A Yu-Gi-Oh! fan fiction by Hitokiri-san
A/N: I was initially set on writing a pure Kaiba-Yugi interaction piece, but Yami simply refused to be left out of the scene. So he stays and occasionally steals the spotlight. Gah.
In the canon, one on one interaction between Kaiba and Yugi is astonishingly rare for quite a few reasons. Yami is the "Yugi" that Kaiba usually comes into contact with - not that Kaiba usually bother to differentiate between the two Yugis anyway. Except for the Ceremonial Duel part. But then he is too busy grabbing Yugi's shirt and demanding the right to duel Yami or commenting dramatically on Yugi victory over the God cards to actually talk to him. All this without taking into account how little they have in common and the usual circumstances when they work together (major soul-threatening virtual games this day, the world facing eternal darkness on another)
So, here goes. And a further reference to my favourite ka-ba idea.
When he finally found the pharaoh, halfway buried among the ruins, the only image that registered in his mind was blood. It soaked his ivory robes, pooled under him, and splattered over the debris that kept him captive. He had absolutely no idea that a person – no, a living god – had so much blood to lose.
It was with a sort of controlled hysteria that he lifted his pharaoh's head, gently maneuvering him to a half-sitting position. The pharaoh was still breathing, though barely - air coming in painful gasps and he didn't know what to do, didn't know what to do except to sit here and watch his lord die, he couldn't do anything when he was already lethally injured; where was he when the pharaoh needed protection, why was he alive when his pharaoh was dying and he couldn't even pull his master out from the grasp of those Ra-damned stones!
He should have felt sheer panic. He should have felt grief. What he felt was his utter uselessness.
There was something left of the regal personality in that weak voice, something that made him respond instinctively as he always had. He snapped to attention, an unnaturally fast, jerky movement. The crimson eyes he met held so much unspoken agony that for a moment the priest wished for his lord's death. With a badly shaking hand the pharaoh pressed the Millennium puzzle into his grasp, the artifact still looped around his neck. He accepted it numbly, not able to process what the action meant, not able to take his eyes off the blood and the pained orbs and his pharaoh's dying form.
"I…make you my successor, High Priest Seth. You will rule over Egypt…in my absence."
It all came crashing down to him at that moment and he opened his mouth to protest, only to be silenced by his lord's sharp glare. "This is …a command, High Priest. I am your king… and you will obey me."
Silence met his command; the priest hung his head in subdued acceptance, his expression worn and defeated. Letting out a soft sigh, the pharaoh leant back, expression softening into an innocent, childlike smile, so very different from the proud, kingly countenance that the priest had always seen.
"I have high hopes for you …my cousin."
It would become his servant's recurring nightmare till his death – and would relentlessly haunt his dreams three thousand years later.
All was lost in a flurry of shadows as the pharaoh's spell finally took its course, sealing the noble soul in the puzzle. Leaving the soulless body – the broken vessel, already bereft of its host - to take its last breath, raggedly trying to cling on to life. It (it was no longer Atem, the soul was gone…) slumped back after a moment, blank crimson drifting shut and Seth found himself screaming, his pained howl echoing in the ruins of the palace…
Kaiba Seto woke up to a faint recollection of something lost. Brushing his bangs in irritation, he swung his legs over the edge of the bed. He knew from experience that falling back asleep was almost impossible after this particular nightmare. The nightmares – or visions, or whatever the hell they were - were getting truly problematic, messing up his rest and reminding him of things he'd be better off not knowing. Their persisting reoccurrence also made them harder to dismiss as simply hallucinations.
He didn't remember all the details in the dream, but he knew. Knew he was looking out of Priest Seth's eyes and tasting his failure in a world long buried by the sands of time. Knew he was witnessing the final moments of Pharaoh Atem, now brought back to the world of the living as Atem Mutou. Loathe though he was to admit it, Yami had been Atem, just as he had been Seth.
