AN: We're slowly drawing to close. I can't believe it myself. Explanations abound in this chapter and action! I hope you people like this chapter. I apologise for the slight shortness of the chapter – it clocks in at about 3770 words – but I swear every words was positively squeezed out of me. I found this difficult to make an entire chapter out of it, to be honest. I'm rambling. The only things I'm going to say are – I can't believe this is finally drawing to a close; I'm both a little sad and kinda relieved this behemoth can be put to rest. Also, I thank all the reviewers – without you guys, this thing would be dead in the water! So, thank you all so much – I appreciate every one of you! My hit count is sky high thanks to you guys! That's all I have to say, except enjoy what you are about to read! Well, hope you enjoy! Um… here ya go, folks!

Presenting…

Chapter Nineteen: Rewarding Teamwork

The darkness blanketed Tea so much she began to feel suffocated. Fear was choking her already as she hid in the bushes. Adding the darkness only served to intensify what she felt. The plan was dangerous, but the reward would be great. Yugi had reassured them and now here she crouched, peering out at the path where Yugi wandered aimlessly. He looked as conspicuous as they could come, but he had told her that it wouldn't matter to someone like Bakura.

She hoped he was right. It had already been three hours and there had been no sign of him. Off to her right she could just make out Tristan crouching. Each of them held a segment of rope, ready to pounce if he showed up. She wanted to speak to Tristan while they waited, but there was no chance. Tea's relationship with him had its moments – times where she wasn't sure if he was as committed to the relationship as she was, but lately he had shown her that Serenity wasn't as near and dear to him as she used to be. And despite trying not to harbour any feelings of jealousy, she was glad he no longer took a close interest in Serenity.

Now he was spending as much time as he could with her; waiting for her to get out of her dance classes, taking the local train with her to work and home if he could manage it. And they were all shocked and upset when Serenity and Yugi were hurt, but Tristan didn't lose control as soon as he discovered it was Bakura and immediately go out to hurt him. With each passing week she spent with him, her heart grew and she found herself smiling every single day. However, now wasn't a time for love and joy. Fear still pervaded her heart as she looked around for any sign of movement.

Her heart suddenly leapt when Tristan's eyes connected with hers and he gave her a wide eyed stare, flicking his eyes to the path. Tea hurriedly turned her gaze back to where Yugi was to find their white haired possessed friend stalking quietly towards Yugi. Tea quickly looked to her left at Mai, who gave a nod and mouthed 'on three' to her and she quickly relayed this to Tristan, who also gave a nod.

'One…' Her heart was pounding against her ribs.

'Two…' She licked her lips and tightened her grip on the rope.

'Three!' Tea heaved in a breath before leaping up along with the other two and charging at the would-be assailant.

"Get him!" Mai yelled, swinging around so the rope surrounded Bakura. He glared and went to dodge when anger coursed through Tea's body. This was the man who hurt her friends, who had been terrorising those she loved and therefore her. And with her dancer's grace, she whipped her leg up and put all her power behind her size five shoe into Bakura's head.

"Tea!" Tristan cried out, surprised and somewhat pleased by her actions.

Bakura collapsed to the ground, his eyes fluttering before finally shutting. Mai and Tristan worked quickly and went to truss the white haired man up while Tea stood in shock at what she had done.

"Way to go, girl," Mai congratulated, but before she could say anything more, a fist had hit her in the ribs and she gave a cry. She fell to the floor, all the air knocked out of her and Tea screamed.

"Thought I would fall to you four!" Bakura growled, kicking Tristan's feet out from under him before jumping catlike to his feet. The side of his pale face was red and beginning to swell, but he paid no attention to it, instead approaching Tea.

"Don't touch her!"

