A/N: The epilogue.

Whew, it's been fun, hasn't it? I don't think I have ever received such overwhelmingly
awesome reviews time and time again. Thanks, you guys! Stories aren't anything without
reviews, despite what some of us authors may say. (We thrive on them to tell the truth!)

Well, I won't keep you any longer. Have fun, and, as always...

Enjoy.

GUIDE

: Ryou to Bakura :
: : Bakura to Ryou : :
Blah is thoughts

-----

ONE WEEK LATER

I had woken up to killer headache the next afternoon. Not wanting to chance taking me to
the hospital, they had taken me back to Yuugi's place where they dug the bullet out of my
back and patched me up. They didn't need to tell me how lucky I was to be alive. The
bullet had missed all vital organs and narrowly missed hitting my spine. Once again, I was
thankful that he had been a bad shot. My arm had needed stitching, but it was just a flesh
wound as I had thought.

No sooner had I awoke then I received a stern lecture from Anzu, who then burst into
tears because she thought I was going to die. As I said, I had a pounding headache, and
this wasn't helping me any. To help calm her down, I politely asked if she could get me
some Tylenol and glass of water. She nodded and left.

I'll tell you now-- getting shot is not fun in any sense of the word. I've been kicked around
before and had a broken bone or two when I was younger, but believe, it doesn't compare.
I think I took more Tylenol that week than I had ever before in my life.

Laying around all day wasn't that bad. I could deal with that. What was the most
embarassing was that I wasn't allowed to walk anywhere. It hurt like hell, so I hadn't tried
to push the issue, but every time I had to go to the bathroom I had to get Bakura or Yami
or whoever was around to carry me to the bathroom. That was embarassing, especially
after Malik had offered to 'help' me. I quietly, but sternly told him no. He had pouted, but
listened.

As always, I had used the time to think things over. Two big things had loomed over most
of my thoughts. One, how was I going to come to terms with killing Pegasus, and two,
what were the others going to think? They hadn't been told; of that I had been sure.
Should I tell them? I was in the middle of that debate when Bakura had walked in and sat
on the coffee table in front of me.

"You're going fry your brain," he said.

"Pff, you're one to talk," I told him. He snorted.

"Won't get any argument from me there." He took a deep breath and there was pause in
conversation. It wasn't uncomfortable, though. "We have to leave soon, you know that. If
you hadn't been shot we would've left that night, but there was no way in hell Anzu or
Yuugi were going to let you go like that," he said, gesturning to my bandages.

: You three wouldn't either, : I said. He didn't agree, but neither did he argue. Another
pause passed, then he pulled something out from behind him. He threw it on my lap. It
was the sheath and knife. I looked at him curiously.

"It's yours," he said. "If memory serves me-- and believe me, it does-- then you gave it up
to me."

"So why are you giving it to me?"

"You didn't let me finish, baka," he said. "Last night, not only did you steal it from me
once, but twice. In which case, it's yours."

"You're not... you don't... are you serious?"

"No, I'm lying," he said, sarcastic.

I wasn't listening, however. Bakura had just told me in so few words that I was now the
King of Thieves. Not just an itja, but the king himself. There was just no way... it wasn't
possible... how could I be...? After what I had happened, how could I be even considered?
I never stole the knife from him, not really. Sure, if you wanted to play the semantics
game, but for the weight that it carried it couldn't be. It couldn't count.

"Bakura, I... I can't..." I said. I hung my head. "I'm not the neb itja. I can't be."

"Why not?" It was a simple question, but it had no simple answer.

"Because," I said, "I'm not worthy. I can't be Khalid. Look at me! I've gone on my own,
I've put you and the others in danger, I've royally screwed up more than once, and... I've
killed twice now. I'm a failure, Bakura. The King of Thieves can't be that."

"For a philosophical guy, you're pretty damn blind. All those things you listed are reasons
why you should be the neb itja, the King of Thieves," he said.

"I can't see how," I said, shrugging.

"Okay, let's go over this. One, you've run off on your own. Big deal, everyone had done
that at one time or another, even me. What it proves to me is that you can handle being
your own. You can rely on yourself to get by without needing the help of anyone else, and
that is a big deal.

