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The Failings of Project Millennium

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[KC EXPERIMENT #00001: SUBJECT HORUS.]

<Stasis aborted. Analyzing Subject.>

….......

<Analysis complete: Approximate Age: 19 Sex: Male Height: 152.4cm Weight: 36.7kg>

<Initiating enhancement test>

…...

<Test complete: Enhancement at 100% efficiency. Com->

..

<Further Analysis interrupted. Welcome Subject Horus!>

<Found Kaiba Corp Logs for Project Millennium. Searching Log files mentioning ‘Horus.’>

<<ERROR: MANY LOGS WERE LOST/CORRUPTED. PROCEED ANYWAY?>>

….

<Searching…>

 

Log #27

Isis gave her final visit to the facility today in order to say farewell to Subject Horus. Despite his infantile state, he did manage to look up at her as if he knew who and what she was. We all agree Isis is showing clear signs of regret over leaving behind the child for the project, but as he did inherit her abilities naturally, she had no choice but to leave him in our care. She knew the outside world could be a dangerous place for people like her and her brother; there was no doubt she hoped for something better for her son.

I made sure to assure her Horus would never want for anything. All his needs would be met. I didn’t tell her about how, even at only three months, he would be used for his abilities and enhanced to do get things. He would survive; just like the rest of them.

The first thing the team served to do was the insertion of the Eye. As his powers over the ‘Void’ (as it’s been dubbed) have become more and more clear, we’ve implemented a few enhancements to allow Horus to control and harness the abilities as he ages. We can only hope there is enough of his father’s DNA within to keep him from being so virtually ageless like his mother. That particular trait is far from necessary when it comes to the other subjects for this project.

 

Log #460

The subjects seem to take to their newfound abilities quite nicely. Ra has nearly mastered his own abilities with the help of Horus. At only a year old, he’s taken to teaching the other children what he’s already managed to control, although he shows signs of frustration when something is outside of his abilities. The enhancements have yet to be perfected and each projection for Horus’ eye seem to frighten him to the point of tears. Too many times, one of the handlers has rushed in to coddle the subject. I need to remind him this is not some simple child.

Anubis serves everyone that reminder on a daily basis. The subject has yet to grasp the extent of its powers and shows signs of disassociation each time damage is done. Tomorrow, we will put Horus and Anubis in the same room. Hopefully, Horus will be able to guide Anubis into a mastery of control just as he did the others.

 

Log #461

Subject Horus is finally in stable condition.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when everything went wrong. Horus was in the room first in front of a simple puzzle given to him by Dr. Mutou, a team member to which most of the subjects have really become attached. When Anubis was pushed into the room, he immediately hid behind one of the tables.

Horus, never one to shy away from the other subjects, approached Anubis calmly and curiously. His approach was the same as it was with everyone else; there was no reason for Anubis to be fearful.

Then everything happened so quickly the video feed couldn’t play it properly. It ended with Horus screaming as Anubis pinned him to the ground and tried to tear out the enhanced eye. Anubis showed no signs of care as the two subjects were separated and Horus was rushed from the room. He was left alone in that room and, when one of the assistants returned, they found him simply playing with the puzzle Horus left on the floor. The pieces are now covered in Horus’ blood thanks it being all over Anubis’ hands.

In a few days, we will attempt again to have the two of them meet and bond. The only hope in stabilizing Anubis is to have him bond properly with Horus just as Ra and Thoth were able to.

 

Log #465

Horus still shows signs of intense fear towards Anubis. As soon as Anubis was pushed back into the room with him, Horus screamed and cried in fear of the other child. He climbed the leg of the observer in the room and demanded to be picked up in order to get away from him. Despite my protest, Dr. Mutou lifted Horus into his arms. I fear the man might be growing soft with the children. He coddles them too much. I will have to remind him these children are not to be treated as children. They are too dangerous and one misfire could be the end of everything.

As for the relationship between Horus and Anubis, I feel as though the two just need a little more time in a highly controlled setting. With the newfound fear in Horus, it may be difficult for both of them. So far, Anubis has shown no more signs of violence toward Horus or even the other subject. In time, I hope to have the two of them bond to one another.

Another concern sits in the fact that the tear duct in Horus’ right eye seems to have become overactive, possibly from the trauma suffered when Anubis tried to rip it out. More tests must be run to see if this will affect the implant in any way.

 

Log #527

Thoth and Hathor are dead.

It happened last night after the team left for the night. The cameras caught sight of Anubis sitting up in bed and fazing out of his room. The cameras in Thoth’s and Hathor’s room indicated he fazed in right on top of Thoth. Anubis strangled Thoth in his sleep.

Then Hathor woke up and tried to fight him off before she knew her companion was dead. Her fate was much less pleasant. Her body was mangled on the floor of the room. The camera feed also picked up Anubis attempting to continue down the path when he moved into Ra and Kuk’s room. Moments later, Horus burst into the room and fought Anubis away from the two boys before they could be harmed. When we returned in the morning to do our morning routine, Horus was inside Anubis’ room. He was awake, against the wall, with his eyes staring stubbornly at the bed.

He refused to let Anubis out of his sight. This… is a massive improvement from running in fear of the other subject. Dr. Mutou believes this is a sign that what we’re doing to the subjects is wrong. That all Anubis wants is to be treated as the child he is.

I politely told him he was out of his damn mind if he believed treating Anubis gently was any way to progress the project. Despite how brilliant a scientist he might be, I’m afraid Mutou’s emotions are overtaking his logic. He may need to be let go from the project.

 

Log #600

It’s been one month since Mutou left. Horus, Ra, and Kuk still look to the door as if they’re waiting for him to walk in with games and sugary treats in his arms. Anubis still shows no signs of care and, instead, continues forth with his testing. He’s gained control of his abilities and honed the skills to be deadly on the beings he deemed worthy of punishment (In this case, the targets with a red marker. Blue markers all get a pass with no damage.)

Horus has begun to exhibit signs of trauma and depression; all of which should be to complex for a child of his age. He continues to cooperate with the tests but only in one on one testing facilities. With the loss of Thoth and Hathor, not to mention Mutou, Horus continues to distance himself and only confides in Osiris. The tear duct in his right eye continues to be overactive. No one on the team can explain the reasoning behind it.

 

Log #640

There was a break in. The facility has become compromised and three of the subjects are nowhere to be found.

The cameras were completely wiped of any evidence. I’m concerned it may have been orchestrated by [REDACTED]. However, the fact that his nephew is one of the children left behind might imply otherwise. My thoughts went to Mutou briefly, but the man was far from the best at being mobile enough to break in, take three children, and rush back out while still being able to wipe any possible evidence of him being there. A search of his place also qualifies him as innocent.

Plus, he wouldn’t be stupid enough to release Anubis. I could understand stealing Ra or even Kuk… but only one person could be responsible for the disappearance of Anubis. A man who heard about the subjects through a leak into the black market. I want to say his surname was… Bakura.

He had a special interest in Anubis. But the man is now nowhere to be found. I’m hoping the subject killed him and, maybe, ran off. If that’s the case, it’ll only be a matter of time before Anubis finally makes an appearance. His… relationship with Horus might be enough to lure him back.

In the meantime, I’m concerned about what this means for the project. It’s possible it may need to be aborted now that three of them are out in the world. We will need to dispose of the subjects in the cleanest way possible.

 

Log #641

Project Millennium has been dissolved.

With the disappearance of the three, the team and I have decided to dispose of any evidence that may lead back to what many might say was ‘child endangerment.’ Funny how they don’t care about them when they’re in an orphanage, but then as soon as they’re brought into a case like this…

I digress.

Osiris and Bast both went down smoothly. As expected, they were injected with a painless substance while they slept and simply did not wake up. Horus however…

Horus seems to be immune to such things. So immune, in fact, that it woke him up. It took twelve people to finally subdue him and he still hasn’t been properly destroyed. There were too many… casualties… to continue the attempts. Of course, the very last piece of evidence to the Project is the one that cannot be killed. This is something his mother failed to mention.

He’s in stasis until we can figure out what to do with him. Death may not be an option, but it seems eternal sleep is.

Now, our next priority is to find Anubis. I’m hoping time will eventually lure him out and back here. Maybe he will come back and attempt to destroy Horus himself. If that’s the case, we may just need to leave the two in a room together and they can destroy one another.

 

Log #1072

I’ve come up with a plan.

With Anubis and the others still nowhere to be seen after seven years of searching, I’ve come up with a new idea. A new subject with the only objective to seek out all the remaining subjects of the project. He’s older than the others were when the abilities were implemented, but I’m hoping his high intellect and surprising maturity will be enough to keep him from catastrophic failure. If not for himself, then for his little brother at the very least.

Subject Set may be the only hope we have left to end this.

Maybe it was a good thing Horus couldn’t be destroyed. Although, his aging in stasis is promising that death may be an option if he’s just left alone. But, had he been destroyed, I would have never been able to transfer his powers into this last ditch effort.

 

Log #whocares

The project founder is dead. Anubis, Ra, and Kuk either are dead or just so good at hiding that everyone just thinks they’re dead. Isis might also be dead; I don’t know. I don’t care. A lot of these logs were lost. Father sucked at organizing information. This entire project is bullshit.

Horus, I’m waking you up. You can thank my brother for finding you. I read up on your abilities and I’m sure you’re smart enough to know what you need to do in order to keep from being in this tank again. Let’s hope, at least.  A lot of power is being wasted in keeping you asleep. All this power could be used for literally anything else.

So, good morning, Horus. Let’s have a talk.

-Seto Kaiba

Chapter Text

[EXTRACTION COMPLETE]

The tank let out a loud beep as it shut down. The subject within slowly began to uncurl from his position as the liquid he was suspended in emptied into the bottom of the machine. It was still much too small for him to uncurl completely and, as he laid on the bottom of the tank, his feet and back hit the glass.

Mokuba stayed in a large observation room and watched his brother. Kaiba had insisted on being the one to awaken Horus. Neither of them could put it passed their adoptive father to keep a deranged psycho asleep in the basement. At least the older Kaiba had enough strength due to this “Project” that he could hold his own against someone.

The tank opened and Horus grunted tiredly as his body fell into a more relaxed position. The position didn't last long as everything connected and Horus ran on the only thing he had.

His last true memory and pure instinct.

As Kaiba moved closer to inspect the subject, Horus shot up and tried to grab hold of the other's face. He tried to fight him back but there were a few things different from the moment he was put in the tank to now.

He was larger with muscles too thin and too tired to do much. All he knew was this man in front of him could probably kill him and he would have to make it so that didn't happen. His fingers curled in the brown hair and he yanked.

Kaiba gritted his teeth and grabbed the other's wrist. He could feel the bone in his hand; delicate and fragile. The pathetic creature was in terrible shape; all skin and bones. He was completely starved; Horus would probably shatter if Kaiba made even the slightest wrong move.

But hair-pulling was not acceptable. He yanked the hand out of his hair and glared. The other hand slammed into his throat and his right eye glowed softly as something dark pooled in his palm.

Kaiba was suddenly on the other side of the room.

Horus tried to stand straight but his cramped body refused to uncurl far from his initial position. He stumbled as he took a few steps then opted to crawl instead as he eyed the other and rushed for the locked door. Unkempt nails scratched against it, splitting and cracking in the process.

Mokuba felt his heard tightened as a soft voice begged to be let out. The boy could only imagine what was running through the head of this mess of a being. Most likely death; He thought they were going to kill him.

Kaiba stood back up and rubbed at the burnt skin by his neck. He stepped closer to Horus.

Horus heard the footsteps and immediately pressed his back against the door. It didn't matter how calmly or slowly Kaiba approached, Horus was only thinking the worst. He scrambled to press himself even closer to the door. And as Kaiba moved within arm's length, Horus brought up a leg and slammed his foot into Kaiba's midsection.

Kaiba let out a cough as his hair was once again grabbed. He snarled and wrenched the hand away.

Horus began to panic when he reached with the other hand and Kaiba was able to pin both wrists in one hand. The subject pulled and thrashed to try and get away from his grip. "No no no no no no!"

“Stop!”

Horus flinched but complied.

“I'm helping you.”

“...Helping.” Horus looked between Kaiba's eyes. He relaxed slightly but his eyes never lost suspicion.

Kaiba let out a sigh through his nose. This was going to be a difficult process for everyone involved. "Yes. Let us help you." A lot happened while he was in stasis. It could take a while before Horus could be comfortable in the world. If ever.

But, by the way he stared at Kaiba, the other knew this needed to happen. Horus needed to be out of that tank more than anything. They would just have to figure out the consequences of it all as they tried to continue on with their lives.

-

Months later

Everything seemed to happen in slow motion.

Yugi was just about to walk into the Kaiba Corp building to finally put an end to this silly rivalry. To finally say he’d had enough of the young CEO doing whatever he could to get his attention. He was sick of it and he wanted to simply move on with his life.

He had gotten into the elevator and jabbed the button for the top floor. As it went up, it played an annoyingly calm tune. But he wasn’t about to let it lull him. Not when he was about to tell off his…

The elevator stopped on the twenty-second floor and opened the door to a massive battle in the vast office space. Employees ran for cover; most of them ran to jam themselves into the elevator.

He dove out before he could be trampled or crushed in their panic. It wasn’t until the door closed that he realized what a moronic decision he just made. Because now he was stuck in a room with two superpowered people in costumes. One was in a deep violet cloak; his face covered by shadows. The other was… The Pharaoh.

He heard stories about The Pharaoh. He’s seen the man in pictures and phone recordings. He’d even seen him once at the very end of him saving someone from certain doom.

But he never got to see him up close. He never noticed in pictures how his golden mask was smooth of any features. Or how the hood just seemed to stay on his head as if by magic. He always thought the cape was a bad idea, what with it being easily grabbed and used to tug him back. But when the masked assailant tossed a knife that nearly sliced into him, he found himself grateful for its existence. There was so much gold. His movements were so beautiful.

He watched in fascination as more knives went flying at the Pharaoh. He danced around the blades and landed a few attacks of his own to the taller opponent. He heard a snarl from the other.

“Enough!” The voice of the villain was garbled and deep. It sounded corrupted. “Why can’t you just accept your fate, Pharaoh?! Why do you insist on making this so difficult?!”

The Pharaoh didn’t respond right away. He just stood up straighter and took a step towards the other man. “Malik-”

The villain screamed and held his head. “No! This ends now!” He grabbed for something in the cloak.

The Pharaoh sprinted away from the other masked person and towards Yugi.

The explosion was enough to shoot them out of the building and through the nearly shattered windows. If it wasn’t for the Pharaoh’s shield, they would both surely be dead. Instead, they were simply blasted out of the building and, by the way the masked hero held him, it seemed like it was part of the plan. He watched the other and found himself staring into the Pharaoh’s eyes. They were so concentrated on the ground below but Yugi could see a world of thought rushing through them. He was planning what to do next and how to do it. He was concerned about the state of the building and anyone who might still be inside. He was worried about the disappearance of Malik.

Yugi yelped and clung to Pharaoh when they landed abruptly on the sidewalk.

“Are you alright?”

He looked back to find the eyes on him. Those same eyes he’d been able to read only seconds ago became much more guarded. Yugi only saw concern for his well being.

And under the gaze, he could only nod and pray his knees wouldn’t buckle under him as the Pharaoh put him down.

The Pharaoh nodded back and smiled with his eyes. “Good. Now, go somewhere safe. Keep away from here.”

“…O-okay.” He watched the Pharaoh run back for the building. He wanted to thank him for saving him but the words stopped in his throat. He just stood there and wondered about the strange drawing connection he had to this hero he’s never met before today.

-

It was a long day and took quite a bit of time to evacuate the building before the people inside were hurt or killed. But it took quite a bit of thought to figure out a way to do so without revealing himself to the police and firefighters on the streets below.

Pharaoh managed to get away through the windows he and Malik broke through. He partially hoped it would help him figure out where the other went but the trail went cold almost immediately after getting back out. He could only call it a night before his ‘handlers’ decided it was time to try and reign him in.

He was exhausted by the time he got back to his home and climbed into his room. He sighed and took off his mask. The image of violet eyes burned into his mind. It was as if they could stare into his soul. He pulled down the hood.

The light to the room popped on. He didn’t turn to see who stood in the doorway. He just reached up to untie the tight ponytail that kept his hair from getting too unruly.

“Seto’s upset.”

The Pharaoh sighed and threw his head back. “Of course he is.” He turned to look at the young boy. “Where is he?”

“He’s in his office.” The boy frowned. “You didn’t get hurt, did you?”

He chuckled softly and walked for the door, ruffling the other’s hair as he walked passed. “It’s nothing that won’t heal within the hour, Mokuba.”

He didn’t look amused. He straightened out his hair before following after the once masked hero.

As he expected, Seto Kaiba leaned against his desk and glared at the large television he kept in the office. It was on a news station that reported on what happened at Kaiba Corp. He kept his arms crossed as he pretended not to see his visitors. They all just watched the fight recorded on a shaky phone camera. Whoever held it managed to catch a video of Malik throwing the Pharaoh through three different cubicles before he ran for the elevator with what looked like hundreds of other people.

Kaiba turned back and focused his glare on the hero. “Care to explain?”

The Pharaoh crossed his arms and looked at Kaiba coolly. “I told you I was going to begin my search for the others.”

The taller man growled and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Atem….”

“Malik has to know the way to Isis.”

“I told you to leave this alone. This isn’t some kind of family reunion you can pull out of nowhere. There’s a reason-”

“But what about Subject Anubis? And-”

“Anubis is dead! All of them are. The only surviving member of that project is you, Horus.”

Atem raised an eyebrow. “Really, Set? Are you sure?”

Kaiba tensed for a second before his eyes narrowed. “Never call me that.”

“I will call you whatever I damn well please.”

“Then I’m guessing you want to be back in the basement? Maybe sleep for another two or three years?”

The room was suddenly cold and silent. Mokuba looked between the two and sighed softly. He just wanted to have a normal day without the two of them fighting. Just once!

Atem decided to change tactics. He tapped on his pulse and blinked as a projection shot from his right eye and onto the wall. It showed the files for Subject Anubis and the being’s abilities. “I’ve been reading through the files. Out of all the 'subjects,’ Anubis was by far the most powerful and the most unstable. It doesn’t help that they were also one of the three stolen from your father’s labs. There’s no proof they’re dead.”

“There’s no proof of anything.” Kaiba leaned back and typed something onto his computer. “Mokuba, look away.” A second later, something blinked onto the projection from Atem’s eye. It was an older picture; A group of mutilated charred bodies. One of them looked like a child. “The power from Anubis was unstable, you said it yourself. So unstable, it could have easily killed the people who took it and then itself.”

Atem blinked out the projection. “There’s no saying that’s them.”

“You tried. Anubis is gone just like the others. Ra might still be around but, if that’s the case, he can just stay in hiding. Same with Kuk. Now move on.”

Atem stared at Kaiba. The CEO turned and walked around the desk to sit down at the computer. Alright, if he wanted him to move on so badly, so be it. “I met Yugi Mutou today.”

That caught his attention. He shot a look at Atem. “As 'The Pharaoh’ I hope.”

“Of course as 'The Pharaoh.’ You’ve made it perfectly clear I’m not allowed to take a step out of this house as Atem.” He leaned against the desk as Kaiba started typing. “If I have nothing to fear, and the project’s all but dissolved, why am I still in hiding?”

The typing stopped.

“I mean, he’s right.” Mokuba chimed in. “We already did everything to make him legal. No one would ask why our cousin decided to stay with us.”

“I’m not stopping you from leaving the house as Atem so long as you act like a regular human being.”

“Then I’m enrolling in college.”

“That’s what you want to do with your time? Your enhancements already teach you everything you’d want or need to know.”

“I don’t want to go for the academic part.”

Kaiba leaned back in his chair and growled. “Fine. Go waste your time at school trying to make friends.”

“I’ll do just that.”

“Great.”

“Great.”

The two glared at one another for a moment before Atem snapped away and strode out of the room. At the same time, Kaiba returned to his typing.

Mokuba sunk down into a chair and sighed tiredly. Maybe there would be less tension in the house now that Atem could leave on his own accord. He was pretty sure all this fighting between the two was going to be the death of him.

 

Chapter Text

The Domino Institute of Technology was one of the top schools in Japan. It specialized in Engineering and (unsurprisingly to anyone who stepped foot in Domino) Game Design. And that is what Yugi Mutou decided to make his major.

Much to the surprise of literally no one.

Although he loved games and was very interested in the way he could create some of the most complex of games, some of the courses put in place to take were boring as Hell. He was sure they served a purpose somewhere. He was just having trouble seeing the reasoning. And, after being shot out of a building and rescued by Domino’s friendly neighborhood pharaoh guy, he wasn’t really feeling up to listening to the professor just drag on about… whatever he was talking about. Lighting? History of video game violence? Poetry? Maybe he walked into the wrong class.

His eyes drifted closed as his cheek leaned heavily on his hand. He almost slipped from his hand and jerked back awake before his head could hit the desk.

The room was silent. He looked around to see everyone’s eyes had fallen on a person standing in the doorway. The professor looked at the newcomer in annoyance.

The student ducked his head and kept his eyes down. “Sorry…” He adjusted his bag and snuck off to an empty seat in order to keep from attracting any more attention.

It was too late. Yugi’s attention was already locked on. He’d never seen the student before that day but there was something about him. Maybe it was his hair, maybe it was the intensity of his eyes. He couldn’t be sure. But he stared at the other student sat three seats away from him and began to organize his things.

He turned and looked at Yugi when he felt the eyes on him.

Yugi immediately looked away, his face on fire from the shame of being caught staring. He dared a glance back to see the other’s lip twitch into a smirk. He pulled a laptop from his bag and Yugi’s eyes drifted to the Kaiba Corp logo.

That just made this newcomer all the more intriguing.

He didn’t fall asleep again in the class. Instead, he pretended to listen to the lesson while stealing glances every few minutes. The student didn’t turn to type any of the notes onto his laptop; he just watched the professor calmly, as if absorbing all the information without a need for the computer. Every once in a while, his eyes would dart over to Yugi only to return to the professor a split second later.

All hope in Yugi ever paying attention in this class had flown out the window. Soon, he heard the sound of laptops and books shutting from the students around him. The newcomer glanced around as if he also didn’t realize it was time to leave and then moved to follow suit.

Yugi pulled all his stuff together.

“You’re Yugi Mutou, right?”

Yugi froze at the sound of the voice. He looked up to see the new student only a few steps away from him, his bag slung over his shoulder as he smiled at Yugi.

“Uhh, yeah. Yeah that’s me!” He smiled back and quickly finished packing. He stood up. “Um, and you are?”

“Oh… My name’s Atem. Atem Sennen.” He held out a hand for Yugi.

Yugi took it in his own and shook it. The grip was tight; something in the pit of his stomach tightened in response. “Nice to meet you, Atem.” He looked down at the bag, eyes once again falling on a familiar logo. “I’m guessing you know my name through Kaiba?”

“Hm?”

“Your bag. And your computer.”

Atem looked down at the dark blue stamp on his bag. He grimaced. “Oh, right… yeah.”

“He never really struck me as a social guy. How do you two know each other?” Yugi could feel Atem tensed up as soon as the conversation turned to Kaiba but his curiosity won out over his instinct on leaving the subject be.

But Atem just smiled and gripped his bag as the only sign of discomfort. His eyes said otherwise. “He’s my cousin.”

For a reason he couldn’t quite place, Yugi found comfort in the knowledge. “Oh really? I kind of thought Mokuba was his only family.”

“He was… kind of.” His eyes dropped as he rubbed the back of his neck. “I’m family from his birth parents’ side, not the adopted side… It… um… it’s a long story.”

“Heh, I believe you.”

Both of them snapped their heads to the front door where a student walked in. They looked at the two, mumbled an apology and backed up.

Yugi smiled sheepishly. “I guess we should leave before another class starts. It was nice to meet you, Atem.”

“Nice to meet you as well, Yugi. I’ll see you around.” He watched as Yugi walked out the door then followed suit and walked down the hall. He tightened his hand lightly and immediately made contact with Mokuba.

“Okay, before you actually start talking, is your phone up to your ear or are you going to look like you’re talking to yourself like a crazy person?”

Atem blinked. “Uh, the second one. Hold on.” He opened his bag and searched for the cell phone Mokuba had lent him.

“You know, now that you’re out in public more you’re gonna have to get used to actually pretending to use the phone.”

Atem pulled the phone out and brought it up to his ear. “I did a bad thing.”

“Is this a ‘fight with Seto’ type of bad or an 'End of the World’ type of bad?”

“I officially met Yugi again.”

“Okay, that’s not-”

“He knows my name and my relation to you two.”

Mokuba didn’t say anything for a moment. Then, he let out a deep, heavy sigh. “Atem, why?”

Atem shrugged helplessly. “He’s observant. And… I couldn’t lie to his face.”

“Seto’s going to kill you.”

“He can sure as Hell try.”

Atem could imagine the boy rubbing his eyes tiredly. “Alright, so you blew your cover. You can just avoid him from now on. Anything else I should know about?”

Atem paused and sucked in a breath. “I… don’t know if I have it in me to avoid him.”

Mokuba sucked in another deep breath. “Okay, Atem. This next question I’m going to ask you to answer very carefully; why not?”

“There’s…. something there. Something in me that is currently screaming for me to seek him out. The moment we touched, even a few days ago, it was… as if something inside of me were saying 'Ah ha. There you are.'”

The silence came back. This time, it was as if Mokuba were stunned. “…I can’t believe you formed such a deep crush on him so fast.”

“I’m sorry, what?”

The question was ignored. “You know I’m gonna have to tell Seto about this, though. I can’t just let him find out when Yugi tells him 'hey, I met your cousin!'”

“I understand. It-” He paused as he felt a tug from his powers. There was someone like him using their abilities.

Malik. It had to be Malik.

“Mokuba, I’m going to call you back.” He pulled the phone away from his ear and looked in the direction his dark powers tugged at him. He knew they would lead him to Malik.

Quickly, Atem stepped around a corner and out of sight from wandering eyes. He pulled his hair back and reached into his bag. A secret compartment opened to present him his mask and cape.

He donned them both then ran off in the direction of Malik.

-

“So, I was saved by your boyfriend, Anzu.” Yugi leaned back in his seat and sipped on his soda casually. He smiled around the straw as his long-time friend looked at him in surprise.

Her eyes lit up like Christmas and he could tell they were flashing back to the moment she developed this infatuation. The time he appeared next to her and demanded her attempted assaulter to leave her be.

She nearly dropped the tray on the table adjacent to Yugi’s before she remembered her job and quickly set down the food. She then slid into the booth with her friend with a giant grin on her face. “Wasn’t he amazing? Did you get a look at his face?”

“Only his eyes. You didn’t tell me they were so…” What was the best way to describe it? “focused.”

“Oh, and his voice! Did you hear his voice?!” She leaned against the table with that same smile. 

Yugi smiled back at her. “Yeah, I did. I guess it was pretty nice.”

“'Pretty nice?’ His voice could melt a glacier! What, was there an explosion that knocked out your hearing?”

He slowly pulled the soda from his mouth. “Maybe.”

The hazy, dreamy look in her eyes suddenly snapped out as concern took over. “You were in the Kaiba Corp explosion. Oh my God, Yugi. Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. I’m here, right?” He took a fry off his plate and continued to smile at his friend.

She frowned at him. “I should have pieced it together when you said you met the Pharaoh.”

“Hey, you didn’t know. I could’ve just met him when he was on his way to somewhere. There’s no saying I was in an area where there was chaos.”

“Yugi, he’s only ever in chaos. He’s not just some guy at a coffee shop.”

His eyes moved to the window just as something flew through the sky and landed right in the window of a shop across the street. “Yeah, more of a 'used bookstore’ guy.”

“Huh?” Anzu followed his gaze and, sure enough, the Pharaoh was pulling himself from the bookstore window.

Both of them ran out to get a look at the man just as another man landed on the sidewalk. Yugi immediately recognized him from the other night.

“One of these days you’re going to run into serious trouble, Pharaoh. Just take my advice and stay down.” Malik stepped forward and walked into the street.

The Pharaoh stumbled to his feet and held his arm. “Malik, you don’t understand. I’m-” He stopped immediately when his eyes landed on Yugi and Anzu.

It didn’t matter. Malik took another step. “I know who you are.”

The Pharaoh’s eyes widened.

“And I know you’re wearing a mask for some reason. So let me end this now.” Within the blink of an eye, Malik shot forward and grabbed hold of his neck. “If you want to keep your identity a secret, Horus, Leave me and my sister alone. Otherwise, I’ll be ripping off more than that mask the next time we meet.” He hissed out the words then shoved the Pharaoh away.

He then looked over at the two watching them as a group of more people started to collect. With nothing more to say, he walked on and left the Pharaoh on the sidewalk.

Yugi and Anzu trotted over to the masked hero. Anzu growled at the state of her hero before she turned to the man retreating. “Don’t you have any heart?! What could he have possibly done to deserve such violence?!”

Malik paused for only a second. He turned and glared at her. “Don’t pretend you know the situation, girl.” His eyes wandered and linger on Yugi as the boy helped the Pharaoh to his feet. He watched and locked eyes with the hero one more time. Then, he continued on his way without another word.

Yugi could feel the other lean against him. The Pharaoh’s weight was a strangely comfortable pressure; as if he were part of a home Yugi had lost long ago. He couldn’t quite explain it.

“Thank you.”

Yugi looked at the Pharaoh and, once again, read the story that was his eyes. They spoke of gratitude and frustration. They spoke of carefully laid plans falling to the wayside as chaos consumed them. They spoke of a determination to finally gain the answer their owner craved.

They spoke of intense fear upon not getting that answer. Or, possibly, not getting a result they could live with.

Yugi snapped out of it when Anzu rushed over to them with a look of concern heavy in her features. “Maybe you should come in and rest for a moment.”

The Pharaoh looked at the building she came out of and shook his head. “No. There’s work to be done. I’m sorry.” He pulled himself upright and carefully stepped away from Yugi.

The crowd around them watched with an almost morbid curiosity as the masked phantom they’ve seen all over the news limped away from the scene. Once he was completely clear of all people, the Pharaoh disappeared without a trace.

Yugi pursed his lips into a thin line and stared at the spot. He could only hope the Pharaoh would be okay.

Chapter Text

“You could have killed him!”

He was sick of having this argument. “So what? Maybe someone should actually do it and put the kid out of his misery!”

“Are you even listening to yourself?! He's a child!”

“Barely. You know he barely qualifies as even a 'he' anymore. That's not your son; that's an experiment gone haywire!”

“He's still family, Malik.”

“Then I'm doing him a favor.”

The thought back to the argument filled Malik with regret. He could still see the look on his sister's face when she heard him talk so bluntly about Horus. He knew none of this was easy for Isis. The day she presented the infant to Kaiba was the lowest he'd ever seen her. But he helped convince her it was all for the best. The Kaiba Corp scientists would treat him well. He would be able to help people. He would be a hero.

Malik wasn't completely wrong. Horus was alive and well. He was running around the city as a masked vigilante. Although the fact that he was seeking out his mother was concerning, in a way.

It was also concerning that one of his eyes looked as though it had lenses. He decided it was probably for the best that he didn't tell that part to his sister. Just like he didn't tell her about all the other children who were brought in to partake in the abilities they themselves had trouble controlling.

His powers pulled as he felt someone step up from behind him. He sighed and closed his eyes. “I told you this wouldn't-” He immediately snapped his mouth shut when he saw his visitor wasn't Horus. It was a different mask; the mask of a falcon with an orange sun on the forehead.

Malik turned to him completely. “You witnessed the fight today. I'm guessing your name is Ra?”

He nodded. “One of my names, yes.”

“You hid your abilities well. Why didn't you attack me with Horus?”

Ra looked down for a moment and thought deeply about his answer. “Horus... doesn't know I'm around. I'd like to keep it that way for now.”

Malik tilted his head and crossed his arms. “Is there a reason or do you just like to be all secretive for no reason?”

“Horus and I aren't the only two. There's still two more out in the world. I know where one of them is located. The other, however...”

“I know about Anubis. I saw the files.” It didn't take much to gain the information he needed. Just a quick manipulation of one of the Kaiba Corp employee's mind.

“Then you know what I'm going to ask.”

Malik nodded and sighed through his nose. “I do. And I won't get involved. I just want to move on with my life and leave this mess behind.”

Ra shrugged. “That's enough for me. Just stay out of the way and you'll get exactly that.” He moved to the edge of the building.

“It might be a good idea to keep close to Horus. Anubis might be following him.”

He only paused to hear what Malik had to say. Then, he stepped off into a dark void he created himself.

Malik watched and let out a breath. These children were going to be more of a problem than Ra claimed; he could feel it.

-

“It burns!”

“Stop whining. If you didn't try to get into a fight with your uncle, you wouldn't be in this position.”

Atem pouted at Kaiba and fought to get away from his hands. But then the cloth was pressed against his temple again and he hissed.

Kaiba held it there for a moment. The blood had been cleared away but there was still the possibility of infection if the wounds weren't properly cleaned and bandaged. Wounds like this always took much longer to heal than the simple knife or bullet wound. “Hold it there.”

Atem placed his hand over the cloth as Kaiba let go. He watched him turn away and prepare something to cover the cut.

“You're lucky he didn't cut any deeper or else we'd be looking at your skull.” Kaiba picked up the mask and observed it. Aside from a few dents in the gold, it was still intact. “We might want to consider modifying this to protect you better.”

“I like it the way it is.”

“It's not doing its job.”

Atem raised an eyebrow. “Its job is to protect my identity. I think it's doing it very well.”

Seto looked as though he wanted to say something but quickly thought better of it. He clenched his jaw and put the mask down. “There's no malfunction in your eye, right?”

Atem shook his head.

Kaiba pushed Atem's hand away and put a bandage over the wound. “Try to keep yourself from getting killed before that heals. I have to get back to work cleaning up your other mess.”

Atem felt something tense in him as Kaiba turned away. He hopped off the table and headed for the door.

“One more thing.”

He turned back and looked at his 'cousin.' Kaiba picked up the blood covered cloth but didn't look at him. “Don't let yourself get too attached to Yugi. That's how you'll end up getting hurt.”

