Disclaimer:

--Yu-Gi-Oh is Kazuki Takahashi's. Merely this fic is mine.

--I can't lay claim to Shakespeare's _All's Well That Ends Well_ either-- though I did memorize the soliloquies of Helena's from which the section titles are taken. (They're also the source of another cherished phrase-- "that I should love a bright particular star . . . ")

Author's Note:

--Yuugi's hidden room is based on a gorgeous exhibit-space at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology.

--* . . . * indicates italics, and also represents the Dark Magician's form of communication.

--More notes appear at end of story.

Title: The Other Door

Rating: PG

Category: Romance, Psychological, Angst

Pairings: Yuugi x mou hitori no Yuugi

Summary: Has something happened to disturb Yuugi's slumbers? Why does it matter to the former Pharaoh?

Warnings: Underlying, if unstated, shounen-ai.

Spoilers: BattleShip Arc events.

=====================================================

*The Other Door*

~collateral light~

It had become his practice most nights. Watching his partner--his aibou-- yield to sleep was the closest the spirit himself could come to that state of rest.

Only occasionally at these times did Yuugi seem aware that his other self was outside the puzzle, seated at the foot of the bed. It was better, in fact, when he didn't notice. The smaller boy tended to get chatty with him, then giggly, then overtired, despite his other self's pointed glances toward the bowlegged alarm clock on the desk. Finally, though, the lids would slide shut over those impossible purple eyes; Yuugi's body would turn and curl on its side; and the nameless Pharaoh would feel his own phantom breathing slide into the same gentle rhythm as his partner's.

Only then would he retire soundlessly into the puzzle, winding up as usual in the corridor between the two doors. And as usual, he would turn away from the forbidding entrance to his own soul, place his hand on the not- quite-closed door to his aibou's room, and stroll in.

Leaning against the far wall with his head tilted back, toe idly nudging one of the scattered toys, he would wait. And soon it would begin--the tumbled soft noise, the play of colors that was Yuugi's dreaming.

It was not that he could *watch* Yuugi's dreams. Rather, it was like sounds drifting through an open window, like reflections dancing on the wall from a puddle just outside. For the most part, he could not make out words, either--just a fugue of voices, nearly all of which had become as familiar to him as they were to Yuugi.

Anzu's voice ran through many of the dreams, a bright ribbon of chatter underlaid by a ripple of classical or pop music. A splash of jacket-pink might run across the wall, a mahogany swirl might dance like hair in the wind. The Pharaoh half-smiled, half-frowned, wondering if Yuugi dared even in his dreams to cross the lines of friendship with his longtime schoolmate.

Then there was Jii-chan's seesawing voice, raised in a scold here, dropping to a warm chuckle there. A faint swishing sound--broom against sidewalk; then the jingle of the register, the chiming of the bell on the game-shop door.

Dream-appearances by Yuugi's mother were sensed more than seen or heard: just a low murmur, light steps approaching and receding. Those faint signals were almost always followed by a lull in the dreams, as though her presence inspired deeper rest in her son.

Clattering down stairs, an explosion of laughter: "Jounouchi-kun, no question," said the Pharaoh to himself, watching bounding sparks of gold and brown and blue fly from side to side of the room. A dark-brown rumble meant Honda, too, had decided to drop in on Yuugi's subconscious.

During dreams like these, the spirit often found his mouth quirking in a foolish grin. His other's soul was . . . so clear.

His own past was closed to him, but this he knew: his own dreams had never been this musical, this lighthearted.

Yuugi was not immune from anxious dreams, of course. The Pharaoh would wince on hearing Ms. Chono's ratcheting voice, the hectoring of the gym coach--the whole room seemed to go dim if the dream was about homework or tests.