"Two," he said, holding up two fingers. "You've put me and the others in danger. Wrong.
Look, the only thing that got us captured was the fact that Malik and Marik had
hangovers and I was too distracted with my own anger to pay attention to what was
happening until it was too late. And even if you can give yourself some blame out of that,
what mattered was you came after us. To be a clich├ęd idiot like the Pharaoh, you saved
the day.

"Three." Another finger went up. "You've screwed up. Take a look at who we travel
with. Hell, take a look at me. We've all screwed up some time or another. I wasn't always
the great thief you know me as, you know. I've made mistakes, though I swear to Ra if it
leaves this room that I said that, then a bullet wound will be the least of your worries," he
said.

"Got it," I said.

"Good. Now, the last one. You've killed two people. I can't tell you how to justify that
other than what I've already told you. That's something you have to work out for
yourself. You're not a bad person, Ryou, thief or not. You don't go looking to cause
trouble, especially the death of someone. I won't lie, I'll kill anyone that crosses me. You,
though, you give them every chance to live. You were more than willing to let Pegasus
live. He didn't agree, and you did what you had to do. There's no wrong in that.

"Long story short, Ryou. What you see as your flaws are what make you perfect for the
King of Thieves. You're not bloodthirsty, or egotistical, or go after every treasure that
catches your fancy. You're smart, you're humble, and you know when to make your
move. It's that simple."

"Funny, I don't feel any of those things." To my surprise, Bakura laughed out loud.

"If you did, baka, I'd be a whole lot more worried." I still must not have appeared
convinced. Sighing, he said, "Listen to me. I'm only going to say this once and afterwards
I will deny it to my next dying day, so pay attention. You're the King of Thieves, Ryou,
but that doesn't matter unless you want it to be. It's just a title. What you do with it is up
to you. It doesn't mean you're any better or any worse than any of the rest of us. It's not
what you say, it's what you do. And I know that may seem like reason for you not to be,
but trust me when I say this, Ryou. You were born to be this. I may not be a big believer
in destiny, but this time it's for real. You know that. You can feel it, I can tell. I see it in
your eyes everytime you do a lift or even think about it.

"You're a good person, Ryou. You have heart, which is lot more than I can say for most.
You care about others, you give a damn whether they're happy or sad or scared or hurt.
That, my sen, my brother, is what the King of Thieves should be. And that is what you
are, Ryou. That's you."

I couldn't help it. I was crying. I had never in my life heard anyone say anything so kind
about me. Not my mother or sister or anyone else. And to think that it was Bakura, my
evil, cranky, and violent yami, that said it. To top it all off, he had called me his brother.
His brother. The look his eyes held and his voice were both sincere. I knew he meant
every word he said, speaking volumes more in what wasn't.

"Thank you," I said softly, wiping my tears away. He scowled.

"Just don't get used to that. I think I just made up for an two lifetime's worth of bad
deeds there," he muttered. I smiled and shook my head.

"I still don't think I'm cut out for this. I mean, I did kill a man. Two men. But like you
said, I have to come to terms with that on my own. And... I trust you, Bakura. If you think
I'm supposed to be the King of Thieves, then I won't say otherwise."

"Oh, so now you listen, after I bared my soul and made a complete fool of myself?" he
said, giving me a mock glare.

"Well, you know me. Hard-headed," I said, pointing my head.

"Yes, I blame it all Malik and Marik, because I sure as hell didn't teach you that," he said
getting up. I rolled my eyes.

: : I saw that. : :

: What are you going to do about it? :

: : Tell Malik that you need to go to the bathroom. : : He grinned evily at me.

"You better not!" He shrugged and walked off. "Bakura! BAKURA!"

-----

A FEW DAYS LATER

I have always hated saying goodbyes. When I was little, I had been convinced that if you
said goodbye to someone, you never saw them again. That feeling has still remained with
me, and especially this time, I had a feeling I was right. I couldn't predict the future, but...
I just knew.

We were down at the dock, getting ready to leave. Malik and Marik were trying to coax
the beater that the Rubicon now was up the ramp to the ship's storage deck. Bakura was
arguing with one of Malik's "minions" about something on the upper deck. And I, well, I
was doing what I hated down at the dock itself, my knife proudly strapped around my
waist.

"I thought you were going to stay," Yuugi said. I sighed. Damn, this was hard.

