Author's Note:

This story was written ages ago (end of July) by me for a RP site I belong to. (EDIT: The site is up on my profile: we're starting again with a new plot :P) The story is based on the RP, but you should be able to understand it. The reason I wrote it: the idea wouldn't leave me alone. And I thought I deserved a Birthday gift –sheepish shrug-. There are a whole lot of explanations at the end, but I'll basically tell you what's going on now.

So this story basically goes as follows: The yami's are all back and they have their own bodies. Yugi has been stabbed by Malik (the yami) and is currently in hospital. Marik (the hikari) and Ryou were transported to the Afterlife through certain circumstances. (for the full story, read the RP at .com) Marik and Ryou have found a way back from the Afterlife and they've taken Mana along with them. My fanfic starts after everybody has realized they are back, because I really don't want to write about how poor Marik gets grilled by his yami. I'll happily leave that to Jen, who plays him on the site. Anyway, as promised Marik has joined his yami, and so obviously he's in a different place to Mana. The whole point of this story is that he, along with nearly everybody else, can't understand what it is with Mana and Atem. And so Shadi steps in to help.

PLEASE I beg you not to discard this story just because of the circumstances it begins with. In other words: the yamis all being back in their own bodies. The main part of this fanfic is my idea of the relationship between Mana and Atem. And no, they're nothing more then friends. So if it's shipping ya want, sorry but it ain't gonna happen. (EDIT: This was written in my pre-Vaseshipping days. I have since been converted –innocent grin-)

There, aren't you lucky: I've just given you most of the plot. So without further nonsense, I give you my fic. I really, honestly and truly hope you enjoy this. And I really hope I don't offend anybody by the way I portray their characters. Anyway, the reason I'm posting it here is because Heroine of Darkness is taking up almost every smidge of my time and I NEED A BREAK. Flames will be accepted for this, as it really isn't my best.

If you just want the part that centers around Mana and Atem without reading the bits based on the RP, scroll down until you see the next bit of bold writing saying: In Ancient Egypt. That's where the actual story starts. And no, you don't have to read the first bit to understand what's going on. In fact, you'll probably be less confused if you leave out the first bit.


The darkness was complete as it swirled around the two figures. It seemed to flicker and stretch unseen fingers towards anyone who was foolish or unfortunate enough to enter into it. The two figures sitting in the midst of it, however, were paying the chilly darkness no attention whatsoever.

One was standing with his arms folded, wearing slightly torn clothes and the snarl that almost always adorned his face. He was glaring at the second person, his patience so thinly worn it was obvious it was going to snap sooner than anyone would want. The second man, so alike the first it was uncanny, wasn't paying any attention to his companion. He was sitting, also with his arms folded, but his mind was far away on something else.

He was sulking.

I can't believe she… I thought she was… Different… Bloody Pharaoh cheerleader…

It was only a thought that flashed through the second man's mind as he sulked, but somehow it was the thing that made the first man's patience finally snap.

"You've got to be f*cking kidding me!"

His voice was a roar of rage and it echoed in such a way that made it known he spent most of his time yelling. He reached his companion and grabbed the scruff of his neck, hauling him to his feet and wrenching him around so their faces were an inch from touching.

"All this is still about that f*cking whore?" he spat, glaring at the other man.

The one being held scowled, and his hands curled into fists.

"It's your fault for reading my thoughts," came the answer.

The snarl deepened, but the hands let go of the shirt he held as though it was plagued.

"You said she was just a bystander," he accused, his voice soft and even deadlier.

"She is," the other protested, a scowl crossing his face as well. "I just thought she would at least think about the decision a bit more before she-"

"You expected her to even consider joining you?" The sneer was heavy with laughter. "You expected her to even think about leaving her life as a mascot to him to join you, the criminal she has been told to despise? You truly are pathetic, Marik."

The abuse of words slapped Marik in the face. It sounded ludicrous when it was said like that. She had been brought up to idolise one man, and he had been stupid enough to think she would question her decision, to question if she wanted to stay with him.

His face twisted in self-loathing, and his yami took that as a sign that enough punishment had been given to his hikari for now. With a snort the yami turned away and began to roam the Shadow Realm again. Marik stared after him a moment and then began to follow, not before looking back to the place he knew Cairo hospital was in the other dimension, a single name flashing through his thoughts before he could stop it.

Mana…

000

"Who is she?"

The voice was said in a low register and directed over the speaker's shoulder to her listener. It was said in almost a sneer, and her eyes were narrowed as she stood on her tip-toes and peered through the window with unhidden intrigue.

"Her name is Mana. Apparently she's Atem's friend from his time," came the quiet answer from the girl's companion. "Rebecca, get away from the window; it's rude to peep."

Rebecca ignored her. Her eyes glinted beneath her glasses as she stared through the hospital room window at the forms of Mana and Atem. Yugi was in there too, occupying the bed, but for once her thoughts were not on the hikari but on his yami.

"Rebecca," her friend said again, sighing at the antics of the younger girl.

Finally the blond turned to her companion to see her in the same place she had been since they had come to stand in the hallway. She was leaning casually against the opposite wall, her hair loose and cascading down her shoulders and back and her big, brown eyes staring, a little reproachfully, at the younger girl.

"I want to know who she is," Rebecca defended herself. "I want to know where she came from, why she's here and why they look so much cosier than friends. You can't say you're not curious, Serenity."

It took a while for Serenity to answer.

"I am curious," she admitted. "But I think we'll be told the full story eventually. And nothing gives us the right to spy on them," she concluded quietly but resolutely.

Rebecca pouted and sighed, causing her fringe to flutter over her eyes, not very happy with what Serenity had pointed out. She wanted to know why the sudden appearance of this girl had split Atem's focus in two where before it had been fixed solely on Yugi. She wanted to know why they seemed to be able to read each other's thoughts, why they looked at each other in a way that couldn't be described and why Atem had actually let her hug him.

"I want to know who she is ," the little blond repeated, and Serenity caught the deeper meaning behind the emphasised word.

"Her name's Mana. She's a pal of the Pharaoh," came a male voice.

Rebecca sighed and half rolled her eyes.

"Really? I didn't know," she said sarcastically, turning to the new arrivals.

"Yea well now ya do," Joey replied, looking rather pleased with himself.

Mokuba, standing next to the munching blond, seemed to catch Rebecca's sarcasm, but he just smiled and walked over to stand next to Serenity.

Even Rebecca was tactful enough not to watch the two. They deserved some privacy after everything that had been tossed their way.

"Do you know why she's here?" the girl questioned Joey, hoping his closeness to Yugi would lend some information to her.

Joey shrugged, still eating his ice-cream.

"Nope. All I know is that she hitched a ride with the other two when they came back to this time. I dunno why though."

"And her and Atem… They're just friends?"

She was aware of Serenity giving her a look, but she ignored it, focusing on Joey and almost holding her breath in anticipation.

"Yip. That's what they all say."

She snorted disappointed by the lack of information.

"Relax, we'll hear it all in due time," Mokuba soothed.

But Rebecca didn't want to hear. She wanted the answers now .

000

"You do know who she is, so don't try and feed me bull."

Harsh voice, harsh glare, harsh stance of standing. Nothing was new. Maybe, if he smiled more often, he would be considered good-looking. As it was, his impressive glare kept them at bay and respectful. That was the way he wanted it: he was their superior, he was their boss. He was Seto Kaiba. And nobody would forget that easily.

At that moment the subject of his glare was a woman. She, however, seemed unimpressed by his glare and looked straight back at him with her cam face. She was undoubtedly beautiful; long, midnight hair with dark skin to match and contrasting light eyes. Other than that she held herself with poise as she stared down the angry CEO.

"I only know what you already know, Kaiba," she replied calmly. "Her name is Mana and she is a friend of the Pharaoh. I do not know why she is here, or all the details of her arrival and so I cannot answer any of your questions."

The way she got here… Ishizu felt her mind wander to the moment.

They hadn't expected it to happen in a million years. Suddenly, without warning or cause, three people came back to the hospital. Only one was a girl, and she claimed to have been taken along in the ride that took the other two home. One of those other two was her brother. She was still thanking Ra that his yami had been wrong, that he was alive and not dead. She had been so lost when she thought he was gone forever…

She noticed Kaiba was talking again and dragged her mind back to the present.

"You know more," he insisted, folding his arms. "You were…" his face twisted in disgust as he made himself say the next words. "one of the priests in your… past life." It looked like he was being forced to swallow a lemon. "You should know about her."

Of all the times for him to start believing…

"I can't remember any of that," she sighed, some of her irritation showing through. "Look, if I knew anything, I would have told you, alright? But as it is I'm just as curious as you."

Although I'm better at hiding it.

Kaiba's nostrils flared in his impatience.

"Then tell me who will know," he snapped.

He wanted to find out who the girl was who had enough cheek to call him egocentric to his face with a smile…

"Wait, don't bother to answer that I know who'll know." His scowl deepened. "Your brother… She came back with him. I wouldn't be surprised if he was behind this in some way…" A scoff was flung out of his mouth. "But hell doesn't know where he is…"

He thought for a while, trying to find out a way to find Marik before the light bulb went off above his head.

"The other one who was with him… The other Bakura… What's his name? Ryou. He'll know."

Without a further word he was gone, walking briskly (not running) out of the room.

"Wait… Kaiba!" Ishizu ground her teeth together. "Oh for the love of Osiris and his son…" she growled before following him out of the door.

000

In one of the lounges of the hospital a group of people took up the two sofas and chairs arranged around a coffee table stacked to the brim with magazines. One of the boys of the group was lounging over an entire sofa by himself, causing the only woman to give him continuous glares, which he ignored. He was attracting a lot of female attention, which was much to his pleasure, and every time a woman walked past he would give her a lazy grin from behind his black hair that made his green eyes sparkle. Every time this happened, the glares intensified.

