Shadow: Urgh…I've been on this PC way too long, from way too early. (Shadow-chan's parents need to learn to be quiet when leaving to go on trips at half past friggin' six in the morning. And that dratted buzzing fly. 'All things bright and beautiful' my ass. If I see that fly again it dies.) My brain's turned a pile of mushy fuzz-fuzz. Yes, fuzz-fuzz. It's in that much of a state of incomprehnsibleness. (grumbles, and pulls pillow over her head)

Important notes: The following chapters take place in three different areas of time/space: Then, Now, and Now. They're all marked below, so pay attention to what happens in each. They all tie together as to what happened, and what's happening now because of it.

Translations:

Otou-san: Father

Moshi moshi: standard Japanese greeting over the phone

Wakarimashita: I understand

Gomen: Sorry

Arigatou: Thankyou

Ja ne: See you

Jii-chan: Grandpa

Aibou: Partner

Discalimer: I don't happen to own anything in this chapter that I reference – well, except myself.

By the way: A very happy birthday to Isis the Sphinx - much love for all your deductions all the time, and I'm sorry this isn't TTR, this just came out instead. And do you know...it's my third anniversary of starting writing on this site on the eighth? I'm still in shock. (grins)

Meltdown

Chapter 5: Of holes in things

Now

Seclusion.

Even the very word reeked of solitude and exclusion (being made up of a jumble of the two already), of confinement, of days spent endlessly staring at the wall and obstinately turning your head away from visiting physicians and psychiatrists alike.

Yami was perfectly healthy – he knew he was - both physically and mentally. Which is why he got so frustrated with all the people who constantly peered in on him, who gawked outside his cell, who came in to sit with him and show him pretty diagrams explaining just what he had 'wrong' with him, and how they were going to help him 'make it all better'. He was beginning to hate everyone outside his cell.

That's what it was, really – a cell. A room barely three metres by six, with four grey walls and a thick metal door in one of them. No window to see out of, and a thin metal bed and a light bulb to keep him company.

Seclusion.

He was to be secluded for a week for burning the photograph album, locked in this tiny cell so he could neither harm himself or anyone else. His 'mood swings' – as the twits this place called doctor had dubbed them – were merely pointed out to all and sundry as proof of his mental instability – apparently now he was exhibiting traces of bipolarity, of which he was in the 'depressive stage'.

Yami snorted, stretching out on his bed – it was more of a cot, really – and dangling one arm over the furniture's edge to brush the floor. He wasn't mentally unstable – at least, not in the way the pompous blowhards of this hospital had decided him to be -, and he certainly wasn't bipolar. So it worried him, vaguely, when the people outside his cell discussed putting him onto new drugs.

He'd overheard them talking once or twice, holding a conversation about him when they thought he'd been asleep. They were disheartened by his 'lack of progress' and 'hostility towards others', and so were debating whether to put him on…carbamazepine? Yami had never heard of the drug before, but apparently his 'personal doctor' believed it would lower his bipolar symptoms (– of which they were none in the friggin' first place -), and make him more sociable towards others. (Yami was perfectly sociable. He talked frequently with the people who wandered into his cell to visit him…just no-one had specified he had to be polite to the bumbling idiots, had they?)

Yami wanted out. He'd been in his cell for two days already and it was literally driving him mad. He had no 'personal' guests to see him anymore – Ciara wasn't allowed anywhere near him during seclusion – and the only friendly faces he could see were the fake ones that waltzed through the door, patronisingly sweet tone in every voice and clipboard in hand. And – and –

Let us be friends, and whisper secrets in one another's ears

Yami gagged, his stomach suddenly twisting uncomfortably. Nausea was a bitch at the best of times, and with no reason he could think of for its cause Yami curled up on the bed, only remembering to lean over in time to retch and not drown himself in his own vomit.

His body shuddering and the horrid taste of acid still lingering in his mouth Yami collapsed back on his cot again, exhausted. He knew…there was a camera fixed into the corner where two walls met. There was always a guard watching the feed at a desk, so someone would have seen him being sick and –

And we promise to play nicely, even though you were mean

Right on cue, there was the sound of footsteps running down the corridor outside.


