Life After the Tears

By LuckyLadybug

Notes: As always, the YGO characters are not mine, the story and the other characters are, and this is filled with friendship and sibling cuteness! Kudos to anyone who recognizes the people Valon is with. I had fun adapting them for the Yu-Gi-Oh! Fandom. Also, I have decided to set this fic after the end of the YGO series, which means, no Pharaoh and no Millennium Items. It still will fit in with my fics (other than the mystery fics, that is), though. It takes place around the same time as The Darkness Within.

Chapter One

Domino City was devastated. No, the entire city had not been razed, but still it had suffered an immense and unplanned disaster—and due to said disaster, the entire city had been forced to accept the stunning and alarming truth that monsters did exist and that Duel Monsters was more than simply a card game. The fact was, real Duel Monsters had completely overrun the city. Of course, there were good monsters as well as wicked ones, but it had mostly been the wicked beasts who had been unleashed upon the hapless citizens. Buildings had been all but destroyed, people had been killed, others captured, and those still left did not know how to deal with either continuing their existences or reconstructing the town. It seemed that neither option was possible as long as the creatures remained.

And there was another large problem that made it almost impossible to know how to vanquish the beasts—Pharaoh Atemu's spirit had gone on to the afterlife, and the Millennium Items no longer possessed their powers. What was more, they had fallen down into a deep chasm in the earth. Even if someone knew how to restore their powers, he would not be able to. This problem would have to be solved without the aid of the Items.

Yugi Muto could not understand how or why the monsters had even been released. He had thought that with the passing of Atemu's spirit and the sealing away of the Millennium Items that a bridge between the dimensions could not be opened again. But then, he had not imagined many of the things that had happened over the past few weeks. And all of this was certainly not helping him deal with losing one of the best friends he had ever had. He could only hope that Atemu was happy in the afterlife.

It was very lonely without the ancient Pharaoh around, Yugi had unhappily been finding. Often, lost in a daydream, he would unconsciously reach out to grip the chain of the Millennium Puzzle, only to find that it was not there. Then again he would remember the events of the Ceremonial Battle and sigh a bit to himself. It had happened several months ago, but still it was as fresh in his mind as if it had happened yesterday.

Now he clutched a handful of wire fence on the school's roof, staring out sadly at Domino City. The monsters were still roaming about. He could see a Summoned Skull turning the corner and a Curse of Dragon's shadow as it drew closer to the building he was standing upon. It was truly a miracle that the city was not completely destroyed, the boy thought to himself. The arrival of the Dark Magician Girl (the same one who had requested their help during Doom) and her forces of good monsters had definitely been a Godsend. Without them, surely Domino City would just be a memory by now.

Yugi leaned on the fence, allowing the evening wind to blow his multi-colored hair about. Nothing had been the same since Atemu's departure. Things had seemed as if they would go peacefully for a time, but then the Duel Monsters had came. And since then, many friends had wound up injured. Some had even gone missing. Yugi was afraid that before long, some of his friends would be numbered among the fatalities.

No! I can't let that happen. . . . But how can I stop it? I feel so powerless without the Pharaoh here. . . . I don't see how anything we do is going to stop these monsters. We need some kind of magic!

He sighed sadly and in frustration, shutting his eyes tightly. There had to be something that could be done. He just did not know what.

Not far from where Yugi was pondering, a teenage boy was entering an old, decrepit mechanics' garage. Grease and oil permanently stained the floor, and tools were scattered about. A car was propped up on a jack, but it had been that way for a while. The boy gave the room a cursory glance, noticing that André was not present. But that was fine with him. He did not like André very much. That raven-haired mechanic seemed to have no backbone. It was amazing that he actually let the others live in the back of the garage. Idly he wondered if one of the others had threatened André into doing so.

The boy pushed the door open, listening to it squeak upon its hinges, and then stepped into the well-furnished back room. At least, it was well-furnished enough in comparison to the storage area it had originally been used for. Now it possessed two badly ripped leather couches, several chairs in various states of collapse, and curtains that separated each person's allotted space. There were electronics scattered about the main part of the room, but there were not many of them that actually worked. André was supposed to fix them, but he never seemed to get around to it. But that was André for you.

