Chapter 19

-------(Flashback)-------

Blood. There was blood on his hands, blood on his nightshirt, blood on the floor…

Why?

Malik's head was pounding too hard, his heart beating too fast. His limbs ached, both arms and legs feeling tiered and heavy. It hurt to move.

Why?

It was too quiet. Hadn't it been loud a minute ago? Loud with the sounds of yelling, whimpering, gasps and screams? Where had the noise gone?

"B-Brother…"

Why did Isis stutter?

Why did her voice sound so hesitant?

To Malik's right the body of a man sat, his back slouched into the corner and his head lolled to the side. Holes were evident in the man's clothing, presented clearly by the rimmed edges painted red, resembling the centre marking of a dartboard in a most disturbing way. Laid beside Malik's feet was the dart of choice: a pair of badly corroded scissors. The red markings matched the scissor's harshly stained blades perfectly.

"Father…?" Malik's timid voice called out. The sound was emitted softly in a confused and frightened manner; the obvious result of a shaken child.

How?

When?

Just… Just why?

Much like an upset child would seek out comfort from their mother, Malik sought out the comfort of his sister, running straight into her arms. The lack of clothing on his sister's form was far from his mind, as was the feeling of bare skin pressed against his naked arms and calves. When he pressed his tearful face into the unclothed chest of his sibling, he didn't think of the cause, nor of the reason to why his own clothes were stained red.

"I-Isis! Isis!" Malik cried out to his sister desperately, hugging her tightly as his confused, distressed tears fell.

Words of comfort did not immediately reach the boy's ears, most likely because his sister was still in full view of their fallen kin. Only when the boy suddenly began to cry louder did Isis finally take on her expected, arduous role.

Arms wove themselves tightly around Malik's frame, lifting him hurriedly from the floor and placing him on top of Isis's still neatly made bed. Sitting upright, Malik's line of vision was blocked from his father's form, instead only seeing his sibling's face as she kneeled in front of him from the ground.

"Everything's fine. You did nothing wrong." Her voice unsteadily even, Isis put on a brave face, raising her hands to wipe away her little brother's tears. However, her eyes held something akin to fear, and if Malik had been perhaps a few years older, he would have realised just how much that betrayed her brave façade. "Do you hurt anywhere?"

"My… My head.," Malik mumbled softly, sniffing lightly. "I have a headache."

Isis nodded. "Do you hurt anywhere else?"

Malik shook his head.

A look of relief passed her face and then Isis carefully leaned forward to place a gentle kiss upon the child's forehead. "There," she whispered after lips had touched skin "It will leave you soon." She leaned back again but did not leave her position by the bed. "I need you to turn around and face the wall. Is that ok?"

Anxiety burst from Malik's chest, and confusion contorted his young face. Was Isis going to leave him? He didn't want Isis to go! She had to hold him some more and make him feel better! He was upset and his head still hurt! She couldn't just--!

"I'm not going anywhere." Isis smiled kindly, seeming to have read the younger's thoughts.

His thoughts interrupted, Malik's nerves calmed down somewhat by his sister's reassuring words. "Promise?" he asked meekly.

"I promise."

Satisfied by the answer, Malik obediently turned around to face the wall. Footsteps were heard moving away from the bed, but, as Isis promised, she did not leave the room. It was then that Malik gained some understanding as to what Isis was doing.

"Is father…?"

"He's breathing."

Malik thought he heard some sort of relief in her voice, but it was hard to tell with her tone so soft and serious.

Again Isis made her way to the bed, and Malik assumed that she was returning to comfort him some more. He instead, however, heard her shuffling from under the mattress. He knew Isis wanted him to stay staring at the wall, but the unusual action caught his attention. Timidly, with his eyes still slightly wet, Malik turned to look over his shoulder, not daring to move his head too far round in fear of accidentally seeing his father.

Isis was crouched on the floor, her upper body hid from Malik's view as she reached for something under the bed. When she pulled back from underneath the furniture, Malik was confused to see a cardboard box held to her chest. Bits of paper stuck out from the box's lid, the vibrant colours of blues, greens, pinks and yellows making themselves known, along with the pictures of Egyptian monuments and pharaohs.

Money?

The girl reached for an old cloak that laid on the floor and hastily wrapped it around her lewdly clothed body. Blue eyes once again flickered to lilac, and Malik was surprised he wasn't scolded for being caught looking elsewhere from the wall. However, in the back of Malik's mind, Malik knew that Isis had much more urgent matters taking up her thoughts.

There was panic hidden in those eyes…

"I-Isis?" Malik questioned nervously, his sister's unusual behaviour making his unease feel worse.

"Go put your cloak and sandals on, Malik."

His confusion deepened. "B-But what about father? Aren't we going to… to help?"

Isis paused, then turned away. Malik could only stare at the back of his sister's head as she gazed at the unconscious man.

"We can finally leave now," she whispered, almost too quiet for Malik to hear. She turned her head back round, and Malik saw determination now sparkling in her brilliant blue eyes. "Today's the day we leave, Malik." She gave her brother a comforting smile. "So go put on your cloak and sandals, ok?"

-------(End Flashback)-------

He looked so pathetic like this. All Malik had to do was stab his sword downwards and it would be all over. Marik's life would be over.

And there was nothing Marik could do about it.

He really was pathetic.

"Gladly." Malik's reply to the demon's request was a snide and determined one as he began lifting his sword higher over the ruler's chest. Darkness swarmed into the base of Malik's thoughts, clouding his judgment and dwelling itself deeper into the boy's views of right and wrong, the difference between righteousness and injustice. The weaker the mind the harder the darkness shall laugh…

…and laugh the darkness did.

