Future Tense – Chapter 8

"… emergency flood warning has been broadcast over the city. Although evacuation is not yet declared, citizens are advised to stay inside their homes and prepare for flood conditions. Any ground level –"

Bakura reached over and flicked the radio off, but Ryou ignored his pensive expression, smiling in contentment as he ran his fingers through the short jagged spikes of Bakura's hair. Basking in the afterglow of a morning that had made him feel nothing short of alive, Ryou couldn't find the explosive lightning that threatening. The rain pelting against his window just made him feel luckier to be where he was.

Bakura, however, was getting worried. He knew dark power when he sensed it, and he wasn't sure why. If Ryou had accepted him—the acknowledged thief and murderer of the Millennium war—then what could have possibly gone wrong with the pharaoh?

Whatever it was, he thought to himself as he wrapped his arms tighter around Ryou's waist, it was very bad.

In theory, Ishizu should have realised what had happened and set out for Domino by now, so they could complete the ceremony. But in weather like this, it was unlikely a jet pilot would be fool enough to try and land. Although the violent storm had come on only a matter of hours ago, Bakura wasn't sure whether there would have been enough time for the Ishtahls to make it before all modes of transport in and out of the city were cut off.

He lay his cheek back against Ryou's ribs, lowering his eyes in thought.

If the living death ceremony was still incomplete before seven tomorrow night, then he would go back to the afterlife, whether Ryou wanted him or not.

He frowned, turning his head to kiss the bare skin beneath his cheek as he inwardly damned the pharaoh his incompetence.

Malik gazed out the window for another long, lingering moment, then sighed and turned back to the room at large, letting the curtain swing shut behind him. Although they had managed to get to Domino before the storm had really hit, they were still hours too late. He shrugged, grimacing at his sister.

Ishizu met his gaze, but kept her expression carefully blank as she turned back to the pharaoh. Yami had set himself up on the couch, both knees up and elbows resting on them, his hands hiding his face, but no one needed to see him to know how he was feeling. The weather outside was more than enough.

"Pharaoh," she began gently, "we did consider this as a possibility."

A flash of lightning, followed by a cracking roll of thunder, made Malik lean away from the window.

"Perhaps the chosen one is being reactionary," she continued. "To have been alone so long, and then to suddenly be presented with this must be… perhaps if you go back and speak with him now he has calmed down…"

Even Rishid flinched at the resulting explosion. After rising from his panicked half-crouch, Malik peeked through the curtains, paling at the tree that had just been reduced to flaming debris on the other side of the street. He quickly turned away from the window, his eyes wide and scared.

"He must understand the truth, my pharaoh," continued Ishizu, ignoring Malik's gesturing for her to stop. "If he does not understand the risks involved in him staying as he is; the risks to health, sanity –"

"You think he cares?" snapped Yami, and Ishizu straightened slightly.

Malik began edging away from the window, afraid of what might be struck by lightning next, but Ishizu was still and stoic.

"You don't get it," he spat, shifting one leg to glare at her. "He made his choice after thinking about all the consequences."

"You believe so?" she asked quietly, and his glare darkened even further.

"Yeah. And it's your fault."

She said nothing, her shoulders straightening defensively, but he continued to glare, and her resolve began to waver. She had spent years staring into the face of a bleak future, never flinching, always searching through it and playing her part as fate predicted. She was not afraid of fear. But eventually, the pure darkness of Yami's anger became too much, and she lowered her gaze.

"Might I enquire as to how?"

"You told him –!" He cut himself off, and Malik glanced at the curtains as the sound of the wind lessened ever so slightly, only to pick up again a second later. "He's a world saviour. It's his duty, as the chosen one who solved the Millennium Puzzle, to save the world from the darkness."

There was a pause as that sunk in, before Malik raised a curious finger. "But—" He hesitated as Yami's glare flashed around to him. "Sorry… but if he is a… one of those… then shouldn't he live to… keep saving the world?"

Yami scoffed, glaring off to the side instead. "No. World saviours give up their lives, everything they have, for the sake of the world," he said darkly. "I did. Now he is. For the sake of the fucking world…"

They fell silent for a long minute, before Yami's head ducked and another explosion rattled the windows. Half hunched, Malik surrendered all masks of confidence and hurried over to Rishid's side. His foster brother lay a calming hand on his shoulder, but still eyed the window warily.

