Chapter Four – Decisions
DISCLAIMER: Alright. Originally, I planned this as an interjection, meaning there was no real plot so much as it just told the story and gave an explanation for how Yami and Bakura started running around in their own solid bodies. And I think I've basically succeeded. However, this makes it feel unfinished, and I don't like that. So there is a possibility I'll add more chapters to this. But for the moment… Yeah. Sorry 'bout that.
The sun was shining; bright to the point that even Honda's expensive, darkest-tint Polaroids were rendered just serviceable. Everyone had agreed to go out and explore Cairo markets again – even Ryou, who had put himself into a self-imposed exile since talking to Yuugi. He was walking along with his hands in his pockets, his gaze lost in the middle distance, but he was there, which was a vast improvement over the last few days.
Jounouchi and Honda were leaping from store to store, cheering and talking at the top of their lungs about all the strange but oh-so-fabulous foods on display around them, while the others followed with slight smiles. Bakura was acting strangely as well, eyeing the surrounding stalls with an odd look, but only Atemu took the time to notice.
Unfortunately, he was feeling distracted himself. He felt… exposed, for lack of a better word; as if everyone was looking at him. He knew that was insane, because there were much more interesting things to see and do, and whenever he looked around, everyone was preoccupied with those things. But it still made him uncomfortable, and he rubbed his bare arms distractedly, trying to remove the feeling.
"Yu- Atemu? Are you coming?"
He blinked, suddenly realising everyone had moved to a small café-style building on the side of the road. He must have been standing still for a while, because Jounouchi, Honda and Anzu were all staring back at him, concerned.
"You okay, man?" asked Jounouchi, as Atemu turned to walk over. "You look kinda out of it."
"I'm fine," he said, and managed a small smile before turning to slip into the building. "Just thinking."
"Y'know, I've been doing some of that myself," said Jounouchi, grinning as if it were something to be proud of. You know how we have trouble remembering to call you by your name?"
He glanced at him as they slid into chairs around a large table just inside the building. "Yeah?"
"Well, at first I thought it was because you've always been Yuugi to us, right? And we're just used to calling you Yuugi and that works. But the more I think about it, the more Yuugi's just Yuugi, and you're just 'him' in my head, y'know?"
Atemu blinked, trying to sort that out, then slowly nodded. It did make some vague sense.
"So maybe it's like we can't call you by your real name because you don't seem to be the nameless pharaoh to us," suggested Jounouchi, as a waiter came over to give them menus they couldn't read. Anzu and Ryou muddled through guessing a few meals to have while the others continued talking.
"I suppose that makes sense," Atemu said, leaning his elbow on the table. "If what aibou tells me is true, then technically, I'm not the full incarnation."
"Right! So, I'm thinking, y'know, maybe you need a different name," he said excitedly. "Something we can use and think of as you, not just what we're supposed to call you. What d'you think?"
He frowned, shrugging vaguely. "I suppose. But isn't it disrespectful to ignore the name I was given?"
"What're we talking about?" asked Anzu, turning back to the table at large as the waiter walked away. "Names?"
"I'm telling him my idea about why we can never remember to call him by name," explained Jounouchi. "He thinks it's disrespectful to change it."
"I don't know if you can ever really change a name," said Ryou, giving Bakura a meaningful look. "You are who you are, and it's just who you think of yourself as that determines your name."
"Which is why Yuugi is always Yuugi, to the point that most people don't remember his family name," said Anzu. "And why I'm Anzu, but barely anyone knows Jounouchi's given name."
"But I think of myself as Atemu," said Atemu, glancing up at the suddenly flickering lights. "Doesn't that ruin your theory?"
"Not necessarily. I mean, you've only been Atemu for a few days," said Honda. "Are you sure you really do think of yourself like that? Are you sure you're not just, I don't know, the spirit of the puzzle?"
He frowned, his hand absently falling to hold the puzzle to his stomach. He had wanted to leave it with Yuugi, but the doctors said it would just prove a health hazard. He bit his lip, considering Honda's theory along with what Yuugi had told him, and Honda leaned forward, raising his eyebrows.
"You've only had a name for like a week," he continued arguing. "You've only had a past for a week. You never knew your name in Ancient Egypt, did you?"
"See? All things considered, you've probably never thought of yourself with a name. You're probably just telling yourself you're 'Atemu' when really you're 'pharaoh'."
Atemu nodded, looking around the café for something else to focus on and give him time to think. "But that doesn't mean I won't come to think of myself like that. Given time, we could get used to it."
"Maybe. Maybe not," said Anzu, tilting her head toward him. "Didn't Yuugi say Kaiba was giving you a different name on the legal documents?"
"Yeah… Yami, wasn't it?" Jounouchi rolled his eyes. "I think you're supposed to match Yuugi's family's weird names or something."
"Yami Motou," Ryou said quietly. "And the spirit of the ring is 'Bakura Doroubou'."
"Nice," said Honda, grinning, and Bakura smirked.
"Doesn't that mean we have to get used to calling you Yami?" continued Anzu. "Just in keeping with the official things?"
He grunted, irritated with the reminder that Kaiba was crafting his life out of thin air. He hesitated, then sighed, shaking his head as he ran a hand through his hair. "I don't know," he said irritably, and leaned back in his seat, shifting uncomfortably. "Maybe. I don't care. I'll think about it later; you can leave it at 'hey you' for all I care right now."