Then

Yugi smiled when he opened his eyes first thing that morning, and saw his yami fast asleep in the bed beside him. Not that he himself was in the bed… No, Yugi lay on a futon on the floor, a spare duvet pulled up over him to keep him warm. It was perfectly comfortable, and it afforded him a heart-warming view of his darker half first thing, burrowed under blankets with his hair delightfully mussed. Yami looked all the better for his sleep – a little more colour had returned to his cheeks, and he just generally looked more relaxed.

Introducing Yami to his grandpa the night before had been an…interesting experience. Solomon Mouto had been a little startled, to say the least, to see a young man practically identical to his grandson fast asleep in said grandson's bed. A long explanation had then taken place, of which a sleepy Yami had had to be awoken to participate in. Eventually, Solomon had accepted what Yugi and Yami were telling him – Solomon had lost his own soul to the powers of a Millennium Item before, and he'd witnessed such things in the tomb of the nameless Pharaoh… Still, it was an exhausting process recounting all the details, and it wasn't only Yami who willingly collapsed back into sleep again after the whole process was finished with. Leaving his two grandsons to sleep, Solomon had returned to tending his store.

Quietly, Yugi got up, folding his duvet up and rolling up his futon so Yami wouldn't trip over it should he try to get out of bed. It was a testament to the love he felt towards his darker half as – like most typical teenage boys – he didn't usually keep his room all that tidy. Still, he cleared up after himself that morning and – mindful of the events of the previous morning – decided to get dressed before going downstairs for breakfast. Or brunch, really, as it was pushing half eleven already. He must've been more tired out by his talk with his grandfather the night before than he'd originally thought…

The kitchen was quiet when he got downstairs, save for the faint sound of the breeze through the open window, and the far-off sound of someone sweeping – that would be jii-chan in the front yard again. Smiling he set some rice to boil, humming off-key as he swept across the linoleum floor on a voyage to the instant coffee.

The phone rang.

"Moshi, moshi. Yugi Mouto sp-"

"Yugi-san!"

Yugi smiled, recognising the caller and positioning the – cordless – handset between cheek and shoulder as he set about filling his coffee cup. "Ryou-kun, good morning. What's up?"

"'Good morning'?" There was a brief pause, and Yugi had the distinct mental image of Ryou glancing at the clock he kept hanging just above the phone in his living room. "Yugi, it's just past noon."

"It's practically the same thing, considering I just got up."

"…Oh? That's late even for you."

"'Even' for me? I feel insulted." Yugi laughed. "We can't all be as punctual as some people before ten in the day, you know. And besides – I had a late night last night."

Ryou sounded concerned. "Was it Yami who kept you up? Only – you're usually fine and-"

"I introduced Yami to jii-chan." Yugi shifted the phone under his other ear as the first one was getting a little sore, finishing making his coffee and carrying it over to the kitchen table.

"Ohh…" Comprehension. "I forgot you'd have that extra problem. It's…different for me, as 'tou-san is hardly ever home. Um…how did Mouto-jii-chan take it? I mean, it's got to be a bit of surprise, coming home to find your grandson's 'twin' suddenly living in your house."

"I think…" Yugi hesitated; remembering the way his grandfather had studied the sleepy Yami sharply after their explanation, and then…how his eyes had softened in thought, and how the old man had gently shooed both of them upstairs to bed; "I think he took it quite well, all things considering. I mean, he believed us, with was a brilliant start, and… he's fond of Yami already? Sort of? I don't really know but -"

"Wakarimashita, Yugi – I understand." The young duelist could practically hear his friend smiling softly. "Yami-san looks so very much like you, and even half-asleep it is obvious how much he cares for you… Mouto-jii-chan has a big heart, and he is a very kind man. I think he would take in Yami simply for the fact you love him so – but…he likes him too, anyway? Gomen, I might be speaking nonsense too myself, but maybe Yami to him will be his second grandson. Anyway…I just called really to see how you and Yami-san were doing. Yami-san was so awfully tired, and you were in pain too before you…reconnected – is that the word, do you think? – with the Puzzle."

"Arigatou Ryou-kun, but Yami and I are fine. Yami's still a bit tired of course, so I left him sleeping, but otherwise we're both doing brilliantly."

"I'm glad to hear that…" Ryou paused. "I suppose I'd best see how my own yami is doing, ne Yugi-kun? Bakura has yet to be able to conquer the complexities of the kitchen appliances – I don't think he really cares all that much about them, to be honest -, and I'd really rather he both didn't destroy my kitchen and steal food from next door. He blamed my neighbour's loss of a whole apple pie on the neighbourhood cat, you know…"

Yugi laughed. "That sounds like him."

