If the World Doesn't Want Me
by Josie

He had always been small for his age. It was the curse of a genetic flaw, really, but it still came down to, when push came to shove, he would never grow much taller than a grade school student. Usually, he was too wrapped up in his own world to really care too much, but, sometimes, it was the only thing he could think about. People looking down at him, soft snickering behind his back ... people thought he didn't notice, but he did. Every last sound made in jest about his height, or lack thereof, he noticed. It was redundant and annoying, and there were days that he couldn't stand it; days where he wished he was stronger, more threatening, so that he could simply stand up to every last person who made jokes about him and just tell them off.

But he was the 'sweet one,' the 'innocent one.' If anyone was ever looking to find a person who would never step out of line or tell you that you were begin a first-class asshole, Mutou Yuugi was the person that they should seek out.

He didn't want to be the innocent, sweet one. He didn't want to be the one who got tossed around.

It was kind of hard to fight against that, though, when you had his obvious stature deficiency, unfortunately.

Still, Yuugi was many things. A great listener, a true friend, someone who you could depend on to stand up for you if he felt that someone was wrongly accusing you of something. Unfortunately, people never really looked past his poor athletic ability and more introspective nature to actually find that out about him. They simply saw him as 'the kid whose grandfather owns that game shop,' or 'that kid who prefers his games to sports.' Sometimes, it pissed him off to no end (not that he would ever show it) ... other times, it made him very glad. When a person is as small as Yuugi, they become a target for bullies, someone who's 'easy to mess with.' And who was to defend him? The one real friend he had was a girl who was outcast almost as much as he was, though whether it was because she chose to associate with him or because of the fact that she stood up to the boys in their classes who tended to look at all females as sex objects, Yuugi had no idea.

But even Anzu couldn't protect him against the school's bullies all of the time.

Picked on and often beaten up, Yuugi had turned to the only thing he could actually have a chance of excelling at � games, much like those his grandfather sold. He'd been pouring his attention into games for so many years, since he six or seven, and they began to really take over his life.

His pride, his treasure, was a golden puzzle that his grandfather had given to him eight years earlier. He'd worked on it almost every day in those eight years, but was still unable to actually solve it. He had begun to place so many hopes on this puzzle, without even realizing it. Somehow, he just knew that if he completed it, he would get any one of his wishes granted.

That belief was all that kept him going sometimes.

He was often dazed in class, not really interested in anything that his teachers had to say; no subject really held his fancy much, which was displayed very readily in the grades that he received. He never bothered to hide the fact that he didn't enjoy his classes from anyone in his family ... he was sure that they had been able to figure it out easily enough on their own, anyway.

No, the only things that held his attention were his games; his puzzle, most specifically. It was perhaps strange, considering he had already started high school and was more concerned with his games than with his grades, or even with romance options, which perhaps outcast him even more, but he didn't seem to care. The opinions of others didn't matter to him as much as they do to some, although he would have liked to just not have to deal with people any longer. It became redundant, annoying, to be forced to deal with their rudeness, their talking down to him, constantly.

His hopes were on his puzzle granting him the chance to get away from everything, from everyone. It was the one thing that couldn't be taken from him ... he guarded it with his life, really. Even Anzu thought it was a bit odd, though she did her best to hide it. She really was a great friend, but Yuugi had always rather sensed a bit of her wishing to pull away some, almost as though he was dragging her down, away from her own dreams. He didn't want to do that; he wanted his best friend to just be happy. He never wanted her to give up her happiness at his expense.

Which, perhaps, was why he had begun dreaming of meeting someone new, a friend very much like him, who understood his passion for his games, and didn't look down on him for it; a friend who could look past his height impairment in order to discover the person that he really was.

He sometimes wondered if it was even possible for such a wish to come true. More than anything, he truly wished that it was.

- - -

It was a day much like every other. Yuugi supposed he shouldn't have been too surprised about that, but he couldn't help but wish that, just once, something would be different, at least for his birthday.

Too many expectations placed on a matter of insignificance.

He sighed, nearly inaudibly, wondering to himself why he had thought that he had placed any stock in his belief that something would be different that day. He still had school, after all. No amount of wishing could change that for him. He still had to sit in class and put up the fa�ade of listening to whatever it was the teachers were saying. It didn't interest him. It never did.

Sometimes, he could feel their eyes on him; hear the snickers that they tried to keep silent. He knew that they laughed at him, and that no one ever really seemed to care too much about the fact that he even so much as existed. Most days, he ignored it. Others, it would eat its way into his heart, his mind ... his very essence. He wanted to just not have to deal with it. He wanted to not have to hear them, day in and day out, making comments about 'that strange little guy' who never pays attention in class. So he found classes boring. Where was the crime in that?

Of course, it didn't help that the teachers all knew just how little he paid attention. He supposed that it would be most obvious to them ... he never knew what was going on when they would call on him during class, and his grades were so poor that the only way he could do worse was by just not showing up at all.

And they purposely called on him. It was as though they lived for hearing those moments of, "Huh? What? I'm sorry ... could you repeat the question?" Those moments of Yuugi's face burning a deep crimson in embarrassment as the other students laughed at his obvious inattentiveness.

Bastards, the lot of them.

Idly, he moved his pencil across the sheet of paper on his desk, feigning note-taking so that, perhaps, the teacher might overlook him. He glanced up, listening for a moment, noting that, indeed, she was about to begin asking questions of the class.

