Sight the King
"in which a game ends"
Days passed, or weeks, or maybe it was merely endless hours, but after many trials that now only strengthened his conviction, the dark Yuugi had come to the final room, the final place in the Puzzle, the only place that Yuugi could remain. The darker Yuugi had walked into the room cautiously, as he had every leg of the journey save the first, and even as he slowly made his way, his eyes darted from wall to wall, taking in the details.
The dark Yuugi found himself in yet another well-lit chamber, though its low ceiling was oppressively dark. Each of the four walls were covered in murals similar to those he had seen in that first chamber past the eye-bearing door, and though he did not understand the meanings of each symbol or the images they surrounded, he understood the general story: it was, after all, a story he'd already heard from Yuugi. Speaking of whom, Yuugi was nowhere to be seen.
If the Millennium Puzzle had been made of solid gold and not imbued with magic, the handle would have warped in the strength of his grip. This was the place – this had to be the place! Unless the Puzzle had purposefully misled him, which did not make sense – why would he be guided so faithfully through so many traps only to encounter a dead end? There was even the pedestal to which Yuugi claimed the darker Yuugi had been chained, though in the light it did not really look like a pedestal or a platform at all.
The darker Yuugi drew closer, curious. It didn't look particularly large, and the golden network on the thing was intricate and minuscule, though there was a thick, black line cutting through the artistry an inch or so from the top. His eyes widened; it wasn't a platform at all. It was a box. A very large box. He could see why its size had confused Yuugi, for even as he stared at the thing, it seemed to mutate under his gaze.
He reached out to it, curious and not knowing why, but within himself he felt a great swelling of calm victory. That which he had been looking for, even before, even before… that which lay in this box seemed to call to him, and he placed his hands firmly against the side of the lid. He shoved upwards to pry it open, but he himself was shoved aside forcefully when he tried, and he stumbled in the attempt to remain standing.
Out of seemingly nowhere, the box was surrounded by several… statues? Furrowing his brow and adjusting his left-handed grip on the Puzzle, the dark Yuugi approached the box once more, and was able to dodge this time when one of the statues made to punch him in the chest.
A different statue spoke. "Leave this place," she said, though her lips did not move, "this realm is yours no longer."
The dark Yuugi scowled. "I was sealed in this place for thousands of years," he replied, trying to find a gap in the perimeter of figures through which he could slip to open the box, "and reassembled the Puzzle itself."
"Leave this place," said another statue, and another, and as one their arms extended out from their sides and overlapped one another, a net of limbs made of stone and bone and ash. "Leave this sacred place. This is the Pharaoh's chosen tomb, and you are not welcome here."
As one, the line of statues walked towards him, a linked wall of ash and blood trying to force him out, but the dark Yuugi did not back down even in his confusion. He knew that he himself was the Pharaoh, so that would make this his own resting place—
Yuugi had been wearing a crown.
The memory, the image was sudden, revealing, and the dark Yuugi ducked under the crossed arms of two of the statues, rolling past the guard, and he stood before the box that was really an oversized sarcophagus. His hands did not shake, and he shoved forcefully at the lid, even as the statues tried pulling him away. He only cracked the seal open by a couple inches before he was dragged from the coffin, and he struggled desperately against them, bashing the statues with his elbows and feet and several he bludgeoned away with the Puzzle itself.
The dark Yuugi had no experience or training with physical combat, but in his frenzy he was not strong or fast enough to take out seven enemies, even if he had not been so exhaustingly injured prior. He knew this, but with a ragged shout he swung the Puzzle again, and again, struggling to remain free and on his own two feet. He did not pause, even as some of his attackers went to their knees in injury, did not pause in the deafening screech of stone against stone as they continued to strike at him, pushing him further away from the sarcophagus, and screaming he swung again.
The dark Yuugi froze mid-swing, his heart, his lungs, his mind, every part of him halting under the command of that voice. He heard the grind of stone against stone once more, and slowly his gaze turned back to the sarcophagus. From those dark confines, a ringed hand had emerged and was now sliding the lid open further.