"He really doesn't like that cat. It was hate on first sight – Jangles – that's the cat's name by the way - took a swipe at Bakura's hair, and the rivalry was off." Ryou sighed. "Bakura insists on pointedly sharpening one of his knives in the window where Jangles can see it, and Jangles has already tried to take a chunk out of my yami's hair when he 'went for a walk' last night."

Yugi let out a soft snort of amusement, rising from his seat to check on his breakfast. "It sounds like a cartoon."

"It's too insane for that – I mean, seriously Yugi-kun, it's just a cat! It doesn't have superpowers or evil plots going through its head – it's just a dumb animal that -"

"-That Bakura's taking a sudden dislike to." The rice was fine. "Ryou, maybe you should consider warning your neighbour to keep Jangles indoors for a little while? Say there's a rare strain of cat flu going around or something, and you're worried Jangles could get ill."

Ryou mused on the suggestion. "…I…think I'll do that. Arigatou, Yugi-kun; you may have just saved a cat's life. Ja ne?"

"Ja ne, Ryou-kun." Yugi's voice was full of warmth. "Good luck with Bakura-san."


Now

Yami wished the voices in his head would go away and leave him alone.

They were beginning to worry him – the voices – as they'd first appeared just before he'd first been sick and, as they grew louder, he threw up more often. As the day had gone by he'd found himself getting weaker and weaker, and now lay, completely listless, on his cot, unable to spare the energy to move even if he wanted to.

…Hearing voices in your head was a sure sign you were going crazy…

"Heh." Yami spoke aloud, almost in an attempt to drown out the noise in his skull. "I guess if someone treats you like you're mad long enough you eventually do go insane."

"That's not true, Yami."

The ex-pharaoh jumped – or jumped as much as one could lying down -, twisting his head to see his personal psychiatrist sitting on a small stool in the corner of his cell. When had he gotten there? Crimsons eyes narrowed. "How long have you been there?!" Bastard, his mind added internally

Quite. Our darling shouldn't be disturbed while he's taking his afternoon nap.

"Barely two minutes." The doctor smiled benignly. "Now, are you open for discussion today, Yami? I know you're not feeling so well today and I thought-"

"No." Yami's reply was short. The man had probably only dared to enter his cell because of his…illness.

"Oh – come Yami, don't be petty. We seriously need to talk -"

Let us sit down together and talk of the death of Kings…

That's a mis-quote.

Who but a madman talks to nonsense? Oh, destroy the world and tear it into little pieces that I will throw to the stars - I'll rip them from the sky and hold the pieces in my hands -

You said 'we' before

Shh, shh…that's a secret, sweetie. Don't touch the cookie jar til' after tea.

"I don't want-"

"Yes Yami? What don't you want?" The psychiatrist looked eager, and Yami realised he must've spoken aloud.

"None of your business."

Smack the little liar for stealing snacks and put him away forever and ever – go to jail, don't pass go, don't collect two hundred pounds – they're ours!!

Wha-?

Put him where it's dark and we'll drop him on the floor and sweep up all the broken pieces. Sparkle, sparkle in the gloom and I've a good mind to tell you off for being awake now – naughty boy! I'll set the ghosties on you and then you'll be sorry.

I wish you'd go away and let me be…

Shh, shh – don't cry. Heaven's tears are raindrops on the ground

Yami wanted Yugi then, so badly it hurt. He was tired of all this – of all the strangeness, loneliness and pain -, and simply longed for his hikari's smile, the reassuring warmth on the other end of the bond they shared between them. He could almost hear Yugi's laugh, and clear as day he could see his little other in his mind, lying flat on his back on green, green grass, the sun hot in the clear blue sky over their head. That had been…last summer, just after school had broken up. They had all gone to the park for the day; Yugi, Joey, Tea, Tristan, Ryou, Duke and Serenity (Yami and Bakura tagging along in their respective Items – the latter spirit against his will-, and Serenity had been in town that week to visit her brother). Joey had been complaining he was too hot, so Duke had pushed him into the fountain. What had followed had perhaps been Domino's biggest water fight for quite a few years, the whole group racing around the park like madmen, shrieking and laughing at the top of their lungs. They'd all gotten drenched, and collapsed on the grass afterwards to dry off before starting on the picnic lunch they'd brought with them. Joey, Duke and Tristan had taken the time to start their usual fight over Serenity, and Yugi had been laughing…