The one glaring at him appeared to be the only woman who wasn't taken in by his good looks. She was a bit older than him with blond hair and good looks as well, though her look said plainly 'dare to like me and I'll kick your ass." She was seated on the armchair to the lounging boy's left, only stopping the glares in his direction to check on the male sitting in the chair opposite the table to her.

The male in question was about the same age as the first male, but he was much quieter. And where the first's hair was pitch black, his was snow white. The reason the girl was casting looks in his direction was less to do with the bandages around his neck and more to do with the uptight way he was sitting. Although his face was set in a calm look and his deep brown eyes didn't leave the table in front of him, he was unconsciously leaning away from the sofa that did not contain the woman-hunter. Despite all the promises and incidents that had been recounted to him, one who occupied the other sofa still made him nervous, to say the least.

The subject of the albino's discomfort sat on the side of the sofa closest to the girl. The odd thing about him was that he looked almost exactly like the albino who was so determined to avoid him, even more so now that he had lost the sadistic look in his eyes. After trying, unsuccessfully, to convince his hikari that he was now good, he left his other alone and instead stared at the coffee table to.

The only other person in the group was a man older than all of them, also with white hair. He was the only one who seemed at ease as he sat, smiling and humming something that sounded suspiciously like a Spice Girls song. He was wearing an odd assortment of clothes that obviously came from the hospital 'lost and found' box, as his previous clothes had been deemed 'unsuitable' by one of the nurses.

"Are you going to try and pick up chicks for the whole day?"

She was finally unable to keep silent for any longer.

"Sure. Why not?" the black-haired boy answered with a lazy grin. "Jealous 'coz there aren't any guys?"

"Nice guess, but it's more along the lines of 'nauseated by your way to utterly p-'"

"Hey, now, language!" he interrupted her with a smirk before she could call him what she really wanted to.

She snorted, but her glare was replaced with a smirk.

"You'll have to stay here for longer than a day to get a girl the way you're going now," she said snidely.

That hit a nerve.

"For your information, I'm not trying to get a girl from here,' he growled. "I've got one in mind elsewhere."

"What's her name? Mary-Sue?"

"Look if you-" he took a calming voice and the smile was back. "You don't have to know until I get her, Mai. That will be my little secret."

"Oooh Duky-boy, when you get her you two just must come visit me for the afternoon!"

Mai grinned at the look on Duke's face.

"Well isn't that a nice offer for Pegasus to make, Duke? But I wouldn't count on him to come, Pegasus: I doubt there's really a girl."

She was trying to get him to react, and she got her wish.

"There is too a girl," he hissed, glaring at the blond with all he was worth. "Seeing as you're dying of curiosity, it's the Pharaoh's friend who just arrived. You know, Mana."

The conversation was interrupted by a choking noise, which originated from the hikari that was present who had just taken a sip of water. Apparently, something about the news Duke was going after Mana both amused him and made his throat constrict in shock.

"You ok, Ryou?" Mai asked him, pleased that it wasn't only her who found Duke's statement hilarious.

"Yea I'm fine," Ryou mumbled quickly, searching for the right words. "Uhm… Duke… I think she might be… taken…" he said slowly, still staring at the coffee table.

Mai let out a hoot of laughter and Duke's scowl returned.

"Oh really? How would you know?" he asked, sounding rude but not caring.

"I just… Saw some things while I was in the afterlife with her," was all Ryou chose to say.

He knew they would never in a million years believe him if he told them which other guy liked Mana. Heck, he hadn't believed it himself at first.

"Well then I guess there will be some competition around here," Duke said haughtily, before his expression changed dramatically as he was hit with a thought. "Unless it's… Unless it's the Pharaoh who likes her…" he gave Ryou an uncertain glance.

Ryou bit his lip and wondered how he would explain this without giving anything away, but he was saved from replying by the arrival of Kaiba.

"You!" the CEO barked, making a beeline for the albino, who looked at him in utter surprise. "Who is she? Why is she here? And how can I get hold of her to teach her a lesson in respect?"

"So someone finally tells the world what you are and now you're obsessed with hunting her down? Geez Kaiba, you're more messed up than I thought," Mai snipped at him, a smirk flashing across her face as Kaiba's scowl darkened at her words.

"I don't know if you have the brains to realize, but I wasn't talking to you, Blondie," he snarled at her.

"Ryou, you don't have to tell him anything," a new voice said.

It belonged to Ishizu who joined the group a second later, the scowl on her face directed at Kaiba.

"Uhm…" Ryou said, looking uncertainly at everybody.

"He damn well needs to answer me," Kaiba hissed. "I want to know who she is, and I want to know now ."

Now Ryou was in a bit of a predicament, but his saviour came in a very surprising form.
"You lot are all being so childish. Kaiba-boy, if you really want to know who she is then go and ask her , not someone who knows her," Pegasus said lazily.

There was a moment of silence. Nobody had thought of that…

"Fine," Kaiba snapped. "That's exactly what I'll do."

He spun around and headed towards Yugi's hospital room, followed by everybody else.

000

As the larger group lead by Seto Kaiba reached the hallway outside Yugi's room, the smaller group who was still sitting there met them. Rebecca was the only one still standing, and Joey was the only one still eating.

"Oh my Ra I think she's flirting with Yugi," Rebecca gasped, standing on her tiptoes in front of the window. "Geez, what a floozy. Who starts flirting with a guy after meeting him like five minutes ago?"

One word seemed to run through everybody's heads at that moment: hypocrite.

Mokuba was the first to notice the new arrivals, and a grin split across his face.

"Hello, big brother. I was wondering where you were."

Kaiba acknowledged his brother was a small nod and then turned to Rebecca.

"I want to get in," he told her as she was now blocking the doorway.

"Well you can't," Rebecca scowled. "Nobody can; why else do you think we're all camping out here? Besides, what do you want in there?' she added suspiciously.

"I want to know who she is," Kaiba said through gritted teeth. "And I'm going to find out."

Joey couldn't pass up the chance to annoy the CEO.

"Oh c'mmon rich boy, even I can answer that. Her name is Mana."

Kaiba closed his eyes, willing himself not to strangle the blond.

"I'm aware of that," he managed to get out through heavily gritted teeth.

Mai was grinning at that but stopped as she meat Joey's eye. She looked away quickly. Some things would take more time to fix. In fact, there were quite a few tensions in the group that cluttered the hallway, but none of them was given chance to erupt as the next moment the door to the hospital room opened. Turning to it, they all saw a wheelchair holding Yugi.

"Yugi!" Rebecca squealed in delight, and her greeting was returned as the boy grinned.

"So they finally caved into your pleading?" Serenity grinned.

"It only took three days," Yugi joked. "But I've just missed outside so much."

"Where's Mana?' Rebecca asked, and innocent look on her face that fooled nobody.

"Oh she and Atem are still inside," Yugi said, gesturing to the room behind him. "He's teaching her to play Duel Monsters." At that Yugi's grin became even wider.

Mokuba, Ishizu, Rebecca, Joey and Serenity all opened their mouths to ask Yugi a question, but Kaiba beat them all to the crunch.

"Who is she anyway?" he barked, his eyes fixed on Yugi and telling hi that he wasn't going to let him go until he told them all.

"Oh her name is Mana," Yugi said.

It was Rebecca's turn to close her eyes. If she heard that answer one more time…

"We know that already," Kaiba snapped, as irritated as the blond girl. "I want to know who she really is and what the hell she's doing here!"

"We've told ya, Kaiba," Joey interjected. "She's a pal of the Pharaoh and she got yanked along for the ride when Marik and Ryou came back."

"Bullshit," Kaiba replied steely. "Some of her arrival here might have been accidental, but she was far too composed for it to have been a total accident. A part of her planned the trip, and I want to know why."

Nobody said anything because they all knew that he was right. Nobody was stupid enough to admit that out loud, but Kaiba was right. It was Duke who spoke up first.

"Do you think it was because of Atem? I mean, everybody says they're really great friends…" he trailed off.

"And all they've ever been is just friends," Yugi said rather sharply, catching Duke's meaning.

"Really?" three said in unison.

Yugi nodded calmly yet in surety.

"Well how would you know anyway?"

Ryou jumped involuntarily. His yami hadn't spoken in an hour and he was just beginning to forget that he was around.

Yugi turned to him, and his eyes were a bit more wary now.

"Because that's what they told me," he replied firmly.

It was clear Kaiba and Rebecca both had a remark to this, but they never got to voice it.

"It is clear none of you hear have any understanding of their relationship," a calm voice said.

Almost everybody jumped and whirled around to find Shadi suddenly standing in their midst. They would never get used to that.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Kaiba growled at the spirit.

Shadi just looked at him calmly.

"It means what I said, Kaiba. None of you have any understanding of how close the two of them are, and yet what they have told you still stays truthful. You do not know what they have been through together, and so you cannot know why there was a part of her that wanted to come to him."

"Oh great, more riddles," Duke muttered, and Ryou agreed with him silently.

"Well thanks for that," Kaiba snapped sarcastically. "Now I suppose to make us gain understanding you're going to show us what they've been through and the other crap?"

Shadi remained impassive. "I can, if you so wish me to."

That left the CEO speechless; he hadn't really expected that Shadi could do such a thing.

"Woa, ya can do that?" Joey said, his eyes widening. "Cool!"

Mokuba was inclined to agree, as were the three girls.

"Very well," Shadi said, looking at all of their faces. "I assume from your interest that you will indeed want to see their history. Follow me then."

