After Forever

Hi everyone. Welcome to the first chapter of After Forever. This story is across between wanting to expand upon the events of the Ceremonial duel (which I have always felt was out of character for the rest of the series) and needing to explain why Yami has his own body in my other story Rage and Grace. When I first started After Forever it was just supposed to be a one shot, possibly a sequel to Chains of Friendship. Somewhere along the way however, this story became a huge project all on its own (and got rather dark, can't imagine how that happened hahaha). I've had had I lot of fun writing this, so I hope you enjoy it. And don't forget to tell me what you think!

Cheers,

Child, you Are Hell Bent.

Disclaimer: I, Child, you are Hell bent do not claim to own Yugioh.

Chapter One

It was the end of the world.

Of that much, Yugi was certain.

Yugi was also painfully aware that he would be hard pressed to find anyone who actually agreed with this sentiment. For one thing, this statement completely ignored the fact that was a fine spring afternoon in Domino city, the first honestly warm day of the year. The sun was shining. Birds sang from the branches of cherry trees, resplendent under the burden of their white and pink blossoms. Petals danced to the rhythm of a crisp breeze, whispering the promise of still nicer days to come.

But the rest of the world didn't have two excessively complicated labs to complete by the end of the day. Nor did they have an ominously massive final exam to prepare for. University did not particularly care that the sun was shining, or that bird where chirping. Not when it was the close to graduation.

So yes, it was the end of the world. And no one could convince Yugi otherwise.

He stretched his arms high above his head, wincing at the answering pop and crack of his joints. Every muscle in his body felt tight, his body protesting the fact he had been hunched over a keyboard for the last several hours. He wanted nothing more than to take a break. Yugi glanced at his phone, balanced beside his laptop. 12 unread messages, the majority of them from Jounouchi. He stared at it for a moment, before flipping the device over. He didn't have time.

Yugi grabbed the mug resting on his on his pharmacology textbook. It was stone cold. he made a face, but dutifully swallowed the last swig of green tea, praying it would provide the last push of motivation he needed. "To prevent a common, adverse effect of prolonged use of Phenytoin Sodium." Yugi read aloud. "A Nurse should instruct patients taking the drug to…"

He trailed off, staring blankly at the question in front of him "What?" He demanded of the screen, running a hand through his already messy hair. He read the question again, and once more for good measure. It didn't help.

"The patient should be instructed to make funeral arrangements." He moaned, slumping forward onto the desk, head slamming against the wood. "What on earth is phenytoin Sodium?"

Domino U's Nursing program, Yugi had a distinct impression, was going to be the death of him. There had to be a limit to how much information the brain could absorb before it exploded under pressure.

He slumped back into the chair, staring blankly at the ceiling. Not that he should really be complaining. If his grandpa heard, it would open a can of worms that Yugi wasn't to deal with right now. Yugi knew that his grandfather had been more than a little disappointed when Yugi had decided on Nursing over Archeology after high school. The decision had come as a surprise to everyone, Yugi included. But it had been an easy one to make.

It had been nearly five years since the ceremonial duel. Five long years since they had left the Millennium Items under the desert. Since they had said goodbye too… Yugi shook his head, pushing his mind away from dark thoughts. The fact was, he wasn't ready to face Egypt. Not even to follow in his grandfather's footsteps.

No, Nursing was the right choice. The only choice, if Yugi was going to attempt to move on with his life. Yugi ran a finger along the edge of the framed photo of Atem on his desk. It was clipping from a newspaper, a Kaiba crop press release after Battle City- and the only photo Yugi had.

Besides, he thought with a jaded chuckle, at least in Nursing there was no chance of digging up a cursed artifact. As much as Yugi was growing to resent the fact textbooks had completely taken over his life, he also loved the fact that the most stressful thing he had to deal with was memorizing the bones in the human hand.

He just had to survive studying.

"To prevent a common, adverse effect of prolonged use of Phenytoin Sodium," Yugi muttered under his breath. He dragged the heavy textbook onto his lap, thumbing through the index. "What are you?"

The lights flickered then. Just once; But it was enough to pull Yugi's attention away from the textbook in front of him. He glared at the light suspiciously. When was the last time anyone had replaced the bulb? He would have to talk to Grandpa getting a replacement. Especially as it flickered again.