"And I can't even argue with him," growled Yami, his voice tightening as he began to rapidly blink. "I can't argue with him because I started this. To save the world, I broke myself apart. I made this choice three thousand years ago… I did this, it's…"

He continued to glare for several seconds, then quickly shook his head, trying to stay still, but he couldn't. Rather than let them see him break down, Yami shoved himself to his feet and spun around, marching out of the room and down the hall to his bedroom. They all flinched as the door slammed, the utter humanity of the sound somehow hitting harder than anything his dark magic could do.

Ishizu gazed down at the floor, her hands slowly twisting their way into her skirt, and Malik sighed, stepping away from Rishid with his hands on his hips. "Now what? We talk to Yuugi-kun?"

"The chosen one made his decision," Ishizu said softly. "We cannot change it."

"Why the hell not?" he demanded. "We can't just sit around, waiting for time to run out! We have to do something!"

"And we shall. We must find the child of Zorc," she said, suddenly all business as she stood up. "We can assume he has been given sanctuary in the human world, and we must perform the ceremony of unsummoning."

"Well, yeah, but that'll take like five minutes," said Malik, waving it off dismissively. "Look Bakura-kun up in the phone book, I'm talking about the real problem here!"

"We must take time to explain the changes this development has made," Rishid pointed out. "The child of Zorc will no longer have his powers if the pharaoh does not revive. And, without the chosen one's energy to aid the transition, Ryou Bakura must undertake a new burden to support the thief's energy."

Ishizu nodded, and Malik scowled. "No, I mean… we can't let this happen. After everything Yuugi-kun and the pharaoh did for us, we have to help them! It's not right to just stand by while this happens!"

"Sometimes, Malik-sama, what is right is not what must be done," said Rishid. "You know this."

"But –"

"We are but tomb keepers, little brother," said Ishizu. "We must accept that which fate gives us."

"No, I can't accept that," he said firmly, clenching his fists. "Fate doesn't mean anything – there is no set Future."

"We are tomb keepers," she repeated. "We are bound by the fate of the Ishtahls. Yuugi Mutou is bound by the fate of the chosen one."

"We all gave up on fate in Battle City!" he cried, spinning around to stare at her. "Not even the Millennium Tauk can predict the future! Fate is made to be broken!"

"Malik!" she shouted, and he flinched. She stared at him, desperate for his understanding. "Malik, Yuugi is right. The darkness must be kept at bay. Whether that means the final death of our pharaoh, or the pain of our chosen one, it must be done. The darkness cannot be allowed to return. Have you forgotten so easily what it did to us? To you?"

"I'm never gonna forget that," he replied darkly, and she stepped forward, gazing up at him with sad eyes.

"So why do you fight this?" she whispered. "The darkness must be destroyed, and the pharaoh must die. His other half will soon join him, and we must hope that will be enough to put his soul to rest. The darkness will be gone, and that is the end that all touched by the Millennium Items pray for."

He glared at her for a long moment, then shook his head and turned away, his hands on his hips as he walked back to the window. For all her research and time with the Millennium Tauk, Ishizu knew nothing about darkness. She would never understand.

"Ishizu-sama, we should attempt to find Ryou Bakura and the thief," said Rishid, forcing her to turn away from Malik. "It will take time to prepare the ceremony, and no doubt the pharaoh will wish to… return earlier than need be."

"Yes, and that will be another ceremony," she agreed quietly.

"We should talk to Yuugi-kun," said Malik.

"Rishid and I will return soon," said Ishizu, ignoring him. "You should stay here in case the pharaoh needs anything. Call if you need help."

"Whatever," he said darkly.

The other two exchanged glances, but Rishid just let out a soft breath and took Ishizu's shoulders, leading her out the door. Malik remained still, watching for them to appear on the deserted sidewalk for the mad dash to the car.

He rubbed at his eye, the other rolling up to look at the sky.