Atem snorted and looked away. “You would think that.” He walked out the door and left Kaiba to his thoughts.

-

“You've never been to Burger World?”

“Is it really that strange?” Atem smiled in amusement but felt a small bit of concern. What was the possibility of this blowing his cover?

Yugi shrugged. “Maybe not. I just never met anyone who didn't go there at least once. We used to go all the time in high school.” He adjusted the bag on his arm and smiled. “Anyway, Some friends and I are meeting up there. We might hit up the arcade or something too. Do you wanna come?”

Atem blinked and stopped walking. He'd never been invited anywhere. In his defense, it was largely due to never really stepping foot outside the Kaiba mansion up until a week ago but... would Kaiba be mad?

Did he actually care? Yugi was asking him to meet up with friends! People! People who weren't servants who feared him or the Kaiba brothers who still treated him like some kind of child. An overpowered child, yes, but a child.

Atem smiled. “I'd love to.”

Yugi smiled back. He liked that smile. “Great! Let's go!”

The walk there was quick. It was almost too quick for Atem's taste. It didn't give him a lot of time to learn about Yugi. To learn what made him smile. To learn what brought him absolute joy. But these were things he expected to learn in time. All he had to do was stay close.

A group of people waved from a couple of tables away from the door. Yugi beamed and nearly ran to the table. Atem followed suit.

“Yo, Yugi! You're just in time!” A taller boy with shaggy blond hair grinned with a wave. His smile fell ever so slightly at the sight of the stranger. Still friendly just more guarded.

Yugi continued to smile as he gestured to his new friend. “Oh. Atem this is Jounouchi,” he gestured to the blond, “Honda,” the brunet boy next to Jounouchi, “And Anzu,” the brunette girl on the opposite side of the table. Yugi then turned and looked at them as he gestured to Atem. “Guys, this is Atem. He's Kaiba's cousin.”

Jounouchi snorted as Yugi guided Atem to sit in the booth. “Kaiba's cousin, eh? Sorry to hear that.”

Honda rolled his eyes and looked at Atem. “Jou's got a bit of a sour history with Kaiba.”

Atem's lip twitched into a soft smirk. “Doesn't everyone?”

The blond barked out a laugh but didn't go any further as Yugi pulled up a chair for himself.

Anzu turned and looked at Atem. “So, how'd you meet Yugi?”

Atem sat up a little straighter. “We have a few classes together.”

“Atem's been helping me a lot. He's kind of brilliant.” Yugi grinned at the other fondly. He watched with satisfaction as a light blush came over the other boy.

“I wouldn't go that far.”

Anzu leaned on the table and eyed the newcomer with a soft smile. “What're you studying at DIT?”

He shrugged. “It was just a good opportunity to learn something new.” And that turned into a very good decision. He glanced over at Yugi and saw the eyes still on him. They were smiling just like he did at the mention of friends.

Atem couldn't help but smile back. The look was interrupted by a waiter taking their orders. He listened closely as everyone listed what they wanted and figured out the pattern for it before ordering his own items.

He had no idea what he was getting but it was enough to know he would be blending in easily with the other people. Throughout the meal, he mostly just listened to them talk about games and such. Occasionally he would throw in his thoughts. Living in the Kaiba mansion surrounded by the very games that replaced weapons made him pretty knowledgeable in games of all types.

But it would seem there was a reason Kaiba got so frustrated with Yugi. Yugi made Kaiba look like an amateur by comparison and he did it in a way that was far from intimidating. Questions were answered without a scoff or even a hint of annoyance. Rather, the questions were met with enthusiasm for the opportunity to teach someone about his passion. It was refreshing.

The arcade wasn't too far from the burger place. It was only a block down, right past the spot where the Pharaoh was thrown into a window and defeated. The window still sported the spider-web crack from his body and the sidewalk looked as though it had some kind of crack of its own.

Atem tried not to look at that spot.

Everyone scattered when they entered the arcade. The place was already pretty crowded but that was fine. No one cared they had to wait a moment for a game.

Atem found his way over to a shooting game about shooting people who came back from the dead. He'd seen Honda challenge Yugi to a fighting game and a small crowd had gathered around Anzu as she worked on getting a perfect score on the dance game near the front.

“Mind if I join ya?” Jounouchi picked up the second player gun and put in a few tokens.

Atem smiled to him as the two began annihilating anything that stood in their way. They did it in silence for half of a level before Jounouchi spoke up.

“So, uh... Kaiba, eh?”

Atem nodded.

“How long you been there?”

“I guess it's been about three months.”

The blond was silent for a moment. He shot a few of the enemies getting a little too close to Atem. “So... don't look too deep into this but... How's he been?”

Atem glanced up at Jou. He stared into his eyes, hoping for some clue as to why that question was asked. Especially after what was said in the burger place. “He's been... Kaiba. No better or worse, I guess.”

Jounouchi nodded and tried his best to cover his smile. “Right. Of course, he is. Rich bastard's never gonna change.”

Atem snorted and emptied his clip into one of the bigger enemies. It would seem this sour relationship had a mixture of sweetness to it. But he didn't feel as though he was in a position to call Jou out on it.

“He must be pissed about your crush on Yugi.”

Damn. He should've asked. Instead, he stumbled with his gun. He just held it for a moment while Jou covered him. “Is it that obvious?”

“To me it is. Don't know if Yugi noticed cuz he's always in his own head.” Jou smirked without looking away from the screen. “Don't worry, bud. I got your back.” He stopped shooting as a cutscene loaded on screen. “Just let me know when you decide to make a move cuz I've got some advice.”

“...Did you and him...?”

“Hah, no not really. I've just been around long enough to watch a couple of people try and fail because they weren't speaking his language. But I got a good feeling from you.”

Atem blinked and tilted his head. He wasn't completely sure, but he thought this was probably a good thing. He wanted to be liked by Jounouchi. Despite his odd connection to Kaiba, which may or may not have been severed. He smiled softly and nodded. “Thank you, Jounouchi.”

“Eh, it's no big deal.”

“Grab the Rocket Launchers! They're our only chance to take him down!”

They turned back to see the giant monster on screen. Both brought up their guns and they switched over to the more powerful weapon.

A small message appeared in Atem's eye to indicate Kaiba was trying to contact him. It glowed red, softly and right near the edge of his peripheral. Atem ignored it.

-

“I'm gonna need a rematch soon.”

“Should we be takin' bets this time? I'm pretty sure you're not going to beat him.”

Yugi smiled. “He got close this time.”

Anzu shook her head and sighed at the shorter boy. “You know you're just encouraging this to go on longer.”

“Not on purpose.”

Atem just smiled to himself as he listened to the group. It was nice to be around people who could be so carefree. For a while, he wasn't sure people like this really existed outside of the fictional worlds he'd seen before. But here they were, as real as him.

He paused and lost his smile at the sound of a helicopter overhead. He didn't have to look around to know he wasn't the only one to hear it. They all knew what it meant.

Seto Kaiba walked up to the group casually.

Atem watched as everyone's stances changed from relaxed to tense. All four of his new friends looked at Kaiba as if they were preparing for a fight. But not a word was spoken. The CEO walked passed them all as his eyes landed on Atem. He said nothing as his gaze stayed locked.

Atem stood his ground as Kaiba stopped by his side. “Last warning.” He said it so softly Atem was sure none of the other people in his group could hear it.

Atem didn't open his mouth. He clenched his jaw and sent a message in his silence. Kaiba would not continue to run his life. He could bitch and moan all he wanted but at the end of the day, Atem would decide for himself what he wanted to do.

The message landed. He could tell by the way his faux cousin walked away. He could also tell the argument was far from over. The experiences of arguments in their past led him to that conclusion.

But, for now, it was done. For now, Atem had won.

But somehow the victory felt concerning as it sat in the back of his mind. There was something he wasn't considering. A longer game.

That was the one Atem would have to win. Both of them knew that more than anything.

-

Yugi was a little disappointed when Atem decided it was time for him to leave. It was possible whatever Kaiba had mumbled to him was enough to get him to return home but that didn't stop the dejected feeling that flowed through him. He wanted to spend more time with Atem; he wanted to get to know him better.

He wanted a lot of things from Atem.

It was kind of like his old crush on Anzu except with a different level of intensity. When he liked Anzu in a way a little more than platonic, it could be considered nothing more than innocent puppy love. He had thought about dating and possibly an overindulgence in fantasies of marriage and a family. Sure, sexual thoughts came to mind but...

But the fantasies weren't the same. Anzu was sweet and loving; Atem was hot and heavy. Fewer candles and roses, more ropes and bite marks. And something in his eyes made Yugi think he caught onto the thoughts.

Or maybe he was just hoping Atem was a mind reader so he didn't have to eventually admit to it.

Yugi walked into the game shop to find all the lights were off. He could only assume his grandfather wasn't feeling well and decided to close up early for the night. Although, if that were the case, he would usually call and see if Yugi would have the time to stand in for him.

But then he heard the sound of something beeping from the back room. He followed the sound. “Grandpa?”

The soft beeping stopped.

Yugi walked into the room and glanced around at all the boxes that were open. The contents inside had been shifted around as if his grandfather were looking for something important. He spotted him as the old man slowly climbed to his feet.

Yugi moved in closer. “Are you having trouble finding something?”

Sugoroku chuckled. “Oh no, I'm just working on doing some restocking. The shelves were looking a bit sparse after today's rush.”

Yugi glanced back out into the store. He hadn't remembered seeing much out of place. The store had been a little slow lately so pretty much all the same products were on the shelves for the last few months. Still, he didn't call his grandfather out on it. “Sorry, I should've been here to help.”

The older Mutou waved it off. “Eh, you have your own life and your friends. I wasn't gonna spoil your good time so you could come here and just watch me work.”

Yugi smiled softly for a second before it fell into a curious look. “What's that?” He pointed to the tablet in his grandfather's hand.

Sugoroku immediately turned off the screen. “Nothing really. Just a new thing for cataloging the store. A gift from a friend.” Before Yugi could ask another question, he changed the subject. “I'm sure you have a lot of school work. Why don't you go get started on that? I'll have dinner ready soon.”

Yugi eyed his grandfather for a moment before the smile was forced to return. He nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, I'll do that.” He turned back to the door. “Just let me know if you need help, okay?”

“Don't worry about me, kiddo.” He waved at Yugi's retreating form happily before his face fell again and he returned to the tablet. He turned it back on and continued to look over the updated condition of Subject Horus and the pictures sent to him. He needed to work to see if he could figure out who sent this to him.

But he had a feeling he knew exactly who. He wondered what caused the man to rise again; last they spoke he only wanted to live his life without another thought to any of this. No more experiments; no more enhanced children.

But it looked as though Subject Horus was still alive and well. That could be dangerous if he ran into any of the other three.

He didn't know what Gorzuburo did to his poor sons but now knowing Horus was still around, he could only assume the worst. Sugoroku tapped on the screen and found his contact has kindly given him a short list of people to contact with more information.

It would seem Seto Kaiba knew something considering his name was there. But Sugoroku clicked on a different name. One that seemed much more dire.

It was simply labeled Valentine.

 

Chapter Text

Atem leaned in the doorway of Kaiba's office. He eyed his self-appointed caretaker unblinkingly and kept his arms crossed. “You usually want to talk about this.”

“Well, now I don't. I thought I'd try something new.” He didn't look up at Atem. His eyes stayed fixed on his screen.

But Atem wasn't ready to give up. He kept his gaze locked onto Kaiba's face as he studied every little feature. “Are you angrier I was with Yugi or that I was with Jounouchi?”

Kaiba stopped typing but didn't look away from his computer. To a normal human eye, his expression didn't change much. But Atem picked up on it all.

There was a new twitch near his left eyelid. His lip turned down ever so slightly and his eyes narrowed just enough to compensate for the twitch. The moment the name 'Jounouchi' was left in the air, Kaiba's pupils gave a slight dilation, not enough to express full interest but definitely enough to where it was clear Atem wasn't wrong about their relationship.

Kaiba pushed himself out of his seat without looking at Atem. He walked to a corner of the room where he stored expensive liquor and crystal glasses.

Atem pushed himself off the wall and followed after him. “What happened between you two? Is he the reason you don't want me near Yugi? Are you afraid I might force you to be around an ex-lover?”

“You shouldn't ask questions like that, Atem.”

“How does one hope to learn if they don't ask questions?”

“Maybe this is something you weren't meant to learn.”

Atem grimaced and sighed through his nose. “Fine. I'll stop prying.”

“No, you won't.”

“No, I won't. But you can consider this a break on the subject.”

Kaiba snorted and poured himself a glass of some kind of amber liquid Atem never bothered to ask about. “Then I assume you have another subject on your mind.” He took a sip as his eyes fell on Atem's.

Atem just stared back.

Kaiba knew instantly what the other was about to say. “I swear to any god listening if you say anything about-”

“Malik.”

Kaiba growled and tensed. For a moment, it looked as though he were trying everything he could to control the rage inside him. The rage fueled by a subject that had been gone through so many times, the mere mention was enough to induce it. He tried to suck in a deep calming breath. “The last time you dealt with him, he told you to leave him alone.”

“He doesn't speak for her.”

“No, but I think her not showing up or even attempting contact would be her speaking for her.”

He knew it struck a nerve before he could even see Atem's face. The air around them tensed and became heavy. When he looked at the other boy, he was staring into eyes debating on the best method of murder.

But Kaiba was far from afraid of Atem. “You were abandoned, Horus. Just like the rest of the orphans in the project. But what makes this even crueler is how she handed you over knowing something would happen to you. This is not a woman you will contact because she left you, an infant, to be torn apart by a group of scientists in order to see what makes you tick.”

Atem sucked in a shuttering breath as the murderous rage fled as quickly as it came. He looked away from Kaiba and down at the floor.

Kaiba eyed him as he took a sip of his drink. He watched for any sign of relenting or even just a loosening of his grip on the hope of the situation. He could see tears beginning to well up around the enhanced eye.

That eye always teared up faster than the other.

“But why?”

The question was spoken so softly Kaiba nearly missed it. He just waited silently, knowing Atem would continue.

“Why did she leave me here?”

Kaiba felt his heart sink.

“Did she have no choice? What was to become of me if she kept me?” He looked back up at Kaiba. “What made her sacrifice her own child like that?”

The CEO felt like he was backed into a corner by the questioning. Atem still looked at him as if he could give any of the answers. But he couldn't. He shook his head and uttered words he rarely could admit. “I don't know.”

Atem gave him a short, curt nod in response. “That's why I need to talk to her. She's the only one who can answer me.”

Kaiba sighed. “This might be another example of questions that shouldn't be answered.”

Atem looked down again. He didn't want to agree but he was finding it difficult to find the reasons why not. Every time he found a path, he was greeted with another roadblock. Malik continued to be annoyed by the pestering, Kaiba was offering him no help, and he couldn't find anyone else who knew about the project.

Maybe he should give up the search. Maybe he should just hope Isis would find her way to him.

He didn't look back at Kaiba. Instead, he silently walked out of the office, only pausing when he saw Mokuba a few steps away from the door. He could feel the younger Kaiba's eye on him as he walked down the hall and to his room.

Mokuba pursed his lips into a thin line and walked into the office. “What did you say to him?”

Kaiba walked back to his desk. “What he needed to hear.”

-

Atem closed the door to his room silently. He moved slowly through it as he took in everything. It was a large room with a bed much bigger than the poor excuse for a cot in the basement. He hadn't been much for decorating but there were a few items strewn about and pictures from times he couldn't fully remember.

Along with it was an old photo of a woman with piercing eyes and long black hair. Atem stared at it for a little longer than necessary. The questions still echoed in his head until he finally tore his eyes away and walked over to the large windows. Windows he'd made a habit of climbing out of in order to go and be the Pharaoh.

Once again, he climbed out. This time, he only wanted to be on the roof. He didn't want to go find Malik. He didn't want to fight the man for answers. Malik probably didn't know any more than he did.

Although, Malik would know where to find Isis. And that knowledge was enough to make Atem want to seek out the other.

Atem could almost yell out in frustration at everything. Instead, he just found himself a seat on the roof and tried his best to ignore the feeling of being watched. It wasn't completely unbelievable that Kaiba would have installed cameras on the roof in order to keep an eye on him. He's done much more invasive things to keep Atem under his thumb.

Such as keeping him in the basement labs when he was first woken up. Or using the chip in his head to find his exact coordinates.

Someday he would have to figure out how to completely deactivate that without hurting himself in some way. But one problem at a time.

“Horus.”

Atem snapped around to see someone near the edge. He wore a mask but there was a strange feeling of kinship he knew he felt before. The same kinship he felt when he was around...

“We need to talk.”

The strange new masked one took a step closer to him. Atem jumped to his feet in response. Maybe there were still a few doors he could open.

-

He was kind of surprised what a couple of days without seeing Atem was doing to him. This was somewhat new territory for him; to be this frustrated with someone's absence.

Yugi admired his work. There he laid on the bed with his upper body fully exposed and vulnerable to anything Yugi wished. Those deep red eyes glistened and told a tale of need as he panted through kiss-swollen lips. His collar and chest were already littered in red bite marks and light bruising.

And, if the eyes were anything to go on, he was practically begging for more.

“Yugi...” His voice was husky from overuse. So many cries out from every sensation being laid upon his skin.

Yugi leaned down and grabbed the other's wrist to pin him to the bed. “Say my name again. Just like that.” He nipped at his ear and pushed their hips together roughly.

The other arched into the delicious friction. “Ah-! Hn..”

Yugi smirked, his hand inched down to the other's trousers as he lightly kissed and nibbled on his neck.

Then something jabbed him in the side. Hard.

He snapped back into reality and shot a look at Ryo as he recalled where he was.

Ryo just twirled the pencil in his hand and smiled. “Well, don't start to daydream in the middle of a description.” He tapped the pencil against his pad. “It must've been a good one for me to get such a glare out of you.”

Yugi sighed. “Guess you could say that.”

“You're drooling a little.”

He quickly rubbed at his lips and looked back at the phone. The pictures Jounouchi had sent were still on screen. After meeting Atem, the blond had made a point to hang out with him. At first, Yugi was concerned with what Jou might be attempting when it came to Kaiba.

Now, he wondered if he should be more concerned on what this meant for him. Because now he was getting photos of Atem.

Atem playing games at the arcade. Atem laughing at something Jou had said. Atem stretching, his shirt riding up just enough to expose his hipbone.

Atem with some kind of cream on his face as he looked at the camera in annoyance.

There was also a text from Jou. It simply said you're welcome!

Ryo looked at the phone then glanced at Yugi knowingly. “Oh, I see. But we can't put this off anymore.” He sat back again. “We have to finish the concept art before we can go out and play.”

“What's going on?”

“Yugi has a boyfriend.”

Before he could protest, the phone was pulled out of his grip. Yugi tried to snatch it out of Bakura's hand but it was too late. He continued to chew on his pastry as he took in the vision of Atem. “Hm, he looks like a dick.”

Yugi rolled his eyes. “You think everyone's a dick.”

“And I have yet to be wrong.” He dropped the phone unceremoniously onto Yugi's lap before he climbed over the couch and landed next to Ryo. He eyed the sketch; the beginnings of what looked to be a castle. “Besides, where did you find a boyfriend when you're free time is spent just playing games?”

“He's not my boyfriend.”

“Stop making goo-goo eyes at your phone and I'll believe that.”

Yugi locked the phone again and sighed at Bakura. “We met in class and from there we just kind of became friends.”

“Taking the slow road again, Mr. Romantic?”

He shrugged. “Not everyone can have a soulmate who was there with them since birth.”

Ryo and Bakura glanced at each other before the latter got up and headed out of the room, a light blush on his otherwise expressionless face.

Ryo just watched him leave with an amused shake of his head. He then returned to the sketch. “Let's just get this done. Maybe we can catch up with Jou and your new friend later. I'd like to meet him.”

Yugi's eyes lit up and he nodded. “Yeah. Let's do that!”

Bakura continued to peek from around the corner. He watched Yugi closely as the short boy returned to the task at hand. He could almost feel Ryo's thoughts mingle with his own.

But he couldn't worry about this now. There were more important things to concern himself with.

-

A few hours passed and Jounouchi's phone buzzed. Atem looked over at him as he pulled out the phone and smirked. “Yugi's free now. And our friend Ryo's coming to hang out too.” The blond turned to Atem. “Guess those pictures really got his motor runnin'.”

“What pictures?”

Jounouchi tensed. “Shit, I didn't tell you.” He smiled sheepishly.

Atem raised an eyebrow. “You've been sending him photos of me, haven't you?”

“....Just a few.” He immediately tensed when Atem frowned. “C'mon, bud. I'm just trying to help my friends. Trust me! Half the reason he's coming is because of it.”

“Are one of those photos the one where you spit your milkshake in my face?”

“Okay first, I said I was sorry. And second, would you be mad if I said yes?”

Atem's frown morphed into a glare.

“Guess that answers that.”

“You're making me look foolish.”

Jou laughed. “Yeah, I don't know if 'foolish' would be what Yugi gets out of it.” The laugh died down a little when Atem's expression didn't change. “He's coming to see you, ya know.”

The glare softened.

“And Ryo's coming. You'll like Ryo. He's a pretty cool guy.” Jou looked down at his phone with a thought. “His, uh, boyfriend though... I could see you two not really seeing eye to eye.”

“Why's that?”

“Bakura's an.... acquired taste. I don't know what he'd do if Ryo wasn't there to calm him down.” He began typing something back to Yugi. “But maybe he's working or something.”

A few seconds later, he frowned at the phone. “Well, maybe it won't be so bad. We can just bite that bullet right away.”

Atem just looked on in confusion. Surely no one could be so different from him that their personalities would immediately clash. Sure, he fought with Kaiba more than he agreed but he wasn't going to say he had to 'bite the bullet' whenever it came to interacting with him.

But when they finally met up with the three, Atem took one look into the other's strangely pale eyes and saw what Jounouchi was talking about. This man was not going to be his friend.

This man would be someone he would tolerate at best.

By the look in his eyes, it would seem the feeling was mutual. Bakura eyed him and squared his shoulders as Yugi and Ryo turned to see the two. He, like everyone else, was taller than Atem. His tanned skin and muscular frame was a nearly perfect contrast to Ryo's lean, pale form. Ryo looked at Atem with a calm curiosity.

Yugi looked happy to see him. He smiled at both him and Jounouchi.

Atem felt a light flutter in his gut. He smiled back.

“Yo!” Jou grinned at the three. “You finally got the concept done?”

“After overcoming all distractions, yes.” Ryo glanced at Yugi pointedly.

Yugi coughed into his hand before grinning at Atem again. “Atem, this is Ryo and Bakura. Ryo's a design major at DIT.”

Atem shook Ryo's hand with a smile. “It's a pleasure to meet you.” He glanced over at Bakura.

The other just crossed his arms stubbornly. “I'm sure it is.”

Atem raised an eyebrow at him.

Ryo just glanced at Bakura in exasperation. He looked back at Atem and smiled awkwardly. “He's just a bit... rough around the edges.”

“I believe you.” He shoved his hands in his pockets and tilted his head at Bakura. His eyes narrowed. There was something strangely familiar about these two.

He was snapped from the thought by a sudden clap on his shoulder. Atem snapped around to look as Jounouchi, who grinned tensely.

“So, me and 'Tem completely demolished all the high scores at the arcade.”

Yugi chuckled. “All of them? I really doubt that.”

“Oh yeah? Why don't you come check it out?” That grin didn't fade as the challenge was put forth.

It set off a spark in Yugi's eyes. Atem smiled when he saw a little bit of fire at the prospect of a challenge.

He pretended not to feel eyes on him as he took in Yugi. Pretended they weren't attempting to drill into the side of his head and identify him like he was meant to be taken apart. Jounouchi was right; he and Bakura were not going to get along.

He just couldn't pinpoint exactly why.

-

Mokuba walked in through the door and immediately fought the urge to panic. There, standing in their kitchen, was a blond he never thought he'd see in the house again. Alongside him were his brother's greatest rival, two people Seto has made it clear aren't trustworthy, and his faux cousin.

Yugi was the first one to see him. “Hello, Mokuba! Sorry for the intrusion.”

“It ain't an intrusion,” Jounouchi called out, “we were invited.”

Atem nodded and smiled at the blond before he turned his sights on Mokuba. “Welcome home, by the way.”

Mokuba just stared at Atem for a minute before he walked in and grabbed hold of the other's wrist. “Excuse us for a second.”

Everyone watched as Mokuba dragged Atem out of the kitchen. He was pulled into one of the guest rooms where Mokuba shut the door and glared at Atem. “Are you fucking crazy?!”

“Hey, language.” Atem frowned.

“Do you know what you're doing?”

“Breaking an asinine rule?” He crossed his arms and leaned against the wall. “What's the point in having a place of this size if only three people use it?”

“There's nothing against you making friends, Atem. But you made friends with a few of the only people Seto told you to stay away from.”

“Without giving me a reason.”

Mokuba clenched his jaw and bit his tongue. He so wanted to give Atem a reason but it wasn't his place. He could only watch as Atem turned and walked back out of the room. And now, he could only hope this wouldn't end in a blaze.

But who was he kidding; of course it would!

-

Kaiba was going to do the one thing his father failed to do. Kaiba was going to kill Atem. And not in the humane 'give him an injection and he'll die peacefully' way but rather in a 'disembowel and listen to his screams' way.

He was lucky Mokuba gave him the warning. That way, when he walked in, he could grunt a 'hello' at the uninvited guests and disappear into his office. There, he would make sure all the rooms containing evidence of Atem's true identity were locked away.

And he could rest easy knowing the maze that was his home would be enough to keep Yugi from trying to get him to open up or whatever.

There was a light knock on the door and it pushed open before he could tell the visitor to go away. Kaiba didn't look at him; He didn't have to.

He knew who it was.

“You're not eating again.”

Kaiba still didn't turn. “I've been busy.”

“Too busy for a sandwich? C'mon, Se-” He remembered himself before the name came forth, “Kaiba.”

The change made Kaiba's heart tighten in his chest. A horrible reminder there was once something else between them. He turned and faced the blond. “Why can't you just pretend you don't care?”

Jounouchi glared at him. “I'm not you. I can't just shut off my emotions at will.”

“Is that why you're here? To be emotional?”

“Atem invited me. I took him up on his invite for Yugi's sake.”

Kaiba rolled his eyes. “Jounouchi Katsuya: the all-caring altruist.”

“Fuck you.”

“So, I'm guessing you followed me here to further cement this whole 'For Yugi's sake' shtick? Or did you come because you noticed I lost weight in the point two seconds you saw me?”

Jounouchi didn't say anything. He just stared into Kaiba's eyes. It was almost as if he were attempting to pinpoint any and every thought running through the blue.

Kaiba fought the urge to look away.

“You should come hang out with us. Maybe you can learn some social skills.”

“I'm fine.”

“No, you're not.” Jounouchi backed up towards the door. “If you're not down with us in an hour, I'm gonna come find you and drag you out, rich boy.”

“Like you have the power.”

“You know I have the power.” He pointed at Kaiba one last time. “One hour.” then, he walked back down the hall.

Kaiba looked down as soon as Jou was out of sight. At some point, he backed up to lean against his desk and now his hands were gripping the wood as if to break it.

He let go, his grip shaky as he did so. He debated on following the blond and just making it easier on himself later. But, instead, he turned and sat down at his desk. Maybe Jou wouldn't make good on his promise.

Maybe, some part of him wanted to see Jounouchi come to do just that.

Maybe, he looked back on the past he had with the blond and felt regret and guilt. Maybe they shouldn't have had that fight. Maybe he should have told Jounouchi the truth. Maybe it wasn't too late to do just that.

Kaiba ran a hand through his hair. Maybe it would be better to keep from having Jounouchi alone. He might do something stupid.

With that thought, he stood up and walked out of the room. He tried to keep his mind from racing as he headed down to a large common room where he knew Atem would take the group. It was a room full of all different games, from large arcade style to consoles to board games. The group of six were gathered around a large TV and yelling different orders as Ryo controlled a character on screen. Even Mokuba seemed to be getting into it, despite his own glances at Atem and Jounouchi.

Kaiba looked at Atem. He didn't get a look back. Instead, the red eyes stayed locked onto Yugi. His expression stayed soft and his lips continued to display a smile neither of the brothers had ever seen.

And it was then Kaiba knew for certain his 'cousin' was doomed.

 

Chapter Text

 

All it took was a trip around the mansion in a 'search for the bathroom' to get the information he needed. He knew Kaiba wouldn't be stupid enough to leave the rooms unlocked. But he also knew that couldn't last forever.

And he knew they weren't cruel enough to leave Atem to a room down in those labs. Which meant that area was most likely completely unguarded. Why would anyone go searching through a lab that didn't exist?

Bakura had a very good reason. He remembered a few things about his past. He also remembered there were things left there that he could use. Back when the Project was functional, most of the subjects wore masks to keep people from remembering these were children. In some cases, the mask also worked to hone a few abilities.

So, when Bakura went down into the labs, he knew exactly what he needed.

The memories were foggy but the place had that same sense of intimidation. He walked down the halls and looked into the rooms with cots by the walls and computers set-up just outside the windows. At the end of the hall was a room like the others but inside was a large tank and a single cot. In the corner were boxes upon boxes, stacked neatly out of the way. If it was anywhere, it would be there.

It took a bit of digging. It felt like hours of it and, for a while, he thought Kaiba might be stupid enough to destroy it. But then, his fingers slid across the cool metal muzzle buried deep down in a box shoved furthest in the back.

He immediately dove in and pulled out the mask. It was just as dark as he remembered, built specifically for the subject named after the jackal god. He turned it to see the pieces to make it fit a child's face were still in place.

He took them out; he wouldn't be needing it. At this point, the mask would fit Anubis like a glove.

He left everything he did out in the open so the three stooges could see they'd been robbed. The alertness of Horus was something he could use in a situation like this. He hugged the mask to his body as he walked out of the lab. It would only be a matter of time before Ryo realized his side of the bed was empty.

-

She regretted it the moment she handed him over.

When she did it, she thought he would be safe. She thought he would be in the care of a team who wouldn't fear him or try to manipulate his abilities. Least of all attempt to create more like him. He deserved so much better than all of this.

Isis looked at the most recent of pictures, given to her by someone who told her it wasn't her fault. If she really wanted him, she should go and get him. In the photo, he looked well taken care of. Like he had a family that loved him.

The family she wasn't strong enough to be.

“Hey,” a soft coo came from the open door behind her. A moment later, two arms wrapped around her and a blond head leaned on her shoulder. The other woman stared down at the photo. “I can go and find more for you.”

Isis wiped at her eyes and sniffled. “No. You've already done so much for me. I couldn't ask you to do anything more.”

“Sweetie, this is our son you're talking about. You can ask me to sneak into the brat's house and kidnap Horus and I would.”

She chuckled and shook her head. “I always hated that name. It perverts our gods.” She smiled wetly at the picture. Those bright eyes weren't even looking at the camera but she could see them staring off in childish confusion. She wondered what caught his attention.

“What do you want to call him?”

She didn't look away from the photo. “There was this story my father used to tell me and my brothers when he would put us to bed at night. He said it was about an ancestor of ours. It was a favorite of Malik's.

“It tells the tale of a great leader. A young man with unspeakable dark powers. He lived as a mighty pharaoh, feared by many for the powers he possessed. One day, a man came before him with abilities he had stolen. His plan was to bring the world into endless pain.

“The pharaoh didn't allow it. He used his great power to vanquish the foe and free the world at the expense of his own existence. It's only through this tale that his memory lives on.” Isis finally looked at Mai and found her staring with wide, entranced eyes as she listened.

Mai blinked as a smile came over her face. “What was the name of this Great Pharaoh?”

Her thumb rubbed against the paper, over her son's face. “Atem. His name was Atem.”

 

-

Atem was the first to notice.

He woke up the next morning, still sore over the fight he and Kaiba had when everyone left. A fight that became physical and both parties ended up with their share of cuts and bruises. But, really, it was the words Kaiba shouted that hurt Atem the most.

“You're being a fucking moron and this is going to get you killed! I should save you the misery and end you myself!”

He felt as though Kaiba would make good on his promise. And he felt as if Kaiba really thought it would be out of mercy. How could he see death as a preferable option? That couldn't be healthy.

That man should be in some kind of therapy.

He went down into the lab in search of the Pharaoh mask Kaiba insisted on storing away. What he found was boxes torn into and left strewn across the room. He took a cautious step and lightly tapped on his wrist to allow his eyes to record and analyze the situation. The recording would immediately find its way into every piece of technology up in Kaiba's office.

Seconds later, there was a soft red glow of Kaiba's name. Atem answered immediately. “Someone was looking for something.”

“Yeah, no shit.”

Atem grimaced as he moved over to an open box. It had pieces laying directly outside of it. Small black cushions he knew were in all the masks at one point.

He looked in the box. His eye searched for an object and came up empty.

Atem blinked. Then, a glared settled. “I don't think Anubis is as dead as you claim.”

He didn't hear anything on the other end. Then there was some shuffling. “Come upstairs.”

Atem stopped recording and ran out of the lab. He had a feeling he knew exactly what Kaiba was going to say. He also knew this would turn into yet another fight.

He stopped in the doorway to find Kaiba typing something into his computer.

“You knew Anubis was alive.”

“If I knew, I would have killed the abomination already.” He gestured for Atem to step closer. “On the bright side, this thievery will lead me right to it so I can tie up that loose end.”

“You're saying a lot of 'me' and 'I' and not nearly enough 'us' and 'we.'”

“Perceptive.” Before Atem could pull away, Kaiba's hand snapped out and grabbed his arm. He didn't give him time to react before a gold brace was locked around his wrist.

Atem was suddenly blind in his right eye as it shut down. He blinked rapidly in attempt to get it back online. It stayed black. “What are you doing?!”

“Making it so you can't follow me. And if you were smart, you won't attempt to go out and search for it yourself. Not without the eye fully functional.”

“Get this off me!” He pulled at the gold and glared at Kaiba.

Kaiba just stared at him. He shook his head and headed out the door. “Stay here, Atem. I mean it.”

