Revised Author's Notes for 7/4/07: As of today, Sesen is twenty two chapters long. If you're just starting out reading this monster, I encourage you to stick it out, and give it a chance. I've finally got ample time to update it often, and I look forward to wrapping the story up by the end of this year. Sesen may not be the most romantic fic out there, and I know that many people read fics just for the pairing angle, but I'd be thrilled to have new readers. Reguardless, I love this story, and will continue to update it to its completion.
Original Author's Notes: I do not own Yuugiou. That... really shouldn't need saying.
This fic came out of my being dissatisfied with the canonical 'sequels' to the series. R was crack-induced drivel, and GX just seems so plotless. So, I whipped up a half-arsed plot and dropped the poor characters into it. I'll admit here and now that Bakura's (the fluffy one, not the nasty one) characterization fades in and out. I've just always had a hard time pinning his character down.
...That sounded wrong. Moving on, here's chapter one.
Sesen chapter 1: Coming Forth by Day
Angry cries rang out from the street as a hooded youth scurried through the dank alleyway toward Atem. The people in the street behind the boy had been whipped into a frenzy by now. Who would have thought that one man, having discovered all his pocket change missing, could cause such a stir?
"Go, go, go!" the boy hissed as he shoved Atem in the direction he was headed. "Out this one, then down the street a ways, then across to another alley."
The smaller boy, Atem, wasted no time in following the order. In their present situation, he was certainly in no postition to argue with someone so accustomed to this sort of activity. He ran hard, as if something truly awful were about to spring up from behind him, and in a sense, it could be. The retribution they could face for the theft was motivation enough without Bakura yanking at his arm every now and again to hurry him along. The voices behind them faded, and he was grateful for Bakura's deft pickpocketing skills. It had taken the man a little while to figure out what had happened, and that had given them just enough time to make a run for it. They burst out of the alley, startling a middle-aged woman into flinging her sack of groceries into the air in the process. Atem may have stopped to help her under any other circumstances, but she would have to make due with shoveling all her things back into the bag herself. The more alert people in front of them jumped out of the way, while others had to be shoved aside or dodged. Bakura tugged hard on Atem's arm, guiding him into the congested street. He had found their next alley quickly enough, but Atem wished that he had waited until they reached a crosswalk. Not only was this dangerous, but it was highly suspicious as well.
Dodge, stop, sprint, dodge, mind the cars. Why couldn't there be an easier way to get money for food? Or at least a more honest, less dangerous way? Wondering now was pointless, of course. Bakura had talked him into this, and there was no getting out of whatever trouble that resulted from it. Into the next alley now. Bakura reached up to adjust the hood of his sweatshirt. A white-haired, dark-skinned teen in a red sweatshirt would be far too easy to recognise if anyone in the crowd had gotten a look at him. It seemed unlikely, though, considering how long it had taken Bakura's target to realise he had been robbed. Minorly robbed, but robbed nonetheless.
Reaching the end of that alley, Bakura tugged at Atem's arm again, this time turning to the left instead of into oncoming traffic. Atem slowed his pace to match Bakura's. They were now walking instead of running in an attempt to blend into the near-constant stream of people. Judging by attire, most of them were middle and high school students walking home from school. Atem sighed in between gasps for breath he so sorely needed after that harrowing sprint. He didn't see Yuugi anywhere amongst them. Or Jounouchi, for that matter. Or Honda, Anzu, or Bakura's former 'host' Ryou. He suddenly felt immensely lonely for the first time in over a year. When he had crossed over to the afterlife, he had found himself amongst friends and family members he hadn't seen in thousands of years, and had little time for loneliness with all the pleasures of a king's afterlife at his disposal. But now, in the world of the living again, companioned by a young man who had been intent on killing him at one point - and probably still was, and was only abstaining from doing so due to divine intervention - and with no shelter or food, he found himself missing his existence as Yuugi's other half very dearly. He hadn't had any need for food or sleep (though he indulged in the latter at times) when he was nothing but a spirit, and was never truly alone. He wasn't alone, but he might as well have been. The thief's presence was doing nothing to ease his mind. Bakura made him uncomfortable, and the sentiment seemed mutual. When the two of them did talk, which wasn't often at all, sentences were short, clipped, and to the point.
