Otogi squinted into the bright sunlight and nodded at the brunette, extending the perfunctory hand and smiling the humorless smile. "Mazaki-san, is it?"
She nodded a bit distractedly, took his hand but didn't bothering to shake it, attention obviously focused on searching the yard. Whatever she was looking for she seemed to have found, because she let Otogi's hand fall and wandered off, fuzzily murmuring something that might have been a greeting, an excuse, or an apology. Shrugging, Otogi leaned back against the fence and waited for the next of Mutoh's friends and family. He wondered if they would all be so zombie-like, and then winced, because the pun, however unintentional, had been pretty tasteless.
A few feet away, Kaiba Seto stood behind the refreshment table, busily occupying himself with being anti-social. Otogi, the loony, had, upon seeing Jounouchi's stricken expression, ordered Kaiba to the funeral, or so help him he would make the rest of Kaiba's career a short and painful one. And so here he was, trying to hide behind the punch bowl without doing anything so undignified as stooping, glaring at anyone who contrived to so much as look thirsty.
None of the people present seemed too concerned with beverages, however.
Most of them were milling around uncertainly, attempting half-hearted conversation. The sun was scorching, but everybody, whether consciously or not, stayed away from the shadow, because… well, because the building that cast it was the funeral home. Everyone was willing to risk a bit of sunburn, if only to stay away from reminders of Yuugi's death.
Then again, this was Yuugi's funeral. How, exactly, they were supposed to avoid these reminders was uncertain, but they were putting up an admirable effort.
At least until their somberly dressed pastor stepped through the door. At once, all eyes snapped up, like muscles long tensed in the crouch finally stretching in some places and contracting in others towards the end result of leaping. It was therefore understandable when the pastor stumbled backwards slightly under the intensity of their collective gazes. A few seconds passed, and then the pastor cleared his throat, a nervous and slightly wet sound.
"If, if we might all move this way?" He suggested, motioning with his black-clad arms back toward the funeral home. "We hope we might hold a wake over the deceased and offer our final farewells before we see him into the ground?"
There was some more awkward silence, in which the pastor wondered what to do next. To his relief, Otogi stood and, putting one foot behind the other, turned gracefully to face the general gathering. He flicked back a renegade strand of hair and half shrugged, half smiled. "Well? You heard the man, let's go!" That was the only catalyst needed to stir everyone into movement. Soon they were all following the pastor into the building, amidst idle chatter that was grantedly hesitant, but at least there.
And then the talking was quite suddenly not there. Voices were caught in throats as those who had been walking more quickly saw the coffin, and those who were nearer to the back caught sight of the stricken expressions spreading from face to paly face.
Yuugi's height was a trivial enough matter, but it had caused some concern among those who had been assigned the matter of finding the right coffin. Wouldn't he and his loved ones be offended if the body was put into a tiny coffin? But if he was put into a full-sized coffin, wouldn't his short stature be all the more apparent because of all the unfilled space? They had settled for putting him into an average-sized coffin and settling an impersonally black blanket over his waist, legs, and then over all the empty space between his polished black shoes (visible as two small bumps around where the average man's knees would be) and the foot of the coffin. From this it was obvious that whoever had made the decision hadn't known Yuugi very well; Yuugi hadn't been proud of being small, certainly not, but he had accepted it as a part of who he was.
This last attempt to disguise him for someone he wasn't might have sparked anger in his friends if they had been less preoccupied. But it didn't, because they were, indeed, preoccupied—with the pallor of his skin, the way his white hands stood out against the ironed black suit and the black of the coffin, but above all with the stillness.
Not one of them had known what to expect when they'd received a call saying to come to the funeral, but many of the general images had included Yuugi looking much as he had in life, wearing the school uniform or jeans or something. If they had included Yuugi lying down, it was violently juxtaposed with images of Yuugi's bed, Yuugi's pajamas, Yuugi's chest moving subtly up and down with breath. Yuugi in a coffin just didn't seem right. Yuugi in a coffin kept flickering and turning into Yuugi breathless on the beach, Yuugi lying on a rug, Yuugi dozing on the bus. Or at least, that was how it had worked when they were only imagining the wake.
