Well this is a quicker update than I expected :) Also, I've created a blog for my better fanfiction work, including this story and some oneshots I haven't posted here. If you're interested you can find it at spanglepress . tumblr . com

YGO & YGO5Ds (c) Kazuki Takahashi

The ringing in his ears was what seemed to pull him out of unconsciousness, though at this stage he couldn't be sure. The ringing was just so loud he couldn't possibly stay asleep with that noise. Yuusei opened his eyes groggily, not sure why his left eye seemed heavier and more tender than his right. He sluggishly took stock of his situation.

He was laying sprawled on concrete, in a large room filled with smoke. Rubble surrounded him and dimly, through the persistent ringing in his ears, he could hear screaming and what sounded like the falling of buildings. That was alarming enough in itself.

Tentatively he tried moving his fingers and toes, and the relief that swept through him as movement obeyed him was almost enough to knock him out again. Very carefully he tried moving his arms and legs, and grinned tightly as he felt nothing more than bruises and scrapes. No broken bones, from what he could feel, though his right arm was a little uncomfortable. He reached up and cautiously touched the back of his neck, just to make sure. He couldn't feel any wounds or pressure, and his head only seemed to hurt around his left temple.

Moving slowly, he got to his hands and knees, staying low from the smoke and covering his mouth with a corner of his now-tattered labcoat. He looked around the wrecked room and tried to recall what had happened.

They had been gearing up to test a new engine type, one they had been designing after the explosion of the last prototype. Tinker had been really pleased with it as well, certain that it was more robust than the previous models and simulations. Even Farah couldn't pick any faults with it, and Blake had given it the go-ahead. Yuusei hadn't been as happy with it as the rest, preoccupied by the slow computers and Atem's troubles, but he hadn't seen any gaping flaws with it.

They had gathered here again and everything had been going well… until Amelia had made a choking, gasping noise that had cut through the air like a knife and chilled them all to the bone. And then nothing until waking up just now.

Looking around the room, he guessed the engine had exploded in an even more spectacular fashion than before, taking out the observation cell with it. The thought of how much force that would require made his head spin and he grimaced. He was surprised the building was still standing, though it looked about to collapse in here.

He staggered to his feet, the scuffing sound muffled and distorted as if he were underwater. He stumbled around the room (his balance felt a bit shaky) bent over and trying not to cough into his labcoat as his eyes stung and ran. He searched the room, but he was the only one inside.

Where were his co-workers? If they had gone somewhere, why hadn't they taken him with them, unconscious or not? He wasn't sure whether to feel paranoid or worried – had they been abducted or left him there on purpose, sure to slowly suffocate on the smoke? Either way it wasn't good.

He had to stop moving for a few moments – how long had it been since the explosion? – to cough and gasp for breath. He would have to get out of here soon. He looked down at his arm, shocked to see his sleeve tattered and sliced with dried blood crusting over it. And through the remains of his shirt his Signer mark burned. All at once reality came crashing down in a rocketing of sound and sensation. Chill sweat beaded on his skin as the screams, roars and crashes from outside assaulted his ears, and the pain of many small cuts and bruises and aches piled on top of the horrendous burning feeling on his arm. His Signer mark glowed through his shirt and felt so hot he was surprised his shirt wasn't scorched away. The burn ate into the muscle of his forearm and tears blurred his vision. He fell to his knees and cradled his arm into his chest, gasping and coughing for breath in agony.

Something was terribly, dreadfully wrong with Neo Domino and he knew that he would be needed, but the pain of his arm and his lungs was all-consuming. Fear for Atem and his friends immobilised him for long, excruciating seconds.

He managed somehow to dig deep within himself and stand again, his knees sending little jolts of pain up his legs as well now. He stumbled towards the centre of the explosion, almost blinded by tears of pain. The engine had been split wide open and metal shrapnel surrounded it, most still glowing red-hot. He stepped through the litter and made it to the black box still miraculously attached and unharmed. Moving quickly and ignoring the heat and the searing of the labcoat covering his hands, he detached it.