Atem growled and followed after Kaiba.

He was stopped by one of the smiling maids who grabbed his arm and turned him away. “Master Sennen! Young Master Kaiba requires your presence.”

Atem blinked and pulled his arm free. “Tell him I'm in the middle of something.” He turned to follow Kaiba again.

The CEO was nowhere to be found.

Atem turned back and saw the maid walk away. Her steps were quick and she kept her movement tense.

He turned back to where Kaiba headed and looked around the corner.

When he did, he heard the sound of a jet.

He let out a shout of frustration and slammed his fist into the wall. Dark, shadowy tendrils seeped into the newly made cracks.

Atem watched them in surprise. He processed the sight and thought about his next step. Kaiba seemed to forget his powers were natural.

He would make sure he didn't forget again.

-

Kaiba could feel the pull.

He had long since tried to ignore the sensation and suppress the ability. He didn't usually feel the tug unless he was seeking out Horus. It was the only time he had ever truly felt the powers inflicted on him when he was a child. More than anything, it served as a reminder that his 'father' only wanted him as a tool for cleaning up the mess the man left behind.

And he hated it.

Kaiba had done everything he could to get past this. And yet, now, here he was. He knew it was because he let Atem go out in public.

Of course, letting Patient Zero out of quarantine would bring about the rest of the infected. But Kaiba had hoped they truly were dead. But now? He was tracking a ghost.

He turned on the jet's AI pilot as he felt the tug at its strongest. He jumped from the jet and landed on a tall building. The Anubis mask was propped up on a metal chair, facing the spot where Kaiba landed.

Kaiba stared at the mask.

“I wasn't expecting you.”

He turned and narrowed his eyes at Bakura. “Well, I'm what you got.”

“That's fine. I can work with this.” He pushed off the wall and smirked. “Because I know it'll bring the other one too.”

Kaiba didn't take the time to question Bakura or even give a response. In moments, the other boy had launched himself at Kaiba and forced him to block. Dark wisps and tendrils worked their way from Bakura's body and attempted to engulf Kaiba.

Kaiba jumped back to get away from them.

Bakura's smirk stayed on his face. “It's sad you didn't get some kind of mask like the rest of us, Set. You would fit right in with the group.”

“I had no intentions of joining your little club.”

He shrugged. “Have it your way. You'd probably remove all the fun from it anyway.” There was a bitterness in his tone. He jumped into a dark, smoky hole.

Only to pop out behind Kaiba.

Before either could react, a body was forced between them and Bakura felt two boots shove into his chest and slam him back through the portal and stumble out where he was just seconds before.

Kaiba sneered at the newcomer in the Pharaoh costume. “I told you to stay out of this!”

Atem turned to him, eyes deep set into a glare. “Don't you dare think I was going to leave this to you!”

“You didn't have a choice! Go home!”

Bakura looked at the two for a moment as he climbed back to his feet. He blinked at the Pharaoh as he saw the eyes. One red and one black.

Someone wasn't at one hundred percent. He turned and grabbed the Anubis mask.

The air around them felt ten times colder than it had before. Both Atem and Kaiba looked over at Bakura, eyes wide as the masked one cackled.

Within the blink of an eye, Atem was on the ground.

Kaiba snarled and yanked Bakura away before he could get a hold of Atem, to which Bakura responded with a hard kick to Kaiba's legs.

Atem jumped up as Kaiba went down and charged at Bakura. The dark wisps licked at his fingertips.

“You're out of practice, Horus. Did you get too dependent on that eye of yours?” Bakura turned and threw him using his body's momentum. “Guess it's time someone reteaches you.”

At the same time, a dark portal opened up and sucked Kaiba in. Before he could climb back out, it shut just in time for him to see Bakura walk in Atem's direction.

He floated in the space of the void and fought the urge to look around. He had to get back before that thing could kill Atem.

Atem, that idiot. He had him! He had Bakura right where he wanted him! But, instead of just leaving it alone and staying home, what does he do?

Follows them because it's been a whole two days since he's gotten his ass kicked. And now, Kaiba was stuck. Unlike most of the other subjects, Set was not gifted with the ability to go through portals. His powers were less for travel and defense and much more heavy on the offense. So he never got the chance to learn the inner workings of the Void.

His eyes stopped on a small tear in the world. It looked as though light were able to reflect in from the hole. He reached for it and found he was able to pry it open. It led him out into a night sky.

He stepped back out onto the rooftop to find Atem; broken, bleeding, and alone.

But at least he was still alive and moving. Barely.

Kaiba growled and knelt down near the 'Pharaoh.' “I had him, Atem.”

Atem didn't say anything. He just pushed himself up and hugged the mask to his chest.

Kaiba grabbed Atem's chin and narrowed his eyes. “These wounds aren't as easily treated as Malik's. You might need to be in stasis for a while.”

He pulled his face away. “I'll be fine.”

“You're two lacerations away from mangled.” Kaiba climbed back to his feet and looked around. “And now, Bakura knows we're on to him. But, at least it looked like he took the mask. We can still track him.”

Atem shook his head and pointed to the far side of the roof.

Kaiba followed his direction and looked down at the ground. There, on the black gravel, was an equally black piece of plastic. It sparked ever so slightly as Kaiba picked it up. He snarled and threw it back to the ground. “Damn it!”

He had to think. He couldn't leave this alone. Not knowing Anubis was still out there. It would only be a matter of time before Bakura decided to regain his title and murder everyone in his path. “New plan! We bring you home and heal you before I-” He turned back to Atem to find only a vacant spot.

Kaiba glared daggers at the spot. “Of course you did!”

-

He didn't care what Kaiba said; there was no way in any of the layers of Hell he was going back in that tank. He was still alive; his wounds would heal. So what if it took a little longer than usual? He could deal with it!

The last time he was put in that tank, he lost over a decade of life. He also found he was not at all fond of tiny spaces and that tank was the tiniest of them all.

He limped down the street and ignored the looks from people passing by. Some of them recognized the mask and immediately stopped walking back the way he came. A good idea considering how pissed of Kaiba probably was when he found out Atem left him there on the roof.

He needed to find a place to rest and heal. Just for a little bit. An hour at the very least. He needed someplace safe.

He stopped and looked up at a game shop positioned right on a corner. There was a light shining from a third-floor window.

He wondered if he had the energy to climb up. Something told him the person in that room was exactly who he needed.

-

A stylus twirled in Yugi's fingers. He was finding it pretty hard to concentrate on his work at the moment. Despite his passion for the game he wanted to create, his mind continued to wander. It wandered back to his new friend and how well he fit in with the rest of them. How good he seemed to be at just... being.

He jumped when something slapped against the window. He looked up to see the Pharaoh, broken and bloodied.

“Oh my God!” He jumped up and immediately opened for him as the eyes lit up with recognition.

The Pharaoh fell into the room where Yugi just barely caught him.

“What happened to you?”

The Pharaoh clung to Yugi. “I... wouldn't know where to begin.”

He didn't ask anything else. He just gently guided the Pharaoh to his bed and sat the hero down. “Stay here. I'll go get some things to treat your wounds.” Yugi nearly sprinted from the room and ran for the bathroom.

He nearly plowed right into Sugoroku in his rush.

“Sorry, Grandpa!” He darted into the bathroom.

The old man frowned. “Feeling a little ill?”

“Yeah, guess you could say that.” Yugi opened the cabinet and pulled out band-aids, gauze, and disinfectant.

Sugoroku frowned as his grandson gathered it all into his arms and ran back for his room.

Yugi pushed the door closed and dropped everything to the bed before he sat down next to the masked hero.

“Yugi, you don't need to worry this much.”

“It's a little late for that...” He paused with a realization then turned back to the Pharaoh. “Wait, how do you know my name?”

The Pharaoh blinked but didn't say anything.

Yugi tilted his head and reached out to touch the mask. His eye locked onto the lack of color in one eye. Pitch black and dead. “What happened to you?”

Before the Pharaoh could answer or Yugi's fingers could graze the gold of the mask, the door pushed open. Both parties turned to see Sugoroku in the doorway.

The old man clenched his teeth as his body went rigid. “Yugi... come here.”

Yugi stood up reluctantly and walked over to his grandfather. “What's going o-?” He gasped at Sugoroku's hand circled around his wrist and yanked him through the doorway.

Sugoroku gave the Pharaoh a hard look as the masked hero shot up to his feet. It was enough to make their guest freeze as the door shut behind them.

“Grandpa!”

Sugoroku kept his grip tight on Yugi as he guided the boy downstairs. “You are to stay away from him, Yugi. Do you understand?”

“No. Would you mind explaining it? What's going on?!”

“It's a long story. Just, please, trust me.” He sat Yugi down on the couch and pointed. “Stay there, I have to make a call.”

“He's hurt. What could he possibly do to me?” Yugi leaned forward as if that would give him a better view of his grandfather's phone. “Are you turning him in?”

Sugoroku shook his head and stepped away from the couch. “I'm sending him home.”

-

“You told me you'd be back before I woke up. Where were you?”

“I had a feeling someone would follow me as soon as he found out it was gone. I didn't want to lead them back to you.” Bakura limped into the kitchen and handed the mask to Ryo.

Ryo looked at it in his hands before he looked back at Bakura. “You're hurt.”

He rubbed a thumb across the still bleeding wound near his eye and chuckled. “Yeah, Horus decided to show up too. He didn't want to go down.”

He reached up and batted the hand away from the cut. “You didn't have to go through with everything if-”

“Shut up. You wanted the mask. I was doing it no matter what you consider dangerous.”

Ryo looked at Bakura with exasperation. “You really know exactly what to say.”

“I do. Now, how about you give me my reward and heal my wounds.”

Ryo raised an eyebrow as he placed the mask on the table and returned to Bakura. “You did very well.” He pressed a kiss to the other's lips. “But don't pretend you did it just for me.”

Bakura smiled back and deepened the kiss.

-

He should have known.

He should have known Bakura, The most untrustworthy person in the history of Man, was Anubis. He should have known the dampening brace would not only lock out the Eye but also the chip he could use to track Atem. He should have known Atem would hear the mention of stasis and immediately try and run from it.

And he should have known Atem would somehow find his way to Yugi Mutou.

Kaiba's car skidded to a stop in front of the door. He stormed out of the car and knocked.

The door immediately flew open and Sugoroku guided him in. “He's upstairs.”

Kaiba wasted no time. He didn't pay attention to his rival as Yugi shot up from his seat at Kaiba's presence. He had much more important matters.

He didn't even ask; He marched up the stairs and to the bedroom. He opened the door to see Atem still in his mask and still pretty banged up. Although he did take the time to treat a few of his most substantial wounds, the white of the cloth was already beginning to stain red.

Still, seeing him there made Kaiba's blood boil.

“I'm getting very tired of your shit, Horus.”

Atem stopped his pacing and turned to Kaiba. He didn't question long how Kaiba knew to find him. He wasn't even given time to think too deeply into it before he was grabbed and dragged out of the room.

Atem stumbled and followed after Kaiba's stride. He took a moment to look around the house as they walked through and his eyes fell on Yugi as realization sat in the other's eyes.

Before Atem knew it, he was thrown in the back seat of a car. He knew without checking the door locked behind him and prevented him from running back inside.

As the car sped away, Atem saw the game shop door slam open again and Yugi watched them speed away.

 

Chapter Text

 

“The world is about to get much more dangerous. The powers of Anubis are slowly waking up.”

“You know where Anubis is?”

“....No. I can just feel them. I think you could too if you would just allow yourself to search for him. But I think you're still afraid of him, aren't you?”

Atem had growled at Ra. His pride was wounded by the other in the mask.

But he could hear the smile. “Don't be afraid, Horus. I would trust you to overcome the fear to subdue him again. He needs you to help keep him in check just like before.”

Atem didn't want to think about it anymore. He just wanted to wake up and let things go back to the days before Bakura. Why wasn't time manipulation in his list of abilities?

He opened his eyes as he was lifted. He barely realized he'd even fallen asleep. Without the adrenaline, everything caught up with him.

He reached up and gently pulled the mask off his face. “Please... no stasis.”

He could feel Kaiba pause at his request. The arms tightened slightly. “You'll heal faster in stasis.”

Atem hugged the mask to his chest again.

“You're afraid I won't come back to wake you up.” He spoke softly at the realization.

He didn't respond.

Kaiba pushed through the door. The house was dark; most of the staff had gone home for the night and Mokuba was probably in one of the rooms upstairs. Kaiba headed down into the basement.

Atem's eyes slipped closed. This was it. He would go to sleep and possibly wake up a day later. Or he would wake up twenty years from now and have to figure out how to live his life with that knowledge. It was anyone's guess just how long he would be kept in there but he was too weak to fight the other on this.

The eyes shot open again when Kaiba placed him on the old cot in the room.

“I imagine it's hard.” He turned away from Atem and to the counter on the far side of the room stacked with medical supplies. “You go to sleep at the age of three and wake up to find yourself nineteen with everyone you knew gone or dead.”

Atem sat up and stared at Kaiba's back.

“To be kept in there, starving. The malnourishment clearly stunted your growth.”

His lip twitched at the jab. “I'm not that short...”

“You're tiny, get over it.” Kaiba turned back to Atem, still looking serious. “I'm not the one who tried to seal you away. I won't ever be him.”

His grip on the mask loosened as his eyes softened. “Kaiba...”

“I understand your fear, Atem. Don't try to explain yourself.” He placed a small pouch of tools on a table near the cot. He sat down in a chair next to Atem and gestured for the other's arm.

Atem put out his arm for Kaiba. He watched as Kaiba gently pressed a small piece into the gold cuff and popped it back off. Immediately his right eye blinked back to life and diagnosed every problem from the time it was shut down to that moment.

In the meantime, Kaiba began unwrapping Atem's wounds to properly clean them.

“I believe it's safe to assume Bakura is Anubis. We can pay him a visit once you're healed.”

Atem winced at the look of one of the deeper wounds on his left arm. It was nearly to the bone; without the tank, it would have to be stitched. But that was the least of his worries. “I wouldn't be so sure.”

Kaiba cleared the blood from the wound and raised an eyebrow at Atem's response.

He didn't need a cue to continue. “Anubis was mute. Bakura talks far too much.”

“He was a toddler when you knew him. He could have figured out a way around it. Ryo maybe.”

Atem hummed, still unsure.

“He took the mask for a reason. I'm willing to bet if he isn't Anubis he at least knows where to find Anubis.” He pulled a suture from a sterile plastic bag and began to thread.

They both sat in silence as the needle entered Atem's skin. After a few stitches, Atem spoke up. “So... We'll confront him?”

Kaiba didn't speak. He just gave a nod.

-

Sugoroku found himself in the storage area of the game shop shortly after Horus was dragged out of his house. He wanted so badly to just return things to normal. He and his grandson could live out the rest of their days without this thing hanging over their heads.

But, by the sound of footsteps and a person standing a few steps behind him, he knew this wouldn't be the case.

Sugoroku turned, his back tense and one hand in his pocket. “How are you doing, my boy?”

Yugi just stared at him. The tension of the room grew.

Sugoroku frowned at him. “...Yugi...?”

“What aren't you telling me?”

The old man relaxed ever so slightly. “There's so much.”

“Then we better start now, right?” Yugi stepped into the room. “How do you know the Pharaoh? Why did you call Kaiba to get him? How did you know Kaiba would?”

Sugoroku put a hand up to stop the questioning and shook his head. “This isn't the place. Let's go back upstairs.” He carefully walked around Yugi. He knew the boy would follow him right into the house. He sat down on the couch and Yugi followed suit.

Sugoroku sucked in a deep breath before he looked back at Yugi. The young man was waiting patiently in silence. He was always such a good boy.

It was too bad he would have to hear this story.

“Back when you were just a baby, I had a job with Kaiba Corp. I was a scientist in one of the more.... secret parts of his weapons manufacturing. You see, the man had stumbled upon this woman with amazing and deadly abilities that were passed down in her bloodline. She... was pregnant when he took her in. And she was afraid of what she might bring into the world. Her brother had shown signs of instability for years. She didn't want that to be true for her child as well.

“Gozaburo Kaiba convinced this woman to allow him to take care of her son. He would help the boy suppress his abilities in a way neither the mother nor her brothers ever could. He... He lied to this woman. His plan for the child was not to suppress the abilities but rather to hone them. He called the child Subject Horus and it was the beginning of a true Hell for a group of children.”

Yugi shifted in his seat but said nothing as he waited for Sugoroku to continue.

“There were many children in that project. They found a way to pull from Horus and inject each child with the abilities. Many of them took to it well and would play with it as children do.

“One of them... did not. They called that one Anubis.” Sugoroku's eyes darted to Yugi's. “Anubis... murdered two of the children and even attempted to take out Horus himself.”

“...What happened to the rest of them?”

Sugoroku shook his head. “I never got to find out. I disagreed with Kaiba on the moral aspects of this experiment. I spent the better part of two years fighting with him about it and I was relieved of my position shortly after the deaths. It wasn't until years later that I learned of the project's shutdown. I was under the impression he laid the rest of the children to rest. I never thought I would ever find Horus in your bedroom.”

Yugi snorted and smiled. But the smile slowly faded. “So... the Pharaoh's name is Horus?”

Sugoroku nodded.

“And you want me to keep away from him because...?”

“Because he's still dangerous, Yugi. None of us knew what he went through to get here now. It could be only a matter of time before he becomes everything his mother feared. And I will not have you in the middle of this mess.”

Yugi stared at his own hands for a moment. He thought about Horus. The usually bright red eyes he could read like a book. The way he moved. The deep demanding voice.

He didn't need to speak to Horus, per say. There was another way.

“Do you understand, Yugi? I only want you to stay safe.”

“Yes, Grandpa. I understand.” He was beginning to understand perfectly.

-

It was a few days later when Atem returned to class. He still had a few wounds healing but he definitely had the energy to return to the world as if he were just another normal student.

But every time he looked over at Yugi, he found the other boy staring. And he didn't look away; his eyes continued with an unwavering gaze. He was onto something; Atem could tell. But he was also a little afraid to find out. There was a heat from that look which burned its way into his temple. It felt like he was being studied again.

Atem shifted uncomfortably under it.

As they were dismissed and Atem put away his things, he felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned and blinked at the intensity and closeness of those violet eyes.

“Can we talk?”

Atem's heart was suddenly in his throat. He allowed Yugi to take his hand and guide him through the halls. He allowed the boy to lead him outside and dart into another, older building. And he watched as Yugi stopped and his hand slipped from the other's grip.

Atem just stared at Yugi's back for a moment.

“You have another name. Right? They call you Horus?”

Atem frowned. He nodded slowly. “Yes.”

“And you're also the Pharaoh, right? The masked vigilante?”

“...Yes.”

Yugi finally turned. His eyes had begun to well up with tears. “I'm sorry.”

Atem blinked.

“I... I couldn't even begin to process everything that's happened to you.” He hugged himself. “How could they do all of that to a child? How could the world be so cruel?!”

“...How do you know all this?”

“My grandfather worked for Kaiba Corp. He was on the team that...”

Atem sighed through his nose. That explained the coldness from the older Mutou. “Yugi... None of this is your fault.”

“I know. But... I just,” he sniffled and wiped at his face, “I want so badly to take it all away and make it okay for you. But that's crazy, right?”

Atem didn't say anything.

He looked down at the ground. “I... I didn't mean to meddle in this. I really just wanted to let you know we can talk about it if you want... But maybe I'm sticking my nose in a place it doesn't belong.”

“No.” Atem moved a little closer and took a hold of Yugi's hand. “No, you're fine. I'm eternally grateful that you would put yourself out there like this. You've already helped me much more than you could possibly know.”

Yugi stared at Atem. Before he could help himself, he threw his arms around the other in a tight embrace. For a minute, Atem stood completely solid. Then, he slowly started to melt into the hold. He buried his head into the crook of Yugi's neck.

“Thank you.” Atem gripped the back of Yugi's shirt tightly. There was a slight waver in his voice.

Yugi wondered what his grandfather would say if he could see this side of 'Horus.' Maybe he wouldn't see him as such a monster.

Atem pulled away from him reluctantly and wiped at his right eye. The eye was once again red in color without any sign of the black depth Yugi saw in his bedroom. He didn't want to pry too much; calling Atem out on being Horus was already crossing a few lines. He was sure of it.

But what happened to him to cause such a situation?

He doubted Atem wanted to relive any of it.

“What's on your mind?”

“Huh?” Yugi blinked.

Atem tilted his head and smiled. “You're staring.”

“Oh! Uh, well... your eye.” He pointed to his own. “The other night it was like it was over dilated.”

“My eye.” Atem reached up and touched it. It took him a moment to realize what Yugi probably meant. “Oh. No, it wasn't online. Kaiba forced a shutdown for it in hopes it would keep me from... following someone.”

Yugi blinked several times in confusion.

Atem frowned. “Maybe...” It couldn't hurt to fill him in on everything now that he knew this much already. He tapped his wrist and brought the projection back up. The files now were of the class moments before. “It was a gift from Kaiba Corp. Further enhancements to try and better control my natural abilities.”

Yugi looked at the projection. He watched as the screen continued to cut from the professor to Yugi staring, then back to the professor. In the corner, he could also see a small monitor that covered a number of Atem's vitals.

His heart rate continued to increase.

The projection was cut short as Yugi turned and looked at Atem.

Atem forced a smile. “I can't be one hundred percent sure what Kaiba was planning for me but I imagine it wasn't simply to hone my abilities and send me on my way. Now, I just use the eye for everyday tasks.”

“It's a computer.”

Atem nodded. “More or less.”

Yugi frowned. “Can Kaiba link to it?”

“Y-yes. I can shut him out but I don't doubt there's a way he can override it if it's for a reason he deems important enough.”

And with Yugi's luck, it would be when he was finally confessing something to Atem. Or, dare he hope, in a more intimate setting. If that becomes the case though, then he deserves whatever he sees.

He turned back to see Atem staring at him. The other boy was smiling.

“Is there anything else you'd like to know?”

“Oh, uh, not right now. I'm sure I'll think of something later.” He paused and looked away. “But.. you're sure I'm not intruding or anything, right? And you'll tell me if I am.”

The smile widened. “I doubt there's any way you could ever intrude on me, Yugi.” He leaned in a little closer.

Yugi felt as if his body was on fire as Atem's body brushed against his own. He couldn't tell if the other knew what he was doing and how this closeness was affecting him.

“Oh, hey! What are you two doing here?”

The closeness didn't leave at Anzu's voice. That told Yugi all he needed to know.

Atem blinked. “Anzu, you have classes here?”

She pointed down the hall. “I have dance classes a few times a week in the gym.”

“Huh, this school really does cater to everything...”

Anzu looked between the two. She suppressed the urge to smile at the situation she caught and, instead, continued to speak to Atem. “Anyway, I'm glad I ran into you two. I'm hosting the first Monster World campaign this weekend. Atem, you should come!”

Atem nodded and moved away from Yugi just slightly. “Absolutely!”

She grinned. “Great! I'll text you all the details.” She paused with another thought. “And, you know what? You think you can drag your cousins along?”

Atem blinked. Yugi matched his look of confusion.

“I can see what I can do but I can't make a guarantee.”

Anzu nodded. “I'm sure they'll come if you ask.” She backed up and headed down the hall. “I'll see you guys later!”

Both waved after her, still confused. Atem turned to Yugi. “Why would she want the Kaibas there?”

Yugi's lip twitched, unsure. “I'm afraid of what that answer might be.”

-

Atem returned home that night to Kaiba already ready to answer. When he walked into the office, the eyes were already pinned on him.

“No way in Hell.”

He didn't need to ask what Kaiba was rejecting. He narrowed his eyes at the other. “You know, it's rude to look through someone's files and memories without permission.”

The statement was ignored in favor of him letting out a growl. “You're supposed to be staying away from Yugi, not becoming a part of his group.”

“Isn't that even more of a reason for you to come? So I'm not doing anything you might deem 'too dangerous'?”

“No. That's a reason for neither of us to go.”

Atem looked at Kaiba flatly. He plopped down in one of the office chairs and stared at Kaiba.

Kaiba didn't look at him. He refused to look away from his computer even as Atem crossed his arms and legs stubbornly. Even as those eyes drilled holes through his head and demanded to look at him.

He wouldn't look.

He wouldn't give Atem the satisfaction.

“How about we settle this in a game. If I win, we all go. If you win, we don't.”

Kaiba finally looked at Atem. He could see his lip twitch as he fought the urge to smile in satisfaction. “That's not nearly enough of a win for me.”

“Then state your terms.”

“If I win, we don't go and you stop hanging out with that whole group.”

He frowned. “That's quite a reward for you.”

“Those are my terms. Also, I pick the game.”

That got a laugh out of Atem. “I'll get my deck.”

“Your eye has to go offline for this. I won't have you cheating again.”

“Whatever you say, Kaiba.” He was sure it was more than that. Maybe he wanted to make sure there was no proof of how he was defeated. It didn't matter; Atem would win this. He had to win this.

-

“C'mon, Seto. It won't be that bad.”

Kaiba snorted and crossed his arms as Anzu opened the door. He glared at the girl as she looked at the three in pleasant surprise. This was her fault, after all. Had she not brought up bringing them to Atem, he would be here alone.

But, by the look on her face, it was clear she wasn't completely expecting this. “Welcome!” She leaned closer to Atem. “How did you convince them to come?”

Atem smirked and opened his mouth to speak.

“I came on my own accord.” Kaiba was quick to interrupt and push passed Anzu to get inside.

Mokuba followed after his brother with a quick “thank you for having us.”

Anzu sent a dirty look to Kaiba's back. “At least one of them's polite.” She turned back to Atem. “How do you stand living with him?”

He shrugged. “You get used to him. Thank you for having us but... why?”

She sighed and stepped to the side for Atem to walk in. “It was a request from someone who would like to remain anonymous.”

“I don't understand.” He frowned and followed in behind the brothers.

“That makes two of us.” She followed in behind Atem.

Everyone else was already there including two people Atem had never met before. A young girl about Mokuba's age and a raven-haired lanky man discussing something with Honda. The girl was already talking with Mokuba and gesturing to Jounouchi as the blond did his best not to look at the newcomers.

He was talking to Yugi who looked over at them, gave Atem a grin then returned to his conversation with Jounouchi.

Before Atem could find his way over to the two, Ryo caught his eye. He was setting up a large board on the coffee table and placed a few small figurines on the board. Upon closer examination, he noticed they were made for each person there.

He looked closer at one who looked like him. “This is a very detailed game.”

Ryo blinked up at him. “Oh, you've never played before? This should be fun then!” He smiled. “Bakura is usually the Game Master. He likes the build the pieces for everyone. I'm filling in for now.”

Atem flipped the little figure around. It was almost creepy the amount of detail put into it. His eyes narrowed when he noticed the little figure's right eye was painted black. “Where is Bakura tonight?”

“He has a late shift at work. He said he might drop in after to see how things are going.” Ryo took the little figurine from Atem. “You haven't created a character yet, right?”

“Uh, no.”

Ryo grinned and turned his head. “Yugi! Atem needs help making a character!”

Yugi blinked and looked over at the two before he smiled as well. “Okay!”

Atem turned back to Ryo to see he was still grinning.

“We can hold off until you're ready. It shouldn't take too long; Yugi's a good teacher.” Ryo handed Yugi a blank character sheet and gestured towards the kitchen where there was an empty table. As the two walked off, Ryo looked down at the Atem figurine. His smile faded as he looked at it.

“Guess Bakura forgot to finish it.” Anzu frowned at it. “That's not like him.”

Ryo forced a smile for her. “He's had a lot on his mind lately.” It was something the two of them would have to discuss later.

-

“So, then you take this number and divvy it up between all the different attributes. And that all depends on the way you want to play.” Yugi smiled softly as his companion studied the sheet.

“I see.” He tapped the page softly as he thought about where to place his points.

While he did that, Yugi found himself studying Atem. He watched the very subtle way his eyes narrowed as he thought about what he was doing. For a moment, he thought he could see what looked to be lenses twisting. Maybe it was only his imagination.

His imagination could occasionally get the better of him. His eyes darted to Atem's lips and he wondered about what the other would do if he just-

“You're staring again.” Atem's amused tone cut through his thoughts.

Yugi blushed and looked away. “Uh, right! Sorry.” He focused instead on the other room. Where Jounouchi and Kaiba were, for the first time in months, standing next to one another. Maybe that was the plan Anzu had in place. Things were on the upswing when Jou and Kaiba were on good terms with one another. Then, that so suddenly ended.

Yugi frowned. What could have possibly gotten in their way?

He turned back to Atem to find the other's eyes on him.

He smiled. “Oh, so you're allowed to stare?”

“I'm not staring. I'm studying.” He grinned back.

Yugi snorted and looked away to hide his blush. “Right. Studying.”

“Also, I never said you weren't allowed. I'm just curious as to what you're thinking about when you do it.”

The blush deepened.

“Hey!”

Both snapped around to see Mokuba standing in the threshold with a bag of chips in his hand.

He grabbed one and narrowed his eyes at them. “You guys done? We got a game to play!”

“Right! Yeah, we're coming.” Yugi pushed himself to his feet and smiled at Atem. “C'mon. I'll help guide you.”

In all honesty, Atem could simply find out all the information he wanted on this game. But he liked the way Yugi's eyes lit up at the prospect of teaching someone about a game he enjoyed. He wanted to see that light continue to glow in the other.

So, he smiled back and stood as well. “Right.”

They walked into the living room to see everyone already gathered around the coffee table. Mokuba was forcing his brother into a seat next to Jou while the blond was talking animatedly to Honda. Everyone in the group had found their seats, leaving two right next to each other on the couch.

Yugi guided Atem over to it.

The game was easy enough to pick up on and getting into it was surprisingly easy. Atem was a little surprised to find everyone, including Kaiba, already had a character for the game. And his cousin seemed to fit in very well once he relaxed.

“I'm going to seduce the dragon.”

“You can't try to fuck every dragon we come across! Right, Ryo?”

“Roll for initiative and charisma.”

“Stop enabling him!”

The dice rolled and Ryo let out an impressed hum. “The dragon was so enamored by Kaiba's advances, she just allowed everyone else through.”

Kaiba smirked. “Naturally.”

Jounouchi rolled his eyes. “You and your dragon fetish, man. I swear.”

“Don't try to take the high road on this one.” Kaiba eyed him.

The look made Jounouchi freeze for a second before he appeared to rethink his options. “Fine. You won't be hearing any kink shaming out of me.”

Yugi snorted and shook his head.

Anzu shot a look towards her friend. “You out of everyone in this room are the last one who should be shaking his head at a fetish.” She gestured to the collar around his neck.

Yugi blinked and touched the leather. “It was a gift from my grandfather.”

“How does that make it better?!”

Ryo laughed softly. “As much as I love a good kink shaming, we should probably move this forward. Honda? What do you want to do?”

“I'm gonna just run the dragon through with my sword.” He reached out for the dice.

“I'm pretty sure Kaiba already has that covered.”

Everyone turned in surprise as Atem casually took a sip of his drink. He looked at everyone over the rim of his cup and frowned as he brought it away from his mouth. “What?”

Nearly everyone in the room laughed. Even Kaiba let out a soft snort while Atem just blinked dumbly. As it became clearer he didn't understand, the laughter continued to increase. He felt Yugi press his forehead against his shoulder as he tried to control himself.

It was at the touch that Atem began to feel the humor and let out a few soft chuckles himself.

As the laughter slowly died, Ryo shifted in his seat and picked up his own dice. He wiped a tear from his eye and cleared his throat. “So now that we're fighting the dragon, we-”

The world froze for a moment. Atem and Kaiba tensed in their seats as if they were bracing for... something.

Ryo let out a breath and closed his eyes.

A split second later, the coffee table holding the board was in pieces. The couch was torn through as if to purposely separate Atem from Yugi, and a man in an Anubis mask loomed over Yugi.

Yugi couldn't do anything. He couldn't move, he couldn't breathe. He could only stare at that mask as a high pitch squeal rang in his ears. It echoed in his head and made it throb worse than any headache he'd ever experienced. Yugi covered his ears and fought the urge to scream.

A twenty-sided die beamed Anubis in the temple. “Hey!”

The masked man turned to Ryo's glare. Before he could do anything more, Atem slammed into Anubis and knocked him away.

Yugi blinked, the ringing still in his head and interfering with his thoughts.

His eyes focused on Anzu as she grabbed his shoulders.

“...yugi....”

She sounded muffled.

“Yugi, we have to go.”

It came in a little clearer.

Yugi!” She was screaming now. “Come on!”

The urgency finally hit him. He scrambled to his feet with Anzu's help and allowed her to guide him away from the fight that was breaking out.

Yugi looked at Atem. He could just barely see a snarl in the other's features as he narrowly avoided Anubis. He acted as a distraction as Kaiba gripped the opponent by the head. Yugi could just barely make out the dark tendril-like shadows finding their grip around the three as he was rushed from the room.

“Looks like you're fully functional today, Horus. I think we should correct that.”

That voice. He knew that voice!

Ryo rushed everyone out of the building. From inside, they could hear things breaking and bodies being slammed into objects in the small home. He wanted to apologize to Anzu for the disaster being created in her house but couldn't for the life of him figure out a proper way.

As far as she knew, he was in no way responsible for this.

“Where's Katsuya?”

Yugi looked around as he finally snapped out of his dazed state. Quickly, he did a head count then joined Shizuka in her panic.

They all looked back at the house in time for Jounouchi's body to break through a window and fall into the street. He trembled and groaned in pain.

Yugi and Mokuba were at his side in an instant. Shizuka moved to follow but was pulled back by Anzu.

The ringing came back as Anubis charged forward. He stopped short as Ryo stepped in the way and glared at the masked one.

They stared at each other in silence.

Just as Anubis began to relax, Kaiba jumped out through the broken window. The skin of his hands was pitch black and his eyes glowed with a burning rage as they zeroed in on Anubis.

Anubis turned back to face the other. He froze and glanced back at Ryo.

Ryo shook his head ever so slightly.

There was a soft growl from the jackal before a dark portal opened again. But, before Anubis could walk through, Atem dove out and wrapped an arm around the other's waist.

