Thanks to everyone who wished me a good xmas. It was great! I hope all of yours was! I got lots of clothes and stuff which kind of saddened me cuz a part of me still wanted toys and games, but the most random gift I got was an action figure Kurama. One word: awesome. He now stands on my TV. Happy new years' Eve. Break out the bubbly.

In this chapter, further down, there will be sections of italicized passages... they probably won't make sense to you then, but just read them and it'll all fit together later. This chapter is... quite complicated, and just happens to be the longest at some odd 7000 words, but it is also the last. I also advise you to read the author's notes at the end.

Chapter 10: Ode to Sorrow

Marik tied his horse up outside the large and heavily protected gates of the city. Who were they trying to keep out?

... Or in?

With one small wave of his hand, he had been sent to the other side of the wall and was inside the city. The large Palace could be seen easily from where he stood, guards watching it from all sides. And, many seemed to be being sent over to where the tombs were... and soon, he'd be able to sneak in without anyone noticing.

Grasping lightly onto his hood, he brought it up and over his head concealing his identity from those around him.

--

Seth stood quietly as the remaining graceful garment was fashioned upon Ryou's small frame. He was now dressed from head to toe in fine silks and he had been bathed until no speck of dirt could be seen and he almost shined. Thank goodness Seth had not commented about the new tattoo...

Motioning for the lady nurses to leave, Seth advanced slowly towards Ryou.

"Well," he said, his voice the same as it had been spoken not so long ago. "Are you hungry? Surely you must be... after all, you were just rescued from that filthy shadow dealer... who held you there against your will."

"No thank you," Ryou said meekly, turning away from the multitude of food that had been laid before him.

"That's strange," was all he said. And then, "But what was more strange was the fact that after being supposedly held hostage, you actually struggled when I got you and brought you back... Is this some sort of magic? Incantation? I'm no fool. I know that Marik possesses powers that may even rival mine."

"I assure you..." Ryou said, drawing in a shaky breath, "This is no magic."

The silent high priest held his hands behind his back and walked a full circle around Ryou, his piercing eyes almost threatening to bore into his soul.

"Ryou... do you remember what I asked you not too long before that inauspicious moment in the Curial Room?"

Ryou froze, purposefully avoiding his eyes.

"Ryou... do you love Yami?"

"Ryou... do you love Yami?"

Ryou was quick to change the subject. "Why are you questioning me? If you will me to see Pharaoh, then I will. But please, don't interrogate me like a criminal."

Seth looked unaffected. "I merely asked a simple question... Why are you so hesitant to answer?"

"Hesitant?... I'm not..."

Narrowing his gaze, Seth's cerulean blue eyes flashed a dangerous sapphire. "All of these days Yami has worried over you... despaired because he thought you were in pain and afraid, possibly even dead. He watched his only love torn away from right before his eyes; his dreams repeated the images cruelly and unmercifully. Now you're back, and while others would be happy beyond belief... you are tentative. Just what exactly did Marik do to you? Is he threatening you as we speak? Is he bargaining with you to kill Yami? What? I must know."

Ryou couldn't take it anymore. Tears streamed down his cheeks and his face was red with anger. "It's not what you think!"

"Oh really? It had better not be, because what I'm thinking seems absolutely preposterous, yet… strangely possible." He turned around, so his back was facing Ryou, and took a deep breath. "Now, how do you feel about Yami? I must know. Do not let what I have said today affect your answer. It must come straight from your heart. What is it telling you?"

The same words he had spoken before.

But this time Ryou had an answer.

"Yami… has always been my friend, someone I looked up to." He smiled sadly. "He was the first person who didn't treat me like some street rat. Sometimes... I really wondered what my true feelings toward him were... but I could never find an answer. Then you questioned me, and I still had doubts until the very end. But... there should never be doubt in love... If I couldn't find the answer then, then it wasn't meant to be." He lowered his face, his eyes disappearing behind pearly bangs. "I do not love Yami," he whispered.

Seth was shocked and it was etched plainly on his face. Then, as was characteristic of him, he regained his strict demeanor and was still. "How dare you. Yami would've done anything for you. Even now, even as you are here in the Palace, he weeps for you. I have had to sleep each night with those tears echoing in my mind. He came to me for comfort and though I unwillingly granted it, I never failed to tell him that one-day you'd be back and you'd care about him more than anything. What Yami feels for you..." he paused here, a slightly pained look in his eyes, "He... will never feel for anyone else again. You don't even know what love is!"