"You can't destroy darkness… getting rid of the physical manifestation won't do anything," he murmured, and pushed off the window to walk over to the couch. He didn't sit down, just looked at it for a long moment.

It was all well and good to get rid of the physical evidence, make pretty speeches and say everything was fine, but there was always going to be darkness. His hatred and fear hadn't gone away with his other personality. Been redirected, maybe, but they were still there.

A few months after Battle City, he had called Yuugi and talked to him about it… thought maybe the pharaoh would know how to get rid of the last of his darkness. But it had been Yuugi he had spent the night talking to. Yuugi who had reassured him. Yuugi who had made the pain bearable.

Yuugi who was choosing his fate.

He narrowed his eyes, then suddenly lunged forward, snatching his jacket off the back of the couch. "I won't accept that," he said angrily, and clambered over the couch to the entrance hall.

There was a long stretch of silence after Jounouchi opened the door. Malik blinked twice, then realised he still had his hood up and yanked it down around his shoulders. Jounouchi continued to frown at him defensively, and Malik sighed.

He knew he looked different, with five years growth, his hair streaked and eyeliner washed off with the rain, but this was ridiculous. Who else but him wore a long purple cloak outside of a costume? "Jounouch-kun, it's me," he said, but he barely even heard himself over the thunder, so he raised his voice to a near-shout. "Jounouchi! Remember me? Malik Ishtahl!"

There was another pause, before Jounouchi gasped and jumped back, ushering him into the house. With the doors and windows of the game shop shattered (again), Malik had just walked straight through and taken a chance on the button by the door. Luckily, his hunch had been right and it was a doorbell, but it was still cold and wet in the wrecked store.

"Malik, what're you doing here?" cried Jounouchi, standing out of the way as Malik pulled off his sopping cloak. "Hell, what are you even doing in Japan?"

"Ahh, the pharaoh, and Big Sister's being…" He shook his head in irritation, laying his cloak over the coat hanger and then starting to unbutton his jacket. "Let's just say I'm not really here, but actually babysitting the pharaoh to make sure he doesn't do anything more than sulk."

"Right, so you guys are here to… fix everything?" asked Jounouchi, and Malik grimaced.

"Big Sister and Rishid are here to finish the ceremonies and send Pharaoh back to the afterlife, but I'm here to talk some sense into Yuugi-kun," he said, and unceremoniously dumped his jacket on the floor. "Honestly… Giving up the pharaoh again, how stupid would you have to be…"

"Yeah, I figured that when I woke up and Yami was gone," he said, then jerked his thumb up the stairs. "I'd be careful, though. Yuugi cracked the cigarettes, and because he knows he shouldn't, he's touchier than usual."

"I don't plan to be here long," said Malik, starting up the stairs. "Up here?"

"Second door on your right," he said, and Malik waved his thanks before hurrying upward. He found the door fine, and it was locked, but Malik had not been the head of a wannabe-mob group for nothing. With a simple credit card he made quick work of the lock, opening the door with a flick of his wrist to find Yuugi sitting on his bed, cigarette in one hand and a pen in the other, bent over a large stack of files. His face was dirty from tears, and he had made a mess of gelling his hair down.

"What are you doing?" asked Malik, as Yuugi stared at him. "Yuugi-kun, you look like hell."

"I'm working, and… thanks?" He straightened up, setting down his pen. "Malik-kun, I wasn't… when did you… What happened to your hair?"

He ran a self-conscious hand over the streaked locks, but otherwise ignored that. "Yuugi-kun… what do you think you're doing? You can get the pharaoh back. You can be whole – you can be happy!" He set a hand on his hip, staring at him. "Are you really going to give that all up just so the world doesn't have to deal with his magic?"

Yuugi sat back, putting his cigarette to his lips with a would-be calm expression. "Yes."


"Because I have to," he said firmly. "Of all people, I would have thought you'd understand that."

"Of all people, I'm the last one who would understand that," he shot back, and Yuugi hesitated before nodding his unwilling agreement. Malik frowned. "Who cares about duty, Yuugi-kun, this is your life and soul we're talking about!"

"I didn't hear you objecting five years ago."

