Title: Binding Circles

Part: 17

Author: Shamise

~(*)~

The cave was pitch-black when Atem woke up. He jerked forward from his position at the back of the make-shift shelter. Yuugi nearly slipped from his lap as the movement, and Atem hastily laid him on the ground. Rebecca was still asleep in her corner, and the area was quiet.

Someone was there.

Frowning, Atem approached the mouth of the shelter. He stayed close to the wall, and he strained his ears for any sound. There was a sense of someone there, but that was it. Silently, he waited at the mouth of the cave. Several minutes passed and Atem began to go back to Yuugi. He doubted that he would go back to sleep anytime soon, but he would feel better if he was holding him.

Suddenly, Atem was barreled into from behind. Yelling, Atem struck back blindly at his attacker, knocking it away from him.

"Yuugi!" he raced across the cave for the still body of his partner. If he was fast enough, then he could escape out the back. A scream from Rebecca caused him to hesitate, and within that second another attacker converged upon him.

During their struggle, Atem called upon the strength of the Kroshi to aid him. The Kroshi glowed as he used its magic to throw back his attacker, and its weak light exposed the two intruders.

Both Atem and the attackers went still and recognition sparked between them.

"Seth? Mahad?" Atem slowly drifted forward. "What the hell are you doing here?"

The two 'attackers' seemed just as surprised to see Atem as Atem was to see them. They were stunned into silence, until an irate Rebecca screamed at Mahad to let her go.

"Looking for you," Seto, his cousin, answered as Mahad tried to contain the struggles of the Muer'in girl. "You were supposed to have been back days ago, and your mother insisted we go look for you. Although," he paused to look at Rebecca, "I can see why it would have taken you longer with a spitfire like that."

Atem grimaced. "She's not my partner, if that's what you are thinking." Mahad, giving up on holding onto Rebecca, let the struggling girl go. She scrambled over to the entrance of the cave, but made no other attempt at leaving. She looked like she wanted to scream in horror, however, her pride managed to keep her from doing anything than watching them warily.

"I didn't peg you as the greedy type, Atem." Seto snorted. Mahad stifled a laugh at Atem's expression, and Rebecca looked mortified.

"Grow up," Atem snarled. "She's repaying a debt to my real partner and me."

"Oh, so you actually found one?" Mahad asked.

"Yes," pride swelled up in Atem's voice. "He was human, so I wanted to let him get adjusted to being near me before I brought him to the city." He turned around to pick up Yuugi from the back of the cave. He tried to be as gentle as possible, but Yuugi let out a groan of discomfort as he was picked up.

"Gods above! What happened to him?" Mahad exclaimed. The light of the Kroshi revealed Yuugi's many wounds and his overall horrible condition. Atem grimaced and looked sadly at Yuugi.

"I was unable to protect him," he murmured. "The Muer'in took him while I was away, and they did horrible things to him." Mahad swam forward and touched Yuugi's forehead. If it had been anyone other than Mahaad, Atem would have protested, but he was well versed in magic and he knew something of the healing arts too.

"It feels like a magical backlash," he carefully ran a finger along Yuugi's wounded arm. "Isis would be able to diagnose him further, so we need to get him to her as soon as possible."

Atem agreed. He held Yuugi more securely to himself and followed Seto and Mahad to the cave entrance. He paused in front of Rebecca.

"You can still turn back," he told her. "They might believe you if you told them that I took you hostage."

Rebecca grew still, and Atem forced himself to be patient. To be honest, he didn't want anything more to do with the girl, however, she had helped them escape. He had to give her the option.

"No," she said. "I...I can't turn back now." She took a deep breath and glared at him. "As you said, I have a debt to pay, and I won't back out on my debts."

Atem had to admit, the girl had guts. She would have at least four of the boys back home clinging to her every word. If everything worked out, she might even choose to stay. He wasn't quite sure how he felt about that, but it wasn't his choice to make.

"If you are finished," Seto interrupted, "You are wasting time, and we need to go. Now."

Snorting, Atem nodded. "Let's go." Rebecca scrambled for her backpack and quietly followed them out into the night.

~(*)~

The first thing Ritoceh realized when he woke up was that he was lying down on his back. His entire body was sore and his head felt like it was stuffed full of cotton. It was difficult to open his eyes, so he didn't.

The second thing he realized was that someone was lying next to him. He or she was close enough that Ritoceh could feel the vibrations as he or she hummed. It soothed the nervousness he felt from being so close, even though he had no reason to feel like that. That same person was also combing his hair, gently tugging the tangles out with his (he could tell now that it was a he) fingers.

Ritoceh breathed in deeply in deeply and sighed. The stranger paused, both in humming and in combing his hair, before continuing the actions. The humming seemed a little more urgent now, and Ritoceh slowly opened his eyes.

His eyesight was fuzzy, and Ritoceh couldn't distinguish specific shapes at first. The walls were a muted green color, and the ceiling was an off-white. There was another set of beds in the room, and a matching set of cabinets. The person beside him was darker skinned than him, but not by much, and his eyes and hair were a matching red. Ritoceh blinked, and stared at the stranger with a strange sense of familiarity in the back of his mind.

