A small teen, home schooled for as long as he can remember, his family moving from place to place for reasons only his grandfather knows, is forced to watch as his only living relative is killed for not revealing his whereabouts. Stuck in a hidden room, Yugi witnesses the attackers torturing his grandfather for the only info he is unwilling to give. When the murder is reported, Yugi ends up in the care of an antagonistic, world weary undercover officer, whose family was murdered years before. The longer they are on the run from crooked cops, and an insane political system, the more they fall for each other. Will they be able to figure out who's behind the diabolical plot before Yugi is caught? Or will they both die in vain?

~ o ~ O ~ o ~

September 28, 1995

"Oh really? …Pity, he was quite likable. Oh well. Kill them. Make it look like an accident; the storm should cover up any undue noise. Oh, and fix it so that I'll become the boy's guardian. Yes. We can't have anything bad happening to the child before he's old enough for the ritual. Right. Now do it." Setting the receiver back down on its base, he folded his hands and leaned his chin on top of them, looking back out into the dark, moonless sky. The storm was rolling in quickly tonight. Good.

It truly was a pity. Nice guy, nice family, nice little boy. A very nice little boy. So bright, so worthy of the ritual. Never had he come across that much power, that much brightness from one little soul. Too bad the boy's father suspected him; it would have been nice to play with them for a while before doing what he had to. They would have had years of fun together, the boy was so young right now. Oh well, he had other toys to play with. If any of this came out, he would be ruined. Him and a lot of other…powerful people. Next time he would be more careful before he approached one of the worthy, the pure. One of the light. No one could ever know of his intentions.

Later that same night:

"Do you really think we ought to be doing this? Really Akim. What if he already knows?" The fear evident in Iori's voice made her usually low tone almost shrill. "I mean, he seems to know everything."

"We'll be okay, honey, even if we have to go into hiding. And he doesn't suspect a thing right now. He doesn't know that we've set up this meeting. No one but the man that we're meeting with even knows. He mentioned something about some of the cops maybe being paid off. That's why we're doing this low key. After this gets out though, Keith said that we will probably need to leave. That means your father too. But at least we'll be okay. We'll be alive. Yugi will live." The confidence in her husband's voice reassured her.

Iori turned to look out the car's window, watching the lightning as it soared across the pitch black sky, illuminating the shadows for a brief second before the world was plunged into darkness once again. The thunder coming so soon afterwards signaled another lightning strike somewhere close by. Akim seemed certain that the man he was accusing had no idea that they even suspected anything. She supposed that since the officer they had talked to earlier knew of what they spoke, and had in fact set up a meeting with them, that everything would work out. At least someone believed her husband. This man that Akim was accusing was very rich, very powerful…and very evil. And it stood to reason that he hadn't been caught because he was feeding someone's pocket book.

The brunette shivered delicately, rubbing her hands over her shoulders to warm her body. She had only come to this meeting to lend her support to her husband, leaving their only son in the care of her father. What she really wanted to do was take her only child and run. Hide out in a far corner of the earth from this terrible evil. And to think, there were others involved. Just the thought made her hair stand on end. To do that to teenagers, just children really. It was a horrible mental image. Her son would make it past the age that these people deemed right for this cruel, deadly ritual. She would make sure of it. But until he hit the age of eighteen, she would always be jumping at shadows, afraid they might bite.

"What the hell?"

Iori was torn out of her thoughts by her husband's cry as he slammed hard on the brakes, bringing the car to an immediate halt in the middle of the bridge. Looking out the windshield, she saw that the bridge they were crossing was blocked at the end by no less than eight different vehicles. And on the top of one of them was a man aiming something directly at their car.

"Say goodnight." Raphael laughed as he pushed the button on the small remote-like device.

There wasn't even time to put the car into reverse. After the initial explosion in front of their Benz, there was a horrible rumbling sound, like an earthquake, beneath their car. Iori screamed as the bridge gave way, sending their car plummeting into the turbulent river more than 100 feet below.

Raphael jumped down off the roof of the Hummer. Sauntering over to the edge of what used to be the bridge to town. "Well, that's that. Keith, call the boss. He should have our target by now. Men, move out. Cover your tracks. We don't want the idiotic press to think this was anything more than a tragic accident." Stooping down, he picked up a piece of charred metal, threw it off the edge of the drop off and walked away as fat raindrops began falling from the sky, helping to erase the evidence of foul play.