Anubis snarled. “Let go, you pain in the ass!”

Atem tightened his grip. “You are in no place to be demanding anything from me!”

Horus.

Atem blinked as his heart stopped for a moment. He heard a voice. But.... he couldn't place whose.

Let him go. Your friend needs medical care.

Atem turned his head and looked at Jounouchi. The blond had stayed behind to help them fight with Anubis. He'd taken a direct hit for Kaiba when he shot out of the window. And the impact from the fall as well as the leftover effects clearly made it so Jounouchi was completely out of commission.

But his body was beginning to thrash even as Yugi and Mokuba tried to hold him still to keep from hurting himself.

Atem let go and rushed over to them. He didn't care that Kaiba just barely missed a point-blank attack on Anubis as the masked one slipped away through one of his portals. They would run into him again.

But if they didn't do something right now for Jounouchi, the blond would die.

He knelt down next to Mokuba and pressed a hand to Jou's chest. He could tell without the use of the eye that the other's heart rate was much too fast. His eye picked up on a foreign energy inside him, most likely from the blast that shot him out of the house.

Atem tried to summon it to himself but it only caused the spasms to become more violent. He pulled his hand away as sirens rang through the air. He couldn't be sure what this was. What could be inside Jounouchi? Was it always there and he just began to notice it?

He could only hope it wouldn't kill him in the end.

 

Chapter Text

 

He could hear some kind of girlish giggle.

For a moment it was as if he were floating alone in a void. Nothing touched him; it was almost like he was falling in slow motion.

Jounouchi looked up and found his eyes locked on a woman in a cat mask. Through it, he could see glowing blue eyes. He looked around to see the void he was floating in was attached to her.

She gently placed him on his feet but continued to float herself.

“Hello.” Her voice was young and soft. Her long pale hair flowed in the air as if they were in water. She looked like a ghost in a black mask.

“Uhhhh,” Jounouchi said, at loss for real words.

The giggling came back. It surrounded him.

“You are a good person, Jounouchi Katsuya. And your influence on all of us has been a great one.”

“All of you?”

She nodded and finally touched the ground. “With the presence of Horus and Ra, we can finally see all the outside influences. The people who changed us without the need for the powers within.” She touched his chest. “Sadly, to communicate as I do now and to survive that last attack, you needed to gain something from... well, Set is fond of calling him 'Patient Zero.' When he's not present to hear it, of course.”

“Lady, I don't wanna sound rude or anything, but you're confusing the Hell out of me.”

“In time, it won't. The Mother can see it; we will all find peace.” She sighed and shook her head. “And that includes you with your feelings for Set.” She lifted her mask.

Jounouchi lost all the air in his lungs. She was beautiful. As pale and delicate-looking as a lily. She looked like the statue of a goddess he'd seen in books come to life. Maybe that's exactly what she was; he couldn't be sure.

She smiled kindly and took Jou's face in her hands. She gently pressed her forehead to his. “They referred to me as Subject Bast. From now on, I will help guide you.” She released him a second later and backed up. “Take care of him, Jounouchi Katsuya.”

Jounouchi opened his mouth but all the words fled as he felt a familiar sensation of waking up. She was fading and getting further away. “Hey, wait!”

Jounouchi blinked dumbly as he stared up at a stark white ceiling. He could feel the bed against his back and a mask on his face.

Hospital. He was in the hospital. That made sense.

He turned his head to see a chair pulled next to his bedside. Kaiba was sitting by, legs crossed and head propped up on his fist. His eyes were closed and his breathing was at a soft, even pace.

Jou snorted. “So, you can't turn it off either.” He looked back up at the ceiling and smiled. “Typical.” By the light outside, it looked to be dawn. If that was the case, it was possible Kaiba sat there the entire night.

He would expect that out of anyone else. His sister, Yugi, even Ryo. But Kaiba? Not anymore. Not after...

Jounouchi's smile tensed and quivered as he felt a sob escaped. He blinked the tears from his eyes. “You're such an asshole.”

Kaiba slowly opened one eye but said nothing.

-

Yugi paced in the waiting room. By this time, he'd chewed his fingernails to nubs as all the concern for his best friend flooded in and bounced around his brain. Everyone else had left after a bit of persuasion. Shizuka was pulled away with the promise of an update as soon as Jounouchi woke up. Ryo had to fill Bakura in on everything that happened. Anzu had to go back home to talk to the police about the situation. Mokuba was convinced to leave by Kaiba before the older one walked into Jounouchi's room, despite the doctors and nurses attempts to kick him out.

Atem was dragged away by one of Kaiba's men with Mokuba but was back at the hospital an hour later. He leaned against the wall and watched Yugi. “He's going to be fine.”

Yugi let out a soft laugh. “Yeah, I guess.” He turned and looked at Atem. “Who was that?”

“B-” Atem pursed his lips and thought better of calling the other by his name. No reason for this to spread too far. “Anubis.”

Yugi tensed at the name.

Atem looked down at the floor. “He's... another one of the results from the Project. The most dangerous one of all.”

The story he was told flashed in his mind as Yugi nodded. “Grandpa told me... He tried to kill you.”

Atem snorted and smirked. “He failed.”

“But you're still afraid of him because of that...”

The smirk faded.

“...And now Jounouchi is laying in a hospital bed because of him.”

That hit much harder than Yugi may have intended. Atem swallowed thickly. Jounouchi had done what he could to protect them. Uncaring that, out of everyone in that house, he was the one who probably could have used the protection. Atem sucked in a deep breath. “Your grandfather was right not to trust me.”

Yugi blinked and turned to look at Atem. “Yeah, I guess he was in a way.”

Atem pursed his lips into a thin line.

“But that doesn't mean you get to leave and forget about me.”

He blinked and looked back up. Yugi was staring at him, eyebrows furrowed and a deep set frown.

He uncrossed his arms as Yugi stepped closer and got in his personal space. A warm feeling pooled over him.

“We're too far in this to pull back now.”

Atem blinked before he remembered himself and relaxed. “I guess you're right.” He shoved his hands in his pockets. “Even if I stay away from you, Anubis could find you.”

“I was more referring to the fact I don't want to break this off but yeah, I guess that works too.” Yugi pulled back as a blush found its way to his cheeks.

Atem felt his face heat up as well. “Are you saying you care more about our friendship than you do about Anubis coming to kill you?”

“Crazy, isn't it?”

“A little.”

Yugi laughed softly and shrugged. “I guess that just describes me perfectly.”

The door to the waiting room flew open. They both looked over at Kaiba and the CEO glared at Atem. “I thought you went home.”

“I came back when Mokuba went to sleep.”

He sneered. “Of course you did.” He turned his attention to Yugi. “The idiot's awake now. He wants to make sure you're okay.”

“Make sure I'm okay?!”

Kaiba gestured to the door and Yugi immediately ran in. He then turned and looked at Atem when the third party was out of earshot.

Atem looked back up at Kaiba and sighed. “Alright. I'm willing to consider that Bakura could be Anubis.”

“Oh? Am I allowed to have that one? How kind of you.” He ignored the dirty look from Atem and glared into the middle distance. “What happened can't be allowed to happen again.”

“It doesn't have to. We know where Bakura went. We can get the mask back and destroy it.”

“We should also consider terminating the wielder as well.”

The suggestion was met with silence.

“Atem,” he growled in warning.

“Kaiba, we can't just kill him.”

“Why not? He has no problem trying to kill us. We'd be doing everyone a favor.”

“Not Ryo.”

“Ryo can go with him. Thousand yen says he knew about all of this. Two thousand says he's one of us.”

Atem grunted and looked away.

“I don't hear you arguing.”

He shoved a hand in his pocket and pulled out two bills. He glared at Kaiba as he pushed it into his hand. “I'm not an idiot, Kaiba.”

“Are you sure?”

The glare deepened. “I won't hear any more of this. We take the Anubis mask but Bakura lives.”

“I didn't come here to negotiate with you.”

“No, you came here to tell me how things would be, then you're suddenly surprised when I don't agree. This isn't a negotiation because I won't let it happen any other way; plain and simple.”

Kaiba let out a snort. “Then you better be there to stop me.” He turned to walk away.

“Why? Because you'll finally become the monster your father was trying to create?”

He froze as his hand pressed against the door. He stared at the glass. In the reflection, he could make out the faint lines of Atem. He had crossed his arms.

Kaiba's fingers curled into a fist as he pushed off the door and glared darkly at Atem. “How dare you-”

Also! Just for your list of people with my abilities within them? Jounouchi can be added as of today. I'm sure he'd like to know what your father planned for people like us.” Atem stood his ground, arms crossed and feet firmly planted.

Kaiba's eyes widened just a fraction. He sucked in a breath to calm himself and took a step back. “Alright, I'll humor you. Give me one good reason why Anubis shouldn't be terminated on sight.”

“Murder is illegal?”

“Do you think I really care about the legal system? Try again.”

Atem clenched his jaw and looked away for a moment. “Alright, consider this; we're all still alive despite Anubis attempting to kill us all.”

“I fail to see-”

“All of us, including Jounouchi, will walk away despite Anubis being specifically trained to kill all targets on sight.”

Kaiba stared at Atem.

“There's a reason for that. A reason we can't find out if Bakura is dead.”

“That's... a little more valid.” He looked back at the door leading to Jounouchi's room and crossed his arms. “I'd also like to ask him a few questions, now that you mention it.”

“I had a feeling you might.”

-

Bakura was preparing for a bath when Ryo stormed into their apartment. He didn't think anything of the change in pressure or how cold the water suddenly felt against his skin.

He barely even jumped when the bathroom door flew opened and slammed against the wall hard enough to make the surface crack. He just looked back at the other blankly and waited for him to regain his composure.

Ryo glared at him through his bangs, left eye glowing softly.

“Can I help you?”

“Are you mortally wounded?”

Bakura looked over all the wounds on his body. He was bleeding in a few places but it was nothing substantial. He shook his head. “No.”

“You're about to be.”

He smiled at the other boy. “It's cute when you think you can scare me.”

“Do you have any idea what you've done?”

Bakura shut off the water and sighed. “I made the presence of Anubis known.”

“You nearly killed our friends!”

“Don't sugarcoat this and try to make me feel part of the group. Your friends; not mine.” He wrung out his hair and grabbed for a towel.

“Jounouchi was hospitalized because of this!”

“He shouldn't have been in there to begin with.”

“You're such a-!” Ryo was interrupted by the sound of someone at the door. His eye glowed again for a moment before they widened. “Hide.”

Bakura frowned but didn't question it for long as Ryo ran from the room as the knocking got louder. He wrapped the towel around his waist and opened an exit for himself.

Ryo sucked in a deep breath before he opened the door and feigned surprise. “...Kaiba? Atem? Is everything okay?”

“You know damn well it isn't.”

Atem shot a look at Kaiba. “What he means to say is... we know about Bakura and his abilities.”

Ryo nodded. “I... kind of figured. Would you like to come in?” He stepped away from the door, knowing the other two would follow.

“Sorry for the intrusion.”

Kaiba sneered at Atem. “This really isn't the time for you to practice your etiquette.”

“Ryo did nothing wrong. There's no need to be rude to him.” He didn't bother to look back at Kaiba as he walked into the apartment and found Ryo in a small kitchen.

“Have a seat.” He gestured to the couches in the other room.

Atem did exactly that and watched Ryo prepare what looked to be tea.

Kaiba wasn't so keen on the other's hospitality. “We're not staying for pleasantries. Where's the other one?”

“I haven't seen him since last night. He most likely knew you would seek him out and decided to stay away from home.” He walked out with two cups and placed them on the table.

Atem frowned. “So the mask would be with him.”

Ryo nodded. He looked between the two. “Is that what you're here for? The mask?”

“Ryo, if you know of his abilities, then you must know to have that mask back in the hands of its user is very dangerous. It might be only a matter of time before he begins to become unstable.”

Kaiba crossed his arms. “Moreso than he is right now.”

Ryo looked at them in confusion for a moment. Then, something dawned on him and he nodded. “I see. I understand the concern.” He sighed. “As soon as I see him again, I'll do everything I can to get that mask back.”

Kaiba nodded. “See to it that you do. That thing should have been destroyed with everything else from that asinine project.”

Atem gave Kaiba another look before he turned to Ryo again. “Thank you for understanding. I apologize for taking up so much of your time.”

“It was no trouble.” He walked the two back out and stared at the door for a moment. Only when he was sure they weren't coming back did he open a small dark tear in the world. He knew Bakura would see the light and come back.

It only took the other a few seconds. “Well? What happened?”

“They want the mask. They say it shouldn't be back in the hands of Anubis.”

Bakura chuckled and crossed his arms. “Well, they're not wrong. But it also should've never been made in the first place.”

Ryo didn't say anything more as he walked back into the living room and lit a small, black candle on an end table next to a lone chair. He didn't need to ask for Bakura to step closer. As soon as the candle was lit, the other's hand was in his left, thumb moved and rubbed against his wrist.

The world around them was consumed by darkness. The small flame was the only source of light, despite the three glowing beings. Two men and one woman stood by with masks in place.

Ryo turned and frowned at them. “Where's Bast?”

They looked at one another before. The woman in a cow mask spoke up first. “We haven't seen her since... uh...” She glanced at Bakura.

Bakura glared at her. “Since when, Hathor? Use your words.”

“Since you decided to attempt murder. Again.” The taller man in an ibis mask growled right back.

“See? Thoth gets it.”

Ryo shot Bakura a look then returned his glance to the three.

“She worried quite a bit about Set. I wouldn't doubt she is with him.” The last remaining spirit chimed in. His mask was smoothed over with a dark green tint to it.

Ryo looked at him, unsure. “She's always been worried about Set. What would cause her to so suddenly seek him out?”

One by one, they all looked at Bakura.

Bakura blinked and frowned at all of them. “What?”

It was then that it dawned on Ryo. “Jounouchi.”

Hathor let out a soft hiss. “She did mention Jounouchi. I just kinda thought she was envious.”

“Did she say anything else before she left?”

“No. She just kinda went away when... the fight was over.”

“Osiris,” Ryo turned and frowned at the one in the green mask, “did she speak to you about anything?”

He shook his head. “Bast was silent during the battle.”

“But she has been very quiet as of late.” There was a frown in Thoth's voice.

Ryo nodded and looked down. “She... she's always been protective of Set. Something must've really scared her. Something worse than you.”

He didn't even need to glance for Bakura to know he was talking to him. He just squeezed the other's hand as Ryo looked back up.

“There... is still one of us unaccounted for,” Hathor said, very softly. “Maybe she's afraid he might come back.”

“We're working on that.”

“But can you blame her for wanting to attempt to protect him? I'm surprised none of us are attaching to Horus in the same way.”

“There's little need for that. Horus can handle himself quite nicely.” Osiris looked at Bakura. “As you already know.”

Bakura snorted. “We're not here to talk about me.”

“Not today, at least.” Osiris glanced back at Ryo. “We all have our fears surrounding the future for you four living. This fear has even made its way to The Mother.”

Bakura sneered at the title.

Ryo ignored it and just nodded. “I understand. But there's very little need to fear.”

The three of them stared at Ryo.

“Ra...” Thoth stepped forward. “There's a very large need to fear so long as he's still out there.”

Ryo bit his lip.

Bakura narrowed his eyes as he felt a hitch in Ryo's pulse. “That's enough.” He pulled his hand out of Ryo's.

The darkness faded as light took over and the spirits disappeared from view. As Bakura put out the candle with his fingers, Ryo stared at the spot where he'd seen Thoth just seconds before. He held his left hand to his chest. “They're not wrong.”

Bakura glanced at Ryo and growled. “They never are.”

-

“Dude, stop worrying so much! I'm fine!”

“You're a little too fine. Are you sure you're not in pain?”

“That's what these bad boys are for.” Jounouchi shook a still full container of painkillers before he adjusted his sling.

Yugi still didn't look convinced.

“Seriously, let's just talk about something else for a while. Kinda sick of thinking about my broken bones and being out of work.”

Yugi nodded and looked down. There was another question he wanted to ask but almost wondered if Jounouchi might prefer talking about the broken bones again. He eyed Jounouchi carefully. “So. Kaiba spent a lot of time in your room. Have you two...?”

Jounouchi grimaced.

“...Sorry.”

“It's fine. Just,” he sighed and shook his head, “no. Nothing's happening between us. Not since, you know, that night.”

For a moment, Yugi just watched his friend in silence. He was almost afraid of the look on his face at the mention of Kaiba. But, he couldn't help himself. There was pain on both sides. “He was really worried.”

“Yeah, well, so was I when I woke up in the middle of the night to some red light trying to blind me and he wouldn't tell me what the fuck was going on.”

Yugi frowned.

Jou blinked then looked away. “Sorry. It's just... frustrating.”

“Do you ever think about trying again?”

He snorted. “About as often as you think about asking your eye candy out.”

“Don't try to change the subject.” He tried to hide his rapidly heating features.

Jou smirked. “I'm not. I'm just saying a lot.”

He didn't look back at the blond for a moment. He just leaned back and sighed softly. “I really think you two should talk about this.”

He shot Yugi a look of warning. “Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. You two obviously still care about each other, so-”

“How about the day you actually ask out Atem is the day I talk to Kaiba.”

The two stared at one another for a moment. Then, Yugi pulled out his phone. His eyes stayed locked onto Jounouchi's, only glancing down at the contacts briefly.

He brought the phone up to his ear.

The other end barely rang. “Hello, Yugi!”

While looking directly at the blond, Yugi did everything he could to make it seem like he had nerves of steel and something like this isn't going to faze him. But inside, as soon as he heard that voice, his stomach tightened. “Hey, Atem... listen, I was thinking we should go out sometime.”

“... outside of class, you mean.”

“Yeah.”

“With no friends.”

“Yep.”

“... just the two of us.”

His poker face was slipping. “Yeah.”

There was a pause on the other end. Then, it all seemed to dawn on Atem. “Is this going to be a date?” There was a hint of... something in his voice.

“Y-yeah?” He had to keep it up. Nerves of steel despite the flutter in his stomach.

“Yes. I would like that.”

“Cool! Uh, so how about Friday at six?”

“That sounds perfect.” There was a smile in Atem's voice.

“Great! I'll come by your place around then!” With a quick goodbye, Yugi pulled the phone away from his ear and gestured to Jounouchi. “Your turn.”

Jou stared at him then leaned back and looked away stubbornly.

Yugi frowned.

“It's just... hard, you know?” The blond spoke through a tight throat.

The frown deepened. Yugi nodded. “Yeah. I know.”

-

After Yugi hung up, Atem simply stood in the hallway and stared straight. He felt lighter as the giddiness took control. He could feel an energy move through his body that demanded some kind of outlet. A jump for joy, a scream of some kind, something.

He didn't even realize he was hopping until Mokuba stepped out of the game room and raised an eyebrow at him. “You came out here so you could dance?”

Atem paused as he tried to regain his composure. He coughed into his fist. “Let's return to the game now.” He maneuvered around Mokuba and walked back into the room.

Mokuba followed him with his eyes. A smile slowly worked its way on his face. “So, what made you sprint out of here? Leaving in the middle of a game isn't like you; thought you were going to be sick.”

“It was just a phone call. Nothing more.” He picked up his controller.

The young Kaiba walked over and studied Atem's face. He raised an eyebrow as the other leaned back.

“What?”

“It was Yugi.”

Atem blinked as his face started to heat up.

“He called to ask you out, didn't he?”

The heat increased and he looked away.

“God, I'm good!” Mokuba grinned and pulled the controller from Atem's hand. He flipped through the menu before he landed on a game. “You know, normally I'd take this opportunity to thrash you considering you're so gaga over your upcoming date-”

“Gaga?”

“-but I'm feeling nice today. So, I want you to play this game I've been meaning to test.” He handed the controller back to Atem and pushed the other back onto the couch. The screen was already full of strange little shapes, all of which moved and bent as he pressed buttons.

He worked with the shape as he tried to learn the game's true objective.

Mokuba plopped down on the couch next to him with a drink in hand. “So, when's the date?”

“Friday.”

“Cool. That gives us plenty of time.”

“For what?”

“Grooming you so you're not a romantic disaster like Seto.”

Atem looked at Mokuba in confusion. It took him a moment before a frown took over his features. “A romantic disaster?”

Mokuba just grinned. “Don't worry. Yugi'll be swooning.”

Atem couldn't help but be worried.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

“Thank you for meeting with me today.”

“No problem. I'm actually surprised you called me considering the Kaibas are still, you know, probably looking for the other guys?”

“He's still a child. I doubt he's connected any of this.” Sugoroku stared into his tea for a moment. “Although, I've seen that Horus is back in action.” He looked up at the blond woman sitting at his kitchen table.

Mai nodded. “Yeah. I have a feeling that's thanks to the 'child.' But with Horus out, it's been affecting mostly everyone else. Both Horus and Ra decided to seek out Malik.”

Sugoroku let out a soft chuckle. “Well, Malik never really did hide himself well. I always thought he was parading himself around to keep people from Isis.”

“If he does, it's not something he's ever told me.”

“Maybe he's afraid you'd tell her. You do have a tendency to fill her in on everything.”

Mai nodded and gripped her cup. “Well. I haven't told her everything, per se.” The ceramic creaked in her hand. “Malik told me Ra made mention of Anubis rising.”

Sugoroku froze. “...That's not possible. Anubis is dead.”

“You're absolutely sure? Because there have been reports of a kid in a jackal mask.”

The old man opened his mouth to defend it but slowly closed it again. He could feel his heart racing.

“Last we spoke you said the same thing. But did you actually see him die? As in taking his last breath, no pulse, no nothing?”

“I...” Sugoroku shook his head. “I guess not. It was... a complicated situation. For all we know, those powers may have pulled from the immunity abilities of Isis and Horus.”

Mai sighed and leaned back in her chair. “Well, we've just gotta keep an eye on our loved ones and make sure he doesn't try anything.” She glanced at the stairs. “Speaking of which, where's your grandson?”

He followed her gaze and smiled softly. “He said he had to meet up with his friends at six tonight. Something about a project he's really intent on finishing.” He then looked back at Mai. “He's safe.”

Mai nodded silently. She wouldn't voice the concern that sat in the back of her head. That, when spying in on Horus for his mother, she'd seen Yugi just a little too close. That she would see the two of them stare with lingering eyes and sharing a smile like a secret only they understood.

She wanted this to be good for Horus. She wasn't sure Sugoroku would agree. Not if it put his precious grandson in the crossfire of something so dangerous.

She had a feeling Yugi was not where he said he would be.

-

Mokuba remembered the first couple of weeks after freeing Atem. He was only known as Horus back then and couldn't do much along the way of communicating. He knew some words but not nearly enough.

Not to mention that he initially stared with wide, feral eyes and a body so thin it looked like he stepped straight out of a horror game. Those first couple of weeks Seto insisted on keeping him back in the room they found him. Every day, Mokuba would bring him food and watch him tear into it like an animal.

Starved, scared, and alone. All those words could describe Horus.

Looking at him as he dug through all the clothing Mokuba insisted he tries for his date? Atem and Horus could easily be two different creatures.

As he changed shirts, Mokuba could no longer see the jutting spine or ribs. His tanned skin looked healthy and nothing at all like a cracking tarp over bones. Not one part of him looked hollow. And it was partially thanks to Mokuba's meals of pancakes and spaghetti, despite Seto's continuous insistence that he would need something with actual nutritional value.

Atem got plenty of that when started making meal requests. Which never would have happened had it not been for Mokuba insisting on feeding the other boy. He needed to trust them. And now he did!

It was kind of like raising a cat to act like a human. Luckily, Mokuba had done something like that once before.

“That's the one!”

“This is a little tight.”

“Trust me, Atem. Tight is better when it comes to dates.”

Atem blinked owlishly at Mokuba. “What does that even mean?”

“It means what you're wearing is perfect. Yugi'll love it!”

-

Yugi was nervous.

It wasn't often he lied to his grandfather. Especially when he came to something as important as who and where he was going to be. And, although it wasn't technically a lie, he knew the vagueness of his statement wouldn't be questioned because of the level of trust he gained.

Going to a friend's to finish a project would mean going to Ryo's.

But it could also mean a completely different type of project. And a completely different 'friend' whose name may or may not ring a bell to his grandfather. Yugi wasn't willing to take the risk.

He brought his hand up to ring the doorbell. His finger hovered over it when the door flew open and out stumbled Atem, being shoved by Mokuba before the younger Kaiba put a finger to his lips for both of them and shut the door.

Atem looked back at the closed door with exasperation before the gaze turned to Yugi and softened. “Hi.”

“Hey.” Yugi took in the other with a smile. The clothing was different from his usual attire. In most circumstances, his shirts were loose fitting and almost flowy. Atem could rock a tunic like no one else.

Now it was all very tight and much more apparent to show off his body. The black pants and sleeveless shirt clung tight to his hips and chest. He'd seen the look before on someone else. It was less Sennen, more Kaiba.

“You look good.”

Atem looked at his clothing and rubbed the back of his head. “Thanks... Mokuba helped.”

He knew it.

Atem looked back at Yugi and smiled softly. “You look good too. Although, that's not unusual for you.”

Yugi opened his mouth to say something but quickly found himself caught in the implication of the statement. He could feel his face heat up as Atem moved down the walkway and got to see just how tightly those pants clung.

He would have to thank Mokuba for the choice later.

Atem turned back, his hands in his pockets and that smile still on his face. “So, what's the plan for the night?”

Yugi followed after. “I thought maybe dinner would be a good start, then we could see where to go from there.”

“Sounds good.”

Mokuba watched them walk off the property from a nearby window and smiled. Both of those dorks looked like they were made for one another. He wasn't about to deny them being together no matter how much Seto tried to fight it.

Seto's concerns were his own to deal with.

Meanwhile, Yugi concerned himself with his own thoughts on where they were going. It was a little nicer than the usual Burger World- a ramen place near one of the piers- but to compare it to the food most likely served to the Kaibas on a daily basis? It wouldn't compare.

But, as they approached the restaurant, Atem didn't seem to mind. In fact, he looked delighted at simply the idea of where he was and who he was with. Just like the first time they met, Yugi could read it in his eyes. He could see everything that ran through Atem. And right now, he was just happy to be here.

That caused a swell in Yugi's chest like no other.

It didn't take long for the conversation to begin working its way to games. Yugi was happy to find Atem's interests where right on par with his own. They spoke about the games they've played. Yugi was very amused to find Kaiba was often frustrated with how gifted his cousin was at just about any game he picked up.

Towards the end of dinner, Yugi brought up the game he was currently working on.

“It's not too much now, but I've been working with the holograms at DIT to try and make something compatible with the Kaiba Corp systems.”

Atem blinked. “Really?” The interest was clear as day.

Yugi nodded. “Yeah. It's a little tedious and maybe not perfect, but Kaiba donated an older model to the school so maybe it'll be compatible.”

“I would love to take a look.”

He smiled and gave Atem a half shrug. “I guess we could do that. If you're interested in continuing this date in that direction.”

“Absolutely.” He smiled as Yugi's eyes lit up. While he was very interested in the game itself, it made it that much better to see the excitement it brought the other.

And the look continued to be barely contained as they paid their bill and headed back out onto the street. He kept his hands in his pockets and watched as Yugi talked animatedly about the game and all of the details he was still working out.

“There's this weird glitch that boots the game into a completely different area and I don't know why it does that.”

“Hmm, it might be the particular version this machine's running. I could probably update it if-” he paused as someone bumped into his shoulder and he heard the sound of something drop. Atem turned and picked up the small card as the woman continued to walk down the street. “Oh, miss!”

The woman turned and smiled as he picked it up. She shook her head before he could say anything more. “Finders keepers, sweetie.”

Atem pulled it in as the woman blew him a kiss. He blinked a couple of times then looked down at the card. It was glossy with writing in another language on it.

“Atem?” Yugi frowned. “Did you know her?”

Atem shook her head and put the card in his pocket. He turned back to Yugi and pretended he didn't feel anything that made him wonder about this woman.

-

As soon as the machine was turned on, the room was full of stars and planets. Everything in the room was covered in the blue hue until furniture disappeared behind it all. Yugi watched Atem's eyes as they darted from object to object, expecting to see the calculation he often associated with anything Kaiba.

Instead, there was a look of wonder.

Atem reached up to Mercury and took the small planet into his hand. It twitched briefly as Atem studied it before he let it go and it snapped back into place.

“Each planet has a species on it. Some are friendly, others aren't.” Yugi pointed to Mars. The planet glitched and twitched in its spot. “But some of them don't want to play nice with the program and anytime I try to do anything, it glitches out and shuts down.”

The look of wonder changed and hardened ever so slightly as the problem was presented to him. Atem stared at the planet, his right eye letting out a soft glow. He brought up a projection of his own and the red blended into the blue to turn part of the room violet. “You may have overloaded it with Mars. It could be something as simple as adding to the machine's software.”

“Can you do that?”

“Kaiba might not enjoy the alteration, but this doesn't belong to him anymore. Also, it is an older model. It could use an update.” His eyes darted around and Yugi could see pieces readjust themselves. For a moment, the adjustments were red with codes and words flying around the room as quick as comets. The fix made itself known as pieces exploded in the mix of color.

Yugi watched it in fascination. “I'm guessing this is Kaiba's dramatic way of fixing things.”

“No.” Atem watched it for a moment then turned to Yugi and smiled. “I thought it would make better entertainment for the update.”

Yugi blinked and took in the sight of Atem. The way the colors continued to explode and fizz like fireworks was very entertaining. But the colors bounced off the tanned skin of Atem's arms and face. The lighting kept dim and the shadows danced around his face as his eyes glowed.

And Yugi couldn't help himself. He moved in and pressed his lips to Atem's softly.

He pulled away a second later and blinked at the other's stunned face. The explosions around them continued as he brought his fingers up to his lips.

Yugi frowned before a thought occurred to him. “You've never experienced that before, have you?”

“Once.” He swallowed and bit his lip. “Anzu kissed the front of my mask after I saved her.”

“Yeah, that doesn't count.”

Atem shrugged. “It's all I have. For this moment.”

“Are you saying you want more?”

He smiled softly and decided to follow Yugi's example. He leaned back in for another kiss.

This one lasted longer as he felt Yugi's arms wrap around his waist. His fingers found their way into the other's hair as Yugi gently took the lead.

Yugi opened his mouth and found Atem follow suit. His tongue moved in ever so slightly and gently brushed against the other's. It caused Atem to groan softly and tighten his grip on Yugi's head.

The kiss broke when Yugi backed Atem up into a table they could barely see with the space scene around them. It took him no time to adjust and sit on the table before Atem grabbed Yugi's face to pull him in for another kiss. He needed more.

Yugi smiled against the other's lips and granted him the wish. He could feel the other's body heating up against him as he found his way even closer. Hands moved down to Atem's hips and he pulled him in to add a bit of friction.

With the groan against his lips, Yugi knew he made the right choice. He moved his mouth away from Atem's to find his way to the other's neck. As he kissed and nipped at the tender flesh, the other moved to give him better access. Access Yugi was happy to take.

One hand moved up Atem's shirt as the other's legs wrapped around him to keep their hips tight together. Atem's hand stayed in Yugi's hair as the other braced himself against the table.

There was a soft beep as the explosions calmed and slowly stopped.

“The update is com-plete.” His wording was interrupted by a soft hitch in his breath as Yugi's hand found a nipple.

Yugi pulled back enough to see Atem's blushing face. “We can deal with that later.”

Atem nodded and pulled Yugi back in for another kiss. He arched his hip into the other and moaned at the friction. Yugi tightened his grip on his hip and ground against him. Every touch and feeling flowing through him was perfect and delicious. He broke the kiss and looked at Atem to find that glazed look from his dreams.

But this was real. This was very real.

He let go of Atem and leaned his hands on the table, landing them on either side of the other. In response, Atem let go of his head as Yugi sucked in a few deep breaths to try and calm the heat running through his body.

“What's wrong?” Atem's voice was soft and breathless. It brought the shiver back.

Yugi shook his head slightly. “It's just.... happening so fast.”

He tilted his head and leaned down to catch Yugi's gaze. “Is that bad?”

“I... I don't know.” His eyes found Atem's. The other's eyes were too busy wandering Yugi's body to focus. Yugi fought a moan as Atem's legs tightened and brought the other back closer.

He nearly lost control of himself when the other arched into him again. The heat built again and grew. His face flushed as he decided with a soft laugh. “No... This isn't bad at all.” He looked back at Atem to find a soft smile.

Atem sat up and kissed Yugi's jaw. His hands moved up Yugi's chest and shoulders as his mouth found its way back to the other's. As Atem pulled at buttons and buckles, Yugi pulled back and broke the kiss. “But not here. We need a bedroom.”

Atem stared into Yugi's eyes. Odds were good Yugi's own room was off limits. If the older Mutou found out he was bringing in Horus again, it was possible Atem wouldn't make it out with his head. But there was always another option.

Atem nodded.

-

It took a moment for both of them to calm themselves as they closed up the holograms and headed out of the school.

The pair walked closer to one another than before. As they walked, they would give teasing caresses that only furthered the heat flowing through them. The heat just grew with each step. And as they got closer, Atem could only pray there would be no one around to see them and try to stop them.

When they walked onto the estate, Atem could see lights on in a room upstairs. It was Kaiba's office. Ideally, that is where he would stay.

Atem opened the front door and glanced into the house. He turned and grabbed Yugi's hand with a smile as he cautiously led the other in. He would have to walk by Mokuba's room to get to his own. Hopefully, he was feeling just a secretive as he was the other night when he found out about the date.

He held his breath as he walked passed the door. The light was on inside but the younger Kaiba either didn't hear him or didn't care enough to come out.

He didn't let out a breath until he was in his room and the door was shut. He turned to see Yugi looking around with a smile. “You've got a nice set up here.”

“Thank you.”

That was all that was said before Yugi moved to pick up right where they left off. He moved back in and cupped Atem's face right before reclaiming his lips.

