A/N: Ok. This chapter's mood might need a bit of explaining. Basically, I'd done random research and was all set to do this chapter and go a bit easier on Yami and Yugi, but then I saw the EVIL episode where Yugi gets his soul snatched by Dartz. I then figured they were trying to cause me angst, instead of the other way around, so I promptly upped their angst content about 60.
Yeaaah. I don't know either.
Oh, btw? This is the boring, long, and rather painful "explanation" chapter. . Thou hast been warned. thinks On the plus side, things will probably (hopefully?) make a lot more sense…
Disclaimer: Yu-gi-oh, its creations, and any affiliated products are not mine, though I do have several humorous stick-figure sketches based on the duel between Yami and Rafael. I personally enjoy the one where Yami can't tear away from Yugi to play The Seal of Orichalcos because Yugi has (literally) superglued himself to Yami's arm. This is what I do in my Mythology class, it is true.
Writing Code: Mrrr. These notes are getting long.
(Yugi to Yami speaking)
((Yami to Yugi speaking))
-Ryou to Bakura speaking-
--Bakura to Ryou speaking--
"Bold speech indicates ghostly possession. Whee."
Review Answers: Holy crap! I forgot to include them in the last chapter, too! ((wails and beats breast, so to speak)) I'm so sorry! I'll do that right now! ((grins)) Listed alphabetically, for your convenience!
Alias Mesi: OOH! Ooh! You've got a pen name! How great is that! And, even though ffnet won't show it, I'm totally putting double exclamations on everything here! I'm so glad to hear from you! Um. You still what? ((coughs)) I think ffnet cut off your review, which makes me sad/enraged. Grrr. But still! So good to talk to you again! Hope you like this chappie, okies? ((bounces))
DaakuKitsune: ((happiness)) I'm so glad you love(d) this! Thank you for commenting on the freakiness of it all, b/c I'm finding out that it's hard to write freakness-in-a-plot. Sorry for not replying sooner, and here's the next chappie! (Muaha. Seto to the rescue indeeeeed.)
Ereshkigali: I am so insanely flattered by your lovely review. Seriously. I read it and ran around all day grinning like a fool. And hey! A Terry Pratchett fan! Terry Pratchet is TEH GOOD. Have you read that new book of his? I'm dying for finals to finish so that I can find time to do so! Ooh! Jelly bean! ((grins)) How did you guess my favourite junk food snack? ((scarfs happily)) At any rate, please enjoy the chappie! Hope life finds you well.
HOPPY-SAN2345: ((grovels)) Sorry about the update-wait! If it helps, I made this chappie 21 pages long. Does that help? ((snivels pathetically))
Kikyo's killer: I'm sure you've heard this elsewhere, but I love your name. 'Tis awesome. Anyhoo. Glad you liked the story so far! Thank you for waiting, and I hope you like this chapter, too?
The Lady Winged Knight: You reviewed! Wheee! ((bounces)) Hope you get to read this, despite your crazed business. ((pats you on the back)) Poor sweetie. Oh! I found a frikkin' hilarious piccie about Yami. I'm going to send it to you soon; I hope it helps your situation? At any rate, enjoy the not-killing-bishies goodness! ((thumbs up)) Oh, btw? Remind me to tell you about intro-openings, okies? I keep forgetting, but it's so easy that I feel bad about everything!
MafiaNerd: Thank you for waiting so patiently. As for your question, I'm planning on having Joey and Seto paired up, except they aren't flinging themselves into each other's arms the way that I want them to. ((grumbles)) I'm gonna try, though! Glad also that you like the Bakura/Ryou interaction! 'Tis equally hard to write!
Serena the Hikari of Love: Gasp! Fluffiness? You desire fluffiness! I'll do what I can! …um. Right after this chapter. ((coughs nervously)) Sorry. That's such a great idea, though! I'm so resolving to put it in the next chapter! Glad you like the story so far!
SilverShadowfire: Glad you liked the dedication! And no prob about the "wait." Shopping does, in truth, take precedence over inflating my ego. ((sheepish grin)) Anyhoo, thanks for waiting for the update (complete with colour-coded mind link stuff)! Hope you enjoy!
Night of Souls
The dying rays of the sun screamed out their farewells as the orange beams washed over Hong Kong in a desperate flood. The concentrated orange globe of the sun, no bigger than a ball, glared off the windows and mirrors of the buildings and cars, leaving civilians to squint hopelessly and, ironically, wish for the dark. On a certain street corner, the light glinted off the old haunted house, providing a link to the death of hope.
Oblivious to the nature around him and unaware of the trauma going on within the house, a stray mutt nosed half-heartedly around in the yard for some deserted scraps. Its nose whuffling faintly, it whined slightly as the search revealed itself to be fruitless. Again.
A car drove slowly down the road, and the mutt turned to watch it go by. In that moment, the lights and shutters of the house behind it crashed on and off, open and shut. And when the mutt glanced towards the house, the newer paint slowly began to peel off in curls of agony.
Seto stared impassively down, both seeing and blind to the cell phone in his hand. In the background, the loud drone of the jet faded in and out of his hearing.
Should he call? Joey had sounded terrified. Had he ever sounded that scared before?
"Mr. Kaiba," the pilot informed him softly. "Our ETA is ten minutes."
He grunted absentmindedly, then ran a hand through his hair. "Stupid mutt," he groaned. Bothering him even when he wasn't around…
Should he call? This was the decision that could break his reputation, while there was nothing to gain other than some lousy peace of mind. Seto twitched. This whole affair was stupid and insane. Besides, he probably shouldn't risk interfering with the jet's systems. He'd be no good to anyone (read: Mokuba) if he died in a plane crash.
Still, the cell phone remained delicately balanced in his palm. Seto stared at it some more.
"Yugi! Watch out!" Instinctively, Yami threw his body to shield his aibou. "Get down!"
Yugi and Joey's voices screamed out in dual shock as Yami bore the full brunt of the blast, falling painfully against the hardwood floor. In front of them, streaming ribbons of dark spiritual energy, stood Bakura. Far from being the familiarly evil tomb-robber, though, his eyes were blank and his pose was different – more feminine. The black energy that crackled around him was fully under control. Erratically, it struck at them with unerring accuracy, a flash of red fire, and the stench of brimstone.
"GET OUT!" the spectre shrieked at them. Windows crashed into tinkling chimes, their jagged edges providing a delicate musical counterpart to the horror in the midst of the hallway.
"Yami, are you all right?" Nearly sick with concern, Yugi hovered above Yami. "Here, let me help you up." He placed a hand on Yami's back, steadying him into a sitting position.