Several, but not all, of the statues stood and moved to the sarcophagus, but still the dark Yuugi could not move, so great was his shock. A man stood from the coffin, decked in large swatches of brilliant fabric, deep river's blue and the angry red of an evening sun, and gold, gold, so much gold around his arms, and his neck, and his brow. The man did not look into the faces of the statues as they guided him out of the sarcophagus, and the dark Yuugi was stricken by the complete picture the other made, everything about him brilliant and perfect.
It was Yuugi.
It was not Yuugi.
The man gave a terse nod and a quiet sound of gratitude, but his gaze was steel and fixed solely on the dark Yuugi, and in the other's approach the dark Yuugi heard the soft thwaps of the man's shoes against the rough stone floor and the clatter of beads. The man did not come forward much from the box, only a few steps so as to stand in front of the statues, and the dark Yuugi's mouth was dry and empty of words.
"You dare to defile this place?" asked the man, and the dark Yuugi crumbled under the sound. It was Yuugi, it was Yuugi's voice, but it was so very wrong. The voice was so confident, so proud, so commanding that the dark Yuugi's bloodied knees shook; even when Yuugi was angry, or demanding, or stern, there had always been a subtle kindness in his tone that this man lacked.
The man who was both Yuugi and not raised his right arm, pointing at the dark Yuugi with a staff or a wand of some kind, a thin golden thing that clattered as it moved. From the staff's point hung several solid strands of bead-encrusted gold that jarred together, clicking like dice in cupped hands. "You have trespassed against my heart," Yuugi-not-Yuugi stated, the dark makeup around his eyes intensifying the harshness of his stare, "and you have attacked my guardians."
There was no recognition in those eyes, and the dark Yuugi nearly dropped the Puzzle in his shock.
He was too late.
"Aibou," he managed to stutter out, but the endearment was too inaudible to reach Yuugi's ears, whose grip merely tightened on the flail, the beads clattering in response.
The dark Yuugi's legs gave way beneath him, and he stumbled, falling to his already injured knees. The grit of the stone scratched into his wounds deeper, but the dark Yuugi did not hiss at the pain.
At this gesture of submission, the Yuugi-not-Yuugi lowered his arm, but his gaze did not turn from the darker Yuugi's own.
"You shall leave this place," said Yuugi, his voice less threatening but no kinder. "You shall never attempt to return here, you shall dismantle the God Pyramid, and you shall heed my words this time."
The dark Yuugi barely felt the hands that grabbed his arms, or how they hauled him to his feet, but when he started moving backwards, moving away from Yuugi, his shock finally broke and with a snarl he tore himself out of those cold, inhuman hands.
"No!" he shouted, striding forward, his fists clenched. "I will not leave you imprisoned here, I refuse!"
Yuugi, the inherently wrong Yuugi, had a look of amused confusion tugging at his features, and for a moment he looked like the Yuugi the dark Yuugi remembered. "Imprisoned?" he asked with a quirk of the lips and an implied laugh, "Foolish boy, this is my burial chamber. I am to rest here, binding the darkness. I bound myself here, sacrificing my life among mortal men and my active rule of that throne to be here." Yuugi shook his head, still smiling. "How is this imprisonment?"
The dark Yuugi gestured wildly, swinging the Puzzle wide. "You're wrong!"
Yuugi gave a short, condescending laugh. "I am Pharaoh, and am rarely wrong."
The dark Yuugi staggered back a step. Yuugi had told him that he, the darker Yuugi, had been a Pharaoh, and had been locked into the Millennium Puzzle for the aforementioned millennia. Could it be that Yuugi had somehow come to think that he was the Nameless Pharaoh? The dark Yuugi grit his teeth.
"You're wrong!" he repeated, more confident now. The man before him was both Yuugi and not Yuugi all at once, and the dark Yuugi had to believe in the depths of his heart that his aibou was not truly gone; it was just a matter of finding him, of drawing him back out. "I am Pharaoh!"
At this proclamation, the Pharaoh Yuugi-not-Yuugi scowled, his brow furrowing under the weight of the golden crown. "What mockery is this? I grow weary of you."
Feeling he had nothing to lose, the dark Yuugi held aloft the Millennium Puzzle prominently in Yuugi-not-Yuugi's direction. "I carry the Right of the Pharaoh," he exclaimed, staring beseechingly into Yuugi's startled eyes, "while you merely wear an elaborate costume. Please. This isn't you."