Of all of his classes, of all of his teachers, the one he was currently in was perhaps the worst. Chono-sensei was a rather bitter woman, and had a tendency to call on people while asking impossible questions on information that she had never taught whenever she was in a particularly nasty mood. Said nasty moods tended to occur whenever someone made a snide comment about her porcelain doll-like features. Yuugi winced slightly. He had heard that, on days after a bad date, she would find the smallest reason to expel as many students as possible. He had never personally seen it happen, but he also knew that he didn't want to risk tempting fate to find out if it was really true. He couldn't put his family through that ... it would break his grandfather's heart if he were to get expelled from high school after only having started two months earlier.

He shrunk down in his seat a bit, hoping against every hope that this was not one of those days when she would be in one of her worst moods. He didn't need to deal with that right now; he hadn't gotten much sleep the night before, though, for the life of him, he couldn't recall just why. Was it the puzzle? Did I work on it that late last night? He watched Chono-sensei as she continued to scan the class, looking for her first victim, and suppressed a shudder as her eyes passed him. He had learned that, the less he moved and more he appeared to be paying attention, the less likely he was to be called on to answer a question.

How ironic.

He watched her carefully, not liking the look in her eye. He has a sinking feeling that he wasn't going to manage to get out of being seen this time, despite his stillness and his choice to sit behind some of the taller students in the class; usually, that was more than enough to keep him from drawing too much attention, a combination of his meager height and that the lack of movement didn't draw the eye.

A fat chance of that happening this time, he realized, as Chono-sensei's gaze came back towards him. "Mutou." He nearly cringed at the absolute glee that he sensed in her voice. "The distinct characteristics of the Old Kingdom of Ancient Egypt are ..."

He gulped some ... he hadn't read the chapter in the text that he was supposed to; he didn't think it was too important, and he'd opted to, instead, spend his time working on the puzzle. It had seemed like a good idea at the time, at least.

Now? He wanted to kick himself for it.

"Um ..." He felt the heat rising to his cheeks, and shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "I ... I don't know ..." He heard the snickers from next to him; they were soft, so as not to attract too much attention from Chono-sensei, but he could hear them quite clearly.

"Mutou, weren't you in class when the reading assignment was given?" He gave a mumbled affirmative. "Wasn't there sufficient time to complete the assignment?" Another mumbled affirmative. "And, yet, you don't know the information from the assignment. There had better be a good explanation as to why. Or perhaps you would like your family to be informed of your poor performance in class today?"

He winced. "I ... wasn't feeling too well last night, Chono-sensei." He hated lying, but there were times when you just couldn't avoid the necessity. This was one of those times.

"You seem well enough to me, Mutou. Laziness does not equate to illness. You'll do well to remember that." More snickers. He sunk down in his chair some.

"Yes, Chono-sensei," he mumbled, wishing � not for the first time - that he could just disappear.

Such a wish just would not be granted, however, no matter how much he wanted it.

He looked back down at his paper, biting back any emotion as he heard another student answer the question that he had passed up on; the sheer glee in that student's voice, the mocking looks that he felt on him, made him want to jump up and smack someone. That wouldn't be good. Causing a scene seldom was.

Popular, stuck-up brats, the lot of them. Can't stand them. Can't stand a single one. He glanced up from his notebook, noting one of the more popular students scribbling something onto a small piece of paper and passing it to Jounouchi. He looked down again, scowling. Of course they never get caught. Why would they? They're perfect. Just fucking perfect, all of them. They can't do a single thing wrong, even according to Chono-sensei. But someone like me? If I were to try to pass a note, she'd see it, read it out to the class, and be the first to laugh. Fuck her. Fuck all of them. He glared at the paper, pencil moving along it in a design that mimicked his puzzle. Don't need a single one of them.

If he was honest with himself, there were times when he envied people like Jounouchi and Honda. They had it made, in a sense; at least, as far as he could tell, they did. Everybody loved them; everybody wanted to be around them. And him? Well, he could probably drop dead in the middle of class, and people would only notice for the fact that they would have to step over the body.

People jumped at the opportunity to just be spoken to � spoken at? � by those two. Popularity creates that sort of mentality, he knew, but that fact didn't make it annoy him any less. They had people lining up to be around them, and he couldn't get anyone to pay attention to him unless they were making fun of him. Where was that fair in any way?

He looked at the sketch he was doing, and paused, frowning at it for a moment before adding in a small detail that he'd forgotten with a wry grin. Everything about his puzzle calmed him down. He felt his annoyance die away some. Really, he shouldn't get so worked up about people like that; it was just ... it was one thing if they simply ignored his existence. He could deal with that; he wouldn't have to put up with whatever jokes were being said behind his back if they merely ignored his existence. But, no. They didn't do that. They made the jokes. They laughed. He couldn't stand it. And he wanted it to just all end.

Just as he contemplated the odds of that ever happening, the bell rang, dismissing the class. He grabbed his things hastily and made a beeline for the door.

- - -

Anzu was busy after school that day. Normally, she would have walked home with him, and they would have spent some time going over their homework; a vain attempt on Anzu's part to help Yuugi get his grades up. More than anything, though, the routine was done more for the company than anything else. Anzu didn't like to go home right away after school, simply because she didn't like dealing with the expectations of her family. She had always been expected to go to school and get her good grades, but, more than that, to remain as attractive as possible to get the 'best suitors possible' to come after her.

