2 months later:
"Come on Yug!" Joey shouted, running ahead of the others at the crosswalk. "Ryou's gettin' released from the hospital today!"
Yugi tightened his grip on his backpack, and tried to catch up. They were almost to the hospital. It was only two more blocks down the street.
"I know! Isn't it exciting?" he shouted back. He smiled to the voice inside his head. 'And all thanks to you, yami…'
'I am just happy it is all over now.' His yami smiled back. 'If it weren't for the tomb robber, I don't know what would have happened.'
'It's like you said at Battle City, yami…' Yugi pictured the duel again, and the conversation he had with his yami afterwards. 'The spirit of the millennium ring needs Ryou Bakura. He would never let his host be seriously hurt.'
'I guess I was right.' Yami Yugi added.
"Hurry up, guys!" Joey interrupted Yugi's mental conversation. "Why is everybody so slow? Aren't ya' excited!"
"Of course, we're excited Joey!" Tea called out, still running down the sidewalk.
"But we've been running ever since we left school! It's a long way, man." Tristan exclaimed, between heavy breaths.
"Oh, yeah." Joey grinned awkwardly, and slowed down to a moderate jog. "Guess I forgot."
The other teens laughed at him for a moment, and continued on their way. In the distance, they could see Malik and Isis standing by the front of the hospital doors, waiting for them. The Ishtar siblings had come to see Ryou off as well.
The group of teens waved to them with an eager smile. It was a day they had been anticipating for a long time.
In the hospital room, Ryou Bakura sat up on his bed. He stretched and rolled his shoulders, popping his back.
It had been two months since the night his friends had used the ancient ritual to rid the curse of the shadow realm from his body. They were two very long months indeed, although he didn't remember much of it.
He had only taken control of the body again recently. For most of that time, he was asleep in his soul room, too weak to regain control even if he had wanted to. And his yami just let him rest there.
Only when he was much stronger did the spirit of the millennium ring even start tell Ryou what had happened during that time. Much of what his yami said sounded pretty far-fetched. Had he not lived through the shadow illness himself, Ryou probably would not have believed it.
But his body, still a frail shell of what it used to be, provided constant proof that it was all true. Although he had healed a great deal, there was a lot of recovery still to accomplish.
Everything resonated with a dull ache, his muscles weak from not being well used. Underneath his t-shirt, he could feel numerous scars from the surgical procedures his yami underwent. A pacemaker had been implanted to steady his heartbeat. Many internal injuries also had to be treated and repaired. The most recent incision lines still made him wince when they rubbed against the fabric.
The shadow disease also left him with several lasting complications, the least of which being a chronic cough. For a while, at least until his immune system could fully regenerate, he would need several antibiotics and antiviral drugs as a preventative measure.
But after everything that happened, that didn't seem so bad.
He sighed peacefully and nibbled on a cracker. The doctors had only recently let him savor solid foods again, and he missed the taste immensely. He rubbed his arm where the intravenous line had provided his main source of nourishment for so long. The bruise still stretched down most of his left forearm.
There were other bruises too. One just under his left shoulder remained from the three weeks of kidney dialysis, literally pumping black sludge out of his system. Even now, he still passed remnants of dead spores when he urinated. Another bruise from the blood transfusions was still slightly visible on his right forearm. Ryou wasn't sure why it was on that side. He guessed that they just ran out of room on his other arm.
'How are you feeling?' the voice inside his head whispered. 'Better than yesterday?'
Ryou nodded weakly, swallowing his cracker. His weak stomach growled for another.
'A little, yes.' He smiled back. 'I'm still tired.'
'Of course you are, you weakling. They had us up and walking for a while again today. But you were still sleeping.'
'Sorry…' he whispered through the mental link.
'Whatever.' His yami rolled his eyes, crossing his arms across his waist. He muttered his usual remark. 'Like I care.'
Ryou paused for a moment, and then smiled.
'Thanks for caring, yami…' he whispered after a deep breath.
He could feel the spirit of the ring blushing.
His thoughts were lost, though, when the door to his room burst open, and his friends rushed inside.
"Ryou!" Joey shouted, as the door slammed against the other wall. The noise startled Ryou, though he tried not to jump.
"Hey!" Tristan smiled, following quickly behind his friend. "How are you doing?"
"We're here to see you out!" Tea smiled, poking her head over Joey's other shoulder. Her smile was infectious, and Ryou couldn't help but smile right back.
"Yup. All of us!" Yugi chanted, although he couldn't be seen from behind the others.
Malik and Isis walked quietly in as well.
"We want to see you continue to get better." Isis smiled at the boy on the hospital bed. "And I am glad that we were able to help you."
"Same here." Malik added, although he was still unable to make eye contact with Ryou. "Especially after what I did at Battle City."
Ryou looked at him for a moment before turning his attention to his other friends.
"You didn't have much control over it." He whispered, trying to ease the guilt that clung to Malik. It was a feeling he had often enough, with a psychopathic yami bent on world domination. "I… I understand."
He looked around at everyone in the room. If it weren't for them, he would have died. And for that, he was more than grateful.
"You know, I could never… repay… you for what you did, two months ago, Yugi… everybody…"
"We know." Tristan answered quickly. "And we don't mind."
"We'd do it again if we had to." Tea smiled. "You're our friend, Ryou."
"That's right." Yugi continued, finally sliding out from behind everyone. He walked up to the bed, and took Ryou's hand. "And if you ever need anything, anything at all, just let us know."
The rest of the friends nodded in unison.
"Thanks, guys… I don't know what to say…"
"Aw, just say that you're gonna' keep gettin' better!" Joey shouted. "That's good enough for us!"
Ryou let a small laugh escape his lips, followed by a slight cough.
"I will." He smiled, clearing his throat.
That alone gave his friends a smile.
"So, are you ready to go home?" Tea asked, her bubbly voice echoing in the white room.
"Yes." Ryou nodded. The question could not come soon enough. "I do believe I am."
He slowly climbed off the bed. Before his feet could touch the floor, Tristan and Joey were already there to help him up. They held his hands as he slowly shuffled over to a nearby wheelchair. He sat down just as slowly, coughing as he leaned back in the chair.
Tea rubbed his shoulder sympathetically.
"Then lets get you home." She smiled.
Yugi took the handles of the wheelchair in his hands, and started out the door. The rest of the group followed closely behind.
"You know… I could get used to this, pharaoh…" Yami Bakura whispered, taking control of the body for a brief moment. "You carrying me around for a change…"
Yami Yugi let a smirk escape his lips.
"Just this once, tomb robber." He whispered back, almost under his breath. He pushed the wheelchair out of the hospital, and into the sun. "… I guess…you do deserve it…"