Perhaps Malik was being too hasty. Maybe he was going too far, being too emotional in his outburst… but didn't he have every right to act that way? The ruler had caused too much damage. He had pushed Malik to the edge, hurt him in ways Malik didn't know he could be hurt, imprisoned and raped him, wormed his way into Malik's head and forced him to relive the most traumatic of memories… And the demon had done all this and enjoyed it. He had watched it play out with ignorant eyes and childish smiles. Marik had killed him, perhaps not on a physical level, no, his angelic body was still in tack…. but surly his soul was in pieces.

The demon had no doubt killed countless others in this hell for no justified reason. Wasn't this what Marik deserved then? Yes. Death was as sufficient a punishment as any other, and death was nothing less than what Marik truly deserved. There was a saying, wasn't there? A 'life for a life'? Well, if that was the case, Marik's life should have been taken many times already. So, really, what Malik was doing wasn't unfair. It wasn't even selfish. It wasn't just revenge.

It was justice. The revenge of hundreds.

"Malik-pretty…"

Malik didn't know why Marik had chosen to whisper his name in such a way: soft, gentle and guilty… A subtle attempt of begging, perhaps? Or maybe Marik had finally realised all of his mistakes. Maybe he regretted what he did to the angel because now he realised he wasn't going to get away with it. Then again, perhaps it just came out that way because Malik still had his foot on Marik's neck. Regardless, Malik continued.

"Goodbye, Marik." He took one last look at that pitiful, demon face, seeing nothing but what he wanted to see.

Then Malik pushed the blade down.

"Brother, stop!"

Malik's body jolted, the blade stopping a mere inch from the ruler's chest, directly above the demon's heart.

-------(Flashback)-------

What a miserable day. It seemed that no matter what country you were in, school still sucked.

At the age of fifteen, Malik had just finished his first day of 'Koukou'; a Japanese senior high school. It was crap. For one thing, the other students wouldn't stop staring at him, so no matter how many times the Principal told him that foreign students were becoming more common to the school, Malik would continue to believe otherwise. The only other foreign student he saw was an Australian kid who spent most of his time in the library. Honestly, the way everyone tiptoed round him trying to avoid eye contact was annoying. It was like they were scared of him.

Another thing was the language problem. It wasn't that Malik didn't understand a single word of Japanese; no. He was trying and was steadily understanding the language more and more each day. But when he walked past someone and heard his name being whispered into the ear of another without understanding a single word after, it made him want to set that person on fire and scream. For fucks sake, if they had something to say then they should say it to his face! Not his back!

With a heavy rucksack flung over his shoulder, Malik tried to suppress a snarl as he dragged his feet on the pathway, slowly making his way home.

Why did Isis insist that they settle in Japan of all places? The Japanese were wei---

"Ah!"

Malik yelped and jumped when feeling a pinch to his ankle. Hastily turning round as though expecting a fight, Malik was surprised to see a dog staring back at him. The creature was small with short, curly blonde fur and big brown eyes. It was dirty and young; clearly a puppy that hadn't seen a bath before.

"Shoo," Malik told the animal firmly.

The puppy's tail wagged happily in reply.

With an annoyed grumble, Malik turned away. His house was placed in clear view before him, no more than fifty feet away, a quick jog and he would be at the front door. So, with his mind made up, Malik ignored the excited barking coming from behind him and continued on with his journey home. He never thought much of dogs anyway… or any other animal for that matter.

Not that the dog understood this, of course.

No warning was given. When Malik felt the two paws on his back, he was already heading for the floor. He landed clumsily, his arms raised on reflex, and if Malik had been thinking more rationally, he would have been glad that he wore a think, long-sleeved coat, his skin having been protected from the gravel. Malik was not thinking rationally, however. An odd, unexplained fear had took him in a firm hold, and his mind was filled with panic.

A thin, fallen branch fell into Malik's view, and without a second thought, Malik reached for it.

The next thing Malik heard was the puppy yelping. The fact that he had kicked the animal off him it his pursuit to stand had not registered. Malik had the branch in his hand. That was all that mattered. He raised his newly equipped weapon, ignoring his own laboured breathing. Because Malik had to protect himself. Malik had to make sure that no one would take advantage of him or--

"Brother, stop!"

Malik froze and he turned to look over his shoulder, his arm still raised. "Isis…?"

His sister was running down the path towards him, the front door of their home left wide open in Isis's haste. Panic seemed to have consumed her mind as well. "Put that stick down at once!"

Malik dropped his weapon.

Arms wrapped themselves securely around Malik's figure, and the panic quickly began to fade from Malik's being, though his mind was hazy. "I-Isis, there's a dog--!"

"It's gone, Malik."

The comforting words brought instant relief, and when Malik glanced to where he thought the puppy was standing, he noticed that it had indeed left.

There was a long moment of silence before Malik realised what he wanted to say next. "… I'm sorry."

Isis only tightened her hold on him in reply.

-------(End Flashback)-------

Malik couldn't move.

"Malik-pretty…?"

The angel's grip on the sword's handle had loosened, and the foot on Marik's neck was no longer pressed down so harshly against the demon's windpipe. If Marik wanted to he could easily push Malik away. Yet Marik did not move. All he did was look up at the angel with obvious worry.

"Are you ok, Mal--?"

"Sh-Shut up!" Malik's command was anything but a convincing one. "I-I just… I need to… I…"

Malik's body was shaking, Marik could feel the tremors against his throat, exactly where Malik's boot touched his skin. His angel was clearly in distress. To simply lay back and watch his Malik-pretty go through such a thing was unthinkable.

