Shadow: For round one of Computerfreak101's Yu-Gi-Oh contest, season three. The challenge pairing was puzzleshipping, but…well, this was my interpretation. The original idea I had for this was a lot shorter (and I liked the stupid thing a lot more) – but what the hell… Enjoy?
Disclaimer: I own the words…and that's about it?
Aa – (Japanese) Informal yes
Jii-chan – (Japanese) Grandfather
Itsumo de ai shiteru – (Japanese) Always will I love you.
Koi – (Japanese) Love
Mery-i – (Egyptian) Beloved/my love
Notes: Set post-series, so yes, Yami's already upped and done a runner to the afterlife. I use the Japanese names for the characters in this fic so: Jou is Joey, Honda is Tristan, Anzu is Téa.
Warnings: Shonen-ai, which means' boyxboy. Contains puzzleshipping (Yami x Yugi) and wishshipping (Joey x Yugi). If you dont' like, don't read.
"…Well Yugi? What do you say?"
The smell of barbecue hung in the air.
Yugi Mouto set aside the now-empty plate of food he'd just devoured, sighing contentedly before settling back against the tree he'd claimed as his spot. He had a great view of the communal campfire from his seat, having the distinct advantage of being both heated by the flames and avoiding getting smoke blown into his face.
This was Domino High's annual summer camp. Or rather, the end of summer camp. Every year, the third years of that notable establishment spent the week before returning to school out in 'the wilds', camping out and taking part in physical activities like swimming, hiking and organised games. It was good fun and a great laugh, and it was a brilliant opportunity to cause havoc on a school trip.
This was the second-last night, and the camp leaders – their teachers from school – had set up a huge bonfire, throwing tinfoil wrapped potatoes into it. Other teachers raked them out again, and students were happily covering the baked vegetables in butter. Someone else was grilling fish, burgers and sausages – Yugi himself could vouch for this, as he'd generously helped himself to things in that regard -, and a pleasant hum of chatter drifted over the camp. Everyone was clustered with their friends, talking and laughing and generally having a good time, and Yugi…
Yugi was deliberately avoiding his friends. When he'd left her, Anzu had been off talking with some girls about how the first thing she'd do when she got back to Domino city would be to have a hot bath (they'd had to bathe in the lake, or make do with cold showers). Ryou had been getting himself a jacket potato, while Honda had been fighting with Jou over a bottle of ketchup.
Yugi wanted some alone time. Camp had been a hectic whirl, one activity after another, until his days and nights had all become one gigantic blur. It wasn't as if he was planning on spending all night alone – no, he just wanted a few precious minutes to himself before stepping away from his quiet spot and back onto the spinning wheel that was life. It was good to think to oneself for awhile, and then he could rejoin his friends. Even though perhaps his closest friend wasn't here…
Drat it. Yugi glanced up from where he'd been staring at the grass, a little surprised to see Ryou Bakura standing in front of him, looking a little concerned. "…Aa, Ryou-kun?"
"What are you doing here alone?" The Brit looked about Yugi's spot with some confusion. It was mostly hidden from the view of the rest of the year, and as a result, pretty secluded. It wasn't like Yugi to – "Is everything alright?"
"Everything's fine, Ryou-kun." Yugi's smile was soothing, and Ryou visibly relaxed when he saw it. Yugi had a tranquiliser-effect on most people – he softened things with a smile and a laugh, and…well, a lot of people had grown to love him for it. "…I just felt like a little peace. I've just been doing so much lately…" He gestured airily at the crowds of their schoolmates.
Ryou hmmed, looking towards their friends. "…You never really were one for physical stuff were you?" Amusement touched the corner of his lips.
Yugi nodded sagely, his eyes glittering with faint mirth of his own. "Not much physical activity in flipping cards."
"I wouldn't know…" A few short steps, and then Ryou collapsed bonelessly on the grass beside his (still) shorter friend, "you certainly did enough arm-waving and stamping, that I can recall."
"Oh, please." A snort. "Most of this was Ya-" Yugi halted, mid-word, eyes widening in surprise. He'd never called his darker half that in such a long, long while. "I mean-"
"You meant what you about to say – 'Yami'." Ryou looked at him seriously. "You can say his name."
