Author's Note: Hey everyone! Welcome to Shades of Dawn, my newest story. I will warn that this story will contain shounen-ai, tht means Yami/Yugi action in later chapters. Also,I want to send out a thank you to Merodi no Yami for beta-reading this for me. :) Go read her stories, she's in the process ofrewriting one of them, but go read them anyway. :p I hope you enjoy!

Chapter 1

"What's the matter, Mouto? Is the baby going to cry again?" Tonto--a big, beefy eleventh-grader--sneered. He raised his fist and, with a painful 'crack!', punched the much smaller boy in the jaw. The youth was sent sprawling, whimpering in pain. "You're pathetic!" Tonto spat. "It's not even fun beating the stuffing out of you anymore!" The bully added one final kick to the boy's stomach before rummaging through his backpack. Grinning, Tonto took his victim's lunch bag and his pocket money and sauntered off to class.

Yet another typical morning in the life of Mouto Yugi. Slowly and painfully, Yugi pushed himself up onto his knees. He paused to catch his breath as his body ached from the recent beating. Reaching over, Yugi dragged his knapsack up onto his shoulders, wincing as it brushed over fresh bruises and sore muscles. Why did he even bother to bring a lunch to school anymore? Every day, for the past EIGHT YEARS his lunch and money was taken from him. Sighing, Yugi stood and straightened out his clothes--a boring, blue school uniform that was a size too big for him. He ran a hand through his hair, trying to add some sense of neatness to his wild black tresses and ruby highlights. When he found his efforts to be useless, he settled for brushing his blonde bangs from his face.

Yugi trudged his way through the schoolyard alone. Depression wrapped its cold embrace around his small frame once again as it had for the past eight years. Violet eyes were dull and lonely; his creamy skin was marred and bruised. A once bright and happy boy had, over time, been reduced to a mere shell of loneliness and sorrow. Yugi didn't dare tell his teachers or his grandfather--with whom he lived--about what happened to him every day. He feared what Tonto and his band of idiot friends might do to him if they found out.

Yugi had always kept to his private hell, putting on a happy face so others wouldn't question his mood. He had no friends; Tonto made sure of that. The bully constantly spread rumors and humiliated the boy to encourage others to do the same. The rest of the students eventually cast him out of the high school society. Those who did interact with Yugi would pull pranks or take advantage of him. In order to avoid being treated like an unwanted guest, Yugi started to distance himself from his peers. Instead, he devoted himself completely to his grandfather. He helped him run the Kame Game Shop, did chores and errands, anything to be around the cheerful old man. Grandpa was the only person that had ever shown Yugi the kind of love a child needed to grow.

At age seven, Yugi's father had finally lost his job because of his excessive drinking. Yugi's mother was unemployed due to medical conditions. With no income to sustain them, Yugi's parents fought. Each encounter became more and more violent until finally his mother filed for a divorce. Neither wanted to take responsibility for their son, so Yugi was drafted off to foster care. After being tossed from family to family, social services eventually placed little Yugi in the care of Sugoroku Mouto, his grandfather.

Sugoroku had been thrilled to take Yugi into his home and heart. Scared and alone, Yugi came to depend entirely on the love his grandfather had given him. Sugoroku became Yugi's entire world, chasing back the feeling of worthlessness and abandonment his parents had instilled on his young mind. The idea that he had somehow been responsible for driving his parents away still lingered somewhere inside him.

Yugi made sure that his grandfather never found out about what went on at school. The old man was the only one to ever accept him for who he was without a second thought, and Yugi thrived on that approval. It was the only thing he had to hold on to. He feared what might happen if his grandfather ever discovered how weak Yugi really was. If he ever lost that approval, Yugi would literally have no where else to go. As a result, incidents like today went unmentioned, unnoticed, and unpunished.

Upon entering the room of his first class, Yugi took a seat in the back corner. He sat and stared at his desk, avoiding any and all human contact. He was surprised, to say the least, when someone sat in the seat next to him.

"Good morning, Yugi," came a soft, British voice. Yugi jumped and snapped his eyes to the person sitting in the desk.

It was Bakura Ryou. Of all the students in the school, Ryou had seen through Tonto's lies and had taken the extra step to become acquainted with Yugi. He was a soft-spoken boy with brown eyes and snowy white hair. Occasionally, Ryou would find him in the clutches of a bully and come to his rescue. You couldn't really call them friends, but Yugi trusted the teen enough to carry on a conversation or work together with him in a group. Ryou even cared enough to sit with him at lunch and share half his tuna sandwich from time to time.