Out of the darkness, almost forgotten, Yugi launched his wiry frame at Bakura. His arms wrapped around Bakura's neck, choking him and the two rolled to the ground in a ferocious tussle that Yugi was already weakening in. He was in no shape to be out of his house, let alone fight a lunatic. Tea panicked and threw herself into the fray, yanking the rope in her hand around Bakura's torso and tugging with all her might. She managed to pull him off of Yugi, whose breathing was laden, but had no clue what to do next. She was soon distracted with a scream as Bakura reached out and grabbed a fistful of her hair and tugged hard. Tea reacted instinctively and reached out for his arm, biting down as hard as possible. He howled and released her, but she still had no idea with how to deal with this man. Thankfully Mai had recovered from her attack and stumbled over to help Tea.

"Wrap as much rope around him as possible!" the older woman commanded hoarsely. The two began wrapping as much rope around Bakura as they could manage, but he was soon fighting again. A split second later he was on his feet, an arm pinned with rope to his body. Bakura lashed out with his legs, trying to kick one of the girls. Yugi still remained on the ground, slowly recovering from his intense struggle.

"You think you'll capture me!" screamed Bakura, struggling like a wildcat. Before he could thrash anymore, a shadow came up behind him and calmly punching him in the head. Bakura grunted and relaxed, falling to the cold park pathway.

"And that's what you get for trying to hurt my girlfriend," Tristan panted, shaking his hand, knuckles burning from the impact.

Tea, finally reaching her limit of bravery, burst into tears.

Meanwhile, Yugi lay on the ground. He was in pain, but a smile still graced his lips. Bakura was finally subdued. The plan hadn't exactly… gone to plan, but it had still worked out in the end.

He moved a hand a weakly pushed himself up into a sitting position. Tristan was tying up Bakura tight while Mai had pulled Tea into a tight embrace. Tea was crying, her body shaking with what Yugi supposed was shock and fear. He managed to slowly climb to his feet and make his way to the trio, his chest painfully tight.

"See, guys… I knew we could do it," Yugi wheezed, a hand pressed to his chest.

The others turned, concern on their faces. Yugi came closer and Tristan grabbed the young man as he stumbled on a branch. Tea and Mai gave the two a hug, all finally letting the reality of what had just happened sink in.

"We did it… I can't believe it," Tristan said, a smile making its way onto his lips. Tea nodded, her tears halted. Yugi watched Tea, his longing for her waning as she collapsed into Tristan's arms and the two shared a moment.

'It's alright, Yugi. I think you've realised it may be time to move on,' Yami-Yugi said with a tired sigh. Yugi half nodded to himself. He was too tired and beaten up to say anything to anyone.

Tea watched Yugi in the half-light and saw him flagging. Extricating herself from Tristan's arms, she crossed the gap with Mai toward Yugi. Mai had a slight frown on her face, mixed with concern and reached out a hand to touch Yugi's arm.

"Are you alright? I think you should go home," Mai decided and Yugi could only nod and allow Mai to take a shoulder.

"Tristan, grab Bakura. We'll head to Yugi's and then sort things from there," Mai said, taking charge. Tristan nodded, easily hauling Bakura's thin frame up while Tea helped Mai with Yugi. Together they walked in the silent night, streetlights illuminating their strange group; two girls helping a slim male along while a tall male had a white haired undetermined individual, looking from across the street, over his shoulder bound in rope.

Eventually they reached the Grandpa Moto's shop and went in to rest for a while. Yugi sat, Bakura near to his feet and Yami-Yugi stirred within him.

'You are weak, friend. Let me take over and deal with Bakura's Millennium Ring. No-one else must touch it or they may fall prey to its influences as Ryou did.'

All Yugi could do was nod and allow Yami-Yugi to take over, glad to rest for a short while. Yami-Yugi stood; his strength carrying their weakened body to Bakura's rope entrenched form on the floor and knelt. The others turned to watch as their friend gently pulled the golden item from around Bakura's neck and stood. With a frown of concentration, he cupped his hands around the millennium ring and closed his maroon eyes. The man took a deep, slow breath before muttering something no-one could make out. Mai stepped closer, intrigued by what was going on while Tea and Tristan stayed back, afraid.