They all stared at him for a moment, then exchanged worried glances, and Anzu leaned forward to look at him closely. "Are you sure you're alright? You're not acting like yourself."
"What's that supposed to mean?" he demanded, frowning at her. "I'm fine."
Her eyes widened slightly even as her eyebrows furrowed further, but the arrival of their drinks kept her from saying anything more. They exchanged glances again, and Honda slowly picked up a new topic, suggesting they go visit one of the museums after lunch. Atemu drank slowly as he listened, trying to force himself to concentrate on his friends.
"Okay, seriously, he's really starting to worry me."
Honda nodded, watching carefully as Atemu wandered through the back of the antique shop, occasionally pausing to pick up an item or smirk to himself at an obvious forgery. Jounouchi stuffed his hand into the back pocket of his jeans, tilting his head appraisingly, and Anzu covered her mouth in thought.
Not that they could say he'd really been acting like the friend they knew and cared about since he had appeared from the Ceremonial Chamber, but they could only expect it. Even as a spirit, he had acted strangely when nervous or depressed. There had to be certain allowances made when his aibou was in hospital.
But since Yuugi had woken up, Atemu had calmed down and gone back to some semblance of his usual self, which could also only be expected. Yuugi was awake and well on the road to being fine, and they had quickly gotten some answers as to why Atemu was still alive and solid. There wasn't too much to worry about any more.
But it had been two days since the doctors had started refusing their access to Yuugi, and it was slowly becoming obvious that something about that was causing problems with Atemu. While he was clearly making more of an effort than he had right after waking up, he was becoming progressively more distracted. He had trouble focussing on long conversations, and would often lose track of what people were saying if they spoke too fast. Ryou had started speaking very slowly and clearly, and although that clearly irritated Atemu, Ryou was the only person he could talk to without having to ask for repetition of sentences.
"Maybe he's tired," suggested Anzu, glancing up at the other two. "I mean, the last week, he's pretty much just been lying around and sleeping. Maybe he wasn't ready for two whole days of walking around like this."
"Maybe. But Ryou and Bakura were all drained and stuff too, and they're okay," pointed out Honda. "They're tired, yeah, but they're not acting like someone yanked the carpet out from under them."
Jounouchi stared at the metaphor, then turned back to Anzu. "We gotta talk to Ishizu," he said firmly. "She'll know what's going on."
"Why do you think that?" she asked, and he shrugged.
"Well, we know it's probably not a normal sickness, 'cause Yuugi said Ya— Atemu was all like, dust and stuff, right? So it's probably got something to do with the creepy magic that's keeping him looking like more than dust and stuff," he said, looking to Honda for support in his theory. "I'm thinking maybe his magic isn't actually strong enough to do this. Otherwise he probably would've done it before."
Anzu bit her lip, glancing back to where Atemu was staring at a garish wall hanging. Aside from looking vaguely irritated—which he had been all day—he was also rubbing his temple with the knuckles of his bandaged hand.
"You think he's decomposing or something?" asked Honda.
"I don't know. I'm just thinking we need to find out what's going on quick, because if his magic is starting to lose it, I sure as hell don't know what'll happen to him," said Jounouchi, shifting his weight uncomfortably. "And as worried about him as I am, that ain't the worst part. Whatever it is ain't happening to the spirit of the ring. It's kinda been proved we're nothing compared to him, so even if Atemu just goes back to the puzzle again, who's gonna keep the thief in line while Yuugi's hurt?"
They frowned, looking over to where Ryou and Bakura were glaring at each other over the top of a ceramic pot, and Anzu covered her mouth again, suddenly scared.
Honda shook his head in an almost compulsive movement, setting his jaw decisively. "He isn't running wild again. I'm not gonna let him."
"And what are you gonna do, Meat Puppet?" Jounouchi asked dryly. "Punch him and get possessed again?"
"It doesn't matter what I'd do," he shot back, glaring at the reminder. "Because Yami's gonna get better, and so it doesn't matter. I'm not gonna worry about Bakura, because my friend matters to me more than what some –"
"Shh!" hissed Anzu, and Honda cut himself off, suddenly aware of Atemu walking towards them, obviously struggling to hide the fact he had a headache.
"I'm going back to the hotel," he announced when he came within speaking distance. "None of you need me for anything today, do you?"
"Nah, we're okay," said Jounouchi. "You?"
"Fine," he snapped, belying his own words with a wince and thick swallow of pain.
Honda hesitated for a moment, then stepped forward, clearing his throat. "You know what? I might head back too. I'm getting kinda hungry, and at least the room service menus come in Japanese."
Anzu opened her mouth to offer company, but Jounouchi grabbed her hand, shaking his head no. Atemu was in no mood to be coddled right now, and if they followed him around like they usually did, he would definitely notice their concern.
"Cool. We'll probably be back around six, yeah?" Jounouchi said loudly.
"Fine. Call if you want us," Atemu said shortly, already starting toward the exit.
Honda hesitated again, looking after him for a moment before muttering to the others, "I'll give Ishizu a call when we get to the hotel."
They nodded, and Jounouchi frowned, lowering his head to watch from under his hair as Atemu left. "Take care of him, okay?"
He grimaced, nodding once as he tapped the pocket with his mobile phone. "I got him," he promised, then turned and hurried out after Atemu.