Much more entertaining were the rousing DuelMonster confrontations. From the sounds and the colors spattering against the walls, the Pharaoh could name almost every card played in the imaginary match. That meant, naturally, that he could form a good idea of who was pitted against whom. He always kept an ear cocked for a certain imperious voice; Kaiba was a frequent participant in these dreams. Even without that prolonged, triumphant laugh, the roar and light-burst that rolled through the room would have been a dead give-away--Blue Eyes White Dragon was on the field.

It was always a slight shock to hear his own voice. Often it was lifted in challenge during those Duel dreams; but just as often, there was no other noise but the rise and fall of his speech, interspersed with pauses (presumably those were when aibou was replying). Those dream-conversations . . . bothered him a little. What on earth was he nattering at his partner about? He could not quite bring himself to ask Yuugi in the mornings.

* * *

What kept him coming back here night after night?

There was, he came to think, something soothing about letting Yuugi's dreams wash around him.

It wasn't the Pharaoh's habit to involve himself with Yuugi's daily routine, though occasionally he'd emerge--silently for the most part--to watch the boy scrambling into his school jacket, clutching his hair over a test, sinking his teeth into the super-special at BurgerWorld. Only in times of danger did he feel compelled to take command, to flow into his partner's body.

But in the dream world, if he relaxed just enough, Yuugi's feelings could flow into *him.*

That was perhaps the greatest of the many gifts his partner had given him.

* * *

~and my idolatrous fancy...~

It had been a long, draining evening, concluding with Ishizu's disturbing story--and her giving them the Millennium Torque. Now everyone had bunked down in their BattleShip cabins. Yuugi, too, had gotten into bed, but lay rigid, staring at the ceiling.

"Can't you fall asleep?" the spirit said after a moment from his spot at the foot of the bed.

Yuugi startled a little, but propped himself up on his elbows to look at him. "Mou hitori no boku!"

"What are you thinking of?"

"I'm thinking that one day I'll gather the seven Sennen Items, and visit Egypt to set them in the slate." Yuugi's voice was steady, though his eyes had dropped away from the Pharaoh's. He raised them again as he added, "I think that's my task as your soul--when the day comes."

Something inside the pharaoh felt a chill at Yuugi's tone. It sounded--so familiar--like an oath of fealty, a pledge of body and soul.

As though to dispel the mood, Yuugi changed the subject. "Sleep! Tomorrow's the final round."

"Aa," the spirit answered. He turned away; his other settled back into the pillow, turned on his side, curled.

And then a sound, quickly stifled.

Tears?

In the spot which had once held his heart, the Pharaoh felt chill turn to ice. *Aibou . . .*

How could *he* comfort his comforter?

He sat awkwardly, silently--shamed by his own emptiness--until at last Yuugi's breathing slowed and deepened.

* * *

Had it been several hours since they spoke?

The Pharaoh slid down the wall of Yuugi's soul-room to the floor, extended one leg and rested crossed arms on the other, bent knee. It seemed no dreams were coming tonight; and he felt sorely in need of them.

*Ssssssshh . . . *

He lifted his head, looked around. Still no colors; just a faint cool soughing, like a breeze finding the crack below a door.

A door!

He blinked. To his left on the blank wall, a rectangle had sketched itself. He got up and approached it.

It was a heavy shade of gray, colder than the surrounding wall; it seemed cast of metal. There was no knob, no handle.

Sliding across the even surface, his fingers found a groove. Curiously, he ran them down it.

And the door swung away from him.

A tunnel? A cave? He stepped forward into the shadows. The place smelled of rich dark earth. What seemed to be tree roots trailed here and there down the flanking walls.

After maybe a dozen yards, the space opened out around him. He stared.

Far from being a cavern, what he had entered was a great domed room, faintly illumined. From a round skylight, a fall of silver light descended to the floor in the middle of the chamber.

And there in the center of the room . . .

"Aibou?"

. . . stood a gleaming block of marble, like a statue's pediment -- or a sarcophagus.

Upon it lay Yuugi.

In a flash, the spirit stood at the side of the recumbent form. He swallowed once, as though choking down pain.