At that, Yuugi exhaled sharply through his nostrils, his body tensing. "Will you force me to evict you myself, then?" The statues had backed away from them, surrounding the two Yuugis in a loose ring; seeing no other way, the dark Yuugi nodded.
"I will not leave without you, aibou."
Although the dark Yuugi had not moved, Yuugi-not-Yuugi jerked backwards as if struck.
"Ai-aibou?" he echoed, his voice softer and his gaze unfocused. "Was that—?" his voice trailed off, and with clenched eyes and a forcible shake of his head he murmured something, too soft for the dark Yuugi to hear. When he opened his eyes again, that softness, that confusion the darker Yuugi recognized had vanished once more. But it had been there: his Yuugi was still there, somewhere, and the dark Yuugi would pull him out again, he must!
The dark Yuugi made to call forth a Dark Game, but when he opened his mouth to speak a stinging pain erupted from his already injured cheek. Shocked, and hurt more by the fact he had been physically attacked than by the attack itself, the darker Yuugi barely managed to duck in time when Yuugi-not-Yuugi swung the flail against him again, the streaming beads and gold whipping through the air with a whistle. The Pharaoh Yuugi swung again, and again the dark Yuugi dodged, but he was surprised when a weapon in Yuugi's left hand struck him instead. A hooked staff the dark Yuugi had not noticed before, the blue and gold of it almost camouflaged against Yuugi's attire.
His Yuugi would never have attacked the dark Yuugi in any circumstance – to do so without even a warning, and at such an obscene advantage! This extra identity, this extra personality was completely corrupting who Yuugi was! If the dark Yuugi thought too much on this, he might have found the situation slightly ironic, or possibly might have accused himself of hypocrisy. Instead, he continued dodging the Pharaoh's attacks, glad for both the fact that Yuugi-not-Yuugi was incredibly bad at physical combat, and that the weapons themselves were rather weak and not designed to be weapons in the first place.
This inexperience – it was how Yuugi would fight, if he had to do so, the dark Yuugi thought; he still needed to find a way to end this rather pathetic battle. Yuugi swung the cane to strike the darker Yuugi across the temple, but with a sudden burst of inspiration, the dark Yuugi move to block the blow with his arm, jamming the limb itself into the hook of the weapon. Jerking back sharply, he was able to pull the crook from Yuugi's weaker hand; quickly he took the weapon into his own right hand, the Puzzle still held tightly in his left. He did not try talking Yuugi down from his attack, his focus more now on dodging the blows as they came. He was still weak and only becoming more so, and seeing this stranger wearing Yuugi's face, stifling the real Yuugi, did nothing to ease his fatigue. More and more of the Pharaoh's blows were landing; the dark Yuugi could feel the blood running down his cheek from where the flail had repeatedly slashed his face, the one that hadn't already been torn open by Sasori's attack hours-minutes-years before.
Too dizzy to duck, the dark Yuugi brought up the cane to catch the beaded whip-like attachments of the flail, and with a twist had their two weapons locked together, and he forced their hands down to struggle nearer to their waists. The Pharaoh glowered, trying to free his weapon.
"Aibou, stop," the dark Yuugi murmured, but Yuugi's expression did not soften, even as he released the flail to hang loose in its entanglement with the crook. The dark Yuugi bowed his head. "I do not want to fight you," he whispered, but Yuugi's eyes were still the flinted gaze of a furious stranger.
"Then you should have left while you had the chance," Yuugi replied, and the darker Yuugi almost missed the sound. He had no choice now, and he swiftly punched Yuugi in the sternum with the flat of his palm, knocking the Pharaoh off-balance.
Still, the dark Yuugi's blood stained the edge of the dagger in the Pharaoh's hand. The cut had been shallow, but fear seized the darker Yuugi's heart.
"You would go so far as to kill me?" he whispered, his voice catching in his throat. Yuugi's answer was swift, but his hand and his voice were both shaking.
"If I must," he said, and the dark Yuugi saw those eyes soften again as the real Yuugi surfaced again. "I don't have a choice! You cannot force me to leave my duty!"