Yami stared up at him, confusion swarming in his eyes and making them shimmer crimson uncertainty. "Why,… Yugi…?" he murmured. For no reason, tears sprung up and he tightened his features to prevent them from falling. He had already caused Yugi enough grief. Why would Yugi care, after he'd been so enraged at him before…?
"IT'S MY HOUSE! GET OUT, GET OUT, GET OUUUUT!"
The agonizing yell tore them all from their reflexive thoughts.
It forced Yami into a critical decision, which would either save them all or scar them horribly. It was a decision brought on by pressure, antagonism, heartbreak, and reflex.
Yami acted. "Yugi! It's dangerous! Get into the Puzzle!"
Yugi balked, abnormally so. "I'm not going to leave you alone to face this! We're in this together, aren't we?"
Mere metres away, the possessed Bakura seemed content with the sudden strife around him, and spun lethargically in the air. "What will you do," the voice crooned, "when you can't get what you want?"
Joey bucked up his reserves of defiance. He glanced at the duel champions beside him for support, then whitened in shock. They were arguing passionately, and even Joey could tell the remarks were cutting deeper all the time.
"Guys?" he ventured, but wasn't surprised when he was completely ignored.
"Yugi, I can protect you better if I don't have to keep constant tabs on where you are!"
"You should at least believe in me enough to let me take care of myself!"
"We don't have time for this!" The mystical eye had begun to glow on Yami's forehead, a sure sign that his temper was rapidly dissolving. "Just get into the Puzzle!"
"Why don't you get into the Puzzle? You should be better acquainted with hiding in it; you were in there long enough!"
"I'm trying to protect you!"
"No, you're trying my patience! I can protect myself just fine!"
Yami crossed his arms and looked majestic, having reached his last straw. "So you're saying that you don't think I can protect you? You don't trust me, then!"
Yugi flinched, then retaliated with all the bottled hurt within. "Should I trust you? You're the one who's gotten possessed the most often out of all of us! Admit it, Yami! You'd rather be host to something else than suffer sharing your soul with me!"
Now it was Yami's turn to wince, and the glowing eye and the regal pose fled as he realized he'd gone too far. Still, his nature as the King of Games made him make one more attack before declaring his surrender. Winning took place at all costs. Thus, it was with a soft voice and hard eyes that Yami stared Yugi down. "Are you sure you're not projecting your own thoughts onto me?"
Yugi stiffened. "What are you… Yami?"
Yami turned, sloshing an aura of authority. "Joey! Take Yugi and go." He lifted a hand to prevent the objections that rose. "I'm going to use the Puzzle and I want you two as far away as possible."
"Yami—" Yugi started, then stopped as Yami deliberately turned his back to him, facing Bakura head on. The possessed Bakura just smirked at him, raising himself another few inches off the ground.
Joey had to take two long looks at the situation. He really didn't want to leave. And then, of course, there was Yugi, who was looking as if he'd rather chew off his own legs than go. It was only when the shadows began to swarm around the corridor, signalling the use of Shadow Magic, that Joey began to reconsider.
"Uh, Yuug'? Maybe we should get outta here. Yami knows what he's doin', right?"
Yugi stared some more at Yami's stiff back. His eyes, usually so loving, were caught in a duel between concern and frustration. Another moment passed, then Yugi seemed to drain of all resistance.
"Fine," he muttered. He backed up two steps, then tossed out, "It doesn't look as if Yami has anything worthwhile to say anyway."
The bitter tone in Yugi's voice was amplified in the acoustics of the hallway, and Yami turned around. For a moment, indescribable pain tore around his bloodied irises, making him seem no more than a vulnerable youth.
Yugi met this squarely, his shoulders set almost aggressively. Again, there was a pause of silence, where not even their mental link was needed to communicate. Then, Yami's eyes softened and Yugi relaxed his posture.
"Aibou…" Yami said, his voice filled with a confusing melee of emotions.
"Ten minutes, Yami." Yugi pointed definitively at his well-meaning darkness. "I mean it."
Yugi-oh acquiesced. "As you wish, Yugi." He allowed the faintest, most tentative of smiles to flash across his face, thrilled when his aibou returned it.
"You sure 'bout dis, guys?" Joey switched his gaze from one to the other, disbelieving they were actually going to split up.
Yugi grabbed his arm and pulled. "No. Let's go."
Quickly, the two ran down the hallway, heading for the outside. Bakura's crazed, ghostly cackling started up again behind them. And, as they turned the corner, they both glanced behind them. Joey shivered at the sight, while Yugi bit his lip and moved faster.
'Yami, I thought we were a team,' Yugi thought, his thought nothing but a black despair, shot only with sickly green panic.
Behind them, the glow from the Puzzle was a fading speck against the explosion of shadows.
Safe in his fortress, Ryou slept on softly. Around him, his soul room rocked gently in time to his peaceful heartbeat. A ratty old teddy bear, pictures of his family, and a few coloured picture books all shifted in a lulling fashion. Despite the sparseness of the material objects, the small room seemed to be filled with a comforting presence.
However, the moments of peace could not last. Ryou awoke gradually, feeling rested and refreshed – it was amazing how quickly one's mind recuperated when it was freed from external distractions. He stretched and sat up in bed, just taking in his quiet surroundings.
Slowly, steadily, he became aware of a throbbing sound. It was different from a heartbeat, and there wasn't any similarity to the angry boomings that Bakura emitted when he became enraged. Mellow, but starting to get curious, Ryou cocked his head to listen a little better. It seemed to be coming from outside…
Obligingly, his eyes switched focus to the metal-bound door. The crack at the bottom gleamed a sickly green, and it was so different from the pale yellow of Bakura's mind control that Ryou had to stare at it for a few minutes before understanding that something really was different. He hesitated some more, then rose and moved warily towards the door.
-Bakura?- he tried their link, the silvery overtones of his thoughts marking the caution in his mind. Are you there?
--Don't open the door, Ryou--. Bakura's voice shot back at him quickly. Not fraught with green panic, or red fear, but filled entirely that steady brown determination. Ryou instantly froze, his hand pausing in the act of closing on the doorknob.