Bakura slowly started to twitch under the ropes, gnashing his teeth, his eyes flicking open to glare up at Yami-Yugi's calm face. He suddenly jerked and began to fight viciously against the ropes, gasping to yell but making no sound.

A golden glow began to leak from the gaps between Yami-Yugi's fingers and edges of his hands. Mai inhaled with awe as the light changed and began to curl and seep from around his hands as if alive, like a snake, then dissipated. Yami-Yugi released the breath he had been holding and slowly opened his eyes again.

"It is done. I have managed to cleanse the Millennium Ring, at least for a time. But I doubt the evil within it can be permanently banished. We may be able to finally find out what Bakura was planning to do from Ryou now he is free," Yami-Yugi said gravely, sitting down again.

With a sigh, Yami-Yugi let go of Yugi's body, sinking back into the young man's mind. Yugi felt a little rejuvenated, but his chest still ached. The other three moved over to Yugi, standing beside him as Bakura had stopped writhing. Now the white haired man lay still, his breathing shallow yet even.

"Is he alright?" asked Tea nervously, inching herself behind Tristan slightly.

Yugi nodded, giving a small smile to the group before moving back to Bakura once more.

"He's been cleansed too – the evil that's been possessing Bakura is sealed, at least for a time. He's just Ryou now," Yugi explained, excitement tingeing his voice.

Bakura groaned and his brown eyes fluttered open, roaming for a moment before settling on Yugi's concerned face.

"Yugi? What… what's going on?" he asked fearfully, trying to move but still held in place with the ropes.

"Don't you remember? Ryou, the Millennium Ring took you over again. You've been terrorising friends for over a month now," Yugi explained, quickly motioning to Mai to come over. Together they hauled Bakura into a sitting position, propping him up against the game shop counter.

Bakura averted their questioning gazes, staring at his legs. Grief shot through his eyes and tears threatened to fall. Still, he pulled himself together and faced Yugi once more.

"I remember parts. I… can't believe it happened again," he paused, pain marring his soft features, "Images of wandering in a park… in a house…"

He stopped, his breathing deteriorating again and Yugi's eyes widened, reaching out and loosening the ropes. Bakura gave him a grateful look before relaxing while Mai still watched him with reservation, a hand balled into a fist just in case. Tea and Tristan stood to the side beside where Yugi had been sitting, each watching Bakura with their own mixture of concern and fear.

"Ryou, we need to know why; why Yami-Bakura hurt me and Serenity, what he was planning. Can you tell us that?" Yugi pushed and Bakura closed his eyes tight.

"I'm trying to remember, but it's all jumbled. Something about a ring," he murmured.

"The Millennium Ring?" Bakura shook his head.

"Just a ring, in a big display case. He… he thought it had some kind of vestige of power, that it would do something to empower the Millennium Ring," Bakura said, weakening before their eyes. Yugi leaned closer, desperate to learn the full truth of the matter.

"Is that all? He just wanted more power from the ring?"

"No… he was going to use it for something. He was going to use the power gained to get other Millennium items."

"For more power?"

"Yes. It's all he ever wanted." Yugi could see Bakura was flagging and needed rest, but he needed to know everything he could. He needed to be put at ease finally.

"Then why attack Serenity? I can understand why he would attack me, but there was no need to hurt her," he said, anger gripping him for a moment.

"Serenity… is she alright?"

"No thanks to you," Mai chipped in and Bakura looked guilty.

"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. You'll never know how sorry I am. Please… is she alright?" His eyes were so soulful, Mai relented and uncurled her fist while Yugi nodded.

"She's fine now. But why did he do it?"

"To divert people's attention. Bakura saw how she was spending time with the ring's owner… Kaiba, right? He wanted everyone's focus drawn away from what he really wanted. And you… he wanted revenge," Bakura trailed, briefly closing his eyes.