"Where we going?" Joey said, his excitement heightening. "To some other dimension? To Ancient Egypt again? To the inside of the Puzzle?"

Shadi looked at him.

"To the room next door," he replied.

"Oh," Joey said, reddening a bit.

The group traipsed after Shadi into the room next door to Yugi's, which was actually quite a far way down the passage. It was empty except for quite a few chairs, which were filled quickly. Ryou sat at the back, with the only empty chair to his left. He wanted to see this, but he wondered how much it would change the way Marik looked at Mana…

"You will have to close your eyes," Shadi told them from his position at the front of his room.

"Then how will we see anything?" Duke asked, confused.

Shadi scowled slightly. "I am not a projector machine," he said stiffly. "I work with your minds; you shall see the most significant times of their lives in your heads as I project them to you."

Somehow that put them off it a bit; that sounded painful… But their curiosity got the better of them, even Yugi's. True, he could just ask his yami, but somehow this seemed easier, and so he sat there too.

"I'm guessing this seat isn't taken," a voice said in Ryou's ear.

The albino nearly had a heart attack and hernia at the same time and spun as quick as a flash to find out who it was. It was Marik. Surprise etched itself on his face, but he composed it and shook his head, watching the Egyptian as he sat next to him. Marik refused to look at him, and Ryou didn't press the matter; not only would it make his friend mad but it would make the others aware of Marik's presence in the room. He wanted neither.

He did wonder how Marik knew about this. The blond must have been watching the hospital closely to notice this. That realization caused Ryou to shoot another glance at the still inexpressive Marik. He didn't even want to know where his friend's yami was.

"Let us begin," Shadi's voice called to him, and Ryou shut his eyes obediently.

At first there was nothing, then a slight tug was felt somewhere at the back of the mind. And then, images began to form.

***

In Ancient Egypt

It was very boring for the children in Egypt after the sun went down. They were no longer allowed outside to play, and so they were destined to roam their houses and play other games with their siblings, if they were lucky enough to have any. To those who were unlucky to have no companions, but lucky enough to have a big house, exploring was the option that was taken.

The prince discovered a universal fact on all of his wonderings around the palace: doorknobs were purposefully made taller than the average three year old. Of course it didn't help him much that he was a tad shorter than the average three year old either. It was one of the nights when every promising looking door seemed to be closed and un-openable that the little prince had one of the luckiest moments in his life.

He was coming from the west side of the palace and crossing the entrance towards the east side hoping to have better luck there when the guard came skidding through the door. He was panting and didn't stop long at the entrance before running towards the throne room. The little prince, as would be expected, was very curious. He was about to abandon his exploring mission and follow the guard when one of the older boys of the palace came from the opposite direction, looking confused.

"Mahad!" the prince called, hoping his friend had some information for him.

The older boy turned, saw the prince, smiled and walked over.

"How may I help, prince?"

"What was he doing?" the little prince replied, pointing in the direction the guard had run.

Mahad shrugged and shook his head.

"I don't know. He just looked in an awful hurry."

The two boys turned as they heard footsteps retuning. Around the corner came the same guard, followed by the current pharaoh and his brother, Aknadin.

The little prince toddled towards his father while Mahad hung back.

"Father, what?"

"I do not know, my son," the pharaoh replied. "Apparently, something was found at the palace gates."

The little prince and Mahad exchanged a look before they both followed the little procession outside and to the palace gates.

"By the name of Maat," Aknadin exclaimed as he saw what had been left in front of the palace gates.

It was a baby, just old enough to be weaned of her mother. At the moment she was asleep, with one fist curled around the blanket she was wrapped in and her tiny tuft of brown hair falling across her face.

"This came with her, sir," the guard said, handing a scroll of papyrus to the pharaoh.

The scroll was read quickly, and the frown on the prince's father's face became even more prominent the further he read.

"An abandonment," he said when he was done. "Her family has no means of raising her, and they hoped we were in need of a slave that could be trained from a young age."

"A very young age," Mahad muttered, and his eyes were hard with dislike for her parents.

"What are we going to do with her?" Aknadin asked, looking at the sleeping child.

"We cannot leave her, Aknadin," the pharaoh replied.

"Do you think she will make a good slave one day?" his brother asked, obviously not thinking so.

"We shall see. Perhaps she will, or perhaps she will be better at something else. You can never know." He turned towards his son and smiled. "Until it is time for her to earn her keep, I'm sure she will make a good friend for Atem."

Aknadin looked even more doubtful, but the little prince's eyes became bright at the prospect of a friend that, unlike Mahad, wouldn't have to go to 'bigger people things' the whole day.

"What's her name?" he asked, peering at the sleeping girl.

The scroll was consulted again.

"Mana."

The little prince smiled at his new friend.

"Hello Mana," he whispered.

***

The night was like any other; too dark to go outside. Although this time, no little prince roamed the halls of the palace. Instead he was on the floor with his best friend next to him, playing what the grownups considered a 'quieter' game. He was beating her, though not by much and she didn't seem to mind in the slightest, too busy having fun.

"You're never going to beat me!" he smirked at her.

"We'll see," was all she replied, grinning at him.

They were interrupted, though, by one of the slaves who was sent to get the little prince.

"But I'm still playing with Mana," he whined.

"I'm sorry, my prince but those are my orders."

"Bye-bye Prince," Mana said sadly. She hated the time when they had to say goodbye.

"Bye Mana," he replied glumly, not liking it any more than she did.

After he was gone, Mana continued to play by herself, until she became bored. Then she began to do what only children did after dark; wander around. She was halfway through the palace when the calm night changed.

Without warning there was a sudden flash of blinding light that struck the ground with a huge explosion that made the earth tremble. Mana couldn't stop a scream from escaping her lips as she covered her ears. She stood shaking for a few minutes, but when it didn't happen again she cautiously let go of her ears.

It turned out to be a mistake as two other flashes struck the ground, making her scream again and clamp her ears shut again.

"Is Baal angry?" she whimpered to herself, shaking.

It was, in fact, not Baal but a rouge Ka that happened to have the power of thunder. Even if the little girl had known this, it wouldn't have made her less scared as she began to run down the hallway, her ears still covered. Finally she couldn't take it any more and dashed into the nearest room.

She didn't realize that in her panic her feet had carried her to the place she felt the safest.

"Mana?" the little prince gasped as his friend appeared in his room suddenly, her ears covered.

"Oh Prince!" she cried as another bolt hit the ground, making the young prince wince as well.

"Come here," he called and she didn't hesitate to run over to him. "In," he ordered, pulling back the blankets next to him.

Mana climbed in and the two of them huddled into each other as the thunderbolts continued to strike the ground. Her eyes were squeezed shut and he gently stroked her eyelids so she opened them.

"Don't worry," he said softly. "It may sound loud, but nothing will happen to us."

"You sure?" she shivered.

"Positive," he said, although he wasn't really. "We're safe here."

He felt her relax next to her and the two lay in silence for a while.

"How can you be so brave all the time?" Mana's voice suddenly said out of the darkness.

The little prince was silent for a minute before replying.

"I'm not always brave, Mana," he admitted to her softly. "I just know I have to protect you."

"Really? You do that for me?" she asked in wonder.

"Of course, Mana. I'll always be here to protect you, no matter what."

He felt her arms wrap around him in a hug and he hugged her back.

That was how they were found the next morning.

***

"Eight… uhm, nine… ten!" the girl called, uncovering her eyes and feeling very proud of herself for counting up to ten without any help.

Her green eyes scanned the room in front of her, but there was no sign of anyone else. She wasn't bothered though; she'd find him eventually.

"Ready or not, here I come!" she called, her eyes sparkling with their usual happiness.

She skipped around the room, looking behind curtains, in pots and behind ornaments. All of them were empty until she reached one of the pillars. It looked exactly like the one next to it, except that it had a bit of yellow sticking out from behind it. A piece of yellow that looked suspiciously like hair.

"Found you!" she laughed.

The young prince scowled. He had been hoping to stay hidden for longer. But he cheered up a little as he realized he wasn't caught yet.

"You still need to touch me!" he grinned at his younger friend, lunging out of the way as she attempted to touch him.

Then, laughing, he took off down the hallway, with Mana in hot pursuit. He looked over his shoulder at her as he rounded the corner and promptly ran into something. He might have stayed on his feet if Mana hadn't then promptly run into him. But as that's exactly what she did, all three people found themselves on the floor in a heap.

"Mahad!" the young prince called with a grin as he saw who it was that he had run into.

"Young prince," Mahad panted back, untangling himself from the other two and standing up. "Mana."

"Hello Mahad," she beamed at her oldest friend as he helped the young prince to his feet. "And I touched you," she added to Atem, beaming.

"That doesn't count," the young prince protested, pulling Mana up anyway.

"I just touched you again," she pointed out, refusing to be desecrated.

"No, I touched you, it's not the same thing," the little prince argued back with a grin.

He laughed as Mana pulled a face at him, but then turned back to Mahad, who was looking rather sheepish for knocking the future king to the ground.

"But I thought you were called in for a conference with the head guard?" His purple eyes widened. "You're not in trouble, are you?"

The brunette shook his head vigorously.

"Oh no, my prince. Quite on the contrary. I was called in to be told that as soon as I'm older I will be trained as the new head guard."

Even though he tried very hard to hide it, the pride showed through in his voice. The two friends beamed at the news.

"So Mahad will be in charge of your guard when you're pharaoh!" Mana said, beaming.

"I guess he will be!" The young prince grinned. "I guess then I shouldn't get on your bad side, Mahad."

Mana giggled and then thought of something else.

"What about the whole priest thing? Has anybody been chosen yet?"

Mahad shook his head.

"Not yet, no. But I'm sure the two of you will be told when they are."