Elsewhere in the town of Vale:

"Grandpa, are the bad men gone?" A small voice whispered.

A tug on his pant leg. Siamun shushed the child. They had to be very quiet right now. It wasn't safe yet. There were at least five men, from what he had counted earlier. And god knew how many more were roaming their property, searching for them while they cowered in the thorny bushes. He was lucky that Yugi understood the need to be very quiet. But then again, the small boy who was currently trembling against his leg understood a whole lot more than he should have at his young age. Some would have called the boy gifted. He wasn't sure that was the right word, or at least sense of the word. Yes, Yugi was gifted, but his gift was of understanding, of knowing things before he should. Not saying that he wasn't smart. The kid was bordering on brilliant, and yes, Siamun was biased. But his being gifted was meant in a totally different sense of that word.

The old man was broken out of his reverie by the shrill beeping of a cell phone not five feet from where they were standing. One of the men was very close to their hiding place in the prickly bushes at the rear of their house. Closer than he had realized. The thought that this man could sneak up on him so quietly scared Siamun stiff, his hair standing on end. What if he had heard Yugi?

"Keith. Are you reporting good news?...Oh goodie. Wonderful…No, I'm afraid that they were able to get away for now. No worries my boy. They'll surface somewhere soon. We have everything being watched right now. They have no money, no place to hide. They'll never make it out of town. And the boy, he is school age, they'll have records of family. We'll send out a bulletin…Right then. Goodbye." The shadowed figure tucked the phone back into the clip at his waist and moved further towards the rear of the house.

The old man let out the breath he didn't know he had been holding. The man hadn't heard them. That voice, it sounded eerily familiar. He had definitely heard that voice somewhere before. But for the life of him, he didn't know where.

As the shadowed figure drew completely away from their hiding place, Siamun heard a small sniffle from the child attached to his leg. "Shhh. Just a few more minutes Yugi, please." He whispered to the child.

"That man killed mommy…daddy. I told them I din't like him. And he killed them. He's a bad man."

The small whisper floated up to him. The old man could hear the tears clogging his grandson's voice. He hugged the slight figure tighter to him as they waited for what seemed like eternity. Tears rolled down his weathered face. For a moment he wondered how the boy knew what happened. But that was Yugi; he just knew things like that.

The two stayed in the bushes until the sun began to make an appearance in the early hours of dawn. They wouldn't be hidden for much longer. But then again, the leader of the men who invaded their home last night didn't seem to be worried at all. He was pretty sure that he would have his hands on them soon enough. Obviously, he had never run up against a determined Siamun Hitori before.

As the rays of the sun invaded their hiding place, the duo made their way painfully out of the bushes, taking care to be as quiet as possible. The man may have been gone, but he had left an escort outside their house. The blue car sitting in plain sight, men with their eyes trained on the silent house waiting for any sign of movement through the open curtains. A quick peek from around the corner of the house told Siamun all he needed to know.

The old man took his grandson's hand, and together they made their way away from their home. Taking one last look at the house he had raised his family in, Siamun nodded to himself. He owed it to Iori and Akim to keep their son alive. If Yugi said that they were dead, then he believed it. The name Solomon Motou had a nice ring to it. It was his great grandfather's name. And now it became his. He wouldn't complicate Yugi's life by choosing another name; the boy was already used to his own. And thanks to new age, names like his were commonplace. There would be time enough for tears later. Right now, it was time to disappear for a while.

~ o ~ O ~ o ~

Domino, Ohio – Twelve years later

"Yug, man, where ya been? We've been waiting all afternoon for you." Jou motioned his smaller friend over to where the group was playing one of the arcade's many racing games. Throngs of teenagers were milling around the area, each waiting for a turn at the popular games.

"Sorry Jou. Grandpa made me finish all of my homework first. I swear you guys have it made going to a public school. At least each subject means a different teacher." Seventeen year old Yugi Motou huffed in frustration, blowing an annoying lock of blonde hair out of his face.

His friends were so lucky. They got to hang around other people their own age. And have recess, and spring break. He didn't have these things, his grandfather taught him at home. Telling him that there was too much violence in the public schools. That was his reason for keeping Yugi at home. And all the protesting in the world didn't help the small teen's cause one bit.