"Hi Ryou-kun," Yugi replied in a near-whisper.

Ryou smiled in return and took out his books. Yugi followed suit, opting to stare blankly out the window as he did so. 'The last week of my freshman year,' he thought absently. Though the rain clouds outside showed no evidence of it, the middle of June was fast approaching. Yugi snorted dully. 'Not that sophomore year will be any different. Still…' The summer holidays would give him an opportunity to unwind a bit. Maybe he could help Grandpa with the extension on the shop….

Yugi's thoughts were interrupted as the teacher began handing back corrected finals. The teacher placed his face-down on his desk. Yugi flipped it over carefully, as if it might explode. He breathed a sigh of relief, however, when he saw a big 90 in red ink circled at the top of the paper. The last thing he needed right now was to fail a class.

The bell rang sometime later, signaling the end of first period. Yugi gathered his books and carefully picked his way to his locker. He then made his way over to the gym for his PE class. Yugi HATED this class, as it gave others an excuse to hit him repeatedly with various objects. Dreadfully, Yugi entered the locker room and opened his locker to retrieve his gym clothes. He was immediately sorry, as someone gave him an almighty shove. Yugi's face met cold hard tin as he tumbled into his locker. The locker door slammed shut with a metallic 'clang!', trapping him inside. A gravelly voice guffawed outside and spun the combination lock out of order.

"Hey! What do you think you're doing?" Yugi cried. "Let me out!" He began to pound his fists against the door. The laughing voice jeered some more, then grew faint as it got further and further away. Yugi let his head drop against the locked door. He closed his eyes with a sigh. There were no tears--like Tonto's beatings, he had become used to this kind of treatment every day.

The room emptied out, and Yugi was left alone. He was going to be late--or possibly even miss his class--again. With a squeak, the locker room door opened and a head of white hair entered the room. Upon hearing footsteps, Yugi immediately snapped his head up.

"Ryou-kun!" he called, seeing the teen enter the room. The footsteps stopped.

"Yugi?" Ryou answered, perplexed.

"In here," Yugi explained, "locker number twenty-seven!"

Ryou peeked through the slits incredulously.

"Great Scott Yugi! How did you get in there?" he exclaimed.

"Same as always, Ryou-kun," Yugi sighed dejectedly. "Unlock the door for me?"

"Sure Yugi," Ryou replied. "Combination?"

Ten minutes later, Yugi finally joined the other students in the gym. He gulped nervously, seeing that today's game just happened to be dodge ball.

"About time you showed up, Mouto-san," came an aggravated voice. Yugi spun around to see the PE teacher looming behind him, swinging his whistle around his finger. He opened his mouth to explain himself, but the teacher cut him off. "I don't care what your excuse is. Twenty push-ups, then you can run laps the for the remainder of class."

With a dejected nod, Yugi got down on his hands and started his push-ups. A few students stopped playing for a moment to laugh, while the rest of the class decided to put their dodge balls to good use. Yugi finished his push-ups and paused to catch his breath. He ducked as he caught something out of the corner of his eye. A rather large rubber ball went whizzing by his head to bounce off the wall and back to the students on the gym floor. Taking this as his cue, Yugi started to run. Sure enough, a crowd of laughing, jeering classmates took up the chase, belting him with dodge balls over and over again.

Yugi had never been so happy to hear the teacher blow the whistle at the end of class. The students gave up their chase, dropping their balls and heading for the locker room. Yugi took this chance to rest his hands on his knees and catch his breath. He wiped sweat from his forehead with the hem of his white shirt and started to leave.

"Not so fast, Mouto-san," the teacher called. He handed Yugi a black bag and pointed to the red dodge balls scattered all over the gym. Yugi didn't argue, just sighed and cleaned up the gym as fast as he could before heading into the locker room.

As he walked past several lockers, Yugi spotted a group of kids hovering around an open bathroom stall. Whatever they were doing, they seemed to be getting a good laugh out of it. They heard him enter and burst out into more laughs. Yugi heard the toilet flush as the boys suddenly scattered.

"You might want to get your jacket dry-cleaned before you wear it again, shrimp," one said, drawing more hysterics from his friends.