It didn't take much for Yugi to guide Atem to the bed. He sat down and pulled the other onto his lap where Atem straddled his hips. The grinding started again and easily relit the heat that had begun pooling back at the campus. And as Atem continued to grind their hips together, Yugi pulled off his shirt and returned his mouth to Atem's neck and chest. The soft moans were more restrained than they were before and, while that was understandable, Yugi couldn't help but be a little disappointed.

He gently bit into the flesh of Atem's neck and managed to get a strained moan out of him before his hand moved up to cover the noise. He felt the other grind down harder, making the pants just that much more uncomfortable for Yugi.

At that point, Yugi had enough. He turned and flipped Atem onto the bed. He smiled as the red eyes widened in surprise for a split second then they glazed over with need again when Yugi worked off his own shirt.

He planted another kiss on Atem's lips as he worked on the belt and fly of the 'Pharaoh's' tight pants. In no time, the hardened length laying behind the garment sprung free and stood proudly. Atem let out a soft sigh and gripped the sheets tightly.

Yugi smiled at him as he loomed above him. He had to take that moment to immortalize the moment in his head.

It didn't take long for Atem to become impatient. His hands pulled at Yugi's pants.

Yugi gripped them and pinned them to the bed with a smile. “This is a good look for you.”

“Yugi...” He arched to create a little more friction against his crotch.

The feeling caused Yugi to hiss. His own erection was rubbing against the confines of his pants. He needed them off.

It took two pairs of fumbling, excited hands to remove the remaining garments. As soon as they were both naked, Yugi was back over Atem. There was a strangled moan from Atem when the two lengths pressed against each other. He covered his mouth and glanced over at the door but still pressed up into the other.

Yugi couldn't help but smirk. He was trying so hard to restrain himself but he couldn't help the noise from every touch placed into his heated body. Yugi couldn't help but feel a little proud to be able to drive Atem to this. He wanted to be the only one to ever see this side of the great vigilante.

There was a soft whimper behind Atem's hand as Yugi took both erections into his hand. He leaned down and pressed a kiss to Atem's temple as he gently stroked. “I didn't expect the mighty and fearsome Pharaoh to be so sensitive.” He stroked a little harder.

He could hear another muffled moan.

“If I'd known, I would've gone a little slower.”

Atem's eyes locked onto Yugi's. He shook his head and removed his hand. “N-no. This is good...”

“Good?” Yugi raised an eyebrow and stroked faster. He hovered just above Atem's mouth as he bucked into his own hand.

Atem moaned, a little less restrained than before as he pushed his hips up to meet Yugi's. “Very good...” He closed the distance between the two and moaned into Yugi's mouth.

The other smiled and returned the kiss as the strokes got faster and his thrusts became harder. He watched Atem's eyes shut tightly as he broke the kiss to moan and pant. He forgot to care about the other occupants of the house.

The pleasure was building. Yugi pushed harder and bit his lip. He could feel Atem's nails bite into his back. It only spurred him on more as the two moved in time with one another.

“Yugi... I... I'm going to....”

Yugi nodded and pressed his forehead to Atem's. “Me too... Just let go...”

Atem caught Yugi's lips again as white exploded behind his eyelids. He trembled as he came with a soft cry, Yugi following close behind and coating them both.

Yugi braced himself over Atem for a moment as he caught his breath. The tanned arms wrapped around him moved up to pull him into another kiss.

Yugi broke the kiss and carefully laid down next to him. “So, that's not really a common first date thing.”

Atem chuckled and turned to Yugi. “It should be.”

Yugi smiled at him. “Not every date is this successful.”

“I feel like all our dates will be this successful.”

“So you'll want to do this again?”

Atem grinned. “Absolutely.”

-

The two drifted off to sleep with a few more soft, lazy kisses. Atem had never slept so well as he did that night. But when he woke up, it was to an empty bed and all of Yugi's clothing was gone. He looked at the nightstand where a small note was written. He pulled it closer to him and read it with bleary eyes.

 

Atem,

Sorry I had to leave so early. I didn't wanna wake you and it wouldn't be good to have Grandpa start his day and see I'm still not home. Thank you for the perfect night. We'll do it again soon!

Yugi

 

Atem smiled at the letter and brought it up to his lips. It was a perfect night. He wished they could live in those moments right before falling asleep. To just be able to hold and kiss Yugi. To be in his company.

Now? He needed to get cleaned up.

When he was clean and dressed, Atem practically floated. He couldn't be brought down. Not after the night he had. He even smiled widely at Kaiba when he walked down into the kitchen.

Kaiba glanced up from his coffee. “So, your date with Yugi went well, I see.”

Atem raised an eyebrow and leaned against the wall. “Spying on me again?”

“No. Yugi left an hour ago.” He looked back down at his phone. “We ran into each other. You're the only reason he would be here so I'm assuming I would be seeing something very personal if I looked.”

Atem's face heated up. “Since when do you care about invading on a personal level?”

Kaiba just looked back at his phone.

Atem shook his head and walked deeper into the kitchen. “You should tell me what you have against Yugi someday. It may be worth a conversation.”

“It isn't.”

Atem chuckled and grabbed himself a mug. “You'll change your mind.”

“No, I won't.”

He poured himself a cup of coffee and headed back out of the kitchen. There was nothing Kaiba could say to him today to bring him down. He walked back into his room to find the pants he was wearing just the night before still laying on the floor.

It was then he remembered the card he found. The knowing smile on that woman's face.

“Finders Keepers, Sweetie.”

Atem knelt down and pulled out the card. He flipped it in his hand to see a language that wasn't Japanese. But he did recognize one symbol; the Eye of Horus.

Maybe this was worth looking into.

-

Yugi snuck in and closed his door just in time for Sugoroku's bedroom door to open as he went about his daily routine.

The younger Mutou leaned against the door and grinned to himself. Every time he closed his eyes, he saw that smile. The smile that would undo everything and bring out parts of him he never knew existed.

He could feel a heat reignite as he thought about the night before. A night so much better than any fantasy that existed before it.

“Yugi? Are you in there?”

He jumped at the sudden closeness of his grandfather's voice. He pulled away from the door. “...Y-yeah. I'll be right out.” He'd almost forgotten he promised to help out at the shop.

He needed to get himself under control and wake up.

He needed to stop thinking of those eyes and the dazed look they gave when their owner was high with pleasure. Otherwise, he would have more of a problem than just waking up.

It took him nearly an hour to regain control of his body enough to clean up and head down to see his grandfather waiting for him.

Sugoroku smiled at him. “Did you get your project finished?”

“Yeah. Completely.”

“Good! I'm glad you're taking your school work so seriously.” The subject was dropped from there.

Yugi nearly sighed in relief. If his grandfather asked too much, he could be caught in the lie. He really didn't want to keep making things up; he was always a terrible liar.

The morning began slow. Aside from a few people just looking for very specific games, Yugi was left to stock a few shelves. He was in the storage room when his phone buzzed.

Did you get home safe?

Yugi smiled at the message. Yeah. Sorry about leaving so abruptly. I didn't even mean to fall asleep.

Neither did I. I guess we just tired each other out.

He let out a soft laugh. Yeah. I'd say so.

“Yugi? There's someone here looking for a specific puzzle. A three-dimensional pyramid?”

He glanced out the door to his grandfather.

Sugoroku gestured to the back of the room. “There should be one on that shelf.”

Yugi's phone buzzed again. He fought the urge to snatch it up and look at it. “I'll find it.” He moved to the back shelf and glanced down at his phone.

How about an encore performance? Wednesday?

He froze for a second and his heart skipped a beat. He almost forgot what he was doing as his thoughts moved to where this would go.

“Did you find it?”

He continued to stare at the message and thought about that smile.

“Yugi?”

He didn't know if he would ever get enough. That smile and those eyes would be the death of him.

-

Kaiba stared at Atem in annoyance. He sat with his legs hanging over the armrest of the chair positioned on the opposite side of his desk. He was playing on one of the tablets, working through a game Mokuba wanted him to pick apart. That wasn't the problem.

The problem was his smile and the soft humming. A product having something to do with one Yugi Mutou, he was sure. Seeing his rival sneak out of the house at the crack of dawn definitely implied more than just hanging out.

Mokuba had called it the Walk of Shame when he found his brother's ex doing something similar. Although, Kaiba couldn't agree; there was very little shame in those violet eyes when he gave a smile, a wave, then opened the front door with the casualty of a resident. Yugi looked a little too comfortable being in Kaiba's home at the early hours.

It was not a great morning for Kaiba.

Atem glanced up at the CEO. “What?” The smile didn't fade; his tone was full of amusement.

“Your humming is annoying me.”

The smile grew. “So many things annoy you, Kaiba. Are you sure it's just my humming?”

“If you're trying to imply that it has something to do with the reason you're humming, you're sorely mistaken.”

“Mhm.” He leaned his head on his hand and continued to smile.

Kaiba stared at Atem. For a moment, they just stared at one another. Then, Atem spoke again.

“Maybe you're annoyed I had a successful night with someone you have no real reason to hate.”

Kaiba's face morphed into a glare. “Don't speak like you know about my rivalry!”

“Maybe I would know about it if you would just tell me.”

Kaiba sneered and looked back at his computer screen.

“Yeah, that's what I thought.” Atem's eyes returned to the tablet.

Kaiba growled and shot to his feet. “Listen here, you little sh-!” The anger fled as he felt a tightness in him. He could tell by the look on Atem's face, he felt it as well.

Atem shot up out of his chair as the door to Kaiba's office opened. The air itself seemed to thicken as a tanned man with sandy blond hair shut the door behind himself silently. He looked between the two with a blank expression.

“Gentlemen.”

 

Chapter Text

Red and blue eyes followed silently as Malik walked around the room with mild interest. His eyes observed the furniture and the ceilings. He moved and looked out the window, down into the metropolis below.

He hummed and shoved his hands in his pockets as he observed the city. “You fixed your tower very quickly. It's impressive what billionaires can do.”

“What are you doing here?”

Malik turned to Kaiba and smiled as the CEO stepped in front of Atem. He continued his walk around the room. “I'm here to talk to both of you. I believe my... nephew... was contacted by someone last night.”

Atem frowned and kept his eyes on Malik as Kaiba turned to him. “I wasn't.”

Malik shook his head. “Don't lie to me, Horus. I know she's in town. And you're the only reason she ever comes.”

“She's been here before? For me?”

“So you did see her.” He let out a soft laugh and looked up at Kaiba. “I'm shocked he didn't gain more fabrication skills from you.” He looked back at Atem. “What did she want?”

Atem's hand tightened into fists and he swallowed thickly. His eyes stayed locked onto Malik's stubbornly. But he said nothing. He didn't know if there was anything to say.

Malik took a step closer. “Whatever she told you is not to be trusted. She won't be any more help than your current caretaker.” His eyes darted to Kaiba. “Who still looks like he hasn't learned anything from the decade he spent as one of you. As an 'it.'”

Kaiba's glare deepened. There was a tremor in the air as wisps of shadows circled around his arms. “Get out of my office.”

Malik just stared at him coolly. “You can show off your stolen powers all you want but in the end, I've been cursed with them before you were even a glint in your father's eye.” He turned and looked at Atem. “Just follow my advice, Horus; leave this alone. You don't want to know where that woman will lead you.” He turned and headed for the door.

“My name is Atem.”

Malik paused with his hand on the handle. He looked over his shoulder. “No. It's not.” He turned and walked out the door.

The two of them stood by and stared at the door.

“I think there's something we should talk about.” Kaiba glanced at Atem.

Atem didn't look him in the eye.

“Who's 'she?' What was he talking about?”

Atem walked back to the chair.

Kaiba glared at him. “Atem.”

“It was nothing. A woman who ran into me on the street.” He shrugged and turned around. “It wasn't important enough to even worth mentioning.”

“God, you are a terrible liar.” He looked away from the glare shot back at him and sighed. “This will keep up, won't it?” Why else would Malik show up at his office now?

Atem just stared at Kaiba. The expression on his face made it very clear.

Kaiba sighed through his nose. Maybe this whole Yugi thing would be good. Maybe he shouldn't keep fighting both of these missions and allow Atem to seek out one. And if he had to pick one evil to be lesser...

At least he knew the best and the worst outcomes of the path with Yugi. There wasn't death in that future. Yet.

The subject was dropped as Kaiba returned to his computer. There was nothing he could say that wouldn't push Atem further into the search for Isis. And there was no way he was going to outright admit to his new plan of giving up on the Yugi front.

They would just return to a situation where none of this was happening. Back a few minutes ago before Malik even entered the room.

Only there was no more annoying humming and light annoyance at the noise. This wouldn't be so easily let go.

-

The boy he was with didn't call him Horus. It was an odd tidbit to pick up. Had Mai been faster, she would have missed that completely. She was glad she didn't.

She heard him. She heard the name Isis had given their boy. How was that possible? Did she tell Isis about it and possibly get her hopes up for no reason?

She didn't know. She couldn't be sure. And, as she returned to Isis, she couldn't find the words to ask. She could only look at that smiling face and wonder if there would ever be a time where it wasn't weighed down.

She could only continue to bring her presents and hope it would be enough to bring back a piece of that smile. She held up the picture in her fingers with a smile all her own. “Our boy had his first date.”

Isis pulled the picture out of her hand and looked at it. The smile softened as her eyes fell on her child. “He's grown up so fast.”

Mai just watched her. “He has your smile.”

Isis laughed and leaned against Mai as she stared at the picture. She felt a little more at ease as an arm wrapped around her waist.

“Maybe next time, you should come with me.”

The smile faded. “Mai... I don't know.”

“C'mon, haven't you tortured yourself with this enough? He keeps finding Malik to try and get in contact with you. He wants to see you!”

“But then what? It's not like we can go off and be a happy family after that.”

“Why not?”

Isis frowned and pulled away from the blonde.

Mai's eyes lit up in realization. “You've been having visions again.”

Isis looked down and nodded solemnly. “He's... always in them. He's always happy and safe in them. Sometimes, he's with this boy.” She pointed to Atem's date. “But then, when I come into the picture... he...”

Mai stepped closer again and took her partner's hands into her own. “This doesn't have to be like this. No offense, but your visions aren't always the most accurate. Look at what they saw with Malik.”

Isis shot Mai a look before she looked away again.

“I guess... I just want you to think about it. Really consider that life. Okay? You deserve that life.”

Isis nodded. Her eyes slipped closed and she smiled when she felt Mai's lips press against her forehead. She looked back up and caught her lips, the smile still in place.

-

Jounouchi was never really one for meditating. He couldn't really concentrate on any one thing and his apartment was never a place that really screamed 'zen.' It used to be a joke that he could do it because his brain was so empty but really, his mind was always racing with something.

But now, despite the thoughts running through him, there was now a guide. A girl who knew exactly how to pull him into her realm so they could speak.

He sat, cross-legged, in front of Bast.

She smiled at him. “Hello, Jounouchi Katsuya.”

“You know, you kinda greet me like a computer. It's creepy.”

She tilted her head.

“But I guess there's no avoiding that.” He rubbed the back of his head and looked around. The room was pitch black. He might even dare say it was darker than the night he and Bast met. Now that he was fully aware of the presence, he could tell he was no longer in a place he knew but rather, another world entirely. “What is this place?”

Bast looked around as well. “The Mother referred to it as Ealim Alzili. Mr. Kaiba used to call it 'The Void.'” She looked back at Jounouchi. “Not Set. His... father.”

“You knew his father?”

“We were all his subjects in Project Millennium. All of us granted special abilities through the blood of Horus. Set was the last of the success stories; created with the sole purpose to find the remaining subjects and send them here; to Ealim Alzili.”

“Were you two close?”

She sat in silence for a moment before looking back down at her hands. “We... never met officially. I was exterminated years before Set's adoption.”

Jou raised an eyebrow. “Why do you want to protect him so much, then?”

Bast gave a glance up at the blond. “Many of us feel a connection to one another. It might have something to do with the powers put inside us. But, we always gravitate to those who have our abilities whether we know it or not.”

“So you gravitate to him.”

“In a way, yes. Just like Hathor and Thoth.”

“You lost me.”

“Oh. You don't know them.” She shrugged. “Maybe you can meet them someday.”

Jounouchi paused. His heart sank at the softness in her voice. It made him finally question the reason Bast was so set on Kaiba rather than anyone else. They were alone here. In this void.

“Maybe I can.”

Bast smiled again. “I watched you and Set together. You looked so... happy. He looked so happy.”

Jounouchi rubbed the back of his head. “Yeah, I don't know if I want to talk about my ex with some strange ghost lady.”

“Why not?”

“Because,” was there any other way to say it? “we're not together anymore. He broke it off; he doesn't want me and I don't want him.”

Bast shook her head and the smile fell. “I don't understand.”

“You probably saw it. We broke up. The relationship ended. That last night I was over his house.” He thought back to it. He remembered the blood on his hand. He remembered Kaiba diving over him and rushing out with whatever was holding the light.

Then... he came back in like nothing happened. Jounouchi didn't want to forget what happened. They had a fight. And...

Jounouchi looked up to see Bast leaning closer to him. She laughed softly. “Despite his reason for creation, Set is very much like me.” She stared at him with a smile. “You're like us too.”

There was a knock at the door. Bast and Jou look in the direction of the noise. It was then he felt a strange tug that called him to it.

“It looks like our time is up, Jounouchi Katsuya.” She looked back at him. “A friend is here for you.”

His eyes opened. The knocking was more pronounced and demanding.

He climbed to his feet and trudged to the door. Although he was partially grateful for the distraction, he didn't expect his time with Bast to be so exhausting.

He opened the door just as Ryo was posed to knock again. “Hey.”

Ryo blinked and lowered his arm. “Hey. Uh. How have you been?”

Jou shrugged. “Healing. Not too bad.” He decided to neglect the fact he woke up without the need for the painkillers or that his arm felt perfectly fine only a few days later. It was probably for the best to keep that to himself.

There was a soft laugh in the back of his mind.

The blond ignored it and opened the door a little wider. “How about you come in.”

Ryo smiled. “Thank you. I'm sorry if I'm interrupting something.” His eyes dart to the air above Jounouchi's shoulder but he glanced back a moment later.

“Nope. Not at all! Just kinda hanging out.” He walked deeper into the apartment, away from the gaze. “I don't have much along the way of refreshments. Want some soda?”

“Sure. I wouldn't want to impose too long. I just wanted to come and make sure you were okay.” He followed Jou into the apartment. “It was... quite a scary event.”

It didn't get passed Jounouchi how careful Ryo was being with his words. “Yeah,” he said into the open fridge, “it was. Especially the part of being shot out of a window and somehow surviving.”

“I guess you were very lucky in that aspect.”

He turned and looked at Ryo. “How did Bakura react to the news? I'm sure he was pissed off that someone tried to start a fight and he wasn't there to see it.”

“He was, a little.” Ryo agreed quickly. “But... he-”

There was a sudden harsh tug that nearly knocked the wind out of Jounouchi. Similar to what he felt when he his time with Bast was interrupted but much more intense.

By the look on his face, Ryo felt it as well. He did what he could to regain his composure and stood tall. “Sorry. There's something I forgot to do. I have to go.”

“Yeah, I should be heading out too.” He didn't know where. He just had to follow this feeling. It was like a tie around his entire being; if he didn't do something about it, he might die from the simple pressure of it all.

Without another word, both of the boys strode for the door.

“Are you both fucking kidding me!”

Atem shot a look at Malik as Anubis began to move closer. “You told me to stay away from you. I couldn't do that if you're hanging out with someone I'm seeking.”

“I wasn't 'hanging out' with him. He came looking for me!” Where was Ra? He was supposed to be on this!

Malik jumped out of the way before he could be attacked. In response, Anubis changed direction and slammed Atem into the ground. The sidewalk cracked around his body.

Atem kicked Anubis off him and jumped up to his feet. Dark energy pooled around him as his right eye lit up. He charged in.

Malik considered the idea of running away. He paused as Atem gained the upper hand and felt a strange swell of pride in the little hero when one of his attacks cut deep enough into Anubis to make the jackal-masked freak howl.

When Anubis snarled and went to strike back, his body moved on its own. He yanked Atem away by the cape and caused the hidden dagger to cut through the air where the enhanced eye once sat.

Malik slammed his elbow into the other's head then looked down at Atem. His eyes were wide as if he just realized what he narrowly avoided. He laid there, mid panic as he covered his eye. It took him a moment to shake off the sudden anxiety

The sound of a helicopter pulled Malik's eyes to the sky.

“Oh, fuck me!” Anubis exclaimed and jumped up to his feet, tense and at the ready as Kaiba jumped down to join the battle. He had to get out!

Anubis tore open a portal for himself.

“Oh no, you don't!”

A body knocked into his and sent them both through the doorway. Anubis growled and opened another one, far away from their original location, and tried to jump through a second to avoid being jumped by Atem again.

But the Pharaoh was not about to be shaken from this task. They flew in and out of the worlds, appearing in different locations around the city. Various rooftops, from the metropolitan areas to the calmer residences. From the Kaiba Corp building, to the Kame Game Shop, to Kaibaland, to DIT, to Ryo and Bakura's apartment, to several places Atem didn't recognize.

Somewhere along the way, the Anubis mask was ripped off his face. Bakura didn't have time to look for it before Atem was back on him.

“Why are you such a pain in the ass?!” He ripped the mask off of Atem as they stumbled back out of the portal and into a second-floor window of Domino High School. Students in the classroom ran to the opposite end of the room as both Atem and Bakura fell to the concrete below.

The fall made an impact on the stone as well as their bodies. As strong as the powers made them, the two were beginning to reach their limits.

Bakura pushed up to his feet and ripped open another portal in the ground. He turned and smiled at Atem, gave the other the finger, then just allowed his body to fall into the space. As soon as he was through, he could regroup and heal a bit.

His eyes shot open when a hand wrapped around his ankle and stopped his descent. There was a flare of power in that touch. He looked back out of the portal, expecting the stubborn look of a tired Pharaoh.

Instead, he was staring into a different set of eyes. Great; now he would have to explain shit. “Hey, little pup. It's been a while.”

Yugi frowned at Bakura and kept his grip tight. Seconds later, there was another pair of hands helping him drag the other out of the portal.

Bakura groaned in frustration when he saw the presence of more people, including Ryo and Jounouchi. Both of them watched intently, expecting him to make a move.

Ryo did not take a step closer.

Bakura sighed in defeat and threw his head back against the ground as a helicopter appeared overhead.

-

He tried his best to forget their upbringing. He could barely even call it that; the man who claimed them was far from a parent. The household wasn't much different from being raised in a lab. It was just less sterile.

And much more frustrating.

Bakura spent a lot of time in the shadows of their home. A small room was built specifically for him. It was designed to train him. To become the subject their 'father' actually wanted to steal.

Instead, he ended up with him. And Ryo.

Poor Ryo. The soft boy deserved so much better. He shouldn't have had to worry about Bakura trapped away without food and water. He shouldn't have had to concern himself with all the horrible video footage forced into their brains to desensitize them. He shouldn't have ever had to panic because that asshole found out about their bond and immediately began to exploit it in an attempt to turn Bakura into a monster.

Bakura lost count of how many people he killed and tortured in the mission of keeping Ryo from harm. His hands dripped in the blood of both innocent and guilty. He'd seen people run, people beg, people cry, all to a teenager with the power to end their lives. And end them he did, no matter what.

But it was all worth it. Ryo was worth it.

Because now he was alive, well, and able to stand on the observation side of their old bedroom. When things were strangely simple by comparison. When Ryo's smile was a little more open and free. Maybe someday he would be able to appreciate the way Bakura sacrificed for him. Somehow, he doubted it.

He sat on the cot. “So, they looking for a way to kill me?”

Ryo shook his head. “They want to know where you dropped the mask. Kaiba's trying to think of the best way to torture that information out of you.”

“They can try but I don't know where it dropped.”

“Meaning someone else could have picked it up by now.”

The room filled with silence. There was only the hum of the machines to occupy them from their thoughts. Bakura wondered where the others were. Somewhere above their heads, he was sure Kaiba was arguing with Atem on the best methods to handle this.

Kaiba, who was created just to kill them versus Horus; the one with whom they all owe a great deal of thanks for the abilities that put all of them on some sort of list.

He wondered what life would be like if Horus was just killed at birth. Would they all be better for it?

“Why did you do it?”

Bakura looked back up at Ryo. There was a sadness in his eyes.

“Why did you go? What were you trying to do?”

He stood up and sauntered over to the window. “You know the answer to that. How else are we supposed to lure him out?”

Ryo frowned. “...Anubis... You know where he is?”

The silence flooded in once more.

-

“You know, I wouldn't be mad if you said you'd want to take a raincheck on tomorrow.” Yugi's hand moved down Atem's arm and paused on the gold brace.

“I wouldn't miss it for the world, Yugi.” He flipped his hand around and laced their fingers together.

“You're injured.” He looked at their hands and followed up the arm again. On that appendage alone, Yugi had seen scrapes and burns deeper than anything a normal human would have without needing a visit to the hospital. It followed up to the right side of his face right below the eye; now deactivated to prevent... something.

Yugi couldn't be sure he understood Kaiba's reasoning behind it. But, with the eye offline, there was something that trembled just below Atem's skin. Something either held back or simply took a back seat to the enhancement. Something hard for him to resist.

He couldn't pull himself away. He didn't want to. Yugi's eyes slipped closed as Atem leaned his forehead against the other's.

“My injuries will be healed. Most of the worst are already nothing but a memory. So don't concern yourself with m-” Atem blinked as he found his mouth occupied. His gaze softened as he returned the kiss Yugi was so kind to give him.

Reluctantly, Yugi pulled away a few seconds later. “Sorry. I completely interrupted you.” He gave him another gentle peck. “What were you saying?”

Atem's tongue darted out to take in the flavor left behind on his lips. He smiled softly. “It wasn't important.” He leaned back in and stole another kiss. It felt good; even better than it did the other night.

And he could tell by the way Yugi moved and molded his body into it, he wasn't the only one to think so.

Atem found himself with his back to the wall, their lips still firmly attached to one another. It was too much and, still, he needed more. He needed all of Yugi.

He needed-

“You two should really get a room.”

Both of them turned to see Mokuba. The younger boy stared at them with a knowing smirk on his face. He walked on without another word.

But he'd said enough. And he was right. That was exactly what he needed.

Atem turned back to Yugi. “Bedroom.”

Yugi frowned at him. “Are you sure?”

The question was answered by a small thrust of the hips. He shivered as he felt the hard lengths press together. Atem suppressed a whine in his throat as he regained control of his voice. “Only if you are.”

“You're right. Bedroom is the best answer.”

Atem smiled and nearly dragged Yugi down the hallway. Yugi grinned at the back of the other's head and tried to memorize the halls. Maybe someday he could get a tour of something other than the quickest route to Atem's bedroom.

Not that he was complaining; he would take this particular tour every day.

As they headed down a hall and to a door he recognized, Yugi felt the overwhelming need to touch Atem again. He pushed the other against the door and briefly caught his eyes widening in surprise. Yugi dipped down for his lips, which Atem happily submitted to him. Yugi could feel the eager hands pulling at his belt again. One disappeared to fumble with the door handle.

Once the door was open, Atem backed up and pulled Yugi along by the shirt.

Yugi didn't hesitate. As soon as he was pulled into the room, his hands were on Atem's clothing and removing them from his body. He felt as if he might go insane if he was denied contact with the other now.

He only managed to get Atem's shirt off before his gracious host twisted around and shoved him to the bed.

“Remove your clothing.”

The way he demanded in that husky voice made Yugi comply immediately. As he did, he watched Atem closely. He watched him wiggle out of his own pants and undergarments then quickly move to his bedside table and pull out a small bottle.

Yugi raised an eyebrow. “I never took you for someone who would just happen to have lube on hand.”

“I wasn't until our first night together.”

It would seem someone was doing a bit of research. The very thought of this research turning into experimenting was enough to make his cock twitch painfully. Yugi could picture more than just lube in that drawer, right in reach of the bed. It didn't take him long to see how close he might truly be to being right.

Atem regained his attention as he straddled Yugi's hips and smiled. “You have that look again.”

Yugi opened his mouth to speak but all the words were lost to him as Atem's eyes fluttered closed. One hand gripped Yugi's shoulder for balance. The other was busy on Atem's south end.

Yugi was able to get a full view when Atem leaned down and buried his head into the hollow of Yugi's neck. He already had two fingers inside himself.

Yugi felt a tremor run through him. “You've been testing a few things, haven't you?”

Atem nodded without moving his head from its position. His fingers pushed in as deep as possible before introducing a third finger.

Yugi grabbed the bottle from Atem's other hand and worked to coat his rock hard erection. Every so often, some part of Atem would rub against him and remind him directly of his painful arousal.

It only took another moment for Atem to remove his fingers and position himself over Yugi.

He could only watch and grip the sheets tightly as, little by little, he was engulfed by the tight walls. Atem's nails bit into his shoulder as he took more and more in. But that was far from Yugi's main focus.

He looked into Atem's eyes. They were glazed over. His right eye was nearly dripping, possibly trying to overcompensate from not being able to see.

The left kept its focus on Yugi. He wondered if Atem could see anything else. The world just seemed to crash away for Yugi as something dim and warm engulfed their world. Despite the shadows that danced around them as Atem's powers made themselves known, Yugi felt safe.

Or maybe it was because of the dark shapes that whipped around them.

It didn't matter. All that mattered now was the keeper of these abilities and how good he looked on Yugi's lap. He brought a hand up and wiped away a tear from Atem's dead eye while the other fully impaled himself. The hand on his shoulder eased its grip slowly.

“Are you okay?”

Atem let out a soft pant and pressed his forehead against Yugi's. “I have never felt more 'okay' in my life.”

Yugi smiled and pressed a kiss to Atem's lips. He moaned against them as the other began to move. It was a slow and gentle movement; experimental. But, as he was met with what was probably only a little pain, Atem moved with more enthusiasm.

Yugi took that as a sign he could start moving as well. He snapped his hips up in time with Atem. He wanted to drive himself in as deep as possible. The shadows continued to engulf them in a way Yugi didn't even consider. As they both found a rhythm, he noticed there was a dim glow in Atem. One that came without the guidance of any enhancements. His true, unbridled power.

Yugi's hands gripped Atem's hips. He thrust again and caused Atem to cry out. He felt the body on top of his go rigid, the glow increased as his eyes widened.

Yugi stopped moving. “Are you okay? Did I hurt you?”

Atem shivered. He shook his head and said in a hoarse whisper, “do that again.”

Yugi blinked. It took a moment for him to realize what must have happened. When he did, he smiled with a nod. It took a moment to find the position again. A few thrusts didn't quite hit home. But then he heard the cry again. This time Atem wrapped his arms around Yugi to keep the other from trying to pull away.

Yugi wasn't going anywhere. As soon as he found the spot, he aimed for it with every thrust. He felt blunt nails bite into his back and Atem buried his face into Yugi's shoulder. He nipped at Atem's neck and groaned as the other slammed his hips down and started to grind against him.

Atem moved back. His good eye was as dark as the other. He stared at Yugi, a million thoughts running through his head. He was able to voice one. “You're perfect.”

Yugi smiled and kissed Atem. He swallowed the other's moan as he let go of Atem's hip with one hand and began to palm the neglected dick between them. “You really believe that, don't you?” He pressed a kiss to Atem's throat.

The nails cut deeper. Wisps of shadows continued to engulf them. Yugi's hips snapped up at a quicker pace to drive himself in deeper.

“Have you really looked at yourself lately?” Yugi murmured against Atem's skin. “I can create a couple of silly games but you?” He looked at Atem and smiled. “You're a god among men, Pharaoh.”

Atem wanted to reply. He wanted to tell Yugi that his power couldn't hold a candle to the radiance that followed the other. That an ability like his was not to be more celebrated than the kind heart of Yugi Mutou.

But he couldn't. His mouth would only let out another moan as the shadows engulfed them completely. He couldn't hold back anymore.

Atem trembled. He nearly screamed as his body tightened and he came.

Yugi grunted and gripped Atem's hip a little tighter as the walls around his cock squeezed and made it nearly impossible to move. They tightened and milked him until he couldn't handle it anymore. With a white hot burst, he came only a second after Atem. He relished in the sound of Atem's soft, needy moan as he filled the other.

They clung to each other and panted heavily. Both bodies trembled as the dark wisps dissipated around them. Still, they both felt as if the world had disappeared.

Yugi kept his arms wrapped tightly around Atem and collapsed to the bed, dislodging himself from the other in the movement.

Atem winced as Yugi pulled out, knowing in no time there would be more of a mess on their hands. He looked at Yugi to see the other did not look even the least bit concerned about the clean up at the moment. He smiled contently, properly sated.

It made Atem smile knowing he was part of the reason for that smile. And his heart fluttered when Yugi looked at him and the smile widened. He leaned up kissed Atem again. It was then he heard something resonate in his mind. A simple, hungry thought in a voice not unlike Yugi's.

Mine.

-

They spent hours with each other afterward. It was hours of small kisses and cleaning each other, then more small kisses that almost turned into more.

But Atem was able to find firm and steady control. Even if he pushed Yugi away with a high amount of reluctance, he was able to be the small bit of logic that broke through and cooled the fire that threatened to burn again.

“Your grandfather is probably worried about you.”

Yugi wanted to protest but he knew Atem was right. When they heard the two fighting outside of the game shop, he'd abandoned his position to follow after them. The last thing he said to his grandfather was a quick 'I'll be right back!' then he was off.

It was a confusing search through Domino before Yugi found they landed outside the high school. From there, everything just kept moving and he'd forgotten about his duties at the store.

And he looked at his phone to find it was dead. 'Worried' would be an understatement; Grandpa was most likely freaking out.

When Yugi left, it was clean, sated, and with the lingering taste of Atem on his lips. Looking back on their time in that bedroom, he remembered the shadows that surrounded them. The way they whipped around and left very little light but the glow coming from Atem. Yugi felt as if he'd seen something very few had seen before.

And he knew it was something that should scare him. Those abilities were the very same ones that, in the early days of the Pharaoh, drove people to madness. The powers made people believe leaves and garbage were money, or they were permanently on fire, or they were trapped in a world of gears and clock tickings.

But Yugi felt as if they couldn't hurt him. If anything, Atem's abilities were just as much his to harness.