-What's wrong? Is talking like this ok?-
--It's fine. Just stay inside.--
Ryou sighed, though now inwardly horribly curious. What was going on? He suddenly remembered that mist that had settled down, and the woman that had appeared as his soul room door had closed. He stiffened. -Are you ok? What's happening?-
A mental sigh drifted into his thoughts, filled with a kind of assumed lethargic nature. --I think… we've been possessed.--
Ryou quirked up an eyebrow. -What?-
A frustrated glower rumbled in. --You know I hate repeating myself.--
-Sorry.- Ryou thought about this. -We're possessed, then.-
--It's what I just said, yes.--
-Um… question?- He sent this thought with a touch of timid pink. -If we've been possessed, then… how come we can talk like this?-
--Ryou,-- Bakura whined into his mind. --You're making me think--
Ryou couldn't help it, he laughed out loud. The fluttering peal of joy burbled around his soul room, lightening the mood within. -Sorry, Bakura!-
He could feel Bakura roll his eyes at him. --If I had to guess, though, I'd say that both of us in the mind is providing a sort of barrier to the ghost-lady. We don't seem to be able to control anything, but we can exist with our respective identities as long as we remain in the soul rooms.-- Bakura's undercurrent of thought mentally inserted what he thought of this ghost-lady – something a little worse than "meddling, dog-borne harpy." He continued, pretending to ignore Ryou's subsequent burst of humour. --When it was just the one of us in the mind, the spirit would simply manipulate our thoughts – and our actions - like a puppeteer. However, with both of us in here, it's having trouble possessing, or controlling, either of us.--
-You mean, like a nerd with two planes and only one remote?-
A shimmer of confusion leaked out before Bakura put up his defences again. --Sure.--
Ryou smiled to himself. -Did you want me to explain what those were?-
--NO! Don't insult my intelligence!--
Ryou's grin widened. Now this was the Bakura he was familiar with. Teasing, prideful, resourceful… it looked like things were back to normal between them. What a relief. It was with no fear that he dared to then ask, -So what do we do now?-
A version of mental static filled the link while Bakura debated whatever options he was considering. Finally, his voice rejoined the bond. --We wait.--
-Wait? But what if you… me… this body …the ghost…- Ryou shook his head to clear away the confusion. -What if something happens?-
Bakura's shrug wasn't a huge surprise. --Then it happens.-- Bakura then sighed. --Stupid hikari, the Pharaoh's already sent away his shrimp and the mutt.--
-Oh. That's… good, I guess. But if something happens to Yami, then Yugi's going to feel awful.-
Ryou sighed. Bakura really was back to normal. -Well, what do we do in the meantime?-
-We can always watch the action. That's fairly passive. And, while both of us seem to be shut out of controlling the body, we can definitely keep tabs on what it's doing. Hold on.-
Ryou waited dutifully, in a kind of nervous excitement. This was a really weird experience. He'd never been aware of possession before. And there wasn't even any danger! As long as he stayed in his soul room (which he had no problem doing), both he and Bakura were safe – and they could talk! Ryou was wonderfully content, despite the situation. It was rare that he and Bakura used their mind link, preferring to communicate with words, but there was something special about using their link that made Ryou feel more… connected to Bakura. Maybe he could convince his other half to keep the link open, even! That would be great!
His musings were interrupted as a large, flat-screen TV fizzled into existence onto the far wall. His mouth gaped open. -Bakura? What is this?-
--It's the mental version of a television. Now shut up. I told you to wait, didn't I?--
Ryou obediently subsided once more. He started as suddenly it switched on, showed static for a moment, then revealed a scene from … well, it looked like the corridor he'd been in before, with all those ghosts, but…
--All right, baka hikari. All done.--
Ryou leapt to ask his question. -What just happened? What's going on?-
He could feel Bakura's prideful smirk. --I've just tapped into our eyes, Ryou. This will let us see everything that happens.--
-Oh. Oh! Wow!- Ryou grabbed his teddy bear and flopped back onto the bed. -What if I want to turn it off?-
--Then you close your eyes. Moron.--
-Oh.- A pregnant pause. -…Bakura?-
-…Where did you see a TV like this before?-
--At that technology place you took us past last week. I've decided I want it, so it's only right that I get used to watching things on something this big, right?--
Ryou gaped again. -We don't have that kind of money to blow on this kind of thing!-
--Muahaha. Just watch the movie, baka hikari.--
Ryou shrunk down, pouting. Still, despite his frustration at his yami's kleptomania habits, he was thrilled beyond belief to feel Bakura leave their mind link open. Whether it was intentional or not didn't really matter, because soothing silver light washed between their minds, providing reassurance that far surpassed that of security blankets and old teddy bears.
With reluctant haste, Yugi and Joey hurried to the exit. The dodges and turns of the old house seemed to twist upon themselves, as if the house itself was trying to devour their souls.
"Hurry, Joey!" Yugi pleaded, nearly breathless. "Yami wanted us to get out of here!"
"I thought," Joey panted, "you wanted to stay!"
"I do!" Yugi practically wailed, panting nearly as hard, "but… but, Yami…"
"You've gotta respect Yami's wishes?" Joey guessed.
Yugi looked agonized, and that expression was enough for Joey. He dropped the subject.
A few more minutes of full out sprinting and skidding corridor corners, and they reached the main hall.
"Hey!" Joey gasped out. "The exit! Finally!"
"Yeah!" Yugi agreed, then stumbled to a halt. "Did you hear that?"
Joey tried to hold his breath, trying to hear over the pounding of his heart and the whirring air around his ears. Straining for the sound of a foreboding scream, or creepy laughter, he instead only heard a low "thump-thump-thump" sound. "I t'ink it's from outside."
Yugi bit his lip again and took one step forwards. Joey wasn't surprised, though, when Yugi hesitated, or when he glanced back the way they had just come. "Maybe I should go back," he murmured.
Filled with sympathy, Joey could only place a supportive hand on his shoulder. "Yuug'…"
Yugi was still warring with himself, despite the fact that the "dark" part of his self was absent. "I mean, I know he said to go, but maybe he meant to just get around the corner."
"Yuug'," Joey tried again, slightly more emphatic.
"It's not too late though, is it? There's still time to—"
"Yugi!" Joey practically yelled, the hand on Yugi's shoulder gripping with alarm. "I think we should leave." Suddenly pointing vehemently, he indicated the warping area beyond them – in the direction they'd come. Nor was this the slither of shadows from before. No, these shadows were the darkest pitch of black, like coal stuck in the depths of earth. Then, even more frightening, were the flickers of hellfire red that sparked into existence amidst the shadows, glaring nothing but promising agony. They darted around the hallway, swarming en masse like rats up to where Yami was.
Yugi's eyes widened. "Yami…"
Joey gritted his teeth, overcame his fear, then boldly lifted Yugi up. "That's it! We're gettin' outta here!"
They tore out of the house, clearing away from the doorway into the twilight outside just as a shuddering moan resonated around the walls and shook its foundations.
Joey staggered a few more steps, off balance, before dropping the squirming Yugi and collapsing himself. Letting his head droop down, he took a couple of calming breaths to collect his thoughts. Joey raised his head to check Yugi's condition, but stilled in confusion as he encountered an entirely different sight.
"Seto?" he questioned.
The CEO in question glared at him, a collapsed parachute to the left of him, and a scruffy mutt playing tug with the formerly pristine trench coat.