Breathing unevenly, he tripped back from the engine and towards the broken wreckage of the observation cell. Almost all of the computers inside had been obliterated but he gathered up what he could. He felt sure that whatever was happening outside and the disappearance of his co-workers was tied up with the engine explosion, and he needed to understand that before he could even think about helping outside.

He bundled up the parts in his labcoat and lurched away, pushing open the swinging, broken door on his way out. As he reeled down through the empty building, he wondered when everyone had evacuated and why the fire alarms and sprinklers weren't going off from all the smoke still in the testing room.

By the time he had made it to the car park his head felt a little clearer, though he felt as if he had a black eye and his headache wasn't going away. He had stopped coughing but his arm was as bad as before. He deposited the computer parts in the compartment under the seat of his Runner and took a moment to splash some water over his face from the water spigot in the corner which was supposed to be used for vehicle maintenance. He felt a little better, and bathed his Signer mark under the flow, which alleviated the pain a little. He carefully washed the dried blood from his left temple and investigated the wound; it seemed like he'd been hit with some shrapnel, though luckily there wasn't anything lodged in his scalp. But knowing that the blood was dried gave him chills: he had been lying unconscious long enough for the wound to scab over.

He could have easily died of smoke inhalation in that time.

He shuddered and pushed the thought away to consider later.

He carefully put on his helmet, wincing as it pressed against his temple, and walked his Runner to the door of the abandoned garage still full of unclaimed vehicles. He opened the door cautiously and stopped in shock when he saw the streets.

People running and screaming, shops in flames, buildings crumbling, and what sounded like a gigantic beast roaring. Nobody seemed to be rioting or looting, just running as fast as they could and trampling everything in their way.

The pain in his Signer mark spiked and his thoughts went immediately to Atem. He would have no idea what was happening (not that Yuusei knew what was going on) and would probably be terrified. Yuusei gulped hard and got on his Runner. Driving through the streets like this would be close to suicide, but he had to find Atem and his friends before something terrible happened to them.

That drive was one of the most terrifying things he'd ever done.

He swerved around screaming people, fighting all the time not to look at whatever they were running from so that he could concentrate on his mission. He lost count of the number of times he almost ran someone over or nearly clipped them as they ran unheeding in front of his Runner. Reckless, so horribly reckless, but he had to find his friends, and especially Atem. From what he had said, this sounded awfully similar to his nightmares. There had to be a connection, he thought, between the nightmares, the explosion at the lab, the disappearance of his co-workers and the appearance of whatever this was.

After a heart-stopping ten minutes of being surrounded by chaos and people blinded by fear, of driving through back-alleys at breakneck speed to avoid people, of sudden braking and swerving and almost losing control of his Runner every time, he finally arrived at the Blue Eyes Café drenched in panicked sweat.

Dread made his limbs seem heavy as he pushed open the swinging door and stood inside the empty café. Tables had been overturned and food was scattered over the floor, sure signs of hasty departures.

"Atem?" He called, his voice seeming far too loud in the silent café, though the cacophony outside threatened to drown him out. "Atem!"

No answer.

"Atem, are you here? Are you hurt?" He called louder, heart thudding with fear and anxiety. He began searching through the premises, his voice louder and more frantic by the minute. "Atem!"

There was no one there at all, everyone had run out. Yuusei forced down the wave of panic that threatened to drown him as he thought of Atem being trampled in the crowds. He called out one more time, his voice echoing mockingly back to him.

Where would he have run to? He mounted his Runner again and sped off through the streets, trying to think himself inside Atem's head. Where would he go if he were a Pharaoh stranded in the future faced with some sort of threat?

A place of worship? Home? … Towards the threat? Oh no. Definitely towards the threat.

Yuusei was about to change direction and go against the crowd when he saw a small girl sitting in the middle of the road, right in front of him, crying her eyes out. He swerved and shrieked to a halt, terror sweeping through him at the thought of almost running her down. He dismounted and crouched next to the poor thing.

"Hey, kiddo," He said softly, flicking up his visor and smiling. "Where are your parents?"

The child looked up at him mistrustfully, sniffling into her hands and sucking on her thumb.

"It's alright, my name's Yuusei. What's your name?"

"Maria," She mumbled reluctantly. "Are you the man from the TV?"