As he walked into the game shop, he found it to be dark and empty. He was sure his grandfather was out looking for him, no doubt out of his mind with worry. As soon as he stepped into the house, he found a charger in the living room and hooked up his phone.

Thirteen missed calls and forty-five texts.

He didn't flip through and simply sent one back.

I'm really sorry, Grandpa. I'm home now.

He was sure he would be in for it once his grandfather got home. It wasn't often he was in trouble, but he was surely out of line for what just happened.

Yugi walked up to his room. The way Atem and Bakura landed, it sounded like it may have cracked the glass of his window. He could only hope it wasn't too bad.

When he walked in, he could see the long crack, but the window was still firmly in place. He closed his door.

And jumped when someone in the Anubis mask was staring right back at him. Yugi wasn't too sure why but he felt this one was much more likely to be the Anubis to fear.

He was a smaller stature than Bakura, and much thinner. Still, he was grotesquely intimidating to Yugi as he slowly stepped forward.

Yugi stumbled back as the sounds of a high pitch squeal filled his ears again. The back of his legs hit his desk. His heart thumped painfully in his chest.

The front door opened downstairs.

Yugi thought briefly to call for his grandfather but a hand moved up and gently covered his mouth. Anubis brought a finger up to the edge of the mask's muzzle. He didn't say a word.

But Yugi could almost feel his thoughts.

It's time to let go, Yugi. Trust me.

Yugi suddenly felt tired. His eyes rolled back and slipped closed.

Downstairs, Sugoroku saw the phone charging. He felt relief fill his body. However, he still needed to talk to Yugi about this. “Yugi? Are you in your room?”

The sound of glass shattering was the only response.

Before he could consider the danger, Sugoroku bolted up the stairs faster than he'd ever moved before. He shoved open the door to his grandson's room.

To find the boy's window completely broken and a note sitting on the desk.

Sugoroku moved closer and looked out the window to see no one. He turned to the paper. The note was written in angry, almost childish hand.

Hello, Dr. Mutou. You should be more thorough in your elimination methods.

 

 

Chapter Text

Sozoji. Male. Age 21. Blood type B. Arrested for three counts of aggravated assault and one count of attempted murder. Possibly more but he was never caught.

He had a fondness for karaoke. However, talent was nowhere to be found. And it would seem that many of the assaults started when his singing was taken into question.

He frequented a karaoke bar in the late hours near the business district of Domino. His singing typically cleared the building; even private rooms were not safe from the sound. Without fail, he would go every night at 7 PM and sing until well past 1 AM.

The bar was set to close at midnight.

One night, Sozoji stumbled out of the bar, clearly annoyed by the treatment he received within. He walked down the street, only giving a glance to the figure he spotted out of the corner of his eye.

He was nowhere to be seen the next night.

He would not be missed.

-

 

Yugi didn't answer any of his texts.

He texted to be sure Yugi returned home safely just as before. That he explained away with a simple thought that maybe his phone died and he fell asleep before he could respond. For the night, that was enough of an explanation.

But then another day passed. A day they planned on having together. A night that Atem thought would maybe end just like the interaction of when they saw one another last. His worry was already a seed in his head from the morning before, but it quickly flourished by that night.

Atem went over to the game shop the next day. As tense as he was to see Yugi's guardian again, he knew he would have to see him in order to make sure everything was alright.

The shop was closed with a small sign in the window, apologizing and stating a family emergency. That did not ease Atem's mind at all.

He decided his best course of action was to stand by and wait for Mr. Mutou's return. He would have to come back for rest at some point.

Atem waited. At first, he simply leaned against the building right next to the shop's entrance. Then, time passed on and he paced around to check every known entrance. That's when he saw Yugi's broken window and all the concern doubled.

So he waited longer. Day faded and he watched people walk by the shop without giving it or him a glance. Night crawled by and the most company who came to him were a few neighborhood cats searching for food.

He was still awake and sitting by the shop's door as dawn greeted him again. As his eyes began to slip closed, someone stepped up next to him and dropped a bag by his hip. He could feel the warmth and smell the aroma of fresh falafel coming from the bag.

“I knew I'd find you here. Kinda thought I'd have to peel you away from Yugi though.” Mokuba frowned and looked at the building. “Did you guys have a fight or something?”

Atem shook his head. “No one's here. Yugi's not responding to anything I sent him.” His eyes slipped open. “Something's wrong.”

“I'd say so. Yugi's pretty quick to text back, even if he's mad.” Mokuba looked up and narrowed his eyes in thought. “We should go check it out. Maybe look for clues on what happened.”

“Do you have a key?”

He picked up a rock and tossed it up experimentally. “Nope.” He threw it at the glass of the door as hard as he could, easily shattering it. An alarm screamed from the building.

Atem jumped up and watched in surprise as Mokuba took off his jacket and wrapped it around his arm to break the window further and unlock the door. “We can't just-”

“You're worried about Yugi, right?” He pushed the door open and looked up at Atem. “We can cover all the damages but money can't do anything about a friend disappearing forever. So, c'mon. You break plenty of rules in the name of justice; what's one more?” He stepped inside the game shop and had the alarm off a second later.

Atem frowned and followed.

The home was dark and as orderly as ever. Aside from the window, there were no signs of a break in. Not one meant to rob the house, at least.

Atem stopped by a small table in the living room where he found a fully charged phone. He unlocked it to see all the missed calls and unread texts from not only himself but all Yugi's friends.

The last text he sent out was for his grandfather.

“Okay, so he didn't just crash at Jounouchi's or something,” Mokuba said as he read over Atem's shoulder.

Atem locked the phone and unplugged it. He moved to the stairs and headed up to Yugi's room.

Everything inside there was much more telling. The glass was shattered, but the number of pieces around the desk didn't make sense for someone breaking in. The room was still nice and neat with no sign of a struggle.

And there was a note for Sugoroku. About a person he tried to kill.

Anger boiled inside Atem.

“Uhhh, Atem?” Mokuba looked around as the room started to become darker.

“It's time for us to go home, Mokuba. I have a few questions for our guest in the basement.”

-

Hana Chono. Female. Age 45. Blood type O. Four counts of criminal conspiracy, two counts of endangerment, and one count of horrible make-up. All her crimes were waived as either she played up herself as a victim or her own victims were nowhere to be found when it came time to testify.

To think she was able to continue teaching after such an act. She must have had some pull at the school.

It didn’t matter. That ‘pull’ wouldn’t go any further. She left the school that day in a very good mood. The next day, she didn’t even call out sick. She was simply gone.

-

“Your abilities aren't really easy to market. Neither are Ra's. So in a way, you're both useless to me.”

He was seven when Mr. Bakura told him this. He just watched Ryo sleep soundly on the couch and listened like a good subject.

“But Ra can at least learn the locations of Anubis or Horus. He can find me other subjects worth having. You'll need to do better to show your worth.”

“My worth...” He clenched his fists. “If... I can be more like Horus-”

“Ra is enough Horus for me, boy. And even Horus is only good in the fact that he can be used to create others. If something were to happen to Ra, it wouldn't be such a great loss.”

Bakura snapped his eyes up at the man before he looked back down at Ryo. They stood silently for a moment. Then...

“I can become like Anubis. So long as no harm is brought to Ra.”

He could feel the slime-ball grin as he clapped a hand on his shoulder. “There's a good boy.”

At that moment, he missed the labs and their little room. At least there no one tried to change them. They figured out which abilities were inherited and just built off of it. That wasn't what their caretaker cared about.

He wanted perfect fighters. Killers that could be used and sold to the highest bidder. He was promised Anubis so long as he took good care of Kuk and Ra.

He never received Anubis. He was told the monster had to be killed.

Mr. Bakura never believed it. He thought it was a lie to cover up that Anubis was sold just as he planned but the money was pocketed by the 'blonde bitch' that stole his best option. He took his anger out on Kuk and tortured him in his frustration. For the most part, he left Ra alone. Hell, he even managed to pretend Ra was his son for a bit.

That was until the day he went a little too far on his 'training' and Ryo took it upon himself to end the torture once and for all.

They weren't all fond memories but they were his.

Bakura opened his eyes slowly. Somehow, he'd fallen asleep in a sitting position on the cot, his head propped up against the wall and Ryo curled up with his upper body on his lap. He was sure their hosts never considered that Ryo would end up inside the room. It didn't matter; both of them could get out any time they wanted.

But he knew Horus was probably on to that already.

Bakura looked over at the glass to see Atem glaring in. He grinned at the hero. “Trouble in paradise?”

Atem didn't say anything. He just opened the door and stepped inside.

“You look like a guy with an ax to grind. Is the hero business not doing well for you, Pharaoh?” He grinned and put a finger up to his lips. “Try to be quiet. Ryo can be a pretty light sleeper.”

Atem looked down at Ryo then glanced up at Bakura again. His eyes narrowed. “What were you doing with the Anubis mask, Bakura? Were you working for him?”

“Heh, like that freak could ever have underlings. No; I'm not working for him.” He looked back down at Ryo. “And my business with that mask is none of yours.”

“We both know he could be dangerous so you must have been trying to stop him.”

“What part of 'none of your business' are you not getting?”

“Anubis has Yugi. That makes this my business.”

The room turned to silence and Atem waited for his words to sink in. He watched Bakura's face carefully, closely. Yugi was a friend; he must feel some need to protect, right?

Bakura looked back up at him. “If Anubis has him, Yugi's already dead.”

He was so cold and he stared at Atem as if the conversation were nothing more than an inconvenience. He didn't care nearly enough about the death.

He most likely didn't care at all!

“I doubt Ryo would approve of such thinking.” His eyes narrowed.

“And I doubt you really give a fuck what Ryo thinks.” He continued to stare at Atem. “But you're wasting time here, fighting with me, aren't you?”

Atem snarled and opened his mouth to speak again. He stopped when something blinked into his vision. A message.

Upstairs. Now.

“What? You being summoned now? Run along like a good little pet.”

Atem returned his attention so Bakura but found himself reluctant to continue this conversation. It was possible Kaiba found some information about Anubis. But it was equally possible he was just looking for a way to get him away from Bakura. “This isn't over.”

Bakura snorted at Atem's back. “Whatever this is will never be over. Not until we're all dead.”

Atem allowed him the last word as he locked the door and disappeared from sight.

“You didn't tell him.” Ryo turned and looked up at Bakura from his position.

“He doesn't deserve to know.”

-

 

Aiko Kokurano. Male. Age 17. Blood type B. Two counts of sexual assault, three counts of kidnapping, one possible count of attempted murder. He was let off easy for being a minor. So long as he cleaned up his act by the time of his next hearing, he would be allowed to return to school. A disgustingly light sentence for a disgustingly heavy crime.

It didn’t help that he clearly hadn’t learned his lesson. The poor girl he followed off the train didn’t even stand a chance. She passed out right on the platform. When she would wake up it would be to police wondering what happened and if she could remember who attacked her.

Kokurano would no longer exist. She wouldn’t remember his face.

-

“Hey buddy, just trying to call ya. Again... We're all worried about you. Just... let us know you're alright, yeah? Call me back.” Jounouchi hung up the phone and stopped pacing. He was beginning to make a permanent groove in his carpet.

Anzu sat on his couch and looked through the long line of texts she sent Yugi. Then, she returned to the texts she sent out to Ryo and Atem.

Neither had heard from him.

She looked up at the blond. “You don't think he was kidnapped or something, right?”

Jou shook his head. “If that were the case, we'd probably know. They'd be trying to get money out of the gameshop.” He wanted to try and say something comforting to Anzu but he couldn't think of anything. His entire history and experience with this type of thing pointed him firmly in the pessimistic category.

He'd seen his fair share of disappearances in the day. Long before he and Yugi were friends. People as soft and kind as Yugi did not last long on the streets. They were often mugged and beaten, sometimes worse.

Something must have shown on his face because Anzu spoke up. “Yugi's a lot stronger than he looks. He'll... He'll be alright. Wherever he happens to be.”

I worry not for the condition of your friend. I worry for the reason he may no longer be.

Jou's heart froze at the grave tone Bast tried to use.

It is a dangerous choice. To be the lover of Horus when Anubis is still out there, hunting.

“Who's Anubis?”

Anzu looked up with a frown. “Jounouchi?”

The blond ignored her and continued to glare at nothing. “No, you don't get to be silent now! Who the fuck is Anubis?!”

Bast shook her head. I fear the moment you find him.

“Jou.”

Jounouchi turned back to Anzu. She stared at him and looked off to the corner he was yelling into. He glanced back where he could still see a bit of Bast.

But he could tell by the look on Anzu's face he was the only one who could see her.

The spell was broken and the moment forgotten when the front door of the apartment open and Honda strode in.

Anzu stood up at the sight. “Anything?”

“Not even close to a trace.” He ran a hand through his hair. “The game shop looks like it's been broken into and it doesn't look like anyone's home. Did anyone try Sugoroku again?”

Anzu nodded. “His phone keeps sending me directly to voicemail.”

Mutou will be useless in this. His fears will lead to his own downfall.

“Can you stop whispering cryptic things in my ear? Thanks.”

Anzu looked at Jou again. Honda turned and looked at him as well. He then looked at her with a frown.

“He's been doing this all day.”

It may be best to start working on honing yourself for my abilities. You are already perfectly fit to handle such a task but we'll need some quick tests to make sure we're perfectly compatible.

“Hey, Jou. You feeling alright?”

And I fear we may be needed sooner rather than later.

The blond ignored the ghost for a moment and looked between the two. He forced a smile. “Guess I'm letting the stress of the situation get to me.”

We begin our tests tonight. You may need to spring into action at a moment's notice.

Jou's smile faded. The stress was really beginning to get to him.

-

Yugi Mutou. Male. Age 19. Blood type AB. Clean record; has never committed a crime in his life. Has, in fact, been the victim of many assault attempts. Normally, he would be the exact person who would be allowed to live his life.

Unfortunately, he was in the way.

-

A week passed without much news on Anubis.

There was a spike in disappearances and bouts of insanity similar to the Pharaoh's earlier days but no one reported on a jackal mask or anything even remotely close.

Still, even with the influx of criminals disappearing or being driven insane, there were a few who believed the chances of meeting the vigilante to be very low. Even when they stole a few precious artifacts from a museum in the middle of Domino and then proceeded to have a high-speed car chase on one of Japan's most populated freeways.

The thief grinned to himself. It would only be a matter of time. The rain was pouring much too hard for the police to be able to find him as soon as he turned his lights off. He would wait until he could ghost them by simply pulling off into the nearby forest.

He would never get that far. As his car sped on an overpass only a stone's throw from his destination, he saw a figure in a jackal mask standing in the direct center lane. In his shock and with the water coating the road, he swerved to avoid the figure only to slam into a guardrail. He could barely hear the sirens as the shock dulled his senses.

Everything came back full force as the metal from his roof split open and a clawed hand grabbed hold of his head.

He screamed.

Meanwhile, a news station filmed from a helicopter just above the scene. It alerted everyone to the situation.

Bakura watched Atem run down the hall from his cell. It had been a few days since Ryo was thrown out of the mansion to keep the two separated. For the time, both of them honored the choice and kept away from one another. And Bakura bided his time to figure out when was the perfect moment to bring himself back out into the limelight.

When he saw Atem sprint for his gear, he figured that would be the right time. He opened up a portal for himself and stepped through. He stepped out into the apartment he and Ryo shared and turned on the TV to find out just where he could find the little psycho. After finding the other's location, he walked into the bedroom and took a look at Ryo's sleeping form.

Sweet, soft Ryo. He didn't deserve any of this. The boy would have been better off if they'd never found him.

He didn't notice the other's eyes slowly opening as he walked in through another portal.

Bakura appeared a few meters away from the man begging for his life to a boy half his size. He took in Anubis for a moment.

Then let out a loud whistle to get the other's attention.

The jackal turned and looked at Bakura. His arm holding the criminal slackened. He acquired a new target. This fight was much more personal.

“We've been looking for you, buddy.” Bakura grinned. “Where were you hiding?”

Anubis threw the man and began to walk towards Bakura.

-

New Target

Atem “Sennen.” (surname could just as easily be “Kaiba.”) Male. Age 19. Blood type A. Better known by few as Subject Horus. Acts as a vigilante under the name of The Pharaoh. Could be tried for upwards of twenty accounts of assault. But his crimes pale in comparison to his power over nearly everyone. It’s like a virus. He needs to be eradicated from this life, just like everyone else from Project Millennium.

He would be easy enough to lure out.

-

“Do not fly too close. We don't know how resourceful he may have gotten over the years!”

“I would still prefer you stay in here, you know.”

“Not on your life!” Atem pulled the mask into position and jumped from the helicopter. As soon as he hit the ground, he ran for the overpass and carefully weaved around cars stuck in the traffic. He knew he was close when he saw people running the opposite direction and he was forced to climb from car roof to car roof to move without being pushed back.

He came to a stop when he saw why everyone was running. Bodies of police laid, broken, around the pavement. A man pinned himself up against the road barrier and watched in horror. Ryo stood by, just as horrified.

Anubis had hold of Bakura by the neck. Blood dripped from his free clawed hand. A trail of it ran down Bakura's torn arm and dripped onto the flooded ground where it stained the water red. Bakura's body twitched in the hold ever so slightly then fell calm and limp.

“..No.” Ryo moved to step forward. Atem grabbed hold before he could fully process the situation. “No!”

Anubis looked at them as he heard the scream and tossed Bakura's limp body back towards his original prey. The criminal stayed forgotten as he calmly shook the blood from his fingers and turned his attention to the newcomers.

Ryo fought in Atem's grip, wild eyes on Anubis. “Let me go!”

“He'll kill you!”

“I'll take him down with me!”

Atem tightened his grip and felt the wind shift as Kaiba flew passed them and aimed directly for Anubis.

Anubis disappeared and reappeared in an instant. His claws swiped at Kaiba's arms and legs quicker than Atem's eyes could see. Kaiba couldn't keep up either and just continued to try and attack Anubis from every direction.

Blood poured from every wound as the shadows around Kaiba fought to protect their user. Still, the taller man stayed on the offense and tried his best to land a few shots on the masked villain. It wouldn't take long before Kaiba was at his limit.

Atem had no choice. He let go of Ryo and darted in. He knew Ryo would follow and allow his emotions to overshadow self-preservation.

And, if they didn't take Anubis down quickly, all of them would suffer Bakura's fate. But maybe the jackal wouldn't be able to keep up with the three of them.

Or the two of them. A hard kick to Kaiba's chest made something inside him crack and propelled him over the overpass.

“Kaiba!” Atem ran after and nearly jumped for it only to see a blur fly by and catch him before he could hit the pavement below.

Atem's eyes landed on Jounouchi. The blond held the battered Kaiba and looked up at Atem with a serious expression. Words weren't needed. Jou could take care of Kaiba from here.

There was a much more crucial matter now.

He turned in time to see Ryo slide back from an attack meant to keep him at a distance. Atem could see the rage light up in his eyes as the left eye glowed brightly. He was covered in lacerations and most likely couldn't them feel due to the adrenaline coursing through him.

Atem charged in. He would have to keep Ryo from getting himself killed.

As Anubis aimed for Ryo's head, Atem took it upon himself to protect the other boy. He would never forgive himself if he let anything happen to Ryo. Plus, he was sure Bakura would find a way to torture him if his lover ever came to harm.

But with each attack that didn't land, Anubis became more and more aggravated. His claws dug into the dark swirls of Atem's shields and into the flesh of the other's arm.

Atem fought the urge to cry out as he swung around and caught Anubis in the side. It was enough to send the jackal sliding off a few meters as he caught his footing.

It didn't take long for Ryo to return to attacking, the rage still clear in his eyes. But he was making something else clear. While his strength was impressive, his attacks were by no means calculated.

He wasn't much of a fighter. Even if he had some skill, it was diminished to nothing by the emotions that ran through him.

As Anubis began to pinpoint Ryo's openings, he was able to quickly take him down. He grabbed hold of Ryo's head and slammed the boy into the ground. It stunned him just enough. Anubis kept a hold on him and stared.

Then Atem shoved him off Ryo and positioned himself between them. “...That's enough.”

Anubis regarded Atem for a moment. He tilted his head and took in the sight of the other. A split second later, he had Atem by the throat and ripped the golden mask from his face.

The clawed hand crushed it and tossed it off to the side. His concentration stayed on Atem. He watched the other kick and gasp. Blunt nails tried to cut into his flesh. He stared directly into those eyes. The claws stabbed into Atem's neck.

“Anubis!”

Anubis slowly looked over his shoulder.

Atem's hazy vision caught the sight of Sugoroku Mutou. The man was holding something small and black.

“Let him go.”

Anubis just stared.

Sugoroku growled and gripped the object tighter. “Don't make me hurt you!”

Atem couldn't tell exactly but he could feel a dark amusement come from the jackal. The claw let go of him and he immediately began to suck in air greedily as he dropped to his hands and knees.

Anubis turned away from him and began walking towards Sugoroku.

The old man's eyes narrowed. “I'm warning you!”

The walk sped up.

“Don't make me do it, son!”

The walk turned into a sprint.

Sugoroku pressed the button on the remote in his hand.

Anubis stopped just short of slicing off Sugoroku's face in order to grab at his own neck. The masked boy let out a pained shriek in a voice that sounded familiar.

Too familiar.

Atem climbed back to his feet. He stared at the collapsed subject. It couldn't be... It wasn't.

He stumbled in his steps as the world became meaningless around him. No one tried to stop him as he dropped to his knees near the other's body. He slowly undid the mask and pulled it off.

Violet eyes stared unseeing. Yugi whimpered softly before his body finally relaxed and his eyes rolled back.

Atem heard and felt nothing after that.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Sugoroku remembered the first day he met Yugi.

It was two years after Anubis was dropped off and put in his care. Seeing the subject out of his mask was a shock all on its own. The boy was so small and innocent looking. He had the type of lost eyes that would melt even the most stubborn of hearts.

It was too bad for his 'attack to kill' quirk. It really put a damper on the whole thing.

Anubis was slowly introduced to animals first. He took to them well. Sugoroku took that as a good sign; the boy wouldn't try to kill something so small and innocent. He had to remember; baby steps.

The plan fell apart when it came to introducing him to people and children. While a lot of kids went by unscathed, anyone who was even close to resembling a bully was on the chopping block. Kids in the park learned to stay away and left Anubis to play alone.

Sugoroku started checking Anubis for anything that could be a weapon. Even something as basic as a virtual pet came into question. Later, it became imperative that he make sure his nails were kept short and blunt. Anything could be dangerous was stripped from the boy. There was a firm rule of never using his powers in public or around other children; a rule that was broken only once. Sugoroku had to be especially harsh on that; he couldn't help but feel guilty when Anubis actually began to cry.

And for a while, that was good. He thought Anubis was learning. Sugoroku began feeling comfortable enough to take him out on errands to try and get him acclimated to the real world.

But then, Anubis encountered his first true target.

Sugoroku had turned his back for just a moment. He only moved to pay for some ingredients for dinner. He turned back to see no Anubis in sight.

Panic didn't set in right away. He thought, hoped, maybe the boy got distracted by some kind of sweets or saw some children and thought it was time to play. Sugoroku realized later it was an older man who had another idea of 'play.'

The moment he found Anubis, the man was bleeding profusely, babbling nonsense, and crying at the blank look on the child's face. A broken taser laid on the ground near the boy's feet. He could only imagine what the man had planned for his victim.

Sugoroku carefully walked up to the little boy. In response, Anubis turned and looked at him. His eyes widened.

And immediately filled with tears. “G-Gampa.” It was the very first time Anubis spoke.

Sugoroku was reminded of the labs. Back when Horus and Anubis were forced to interact for the second time and Horus sobbed in fear. Just like back then, he scooped the boy into his arms.

“Shhh, it's okay. You're safe.”

He thought for a while, Anubis had found a new game to play. A fun game where he pretended to be someone else. Someone soft and more like the other children. Sugoroku began calling the identity 'Yugi' in homage to that.

But Yugi never went away. He wondered now if Yugi would ever come back.

His eyes fell to Atem as the wind from a helicopter tossed his hair around. His eyes stayed on Anubis -Yugi- in disbelief as men in black suits jumped off the helicopter and grabbed Ryo and Bakura.

Atem didn't let them take the last unconscious form. He lifted the other and marched back to the helicopter.

“I can't let you take him,” Sugoroku shouted over the sound of the blades.

“No need to worry.” Atem looked up at Sugoroku. “You're both coming with me.” His eye glowed as he glared at the old man. The eye contact broke when Atem continued his stride to the helicopter, right behind the man in the suit carrying the Anubis mask.

Sugoroku felt a tremor in his gut as he followed behind Atem. There was no avoiding this anymore.

-

It wasn't often he allowed himself to sleep. And when he did, it was extremely rare for him to remember his dreams. Occasionally they would be so warped, he wouldn't even know where to begin to explain it.

Other times it was a nightmare of memories with pieces thrown in that hadn't been there before.

He was eight when he was first brought into the lab. Their new father told his brother it was only a few tests. Nothing to worry about. It wasn't that he was lying but he wasn't exactly telling the truth either.

“It will only take a few injections. If an infantile immune system can take it without worry, I'm sure you'll be fine.”

“How many infants died because of this?”

Mr. Kaiba didn't acknowledge the question. He just allowed his assistants to take his adopted son into one of the lab's rooms. The one with a tank where a boy about his age was floating in a little ball.

He stared at the boy and, in this dream, the boy stared back.

“Seto, look this way.”

He turned to look at the assistant. It was the woman who started this mess. He felt himself begin to wake up.

Kaiba felt as though his chest were on fire. Sharp pains shot through his whole body. His eyelids were heavy.

Still, he opened them slowly and stared up at the ceiling of his own bedroom. His last memory involved the taste of blood and falling to his death. Who or what saved him?

“Thought you'd rather be here than at a hospital. A few less questions to answer.”

He looked to his right. Jounouchi was sitting in a chair right next to his bed.

“You see, I only have one question: the fuck is going on?”

Kaiba looked back at the ceiling. He wondered how long he could just lay in silence. But he knew better than most just how tenacious Jou could be. And, despite what might be the hardest thing he could ever admit, the blond deserved an explanation.

“I never wanted you to get dragged into these problems.”

Jou watched him and tried to cover his surprise for how quickly the answer came.

“Becoming a Kaiba wasn't everything I imagined... And a lot of people were hurt in the name of some asinine science project. I was the last person to get those powers.”

“...Who was the first?”

Kaiba glanced at Jounouchi.

The blond just stared for a moment before he spoke again. “Atem's not really your cousin, is he?”

“Mokuba had me free him from the labs. That in itself... was a fight. He wasn't the same person you see now. We had to make sacrifices.”

“The night... we broke up.”

“That light you saw was him. He was still mostly instinct at that point and had somehow managed to get out of the labs. I imagine he was only trying to protect his food source. Like a stray cat.”

“...I remember blood on my hand.”

“You were probably still mostly asleep. You reacted by punching him and broke his nose. The reason I reacted like I did was I wanted to stop him before he could retaliate.”

“So... your response to all of this was to break up with me?”

His eyes slipped closed. “It was the only way to guarantee the safety of both of you. I didn't know him well yet. For all I knew, he would attempt to kill you for the broken nose. Keyword being 'attempt.'”

Jou snorted.

“It turns out that was one memory that didn't stick as hard as I thought. Atem's memory is of the situation, not the people involved. Even if he did remember, I doubt he would harbor any ill will.”

The room filled with a deafening silence.

“Guess an apology would be meaningless.”

“For him? Yes. The bleeding had already stopped by the time I got to him. But-”

“I ain't apologizing to y-”

“I'm sorry.”

Jounouchi stopped short.

“I didn't want it to end the way it did. I thought it would be for the best to have you as far away from here as possible. You... didn't need this.”

Jounouchi stared at Kaiba for a moment. A smile twitched onto his lips and let a soft chuckle slip out. “Seto Kaiba; the all-caring altruist.”

Kaiba's lips turned up into a smile all his own as his eyes slipped closed. “Shut up.”

“Love you too.”

-

“I don't know for certain which one he'll be when he wakes up. I've only had to use the collar one time before today. He missed a week of school because of it.”

Mokuba glanced at Sugoroku before he looked back at Yugi. The collar had been removed to make sure there were no burns on his neck. While he was covered in his own share of scrapes, there was nothing caused by the collar itself.

He looked down at the mask in his hands. “After all this time of searching, Anubis was right under our noses.” In the most unassuming form. How would Seto react?

Mokuba glanced at Atem. He'd been completely silent from the moment he carried Yugi onto the helicopter. He didn't acknowledge anyone passed a short nod or head shake. His eyes stayed on Yugi. Mokuba couldn't tell what was going through Atem's mind; there was too much to decipher in his face.

He turned back to Sugoroku. “Last time, when he missed that week, did he wake up as Yugi?”

Sugoroku nodded. “It was as if nothing happened. It was almost concerning how easy he shrugged off the loss of time. Anyone else in his position would be panic-stricken.”

“You kept this a secret from him.”

Both turned and looked at Atem. He still hadn't broken his eyes away from Yugi.

“All this time, he could have become this killer. He could have been hurt with no recollection of ever doing anything deserving.”

Sugoroku frowned. “I did what I could to protect him.”

Atem glared at him. “You failed!”

Mokuba stared at his 'cousin.' He wanted to say something to calm the rage bubbling inside. Just by looking at him, he could tell it hurt. His eyes were tearing up again. “Atem...”

“Master Kaiba? Anzu Mazaki and Honda Hiroto are at the front gate.”

Mokuba turned to the woman. “Oh. Thank you.” This was a surprise. He didn't call them. And he knew Seto was currently incapable of that. Jounouchi may have, but he would have no reason to if he didn't know Yugi was here.

Mokuba gave Atem another glance. He didn't look back and just kept his stare down with Sugoroku as the boy trotted out of the room.

Sugoroku continued to stare at Atem. The small child they left behind in those labs could have easily become bitter and angry at the world. Instead, he did what he could with his abilities. He was honorable.

“Sugoroku, this lie has gone on long enough. If you don't tell him, I will.”

Sugoroku didn't get a chance to reply. Atem was out the door right before Anzu and Honda burst in. Surely, they would demand answers.

He didn't know what he would tell them.

-

He couldn't tell the moment he took his last breath. Everything was very hazy for a second as he tried his best to claw his way out of the abyss. He remembered not being able to breathe and pain in just about every part of his body. He remembered Ryo's scream. He remembered rain.

Then... nothing.

He still tried his hardest to wake up. He could see his body in the bed as Kaiba's best doctors tried to bring him back. He could see Ryo's tight grip on his hand. He could hear the other begging him to wake up. To make this all some kind of morbid joke. To roll his eyes at how worried he was.

Bakura couldn't do anything. He couldn't feel the touches. He reached out for Ryo.

And was immediately consumed by the darkness he knew all too well. He could feel a mask on his face and a presence behind him.

“Welcome, Kuk.”

If he didn't turn around, it wouldn't be real. If he just stared at the spot where he'd seen Ryo last, he would wake up and be in the worst pain of his life.

'Life' being the keyword. At least he would be alive. Not here with the ghosts who are chained to this fucked up limbo.

“Kuk... You can't stand there forever.” Hathor spoke to him in that sweet, calm tone. He hated how clear she sounded.

“Watch me,” he snarled and continued to stare. He could open it before, maybe he could open it again.

“We can trust that Ra and Horus can take this from here.” Thoth's voice was near his shoulder.

Still, Bakura didn't look. “We can barely trust Horus to do anything. He's the idiot who fucked Anubis without even knowing it was him!” His fists clenched at his sides. “I'm the only one who can properly protect Ryo from that psycho.”

Thoth hissed and prepared for what would definitely be a harshly worded comment. But then Osiris spoke from his post.

“We can't force him to let go so easily. Leave Kuk be for now, you two.”

They did so.

And Bakura just stared at the shadowy abyss and wondered how Bast was able to connect herself to Jounouchi. Maybe it wouldn't hurt to try.

But how was Bast so easily able to leave the others behind? Was it even that easy?

Bakura took a step.

“Kuk, it would be best to stay here and wait for Ra to connect with us again.”

Hathor nodded. “With you here, there's no doubt he'll be back.”

Bakura growled. “You idiots. The only reason he was able to contact you in the first place was because I could get here. Not all of our abilities were created equal.”

“We all know.” Thoth crossed his arms. “And you decided to run off to face the one who benefitted the most from the project.”

Bakura finally turned to face him. “Don't be talking shit, Bird Boy. You and I could be stuck here together for a very long time. And I tend to hold grudges.”

A thick silence flooded the room. It locked on and refused to let go. Hathor looked between the two before she turned to Osiris.

Osiris just glanced back at her and subtly shook his head. The two would have to work this out themselves. At least according to Osiris.

Hathor didn't agree. “Kuk.”

“Stop calling me that!” His glare snapped to Hathor.

She tensed but didn't back down. “You should go. Bast was able to do it and she didn't get to live the life you did. So you must have a better handle on how this works on the physical world, right?”

Thoth turned to look at her in surprise. “He could get hurt.”

“I'm dead, Thoth. How much more 'hurt' could I get?” Bakura ripped the mask from his face and tossed it to the ground.

“You'd be surprised.”

Everyone turned and looked at Osiris. The man in the green mask wasn't looking at any of them, he just stared down at the nonexistent floor, mind far away from everything. He slowly began to turn to the other three. “Besides, we're not only worried about your pain in this situation.”

Thoth nodded at Osiris and turned back to Bakura. “Ra will no doubt suffer in this. Not to mention the reaction sure to befall Anubis when he finally wakes and becomes aware of his abilities.”

“It's not only that.” Osiris piped up once again, “I feel as though there is something more. Something worse than Anubis brews just beneath the surface.”

“I'm callin' bullshit on that.” What could be worse than the arsenic-laced lollipop that was Yugi Mutou?

Both Hathor and Thoth ignored Bakura as the woman tilted her head. “What else could possibly be out there?”

Osiris shook his head. “I'm unsure. Let's hope I'm as wrong as Kuk thinks.”