Yami gripped the chain of the Puzzle tightly, letting his mind open to the hidden, shadowed doorways in his soul room. He'd never let his innocent Yugi see this section of his soul room; even Yami didn't really understand the truth behind this section of his thoughts, and he was positive that Yugi would worry pointlessly.
All he needed to know was that these doorways opened the floodgates to a wave of power that surged forth. He needed this power, outside of the duel arena, to protect the ones he loved. The magic coiled around him, the slippery softness of the shadows like a lover's caress over his skin.
What to do with this power? He could rule or cast down, create or obliterate… it was as if it was begging to be used, to see if Yami could actually reach the end of this seeming ocean of power. He actually shivered at the responsibility that this need urged forth, half debating a monster more powerful than the Blue Eyes White Dragon. It would be almost too easy to create it, and with it he could bring the impudent Seth upstart to his knees.
The spectre in front of him cackled again, bringing Yami's attention to the here and now. With a flick of his mind, he dismissed the half-formed shadowy serpentine that writhed in front of him, then used that darkness to brush aside the spiritual attack bolts the pathetic ghost threw at him.
He pointed at the possessed Bakura, marking his target. In a firm voice, filled with all the remembrance of the past couple of days, he declared, "I have had enough of your tormenting and playing with us! We are not your toys, nor are we your bodies. I demand you leave us alone!"
Bakura froze and seemed to shrink, before letting out a horrific scream. Yami spared a split second's thought of gratitude that Yugi was missing this. Then, Bakura seemed to shiver, as if something was breaking free. As Yami watched, a white wraith crept into the open space of the dark hallway. Without any mercy in his hard eyes, Yami froze the ghost with a menacing stare. "And now it begins," he murmured softly to himself.
What his aibou wished to know about the ghosts and their pasts, he would uncover.
"Summon your companions!" he roared.
Ryou hugged his teddy tighter. -Bakura, do you feel that? I think the ghost left us!-
--The shuddering didn't make it obvious? Fool. Stay in your room, I'll check this out.--
The hikari returned to gazing intently at the screen. "Come on, Yami," he encouraged.
Slowly, forced into appearance by the growling shadows, two other spectres manifested themselves. Though their faces were bland and downcast, they radiated a sort of abashed rage. It said, 'We're sorry we caused trouble, now please drop your guard…'
Yami kept his defences raised, a scowl sneering across his lips. "Who are you?" he demanded. "Identify yourselves!"
They wafted, silent and sullen. Yami didn't let them stall, he pointed to the one on the left and ensnared it in the greedy shadows. The ghost writhed in silent agony, a slit for its mouth opening to scream. The Pharaoh gave the other two a significant look, then released the first. "I'll ask this again. Who. Are. You?"
The one in the middle bobbed agitatedly, then shimmered into a delicate looking female. Her long black hair was loose, and her hands clasped an ancient Oriental fan. She gazed at Yami, frightened.
Yami gasped, "You are…" he remembered the guide's words from an eternity ago. "That girl…? She who was ill and came to the father's friend?"
She nodded solemnly, and fluttered her fan.
"Can you speak?"
She mutely shook her head, then released a slight shriek as something zapped her from behind. Bakura strode through her transparent figure, the Ring gleaming bloody promises. "She can," Bakura hissed.
Yami looked at him. "What are you…?"
He received a smirk. "Possession's a little different when both yami and hikari are in the mind. Ryou's an ignorant fool," – there was a fraction of a pause where he was obviously sending some apologetic thought to the 'ignorant fool' in question – "but I remained aware enough to tap into her memories. She can speak, Pharaoh. And what's more, she's the one you've got to watch out for."
The two yamis enforced their barriers, trapping the three ghosts further. "Why are you doing this?" Yami murmured to Bakura softly.
Bakura's smirk widened. "My revenge isn't complete yet. You're a helpful tool, Pharaoh."
Yami sighed, weighed his strategy, and fixed his eye upon the one who'd he'd first trapped in the shadows. "You. Identify yourself."
The same type of shimmer and it resolved into a young man. His own black hair was equally long, and he wore a lengthy white robe. He stared at them blankly, then grinned.
Yami swallowed – that act was almost scarier than anything he'd experienced here before. "You are?"
"Puppy?" the man pointed at Yami hopefully.
Bakura snickered in response. "He's certainly a sort of dog. We call his kind Yuugus lapdogus."
"You're not helping, Bakura." Yami kept calm with large amounts of self-control. It would be so easy to rip Bakura apart now with this power of his… ah, but then Ryou would vanish, too, and Yugi would mourn the loss of a friend. Still, the shadows around them rippled impatiently. Whether or not Bakura got the hint or not was unclear, but he subsided for the moment.
The remaining spectre also adopted a form, the first to volunteer any sort of information. "You won't get anything out of that one," he moaned in a disembodied voice. "He's crazed."
"No!" the woman turned hostile, sprouting talons and fangs, "He's not! He's just misunderstood! And you tried to take him away from me! I'll kill you! Kill you!"
"STOP THIS!" Yami roared, freezing them all in place with the shadows. He cast his mind back to the wishes of his Yugi. "I demand to know how many of you there are. Any more floating around?" he sneered.
The man resolved further into a doctor, then looked down. "It is just the three of us. There might have been others at one time, but they have all received torment and are no longer with us."
Bakura perked up. "You don't say."
Yami brushed by Bakura again. "Why are you all still here?" he questioned. "Why do you trouble us?"
"Forget that," Bakura overrode him. "Tell us how you got to be here."
"Bakura," Yami warned, losing his temper again.
Bakura flapped a hand dismissively. "Relax, oh uptight one. This will answer all our questions. Trust me."
But the mists were swirling and the shadows were letting it.
"What you will see," the doctor intoned, "is the events of our lives as recorded by this house."
Joey and Seto were involved in a staring contest. Well, for Joey it was a staring contest. For Seto, it was a glaring contest.
"Um… Kaiba? What are you doin' here?"
Kaiba glared some more. "You called me, idiot. In the middle of semi-finals, too. You owe me, mutt."
"Call you? Yeah, right!" Joey snorted. "Why would I do that? Maybe because I didn't!"
Seto twitched. "You did. And you babbled about being scared and helpless."
"Did too. Just check your phone log, moron." Seto upped the glare level about fifty percent. He hadn't been expecting this part. In his mind, Joey had been a lot more grateful. Or at least, reluctant to be ungrateful, if that made any sense.
"Maybe I will," Joey ground out and reached into his coat.
An expectant pause. Seto crossed his arms and waited.
The moment passed, and Joey yelled. "Aaaaah! Where is it? I put it in the zippered pocket an' everythin!" He dropped to all fours (much like a dog, humorously enough) and started crawling around. "Do you see it? I must hav' dropped it!"