Bakura spun on one heel, turning into one of the many small parks that dotted the city. Atem followed wordlessly and watched the thief plop himself into one of the swings. He seemed absolutely unfazed by the events that had just unfolded, but then again, this routine was probably habit to Bakura. Well, minus the cars, of course. Atem sighed again and leaned against one of the steel pipes that supported the horizontal pipe the swings were suspended on. He glanced over at Bakura, expecting to see him gleefully taking tally of whatever he had procured. Oddly enough, the thief was leaning forward in the swing, arms held a bit over his head and gripping the chains, staring into space. His hair rustled, more from the light breeze that was blowing through with the scent of rain on it than from the gentle swinging movement he was creating by kicking his legs back and forth every now and again. He looked rather forlorn like that. Atem was briefly reminded of some of the more romantic movies and series that Yuugi and his friends watched sometimes. It seemed like one character or another always had a sad moment in a swing at the park. Of course, Atem wasn't about to entertain the notion that Bakura was angsting over something like being spurned by a woman.
'Maybe he mises Bakura-kun like I miss Yuugi?' he wondered. It was unlikely, given Bakura's personality, but it wasn't impossible.
They were in a strange and awkward situation indeed. The Neter had more or less dropped the two of them off at some random point in Domino after briefly explaining that they - yes, they, not just Atem - had left one thing or another unfinished on Earth, and the delicate balance of power between light and darkness was in peril as a result. Anubis had been rather sketchy on the details, as he was preoccupied with his laptop. It seemed that the guardian of the afterlife and judge of souls spent an awful lot of time online since the system's invention. Atem couldn't blame him. He'd go looking for some sort of escape if he had to spend day after day slogging through so many recently dead folk. He had mentioned, however, that he would get back to them with more details as soon as they became available to him, and that they should try to find their other halves in the meantime. Atem had been somewhat annoyed to find that the gods he had revered his entire life were not only slightly on the daft side, but also rather disorganised when it came to communication. Ra would tell Osiris about one thing or another because he was too busy to go tell everyone himself, then Osiris would tell someone else to relay it because he was either too busy running the afterlife or blessing one of the many things he got prayers for the blessing of daily, and the information just became more and more lost from there. At least that was how Anubis had put it, minus the rampant netspeak. This bit of information, thankfully, had been of enough importance that it had only gone through four carriers before it reached Atem and Bakura. Neith, who had brought the news to Anubis, had even offered to follow the two of them to make sure that 'everything got taken care of'. Anubis explained that he had waved her off, though, considering she had so many godly things to attend to and was 'just in it to bash some heads'. This was to be their task anyway.
The benevolent dieties had gifted them both with a set of clothing far less conspicuous than what they wore in the afterlife. Atem had been given a 'light' version of the buckle-laden outfit he had worn as Yuugi's other. A tight-fitting black shirt with no sleeves, black jeans that were only slightly baggier than the leather pants he used to wear, and a collar just like he had had before. His shoes were plain, black hightop sneakers. Bakura had been given a red hooded sweatshirt with thick white piping around the wrists that was in obvious parody of the coat he was accustomed to wearing, a pair of distressed (read: half-ruined for the sake of fashion) blue jeans, and sneakers in the same style Ryou used to wear. Whichever Neter was in charge of choosing their outfits seem to think it funny to have at least one exact copy of something they used to wear. Atem brought a hand up to his collar unconsciously. He missed Yuugi again.
Bakura was actually swinging now, bringing his legs as far back as he could, then kicking them forward. The hood of his sweatshirt slipped back all the way on one trip up, revealing his tousled white hair and the rest of his scarred face. If Atem hadn't known Bakura the way he did, he would have inwardly described him as a tragic, strange-looking young man. But he knew what he knew, and he refused to describe Bakura as tragic. If he hadn't tried to kill him, if he hadn't caused so much mayhem and destroyed so many lives for the sake of revenge, then he would be tragic; then he would be pitiable. All Atem felt for Bakura was disgust occasionally punctuated by fear and the urge to brutally pummel him.
The thief dragged his feet on the ground, stirring up a cloud of dust and bringing himself to halt. He chuckled throatily and glanced over at Atem, a condescending sneer plastered on his previously serene face.
"If you hate me so much, pharaoh, why do you put up with being forced to work with me?"
Atem flinched. Had Bakura just read his thoughts? No, that was a stupid notion. His distaste for the young man was obvious enough without telepathy. The question was just random and meant to rile him.
"If the fate of the world is important, I guess I'll do anything," he answered. "And who says no to the gods, might I ask?"
Another chuckle, less contained this time. This was becoming somewhat unnerving.
