Disclaimer: Not Mine. The end.
Mild spoilers for the 50th-52nd episodes of the series.
Comments are always welcome.
Visiting Hours 9PM Until 7AM
By Nicole Silverwolf
"Bound with all the weight of all the words he tried to say
Chained to all the places that he never wished to stay
Bound with all the weight of all the words he tried to say
As he faced the sun he cast no shadow"
-Oasis 'Cast no Shadow'
I never really thought about him much. Other than in that he-was-really-creepy-and-scared-me-half-to-death kind of way. I mean there were so many things happening that even a guy dressed in robes and a turban who put an Ankh to my head was the least weird thing that was going on.
I was so worried. Pegasus was hurt...seriously as I understood it. As selfish as it was, I was worried about his promise. How could he return my grandpa's soul and Mokuba and Seto's...if he was hurt? Had he done it already? Was grandpa still sick? Would he get better? Were the others ok? I wanted to go home so badly.
Seeing that Mokuba and Seto were okay was enough to keep me from wondering, for at least a little while.
And then there was getting home...and seeing that Grandpa really was okay...and then Rebecca and Otogi...I just never really had time to think about the strange man who warned me of what was going to happen in the future.
Until the fire.
Were any of his assistants or associates to have seen him, they would probably not have noticed his altered state of mind. He had had many years to cultivate the emotionless mask that allowed him to be both elusive and enigmatic.
But to those who had the interest (or in some cases the courage) to look closer they could see the man was troubled. Blue eyes--vacant of pupils--moved restlessly across the walls that made up this place. Thick brows were drawn together and down, if only slightly more than they normally were.
His hand came up to finger at a thick golden artifact somewhat hidden inside his flowing garment. An Ankh, quite a large one at that, nothing like the fashionable ones that were sold as contemporary jewelry.
For a long moment it seemed as if he had come to a decision, until his eyes once again wandered. Past the ornate stone sarcophagus to the dark corner of the vast hall. The ground was unstable; no one was allowed to walk there for fear of being lost to whatever was eating away the underside of this once great temple.
A view passed before his mind's eye, of a small hand and simple words. An offer of friendship without any strings. Of a gentleness he could not remember ever seeing so pure in this world.
He sighed very slightly. How had he come to care so much about the fate of those who were to carry these tasks out? He shouldn't have. It was not of his concern, it would affect his abilities as a Judge, there were just so many complications involved.
If he were less dignified he would have let out a frustrated growl.
Well if he was going to go, it should be now. There was little to be gained by standing around.
Eerie, near vacant eyes flashed slightly before focusing on the speaker, one of the older managers of this temple. He was in charge of upkeep on the first floor of this dwelling. Deterring tourists and the curious passerbys from looking too closely inside the doors. An honest soul, intelligent and well trained in the arts of defense.
"I have matters to attend to away from here. I leave you in charge tonight. I will return by midmorning tomorrow."
The man bowed slightly.
"And your Items?"
"They will travel with me." The ending was faded as the figure had already strode from the hall and towards his personal chambers. A quick stop to procure something before he left for his final destination was in order. It would not be safe to travel for an hour or so in any case.
White. Hospitals were far too white. White floors, white ceilings, white walls, white bed and white sheets. Everything was white.
Logically--yes--he did know that it was the only way to keep things clean and sterile here, but it left very little to the imagination as well. Television had never been able to hold his interest for extended periods of time, and the current programming left much to be desired. So Mutou Yugi contented himself with looking out the window from the hospital bed he was firmly "TO STAY IN" as he had been told by nurses, doctors, his friends, his mother and grandfather numerous times.
The nice doctor had promised him that he could go home in the morning, so long as he rested.
His grandfather had insisted that he could also do without a puzzle or game for the night. Yugi suspected the older man knew he would just stay up until it was finished, instead of resting and letting his body recover from the past morning.
The young student understood their concern. He had never seen his mom or grandfather that upset or worried before. To tell the truth, he almost wished he had something to distract him like a puzzle. What had happened that morning had scared him. More than he figured the others would be able to understand.