Memories were such precious things. Surely…it was inconceivable such things he could recall were lies. Yet…even as his mind brushed over past events, Yami began to frown. Yugi…his light's face, and the sound of his voice, was clear and vivid in his memory, but the others – the edges of their faces were beginning to blur. Tea had brown hair and blue, blue eyes, and Serenity had red hair and… Yami's frown grew. What colour were Serenity's eyes? He knew Duke's eyes were green and Ryou's hair was white – or was it… No. This was just –

Yami was aware of the soft sound of pencil being scribbled across a page. Lolling his head to one side once more, he looked balefully at the psychiatrist still camped in the corner of his cell. "Are you still here?"

I caught a butterfly and burned it once, and it fell from the sky aflame

The doctor looked at him. "Yami, why do you keep refusing to talk to me?"

"I don't like you." Yami was too weary to mince words. "I thought even you would have figured that out by now, doctor."

"Why don't you like me?"

"It's a long list, doctor, and I really don't have the patience to rattle it all off at you right now. Just be safe in the knowledge you're an annoying, patronising man with no respect for personal privacy." Yami tilted his head away again, closing his eyes. "Now I'd appreciate it if you'd go away. I'm tired from being sick all day, and it's rather hard to sleep while you're sitting scribbling away in the corner there."

"…Very well." The man got to his feet, clearly reluctantly, picking up his stool and marching over to the door out of the room and rapping on it sharply. "Get plenty of rest, Yami." The door opened for him to leave, shutting immediately after he had done so.

How far this little candle throw's it beams…

Yami sighed, letting out a low grumble. "It's not as if I've got anything better to do right now…"


Now

"So we have a soulless, comatose pharaoh. Zippadee-do-daa. Can I throw a party, or will I just get yelled at again?"

Yugi glared at Bakura, but the former tomb-robber only scoffed at him, unimpressed, before rolling back over so his back faced the trio clustered around Yami's bed. "Wait a few years before trying to look down your nose at me, shrimplet." Bakura burrowed into his hospital pillow, sounding bored out of his skull. "You need the time to grow into that expression."

"Bakura!" Ryou scolded his other half, faint traces of true anger leaking into his tone. "Do you have no conscience?"

One, lazy amber eye peered back over a stubborn shoulder at the hikari. "…Do I really need to answer that?"

Ryou let out what almost sounded like a growl, storming over to his darker half's bed and grabbing Bakura's hair, yanking it sharply near the roots. Bakura yelped, dragged out of his bed rather ungracefully and pulled across the ward, eyes watering from pain. Dammit, that hurt!

Kaiba smirked as the tomb-robber stumbled his way over to them, bent nearly double from the way Ryou was yanking at his hair. With a relish he didn't often feel he watched as Ryou effectively controlled his unruly other half, his smirk only growing when Ryou finally released Bakura's head and the thief straightened, rubbing his scalp and glowering at his younger twin.

"Hair-pulling, hikari? I thought that was reserved for little girls."

"I thought it only worked on little girls too." Kaiba didn't even so much as bat an eye when Bakura turned a murderous stare on him for his remark.

"Watch it Priest, unless you want to end up like His Most Royal Pain-in-the-ass over there."

"Don't you dare, Bakura." Ryou was still thoroughly annoyed with his darker half. "Things are bad enough as they are without another soul being lost!"

"…'Lost'…?" Yugi seemed to shrink in upon himself at the word, huddling closer to Yami's body on the bed. "What do you mean – 'lost'? He can't be 'lost'! We know where his soul is – right?" Imploring purple eyes fixed on Ryou, pleading.

"Oh, don't start up with the whole 'soul' crap again." Kaiba looked irritable. "Do you people never grow sick of that same old tune? It grows wearying for those with a shred of sanity left in their skulls."

"That wouldn't be you then, would it High Priest?" Bakura smirked, glad to have got a jab in when Kaiba growled.

"Don't call me that!"