Marik moved silently and with the utmost care, not wanting to frighten the angel or bring him any more upset. His hands swiftly grabbed Malik's ankle, and, before Malik could make any attempt at breaking free, Marik tugged. The boy immediately began falling due to his already unsteady balance, his mind far from comprehending what was happening. A gasp caught itself in Malik's throat and his sword was thrown from his lose grip, the weapon of white magic fading into the air as soon a it left his hand. He landed clumsily into Marik's ready and waiting left wing, the one that hadn't been mangled by the angel's glowing sword. Marik, now standing, jutted the wing forward so Malik was brought against his chest, momentarily trapped. The demon then wrapped his arms around the other for added support, worried that his Malik-pretty would still be shaky on his feet.

Malik immediately began to struggle. "Let go!! Get the hell off me!!"

Marik kept hold of him regardless. "But, Malik-pretty! Your not--!"

A sharp blow to Marik's chest wound and the angel was let free. Pain was evident across Marik's face, yet Malik showed no regret. "Don't touch me! You're not allowed to touch me!!"

More yells, more abuse… but Marik ignored it all. "M-Malik-pretty!"

Just as the ruler feared, the young angel wasn't able to keep his balance. As Malik made to back away, he fell, tripping over his own two feet and landing heavily on his behind.

"Malik-pretty! Are you hurt? Let me help you!" Despite his own pain, Marik moved forward, his broken wing dragging itself across the floor.

"No! Stay away!" Malik shuffled back, his movements awkward and desperate. "Don't come near me! If you do I'll…!"

Marik paused, unwilling to put the other through any further distress. His Malik-pretty's eyes were still dark, but his body was also still shaking. His face showed emotion, something more than just hatred and anger, but also panic, fear, confusion, desperation…

How could Malik show him these things and then tell him to stay away?

"I… I can't." Marik's reply was a humble one, almost like he was ashamed to go against Malik's wishes. "Something's… wrong."

"Yeah, you're not dead," Malik hissed, though he made no move to correct this mistake, choosing only to glare at the other with intense loathing.

Such a retort hurt Marik deeply, much more than any of the physical wounds Malik had inflicted, but Marik only blamed himself. Marik thought he had treated the other well, given him protection, warmth, trust, love… but no one would treat their lover like this unless they had done wrong. "Please, Malik-pretty!" Marik took another step forward. "Just let me help you!"

"Stop moving! I told you to stay the hell away!" Malik screeched in reply, his shaking limbs scooting his body back to create as much distance between him and the demon as possible.

"Whatever I did wrong, I won't do again!" Marik took a third step. "This isn't you, Malik-pretty!" A fourth step. "I can help you." A fifth step. "I'll--"

"Stop moving!" Malik screamed, his back having hit the wall with his desperation building. "Just fucking listen to me for once! You never listen to me!"

A sixth step. "I do, Malik-pretty! I do listen!"

A brick wall. That's what Malik was talking to. A brick wall with a mouth. "Like hell you d--"

Wait a minute… 'Malik-pretty?' Just when exactly had Marik started calling him that? What happened to 'kitten'?

"I wish… you weren't so frightened of me, kitten…"

"Don't call me that."

Marik hadn't called him 'kitten' for a long time, not once since that moment in Marik's bedroom… Why had he only now noticed?… But… But that was just that one time! A one-off! Marik had never took notice of anything else he said!

"Nothing I say gets through to you does it? I'm not a cat!"

"Don't wear the kitten costume anymore."

Had he?

"I don't want it."

You didn't like the food yesterday, so I went to Earth and got some stuff that humans eat!"

Hands dug themselves into Malik's hair and his head was shaken madly. "That doesn't mean anything!"

"Malik-pretty, it's ok. You just need to calm down."

Malik squeezed his eyes shut and moved his hands lower towards his ears, as though to block out Marik's voice. "Don't tell me what to do!"

-------(Flashback)-------

"You can't tell me what to do, Isis!"

Malik stood in his living room, face furious and hands clenched. He glared in the direction Isis was sitting, who watched her brother's tantrum with serious eyes from the couch.

"This is the third time this month. At this rate the school will expel you," Isis replied calmly.

"And that gives you the right to say who I can and can't hang out with?!"

His sister frowned. "This only started once you began accompanying these new 'friends' of yours. One of them has already been expelled I believe… Do you intend to join him?"

"Of course not!"

"Then you will stop playing with hooligans!"

-------(End Flashback)-------

"Then I won't, Malik-pretty. I'm sorry but… but please, I just want to take care of you. I just want to help you, Malik-pretty."

The plea was so soft, so pitifully gentle, like Marik was trying to sooth a wounded animal. It irritated Malik beyond belief, and yet he couldn't help noticing how clear that message rang through his ears, sounding too loud to be any kind of whispered plea.

When Malik lifted his head, Marik's face was the first thing he saw. The demon was crouched in front of him, the gap between them now nonexistent. How could a demon show such an empathetic expression? Present such kind, genuine looking eyes… How could Marik look at him so… lovingly…?