But now Yugi was old enough to enroll in college courses. He had argued long and hard to enroll in the online courses that were coming up this semester. In the end his grandfather broke down and let him sign up. The old man knew he couldn't keep the teen from going for his dream. The dream of some day being an archaeologist. It was all Yugi had wanted to be ever since he was a little boy.

"So, did he let you sign up for the classes?" Honda asked his small friend.

"God I hope so. It'll be so awesome to have the chance to talk to you at school. Instead of just on the weekends." Anzu gushed, giving Yugi a small wink.

Yugi ducked his head before giving a broad smile, "Yep. I did that last week. It took two whole days of fighting, but he finally caved. He won't let me do it at the school, but I'll get to be in the same class as you. We can email notes or something like that."

Yugi had met his small group of friends not too long after he and his grandfather had moved to Domino two years ago. To date, this was the longest they had stayed in one place. It may have had something to do with his grandfather's failing health. His old man just wasn't able to do what he used to. So the small teen got to hang out and have friends of his own this time, instead of making a friend and moving not too long afterwards. The group even studied together, since they were all taking the same subjects.

Yugi was pretty proud of the fact that he was able to enroll in the college courses, even if they were online. His friends were in those classes too. Even though they were only seniors in high school, their academic records were outstanding. So the high school counselor thought they might benefit from some of the local college's online courses. When they brought the idea up to Yugi, he worked on his grandfather until the man caved in to his wishes.

The teens chatted as they played some of the new games that the arcade had just set up. Being as it was a Friday night, they had a little extra time before they had to go home. As they got bored of the games, the foursome found their way towards the small eating area in the arcade.

"So, are you ever going to answer me, Yugi?" Anzu posed the question that Yugi had been dreading ever since he got to the arcade.

"Eh? Oh right, sorry Anzu. I-I don't really know. I mean, I like you and all. You're really pretty, but…are you really sure you want to go out with me? I don't even look like I'm seventeen." Color rose to Yugi's face as he tried everything he could think of to fend off the girl's advances. It wasn't that he didn't like her; he just didn't think they were well suited for each other.

She was tall, even taller than average, and sometimes she could be loud and argumentative. Yugi, on the other hand, barely topped the five foot mark, and was somewhat shy and withdrawn. Not to mention that he had the sneaking suspicion that he was drawn more towards those of the…male persuasion. The petite teen had a feeling that she was only interested in him because he was the cute new kid, as far as new kids went in a town that had been forgotten by all but those who lived there.

And he was cute. Even Yugi had to admit it. With his wide, striking amethyst eyes, pouty lips that just begged to be kissed and flawless, porcelain skin, the teen seemed to gather admirers wherever his small family made their home. Here was no exception. That was how he met his current group of friends. They had struck up a conversation while in the town's bookstore, waiting for the latest Harry Potter book to be released.

The shy teen fiddled with the lock of blonde hair that was hanging in his face as he considered his taller female friend. "I just don't think it would work. I'm enough of an oddity around here that people would pick on you just for being with me."

Jou butted into the conversation when he returned with the group's food. "Are you still trying to get him into bed with you Anzu? Shame. You know he's more interested in the guys. Isn't that right Yug? And you are not an outcast. If anything those losers are the outcasts. I swear, just because you don't go to school with us doesn't give them the right to pick on you!"

Bright color rose to Yugi's face at his friend's first comment. "I-I…how, I mean…oh god, how could you tell?" He hid his face in his hands, attempting, and failing, to bring the blush under control.

"No offense Yug, but it's been obvious to me the whole time. You kind of have this emo thing going on. I know the hair is natural, but the goth look, the chains. Well…that and the fact that you went totally red when we were watching that movie and Brad Pitt was naked." Jou ruffled his friend's naturally tricolor hair, making it stand on end even more than it did before. If he was honest with himself, Jou would have understood how he knew that Yugi was gay. But it was hard to tell your best friend that you had feelings for him that were more than platonic.

"I-I didn't realize that I was that obvious." Yugi smoothed his hair back into its crimson tipped black spikes before fiddling once again with the lock of blonde that always fell into his eyes. "And you guys are okay with that? I mean, up until this past year, I wasn't even sure if I was okay with it."

"Sure. What's not to be okay with? You are who you are, right?" Jou commented.