When the Puzzle had shattered, it hadn't been gentle. It felt like someone was ripping part of his mind, and in a way he supposed that some part of him had been torn away. The spirit inside hadn't made a sound, but Yugi had felt the desperate, almost terror and rage like it had been his own. And who knew...maybe it had been.
His violet eyes trailed down to the puzzle that had never quite left his hands since the hazy moment or two he could remember inside the warehouse. He had been dizzy, exhausted from trying to breathe air choked with superheated chemicals, smoke and from concentrating so hard on the puzzle. He remembered a feeling of disoriented panic that wasn't his own; then worry directed so intensely on him that he imagined he could see his other's burgundy eyes focused on his own. He didn't remember passing out.
All he knew, was that in the fire...he HAD to get him back.
There wasn't an option, there wasn't a question.
The thought of losing the comfort of the spirit was so horrible that he didn't want to think about it. And yet, he didn't even know who the spirit was. His name, his family...nothing. He knew nothing about him at all. That was so selfish of him.
What happened if the spirit wanted to leave some day? If he died? If the spirit did? Could a spirit even die?
His knuckles were turning white, and he didn't see the bright stars or the lights from the houses and buildings that spread for miles around Domino City.
It was no surprise that he missed the reflection of the tall Egyptian in the window as well.
"Hello, young Mutou." The voice was quiet and foreign, as if well learned but not a native speaker of his own language.
Unbecoming as it was and embarrassing to boot, Yugi nearly fell off the bed. He would deny it later, but it was only the grace of the headboard that allowed him to remain that way.
"Shaddi?" The voice was hushed but fearful. The last time this man (if he even was a human) had appeared before him it had been to invade his mind, and warn him of dangers far beyond what he had experienced up until that point. It would seem that they had started to come true. This man who looked so different from anyone he knew, who knew things and could do things that no one could, frightened him. The young man drew back on the bed pulling himself into a corner.
"Do not fear Yugi. I bear no warnings this night. And I do not come with harmful intentions." Shaddi had not moved from the foot of his bed, arms hidden in the sleeves of flowing linen robes, the Millenium Ankh in its place.
Yugi forced himself to calm down. Shaddi had never done anything bad to him, he reminded himself. He wasn't doing anything bad now in fact. Yugi looked up at him slowly, a tentative trust and a question on his lips.
"Why are you here then...sir?" He tacked it on as an afterthought.
It seemed for a moment like the man was not going to reply and Yugi was afraid that if he blinked Shaddi might wink out of existence like he had before.
"I came to see you young man. To see if you were alright. I heard of the fire this morning."
Yugi attempted to wrap his mind around what the seemingly cold man had just said.
"Oh." he was suddenly embarrassed by his lack of coherence and by the rather exclusive attention he was receiving.
Shaddi didn't seem to mind as he lifted the chart from its pocket at the foot of the bed and flipped through it quickly, assimilating the important information and allowing the boy to sort out his feelings on the matter.
When he turned his eyes back on the subject of this journey he was surprised to see a deeply puzzled look on the young man's face as he looked him over. Did he really project such indifference that even a boy who trusted everyone could not trust him?
This had been a mistake.
He turned to leave.
A pause, and a slow deliberate look over a shoulder. "I should not have intruded, you were resting. I am sorry to have disturbed you."
"No." Yugi reiterated a bit more forcefully. "I'm sorry. You just startled me. I..." he paused unsure how to make what he wanted to say sound less offensive.
"Let me guess," the older man said, the very barest hint of amusement in his voice, "you thought I would not care about what happened to any of you, seeing as I gave the Eye to Pegasus and the Ring to your friend Bakura."
Guiltily Yugi looked away. "I know you didn't have a choice about it. I know you didn't want them to get hurt. You tried to warn Pegasus away. You tried to haggle Bakura's father to a higher price so he wouldn't buy the Ring. And I still thought you were one of the bad guys."
Amazement showed clearly on the older Egyptian's face. He knew that the boy had learned about Pegasus through the diary he had left behind. But no one should have known about his attempts in the marketplace to force the father of Ryou Bakura to move on and ignore the Ring.
