SPOILERS: This is set at the end of the Ancient Egypt arc (possibly it's my way of dealing with the fact that the series ended) so it assumes that both Yami no Yugi and Yami no Bakura have gone to the after-life (or wherever.)IMPORTANT! This is told through the alternating first person POVs of Seto Kaiba and Ryou Bakura. Seto Kaiba goes first (naturally). Alternating POVs are separated by a line of poetry which is in Bold Italic.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This was originally intended to be a songfic – but I don't know any songs. Well, none that seemed appropriate, anyway. Then I remembered the poem "The Left Hand of Darkness" from the book of the same title, by Ursula LeGuin.
DISLAIMER: I don't own Yugioh. If I did Seto Kaiba would have been there to say good-bye. Nor do I own "The Left Hand of Darkness" by Ursula LeGuin.
NOTE ON NAMES: Yami no Yugi refers to the Spirit of the Puzzle; Yami no Bakura refers to the Spirit of the Ring.
A SLICE OF LIGHT
I looked at the dossier. Whenever something interests me, I collect the facts. And Ryou Bakura had all the fascination of watching the car ahead of you suddenly swerve and crash; suddenly burst into flames. And yet, the bio was short; the story simple.
Father: To distant to count. Usually off in some foreign locale. His only significant act, beyond procreation, was to give his son a necklace containing a malevolent spirit.
So far, it was a common enough tale (well, except for the malevolent spirit part.) Then I got to the item that had me staring in train wreck fascination.
Sister, Amare: Deceased.
Involuntarily, I would shut my eyes… would open them to find the letters blurring… shifting… mutating into another, horribly familiar name. I would stare at the page, unseeing. Then, I would find myself running to the game room, running to check that my own Amane was safe and warm and alive; playing video games on the couch. My heart racing until Mokuba's face slid into focus as he smiled and waved at me from across the room.
My Amare was alive, and his was dead. And Ryou Bakura had shattered under the blow, as easily as I had shattered at Death-T. He had longed to disappear.
He had succeeded.
Against my will… I was impressed.
Light is the left hand of darkness…
With my white hair, and pale skin (I only needed the red eyes to be the perfect Albino) I was the image of light… if light is weakness.
And he was the only darkness left in the world.
If Yami no Bakura had truly been born to this world, this time… if the little brother that had died in the flames of the thieves' village, had been by his side, still in need of his protection… Yami no Bakura would have taken on the pharaoh of this new world. He would have tried to steal his empire. He wouldn't have cared what happened to him along the way. He would have won.
And if Seto Kaiba had been, in that distant past, not the respected High Priest… but a thief's child; a child who had seen his family, his world, destroyed… Kaiba would have hated the pharaoh with an implacability that transcended even death. He would have pursued his enemy through the millennia, focused on nothing but his revenge; preparing his final, deadly game. He would have lost.
Everyone assumed that Yami no Yugi had freed me. But no one asked if I still craved darkness.
Darkness, the right hand of light…
Ryou Bakura sat next to me on the plane ride back from Egypt.
I had not arrived in time to say good-bye to Yami no Yugi. I had ferried his friends home, instead. I had spent the past two years fighting a dead man, my adoptive father. Yami no Yugi had shown me the futility of that battle. I was not about to now give in to a second obsession with defeating yet another ghost. The dead had had enough of my time. My promises were reserved for the living.
I looked at Yugi and his friends. Everyone was thinking of Yami no Yugi. Everyone's eyes were on Yugi Motou. Yugi would be all right. He was grieving, but peaceful. He had performed friendship's final office; he had freed his shadow. He had the contentment of a man who has fulfilled his promises, and that would sustain him through the days ahead.
And Yugi had his friends. They surrounded him now, filling the void that Yami no Yugi had left behind. The supported him, just as they always had; were drawn to him as they always had been. He was the focus of their thoughts, not his partner.