Seto snorted. What a convenient excuse. "Did you forget your eyes as well? You probably just dropped it down the toilet or something." Though he hid his feelings well (too well, as Mokuba would say), he was inwardly hurt.
"Hey!" Joey bounced up, his face red with indignant rage. "Hey! I'll have you know that I always carry it with me an' I keep track of it! In fact, I—" he cut himself off as his brain rapidly caught up to what his mouth was blurting out and what it meant. "Errr…"
Seto's lips twitched upwards in a futile attempt to smile. Feeling noble, he turned away from the blushing puppy and instead took in Yugi's slumped position. "What's wrong with the shrimp?" he wondered absently.
Yugi sighed, sat on the ground, and fiddled absently with the Puzzle. His downcast eyes stared forlornly at his watch, which ticked away with excruciating agony. He'd let Yami have ten whole minutes before he joined him again. Yugi knew he'd regret the decision at the time, and now that it was three minutes later, he was regretting it even more than he thought he would.
This was so far from what he'd hoped for when they booked the trip. Originally, it was just supposed to be the two of them. Alone. A couple of staged 'spookings,' and that would be it. Originally, he'd been looking forward to introducing Yami to this custom. It was fun, and the thrill of anticipation he'd gotten when he realized that this would be something new that he could experience with Yami … well, it was no accident that he'd run downstairs to get the suitcases. The whole prospect had charged him with so much happiness that he'd had to take a deep breath downstairs to stop quivering from joy.
He smiled sadly. After all this time together with the dark spirit, he should have known this would be anything but simple and normal. With Yami around, things always jumped into apocalyptic proportions. Sometimes he wished that Yami would just be normal.
On the other hand, if that happened, then he wouldn't be Yami at all. There wouldn't be any mystery, or intrigue, and without Yami, Yugi wouldn't have met as many people as he knew now. Malik, Isis, Seto, Duke, Rebecca, Ryou, not to mention Joey, Tristan, and Tea. With another sigh, Yugi supposed the whole "Yami Issue" – as he'd mentally dubbed it – was part and parcel of Yami's very nature.
After this eternity of introspection, he looked again at the watch and mentally groaned when it showed there were still six minutes left. His legs stomped impatiently at the ground in a staccato tapping. He wanted to be with Yami again! With only a mild sense of sheepishness, he wondered if he could get away with going back in the house at the eight minute mark. Maybe if he walked slow, he'd get back to Yami just as it hit ten minutes.
For that matter, if he was going to walk slowly, he might as well go back in now. He certainly didn't want to be late! And, hey, if he showed up early, then…
Yugi frowned stubbornly. Well, Yami would just have to deal with the fact that Yugi was there. He'd grown up enough – he could take care of himself by now. And how better to show Yami just how grown up he was than by joining with Yami in this danger? With any luck, maybe Yami might start thinking about how if Yugi was grown up enough to face such dangers, then what else he'd grown up enough for.
"Joey? I'm going back in now."
His friend looked over from a stare-down with … Seto? When had Seto gotten here? Why was he even here?
"Hold on, Yugi!" Joey burst in. "It's barely been five minutes!"
Seto smirked. "Then you should go in first, mutt. After all, you could make sure things were fine. I'm sure with your animal instincts, you'd be able to dodge whatever was coming at you… and the world wouldn't really miss you if something did happen."
Yugi frowned. That wasn't nice, though he was starting to suspect the dialogues between Joey and Seto were coded for maximum protection of what they were really saying. "No, I'll go first," he merely stated. "I can handle myself. Although," he grinned at them bashfully, "if you two wanted to tag along, I wouldn't say no."
Joey offered him a thumbs-up. Seto probably would have nodded his assent, but became a little distracted: the stray dog was taking a renewed interest in dragging the trench coat into the muddy grass.
The door opened, spilling in the bright sunshine from outside. Dressed respectably was the doctor, who had opened the door and was currently greeting his guest.
"Hello, I am Dr. Jing Yong (Chinese). May I help you?
In a voice as timid as a rabbit, the girl spoke. "Yes. My father sent me here for a cure…?"
"Oh, of course! You poor girl, come in!"
The girl coughed painfully into an elegantly embroidered handkerchief. Beside her, Dr. Jing Yong worriedly examined her hands, her pulse, then her neck and face for clues to her illness. He sketched a few words onto his small pocketbook, then smiled at her.
"That's a brave girl. Shall I prepare some medicine?"
"Please…" she broke off into a coughing fit again. "But doctor," she recovered, gasping for air, "wouldn't it be best for you to stay away? I do not wish for you to become ill because of my sake."
"Nonsense, child. Now, say 'aah.'"
The doctor drew himself up with passion. "You must understand! I'm working as hard as I can on the cure, but I must also remember the needs of my other patients!"
She screamed, wailed, latched onto his coat and sunk to her knees. "It hurts! At least give me my medicine!"
A sonorous booming sound, indicating his next patient was at the door. "Fine, fine," he quickly agreed, measuring it out and giving it to her. "Now go straight to bed."
Demure once more, she curtseyed. "An' it please thee."
"Who… who are you?" Wide eyes, made even larger in a gaunt and haggard face, stared timidly at the newcomer from around the corner of a wall.
He stared back from his reclined position. His long black hair spread around him like a moonlit lake. "Do you like puppies?" he asked, and smiled.
"I suppose," she answered warily.
He brightened, "So do I! Mr. Dr. says I'll be able to get one soon!"
A pause. "You're a very odd young man."
"Miss Ming! What are you doing! Get away from him!" the doctor made a sudden appearance, sweeping into view and hissing his words at the girl. She glared back at him.
"Why should I?"
The doctor sagged wearily, as if used to such treatment from a guest in his own home. "My dear, he is not considered stable. Your health is already too delicately balanced to risk such things. Why don't you go lie down?"
She placed a hand on her forehead. "I do feel a little faint."
"I know. I'm working as much as I can on it. Just hold on a little longer, my dear."
"Oh, hello," the pale girl dragged herself along into the room. "You're here."
"I am," the young man with the black hair replied amiably. "Any puppies?"
"Not yet, no. You know, you're the strangest out of all his patients. I think I'll call you Han."
"And you are?"
"Do you like puppies?"
"I told you that I did."
"I like them, too! Maybe one day I'll bring you one!" He grinned at her, with charm and exuberance.
She thought about smiling back, but then the doctor returned from his task. He glared at her. "Why are you here, darling? It's not safe here."
And she fled from his gaze.
"Look, Ming. A puppy!"
It barked playfully, but was set aside as the girl clasped her hands to his. "Oh, Han! You're my only friend here! I think I love you," she confessed daringly. Her hands, white and chilly, trembled with anxiety.
"Did you like the puppy I brought?"
"I loved it." Then, more bold. "I love you."
He grinned at her. "I love puppies, too."