"It's not fair," Malik whispered suddenly, voice weak and tiered, gaze locked onto a pair of eyes with a similar colouring to his own. "Why do you have to… remind me of her, of the only person that- that loved me? I-It's not fair!" Malik's voice began to crack and tears began to build below his black irises. Not knowing what to do and getting angry at his own helplessness, Malik buried his face into his hands, if only to hide from Mark's face. "I-I thought you reminded me of him. You should remind me of him! Not… Not her…"

Hope began fluttering in Marik's chest. He reminded Malik-pretty of loved ones? 'Her' ? Who was this, 'Her'? A family member perhaps? A close friend from Heaven? Or maybe she meant something more… What if she--? No. He would not allow jealousy to overcome him at a time like this. Malik-pretty needed him! And besides, this was good news! He reminded Malik-pretty of people that love him! Not of people that hurt him or made him sad. Maybe that meant that Malik-pretty… liked him too? Surely, Malik-pretty loved the people that 'loved' him, so… Malik-pretty could maybe… love him as well? Because he does love Malik-pretty! He loves the angel more than anyone else!

"Malik-pretty…" Marik had a smile on his face, a very small one as though he didn't want the other to see or know what he was thinking… or perhaps he simply didn't want to set his hopes too high just yet. Carefully the demon motioned his hand out, intending to take one of the angel's hands from his face so he could hold and stroke it tenderly. He would try any method in means of comforting his Malik-pretty, though he knew that to do much more would probably push the boy too far. "I--"

"I hate you."

The coldly stricken words forced Marik's hand to freeze and the smile disappeared altogether.

Hate? Did Malik-pretty really… really…? Marik didn't know what to say to that, so he answered the only way he could, the only way his broken heart would allow.

"I love you."

Immediately Malik's head snapped up and an expression close to fear overcame his face. Such an expression hurt Marik, even more so when a tear fell from one of Malik's blind eyes. His large hand continued the rest of the distance, and Marik took hold of Malik's wrist. "I love you, Malik-pretty."

"S-Shut up! Don't lie! Don't trick me! I hate you! I hate you!" Instantly Malik began to struggle, kick and scream, desperate in his attempts to pull his wrist free. Marik's only thought was to pull the angel closer, embrace the angel as tightly to his chest as he possibly could and restrict all movement.

"I love you."

A sound resembling a wounded sob left Malik's throat, and finally his shaky limbs gave up on him, his struggles ceasing.

Malik's head was carefully manoeuvred onto Marik's shoulder. Malik didn't have the energy to fight it. "I hate you…"

"I love you."

"I… I ha--"

"I loveyou, Malik-pretty."

A dull ringing sound echoed throughout the hall as Malik's halo fell from his head, and with it fell all of Malik's retaliation. For as Malik silently cried on Marik's shoulder, his strength almost completely drained, a most amazing thing happened, a thing that filled Marik's heart with overwhelming faith in the holy being he loved so much.

Malik had raised his arms and hugged him back.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

-------(Flashback)-------

Everything was still, noise was drowned out with deathly silence. Perhaps Ryou had gone deaf. Was it possible to be rendered deaf if you were hit hard enough? Probably, and Dai had given him a few good thumps to the side of his head. Were his ears damaged, then?

Or was it simply because of Dai's eyes? Those eyes that showed Ryou the quality of his future life? A life where he'd be confined to a wheelchair and have scarred skin? Maybe that would be too much to hope for, though. Would Dai go as far as murder? Would his friends?

"What are you waiting for?"

What was he waiting for? He was waiting for his mind to work, for the numbness in his limbs to fade, for common sense to hit the people on the other side of that wall.

He was waiting for a miracle.

"What a fucking wuss. He won't even take the chance when it's offered to him!"

More yells and laughter from the sidelines. Dai's friends were taunting him, making him feel even more pathetic. But what would punching Dai do, anyway? It was obvious. It would be Ryou's death wish. Everyone here knew that if Ryou so much as pulled his arm back, he'd get the beating of a life time. All of this was just to torture Ryou. They wouldn't allow him to try and fight back.

"I… I don't want to hit you," Ryou whispered, looking at the floor helplessly.

"You don't want to…?" Dai suddenly laughed. "Hmm… is your sister as pathetic as you then? If me and my mates were to corner her, like we're doing to you right now…" Dai moved forward and leaned his head close to Ryou's ear. "If we pinned her to the wall," he whispered, moving his hand down Ryou's back. "…and fucked her." A sharp squeeze was made to Ryou's behind and immediately Ryou's head snapped up, looking completely horrified. "Would she fight back? I guess that could be kinda hot…" Dai's hand left Ryou's body to grab his victim's chin instead. "What do you think, Ryou?" he finished with amusement.

Ryou's fists clenched.

--------(End Flashback)--------

"Well, Ryou?"

The angel's eyes, previously clouded over with memories that took him away from the situation reality had placed him in, suddenly focused, his gaze struck on the smug look across the kneeling demon's face. "I haven't got all day you know. Unless you'd rather I die from heatstroke, that is. That'd be kind of cowardly of you though. Having second th--?"

A harsh blow was made to Bakura's face, his head snapping back as he was knocked ruthlessly onto his back. Ryou could certainly kick…

"Your voice is annoying me. Shut up," Ryou's cold voice answered simply.

Bakura heaved a throaty cough and turned his head to the side, spitting out the blood that had gathered in his mouth. "I'll take that as a 'no'." Silence reached his ears, and then Bakura laughed, his head turning back awkwardly to look at the once tender boy. The angel's eyes gave nothing away. "Fine," Bakura continued, a small smile on his lips, as though accepting his ironic fate. "But before you do, take that stupid halo off your head." His gaze lifted to the sky. "A real man listens to no one but himself. Only weak idiots let people control them."

Anger was the first emotion to overwhelm the angel, he was not a 'weak idiot', but then confusion emerged rapidly on Ryou's face. He didn't understand what 'halo' Bakura was referring to.