Suddenly Ryou understood. Seth had always paid extra attention to the Pharaoh; he was constantly at his side. And yet, he seemed to be the one person, besides Marik, who had a strong aversion to him as well.

It was all just a mask.

"How dare you," Ryou said, looking up for the first time into his hardened azure eyes. "Who are you to lecture me on love... when you are in love yourself? Just tell Yami how you feel!"

The high priest slapped him right across the face.

"This is nonsense," he growled. "I raced half-way across the dessert to bring you back to Yami, and that's exactly what I'm going to do. And... you will love him back."

Seth raised his hands and almost immediately, fluent Egyptian passed from his lips. A strange glowing blue orb appeared before them, and before Ryou had time to react, it passed into his chest and he collapsed momentarily.

Lowering his hands, Seth looked down and watched as Ryou rose back up, a determined expression upon his face.

"Where is Yami?"

-

Seth's face held a look of approval as he led Ryou to a nearby room. As they arrived, he stopped, hearing the voices coming from within the Pharaoh's chambers.

"Dead?" Yami's unbelievable voice came through the doorway.

"Yes, Pharaoh." That was Isis. "I... am so sorry."

Their voices were so distraught and upset that Seth wondered if they were talking about Ryou.

"But I warned Mahaado about going there... Why did he have to risk everything!"

"He cared a lot about you Pharaoh. You two were the best of friends. He did it because he worried about you and wanted to help protect you. Please do not be angry with him."

"How could I? If anything I should be mad with myself. I knew that Bakura had returned and yet I did nothing. Then, Mahaado didn't listen to me even after I warned him that Bakura would be there in the Tombs... waiting for him.(1) He hasn't stolen anything from here for so long... so why now?"

Ryou froze for a moment. Bakura... the name sounded so familiar. He wavered slightly and Seth gripped firmly onto his shoulder.

"Pharaoh," Isis said, "There will be a proper burial for him."

Yami sighed. "We should probably prepare it for two. I don't think I shall ever see Ryou again."

Seth pulled Ryou back so they were out of hearing length from the other two. "Yami is not well now. Let us wait for a little while before I send you in."

Ryou nodded. "Very well."

--

Marik now stood in one of the dimly lit halls of the Palace. The torches were his guide, as well as his keen sense of hearing, and slowly, he made his way through the Palace.

Yes. Right now he was calm. He had to be that way if he wanted to make it to Ryou. If he acted rash, well, he would be caught in no time. Still, he found it somewhat stupid, for lack of a better word, that he was risking almost everything to retrieve someone he'd started out hating then ended up... liking.

Damn. Emotions really could get the better of people.

Pulling one of the torches out of their holders, he held it before him to light his way. Surely he'd find a way that wasn't guard-overloaded that would lead him to either Yami or Ryou.

A noise, though quite small, caught his hearing and in an instant he whirled to face the offender dropping the torch rather loudly onto the ground. The flickering flame betrayed the stranger quite well... though this person wasn't a stranger at all.

Marik scowled, his arms crossing over his chest. "Well if it isn't Bakura. I never thought I'd see you sneaking around Yami's Palace. Actually I didn't expect to see you at all."

The thief simply glared. "And I never expected you to be the rescuer type. Come to play the hero?"

Baring his teeth, Marik lunged pushing Bakura against the wall with a surprising amount of force. "I don't have time for your antics. Where the hell are they keeping Ryou!?"

"Wouldn't you like to know?" Bakura inquired evilly, a well-known leer spreading across his face. That was the look associated with the Thief King himself. The merciless, murderous, and cold-blooded thief. But... Bakura had changed for a time when he was with Malik, so why was he like this now?

"Do you honestly want me to kill you, because that seems like a pretty good idea right now."

"... I don't fear death."

"Yeah, well you should. The only thing keeping me back is Malik. Speaking of, shouldn't you be off screwing him or something?"

Bakura shoved Marik off harshly. "Leave me alone. Malik's dead."

Marik froze for a moment. "You're lying."

Bakura broke his gaze and began laughing bitterly. "I wish I was. I kept telling him to be careful. I told him to stay close, not to wander. He kept telling me I was foolish to think anything would happen." He had stopped laughing and his dark eyes remained hidden beneath his bangs. "Then... we were walking and laughing, enjoying each other's company," a sad smile came to his lips, "And I turned away from him for one second, and just like that, he pushed me out of the way and was hit by a speeding chariot."