"I knew it. I knew that was roughly what you would say," he said, chortling in a gleeful way. "You've got some fucking nerve, saying you'll do anything for the sake of this world."
Atem snarled. So this was going to come down to a matter of whose priorities were in the right order? Fine, he could play that way too.
"I'm not the one who dedicated his life to killing someone who wasn't even deserving, and ultimately ended up assisting the person who was truly at fault."
Ah, success. Atem's chest puffed up slightly as Bakura seemed to sink into the swing. He looked quite crestfallen for an instant. Bakura's eyes flashed fire after that, and he spat his words like poison.
"You shut the hell up. Just shut up and let's go find some food before I get too pissed off and hungry to refrain from killing you."
Atem almost felt guilty. He had gone for the lowest possible level in order to win quickly, and that bothered him a little. He wasn't going to apologise, of course.
"Fine, let's go," he said as he pushed off from the pipe he was resting against. "But how do you know you got enough money for food?"
Bakura jumped out of the swing and dusted off his rear end. Atem snickered inwardly, finding it absolutely hysterical for some reason.
"I was going to get us some free food, but since you asked and it's no surprise now. I'll count the money."
There was a soft chinkling as the thief dug around in one pocket for every bit of change he had pilfered. Atem was thankful that Bakura had retained some knowledge of the Japanese system of money from 'living' with Ryou, but the counting out loud was sort of annoying.
"Four hundred and five. What does that get us?"
Atem thought on that for a moment. It had been over a year since he had been shopping with Yuugi.
"Two canned drinks, two random snacks from a vending machine, and a wish in a fountain."
"You're hilarious, pharaoh," Bakura muttered as he returned the change to the safety of his pocket. "I have a feeling I'd meet with some sort of divine retribution if I didn't give you an equal share, so I won't bother arguing about portions. One drink and one snack thing for each of us."
Atem gave no reply. He didn't agree or disagree with the plan, as he wasn't really hungry at the moment. Bakura had surprised him with his 'generosity', but Atem would have been no better and no worse if Bakura had taken all the food for himself. Granted, he would have been annoyed, but he was confident that they were close enough to Yuugi's home that eating could wait until they arrived. The little park did look somewhat familiar. If only he could remember which direction would take them to the game shop.
There was a soft crunching sound as Bakura made his way back to the street, his feet bending and snapping countless dried blades of grass. The scent of the air still promised rain, and it seemed that the park hadn't seen any in some time. Atem tilted his head up to the sky. Sure enough, thick clouds of a deep grey were rolling across the sky, laden with water. Now more than ever he hoped that they were close to a Yuugi's house or the apartment complex Ryou lived in. The previous night had been spent under a bridge, which was obviously uncomfortable. Atem had scarcely slept for fear of rolling into the water in his sleep, or being killed by his 'partner'. It had been an awful night, and that was when it had been dry.
"Oi, pharaoh! Are you going to admire the clouds all evening, or can we go find some food?" Bakura sneered from the park's entrance.
Two young boys dashed in from the street, and each scrambled into a swing. A harried old woman followed after them, giving Bakura a sour look as she did so. Atem was stunned that Bakura didn't jump away from them as if they were poisonous snakes. He did flip the old woman off once her back was turned, though.
"Right, I'm coming, be patient," Atem snapped as he sprinted the short distance to Bakura. He looked back at the old woman and the kids as they walked away. She looked mildly relieved. Perhaps their clothes weren't as nondescript as they had thought.
Being as the Neter, in all their benevolence and obvious daftness, had dropped the two of them off at a partially random location they claimed was somewhere in Domino-cho, finding a series of vending machines wasn't nearly as difficult as it would have been if the location had been entirely random. Atem didn't like the idea of being plopped down in the middle of the Swiss Alps one bit.
Outside a convenience store, a battalion of vending machines, all in a row, stood silent guard over the sliding doors. Cigarettes, snack foods, packets of instant noodles, hot and cold drinks; all of these were available for purchase. Atem twitched a bit at the vast selection. He didn't exactly trust Bakura with the selection of his food, and presented his open palm to the thief. Bakura regarded it with a suspicious glare.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Give me my two hundred, and I'll get what I want. Simple enough?"
"What? You think I'm going to buy porn and cigarettes with our food money?" Bakura asked looking genuinely offended.
"No, I suspect you to have crappy tastes in food, so I'd rather choose my own."
Atem made a grab for Bakura's side pocket and the older boy jumped back.