Although they arrived only an hour after Honda called them, it took almost another hour before Atemu would even let Ishizu and Malik know that he was sick. Apparently, Yuugi's habit of claiming he was fine when he clearly wasn't had transferred into Atemu somewhere along the way, and he was much more stubborn when people started asking him personal questions.
He scoffed, folding his arms as he looked off to the side. "There is no need to be concerned, I'm fine," he snapped, pointedly ignoring Malik scoffing in the corner.
Ishizu sighed in irritation. It was very difficult to treat him with pharaonic respect when he was acting like a spoilt teenager. "Your body is only just over a week old. There are bound to be difficulties. In humans, headaches and lethargy are often warning signs of illness. They will be the same for you. You must allow us to investigate."
"I am not the one wrapped in casts and wearing an oxygen mask while I sleep," he said evenly. "I am not the one whose energy was forcefully drained until it was too much work to breathe. Save your concern for those who need it."
"Your wrist should have healed by now," she replied, just as evenly. "Yet you still cannot use your left hand, can you?"
His eye twitched slightly, and he slid his hand further under the other arm to hide the bandage.
"Please, pharaoh, tell us what is happening to you so we might solve the problem," she said, her glare sharpening into that of a mother chastising her son. Like most teenagers, however, Atemu was adept at avoiding the gaze.
"I suppose we could call Yuugi-kun," Malik suggested casually. The effect was instantaneous, as Atemu stiffened, his bandaged wrist sinking completely out of sight behind the other arm. Malik looked around at Honda, smiling vaguely. "Describe all the symptoms you were telling us about, and see what Yuugi-kun thinks they might be. He knows the pharaoh better than us, he'd probably be able to guess what the symptoms actually mean."
"Yeah," agreed Honda, smirking as Atemu twitch again. "But then, Yuugi'd probably get all worried about him and want to see him, and that'd slow down his recovery, right? That's why the doctors said we can't see him – so Yuugi doesn't worry about our problems."
"But what else can we do?" Malik heaved a melodramatic sigh, shrugging helplessly. "If the pharaoh won't tell us, and we do need to know, after all…"
"Your subtlety is astounding," drawled Atemu, and Malik grinned at him.
"Like I said: we've gotta know. I'm not above extortion."
Atemu glared at him for a moment, then rolled his eyes back to Ishizu. "Yes, I am having trouble concentrating. Yes, I have migraines. Yes, I am tired. Yes, my wrist still hurts and I can't put any weight on it. That is as far as my symptoms extend. It means I haven't been sleeping well, thank you for your concern," he snapped, but Ishizu frowned thoughtfully.
"Please close your eyes," she said, and he raised an eyebrow. She smiled gently. "A mere test, pharaoh."
He scowled, but followed her instructions, and Ishizu stood up, motioning for Malik to move to the other side of the room as she walked over to the dining table. "Please tell me where Malik and I are standing?"
His scowl deepened, his brow furrowing in slight concentration. "Malik is standing where Honda was before. You are in front of Jounouchi's bedroom."
"Uh oh," said Malik, and Honda blinked.
"Um… not that he got it right—" Atemu's eyes snapped open, shocked at his mistake, but Honda continued regardless. "—but how would he have known anyway?"
"Dark magic uses human emotions, as that is how humans express their darkness," explained Ishizu, frowning as she walked back to her seat. "One such as the pharaoh should be able to sense where people are by sensing the emotions in the room."
"The fact that he got it wrong means something's screwy with his powers," said Malik, folding his arms with an appraising glance at Atemu. "That's what's probably messing with his new body. Meaning we have to figure out exactly what's going on or all hell could break loose."
Honda stared. "Huh?"
"I seal the darkness, I control the darkness," muttered Atemu, his words almost an irritated sigh. "If I can't focus my powers, I might lose control over them."
"Meaning something like Zorc might happen?" asked Honda, and the other three nodded. He paled, reaching up to hold his head as he leaned back against the wall. "Oh, man… what d'we do?"
They were silent for a moment, considering, and Atemu crossed his legs, lowering his head in thought as he said, "The first thing we need to do is discover the extent of my distraction. I can sense the thief – he feels like a beacon of darkness across the city… I think he's wearing the Ring. The Millennium Items… are faint. I can't pinpoint where they are exactly."
"I took them off Bakura when he was admitted to hospital," said Honda, jerking his thumb toward his bedroom. "Stuck them under my bed for safekeeping."
"The thief's stolen them," said Atemu, shaking his head. "I think they're in his room."
"I'll go check," said Malik. "He's in the other suite, right? You got a key for that one?"
Honda nodded, trotting over to grab the key card Anzu had left in the cupboard. He tossed it to Malik, who hurried out of the room, then looked around at Atemu. "Should we tell Yuugi about this? He—"
"No!" cried Atemu, uncrossing his arms and legs and almost shooting up out of his chair before he managed to catch himself. He hesitated, halfway to standing, then slowly sank back into the chair. "No. I don't want him to know, and especially not right now. He's got too much on his mind, but if he knows this he'll worry about me."
Honda frowned, tilting his head down at Atemu. "—is the one that gave the energy for this in the first place. Maybe he might have some clue."
"No," he repeated firmly. "He's already lying to me about something, and I know he'll lie more if he thinks he needs to worry about me."
