Disclaimer: I don't own Yu-Gi-Oh. I just occasionally make fun of the people who do.


For WhiteAsh001

Amidst the scattered cards they stood, locked together in an ugly embrace. Bakura's legs buckled as he drove the knife forward, his jacket whipping at his sides like something out of a Frank Miller graphic novel. Terrible words passed between his lips as the blade made quick work of its target, passing between flesh and muscle and sinking deeply into unsuspecting organs. With a single twist, it reached its gruesome apex, and the blood inevitably followed.

"So this is your happy ending," he commented wryly, "Nice touch, eh?"

The Pharaoh stared into those soulless eyes. Not a trace of regret or redemption. The hatred he perceived was matched only by the pain he now felt, as the knife gouged away at the emptiness within him where once there had been purity and restraint. He could feel his very life force passing away in this nameless alleyway. He could hear the words spoken by his ancestors as they called to him, as they did so every day of his spiritual existence, asking him to throw down what remained of his mortal coil and join them in the other place. But not this day. He could not face them. Not after what he had allowed Bakura to do. Not after that betrayal.

"You monster!" he cried. "Yugi was innocent! Innocent!"

"And his innocence is precisely what damned him to this."

A hand lashed out and caught Bakura across the side of the face. A weak attempt at a strike, but a strike all the same. His expression was unchanging - malicious, contemptuous, joyful, and cold. The Pharaoh roared, pulling his left arm back violently and hurling a vengeful fist into the wall beside Bakura's head. Still the knife remained firmly planted between their bodies, representing the connection that had bound their destinies together throughout antiquity. Death. Murder. Revenge.

Again, the knife was twisted. The Pharaoh couldn't tell if the groaning noise that followed came from his mouth or Bakura's, or perhaps both. Agony racked his body and he resisted the temptation to vomit as his once proud posture became mutilated into a shambling, angry stance. The stance of a man on the verge of hopeless insanity.

For Yugi was gone.

"You chose to play my Shadow Game," Bakura chuckled, teeth like fangs glinting softly in the twilight. "It's not my fault you didn't study the rules carefully enough." Bakura reached into his pocket, and the Pharaoh half-expected him to draw yet another weapon. Instead, he revealed the Change Of Heart trading card, clutching it between his slender fingers like the grim reaper showing him what few grains of sand remained before it was his time to pass on. "It was our hosts that were at stake. Surely you knew this. Innocence, Pharaoh. That was the key word in our little tête-à-tête. And you lost yours long ago. So why would you be crying over such an inevitable outcome?"

Once more, the knife made its sickening rotation, like a clock counting towards midnight. "It isn't right to use them like this!" The pain was unbearable. Without Yugi, it was as if a piece of him had gone missing - the piece that balanced his very being. Inside him there was an uncontrollable river that constantly threatened to engulf him, mind, body, and soul, and Yugi had been the bridge that spanned it, allowing him to regard it with cool indifference. Now the bridge had collapsed, and he was drowning in it. "You cannot be allowed to go unpunished!"

"Then punish me!" Bakura laughed, the back of his head cracking repeatedly against the wall as he relished in his enemy's suffering. Both their hands were on the knife now, their eyes burning with a fire neither had witnessed in any of their duels. Had Yugi still lived, the Pharaoh would never have let him witness this side of himself. But he was gone - lost to the shadows. The game had come to an end. "Punish me for what you did to him! Do it if you can, Pharaoh! For I very much doubt you have it in you anymore!"

Then the knife slid, like a dog backing out of its kennel upon hearing its name, and they were scuffling over the wet blade, blood still pouring from the wound. Bakura drove a knee somewhere soft and sensitive, and the Pharaoh doubled over with a disappointed wheeze. Then it was his turn to fight back, planting the palm of his hand solidly into Bakura's ever laughing face, driving it into the wall with such a force that the very brickwork seemed to crack. The knife fell into a puddle, and Bakura followed suit.

"Coward!" bellowed the Pharaoh, standing over the man he'd once called nemesis. Now other words came to mind. Snake. Murderer. Assassin. Monster. "Bakura! Get up!" He gripped Bakura by the arm and wrenched it backwards, eliciting a few unenthusiastic moans. "I want you to look me in the eye and beg for forgiveness."

Bakura stared up at him, one eyelid trembling as if he were struggling to comprehend the Pharaoh in this new light. This vengeful, driven force that had grabbed him and thrown him to the wall, struck him down, and now wished to hear what was essentially an apology and a promise never to do it again. It was enough to make him laugh.

"Forgiveness…? What is there to forgive?" Blood was escaping his body quicker than before. He had often been the one to draw his own blood. Until now, nobody had ever done it for him. "I am proud of you, Pharaoh. I am proud of us both. We were true to ourselves, until the very end. When you stabbed me, you justified every single thing I've ever set forth to accomplish. I thank you for that. But forgiveness?" He laughed a final time, blood welling between his teeth as the internal injury took its hold. "I ask for no such thing."

The Pharaoh watched as his greatest enemy died a slow, painful death. The knife had not been his to use, but he had taken it. As soon as he'd felt Yugi's soul fade from existence, he had lost all reason, all sense, all humanity. So he took the knife from Bakura, just as Bakura had taken Yugi from him, and without thinking he'd proceeded to stab, to gouge, to twist. Just to make Bakura feel as empty as he did now.

And then, as a pale sun began to rise, he held the knife close to him and wept for what he had become.