"Hey, we're on the same level right now. As long as we're both homeless rejects you have to treat me with some respect. Say 'please' before you start trying to take money I earned."
The sides of the thief's mouth turned up in a gleeful grin. Atem wouldn't have minded asking politely if it had been anyone else. Why? Why couldn't he have been sent down here with someone else? Why not Kalim or Mahaado? Why not Isis? Hell, why not his father? The fact that it hadn't been explained why he was stuck with Bakura only made him feel worse. But, for now, he had to make sacrifices. He sighed melodramatically and presented his hand again.
"Please," he said just clearly enough for Bakura to understand him.
Bakura's grin widened and he snickered. Atem was now convinced that he got off, in some small way, on humilating his superiors.
"What do you mean 'please what'?" the smaller boy asked. "I asked you nicely, now give it to me!"
"Say 'Please give me my money, Bakura-sama' and I'll give it to you," he said. It was obvious that he was having far too much fun with this.
"Don't push your luck, Bakura."
Bakura chortled and poked the spot on Atem's chest where the Puzzle would have been before the Items were destroyed.
"Push my luck? What are you going to do if I push my luck? I'm bigger and you've got no magical assistance. We're just homeless bums. Now make with the respect."
Where was a divine smiting when Atem needed one? It didn't seem fair that the gods would allow Bakura to humiliate the pharaoh this way. Then again, the gods had surprised him more than once in the last couple of days.
"Please give me my money, Bakura-sama," Atem said, twitching slightly. It didn't matter as long as he didn't mean it, right? Right?
The taller boy started snickering before finally breaking into a mad cackle, then plinked two one hundred yen coins into Atem's hand. Atem retracted his hand sharply after receiving the coins and put forth the other, middle finger exposed.
"There's your respect," he hissed before strutting over to the cheaper machines. Bakura only hee-heeeed behind him.
Most of the one hundred yen food was either tiny or unprepared, and included large packs of chewing gum and instant ramen packets. Atem was in no mood to eat uncooked ramen, and even more unwilling to eat an entire pack of gum. So, he thought for a moment, eyes scanning the other machines all the while. He caught sight of a cheap hot coffee machine, and had made up his mind. He fed a coin into the ramen machine first; it was best if the coffee was as hot as possible. The flavour he chose was random, seeing as he would be tossing the seasoning packet out anyway. Bakura tapped his foot and sighed dramatically behind him. It was apparent that he, too, had decided that ramen was his best bet. Well, tough noogies for him. Atem was going to take his time, especially after that damned tomb robber had forced him to embarass himself. After a few seconds of grinding and whirring, the machine expelled a packet of instant pork ramen, minus the pork. Atem grabbed it up and approached the coffee machine. His choice wasn't random this time around, since it actually mattered what kind of coffee one used. If he remembered correctly, Jounouchi had recommended the weakest mix of coffee in the machine when teaching Yuugi to do this. He depressed the button for the weakest blend with the least sugar. Jounouchi hadn't mentioned the sugar content, but something told Atem that sugar wouldn't help the mixture very much at all. With his coffee dispensed, he set the hot can on one of the shorter, toy-dispensing machines and cautiously opened one end of the ramen packet. That done, he held it in one hand, opened the coffee with the other, then slowly poured most of the steaming brew into the ramen packet. When the noodles were more or less submerged in the liquid, he set the coffee down again, and folded the end of the packet closed. It would take about three minutes for the noodles to cook.
Bakura strolled over to him, contentedly crunching on a square of uncooked ramen.
"What in the fuck do you think you're doing?"
"Making ramen," Atem announced proudly, giving the plump packet a light slap.
"That's going to taste like ass, you know."
The pharaoh scowled and gave Bakura a good glaring. His way had to be far better than just munching on it out of the packet like Bakura was doing.
"It is not! Jounouchi taught me how to do this."
"You mean he taught Yuugi. You only got any time outside when there was dueling afoot, from what I saw."
Atem twitched. Well, he had thrown a low blow at Bakura earlier, and it was only fair that he get his in, right? Still, even now it was difficult to determine where his own memories ended and those he had shared with Yuugi began. After all, in the beginning, just after he had been released from the Puzzle, he hadn't had any memories at all, and not much of a personality. He lived for Yuugi, the one who had released him. Yuugi and the people who first became Yuugi's friends, and then his own. In many ways, they both owed eachother something.
"He said, one time, that he would give me all his own memories if he could," Atem murmured as he gave his little ramen packet a shake to distribute the liquid some.