The real Yuugi seemed to submerge once more under that overpowering personality of Pharaoh, and without hesitation the dark Yuugi knocked the dagger out of the Pharaoh's hand using the Millennium Puzzle. Releasing the Puzzle to clatter against the floor, the dark Yuugi seized Yuugi-not-Yuugi's wrists.
"You promised me!" he shouted, furious at the situation and at how weak his own voice sounded, "you promised me 'always' not more than a day ago! Are your oaths so fragile they cannot face the sunlight twice?"
There was more of the true Yuugi cracking through, but still he struggled against the leverage the darker Yuugi held upon him, pushing him backwards, towards the sarcophagus.
"I… recall… from a dream?" murmured the Pharaoh, his resistance only half-hearted, his gaze down-turned and bewildered. "Or from a story, but not… not from my life." His eyes turned fierce under their cloying makeup, and he turned his glare to the darker Yuugi. "I sealed myself here, and my name from mortal memory. This is my place!"
The dark Yuugi stopped trying to specifically pinpoint when the Pharaoh's confused expression meant that Yuugi was surfacing or not; the dark Yuugi's words were confusing the both of him, and perhaps if he pushed hard enough, he could finally shatter this stifling costume.
"But you have a name," he murmured softly, though not for a moment relaxing his grip on Yuugi's wrists, "it is I who is nameless."
"You have a name," replied Yuugi, swift and suddenly sure once more, "it's… yes. I know your name. It's—"
Horrified, the dark Yuugi shook his head. "No!" he shouted, trembling.
He did not know what name Yuugi would say – would it be a false name? His true, hidden name? Their name? They could share the name Yuugi, but if Yuugi were to renounce it and leave it solely to the dark Yuugi, would he be sealed, unconscious atop the dark sarcophagus while Yuugi slept within? He could not take that chance.
"Please, please, we must go!" he pleaded, tugging ineffectually at Yuugi's wrists.
"How many times must I repeat it?" growled the Pharaoh, thrashing. "This is my duty, and I shall not leave this place!"
"And I shall not leave you!" the dark Yuugi shouted, keeping his grip tight even as he bowed his head. "I will not leave if it means leaving you. I will not live your life while you sleep here for no purpose. Either we will both go, or both stay. Aibou…"
The voice that replied was confused, and soft, but still unquestioningly Yuugi's. "I… but… I am Pharaoh…"
It was so quiet and unsure a statement, the darker Yuugi could not help the tiny smile that tugged at his lips. He leaned forward to press his forehead to Yuugi's, but the contact was impeded by the thick crown on Yuugi's brow.
"We were Pharaoh," the dark Yuugi conceded. After all, he was the other Yuugi: would that not make Yuugi the other Pharaoh? They were balanced fragments of heart – could they truly have come from different hearts and yet still balance so perfectly? "But we haven't been Pharaoh for a long time. You're—"
But what he was, the dark Yuugi could not say for the sudden groan of pain that emerged instead of words. The statues, which had been content to watch the two of them bludgeon one another with the King's tools in what could have been a rather pathetic death match, had apparently decided that they didn't want the dark Yuugi talking to Yuugi anymore. Another powerful blow knocked into the dark Yuugi, forcing him to his knees, but his hands did not release the Pharaoh Yuugi's wrists.
"Stop it, you're hurting him!" shouted Yuugi, and even through the bleeding of his split lip the dark Yuugi smiled at that – but then the statues were ripping his hands from Yuugi, forcing him back and away. When he looked up, he had already been dragged several feet, and seven statues were surrounding the Pharaoh Yuugi, guiding him back into the box – though he was heartened that Yuugi struggled, and did not go easily. But if there were seven around Yuugi, how were there seven around the darker Yuugi? It made no sense.
Even as he struggled though, the dark Yuugi could see his aibou receding, the entire continence of the Pharaoh was slackening in fatigue, the statues murmuring soft platitudes.
"No, please," the dark Yuugi cried, struggling against the ashen fingers digging into the raw cuts on his wrists, stinging tears of pain in his eyes, "take me instead! Please, please, let him go! YUUGI!"
And everything stopped.
The statues dragging the dark Yuugi away, the ones forcing Yuugi into the sarcophagus, even Yuugi himself – every one of them froze as the word hung heavy in the air. Just as naming the dark Yuugi had bound him to this room, and the removing of that name released him, so was the opposite true for the Yuugi dressed as Pharaoh.