Abruptly he felt arms come around his neck from behind. Obviously Angel was here. He recognized her black leather gloves. She always dressed as a combination biker punk's girlfriend (which she technically was) and gun moll (though she did not carry a gun). "Hey there, Aussie," she cooed softly in her sultry voice, smirking to herself. "Back, huh? It's been dull around here without ya." She petted his fluffy brown hair, an action which she claimed he liked.

He smirked. "Yeah? Well, it's good I came back then." He half-turned, looking at Angel with his cerulean eyes. The young woman with the fluffy blonde hair (complete with streaks of pink) was always flirting with him, even though she was supposed to be Rocky's girl. Rocky was the leader of their group. If he knew of Angel's actions, he seemed to take little interest. Perhaps he assumed that she would always return to him in the end. And perhaps he was right. Then again, it was equally possible that he was wrong. Angel seemed extremely bored with the thought of staying loyal to only one man.

"You know," Angel said coyly, stepping to stand by his side, "it's really a shame that you don't remember anything from before your accident. We've had a lot of fun times together." She reached out, playing gently with one of the pieces of hair that hung down on either side of the boy's face. It was interesting, toying with someone who had complete memory loss. Without knowledge of who he was, the teenager seemed content with his current surroundings, and he seemed to believe whatever he was told. That made it convienant for Angel. She was not necessarily evil, but it would be a lie to say that she did not enjoy playing with men's hearts.

"I'm sure of it." He smirked again. Two months ago he had regained consciousness in this room and he had been told by Rocky and the others that he had suffered a bad motorcycle accident. As a result, he had complete amnesia. But he had been a member of their gang for years, they had said, ever since he had first come over to this land from Australia. Because he could not recall anything else, he had been forced to accept their words as factual. Still, he could not deny that something did not feel right. He could not imagine, though, why he would feel that way. There was no reason for these people to be lying to him. They were merely simple young men and women, trying to make their way in this world.

A low growl from behind them signaled Rambo's presence. He was Rocky's right-hand man, and could generally be found sporting a skull shirt and wild, powder blue hair. It seemed that he was constantly in a bad mood, as well. The Australian knew that Rambo did not like him, but the feeling was mutual, so it was not a great tragedy to him. What did it matter if that person did not like him? Such was the life of a loner. Yes, even amidst this group in which he was supposed to be a family member, the Australian was a loner. He could easily sense it. "Rocky's not gonna like this, you know," Rambo snarled now, glaring at both of the other two.

Angel merely laughed. "Rocky doesn't have to know," she answered, as she always did. This exchange had gone on more than once. "But anyway, I thought you were out on a mission, Rambo." She flipped her shoulder-length hair out of her way and placed a hand on her leather-covered hip as she looked defiantly at the other gang member.

Rambo growled. "Rocky gave it to him," he said, spitting out the last word as if it tasted bad. He glowered at the teenager. In his mind, Rocky was grooming the nameless Australian to take over as his majordomo. And then where would that leave Rambo, who had been loyal to Rocky for years? This stupid kid doesn't even belong with us! What does Rocky see in him?

The boy shrugged. "Oh well. I guess he thought I could handle it better." He knew that would only increase Rambo's anger, but he did not care. He was not afraid of the high-strung Rambo. He was certain that the only thing the older man could even do intelligently was fight. But he was a strong fighter as well, and could hold his own. It was not likely, though, that Rambo would try to start a skirmish right here, in front of Angel. He would know that she would tell Rocky and Rocky would believe her. Rocky always believed her. And Rocky had a stipulation about the members of his organization not fighting with each other. Rocky was the only one who could kick them around, if he felt like it. He had never attacked the blue-eyed teenager, however.

