"Why does distance make us wise…"
She never wanted adventure, romance, action and rescue from some brave knight on a dazzling white charger, armor blazing in the sun, almost as much as his teeth. She never wanted that. She was born into a practical sort of family, grew up a practical sort of girl and reached for practical sorts of dreams. It wasn't completely inconceivable to make it as a dancer, not if you worked at it as hard as she had worked at it. There was a good chance she might just succeed and be fulfilled in life. That chance was almost more important than anything else was, or it had been for a while; some people like to have their dreams come true. Some people would even give up normal things like friends and dates and break the rules at school to get a job if it meant they could be someone.
When she stood up for the short kid who never quite fit in and never seemed to grow up; said she would befriend this boy she'd known her whole life anyway, she had no idea she was signing on for the furthest thing from the practical, ordinary life she imagined. Who could have possibly guessed? Not her, certainly not Yugi, himself. The poor guy thought his biggest problems would always be bullies and the puzzles he did voluntarily. She would always wonder whether he would have become the same person if none of this had happened- most people would assume not, that kind of a thing changes a person- with Yugi it was hard to tell. He was so much stronger than anyone could have guessed; he was the strongest out of the whole group, his was a subtle kind of strength, a faith… a hope. She wished she could be more like him.
It was Yugi's words they hung on, his decisions they honoured; it was his determination that kept them going. His open, simple kindness that was the glue holding them all together. As she stared around the table at the impromptu council of war, she realized all over again what an unlikely bunch they were; how they would never have said a decent word to each other, much less been inseparable best friends if not for the influence of poor, seemingly helpless Yugi. He was like some great teacher, surrounded by disciples egar to learn his secrets. Or like a king, as they were told he had been once…. Maybe that was why he had such a strange air of leadership around him. Had that always been there?
Tea observed silently as Yami turned to embrace Yugi's small form and the image brought the question that had bothered her all night back to the surface of her mind. Were they the same person… or not? She had told Rebecca that there was really only one Yugi, that Yami was only the more confident, assertive side of his personality. She had believed it, too, at the time- weren't they two pieces of the same soul, divided into the extremes of personality because of their separation? Yami the piece banished to the puzzle in ancient Egypt in order to save his people from some great evil, maybe that was why the darker side was sealed, maybe- who knew? And then there was Yugi, presumably the piece that had escaped the sealing ritual somehow, being reincarnated just in time to release Yami and save the world all over again. How else could it work?
Now, though, as the pair sat side by side, they were not at all the mirror image she had assumed they would be. Yami was tall and strong, dark and forbidding, his deep eyes full of mystery. Yugi was petite, pale as new snow, too gentle for his own good, everything he felt written across his face. It was the contrast that made the theory make sense… but not like this; without the connection of their near-identical appearances, they seemed totally unrelated individuals. The more they interacted, the more it seemed that both were fully developed in their own right, capable of independence, but choosing to be together because they each gave they other something they needed. They were much more like complementary than a matched set…
Yugi was soft and gentle, little and physically helpless, he did need a guardian to look after him and defend him from enemies bigger than him. Yami was everything he was missing in that respect, physically able, with a stronger stomach and the willpower necessary to kill those who opposed him. At the same time, there was the strength she had noticed; inner strength, the kind that most people would never develop. Yugi was completely sure of himself in everything he did and he always believed that he could win no matter how impossible the odds. For all of Yami's incredible powers, he didn't always believe that they could do it; when things began to look hopeless, he needed just as much encouragement as everyone else. Encouragement that came from Yugi. They didn't have one thing or the other the way they should have, they both had strength. That was just one small thing; she didn't want to think about all the other things, the more she thought, the more it seemed she was wrong about them.
Yami had always fascinated her, captivated her interest since the beginning; when he took control of Yugi's body his every gesture and expression was infused with a nameless grace and the sureness, the authority of a god. He was such a king. Though he hadn't known it; he had acted on it, taken possession of Yugi and his friends subconsciously. They were his property, his to use and his responsibility to protect; however, they were too far beneath him to be cherished, to be allowed to see him without the crown. She longed to be the one who would persuade him that it was all right for the crown to come off, the one to break though and see his humanity, his real personality. She wanted it with all of her being until the moment she realized that the honour had long since belonged to someone else.
Yugi had seen his Darkness in the throes of every kind of emotion, had seen him vulnerable and weak and open in a way Tea never could. She didn't know whether to be jealous or happy for Yami- and Yugi- for making the breakthrough that had probably saved them all, though they didn't know it. It was hard to be jealous of Yugi, his life had been so hard, so sad, and then his mind was invaded by a vengeful spirit, his life- such as it was- overturned. That was why, even though she had compassion for him, she felt that tiny bit of shameful envy far in the depths of her heart. He had a relationship with Yami which she could never share, that she had only recently realized she wanted at all.
If they were the same person, she was in love with Yugi- if they were really different the way she was almost daring to suspect, then she had a tiny splinter in the part of her heart that had already realized the truth that they themselves were unaware of. And, as we all know, the smallest splinter, left untreated, can be fatal.
She looked on uneasily while Yugi lay down on the couch; his eyes meeting Joey's as he shot him a reassuring smile. Yugi was so trusting, so positive in his knowledge that it would all be okay. The idea of both his body's occupants fading away to the inside of the puzzle, a labyrinth of darkness and traps and hallways that lead nowhere didn't frighten him at all. It was only what he had to do. It didn't even occur to him that they might be trapped, that they might never see him again… Yugi had no grasp at all of the concept that this wasn't some story, this was reality and in reality; the bad guys can win.
"We've done this before, you know," Yugi said cheerily. His smile was real, right into his bright blue eyes. "There's nothing to worry about."