"His name was Atemu." Yugi's reply was a little stiff.
"You never call him that either." A shrug from his companion. "In fact, you never mention him at all, when you can help it."
Despite himself, colour was rising in Yugi's cheeks. "I…I never see the need to."
Ryou looked at him. Flatly: "He called you 'soulmate'. You called him your other self. How can you suddenly just decide to 'never see the need' to speak about him?" Yugi shrugged awkwardly. "Are you still not over your…well…crush?" Yugi ducked his head, his face now flooded with colour. His friend looked a little surprised, and then thoughtful. "…You can't 'be' with a dead person, Yugi. Didn't Jounouchi ask you out?"
"He did." Let's ignore the first part of the statement…
"Didn't you accept him, then? I thought you liked him."
"I do, but I didn't accept him."
"…Why?" Ryou sounded truly curious, and Yugi had no real answer.
Yugi really did like Jounouchi. The blonde had been his faithful friend for a long while now, and a minor crush for a time only a little shorter than that. Jou was steadfastly loyal, determined, and well…pretty cute.
Yugi glanced at the crowds of students that made up the rest of his and Ryou's year, ignoring the white-haired teen at his side for that moment in time. He…could see Jou sitting staring into the fire some way away, looking uncharacteristically serious for a change. The American couldn't see him, and so Yugi took the opportunity to study how the firelight reflected in Jou's doe eyes, turning them a tawny brown.
Yugi couldn't help but wish he could be like one of the numerous couples clustered around the campfire, smiling and kissing their lovers. The teachers turned a blind eye to the actions as long as they didn't get too serious, and so couples (and even a threesome or two) were taking the chance to spend some 'quality time' together.
It wasn't as if Yugi had a lack of volunteers either. During the time Yami had been gone Yugi had grown a few inches taller, a little bit leaner and more muscular due to long hours of helping out in the game shop. It was becoming increasingly difficult for jii-chan to lift heavy parcels, and so Yugi got fitter lifting them instead. The teen's eyes had finally lost their perpetual wide-eyed 'Bambi' look, and narrowed somewhat as puberty finally properly kicked in.
New looks plus sweet personality plus Game King status equals sudden upsurge in teenage girls looking for a date, and not a few boys too.
Yugi would've happily sat with any of them – particularly Jou, the one he'd liked for some time. It would've been nice to snuggle against another's side near the fire like others were doing. It would've been even better to lean back into a lover's hold, feeling another's arm around you and look up to see warm eyes glittering back down at you. It would've been perfect –
If only the eyes that wanted to look back down into his were crimson, and not brown.
"I think I'm going to go to bed."
Ryou jumped when Yugi spoke, having thought the spiky-haired teen wasn't going to answer him. "I – what? But it's not even nine-!"
"I have a headache." Yugi's reply was simple, the youth already getting to his feet and trotting off back to the tent he was sharing with Jou and Honda. "Tell the others, won't you?"
"But – Yugi!"
Yugi left Ryou behind, the Brit lost somewhere between exasperation, worry, and surprise. As he passed the fire he saw Jou notice him, smile and stand up, but Yugi shook his head 'no', and the blonde returned to his seat, crestfallen.
Yugi wound his way to his tent, changing into his pyjamas and sliding into his sleeping bag once inside. The pyjamas were lavender and still slightly too large for him, but Yugi liked them baggy. They were made of some silky material and comfy, and so the renowned duelist closed his eyes and snuggled down into his sleeping bag, determined to put uncomfortable things out of his mind and wake up invigorated for the new day.
A few hours later, he was roused from the light doze he'd fallen into by someone calling his name. Well – it wasn't his name exactly, it was more… it was –
No-one called him aibou anymore – absolutely no-one. They didn't dare.
Only one person in his life had ever called him 'soulmate', and so Yugi found himself slipping out of his sleeping bag, unzipping the entrance of the tent and padding outside into the forest that surrounded their camp. No-one saw him go, because no-one was looking over at the tents.
It was quite dark in the trees. Only a few metres in and Yugi could no longer make out the light from the huge campfire, though he could smell the ash it gave off on the evening wind.
