Like a room that had suddenly been exposed to the vacuum of space, the heat bled from the building and left cold, icy crystals in its wake. Frozen wind whipped his hair and lashed at his skin. The shadows that swirled in a vortex around him snaked around his wrists, tightened around his waist, and bound his ankles. The shadows condensed, smoothed, and became chains that glowed a green-black on his tanned skin.
His skin broke under the ice of the chains. His blood started to spill, but it could not drip to the floor, as it was sucked away by the ever present wind. His eyes stung and weeped, but no matter how many times he blinked he could not see.
Atemu had felt the life force of Dartz leave the man's body some time ago. Were he in control, the shadows would have long been silenced. Now, however, with Yuugi's presence a bare flicker in the hollow of his mind, and his pendants shattered to pieces, there was nothing to hold back their raging fury. Never had he been able to fathom why his gift was so rogue, or how the shadows had a strange sort of intelligence all its own. It was so primal, so simple, and so terrible in its wants.
Blood, chaos, freedom....the chants of those three words deafened his ears as the shadows continued to sing around him. They were free, and as long as they kept him tied up and locked down they could keep their freedom.
It hurt so much...his nerves were a single, blazing entity of pain and fire as the shadows sucked more of his energy away from him. He would die of this, he was sure.
A light flickered in the distance. A powerful light it must have been, too, to pierce through the thick fog of shadows and chaos around him.
It flickered again. Atemu blinked rapidly to try and clear his eyes so that he could see. A faint glimmer of hope flared in his heart, a tiny candle in a hurricane's storm.
The shadows screamed their anger. Pain shot through his body again. His knees buckled underneath of him, as if he were a puppet and his strings had been cut. He could not feel his legs anymore. The chains tightened around him.
He screamed as his mind panicked. The agony was great, and the primal part of his mind feared for a moment that the pain might never stop. He could not stay sane with the way his body writhed and twisted from the hurt of it all.
'Atemu, I'm here.'
More pain. He squeezed his eyes closed as a bright white fire circled around him. The shadows screeched and tried to break through the circle, but the winds had already faded. Blinking away the tears, he could see again.
Atemu found it almost ironic that his first vision of Yuugi, the one that had alerted his parents to his gift of foresight, was the last one to come true in the series of events from this war.
As Yuugi's arms encircled him, the chains faded from his arms, his waist, and his legs. He sucked in a breath. He could breathe again.
'I'm here, Atemu. I'm not leaving you. You're safe.'
His savior. He felt his Bonded's gift of light pour into his body. He felt the tug as their blood bond built itself up as a barrier against the shadows. He could think again. "Yuugi," he gasped.
Yuugi smiled. 'Let's get out of here,' his mind voice whispered in his head. 'The building is about to collapse.'
Reality resurfaced. They did need to get out of the building. 'Lead on,' he thought back.
Jou ran up to the two figures as they limped away from the wreckage. How they survived, he may never know. Just as he made it up the them, Atemu fell away from Yuugi's arm and collapsed on the dirt covered ground. Yuugi fell right beside him not but a moment later.
"Yug!" he urged. His friend blinked wearily at him, his eyes clearly unfocused. "C'mon, man, we gotta move! People are already starting to gather around!"
His heart twisted painfully when Yuugi tried to stand up, only to fall back down again. Jesus, if there was only one of them, Jou would have picked them up and thought nothing more of it, but there was no way he could carry two limp bodies anywhere. Always quick on his feet, though, he roughly dragged them a few feet away from the sight of the imploded building, and hid in the shadow of another building as he flipped open his cell phone.
"Hey, Valentine. Get over to 10th and Nicollet, I need your help."
Jou sat in one of the hotel room chairs and checked his watch again. He had to say, he was quite surprised that it was that freaky husband of Yuugi's that woke up first. Yuugi had at least been mildly responsive when they'd first been brought to the hotel room. Atemu had not only been completely unconscious, but ghastly pale and colder than death to the touch.
Three days' time revealed a different state at the moment. Yuugi was still fast asleep, whilst Atemu was up and leaning over him, doing something weird. Jou couldn't tell exactly what the man was doing, but his dusky hand was glowing slightly as it hovered over Yuugi's forehead.
