blinked at her. "Sister?"

She smiled. "I am proud of you, Marik," the woman told him sincerely. "So very proud. . . ." With that her eyes closed in slumber, a smile gracing her features.

Marik stared at her in shock. "Rishid . . . she knows," he realized softly. "She knows and she isn't disappointed in me for my lack of control!" He remembered how he had heard Ishizu's voice in the park. Could it truly have been her? Had she somehow seen everything? Marik had thought she most likely had, but that had been when he had thought her to be dead.

Rishid laid a hand on the boy's shoulder. "Of course, brother," he smiled, glad that Marik now knew this. "We are both proud of you." He looked at Marik seriously. "Once, when you had been gravely hurt, all I wanted was to seriously harm the one who had purposely tried to end your life. If I had seen him at that point, I don't think I would have been able to exercise self-control at all. But you, Marik . . . you were courageous and brave tonight, even though your heart was broken. You found your self-control." How could Rishid ever blame Marik for showing hatred when he had felt it himself? He had wanted to attack the one who had nearly killed Ishizu, as he had wanted to attack others who had also hurt his family. Marik had behaved in a very human way, reacting to the supposed death and murder of a loved one. But the important thing was that he had stopped himself.

Marik sighed. "I don't feel courageous and brave, Rishid," he admitted. "I just felt so empty at the park. And I thought I had failed Ishizu . . . and you. That's why I stopped hitting that demon. I didn't want to cause any more pain than I already have. I knew what I was doing wasn't going to bring Ishizu back." He gave a weak smile. "And I remembered how I'd wanted to attack the nurse and you told me it wouldn't help. Attacking the assassin wasn't helping either." Now he paused for a long while. "But. . . ." He looked up at his brother. "I'm glad you and Ishizu believe in me. Maybe someday I can live up to your belief in this lost soul."

Rishid held him close. "Perhaps once you were lost, but now you are found," he said firmly. "My brother." He smiled down at the boy. "You need to forgive yourself. You are carrying so much pain and heartache from throughout the years."

Marik looked downcast. "I grew up too fast, Rishid," he replied quietly. "And with that came all the pain and heartache."

Rishid's embrace tightened. "No one should have to grow up so rudely as you had to," he said. "I always wanted better for you." Rishid himself had been forced to abandon his childhood almost as soon as Ishizu had been born. He had only been five. And he had soon discovered the many wicked practices that went on in the underground city. It was impossible for anyone to have a childhood in such a place. But he had always prayed that Marik would not experience the same horrors. As it had turned out, he had experienced far worse.

Marik smiled a bit. "Actually, Rishid . . . my life hasn't been that bad. You and Ishizu were always here for me. I was never alone in my sufferings. All of us suffered. And we all supported each other, as we are now." He knew what he said was true. It seemed that whatever came about, they always faced it together. That wasn't going to change. That had been one of his only comforts during his moments of darkness and agony. Even if one of his siblings perished, he knew their spirit would remain with them. But he prayed things would never come to that, especially not at the hands of a crazed assassin.

Rishid smiled as well. What Marik said was true. They had always been there for each other, trying to comfort each other and do all they could. The tattoos in Rishid's face were there because he had wanted to share Marik's pain. He hadn't been able to save his brother from the ritual that had frightened him so, but he had wanted Marik to know that he didn't have to suffer alone. He never would have to.

Ishizu seemed to smile more as her brothers remained there with her. Marik had a bit of peace now. Eventually, Ishizu knew, he would come to terms with himself and have the complete peace he desired. And she would stay with both Marik and Rishid, no matter what happened, to support and comfort and encourage them.

Marik started to relax, slipping into slumber. Yes, he was starting to find peace. Ishizu was going to be alright. And Rishid was here too. Marik was happy. He held Ishizu's hand as he laid his head on Rishid's shoulder and drifted off. His sleep would be a calm one. And when he'd awaken again, he would feel refreshed. He had his siblings. His immortals.