Yugi's eyes widened and he jerked the door of the stall open. The toilet swirled from the earlier flush, and Yugi's school jacket lay swimming in the water. He pulled the fabric out and looked it over. The thing was soaked clean through. He tried his best to wring out as much water as possible; he even ran it under the hand dryer multiple times, but in the end, it was still just as damp and just as heavy. Having no other choice, Yugi put the jacket on and left.

Needless to say, Yugi was late getting back to his classroom. He tried to enter quietly and slip inside without disturbing the students who…were…taking their FINAL! Hastily, Yugi sat at his desk and flipped his exam over, writing his name on the top.

"I will see you after class, Mouto-san," the teacher informed Yugi without looking up from his paperwork.

"Yes, Sensei," Yugi sighed, wincing.

The bell rang, allowing the students to spring up and dart out of the room as fast as they could. Yugi, on the other hand, remained seated. He stared vacantly at his desk, waiting for the reprimand that was sure to come. Hikitaowa-sensei, the math teacher, approached quietly. The dark-haired man folded his arms with a heavy sigh.

"Mouto-san, how long are you going to let this continue?" he asked. "Every other day you're late for one class or another. I've talked to your other teachers about it."

Yugi bowed his head and closed his eyes in shame. "G-gomen nasai, Sensei," he managed.

"I just don't understand it, Mouto-san," he explained. "You're a bright student. You could easily be at the top of your class if you were on time once in a while." Hikitaowa-sensei's expression softened. "Go on to lunch, Mouto-san," he sighed.

Yugi stood and bowed, gathering his books on his way out the door. It wasn't fair. He felt like screaming, desperate to cry out his pain and torture. Instead, he swallowed his anger and hurt, wishing all of it would simply go away. Yugi walked dejectedly to lunch. Flopping down in a seat at an empty table, he lay his head down on his folded arms. He tried to dispel the ache in his gut, either from being hungry or Tonto's savage kick.

"Hey Mouto!" someone shouted.

Yugi lifted his head to answer just in time for a wad of flying mashed potatoes to slap him in the face. Startled, he jumped up out of his chair, trying to clear the white gunk from his eyes. He was able to regain his vision long enough to see another glob heading in his direction. Yugi ducked out of the way, only to regret it immediately. The flying spoonful of starch soared past him to smack another, much bigger student in the back of the head. Since Yugi was the only kid in sight with mashed potatoes in his hands, the other student charged at him. As Yugi struggled to mutter an apology he stepped backwards, slipping on the food-covered floor. The action cause him to back into another, more occupied table. Both the table and the students were knocked over, causing more cafeteria mush to go flying. Suddenly the room erupted with screaming students and the makings of a full-blown food fight. Yugi curled into a ball under one of the tables, not caring as various handfuls of slop splattered on the floor around him. To make matters worse, the principal chose that exact moment to enter the room.

"What is going on here?" he bellowed. The food stopped flying and all shouting ceased at his entry. Principal Taoro was legendary for his harsh punishments. "Who is responsible for this?" he bit out stiffly. All fingers in the room immediately pointed at Yugi; still trembling under the table. His violet eyes stared in disbelief.

"Mouto," Principal Taoro growled, "see me in my office." Without another word, the graying man left the room.

Yugi stood glumly, keeping his eyes on the floor. He tried his best to ignore his peers as they laughed and taunted him, but he couldn't stop the burning feeling in his stomach. Trying his best to brush the thrown food off of him, Yugi entered the principal's office. The door shut behind him with a soft 'click'. Principal Taoro stared harshly at Yugi. The boy responded by bowing his head low and swallowing the lump that welled up in his throat.

"Care to explain yourself, Mouto?" he asked threateningly.

"G-g-gomen n-nasai," he stuttered out, clenching his eyes shut. "I didn't mean to cause any trouble, sir."

"That isn't going to cut it this time, Mouto!" Taoro snapped. The old man stood up and began pacing about his office, staring at Yugi like a vulture. "Do you know how much this school is suffering because of these shenanigans of yours? We're twenty-percent over our budget this year, just in damage repair that YOU'VE caused." Yugi flinched. "I tire of seeing you in my office week after week because of one disaster or another, Yugi. This incident cannot be ignored. I will be calling your guardian after school; you are hereby suspended for the remainder of the school year." Yugi struggled to draw a shaky breath. Ji-chan was NOT going to be happy. "Now get out of my office and back to your class."