Jou propped his chin on his fist as he contemplated the scene before him. One thing was for sure; Atemu was dedicated. He hadn't left Yuugi's side since he awoke, and was constantly monitoring his Bonded's state.
Of course, he hadn't said more than two words to Jou since he woke up either. His confused shout of 'where...what....' when he woke up were his first words. Jou explained, and Atemu nodded, but said no more.
The silence was nearly deafening. Jou squirmed in his seat. He hated awkward silences, and this Atemu person seemed to be particularly adept at creating them.
"I'm worried about him," Jou said at last. "He hasn't moved an inch since I brought the both of you here."
Atemu's forehead creased, but other than that he showed no visible signs of emotion. "He is still recovering. The damage he sustained was far greater than mine."
"So his way of recovering is to slip into a small coma?" Jou fired back.
Atemu spared Jou a glance, but only a short one, then focused his attention back to Yuugi. "I never said I understood it, Jonouchi. He is different even by my world's standards. All I know is it works for him, and I can feel his progress. He will wake soon."
Atemu's eyes were a very dark shade of red. The fading sunlight of the afternoon caused them to light in a strange way when he looked at Jou, and the cop felt himself shiver. How did Yuugi put up with such a creature?
Jou looked off to the side. The sight of the two still unnerved him. He hoped Yuugi woke up by the next day. He knew the worry would drive him crazy if he had to wait another three.
When Yuugi woke up, everyone was asleep. He blinked, and slowly moved his head. He was on a bed, and there was a heat source to the left of him. He turned his head left, and saw the chiseled face of Atemu resting quietly next to him.
Were they in their own bed? Safe and at home in the palace?
He turned his head right, and saw the tell-tale decorations of the Bella Noté Hotel. So, they were still in the hotel.
There were snores coming from past the foot of the bed. Yuugi sat up on his elbows and peered over. There was a tuft of blond hair poking out from one of the blankets on the couch. Jou was sleeping. Looked like he never grew out of his snoring habit.
Yuugi yawned and rubbed sleep out of his eyes. As much as he would have liked to go back to sleep, he stomach was very empty, and he wasn't in the least bit tired. He vaguely wondered how long he'd been knocked out. He had, after all, been poisoned, magickally drained, and acted as a buffer between Atemu and the shadows, which felt like a cheese grater against his raw nerves.
Yuugi sat up all the way and clicked on the little lamp right next to his side of the bed. As soon as the light came on, Atemu sat upright in bed and leaned over him. His red eyes were wide as he studied his face. "Yuugi?"
He smiled. "Atemu."
Atemu cupped the right side of his face and grinned. He leaned his forehead against Yuugi's and released a stress-relieving sigh. "You're finally up. Are you all right?"
"Fine, dear. Just very hungry is all."
Atemu ran his fingers through Yuugi's hair. "You've been out cold for over four days now. We were so worried about you."
Yuugi opened his mouth to respond, but the 'Whooza-wahtsists!' outburst from the couch drew their attention. Jou sat up and flung the blankets off, but his eyes were still half closed in sleep. "What's going on?" He shook his head and rubbed his eyes. When he saw Yuugi sitting up, he smiled. "Yug!"
"Hey Jou," he grinned back.
"Damn, I was afraid you's never gonna wake up, pal." He got up and sat at the edge of the bed. "How are ya feeling?"
"Hungry," he replied. "Very hungry."
Jou checked his watch. "Two am. Kitchen's closed here, but I know a great burger joint that's opened till three thirty on the metro school campus. Wanna go?"
Yuugi's stomach gurgled. Atemu gave Yuugi a questioning look, having never heard of a burger before, but Yuugi smiled. "Jou, that's the best idea I've heard in ages."
The burger joint was called Fat Malley's. Even by Domino's standards it was a weird name, but no one contested the quality of the food. It really was one of the best burger joints in town. And certainly, traveling by bus had been an experience Atemu wasn't soon to forget. He felt so strangely common riding around in public and no one being able to recognize him. On the local college campus, many people were dressed more oddly than himself and Yuugi in their full leather attire.
The burger place was quite packed for being two thirty am on a Saturday morning. There was actually a wait time to place their order.
Yuugi sat down with a grin bigger than he'd had in ages as he looked at his meal. A triple quarter pounder with cheese, bacon, ketchup, and pickles. His mouth watered just thinking about it.