She couldn't take it anymore, and broke down in sobs. "I snuck away to see you," she confessed. "The doctor, he just doesn't understand! He surrounds me constantly, day and night, asking me questions about things I don't understand! He says he loves me, but his medicine always tastes so awful, I'm sure he hates me! Please, help me. Can you help me?" she seemed hysterical by this point, looking about the room violently. "Can anyone help me? Please!"
Han reached over and scratched her behind the ears.
"Sssh. It's ok."
She sighed. "I think I'll go lie down. If you'll excuse me?"
"Miss Ming! I've got it! I think I have it!" Flushed and feverish, the doctor burst into the room. Ming lay languidly on the reclined couch, a hand to her pasty white brow.
"Please, doctor. Not so loud. My headache is quite strong today."
"I'm sorry, but listen to this! Just listen, Ming! It says here that a lady, with many of your symptoms, was treated with a mixture of purified/holy water, had her illness transferred onto a burning talisman, then drank a carefully mixed solution. All the ingredients are right here, darling! I can cure you!" He beamed at her, the fruits of months of labour blossoming grandly.
She turned her back towards him. "What's the point? The medicine will taste awful and it won't work."
"But it will! You see?" He practically stabbed at the paper in his excitement. "The symptoms are the exact same. And it worked. Ming, you're going to be cured!"
She snorted, the inelegant sound expressing eloquently what she didn't care enough to put into words.
The doctor stared down at her form, his excitement turning into shock, then into a dull sort of anger. "Why, you ungrateful harpy!" he suddenly shouted. "I've slaved over textbooks, spent sleepless nights over illegible manuscripts, called in favours, gone into near debt because of you, and you don't even acknowledge me? How dare you!"
She turned to face him suddenly, correctly sensing the dangerous shift of the atmosphere. "I'm sorry, I don't know what came over m—"
He turned up his nose at her. "You should feel lucky your father consented to marry you to me. With an attitude like that, no other man would even dream of considering you for a bride."
A direct assault on her womanhood was an insult to her pride. "That's not true!" she cried. "In fact, I—"
"You nothing," he cut her off. "I will mix this cure, and then we shall be wed happily. Wait and see." He stalked out of the room again, while she crumpled into helpless tears.
"Who shall help me now?" she moaned.
"Han, I'm scared," she confessed weakly. Once again in the sitting room, she stared up at the patient. "You must help me!"
"Puppy?" he asked hopefully, still as childish and clueless as ever.
"No!" she snapped, suddenly violent. "Why can't you understand? There aren't any puppies! There's just me!" She resumed her docile appearance, sliding in closer. "Just you… and me… all alone. I snuck away again to see you," she fluttered her eyelashes at him.
He tilted his head at her. "No…puppy?"
She glowered. "NO. It's just you and me. Maybe this will give you some incentive to forget these imaginary dogs of yours and help me instead." She swarmed up into his arms and pressed her lips to his in a horribly daring, almost unheard of, kiss.
"What is going on here?" The angry voice boomed out. A hand tore the two apart. "You! How dare you? You're mine!" The doctor screamed out at his future bride, eyes narrowed to mere slits of rage. "How dare you, how dare you even think otherwise? After all I've done for you, this is how you repay me? Betrayer! Slut! Filthy cow!"
"No! No, please! I'm sorry! It's just… I'm sorry! Forgive, forgive!"
"SHUT UP! Do not make me teach you a lesson!"
"I'm sorry!" she sobbed, voice cracking in desperation. "I'm sorry! Don't… don't touch me, please!"
The impassive Han watched with incomprehension. "I like puppies," he suddenly announced, a happy little smile on his face. "Do you like puppies? I like puppies. Mr. Doctor is going to let me have a puppy!"
"Help me," she shied away from Dr. Yong, and reached out pleadingly towards Han. "Can you help me? Can anyone help me?"
The doctor glowered, filled with indignant rage. "Get to your sleeping quarters," he decided. "I can't understand this fixation you have with my patient!" he shouted at the girl. "I've told you to keep away from him; I don't know if he's contagious yet! I'm willing to take that risk, but I can't let you do it!"
"You monster!" the girl flung back at him, then ran away, crying piteously.
And Han hummed a little tune.
A final scene.
"THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT!" she screamed. Up in the attic, dressed up to the nines, the lady screamed at the young man. He looked at her, then turned his attention back to his dog.
"Don't listen to that, Puppy," he crooned. "We're happy when we play, aren't we?"
She upended a nearby table, spilling dolls to the floor. Her hands shook, her forehead perspired, and her eyes dilated in rage. "You and your stupid dog!"
He rose. "My dog is not stupid. Puppy is very smart."
She shook her head violently. "It's always about puppies with you! Puppies this and puppies that and I don't care anymore! I'm to be wed to an old fool and stuck in this creepy old house for the rest of my life! Why are you even here, anyway?" She let out a cry and rushed at him, battering him with her nails and fists. "Get out, get out, get out! If this is my home, then I'm going to make the rules! I want you out of here! Gone! I never want to see you again, you.. .you… deceiver!"
With a last, anguished scream, she pushed at him with all her might… and he fell down the stairs.
His dog whined and recoiled, then moved to attack her, biting and barking. She shrieked in terror and lashed out with her foot. Her aim was true and filled with the heated power of anger: with a distinct crunch, the young dog fell down the stairs after his master.
It yelped twice, then was silent.
She breathed painfully, staring with a distanced shock at what she'd just done. A deathly moment passed, then she tried cracking a smile. "Whoopsie," she whispered. "But it's not my fault, right? Because I'm so sick… right?" She continued to stare with painstaking intensity. "Not my fault."
"Ming?" an equally shocked voice wafted into the attic. "What have you done?"
She still stared at the corpses, not budging when the doctor came into view at the bottom of the stairs. "Not my fault," she repeated. "I'm sick."
He gazed at her hopelessly. "But you're not," he answered with a pained voice. "That medicine I gave you cured you completely."
"You're lying," she shook her head. "I'm sick. I need to be protected. Not my fault."
The doctor swallowed heavily and made a decision. "I'm coming up the stairs, darling."
"Leave me," she hissed. "I'm sick." She backed up.
"But you're cured," he still insisted. "When you recovered, we made the date for our marriage. Don't you remember?"
She twitched and stumbled back further. Suddenly, she stumbled backwards over the collection of dolls that she'd gathered during her stay. "I'm sick! You can't disturb the patient, doctor!"
Having reached the top of the stairs, he paused. "But you're not really that sick," he humoured her, while trying to make her aware of the reality. "No coughing or anything? Right?"
"I'm coughing up blood!" she screamed, then coughed twice to prove it.
Nothing came out.
"Darling," he soothed. "I'll take care of you. Just leave everything to me, all right?"