"Mahad," Mana asked, her voice suddenly oversweet. "Don't you want to come and play with us?"

"Me?" Mahad said, surprised.

"Yes! Please Mahad," both chorused, shooting the older boy pleading glances.

"Well… I haven't seen the two of you for more than two minutes in weeks and I don't have to be anywhere else…" he wavered.

"Great!" the young prince said, making the decision completely for the boy.

"You can be 'it'!" Mana crowed happily, grabbing Mahad's hand and dragging him to the counting block.

Laughing, the young prince followed and for the next half an hour the three hid from each other, chased one another and in the end collapsed in a heap again, all of them laughing their sides sore.

***

"Prince Atem!"

He flinched as the voice reached him in his hiding place.

"What are you doing?"

The voice made him jump.

"I'm hiding, shhh!" he whispered to Mana, who was staring up at him with curious eyes.

"Oh… why?"

"I don't want to go to that training," he replied, still whispering.

"Prince Atem!" the voice called again, a little impatient this time.

"I have a better hiding place," Mana whispered to him and the two of them crept outside, ducking behind whatever they could find to conceal them.

The two of them skittered across the gardens until they reached the huts that housed the guards. One of them was empty as there were no use for it, and was into this hut that the two of them slipped.

"They won't think to look for us here," Mana said with a pleased grin.

"Nice thinking, Mana," he replied, smiling at his friend.

The two of them looked around at the empty room. Empty, that was, except for some paint that was left in the hut to become thicker. Mana saw the paint and her eyes lit up.

"We can paint on the walls to pass the time!"

And so the two of them grabbed the paint and brushes and began to write out and illustrate on of their favourite stories. The young prince had the higher part of the wall and Mana was left with the lower parts. The two were planning to do the whole wall, but that plan was trashed quite quickly.

"Oopse, sorry!" Mana apologised as she accidentally flicked some paint at her friend.

The young prince blinked as the paint landed on his cheek and Mana giggled. He play scowled and swiped his brush across her face.

"Hey!" she protested. "That was much more than what I put on you!"

"I'm the prince, so you have to get more," he grinned.

"As if!" she snorted, swiping her own brush over his ear.

"Be fair!" he said, lunging at her with his brush poised.

She sidestepped him and he slipped a little too much forward, his foot catching the pot of paint and flipping it over, dumping all its contents on him. Mana collapsed with giggles at his face and he rounded on her.

"Oh so you think it's funny, do you?" he growled, only his eyes proving his anger was a pretence. "Let's see how you like it!"

He picked up his own pot of paint and lobbed it at his friend. It smacked her full on in the face, making him burst into peals of laughter.

"This. Means. War," she pouted.

Reaching down, she picked up another pot of paint and threw it with all her might at her friend, only to be hit with the one he threw at her a moment later. And so the walls never got painted as the paint was flung all over the floor in little splotches and all over them in great dollops.

***

"You're going to give me some, aren't you?"

The young prince was about eleven now, and his voice was slightly begging as he followed his friend, staring at the fruit she had in her hands.

"I had to work hard for this!" she shot back, her eyes never leaving the big, sweet fruit she held.

"Sharing is caring," he persisted.

"I guess I don't care for you that much then," she said defiantly.

The young prince scowled but continued to follow her until she reached the wall to the palace that had all the trees backed up against it. She settled down in the shade of one of the trees, and he stood over her, watching. She was suddenly struck with a thought.

"Do you think we'll be able to get onto the wall?" she asked, looking at the flat structure behind her.

The young prince's arms uncrossed as he too studied the wall.

"I don't know…" he said slowly, looking for a way. He spotted one. "I think we can get up using that branch," he said and both of them went over to inspect it.

"It's firm…" Mana said, then she tipped her head to one side and handed her fruit to the young prince.

"Don't eat any!" she warned him and then began to climb the branch, adding as an afterthought, "And don't peek!"

Her friend obediently did neither, although even thinking of doing the latter quite disgusted him.

"Prince! It's so beautiful!" Mana called in wonder from the top of the wall.

"Here, catch the fruit so I can climb up as well!" he called back to her and tossed the fruit up before climbing up himself.

"Look at the view!" Mana said in awe, her eyes as wide as her grin.

"It is pretty wonderful," he agreed, sitting next to her and swinging his legs like she swung hers.

Mana then turned her attention to her prize. Turning it over once in her hands she then split it roughly down the middle, the fresh flesh tearing easily as she applied the pressure in the right way. She handed one half to the young prince and set into her own half.

"Thank you, Mana," he grinned at her before getting stuck into the sweet fruit.

The two ate in silence, relishing as the cool, sweet juices hit their taste buds and ran down their chins. The young prince finished first and watched Mana as she slowly finished hers.

"You going to finish all of that?" he asked hopefully.

She gave him her best stern look, which wasn't very impressive.

"I gave you an entire half!"

He sighed dramatically and turned his attention to the sky. He suddenly grinned again.

"Hey, that looks like the bird we rescued the other day!"

Mana quickly started scanning the sky.

"Where? How do you know? Where?"

As she raked the air above them with squinted eyes the young prince, still grinning slowly reached over, his fingers stretched towards the small bit of fruit still in Mana's hand. She saw him just as he was about to grab it and twisted it out of his reach with one hand, her other slapping his outstretched one.

"It's mine!"

"It was worth a try," he laughed and Mana shoved him playfully on the shoulder.

"You're lucky it's a crime to hurt the next king," she muttered, pretending to be angry when in actual fact she didn't mind.

"Hmmm… that's true…" he grinned. "In that case," he said and reached for her fruit again.

She protested and tried to squirm out of the way again and this time he followed every move she made. Finally all the twisting and turning they did, and did very noisily I might add, unsettled their position from the wall and as the young prince made a particularly vigorous grab both of them fell off the wall and tumbled to the ground on the outside of the palace with a slight thump.

"Owwww… Mana, are you alright?"

"I'm ok. How about you?" she replied sitting up and shaking the sand out of her hair. Then her face fell. "But my fruit is full of sand," she said sadly looking at the morsel she would have loved to eat.

"I'm sorry, Mana," the young prince said, standing up and helping his friend up.

"It's ok," she said, the cheer returning to her at once. "The look on your face as you fell made up for it all," she giggled and he pulled a face at her.

"How are we going to get back inside?" he asked looking at the wall. "Oh look, there's another branch a little further on that's just like the one on the inside. We can use it to get back up." He smiled at his friend, but Mana wasn't looking at him.

Her eyes were on the city that lay invitingly in front of them. Her eyes were slightly hungry as she stared at the forbidden buildings before her. The young prince turned too, and a great longing took hold of him.

"We should…" he started. "Get back inside…"

"Yea," she agreed. "They'll be… looking for us."

"Yes," he said, not moving.

"Inside," she agreed, also not moving.

Then the two of them slowly turned and looked at each other. As their eyes met a grin etched itself on their faces and they both leapt forward at the same time.

"Come on!" the young prince laughed as the two of them ran at full speed towards the town, their hands finding each other's somewhere in mid run.

The town was everything they'd dreamed of and more. Everybody was luckily too busy to recognize either of them as they squeezed through the crowds, their eyes getting wider and wider as they went.

"This is wonderful!" Mana called to the young prince as they walked through the market place.

"I know!" he laughed back, staring at a stall that held an assortment of shiny objects.

After another few minutes of wondering around, Mana voiced the question that had been nagging at both of them.

"Why do you think we're not allowed here?" she asked him, her eyes fastened at a beautiful toy in the arms of a salesperson.

"I have no idea… Something about it being too dangerous…" he replied, distracted by the contents of another shop.

Her face screwed up as she tried to make sense of that.

"Dangerous?"

He nodded and explained further.

"Yes, they said that some people would want to go after me because I'm the next heir." Seeing her startled face he added quickly, "But that's a little dramatic. Besides, nobody here even knows I'm the prince."

She allowed herself to be soothed and forgot the question as the wonders of the town filled her again. But their peace couldn't last. As they rounded the next corner there was a stall that sold wine. A group of men were lounging around it, looking half asleep and all giggling rather stupidly. The two thought nothing of it, until one caught sight of them.

"By the name of Dedwen; it's the young prince!" one called in a slurring voice, looking unsteadily at the two, who stopped as he called out.

"Uhm no… you must be confusing me with-" the young prince began, but he was cut off.

"Oh don't try that now! I know you're the prince," the same man hiccupped, waving his hand as his friends squinted at the two friends.

"Atem, I think we should go," Mana whispered, tugging at her friend's sleeve.

"Hey young prince! How valuable are you?"

The young prince didn't answer, now nervous and Mana's tugging became more frantic.

"Or, more importantly, how many bottles of wine do you think your father would give me in order to see you and your friend safe again?" The man stood up and lumbered towards them.

"Atem!" Mana squealed.

"Run Mana!" he replied, catching hold of her hand and pulling her back the way they had come.

None of them looked back to see if the man was following them as they hit the crowds again, fighting hard to get through. As they were suddenly engulfed by a crowd that was going the other way, the young prince felt Mana's hand slip from his.

"Mana!" he yelled, turning around to find her, but she was gone. "Mana!"

"Atem!" he heard her cry from somewhere to his left, and he plunged into the crowd, searching franticly for her.

"Atem!"

This time the cry came from his right and he spun around again, heading in the opposite direction.

"Mana, stand still! I'll find you, stand still!"

He wove in and out of the crowds for a heart stopping ten minutes before he finally spotted her, standing petrified at a quieter corner of a house.

"Mana!"

She saw him and immediately ran to him, flinging her arms around him.

"Atem!" she sobbed.

He wrapped his arms tightly around her and let her head rest on his shoulder as she cried.