From his cloak he pulled a shimmering gold object that shined even in the darkness. It was a golden ring with an eye fixed upon it and five gold spokes hung of the bottom. "With this," he continued, "I just might be able to bring him back. These items were the one thing I could never tell Malik the truth about. If he knew how they were made..." He trailed off. "I had to play stupid when it came to them. I just... wanted to protect him. So, I'm going to keep searching until I have them all... all of these wretched Millennium Items...even if I have to search... forever."(2) Facing him momentarily, he said, "If you want to find Ryou... keep going on this path and you'll come to a branching off into two halls. The left path with lead you to Pharaoh, but the right one will lead you to Ryou." That infamous smirk returned. "Choose wisely."

At that moment, the torch's flame mysteriously went out and when it re-flared, Bakura was nowhere to be found.

--

Yami was sitting alone in his room when he heard someone enter. Straightening up, but barely, he focused a despaired gaze upon the visitor.

"Please, I'd like to be left..." he froze. "...Ryou?"

His eyes held in them utter disbelief. Immediately he stood, knocking the papyrus paper off his desk, but ignoring it.

Ryou smiled, tears coming to his eyes, and ran to him embracing him tightly.

"I've missed you so much!" he sobbed into his shoulder.

Yami still couldn't believe it. "It's really you... But how-?"

"Seth saved me," Ryou said, pulling back to look him in the eyes. "I've never been so glad to see him."

"Seth?" Yami said unbelievingly. "He brought you back?"

"Yes," he said, the tears freely flowing down his cheeks. "You don't know how much I've missed you."

"... You've been gone so long... I can still hardly believe it. Marik didn't hurt you did he?" His face was grave.

"Only a little, but I'd go through it all again just to be with you."

Yami smiled and used his thumb to brush away the tears upon his soft skin. "I'm so glad you're back."

Ryou blushed slightly at the small contact and bit his lip. "Yami... while I was gone... I realized something..."

With scarlet eyes locked on soft brown ones, and both so close, Ryou merely had to stand on his tiptoes to press a soft, light-felt kiss upon Yami's lips. Yami backed up quickly, his fingertips immediately touching his mouth.

"Ryou..." he said, very surprised.

Ryou focused his gaze on the floor. "So... you don't feel the same..."

"It's not that, it's just... Seth, he-"

"So you love him instead of me," Ryou said accusingly, shock written on his face.

"No, I- I mean, he... You're moving too fast for me."

"Do you feel the same or not... It's that simple."

Yami frowned. "What happened to you Ryou... You're not the one I lost not so long ago... This is a trick." He narrowed his gaze. "And I think I know just who's responsible."

With a simple flick of his wrist, Ryou jumped and gasped, looking around at the new setting with wonder.

"Where am I?" he asked, then his gaze fell on Yami. "Pharaoh!"

Yami smiled tiredly. "It's good to have you back…again..."

Ryou looked bothered. "Yes, I'm... glad."

Great. Now how was he going to get back to Marik?

"Hm," Yami mused. "We shall talk later. There shall be a celebration feast in honor of your return."

"That's not necessary-" Ryou started.

"Oh but it is," he finished. "Meet me in the dining hall later. I..." he focused a skeptical gaze on the doorway, "Have someone I need to talk with."

"Yami... I-, I really am happy to be back... it's just-"

"We shall talk later," Yami concluded, smiling and leaving. Did he know that something wasn't quite right? There was something in his expression that showed understanding. Ryou was only glad that he didn't know the truth truth.

That would not bode well.

o-o-o-o-o-o

Light footsteps echoed down the hall and the small pitter-patter of feet could barely be heard by anyone. Most of the servants were out for the day leaving the halls vacant so he was free to roam them as he pleased. Beautiful adornments colored the walls and statues attributed to the many gods were situated here and there.

Coming to one of the more prolific parts of the palace, he spotted a room where low voices could barely be heard. Surprised that someone was still here, he crept close to the room and listened.

o-o-o-o-o-o

Marik stood before the fork in the halls, truly unsure of which path to take.

"The path of needles, or the path of pins?" he mumbled, thinking over his choices.

He really shouldn't have had to struggle. The obvious choice would've been to grab Ryou and leave, but then that damn pharaoh would chase him down until he was dead. So, why not kill the pharaoh then grab Ryou and leave?

"Right or left" he wondered, then smirked. "Right or wrong?"

How ironic. Ryou just happened to be the 'right' choice. But, was he truly the path Marik wanted to take? Ryou... kind and gentle, caring and loving. He was everything Marik despised about the world rolled into one human being who just happened to have the illusion of love for him. Then, there was the Pharaoh... his object of hatred, malice, and most importantly vengeance. He was accustomed to taking that path. All he had ever known was violence and a never-ending spiral of darkness...