"Why not, High Priest?" The albino's tone was taunting. "Afraid of the truth, are we? Afraid of yourself? Scared to close your eyes at night for fears of the monsters that'll sneak up on you in your dr-eaams? Poor widdle High Priest, all afraid of his-" Bakura ducked suddenly, as Kaiba swung for his head (no-one really seemed to be liking his skull all that much that day). The action had him gasping and clutching at his side, wobbling in his duck and falling on his ass on the floor. Kaiba, too, overbalanced, drawing back too quickly after his punch when his arm and side pained him, nearly tripping over the sprawled-out Bakura. Mokuba lunged to grab the back of his brother's hospital gown and arm to steady the brunette, but Kaiba only winced as Mokuba's fingers dug into a particularly painful bruise just above his elbow. Noticing this and apologising profusely, Mokuba helped Seto to sit down on the nearest empty bed – Yugi's.

"Idiot." Bakura let out a few curses from the floor, wobbling as he slowly clambered back up onto his feet, his side still throbbing from his earlier movements. "Do the words 'rest' and 'recuperation' mean nothing to you, you overblown fool?" His glare was fixed firmly on Kaiba. "We're in friggin' hospital for a reason! Don't go swinging your fists about and injuring all of us some more!!"

"You shouldn't have provoked him, Bakura." Yugi's voice was quiet as he sat on Yami's bed, threading his fingers through the pharaoh's hair. "If Kaiba-kun does not believe in Shadow magic, if he doesn't believe Yami is my yami as you are Ryou's, if Kaiba-kun doesn't believe Yami now doesn't have a soul within him -" Yugi choked slightly, but composed himself, "Bakura, if Kaiba-kun doesn't believe any of that now, after so long, when you stand before him ("In all your annoying glory." Mokuba muttered under his breath.) as living proof, do you honestly think a few of your cheap barbs are going to do anything?"

Bakura scowled, his lips a thin, disapproving line, but remained silent for a short while as he turned to regard Kaiba who still sat on the other bed, Mokuba fussing over him. Slowly, he moved over to where the brunette sat, standing directly in the CEO's line of sight so – eventually – Kaiba had to look at him.

"What?" The young man's question was little more than an ill-concealed snarl.

Amber eyes were unreadable, Bakura's voice unusually soft. "…You cannot live forever in denial, Kaiba Seto. One day you're going to have to wake up and realise the truth."

Kaiba met the other's gaze solidly. "And if I choose not to accept your 'truth'?"

"Then by your own foolishness you will have passed over a hundred thousand opportunities, and lost yourself everything you hold dear."

Instinctively, Kaiba's arm tightened around Mokuba, the muscles in the young businessman's face tautening. A heartbeat passed, where all the ward's occupants were silent and then:

"Get out of my way." Kaiba rose to his feet, imposing even dressed in a hospital gown. He towered over everyone else there present, Mokuba a sombre figure against the CEO's side.

Bakura stepped out of the way to let the brothers past, silent until the elder of the two laid his hand on the ward door.

"Kaiba."

The brunette paused, eerily still. He didn't turn around but waited, poised, one hand still touching the door handle.

Bakura had his back to the reincarnated priest, but still he raised his chin, looking almost defiantly at the still form of Yami ahead of him. "Get over yourself. It wasn't your fault, so it's pointless regretting past mistakes."

Kaiba bowed his head, voice and tone low. "…What I may or may not regret is none of your concern, Bakura." He straightened, pushing open the door and stalking back out into the outside corridor. "I'll be in my room."

Mokuba bit his lip, looking back at his friends. "I'll come back to see you later, okay?"

"That would be great, Mokuba." Yugi managed a warm smile at the boy and, reassured, Mokuba quickly left the ward to hurry after the receding form of his elder brother.

Bakura immediately stomped back over to his bed, dragging the privacy curtains around it. Ryou sank into a nearby chair once more, glancing up at Yugi hesitantly. Yugi merely looked at him, and then resumed threading his fingers through his soulless yami's hair.


Now

Frére Jacques, Frére Jacques, Dormez-vous? Dormez-vous?

Yami stirred sometime…he didn't know exactly when. His sleep had been thankfully dreamless, and if the voices had spoken to him, he could not remember what they had said. In retaliation, they had started almost immediately upon his awakeningand now they would reverberate off the inside of his skull and his cell –

Sonnez les matines! Sonnez les matines! Din dan don. Din dan don.