-

It wasn't often she was able to get Isis out of the house. She mostly had to convince the other woman there was an errand she had to run that would require an extra set of hands. She knew the reason was the people who watched her. While the abilities were kept under control, everyone still had a vague memory of the years back when the Ishtars were something to be feared. When they put the oldest to death for terrorizing a large portion of Egypt.

Malik and Isis never forgave themselves for that. And that regret just ran into another.

“You know, I think we should travel more,” Mai said as she watched a man eye Isis and whisper a prayer under his breath. “Maybe take a trip to America. Or Europe.”

Isis eyed Mai. “Just say it.”

“...Or maybe Japan.”

Isis sighed.

“I know you said you'd think about it but it's more than just, you know. It's getting away from all of this,” she gestured vaguely to the streets, “if only for a few weeks.”

“As beautiful as that sounds, I have a moral debt to pay here.”

Mai's eyes hardened and she opened her mouth to speak only to be interrupted by her phone. She pulled it from her pocket and watched as the screen twitched and glitched before showing her a Japanese phone number she didn't know.

She didn't need to know it. The glitch from before was enough of a caller ID. “So, you were able to crack my little code. Clever boy.”

Isis snapped her head around. Mai was holding the phone away from her ear and between the two of them.

There was an intake of breath from the other end. “So, it is a phone number.” The deep voice was almost hard to hear with the noises around the two women.

Still, Isis knew who was speaking. Her throat closed up as a lump formed that she couldn't swallow.

Mai smiled. “Indeed, it is. How are you, sweetie?”

“I would like to know why you left me your number in such an odd fashion.”

“Well, I didn't want Kaiba to find it and try to call me.”

“... How did you know I live with him?”

“I know so much about you. Horus.” Her eyes darted to Isis. She knew the boy on the other end would take her bait.

The woman stared intently at the phone and covered her mouth. Her eyes were welling up.

The line was silent. It was possible the one on the other end was stunned. Then, “My name is Atem.”

Isis sucked in a sharp breath.

Mai fought the urge to try and comfort her partner. “Sorry. Atem.”

Atem shifted slightly. “If you knew both names surely you know...” He trailed off as if he were debating on what to call Isis.

Mai chuckled. “Yeah, you could say I know her.”

“Is she there now?”

The blonde looked at Isis as the woman shook her head and clasped her hands in front of her mouth.

But the option to answer was soon taken away as Atem snorted. “I should assume so, considering you have me on speaker.”

Isis shut her eyes. The boy was more clever than she thought.

“Either way, I'd like her to know that... there's little more I want more in my life than to meet her. I feel that we're coming to a time where none of us should be separated like this. It's... it's becoming too much.” His voice sounded thick with emotion.

Mai frowned. “Atem, is everything okay?”

There was a shift again and long, shaky breath before he spoke. “I... k-zztch.. vvrckkk!” The phone let out a high pitch shriek before a garbled voice picked up.

“Horus is no longer your concern.” The line went dead.

Mai and Isis both stared at the phone with wide eyes. A stunned silence fell between the two.

Then, Isis's eyes narrowed. “I think it's time we take a vacation.”

-

Atem couldn't be sure what happened. One minute he was ready to spill everything to the woman he just met, then next his signal became corrupt and his eye picked up on something else.

It was like a projection meant for only him. A boy possibly ten years younger than him stared a little too close and smiled slightly too wide. He looked like Kaiba, with eyes decades older and hair a strange shade of blue-green.

Atem tried to back away, but the projection followed.

“Ah, so you are still alive. Pretty healthy looking too.”

“Who...? What..?”

The projection smiled even wider. “This must be all very confusing for you. I'd say 'sorry' but that'd be a lie. I'm not the least bit sorry!” He shrugged and pulled back just a little. “It's a shame I couldn't find a way into your head. Gaining powers at the source and all that. Plus, I was hoping for something a little... older than this. But, we're falling on desperate times now. We must purge everything.”

Atem blinked and shifted back again.

“I could just let Anubis take care of it but I don't know. We can't really trust a mad dog, can we? Either way; one down, four to go!” The projection blinked out and left Atem on the roof wondering what he just witnessed.

-

Yugi woke up with a start.

He wasn't sure what happened. He remembered Anubis in his room. The jackal had been gentle and pretty non-threatening as far as crazed killers go. He remembered feeling tired. And now he was in a large bed that just screamed 'Seto Kaiba Guest Room.' But that couldn't be right. His grandfather was there.

He sat right next to Anzu and Honda. All three of them looked worried. He pulled himself up and rubbed at his pounding head. “Hey, guys. What happened?”

“You... don't remember anything?” Honda frowned. “You've been gone for a week.”

Yugi blinked. “A week?!”

Anzu nodded and threw her arms around the other. “We were so worried about you!”

Yugi returned the affection with a frown. What did Anubis do to him? How was it possible so much time had gone by? Was truly he unconscious for that long?

Sugoroku cleared his throat. “Anzu... Honda... could you give us a moment? I would like to talk to Yugi alone.”

Anzu reluctantly pulled back and gave the old man a nod.

Sensing her reluctance to let him out of her sight, Yugi smiled. “It's okay. I'm not going anywhere again. I promise.”

Sugoroku clenched his jaw at that as he silently walked the two to the door. Once it was shut, Yugi's smile fell and he gripped the blanket tightly. “I guess I was a target of Anubis. Does it have something to do with being too close to Atem?”

Sugoroku turned and frowned. “You really don't remember anything?”

Yugi looked up and shook his head.

Sugoroku moved slowly and silently. He returned to his seat next to the bed and eyed his grandson. “Yugi, I wasn't... completely honest with you. I thought keeping this secret would allow you to live the rest of your life happy and without worry but... but I was just fooling us both.”

Yugi frowned. “... Grandpa?”

“Maybe there's a reason you're so attracted to Horus and why he's so infatuated with you. Because you two are cut from the same cloth.”

Yugi stared at his grandfather. His stomach dropped and his blood ran cold at what he was implying. He didn't need it said aloud. He didn't want that hanging in the air. “...What have I been doing this past week?” He barely managed to speak above a whisper.

Sugoroku took a deep breath. “I can only say what you've done in the past few days.”

The details of the situation made Yugi tremble. He didn't want to believe he was capable of something so dark. Yet... he could feel the rain and smell the blood. He couldn't see it; some part of him wouldn't let him see it.

He...

He killed someone.

The truth of it hit him hard. His grandfather wouldn't say the words but he knew in his heart of hearts it was true. Someone was dead because of him. Someone with powers like his own. He held them in his hand and...

“Where's Atem?”

Sugoroku stopped speaking, hardly realizing Yugi hadn't been listening. “Yugi-”

Words continued to fall on deaf ears as Yugi launched himself from the bed. He threw open the door, heart thundering in his ears as he ran down the hall. He could barely hear himself shouting for Atem, much less his friends chasing after him and calling out to him.

Yugi remembered the door to Atem's room. He didn't knock; his fears largely outweighing any manners hammered into his head at a young age. His eyes landed on the other as Atem climbed back in through his window. There were bandages on his arms and around his neck. But the other just blinked in surprise. “Yugi...?”

Yugi's eyes teared up as he strode across the room and wrapped his arms tightly around Atem. “You're alive.”

Atem tensed at the contact before he remembered himself and slowly hugged Yugi back. “So are you.” He glanced up as everyone crowded in his doorway. It would seem Yugi's cries alerted both Kaibas and Jounouchi to the room as well.

Atem kept his arms tight around Yugi as he looked at Kaiba. While the taller man could walk, he was still covered in bandages, moreso than himself.

Judging by Yugi's reaction, he knew he had something to do with the injuries. Atem couldn't be sure how to let him know about Bakura.

It wouldn't matter. As soon as Ryo appeared in the doorway, realization struck and all the color faded from Yugi's skin. He'd done the headcount and noticed the absent member. He noticed how worn and distraught Ryo looked.

He felt sick. He could hear his own heartbeat and the distant sounds of sirens in his memories. He felt shadows with glowing eyes engulf him. He would drown in them. And he deserved to do so.

Bakura... Bakura had smiled at him just before dying. He whispered something his brain could not process. The smile had faded when the light left his eyes. They were glassy and bloodshot when he fell still.

How could he do that? Bakura. He didn't deserve that. No one deserved that!

“Yugi...” Atem's gentle voice tried to pull him back to reality. Fingertips brushed against Yugi's shoulder as he stumbled away from the group and to the bathroom attached to Atem's room. There, his body began trying to reject the contents of his nearly empty stomach.

The group outside just stood by with a mix of concern and confusion.

Ryo and Atem looked at each other. A second later, Ryo walked into the bathroom. “Yugi?”

He shook and sat back on his legs as he stared into nothing. His arms wrapped around himself. “I... I... I...”

Ryo bit his lip. This whole situation left him with mixed feelings. He should harbor nothing but hatred for his friend right now. The moment he saw Bakura collapse, all he wanted to do was avenge him. But...

Sugoroku filled them all in on what happened and why Anubis stayed inactive. The appearance of the mask was most likely what set him off. Yugi couldn't stop it any more than any of them. Hell, he didn't know Anubis existed up until a few days ago.

And now he sat on the floor, staring off as his mind tried to process everything. Kind, gentle Yugi Mutou had blood on his hands. The blood of a friend.

Yugi sucked in a shaky breath and became to sob. “Ry-Ryo... Bakura... I-I'm so sor-sorry. I couldn't... I..”

Ryo moved in closer. He gently put a hand on his friend's shoulder. “Come on. We have a lot to talk about.”

Yugi nodded but continued to look off into the distance as he was guided out of the bathroom and back to where everyone waited.

 

Chapter Text

“Absolutely not.” Atem snarled at Kaiba. The entire group had followed him into the office, which included Yugi. The one person who shouldn't witness what happened during the fight. And Atem would protect him from that image.

Especially being that the best view would be through the Eye.

Kaiba just stared at Atem tiredly. “We all need to be on the same page.”

“An explanation of the situation is just as effective!”

Kaiba sucked in a deep breath and looked over at Jounouchi.

The blond frowned then turned to Atem. “Sorry, man. We need you for this.” With a quick shove, Jounouchi had Atem pinned to the chair. Small shadows ran down his arm as Bast helped keep Atem in place.

But Atem wasn't going to just give in. He curled and shoved at Jounouchi with both arms and legs. If he could keep his arm out of Kaiba's reach, he couldn't gain control. And if he struggled enough against the blond, Jounouchi would eventually show signs of give and have to let him free.

At least, that was his logic. Jounouchi and Kaiba didn't share his thoughts. And neither did the detached voice he recognized from the day Jounouchi was thrown from Anzu's second story window.

Horus, everyone must know what happened.

Atem shut his eyes as his arm was yanked away and pinned to the armrest, palm up. He could feel Kaiba's fingers against his pulse. It activated the cybernetics within him. His eyelid started to heat up as the projection began.

You can't protect him from the truth.

Atem kept his eyes shut tight and shook his head. The heat was bordering on unbearable but he still kept them closed.

If you do attempt it, you are no better than Sugoroku.

Jounouchi glanced at Bast then back to Atem when the shorter man relaxed ever so reluctantly in his grip. He still didn't open his eyes. Brows furrowed as his right eyelid glowed from the light.

“Atem, I know you can hear her. And she ain't lying.” Jounouchi's grip on his shoulder loosened. “Everyone needs to see what you saw if we're gonna fix this.”

He opened his left eye slowly and looked at the blond. Surely he didn't know the extent of what happened on the overpass. But...

He wasn't wrong.

Atem glanced over at Ryo as his free hand gripped the armrest. Slowly, he opened the enhanced eye and allowed the projection to shine on the wall. It picked up from the moment he jumped from the helicopter and, as the feed showed the lights from the police cruisers, Ryo looked away and covered his ears.

Yugi's eyes stayed glued to the video. He watched tensely as Anubis tossed the broken body of Bakura away like he was nothing more than a piece of trash. He didn't need to see the face to know it was him behind that mask.

It made him feel sick.

Still, he knew he had to watch. To understand what had happened and expose himself to the reality his grandfather kept hidden from him. No matter what, he needed to know. How else could he possibly fix this if he didn't understand the full extent of the problem?

Something inside him shifted uncomfortably as Anubis slammed a boot into Kaiba's chest. The wide blue eyes indicated something seriously wrong with the landed kick as it propelled him over the barrier. It was supported by the state of Kaiba now, with one arm held in a sling and bruises littering the parts of his body he couldn't cover.

Kaiba gripped Atem's arm just a little tighter when the video feed followed him only to stop at the sight of Jounouchi.

The real blond kept his gaze away from Kaiba as the eyes fell onto him.

Yugi watched the fight intently. He watched how quick and agile his body moved. He watched how deadly those claws were as they sliced into the flesh of the tanned arm in front of the eye. He watched what might be the most apathetic creature try to take down his friends.

Yugi sucked in a shaky breath and jumped when a hand touched his shoulder. He looked at Sugoroku then back at the screen. “I'm a monster.” He whispered it more to himself.

Sugoroku couldn't find the words to comfort Yugi and prove him wrong. He barely knew anything about what made Yugi come into the world; how could he possibly argue without just resorting to outright denial?

As the projection showed Atem lifting Yugi into his arms and marching onto the helicopter, Yugi turned. “Ryo, I-” He stopped short when he realized Ryo was no longer in the room.

Yugi looked to the door to see it wide open. Somehow he knew, without question, where Ryo went. His eyes flashed with images of rooms as white and clean as a hospital. And, even though he'd never been one to wander the Kaiba mansion, he knew it existed within it.

He walked without thinking much of it. Soon, his walking turned into running. He was being followed but he couldn't bring himself to care.

He had to figure out what his mind had forgotten long ago. Or, maybe, what was being blocked from his memory.

He found the door on the first floor. It was just as unassuming as every other door in the house, but what laid behind it made his stomach tighten. He could feel himself on the edge of panic when he opened the door and headed down the stairs.

It was when he saw the second door that he finally saw Ryo. He had his back to Yugi and just watched as men and women in white suits walked around like they couldn't see them.

“Ryo?”

“This is where it happened.” He slowly walked down the hall, through one of the men in the white suits. “Where we went from being just children to... well...”

Yugi swallowed thickly and followed.

“Do.. you remember anything from those years?” His eyes finally fell on Yugi. “Do you remember the things they forced all of us to do?”

There was a scream from inside one of the rooms. Yugi looked to see a little boy in a green mask curled up while a girl in a cat mask attempted to shove away one of the adults.

Ryo walked a little further. “The way they treated us?” He stopped in front of one of the rooms. There was a little boy in a dark snake mask held back away from two other boys. Yugi recognized one as the Pharaoh's mask. The young boy knelt by what looked to be a mask of Ra. Horus was comforting the boy, allowing his eye to glow red as he pointed to Ra's.

Ra carefully reached out and slowly calmed down. Only to jump again when the boy held back let out a shriek because he was zapped with what looked to be a cattle prod.

Yugi had to look away at that point. He followed Ryo as the other walked to a far back room.

“What they tried to create?” He stared at Yugi then looked into the room.

Yugi followed his gaze. Inside was a boy in the mask of Anubis. There were several broken tools in the room. Metal and glass littered the floor and Anubis walked over it all as if he couldn't feel it cut against his bare feet. There were different colored markings on the broken objects; some were red, some were blue.

Anubis turned to the few adults in the room. Within the blink of an eye, one of them was down on the ground, bleeding profusely. That was all he was able to do before a cattle prod was shoved against his neck.

Yugi winced and touched his collar.

“You don't remember anything, do you?”

Yugi shook his head.

“You're lucky.” Ryo's eyes turned to the group behind them. “Doctor Mutou treated you well.”

Yugi didn't follow his gaze this time. He let his hand fall to his chest and gripped his shirtfront as if that would stop the horribly fast pace set by his heart. “Ryo, I'm so sorry for what happened... I... I can't even begin to figure out a way to make any of this better... I just...”

Ryo looked back at Yugi. In the back of his mind, he could almost feel the bitter feeling from Bakura. He doubted there was a single person in the world that wouldn't be a little bit salty against their own killer, no matter what form he took. But... was it possible for him to be mad at Yugi when it was equally possible some different personality was really the one responsible?

He couldn't be sure. He didn't know where to place the rage.

The room dimmed and all the images faded away from the world. They were left with the dim lighting of bulbs in need of replacing and rooms void of any life.

“Yugi, look at me.”

Yugi looked up at Ryo to see a gentle glow in his left eye. He saw his friend smile with only his lips.

“You are innocent in this.”

He fought the urge to argue. How could he claim innocence? He saw what happened. Memory or not, it was him. Anubis was him.

Right?

“Uh...”

Yugi turned to see Atem. When their eyes locked, the other immediately looked away, down at the corner where the floor met the wall. “I apologize for the interruption but there's still much to discuss.”

Yugi stared at Atem for a moment. It was hard to remember he was the vigilante that struck fear into the hearts of criminals, especially now when he couldn't even look Yugi in the eye.

He nodded and calmly walked passed Atem. “Yeah. I guess there is.”

Atem didn't follow as Yugi headed upstairs. Ryo frowned at the other. “He doesn't remember anything, and yet... you're still uneasy around him.”

Atem looked back up and sucked in a deep breath. “We all have a lot to figure out.”

-

Sugoroku tried his best to stare Kaiba down. As the adult in the situation, he should have the ability as most of the young men and women he knew had it ingrained to respect their elders.

But there was no such programming for Seto Kaiba. Not after the life he lived. Not when he was forced to grow up much too fast. Biologically, Sugoroku might be his elder. But with the trauma taken into account? Seto Kaiba was his peer.

Sugoroku would have as much luck against him as he did his former employer.

“I'm taking the boy home, Kaiba.”

“Like Hell you are. Its bad enough you were able to hide him from me for this long. Now that he knows the truth, he can't leave.”

“I hid him for a reason!”

“I know why you hid him. Everyone knows why. But your luck has run out, Mutou.”

Sugoroku frowned. “So, you'll put an innocent boy to death?”

“He successfully killed his own friend and tried to kill me. That's only the beginning of the crimes stacked against him.”

“That wasn't him and you know it.”

“Regardless, he must pay.”

“Sentencing an innocent man? Your father would be proud.”

Kaiba narrowed his eyes. For a moment, he didn't say anything.

Sugoroku filled the silence. “You know his goal was wrong. Everything he pushed onto you and the others. All of you deserved a life and a childhood. What would you say to me if Mokuba were in Yugi's position?”

Kaiba glared at Sugoroku.

The old man nodded. “That's exactly what I thought. Now, I'm taking my grandson home.” He walked to the office door.

Something dark slammed into the door and kept it shut.

“I have no intention of following in the path he created for me. If I had, Horus wouldn't be alive, much less free to explore as he has.” He looked at his hand and allowed the powers to come forth and dance around his fingertips. “Even so, no one else has caused as much destruction as Anubis. And a sick dog must be put down. It doesn't matter if he comes to with his tail between his legs.”

Sugoroku shot Kaiba a glare.

The younger man dropped his hand and allowed his powers to dissipate. “It's true. Had Mokuba been in the same position as Yugi, I would destroy this world to keep him protected. But Mokuba's not Yugi. And you're not me. Not to mention, you forgot to include one important variable.”

“What's that?”

“I'm not the only one keeping him from leaving.”

Sugoroku clenched his jaw and simply walked out of the room. Kaiba could say anything he wished; this fight would continue until all of them were safe. He would see to that personally.

-

He remembered when he first went out in disguise. He was no one special back then; just a guy in a mask taking down criminals. No one even believed he existed.

Maybe that was part of the excitement. Knowing there was a rumor of a gold mask coming from the shadows to serve justice and judgment on anyone deserving. It was mostly born out of seeing all the crimes sprinkled over news broadcasts and reading reports of Mokuba's series of kidnappings.

And, one night, he and Mokuba put together a costume that both hid his identity and sent a message. He'd been reading a few comic books that inspired him.

The Pharaoh didn't really make any headway until he saved some big-name CEO from a horrible situation. The man hadn't gotten the time to thank him personally so he made sure everyone heard about his heroic tale.

It was a bit stretched and played the Pharaoh as a true hero. In reality, most of the criminals were prone to mental breakdowns. It wasn't a pretty sight in the least bit.

For a while, Atem used it all as a distraction. From the fact that he wasn't supposed to be alive. From the fact that everyone he knew and loved had either abandoned him or died. From the knowledge there was someone out there who knew everything there was to know about his powers and why he was the way he was but they kept hidden.

He ran from it, in a way. Under the protection of Kaiba Corp, he could have run for his entire life. But he needed to know.

And that was when he started to hunt for Malik Ishtar. And then... Yugi Mutou found his way.

Atem could feel his chest tighten as he thought about the first time he interacted with Yugi. He'd seen him before but never in person. The guy's popularity was mostly due to the insane card games he was challenged to on a regular basis. Most of those battles were challenges by Seto Kaiba himself.

Atem didn't want to call himself a fan but it was very entertaining to watch his caretaker be taken down so easily.

Then Atem remembered Anubis and the image of Yugi warped. The image of Yugi killing. The image of Yugi in the labs like everyone else. The image of Yugi trying to rip the eye from his socket.

It was all-

“Hey...”

Atem jumped nearly ten feet at the sound of Yugi's voice behind him. He swung around and saw the other offering a nervous smile while his hand gripped the door handle until his knuckles turned white.

“S-sorry. Your door was open so...” He scratched the back of his head. “I hope I'm not interrupting anything. If I am, I can leave.”

“No. You're fine. I was just... thinking.”

He took that as permission to enter. His steps were slow and hesitant. “What about?”

Atem didn't look away. He wanted to replace his thoughts. He wanted to return to a week ago where Yugi was as far removed from this as he could be. But it was too late for all of that.

Yugi frowned at his silence. “Atem.”

“It's nothing.” He looked back out the window. “I just... wish we met under any other circumstance. Maybe if... my true family had been just a bit stronger and Horus was never created, you would be...”

Yugi didn't need him to finish. He carefully stepped closer. “I wouldn't be here with Atem if it wasn't for Horus. It might be a little too soon to say if that's a good thing or a bad thing.”

Atem tensed and fought the urge to back up as Yugi stepped closer.

But Yugi could see the lean away from him and he did what he could to mask the hurt. After all, he did try to kill him. His lack of memory didn't matter in this context.

“It's probably stupid to consider this. You know, because of what happened. But, who knows? Maybe we're better off like this. We can say it might be better not to know Horus, but it could be worse too, right?”

Atem continued to look away but kept Yugi just outside of his vision.

“It doesn't matter now. We're here and we'll make the best of it.” He looked down at the floor between him and Atem. He tried to wrap his brain around the events he couldn't remember. What had Anubis done while he was stored away like a traumatic thought? How could he do anything to help if he himself didn't understand it?

“Do you really believe that?” Atem's voice was gentle and unsure.

Yugi's hands balled into fists. “I'm scared.” He still stared at the floor as he tried his hardest to organize his thoughts. “I don't know what's going on. It was only a week ago I was just Yugi Mutou. But now... I... I have this demon that exists inside me. That existed before me.” He just stared at the floor as he hugged himself. “Am I even real? If Anubis doesn't have a use for me, could I disappear forever?”

Atem stared at Yugi in shock. The thought of Yugi no longer existing at all never occurred to him. Was that truly a possibility? Could he lose Yugi to Anubis?

He wouldn't have that. They would figure out a way to take control.

Atem fought through the fear in his own mind and stepped closer to Yugi. Gently, he lifted the boy's head and forced him to look him in the eye. “You're not going anywhere. I won't let you.”

Yugi stared into Atem's eyes. They were so sincere and determined. He couldn't tell if he actually saw the cracks and flaws in his promise. He wanted so badly to believe he would be safe. But how could Atem even hope to stop an internal battle?

Or an internal massacre. Did Yugi really stand a chance?

“I have an idea. I need you to trust me. Can you do that?”

He could. He was sure of it. Atem hadn't steered him wrong once in their time together. Why would he start now? Yugi nodded slowly.

Atem returned with a nod of his own and took hold of Yugi's hand. He led him over to the bed and guided Yugi to sit before he himself sat down.

Gently, he took Yugi's hands into his own and positioned them, palm up. Yugi blinked when he felt a small tingle on the back of his hands, where they laid on Atem's palms. The tingle caused a tremble in his stomach and he knew instinctually what the other was trying to do.

Yugi wanted to flinch away but his arms wouldn't respond. His body was too overcome by the feeling. “I can't do this.”

“You can.” The tingling didn't stop.

“No. I've never done this before. What if... what if he comes back?” His fingers curled as he fought the feeling inside him. Something in him wanted to respond to Atem's touch. He shut his eyes and tried to will it away. “What if this pulls him out?”

The tingling turned into a warm feeling that flowed into his veins as if he himself were attached to Atem. “Yugi, these abilities are as much yours as they are his. They don't have to pull him forth.”

“How do you know that for sure?”

“Because you're still here.”

He couldn't be sure what Atem meant. He could only shake his head.

“Yugi. Look at me.”

Slowly, Yugi cracked one eye open. He could see both of Atem's eyes emitting a soft red glow. The room looked darker under his gaze.

It took Yugi a moment to realize the room wasn't darker; it was the air between them. It came out like ribbons of smoke from his palms and filled the world around them. And yet... he was still there. There was no sign of him losing feeling. He was still there. Still present.

His breath hitched when Atem leaned forward and planted a light kiss at the corner of his lip. The power surged at the touch. It trembled and boiled when Atem pulled back. “You're doing great.”

Yugi watched the lips move and smile.

“If you can take control of the abilities within you, it stands to reason you'll be able to do something about Anubis. Maybe even ta-” he was forced silent by Yugi's mouth on his again. For a moment, he blinked. Then he pulled back and smirked teasingly. “Please, Yugi. Show a little restraint.”

Yugi smiled and licked his lips. “Sorry. I just needed a little taste to keep m-”

“Ahem.”

Both jumped and looked to the door where Sugoroku was standing awkwardly.

“Yugi, we should get going soon.”

Yugi didn't move. He held his position perfectly as he stared at his grandfather. “I don't think that's a good idea.”

Sugoroku frowned.

“I know this was where a lot of things went wrong. But this is also where I can learn more about everything.” He looked down at his hands. All the shadows were gone without a trace. “If I go back with you, we'll try to live without acknowledging what happened. It'll just fall back into the same routine where we pretend he doesn't exist out of fear. And... I can't do that. I owe it to everyone Anubis hurt. I owe it to Bakura.”

Atem stared at Yugi in surprise.

“And... Anubis needs to atone, not be ignored as just some kind of sickness.” He looked back at Sugoroku. “If you want to go back home, I understand. But I'm staying here until I can at least harness the abilities.”

Sugoroku sucked in a deep breath and fought the grimace that tried to overtake his features. He knew Yugi had an excellent point but would the boy truly be safe in the hands of a Kaiba?

It didn't matter. He couldn't fight Yugi on this. He could be ridiculously hard to convince when he had his mindset.

“Alright,” he said softly and nodded. “I'll come back tomorrow to see how you're handling this.” He looked at the third person in the room. “I'd like to speak with you. Privately.”

Atem raised an eyebrow. “What stops you from saying it in front of Yugi?”

“I think you know the answer to that.”

Atem frowned and reluctantly pulled away from his companion to follow Sugoroku outside the bedroom.

As he pulled the door shut, Sugoroku spoke. “He trusts you to keep him stable and safe. But I know you're the reason Anubis surfaced in the first place.”

Atem didn't say anything. He just stared at the old man.

“You're a good person despite the Project. You've become a courageous and honorable young man. But don't think your code of ethics is going to co-exist with Anubis. I'm not saying he's unreasonable but you have to understand not everyone will see it your way.”

Atem snorted. “Have you spoken to Seto Kaiba?”

Sugoroku's expression softened slightly. He let out an amused snort then returned to a slightly less somber expression. “Keep Yugi safe. Please. Don't let him become just another part of the creature inside him.”

“I won't.” Atem watched the old man walk down the hall before he turned to the door. He smiled at Yugi who still sat on his bed.

The other was concentrating on his hand and flexing his fingers as the very power they summoned from him danced like a flame. There was hope in this. They could overcome anything so long as Yugi had control.

-

She never liked traveling through Ealim Alzili. It was dangerous for anyone who wasn't calculated in their thoughts and emotions. Since the moment she presented Horus- no Atem- to Kaiba, she lost her nerve to go into that realm. The overwhelming guilt could cause the shadows to devour her and drive her even further into madness.

And now? She didn't know how her anger and concern would affect it so it was best to travel like a normal person in modern times would.

Plus, pulling Mai through it might leave the blonde completely defenseless. She wouldn't risk harm coming to her partner.

As the two stepped out of the gate and headed to grab their bags, they were greeted by a familiar face. Isis had heard from him only a few days ago, but it felt as though it had been years since she's seen him. His face looked a little more sunken in, his eyes deep-set and dark, and his hair was a mess.

She frowned at him. “You're not taking care of yourself. You promised.”

Malik grimaced at her and stood by with his arms crossed. “What brings you to Japan, dear sister?”

“You know exactly why I'm here.” She moved to walk around him.

He grabbed her wrist. “I thought we both agreed it was best to let this die.”

Isis glared and slapped Malik's hand off her. “Death has never been so easy for us, Malik. You know that better than anyone.”

Malik blinked in surprise before his face morphed into a glare. He opened his mouth to speak but was quickly interrupted.

“It's time we take back our mistakes and bring an end to this. And it all starts by you showing me the way to my son.”

Malik shot a look at Mai. “What have you been telling her?!”

Mai shook her head. “Dude, I didn't have to tell her anything. She has every right to want to see Atem.”

Malik looked between the two before he sighed and shook his head. “This whole family has no sense of self-preservation. It's a miracle our ancestors didn't get completely decimated by playing the martyr.” He looked at a clock hanging on the wall. “It's late. I'm sure we'd be shot on sight if we attempted to get close to him now.”

“Pft, like any of us are actually afraid of Kaiba.”

“Even if you're not, the guns he probably has set up aren't going to back down just because you want to visit. Not to mention the other unfeeling killing machine they just got back.”

Mai blinked, her heart stopped for several beats. “Don't tell me...”

“Yeah. Dr. Mutou lied. There's a news feed about it. I'm surprised you didn't see it.”

“We were in transit.” Isis pulled out her own phone to looked it up. “And Kaiba thought it best to bring him home?”

“From the pictures I saw? No, that was all because of your bouncing baby boy.” He glanced around and saw a few people giving them curious looks. “But this isn't the place. Come on; you can stay with me for the night.”

Mai smirked. “Aww, what a lovely family reunion.”

“Keep that up and you can sleep outside.”

-

Yugi couldn't sleep. He pretended to be tired the moment he saw Atem struggling to keep his eyes open. It was late and by that time, Yugi could already call upon the powers within him with little worry about the sturring he felt from the other inside him.

But that didn't stop him from being afraid of letting his guard down too much.

He was being selfish by accepting Atem's offer of his bed. He knew he was but he didn't want to be alone with his thoughts. They were too close to the very idea that there could be a world in which he didn't exist. He could be erased and overshadowed. Anubis would be alone to do what he pleased. Yugi was a parasite.

But... staring at Atem even as he slept made Yugi wonder if he could become something more. Maybe he and Anubis could co-exist. Maybe he didn't have to die.

He felt a pull and tensed. “No..Pl-”-ease no! No, stop!

It was too late. Anubis moved and straddled Atem. He gripped the other's throat tightly.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Atem's eyes flew open when airflow was cut off. His hands moved up to grip the wrist pressing into his neck. He writhed and struggled underneath the hold, gasping for the air he was suddenly denied.

And Yugi had no power to stop it. It was his hand on Atem's neck. His nails that bit into the flesh. His arm that refused let go until the person under him stopped moving for good. And all he could do was scream into the void of his mind, hoping Anubis would listen.

The powers at his disposal were useless now. It was just him. He could only mentally push at the other in his mind and try to take back control. And now he was running out of time. His pushes did nothing and he knew Atem wouldn't attack Anubis. Not when it meant hurting Yugi.

So, Yugi dried a different tactic. This is wrong and you know it.

He could feel Anubis turn his attention onto him.

Yugi continued with his thought. Attacking and killing a man in his sleep is cowardly. We both know you're not a coward.

The hold kept its pressure for a few seconds longer before Anubis slowly released. Yugi relaxed as relief took hold.

Atem sucked in a shaky breath and continued to stare up at Anubis. He couldn't look away from his eyes. They were disturbingly familiar. It was almost as if he were looking in a mirror.

As the other moved off of him, he sat up and rubbed at his neck. He continued to regard him for a moment before speaking softly. “May I ask you a few questions?”

Anubis continued to stare for a moment before he nodded and moved his hand as if he were writing.

“So, you truly cannot speak.” Atem reached into the drawer of his nightstand and pulled out a pen and paper. He handed it to Anubis. “How is that possible? Yugi speaks.”

Anubis shrugged and opened the pad. His handwriting was childish and out of practice but still legible enough for Atem. Yugi didn't have the same experiences as you and I.

Atem read it then glanced up at the other. “Fair.”

Anubis wrote again. What is it you want to know?

So much. Too much. There wasn't enough paper in that notebook for Anubis to answer all his questions. He had to start with the most important. “What was your objective this past week? Why have you chose now to resurface?”

He stared at Atem thoughtfully before returning his eyes to the paper. My objective has never changed. It is to cast judgment on the world and purge the wicked.

Something about the sentence caused Atem's stomach to churn.

As for why I came forth, it's pretty simple. I felt the Power call to me and suddenly, I was awake. It had happened once before now. He tapped the pen to his lip and continued to write a little more.

“When did it come about last?”

I think it had something to do with Seto Kaiba last time. This time was no doubt your fault.

He frowned. “How?”

Anubis rolled his eyes and gestured between his body and Atem's. No writing was needed.

Atem ignored the increase of heat on his cheeks. “Alright then. Tell me this.” His back tensed as he prepared his next question. “Why did you kill Bakura?”

Anubis stared at him blankly for a moment. He sat there for long enough to have Atem question whether or not he would begin writing again. When he did return to the pad, he kept going for a bit with the occasional crossed out sentence or word. After nearly a full minute of thinking and writing, he turned it for Atem.