An easy life.

Yuugi knew how much the thought disgusted her, and, perhaps, that was why they had become such good friends so easily. Anzu was never the type of girl to sit around and let her life be handed to her by some pompous jerk; she could fight her own battles in her own way. Truly, she was one of the most amazing people that he knew and he couldn't be happier that they were such good friends.

Anzu's main problem with her family's expectations, Yuugi knew, was that they would never, ever let her go after her one true dream: to move off to New York and become a dancer. He couldn't even count how many times he had lost himself in watching her on the Dance Dance Revolution machines in the arcade. When she was up there, she usually drew huge crowds. She was simply gorgeous when she danced.

Truly one of the most focused people that Yuugi knew. And one of the strongest, if not so much in physical force as in the sheer intensity of her will. No one messed with him when she was around, because they didn't want to be beaten down by her moral standing.

It wasn't so much that he needed her around to stop others from pestering him as it was that he enjoyed the help, though. He wasn't that easily broken, after all. It was just ... sometimes, they wouldn't let up. Then Anzu would yell at them to back the hell off, and they'd give him a glare that said, 'Next time, freak,' before scampering off.

It was really hilarious.

He liked the days when that happened; he felt a lot more at ease when he didn't have to worry about some idiot causing trouble for him. He didn't know what he might run into this time, since Anzu wasn't around to give the help that she normally would. As much as Yuugi wasn't so easily broken, he also didn't like the idea of having to deal with thugs alone for too long. He could stand up against them, but he couldn't do very much to ward them off beyond that; a fighter, he was not.

Just ... ignore those around you. Keep moving forward, forget that they're around. If you don't notice them, perhaps they won't notice you, either. He liked that thought, although he knew that it was far from the truth. Ignoring those who pestered you did nothing to save you from their annoying attention � it only caused them to come after you more, because you seemed perfectly clueless to everything around you. He should know ... he'd tried it before. He kicked at a small rock on the ground as he walked, hoping that nothing would happen, that his fears were unfounded.

Slow steps.

He paused, frowning to himself; it felt as though he was being followed. It wasn't quite the general sense of, 'Oh, there are people around, and they're obviously walking behind me.' It was more the sense of, 'There's someone walking behind me, and they have some sort of malicious intent.' Each way had a different sort of feel, a different sort of prickling that runs down your spine. Yuugi had long since learned how to tell the difference.

Taking a quick glance behind himself, Yuugi found nothing too out of the ordinary; just the ordinary foot-traffic of Domino City. He shrugged to himself, turning to face forward again, taking slow steps as he tried to shake off the feeling that someone with harmful intentions was following him; for all he knew, he was just imagining it, or perhaps feeling what was meant to be for someone else.

He would have almost convinced himself of that, too, if a large, powerful hand hadn't closed around his shoulder a few short seconds later.

Damnit all to hell ... He almost growled in frustration. Can't I just get one fucking break? Just once? It's all I ask. He tried to pull away, but the hand was holding onto his shoulder much too firmly to allow for that. Resigning himself to his fate, he turned slowly, so that he could at least see the face of his attacker. "Ushio ..." he ground out bitterly. This was not going to be good.

"Little freak." The taunt was growled just low enough that Yuugi barely heard it. His eyes darted about, looking for any possible ways to escape, but found that his luck was apparently lower than he had first thought. He was slowly being herded towards a deserted alleyway.

This is going to suck major ass. The thought flittered through his mind before he really managed to figure out exactly what was happening.

He never voiced such thoughts, though. If the thugs who beat him up had any idea what he thought when they hit him, they'd just continue longer; even Anzu's help wouldn't get them off of Yuugi's case. No, he remained silent, but glared defiance at them the whole way.

That's all he had ever done. It was all he was really able to do.

"You're a disgrace, Mutou!" He stopped himself from flinching as the thug cracked his knuckles. "A complete disgrace. You're a moron, and you don't even know how to play a sport. No redeeming qualities in you at all."

Like you have any? All you can do is beat up those smaller than you, and try to take whatever money you can. Greedy asshole. He glared at Ushio just as a fist came right for his face. He felt himself reeling backwards, right into a brick wall, and quickly straightened himself up, glaring once again. He would not be broken by a simple thug. He had promised that to himself years ago.

Another punch connected with his face, this time to his left cheek, and he once again felt himself fly backwards into the brick wall. He growled, but once again glared. Make me feel it, asshole. Go ahead.

But, still, he knew that his chances of this ending anytime soon were slim to none. Without Anzu there to ward Ushio off, he was in for a long run of it. He hated these days.

Another punch. "Don't look at me, you little freak!" And a punch to his chest. Still, he looked up at Ushio, glaring daggers. "You're a nobody. Nobody will ever care about you; nobody will give a rat's ass what happens to you."

And still he glared on. He could see Ushio getting infuriated at his refusal to just fall into a whimpering mass. Too fucking bad, fuckwit.

He didn't know what it was that made him refuse to back down to people like this. Perhaps it was just an ingrained notion to not see people win by stepping all over others the way that Ushio did; perhaps a desire to see them knocked down a few pegs. Whatever it was, he knew that not many others were standing up to them, so he might as well make his stand count.

And still he glared.