Outside, the wind was beginning to pick up. Yugi could hear the metal bars of his mother's wind chime slamming against themselves. Thunder cracked in the distance. So much for the sunny day. He vaguely remembered the weather report mentioning something about a storm later in the date. It had only been a ten percent chance, but apparently, the weatherman had been right for once. Imagine that.

A single chunk of blond hair fell across Yugi's cheek. He huffed at it. His hair was longer now; the extra length weighing it down and taming the spikes that had once dominated his in high-school. The colours remained the same: gold mixing into the black and red as he pulled it out of his face into an absent half pony- the rest hanging heavy around his chin.

Phenytoin Sodium wasn't in the textbook. Because that would make things too easy. Begrudgingly, Yugi typed the name into Wikipedia, praying he would find some semblance of answer there. Because the assignment had to be posted online in an hour- and Yugi still had two questions left. He hit the enter key, even as his room went dark with a pop."

"No!" The screen flashed before going white, demanding a connection to the internet in order to complete its task. "No, No, No! Not Now!" he moaned. This couldn't be happening; Not now. "Grandpa!" Yugi shouted as he slammed the lid of laptop closed. He squinted in the now dim light of his room. "Powers out!"

There was no response. Yugi frowned, standing up. He shuffled towards the door in the dark. Best case scenario, it was just a blown fuse. Easy enough to fix. But Yugi didn't know where the box was. "Grandpa!" He called again, louder this time. His grandfather was probably down in the store. "Could you check the breaker?"

"Grandpa?"

He stumbled through the dark, unable to see more than a foot in front of his face. Yugi yelped, stubbing his toe against the corner of his bed. Hobbling awkwardly, Yugi grabbed his phone, flicking on the flashlight.

It was only then that the oddness of the situation began to strike home. Even though there was no electricity, it shouldn't have been this dark. It was the middle of the day for goodness sake; a very bright, sunny day at that. The white curtains that covered Yugi's windows were by no means thick enough to block out the sun. They certainly hadn't been doing so a few moments ago.

So why did it seem like the middle of the night? Yugi grabbed the curtains, pushing them back. Whatever he had been expecting to see, this wasn't it. Yugi felt his jaw open, as reeled backward. The back of his legs hit the desk with a thump. He threw a hand back onto the wood, needing the support as his legs trembled. They threatened to carry him down. His breath caught in his throat. He couldn't even remember how to breathe. He couldn't even look away.

The sun as gone; completely enveloped by thick clouds of black and grey, shot through with writhing veins of toxic blues and neon purples. The miasma twisted and churned across the horizon like an oil slick, rolling over itself as it stretched down to the streets. It enveloped everything in its path. Yugi couldn't even see the house next door. There was only darkness.

"Yami no Game." He breathed. The words alone knocked the air from his lungs with the force of a fist. His brain scrambled to make sense of what he was looking at. This couldn't be possible. The items were gone. This couldn't be real. How was this possible!

"Yugi!"

His bedroom door slammed opening, banging against the drywall. His mother flew into his room, Sugoroku close on her heels with a flashlight clenched in his fist.

"Get away from the window!" his grandfather barked. Yugi didn't think twice, staggering towards his family. His mother grabbed his arm, pulling him close. The room exploded into violet light as lightning slashed the sky. It struck the large cherry tree in the yard with an ear-splitting crack. Yugi's window shattered. Shards of glass rained onto the carpet.

His mother cried out. But the sound was immediately lost beneath the answering boom of thunder. Yugi slammed his hands over his ears. They throbbed under the pitiful protection, Yugi could feel something warm and wet dribble between his fingers.

"Oh god." Akiko moaned as she stared out of the window. Her hand flew to her mouth. The lightning had split the tree into half and the remains had been engulfed by flame; Flames that crackled an unholy blue.

The sound of his mother's panic was enough to shake Yugi back to reality. "Grab your bags." He said. "Pack only what you can carry. We have to get out of here."

Akiko stared at Yugi as if he had suddenly sprouted a second head. "Are you insane?" she cried, eyes wide. "We can't go out there! It's not safe."

"We can't stay here." Blood rushing in his ears, Yugi ripped open his closet and pulled out a well-worn duffle bag." I can't explain now. But we have to leave!"

"We need to stay indoors." Akiko countered. "We'll lock ourselves in the basement until the storm passes."

Yugi jabbed a hand to the window waving at the cold blue flames that crackled outside his window. "This isn't a storm. Mom!" he cried. " This It isn't going to just blow over. Domino isn't safe."