"That was all?"

"I can feel some of him still inside me, burning with hate. He hated you, Yugi. Yami-Yugi especially. But he was also afraid of Yami-Yugi. And he would have done anything to stop him interfering."

Yugi nodded, "And he did. Ryou, thank you for helping. We need to get you somewhere safe, away from the Millennium Ring."

Bakura began to slide out of consciousness, nodding vaguely.

"The hospital…"

"I agree," said Mai, "you two both need medical attention."

Yugi sighed, but gave a resigned nod, slumping against the game shop counter beside Bakura. His large maroon eyes closed and he looked peaceful at last. For the first time since Bakura had been explaining, Tea moved and headed straight for the Moto game shop's phone. She quickly dialled for an ambulance and spoke for a few minutes before replacing the receiver and sitting down on a chair, taking a shaky breath.

"It's scary," she said, warily eyeing Bakura, "to think that someone so kind and innocent can be made to do such terrible things. It frightens me. Sometimes I think that about Yugi even though the spirit, or whatever it is inside him, is good."

Tristan approached her, gently wrapping his arms around her from behind and she sank back into his embrace. Mai watched with a small smile, understanding what the girl meant.

"It's the thought that one day he may not be in control of himself. With Joey I know he won't be anything but his own dumb self. It's reassuring. But Yugi isn't something to fear, he's someone to admire. He has given another person a chance to see the world even though his life is used in order for another person to see it. He's too kind – I wouldn't do it," Mai said impassively, concealing all emotion from her face as she knelt and pulled the rest of Bakura's ropes off of his body.

Tea didn't know what to say – Mai understood where she came from and was glad. She said nothing and simply allowed herself to be held, all the while watching Yugi's motionless form rest as the ambulance sirens grew louder.

&&&&&&&&

No-one knew how to explain exactly what had happened to the two young men being rushed to hospital. Questions about why it looked like Bakura had been kicked in the side of the face, the heavy bite mark in his arm or why he and Yugi had finger like bruises forming around their throats were sheepishly vaguely explained away or dodged altogether. They weren't allowed to join the two in the ambulance and Mai had acted swiftly, dialling a reliable taxi service. The three waited out on the cold night street in front of the Moto store.

Mai pulled her jacket closer to her and folded her arms to try and keep warm, cursing herself for retaining her image over keeping warm. She wondered what Joey would be doing right now.

'Sleeping. Easy,' she thought, a smile creeping onto her wind numbed features, but it soon faded, 'Well, that or revising nowadays.'

"Mai, I've been thinking. Do you think we should call the police out? You know, because of what Bakura did?" Tea gingerly asked and Mai took out her mobile, giving it a slight wave. Her face was grim, a touch of sadness in her eyes and an unemotional smile on her lips.

"I already did after the taxi call. They're gonna meet us at the hospital."

Tea nodded, appreciative of how she felt. As glad as she was that Bakura was no longer possessed, there was always the fear of how long it would be before he was taken over again. In past history, the Millennium Ring always had a habit of finding its way back into Bakura's possession and ultimately taking over Bakura once more. And Tea was aware that as tough and carefree Mai could appear to be, she also had a sense of insecurity – tonight alone was a good example of the fear that was inside of Mai. Tea wouldn't say that meant that Mai wasn't strong – she knew she had no place, when she was so scared so often. She buttoned the top of her coat up as a gust brushed her neck and sighed, distracting herself by looking along the street for any sign of the taxi.