Ushio's face was red with fury, beady eyes enraged by Yuugi's lack of submission. "Don't look at me, runt!" A punch landed right on Yuugi's chest, knocking the air out of him. He smirked, looking right up at Ushio's face and glaring again, eyes clearly stating that he would not give up.

What was the line from that American Western that he had watched with his grandfather? Oh, right ... "Go ahead, make my day."

He stood his ground, glaring right at Ushio, who was getting progressively angrier with each passing moment; Yuugi's refusal to give in was infuriating him beyond words.

It got boring for him, Yuugi could tell. He continued to glare as Ushio backed away, muttering some half-formed threat. He didn't pay too much attention to it, only knew that it was probably something along the lines of how Ushio would make him break yet. He would win in the end.

Yuugi didn't much care, if he was to be honest with himself. Whatever the thug wanted to throw at him, he would stand up to. He stood there for a few minutes after Ushio left, just staring blankly at the other wall before slowly staggering his way out of the alleyway. Perfect fucking gift for my birthday. Beautiful. Just beautiful.

He wrapped an arm around his chest, knowing that it would be bruised badly for a few days to come. It was already hurting a bit to breathe.

He knew that he was going to be questioned when he got home. He hated getting his grandfather so worried about him for something as stupid like this. If only morons like Ushio would leave him be. If only on his birthday he could get at least that much.

As he got home and stepped through the doorway, another thought passed through his mind.

Anzu's going to be pissed when she finds out about this.

- - -

His heart pounded in his ears.

Hands worked almost of their own accord, golden pieces moving against each other as the hands worked to place them together.

Have to do this.

Thump. His heart pumped again.

His desire to see this through, to finally finish what he had started so many years ago, urged him onward. He would not stop. He could not stop.

How long had he been up here? Ten minutes? An hour? A day?

He couldn't be sure.

He didn't care.

All that mattered was the puzzle.

A click. Two pieces fit together perfectly. A grin slid into place on Yuugi's lips, and his eyes seemed to glow in fascination. It could be done. It would be done.

The golden pieces seemed to wink at him, urging him onward. "Finish me," it says. It needs to be done. It grows tired of being unfinished. It wants me to finally finish what I started eight years ago. A quickened, gasping breath as another piece fit into those that had been placed together before. Don't worry, I'll finish you. You are the most precious thing to me.

Thump. Another pound of his heart.

Hands fumbled along the pieces, and his eyes narrowed, a scowl forming on his face. The pieces were not cooperating with him as much as he would have liked.

Did the lights go out? He glanced up, looking towards the window, noting that it was no longer light out. His gaze shifted to the desk lamp, noting that it was, in fact, on. He frowned. No ... it's not out. His attentions refocused onto the pieces of the puzzle.

Click. A fanatic's grin as yet another piece of the puzzle fit into place along with its companions. Yes. Join your friends, little one. Bring my dream to me. That's all I ask from you. A thumb caressed the surface of the piece in his hand. Do this for me, and I'll never let anything happen to you.

Click. Another piece fit in.

A frown marred Yuugi's brow as he looked at the puzzle in his hand, still incomplete. He always got stuck at this point ... he had never gone further than this, because no piece seemed to work properly from here on. He growled very softly. No! You have to work! You can't let me down now! I need to finish you! His eyes narrowed, seeming to glow with a flash of anger and despair.

He reached into the golden box that held the remaining pieces of his puzzle, picking up one and sliding it along the mass in his hand. "Work." His voice was almost a growl. "Fit, damnit. Don't you dare do this to me!" A frown.

Thump. His chest constricted. The pounding of his heart was beginning to hurt.

Still, he fumbled with the piece, until, suddenly, click.

Eyes lit up, and his lips twisted into an almost sick grin. If anyone were to see him, they would probably wonder just what was wrong with him.

He didn't care. This was all that mattered. His puzzle. His one love.

I'll finish you.

Click. His eyes widened in surprise. He hadn't even realized that he had picked up another piece and brought it to the puzzle, but there it was, fitting in perfectly.

His grin became even more maddened.

Mine, Yuugi thought, the voice of his mind infinitely possessive. You're so beautiful. Mine. His hand reached into the box again, picking up another piece still.

His mind was racing faster and faster. Nothing would stop him, he felt. This was the most important thing in his world, and not a single thing would stop him. The puzzle called to him, demanded that he finish it. He needed to finish it, to appease its beauty. For eight years, he had waited to see it in its full glory, he would not stop now. Nothing was more important than freeing whatever it was that was within this puzzle. He felt it now, more than ever before.

Yuugi wasn't sure if he would ever get this far again if he stopped now.

He couldn't stop. He needed to continue on.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, a small voice screamed out that he had to do his homework. It was pushed aside with a fanatical fervor. Homework was not important.

That small voice screamed out again that he needed sleep. Again, that zeal pushed it aside. No, sleep was not important.

The voice attempted to tell him that he was not being reasonable, that something was wrong with his thought process.

Again, it was pushed aside. This time, Yuugi growled.


The sound was abnormally loud to him, and his chest cried out in the pain.

His fingers worked with the piece in his hand, running it along the mass of the puzzle that he had already completed. Fit. Fit in, just as you were meant to. His eyes narrowed again, and his thoughts became more desperate. Please fit.


His wish was answered.

The glint of the gold was beautiful. He wanted this so badly.