Until a certain healer showed him the light.

Oh, if only he could tell Ryou the truth... about everything. Himself, why he hated Yami. It was such a scandal though... and if the wrong people found out... Well, hopefully they wouldn't...

o-o-o-o-o-o

"Why can't you just understand the truth?" the woman asked, "So it happened. So what? But I love you, so surely-"

"You do not love me," the man replied. "It is a delusion. Love doesn't really exist. It is nothing more than a word placed on an emotion."

"You cannot mean that!"

"But I do. Why have you come here? It will only pain you more."

"Because... he is here as we speak, and he needs you more than ever. You have to be there for him or no one will."

The man turned a cold gaze upon her. "Then no one will. You should not have come. I have to go. They are waiting."

The young woman smiled sadly. "Is she waiting as well?"

"... Yes."

"Then you shall be sorry you ever fell in love with me."

o-o-o-o-o-o

Ryou sat quietly in his room contemplating his choices. He could try and escape now... which might prove to be futile, as guards were posted almost everywhere, or just wait for Marik to come and get him... not that he was counting on that happening. This WAS Pharaoh Yami's most hated enemy who wouldn't touch the young prince with a ten-foot pole unless it was sharpened on one end.

He was supposed to glad, practically ecstatic. Seth was right; anyone else would've been overjoyed... Was he selfish though for wanting to be with Marik instead?

"It's true what they say..." he whispered quietly. "You never know how much you'll miss someone until they're gone."

He missed Marik a lot.

"Healer Ryou," a voice said.

Ryou was broken from his thoughts as he looked up to face the servant that had addressed him. "Yes?"

He had been somewhat surprised with the formal title. And oh gods... how was he going to break the news to Yami about the little fact that he... had lost his power?

"There is only one way for you to lose your gift... and I don't think that will happen for a while..."

Heh... if he only knew.

"It is almost time for the feast. Will you join the Pharaoh now?"

Ryou smiled politely. "Yes."

No matter how hard it would be... he was going to have to tell the Pharaoh the truth... about everything.

--

Yami sat silently across from Ryou with his hands crossed. On his face was a scrupulous gaze... almost as though he was trying to figure something out about the former healer without asking.

They had been done eating for a while, and had in fact eaten their meal in complete silence. Ryou was beginning to wonder if Seth had told Yami something about Marik.

"You've changed..." Yami finally spoke, breaking the thick silence.

Ryou tried to smile his best and look surprised. "How so?"

Yami shrugged and leaned back, a small smile upon his lips. "That's what I'm trying to find out."

Standing up, Ryou stood as well out of respect, and the Pharaoh walked over so he was standing before him.

"Honestly, I beg to differ," Ryou said, swallowing hard. "I am still the same."

Yami raised a brow, then without hesitation, he leaned down and kissed him.

Ryou was frowning and biting his lip when he pulled back. This was the part where he told him that his feelings didn't coincide.

"So that was not your first?" Yami said, tapping his chin.

"My first?" Ryou was confused.

"Yes. Your first kiss. Someone stole it before I could."

Ryou's eyes went wide. He could tell? Of course, it wasn't really that much of a surprise. Yami was known for his overwhelming wisdom and it baffled many.

"I thought so..." the pharaoh continued. "Well, are you going to tell me who? I truly hope it wasn't Marik..." he frowned. "But then, why would you be so nervous? Of course it wasn't Marik."

If only he knew.

Ryou avoided his eyes. "Well, it... it just kind of happened..." The kiss of course.

"And now you're in love."

"What?" Ryou said quickly, now facing him.

"It's true. I could tell when we spoke in my chambers. You are in love with someone... that's why you regret being back."

"I don't regret it-"

"It's okay..." Yami smiled sadly. "You're really going to have to introduce me to them sometime. While you have made a discovery while away, so have I. I did originally have something that I was going to tell you... but... I realized that it was just an illusion. The truth was right before me all along..." He seemed to drift off, contemplating his thoughts.

Ryou was wondering what on earth he was talking about.

"Yami..."

Both of them looked up facing Seth's calm gaze.

"There is something I need to speak with you about."

Yami smiled. "Very well." Turning to Ryou he said, "You may do as you wish now. I will see you later."

Ryou nodded. "Okay."

Walking off his footsteps could barely be heard.

"Thank you so much for bringing Ryou back," Yami said, smiling thankfully.

Seth shrugged, avoiding his eyes. "I only did what the Pharaoh wished of me."

"And for that I am glad." In a motion quite uncharacteristic for someone of his stature, he reached out and embraced Seth with joy.