"I was young and stupid and… stupid back then," said Malik, walking over to sit on the end of the bed. "You don't honestly believe this bullshit about saving the world."

"Of course I do! Look out the window, Malik-kun!" cried Yuugi, waving his cigarette at the rain-battered window. "I know that's dark power, and we both know where it's coming from!"

"He's upset! He needs you, Yuugi-kun!"

"Then he shouldn't be here!" he shouted, thumping his fist into his knee. "He never should have been brought back! When you brought him back, you put the world at stake for one small man! He's just going to get worse, and there is nothing to stop him really harming the world before he goes!"

"Then fuck the world!" cried Malik, staring at him. "Yuugi-kun, not everything revolves around the pharaoh! Whether he's dead or not, there is always going to be darkness! As long as there are humans to hate and love, there is going to be darkness! And there are always going to be people that mess with magic – including dark magic."

"And other people will take care of them," insisted Yuugi.

"They might not! And you – you'll be half a soul, depressed and pathetic for as long as it takes for you to give up and die," snapped Malik, and he swallowed hard when Yuugi didn't even blink at the implication. "Yuugi-kun, I understand that you locked the pharaoh away, and said it was for the sake of the world, but it's not enough. I thought you saved the world back then, too, but –"

Yuugi lowered his eyes, and Malik sighed, leaning over the files to touch his knee. "Yuugi-kun, take it from someone who's been on all sides of darkness," he said softly. "Eventually, someone will mess with magic, and it will get out of control. If you seal the pharaoh away, then there will be no one that is capable of understanding that power, let alone controlling it."

There was a long pause, and Yuugi slowly raised his eyes to meet Malik's gaze. He smiled weakly, squeezing Yuugi's knee. "I know, it's dangerous, and it'll bring the strongest darkness back, but as long as the pharaoh is there, and you—the one chosen to control him—are there…"

Yuugi bit his lip, raising his cigarette but not letting it touch his lips. "Ishizu-san said –"

"She was wrong. She often is, you know," he added lightly, and Yuugi frowned at him. He just smiled, pushing himself to his feet. "That's all I had to say. But think fast, okay? You're right, eventually the pharaoh's going to seriously hurt something if he's not calmed down or sent back early, so Big Sister is probably going to send him to the afterlife by about noon tomorrow."

He started toward the door, but Yuugi spoke before he could even touch the door handle. "Malik-kun… you just said that no matter what I do, the world is screwed. And the shadows will be stronger if I don't do what I am."

"They will," he agreed, opening the door. "But the world needs a saviour, Yuugi-kun. And without the pharaoh… I'm just not sure if you're really enough."

He frowned at him, but Malik just shrugged and closed the door behind himself, leaving Yuugi to stare after him until long after he was gone.

He had managed to keep his mind off Yami all night, ignoring the pounding rain and the tears that occasional fell down his cheeks by throwing himself into the new budget Mokuba had designed. It was big, it was complicated, and Yuugi needed to have it simplified to a blue-collar worker's perspective by next Thursday.

He had fallen asleep on top of it, but when he woke early the next morning, and got up to wash his face, he found his previously maths-imbued mind suddenly wiped blank. He frowned, staring at his reflection and wondering what was wrong with it.

"The world is a scapegoat," a memory whispered in his ear, a long forgotten ghost appearing over his shoulder for a moment. "Everyone uses it so they don't have to deal with their own personal issues. I doubt Kaiba really cares about controlling the world, but his life was always so dramatic that running a global empire probably keeps him stable."

Yuugi closed his eyes, shaking the memory away, but when he opened them again there was a new figure in the mirror. Jounouchi frowned at him from the doorway. "Morning, Yuugi."

"Jounouch-kun," he said, glancing back at him. "You're up early."

"Yeah, I was worried about…" He cut off as Yuugi turned back to the mirror. He bit his lip, stepping into the bathroom. "Yuugi, you know… I get why you're doing this, and all… I just… I wonder if it's really the right thing."

Yuugi nodded, meeting Jounouchi's gaze through the reflection. "Everyone seems to."

"Yeah… I mean, it's just… you were different, while he was here. I never really noticed before, but…" He swallowed, shifting his gaze to look at Yuugi directly. "Now I'm kinda worried about you."