"You may find young one, that I am not necessarily one of the so called good guys either."
Curiosity lit the childish features suddenly and Shaddi doubted he would be able to retreat now. The young vessel of the Pharaoh deserved a few answers, despite his vow to remain firmly an observer.
"Can I ask you a few questions? Not about the puzzle...sort of I guess...if you don't want to I won't. It's just that..." Yugi's confused rambling slid to a halt and he refused to admit that he didn't want to sit alone in a hospital for the rest of the night. The spirit in the puzzle had been extremely quiet all day, hidden back deep in his mind, a barely there presence that seemed to be busy with something that Yugi shouldn't want to pry into.
Talking to someone rated far above the other activities present to him at the time.
"I will do my best to answer what I can Yugi. Understand that some things are far beyond my sphere of knowledge about the items. Much of their story has been lost to history." His stride was confident but unhurried and he sat calmly on the middle of the bed, just below where Yugi's feet were hidden underneath the blanket.
However, without any preamble and before Yugi could even ask his first question a tallish Styrofoam cup appeared on the small table that passed over the bed.
"What's this?" Round amethyst orbs eyed the cup and straw sticking out from it warily.
"If memory serves me correctly, hospitals are still incapable of cooking anything that tastes like food. And after spending a morning nearly burning your throat I thought it best that I bring something better than jello. It's chocolate."
Yugi tentatively reached out and gave it a try. Etiquette practically dictated he do so. It was only after he realized it was a milkshake (a rather good one too) that he realized how hungry he was.
The older man tilted his head in acknowledgement and gratitude.
"How'd you know I was here?"
"The Ankh at times, allows me glimpses of things that have been. And I have been keeping watch on you and your friends since our first encounter several weeks ago."
Yugi looked up from the drink. "So you've been following us?" The voice held no accusation, though by all rights it should have been there.
"No, I personally have not."
The answer was cryptic but Yugi didn't know how to pursue the subject.
Shaddi didn't seem inclined to answer further, but didn't seem inclined to indulge in speaking either. Yugi figured that he was quiet. It fit his impression of the Egyptian.
"How long have you been doing this? Guarding the Ankh?"
Shaddi allowed himself a private smile. The boy was quite extraordinary indeed. Any of the other holders he had encountered had never been interested in him, some for good reasons. Perhaps this boy would be the one to end this after all. He had once had great doubts that such a fragile boy was even capable of it.
"Since the times of before horses and carriages young one. Quite a bit longer than a person can fathom."
Yugi was sure he couldn't. But that would make Shaddi older than...well anyone. Was that even possible? Maybe the Millenium Items had granted him some sort of immortality. He had probably outlived every person in his family along with most of the human race. Yugi wondered for a moment how anyone could want or stand to live that long, stories of endless searches for the fountain of youth and the Holy Grail coming to mind.
"Aren't you lonely?"
Deep blue eyes bore hard into the violet ones and Yugi was sure he had somehow offended the man. Though he wasn't quite sure how.
"I mean, if you are as old as you say you are, isn't all of your family dead?" Instantly Yugi wanted to take it back, it was too personal, a private piece of information that should stay private. If he was wondering how he had offended the man before...he definitely knew now.
The silence that followed was thick and seemed uncomfortable to the young duelist, but when he looked up at the older man his distant eyes were calm and quiet. Not stormy or angry as he had expected them to be.
"My life has been dedicated to service young one. I have been charged with protecting the memory of the pharaoh until the time that he can find it himself. It is a life that offers few ways to develop friendships or attachments. I have become accustomed to solitude."
Yugi looked upset, and the Egyptian knew something he had said was bothering him. "I will concede however, that the past few weeks have been not as lonely as others have."
A smile touched the younger face and Shaddi was inordinately pleased to have brought it to the boy.
Moments passed in silence, though it was an understanding one. Almost one of friends.
Finally Yugi ventured to ask about what had bothered him even before the keeper of the Ankh had decided to visit his room. His voice sounded a bit strained with his anxiety about the whole matter. "You said you protect the memory of the pharaoh. Do you know any of my other's memories though? Can you tell me anything about him? I don't know anything about the other me but I want to."