Yuugi seemed taller, just a little broader of shoulder. A sheet of linen-- his only covering--came to about mid-chest. His face . . .

The Pharaoh knelt beside him to look.

He half-expected to find his own features--fierce up-tilted eyes, knowing smirk on the lips. But it was Yuugi's face; he knew those wide eyes, even when lidded.

It was the mouth that had confused him--Yuugi's lips were set in a stern line. And his jaw seemed sharper, the cheekbones more defined.

Yuugi full-grown?

Yuugi . . . dead?

Panic snaked through the spirit.

One hand came to rest beyond Yuugi's head; the other reached toward the pulse-point behind the jaw. *Here in my place of power--here in the puzzle-- can I give life back to him?* His mouth hovered over his partner's.

A firm hand descended on his shoulder, hauled him upright, before he completed either action.

Twisting in that grasp, the Pharaoh glowered at the Black Magician.

The Magician lowered the polished head of his staff until it hovered above Yuugi's lips. As the Pharaoh's spirit stared, a faint mist formed on the metal.

The Magician turned to him then, eyebrows lifted, as though to say, *See? Calm yourself.*

"What's the meaning of this?" The Pharaoh jabbed a finger towards Yuugi.

Instead of replying, the Black Magician placed a hand again on the spirit's shoulder and guided him inexorably toward the tunnel.

"Wait!" The Pharaoh struggled, trying to turn and take another look at his aibou.

*No,* came the message within his mind. *That is not for you to see.* They were moving through the dark passageway now.

"He's *my* partner--"

*He is more than your partner. You are more than his other self.*

As they emerged into Yuugi's sweetly familiar soul-room, the Magician turned and swept his staff in an arc across the open doorway.

Just like that, it was gone without trace--the wall was the blank expanse it had always been.

The Pharaoh yanked himself free and dashed to the wall. His hands found no seam, felt no whisper of air through an unseen crack.

"Damn you! He's trapped in there--"

There was no change in the Magician's austere expression. *It is time you returned to your own room.* Perhaps the being sensed the Pharaoh's desperation, for he added, *Take a look outside the puzzle--your aibou is there. Asleep.*

"But not dreaming. He always dreams!"

*He is dreaming.*

"Then why--" the Pharaoh all but growled.

* * *

~the remedies oft in ourselves do lie~

Instead of answering, the Magician took something from among his robes and offered it to him.

"The Spell Book?" The Pharaoh took the bejeweled volume, almost staggering with the unexpected weight, and opened it.

He nearly dropped the book as his eyes scanned the page. Was he reading? Or hallucinating?

In intimate detail, the writing told of the Battle City tournament, and the progress of the BattleShip duels, from the perspective of an experienced duelist.

From his own perspective.

He looked up from the page to find the Magician's unblinking gaze upon him.

*What that page shows you is not what it shows me. What Black Magician Girl sees there is different from what Kuriboh finds. The words change with the reader. The reader changes with the words.*

"You speak in riddles."

The Magician shrugged purple shoulders, then lifted the book from the Pharaoh's hands and returned it to one vast sleeve. Without even a glance at the spirit, he stepped into the corridor, holding the door open. Perforce, the Pharaoh followed him out into the hallway and then into his own room.

The Black Magician took several paces into the maze's entrance-hall, then turned to face him.

*If you truly wish to return to that chamber, the path lies through your own soul-room; and through your own dreams.*

The spirit frowned. "But the chamber was linked to Yuugi's room. What does my dark labyrinth have to do with him? And you know I cannot sleep."

The Black Magician gazed back at him, impassive as always.

* * *

Yuugi flashed a quick smile to Anzu, standing beside him in the gleaming BattleShip elevator; then cradled the Puzzle in his hands.

"Mou hitori no boku?" he queried internally.

No response.