"How do you know that!"

Yugi turned to his grandfather imploringly. The old man frowned, looking out the window, past the tree to the storm beyond "Is this what I think it is?" Sugoroku asked finally, choosing his words carefully. Yugi nodded.

"Alright, then." Sugoroku turned on his heel. "Give me five minutes, I'll make sure we have everything we need."

"Father!" Akiko cried after her father as he disappeared down the dark hallway. She turned back to her son, and her face tightened into an expression of angry displeasure. It was a look that almost always proceeded a lecture. Yugi braced himself, mind already calculating the different ways he could change his mother's mind. He knew that it was going to be a nearly impossible task.

But the lecture never came. Akiko's eyes widened to the size of dinner plates as the colour drained from her face all at once. A shaking finger pointed out Yugi's window. Her mouth opened to say something. What, Yugi didn't know, because no sound ever came out.

"Mom?" He asked. Turning way from his closet to face the window. What had startled her so badly?

It was difficult to miss. The skeletal frame of Curse of Dragon was right outside his window. Yugi's bag slipped from his limp fingers. The beast was so large that Yugi could only see it's head and the corner of a single wing. Yugi's hair whipped across his face from the wind projected by the heavy beats of the dragon's massive wings. It had never seemed so big in the holograms.

"Oh god." He breathed as he stared up at the beast. This wasn't real. There was no way this was real. Any moment now he was going to wake up and realize this was all a dream. This couldn't be happening!

The dragon opened its vast jaw, a ball of fire forming deep in its throat. Yugi froze on the spot. He had ordered that attack frequently enough to know the kind of damage it could cause.

Akiko grabbed Yugi's arm. "Get down!" she shouted, nearly taking Yugi's shoulder out of its socket as she yanked them down. Yugi didn't fight her. They hit the floor hard, Yugi falling flat onto his stomach. Akiko's arms wrapped tight around his head, her forehead pressed against the back of Yugi's neck. He tried to throw her off, to try and roll them over so he could protect her. But it was too late.

The room exploded into flame.


It was the end of the world.

That much was certain

Japan had declared a state of emergency. The darkness had come out of nowhere, the midday sun turning blacker than the moonless night. The inky pestilence had spread across the country in under an hour and it continued to spread.

Domino City was in ruins. The air, once cleansed by the harbour was so dense and stagnant that it was impossible to draw a full breath. Not that it was safe to be outside; not when the sky itself was alive with electricity. Colossal bolts of violet streaked through the air, seemingly ignorant of any accepted laws of physics as cleaved through buildings and people alike. Entire skyscrapers had been reduced to rubble. The remains of houses smoldered in their foundations. Fires burnt unchecked in the streets, slowly creeping forward and devouring everything in their path.

The wind howled, ripping through the burning trees, sending a shower of blue hot ash down onto the streets. Yugi winced as a piece landed on the back of his neck, burning the sensitive skin before he could wipe it away. Lightning came, a brilliant shock of neon purple in the graphite sky, forking silently to the unsuspecting ground.

Somewhere in the distance, a woman screamed. Yugi squeezed his eyes shut, counting in slow measured beats. "One. Two. Three. Four…"

The explosion was worthy of a thousand gunshots. It seemed as if the thunder was getting louder. He shivered as the roaring wind sliced through the thin material of his dark purple hoodie. "You have to leave," Yugi shouted over the chaos, praying above all else that his mother would finally listen. "Before it's too late! "Anywhere is safer than Domino."

They stood huddled in front of the inferno that had once been the Kame Game shop- their entire lives crammed haphazardly into the backpack at Sugoroku's feet. The only thing they had been able to grab before their home erupted into flame. Yugi and his mother had barely made it out of his bedroom before the roof collapsed. A fact Yugi was all too aware of as he looked at the scorched skin of his Mother's cheek and hands. She hadn't said a single word since Sugoroku had pulled them out out.

Sugoroku nodded, lifting the heavy bag high onto his aging shoulders. They couldn't stay still. Not with Curse of Dragon still out there. Who knows what else was lurking in the shadows.

"What about you?" Akiko asked quietly. She didn't turn away from the burning remains of her home. The blue glow of the flames cast harsh edges onto the normal soft curves of her face. Her arms were wrapped around her chest, elbows pressed tight into her sides. Akiko had never been a tall woman, but Yugi had never seen her seem so small. He placed a hand on her shoulder. He could feel her shaking. "You're coming with us."