The stunned high priest blinked a few times, then back up and cleared his throat. "Pharaoh, I have business elsewhere. In the meantime, I suggest you go check up on Ryou. I fear that things are still not as they seem."

--

Entering the long hallway, Ryou barely had time to think before someone pushed him into a nearby room placing their hand over his mouth. When Ryou finally caught his bearings and opened his eyes, he looked up facing a dark lavender gaze.

"Marik?" Ryou said, shocked beyond belief. "You came here?"

Marik rolled his eyes. "Yes... Don't make me regret that choice."

"I... I didn't think you'd come."

"Neither did I. Listen, we can't speak long. There are guards everywhere. We have to leave now."

"Leave?"

"Were you planning on staying?"

"No. It's just happening kind of fast."

Marik outstretched his hand. "So will you come with me?"

Ryou smiled and took it eagerly. "Anywhere."

A flash of lavender blinded him temporarily, but when Ryou opened his eyes again, they were both now standing outside near the gates that lead to the vast desert. A horse was waiting tied up and Marik helped Ryou onto it and was about to get on himself when a stern voice stopped them.

"Don't take another step."

Ryou winced when he heard the voice, knowing immediately whom it belonged to.

"Yami..."

"Heh... so Seth was right," he said. "Ryou... I would've let you be with anyone... but him." He pointed to Marik.

"Well," Marik cut in, "Deal with it. Ryou's mine now and I'd go through anything before giving him back to you."

Yami glared and crossed his arms. "I don't understand. Ryou, he kidnapped you... He's an evil person. How could you..." He paused, taking a deep breath. "Why did you have to fall in love with him?"

Sighing, Ryou got off the horse to stand beside the shadow-dealer. "...Sometimes... I ask myself the same question, but... I can't deny how I feel. The truth is... I don't want to be with anyone but him. I'm sorry."

Yami shook his head. "Not as sorry as I am. Ryou, I have a duty to these people. Marik must be arrested and... sentenced to death."

"Death?!" Ryou said unbelievingly. "But-"

Marik put a hand in front of him silently telling him to hush. "That's kind of ironic Pharaoh... because I had the same plan in mind for you."

Ryou went to say something but Marik had charged toward the Pharaoh ready to strike. At the last moment, Yami moved and Marik's hand brushed the Millennium Puzzle that dangled from him neck.

Suddenly, a bright beaming golden light was emitted from the Item and the scene before Marik vanished, replaced by one he did not recognize. First he saw himself, before the Pharaoh, in some sort of strange field. Then he saw Bakura and Malik and they were side by side... but against him... The next scene was of Ryou lying ill in a bed, unconscious and quite sick.(3)

Marik recoiled his hand back and the vista disappeared and he was now once again facing Yami.

"What the hell was that?" he demanded, taking a step back.

Yami looked down at the golden puzzle. "That... was the future."

"The future," Marik scoffed. "Well, it looks like you're going to once again be the cause of Ryou's suffering."

"No..." Yami faced him now, with slightly softened scarlet eyes. "I will not be the cause... You will."

"Me? Surely you jest. I would never hurt Ryou!"

"The Puzzle never lies." His gaze hardened. "Why do you think I'm so against you two being together."

"Because you want Ryou for yourself."

"That's absurd."

"Oh really?"

"Listen," he said sternly, scarlet eyes flashing, "Ryou is needed here. He is one of the only people who can help save our people. He is a healer."

Marik arched a brow. "Not anymore."

Yami looked shocked, then angered. "What? Then you-"

"I gave myself willingly!" Ryou explained.

"Listen," Yami said, running a hand over his face, "I have an army of men ready to attack at Seth's command. I don't want to have to summon them. Marik...If you leave quietly, I'll let you go. But, only if you leave alone. The moment you try to take him, the gates will close and you'll be executed."

Ryou's brows furrowed. "Please don't do this Yami."

"Never," Marik answered succinctly. "I'm not leaving here without Ryou."

Yami looked surprised for a moment at Marik's perseverance. "Don't you understand?...Then you won't leave at all."

Marik smirked. "So be it."

Ryou was stunned. "Marik, you can't stay! You'll be killed!"

"I'm planning on it."

"What?" Planning on dying? Surely he was lying...

"Ryou... there's something you don't know." He took a deep breath. "Last night... when you were asleep, I gave you something."

Ryou blinked. "But I didn't find anything. What did you give me?"

Marik closed his eyes. "My time."

Time... Ryou ran that word through his mind in an effort to understand it. How could you give someone time?