Poor Atemu. He stuck with a small french fry and shake. The burgers just looked a little too intimidating to try right away.
Five minutes into the meal, Yuugi dropped the bomb on Jou. "You should come back with us, Jou."
A fry was already half way to his mouth, but it paused as he stared back at Yuugi. "You're leaving again?"
"I have to, Jou. Sekesha is my home. I have responsibilities there, and a lot of people depending on me and Atemu to return. Come with us! You'll love it there. There's no gangs, no drugs, no violence daily in the city streets! It's peaceful, and beautiful! You won't have to worry about your future anymore, Jou. Please, come with us."
Jou dropped his food back onto his plate, and looked to the side. "Yug...I've..."
"What, Jou? What is it?"
"I've got a responsibility here, too. Someone here still needs me."
"Bring them with!" Yuugi said.
Jou looked up in a little shock. Bring them with? Was it possible? He entertained the plausibility of the idea. Could he really just up and leave it all? Would anyone else suffer if he left?
Atemu was very silent throughout this. He was not staring at either of them. Jou looked at him. "What about you? You okay with all this? Me comin' back with you and Yug?"
Atemu looked at him levelly. "You have saved our lives already, Jou. You have proven yourself a good friend, even if I still do not know you. If Yuugi wants you to come with us, who am I to say no?"
Yuugi smiled at him.
That made up his mind for him. "All right. I'll come."
Yuugi decided that the safest place to make a portal would be in their hotel room, with the doors locked and the windows closed. No one could see them, interrupt them, or follow them.
Yuugi was humming to himself as he packed a few things away in one of Jou's bags. Atemu meandered over from the closet and peaked over Yuugi's shoulder to see what he was doing. He was mildly surprised to see multiple packages of toothbrushes and ball point pens. "Partner, what on earth are you packing?"
"The two things I miss most from here. Soft toothbrushes and pens I don't have to refill with ink." The bag was absolutely stuffed when he finally tried to zip it closed.
Jou was pacing by the door and kept checking his watch.
Atemu noticed the behavior, and nudged Yuugi to alert him. Yuugi's eyes followed the gesture and noticed, too. "Jou, what's wrong?"
Jou tugged at his hair a little. "Just...she's just a little late."
"Your sister?" Yuugi tried. He hadn't actually asked who was coming, but assumed it had to be her.
Jou barked out a bitter laugh. "I only wish, Yug. She was one of the first to die after you disappeared, ya know."
"Oh, God, Jou, I didn't know. I'm so sorry."
Jou waved his hand. "It was years ago, now." He paced again. "No, it's Officer Valentine that's late."
"The blond from the station," Atemu asked.
"Yeah, that's her. She's bringing someone with her. I've been trying to hide him for ages now. He's been a target, especially since they...they got..." His voice choked up. Seto's death was still a recent memory, and the wound hadn't healed yet.
"They'll be here," Yuugi assured him.
"They better be, or I'll-"
There was a knocking on their door that interrupted them. Flustered, Jou opened the door. When he saw the person on the other side, his shoulders visibly relaxed. "Valentine," he said.
"Jou," the woman greeted back. Jou moved back, and Officer Valentine pushed a young boy through. He had a very messy mop of black hair that fell beyond his shoulders, and big watery blue eyes. "Mokuba," Jou smiled. He bent down and wrapped the boy up in a hug. He couldn't have been any older than eight years old.
Yuugi's memory may have been rusty from years of having been away from this world, but everyone knew Seto Kaiba, and everyone knew of his tiny younger brother Mokuba.
Mokuba held onto Jou tightly. Surely he was frightened. His brother had died, and he'd been forced into hiding for days already.
"You're leaving, aren't ya punk," Valentine stated. She looked directly at Jou.
The blond man stood up and looked at her, his smile a thin one. "Yeah. We're going to make a fresh start, Mokuba and me. We're going away from the stigma of Kaiba Corp., and the scandals that followed."
Valentine closed her eyes for a moment, then opened them again, having accepted the news. "We'll miss you, Jou."
"Give everyone my best."
She nodded, and gave a nod to Yuugi and Atemu before she left. Jou closed the door, and everyone turned to Yuugi.
Yuugi walked over and sat down on his heels in front of Mokuba to be at eye level with him. "Do you believe in magick, Mokuba?"