It wasn't a question. But Yugi shook his head. He grabbed her hand in his now, giving it a comforting squeeze. "I have to make sure Jounouchi and the others get out okay." He said, the corners of his mouth turning into what he hoped was a comforting smile. He wondered if it looked as forced as it felt. "And I need you to get out while you still can."

"Your friends will be fine." Akiko pleaded. "The city is being evacuated. I'm sure your friends have done the same."

"I can't be sure of that. Jounouchi lives alone. I can't leave him." Yugi countered, forcing his voice to remain calm even as his Mother's rose in what Yugi refused to identify as panic. "I'll be fine."

Akiko placed a hand against Yugi's cheek. "You say 'I' a lot when you lie." She whispered. "Did you know that?"

"Mom…"

"The world is ending Yugi!" His mother's usually serene face was grey, her eyes red and puffy. Yugi found himself transfixed by the ash in her dark hair. It looked as if she had aged ten years since they had been forced outside. "We have to stay together. Please."

The women screamed again. A car across the street exploded as fire crawled into its gas tank. It shot into the air, crashing into the side of a building. The screaming stopped mid-note. "We don't have time for this." Sugoroku urged. "Yugi's right, Akiko. If we're going to leave, it has to be now."

"Everything will be fine." Yugi pleaded. "Trust me."

"Yugi Mutou, don't you dare do this. Not now!"

"Mom please."

"I won't leave you here."

"Mom."

"I won't!"

Thunder crashed through the air, only a few heartbeats behind the lightening now. Yugi could feel the electricity in the air. The hair on the back of his neck rose. He kissed his mother's cheek even as Sugoroku placed a heavy hand on his daughter's shoulders. "I love you, Mom." Yugi said as he wrapped his arms tight around her waist. "I'll meet you in Tokyo. I promise."

Tears streamed down her cheeks. Akiko made no effort to hide them. She pulled her only child closer. "So many times you've disappeared on me." She whispered into his shoulder, her voice breaking with every word. "And every time you've come back so different then the little boy I raised. How can you promise you'll be alright?"

Yugi couldn't answer that. "Get out of here." He said to his grandfather as he unraveled himself from his mother's hold. Her arms fell boneless to her sides. Yugi took a breath, his own eyes starting to burn. He had to keep it together. "I'll keep in touch."

Sugoroku nodded. "Good luck." He said. "Stay safe." Despite how rough the older man's words sounded, Yugi was grateful for the support. Sugoroku reached out, taking hold of his daughter's elbow. He steered Akiko towards the freeway. She did nothing to protest but staggered forward bonelessly. "We'll see you soon."

Yugi waved goodbye, unable to do more as his family disappeared into the darkness. It was impossible to tell if they would be any safer in Tokyo, or anywhere for that matter. But it couldn't be worse than Domino.

An animal howled, the deep, haunting cry of a wolf. Yugi jumped at the sound, frantically looking in every direction to try and determine where the sound was coming from. He couldn't see anything. But in the darkness that didn't mean much. The cry was answered not even a moment later by the bay of at least a dozen more of the creatures coming from every direction.

Japan didn't have wolves.

Memories of Silver Fang danced in Yugi's mind; of massive holograms with razor sharp teeth as long as his arm. Yugi ran. Ran in the opposite direction of his family and every sane person who was currently fleeing the city. And even though Jounouchi lived in the apartment complexes on the east side of Domino, Yugi turned towards the city center; Straight into the heart of the chaos.

He may not fully understand what was going on, but Yugi wasn't dumb enough to ignore the warning signs. It was impossible to forget the swirling storms of the Dark games. But that shouldn't have been possible. The Millennium Items were gone, buried deep in a sealed tomb for a long dead pharaoh. It had been five years. Five long and uneventful years.

So why now? What could have possibly changed in order for Duel Monsters to suddenly appear, as real as the cement beneath his feet? Was it possible that Atem was back?

No.

Yugi shut that thought down at the source. But he was too slow to prevent the familiar bolt of pain in his chest. That couldn't be it. That part of Yugi's life was over with; buried under several tons of sand. And that was where it was going to remain. It had to be something else. Something not connected to the Millennium Items.

Ishizu would have the answer. Yugi just had to make it to her in one piece.