"What's that, now?" Bakura asked, one brow raising inquisitively. "Don't tell me you're waxing sentimental already. Isn't the fate of the world a bit too important to take the back seat to your angsting?"
Atem's grip on the ramen packet tightened, and he contemplated tossing the hot noodle bag in Bakura's smirking face. Why Bakura seemed so eager to initiate an argument was beyond him. This crack at his sentimental behavior coming from a man who had dedicated at least ten years of his life to the romantic notion of retribution. He couldn't possibly have done something so major if he had no sentimental inclinations.
"Again, I say that you're one to talk. I'm no more angsty than you. How long did you nurse those plans for vengeance? Ten years, maybe more?
The taller boy chuckled and tweaked Atem in the ear.
"And I say again that you've got plenty of nerve, pharaoh. How many more times are you going to bring that up, eh? it's already old, and I'm already over what happened."
"What happened? Does that mean you're over trying to kill me, or that you're over being used like you were?"
Placing his hands on his hips, Atem smirked mentally. He was quite content with his retort, and there was nothing Bakura could do to deflate his ego now.
Bakura shrugged, turned around, and began walking away.
"Where do you think you're going?" Atem demanded.
"I can't stand around all day while you brew ass-tasting noodles and angst," Bakura replied, taking another bite of his ramen square.
Atem grabbed his cooling coffee and followed, walking quickly to close the distance Bakura's longer strides had helped create. The smell of rain in the air was growing stronger, and Atem suddenly understood his companion's haste. The sooner they found either one of their other halves the better. He took a sip of his coffee as they walked, and looked around, hopeful that he would see someone he recognised. Through the thinning crowd, across the street, he thought he saw a familiar face. It had been a while, granted, but he could still recognise the blond hair, glasses, and short stature. Could it be? It had to be. Atem sprinted across the street, making sure to mind the traffic as best he could without losing sight of the boy. A great burst of vulgarity rang out behind him as Bakura chased after him. Maybe it would have been a better idea to tell him before taking off into the street. Oh well.
"Hanasaki-kun!" he called out, running short of breath from the sprint. He was suddenly very aware of the low stamina that came with his small size. He panted for a moment when he reached the boy, who had paused when he heard his name. Atem's heart had upped its tempo a good bit at the prospect of a familiar face. "Hanasaki-kun! I know this is going to sound strange, but I need directions to the game shop."
Hanasaki stared at him. Large eyes blinked behind thick lenses, one eyebrow arching in confusion. It was then that Bakura made his way across the street. He stood next to Atem, panting and shaking a fist at a speeding truck.
"I... I have to go, now. Bye," Hanasaki stammered as he turned and walked off.
Atem made a quiet squeaking in the back of his throat as the awful truth began to sink in. Hanasaki didn't recognise him. He had only treated him like Yuugi back then because he had been using Yuugi's body at the time.
"I fucking told you so," Bakura huffed. " I told you that you need to learn to distinguish between yourself and that former host of yours."
The former pharaoh snarled and glowered up at Bakura. He had had just about enough of the thief's jabs. He tightened his grip on his packet of ramen. The noodles were definately cooked by now, and the liquid was cooling. It would be ruined if he didn't eat it soon. Bakura 'tch'ed and flicked him in the forehead. That did it.
"Shut up, you ass!"
Atem swung a balled fist at Bakura, fully intent on breaking either Bakura's jaw, or his own hand in the attempt. Too late, he realised which hand he was using to fight. There was the sound of something bursting, then a sick splatting. Bakura looked far from pleased. Though unfazed by Atem's punch, save for a slowly reddening blotch on one side of his face, he had other things to be upset about. Being drenched in cold coffee, and having soggy noodles draped all over his head, for example. He pulled one of the longer noodles from behind his ear, glanced at it for a moment, and tossed it onto the ground. Bakura gave Atem a light shove, and walked past him, 'tch'ing again.
"Goodbye, pharaoh," he said flatly.
Thunder rumbled above. Atem blinked as one of the first droplets of cool rain landed on his shoulder. Two more followed.
"Where do you think you're going? Don't act like you didn't deserve that just now!"
"I'm going home. Don't try to follow me, pharaoh."
"You'll get yourself drenched, you know."
Bakura paused for a moment to remove the remaining noodles from his head and shoulder.
"I know, but do you think I care? Now fuck off before I return your little favor."
"Fine," Atem snapped, turning a corner for the sole purpose of taking a different path than Bakura. "Catch pneumonia for all I care."