Ishizu pursed her lips, absently smoothing her skirt to keep herself from tutting. The lengths Yuugi and Atemu went through to relieve each other of concern were ridiculous, and right now she was beginning to think they were causing more problems than not.
"You were right," said Malik, skidding back into the room. "By the look of it, someone took the Items. But judging by the beds, since I'm not exactly sure who's sleeping where, I don't know if the spirit of the Ring was the one that took them."
"What do you mean?" asked Atemu, and he shrugged.
"The Eye's the only one I could find, and that was on Bakura-kun—the normal Bakura-kun—his bed, I think. It was all neatly made and those pyjamas we bought him were folded on the pillow."
"Hang on a sec'," said Honda, trotting over to the room he was sharing with Jounouchi. He checked under the bed, honestly shocked to find the bag he had put the Items in still there. He pulled it out and walked back to the lounge room, checking the contents. "No Ring, no Eye, no Puzzle, obviously, but everything else."
Atemu stared at him blankly, then sighed hard and bent over his knees, holding his head in his hands. "Nngh! I can't…!" He clenched his teeth, gripping his hair and tugging hard. "I don't sense them. I don't sense anything specific, it's just…"
They watched him patiently, waiting for him to relax and explain himself. He paused, then let his hands drop back to his knees and looked up again. "Everything's dark. That's what's happening. My darkness is invading my senses, so I can only sense variations of power. I can sense Honda because he's one of my closest companions, and I thought Ishizu was by the door because that was where the Items were."
"So we need to find your focus," said Ishizu, and Atemu nodded.
"The Puzzle isn't enough any more. Now I'm not centred on it, I need something stronger to—" He hesitated, narrowing his eyes in self-disgust. "—to feed off."
Malik made a sudden noise, but Ishizu glanced at him and he cut himself off, grimacing. Honda raised an eyebrow, but Malik just shrugged apologetically and looked back at Atemu.
"That's why the thief is fine when I'm not," Atemu continued quietly. "He's fuelling and feeding off Ryou's dislike and anger."
"You need to charge on anger? Hey, that's easy enough fixed," said Honda, grinning. "Go have a fight with Kaiba."
Atemu snorted despite himself, shaking his head. "I doubt I could tolerate him that much for the next however long I stay here."
"And I doubt it would work," said Ishizu. "The thief is connected to Ryou in several different ways, not the least of which being Ryou may be the other half of his soul. If you were to discover your other half, you would be as strong as you would have been had we gone directly to the Ceremonial Battlefield from the Tablet."
Again, Malik grunted, but Ishizu ignored it, and Honda stared at him blankly. Atemu glanced at her, then slowly sat back, his arms shifting to the sides of the chair until he looked more like a king in his throne than he had any right to, these days.
"You're saying that my senses and therefore my power and body would realign if I were to have contact with my other half," he said bluntly, and Ishizu nodded. He narrowed his eyes again, annoyed. "Not that you know how I would manage that right now. You don't know who that is, do you?"
She silently raised her eyebrows, and Honda frowned, completely lost.
"Do you, Ishizu?" he repeated, and she blinked slowly.
"Everything is as I have told the chosen one," she said quietly. "Yuugi knows all there is to know, beyond your current predicament."
He continued glaring at her for a moment, then smiled thinly, rising to his feet. "Thank you, Ishizu. I would like to say that I appreciate your help," he said softly, and then walked past her to his bedroom, unable to keep himself from slamming the door behind him.
"He's really pissed off at us," observed Malik, and Honda nodded.
"Yeah," he agreed quietly, then blinked and turned to face him head on. "Why?"
Malik cleared his throat, bending his head toward Ishizu, but she just stood up, frowning to herself. "Unfortunately, Hiroto, it is not our place to explain. Please forgive us, but we should take our leave."
"What about Yami?" he asked, worried. "We didn't do anything but prove he's in danger. We've gotta find that other half."
She hesitated, then sighed, closing her eyes. "There is little we can do, at the moment. For now, just let him rest."
Due to all his years as a student of some of the less reputable schools in his city, Yuugi was no stranger to pain. Physical, mental, spiritual – he knew them all very well, and he knew how to ignore or deal with them. Occasionally, Anzu or Jounouchi would yell at him for being so capable in this area, and Yuugi had quickly learned not to bring the topic up with his other self, but on the whole he was fairly glad for his skills.
But now having been a hospital patient for serious injuries twice in just under a year, Yuugi had decided his skills were somewhat redundant. Pain killing drugs were just that much better.
He ignored Mokuba's snickering, struggling to focus on what the doctors were telling his grandfather and Kaiba as they wheeled him out of his room. Unfortunately, that was made difficult by the fact Kaiba and the doctor were speaking in rapid English and Yuugi was having trouble focussing on anything but the fuzzy feeling in his head.
But he was almost certain they were saying something about readmitting him to Domino Hospital when they got back to Japan, which would be really annoying. Those doctors were evil – they had told his mother he needed to see a psychiatrist! It had taken a month to get her to drop that, and he could only imagine what they would say about all this.
"Ne, Mokuba-kun?" he asked, trying to lean forward, only to get yanked back by the doctor pushing his wheelchair.
He frowned vaguely, and Mokuba smirked as he carefully danced his way around Kaiba to walk beside the chair. "Mm? What's up?"