"Who's who?" Honda sat down next to Jou. "What are you guys plotting now?"

"Who said we're plotting something this time? I just said that it was okay for Yug to be gay." Jou responded.

"Oh, yeah. It's fine Yugi. Really." Honda started munching on a piece of pizza that he snagged from his blonde friend when he was distracted. That stunt earned him a punch in the arm from Jou. And they were off, arguing about anything and everything they could think of.

"Anzu?" Yugi turned to his friend who had been silent through the whole conversation, ignoring the ruckus in the opposite booth.

"Oh yeah. I guess. I think I'm just a little disappointed, is all. I guess it's true what they say. All the good ones are taken or gay." She gave a small smile that never reached her eyes.

Yugi grabbed her hand, and smiled back. At least now he didn't need to worry about having to 'come out'. Maybe things would work out here. He would have felt really bad if they were no longer friends over this. These three were the best friends he had ever had in his life.

They sat at the table munching on pizza, and discussing some of the movies that were due to come out later in the week until it was time to go home. Anzu went one way with Honda, waving goodbye to Jou and Yugi as they each went in separate directions.

The whole way home, the small teen was lost in thought. How had they known before he said anything? Was he really that obvious? Maybe that was why those other kids were picking on him last week. Shaking his head at his thoughts, he quickened his pace. At this rate, he would be late. It was already dark and his grandfather said to be home when the streetlights came on.

Rounding the corner, he saw the small house that he and his grandfather called home for the past two years. It wasn't much to look at, but it was neat and tidy. He had a room all to himself this time. And being as old as their house was, there were plenty of nooks and crannies to explore when he was bored. His grandfather found one just off of the pantry built into the kitchen when they first moved in. It looked to be a place to hide runaway slaves back in the 1800s. And it may have been for all he knew. The house was definitely old enough.

Opening the door from the front porch, the small teen yelled "I'm home grandpa!"

"Oh good. I was getting worried. It's well past dark, and it's getting ready to storm." Solomon called out from his place in the kitchen.

'Now how did I miss that little fact?' Yugi thought, shuddering. He hated thunderstorms with a passion. Had ever since he was little. But why he hated them was something that he didn't know. His memories from that time were hazy at best. Like he had tried really hard to forget. It was sad, he couldn't even remember what his parents looked like, and they had died in a terrible accident when he was five. But since the first house that he lived in had caught fire, he had no pictures of them to refresh his failed memory.

Yugi made his way to the living room, turning the television to the weather channel, just in case. After making sure they were in no danger of having a tornado, he went to help his grandfather in the kitchen. As he helped the old man with the dishes, the doorbell rang. A loud boom of thunder made the storm's presence known, lightening flashing ominously.

"You stay here. I'll be right back." Solomon warned Yugi with a glance. It was always this way. Yugi didn't even question it anymore. Just one of his grandfather's many quirks. He was never to answer the door, or be in sight when the door opened. The small teen just did what he was told. He could still remember the beating he got the first, and last time he answered the door. This time, though, Yugi had a bad feeling about tonight. Maybe it had something to do with the storm that had started raging a couple of moments ago. But he didn't think so. The power flickered briefly as lightning touched down somewhere close.

After a couple of moments, Solomon returned to the room.

"What was that about?" Yugi set the washed glass in the strainer to dry. Something didn't feel right about tonight. Yugi could just feel a malevolent presence settle over the house. And it was causing his hands to shake. It was just a feeling though, so he wouldn't bother his grandfather with it. The old man had enough to worry about, what with the way their neighbors were acting lately.

The old man shrugged. "Just the cops asking if we had reported a disturbance."

The neighbors next door had been arguing all week. And some of those arguments had turned physical, so it wasn't anything new to have cops in the neighborhood. The duo returned to their work. But before the last dish was set in the strainer, the doorbell rang again. Solomon huffed and grouched before going into the other room. This time Yugi went to see if he could eavesdrop on the conversation. He just couldn't get the bad feeling out of his head; it was like a physical presence. The small teen watched as his grandfather peered out the peephole, and turned around, running back into the room as fast as his short legs could carry him. When he saw his grandson, he panicked, grabbing a hold of Yugi's arm and propelling him through the living room and back towards the kitchen, almost knocking the teen on his ass.