He'd forgotten his shoes. Rightly, Yugi figured the twigs he could hear himself crunching across should hurt his bare feet; rocks and pinecones should be digging in and yet…he could feel nothing. No pain, just the light pressing off his foot against the solid ground.
That was extremely odd.
Yugi had no idea where he was going; he was simply putting one foot in front of the other, with the vague idea that as long as he kept doing that, he'd end up somewhere. But then, somewhere deep down inside he knew it simply didn't matter where he put his feet – he'd end up at his destination regardless.
A large clearing loomed ahead of him, a great break in the mass of trees.
In the centre of the clearing was a giant tree stump, a few feet in diameter, and quite large enough to accommodate someone lying on their back and staring up at the sky as day faded to night - as someone was doing.
"Aibou." Slim darkness sat up at his approach, familiar crimson eyes warming when they caught sight of him.
All of a sudden it was as if Yugi's heart-beat was too fast, his breathing too loud…but then, they were being compared to one who no longer rightfully did either of them at all.
"Aibou?" Faint curiosity, and the one who had first lain, then sat, stood.
Yugi didn't even stop to think before dropping into a run, scrambling through leaves and twigs to reach the tree-stump and fling his arms around Yami's neck, knocking the forever slightly-taller youth backwards so they both sprawled out on the wood, and he could move his arms to cling around his other's slender waist.
Yugi buried his nose in the juncture of Yami's neck, relishing the soft woodsy smell that lingered there from the air, wood and ash and spice and something that was just so purely Yami it made something inside of Yugi ache, and without even realising it tears were running down his face and dampening the silky black shirt his darkness was wearing.
"Yami." Somehow, Yugi kept his voice steady, tilting his head up so he could look into the dear face he'd never thought to see again for many, many years. A thought struck him. "Or should I call you Atemu now?"
"Aibou," the once-King looked at him warmly, running fingers through his hair, "by now you should know you may call me anything you like." They were the first true words Yugi had heard his darkness say in over a year, and they made the youth shake.
"…But Atemu's your name." Yugi was still crying as he spoke, his lips trembling as he persisted in a conversation he had no real idea why he'd started, but adored all the same because it was actually happening. "I shouldn't – you're your own person now – I oughtn't – I don't own you – I mean, you're not my Yami anymore so I don't – I can't -"
Atemu laid a finger on his lips; gently shushing him as he wiped away his other's tears with the pad of his thumb. "Aibou," his smile was fond, "have you ever thought I liked being 'your' Yami?" His words were low, his smile growing as Yugi stared at him in astonishment, eyes glittering. "It was the name you first gave to me, after all, when I had no name at all."
"But – but it was dumb." Yugi bit his lip – and then flailed, as he suddenly realised he'd insulted the one beside him. "Oh – no! I mean I – it was – I didn't mean – Yami, stop laughing!"
Yami's arms around his aibou were shaking and Yugi had recognised the trembling at once, forgetting at once the sheer awe that had held him spellbound and crying, instead giving Yami a hearty jab in the ribs.
"My – my apologies, Yugi." Yami was still chuckling, his chest where Yugi once again laid his head reverberating with his laughter. "It's just…"
Yugi knew. There were no words to say what they felt, no nouns or adjectives to give to this ungraspable…perfection of this…of them. It just was.
And so Yugi leaned upwards to his still laughing darkness, and met Yami's lips in a kiss.
He wasn't sure what he'd been expecting really, having not planned the action at all in the slightest. On thinking about it afterwards he guessed he'd known somewhere deep down inside Yami would never have pushed him away but, at the time, he had no idea, and barely a few seconds into the kiss he was practically outright panicking. He'd initiated the contact, and oh, it was going to be so awkward afterwards when Yami had pushed him aw-
Yami was returning the kiss. Yugi nearly died with relief when he realised the fact – just to check, he leaned back a little, to see if Yami would withdraw from him, but no, his darkness tugged him closer instead.
When they moved apart, Yugi was blushing. He was suddenly extraordinarily self-conscious – he was sitting out in the middle of a forest near nightfall with the soul of an ancient pharaoh, and he was wearing nothing but a pair of too-big pyjamas.
Yami, in direct contrast, was as regal and beautiful as he'd ever been, dressed in velvet black, composed and graceful. His eyes were glowing.