"I'm okay," he said softly, even as he once again wondered what was wrong with his reflection.

Jounouchi was quiet a moment, then shoved his hands in his pockets. "Mokuba called. Said the flood warning meant work had to be cancelled for the day. Even my cruise is off 'til further notice…"

Yuugi just nodded, and slowly pushed away from the sink and past him, back toward his room.

The mixture was clearly made from some kind of green mould, watered down and mixed with herbs and a few substances Yami tried not to think about as Ishizu slowly coated him in it. He was trying to concentrate on keeping himself cold and aloof; fighting to get his emotions under enough control that the distant thunder would stop cracking across the sky.

"Do I have to be covered in this?" he asked irritably, as Ishizu lifted his arm to sponge his side.

"Well, we could cut your throat and coat you in your own blood," Malik offered, but when Yami looked up at him his eyes were still on the doorway. They had come down to the room that had once held the Duel tablets, but now held a collection of mock-up mummies. Only moments after arriving, Malik had hefted himself up onto one of the glass display cases and begun staring at the stairway out, waiting for something. "But you don't actually have enough of it at the moment."

Yami took a deep breath, forcing himself to continue staring straight ahead. "I see."

"My apologies, my pharaoh," murmured Ishizu, as she shifted to his other side. "But as you are not truly alive, have already lost the ceremonial duel, and are too far away from the door to the dead, this is necessary. It will not take much longer."

Malik looked up as a shadow slipped down the stairs, but slumped again as he realised it was Rishid. His foster brother walked over to stand beside him, and Malik leaned over to whisper, "What is it?"

He just pursed his lips, and the two men turned back to watch Ishizu finish coating Yami's torso and step back to meet his gaze. He managed to hold it for only five seconds before his eyes dropped to the floor, narrowed against his own emotions. "Shit…"

Ishizu hesitated, then sighed and turned to pick a simple glass cup off the glass case of a nearby mummy. It was filled with an innocuous black liquid, and Ishizu furrowed her brow as she gave it to Yami. "Drink this."

He nodded silently, not trusting himself to speak, and snatched the glass away from her, swallowing it in two disgusted gulps. He coughed afterward, but managed enough self-control to just hand the glass back rather than smash it the way he wanted.

She stepped close, laying a soft hand against his cheek in a gesture more motherly than anyone would have thought possible. "I truly am sorry…" she whispered, "… Atemu…"

At his name, the mixture on his chest began to glow, and a strong wind picked up around their feet. Malik clenched his fists in frustration but could only watch as the wind blew faster, rising up around the chamber and creating a small whirlwind in the very centre of the room. After a few moments, it turned the dark, inky black of the liquid, and Yami felt his shoulders slump.

"This is it," he breathed, gazing into the darkness. "I can't believe it… what was it all for…?"

Ishizu shifted as something brushed against her senses, and she glanced back at the staircase. A small shadow was hovering near the bottom step, just out of sight.

Yami closed his eyes, then looked up at Ishizu with a sad smile. "Ah, well… I got that one last chance to be with him, didn't I?"

She made a small, reluctant noise, and Malik frowned, turning his head to follow her gaze, then jerked off his perch when he saw what she had been looking at. "Yuugi-kun!"

They all spun around, and Yuugi flinched back up the stairwell, his eyes wide and frightened as he met Yami's gaze. "I… I…"


"I…" He swallowed hard, and slowly stepped down into the chamber. He was soaking wet – he had obviously fought the storm to get there. "I… wanted…."

The whirlwind roared as the others all stared at Yuugi, and Yami shook his head, slowly walking over to stand in front of him. They just gazed at each other for a moment, before Yami reached out, cupping Yuugi's cheek and pulling him close to meet him in a soft kiss.

The first of Yuugi's tears slid down over Yami's thumb, and when he pulled away Yuugi fell against his chest, uncaring of the mixture that now covered them both as he latched his arms around Yami's torso. Yami just accepted the weight, holding him tight and burying his face in Yuugi's hair. "It's alright… I understand."