What he did not understand was that smile. Try as he might, he could never reconcile that smile with Yami. Yami, even in his happier moments – which was almost nonexistent when he was around Kaiba – could not exude the air of brilliant innocence like Atem did, in his last moments.
That smile reminded him strongly of Yugi.
The bell tinkled, and Yugi looked up from where he was sorting out the newest set of motion figures, momentarily puzzled.
It was almost ten at night; deciding that business was over for the day, the teenager was already in the process of closing the Kame game shop. The front door was still unlocked, but he'd flipped the sign to "closed" earlier on, hoping to divert late night shoppers from wandering into the shop. That apparently wasn't enough, seeing that someone had obviously missed the sign and had walked in anyway. Yugi sighed softly, emerging from behind the counter to greet who he thought was the last customer of the day.
"Welcome to –" he blinked, bright smile dissolving into an expression of open-mouthed shock as he registered exactly who he was addressing.
"I presume your next words should be 'the Kame game shop', Yugi." A deep baritone, snorting in disdain when Yugi simply continued staring. "Do you have a natural habit of gaping at your customers like a beached fish?"
"Oh," the flustered boy managed to choke out, cheeks reddening in embarrassment. He honestly hadn't expected him to show up at this place, at this hour, and the unexpected turn of events had the shy teenager at a loss. "H-hi, Kaiba-kun."
Seto Kaiba was never known to wander into the game shop for any reason; his excessive pride made that a literal impossibility. Even in the rare days when he wanted the two tri-colour haired duelists for one thing or another - which more often than not involved cards and Duel Monsters - he'd just send a limo over and expect them to immediately clamber in. The CEO's presumptuous attitude had ticked Yami off more times than Yugi could count (why, pray tell, should I be summoned by my own priest? I am not going anywhere on his command!), and he would end up having to persuade his darker half to get into the vehicle with minimal fanfare. Yugi had reluctantly chalked that off as another reason why Yami and Kaiba would never get along as anything but sworn rivals - he was already amazed that the planet didn't plummet under the weight of their combined egos.
What was Kaiba doing there, anyway?
He settled for busying himself with the box of action figures, waiting for Kaiba to explain his intentions, or at least make the first move. While he didn't dislike Kaiba like most of his friends did, he wasn't accustomed to any amount of one-on-one interaction with the taller boy; this, coupled with his meek nature, made him rather nervous. Unfortunately, Kaiba (as usual) didn't seem to feel the need to explain himself; and merely stared at him with that blank expression of his, metal-clad arms crossed languidly over each other.
Visibly uncomfortable now, Yugi straightened and blinked at Kaiba. "Ah…Kaiba-kun, are you looking for Atem? He's out for some late night groceries at the moment…"
A faint smirk curled at the CEO's lips. Yugi realized the notion of the high and mighty Game King doing domestic activities probably had Kaiba amused. The shorter boy didn't bother to tell Kaiba that Yami was probably the only person who could manage to do groceries in a regal manner.
"No." Kaiba finally said, raised brow complementing his disdainful expression. "What gives you the idea I'm looking for him?"
Rude and condescending as always, acting as though the ex-pharaoh wasn't worth a minute of his oh-so-precious time. Immune to his crude attitude – he had heard Kaiba use that tone so often it was becoming old - Yugi tilted his head in silent question.
He trailed off. Yami would have scowled, hands on his hips, demanding what the hell Kaiba wanted by this time - but such behaviour would have been alarmingly out of character for Yugi. Instead, he once again attempted to wait Kaiba out. He was rewarded for his effort when Kaiba spoke up in what seemed like hours later, voice strangely quiet and bereft of the usual threatening edge.
"Do you have memories of…life in ancient Egypt?"
"Eh?" was his reflexive response as he stared at Kaiba, violet eyes blinking rapidly. It was the most random question he could imagine the brunette asking. He stared, contemplating what Kaiba meant by "life in ancient Egypt", before it clicked and he let out a small, comprehending "oh".