"Shhh, it's ok. We're safe now, Mana. You're safe now."

"Let's go back," she gulped, and he didn't argue at all.

The two of them had only a bit of difficulty climbing the wall again, and none on the way down into the palace gardens again. As they headed back towards the palace, however, Mahad saw their dirty clothes and Mana's tearstained face.

"Mana! What happened?"

"I fell off the wall," she said truthfully.

"Off the wall?" he repeated, shocked.

"Off the wall," Mana said again, feeling the young prince shift guiltily next to her.

"What were you doing on the wall?" Mahad asked incredulously.

"Eating my fruit," Mana replied, still being truthful.

"Oh… Are you hurt?"

"Nope," she replied.

"You two better get cleaned up before anybody else notices," Mahad said finally and the two nodded and went inside.

***

For a very rare occasion indeed all the children that lived in the palace or who had parents working at the palace were in one place. There were ten in total, and all of them stood in a little group outside the throne room doors. Although they all stood together it was clear that there were separate friend groups and those groups talked only amongst themselves. And so they waited, the excitement making them all fidget and twist around occasionally to check if anybody was coming. Finally, the people came and a hush fell upon the group at once.

Into the throne room went Aknadin and the young prince's father, followed by a troop of girls and boys, all in their late teens or early twenties. Mahad was one of them, and Mana shot him a huge grin as he passed. Of course, the children tried to follow the procession in, but a guard stopped them.

"I'm sorry, children, but you aren't allowed inside."

A groan and complaints rose from the excited and expectant children, but the guard did not even batter an eyelash.

"I'm sorry, but that is how it was ordered by the pharaoh. You will know soon enough which of those teens were chosen to be the priests."

While the others stayed at the door whinging and complaining, the young prince snuck off, not even waiting for Mana. He had no time to find her; he would tell her what happened later. He ran halfway around the throne room until he came to a place where a balcony had once been. The steps were hidden and only started a foot from the ground, but he was experienced in climbing it. Skimming up he snuck along the thin expanse of wall, careful to keep out of sight. There was a ledge a bit further on that was both comfortable to sit on and the best place for eavesdropping. When he reached his spot, however, he found that he was not alone.

"Hello Mana," he said quietly, sitting beside his friend and peering into the room below them that held the possible new priests.

"Do you think Mahad will make it?" Mana whispered back, craning her neck to spot their friend.

"I hope so," he returned, and both fell silent, waiting for the selection to begin.

But Aknadin was first giving one of his speeches that seemed to go on forever, and after a few minutes Mana spoke up again.

"Do you know what they're talking about when they speak of the 'great and powerful items' the priests are supposed to get?"

The young prince shook his head.

"No, unfortunately not. My father and uncle had a whole long discussion on it the other night, but it was in his room so I couldn't here a thing."

"Do you think they're as powerful as Master Aknadin said they would be?"

"I don't know… Remember, the crack was small so we couldn't hear much, but from what he was saying they'd be the most powerful things ever created, and I just don't know how anyone would be able to make something like that."

"Let alone something as in one, he said there are six ," Mana whispered back in grudging awe.

"Seven," the young prince corrected her. "He said he made seven items."

They both sat up straighter as Aknadin seemed to finish, but before anything else could happen Mana felt a hand on her shoulder. Jumping she twisted around to see a guard with raised eyebrows.

"I think the two of you better come with me," he said, and his un-hushed voiced echoed around the room and made the proceedings below stop.

Casting a wide-eyed glance at the young prince Mana followed the guard. The two were lead back down and into the throne room via the door, standing as close as they could to the exit and staring sheepishly at the floor. Even so, they couldn't help but see the half amused half exasperated look on Mahad's face as they were brought in.

"Well I suppose it is rather unintelligent to leave you out of this, Atem, so you may stay. But Mana will have to leave."

The young girl made no noise of protest and left without a backward glance, her cheeks still flaming slightly. The young prince watched her go and then turned back to his father. Four people were chosen from the group and to the young prince's utter delight Mahad was one of them. The other two males were called Shada and Karim, and the fourth person was a female by the name of Isis. After the others were sent out the atmosphere became even more serious, and the pharaoh revealed some information that made eyes widen, especially the young prince's.

"Now remember," the pharaoh concluded staring gravely at them all. "No one at all is to know what was told here. None of your friends, none of your family."

The young priests nodded, bowed and left. The young prince was about to do the same when Aknadin's voice stopped him.

"That applies to you two, Atem. Nobody is to know."

The young prince began to nod but his uncle had one more way to emphasize the point, and in doing so he actually made a loophole.

"Only the person you trust with your soul and Ka can know."

Aknadin thought, naturally, that the only person who could fit those criteria was the young prince himself; your Ka alone was more precious than life. The young prince nodded to this and left, slightly relieved to go. As soon as he set a foot out of the door he was bombarded with children, all begging to know what happened inside.

"I'm sorry, I cannot tell you," he said at least five times. "I swore I would not say."

Eventually the only one who didn't sulk off was Mana, who smiled at him as the two headed outside to a flight of steps that was very pleasant to sit on at that time of day.

"You're dying of curiosity, aren't you?" the young prince accused his friend laughingly.

Mana blushed, but admitted that she was.

"And yet you haven't asked?"

"You can't tell any one. I understand that," she replied, keeping the disappointment in her voice to a minimum.

The young prince looked at her for a moment, then checked over his shoulder and began to speak.

"They were all lined up in a row and my father started to-"

"You swore you wouldn't tell anyone!" Mana interrupted him, aghast. "I won't be the one who makes you break a promise to your father."

"Mana, I swore I would tell no one I didn't trust with my soul and Ka. And I would never dream of breaking that promise by telling anyone I didn't trust that much," he replied affronted.

"Now exactly," Mana muttered, looking at the ground.

She looked up, though, her eyes widening with the realization of what the young prince had meant and glowing with radiant happiness as he began yet again to tell her what had happened inside the throne room.

***

It would be good for him.

That was the argument they had used against him. It kept repeating in his head as he stood sullenly within the group of other boys. The saying was mocking him, and there was nothing he could do; he was there until the game was done.

He wasn't objecting to the company as such. In fact, he hardly knew the boys that were clustered around and behind him, all talking excitedly as they got ready. No, it was the simple fact that he had been forced to join, and that he could think of many better things he could be doing with his time. He sighed, knowing that he was stuck there with the knowledge of better things elsewhere and that annoying phrase continuously running through his head.

"So you were forced to join too, huh?"

The voice was quiet and shy in the young prince's ear and he turned his head slightly to find that the speaker was a youngish boy with odd coloured eyes. The young prince gave him a rueful smile.

"Yes I was… Were you as well?"

The boy nodded, understanding in his eyes.

"Since I was five. You get used to coming after a while. But if you don't like it, you never will."

Some panic filled the young prince at those words. Since the boy was five… Did that mean that this was not the last time he would be forced to attend this? He prayed with all his might it was a once-off thing. It wasn't as if the 'game' required any form of strategy whatsoever. All it comprised of was the group of them running around screaming holding a heavy wooden bowl and spear-like objects, piercing as many of the dummy birds they could find. The person who got the most was not rewarded or declared the winner or anything. The game simply ended when all the birds were caught and a fire was made wherein they were burned. Pointless and a waste.

And the worst of the worst was that it was labelled a man's sport. No girl's allowed. "The trick I learnt," the boy continued. "Is to help the game end as quickly as possible. Then you end quicker."

"Come now, Akher, don't lets give the prince the wrong idea," one of the older boys called, looking disapproving.

Akher backed away from the young prince, going slightly red.

"We are all very glad to have you join us today, your highness."

The young prince just nodded, not trusting himself to speak in case he told this older boy exactly how much he loathed being here. But even though he said nothing, the boy seemed to pick up on his distaste.

"Once you get into this, it is most enjoyable," he coaxed, and there were a few earnest nods from the surrounding boys. "It is a great source of recreation: no rules to contain you, no laws to say what you must and must not do, no restrictions. It's just you against the rest of them, all fighting for the self-glory you get if you win. Try it, you'll see," he said smoothly, holding out a spear and bowl to the young prince.

"Well…" the young prince hesitated.

The speech had made the game almost appeal to him. No rules, no restrictions, just freedom. To see how he ranked against the rest of these boys. To see how good he really was. It drew him in, making him forget about almost everything else, including the reasons he had thought of this game as stupid before. It was not stupid, it was ingenious.

"Thank you," he grinned, taking the things from the boy and receiving man grins in return.

The spear felt rather good in his hands, and the heavy wooden bowl had a safe feeling too. It also brought along the thought of strength that he could hold something that heavy with ease. And despite everything, he felt some excitement begin to leak through him.

"Are you ready?" the boy asked and the young prince nodded.

He was more that ready.
"What's she doing here?" a boy suddenly murmured and the group looked around.

It was Mana who was cautiously making her way towards the group, knowing she wasn't really supposed to be there. The young prince was about to call out a greeting, but somehow it got caught in his throat and would not emerge.

"What do you want?" another boy asked rudely.

Mana, however, wasn't daunted by such things. She gave her usual bright smile and spoke to the young prince, ignoring the others.

"Your teacher cancelled the afternoon lessons, so after this you're free. I just came to tell you, and to ask where you want to meet?"

"If he has the rest of the afternoon off, why would he want to spend it with you?" the older boy who had convinced the young prince sneered.

Mana blinked in surprise, and opened her mouth to reply, but she was overridden by another boy.

"He has the whole afternoon to play a proper guys game and you expect him to go off with a silly girl?"

Mana blushed slightly, finally being daunted by the words.

"Well I just thought-"

"You thought wrong, girl," the older boy sneered again. "He doesn't want to play with you. He's with the men now. Go away."