Ishizu covered her mouth with her hand, blinking rapidly, and Malik looked away, folding his arms in helpless frustration. He glared at Rishid, knowing full well that he must have seen Yuugi come in, and yet didn't say anything until it was too late. The spell had already begun, there was no going back now.

"I can't do this," whispered Yuugi, tightening his hold on Yami's chest. "I can't… I can't do it without you… I can't…"

"Shh," Yami took a breath, clenching his eyes shut. "You'll be fine. You're Yuugi Mutou, you can do anything."

"No… no, no…"

Ishizu hesitated, then clenched her fist and lowered it, forcing herself to do her duty. "Pharaoh… It is too late. If you do not go now, the vortex will continue to grow, and it will take everything in its path until it has you."

Yami scowled, glaring at the nothing in his direct line of sight as he held Yuugi tight against him. She was right – the wind was so strong that it was starting to suck the mixture straight from his back, his hair was pulled back from his face and struggling against the suction.

"Maybe…" Malik spun toward his sister, his hands out in desperation. "Maybe we can summon him again! A week to regain our energy, then –"

"No, he drank the potion, he is no longer a summonable spirit," said Ishizu, closing her eyes. "There is nothing we can do, little brother."

Yami hissed in another helpless breath, and Yuugi suddenly leaned away, staring up at him. "I'll go with you. If it's too late, if you have to go, I'll go with you!"

He scowled at him, irritated, but Yuugi just shook his head. "No, it's gonna happen anyway! They said, you know it! Without you, I'm just… I might as well go with you now!" he cried, ignoring the quickly forming glare in Yami's eyes. He shook his head and lunged forward again, clutching him tight. "I don't care anymore. I want to be with you, I…"

"Aibou, I'm not…" He raised his head to glare at the ceiling, before his eyes widened as an idea hit him. Part of the reason he had to leave was that he was almost a personification of dark magic. He had the power of the darkness and the most powerful gods at his disposal. He was the strongest being that ever walked the earth. "I'm not falling to some stupid wormhole."

Yuugi hesitated, then looked up at him again. "What?"

He smirked, then jerked away from him, his hands rising to grip Yuugi's face instead. "Are you with me? Do I have your strength, will you fight with me?"

"Wh- I… of course, but –" he stammered, but Yami just grinned and spun around, yanking Yuugi with him to hold him against his side. "The other me, what the hell are you –"

But Yami just raised his hand, holding it palm-out toward the whirlwind. "There's a reason a pharaoh-god is never to know his own name," he said darkly, and Yuugi furrowed his brow as Yami's smirk grew. "There's true power in my name Atemu!"

A wave of power exploded from Yami's palm, and the three Ishtahls were thrown off their feet, hitting the walls and display cases hard. Even Yuugi had to clutch at Yami's waist to remain standing, but the whirlwind only lessened for a moment before continuing at full strength.

"What are you doing?" he shouted, but Yami just braced his feet, stretching his arm out a little further.

"Nothing!" he replied, and Yuugi rolled his eyes. Why Yami was always at his most irritating when fighting something… The pharaoh raised his voice to a shout, "My name is ATEMU!"

The shock wave was enough that even Yami slid back a metre, and Yuugi was flung against the wall behind him hard enough to see stars. The whirlwind shimmered transparent for a moment, its force slipping, and Yami spun around to haul Yuugi back to his feet.

"Don't let go, I need your power now," he snapped, and Yuugi blinked at him dazedly before nodding, and held his wrists in a monkey-grip around Yami's waist.

"It's all yours," he said, leaning into Yami's side. "My power is your power, we fight together…"

"That's my aibou," he said, and gripped Yuugi's shoulders as he summoned all his power. "This is the last shot. If this doesn't work…"

"It will," Yuugi assured him. "I know you can do this."

Yami just nodded, throwing out his hand as he screamed, "MY NAME IS ATEMU!"

There was a flash of bright light, the whirlwind flaring large enough for them to all slide toward it, and Yuugi screamed as the world went black.

It was still raining when Malik staggered out onto the museum steps, peering up at the dark clouds above him. The wind and lightning were gone, leaving the weather to dry out on its own; a gentle shower to finish off the flood.