That was startling, and a little unnerving. The spirit was always so closely attuned to his changes in mood that often it simply took a brush of his fingers against the puzzle for the Pharaoh's presence to come surging out, for the heat to flow up Yuugi's arms and into his mind as his own personality slipped into the Millennium Item.

This was no time for reticence. Yuugi entered the puzzle, stepped boldly through the half-open door to his other's room, and looked about.

His eyes found the Pharaoh immediately, but what he saw caused an odd jump of feeling.

"He sleeps?" Yuugi thought wonderingly.

He crossed to the giant-sized step where the other lay stretched, and examined him.

For all his concern about the situation outside, he couldn't keep a wide smile from his face. The spirit's features were relaxed, gentled.

"How absolutely unlike you..."

Yuugi realized he had spoken aloud when the slanted eyes flew open, focused on Yuugi.

In a single movement--and without removing his eyes from the smaller boy-- the spirit swung slim legs off the ledge and rose to his feet.

Yuugi wriggled slightly under that half-lidded gaze, surprised at his own discomfort. He was not used to needing to explain what was going on beyond the puzzle.

"Anzu came to our room--"

The spirit's brows and lips winged upward in his trademark smirk. Yuugi hurried on: "--to tell us Bakura had disappeared. She and I are in the elevator heading to the arena. I'm not sure, but I'm afraid that--"

"A Shadow Game." The Pharaoh strode towards the doorway.

"Mou hitori no . . . " Yuugi stopped himself, but the spirit had already paused. "Aibou?" he said without turning.

"I am sorry--I didn't think you would be...sleeping."

After a moment the spirit answered, in a tone Yuugi was at a loss to interpret, "I don't sleep, aibou."

Then he was in the doorway, jacket swinging blue; the walls glowed bright; and Yuugi was alone in the puzzle.

*finis*

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~Author's Note: postscript~

This story came together for me more poetically than narratively; the imagery made sense to me, so I wrote it. But that makes it tricky for the reader (and even the writer!) to pin down the meaning. Here's kinda what I'm getting at.

Nameless-Pharaoh tries to keep from taking over Yuugi's life, and mostly succeeds; but he thrives on/longs for it at the same time. He sees listening in to Yuugi's dreams as a (mostly) non-invasive way of getting some of that spiritual nourishment.

The problem, though, is that he puts Yuugi on a bit of a pedestal, seeing him as pure and unchanging. But Yuugi is a Growing Boy, and his encounters with/feelings for the spirit are gradually causing him to become more emotionally complex--which means that his dreams aren't going to remain so clear and easy to read. (At the point where Yuugi commits himself to restoring the Pharaoh's memories, he's also admitting to himself how painful it will be to part with the spirit. That awareness and self- sacrifice is moving him closer to maturity.)

I see the hidden room partly as the place where the Yuugi-of-the-future is emerging--and adult Yuugi attracts the Pharaoh even more than teenage Yuugi does. However, if the spirit invades that space without working through his own feelings--and coming to rely on himself spiritually-- he could do some major damage. Which is why the Black Magician pulled him away.

When Yuugi finds the Pharaoh at the end, the spirit *is* sleeping--but he isn't ready to admit it yet, to acknowledge that he is once again becoming human in his own right.

For anyone who's interested, here's the passage from _All's Well That Ends Well_ (Act 1, Scene 1) that was my source for the headings:

Helena: [. . .] 'Twere all one

that I should love a bright particular star

and think to wed it, he is so above me.

In his bright radiance and collateral light

must I be comforted, not in his sphere.

Th'ambition in my love thus plagues itself:

The hind that would be mated with the lion

must die for love. 'Twas pretty, though a plague,

to see him every hour; to sit and draw

his arched brow, his hawking eye, his curls

in our heart's table: heart too capable

of every line and trick of his sweet favour.

But now he's gone, and my idolatrous fancy

must sanctify his relics.

[and later in the same scene]

Helena: Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie

which we ascribe to heaven; the fated sky

gives us free scope; only doth backward pull

our slow designs when we ourselves are dull.