His smile widened despite him. "Yeah, I am. Guess what, I'm going to try and help you, Maria. Do you know where your parents are? I'm sure they're looking for you."

Her lip wobbled and she burst into tears afresh. Yuusei swallowed a sigh and sat down with her, ignoring the chaos around them. He took off his helmet and shook his hair out; the pressure of the helmet on his head wound was getting rather painful. She looked like she'd been here a while – her dress was tattered and filthy at the hem, and she had a small smear of blood on her cheek. It didn't look like it was hers, though. She was missing a shoe and her bare foot was bleeding with gravel and litter stuck to the abrasions. Her short blonde hair was messy and a flower hairclip hung on for dear life.

"Hey, Maria, it'll be okay. Tell me how you got here."

She hiccoughed to a stop and wiped her eyes with the back of her small hands, though she kept her thumb near her lips. "I don't know," She whimpered. "Daddy and me were playing in the garden, a-and Mama came out, and she said we had to run, a-and then everything got loud, and Daddy picked me up and started running, but something happened, a-and I don't know where he is…" Yuusei shushed her gently before she could work herself up again.

"What were you playing with your Daddy?" He asked kindly.

"Hide and Seek," She mumbled.

"I used to play that with my friends when I was your age," Yuusei replied. "We always had so much fun. I bet your Daddy played it when he was small as well. Do you know where he might be right now? If you were still playing Hide and Seek? Or maybe where Mama might be?"

Maria shook her head, lip wobbling again.

"Okay, well let's see. I'm trying to find some of my friends too, why don't you come with me as we'll look together? How does that sound?" He smiled.

"B-But, what if Daddy comes back here to look for me?" She hiccoughed.

Smart girl, Yuusei thought. "I know, Maria, but you can't stay here, it's not safe. When everything's calmed down I'll take you back home if we haven't found Daddy or Mama already, and they'll be sure to be there. Okay?"

She nodded reluctantly. "Did you really save the city before? From that sky thing?" She asked, getting to her feet and keeping her weight on her shod foot.

"Yep, me and my friends." Yuusei lifted her easily into the Runner Seat with a smile.

"And you'll save it again?"

Yuusei swallowed the sudden lump in his throat. "Of course," he said, with a confidence he didn't feel. He gently reached out and pinned her fringe back from her eyes with the flower clip. "Have you seen what it is? It could really help me if you do."

She popped her thumb into her mouth and mumbled around it, "It's a big spider."

He nodded thoughtfully and started walking the Runner, with its small passenger, through the back alleys. Another Earthbound Immortal? His Signer mark was burning still, but it felt different from when the Dark Signers were stirring up trouble.

"I'm just going to call one of my friends, okay?" Maria nodded, sucking on her thumb and looking around at the chaotic streets uneasily.

Yuusei got out his phone and quickly dialled Crow's number. He was rerouted to Crow's Cadet helmet.

"Yuusei? Oh thank goodness, I couldn't get through to you before. Where are you?" Crow answered, sounding stressed.

"I'm… somewhere near the café," Yuusei answered. "I'm okay. What about you, what's happening?"

"I haven't got a clue," Crow replied, then cursed. Yuusei heard the sound of swerving vehicles and screams. "Something's up in the sky, or wrecking buildings, or something like that, and everyone's terrified out of their minds. I hate to say it, but the Security Forces are worse than useless right now – hardly anyone's kept their head at all, most are running around with the rest of them."

"Where are you now?"

"West side of the city. I'm trying to help where I can but no one's listening, just running."

"Have you heard from anyone?"

"Apart from you? No. Either no one's answering or most phone lines are down or disrupted. You?"

"Same." Yuusei hesitated. "Do you have any idea where Atem might be? I think we need him." Yuusei couldn't keep the anxiety from his voice.

"You mean he's not with you?" Crow said in shock. "I've no idea. If he's not at the café, maybe he's back at the apartment? I don't know, I've got to—"

A rush of static, and the call disconnected. Yuusei tried to call again, but static was all that replied. He swallowed and put the phone away.

"What's wrong?" Maria asked, thumb still in her mouth. He turned to look at her and put on a brave face.