There was an expression of consternation upon Yuugi's painted face that lasted for several seconds. Still, no one moved, but the dark Yuugi could feel the statues' grip on him tighten. The hold on Yuugi must have been loosened by contrast, for his was the first movement: a gut-wrenching cry of sheer and utter pain as he fell to his knees in the sarcophagus, his hands clutching to his temples and laying upon the crown encircling him there.
At the sound, the dark Yuugi's entire body clenched, and with renewed fervor he struggled for freedom. As Yuugi shook and trembled, his mouth moving but no sound emerging, his eyes wide in terror, the statues that had been holding him instead surged upon the dark Yuugi, and then there were fourteen around him, or a hundred, he couldn't tell, and he could no longer see Yuugi between the legs of his captors.
"Please," he whispered, spitting blood on the word, "let him go. Seal me instead. Please."
But for his effort, all he received was another blow to his already bleeding face.
"Your heart is useless to us," one of the statues spat, but the dark Yuugi couldn't tell which for the dizziness. How badly was he hurt now? The blows Sasori had inflicted upon their physical body had followed him here, then fighting Yuugi after the long journey through the maze, and all this blood, he didn't know how much more he could endure.
Another blow, and more blood ran from his face.
"For three thousand years we've waited for your heart to grow strong enough to bear us," said another statue, or the same one, it didn't matter. Hard blows continued to rain upon him, to his legs, and his sides, and his ribs – everywhere, everything, and he couldn't even get to his hands and knees before he was knocked down again. It felt like his tears of pain, too, were composed of blood, but that couldn't be true.
Still, the statues spoke, and barely could the dark Yuugi hear them over the pounding in his ears.
"But you remained shriveled and worthless!" He couldn't even cry out at the pain anymore, he couldn't even think! "But his heart, willingly he traded it for yours – his can grow, will grow, and we shall fill it with our souls and seal ourselves inside—"
The pain was an overpowering, but distant thing; shouldn't he have passed out by now? Could he not in this realm? The dark Yuugi groaned, dribbling blood onto the unyielding ground; would the pain simply continue until he died?
Was he dying?
The statues continued speaking, now unified in two voices instead of one: the one half proclaimed that they would weigh the heart down and destroy it, and the rest proclaimed that the Pharaoh's heart would be so light and open it would be accepted without question and merge with that of the God Re, thereby making these parasites immortal in that God's heart. But what did such things matter to the dark Yuugi?
If they were going to kill him, he thought with his eyes clenched shut and his body-not-body shaking, then they should just get it over with. Again, again, always he had failed his one most precious aibou, and if he could do nothing for Yuugi, what purpose had he? It didn't matter if he died, he didn't even care anymore, but Yuugi…
The dark Yuugi was shaking, his muscles weak and quivering as he pushed himself to his hands and knees, prostrate before his attackers who, oddly, were no longer attacking.
It was then that the dark Yuugi realized that it was not he who was shaking: the statues were stumbling, falling over in the sudden and terrible quake, and the dark Yuugi barely acknowledged the sudden and terrible cracks that had started forming in the walls and upon the unsteady ground. He made to stand, but his body was wracked with coughs at the attempt, and his stomach heaved – but all that came out was more blood, and bile.
He was so weak, he was sure he must be dying; he thought this dimly as he crawled slowly, away from the displaced statues. He could feel nothing save pain, and his own weak determination; he really hoped he was crawling in the right direction, as he couldn't actually see clearly enough to tell.
There was a hiccup, and a quiet wail, and the dark Yuugi pressed his hands firmly against the side of the sarcophagus, arduously palming the sides of it to walk himself up to nearly sitting. His shaking and bloodied hand fell upon one bedecked in rings, warm and familiar to the touch, and the dark Yuugi shuddered in relief when he felt the hand twitch in reaction.
"Aibou…" he whispered, pressing his forehead against the sarcophagus, tightening his grip on the other's hand. "Aibou, aibou, I'm so sorry."
He felt the hand under his own tighten against the rim of the coffin, felt the angle of the arm shift upwards, and the dark Yuugi turned his gaze up, barely avoiding breaking his nose on the sarcophagus in another severe shake of the room.