Despite his grudging acceptance of the larger-than-life (and ten times stranger) stories surrounding Yami, magic and past lives were not Kaiba's favourite topics for discussion. Discounting the fact that Kaiba never indulged in idle conversations (and certainly not with Yugi and his "pathetic cheer group", as he pleased to call them – it was bad for his intellect), the teenage CEO had never once mentioned what he'd seen in the Memory RPG, and very often scoffed derisively whenever Yami, consciously or not, referred to his Egyptian lineage. So why was Kaiba – if he'd indeed interpreted correctly – asking if Yugi remembered anything of ancient Egypt all of a sudden? From what Kaiba knew, Yugi was merely Yami's vessel in the modern world, some sort of his reincarnation. Yugi certainly would not remember anything of the old empire, simply because he'd never lived it in the first place. And if he indeed wanted to know something about the ancient past, why didn't he approach Yami instead?
Yugi was careful not to let excessive surprise show on his face. Kaiba was glaring at him now, somewhat daringly - it was a sensitive topic for both of them. One wrong response on Yugi's part would probably send him storming out the front door – swishing coat tails and all - declaring how Yugi was wasting his time and how, in addition, he could spend his time on some more worthy business. And underneath that cold, ruthless facade, he would regret ever showing weakness in front of his smaller rival. Kaiba reminded him of a clam, tentatively peering out from the narrow slit of his shell, but would immediately snap shut when approached the wrong way. The small boy didn't want that to happen. He couldn't answer Kaiba's question, but maybe he could gain some idea of why he was asking this question in the first place.
He offered Kaiba a disarming smile, one he frequently used when Yami was being especially difficult. Contrary to popular belief, the ex-pharaoh did have his wayward and immature days, especially when someone – Kaiba being the most probable person – rubbed him the wrong way. Yami was still a teenager after all (the three thousand years in the puzzle really didn't count), and had his fair bouts of tantrums, though they were decidedly dangerous and resulted in the use of Shadow powers much too often. Yugi hoped his expression was enough to coax Kaiba out of his self-imposed shell – it had worked on Yami well enough.
"…No I don't, Kaiba-kun. Those memories belong to the other me – I'm…I was just a …vessel for his soul." He replied softly, taking tentative steps around Kaiba's pride in fear of actually stepping on it. He wasn't lying – he couldn't tell a lie to save his life anyway - but the omission of information alone made him stutter. But right now it was inconsequential. "Why do you ask?"
Kaiba narrowed his eyes as though his answer puzzled him. There was really no telling with his blank countenance.
"That story makes little sense from the beginning. If you are indeed nothing but the pharaoh's vessel as you say…" he sneered over the words as if he didn't believe any of it. Yugi knew better, and simply didn't comment. "Then why do you look like his exact mirror image? Those who don't know better would think you're twins. In fact they already have. Don't tell me it's coincidence or preordained fate or some such nonsense."
Yugi looked away. "I am his reincarnation."
"Reincarnation, you say. I suppose that explains why the two of you are now happily living in coexistence."
Slightly stung by the sarcastic comment, the shorter boy looked up to meet his rival's ice-blue eyes. "You wanted to know if I have memories of a life in ancient Egypt. I said I don't. What I am in relation to my other self is irrelevant to your original question, Kaiba-kun."
"Evasive are we, Yugi? Then you do know more than you let on." Flashing a trademark smirk, Kaiba leaned over his elbows on the counter and peered at Yugi. "I assure you that it is releveant to what I asked earlier on. Now tell me, who is Atem?"
Yugi couldn't help it; Kaiba's weirdness tonight had reached alarming levels. It must be the stress of one-handedly managing a global company. "Atem was a pharaoh in ancient Egypt who sacrificed himself to seal the shadows. He also goes by the name of Atem Mutou." He said blandly, drawing an irritated hiss from Kaiba.