"Nothing," He lied. "He was just a bit busy to talk, I'll call him back later."

She nodded, though the look in her eyes said that she knew he was lying, but wasn't going to question it. She sucked her thumb harder. "Where are we going?"

Yuusei thought hard, conflicted. He needed to find Atem and his friends, he could feel it in his heart and in the burning of his Signer mark, but this girl needed someone to look after her, and he was the only candidate. Could he drop her somewhere and go on to find his friends? He was desperately worried for Atem.

He looked at her uncertainly, and her eyes filled with tears. "Please don't leave me," She whispered. "You promised you'd help me find Daddy."

Oh, damn. He couldn't abandon a child.

He forced a smile. "I'm taking you back to my place. Hopefully some of my friends will be there and we can work out what to do next and how to find your Daddy. Okay? It's not too far."

She nodded and smiled timidly. Yuusei tried to settle his conscience as they travelled. Surely Atem would be there. He wouldn't be lying in the road somewhere, trampled to death, or squashed under falling masonry, or anything like that. No way, he was the King of Games, he'd be at home or trying to face off against whatever this threat was – Yuusei still hadn't seen it. Whenever he tried to look where people were running from, there were always buildings in the way, and he couldn't hear anything above the screaming and commotion of terror in the city.

Maria followed him around as he parked his Runner in the building's garage and removed the computer parts from the seat.

"What are those?" She asked around her thumb, holding onto his trouserleg.

He smiled down at her. "Things to help me fix all this. I'm sorry I can't carry you and all this at the same time. Do you think you can walk to the lift with me?"

She nodded bravely and limped beside him, still clinging to his leg. She shrank back behind him when they got out of the lift, however, seeing Leo and Luna sitting outside Yuusei's door.

They sprang up when they saw Yuusei and hugged him tightly around the waist. "Yuusei!" Leo cried out, sounding relieved beyond measure.

"Are you two alright?" Yuusei asked quickly, shifting the computer parts under one arm with difficulty checking them over. Aside from some minor rips and stains in their clothing, and their red eyes, they seemed unharmed.

"We ran out of school as fast as we could," Leo said. "When all the crazy stuff started happening. Everyone was panicking and the teachers ran away and it was so scary," He sniffled.

"We thought it would be safer to be with you," Luna said softly. "So we waited here."

He knelt down, ignoring the pain that flashed through his knees and setting the electronics down, and gently wiped their eyes dry. "It's okay, kids, it's safe here. I don't know what's going on, but I'm going to get to the bottom of it. Okay?"

The twins smiled hesitantly at him and he ruffled their hair. Luna peeked around him.

"Oh! Who's this?"

Yuusei turned and smiled at Maria, who was hiding behind him, thumb tucked firmly into her mouth. "This is Maria, I'm helping her find her parents. Maria, these are my friends Leo and Luna. Why don't you come say hello?"

She edged around him, holding onto his leg still, and mumbled a hello. She was quite a few years younger than the twins, Yuusei noticed. He hadn't really thought about her age before.

"Why don't we all go inside? I need to take a look at Maria's foot and backup this information."

They agreed and soon Leo was raiding the fridge like there was no tomorrow while Luna scolded him. Yuusei put the computer parts down on the cough and looked around quickly, heart sinking. Once he saw Leo and Luna outside he had known Atem wouldn't be here – he would have let them inside. But he had still hoped.

He looked into the bedroom and sighed, thinking of that morning when they had eaten breakfast with bags under their eyes and kissed goodbye with hardly any words spoken, they had both been so exhausted from Atem's bad night. They'd forgotten to make the bed as well, and the covers lay in disarray, shaped roughly around their bodies as they had slept. He could still see the indent from Atem's ridiculous hair in the pillow.

He could feel the stress of the day creeping up on him. At that moment he just wanted things to be normal. Why couldn't he have more than a few months without some kind of disaster? Why couldn't he just enjoy his own life and be happy with his friends and with the unexpected joy of being Atem's partner? He wanted Atem to be there with him, healthy and happy, and to lie down on the bed and sleep. Or possibly just cuddle and kiss for hours. He glared half-heartedly at Atem's makeshift shrine in the corner and sighed.