The beauty of it was so simple in its perfection; the soft glint coming off of it from the small desk lamp, the smoothness of its surface, broken by small lines and indentations. He was in love, so completely and thoroughly. Perhaps others would have found it strange, his fascination and love for an object, but it was so important to him, so necessary to his life, that it did not seem odd to him.

It breathed life into him, gave him a purpose. Nothing else was quite as important as this puzzle. He needed it, more than anything else in the world. His mind wrapped around the beautiful object in his hand as another piece was placed upon the puzzle.

Click. Again, a fanatical grin.

My one love. My absolute beauty. I will protect you from anything. If he were thinking clearly, he would have realized just how strange, how wrong, the thought was. But, to him, at that exact moment, it seemed perfectly normal.

Still, the puzzle called out to him, and another thump sounded in his ears. His body demanded that he finish this puzzle now.

I won't let you down, my love. He grinned. His thumb caressed the golden puzzle again. I'll fix you up perfectly. Again, it called to be finished. He grinned. You want me, my love. Don't fret. I will come for you. I will save you. He grinned, eyes glowing again.

His life depended on this puzzle. His love grew with each passing moment. This puzzle was his and his alone. No one could take it from him. He didn't care who they were, this was his, and they would not touch it.

Yuugi's breath quickened again, or so he felt that it did. He couldn't quite be sure if it was that his actions truly quickened, or if the world was speeding up around him. Everything around him moved faster and faster, demanding everything of him. Another pound of his heart, and blood rushed through his veins.

It felt so good.

Everything whirled around him. His thoughts were no longer even clear.

A scent, slightly exotic, reached his nose. He paused, closing his eyes to take in the scene more, confused at where it was coming from. A strong scent of fruits ... figs, most predominantly, but also grapes. He frowned slightly, knowing that they had not had any in their house for a long while. Where is that coming from?

It wasn't that the scent was bad, though. He loved the smell of it. It just confused him to no end. Still, it was intoxicating to him. He wanted more ... he wanted to smell it forever.

It drew him in more, seducing him. My love, is that you?

Something seemed to answer him, a deep, mesmerizing voice telling him that, yes, it was his love who was creating this wonderful scent. Something seemed to reach out and touch him, caress him. He moaned very softly. It felt so very good ... almost as though fingers were tickling along his neck, bringing his nerves to life. "Please don't leave me," he nearly whimpered out. Arms seemed to wrap around him, and something that felt akin to lips pressed against his neck in an almost possessive act. He sighed in relief. His love wanted him. He leaned into that embrace. "My love ..." Another deep kiss to his neck, and he sighed again. "Please help me. I need you. I need to find you." His infatuation grew with each passing moment.

A nod against his shoulder.

Hands moved down Yuugi's arms gently, sending shivers down his spine as his nerves were awakened there, as well. It feels so good ... so wonderful. Please stay with me. Never leave me again, my love. He sighed at the touch, disappointed as those hands reached his own. "Guide me, please." His eyes remained closed.

Gently, those hands guided his own.

Slowly, he felt himself picking up another piece, placing it against the puzzle, and distantly heard it click into place. Lips pressed against his ear and gave a gentle bite. He felt a tongue slide gently along it afterwards, soothing. His nerves shot shivers of desire all along him. More.

Another piece was picked up, and placed upon the puzzle, again clicking into place. His heart raced faster.

Find me ... free me ...

The voice drifted through his mind, urging him onward. Yes. I'll find you, my love. I won't let you down, I promise. His eyes remained closed as hands he had never before felt guided his own, placing pieces into where they belonged. He smiled, leaning back further, drowning in that intoxicating scent. "Take me over ... let me drown in all that you are. Fill my senses as they've never been before." His head leaned back, against a shoulder that his mind screamed wasn't truly there. "Please ..." His voice was a soft whimper. A hand left his own, followed by a finger briefly brushing across his lips.

Soon. Soon I will be able to give you everything that you want. But you must finish your task first, my little one.

It drove him mad, being so close to everything that he could ever want, but not being able to have it just yet. He wanted it so bad. His love, the one who he could be with forever, the one who would want him unconditionally, was right there within his grasp.

Click. Another piece slid into place. His eyes opened to the smallest of slivers as he looked towards the golden box. One piece left. His gaze drifted to the puzzle in his hands, noticing the space at what could only be the front of his puzzle ... the space where this one piece belonged. His felt his breath catch.

He noticed something that should have screamed out to him readily, warning him off. The hands guiding his own were not of flesh; those hands were composed entirely of shadows. But it didn't matter.

He felt himself pick up the final piece, felt himself caress it for a moment. "Please, love ... please ..."

I'm with you. Don't fret, my beautiful one. I won't leave you. I'll give you everything. Lips pressed onto his own, and that scent, that glorious scent, filled him even more. Yuugi whimpered softly as the lips of his love pulled away. You'll be mine forever, as I am yours.

Yuugi smiled.

Thump. The pumping of his heart was unbearable now. His chest was so constricted that each of his quickened, gasping breaths hurt more than the last. He needed to finish this so badly. His entire body yearned for the completion of this puzzle ... for his chance to be with the other half of his soul. The other part of me ... another person who is exactly like me ... the one person who is meant only for me. I won't let you get away. My one, my only. His grin bordered on insane, his eyes glowing with the intensity of one who had lost their mind to thoughts not of this world.

Still, his hands moved, guided by the shadows, bringing that final piece closer and closer to its resting place.