"You know full well what I mean, Yugi. Despite what all of your little friends believe, your "other self" is not Pharaoh Atem. At least not totally." Frozen blue searched soft amethyst, unforgiving. "I want to know the truth."
He should have lied at that moment. He should have feigned confusion, ask Kaiba what he was talking about. Yugi averted his eyes, fiddling with his hands.
Anything was better than this silence.
It was five weeks after their trip to Egypt when the dreams started. Yugi's dreams consisted of everything but Egypt - vivid images of places he'd never been to and people he'd never known flooded his mind like a slideshow gone wrong, and he found himself inching back from them – he didn't know those places and had never met those strangers, what were they doing in his mind?
He shot up in the middle of the night, palm over his thumping heart, careful not to wake the former spirit sleeping soundly across the room. The boy turned his eyes to the contently sleeping figure, drawing strength from his guardian's presence.
He didn't remember much of these dreams, except for the maddening sense of loneliness. In these dreams, he was lonely even in the midst of familiar people. Something integral to him was missing and he had never been able to find it. In these dreams he felt like a soulless puppet; he had no soul.
Sometimes he would wake to find his cheek damp with moisture, resisting the urge to cuddle up to Yami for comfort. Yami was content now, finally relieved of his burdens and allowed to live as a normal human being. Yugi didn't need to disturb that peace…those were only dreams and nothing else. At least that was what he told himself.
Weeks later, he dialed a long distance phone call to Egypt when Yami was out for a tournament, asking for Ms. Ishizu Ishtal. Giving a quick apology to the woman on the other line for disturbing her and hesitantly explaining his problem.
Ishizu phoned back a while later. Gently explained that his nightmares were flickers of his past lives, aftereffects from the opening of the doors to the Underworld. Atem had not stepped through the door at that time, but a sliver of magic – residue from the intricate battle ceremony - had found its way out, attracted by the essence of magic in Yugi. The dreams would fade soon, if Yugi gave it time.
"Have you told the pharaoh?" Ishizu had asked, and the boy had caught the guarded tone in her voice, as if there was something she wasn't telling him.
He shook his head, then caught himself when he remembered that Ishizu couldn't see him. "…No. You know Atem, he'll just worry. Besides, the loneliness that I felt…I can't really explain it to him. In the dreams I'm almost always surrounded by people. But I felt like I'm not whole. Like…" he frowned, scrambling for the right word, "like my soul is missing or something. I can't trouble Atem with some weird emotion that probably doesn't mean anything."
"You should tell him, Yugi. The loneliness you felt…it is probably because half of your soul had been missing in the past."
He cocked his head, not comprehending. "What do you mean?"
"This…may be a little difficult for you to know, Yugi." Ishizu was silent for a moment, as if hesitating. "Pharaoh Atem sealed his soul into the Millennium Puzzle three thousand years ago, that you know well. However, Egyptians believe that the human soul is divided into two parts, the ba and the ka. The ba is usually regarded as a person's personality. The ka is a person's life force. It holds a person's memories and is…ultimately the difference between a living person and a dead person.
"When Atem sealed his soul into the Millennium Puzzle, what he sealed was actually his ka. In other words, the other you – the spirit of the puzzle - is only a part of Atem. The ba…was left to die with the body, since its ka - its life force was forcefully torn out from it. It would have been…" she hesitated again, before deciding that there was really no point in hiding the truth. "A very painful death."
She paused, as if trying to gauge Yugi's reaction across the line. The boy's eyes were closed, knuckles white as he gripped the phone with more force than necessary. He forced himself to breathe before he died of suffocation. "…Please continue, Ishizu-san."
"While the ba does have the ability to reincarnate without its ka, it will never be a complete soul. The strain of missing half a soul will manifest itself in many aspects…but most importantly, the ba will feel always an overwhelming sense of loneliness…until it finally reunites with its ka."