"Go, go and don't come out until I say its okay." The old man pushed him around the corner and just about threw him into the hidden nook, slamming the door after him and locking it before piling things on the other side.

The pounding from the front door was even louder as Solomon struggled to make it back into the living room, yelling as loud as he could. "I'm coming, I'm coming. Can't an old man even go to the bathroom in peace?"

Yugi inched closer to the tiny hole at the bottom of the wall that made it possible to see into the living room without being seen. Even Solomon didn't know that was there. But the petite teen had made it a point to inspect every inch of the place that they would call home, when he first moved in. It kept him from being bored. Putting his eye to the peep hole, Yugi watched as his grandfather opened the door.

"Yes?" Solomon decided to play senile. He didn't think it was going to work this time, but it was worth a shot. His grandson was worth trying anything, just to keep him safe.

He was knocked backwards by a fist to the face. "We know who you are old man. And you're going to tell us where the boy is." A tall man in a police uniform stalked in after him. Solomon crawled backwards, inching away from the man. That was unexpected.

"What boy? I live here by myself." He cried out indignantly, blood running down his chin.

A second and third man entered the house, the last one shutting the door behind them. "Don't play dumb. We know he's here in this town. The records said so. We've been looking for him for a long time." The second man brought out a wicked looking knife and made his way towards the old man.

Solomon tried once more. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"We know he's here. He enrolled in classes a couple of days ago. Now are you going to tell us so we can make this quick, or are we going to have to draw this out." The man in uniform snarled, grabbing a hold of the old man and connecting a fist to his jaw.

This time Solomon gave up the pretense. "You want him? He's gone for the week. And without a signal from me, he won't be back. I thought once he reached eighteen that this would be over!"

"Nope, you were misled from the start! The best age for a sacrifice is fifteen to twenty, and he's ripe for the picking. So tell us where he is, or we'll make this as painful as possible!"

"Fuck off and die a slow, agonizing death." Solomon retorted, gearing up for the fight. The old man wasn't going down without a struggle. And he would never tell them where his grandson was. He knew he was outnumbered, his only hope was that Yugi wouldn't be able to hear what he knew was going to happen.

"I knew you would say that. You first!" The second man grinned eerily, showing missing teeth. "I was so hoping we would get to play."

The other two cackled evilly. This was going to be fun. Almost as fun as the rituals. It didn't take the three of them long to subdue the old man. After tying him to a chair, they began their work, heedless of his cries and pleas. Every once in a while one of them would ask if he was ready to tell them where the boy was. When he refused to answer, the torment continued.

Yugi couldn't look away. He watched as the three men tortured his grandfather, trying to get him to reveal his whereabouts, committing their faces to memory. But no matter what they did to the old man, he wouldn't say anything more than what he thought of them and their practices. For hours this went on, the old man's screams becoming more and more animalistic as time went on. Yugi finally had to turn away, his stomach crawling as he sobbed quietly, covering his mouth with his hands. He didn't even recognize the being in the other room anymore. By the time he heard the gunshot, he was glad, for it put his grandfather out of his misery. After what they had just put him through, there was no way he could have lived for much longer. And he did it to save Yugi.

Slumping to the floor, Yugi tried to regain his breath. He couldn't breathe. Tears rolling down his face, he tried to recall what he had done to bring this on his grandfather. The only thoughts that greeted him were hazy and shadow filled. It was as if something was blocking his memories. He let out a sob, and then covered his mouth again. The men were still here, in the house, rummaging around for signs of where he was. He could hear them; they weren't even trying to be quiet. They didn't think he was here. At least something was going his way. Maybe.

"That's it, times up!" One of the men called out. "Someone was bound to hear that gun. He'll turn up soon. We'll just lean on his friends. Someone had to know him."

The trio trouped out of the house, leaving Yugi to his misery, locked in the closet. Shivering, the teen drew his legs to his chest; heaving sobs wracked his small frame. He couldn't believe what had happened tonight. This had to be a nightmare. It had to be. His grandfather was not lying out there in a deep pool of his own blood. He wasn't. But there was no denying the truth. His grandfather had died a brutal death, because of him. He turned on the small flashlight that he always carried with him when it stormed, setting it on the ground. He hated the dark as much as he hated storms, and tonight there were both.

~ o ~ O ~ o ~