Free me, little one. Bring me to life.

"Wake up for me ... please ..."

Click. The final piece slid into place.

"Please save me. Please come to me. Live for me, my one ... my love. My other self." He leaned back into the shadow behind him. "Come to me." His eyes slid closed again. Please ... please ...

The lips pressed against his again, and he smiled into the touch. I have been with you for a while, little one. But now, you must find me.

He frowned as something wrapped around his chest even more tightly. It hurt, each breath burning its way into his lungs with a fire that he had never felt before. Tears slipped from his eyes at the pain; a pain worse than any he had felt in his life. The cruelest punches had never hurt anywhere near as much as this. He whimpered. Stop ... it hurts ... please stop. He whimpered. Hurts ... so much ...

It was the final coherent thought he had before his body collapsed to the floor.

- - -

Yuugi looked around himself, noting that the hallway that he found himself in seemed extremely forbidding. It seemed very cold; the stone walls, floor, and ceiling felt as though they were going to close in on him at any moment. He shivered. What is this place?

A slow, cautious step forward. He paused, turning as the sound reverberated along the corridor, then turned back to the way he had first faced. A frown marred his face. No distinct features marked any of the walls; no doors seemed present, and there was no widening of the walkway that he could see that would mark the start of a room.

"Hello?" No response. His breathing quickened some, as a feeling of impending dread overcame him. The fear seemed almost irrational, but he couldn't quite place why he felt that way. It just felt wrong, in every way. Part of him cried out that the silence was too overpowering, that he should work to break it. His instincts caused him to obey. "Is there anyone here?" And still, no response. He sighed. "Where is here?" he asked softly, dejectedly.

He paused again. Why am I here, anyway? What happened? He frowned again. All I remember is finishing my puzzle. Is that why I'm here? He shook his head. No, that can't be right. Just because I put so many hopes on it doesn't mean that it really has some sort of magical power. He looked around himself again. This place is so odd, though. But ... it feels so familiar, at the same time. Why?

His spine stiffened slightly, almost as though he felt like he was being watched. Quickly, he turned around, only to find what appeared to be nothing ... he would have believed it to be nothing, as well, if not for the slight shimmer he saw in the air. "Who's there?" But, once again, no reply. Yuugi sighed in frustration ... he was really starting to get annoyed by this entire situation. Being in this strange place, with no one around, and having absolutely no idea what he was doing there was the most bizarre thing he had ever experienced in his life.

But, as he looked, beside the shimmer, there seemed to be a slight indentation within the wall ... something that he was sure might actually be a doorway. Without hesitation, he moved towards it, intent to get to the bottom of what this might be.

He almost ran for the door, though he didn't realize that he was doing so. His need to know what was happening, to get to the end of what seemed to be a horrible nightmare, made him forget all sense of caution.

He paused outside of the doorway the he found there, frowning once again. It was odd, in a way ... he'd never seen a door that looked quite like it. He wasn't quite sure why he thought of it as strange ... he supposed, if anything, it was just that it was a little creepy. An ominous eye was engraved into the door, as though it were trying to look into the very essence of his soul.

Within him, something screamed that he should turn back, that he should find another way. Yet, even as he felt that, another voice seemed to call out to him to fight his fears and steady himself; he should walk through that door and see what fate held for him.

Closing his eyes and taking a few steadying breaths, Yuugi reached out his right hand to open the door ... but, before he even managed to touch it, it sprung open of its own accord. A cautious peek inside showed him that there was no one there who could have opened it, and he had to fight back the feeling in his gut telling him that venturing into this room might be a bad idea. Slowly, one slow step after another, he made his way into the room, looking around curiously. "Hello?"

"For a while now, I've heard a voice crying out to me ... begging for help, for salvation. A voice asking for a chance to not have to see the world any longer. That voice breathed life into me, slowly, over these past few years. Are you that voice?"

He jumped, but only a little. In truth, he had not expected a reply at all, not after the lack of response he'd gotten so far in his crazy nightmare. His eyes narrowed some at the sound of this voice that sounded so like his own, yet distinctly different at the same time; he peered into the darkness ahead of him before answering cautiously, "I ... I think so ..."

No response met his words. A small step forward; cautious, more so than before. The darkness receded some, and he heaved a sigh of relief.

"Why are you here?" A simple enough question. The voice held such power behind it; a confidence that Yuugi was sure would never be heard in his own voice permeated this voice, and he listened carefully to its sound ... deeper than his own, and smooth as the blackest silk. Yuugi wondered how dangerous this person might be, if it was at all safe to be in the same room as him, but dismissed the thought quickly. Judging a person on only their voice was as superficial as those who judged him on his height.

"I don't really know." It wasn't a lie, in any way. He truly did have no idea why he was in this place. I've never been here before in my life. He frowned. "I don't know why I'm here ... but, can you please tell me where ... here is?"

Another pause, then, "My home." The answer was simple enough, and the voice seemed content to leave it at that; Yuugi must have not looked very pleased with the response, however, as he elaborated. "I have lived here for the past three thousand years, young one. Well, perhaps, if you call it living. I suppose it would be more correct if I were to say that my consciousness has floated here."

"But ... that doesn't really tell me anything."

A chuckle. "No, I suppose it doesn't. It's rather difficult to explain, really. The simple answer to your question would be that you are within the puzzle that you have been piecing together for these past few years."