"I planned on coming here today," he continued, "To kill Yami. I figured that I probably wouldn't make it out alive anyway, and if I did, I intended on ending my own life... so I gave you all the time that I had left to live... except for today." He glared, not once betraying his true feelings to anyone. "I wanted you to live. Do you understand?"

Ryou's mouth hung open and he wanted to say something. His voice choked and he felt a lump forming in his throat threatening to unleash a cascade of tears. Still, that same sentence and beloved mantra that he knew so well kept replaying in his head:

He had to be lying.

The equally taken back pharaoh had a question that he'd wanted to ask all along. Ever since the beginning it had plagued him with unanswered inquiries. Hopefully today would bring an answer.

"Why do you hate me?" His words sounded sad, and almost tired, like he was worn-out from the constant struggle. "You care so much about Ryou, a miracle in itself... and yet, you would throw it all away just to fulfill some kind of superfluous vengeance?"

It was true what he spoke. After all, revenge is a dish best served cold.

"Why do I hate you?" Marik repeated, finally locking their eyes. "I'll tell you."

Ryou held his breath. He was at last going to find out what this feud was really about.

o-o-o-o-o-o

The woman held the bloody blade only momentarily before it became too heavy and she dropped it. Crimson liquid flickered everywhere when the knife hit the floor, some even coming dangerously close to the young boy.

She smiled weakly at him then collapsed beside the other body that was already lying on the ground. The little boy rushed quickly to her, tears streaming down his face.

"Mommy, don't leave!"

The woman had tears at the corners of her own by her eyes. "I'm so sorry. Maybe he was right... Maybe... love doesn't really exist and we are all tricked by its clever pretense. I don't want you to ever end up like me. I had to do it... I had to because I loved him too much. Be careful, my son. Don't let love fool you. Only utter those prevailing words if you know that what you're feeling is true. Love cannot exist where there is doubt."

Then slowly, she closed her eyes.

o-o-o-o-o-o

Marik stared coldly at Yami with all the hate he could muster for him. "There was once a sorceress who fell in love with the wrong man."

Ryou was confused. Marik had told him this story before with Bakura... so how was it linked to Marik's hatred for the pharaoh?

"And he loved her until she wound up with a child...me, and he left her quickly and went back to his own family. After I was born, she took me to see him... I remember being slightly excited. When you're young, it's the little things that make you happy. But, I should've known something was wrong when she brought me to this very lavish city we are in right now. You see, we didn't have much, but we managed. But, she brought me to the Palace and when I saw him... I just knew. I was the clandestine brother of the prince of Egypt. Your father, Yami, was also mine."

Everyone was silent after that. There wasn't really anything that could be said, for who could say anything? The missing piece of the puzzle. The hidden shard. That was it.

Yami and Marik were related by blood.

"This has got to be some kind of joke..." Yami said, still baffled.

"Well it's not."

Finally his gaze turned livid. "Then your mother-"

"-Killed out father," he answered bluntly. "Yes, that's true as well."

Yami still looked dazed. This was obviously a lot to take in at once.

"We shouldn't... be fighting," he said, shaking his head. "We-, you're... Oh Ra, I am no more a prince than you! You should be pharaoh!"

"That's true. You weren't very old at all when our father died. But I have willingly given up the throne!" Marik stated.

"You two can't fight..." Ryou said, finally speaking. "You're family!"

Marik shook his head and smirked. "Dear Ryou, still as naïve as ever. Am I my brother's keeper?"

Ryou was troubled. Marik... he thought he had changed him... yet, here he stood prepared to kill his own brother.

"I still couldn't heal him," he mused silently, a sad smile falling over his face. What was it going to take?

Ryou went to say something more... but something went wrong. The sand came up to meet him and he hit the ground hard.

Suddenly, Marik was at his side in an instant, picking him up quickly and yelling.

Yelling. Though Ryou couldn't hear what he was saying. It was strange, like someone had turned off the sound in the world.

"... happened. You have to tell me where it hurts."

Oh, he could finally hear his voice. So worried.

"Hurts?" Ryou asked, eyes half-lidded. What really did hurt exactly, and why was it taking so much longer to recover this time? Pesky dizzy spells.

"Yes," Marik said hastily. Ryou once again felt so frail in his strong grasp and he was almost afraid to hold him at all, lest he should shatter. "You have to tell me so I can find out what's wrong with you."

Wrong with him? There was something wrong? Oh yes, he was on the ground. How silly of him to forget. And why was he pretending to not know what happened and was currently occurring. It was so very clear.

"I'm dying," he answered weakly.