"Does everyone know I'm getting out today? I haven't had time to call them, and Grandpa said they were all out or asleep whenever he went back to the hotel," he said, his frown deepening at how he was slurring his words. "M'kinda worried. This was only supposed to take three days; it's been four and I haven't heard from them."
"Yeah, they were getting kinda mad at me because it was taking so long," said Mokuba, frowning. "But we didn't tell them, because they were all acting weird and we didn't know what they'd do."
"Really weird," he repeated. "When I saw them yesterday, Honda was just sitting in a corner, not saying anything, Jounouchi kept yelling at me and slamming stuff, and Anzu was doing that friendship thing."
He laughed, shrugging helplessly as they stopped to wait for the elevator. "You know, the friendship thing! When she starts talking about how everything's gonna be fine, so long as they all calm down and stick together and blah, blah, blah…"
Yuugi blinked twice, then nodded and turned back to staring blankly ahead. "Oh yeah…?"
"Yeah. The two Bakura seemed fine though, and I didn't see Yami," he said, then grinned at Yuugi's puzzled look. "Yami! You know, the other Yuugi!"
"Oh… you're already calling him that?" he asked, blinking. "He's letting you call him that?"
"Not so much letting as I don't think he could be bothered arguing," he said, and Yuugi frowned as he was wheeled around to be backed into the elevator. The doctors and others all crowded in around him, but he continued watching Mokuba, so the younger boy grinned. "Come on! It's a great name, and it suits him perfectly!"
"Mm, I just haven't talked to him about it yet," he said slowly. "You should've cleared it with him before putting those documents in."
"Who cares, it was ages ago now!"
Yuugi continued frowning, but said nothing as they continued down to the outpatients' area. He almost fell asleep waiting for all the forms to be completed, and actually did after he had been carefully tucked into the car that would take them to the hotel. They were only staying there the one night so that everyone could pack up their clothes and souvenirs before flying out on the Kaiba Corporation jet Mokuba had managed to convince Kaiba to let the group fly back on.
"C'mon, Yuugi, wake up," murmured Sugoroku, pulling him from sleep with a quick shake of his shoulder. "It'll just take a few minutes to get you upstairs, then you can sleep on a bed, okay?"
"Jounouchi and the others," he mumbled vaguely, barely noticing that it was Kaiba helping him out of the car and down into his wheelchair. "Wanna see 'em."
"They're not here," said Sugoroku. "We didn't tell them you were getting out, so that they would be out when you came back. That way you can get some rest before the flight tomorrow."
"But I wanna see my friends," he mumbled.
"You're not up to it," Kaiba said shortly, and Yuugi grumbled, but the painkillers were taking their toll and he was only barely awake as Sugoroku wheeled him through the hotel lobby. He had to stare when they reached the suite, though. It was hard not to be amazed by the sheer luxury of it, especially when compared to the one they had originally booked.
"Ishizu-san paid," explained Sugoroku. "I think she felt guilty for what happened in the Battlefield."
"It's huge," muttered Yuugi, staring from the kitchenette to the lounge room. "It's as big as our house."
"I think you might be exaggerating a little, Yuugi," he said dryly, and turned to look back at Kaiba and Mokuba. "Thank you for all your help."
"Nah, we don't use our doctors much," said Mokuba, grinning. "Besides, all the information we got from Yami and Bakura's tests'll—"
"That's enough, Mokuba," snapped Kaiba, and Mokuba clamped his jaw shut with a squeak. The two Mutous frowned at them, Yuugi's head tilting forward in as close as he could get to a suspicious glare right now. If Atemu and Bakura really were a magic-evolution of Kaiba Corporation's solid visions, it made a typical amount of sense for Kaiba to use them like scientific research. He scowled absently, forcing his head up again. "Well, thank you anyway. See you at the airport?"
"Yeah, ten o'clock sharp!" said Mokuba, waving as his brother turned back to the door. "Be careful, Yuugi! Later!"
"Until tomorrow, Mokuba-kun, Kaiba-kun," said Yuugi, just before the door shut. He sighed, suddenly running out of the energy required to remain fully coherent. "Those two… I wish they could just…" he mumbled, and Sugoroku sighed, clapping him on the shoulder.
"Ah, now, don't worry about," he said bracingly. "Things will look much better once you've had some sleep."
He nodded wearily, closing his eyes. "I just wish we could be real friends, y'know…? No tricks, no lies…"
"Shh. Come on. We've set everything up for you in the main bedroom, because it's a double bed. But Yami's been using it, so I don't know how clean it'll be," he said, walking around to push Yuugi's chair forward. "But we'll try and make you comfortable. The en suite is attached, but you'll probably have some trouble moving around –"
He grunted at him, almost annoyed but still unable to work up the energy. "Grandpa, the therapy nurse made sure I could get up and around in my wheelchair. I'll be fine on my own."
"Still. Call me if you have any problems at all, alright?"
"Could you get a hold of the other me?" he asked wearily, watching as Sugoroku leaned forward to open the bedroom door. "I'm okay waiting for the others, but I want to see him. I've got a bad feeling, and I want to make sure he's okay."
"You are aware that you're the one that has been and will be in hospital for a while, aren't you?" he teased, smiling. "The other – A— oh, what is it… Yami will be fine, and he's –"
Sugoroku cut off as they moved into the bedroom, shocked into silence. Not having been here long enough to really know what their plans were, he had assumed everyone had gone out for the day, but Atemu was still there, sleeping on top of the sheets with his fingers clenched into the pillow beneath him. Yuugi made a small noise, instinctively shifting as if to get out of his chair, but Sugoroku held him back. Atemu honestly looked as if he were in pain, with beads of sweat on his brow and teeth clenched.