The humming and hair combing stopped. "Yuugi?"

"W-wha...?" Ritoceh's voice cracked.

"You're all right." the man sounded relieved. Questions about why and where he was wanted to be asked, but Ritoceh was having trouble finding it in himself to actually try. He felt safe, and that was more than how he had been feeling.

Ritoceh sighed and closed his eyes. The stranger, who didn't really act like a stranger, tensed beside him and laid a hand on his arm. Ritoceh opened his eyes again, only to see the man stare at him in worry.

"What's wrong?" he asked.

"M'tired," Ritoceh managed to mumble.

"Ah," the man sighed. "Can you stay awake a little longer? You had me very worried."

"Worried?" Ritoceh asked. His thoughts were still muddled and he couldn't remember why this person should be worried.

"They did horrible things to you, Yuugi," the man took a deep breath. "Horrible things. They took you from me, and tried to break our bond."

"Bond? We...have a bond?"

"Yes," the man's voice hiccuped. He reached forward and lifted Ritoceh's right arm. "You might not be able to feel it right now, but it is still there."

"I'm...not sure how I feel about that." His response seemed to have thrown the man for a loop.

"You...called me 'Yuugi,' why?"

"B-because," his voice cracked. "That's who you are."

"But," Ritoceh whispered, "My name is Ritoceh."

"No...no," the man whispered. His expression was tight and his body was tense. Ritoceh squirmed uneasily under his stare. "Do you...do you know who I am?"

"I..." Ritoceh whispered after a long pause. "I think I do?" The man didn't act like a stranger, and his heart wanted to know him. He had seemed familiar when he was taken from the palace, and he had trusted him then. He had to have known him, but what would have made him forget?

"M-my name is Atem, Yuugi." Atem leaned forward and rested his forehead against Ritoceh's. "Please, remember me." Something pushed against his head, and Ritoceh's eyes opened wide. His vision blackened as something tried to reach inside of him, aiming for his heart.

"S-stop." Light sparked behind his eyes, gold and green clashing. Thoughts and images were brought up and smashed back down as the lights battled. His arm grew hot, as if someone shoved it inside of an oven. The battle rose to a crescendo.

"Atem!" Ritoceh screamed. He bucked wildly, trying to escape the pain that had enveloped his arm.

Atem, still immersed in their bond, also felt the pain, and he too screamed in agony. Images from the sight-sharing flared into a brilliant white and overwhelmed him.

A sudden flash of blue light cut off the connection, and Atem came to himself with a yell. He was pulled away from Yuugi while he trembled from what had just happened. His sight came back to him and he stared up into Mahad's concerned face.

"What do you think you are doing?" Mahad hissed.

"He, he almost remembered!" Atem stuttered. "We were so close! Just a little more and-"

"No!" Mahad yelled. "Isis told you not to try that!" He pulled Atem away from Yuugi and shook him.

"You were hurting him."

Atem's eyes grew wide and he quickly looked over to where Yuugi was. Isis was holding him down, chanting a spell as he screamed and writhed.

"No! No, I didn't want that!" Atem yelled. "I just wanted-"

"I know what you wanted." Mahad interrupted. "But now is too soon to try. He is still suffering from the backlash of the Muer'in's spell, and even the slightest pressure will cause this," he gestured to the screaming Yuugi.

"I..."

"I know, Atem," Mahad spoke softly. "I know this is hard on you, but you need to be patient. He will remember, but you need to give him time."

Yuugi's screams quieted as Isis continued to weave her spell. He mumbled incoherently, but eventually he closed his eyes and his body relaxed.

Isis let him go, brushing the bangs away from his forehead. She turned away from him to address Atem.

"Now you know better," she spoke softly, as she always did, but Atem couldn't help by feel like a scolded child. "He needs his rest, so it would be best if you left him alone for a while."

The last thing Atem wanted to do was leave Yuugi alone. What if he was captured again? What if he woke up and no one was near? What if-

"But-"

"He will be fine," Isis interrupted his protest. "Go, get something to eat. You are of no help here."

Atem hesitated, and Mahad pulled him outside of the room. "He is in good hands," he murmured.

Atem felt lost as they floated in the hallway, and he stared longingly back at the medical room.

"Yuugi will be fine," Mahad insisted. "Besides, you have other things to worry about right now. Your parents want to see you, and there is still the matter of the Muer'in girl that you need to attend to."

Atem grimaced. The only thing he wanted to do was wait here until Yuugi woke up again. He would apologize for his actions, and hopefully Yuugi would forgive him. Mahad, however, was one step ahead of him. He grabbed onto Atem's arm and proceeded to drag him down the hallway.

"Don't even think about it. Yuugi is safe with Isis, you know that she would never let anything happen to him. Your other responsibilities take priority right now."

"Fine," Atem begrudgingly allowed Mahad to lead him away.

~(*)~

Note: I'm so sorry for taking so long! -hides- I hope this makes up for it.

Big thanks to Darkspine29 for beta-ing this chapter!