Yugi bowed and left, mindlessly returning his books to his locker before heading to his next class. He ignored the snickers and whispers that met his ears, struggling to keep himself together as he took a seat in the back of the room. A note was dropped on his desk, the words "Drop dead, Shrimp," scrawled on it in messy handwriting. Yugi crumbled the paper in his fist, biting his lip to control his temper. He took a deep, steadying breath and waited for class to begin. The teacher handed out a pop quiz and told the students to get to work. Yugi began filling in the answers swiftly, not really caring if they were correct or not.

"Psst!" someone beside him hissed.

Yugi ignored them, but the kid continued and started poking him. Finally, Yugi turned an exasperated glare at them. The blonde kid pointed to the corner of his paper, where he had written something. He nodded, signaling that he wanted Yugi to read it. Quickly checking to see if the teacher was looking, Yugi leaned over to read it.

"Mouto: (n.) First class, Grade-A LOSER!"

"Sensei!" the student called out with an evil smirk. "Yugi's copying off my paper!"

Yugi's stomach dropped. Like a deer in headlights, he froze and stared in protest at the teacher. The middle-aged woman glared at him. Yugi gulped as she approached his desk and grabbed his paper.

"Well then, I guess Mouto-san will have to accept a zero on all of today's assignments," she said, tearing Yugi's quiz in half. "Detention, Mouto."

"I didn't cheat!" Yugi objected. "Look at his paper! He--"

"That is enough! Put your head down--I don't want to see your face or hear another word from you for the rest of class."

Yugi nearly broke into frustrated tears. He folded his arms and buried his face in them, unable to look anyone in the eye. It wasn't fair. What had he done to make even the teachers hate him? Class ended and Taka-sensei--the geography teacher--took her place at the front of the room. She glanced briefly at everyone, frowning slightly when she saw Yugi's downcast expression.

The reminder of his spirit gone, Yugi isolated himself for the rest of the class. He stared at his desk, eyes glazed in depression and self-doubt. He also failed to notice the worried glances tossed his way by Ryou, concerning the white-haired boy more. Thankfully, Taka-sensei seemed to detect that Yugi was at an all-time low and left him alone. After what seemed like a lifetime, the final bell rang, dismissing the students. Yugi threw everything in his bag and trudged to the detention hall. A teacher stood by the door, holding it open for students as they filed in. There was a text book and an assignment on each desk.

Yugi plopped himself into a seat and dropped his book bag beside him. He picked up a pen and began to work. All looks, comments, and projectiles directed his way went ignored; only half of his attention was focused on the paper in front of him. The other half was brooding over the fact that he had to go home to face Ji-chan after this. What would he say? Would he be angry?

…Would he be disappointed?

It was dark and raining outside by the time Yugi finished his assignment. He passed in his work his textbooks. He wouldn't be returning to Domino High until the start of the new term next fall--if he was suspended, there was no sense in him keeping all his books with him. Dejectedly, Yugi hoisted his nearly empty bag over his shoulder and began the long walk home. Sore and depressed, Yugi took no notice of the rain soaking him. The droplets that trickled down his face mixed with hot tears, hiding them. He approached the Kame Game Shop apprehensively. Yugi stepped in the door, removing his drenched coat and sneakers.

"Where have you been young man?" Sugoroku's angry voice broke through the silence. The old man was furious, and Yugi trembled under his gaze. "Detention AGAIN Yugi?" Yugi could only bow his head.

"Gomen nasai, Ji-chan," he whimpered brokenly.

"'Sorry' isn't going to cut it anymore Yugi!" Sugoroku shouted. "SUSPENDED! What did you do to get yourself suspended? For Kami's sake Yugi, there's less than a week of school left!"

Yugi couldn't help it now. His body shook with silent sobs. His knees buckled and he fell, screaming in anguish.

"I'M SORRY!" he cried, nearly hyperventilating. "I'M SORRY DAMNIT! I just can't take it anymore…" The last part came out as a whisper, never meeting his grandfather's ears.

Sugoroku sighed in frustration, rubbing his face vigorously. "I'm running out to the store," he said finally. "I obviously can't rely on you to do it for me." The old man grabbed his coat and left. Yugi remained where he was, shaking on the floor.