Joey's smile, on the other hand, was forced, "Whatever you say, Yug'."
Tristan gave a feeble thumbs-up and Tea just stood there, thinking this was wrong, this was dangerous, he's not telling us something, the puzzle can't be safe- what if it fell apart with them in it? No one else could put that thing together again except Yugi or Yami. What if, what if…
Yugi took a last glance around at his friends, feeling stronger just to have them all there, supporting him. He was getting used to this feeling, this sense of togetherness; it was nice to be one of the group instead of one of the outcasts, for once.
/As long as we're all together…/ he thought, letting the sentiments drift across the shared consciousness to the shadows of his mind, where Yami would hear him. /Nothing can go wrong./
(I fear, partner,) Yami's answering thoughts were wistful, (that I have lost some of your indefatigable optimism in separation.)
Yugi was unperturbed, as usual, sending out his usual warm, embracing thoughts. /All you need to do is believe, Yami./
(I'll try.) Yami's mental voice surrounded him, as if in return of the embrace. (…for you.)
They were ready. The connection secure and their communion as strong and natural as ever. Yami's fingers formed from the nothingness, reaching into the void and creating himself and Yugi like a sculpture working from thin air. They exchanged a look, clasped hands and they were falling, flying, hurtling and the world was a blur; there was nothing and all the world- all sliding passed them at thousands of kilometers an hour and then- Everything stopped.
The air was stuffy, ancient; the atmosphere oppressive, if you lost something here, you would never find it again. The feeling didn't really bode well for their quest. It closely resembled a painting by M.C. Esher Yugi's English teacher had been fond of; he'd made the class write poems inspired by it. Yugi's had been something about there being light, a way out… that was just Yugi's way. Not only that, it was hard to be afraid of something like that, when you had something almost worse right inside your head. Thinking on this, Yami noted with amusement that his poem would be much like the puzzle itself, shadowy and enigmatic, difficult to find any meaning anywhere. The idea was pleasing to him. He liked being a mystery.
"And here we are," Yugi ventured, aiming a timid smile at Yami, only to start in surprise. "Yami! What…?"
"What is it, partner?" the spirit looked down at himself and started also. He was garbed in a linen kilt, sandals, gold jewelry and little else. His long, black hair fell about him in tiny, tight braids trimmed with beads. "I… I did not do this."
The two stared at each other and then at their surroundings, peering into the all-encompassing blackness. Was it just a semi-sentient, ancient artifact's idea of a joke? Or was it something… else?
"Come, partner," Yami broke the silence that was settling over them like a heavy fog. Everything seemed so dense inside the puzzle, the air was so thick it felt like breathing sand.
They walked, somewhat aimlessly, Yugi keeping his eyes open and trying to be aware of any strange feelings he might get. When it came, he didn't know how he recognized it, or understood it, but he grabbed Yami and pulled him towards a corner of the puzzle which suddenly seemed to emanate a strange sort of light. Hidden away at the end of a long passage, it seemed to be a dead end until they got close. Thousands of whispering voices washed over them from total silence, compelling them to block their ears even as they drew closer. Yugi reached out and the wall fell away, out of the blinding brightness, a single voice overshadowed the others enough to become clear.
"Where there is nothing there is endless possibility, this is the wisdom of your forefathers- you will remember it!" the proverb ended in a wail that made both light and dark step back, a chill making its way from the tips of their toes to the ends of their hair.
"I know you love her- that's why she has to go! Send her back before you cause her any more pain! Cousin! Listen to me!"
"I'll do anything you want me to do…" this one was timid, wilting, barely making itself heard at all, "Just don't ask me to leave."
"Gods of Kemet; hear me! I am blood of your blood, it is my will and our will is divine!" Yami's own voice echoed around them long after the others finally faded, his thunderous command lingering on the thick, still air.
/Yami…/ Yugi almost whimpered. It had not just been voices, it had not just been images, it had been a full assault on his senses without really being anything at all.
(I remember those things.) Yami seemed not to notice. (I must, or they would not be here.) He took Yugi by the shoulder, turning him to face him. (I need to return to my tomb to truly unlock my memories- we know that, but perhaps… all this time, there has been something here! Perhaps when I was sealed in the puzzle they made allowances for enough to be within the puzzle itself to help us… In case of such misfortune as we have had!)
/What were you doing? In that… whatever that was. What were you demanding of the gods in that voice… with that terrible tone…/ Yugi stared up at the spirit he'd lived with for what felt like forever, staring as if he'd never seen him before. /What were you doing
/Yami, there's something more here than you're seeing. That voice begging someone not to make them leave- that was me! Why would my voice be here? Why would I sound half dead like that/ Yugi's already wide eyes seemed wider still as he looked at his partner; towering over him and imposing with his dark skin and glittering jewels. His changed countenance was the last straw, Yugi turned away and started walking.
(Partner!) Yami followed him, but made no move to accost him, knowing Yugi was on the brink of breaking down. (I don't know any more about this than you do, Yugi!)
Yugi stopped walking, but didn't turn around. "Yami… are we who we thought we were?" His voice was quiet, but steady as steel, firm and deadly serious.
"I…" unaccustomed to being lost for words, Yami floundered.
"Don't say you don't know what I mean, don't lie to me like that- you know exactly what I'm talking about!" Narrow shoulders shook under the strain as Yugi fought to contain himself, fear and sadness warring for dominance on his face. "You're so changed, I- what if we're not that close, what if you only thought… because you were in my head and you didn't know anything… What if…?" Yugi put a hand to his forehead, grimacing.
"What if this…" there was no word for their relationship, but Yugi would understand; he always did. "Isn't real?"