At the moment, the image of Yuugi in his too-big coffin was depressingly solid.
One by one, Yuugi's friends turned away: first Honda, and then, seeing him, Ryou too, who had wanted to but wondered if it was all right. Jounouchi soon followed, and then Mai, who didn't even go to his school, but somehow knew him anyway. Pretty soon, only Kaiba was facing the coffin, and he wasn't even looking at Yuugi, instead alternating Can-I-go-now? looks at Otogi and Mokuba-don't-touch-that! looks at his brother.
"Hey," Jounouchi said suddenly, voice only slightly ragged. "Remember that time we snuck over to Yuugi's house and put a bag of flour over the front door? But grandpa who opened the door instead of Yuugi?" He grinned feverishly through his tears. "And then he automatically assumed it'd been my idea for some reason, and came after me with his broomstick?"
"That's because it was your idea," Anzu muttered.
"And when Yuugi woke up, and he came downstairs to see his grandfather covered in flour and chasing Jounouchi around the living room with a broomstick?" Ryou volunteered.
"Which he threw at Jounouchi, and missed, and left a permanent mark on the wall."
"We painted over that, remember? But you can still see it if you have all the lights on."
"Yeah, and we also splattered the paint all over the floor."
"We cleaned that up eventually!"
"Because grandpa was threatening us with a piece of cardboard."
Otogi had to admit: he was interested. Who knew one man could have so many grandchildren? And threaten them with cardboard, of all things?
"I think the cardboard wasn't as much the threat as the scissors were."
"You know he would never attack you with a pair of scissors! Now, Jounouchi on the other hand…"
"Hey! I'll have you know he's plenty fond of me!"
"When you're not waving wet paintbrushes around--"
"--covering him with flour--"
"--tearing down his house--"
"--driving him mad--"
When everyone had finished making their contributions, a sort of relieved hush passed among them. This was what a funeral should be, not starched suits and standing in a respectfully quiet circle, drinking lemonade.
"What do you say we close the coffin now?"
There was a general murmur of relieved agreement, and they all turned around again. (Kaiba had long since disappeared, dragging along one very disappointed, bushy-haired child, who had very much wanted to hear about the flour incident.) Yuugi was lying undisturbed in his coffin, of course, and everyone cringed to once again see the affected position he was in. No one could possibly think that lying with his hands folded over his chest like that was comfortable. ("Not that it mattered much now," the thought went around, and was viciously kicked.) People exchanged looks, uncertain of the protocol in this kind of situation. Then two figures appeared, inexplicably dipping wet, and drew the looks in like a vacuum.
And there was silence.
"Time?" The shorter figure asked after a pause.
After a quick consultation with his wrist, the other replied, "Just about one."
Yuugiou nodded, and did some quick calculation, apparently unconcerned with the gaping people around him. "Three days and… three sets of three hours… if we say that… it happened at four in the morning…" he mumbled quietly. "Yes. We are just in time." He approached the coffin cautiously, but stopped about a foot away. Then he smiled tightly over his shoulder. "I think it worked, Bakura." He turned, nodded. "He's dead. Otherwise, he would've awoken by now."
Bakura raised a skeptical eyebrow.
"You don't have to believe me," Yuugiou said, laughing the relieved chuckle of acquitteds everywhere. "But yes, we've done it. We--"
There was a mumbling sound, almost inaudible, but still Yuugiou heard it and froze. Then, equally infinitesimal in volume, was the soft sigh of fabric sliding across fabric. Judging by the wide-eyed expression of the funeral-goers all around him, he really didn't want to turn around, but he did anyway. Instantly, recognition shone in Yuugi's eyes.
"Yami!" He was sitting up and beaming. Later, he would take notice of the fact that he was sitting in a coffin, of the shock in everyone's eyes. For now, he only felt pleasantly awake.
"Silly me," Bakura muttered in a sarcastic aside for Yuugiou's ears only, while Yuugi stretched, "thinking it was impossible."
Then Yuugi had finished rubbing his eyes, and was speaking again. "Yami, I'm so glad you're here! I was having the weirdest dream… Yami, what's the matter? Aren't you happy to see me? …Yami?"