…Only…he wasn't in his cell anymore. Blinking, Yami – slowly – sat up on his bed, surprised to find himself once more back in his – original – private ward. The air stank of air fresheners and cleaners, used to try and rid the room of smoke. The floor gleamed…except for that one, small darkened patch, where he'd burned the photo album. That remained dim, a dull splodge on a shiny sea. It…it pained him in a way, to destroy so many memories for someone else in one go. But…they hadn't been his memories. They'd been fake- that had to be – and he wouldn't let someone try to replace his Yugi with lies. Yugi's heart was dear to him, as well as all his other friends, Joey and Tea and –

Something faltered inside.

Joey and Tea and –

Joey and Tea and – oh no. This couldn't –couldn't – be happening! Something cold slithered into Yami's heart, and he tried suddenly, desperately to remember the names of his friends. He could see all their faces, a ring of them, smiling and laughing and joking about him, but aside from Yugi, Joey and Tea –

He could remember Kaiba, and there had been Kaiba's brother. That younger boy with dark hair, and light eyes, who reminded him of Salena. And…Joey's sister, the red-head with… those other two boys fighting over her – both of them had dark hair, but even their faces were…

On and on, and time whirls in such dizzying circles, red and blue and gold all fade to black

But he could still remember their voices.

"Get away from her!" The two were fighting over the red-head yet again. "She doesn't want to talk to you."

"And what makes you think she wants to talk to you, you bozo?!"

"Hey!" Joey sounded indignant. "Who says she wants to talk to either of you?!"

Yami cracked a thin smile which never quite reached his eyes. The two boys had always been fighting over Joey's sister, and Tea had remarked on it to Yugi.

"Boys." The brunette rolled her eyes. "They never grow up, do they?"

"Hey!" Yugi prodded the girl in the arm. "I'll have you remember I'm male too!"

"Exactly." Tea eyed her friend with a smile. "You're all a doomed species."

But…even Tea was beginning to fade away in his memory. He could still see the girl's short hair framing her face, but her eyes were blurry, her smile dissolving even as he tried to dredge it up. Joey's blonde hair had gleamed in the sunlight, but his face was a complete mystery. And Yugi, his precious, sweet, dear hikari was…

Yami's heart wrenched.

YUGI!!


Then

"Bakura, no! That's not how you -" Ryou's words ended in a groan, as Bakura finally succeeded in pulling the dial off of his electric oven. After going to see his neighbour about Jangles the cat earlier that day like Yugi had suggested, Ryou had come home and dragged his yami into the kitchen. He was determined Bakura should know at least how to cook basic food for himself (and thus not be tempted to kill and eat a certain fluffy ginger moggy raw). Insofar, things had actually been going quite well. Bakura wasn't an idiot – though plenty of others would care to disagree – and was perfectly capable of utilising both technology and utensils once he'd been shown how to first. Only…it was the whole 'getting there first' thing that was bothering Ryou, as a curious three-thousand year old tomb-robber had been released on his poor, unsuspecting kitchen. Still, breakages (much to Ryou's great relief) were actually pretty low. They were trying to make chicken and pasta.

Bakura dropped the – now broken – dial, shifting out of the way when Ryou breezed across the room to inspect the damage. The hikari bit his lip. "Hm…I think we can still use the cooker. Shift the pan with the pasta in it to the back burner on the left, and turn – yes, turn – the dial to about half-way. No, don't pull it! Just…twist." Ryou quickly twisted the dial, to get his point across. "You see?"

Bakura nodded. He'd been quite reluctant when Ryou had first pulled him into the kitchen, but had seen his hikari's point. There was use in him learning how to use the kitchen appliances, and it meant he didn't have to rely on Ryou so much. Bakura was individual now once more, and was used to being self-sufficient. It would a blow to his pride to constantly depend upon someone else to feed him. Plus…learning to cook meant he was less likely to give himself food poisoning if he decided to grab a snack.

Ryou looked up from the oven, and smiled at him. Bakura snorted, crossing his arms and leaning back against a nearby bench. Sure, the little brat had taught him how to use the microwave, the toaster, the can-opener and the oven, but no way in hell did that suddenly just make them 'best friends'. Ryou was his hikari, yes, and that gave him some privileges, but Bakura was not turning into a sap, he refused to do something so ungodly cutesy as actually smile back, and the gods would strike him down before he'd ever go around with the pharaoh's cheerleaders singing the man's praises.