Lastly Tristan stood beside Tea, watching her as she looked down both ends of the street. He knew how fearful Bakura had made her, and he did his best to reassure her; he tried to walk her home or to work whenever he was available. It didn't help that he worked too, on the other side of town no less, but he tried hard to make her feel safe. The events Bakura had set in motion had made him realise his priorities and how he felt about everyone. He loved Tea, he knew that now. He hadn't told her, but he would soon. And as for his infatuation with Serenity… it was now a former infatuation now Kaiba seemed firmly on the scene. When Serenity had been attacked, it had been shocking and had made him angry, it had also made him worry for Tea. And Tristan had the feeling that Kaiba would take care of Serenity, now they spent all their time together on their 'project'. Tristan gave a soft chuckle and Tea turned her attention to him.

"What's up?" she asked, peering up at him with a cute half-smile that drove him mad.

"Just thinking about how this whole disaster has brought us all closer together," he said casually, stretching his cold stiffened shoulders. He had been in such a rush, it had completely slipped his mind to grab a coat. Tristan was now mentally kicking himself as he gave his arms a rub.

"I know what you mean. I suppose it's something to smile about in the face of all that terror," she gently teased, looking over at Mai.

"What do you think? Good or bad experience?" asked Tea. Mai sighed, shaking her head.

"I think this is an experience that we don't tell my boyfriend about for some time, or until I can get far away enough to avoid his wrath," Mai said dryly, flipping her phone open to check the time.

"How long have we been waiting for that taxi?" said Tristan, leaning past Tea to try and capture a glimpse of the time.

"About ten or so minutes." Mai shut her phone and tucked it into a jacket pocket before folding her arms once more.

"It feels like forever," Tea whispered, tapping a foot impatiently for moment.

"What do you think the police are going to say?" Tristan asked suddenly, fidgeting with his hands nervously. Mai raised an eyebrow, a smile quirking onto his lips briefly.

"Put it this way – I don't think we're getting a medal for what we did," Mai quipped, but belied her concern. Tristan nodded – it made sense. The police weren't in the habit of congratulating a group of people for putting their lives in peril in order to catch a dangerous individual that was gunning for them in particular.

"Still, a little recognition of our efforts wouldn't hurt," he replied, looking up into the inky sky. A few stars were out, but clouds blanketed a large portion of the sky. The street was fairly intimidating even with the streetlights. Tristan couldn't imagine anyone would be out on these local streets at this time. He didn't live far from the Moto shop, unlike the Wheelers and Tea, and knew the area pretty well. Even knowing the area, he still felt a little uneasy.

"Hey, look!" Tea shouted excitedly and pointed at the headlights in the distance.

"Finally," Mai sighed, hand gravitating to her hip as she flipped a portion of golden over a shoulder.

"The police are probably already there. We better start strategising what to say on the way there," Tristan said, his eyes never moving from the headlights.

The taxi pulled came up and drew to a stop and the three shared a look before climbing in and directing the taxi. With a rev as the taxi driver changed gear, the vehicle trundled away from the Moto game shop and disappeared into the night.

&&&&&&&&

Serenity and Kaiba now stood slightly apart, each in their own shocked state. She couldn't believe she had finally said it aloud to him. Her hands shook slightly while her eyes refused to meet his, instead staring in disbelief at her hands.

And Kaiba eyes could not leave her, her words still hanging in the air. His mind, what he felt… it was all… he couldn't put it into words. He didn't want to. But he knew the time had come to explain himself. In her confessing her feelings, he felt obliged to finally make known his own. He would do anything to leave.

However… he had to clarify what had formed between them. Was it love for him, as it was for her?

"Serenity…" he began, swallowing as she raised her eyes to his.

AN: I gotta admit – I feel a little bad leaving it like this. But it's a pretty breath holding cliff-hanger! Muhahah! (Ducks people throwing heavy objects) I'm sorry! But it's how the tale wants to be told! I swear! But to attempt to placate people, I shall leave an allusion to what's to come! Next chapter is called The Ties That Bind and will be pretty much a Kaiba and Serenity only chapter. You know what those crazy kids are like. And what will they say? What will Kaiba say! You'll have to wait until a time in the not-so-distant future. And until then, I bid folks an adieu until then! Adieu, Cat Alex.