She stared at him for six eternities, before tilting her head crazily. "I hate you. You want to kill me!" With another heart-wrenching shriek, she rose once more and ran around the room. "Can't catch me!"
A flicker of nymph-like nature seemed to swirl about her as she darted to and fro. Amidst his raised voice, now panicking slightly, she wove this way and that, round and round, forwards and back, left and right, everywhere and nowhere all at once…
He whirled to keep track of her, then stumbled backwards in shock when she suddenly appeared in front of him, her claw-like fingernails grasping, tearing at his shirt, keeping him there.
"I will kill you," she crooned. "I'll kill you and keep you and my darling shall protect me from you forever!"
"What?" He grabbed at her, his eyes widening… just as she pushed backwards.
A fall. A crunch. A shattered bone.
Moments later, a figure rose. Tears shimmering in his eyes, he looked down at the too-still figure of his lovely bride, her neck twisted in the fall. The doctor rose, then winced as his shoulder cracked again, painfully.
"No one must ever know, " the doctor uttered solemnly in a voice filled with soul-shattering horror. "I shall leave no trace, nor will I reveal the truth – even in my journal records. Some fantastical story must suffice. Her honour will remain unstained in the annals of history." Then, he wept, sinking to his knees and covering his face in his moment of weakness. "This is the only thing I can do to protect you, my love."
Yami watched in suspicious awe. As humans, none had been truly evil; he could see that the exposure to the house tainted their nature, turning them against the other and warping their values. A chilling thought flashed through his mind: Was the same thing happening to Yugi during their stay? Or, even worse, was he already affected and didn't even know it?
Sensing their master's agitation, the shadows kicked up a circular storm around Yami. A black wind whipped around the room, though instead of being frigid and ghostly, it carried the scorching heat of an eastern desert.
"Oi, Pharaoh…" Bakura looked askance at him, a slight hint of unease visible in the tightening of his eyes. "Calm down." Perhaps with his memory, he had a slightly better recollection of what happened with Pharaoh and his magic.
Yami, on the other hand, was merely using his mind to direct what he felt was right, acting purely on instinct. He glared at the thief. "Silence," he ordered authoritatively. Ra, but just looking at the thief now made his stomach twist in putrid disgust. More than anything, he despised even just the presence of the other. With an effort, he remembered Yugi; Yugi wouldn't want anything to happen to Ryou, and Bakura was in Ryou's body. He had to remember that.
"So," he gritted out. "That's what happened. And why are you all still here?"
Bakura snorted. "The girl keeps you both here, yes? I can feel her hate swirling around them, keeping them in place."
For a moment, the men looked pained. The patient even lowered his eyes. "I miss Puppy."
Then the girl hissed and the moment was torn to pieces. "Don't think this is all me! I'm just the victim, you've both wanted revenge on the intruders!"
Almost as if they were in tune, three sets of eyes began to look assessingly at the two boys. "Yes," the doctor agreed. "But you two… you're different. Why are you against us, our fellow spirits?"
Bakura raised an eyebrow. "That's a good question. Still, I have to take an issue with you trying to kill me."
"But that wasn't us," the dog-lover crooned sorrowfully. "We can only take what you give us for emotions. What you felt… that was what we looked at, what he could act upon." He tilted his head, wafts of ectoplasm bubbling softly. "Your body must really hate you."
"My … body…?" Bakura wondered, then caught on and glared. "You mean Ryou? My host couldn't find it in him to hate a man-eating spider, much less his own double."
"Maybe it's because he hates himself, then." This was the lady, who began to drift closer.
"Silence!" the regal voice cracked across the room like a scorching whip. The shadows lashed out erratically, and malevolent red eyes began to blink open within the darkness. They, if no one else, could sense the upcoming souls they would devour. Yami sneered upon them all with disdain and furious regal scorn. "Did I not tell to obey?"
Around his neck, the Puzzle writhed. The golden exterior seemed to flash between gleaming bright and becoming dull with darkness. Attuned to the spiritual energies, the three ghosts and Bakura all went very, very still. It required no extensive foresight to see the tenuous hold Yami was exerting over the hissing shadows.
A distant clattering of feet began to echo around and down in the corridors, and Yami stiffened. "Aibou?" he questioned, and half-turned as if expecting to have his other half turn the corner right away.
Bakura's eyes had barely enough time to widen as the shadows paused at the distraction, and the ghosts leapt forwards at them. "Oh, sh—" his exclamation was cut off as he felt a spirit take over.
Yami was just frowning in confusion when he felt the own dreaded, familiar cold stillness wash over him, and his last thought was of despair for the scene that would greet his beloved aibou.
Already, Bakura's eyes were dull. "Don't you understand?" he spoke. "You're all alone now."
Yami faced Bakura, his eyes equally blank. The swarming shadows, undismissed, hovered uncertainly for a moment, then settled for cutting a lazy circular swath around the two possessed beings.
Yugi ran around another corner, his whole mind focused on Yami. He'd completely forgotten about the ten minute wait, or at least had rationalized it to the point where it didn't matter. What was a couple of minutes anyway? Behind him, easily keeping up, ran Joey and Seto. Unseen by Yugi, they periodically shot each other annoyed looks, then both told themselves that they really, honestly couldn't stand each other.
There was a supernatural chill in the air, as if the oncoming darkness brought with it an obvious warning. Still, Yugi kept on, sparing only a moment's thought for the sweater still folded neatly in his suitcase. Yami had packed a sweater too, at Yugi's urgings, and it had been the sweater that Yugi had gotten him for Christmas last year. With a hitch in his breath, Yugi remembered the curious joy with which Yami had received the gift.
Yugi turned the last corner, and slammed into a wall. With a startled cry, he fell backwards.
"Yugi!" Joey exclaimed, jumping forward to Yugi's fallen side. "You all right?"
"Yeah," Yugi hissed, rubbing his bruised hip. "But… what's that?" He gazed, slightly frightened, at the swarm of blackness that swirled in a lazy, impenetrable fortress ahead.
Seto twitched. "A trick…? No, that can't be it." Impassively, he quickly looked around the hallway for something to test. "Ah," he murmured. He spotted a vase and knocked onto the floor, its wilted flowers spilling out like so many innards. With care, he tossed it gently at the shadowy barrier, and was only a little surprised when it disappeared with a horrendous buzzing sound. Leave it to Yami to destroy any sense of normalcy in the world's workings.
Joey and Yugi stared in shock at the spot where the vase had been, then turned wide eyes to look at Seto. He glared back at them. "What? Someone had to see what it did."
Yugi furrowed his eyebrows; he wanted to talk to Yami, but there was this weird interference that was making it harder than usual. Finally, after what seemed to be an age, Yugi touched a familiar mind. (Yami? Are you ok?)
