Title: Puzzles and Dreams

Author: Ceresi

Rating: PG-13

Yugi has dreams. Of course he does; everyone does. And considering that he is the Chosen One of the ancient Egyptian world, that he shares his body and mind with a pharaoh who can't remember his past, it's hardly surprising that he has dreams.

But Yugi's dreams aren't nightmares, or normal dreams. They're . . . glimpses. At least, that's how he thinks of them. He doesn't like to think of them like this, he would give anything to write them off as simple nightmares -- but no, they are glimpses.

One glimpse haunts him.

He's standing beside a dueling platform. If he looks down at his hands, his torso, he finds them transparent. If he looks to his right, he sees his body, moving and speaking without him in it.

It's Yami, of course. Yugi recognizes the way he stands, the sharpness of his cheekbones, the crimson of his eyes.

Yami says nothing, dueling with an eerie, mechanical precision. When Yugi looks across the field he sees, to his horror, that Yami is dueling Kaiba, that there are no lifepoints displayed. This is clearly a match in the Shadow Realms.

Why are Yami and Kaiba dueling? Yugi doesn't now. Why can't he take control of his own body? He doesn't know. Sometimes he thinks that Yami is keeping control to protect him; other times, he thinks that Yami has merely taken control. Who knows what secrets lie in Yami's past? If they uncover them, will he turn out like other ancient spirits -- cold, unfeeling, evil?

Yugi shouts for Yami to stop, to listen, to please listen. Nothing. When he looks across the platform, he's startled to see Mokuba crying for his brother to do the same. Stop, please Seto, don't do this, I don't want you to do this, there has to be another way!

Terrified by Mokuba's terror, Yugi doubles his cries. But Yami only glances at him -- a quick, enigmatic glance -- and continues the duel.

~

Yugi woke up with a gasp and a cry.

He found himself in a strange bed. He was halfway up and out of it before he remembered; Battle City, blimp, duels, right. He ought to be sleeping. A glance at the clock affirmed it -- only eleven at night. He'd been asleep for two hours, if that.

Sighing, Yugi stood. He was shivering all over, mysteriously enough. It was hot in here earlier, but he wasn't allowed to open the windows, and Kaiba would tap dance in Joey's old dog costume before he adjusted the climate control for Yugi's benefit. It had been so warm that he fell asleep on top of the covers.

Yugi glanced at the blanket beneath his feet. Apparently, he'd ripped it right off the bed in his nightmare.

That disturbed him. Had he really been thrashing and shouting? Someone might have heard. How would he explain himself -- gosh, I'm sorry, it's just that I keep having nightmares about the ancient spirit living in my head . . .

Forcing himself to give a short laugh -- nothing to be gained by moping, after all! -- Yugi picked up the blankets and wrapped them around himself. It helped, a little, but even the blankets felt cold against his skin. Maybe he was sick?

Yugi made a little face as he crawled back into bed. He'd better hope that wasn't the case! If he was, Kaiba would probably drop him off at the nearest hospital and never look back, no matter how much Joey protested.

Yugi drew the covers over his head until only the tips of his hair poked out. This cold really was unnatural; everything felt icy against his skin, even his clothes, his own hands. It was probably just another weird and inexplicable thing that came with the puzzle at his bedside, and it was hard not to feel mildly resentful.

Of course, Yami was probably uncomfortable, too.

Sighing, Yugi rolled onto his back, the blankets falling against his mouth and nose. Even his breath was cold.

His eyes wanted to close. Even if he was slowly freezing to death, he was still tired. Very, very tired . . . and very, very afraid to sleep.

He would just rest his eyes. Yes, that was it. Grandpa always did that. Of course, Yugi was fairly convinced that Grandpa was actually just using that as an excuse to sleep, but you never knew, maybe he was on to something.

Just resting my eyes, Yugi told himself. Just resting them . . . His breathing slowed, evened, the cold-shivers racking his body stilled. He might be turning into a block of ice, but he certainly wasn't sleeping, because he was just resting his eyes . . .

~

"Yugi?"

Yugi looked up. "Yami?"

Yami was standing at the top of a long staircase, thrown mostly into shadow. He started to descend. "What are you doing here?" he asked, without accusation. "Is something wrong?"

Yugi blinked, running his hand through his hair. "Um . . ." He caught Yami's eyes. "Actually -- I'm not sure how I got here."