Mana turned to the young prince, question and a little confusion in her eyes. He knew what she wanted and expected to hear, and what he would tell her. But as he opened his mouth to speak the words he felt the boys' eyes on him, waiting for him to agree with them.

And so, instead he said, "Mana, I'm with the men now. Go away, I'll play your silly games some other time."

Mana's eyes widened and colour rushed into her cheeks. She didn't say a word and turned around, but after two steps she whirled around again, and there was anger contorting her face.

"Well then, I guess I only came here to tell you that you were free. Have fun with your… men . Don't feel obliged to return to my silly games any time soon."

"Oh come on, there's no need to be jealous, Mana. You'll get to do something big one day too."

As soon as the words left his mouth it was like a cold bucket of water was thrown over him, waking him from a dream he had been having. Mana's face twisted with more hurt and shame and she turned, but even as she did regret choked the young prince, and he was moving after her.

"Mana! Mana wait!"

He dropped the spear and bowl, hating them for what they had made him do and, ignoring the looks on the boys' faces charged after his friend, who was walking very quickly away, her head bent.

"Mana! I'm sorry, I didn't mean it! Mana!"

He reached out and caught hold of her hand, but she ripped it from his grasp without looking at him.

"Go play with your men, " she sniffed.

"Mana!" he called, but she didn't stop.

He bit his lip and sped up again, catching up and then overtaking her. He spun around so he was running backwards in front of her and, placing his hands on her shoulders stopped, forcing her to do the same.

"Mana, I'm so sorry. I don't know what made me say those things. You know they're not true. Please, Mana," he said desperately, and she finally looked up. "Mana, he continued, spurred on by her reaction. "I was a Ptah jesh. Please, forgive me?"

She continued to stare at him and for a few, sickening moments the young prince thought she might not forgive him at all. But then she smiled, and the sun burst through the clouds in her eyes.

"Alright, I forgive you," she said with a laugh. "You're very swayable, so it's no wonder they were bale to brainwash you."

He pulled a face at her and in a stern voice, "If I wasn't trying to be nice to you, I'd have you arrested for that."

"By who? Mahad?" she chortled.

The young prince had a thoughtful look on his face now.

"I wonder if he really would arrest you if I ordered him to…"

"He'd have to; you're the prince."

"True…" the young prince murmured, but he didn't look convinced entirely. "So what do you have in mind for us to do?"

Mana looked at him in a way that he knew meant she was dithering on whether to say what she wanted or what was right. Like all times, the right won out.

"You have to go back and complete the game. No, just listen," she said as she saw him about to interrupt with a grimace on his face. "You were ordered to do that, and so you will. We have the whole afternoon afterwards. We'll meet at the steps, alright?"

He sighed, knowing he was defeated.

"Alright, alright," he grumbled. "But if I start talking male dominance again, slap me!"

Mana grinned at him as he headed back. He felt the entire group of guys' eyes on him as he rejoined them, but none of them had the nerve to ask. And he was certainly not going to explain. He picked up the spear and bowl again, but this time they felt dead and dreadfully heavy. Just before the game started, the young prince saw Akher give him a smile of congratulations and admiration.

***

The new guard tower was a place that was so rich of stories, excitement, surprise and cosy corners that it wasn't a big mystery to why the two friends spent so much time there. The guards were a little uncomfortable at first to have the next pharaoh in their company, but after just an hour with him and Mana they forgot almost entirely of his status. Together the two best friends and the guards spent many hours telling stories, playing games and just relaxing together. And there was, of course, the few times the tower was used as a hiding place for the young prince.

It came without warning.

The sun was setting and candles were lit in the tower, ready for the approaching darkness. Both Mana and the young prince knew they had to go back to the palace soon, but both of them were putting off the moment for as long as they could. Finally, it was only the slave that came to fetch the young prince that made him leave. Mana, however, stayed as she wanted to hear the rest of the story a guard was telling. And so, the tri-coloured prince crossed the gardens only with the slave. He was first called to his teacher to explain why he hadn't pitched for his midmorning lesson that day, and he managed to spin a convincing story in that he had forgotten and hadn't heard the people calling, and that he was profusely sorry.

As he finally managed to escape and was making his way to the other end of the palace he became aware of a commotion. Curious, he wandered outside to see what was happening. What was happening made his heart stop and then leap into his throat.

The guard tower was on fire.

"What happened?" he yelled, finding the current head guard with the line a few meters away from the enflamed tower.

"We do not know entirely, your highness," the guard replied, having to raise his voice a bit against the inferno. "But we will be able to stop it as soon as the few who are trapped inside are taken out."

The young prince swallowed, hoping the answer to the burning question of dread in him would allow his heart to return to its proper position in his body.

"Mana made it out, right?"

The head guard did not reply, and the young prince thought he might not of heard. But as he was about to repeat his question the answer came, careful and almost too soft to be heard.

"We are trying everything in our power to get her out."

His insides disappeared and he forgot how to breathe. Mana was still inside. He stepped forward, intent on saving her, but the guard saw him and blocked his path.

"I am sorry, Prince, but you cannot go past here. It is too dangerous."

The young prince saw three other guards listening, ready to step in and stop him if he tried to bolt. And so, all he did was lower his head, putting on a stance of defeat. The head guard sighed in relief but even as he barked orders his attention did not wholly leave the young prince. Until a less experienced guard started yelling in panic, and his entire attention went to him.

As soon as the head guard's body shifted slightly and his mind was gone from the boy before him the young prince bolted.

To the depths of hell with dangerous, I won't sit and let her die!

There were yells thrown after him and many tried to stop him but none were successful. He wove through all of them and for once he was grateful for his conciseness. He pelted towards the flaming tower and as he reached it, he began to call to her.

"Mana! Mana!"

She heard him, even above the roar of the flames.

"Atem!"

He saw her, hovering at one of the few windows. Smoke was pouring from the room behind her and it was one of the few times her eyes had no trace of their light. They were cold and afraid.

"Mana jump!"

She hesitated, looking at the long way to the ground.

"Jump Mana, I'll catch you! JUMP!"

She jumped, squeezing her eyes shut and waiting for the ground to hit her. It never did. Instead, two arms caught her and although the owner of the arms staggered a lot he did not fall. Instead he carried her away from the heat and smoke and towards the safety of the palace. She would not let go of his shirt even when they reached the haven.

"Mana, it's alright, you're safe. You can open your eyes now."

She did so, to find her friends face close to hers, covered in soot and a mask of worry that cracked a bit as he smiled.

"Mana! Prince Atem!"

Mahad came jogging out of the crowed, looking ready to pass out from relief.

"Thank Ra you're… You're not hurt, are you?" When both of them shook their heads Mahad straightened up and the look on his face told them to get ready for one of his lectures. "Prince Atem, you really should not have gone in there," he started. Of course he could never yell at the heir to the throne like he could yell at Mana, but he did the best he could to compromise.

And so Mana and the young prince endured a fifteen-minute raving from their older friend that got less and less vicious as the shock wore out of his system. Mana was then taken away to be examined and cleaned up and the young prince was sent to his father. Mahad might not have been able to yell at the young prince, but his father could yell all he wanted.

And yell he did. For thirty minutes straight.

The young prince just stood, humbly promising to think next time but inwardly knowing he would do it again in an instant.

***

A wordless tune was being hummed below her breath as she skipped up the same path she had every single morning since a certain someone had been given the privilege of moving most of his lessons to much later in the morning on most days. On the mornings he still had lessons early he was forced to wake up early as well. On the mornings he was free…

"Morning, Mana."

She waved cheerily at the guard over her shoulder and then continued on her way, done skipping now. She reached the door and paused. Maybe today would be different. Maybe after the weeks and weeks of exactly the same thing happening, he'd learnt…

No sound came from within and she rolled her eyes. No such luck.

Opening the door she slipped inside the room that was cloaked in blackness. The blackness didn't daunt or stop her in the slightest. She just stepped through the room, dodging the various items she knew fell in her path even if she couldn't see them. She finally reached her destination, gripped the cloth firmly in her hands and ripped it open.

"Rise and shine!" she called happily, her eyes closed against the sudden searing blindness of the sun.

There was an incoherent moan from behind her. A moan that clearly said: "Oh Ra, not again…"

"Goooooood morrrrning!" she trilled happily, turning to beam at the person who had made the moan.

He was lying with his face in his pillow and he didn't even bother to answer her in any way. In the beginning he had complained from the very start, but after a while he had learnt that seeing as his complaining did absolutely nothing at all that it was better to savor the last moments of silence.

Mana sighed at the prince, shaking her head and putting her hands on her hips.

"You know you have to get up. Why make things difficult for yourself?"

"The whole point of having later lessons is so that I can sleep late," the prince groaned, his words muffled by the pillow.

"You have slept late," Mana said, refusing to be put out at all. "And even Me'Ahed agrees that you shouldn't sleep that late."

There were a few muttered words, as if the prince was telling Mana exactly what he thought of the woman healer. Mana tried not to giggle.

"Come on, prince," she sighed.

He didn't move and she shook her head, half amused half exasperated.

"You always have to make this difficult for yourself, don't you?" she pouted, moving to the side of his bed. "You know I'll win eventually. So why not just accept it and spare yourself all this in the beginning?"

He said nothing and Mana smiled despite herself. With a "suit yourself'" at the back of her friend she dived in and began to tickle him mercilessly. He couldn't stop himself from squirming away from her, his face pinched in an effort not to laugh. The more he twisted away, the harder she tickled until he finally swerved out of her reach. She was far from done, though.