"I'll make you eat those words," Rambo snarled, and then glanced at Angel. "Someday." He did not understand why Rocky had even decided to adopt the boy into their "family." He himself would have simply left him laying at the side of the highway, where they had found him, but Rocky had taken an interest in the unfortunate fool and so he had brought him back with them. That was one decision Rambo could never agree with him on. Well, that one, and the decision made months earlier to accept André into their circle, too. If Rambo had his way, both André and the Australian would be terminated. André could not even fight! He was too much of a weakling, in Rambo's eyes. At least the amnesiac was capable of beating people up. Even so, Rambo would not lightly receive the possibility that he was being replaced. That guy's gonna be in for a world of hurt, when I figure out how and where to do somethin' to him.

The boy crossed his arms, watching Rambo stalk over to his designated section and disappear under the curtain. Then he laughed, shaking his head, and stretched out on one of the couches. "He's paranoid or somethin'," he muttered, mostly to himself. He draped an arm over his eyes. Though he did not want to, he started to doze.

Sleeping was mostly an annoyance for him of late. It seemed that more often than not, he was having strange and unsettling dreams. The events were all mixed together and never made sense, but he could not push them out of his mind. It almost was as if he was remembering past incidents in his life through his dreams. Maybe it was from the time before he had left Australia and joined the gang, he mused. But in any case, he despised and loathed those visions. There were always beasts and chimeras hiding within the shadows, ready to pounce upon him. And there always were two other young men accompanying him, though he was never able to see their features. He would hear the screams of them both . . . then the roaring of a monster, and then . . . dead silence. He would always awaken in a cold sweat.

What kinda dream is that! he berated his foolishness. It's only some kinda nightmare. It can't have happened right recently. It probably didn't happen at all. For he knew that he appeared to be his current age in the dream, and yet he had been with Rocky's gang for years. The men he was with in the dream seemed to be close friends, but he could not recall them now. He wanted to make himself believe that they were only figments of his imagination, but it was all too real for that. Any time he would decide it was nonsense, he would remember the haunting, gripping sensations once again—the feelings that he knew those other people and that someone he cared about was being hurt by the beasts. But he did not understand where he would have known those people from, so once more he would attempt to dismiss it all.

Rocky and the others wouldn't be lying to me, would they? He frowned, rolling onto his side. I mean, they're just some gang here in Domino City. What reason would they have for spinnin' tales? It doesn't make sense! 'Sides, the monsters probably just cropped up in my dreams 'cause I've seen them around the city lately. Sure is weird, though. Wonder where they came from. . . .

He gave a sad sigh, feeling his confusion only deepen. Somewhere, deep inside his soul, he did not feel that he belonged where he was. But he had nowhere else to go.

Marik Ishtar ran a hand over his face. In frustration he turned, looking out the window at the ocean below the airplane. It moved calmly and peaceably, but the Egyptian boy was not fooled. The oceans had been furious of late, especially with all manner of hurricanes and tidal waves. Though it may be quiet now, there was no telling when it would veer up again. It might be affected by the presence of so many monsters, including creatures of the sea. At least, that was one of Ishizu's ideas. Even without the Millennium Tauk, she possessed a certain sixth sense.

"I don't see how we're going to be able to do anything," the boy muttered, looking over at Ishizu and Rishid. Both were wide awake, pondering over the known disasters and how they would attempt to solve them. They were all on their way back to Domino City after a stay in Egypt, not wishing to sit by and not try to help their friends in this time of trouble. It was true that monsters were spread out all over the world, but it was in Domino City where they flourished the most. Marik wondered if they had been summoned from there in the first place and then had traveled to everywhere else.

"But we must try, dear brother," Ishizu said softly, turning to gaze at him with the endless blue depths of her eyes. "It may seem hopeless, but there will always be a way." Marik had been brought back to her and to Rishid when it had seemed as if he would be lost forever. But he had triumphed over his wicked Yami, a miracle that both of his elder siblings had prayed for over the course of many years. She smiled gently now, seeing her younger brother look back at her.

