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Chapter 17 - Reclaim

"Head like a hole
Black as your soul
I'd rather die
Than give you control..."
--Nine Inch Nails, Head Like a Hole

"Impudent whelp!"

It was a frustrated exclamation, directed (it seemed) at no one, but Yugi was watching the dark eyes, and he saw them shift again.

Bakura... it was Bakura...

Bakura looked all around him, wide-eyed, like someone who had just woken up from a nightmare. Then his eyes fixed on the wall behind Yugi, and he abruptly began to run, pushing roughly past his stunned friend. Frantic, scrambling, Bakura hauled himself up the metal ladder behind Yugi and disappeared onto the roof.

"WAIT!" Yugi screamed after him.

Leaping into motion, Yugi jumped up onto the third rung of the ladder. His foot slipped on the slimy coating of gunk topping each rung, and his shin struck hard against the round metal. Ignoring the shooting pain, Yugi regained his footing and pulled himself up, rung after rung, until he too emerged onto the roof, looking wildly around for Bakura.

Bakura was poised on the very edge of the headframe, staring down the long, flat concrete wall to the bushes below. As Yugi emerged, he looked sharply up at him.

"Yami!" Bakura shouted, taking a few steps towards him and imploring the spirit of the wizard that shared Yugi's soul, "Yami - just kill me now! Banish me to the Shadow Realm! Do it! Do it now!!"

"No!" Yugi screamed. Bakura's eyes blazed with fury.

"For God's sake, Yugi!" he snapped in exasperation. "You didn't listen to me the last time. Please listen to me this time! Just let him do it! Let Yami banish me! I know he can..."

He wants to sacrifice himself, Yugi, Yami's thought surfaced on the turmoil in Yugi's mind. It's a noble act...

Not in my world it isn't, Yugi thought back savagely, then screamed in defiance.

"I'm not going to kill you!"

Bakura had once more begun to shake violently, and he staggered backwards. His blonde hair, drenched with his own sweat, was plastered against his pallid face.

"Damn it, Yugi, can't you see how hard this is?" Bakura cried out in anguish, suffering so plain in his glazed eyes.

"All I see," Yugi slammed back, "is that you're the one who's got control right now!!"

Bakura just stared at Yugi in stark disbelief. Yugi ignored the look, continued to tear into Bakura.

"You've done it twice so far!" he cried, "And every time it lasts longer!"

Bakura faltered, his eyes a battlefield of mixed emotion.

"There's a reason you've got the Millennium Ring, Bakura!" Yugi stormed on, "it's because you can fight back!"

Yugi saw the spark of hope ignite behind the despairing eyes only a fractional moment before the blonde head snapped back and Bakura staggered backwards two more steps.

His eyes... his eyes...

"BAKURA!" Yugi's scream tore out of his heart.

"I think your friend is right," Samekh hissed, "he should die. But not before I take care of you!!"

Then there was an explosion of silver light in between them, and Cora rose, unfolding like a morning glory, until she looked bigger than the sky and brighter than the sun. Startled, Samekh stumbled backwards - one step too many...

One foot landed on empty air, and he teetered precariously for precious seconds on the edge of the 200-foot headframe.

"NO!" Yugi screamed again as Bakura dropped off the side.

Leaping forward, Yugi took a running dive through the air. He landed hard on the ground, slid the extra two feet to the very edge of the roof of the headframe where Bakura had fallen, and flung his arms over the side. Yami's word burst out of his mouth almost before he knew what it was.

"Sepeh!" he shouted.

Again, the flood of power thundered through him, and exploded in burning ropes of white light through his hands. Reaching, aiming, he guided them where Bakura had fallen, and Yugi used every last ounce of his strength to push them farther and faster, his heart pounding frantically, fighting the terrible despair that kept trying to blind him with tears.

It's all right, Yugi, we have him...

Oh, thank God, Yugi almost collapsed with relief, thank God...

...but now what...?

I... can't lift him...

Lower him.

Slowly, slowly Yugi lowered Bakura downwards until he knew he had laid him gently on the ground.

Then, like lightening from a towering thunderhead, Cora pointed a slender hand and commanded "Wesef!", and the brightness of her power flashed in a zigzag of light and struck the struggling Bakura. In an instant, he went rigid and collapsed.

Yugi closed his eyes, knowing from Yami's soul that Cora had only stunned Bakura, and he finally allowed himself one moment to relax...

...while Yami opened his eyes, and directed them upwards to the shimmering, silver spirit-Queen that had been Cora...


* * *

Téa's eyes were blurred before she reminded herself to blink. It was about the same time she thought that maybe her heart had started beating again. It was easy to hear her heart on that rooftop that had suddenly become as silent as an Egyptian tomb. She had followed Yugi and Bakura up the slimy ladder, and now she watched, holding her breath, as Yugi (Yami?) pushed himself up, and turned to gaze into the Queen's frosty eyes.

She's not the same, Téa felt her heart sink, she's not Cora anymore...

But as the winter eyes met Yami's, a softness touched the glasslike face; a softness and tenderness that transformed it into something almost angelic...

...Téa held her breath, not daring to breathe as the slender figure on the edge of the roof stood to face the Queen fully...

...and even though she knew the figure that stood there as that of Yugi Moto, she also knew that somehow, Yugi wasn't standing there now - that Yami stood alone, and that Yugi had, somehow... turned away - allowing them this...

Yami took one step forward, and stopped, his eyes never leaving the one who had once shared his heart...

"Cora," Yami said in an almost reverent whisper, "my heart..."

Cora's wind-chime voice answered lowly, and was wet with the tears she could no longer cry.

"I will always be your heart, Yami," she said, "just as you will always be mine."

Suspended, timeless - Yami and Cora's eyes touched across worlds...

...and Cora vanished.

Téa stood, breathless, in the silence that had become church-like in reverence. In the pale city-glow of the distant lights of Domino City, she could see the gleam of tears on the otherwise expressionless face of Yami. With an unfathomable hollowness inside, she quietly stepped to his side

"She... she said she won't leave," Téa began haltingly, feeling horribly inadequate. "She said she would continue to rule the Game..."

"Huh?"

Téa started. The word was decidedly un-Yami. She quickly turned and looked hard into the wide, violet eyes.

They were definitely not Yami!

"Yugi!" she almost shouted, her face dawning into an ecstatic smile. Then the whole night's events crowded in on her and, in a violent overload of emotion, she threw her arms around Yugi's neck in a furious embrace...

...which she withdrew from almost immediately, blushing an amazing shade of magenta.

"I... I'm sorry, Yugi..." she stammered. "It's just... it..."

"It's okay," Yugi interjected softly. Téa blinked, staring. Yugi's face constructed a delicate, half-smile.

"It's okay," he repeated, reaching out a hand and taking Téa's shoulder.

And this time, Yugi was alone as he folded Téa close in another (much gentler) embrace...

...which Téa returned. Wholeheartedly.


* * *

 

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