Mana slipped to the bottom of his bed, threw back the covers and grabbed the prince's feet. But he had been through this for months and knew what to expect and so his hands shot out and grabbed the headboard, holding on to it as Mana tried to pull him off. She tried for five minute before letting his feet go again with a sigh. The prince immediately pulled them back under the covers and let go of the headboard.

"You know what's going to happen next, don't you?" she said pointedly, now next to his bed again on the other side, the side closest to where he was now hiding. "And I've got so much more after this."

However, just as she clicked her fingers and leant forward to start tactic number three, the prince's hands shot out and grabbed hold of her. Her face flickered to surprise and shock for a split second before she was pulled over the prince and onto the empty space on the bed next to him. She started to get up, but he was too quick for her and rolled on top of her, holding her beneath him.

"Atem!" she protested, trying to push him off.

"No way," he mumbled. "Today I win. Today you'll sleep right here until I'm ready to get up."

"Get off!" she growled lightly, moving her legs and trying to push him off of her.

"Not a chance," he said without even opening his eyes.

Mana struggled for a while longer and then gave up, pouting. She would have crossed her arms if she could move them in any way. But they were pinned to her side, and she was pinned to the bed, unable to move.

"You're heavy," she whined, hoping he would release her.

"Hmmm," was all she got in reply.

Then there was a knock on the door and the prince lifted his head and twisted around to see who it was at the same time Mana lifted her head to see. It was one of the guards, but as soon as he saw Mana and the prince and the position they were in he turned a shade of bright magenta and left at the speed of light. Mana and the prince looked at each other and burst out laughing, realizing what it must have looked like to the poor man.

"Alright, you win again Mana. I'm getting up."

She gave him a smug look and rolled out from underneath him before he could change his mind. She then turned away and let him get dressed, which took about three minutes as all he had to do was pull on his gold and a top.

"So what do you have in store for us this morning?"

"Well I think we should first go and stop the rumours that have no doubt began to circulate… Then I've got a surprise destination!"

He gave her a weary look.

"I don't like the sound of that… Remember what happened the last time you took me to one of those?"

"Oh don't worry," she said cheerfully. "it'll be lots of fun, I promise!"

Then, in true Mana fashion she grabbed his hand and yanked him out of the room after her.

***

It is a well known fact that the more you hate doing something, the longer it takes to get through it. It takes even longer when in charge is someone who likes perfection and won't let you leave until he deems it perfect. In short, the prince was enduring torture for an hour and a half before he was rescued.

It might have been less bothersome if it only happened once and twice. But he had been forced to do it every day for the last five days. And it never preceded an hour long. Every day he had been dressed in fake gold and made to go through ritual after ritual he'd have to go through when he was pharaoh. He knew he had to do it, but that didn't mean it was fun.

"The Prince has been requested elsewhere," a voice finally interrupted, and he nearly got down on his knees to thank Ra.

"Oh alright then… I suppose he will have to… Yes, yes fine, you may go."

The prince bowed his head slightly to the teacher and waked towards Mana, who was fighting back a smile at the look on his face. She fell into step next to him and the two of them exited the throne room, walking normally and looking straight ahead. They rounded the corner, making them out of sight of basically everybody. Their eyes slid slowly from in front of them to each other's gaze without stopping or changing gait. Their eyes met, they grinned.

And then they were off, as suddenly as if they had been fired from a cannon. They sprinted as fast as they could to the wall, flew over it to the outside world and then began to sprint again, heading straight for the banks of the Nile.

"Atem…" Mana started to pant, catching sight of what her friend was doing. But then she just shut her mouth and continued to run.

The prince was still running too, but as soon as he was off palace grounds he began to take off the gold. His fingers ripped off the golden metal and flung it away roughly, quickly starting on the next item. He was almost desperate to get all of the gold off; to get off the reminders of what he was and would one day be.

By the time they reached the Nile banks, he was completely gold-free except for the one item of his own, real gold he had been allowed to keep on for the practice. The yell that escaped his throat was sudden, unplanned and wild. Mana heard it, skidded to a stop and turned to grin at him, a fire of freeness and happiness blazing in her eyes.

He laughed and sprang forwards, grabbing her in a tackle and flinging her gently to the ground. She grabbed a handful of mud and flung it at him, hitting his square in the face.

It carried on like that for twenty minutes. When they were finished throwing mud and were too filthy to be recognized they moved onto the water, splashing and carrying on like little children. Finally they crawled, sopping wet yet clean and exhausted onto the riverbank and collapsed, panting and closing their eyes as the sun beat down on them.

"How are you going to find all of it?" Mana finally asked.

She knew he didn't want to think about anything to do with the palace, but he would get into trouble if he lost any of the gold.

"I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. Right now, as far as I'm concerned I don't have to go back to anything; I can stay right here for ever."

She smiled and turned back to the sky, leaving it at that. But it was him who broke the silence again a while later.

"You have so much freedom in you, Mana."

"And that's a good thing?" she enquired, looking at him to try and guess the expression on his face.

His eyes flew open and locked onto hers.

"Defiantly," he said earnestly. "In fact, if you didn't and you weren't my friend my life would… suck."

She gave him a confused look and he tried to explain it.

"You know if you take a tomato and put it close to a piece of bread the taste of the tomato runs into the bread and so when you bite the bread it tastes like tomato too? And you know how the closer you put the tomato the taste of tomato on the bread gets stronger? Well it's like that with us. The closer you are to me, the more of your freedom runs off onto me. Mana, if you weren't here, I'd have none of the freedom I do now. Without your friendship…"

"You wouldn't be free, would you?" she murmured, seeing the truth in this. Then she smiled. "But you're stuck with me, so there's no need to even think 'what if'."

They grinned at each other again and then went back to watching the birds swoop above them, as free as they were for the moment.

***

Another sunny day. What a surprise. She watched the sun as she walked down the hall, wondering what to do until Mahad, or as he was now called Master Mahad, was free again. Her stomach still did little flips when she realized she was training to be a magician. She, Mana, was going to be a magician and she was being taught by Master Mahad. She had dreaded the day she turned twelve, for that was the day she would be told what she had to do to 'earn her keep'. She had been scared of having to be a slave, and it didn't help matters that the prince had no say whatsoever in the matter.

And then she had been told she would be a magician.

She grinned, long and wide. As she skipped past the steps her and the prince had used to sit on, a wave of sadness hit her. She hadn't seen him in a while. Her lessons and his always seemed to be scheduled so they were at totally different times, and they didn't have a moment where they were both free. As if he had read her thoughts, the prince suddenly walked around the corner and Mana's face nearly split she grinned so wide.

"Mana!"

"Atem!"

They grinned and hugged each other.

"I haven't seen you in ages!"

"Me either! How's it been going?"

He pulled a face. "Boring, actually. With you?"

"Wonderful," she laughed. "So you're free now?"

"Yes. And you are too?"

"Just for half an hour."

His face fell slightly.

"When do you get off again?"

"In an hour," she said, hopeful.

But he shook his head. "I start then."

She frowned. "And you end…?"

"An hour and a half after that…"

"I've just started then…" she sighed, disappointed.

"Aaaw… Oh, but I'm going to have to change the times of our…" he checked no one was listening and lowered his voice. "escape tomorrow. Just by an hour and a half."

"Oh but… I have class then…" she said, disappointment clouding her face.

"Oh… Uhm… We'll just make it another time, then."

"Yea… And while we're on the subject… I won't be able to be at the banquet."

"But… We gad it planned for weeks…"

"I know, and I'm really sorry but-"

"You have a lesson. So basically you'd much rather go to one of those then spend time with me," he replied, a little irritated as he realized he wouldn't be seeing her for ages.

A slightly hurt look crossed Mana's face.

"Come on, you know that's not true… And besides, you cancelled on me too."

"I didn't cancel, I postponed."

"So you're allowed to change things to fit your schedule but I'm not?" Mana replied, hurt making her voice sharp.

Normally he would have just smoothed it over with an appology, but for some odd reason he felt betrayed, angry and ready for a fight.

"I'm not choosing to do this, it's not a hobby or a passing fad or-"

"A passing fad?!" Mana was now on her feet, her face full of disbelief. "How can you say that? You know how much this means to me. At least you would if you spent any time with me."

"Oh so now it's my fault?!" he was on his feet too.

"Maybe it is!"

"You know you're being really stuck up and obstinate. If you just calmed down I could order Mahad to reschedule your lessons-"

"Have you stopped to think that maybe I really want to go to the lessons when Master Mahad is actually free to give them? You can't order your way through life, Atem."

His face twisted.

"You seem to think you'd be able to magic your way through life."

"At least it takes a bit of effort!" Mana choked, her voice thick with tears.

"Oh well in that case I suppose I better go and sit down before all this effort gets to me. And don't bother about the banquet, I'm glad I don't have to watch over you the whole time."

Mana's face twisted in hurt and for one of the rare times her eyes were filled with no happiness at all. In its place was hurt and anger that made them look cold.

"Oh you won't be alone; all you need to do is order somebody to sit next to you. And don't worry, you'll never have to watch over me again because you'll never see me again!"

"Good! I'm finally free from you and your childishness!" the prince fumed, turning to go.

"You spoilt… arrogant pampered palace BRAT!" Mana cried, storming off in the opposite direction with the tears now flowing down her face.

For the rest of the day they both did their own equivalent of sulking. Everybody noticed that they were upset about something, and when the news got out that both of them were upset two and two was put together. They all thought it would get better, but by dinner time they were still not speaking to each other, which caused a lot of problems by the table and finally resulted in Mana leaving early. The next day, they hoped, would be better. But whenever they passed each other they looked in opposite directions and wouldn't speak at all. Finally, at the end of the day Master Mahad sent Mana to drop something off in the library, which was close to the prince's room. He had hoped she would enter and apologize but all she had done was pause for a moment at the door before walking on. Master Mahad could just sigh and hope they would work it out.