The boy made a face. "No."
Yuugi grinned. "You should." He held up his hand and allowed a small ball of light to glimmer and float above it.
The boy sniffed and folded his arms. "Technology can mimic just about anything. Big brother always told me that."
"Jou believes in magick," Yuugi countered.
"Nuh uh," was his childish response.
"Actually, Mokuba," Jou started, "I've had to accept that it's real."
Mokuba's eyes grew wide as he looked up at his only caretaker. "No way!"
Jou shrugged. "Yuugi's a good friend of mine, Mokuba. He wouldn't lie."
"But-!" Mokuba protested.
Yuugi put a hand on the boy's shoulder. "Please don't be frightened Mokuba. I will protect you from anything bad that might happen. Just, please, hold very tight to my hand, okay?" Yuugi led them together, and had Jou and Mokuba stand between him and Atemu. With his free left hand, he threw a huge ball of magick into the center of the room, and worked to make it expand and solidify.
In a matter of minutes, a white colored portal was in front of them. The energies spread out to the walls of the room, even licked the paint clear off the drywall. The hair on their arms and neck stood on end, as though they were standing in a room full of electro-static cling.
"Everyone ready?" Yuugi questioned. He slung the bag he'd packed over his shoulder. "Do not let go!" he stressed.
They jumped through.
The landing this time was considerably better, all things considering. This time, Yuugi and Atemu managed to stay standing, even though Jou and Mokuba fell flat on their rear ends.
Yuugi stood upright fully, but then doubled over again as the overload began to tax his body. He clutched at his head as dizziness caused him to sway. Atemu noticed this and was over to him quickly. He held Yuugi upright until the portal had been fully dispelled, and Yuugi could see clearly again.
Jou's mouth was hanging open in shock. Mokuba too, was gaping like a loon.
The main entrance of the Eternal Palace had very high ceilings, and very long corridors. It also had amazingly bright and luminescent black marble floors and glittering silver and palest of gold walls.
"Yug, where is this place? Where are we?" Jou questioned.
Yuugi smiled and allowed Atemu to walk him closer to the other two. "This, Jou, is the Eternal Palace, which is in the center of the Divine City, the capitol of Sekesha. Atemu and I-"
Yuugi closed his mouth and Atemu turned his head to watch as someone rounded a corner and came strolling towards them with purpose.
"Kings Atemu and Yuugi! Pah! Kings indeed! Where on earth have the two of you been? The whole city has been worried sick about you! Gone, for four days! You informed us that you'd only be gone for two! Do you have any idea what has been happening since you've been gone?"
Yuugi chuckled as Atemu sighed. "Aunt Lilian, surely the country has not fallen out of grace since our absence."
Somewhere behind them, Jou spluttered.
"Priestess, what could have possible happened that would require us to be here for every minute of the past fourdays?" Yuugi asked. She was funny when she was upset like this.
"Y-Yug," Jou managed. "W-what is she talking about, Kings?!"
Atemu smiled at Jou. "Yuugi and I rule Sekesha together, on a double throne."
"What could be so important," Lilian kept on. "Good heavens, you men are all so dense! The High Priestess of Tranquility is in labor as we speak!"
"What?!" Atemu roared. Without waiting for a response, he grabbed Yuugi's hand and dashed off towards the restricted area of the palace, where the priestess would have been taken to give birth to a royal child.
They ran and quickly as they could. Yuugi, once again, wondered to himself how people had put up with the ridiculously long corridors of the palace for so long. It was a good full minute of running before they finally reached the priestess's room. Yuugi pushed open the door and rushed in.
Ryou was in the room, standing over the bed the priestess was resting on. She was in the middle of a contraction, for she was still screaming when Yuugi reached her side. "Ryou! Boy, I'm glad to see you in here."
"Yuugi! We were afraid you wouldn't make it back in time."
The High Priestess gasped and caught her breath.
"How are you," Yuugi asked.
"Fine," she replied. "I just want this thing out. It hurts."
Yuugi placed his hands by the bulge in her belly. He sent soothing waves of pink healer's energy into her body to ease the pain. "How long has she been in labor?" he asked Ryou.
"Twelve hours," the healer replied as he wiped his forehead with his sleeve.
Yuugi nodded. "It shouldn't be too much longer now."