He drew his lips back in an amused frown as he watched a lone armchair go floating along the gutter.

A pained groan caught his attention, and he stepped back under cover to watch as Rishid carried a barely conscious Yuugi from the dark of the inside. "Ne… you okay, Yuugi-kun?" he asked gently, and Yuugi's head rolled around to face him.

"You told me I had until noon," he mumbled accusingly. "It was barely nine when I left my house."

"Well, I actually said we would send him back before noon, so…" He frowned, folding his arms uncomfortably. "I thought you would come to your senses before midnight, at least!"

"You weren't at Yami's flat," he sighed weakly, turning back into Rishid's chest. "And driving through the flood was so hard… If I had been five minutes earlier…"

"The point is you got here," he said. "You got to see him again. Isn't that enough, oh Mister World Saviour?"

Yuugi scoffed, and Malik sighed, turning back to the rain. The clouds were beginning to break above them, sunlight shining through to highlight parts of the city. The glass of Kaiba Corp. was lit up in a bright glow.

"This is what is best," said Rishid, and Malik glanced back at him. "This is the way it was meant to happen, or it should not have happened at all."

A dark scoff answered him, and they all looked around as Ishizu stepped into the light, helping a staggering figure walk. Yami glared at Rishid as Ishizu lead him over to stand beside him. "Spoken by one who did not have his magic and life force ripped out with the metaphorical jagged knife," he snapped angrily, then leaned over to peer at Yuugi. "Are you alright, aibou?"

He smiled at him weakly, trying and failing to lift a hand to him. "Don't I get a name anymore, the other me?"

"Not unless I do," he said, and they both chuckled. Yami quietly groaned as his muscles protested reaching out to touch Yuugi's cheek. "I'm sorry this happened… Is he going to be fine?" he asked Ishizu, glancing at her.

"It will take time to adjust to having to support a physical spiritual being, and he will need a great deal of rest," she said, but not even she could stop a glimmer of teeth as she smiled. "But in time, yes, you will both be perfectly fine."

He smiled, turning back to Yuugi. "Excellent…" he murmured, then cocked an eyebrow. "Now, a few months to get rid of the dye-job, I kill Kaiba and everything's perfect."

"Leave Seto alone," mumbled Yuugi, struggling to keep his eyes open. "And before you ask: no, I am not quitting my job."

"I'm not asking. You're going to quit."

"I'll cut down on my hours, but I am not quitting," he said, but the force was lost in his exhaustion, and Yami smirked.

"I'll prove you wrong later. In the meantime, you're in no condition to drive, so how we're going to get back to the game shop…" he said slowly, and Malik shrugged.

"I'll drive you. If we can find Yuugi's car," he added, glancing down at the flooded street. "It might have been washed away…"

"What?" asked Yuugi, his eyes snapping open, but he went ignored as Yami nodded to Malik.

"Thank you. I have a feeling you had something to do with aibou coming today."

"Which we will discuss later," Ishizu said pointedly, and Malik gaped at her.

"What? I totally saved Yuugi-kun and the pharaoh! You can't yell at me for that!"

"You interfered with fate."

"By talking sense into the world saviour, that's gotta mean something."

"I wasn't actually coming to do this," Yuugi said weakly. "It just kinda happened…"

"Shut up," he hissed, and Yami shook his head, amused.

Rishid nodded and stepped past them, out into the rain and down the street. "I shall find the car," he said, and Yami made to follow, pulling away from Ishizu only to fall against Malik.

He grinned at the opportunity and slung Yami's arm over his shoulders. "We'll talk after we get these two back with Jounouch-kun, Big Sister."

She frowned at him, but said nothing as the group headed down into the street. The rain had almost stopped, and the shafts of sunlight were becoming larger. She took a ritualistic first breath after the conflict, and sighed it out, her tension over the matter dispersing with the breath.

The armchair Malik had seen earlier slid onto the less flooded footpath, and slowly came to a stop near a wind-stripped cherry tree. Ishizu gazed at it for a moment, then lifted her gaze in time to see Yami move away from Malik and walk a few steps on his own, proud and upright.

She smiled, nodding her head once before turning and walking back into the museum to clean up.