There was an audible intake of air from the other end. "In other words…Ishizu-san…I'm that ba, am I not?"
The boy was silent.
Yami returned later that evening, curling up snugly on the couch after a day of excitement. The smaller boy had come up to him with a strange glow in his eyes, hugging him like an oversized teddy bear.
"I'm lucky to have met you in this lifetime, the other me."
Yami had raised a brow at his sudden sentimentality, but hugged him back nevertheless.
"Me too, aibou. Me too."
What Yugi didn't say was that he had never been this fortunate in his past lives. It was something, he had decided, that was no longer consequential. He had been lost in loneliness – he wasn't now. This was the heart of it all.
At Yugi's lack of reaction, Kaiba smirked triumphantly. "No answer, hm? Well, I'll tell you. Your other self was Atem. You were also Atem. Am I not right?"
The action figure he had been fiddling with dropped to the floor, and Yugi looked up with an openly shocked expression. "How do – why would Kaiba-kun think that?"
Kaiba snorted, the smirk still hanging on his face. He wasn't as sure about the matter as he'd wanted Yugi to think, but he had obviously been proved right. The tri-colour haired boy – though not the one with extra lightning streaks all over his head - was easier to read than an open book.
"I have…certain visions of the ridiculous 'past' your other self ranted on so much about. Meaningless, of course, but some part of it has caught my idle interest. You being a part of Atem, for one thing."
Yugi bit his lower lip, thinking. It couldn't hurt if Kaiba already knew, could it? He glanced past Kaiba to the door. It was getting rather late; he should really start locking the shop up. Yami would also be back anytime soon, and it was best to send Kaiba on his way before that.
Coming to a conclusion, he locked the front door and gestured the CEO towards the adjacent living room, purple eyes narrowed in decisiveness. "There, Kaiba-kun. I think we should have a talk."
To say Yami was surprised to see Kaiba – of all people – in his house, sitting on his couch and talking to his aibou when he returned would be the understatement of the year. Acting on reflexes alone, he strode over, hand on his hip, and glared down at the offending brunette. The groceries bag hanging on his wrist rustled at the movement.
"Kaiba. What are you doing here?" he snapped, pointedly ignoring Yugi's protest of "the other me! That's very rude!". The ex-pharaoh didn't like his rival intruding on his private grounds, and Kaiba's sudden appearances were always something to worry about.
Kaiba, predictably, glared back up, unflinching. "As you can see, I was talking to Yugi before you interrupted."
A brief narrowing of blood red eyes, and Kaiba felt a sharp twinge of deja vu as he recognized the glare; the one that had locked onto him – no, Seth - remorselessly as Atem announced his priest the new pharaoh.
"I don't care. You were invited as a guest at the tournament today, but you left early – to visit the game shop, as I can see now. Is there a particular reason that you would like to speak to aibou in private?"
The Game King was being his usual protective self, he could see. Probably thinking that he was trying to coerce Yugi into one lethal trap or another. It was good to see someone having the same level of paranoia as he did. It could come in useful in many situations.
"The tournament was unbelievably dull; I might as well trade one idle task for another. And Yugi…" Kaiba cocked his head slightly to get a better look at the hikari; Yami was blocking his sight. "this is the end of our discussion. I should be on my way."
Yugi smiled. Another twinge of deja vu, accompanied by memories of a dead cousin's expectations. He picked up his metal briefcase, sweeping past the fuming pharaoh to the door.
"I'll see you, Atem."
He didn't know which of them he was referring to, and didn't particularly mind. Silhouetted by the warm, bright glow of the game shop's lighting, Kaiba Seto left Atem to his confident glare and Atem to his childlike smile.
After all, he was not High Priest Seth, not now; he lived in the possibilities of the present and the future. Magic and past lives would no sooner interest him than Bandit Keith doing a tap dance would.
He could keep telling himself that.