"Interesting." Yami frowned to himself, pausing midway down the steps. His eyes fluttered as he focused on something else. When he glanced at Yugi again, he looked less worried. "Your body is only sleeping," he said. "Your mind apparently decided to roam. No one's cast a spell on you."

Yugi barely heard this last reassurance, or the note of relief it held. "My body's sleeping?" he demanded. "Does that mean that I'll dream?"

Yami frowned again. He stepped down the last few steps like an Emperor descending from his throne. Or rather, a pharaoh. Get it right, Yugi.

"No," he answered Yugi's question. "You can only dream when your mind is resting. Are you having nightmares, then?"

"Um, yeah." Yugi fidgeted. "Am I -- am I in your soul room again?"

Yami cast a rueful look at the walls and ceilings. "Yes."

Yugi looked around as well. It seemed . . . darker than the last time, or maybe that was his imagination. It was still the complex and confusing place it had always been. As he stared at a staircase to his left, he realized that there was a thin thread drawn across the topmost step -- a trap.

"I guess you haven't made any headway, then?" Yugi asked gently, turning to look back at the spirit before him.

"No," Yami said simply, and turned the tables. "What are your dreams about?"

"Nothing," Yugi said, too quickly. "I mean, just -- they're just nightmares. Nothing to worry about."

Yami watched him intently. "When I was a boy, I used to have prophetic dreams," he said. He looked to the wall at his right, as if he was afraid of Yugi's expression. "I could see many things -- the future, the past. They disappeared as I grew older." He paused. "When I was about your age, actually."

Yugi played with the hem of his sleeve. "So you've remembered something from your past?"

"No." Yami gave a tiny sigh, so small that Yugi halfway thought he'd imagined it. "It's just a fact I know, a memory without substance." Crimson eyes were unnerving when they looked at you so intently. "What did you dream about, Yugi?"

"Nothing, it was just a nightmare." Yugi crossed to a staircase and sat on the bottom step. Yami was unfooled; when Yugi looked up, he got the brunt of his frown. "I . . ."

"Was it about me?"

"Kind of."

"Tell me." Yugi looked down at his feet. "Yugi, I can't help you unless you tell me."

Help. Was that what Yugi wanted? Why else would he have come here?

Maybe this was the way to stop the dream from coming true. To warn Yami before it happened . . . . But then, maybe that was the wrong thing to do. If Yugi could see the future in his dreams, then the future was changeable, then Yugi could affect what happened. What if warning Yami was the wrong thing to do? What if his warning made the dream come true -- or made something even worse happen?

How was he supposed to deal with a responsibility like this?

Yugi opened his mouth, ready to spill out the contents of his dream. Let Yami decide what to do.

But then he closed it.

"Yugi?"

Yugi lifted his head. "Never mind," he said, a bit weakly. Yami looked a hair away from thunderous. "It's nothing, Yami, really."

"At least tell me what it's about."

Yugi looked around him and seized upon the closest option. "Your mind!"

Yami's eyebrows drew together. "My mind?"

"Yes! Um, uncovering your memories!" Yugi hopped to his feet. "That's why I came here. I wanted to help you." He caught Yami's wrist, avoiding the spirit's puzzled eyes. "Maybe if I help you, the dreams will go away."

Yami gave in and allowed Yugi to tug him along, up the stairs that Yugi had been sitting on. "Perhaps," he said, still frowning. "Why didn't you tell me that sooner?"

Yugi shrugged, resolutely looking forward. He stepped over the trap -- Yami waved his hand and it vanished. "I was um, embarrassed."

"Why?"

"It was just . . . the dreams were kind of weird." Yugi dropped Yami's arm and looked over his shoulder at him. "You know your own mind better than I do. Where do you usually go when you're trying to remember things?"

Yami pointed down a passage to Yugi's left. "But I don't see how that will help," he said, joining Yugi on the landing. "I can't find anything at all. Another person won't make much of a difference."

"It might!" Yugi hurried forward a few steps, glanced back at Yami. "Aren't you coming?"

Yami hesitated, then followed.

~

The passage was dark and somewhat dank -- Yugi usually didn't think of caves when he thought of Egypt, or Yami, but that was what this was like. A tall, dark cave made of yellow bricks. Yugi brushed his fingers against one wall and was surprised at how warm it was beneath his fingers. As if it were a living, breathing person . . . he was struck with the thought that this was Yami's mind that he was touching so casually, and he drew his hand back.