It was pretty late in the evening, yet the prince was not asleep. He lay on his back and watched the ceiling, thinking about everything else except what his mind really wanted to think about. Had he really said those things? How could he? And what she had said to him…

He sighed. Would she want to forgive him? Probably not… But it was killing him to lie there knowing she hated him. It didn't matter if she wouldn't forgive him, he had to at least try.

He leapt out of bed and grabbed whatever he could find, stuffing the blanket just in case somebody peeped in while he was away. His hand was on the door when a sound caught his attention from his window. He looked, over, curious and froze, his hand still on the door.

Mana froze too, her foot still halfway through his window.

Apparently they had made up their minds to go and apologize at the same time and now they stood, an awkward silence falling. Then they both began to speak at once.

"Mana, I'm so sorry, I don't know why I said those things. Please forgive me?"

"Oh Atem, I'm sorry! I didn't mean to say all of that… of course it's not your fault. Forgive me?"

They both stopped and smiled slightly at each other.

"Sit out on the roof?" the prince asked, and she nodded.

At first they sat about a foot apart, staring at the sky. Then the prince broke the ice.

"Do I really act like a pampered palace brat?" he asked, half teasing and half sincere.

"Oh no, of course not!" Mana said, abashed. "I don't-"

"Mana," he interrupted her, laughing. "it's alright. I was only joking, I know."

She smiled a small smile and there was another silence, which the prince broke by saying, "And before you ask, yes you do act like a hoity-toity magic girl."

She punched him lightly.

"You wish! That would make you feel better, wouldn't it?"

He snorted, but the atmosphere was right again. It was as if nothing had happened and without knowing it, they closed the gap between them until they were leaning on each other, side to side. They talked for ages up on the roof, watching the stars and when Mana fell asleep on his shoulder the prince smiled at her and did exactly what he always did when their roof adventures ended that way: he picked her up and gently and easily carried her back to the hut that was now hers.

***

Once again there was a group, but this time the gathering was accidental. They all milled around, their separate pairs or smaller groups, casting each other looks from time to time. It was within this group that Mana and the prince started a mini bicker that turned into a tickle and poke fest and ended with them both laughing on the floor, half entangled with each other. The other groups watched this in wonder, then was apparent understanding.

"We have to go," one boy finally said to the group and bowing at the prince. "Wonderful to see you all, and good luck you two," he eyed Mana before he turned and left.

"Yes, I hope you can continue like you are without anybody noticing…" his friend said and with a bow left too.

Mana raised her eyebrow at the prince who did the same, none the wiser. It got weirder as, one by one the others said goodbye as well, saying similar things. Mana got more and more bewildered and if the prince raised his eyebrows any higher they were in danger of disappearing into his hair. It was as the last two girls left that light was finally shed on the matter.

"How long do you think they've been together and how can nobody see it, especially not Master Aknadin? He usually sees everything!" one whispered.

"I don't know. Qetesh must be smiling down on them very heavily indeed!" her friend replied, also in a whisper.

"Qetesh?" Mana asked, puzzled. "The goddess of love? What does she… Oh." Her eyes got wide and she looked at the prince. "Oh!"

He looked at her too, a splutter of laughter escaping from him.

"They think that we… are…"

"Oh my Ra," Mana giggled. "No wonder they looked like they were witnessing a scandal! Oh I hope they don't tell anybody about what they think or we'll have Master Mahad on our cases before we can blink!"

"Never mind Mahad, what about Aknadin? He's going to skin as alive," the prince chortled, half amused and half mortified. "How could they think that? They all know we've been friends for forever…"

"I know, it's weird… They're so wrong it's funny."

They both looked down the hall where the others had disappeared, amused looks on their faces. Mana's look froze and turned to blankness as she looked back at her friend.

"Right?" she said, suddenly unsure.

He opened his mouth to tell her of course they were wrong, the whole lot of them, but the words died on his lips as his eyes met hers. And suddenly he was unsure too. They sat there for whoever knows how long, staring at each other and wondering what on earth to do. The prince suddenly became aware that his mouth was still open.

"Well," he gulped. "We are… really close… And we've known each other…"

"For forever…" Mana finished for him, her voice strange.

"Yea… So do you think… they could be right?"

"I think… there's a chance…"

"Should we take that chance?"

"O… Ok…"

They were both nervous and leaned in, their eyes never leaving each other's. when they were closer, they both closed their eyes, took a deep breath and…

Pulled away.

It was impossible to see who pulled away first; they both did at the same time. And they both spoke at the same time then.

"I'm sorry, it's just too much like kissing my sister."

"I can't! It's like kissing my brother!"

They heard what the other was saying.

"Really?" they asked in unison, their faces cracking with utter relief and understanding. "That's great!"

A spout of nervous laughter followed that grew until they were both laughing at their own stupidity.

"I can't believe we were about to…" the prince gasped.

"I know! How could I think there was any way at all that we could…? Arg! That's scary."

"Do you really think I'm that a bad kisser?" he teased.

"It's not that, I just don't like you enough." She paused, her head to one side. "Wait, that came out wrong… I like you enough, just not enough for that enough to be enough… Get it?" she asked hoping he got it better than she did herself.

He laughed. "I think what you're trying to say is what the way I feel: I love you, Mana, with all my heart, but just not in that way. You're a sister and the closest friend I'll ever have in this life, but nothing more."

"Yea," she laughed. "that's what I wanted to say."

"Then why didn't you say it?" he smirked.

She pulled a face at him and he laughed, taking her hand and walking with her the same way the others had gone. They were all in the hallway, talking but they stopped as they heard the pair's approach. Their eyes nearly bugged out of their heads when they saw the two holding hands in public. Mana grinned at the prince.

"Just so you all know, you're way off with your assumptions. Atem and I are just friends. Always have been, always will be," she said calmly, knowing full well 'just friends' didn't explain their friendship at all.

"Just friends?" a boy repeated eyeing their hands.

"So…" a very bold girl spoke up. "You don't… Love him?" she rushed the words out, but everybody around her hung to them, waiting for the answer.

"Of course I do, silly," she laughed, almost enjoying their utterly gobsmacked faces.

"But you're just friends?" the boy repeated again.

"Just friends," this time it was the prince who replied.

As the group tried to work this out while staring at them Atem and Mana exchanged a grin and a wink. Only they would understand their bond.

***

"Now," Shadi concluded. "You have understanding."


Ehem… was that a bit long? Wait I'll answer that for myself: HECK YES.

I apologize profusely: once I stared, I couldn't stop. And the result of my rambling is this: a very late, very mundane-plotted, very SUCKISH birthday present. I'm sorry for the general suckishness of this whole thing… Anyway, now for some explanations:

'her name is Mana': I couldn't help but make everybody say that… it made me laugh to write it every three seconds so yea…

Osiris: An Ancient Egyptian god. He was considered the dead king who watched over the netherworlds. The reason I used his name is because the goddess Isis was his sister/wife (I forget which) and I thought it fitting.

Mana's reason: Just to make it utterly clear, the biggest part of why Mana was there was because by accident, but Kaiba was right too. There was definitely a part of her who wanted to tag along to see Atem. AND there was a second person she wanted to stay with. You know who I'm talking about right? *nudge, nudge, wink, wink*

Duke's infatuation: I just HAD to make him like Mana the little bit he did. It just made Mana calling Mark Duke all the funnier, at least to me.

Maat: Egyptian 'Lady of Truth and Order'.

Little and young: I used the name 'little prince' for Atem until he was about seven years old, 'young prince' from seven to thirteen and just 'prince' from twelve he became the pharaoh. I was originally going to make it thirteen before he stopped being the 'young price', but I reread an Ancient Egyptian book and saw that their teenage years started at twelve. So twelve it has been changed to.

Names: As you will have noticed, I used all the dub names. For once I can understand why 4Kids changed a name… I mean come on, Akhenaden and Akhenamkhanen?!

Little prince playing against Mana: Good Ra, he was that competitive even when he was a kid?!

Baal: Egyptian god of thunder.

The paint: For those who don't know, paint was made with crushed plants and reeds and so it needed to be laid out to set before the colours properly formed.

Dedwen: The 'fiery serpent' god. (There were no pig gods, so I chose second best to describe those drunkards: 'You are what you curse by')

The Items: I haven't watched much of the fifth season (Blame South Africa's TV stations) but as far as I know the Millennium Items were created when Atem was still quite small, but were only given to the priests when they were ready for them.

Four out of the group: I do know how to count. The fifth priest is Seto, who only comes later and the sixth Aknadin who was there already.

Ka: Now really, if you don't know what that is by now…

Atem telling Mana: In case you didn't get the meaning behind that: trusted her with his soul and Ka. (can you saw 'aaaaw sweeeet!')

Ptah Jesh: Ptah is 'the creator' according to the Ancient Egyptian's religion. And jesh is loosely translated into 'idiot' or, in a few cases, 'asshole'. So translated it means "the creator's idiot", which was a way of calling someone (or yourself) a real great big idiot. Or asshole ^^'

The pulling-onto-the-bed thing: All credit goes to Rox! ALL CREDIT It was her idea.

The fight: Ok, I admit they were both kinda ooc, but all friends fight. It's a natural thing. And so I included a bigger tiff of there's to balance their relationship, to show that they are real. Sound weird? Yea I think so too.

Qetesh: As explained above she is the goddess of love and beauty.

Closest friend: Please not I said 'in this life'. So please, don't kill me. I didn't forget about little Yugi at all.

I promise I'm done now. Once again I apologise for the length and utter horridness of the fic and I hope with all my might that I didn't portray anybody's characters in a way that they hate…