Ryou, almost as if reading his yami's thoughts, rolled his eyes. Standing up he headed over to the fridge to pull out a bottle of cola – he was thirsty. He waved said bottle at his darker half. "Would you like some?" Bakura shook his head no, so Ryou poured his own drink out, replacing the bottle in the fridge before raising the cola to his lips to take a drink –

The phone rang.

With a sigh, Ryou put the cola down once more, picking up the receiver. "Moshi, moshi."

"Ryou Bakura?"

The voice on the other end of the phone line caused Ryou's brow to wrinkle. That voice – it was familiar, and –

"It's me, Marik Ishtar."

"Marik?" The question in Ryou's voice was obvious. "Is something wrong?"

"I don't rightly know…" There was a pause. "Ryou, may I speak to Bakura please?"

"Um…yeah, sure." Ryou motioned Bakura over to take the receiver from him. At his other's quizzical look he only shrugged. "Don't ask me. Marik only asked to speak to you."

Bakura took the phone, raising it to his ear like he'd seen Ryou do only minutes before. His manner though, was much less polite than his hikari's. "What do you want, Ishtar?"

"You know…after Battle City I gave away my Millennium Rod, right? And Ishizu her Necklace."

"I know." That was still a sore subject with Bakura – both Items had gone to the pharaoh and his light.

"But…Ishizu and I already have a high enough magical ability to summon Shadows without the Items."

Bakura sighed – loudly. "Ishtar, if this little ramble of yours has any point to it, get to it soon otherwise I'm giving the phone back to Ryou."

Marik hurried on, knowing the other would do as he said he would. "Fine, fine! Just…a few days ago, Ishizu had a weird dream, which left her with an even odder feeling."

"You're calling me about your sister's feelings?!"

"Bakura, just hear me out, alright?" Marik ignored the snort the albino let out. "Yes, Ishizu had an odd feeling. But then…so did I, and anyone else with at least medium-level magical ability in our clan. As if…Ishizu said the best way to describe it was as if everyone was suddenly just a little bit more…'empty'."

Bakura clicked his tongue impatiently, but waited for the rest of the story.

The blonde Egyptian on the other end of the line quickly obliged. "I went into the Shadow Realm and -" Marik paused again. "Bakura, either the pharaoh or you have been performing powerful magic recently, haven't you? Really, really high-power stuff."

"…Yes…"

"Just what did you do?"

"…The pharaoh and I both split from our hosts."

"You have separate bodies from Ryou and Yugi now?"

"Yes."

Marik groaned. "Bakura, you – do you even realise what you've done?"

Bakura sighed. "I have no doubt you're going to enlighten me anyway."


Now

Yami felt quite, quite ill. His earlier sickness seemed to be rearing its ugly head once more, but the thought of his friends, slowly wasting away in his memory, and Yugi –

He could only remember his hikari's name now. Things…were moving faster and faster to catch up with him, and his head was spinning and his stomach was churning and Yami –

Yami was running for the tiny bathroom that bordered his ward, lurching slightly as he ran. The door had barely slammed shut behind him before he was vomiting into the sink, gripping either side of the white basin in a death-grip.

Yugi… Even the boy's name sounded like a eulogy in his mind, a requiem for a lost soul. YUGI. He had to keep this scrap of his hikari in his mind – he had to -, he couldn't just forget…

It takes all the running one can do just to stay in the same place. If you want to get anywhere soon, you'll have to run twice as fast…

Yugi, Yugi, YUGI. His hikari, his light, the other half of his soul. So…why did Ciara keep slipping into his mind?

Doing the seemingly impossible, Yami's fingers tightened further on the edges of the sink.


Now

Bakura was bored. There was only so much one could do in a curtained cubicle in an open ward, and he'd got sick of sleeping and counting ceiling tiles. So, that left communicating with the humans currently inhabiting the ward...

The albino poked his head out of the curtain, a slight frown crossing his face as he realised the ones he'd planned on taunting/tormenting to amuse himself were both asleep. Ryou was completely out of it in his chair, face buried in the crook of his arm which leant on the chair back. Yugi had leant back against the headboard of Yami's bed, dropping off curled around his darker half. And Yami was…well, he was still soulless.