When he glanced over at Yami, he found himself being watched with an unfamiliar expression. Yugi tilted his head inquisitively. "What's wrong, Yami?"

Yami turned his eyes forward. "Nothing," he said, face blank. "I should warn you, there's nothing down this passage."

"What do you mean?"

"I've come down here a dozen times." Yami scowled. "I know that this is where my memories lie, but I can't find them. This passage just leads me somewhere else."

Yugi frowned. "Is it the same place every time?" he asked.

"Yes."

"Every time?"

Yami looked deeply discomforted. "Yes."

"Do any of the other passages do that?" Yugi walked backwards so that he could keep an eye on Yami's face. "I mean, lead you to the same place all th --"

"No," Yami interrupted. He nodded his head, gesturing. "There."

Yugi turned, and felt his eyes widen. "What's this?"

Yami looked darkly amused. "A door," he said, and opened it. There was a small hallway . . . and on the other side was another door.

Apprehensive, Yugi stayed close to Yami's side. "Have you gone through these doors before?"

Yami shrugged. "Occasionally."

"They're not trapped or anything? Or . . ." Yugi trailed off, inspecting the hallway and the door thoughtfully. "They're not . . . dangerous . . ." Why did they look so familiar? Had he seen them before?

"Sometimes this one has a trap on it," Yami said, gesturing to the door he'd opened. "That one never does."

Yugi left Yami's side and entered the hallway. Yes, this was familiar.

Smiling, Yugi opened the door in front of him and glanced back at Yami. "Why does the passage of your memories lead you to my mind?" he asked.

Yami looked past him, at the brightly lit playroom.

"I don't know."

~

Yugi looked at his soul room curiously. It was slightly embarrassing to possess a mind full of bright lights and toys when his other half had a maze so confusing it required upside-down staircases, but . . . There was something cheerful about it. He wondered why he hadn't come here more often.

Yami followed him into the room, hesitating at the door. "I don't think that we'll find anything here," he said.

Yugi's foot hit something soft and squishy -- startled, he looked down. His face lit up.

Yami continued, "It's just a coincidence that the passage led here." He paused. "What is it?"

Yugi bent and picked up the stuffed animal. "Panders!"

"What?"

"Panders!" Yugi laughed. "He was my favorite stuffed animal! I carried him everywhere when I was a kid." He inspected Panders closely. He was as ragged and beloved as Yugi remembered, a stuffed panda bear with plastic sticks of bamboo sewed to one paw. "I lost him when I was five. I was heartbroken."

Yami's lips were twitching with amusement. "His name is Panders?"

Grinning, Yugi turned to face him. "Yes," he said. "Panders the Panda Bear." Unself-consciously, he hugged the bear to his chest. "I thought he'd been stolen or destroyed."

He had, too. Nothing Grandpa said helped -- he was absolutely convinced that Panders was lost somewhere, scared and alone, wondering why Yugi didn't come get him. He had nightmares for months . . . .

But this wasn't the real Panders, was it? Yes, something inside of him was powerfully joyful at the sight of it. Something that remembered the child he'd been, the grief he'd felt. He pictured his heartbroken five-year-old self and winced with remembered pain.

Yugi never did find the stuffed animal, even after tearing the shop, his kindergarten classroom, and his bedroom apart. Panders had been missing for years; maybe that was just as well. Maybe that was how things were supposed to be.

Face uncharacteristically solemn, Yugi sat Panders on the bed and stepped away. He looked to the door and saw Yami watching him, his hands at his sides, his eyes no longer amused.

"There has to be something here," Yugi said, hoping he wouldn't mention Panders. "Your mind wouldn't have led us here if there wasn't."

Yami nodded slowly and didn't mention Panders. "Perhaps," he said.

Yugi forced a grin. "Well, let's get looking!" he said. "There are a lot of toys to hunt through!"

He was graced with a rare, if troubled, smile. They went to work.

(Author's Note: I didn't put this at the top as it's rather long and I can't stand long A/N at the top of a fic, but here it is.

I use the names from the dub and write the story as if the characters are in America. I'm American. I know nothing about Japan. Unlike a lot of people, I don't think that shoving random Japanese words into a fic makes up for this fact.

Also, this fic takes place between episodes, in case you can't tell. There's never a clearly specified time frame, so I've just assumed that they have one duel a day. This is probably a stupid thing to do, because the duels aren't that long, but let's just run with it, shall we? :)

Chapter two will be up soon!)