"Yami." Yugi relished the sound of the name on his tongue, quietly loving the fact he could place the name with the one before him. "Yami." It was such a wonderful word.
"Yugi." His darkness mimicked his actions, teasing him. "Yugi."
Yugi ignored the jibe, rolling his eyes. "What did you come here for, Yami?"
His darkness smiled rather enigmatically. "Summer's End."
That…could mean so many things. It couldn't be just the season, for if that were the case, surely Yami could have come last summer as well? So…something had to be special about this summer, this season, when the woods around them were slowly changing from green to red, gold and brown.
But, aside from the camp, there was nothing special about this summer… Wait – what about Jou…? But…Yami wouldn't care about Jou asking him out – would he?
"Jounouchi-kun is a lovely boy." Yami's voice was low, his glowing eyes distant as he gazed up into the evening sky. It was getting pretty dark, and the moon was a white sickle through the clouds.
Yugi blinked, a little taken aback. He should have known Yami would've known what he – or maybe Yami just – It made his head hurt, sometimes. If the ancients were to be believed Atemu had been part-god and, at times, Yugi could easily believe that – even while Yami had been just a spirit in the Puzzle he'd been so very much – how was Yami here, anyway?
Sighing internally, Yugi pushed those questions aside. Somehow…he figured Yami wouldn't answer any questions along those lines, and so it was best not to dwell on them. There was a slightly more burning issue at hand: -
"…You approve, then?"
"Hm." A soft snort. "In truth…" Yami's fascination with the sky ended, and he glanced back down at his light, "I'm insanely jealous."
Slowly, a burning flush made its way up Yugi's neck and into his cheeks. Yami's eyes were knowing, and his smile was…predatory? It sent chills down Yugi's spine that not even the cool night air could compete with, and it made his lips, where he'd collided them against Yami's in an impromptu kiss, burn.
Yami smiled wryly, and then glanced away again. "I shall have to deal with it."
A pause. Tentatively, Yugi raised a hand to cup his darkness' cheek, turning the one-pharaoh's face towards him. "You're not staying, are you?" His purple eyes were serious.
"So…what?" The two teens kept eye contact, unwavering. "Did you come to say goodbye?"
"Hm…" Yami didn't answer, instead leaning back lazily over the tree-stump's edge, snatching up a fallen maple leaf and holding it up beside his face. "What do you think?"
"It matches your eyes." Yugi smiled at his darker half, brushing a blonde bang back out of the youth's now-scarlet orbs. "Perfectly."
Yami smiled again. "Let me show you something." He covered the leaf he held with his hands, white light glimmering out from between his fingers.
When he opened his hands again the leaf seemed to have shrunk slightly, and it…glimmered. A fine golden chain was attached to its stem and, surprised, Yugi pulled Yami's palm closer to inspect the changed flora.
Yami's changed it into a necklace?!
The young king smiled once more at the consternation on Yugi's face, taking the time while his light was confused to hang the chain about the teen's neck. At the same time, he placed a brief kiss to the boy's mouth, moving away quickly.
Yugi touched the jewellery that now hung around his throat, tears pricking the back of his eyes again. He had his answer – oblique as it may be. Yami had come for the summer's end, to celebrate the ending of something old, and the start of something new.
"Yugi…" Yami had seen the comprehension in his aibou's eyes, and the hurt that followed it. "Yugi…you have a long and fruitful life ahead of you. I didn't want to you to waste it wondering, dreaming of what could've been."
"And if I liked my dreams?"
"Aibou…" Yami let the word out as a breath, "you cannot let your dreams take over your reality. There will be…later. There's always a later, and I'm in no great hurry."
Yugi protested. "But there's a now as well!!"
"I have no place in this now." Sad eyes, telling. "Much as I'd love to."
Summer's end: – the time to mark the ending of something that had barely begun and no longer had a place in this life.
Yami sighed heavily. "Aibou, let me be utterly blunt. Jounouchi loves you. You at leastlike him. Don't let… Don't let me be the one that stands in the way of your happiness."