"A way to death, maybe." Marik clenched a fist. "The Pharaoh's gone. I don't even have the power of the Millennium Rod any more! How can we possibly hope to get rid of any of those blasted creatures?" Ishizu had tried to call back to Domino City before they had left for the airport, but there had been no answer. It seemed that the phone lines were down in the area—which was not truly a surprise. What had been a metropolis was now almost a war zone. Marik was worried for the safety of all the friends he had made there—especially young Mokuba. But surely if anything had happened to the child, the younger brother of multi-millionaire Seto Kaiba, something would have been announced. Mokuba must be alright . . . for now, at least.

"Do not give up hope, Marik," Rishid's deep voice spoke up now. "You haven't been quite so pessimistic as this in a while now." The man frowned in concern, studying the maturing teenager. Marik was seventeen now, and the cruel, calculating, and insane young man from the past was gone. Marik was wise beyond his years, often amazing Ishizu and Rishid with his insight, but at the same time he was still a boy. He still took pleasure in riding about with his motorcycle and oftentimes showed a reckless, impulsive side—especially when confronted with a breach of justice or possible harm to his siblings. Generally he only became pessimistic when he was in a very bad mood, and the current situation they were heading into definitely qualified as something to put him in a bad mood.

Marik ran his hands through his hair. "It just never stops," he answered finally, leaning forward to study the floor. "Can you explain why, Rishid? Someone's always suffering, and it's usually always either us or else someone we know. It doesn't seem fair." He straightened up again, regarding both of his siblings with a piercing gaze. "Why are we always the ones in pain and misery? Why is it always us or our friends? It's almost as though something figures that there aren't any better victims than us." To him, it had seemed that way especially because of the lives they had once led as part of the Tombkeepers' Clan, otherwise known as the Gravewatchers. Marik had never believed that it was right for them to live below the surface and never get to venture up. He had never believed in turning his life over to a Pharaoh, especially one whom Marik had later believed had killed their father. But since the Pharaoh had since been discovered, Marik and his family no longer needed to live underground. They could live in the light, and had been. But their troubles had not ceased.

Ishizu shook her head, reaching out to lay her hand on Marik's shoulder. "That is not how it is, my brother," she said firmly. "Many others in the world are suffering as well. But even if an extraordinary amount of trials are being thrust upon us, they will only serve to make us stronger in the end, as long as we strive to overcome them and not fall prey to despair." She sighed deeply. Marik had quite a sensitive heart, actually, and it pained and angered him to find his family and friends often undergoing torment. She could understand how badly it would make him feel. She could barely stand to see him or Rishid in agony. Her brothers were her life.

"I suppose." Marik rubbed his eyes. "But it's hard not to feel despair in times such as these." It's very hard. Sometimes I wonder if anyone really understands what I'm feeling. I have to protect Ishizu and Rishid. And I want to save my friends as well. But it seems impossible, especially without the Rod to give me some supernatural assistance. I don't know what to do. . . .

"We will be arriving in Domino City very shortly now," Rishid announced, his heart aching as he watched his brother. He wished that he knew some way to comfort him. He had often wished that, throughout the times when they had lived underground and then during Marik's hate-fueled mania for revenge on the Pharaoh. It seemed that he had never been able to succeed. And yet . . . he knew that he had comforted Marik during his darkest hour and had given him the hope to keep living. He could never be grateful enough for that.

"Maybe," Marik replied, his eyes narrowed darkly. He had just witnessed something out the window that suddenly made him feel as though they were all in very possible danger. When Ishizu and Rishid both looked at him quizzically, they saw it as well, and frowned.

All the other passengers quickly descended into panic. At least half a dozen Thousand Dragons and another half dozen Red-Eyes Black Dragons were all converging on the airplane. It rocked precariously.

Marik rubbed his forehead. "Oh joy," he muttered.

Raphael started awake, feeling something brush against his face. As he started to focus, remembering that he had fallen asleep in the recliner, he discovered that Liu was settling down on his chest. She was rubbing gently against him, a steady purr coming from within her throat. He shook his head slowly in amusement as he sleepily reached out to stroke her fur. Somehow he doubted that Liu was capable of not purring. It seemed to be her preferred method of communication.