Yuugi – his Yuugi, his, his, his Yuugi – was similarly holding onto the edge of the coffin, and his face barely cleared the rim. His eyes seemed unfocused, and his frown was small, but the dark Yuugi nearly laughed with relief.
"You're hurt," Yuugi murmured softly, his other hand coming up to gently wipe the blood on the dark Yuugi's face, but only managing to smear it more across his pale skin.
"You're you," the dark Yuugi whispered back, and when he bent his head to cough he sprayed a few drops of blood and bile onto his already bloodied arm. The hand beneath his own pulled away softly, and when the dark Yuugi looked up, Yuugi was shakily unfastening the clasp of his cloak. The dark Yuugi closed his eyes while Yuugi softly pressed the red fabric against the cuts on his face, though he winced at the sting; he did not resist when he felt Yuugi drape the fabric softly over his shoulders.
"I'm so sorry, other me," whispered Yuugi, pressing his lips against the darker Yuugi's brow, "it's all my fault – I hurt you, I've hurt you so much—"
The room had ceased its shaking, and for that the other Yuugi was grateful; he clasped his hands onto Yuugi's bare shoulders, and did not need to use his grip to steady his balance.
"I'd do anything for you," he whispered back, his tongue heavy and his words probably slurred, "I'd never leave you to suffer, I promised—"
"Shh," whispered Yuugi, fiddling with the clasp of the cloak until the dark Yuugi felt the familiar metal's weight upon him. When had Yuugi retrieved the Puzzle? He didn't know, and didn't care, but merely let Yuugi use the cape's fastenings as an impromptu lanyard for the Millennium Puzzle. The gold was warm against his chest.
"I promised too," Yuugi continued, his hands cupping the other Yuugi's jaw, his eyes dark, and sad. "I promised you so many things, but I—"
Yuugi's attention was swiftly diverted elsewhere, but the dark Yuugi couldn't work up the energy to follow that gaze, letting his eyes slide closed and his hands tighten on Yuugi's shoulders.
"Other me," said Yuugi with a hard metal in his voice that was not unkind, "on the ground, to your left. Hand me the crook."
The dark Yuugi found the item easily, and only gave a soft query of "Aibou?" before Yuugi plucked the cane from his hand.
"They're symbols of the Pharaoh's dominion," said Yuugi absently, his gaze still fixed elsewhere and turning increasingly dark, "over the land of Egypt and its people. The Pharaoh is God, and God is absolute."
Yuugi stood then, stepping easily over the edge of the sarcophagus, the crook held so tightly in his right hand that his knuckles had turned bone white.
When he turned, the dark Yuugi saw the threat: the statues had obviously recovered from the room's trembling, and were approaching the sarcophagus in menacing strides. The leader of the group, a statue made of ash and cauterized flesh and with the hinting of the appearance of a young man, carried Yuugi's discarded dagger. The statue raised his arm, knife poised for the throw, and the dark Yuugi struggled to his feet.
"My name is Mutou Yuugi," whispered Yuugi, shaking where he stood from what could only be suppressed fury. The dark Yuugi sagged backward, resting his weight at the hip against the side of the sarcophagus, and his hands held tightly to its lip to prevent himself from tumbling over again. He could only see Yuugi's face in profile, but the fire, the anger, the sheer determination etched into that painted face was the most frightening thing the dark Yuugi had ever seen.
"I am Pharaoh!" he shouted this time, raising the crook high above his head, almost mimicking the statue's movement; it was then that the dark Yuugi saw the tears on Yuugi's face. The room began trembling quietly beneath their feet.
"And you shall not harm him!" Yuugi screamed, swinging the crook down in a powerful movement, and the dark Yuugi was stunned to see that the statues were being forced backwards, some toppling over, and he was suddenly reminded of that morning on the train, when he had accidentally shattered Kaiba's chess set.
The King of Games has dominion over all games; in this realm at least, the same must have been true of the Pharaoh and his subjects.
The statues were being pushed further and further away, and Yuugi's whole body was shaking far too much for it to have been a result of the subtle trembling of the ground beneath them. The other Yuugi propelled himself forward, grabbing a hold of Yuugi's bare shoulders, but even then Yuugi's body could not stop trembling, and his sweat was streaking through his makeup.