"The other me," murmured Yuugi, before staring up at his grandfather. "You didn't tell me he was hurt!"
"I'm sure he's fine," he whispered. "I'll just go wake him and –"
"No, don't," he said definitely, waving it off. "He's not taking up that much room, and I'm sure I can lie down without bothering him."
"It's the other way around, Yuugi," he said, rolling his eyes, but pushed Yuugi forward regardless. If Atemu woke up, as he was likely to do, then he would just be able to help Yuugi get more comfortable and then explain what—if anything—was wrong with him.
Last Atemu could remember, he had stumbled into the kitchenette for food, been told Yuugi was being kept an extra day in the hospital, grunted, and gone back to his room for sleep. He didn't remember who had told him about Yuugi or what he had eaten, so much as his head had been pounding and his chest ached for reasons he couldn't understand.
But as he slowly woke up, his eyes still closed but mind working perfectly, he suddenly realised how little pain he could feel. His chest felt fine, and his breathing was steadier than it had been for days. Even his head was perfectly clear of confusion or pain, and he opened his eyes slowly, waiting for something to change. But when what felt like a minute had passed and his headache remained gone, he frowned, stretching his bandaged hand. But there was no pain there, either, as what had been a still sprained wrist that morning now moved smoothly and without complaint.
He slowly lifted it up to his eyes, curling and uncurling his fingers in a slow test, then raised them up further to touch his face, making certain he was solid and not in anyone else's body. He sat up, catching the puzzle before it swung into his stomach, and just stared at nothing, amazed at how alert and healthy he was feeling.
Something had to be wrong. This was too sudden a change, to go from mind-numbing pain to better than fine in only a matter of hours. He closed his eyes, then jerked as the aura of the Millennium Items came into sharp focus. He could feel each one so clearly that he could almost see them. The Ring, hidden around Ryou's neck, under his shirt; the Rod on the dining table where Jounouchi had been playing with it; the Ankh slowly turning over and over in Sugoroku's hands. He could sense them all. He could even sense Sugoroku himself, sitting in the next room.
He could even sense…
"Aibou…" he whispered, twisting around to look behind him. Yuugi was sleeping on the other side of the bed, everything but his foot and arm casts buried under blankets.
Atemu smiled, leaning over to brush his fingers against the bandage over Yuugi's eyebrow. They had taken the stitches out the day before Yuugi had been cut off from everyone, and replaced them with a simple piece of medical tape so Yuugi's body could finish the healing process. But now there were no bloodstains on the tape, and there was more colour in Yuugi's cheeks. He looked better than he had all week.
After a few more moments to let the sight of Yuugi without a heart monitor or the smell of antiseptic sink in, Atemu turned his attention back to himself. He felt better than he had since that failed attempt to heal Yuugi through dark magic, and if not for what it had done to Yuugi, that night had made him feel nothing short of great. He frowned, slowly taking off his bandage as he considered that.
It was really time he figured out exactly what was going on with his newfound solidity.
With all the information he had been given, it was fairly safe to assume that his current form was the product of magic. He was a perfect imitation of a working human body, created and maintained by the darkness he controlled, just like the real solid visions he commanded in his more soul-threatening duels. However, while the real monsters disappeared after certain periods of time and so were more a flow of energy, his body was static, and needed constant energy to support it, just as a real human needs food.
He nodded to himself, sure of his facts as he flung the bandage aside and cracked his knuckles, making certain his hand wasn't going to start hurting again.
The energy he needed to create his body had originally come from Yuugi. But now, according to Ishizu, the upkeep of energy was coming from 'the other half of his soul', which was difficult due to his not having contact with that other half. Yuugi had told him his other half was a human half that had difficulty surviving without its spiritual half.
Atemu's eyebrow twitched as he glanced back at Yuugi. Of course, neither Ishizu or Yuugi had any idea who this human half might be.
What an amazing coincidence that Atemu should happen to regain all the strength he had been losing over the past four days at the very moment Yuugi happened to be near him for the first time in four days!
He sighed, pulling his foot up onto the bed to lean his elbow on, gazing at Yuugi wearily. Either they thought he was an idiot, or they had expected him to be so distracted by Yuugi's condition to not notice.
Not that he could really blame them. While he might not understand Yuugi's thoughts, he could sometimes understand the workings of his mind when they referred to himself. He would have done the exact same thing, were their positions reversed.
As much as he hated to think it, the fact of his situation was that Atemu was technically feeding off Yuugi's energy to survive. Had he known that originally, he might have been disgusted with himself and searched for a way back into the puzzle. Of course, on the other hand, now that he had heard a theory as to what the other half of his soul had been through over the past three thousand years, he might have refused to leave because he didn't want Yuugi to suffer any more. Were it anyone else, he probably wouldn't have given a damn, but since it was Yuugi, who made up the majority of his world…
Knowing Yuugi, he probably didn't want Atemu to think these things and therefore decided to keep it from him. That way, any decisions Atemu made would be solely his own.
Of course, that meant there were decisions that did need to be made.