A little warily, Ryou reached a hand above his head, feeling out for anything unusual. The boy jolted quite badly when his skin came in contact with something smooth. His fingers travelled very carefully to make out the object's shape, finding it to be round with an empty centre. It definitely felt like a halo.

"What? When did…?"

"Didn't notice it was there, huh?" Silence again. The ruler raised his head, taking in the image of the bewildered angel with amusement, and he sniggered openly. "I didn't think you did." Bakura frowned when his attacker didn't move. "What at you standing like that for? Take the damn thing off!"

Bakura knew he was playing a dangerous game, but he could think of no other way. He needed to get that thing off of Ryou's head. He was certain it was the cause for Ryou's current, murderous behaviour, and since he couldn't take it off, he'd have to convince Ryou to do it instead.

"I don't have to listen to you anymore, Bakura. You're not above me. In fact…" Ryou moved closer to the demon's side, towering over him with narrowed eyes as Bakura laid still. "…you're pretty much below me right now, don't you think?"

The ruler let out a haunting laugh. "What? Are we sharing sex jokes now? You trying to say you want to be on top for a change? Well--"

Another harsh blow as Bakura was kicked across the face again, his head snapping to the side. Bakura wasn't as quick to mouth-off this time, and it took him a moment before he was able to turn his head back. Ryou definitely wasn't in a good mood.

"I'd fight you for it, you know. I love dominating you." He smiled, looking into Ryou's eyes with complete satisfaction and an eerie sense of perversion. The angle glared back at him furiously. "You're a weakling Ryou," Bakura started again, his voice slightly croaky. "You can kill me if you like, but it won't mean a damn thing. Not with that ring on your head. Take responsibility, Ryou. Take responsibility so that later you can't blame this entire thing on that halo above your head."

Ryou's fists clenched.

"I'm not weak."

If Ryou were in his right mind, he probably wouldn't have fallen for it, but…

Bakura's smile widened. "Prove it."

A pale hand darted upwards.

-------(Flashback)-------

A metallic sound rung in the small, white-haired boy's ears, and immediately, a brown pair of eyes darted upwards to those of the treacherous bully's.

"Ah ah ah, Ryou. I saw that. You were getting ready to punch me, weren't you?"

Dai was holding a switchblade in his hand.

"Too bad you're so slow."

It all happened so fast. The knife came at him, Ryou dodged, metal hit the wall, Dai was thrown on his back…

How… How did Dai get thrown on his back?! Did… Did he do…?

"You… You pushed me…" Dai was sat on the floor, a look of unbelief on his face. The small crowd around them looked to be in the same state. Since when did Ryou, wimpy little Ryou, send people hurdling to the floor? And since when was he able to do that to Dai? Dai, the toughest guy in school, pushed over by the school wimp? "You little shit!"

A furious Dai jumped to his feet, pulled back a fist and--

"What on earth do you think you're doing?!"

Everyone froze for a split second, and then Dai hurriedly pulled back his hand. "M-Miss Nakamura!"

A woman in her early forties stomped onto the scene, straight black hair tied back as to not obstruct the view of her small nose, pointed chin and sharp eyes that were framed with rectangular shaped glasses. A long grey skirt covered her legs with the ends of a silk black blouse tucked neatly under the waistband.

Overall, a very frightening looking woman.

"Dai Yamada!" Miss Nakamura grabbed Dai by the back of his collar. Dai's friends scattered instantly. "You'll be coming with me to see the Principal." Dai made a hopeless attempt to free himself from the teacher's clutches, but to no avail. Miss Nakamura then gave a remorseful frown to Ryou. "Are you ok, dear?"

Ryou, still in a state of shock, nodded his head. "Y-Yes, Miss."

The woman's frown only deepened however, when she noticed the full extent of damage displayed on the young student's body. "Hurry to the nurse's office. Those friends of yours will go with you, I'm sure." She then began to drag a foulmouthed Dai off in the opposite direction, leaving Ryou by himself.

Or at least, Ryou thought he was by himself.

"Friends…?" Ryou whispered to himself in a confused manner.

"Ryou!"

Said boy jumped at the excited yell of his name, turning his head cautiously to the side to look for the person who called him. A boy was running towards him, short, curly brown hair framing his smiling face.

"Yuki?"

Large green eyes lit up with honoured recognition. "No way! You know my name?" The some-what hyper youth came to a skidding halt in front of the other, his smile now twice as big.

"Em, y-yes. You were--"

"You really do remember me!" Yuki started again, almost too quick to allow Ryou to answer. "You were so cool, Ryou, knocking Dai to the floor like that!"

Ryou blinked, slightly surprised. "You saw that?"

Yuki nodded enthusiastically. "We both did!"

Both?

"Hey, Ichiro, you can come out now! Miss Nakamura's scared them all off!"

A head full of spiky red hair appeared from around the corner, dark grey eyes timidly looking over to where Yuki stood. "Y-You sure?" the boy questioned quietly, just loud enough for Ryou and Yuki to hear.

Yuki smiled reassuringly, nodding his head. "Yeah, so come on. Don't you want to say hi to Ryou?"

At the mention of Ryou's name, Ichiro's eyes immediately flickered over to the boy beside Yuki, taking in the pale skin and snow-white hair of which adorned his quaint figure. Ichiro then tentatively moved from behind the wall, and when seeing no Dai or friends of Dai, he quickly made his way over to the bewildered-looking Ryou.