Ryou Bakura and I sat on the sidelines. For Yugi's friendship ring, like any other circle, is defined as much by its perimeter as by its core. And I stood at the edge, watching proudly, as Mokuba did what I could not – as he inched towards the center – forming a radius that connected us. I looked at Bakura. If Amane had lived, would he have watched her as proudly? Or would he have been at the circle's heart with the rest?
"Your rival is gone. Will you miss him?" Bakura asked softly.
"I'll never beat him at Duel Monsters, now. And I regret that. But as with Gozaburo – Yami no Yugi is gone and I am still here. I have learned to accept partial victory."
"Is survival a victory?" he asked.
I could have answered that it beat the alternative – but I wasn't sure that either of us believed that. So I settled for saying, "It depends on the opponent and the battle."
The two are one, life and death…
The school year passed uneventfully. My friends shook their heads over my folly in escaping from Yami no Bakura only to fall in with Seto Kaiba, instead. At least they were tired of rescuing me. They left me alone.
My friends were afraid that he was going to hurt me. How could he? I was numb. And I was drawn to the heat of his body as if it could ward off the hypothermia that threatened the life I was not sure I wanted, and yet, with my usual indecisiveness, was reluctant to surrender.
They didn't see what I saw. Jounouch was a good, loyal brother in the ordinary, every-day way that brothers are good and loyal. But Kaiba had given up everything in him for Mokuba. And I, who had lost everything, found an unexpected comfort in the presence of someone who had kept his sibling alive by sheer force of will.
No matter the cost.
And it had been high. Kaiba slept restlessly. I knew that now. His dreams were filled with the things he had done; with the things that had been done to him.
And I was the only one who understood… with his brother's life in the balance, no cost was too dear. I was the only one who agreed.
My friends looked at Kaiba and myself and saw two opposites. Only Kaiba remembered… once, I had been a Nisama, too.
Not that Amane had ever called me by that imposing name that suited Kaiba so well. Amane had always called me by the softer, cuddlier, Oniichan. A word that still echoed gently in my ears.
My friends looked at us and saw a marriage of strength and weakness. But it's easy to be strong when you have someone to be strong for. To come back, when you have someone to come back to. And sometimes the difference between strength and weakness is as fine a line as the one separating life and death.
The weakness I embraced was the one Kaiba had renounced. But Yami no Yugi had taught Kaiba the same lesson that Yami no Bakura had taught me: shadows are made for hiding.
Kaiba had spent most of the year following Death-T in a coma. And I was the only one who knew why. He had made his home in the darkness, and had not wanted to leave. He had hidden in the shadows from fear of hurting anyone, ever again. I had hidden from fear of being hurt, ever again. Different motives: the same result. Except Kaiba had left paradise of his own volition. He had still had responsibilities to call him back to life. He had still had Mokuba.
I had been ejected from paradise.
Everyone thought Yami no Yugi had rescued me along with all the rest. But how can one be rescued from paradise?
Lying like lovers…
Ryou Bakura sat next to me on the plane back from Egypt, and had never really left.
"Why are you here?" I asked, that first night. "What's your game? Or are you simply afraid of being alone in the dark?
"No. I'm here because I'm tired of being alone in the dark. Because the darkness is best, shared."
"I thought you had shared it with your perfect demon. Do you expect me to be flattered that you see in me, his echo?"
Ryou Bakura smiled. "Perfection is death. I would be better served to find an imperfect demon. And you? What do you seek, tonight?"
I smirked. "Who says I'm searching for anything? You're the one in my room. You're the one who followed me home."
He accepted that silently. I wondered how many times Yami no Bakura had given him a similar answer. And suddenly, substitute demon that I was, I didn't want to remain coupled with a real one in his thoughts.