"I'm sorry, Yuugi. To all of you, as well. I can't stay. My heart's too restless. I'd go stir
crazy if I stayed. Besides, somebody has to look after them," I said, jerking a thumb in the
direction of the ship. "They'd be lost without me."

"You will come back and visit, right?" Anzu asked.

"I can't promise that. We may be good, but we're not perfect. There are others out there
like Pegasus and they're not a minority, trust me on that. But we'll see. Who knows,
maybe I'll come back and finally beat Yami in duel."

"Is that a challenge?" he asked, a smirk on his face.

"Now, now, Yami, you know if I did that Bakura would insist on Shadow Duel and if you
throw in Malik and Marik, well, we'd have the beginnings of an epic story arc on our
hands," I said. "We'll just have to see which way the wind blows."

"RYOU! MARIK'S TRYING TO CONTROL THE RUBICON WITH THE ROD!"
Malik yelled.

"THEN GET IT AWAY FROM HIM, DUMBASS!" Bakura called down.

"BE MY GUEST!"

"YOU STUPID PIECE OF SHIT!" Marik cursed, following with a string of Egyptian
curses. I sighed.

"You sure you want to be stuck with them on one small ship?" Honda asked.

"They may be a little-- okay, let's face it, a lot-- rough around the edges, but I wouldn't
give them up for all the treasures in the world," I said, watching amused while Marik
started stabbing the Rubicon with the Rod. Malik gave up trying to stop him and tried to
start it again. This time, it roared to life, sending Marik into rounds of maniacal laughter. I
shared a look with the others, but we just ended up laughing.

"You'll keep in touch, won't ya?"

"Of course, Jou. Just keep an eye on the headlines," I said, winking. Bakura called to me.
It was time to go.

"It's time to bid adieu, my friends," I said. "I'll miss you guys."

"We'll miss you, too," Yuugi said. I turned to leave.

"Hey, Ryou!" Otogi called. I stopped. "Go. Fulfill your destiny." I smiled and nodded.

"C'mon, Khalid," Bakura called. As I headed towards the Rubicon, I heard Yami speak.

"Wait a minute... I know that name... KHALID?!"

I jumped in the back and we took off up the ramp, Yami's yelling in the background. We
looked at each other and cracked up laughing. Once it was secured in place, I went up and
joined Bakura.

"You did that on purpose, didn't you?" He was smirking like a Cheshire cat.

"Oh, did I forget to tell you? A thief never tells," he said.

"I'm sure," I replied. The sun was high in the sky, and I took a moment to enjoy its
warmth. I knew why Malik loved it. I loved it, too.

"So, fearless leader, where to?" My smile quickly turned into a Bakura-like grin.

"You know, you were right about me being a good person. So, I figure, we should help
Yami out." He quirked an eyebrow. "And what better way to do that than send him some
of his, ah, personal affects?"

"Oh, dear Ra, I think I have corrupted you! Who are you and where's my hikari?" he
asked, faking horror.

"Hey, I may be good, but I never said I was innocent." He laughed.

"I can't wait to see Malik and Marik's faces when I tell them," he said, leaving. I let my
grin fade back to a smile. I closed my eyes and leaned my head back, enjoying the sun's
rays on my face.

A lot has happened to me, both in the past few weeks and the past few years. I've had ups
and downs, but in the end it was the journey that led me to where I stand today. And while
I'm still not convinced that I should be the King of Thieves, I'm more than willing to try.
Life's too short for not taking risks or chances. Sometimes, what may seem like the most
radical choice is not only the right one, but the one that leads you down the path you were
born to walk.

This is the path for me. Good or bad is a matter of opinion. I found where I belonged. It
was a hard road. There good times and bad, and some days it seemed there were all too
many of the latter. But you know...

I wouldn't have had it any other way.

A/N: Would you believe that the epilogue was longer than the last chapter? Seriously, it
was; by about three pages (not including this author's note).

I don't think I could have timed this better, this being Christmas Eve for many. (Speaking
of which, I don't care what religion you are and what you believe-- either way, happy
holidays!)

Well, folks, did I do it justice? I hope so. And hey, this may not be the last time you'll be
seeing Ryou the itja... or maybe it is. Only time will tell, and well... you know how time is
about things. ::grin::

Once again, thanks. For everything. You guys rock!

--CrazyAce--