"I… I can't h-hold this much l-longer," Yuugi whispered, his grip on the crook so tight that the other Yuugi could see his blood veins in stark relief against the rest of his skin. The other Yuugi moved to place his hand atop Yuugi's, but Yuugi jerked the hand and the crook out of the way. "N-no. No, this is m-my part,"
"We're supposed to work together," the other Yuugi murmured, his hand returning to Yuugi's arm to steady him there.
"Y-you ma-made a pr-promise to m-me," Yuugi said, the shaking in his voice and his body only getting worse; the other Yuugi tried to hold him still, but his own balance was off-kilter from his injuries, and the shaking of the room seemed to be getting progressively more powerful.
"Aibou, what are you doing, what's happening—"
"Y-you pr-pr-promised," Yuugi whispered, clenching his eyes shut as his tremors intensified; the gold of the crook was white in heat, and the other Yuugi very much hoped he was simply imagining the steam coming off the item and from Yuugi's hands. "The D-Dark Games… not wi-without m-my—"
"No more Dark Games without your permission, aibou," he whispered in reply, wrapping his arms more firmly around Yuugi's body, uncaring for the fact that he was smearing his own blood onto Yuugi's bare flesh.
A second of pause, and Yuugi's gaze turned to meet the other Yuugi's; his dark eyes were unfocused and wet with tears, and the severe black lines around his eyes were smeared and ran down his cheeks.
"I give you my permission now."
The crook shattered, and Yuugi's body began to spasm with wracking coughs, sagging easily into the other Yuugi's arms. Unable to keep them balanced, the other Yuugi carefully lowered them both to the ground, and turned Yuugi in his arms to look at his face.
With each shaking cough from Yuugi's body, thick, red blood spilled from his lips, and the dark Yuugi's heart seized in his chest.
He had seen spasms like this before.
"Aibou? Aibou!" he cried, his hands tight on Yuugi's shoulders, his own body shaking. No, no, it couldn't—
"I-I'm okay," Yuugi whispered, blood dribbling from his mouth, and the other Yuugi was shaking, shaking worse than Yuugi had, his mouth jerking, his eyes watering.
In his mind's eye, another face was superimposing itself upon Yuugi's, and the other Yuugi could not stop the jerking sobs wracking his body. Sometimes, Yuugi's eyes were a deep, dark purple, the most familiar eyes the other Yuugi had ever known; sometimes, they were brown.
"Yuugi? You're alive? … sonuvabitch, I thought she got you too. … I'd'a fought more, if… khhk-khh-hck, listen to you! I knew you could sound like a real man if you tried! … Yuugi, Yuugi, don't, ackhh-khh-khh… sorry. I got you into this. hekkkhhhh-hkk-ghauhgggg, stop crying. I'm okay. I'm okay."
"I'm – khh, khh, hughg – I'm okay."
Yuugi turned his face to the side and coughed more, the motions slight but spitting out small amounts of blood with each jerk of his body. The dark Yuugi's hands were shaking as he leaned down to embrace his other self, and he felt Yuugi's hand, cut and bloody from the exploded crook, slide under the cape and the shirt to press against the flesh of his back.
He kissed Yuugi's upturned cheek, uncaring for the dark makeup that would stain his lips, and when he pulled away Yuugi gazed up at him, smiling. Yuugi gave another shallow cough, and then with an agonizing slowness, he closed his eyes and turned his head away.
A heartbeat passed in darkness. Two. A dozen. Yuugi's grip in the other Yuugi's back slackened, and slipped down, as though he had merely fallen asleep. The dark Yuugi did not care that he was crying, and though he pressed his face close to Yuugi's, and spoke broken endearments into his ear, Yuugi did not stir.
The other Yuugi's grip on Yuugi's form tightened convulsively, and everything was shaking, his body, Yuugi's, the room around him. The dark Yuugi didn't care, even as he heard deafening cracks echo through the chamber, or the menacing sound of parts of the ceiling crumbling and crashing against the stone floor below, did not care that the room itself was breaking around him.
All the dark Yuugi could feel was Yuugi in his arms, the way his own body shook with grief, with despair, with sorrow and failure and so much remorse, and the pain of his own heart splintering and fracturing within his chest.