Ryou recognised this boy. He'd seen Greg, once the most feared bully in school, corner the red-haired student a few times. Once Dai had been enrolled into the school of course, Greg had been pushed to the side and turned into a henchman/goon rather than a leader. Dai was stronger, smarter; he knew there was no point in picking on a kid for money during every hour of the day when said kid simply wouldn't have any due to that very fact. They needed time before facing the threat of another horrible beating. It was a vicious circle that many poor victims weren't allowed out of.

"He-Hello Ryou," Ichiro said timidly once coming to a stop in front of Ryou's form, shy eyes darting from warm, chocolate-brown eyes to the floor.

Suddenly things seemed to click.

"You two brought Miss Nakamura here…?"

Yuki and Ichiro nodded their heads.

Ryou smiled. "Thank you. I didn't think anyone was going to…"

"Hey, it's the least we can do after all you've done for us. You've saved both our skins more than once," Yuki interrupted again. "You're the only one brave enough to stand up to Dai!"

"Are you ok, Ryou?" Ichiro's voice cut through the other's never-ending praise, his expression set into a deep frown when noticing the littering of bruises on Ryou's form, along with a troubling looking bloody lip.

That seemed to snap Yuki out of his excitement, and, before Ryou could even reply to Ichiro's worry, he had already gently grabbed Ryou's arm. "Come on, me and Ichiro are taking you to the nurse's office."

"Ah, you don't need to do that. Really, I'm fine getting there on my own," Ryou said, kindly turning the offered help down.

Ryou didn't realise he wasn't given a choice.

"Don't be silly," Yuki answered stubbornly, already pulling Ryou back towards the school.

"Friends don't abandon friends," Ichiro added, calmly walking close to Ryou's side as they moved closer to the building.

The beaten boy didn't know what to say, and so, with complaints unable to leave his mouth, Ryou just smiled instead, allowing himself to be lead.

If felt… nice to have friends.

--------(End Flashback)--------

The halo fell to the ground with a dull 'thump', dust flying from the area it laid to rest at, and immediately, Ryou was left feeling utterly perplexed, on the boarder line of disarray. The anger that had once consumed him so completely had now drained away into something nonexistent. The voice that had compelled him to fight, that had told him that killing Bakura was an unquestionable deed that had to be done, that needed to be done, had turned silent.

The hand holding Bakura's blade didn't move.

Bakura's tail darted out and coiled itself around the angel's thin ankle. Ryou had a mere millisecond to comprehend the feeling of the limb tightening against his skin before he was forced onto his back, the scaly appendage having pulled and tripped him to the floor. Bakura pounced on top on him before his body had time to fully hit the ground.

"Tsk." Bakura voiced his 'disappointment' as he strandled Ryou's waist, his hands pinning Ryou's arms beside his head. "You hesitated, Ryou," Bakura mocked lightly, blood from the side of his face dripping onto Ryou's white skin. "I would never hesitate."

"I… I don't…"

"Hm?" Bakura questioned the sudden tremble in Ryou's voice, both his good, and most likely severely damaged, eye watching the angel's movements curiously as Ryou's fists unclenched and his dagger was dropped, the weapon's unusual glow dimming and then fading completely.

Ryou squeezed his eyes shut, trying hopelessly to keep saltwater gathering from below his lashes. "I don't want to…"

--------(Flashback)--------

"You're nothing like him!"

It was too loud. People chattered to each other pleasantly, their voices overlapping with others, like waves crashing against waves; an ocean formed by horrible, undistinguishable noise. The roars of trains would screech as they flied past, like large seabirds screeching as they rushed to fly from a storm. Indeed the mood fitted that of a storm: emotions raging, tears gushing, homes crumbling, loved ones disappearing…

Ryou could hardly stand it. Amane couldn't stand it.

"You're nothing like him, Ryou! I-It's not fair!" Ryou held onto his sister tightly as she cried against his chest, her voice breaking. "I-I don't want to- to leave! I want to stay with you!"

"It'll be ok, Amane. I'll… I'll call you everyday." What else could he say? "You'll see. I'll be calling you so much, you'll be officially sick of me."

Amane furiously shook her head from where she hid in her brother's arms. "No! You'll forget all about me! I know you will! I--"

"Amane!"

A well known voice cut through the noise of the train station with astonishing clarity, a voice that Amane and Ryou were force to zone in to with bitter urgency, despite the ruckus of passengers that swarmed around them.

A woman stood impatiently not but five meters away, her long platinum blonde hair, a colour that matched Ryou's own locks, pulled back into a high ponytail. Her skin was slightly darker than Ryou's, not quite as fair, more a skin colour that resembled that of an English or American citizen. Her eyes reflected a pained, bitter soul, hidden deep in a pool of azure blue.

Ryou unconsciously tightened his hold on the younger sibling. "Mother, I was just--"

"Come along, Amane," the woman, Ryou's mother, interrupted irritably, her focus placed entirely on her daughter. When Amane didn't move her voice rose sharply. "Let go of your brother, now!"

"No!"

"I said now!"

"Amane." Ryou gently coaxed his sister away from his body, his heart breaking with the movement. "Go with mother." Seeing that Amane was once again about to protest, Ryou quickly continued, and leaned in close. "Mother's so sad… I need you to cheer her up for me. Will you do that for me, Amane?"

"But I want to stay with you…" Large tearful eyes gazed up at Ryou. Such an image made it hard for Ryou to smile… it was painful to accomplish so genuinely.

It always was, but people fell for it all the same.

"For me Amane, please?"

A pause.

"You'll call me every day…?"

A nod.

"Of course!"

For something so simple to be so heart-wrenching must be a crime.