Yugi's eyes were blank and soulless. That was it. He'd let down the one person that had taken the time to care for him. The ONE person he never wanted to leave had just walked out the door without as much as a look of comfort. Yugi had driven his Ji-chan away, just as he had driven his parents away years before. Misery such as Yugi had never felt before washed over him, consuming his mind. With a strangled cry, he bolted to the kitchen and searched for something--anything--that would make the pain go away. Yugi wrenched a knife from the cutlery drawer and sliced a deep gash in his wrist. The sting penetrated the haze of near-insanity and brought him back to Earth briefly.

He stared at the red fluid pouring from his wound. This…this was the only way to make everything go away. It was the only way out. Everyone would be happier in the end. Clenching the knife in his fist with the strength of his resolve, Yugi sliced again.

And again…

And again…

And again…

He fell back against the kitchen counter. Light-headed and dizzy, Yugi began to feel his sadness and anger evaporating. A ghost of a smile spread over his face at the realization that he would soon be free. He felt his eyes growing heavy, so he closed them with the intent to sleep. The last thing he heard was a distant voice calling his name…

Ryou glanced at the address scrawled on the paper in his hand. This appeared to be it, though with the way the rain had caused the ink to run, it could have said anything. Ryou looked over the Kame Game Shop and decided he was in the right place. The shop was small and cozy; the store itself seemed to be in front, while the living space was in the back and extended to a second floor. The store appeared dark, but there were lights on in other parts of the establishment. 'Yugi should be out of detention by now. I'll just knock and see if he's all right….' Ryou had noticed a change in Yugi during one of their classes together and was worried. Hoping to talk to the small and shy boy, Ryou walked around to the side door and knocked.

"Hello?" he called. "Yugi, are you in there? It's Ryou!" Frowning when he got no response, Ryou tried the door handle. He was utterly surprised when he found it unlocked. Shrugging, he hesitantly stepped inside. "Yugi?" There was a light on in the living room to his right, and also in the kitchen just a few feet in front of him. There appeared to be a large puddle on the kitchen floor. Ryou's brows furrowed as his heart jumped nervously into his throat. Something wasn't right here. Walking closer, Ryou noted the unmistakable color of the puddle, and the distinct source from which it was coming.

"YUGI!" Ryou screamed, running to the boy's side. Yugi lay crumpled on the floor; Ryou couldn't tell if he was alive or not. He searched for something to staunch Yugi's bleeding with. He grabbed a dish towel and tied it around Yugi's wrists as tight as he could. The British boy then ripped the phone off its hook and dialed for help. The receptionist had to ask him to repeat himself three times before he was able to form a coherent sentence. When he was finally able to speak clearly enough for the woman at the other end to understand, an ambulance was immediately dispatched to the game shop's location. Ryou hung up the phone and leaned shakily against the wall. There wasn't much else he could do after that but wait for help to arrive.

"Oh Yugi," whispered, supporting Yugi against himself, "WHY would you do this to yourself?" Ryou heard the sirens approaching and tried to remain calm. After hearing the ambulance door slam outside, everything seemed to happen at once. Yugi was quickly hoisted up onto a gurney as paramedics huddled around him. Ryou stumbled back and braced himself against the wall, trying desperately to stop his own erratic breathing. One of the medics approached him suddenly.

"Can you tell us what happened?" the man asked.

"I came to check on him and just found him like this. I don't know how long he was laying there before I got here," Ryou replied, shaking his head and trembling.

"What's going on here?" a voice cut through all the commotion. "What happened?" Both Ryou and the medic turned in time to see Sugoroku Mouto pushed against the wall as his grandson was wheeled out on a stretcher.

"Mr. Mouto?" the medic inquired.

"What's wrong? What happened to my grandson!" he exclaimed. Sugoroku tried to follow the stretcher out the door, but the medic placed a restricting hand on the old man's shoulder.

"Mr. Mouto, I think you should sit down," he said calmly. Sugoroku sank into one of the kitchen chairs, shaking and frantic with worry.

"We received a 9-1-1 call about ten minutes ago. This boy here says he came here to see your grandson and found him on the kitchen floor. It appears your grandson slit his wrists and attempted to kill himself. He is being taken to the emergency room; we'll contact you as soon as we can."

Sugoroku nodded numbly. The medic gave him one final pat on the shoulder and left. The ambulance barreled down the street shortly after, sirens wailing. Sugoroku turned to Ryou with fearful eyes.

"My dear boy, please," he pleaded, "tell me what happened." Ryou sat shakily at the table and took a deep breath.

To be continued...