"What? But how?! I'm sure you're just sick. Tired perhaps." Worthless excuses to try and cover up the horrible truth. "You can't be dying... I gave you my time!"

Ryou kept feeling this urge to close his eyes, but he was afraid that if he did, he wouldn't open them... and Marik was so worried.

"Maybe... you only had a day left," he said sadly, trying his best at a small smile.

Marik's face was so pretty when he was concerned. Ryou wanted to remember that look forever. Isn't that how it is though? When something truly rare happens, you want to etch it into your memory forever, and Marik had never really shown much emotion toward him before.

"Heh... you know," Ryou began, "I always dreamed when I was little about falling in love with a beautiful girl... and she would love me more than anything... maybe I kind of came close. I don't regret it though."

Marik flashed a dangerous look. "Don't keep talking like this. It's not like you're going anywhere."

Still worried. Yes, he knew something wasn't quite right. But still, so pretty.

"I don't feel bad that I ended up falling in love... And sometimes... it's hard for people to put into words how they feel. For some people, it's simple. For others... they might never say it. I just hope that one-day... you'll be able to tell someone that you love them. It's okay that it's not me."

Marik's face was almost fearful. "Ryou... I can't lose you."

"You won't..." he nodded towards the black eye upon his shoulder. "I will always be yours."

That lump was so painful and it wouldn't go away. Yet, Ryou didn't shed a single tear. He had to be strong, and if Marik saw him crying, he would probably make fun of him or slap him. He knew that there would be time for crying... another time.

Marik still noticed the downcast look upon his face. "What do you want me to do?" he asked resignedly.

"See me," he answered sadly. It seemed that he still didn't understand him fully, though that was quite all right for now.

With all of his remaining strength, he reached his hand up to touch Marik's face. He had to. The troubled features were so pretty that he just had to feel them. Beautiful.

"What are you doing?" Marik asked, face finally betraying his agony.

"... Memorizing..."

His fingers slid down onto his lips and lingered there a moment. The lips were moving slowly, but, for the sake of the moment, Ryou once again couldn't hear.

Moving, moving, moving. But saying what? Oh yes...

"I... am so sorry."

He still couldn't say it. Ryou was dying and he still couldn't tell him the truth! 'I'm sorry'? Like hell. He... he... Why couldn't he admit the truth? He couldn't even confess it to himself! He couldn't even confess it to Ryou... and he wanted him to understand so badly. He just wanted Ryou to know that he couldn't. He couldn't be there for him now, he couldn't save him... he couldn't love him.

Ryou closed his eyes and smiled, a crystal tear slipping onto the sand. Marik's soft scent of desert flowers seemed to soothe him somewhat.

Softly, and barely audibly, he whispered, "I understand."

Ryou's hand fell from his face and Marik quickly held onto it for a moment before laying it gently on his chest.

...He was gone.

Standing up to face Yami, he was surprised to find that there were tears in the young pharaoh's eyes as well. Marik wondered idly if everything in the world would weep for him, including even the simple mistletoe bush, but he knew that wouldn't bring Ryou back.

"I will destroy all of Egypt," Marik said quietly. "Including you Pharaoh."

He barely even had time to raise his hands before a soft whistling sound was heard and Marik froze. He had stopped. His hands came down to hold onto the wooden dowel that now protruded from his chest. In one quick moment, he wrenched the weapon out exposing the sharpened metal at the end.

Yami looked fearfully from Marik, then turned to see the finest Egyptian army... with Seth in charge.

"Do you honestly think this will kill me?" Marik asked, holding up the spear. It was then that he noticed the bright red liquid that was slowly mixing with his dark blood and a leer crossed his face. "Kai-Tzu berries... of the northern region. I'll be dead before dawn."

"Ah, so you're smarter than I thought," Seth said, unamused. "Only, you don't even have until dawn." Raising his hand he signaled for them to finish him.

"Seth don't!" Yami shouted. "If you do this... I'll never be able to forgive you."

For the first time in all of the time the young pharaoh had known him, the high priest smiled, though it was a sad and very disheartening one. "Yami... as of now... I am disregarding your orders and authority as Pharaoh."

Yami made a gesture, but it was too late. Four more spears whooshed through the air and hit their target with perfect accuracy.

It was hard to watch.

Marik still, with a very weak effort, used power this time to extract the weapons and they lay in a bloody mess at his feet. More would've probably been thrown but Yami yelled for them to stop.

Everyone watched as Marik swayed, trying hard to remain standing, but he failed and fell to his knees beside Ryou. Shakily, he reached out and laced his fingers with one of the now cold hands.