"Amane," their mother called again, though her voice was now somewhat solemn.

But that was all it took.

"You better hurry."

A smile and reassuring words.

That was all it took…

--------(End Flashback)--------

Vulnerable, helpless, tired… Ryou just laid there, mumbling incoherent words. His breathing was laboured, exasperated. He would start a sentence and then gasp over and over again, as though unwilling to say what he truly wanted to say.

Bakura understood, though. He knew exactly what his angel was trying to tell him.

I don't want to be like you.

Something within the demon snapped then, the pain from his wounded body drowning a place less physical. "Ryou…"

Previously closed eyes suddenly snapped open at the soft tone of Bakura's voice. Gazing up at the ruler's bloodstained face, Ryou stopped mumbling and began crying, genuine tears rolling down his white cheeks.

"You're not, Ryou." The vice-like grip around the angel's wrists was removed and feather light touches were placed on Ryou's face instead. "You're not."

The dry ground greedily soaked up what little moisture it could from the small drops of human-made rain.

Even if the demon's lips did catch the majority of them.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

--------(Flashback)--------

The scene was too familiar.

White walls and bed sheets.

The smell of disinfectant and sterilises.

People coughing and wheezing.

The constant beeping of machines.

Yugi hated it.

"Stop that moping of yours, Yugi."

Yugi jumped from where he sat beside his Grandpa's bed, startled by the old man's voice. "Grandpa, you're awake!"

His grandfather chuckled from where he laid beneath crisp, white sheets, a single clear tube connecting to his wrinkled arm. "Of course I am, my boy! A little misfortune can't get rid of a stubborn old coot like me!"

Though his grandfather laughed, Yugi found it difficult to put on a mere smile, and ended up frowning instead. "I don't think a heart attack is something to laugh about, Grandpa… It could have been much worse."

"Nonsense." The elderly male carefully sat up and leaned over to give his grandson's hand a small pat. "All I need is a little rest and I'll be fine. You heard the doctor say it yourself."

"He said you needed to rest because you were overworked. You've got a weak heart, Grandpa."

The grey-haired man stiffened and then slowly moved his hand away. "We're not going to have this conversation again. Doctors don't know anything anyway."

The hands in Yugi's lap clenched and grabbed onto his jeans. "How can you say that? Of course the doctors know--"

"Yugi." Said boy quickly closed his mouth at his grandfather's serious tone. Mr Mutou sighed and laid back down again. "I'll be sure to get more sleep, alright? But I'm not quitting my job. We've already been through this, and we're not going through it again."

Yugi just couldn't help it though. He was beginning to notice things, realise things that he hadn't bothered to think about before.

His Grandpa was quite a bit older than Yugi. Of course Yugi had already known that, but he hadn't really thought about what that meant. At least, until now… With the way Grandpa overworked himself… Just how long would it be until Yugi was all alone again? He loved his grandpa, he was his family, his best and only friend. How could he not worry?

"…Yes, Grandpa."

How could he stand to lose another loved one?…

How could he stand to be alone again?…

…He couldn't.

-------(End Flashback)--------

Lord Yami's expression had changed. A moment ago his master's lips had been thin; stretched in pain as he grimaced, even more so when his lips reached out hopelessly for air. Deep, crimson eyes had been wide and pale. Yugi hadn't known that such amazing eyes could grow so dull. It was as though the colour in Yami's eyes had been drained, as though the blood-like hue was being drawn back into his body. Red wasn't a normal colour for eyes, anyway. Red was the colour for blood. Perhaps that was where the colour had rushed to? Had it rushed to his veins to join he blood flow?… No. Skin wouldn't grow so pale if that were the case.

Yami had been scared. Yugi should know, he'd worn that expression more than once, during those moments when he knew he was about to lose everything.

Of course, if Lord Yami were dead, Yugi should expect his expression to change.

However, Lord Yami was not dead.

"Yugi…"

He was still very much alive.

The ruler's demeanour was much more calm now, that overwhelming fear didn't seem to be present at all. That… didn't make sense. The fact that the ruler now gazed up at him with such sympathetic eyes just wasn't normal.

"You don't have to do this, Yugi. So please… don't cry."

Cry? Was he crying? But that was silly. If Yugi was crying, then surly he would have noti--

At some point Yugi must have let go of Yami's neck, as his hand was no longer gripped around the ruler's throat but instead laid trembling on the demon's cheek. Yugi's other hand had fallen to his side, the large volume of white magic vanishing as quickly as it appeared, leaving wisps of white smoke to slowly disintegrate into the air. His now free hand then lightly touched the smooth area of skin below his left eye.

Tears were indeed falling from Yugi's eyes.

"Please, Yugi…"

The Lord's frail voice rung like a high pitched scream through Yugi's ears. The sound was like a slap in the face; the impact so strong that it jolted the angel's body, his hand retracting from the demon's cheek as though he were a wild beast about to bite him. His startled eyes widened, and it was as though Yugi were seeing the demon for the first time since the disaster in the entrance hall, as though he had only now just noticed the horrendous burns covering Lord Yami's arms.

The angle began to tremble. "Did… D-Did I really do…?"

Lord Yami inhaled deeply through his nose, hope giving him a new lease of life. His Yugi was still in there somewhere. "No, Yugi. Not… Not you." The lord was finding it hard to breath again, and though he wanted to comfort the angel further, his strength proved to be much weaker than his will. "It's over now."

"It's over…?" Yugi's voice was very small, nothing more than a confused whisper. Finally his line of vision was drawn away from the Ruler's wounds, his focus instead drawn to the most sincere face Yugi had ever seen, a face that angels everywhere deemed demons to be incapable of expressing.