"It's been half of my life," Yuugi interrupted. Again, a chuckle.

"Has it, indeed. But that half of your life is nothing in comparison to my three millennia of imprisonment, wouldn't you say?" Yuugi had the distinct feeling that, whoever this person was, they were smiling as they spoke. A shift in the shadows, and the sound of footsteps. Yuugi froze, spine stiffening at the sound and movement. "Don't worry, young one. I do not intend to harm you." The voice was gentle. "I wish only to let you see the one that you have returned to life."

The other stepped closer, and the shadows receded again. Yuugi found himself stumbling backwards in shock. "You're ..."

"Not who you think I am, I'm sure, my young life-giver."

Yuugi shook his head. "Why do you look like me? Is this ... a figment of my imagination?"

"Not at all. I am the one that has been beside you, the one who you have told your problems to without realize that is what you were doing. I am the one who has listened to you for these past eight years, growing closer to you than I would have imagined possible. I have returned to life, for you. I can be your companion, if that is your wish." He smiled. "But I am, in no way, a 'figment' of your imagination. I lived just as surely as you many, many years ago."

"Then ..." Still, Yuugi was baffled.

"I do not have an explanation for our resemblance, unfortunately." It was as he finished speaking those words that Yuugi truly took a closer look at him. On the surface, yes, they had many similar features ... their hair, most notably, which was likely what surprised him the most. He didn't have the most common hair in the world, after all ... black, blonde, and violet were the most absurd combination ever, probably, though it was surprisingly his natural color. That this other person had the same hair was just mind-boggling. Though, upon closer inspecting, Yuugi noted that this other person had more blonde to his hair, and pushed said blonde bangs out of his face more. Some were even standing upright in dangerous-looking spikes � he noted one in particular, at the center of his head that looked like a lightning bolt.

Still, surface resemblances aside, there were some differences that were rather blaring ... this other was taller than him, stood in a more self-assured manner, and his eyes were nowhere near as wide as Yuugi's own. He frowned, looking into those eyes more deeply, wondering what it was about them that bothered him so much. The color was different, but the mere fact of that was not the problem. There was something about the specific color that almost sent up warning flags of danger.

He chuckled again. "It's rude to stare, my young life-giver." He laughed softly as Yuugi blushed, then took a step forward, closing the gap between them. "Tell me, young one, what is your name? I feel as though I know so much about you, and yet I do not even know that much."

He looked at the stranger warily, not sure if he should trust what him so easily, but just as quickly began to write the entire experience off as a dream. It's too fantastical to be anything else, right? He smiled at his companion, and said finally, "Mutou Yuugi. And ..."

"For now, you can just think of me as another extension of yourself; another version of yourself." The statement was almost cryptic, but, in a way, seemed to make sense to Yuugi; they looked so much alike that it did feel like what this other self was telling him was in fact the truth. "We are partners, Yuugi; at least, we can be if you so choose. If you allow me to stay by your side, if you'll walk with me, we will not be separated. We will always be able to work together."

"You would do that for me? You would stay with me like that forever?"

"It's the least that I can do for the one who has given me life once more."

He felt his cheeks burn slightly with embarrassment; he had never had someone offer something quite like this ... an offer to never leave him. It was really the one thing he wanted more than any other in the world; it was what he had wished for as he had placed the puzzle together. In his stomach, he felt a warm feeling bubbling up, a happiness and comfort that he was sure he had never felt before in his life. "I ..." His voice was shaky; he hated hearing that insecurity in his voice. It was something he had tried to train out of himself for so many years now, and he had thought that he had been doing a good job at it, too. He supposed that getting the shock of his lifetime probably went a long way to pulling through all of his defenses and allowing him to show some weakness, whether he wanted to show it or not. "I would love for that to happen." A smile. Yuugi breathed a sigh of relief. "You would do anything?" His other self nodded. "Would you keep me from having to go out there ever again?" He didn't want to admit that it was something that he wanted more than anything, really he didn't. But, there was something about this person that seemed protective, safe. He was sure that he could admit his weaknesses to this person without much in the way of trouble. "Would you allow me to stay here? Would you get rid of all of my problems for me? Please ..."

"Is that truly what you want? To give your life away to another? I will do that for you, but only for as long as you would need me to. I do not expect to take over your life forever, life-giver. But, if you truly wish it so, then I will help change your life to be better for you. I will right the wrongs within it and save you from those who have harmed you. You will have nothing to fear, for as long as we walk side by side." He looked at Yuugi, one elegant eyebrow raised, waiting for an answer. A nod, and he smiled at the teenager before moving another step forward. He heard Yuugi swallow hard as he realized just how close they truly were ... so close that they were nearly touching. "I will always protect you," he whispered, voice a gentle, smooth silk as his hand reached up to cup Yuugi's cheek. The teenager was unable to fight a blush, and his other self's smile turned to an almost mischievous grin as he leaned in closer. "This, young one, is my promise to you."

Before Yuugi realized what was happening, warm lips had already pressed onto his own. His senses dulled some, as warmth washed through his entire being. His vision started to go black, his hearing became faint. All he knew, all he sensed, was the kiss from his other self, deepening slowly, maddeningly.

However, it was just as he felt the other's tongue enter his own mouth that his senses died completely, and he knew no more.