"You're asking the wrong question," I told him. "Your question should be: Why haven't I kicked you out? My answer is: I don't know why I haven't thrown you across the room. I don't know why I'm letting you stay here… with me… tonight. Maybe it's because you're drawn to the part of me that everyone – even Mokuba – would banish. Maybe it's because you're here, in my room, and this is the first question you've asked – and you'll accept any answer I give – or none at all. Maybe it's because, I too am drawn to darkness."
He laughed then, running his hand down the body that gleamed faintly white in the unlit room.
"And where in me do you see darkness?"
"It's reflected in the midnight of your eyes."
Ryou Bakura sat next to me on the plane back from Egypt, and had never really left.
He was like a speed bump in my life.
That was Mokuba's name for him, not mine.
"He does seem to be underfoot, a lot lately," I replied. "Do you mind?"
"I'd never mind anything that slows you down long enough to look around. Maybe you need a few speed bumps, Nisama."
Maybe I did. I've always lived my life as if I was racing to get it over with, but oddly enough, I found that I didn't mind slowing down long enough to take on a passenger. Especially one who brought the silence of the Shadow Realm with him.
Like hands joined together…
I had lived within Yami no Bakura's shadow for so long, I assumed I was the light he had been missing. But was anything darker than the passivity with which I had surrendered my soul, my life? Unlike me, Yami no Bakura had carried a dream of sorts through the ages, even if only a dream of revenge. My dream had simply been to disappear.
And what of Kaiba's dreams?
His was not the darkness of the Shadow Realm, but the darkness of the human heart. The darkness of a night about to be torn asunder by a Kaiba Corporation missile.
And yet… his darkness was imperfect… contained flashes of light… like the pinpoint reflections in his blue eyes. Like his dragons, soaring out of the darkness of his deck. Like his gaming empire, rising phoenix-like out of the ruin of his weapons factory. For all that the night surrounded him and lingered in the shadows in his eyes… the three things that defined him… the three things at the core of his heart – Mokuba, his dragons and Kaiba Corporation – were all made of light.
Was it really darkness I craved, or the light that existed, undefeatable, within its confines?
Like the end and the way.
My life had been lived in shades of gray… a would-be killer, who had been kept from committing the one murder that would have been his death… a man whose heart had been saved by being shattered… a war profiteer turned gamer… a gamer who had never learned to play.
Now my life was defined in black and white… in tangles of black and white hair. Son and lover… we three were joined like the three points of a triangle… like the base of Yugi's pyramid….
And yet, inevitably… shades of gray crept in. For Mokuba wasn't my son. And as for Ryou and myself…
Were we in love? It was a question neither of us were interested in exploring. We knew each other. We were comfortable in each other's silence. It was enough.
And I found I had an interest in seeing if Ryou Bakura could survive the loss that would have crippled me. I had come back to life for Mokuba. Now I wanted to see if the most timid of us could be brave in a way that I could not. If Ryou Bakura could learn the lesson that I had refused to. If he could learn to live for himself.
I had once told Isis that what was in men's hearts could surpass even God. That this was my faith, and I would hold to it. I had once told Isis that people who blindly followed the path laid out for them, had no light.
How odd to find that light in Ryou Bakura, who even more than I, had lived in darkness.
Watching Ryou Bakura had all the fascination of watching the car in front of you suddenly swerve and crash; watching it burst into flames. The tension of that moment when you wait, with held breath, to see if the driver will stumble out alive.
He had come to me, offering the weakness that he wore so visibly. Offering his hesitant march back from the darkness he had not been ready to leave. Offering his lips, as he pressed them to mine. Offering me… himself.
I am, in the end, Seto Kaiba. I am, in the end, a substitute demon. But I have learned to take what is offered.
Light is the left hand of darkness
and darkness the right hand of light
the two are one, life and death
lying together like lovers
like hands joined together
like the end and the way.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I have no idea if Yami no Bakura had a little brother, who died when his town was destroyed. But given the lack of reliable birth control, it seems likely enough, and I wanted to make the parallels between him and Seto Kaiba, (and between him and Ryou Bakura, for that matter) stronger.