There was a small tug on his leg and he glanced down, jumping a little. Maria had followed him and he hadn't noticed. Her eyes were huge and sad in her grime- and tear-streaked face.

"What's wrong?" She asked around her thumb.

He forced a smile. "Nothing, just thinking."

She gave him that I-don't-believe-you-but-okay look and offered up a tiny smile.

"Come on, let's get you cleaned up." He reached down and she took his hand, clinging to his fingers. He led her into the bathroom and sat her on the edge of the bath, leaving the door open so he could hear Leo and Luna. "Now, I need to clean your foot up, Maria," He said gently, sitting down in front of her with a damp flannel and some antiseptic from the medicine cabinet. "It'll hurt a bit, but it'll stop your foot from hurting too bad. Okay?"

She nodded and wriggled her toes, wincing. As he carefully washed the wounds and picked out the grit with both water and antiseptic, he told her stories from his childhood with Jack and Crow in the orphanage, and all the silly things they had gotten up to. It kept her attention off the pain in her foot at any rate, and she even smiled a little when he described a prank he and Crow had played on Jack involving ramen and worms.

Eventually her foot was clean, though she had several long gashes and several abrasions that looked rather painful. He looked up at her and saw she was trying not to cry.

"There now, you strong girl," He smiled, gently patting her knee. "All done. I'm just going to put a small bandage around your foot to keep it clean, okay? You've been so brave, I'm really impressed. I know I couldn't cope with it if my foot were like that."

She sniffed and smiled, taking her thumb out of her mouth. He quickly got a bandage from the cabinet and called out to the twins, "Luna? Do you have a dress or something Maria could borrow? Hers needs a wash."

He heard Luna rummaging around in the other room. "It'll be a bit big," She called back, and peeked around the bathroom door.

"What do you think, Maria?" Yuusei asked the young girl, gently winding the bandage around her foot with a steady hand. When they were kids he had always been the 'doctor' of his friends, patching them up when they scraped their knees. She smiled shyly and mumbled her thanks to Luna. Yuusei finished wrapping up her foot and tucked the ends in neatly.

"There now. Luna, why don't you help Maria get changed? Some of those buttons look tricky."

"Sure," Luna beamed. Yuusei patted her on the head and wiped the smudge of blood from Maria's cheek.

"I need to make a few calls. See you two in a few minutes," He smiled and shut the door. He ruffled Leo's hair on his way to the bedroom and closed the door firmly behind himself. He sat on the edge of the bed, careful not to disturb the sleeping imprints, and held his mobile in his hand, staring down at it in trepidation.

He hadn't tried calling Atem yet because he was afraid to hear it ringing on and on and on with no answer. He was afraid of thinking of it ringing unheard in Atem's pocket as he lay dead. Cursing himself for a coward, he tried Crow again.

After a few more tries, he gave up, sick of the static and of anxiously waiting for a reply. He tried Akiza as well and sighed in relief when she picked up.

"Akiza! Are you alright? Where are you?" He asked.

"I'm at my parents' place," She replied, voice a little fuzzy from the bad reception. "What about you, are you alright? Oh gosh, how are the twins? I tried looking for them when Hell broke loose at the school but I couldn't find them and I had to go check on my parents…"

"They're fine, they're here with me," He replied tiredly. "I'm okay. Got caught up in an explosion at work, but it's nothing a shower and some sleep won't fix."

"An explosion? Are you sure you're alright?"

"Yeah, I'm fine." He rubbed absently at his Signer mark – he had been able to ignore the pain while dealing with the kids, but now he was on his own the agony was back in full force. "Hey, Akiza, is your Signer mark doing anything?"

"It hurts like nothing I've ever felt," She replied in a pained voice. "Do you know what's going on?"

Yuusei swallowed the flash of irritation that he should always know what to do, always have a plan. He was just as clueless as her.

"No, I don't," He said after a moment. "Try running your arm under cold water, it helps for a bit. I'm going to try and look through some data from work, see if it's related or not."