"But you're the one that makes me happy!" Much as he tried to deny them, Yami's words began to sink into Yugi's heart. In his head he could clearly see Jou's hopeful smile at the campfire, and the dejected expression he'd taken when Yugi had shaken his head.
"You seem more unhappy than otherwise, because I just can't be around." The sky had become interesting again, apparently. "I'm dead, aibou."
Yugi narrowed his eyes. "You're here now, aren't you?"
"And I'll be gone again tomorrow. Jou won't."
Again, there was silence. Yugi fingered the chain about his neck, looking at Yami, and Yami kept looking at the sky.
"…It figures…" Crimson eyes glanced down when the younger of the two spoke. Yugi sighed, shooting a wry smile at his companion. "Out of all the people in the world I have to go and fall for, I end up wanting someone who's already dead."
"Yugi, I -"
Like his darkness had done to him before, Yugi laid a finger on the other youth's lips. "Just…don't, Yami. Please?"
So Yami quieted, and Yugi moved to lie down on the stump they both sat on, copying the position Yami had first been in when he'd first reached the clearing. Thoughtfully, the young king lay down beside him and they rested together, curling around each other out of sheer familiarity, and for warmth.
"Itsumo de ai shiteru, Yami-koi." Yugi's eyes were glimmering as he looked at his companion, reconciled to fate.
Yami smiled at him wanly, pressing a kiss to his forehead. "Mery-i…there will come an end, I promise you."
"…With Spring – is that not how things should go?"
Yugi sighed again at the vague answer but let it drop, cuddling against Yami's side.
Around them evening finally faded to night, and the stars began to shine out in the sky.
"Yugi? Yugi! Yugi man, wake up!!"
Yugi groaned, stirring at the yelling of his name and distinct poking he was receiving in his side. Dazedly, he let his eyes flutter open. "Whaz 'up?"
"Finally." There was an aggrieved snort from a brownish blur above him. (After blinking to clear his vision, it turned out to be Honda.) "Breakfast's in ten minutes."
"Huh?" Yugi still wasn't quite awake.
"Breakfast. Ten minutes." Honda reiterated the main points. "Jou's already gone on ahead." The teen pointed out the open entrance of the tent, and the morning sun shone back in welcomingly.
It was…morning? Yugi glanced down at himself, seeing the pyjamas he had worn the night before. That was right…but…shouldn't he still be out in the woods? "Honda-kun," he carefully slid out of his sleeping bag, "did I go anywhere last night? I mean – was I gone when Jou and you finally came back to the tent?"
"Er – no." His friend looked at him oddly. "When Jou and I came in you were fast asleep, wrapped up in your 'bag. You never stirred all night."
Yugi frowned. But he'd been out with Yami for hours and hours… "What time did you and Jou come back here?"
Yugi had to have been out later than that. He and Yami had looked up at the stars for ages, and yet…Honda was insisting he'd been back in the tent by eleven, and fast asleep.
...Did that then make his meeting last night with Yami only a fanciful dream?
"And if I liked my dreams?"
"Aibou…" Yami let the word out as a breath, "you cannot let your dreams take over your reality."
The irony of it stung.
"There will be…later. There's always a later, and I'm in no great hurry."
How could there be a later when there had never apparently been a now? Or rather, there had been a now, but his now had been different to the one he'd –
Dreamed? Had it been a dream? It must've been – Honda wouldn't lie to him.
Yugi sighed heavily, disheartened and disappointed. Honda frowned. "Are you alright?"
Yugi forced a smile. "Never better."
"If you say so…" The brunet studied him shrewdly. "Anyway, I'd best go check and see Jou hasn't eaten all the food. Come along when you're dressed?"
"Yeah, sure…" Yugi turned away as Honda left, hearing his friend pull the tent's zip closed so he could get dressed in-private. Pulling his pyjamas off he yanked his shirt, boxers and trousers on – he'd ditched his leather for the trip for practical reasons. He could have a shower later after food.
Still feeling more than a little depressed Yugi left the tent, heading over to where he could see the rest of his year gathered around the set-up breakfast tables. Jou smiled at him in greeting, and Yugi, remembering his words – nonexistent as they might have been – from the night before, smiled warmly back.
He discovered the golden chain with the jewelled maple leaf hung on it around his neck later that day.