-------(Flashback)-------

Only moments ago Yugi had been sleeping soundly, however the noise from downstairs had roused him terribly and he now sat stiffly in his bed. He didn't know what time it was, only that it was late; daylight hadn't yet started to break though his curtains.

Immediately the idea of a burglar in the house popped into Yugi's head.

It took Yugi a little while to shoo that thought away. After all, he didn't live alone in this house. It could easily be grandpa trudging about in the kitchen. Yeah, that's right. Of a matter of fact, Yugi had been waiting for his Grandpa to arrive back from the airport. Ok, so he had waited well past the time Grandpa said he'd be back for, Yugi had assumed that the elderly man had stayed over in Australia to work for an extra day as such a thing wasn't uncommon, and then gone to bed, but maybe there had been a delay at the airport? Maybe--

CRASH.

Yugi scrambled from his bed and picked up the heavy telescope beside his window without thinking. The unlikely weapon now in hand, Yugi slowly stalked his way down the stairs, all the while thinking: 'It's Grandpa. It's definitely Grandpa. It's not a burglar. It's definitely not a burglar!'.

"G-Grandpa?"

Seeing the light on in the kitchen, the small teen cautiously peeped his head into the room from the doorway.

No burglar, rather a weary old man cleaning some broken class from the floor.

"Oh, Yugi. I'm sorry. Did I wake you?" His grandpa stood after brushing the last shard of glass into the dustpan. Greeting his grandson with a tiered smile, he then dragged his feet over to the bin to dispose of the mess.

Breathing a sigh of relief, Yugi left his plastic club in the hallway and stepped into the kitchen. "Ah, no, Grandpa. It's alright, but… are you ok?"

"Hm?" While dumping the glass into the bin, Sugoroku caught Yugi's worried expression. "Oh, this?" He placed the dustpan and brush on one of the counters. "I was having a clumsy moment, that's all", he answered with a shaky laugh. "I was getting a glass of water to take an aspirin and--"

"You don't look well."

Sugoroku began to rub at his temples, his weary expression turning into an even more weary and miserable one. "Yugi, please. I'm sick of having the same argument over and over again."

Yugi almost did drop it, like he usually did, but for whatever reason, today was different. "You said you'd rest more but you haven't been. If you keep going on like this you'll--"

"Yugi, I said--!"

"But it's true!" Yugi couldn't let his grandpa interrupt him this time. He couldn't stand torturing himself over the 'what ifs' any longer. "You're the only family I have, Grandpa! None of the others want me! You keep having heart attacks and I'll most likely go into care! You won't be my guardian any more! But that's not even the worst of it! What if you die, Grandpa?!"

"Yugi, that's enough! You--"

"No!"

The scream of defiance shocked the archaeologist and he turned silent.

"I'll have no one left, Grandpa, do you understand? You go on about working so you can support me. How can you support me if you're… if you're dead, Grandpa? How can I carry on with this education you say is so important when all I'll be able to think about is 'all the people I love are gone'? I- I can't…" Yugi suddenly began crying. "I can't l-lose anymore people, Grandpa. I… I just can't!"

Yugi didn't realise he was on the floor until his Grandpa knelt down and put his arms around him. It was silent for a long time before Sugoroku figured out what to say.

"You really are a lot like your father, Yugi." Comforting arms tightened their hold around Yugi's form, but it were the words that came after that gave Yugi the most comfort. "I won't leave you, Yugi. We're going to figure something out, I promise."

Unlike previous promises, Yugi felt that he could finally trust his grandpa to keep this one.

-------(End Flashback)-------

Face buried in his hands, Yugi dug his fingers into his hair and scrunched his eyes tightly shut. Was it over? Was it really? Just… Just how could it be? How could he accept that? Things would go wrong, things always went wrong. Even knowing this though, he wanted to believe it. He really, truly did, but… It never worked out that way. If things had gone right, just once, then Yugi wouldn't be like this in the first place. He couldn't believe Lord Yami.

…Could he? Grandpa… He remembered Grandpa promising something similar. Had Grandpa kept his word? He couldn't remember…

Really, just what did Lord Yami mean by 'over'?

"I'm scared," Yugi whispered finally, his voice like a dying songbird: desperate, fragile, but beautifully pure. When not hearing a reply however, the songbird used what little energy it felt it had to lift its head. "Lord Yami?"

The demon's eyes weren't open anymore, and when Yugi leaned closer to give his shoulder a gentle shake, the ruler didn't so much as grunt.

"Lord Yami?!" Panic. Panic and fear. That was all Yugi felt in that moment. "You- You just said-! You just promised-!" There was a frustrating pause where Yugi just froze up, for the first time battling that dark doubt in his heart that had always been there.

Suddenly the angel was tumbling from the bed, his jerky movements rushing him awkwardly to his master's door and into the hallway. The halo threw itself to the floor, the darkness leaving his eyes with the same speed in which he ran.

He wasn't going to lose another loved one.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

And that's the end of Chapter 19. It's crappy, I know. Probably not worth the wait.

OMFG where have you been?!

The chapter had been left half completed for a long time now, as I'm sure you're all aware. The main reason for this was my mum's unexpected diagnosis of inflammatory breast cancer months ago… the news promptly destroyed my mood for writing as well as snowballing into a lot of other aspects of my life. Needless to say none of the family was doing well, and though we're doing better now, things are still stressful.

I do want to thank the people that sent me reviews and messages in my long time of absence. They did help.