"Thanks. Don't tire yourself out, okay? We'll need you going full-speed for the next couple of days. Hey, how's Atem? This must be hard for him."

Yuusei clenched his jaw. "I don't know where he is," He forced himself to say. He heard her gasp as a rush of static and breath on the other end. "I'm going to try ringing him now."

"Good luck, I hope he's okay. I'll drop by and say hi to the twins when the roads calm down a bit. Bye for now."

He hung up and bounced the phone in his hand. He glanced again at the pillow, remembering laying there with Atem pressed tight against him, thrusting slowly into him and whispering in his ear. His throat tightened and he quickly dialled Atem's number, clutching it to his ear with his heart pounding.

The dial-tone cycled for what seemed like hours, then there was a clicking noise.

"Oh, yes, it this recording now? Right. This is Atem's voicemail. Please leave a message and I'll—" It was cut off by a beep. Yuusei smiled ruefully; it had taken them half an hour to even get that much and after that they had given up.

He cleared his throat. "Atem, it's Yuusei. Please, please call me. I'm at the apartment right now, head here if you can." He swallowed, feeling his voice catch in his throat. "Get here as soon as you can. Where are you? I—"

The beep sounded again before he could leave a longer message. He put the phone down on the bed and closed his eyes, waiting for it to ring with his heart leaden in his chest.

Across the city, Atem rocked himself in his small, dark room. He didn't hear or feel the phone ringing and certainly didn't hear the message. He couldn't hear anything other than Diabound's profane roars and the terrified screams of those he loved. He couldn't think, could barely breathe, couldn't do anything other than whisper garbled prayers and lose himself in what could be visions or hallucinations or reality, he couldn't quite tell.

Mana appeared before him, her face twisted with sympathy. "You have to get up, my Pharaoh," She said softly. "They need you out there."

Atem felt the heat of Egypt's glorious sands on his face, and the dry wind moving his hair as he looked up at her cautiously. He felt like a young boy again, playing games of make-believe with Mana while waiting for Father to finish with his business for the day so he could spend time with him. "There's nothing I can do."

"Don't say that," Mana said, brushing her hair out of her face and reaching out one dainty hand to him. "They need you, my Pharaoh. You have to get up and find the Signer. Please."

"I can't," He whispered. "It's Diabound, Mana. The only way I could defeat it before was by sealing myself away." He felt tears spill down his cheeks. "I don't want to go back to the Puzzle, Mana, I can't do it. Three thousand years was too hard last time, I can't do it again. I can't lose my memories, they took too long to come back, I won't do it!"

"Calm yourself," Mana said, tears welling in her eyes. "Oh, my Pharaoh. You're stronger than this, you know you are. And you're desperately needed."

"I won't go back to the Puzzle," Atem choked, hugging himself tighter. "I won't, I won't!"

Mana put her hand on his knee, warm and solid. "No one's asking you to go back, my Pharaoh," She said softly. "You need to calm down and face that thing. You're needed."

"What am I supposed to do, Mana? I can't duel here! I don't have my deck, and anyway it would be too old to work in this timeline. There's no way I can help. I just can't do it, I can't."

"Yuusei needs you," Mana replied softly, sitting beside him and patting his back sympathetically.

"She's right you know," A new, male voice said. Mahaad sat down on the other side of Atem and put his arm around his shoulders, a comforting, strong weight. "He needs you, and this world needs you. You have to get up."

"I'm tired of fighting," Atem whispered, shame burning his cheeks. "I'm tired of always having to save the day. I just want to exist."

"I know," Mahaad said sadly. "But just once last time?"

"The duel with Yugi was supposed to be the last time! Will there be another 'last time' after this, and again, and again?"

"Pharaoh, please calm down," Mana begged, wiping away tears and clutching his arm so tightly it hurt. "You have to get up! You have to fight!"

Atem shook his head and hugged himself tighter, weeping inconsolably. Mahaad gave Mana a sad look and she bit her lip over her tears. They put their arms around their Pharaoh and sat in silence with him, though if anyone had found them, they would have only seen a young man with strange hair curled up on the floor like a young child, talking to his imaginary friends.

Hope you enjoyed that update. Reviews would be appreciated ^^