"Scrolls of Thoth," he sighed, pushing his hand up into his hair. He had never been one for decisions. For the most part, he avoided great changes in circumstance until it was shoved in his face that they needed to be made. Occasionally several times over.
The obvious, glaring decision was whether he would do what he was supposed to. Or rather, finish what he started. He was halfway through sealing the darkness forever. All that was left was his complete sacrifice, and the world would never be in danger from the powers of darkness again. He had started this three thousand years ago; it was his duty and about damn time he finished it.
But an embarrassingly teenage part of him demanded to know exactly why it was his duty, anyway. Who said he had to die? What would it really accomplish? Humans were still dangerous; they still felt anger and fear and hatred. There would always be war and there would always be those that fought for power. There would probably always be magic – his sacrifice would just be blocking off one part of all that.
He sighed again, letting his eyes wander back over Yuugi. If all truth be known, he didn't really want to go. He liked his friends that were here. Not that he personally did it that often, but he did like hanging out with Jounouchi and Honda. He did enjoy his outings with Anzu, as long as she forgot they were supposed to be dates. He liked talking with Yuugi. He liked watching television and arguing tactics and eating pizza and onion rings and… Hell, he even liked duelling Kaiba!
He didn't want to die.
He hadn't been here long enough.
Atemu frowned, raising his head slightly at the thought. It was an odd thing to think – he had been alive for over three thousand years, it was hardly as if he hadn't had time enough to live.
"The other… me…?"
He jerked, his arm falling back to his leg as he looked around at Yuugi. He was just barely awake, smiling as he slowly blinked up at Atemu. "Ah… You're awake."
"That's my line," he said softly. Yuugi's smile widened slightly, and Atemu narrowed his eyes, knowing Yuugi could recognise the affection despite his mood. "How do you feel?"
"Itchy," he murmured, closing his eyes wearily. "I think it's the pain killers. I'm really tired, too."
"Hm… you should try and sleep some more."
"I'm okay," he said, and looked up at him again, concerned. "What about you? You look a little out of it."
"Again, that's my line," He smirked, but Yuugi's brow furrowed, and Atemu shrugged, looking away again. "I'm just thinking, aibou. Past, present and future concerns and all that."
Yuugi gazed at him silently for a moment, then rolled his arm around, bringing his hand up in silent invitation. Atemu smiled without looking and took it, absently rubbing his thumb over Yuugi's fingers.
"I think I know why things went wrong in the Ceremonial Chamber," he said softly, and Yuugi blinked. He lowered his eyes to his free hand, stretching it thoughtlessly. "You remember Ishizu saying we should go straight from the tablet to the chamber? It was best that way because I would be strongest then."
Yuugi nodded, frowning at Atemu's mood. As the spirit of the puzzle, Atemu had gotten into funks often enough, but Yuugi had thought they would stop once he knew who he was and had gotten all his memories back. But this seemed almost as bad as the time right after Doma.
"I think… she was right, we should have gone straight there. But not because of how strong I was or wasn't," he continued quietly. "I think we should have gone straight there because as it was, I had too much time to think. I had those extra twelve hours, and that was all it took for me to second guess everything my new memories were telling me."
"What are you talking about?" murmured Yuugi, and Atemu glanced at him, squeezing his hand for reassurance.
"My memories—the memories I earned by playing the memory world—of Father, the Holy Officers… the gods, my life… I have them all in my mind and heart but…" He hesitated, then met Yuugi's gaze again, furrowing his brow. "I remember a life as Atemu, and I remember thoughts I had as him. I remember specific moments, and I remember specifically thinking certain things, but when I look back and think over them again, I could never honestly say I would think or do the same thing."
Yuugi frowned, but Atemu went on before he could say anything, shaking his head quickly. "It's not just about having changed or grown as a person, so don't suggest it. I just don't think – I look back on those moments and even though I know and remember that I went through them, they aren't me. They aren't the thoughts and actions of the spirit of the Millennium Puzzle," he said softly, curling his fist up to his heart. He bit his lip, trying to think of a way to explain it. "If I were to go back and rule Egypt, I know I could do it. I know I could do everything Seto did and so much more, because Egypt was my country. It was my birthright and everything I was born and bred to posses. But I can remember thinking… I remember Atemu knowing that Egypt wasn't his. He belonged to Egypt. Everything he did was because he was a part of his country. I don't think I could ever think like that. I know it's strange, but I almost feel like—"
"—you're not Atemu?" surmised Yuugi, and he nodded, lowering his gaze back to the bed. Yuugi frowned, rolling his shoulder in a futile attempt to ignore an itch as he thought about it. "It might just be because of the affects of the darkness. I mean, three thousand years is bound to do something to your sense of self."
"You think?" he asked, but Yuugi didn't answer, grimacing instead, and Atemu smiled. "I didn't think so."
Yuugi sighed, rolling his eyes up to the ceiling. "So you think things went wrong in the chamber because, deep down, you didn't think you were Atemu? You didn't think you could go to the afterlife, because it wasn't really you that was supposed to?"
"Something like that. At least, subconsciously," he corrected, gesturing to his head. "If I had gone straight from the memory world to the duel, then I wouldn't have had time to register the difference between what I remembered I was and who I felt I was. The rift was created and the shadows did the rest."
"Makes sense," said Yuugi, and Atemu nodded.