- - -

He had a feeling that he shouldn't be sleeping, that he should be waking up. As though something needed to be done, as though he needed to be somewhere right then. But he didn't want to get up; he wanted to stay in this comfortable, comforting sleep for as long as he possibly could.

What he wanted, however, apparently didn't matter to the soft, consistent beeping that kept pounding into him, destroying his dreams, as well as his hopes of sleep.

Slowly, his eyes opened, and he found himself staring at a white, almost blindingly so, ceiling. He frowned, eyes squinting involuntarily. This place, wherever it was, smelled clean, but not in a good way. It smelled too clean. The scent of too much antiseptic burned at his nostrils as he breathed in. What is this place ...? Why am I here?

And still, the incessant beeping persisted. He cringed, shifting slightly, and heard a shocked gasp at his movement. Slowly, he turned his head towards the direction the sound had come from, and saw an old man with wild hair and violet eyes, and then frowned. He seems familiar. Why ...? He paused, shifting through memories that he felt strangely detached from, reading through them as though they were a mental book. Something about that struck him as odd, but he couldn't bring himself to worry too much about it as he continued to trudge his way through the memories, trying to figure out who this was. ... Grandfather ...? The word came to him, but still seemed off. Something about giving that title to this person didn't seem quite right. After all, he couldn't even truly remember who this was.


He winced; the sound was too loud, and made his head ring some. At the same time, he processed what the strange man had said. Yuugi ... that's my name, right? Mutou ... Yuugi ...

"Yuugi, you're awake." The old man - his grandfather - must have noticed that speaking too loudly bothered him right now, because he now spoke much more softly. "You had me worried."

"Where am I?" He could have blanched at how the words sounded. Was that my voice? Why does it sound ... so weak?

"Where are you?" The old man stared at him in shock, as though he couldn't believe that he had just asked such a question. As though it was the stupidest question in the world. "You're in the hospital, Yuugi ... you've been unconscious for three weeks."

In a coma, he means.

"Yuugi ... that puzzle I gave you ... the night that you finished it, you -"

"What puzzle?" He didn't know why he had felt such a strong urge to cut the old man's words off.

"You'll see soon enough, I ... suppose ..." The old man's words dropped as he took a good look at his grandson, staring into unfamiliar eyes. This person definitely looked like Mutou Yuugi, but those eyes ... those were not the eyes of his kindhearted grandson. Where a gentle violet had once glimmered, now burned a fiery red singed slightly with violet on its edges. Who is this person ...? He didn't dare voice the thought aloud, almost worried at what would happen to him if he did.

He closed his eyes, rolling over as much as he could on the small, hard bed. "I'm tired." The words were curt, almost an order, and a very definite signal that the conversation was over. He didn't open his eyes again, and heard the footsteps of the old man eventually moving towards the door. He let out his breath once he heard the door close, not even realizing that he had been holding it in. What is all of this?

- - -

Disclaimer: Yuugiou is the intellectual property of Kazuki Takahashi. I do not claim any right to the series or its characters, and I should probably apologize for the hell I'm likely to be putting them through in this story.
Author's Note: Just a random 'What if?' AU idea (well, rather, a combination of a few) that I've been tossing around. Namely, "What if the characters were each slightly different?" If Jounouchi and Honda weren't originally 'classic thugs,' if Yuugi never became friends with them, etc. That combined with, "What if Mutou Yuugi wished to change ... and never return to how he had been before?" It makes much more sense in actual story format, I promise.
Language Note: I know, I know, notes galore on this story. But I felt that this one would be an important one to put in. Okay, so, without trying to sound too much like a hypocrite, I'm going to explain really quickly a little bit about what I'm going to be doing language-wise on this series. I'm going to be trying to keep true to the Japanese version's information/ages/names/whatnot; however, I'm going to do the 'unthinkable' and avoid using Japanese words in the story (this includes phrases that characters use to refer to each other. Instead of 'aibou,' Yami no Yuugi will be referring to Yuugi as 'partner,' since that is the translation of it, and it's not exactly the hardest thing to translate. Likewise, 'mou hitori no boku' will be translated depending on where it lies in a sentence. Sometimes it will be 'my other self,' other times, '(an)other me'). Names (Yami no Yuugi) won't be translated, however, because, well ... it's the character's name. Also, honorifics are another matter entirely. There's no true way to translate honorifics into English and have them keep their meaning, as they would all generally translate into the same titles. Honorifics are kept mainly to keep the personalities of the characters set in ... the types of honorifics a character uses shows their personality in terms of how they view/act around others, as well as how much they respect others (in other words, someone calling Yuugi as 'Mutou-san' would have more respect for him or wouldn't be quite so close to him as someone calling him 'Yuugi-kun.' Likewise, someone calling him 'Yuugi' would tend to be much closer to him than someone calling him 'Yuugi-kun.' However, in certain cases, there are characters who drop honorifics completely, because that is simply their nature. That sort of character tends to be more brusque than others). My reason for doing this? Well, in my own experience, quite honestly, the 'fangirl Japanese' that tends to appear in so many stories tends to detract from the story itself (and I'm speaking as someone who has studied the language). A reader should not have to look at a translation note just to read a story. It's all well and good to be proud of learning another language, but 'Englanese,' as I've begun calling it, does nothing but make your story more confusing. I don't mean this as an insult to other writers, in any way ... it's strictly my opinion. I'm just mentioning it to explain why I won't be using that method in my own writing from now on. Thank you.