Sighing, the older man shifted slightly before replying. "I only protect the way to reach those memories young one. I am not privileged to them. Perhaps if you seek answers to the mystery of your other's past, you should seek out the source and ask him yourself."
"I think he'd be mad with me if I asked."
"I doubt that highly Yugi." The response was blunt but encouraging. Yugi considered it for a moment.
"I guess so..."
Shaddi nodded, having detected that note of steel courage and determination that he admired in the young vessel. He doubted that the slightly reclusive spirit, who he knew to be that once pharaoh, would be able to avoid a conversation with his partner for long. It was obvious that the two of them still had a bit to sort out about their partnership.
Conversation ranged from there. Yugi was interested about life in Egypt and Shaddi did his best to fill him in. He wouldn't be surprised if his wanderings once again crossed with Yugi in his homeland someday. The boy was enamored with his tales. Shaddi had the distinct impression that his grandfather had been at the other end of that rapt, attentive gaze as he recalled tales of his days in Egypt as well.
Eventually, a few hours later, Shaddi spoke of a future far distant to the one of a few days or hours. "What do you wish to do when you grow older Yugi? As much as it is fun, I do not believe that Duel Monsters can become a full time career." Yugi agreed with a sheepish smile.
The answer though was extremely important to the older man.
"I want to help people. If that's not general enough," he laughed nervously and a bit self-consciously. He felt like a sap.
Shaddi did not.
"It is a noble wish to help others Yugi. This world needs more people who wish that. Do not belittle your desires."
A long moment passed. "I think I want to be a doctor. Maybe. I dunno."
"An admirable desire."
"Everyone wants to be a doctor at some point in their life though Shaddi."
The older man conceded the thought with a nod. Yugi flopped back hard into the pillows and turned his eyes out towards the window. His hands absently traced over the designs, and groves that made up the Puzzle in his hand.
"That doesn't mean that you should not want to."
Yugi did not reply, his wide-set violet eyes focused on something outside the window that only he could see.
The older man did not know if what he had advised had penetrated, or if the boy would even take advice from one such as himself. He had been called many names over the years, most of them not appropriate to mention. Never once had he been called a friend or counselor. There was no expectation of such an endearment with the advice he gave either. That was a selfish goal if he were to offer such advice with strings attached.
A shameful thing compared to what this child had done for him and others.
Yugi could barely keep his eyes open. Despite all the weirdness that Shaddi exuded, he was kind of an ocean of calm. Like a constant that didn't seem to shift or change. It was sad, but a comfort in it's own way. He wished he didn't feel like that. Sometimes he thought of the spirit like that as well. It felt wrong to want a person to forever remain the same.
He didn't mean to yawn.
"Sleep Yugi Mutuo. Much has happened this day. And much will happen before this is all over." Shaddi rose from the bed in one fluid motion and straightened the blanket he had been sitting on with a hand.
Drowsy violet eyes tracked the older man as he curled on his side and attempted to get comfortable. "You'll be gone in the morning...won't you."
"Yes young one. But we will meet again, I am sure of that."
"Will you stay till the morning?"
"Perhaps. But rest, and know that even if I am not here you are not alone." His warmly tanned hand gestured to the Millenium Item gently cradled in Yugi's pale hands.
"Thank you for staying with me tonight. I know you didn't have to. I'm glad I got to know you a bit more."
"Good night young one."
"G'night Shaddi..." And with that, the boy was asleep. It was obvious that he was planning on a smoother transition, but exhaustion had finally won out.
Shaddi remained for the rest of the evening and until the sun rose the next morning.
And as he was leaving he inclined his head in respectful and grateful acknowledgement to the quiet form that had been hidden and unseen in the corner the whole day. A shabby well-worn cloak of blue-gray hid an average looking person who bowed slightly in returned respect.
With a flash of light, the man was gone.
Soooo...what do you think? Comments, criticisms, flames praise...anything you'd like to throw at me? Please do so now.
Thanks for reading.