They were silent a moment, letting that work through their minds, before Atemu took a sharp breath and turned around to lie down beside Yuugi, folding his arms behind his head. "That then presents me with all sorts of identity issues, you know. Am I really who I think I am, or am I actually the person the magic created me to be?"
Yuugi grinned. "Welcome to my world."
They laughed, and Atemu picked up Yuugi's hand again, lacing their fingers together as he smiled up at the ceiling.
"But in all seriousness, it does present a problem."
"Mm," agreed Yuugi, his smile slipping into a frown. "Since you've had even more time to think about it, and spent this last week being called 'Yami' by the Kaiba brothers and I can only guess what by that our friends—"
"Anything from 'you' to 'Yuugi'," he interjected, clearly resigned to it.
"—the problem would have only gotten worse," finished Yuugi. "But on some level, you're still Atemu, which puts you in the same place, right? So really, then there's no difference."
Atemu hesitated, avoiding Yuugi's gaze by eyeing a small, long-since dried drip of paint on the ceiling. He had gotten particularly aquatinted with that drip over the past week, glaring at it whenever he needed to think things through, but with Yuugi lying right next to him and giving him that look he didn't even know he could do, it was very hard to focus on it.
"Aibou," he said carefully, keeping his gaze fixed upward. "Say I were to… accept the name 'Yami Motou'. Would you have any… qualms?"
"Qualms?" repeated Yuugi, staring at him.
"Would you mind?"
"I understood what you said, I don't get what you mean," he said blankly. "It's a weird name, but you're the one that has to live with it or not."
Atemu winced, chuckling helplessly, then swallowed and wet his lips. "Do you think I… Would you be particularly disappointed if…" He paused again, scowling at his own hesitancy. "Aibou, I… about moving onto the afterlife, I…"
Yuugi blinked, completely lost, before inspiration hit and only his still aching ribs kept him from sitting straight upward. He settled for a flinch and stare, while Atemu coughed to himself and glared at the ceiling.
"It will be somewhat difficult to convince the thief Bakura to come back to Egypt, let alone drag him through the Door," Atemu began again, gesturing at nothing. "And there are certain expenses and risks involved. If this is what happened just over a subconscious thought, you can only imagine what might happen in a year's time after I've had time to truly consider and become used to being 'Yami Motou'."
He couldn't stand it any more. Yuugi winced, rocking himself up to sitting so he could stare down at Atemu, whose eyes slid down to the side instead.
"Of course, there are also risks involved in other courses of action, with darkness having nothing to stop it. Or with no sacrifice, then the darkness has greater access through the Millennium Items. But then, there are other evils out there." Atemu closed his eyes on a pretence of deep thought. "And there will still be the Duel Monster World, which could rip open at any time. It's hardly any wonder I had reservations – it's all too much to think about once you start."
Yuugi blinked twice, then looked forward, his cheek twitching slightly in disbelief. Half a year, their lives and souls risked enough times to send a normal person insane, six of his bones and a crumbled tomb… He closed his eyes, struggling to keep himself from having to make the decision between laughing and crying.
"Ne, the other me," he said finally. "I just had a thought."
"Do you have any idea how much leather costs?" he asked, and sensed more than saw Atemu stop and stare. He sighed, scratching the back of his hand in resignation of both his itching and situation. "Do you know how much money we're going to lose buying you a new wardrobe?"
Atemu stared at him blankly for a moment, then smiled, sitting up himself. "Ah, a few extra shifts in the store never hurt anyone."
"And then there's the other stuff. Beds cost heaps."
"I think we'll manage with the one we've got," he said, smirking as he wrapped a careful arm around Yuugi's waist, leaning his chin on Yuugi's shoulder. A very slight warmth spread from the skin that touched Yuugi, and Atemu smiled, soaking it up gratefully. Yuugi fell silent for a second, then leaned a fraction of an inch closer, accepting everything as he continued.
"And I don't know what we're going to do once I finish school," he said, sighing hard. "If my grades are any indication, the only university I'll get into is a private one, and I know they'll notice an extra person in the dorms. But we can't afford for me to get a flat and I am not going to Domino University."
It took a second, but Atemu clenched his eyes shut, not even trying to hold back his smile any more. Yuugi was talking about university – that was post school. He was inviting Atemu—or rather, Yami, he had to remind himself—to stay longer than the year they had promised. He turned his head into Yuugi's neck, shifting his arm so his tightened hold wouldn't jar Yuugi's injuries, then pulled in a breath and looked up again.
"Ah, well, that's a year away. Do you know how much money I can earn in a year?" He scoffed, meeting Yuugi's gaze from the corner of his eye. "You underestimate my ability to take care of you."
"You're going to get a job?" he asked blankly. "You, the other me?"
"Don't joke," he cried, sitting up. "I'm the Duel King – the King of Games! I'll enter tournaments and earn enough money to keep you in leather for life."
"Uh, no. You can have the leather. But you can buy me some good jeans. They're pretty expensive these days."
"Jeans? Denim? No, aibou, you are not doing that."
"Hey, you've worn jeans before!"
"Once. And it was entirely your fault and I will never do so again."
"Oh, you so will. Give it a few years, and you will."
Atemu—Yami, he reminded himself, amazed at how easy it was starting to come—smiled, nodding patiently. Yuugi was probably right, he might get Yami in jeans yet.
After all, they had an entire lifetime to work with.