And strangely, Marik was still smiling.

"This-" he began, spitting blood onto the sand, "-Is anything but over. Ryou will live on... Bakura is still alive and I shall bind their souls together. As for me," he smirked, an eerie lavender aura beginning to surround him, "I am a master of the shadows... I'll think of something…"

Ryou's body had already disappeared and now Marik's began to as well, fading away as though it was a character on a piece of paper being erased. The eye upon his forehead now glowed dangerously bright.

"One day Pharaoh... we'll meet again... That much I can assure you..."

OOOOOOOOOO

Marik's body was never found and neither was Ryou's. News spread throughout the land of the tragedy, though it wasn't seen like that as some. The infamous shadow-dealer had finally met his end. Bakura was eventually tracked down and thought to have been killed, but his body along with the Millennium Ring was never found. Isis took a vow to never speak of the catastrophe again, for it was too much heartache to bear. Even High Priest Seth, once noble and devoted, turned against the Pharaoh and became his enemy… and everything seemed to go farther downhill from there.

Time passed, spreading its wings over Egypt and the entire world, until everything was caught up in its embrace. Things changed and people moved on and changed as well over the centuries. The years passed by quickly, yet slow, and soon a figure did emerge to fight the Pharaoh that no longer was. Ryou lived again, oblivious to the past, sharing a body with the person who had helped him so many years ago. Malik dueled Yami for his reasons that were really fueled by one person's anger and vow of revenge. That person was determined to get one person in particular back. That person bore the sign of their rage upon their forehead.

That person...was Marik.

---THE END---

(1)- The Bakura killing Mahaado thing really happened in the manga. It was only added in here because it really fit into the whole fact that Malik's dead so that's why he killed him and stole the Ring.

(2)- In the anime, Bakura's obsessed with collecting all of the millennium items and all so in this story, his reason is so that he can resurrect Malik. That's why he says he'd even look forever. (I really hate dragging the items into stories, but for this one it's only a minor part.)

(3)- I hope you recognized this. The future visions Marik sees are scenes from Battle City.

Whoa... that was a long chapter. I'm so sorry, but I couldn't end it or it would've been weird. There was… a lot… of symbolism in this chapter, like with the right/wrong path. You'd have to read this chapter a few times to probably get it all. There were even biblical and mythical references. The italicized passages were of course when Marik's mother took him to see his father. Ryou did get a little "weird" in the end when he was dying (that's why he was thinking about Marik hitting him). And heh, no, Seth and Yami never did get together. If anything, this would've torn them farther apart, which is sad because Yami finally realized the truth about how he felt for him (I don't know if you caught that). Don't worry SxY fans. Read on and maybe you'll be happy.

I tried to make this story so that it fits in with the timeline of YGO right now, like the reason Marik hates Yami and wants to duel him, and the Yami/Hikari thing, and even Bakura's lust for the Millennium Items. Of course I kinda had to change history. I thought I did ok-ish. I don't know. What do you guys think?

Please review. Yes, this is the last chapter. Sad? I don't know. When you write something, you can't get very emotional about it. How did I do on the emotional level? Any tears? Lumps in the throat? That'd be an accomplishment. I have never ended a story like this before and they usually get everything sorted out before there's even a chapter 8. I praise YOU ALL for reading. Those who reviewed, you're in my heart and I thank you. Now here's where you get your treat:

You can send me any suggestions you want by review or email and SOMEHOW, I will fit it into the SEQUEL. Yep, there is one. There wasn't gonna be, but how could anyone with half a heart end a story here? This story is only the Yin, the sequel is the Yang. I struggled between long epilogue or sequel and chose the latter. Now, I can't promise that whatever you suggest will happen exactly, but it will be in there somehow. Today is New Year's Eve, so I'll give you until let's say Jan. 12 for suggestions. I already have a name, Reconciliation, but it will take two weeks to work out the first chapter so please be patient The name is symbolic of the fact that Ryou doesn't have healings powers per say, but this is a healing period, and during reconciliation, you reach some kind of understanding. Oh yeah, it takes place after Battle City but actually starts out in Egypt. Confused? Well, you'll just have to read the chapter - I shall leave you with a teaser.

"What is there to understand?" Marik inquired. "Remember? You and I?"

"You must have the wrong person," Ryou shook his head. "I have no idea who you are."

Marik narrowed his gaze. "Did Bakura do this to you, because if he did, I SWEAR-"

"No," Bakura said leaning against a wall with his arms still crossed. "...They honestly don't remember."

Love ya!

AmethystRoze