My purpose is to judge all and purge the world of the wicked. There are very few here that deserve to move on without meeting my judgment. There were few more wicked than Bakura.

Atem's brows furrowed and he looked up at Anubis. He opened his mouth to speak only to have the other wave a hand in his face to silence him and tap the paper, urging him to continue reading.

We, all of us, must eventually face this destruction. Someday soon, someone will come and destroy what's left of us. It's important for me to clean up a little before someone comes to take me from this life as well. Bakura committed the crime of keeping me away from this goal.

Atem grimaced. “The 'someone.' You're talking about Kaiba.”

Anubis shook his head.

“Who else is there?”

Someone. Don't know yet. But it's unlikely that the founder would only leave one person to try and kill us all. Especially being Kaiba clearly failed in his mission.

“He failed because I sto-”

Anubis snapped a finger to silence Atem. He wrote quickly. No, he failed the moment he left you alive. He never planned to follow through with his purpose.

“Yet... you continue to follow through with your own. Why?” Obviously, he could fight it and not become the killing machine so many people thought he was. Why else would Atem's room still be in one piece?

Anubis stared at Atem. For the first time since he woke up, the other boy looked as though he didn't know how to respond. He shook his head again and dropped the pen as he shook his hands free. He started to rock his body just a little as his eyes stared off into nothing.

Atem watched him carefully. “Is... writing the only way you can communicate?”

Anubis nodded.

“If you would like, I could teach you another way.”

He just stared at Atem for a moment. It was possible he was looking for some kind of trick but he came up empty under the sincere eyes of the other. Atem didn't look at him like he was seeing a monster. Then for the first time, Anubis smiled softly.

-

He couldn't stick around those idiots anymore. He had to find Ryo. He had to make sure the other boy was going to be alright. He had to do what he could to protect him. They kept telling him to trust in Horus.

He could trust Horus as far as he could throw him.

Hathor told Bakura about Bast. It would seem the girl figured out a way to attach herself to someone and be of use to the physical world. From what he knew of Bast's abilities, it should have been a bit of a struggle to get that far. She hadn't been one known for traveling through the void so easily.

Very few had the ability to travel through it like Bakura. Even while the other four hung around in it, they didn't have the travel abilities like Bakura.

That much was clear by the way Hathor kept a little too close to Bakura as she followed after him. Every so often, she would reach out and touch him as if to make sure she wasn't too far from his hold. He debated on running off and leaving her to fend for herself.

But he was sure Thoth would find a way to haunt him if anything happened to Hathor. Plus, the girl could probably be useful.

“Ku- er, Bakura?”

“What?”

Hathor rubbed her arm and looked around. “Is this the way you've always gone? Does any of this look familiar?”

“It's all just void. I can't see anything more than you can.”

“Then how do you know where to go?”

Bakura kept his eyes forward stubbornly. “I can feel him.”

Hathor blinked and looked around. For a moment, she stood still, as if she were trying to feel what Bakura felt. She shook her head. “I... don't feel anything.”

“You're not attached to anyone in the physical world.”

“That's not true. I care about Horus!”

“'Care' isn't 'attachment.' And if you 'care' so much, you would know better than to call any of us by the Project name.”

Hathor shut her mouth and just continued to follow after Bakura. She watched him move, so sure that he was heading in the direction of Ryo. He claimed that everything looked the same yet Osiris could peel apart the layers of void in order to have a look in on the physical realm. It was a trick Thoth was also able to pick up.

Hathor couldn't learn it no matter how hard she tried. But she could still observe.

“The Mother doesn't like our names either. Maybe we should all change them.”

Bakura snorted. “What? You don't like being named after a god?”

Hathor ignored him as she pulled the mask from her face. “I think I know what I wanna be called. You said the name in your game. You kept repeating it and saying that Jounouchi couldn't do something because he lost all of her.”

Bakura finally looked back at Hathor. He'd never seen any of them without their masks. Part of him assumed they couldn't be removed. Like a curse that followed them into death. But now, he could see Hathor held onto a bit of youth. She looked younger than all of them and completely innocent to all of this. It reminded him of... someone.

He looked at her dryly as he realized what 'name' she had picked. “Hathor, 'mana' isn't a name. It's a measurement of magic.”

“And your 'name' is your boyfriend's surname.”

He snorted and looked away. He knew she had a point but he didn't want to admit it. “Fine. If you stop calling me 'Kuk,' I'll start calling you 'Mana.'”

She smiled at him. “Cool. Now let's go find Ra!”

“Ryo.”

“Right.”

They found the boy shortly after. Bakura was able to break through the shadows just enough to see him. He was sitting on what looked to be a very expensive couch in a living room he didn't recognize right away. Anzu was there next to him, offering words of comfort as he clung to her and sobbed painfully.

Honda sat by as well. His presence served as a shield and guarded the two from the sights of anyone who walked in the room.

“It looks like your loss hit hard...” Mana watched Bakura carefully before she looked down at the three again.

Bakura moved to enter the realm only to feel a resistance to letting him leave. He stopped pushing when Jounouchi entered the room to talk to the others. The blond was somber in a way Bakura didn't know he could be. But that wasn't the most interesting thing about him.

The most interesting was the ghostly woman who hung out near him and glared directly into Bakura's eyes.

Before he could try to push forward, Bast dove in and pushed him back. “If you appear now, you'll break him.”

“He already seems pretty damn broken to me.” He tried to move around her but she blocked him from every angle.

“Bast?”

The turned and looked at Mana. For a moment, they both just stared at each other in surprise. But then, Mana spoke up again. “You left us.”

Bast frowned. “I had to, Hathor. They need help.”

“You didn't tell me you planned to go.” She frowned. “You were supposed to tell me.”

For a moment, Bast looked ashamed. Her eyes darted away from Mana.

Bakura snorted. “You were being selfish. Just thinking about how much you wanted to connect to Set in any way possible.”

Bast shot a look at Bakura. “You are about to make an even worse mistake by appearing to your grieving partner.”

“I'm not leaving.” He crossed his arms. “Eventually you'll have to leave to see Set. I have nowhere else to be.”

“Set is perfectly safe.”

“If you call several broken ribs and a dislocated shoulder safe.”

Bast growled at that before she forced herself calm with a different tactic. “Honestly, I'm more surprised you're not questioning why Anubis and Horus are nowhere to be found.”

Bakura blinked and looked down at the room. He hadn't considered it in his rush to get to Ryo but she did have a very good point. If Anubis was dead, he would be in the Void with everyone else. So... was Yugi back in control?

...Horus that idiot!

“Mana, change of plans! We-” He turned to look for Mana only to find her spot vacant. Both Bakura and Bast looked back into the room. Mana hung over Anzu and slowly moved closer to the girl.

Anzu tensed as she felt the intrusion.

Bast returned to her place near Jounouchi and Bakura watched as Mana used Anzu's mouth to whisper to Ryo.

“Kuk loves you very much, Ra.”

Ryo tensed and looked at Anzu in surprise.

Bakura just watched for a moment longer before he turned and headed away. He had a feeling he would know exactly where to find Horus.

-

Atem smiled softly at the other as he was able to sign back a few phrases. “Very good. You're a quick student.”

Anubis smirked and brought a hand up to his chin. Thank you. He stared off for a moment then moved his arms again. Your help... is appreciated.

Atem's smile spread for a second before it slowly faded. “I must ask... Do you know Yugi's thoughts?”

Anubis waved his hand a little in a so-so fashion.

“He fears being lost to you. Is that something he should be worried about?”

He didn't say it but the other knew these fears were held by more than Yugi. Anubis tilted his head. You love him...

“Just, please, answer the question.”

Anubis shook his head and shrugged helplessly.

Atem nodded and looked down. “I see.” Nothing more could be said. There was no certain way to properly answer the question without it happening. So the nagging feeling that it could become a reality would continue to sit in Atem and Yugi's minds.

Anubis frowned at Atem. He felt something for the other; he could only imagine it was something along the lines of pity. He always thought if he and Horus ever shared a room again, he would be sure to tear out that eye and use his powers to turn the other into a fine paste. But now that he was here?

He couldn't bring himself to consider it. Horus always had a red mark, just like everyone else from the Project. Now? It was looking more of a purple tint as the blue mark faded in.

Maybe it had something to do with Yugi. He could feel his docile half watching him closely. He brought his hands back up. Yugi is... very fond of you.

Atem stared at Anubis. “Did he tell you that?”

He doesn't need to. His actions are more than enough.

A small smile twitched on Atem's lips.

He doesn't trust me to not kill you.

“Well, do you blame him?”

Anubis snorted. No. Not at all. He glanced up at him. Death is still an option for you.

Atem grimaced. “I figured as much.”

It's not as... viable as it once was, but the thoughts are still there.

The world around them changed suddenly. The air became thicker and harder to breathe. The lights became dimmer. Both of them looked around before they glanced back to one another.

Atem opened his mouth to ask if this was Anubis' doing only to feel something like a hand slap over his eyes. Suddenly, he felt like he was floating.

“Are you fucking kidding me with this shit, Horus?”

He blinked and looked at the source of the voice. “B-Bakura?”

Bakura continued to glare darkly at Atem. He ignored the dumbfounded look with a snarl. “I knew you were oblivious. But this takes it to a whole other level.” He gestured angrily to where he pulled Atem in. “You find the most dangerous of us all and you're in there teaching him how to-” He stopped gesturing as something occurred to him. “...You learned sign language. You never planned to...” His eyes widened incredulously. “You really are the hugest idiot out of us all.”

“Did you bring me in here just to insult me or is it possible you have more of a point behind all of this?”

“In fact I do.” He pointed at Atem. “You are to think very carefully about your choices with this. Now that you know Yugi and Anubis are one and the same, you're likely to become even softer than you were before.”

Atem shot a dark look at him. It was ignored.

“And if your softness leads to Ryo's death, there is no realm in which you will be safe from my wrath. Now, go back, do the smart thing, and stab your boyfriend in the face.”

“You know I'm not going to do that.”

“Yeah. Because you're a moron who deserves everything that happens to him from this decision on. Just don't drag anyone else into your mistake.” With those last words, Bakura slammed the heel of his hand into Atem's forehead.

He couldn't be sure if it was a sudden vision or an illusion but, when he returned to Anubis staring at him in confusion, he felt the jarring pain from the impact right between his eyes. He rubbed it gingerly as he looked away from the other's gaze.

No one else had to suffer. Bakura was wrong.

-

Mai remembered the night well. It was a night that would live on in her head as her biggest shame.

Somehow, she had convinced Malik to help her. She had been in contact with Sugoroku Mutou since he walked away from the labs. After a fight over whether his leaving was a good idea or not, they devised a plan. A plan to end all of it forever.

The idea originally was to go in and take all the children. As it became more obvious security would be high, Malik suggested they took the most “gifted” first to make sure they got out the most valuable subjects first. As cruel and cold as it sounded, Mai knew he was right.

Horus was originally the first on the list. But his room was the most secure. Which left them with the other three first.

Mai remembered holding the two boys in her arms as Malik insisted on taking Anubis himself. They had tripped some alarm Malik was able to hear which meant they had to rush out.

But Mai couldn't help herself. When she saw him at the window, she had to stop and look into those eyes. They were confused and scared. They asked her why she was taking them.

Why not him?

Why not Horus?

Why not Atem?

She couldn't remember if she said anything but she wanted to apologize. She wanted to go back in and get him as soon as Malik was able to carry all three himself. But...

Then Anubis woke up and everything became a blur. They dropped him off with Mutou after everything had calmed down. Once everything was secure?

The labs were gone and Horus was locked away, never to be seen again.

“You still regret it?”

Mai turned to Malik as he leaned back in his chair and stared up at the night sky. She frowned at him. “Regret what?”

“Leaving him behind. Letting your son become,” he held up his phone to show her the picture of the Pharaoh from his fight with Anubis, “this.”

She snorted and smirked. “Honey, that kind of spirit would be in him no matter where he was. He's got my blood in him after all.” The smirk faded as she looked back at where the dark sky was beginning to brighten. “Do you regret never telling him? I know he's been hunting you down to find Isis.”

Malik sucked in a deep breath. “Jury's out on that. I don't know if dragging him into the fucked up world of the Ishtars is really for the best.”

“Yeah, because the fucked up world of the Kaibas is so much better.”

“At least the Kaibas didn't...” Malik bit his lip to stop himself from speaking. He looked down.

Mai stared at him for a while before she sighed. “How long are you going to blame yourself for Rishid?”

He barked out a laugh. “You say that like it's not my fault.”

“You weren't in your right mind.”

“I don't have a right mind!”

Mai rolled her eyes. “Don't be so dramatic.”

“You weren't there, Mai. You don't know what happened.” He leaned forward and looked down at the floor. “There are still people out there who think we're some kind of demons who need to be eradicated. What I did... What 'Rishid' did... Neither of us will ever be forgiven.”

Mai stared at him with a frown that just continued to get deeper the more he spoke. For a moment, she sat there in silence with him and let him stew in his own mind. Then she sighed. “Your family's forgiven you.”

“You mean my sister. She's the only family I have left.”

“You also have a nephew. And a sister-in-law.” She stood up and looked out at the rising sun. “I've heard enough stories to where I could paint a pretty good picture of a villain out of you. But people are complicated, Malik. You aren't just a pile of mistakes and regrets.” She turned back to the balcony door. “Besides, Rishid died so you could walk free. I don't think this is the freedom he'd want for his little brother.”

Malik turned away as she slipped into the dark apartment. No doubt she was going in to wake Isis so they could start their day.

Maybe Mai had a point. Maybe... he could start letting go of what happened in the past. Maybe he could start creating a better future. Maybe that could start with fighting for his nephew.

-

I don't like this.

Anubis turned to the sound of the voice only he could hear. Yugi was staring at him. He turned back to look at Atem. You can relax. Horus is safe for now.

I'd rather him be safe forever.

Well, we can't make sure of that. He is a person all his own.

Yugi frowned at the other part of him. Are you planning to hurt him?

Death can be painless.

You know what I mean.

Anubis stared at Atem. He looked lost in his own head. Maybe he was having an argument with another him as well. Anubis couldn't be sure. He could only redirect the attention. He brought his hands up again. We should sleep. It's late.

Atem stared at him for a moment. His eyes narrowed ever so slightly. “If you would like to rest, by all means.”

Anubis smirked and moved in closer to Atem. No trust.

“Do you truly blame me?” Atem shifted back.

Anubis shook his head then pressed his lips to the corner of Atem's mouth. A second later, Yugi pulled back and blinked in confusion. He sighed and sat back on his legs. “I'm sorry.”

Atem's shoulders slumped at the sound of the voice before he gathered Yugi into his arms. “None of this is your fault.”

Yugi wished he could believe Atem.

-

It was early morning when something gripped Kaiba's stomach so tightly, he could barely breathe. He finally got all of his “guests” to calm down and take a night's rest. He himself kept one ear open to the room down the hall. No doubt the switch in Yugi could be flipped to homicidal maniac at any point. And there was little more doubt that Atem would do nothing to fight him off. At least, nothing short of an “I know you're in there, there's still good in you” speech.

But, he could be assured Atem's voice would boom when he was speaking under such pressure. The boy had a real problem with volume control on occasion.

But the feeling in his gut tightened to a nearly painful level. The mug in his hand creaked and broke as his grip tightened. It caused one of the maids to jump as she walked into the kitchen just in time to see it shatter in his hand.

“Um, M-Mr. Kaiba? There are people at the door who would like to speak to you.”

He sighed and shook the coffee from his hand. Without a word to the maid, he walked around her and headed for the door.

When he opened it, he had to resist the urge to slam it closed again. He recognized her from the videos his stepfather kept around. And the picture Atem kept in his room.

He never thought he'd have to deal with meeting her face to face.

She just stared at him calmly, her companions staying nearby as some kind of protection. “Hello, Seto Kaiba. It's a pleasure to finally meet you.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Kaiba said nothing. It felt like he and Isis simply stared at one another for eternity. Malik and Mai were afraid to say anything. Any staff who moved near the front door simply kept walking. The stare down could have continued forever.

But then, Isis spoke. “I would like to see Atem.”

His eyes narrowed. “And why would I let you see him?”

Mai crossed her arms. “A mother has-”

“She lost the privilege to call herself a mother the moment she handed him over.” He didn't stop glaring at her. The wood of the door creaked in his grip.

“Please, Seto-”

“Never call me by my name like you know me.”

Isis frowned and sucked in a breath to calm herself. “I only want to get the chance to see what became of him.”

“Right. So you came out of your little hole after nineteen years just to check in? Where were you when he was left to starve to death in my basement? Or would you like me to go even further back? Would you like to hear about how much of a lab rat he was in your absence?”

Mai glanced over to see if Malik could sneak his way in. What she found was a vacant spot.

“Uh, Seto?!”

Kaiba whipped around at the sound of Mokuba's call.

Isis simply walked around Kaiba and looked up at him. “It would seem your defenses are much lower than even you suspected.”

He didn't pay attention to her anymore. In a moment, all three of them would be out of his house. But right now, the one who constantly sent Atem home covered in injuries was too close to his little brother. This was a mistake that would need to be rectified immediately. Then he could worry about tearing off limbs.

By the time he made it up to the hall, Jounouchi was already there with Malik in a chokehold. Mokuba half hid behind Atem, both of which had their backs to the approaching group.

Jounouchi looked up and tightened his hold as Malik struggled to get away. “Must be a party. I don't know if there were ever this many people in this house.”

Mokuba looked back as Kaiba approached. “Seto!” He went to move closer to his brother then paused as two other strangers followed. It took him a moment, but he recognized one of them.

Isis tensed as her eyes fell on the back of Atem's head. Her back straightened and she did everything she could to cover up how anxious she felt.

He slowly turned as he felt the eyes on him. Then he froze as well. Isis could see the recognition light up in his eyes immediately but he didn't move.

Silence filled the hall as if everyone was afraid of what might happen the moment it was broken. It took Isis just a moment to step forward. When Atem didn't move, she stepped again. She reached up to touch him.

He fought the urge to flinch when her hand landed on his cheek. He just blinked.

“Hello, Atem.” She smiled softly. “I'm sorry it took so long to see you.”

“It doesn't matter. You're here now.”

That was all she needed. Her breath hitched and she instantly pulled Atem into her arms. He was much smaller than she thought he would be. She couldn't find herself too concerned with his size. Not when she felt his arms around her.

Everyone in the hall was silent. Slowly, Jounouchi released his hold on Malik and watched her tensely. One of the doors opened and, slowly, another person poked out curiously. Isis recognized him from the photo Mai brought home.

She also recognized him as Anubis from the photos taken only a few nights before. But... his eyes were far from the monster everyone painted him to be. There was a lot to be discussed.

Jou rubbed the back of his head and looked at Kaiba. “So, uh, do we talk about this and explain it for the people who have no idea what's going on or...?”

Kaiba continued to stare at Atem and Isis. “We might as well gather everyone together. We could be here for a while.”

-

He's afraid.

Jounouchi glanced at Bast. She had her eyes fixed onto Kaiba. Her eyebrows were furrowed in concern as she kept her tight focus on his face. Jou didn't need to ask why she would say such a thing.

He already lost so much in his life. And now... With Horus reunited with the Mother, he fears to lose again.

Jou looked at Kaiba. He could see he was tense, but that was a common occurrence. His eyes, however, never left Isis and Atem. She had barely let him go since the moment they touched. Mokuba had continued to eye her suspiciously, but he didn't hold the same tension in his spine as his brother.

As they all got comfortable in the sitting room, Jou could see the tension increase in everyone. There was much to discuss but no one knew where to begin.

And he was a little concerned as to what might happen if Kaiba was the one to start the conversation.

Luckily, it was Ryo who spoke up first. “Ms. Ishtar... if you don't mind me asking, where did these abilities begin?”

Isis smiled softly as the tension started to fade from her. “No one knows for certain. There are stories that suggest it dates back to ancient times in the blood of pharaohs, but there's not much evidence to prove it.”

“So you're not the first people to have these abilities.”

She shook her head. “No. It's a family trait.”

Silence began to overtake the room again. Jou watched Kaiba tense as he prepared a comment or a question of his own. But-

“Why did you leave Atem here?”

Everyone turned to Yugi in surprise. The question was softly spoken as if he were afraid its bluntness might cause an issue. But, his wavering gaze never left Isis.

Jou then realized Kaiba wasn't the only one afraid of a loss.

Isis kept her eyes on Yugi as all the answers to that question passed through her mind. She sighed and prepared to answer. “Well-”

“It was either this or let him be treated like a monster from birth until death.”

Everyone turned and looked at Malik.

He turned to his sister and smiled. “Isn't that right, Sister?”

“Malik...”

Mai crossed her arms and frowned. “What Malik is trying to say is something happened before any of you were born that would put Atem's life in danger just by being apart of the Ishtar family.”

“We were treated like monsters in the labs,” Ryo pointed out with a frown.

“He would have been stoned when he was old enough to walk on his own.” Malik shot a stern look at Ryo.

That caught Mokuba's attention. “Stoned when he was... what the Hell did you guys do?!”

The room was silent for a moment. Then, Isis spoke again. “Atem's powers are common in our bloodline but there is a rare ability he may carry within himself but didn't develop. It exists in its full potential within Malik and... when used improperly, it can have horrible effects.”

Kaiba raised an eyebrow. “And that would be...?”

“To put it at its most simple, it's mind control. But... it's so much more.”

“And that caused you to give up your son, how exactly?”

Malik smirked. “You should know better than most the value in control. I have the ability to rip that away from even the strongest wills. And there was a time when I had an entire town as my puppets. And, believe me when I say, I was not a nice leader.”

Kaiba didn't flinch. “Then what happened?”

The smirk slowly faded. “...My own mind started to deteriorate. I had to let go and... uh...”

Isis stared at Malik. “We had an older brother. Rishid. He was adopted, but no one outside our family knew. When people demanded Malik be killed for his crimes, Rishid stepped in instead and claimed it was he who enslaved everyone. That was just over twenty years ago. But... even after his sacrifice, people believe us to be evil.”

Mai placed a hand on Isis's shoulder and pressed her lips into a thin line. “We thought whatever your father had in store for Atem would be better than a life of being a pariah. We were desperate and he made it sound pretty good. It wasn't until later we learned what he was really planning.” She looked around the room and forced a smile. “And for that, I don't know if I should apologize or what.”

“It's... a past we all have to work through.” Ryo looked down at his hands. “You didn't know this would happen.”

Isis nodded somberly then turned again to Atem. “But now we're all on the other side and we can work to a better future. One where we can live as a family.”

Atem blinked in surprise. “Live together?”

Isis matched his surprise with her own. “Yes, of course. We came here to finally take you home.” Her gaze fell ever so slightly. “I was wrong to try and save you by pushing you away. Distance did nothing but cause a much more complicated issue.”

“...I see.”

The room grew tense and there was the soft sound of sharp inhaling coming from three different parts of the room.

“The offer is amazing.” He paused for a second as he ran his fingers through his hair. “But I must decline.”

The room settled as the three slowly and silently exhaled.

Isis didn't notice. She just stared at Atem as her face fell. “Oh?”

He nodded. “I appreciate you coming all this way to tell your side of the story. Without it, there was a piece missing as to why we're here. However, this is my home.”

Malik frowned. “Didn't we just finish discussing how you were a lab rat for Gorzoboro Kaiba?”

Atem stood up. “Yes. But while he used me to force this on others, the next generation of Kaibas granted me the ability to finally be human and be free. I would be doing them a disservice to simply leave when I owe them my life.”

Kaiba snorted and crossed his arms. “You can do anything you want. You're not hurting anyone by leaving.”

Atem raised an eyebrow at Kaiba then smirked. “Of course not. But why take the risk?” He grunted in surprise as Mokuba nearly tackled him in a gripping hug. “Hey now. There's no need for that.”

Isis took in the scene. She watched in silence as everyone showed a sign of ease at the announcement that Atem wouldn't be leaving. He was cared for here. She daresay they even loved him. It was a little sad this brought the knowledge that Atem would never truly have a relationship like that with her. Not for a while, at least. But, knowing they were able to form such a strong bond brought a soft smile to her face. She nodded. “I understand.”

Atem returned his gaze to her as she stood up as well.

“If you believe this is where you're meant to be, I can't stop you.”

Malik muttered something under his breath and winced as Mai elbowed him in the ribs.

“Just know you always have a place with us.” She bowed her head. “I thank you all for your time today.”

For a moment, there was silence as the three moved to leave. But then, “you realize you don't have to leave either, right?”

Isis turned in surprise and locked eyes with Ryo.

He continued. “You could stay in Japan too.”

She covered her surprise with a smile. “A lovely notion... but no. My duty is to return to Egypt.”

“Where people fear you.”

Yugi joined in. “At least here you have people who are willing to understand. As much as you might want to alleviate that fear, is it really worth it when it costs your own life?”

Kaiba gestured to Yugi. “Even the hellhound agrees that's an idiotic idea.” He ignored the glares and just continued to stare at Isis.

She stared back and took in the scene. It was an odd bunch; anyone with eyes could see that much. But they were happy. Despite the horrible events that lead them all here. Despite the attempts to condition them into whatever purpose Kaiba Corp had for them, they stood strong and they stood together.

Isis could appreciate that.

Mai smiled at her and pressed their shoulders together. “Well? How about it?”

Isis turned to Mai. Slowly, a smile came over her. “Maybe we should give it a try.”

-

The information left on the Kaiba computers was very interesting. As it would turn out, his logs were continued after Horus was released by the younger brother. Most of the information was nothing he really cared about; just how his experiment was able to adjust to life.

But it did tell him what he needed to know about the development of his powers. Not to mention he could still access both the Eye of Horus and the Eye of Ra.

That information was much more valuable. Especially when it came to learning about the latent ability within Subject Horus.

Mind control, eh? What a useful power. Maybe there was a way to awaken that within someone. Anyone.

...Himself, perhaps.

He opened up the files for the Ishtar genetic code. The sooner he could learn about this ability the better.

-

“You scared everyone for a second, you know.”

Atem blinked and turned to Yugi. “Oh?”

He nodded. “I think even Kaiba was worried you would jump at the chance to go to Egypt.”

He thought about that for a moment. A smile slowly came over his face. “I can't leave everyone behind. There's still too much to do here.”

“Oh yeah? Like what?”

“Well, for instance,” he moved closer to Yugi, “you and I still haven't figured out how deep th-”

“Please don't start fucking in my kitchen.”

Atem paused and rolled his eyes before turning to greet the newcomer. “How can we help you, Kaiba?”

Kaiba looked at the two blankly. His eyes locked onto Yugi's. “There's something I need from you. Follow me.”

Yugi sighed and followed after Kaiba's strides with Atem not too far behind. “Is this really the time for games?”

“Odd hearing that coming from you.”

He rubbed the back of his head and glanced over at Atem. “Well, we've got a lot going on right now. And maybe we should be focusing on that rather than our rivalry.”

Kaiba opened the door to a room Atem knew well. It was used to test simulations and holograms. Even a few of the Kaiba Corp AIs were started in the room. He remembered it because it was where he began to hone his abilities to gear them more towards crime fighting. Mokuba was already in the observation room. And, when Atem moved to follow Kaiba and Yugi into the simulation room, Mokuba's hand shot out and grabbed his wrist.

Kaiba continued on without breaking stride and closed the door behind him and Yugi. “Everyone here already knows everything they need to know. However, we have a new threat to deal with.” He typed on a computer mounted in the corner. “That being said-”

The observation room doors locked down with heavy blast doors, keeping Kaiba and Yugi from getting out. But, more importantly, it would prevent Atem from getting in.

“-we have unfinished business, Anubis.”

Yugi tensed up as something within him squirmed at the name. He fought to keep his expression blank as he squared his shoulders. “I'm not Anubis.”

Kaiba turned to Yugi. “Then you better summon him. Now.”

Yugi watched the way the dark tendrils appeared and licked at Kaiba's arms. They moved up to his neck and across his torso. The sight of the power's movement made his own churn. He needed to reason with Kaiba and fast. “Kaiba. You're still healing. This is a bad idea.”

He barely got out the last word as Kaiba charged. He dodged as a large clawed hand moved to slice him from the head down.

Let me.

Yugi stumbled and fought back against the call. “Kaiba!”

Kaiba's eyes darkened. He charged again.

Yugi dodged. “Seriously! If you do this, he'll kill you!”

“Let him try!” He kicked off the ground and practically flew at Yugi.

Yugi. You'll be hurt.

Yugi jumped out of the way again and tried to concentrate. He tapped into the abilities and was able to pull up a shield just in time to stop Kaiba's hand from slicing off his face.

He glared at Kaiba. “I'm not going to fight you.”

“Then let the other you do it.” Something crackled against the small bubble.

Yugi's concentration broke. He felt something pull him away from Kaiba. Suddenly, he was behind his supposed opponent.

Anubis still whispered. Please.

“No!”

Kaiba spun around and glared at Yugi. He slammed his hand into the ground.

The ground vibrated and groaned. A dark mass broke through the metal and jabbed into the air. It was enough to send Yugi flying.

You would rather him kill us than let me free?

He didn't get the chance to answer. While he was still in the air, Kaiba jumped up and kneed him hard in the stomach.

Yugi's back slammed into the wall.

Kaiba landed. He watched Yugi's body fall with a grim glare. “Pathetic. You allow your fear to hold you back.”

He's right. But your fear is well placed.

Yugi stumbled to his feet.

We should give him what he wants.

Kaiba charged over and grabbed Yugi by the neck. He lifted the short boy off the ground, using the wall to keep him firmly in place. Yugi's fingernails bit into Kaiba's arm.

We won't kill him.

That was enough for Yugi. With the reluctant promise, he relaxed his hold and Anubis took control.

An instant later, Anubis had kicked Kaiba away and had the other pinned to the floor by a foot to his neck. He grinned cruelly at Kaiba and shifted his weight onto that foot.

You said we wouldn't kill him!

Anubis rolled his eyes at the more docile version of him. A lesson is to be learned here. He snapped back when he felt a hand wrap around his ankle and pain prick at his skin. Suddenly, it was dark and he was slammed on the ground right next to where Kaiba was pinned seconds before.

Anubis glared and popped out of existence for a split second. He popped back in behind Kaiba and sliced at the other's back. He was able to get in two more attacks; one to the arm and another to his stomach.

Then Kaiba caught him by the head. He was slammed back into the floor. Yugi felt it just as clearly as Anubis.

Atem looked at Mokuba wildly. “Open the doors before they kill each other!”

Mokuba shook his head and tried not to look at the fight any more than necessary. “I can't. Seto changed the code.”

Atem looked around. He needed to get in there. He needed to stop this! But Kaiba had thought of all the ways anyone could get it. Everything in the room was attached to the floor. Everything, except...

He looked back at Mokuba and the chair he sat in. “Then stand up.”

The fighting continued inside. After being slammed into the ground, Anubis curled and kicked up into Kaiba's abdomen. The other coughed in pain and stumbled away.

Anubis jumped back to his feet and smirked. It would seem Kaiba was still nursing a few major injuries. He could end this now.

He charged in, delight on his face as a dark claw formed to land a finishing blow.

No!

The powers sizzled away. His blunt nails only managed to scratch at Kaiba's ear rather than take off his head. Anubis blinked in surprise.

Kaiba looked just as shocked. And slammed his own fist right into the side of Anubis' head. It sent the other spiraling to the floor.

Anubis climbed to his feet. He stared at Kaiba, livid. The powers returned to him and he charged in again. He had to move quickly before his more docile half tried to pull the power from his grip again. Clearly only one of them was leaving this room. It's what Kaiba wanted. And he was more than happy to oblige.

Then the powers faded just before Anubis could gouge out Kaiba's stomach. In return, Kaiba sent Anubis flying through the air.

He snarled. Stop fighting me!

Stop trying to kill him! Yugi snarled right back.

Anubis glared and turned in the air. He didn't like this. Yugi was pulling too much control. If it continued down this path, the power of Anubis might not even belong to Anubis. This went against everything he was taught.

He needed to take it back. And maybe Kaiba's death would be enough to snap Yugi from pulling control. So, as soon as his feet touched the ground, Anubis bounced and charged forward. He would snatch the abilities right before landing his attack. This time, Kaiba's head would be rolling across the floor.

Kaiba braced himself as he prepared to counter. Although the lack of claws was really confusing him. Anubis was coming in rapidly, maybe it was a little too fast.

Glass shattered. Seconds later, there was a dome shield over Kaiba. It formed just in time to stop Anubis' attack. The claw scratched against the surface.

Atem stood in front of Kaiba and glared at Anubis. “Yugi!”

Anubis stopped short, the sight of Atem successfully shocking him from his rage. His face tensed as a fight for control began. A moment later, Yugi looked up, slightly disoriented. “I'm here.”

Atem sighed in relief and released the shield. First, he walked up to Yugi and judged the wounds on the other. He cupped Yugi's face and looked at him in concern.“Are you alright?”

Yugi nodded. “I'm fine.”

Atem nodded back and pulled away. With Yugi in control, there was little more to worry about violence-wise. He calmly walked over to the panel and unlocked the door. He sucked in a deep breath.

Then snapped around and glared at Kaiba. “What were you thinking?!”

“You broke the window.”

“Are you serious?! That's where you focus?!”

“I-”

“No! You lost your privilege to speak now! Do you not get the severity of what you just tried?! Were you trying to get yourself killed?! It's a good think Yugi has as much control as he does!”

Mokuba watched as Atem's booming voice cut into his brother. It was a strange sight for Seto to be on the receiving end of a lecture. He could tell by his brother's face he wasn't the only one surprised.

But Atem wasn't letting him get a word in edgewise. And Mokuba didn't blame him.

“The Hell's going on?”

Mokuba glanced over as Jounouchi walked into the room with Sugoroku and Isis in tow. He looked back again as Atem yelled over whatever retort the other had. “Just Seto being Seto and Atem wasn't having it.”

Jounouchi snorted in amusement and invited himself into the room. He stood next to Yugi, who just watched in awkward silence. He watched for a moment longer before gently putting a hand on his friend's shoulder. “We should give them a moment.”

Yugi nodded and reluctantly followed after Jounouchi.