His blue eyes took on a far off look as he thought of everything that had happened since the invasion of the Duel Monsters. Their lives had all changed so very much—and his and Alister's had been altered drastically. The third member of their mismatched family, Valon, was gone. He had vanished over two months previous after a tragic attack that he had believed had taken both of his friends' lives. Believing himself to be at fault and unable to bear it, he had gotten on his motorcycle and ridden off.

Raphael only knew this because Guardian Eatos had telepathically told it to him later. She had tried to go after Valon, but one of her wings had been torn during the battle and she had been too weak to get up. So instead, the only thing she had managed to do was to drag herself over to Raphael's and Alister's lifeless bodies and to drape her good wing over them. She had found that they were still alive and had kept them warm and safe until help could arrive.

Oh Valon . . . you idiot. . . . Where are you? Are you even still alive? Or did you kill yourself out of self-hatred and grief? But he could not bear to think of that possibility. Valon had to still be alive. He was out there somewhere. The only question was, Where? He and Alister looked for the boy every day, but by now they had started to wonder if he even was in the city. He could be far away by now, for all they would know.

Hearing the sound of limping nearby and then a hiss of annoyed pain, Raphael realized that Alister had entered the room. The redhead had been injured the day before yesterday, twisting his ankle after being thrown off of his motorcycle by a violently mischievous Saggi the Dark Clown. He insisted that it was only a mild injury, and Raphael had to hope that it was true. The last thing Alister needed to do right now was to hurt himself worse by moving about.

The blonde man grunted. "You were supposed to be resting," he said flatly. Liu continued to snuggle with him, prompting him to continue being amused.

Alister lowered himself wearily into a chair. "I did." He leaned on the chair's arm, his gray eyes dark. "The police still haven't found any trace of the Paltridges, have they." It was true that after the Duel Monsters had arrived, the police force had not been as effective as it had once been and some of the officers had been killed. But the remaining ones were determined to uphold the law, including Gabrielle Valesquez. When she could, she had been searching for any leads to Valon's cruel parents, just in case it was possible that they had found and taken him. But so far she had found nothing. It was very frustrating for her and for the two bikers.

Raphael growled. "No," he said. He had checked in with her just that morning, hoping that possibly some clue had turned up. With every day that passed, the chances of Valon being found alive grew slimmer and more unlikely. His friends were in despair.

Alister's expression did not change. "I didn't think so." He remembered the night in question so well—the terror, the panic. . . . That had been the first night when the monsters had been there, and Raphael had been among the first to be wounded after an assault from Gilford the Lightning. During the battle, Alister had followed suit, being attacked by Silver Fang. Then several angry Magicians of Black Chaos had blasted them, and they had kept attacking until Eatos had appeared to protect them. As they had then stumbld and ran, desperately trying to get to a secure hiding place where they could see to each other's wounds, Valon had suddenly appeared. That had been when a horrible explosion had sent them flying. Alister remembered no more after that, but he assumed that was why Valon blamed himself. A ridiculous thing to do. He couldn't have known the blast would happen right then, when he found us.

He looked over at Raphael again. "Do you think Doom Reborn did this?" he asked darkly. It had been something they had considered for a while, and it did make sense. What if Doom Reborn had managed to get enough power to summon wicked monsters that would wreak havoc the way Doom Reborn wanted to have happen? Maybe Valon had even determined that and had gone to confront the organization. Then they could have taken him hostage, hoping to force the rest of the original Doom's secrets from him.

Raphael sat up straight, lifting Liu onto his lap. "We shouldn't ignore the idea," he said gruffly, "but they've disappeared too." Doom Reborn had not been heard from since a wayward member had abducted Raphael's cousin Hilda and they had gone to rescue her. They still did not know what the mysterious new leader of Doom had in mind as her "other ways" of getting information, but often they had both felt as though they were being watched—and likely it was true. And it was possible that Doom Reborn's leader even knew what had happened to poor Valon, whether they were actually holding him hostage or not.

Alister nodded slowly, turning to look out the window as the sun slowly set against a backdrop of Blue-Eyes White Dragons and Harpie Ladies. He did not speak the other question in his mind, the one he knew that he and Raphael were both thinking. Will we ever get Valon back?