The mental voice that came back seemed to be from over a vast distance, and the sound was faint and confused. ((Yugi? Where are you? It is dark and I cannot see you.))
Oh, that was comforting. Yugi chose to collapse on the ground, letting his legs stop supporting him. (I'm in the hallway. Where are you? Are you inside these shadows? Yami!)
There was a pause, laced with thoughtful blue. ((I believe so. Everything is dark, though it is more like I cannot use my eyes, than I cannot see anything.)) With the mental link, Yugi's flashing red concern was more than easily detected. ((Fret not, aibou. I am not hurt, nor in any danger.))
(But, Yami…) The concern was still there as a diluted pink, then abruptly rerouted itself into determination. (I'm getting you out.)
((Aibou, no!)) Blaring redness screamed out wildly for a telling split-second, then was brought under control. ((Do not put yourself in danger. I am fine, you should not risk yourself for my sake.))
Joey glanced over at that moment and was surprised again. Yugi's eyes were blank, but his face was twisted into one of more angry expressions he'd ever seen. "Hey, Yuug'?" he questioned, but went unanswered.
(Don't EVER say that, Yami! You're more important to me than anything in the world! And if I decide that I want to risk my life in getting you back to me, then that's my decision!) There was a pause in the mental tirade, then a veritable rainbow of colours beamed over their link: Concern, compassion, determination, fear, excitement, nervousness, and, shining above them all, was love. (I won't lose you, Yami.)
A stunned, awed silence murmured between their minds. Yugi shivered happily at the golden warmth that flowed over him.
"Yugi," Seto felt the need to interject, "you've got the dumbest smile on your face I've ever seen… except for on the mutt."
"Bite me, ya rich snob," Joey shot back.
Yugi giggled, suddenly overcome with joy. "You two," he laughed and trailed off. Moving towards the shadows, he grasped the Puzzle and lifted it up. "Back up; I don't want you guys to get hurt."
"Wait, Yugi," Seto spoke up, concerned.
"Yeah, hold up Yuug'!" Joey exclaimed. "What about you?"
Yugi smiled at them. "Don't worry about me," he said. "I've got the Puzzle!" With that, he set about banging the Puzzle against the wall of shadows. At the first hit, a disembodied shriek began to wail; at the second, the walls began to bleed; at the third, a sonic eruption blasted the trio backwards. Determined, Yugi rose once more and ran back over. Four, five, six times… shining cracks began to split apart the impenetrable defence. At seven, the cracks widened, and on the eighth hit, the entire structure blew apart. With a final wail, the shadows dispersed, sneaking back into the nothingness that they'd come from.
"Yami!" Yugi cried, rushing forwards. With the shadows rushing away, the two figures within the fortress became obvious. Had the shadows been … protecting them somehow? A ridiculous thought, but nonetheless, Yugi couldn't shake that feeling. "Yami?"
The scene in front of him resolved itself. Bakura and Yami were collapsed on the floor; it seemed the only thing holding them up was each other. Great, panting breaths escaped from both of them. Yami's head rested wearily against Bakura's shoulder, while Bakura's lay shakingly against Yami's crowning head of hair. A pale hand cradled against Yami's back supportively.
"What happened?" he wondered. This was so far from the ordinary that it must mean possession. The pangs of woe in his heart reminded of Yami's earlier possession. Surely, though, now that he knew what was going on, that awful thing wouldn't be repeated, right?
"Yami?" Yugi moved closer, a hand outstretched with hesitating tenderness.
"Of course you can stay," Bakura murmured. "You can stay in this house as long as you want."
"Really?" Yami asked hopefully. "And I can stay with a puppy? You will get me a puppy, won't you, Mr. Doctor?"
Bakura laughed politely, agreeably. "We'll see what we can do for you. You're not a threat to society, but the people don't realize that yet. Hopefully the day will come when everyone can live together in harmony, regardless of how they think."
Yami sighed and shut his eyes. As Yugi watched warily, Yami seemed almost to slump over, and Bakura's arms tightened accordingly. Yugi couldn't take it anymore; he moved a few more steps forwards, his hands clasping his Puzzle nervously.
"Um, excuse me?" he softly interjected. "Can I just… that is to say, I'd like to… uh…" The deep breath he took did much to bolster his courage. "I want my Yami back now." There was a momentary pause, just long enough to draw attention to the neglect. "Please."
Something like a sigh wafted around the room, and Bakura slumped over as well. The cold, which had subliminally inserted itself into the room, began to disappear. Seto glanced around and Joey even glanced up, "Why's it gettin' so nice allova sudden?"
Yugi ran forwards, gently removing Bakura's body from its entwining position around Yami's body, then even more gently shook Yami's body slightly. "Yami? Yami, are you ok?"
Hazed eyes opened in bleary confusion, the red irises within quickly focusing on Yugi's worried face above. "Ai-aibou?" he coughed. "What…?" The confusion quickly cleared up, though, and within a moment he was on his feet. "That's right! Yugi, we know of their pasts."
Yugi gaped at him for a moment, the shock of this sudden declaration making him oblivious to the little moan Ryou made as he woke up. Instead, he stared at Yami for a silent period, where they got so caught up in each other that it was just the two of them in their own little world.
"Wha-?" Yugi murmured, reaching out and holding onto Yami's hands. "You mean, for the ghosts?" His eyes widened even further; to Yami, it seemed as if they grew large enough to contain the whole world. "Oh, Yami," he continued, "we can save them!"
"Indeed," Yami agreed. In his opinion, the faster they could wrap this whole thing up and leave, the better. He could barely remember anything anymore as the strain of controlling ghosts, shadows, and his own desires for too long without adequate sleep was rapidly overshadowing even his aibou's loving eyes. His mind became increasingly fuzzy and he stumbled a bit.
"Yami? Yami!" That must be Yugi, and the solid support around his shoulders could only belong to his one true love. Thus, with the happy knowledge that Yugi was safe and he'd done his duty, Yami willingly gave up the battle for consciousness. Smiling faintly, he passed out stone cold in Yugi's arms.
A/N: Twenty one pages of text. ((weeps)) And now it's 1:00 in the AM. Sleep time! And, because I am tired and have kinda had a really crappy week, I'm really sorry if this chapter sucked. Um. I'll work extra hard on the next one?
Oh! And in the reviews which, as wonderful, wonderful people you are ((bats eyes)) I'm sure you will leave, if you have any questions you want answered about the plot, etc., please tell me and I'll work my way into answering them in the next chapter. Ok? Hugs to all! Thanks so very, very much for all your support! On another totally random note, I just realized this fic is practically a year old. T—T I experience massive sorrow and shame. I am so sorry! Thank you also for your patience!
-.- I made the girl's history. The feminist within me cries.