Moving as stealthily across the ward as his bruises would allow, Bakura crossed to stand at the base of Yami's bed, staring at his empty rival. It was…odd to see the vibrant pharaoh so quiet, so lifeless and lax. The young man had been the constant bane of his life for so many years it was just plain weird to see him being peaceable for a change, and it just…

Y'know, now Bakura thought about it, Bakura hadn't actually examined a soulless body in all that much detail before. Sure, he'd created his own fair share of soulless, but he'd never really…noticed, until now, what a drastic change it made to the people. The shadows on the pharaoh's face were long, and easily seen, and the youth for once looked the age he'd be if he'd never been locked away in a Puzzle for a few millennia. Yami looked…young.

Noticing the light in the ward was gradually fading as evening set in – Bakura could see the time of day by glancing out of the ward's window -, the once tomb-robber flicked on the light beside Yami's bed. It was a bright, horrid thing, and Bakura turned away from it almost at once, his gaze falling on the dark shadows that were immediately cast upon the floor. He could see his own topped with slightly lighter spikes where light filtered through the strands, as well as the shadow of Yugi sitting on the bed, the bed itself and –

Bakura frowned.

That can't be right…

Turning the light slightly, Bakura once again studied the shadows crated by the people and objects in the room. His shadow? Check. The bed? Check. Yugi? Check. Yami?

Yami didn't appear to have a shadow.

His stomach sinking, Bakura reached out to lift Yami's hand with his own, placing both directly in the path of the light being emitted from the lamp. Turning to the wall, he could see the shadow of his own hand clearly, but where Yami's hand and arm should have been…

There was nothing. Yami had no shadow.

Bakura's stomach hit rock bottom.


Now

Aibou. Tears ran down Yami's face as he stumbled back to his bed, clambering up and wrapping his arms about himself as he lost himself in a lament inside his head. AIBOU.

He'd lost his aibou's smile…even…even the sound of the boy's voice…

It shouldn't –

Is my darling lonely…?

GO AWAY!!!

Our poor, pretty darkness, shh…don't cry.

Aibou… He couldn't have lost his aibou, his hikari, the boy who had freed him from the Puzzle and –

It'll be over soon, we promise.

"Yami?" His psychiatrist came in. Yami turned a hateful glare on the man, but the doctor refused to be dissuaded. "Yami, we moved you back here due to your illness. If you show signs of-"

"I'm not an idiot, doctor, and nor am I suicidal." Yami's tone was cold.

The man coughed, a little awkward. "That's good. Now…Yami. I really do want to have a discussion with you about -"

"I said I don't want to talk to you!!"

"Yami. Do you really want to be put back on sedation again? Or back in seclusion? Those places are dull, I know -"

"Stop rambling." Yami's voice was blunt. He…didn't want to be put back in seclusion again. He was sick of that room, that cell – at least here he had a drawing pad, cards, books, something to actually look at. "I…I'm not going to talk to you often."

"Of course not, just a little would be enough." The psychiatrist sensed he was finally getting somewhere.

"Or long."

"As I said, just a little…"

"If…that's alright then…" Yami bit his lip, "Then I'll talk."

"That's wonderful, Yami!" The doctor smiled brightly, his expression so plastic it hurt just to look at.

"Just stop smiling like that." Yami was more than a little freaked out.

The smile was hastily dropped, and the psychiatrist coughed once more. "Right then…" The man carefully manoeuvred himself into the seat beside his patient's bed. "Let's start with the dream you had while you were in the coma."

"Alright…"

"Yami, if you'd be so kind, could you please tell me about Yugi again?"

"Yugi?" Yami frowned, staring at the man now seated beside him.

"That's right." The doctor clicked his pen, positioning it so he could begin to write easily.

"…'Yugi'?" Yami repeated.

"Yes, Yami – 'Yugi'."

There was a long pause, and the psychiatrist found himself looking up, meeting his patients rare, and quite confused, crimson eyes.

Yami bit his lip again, completely at a loss. "…Who's Yugi?"


Notes on Yami: He's a mess, simply put. What's up with his head? Well… (knowing smile)

Notes on the voices: Voices? What voices? (grins) Ahm…they were a vague idea that occurred to me, and I mostly included them because they fit, they help develop part of a plot line well, and I know for a fact they'll bug certain people who try to figure 'em out.

Carbamazepine ("CBZ") is an anticonvulsant and mood stabilizing drug, used primarily in the treatment of epilepsy and bipolar disorder. It is also used to treat schizophrenia and trigeminal neuralgia.

Shadow: I think someone's gonna smack me for the ending of this chapter, and so I (and my brain of mushy fuzz-fuzz) now run for the hills. (waves) Seeya!!