One large segment of the oppressive stone ceiling crumbled and shattered mere feet from the other Yuugi's unprotected form, and after a moment of pause, he carefully scooped Yuugi into his weak arms. Staggering from his own weakness and the turmoil of the environment, the other Yuugi carried Yuugi's limp body to the only safe place in the room: the sarcophagus.
The room had not yet ceased shaking, and large sections of the ceiling were falling more rapidly, so with gentle and unexpectedly slow and sturdy movements, the other Yuugi carefully lay Yuugi down into the sarcophagus once more. He had not yet stopped crying, and he doubted he ever would, using the corner of the red cape to shakily wipe the blood from Yuugi's mouth.
The other Yuugi staggered forward, a strangled cry catching in his throat, his body catching on the edge of the sarcophagus. His shakes turned into hiccups, and no matter how many times he tried, he couldn't even say the words, couldn't even think straight, couldn't think, couldn't even breathe! He sank to his ripped and battered knees, pressing his face against the exterior side of the smooth coffin, and just remembering what the object was made his body jerk in several dry heaves. His hands, trembling and weak and useless, clutched at the box, and he wished fervently that the falling sky would crush him, crush him into nothing, because he deserved nothing more than utter annihilation for his complete failure.
He did not know how long he trembled there – what matter had time, when all was already lost? – but it was too short a time before his tears ran dry, and his physical shaking subsided, even if the room continued to quiver. His hands clenched on the sarcophagus, and with bitter thoughts he pulled himself to his feet, not feeling the sting of the stone and debris cutting into his already mutilated feet.
Within the sarcophagus, next to Yuugi (who still, even now, merely looked asleep), lay a small mound of chain that he had not noticed before. He did not know why he bothered to lift it from Yuugi's sarcophagus, feeling his body go numb with grief, but when the chain passed out of the realm of the box, each link in the chain broke apart from one another, and the dark Yuugi did not feel especially shocked with each link turned into a small die. The dark Yuugi rolled the dice in his fingers, feeling their regular sides and balanced weight, and though they were made of bone he did not find this disturbing.
Gazing at the dice, a very slow smile crept across his face; he clenched the dice tightly in his hand and leaned his upper body over the coffin once more.
"Thank you, aibou," he whispered, pressing a kiss to Yuugi's still-warm lips. "I will see you soon."
Moving to the other side of the sarcophagus, the other Yuugi pressed his hip against the edge of the lid, and abusing his minor reserves of strength he began pushing the lid back to cover the resting place of the Pharaoh. The room was still shaking and crumbling around him, and though Yuugi was—, he would not allow further harm to come to him.
If the dark Yuugi thought about it, he would realize this was yet another useless action; perhaps it is good that he did not think about it.
Even though the crook had shattered, and no Pharaoh wielded its power, those malicious statues, those trapped and angry souls, were still bound in place against the far walls of the tomb. Shuffling slowly, nearly tripping several times over the debris in the room, the dark Yuugi pressed into the hand of each statue one carved die, his tragic little smile still etched on his face.
At last, only one die remained, and the dark Yuugi stared at each flat side of it, cycling through the numbers. It was a standard d6, the most popular of all dice, where the parallel sides would add up to seven.
The dark Yuugi looked up, and his numb grief shattered momentarily for the unstoppable surging of rage within him. These were the people who had locked him away from Yuugi for days upon days and left him no memory of the absence; these were the people that had taken Yuugi from him, corrupted his heart and eventually shattering their most precious hearts. The chamber around them gave a terrible lurch and began quaking once more, the sound of its destruction overpowering, and the dark Yuugi's grin was feral.
"Dark Game!" the other Yuugi roared over the trembling and the crumbling of his heart-heart's room. "Dice roll!"
Holding aloft the single die remaining to him, the dark Yuugi glared at each of the fourteen half-soul statues surrounding him. Each statue mimicked his movement, all of them raising their die-bearing arms along with his; he could see the utter hatred in their glares, at how much they detested this control over them, and he laughed.
"You are all trespassers within my heart, and you have destroyed it!" he shouted, moving forward several steps to avoid being crushed beneath the falling debris. "And we all shall be crushed unless you play my game, and your dark and heavy hearts shall be annihilated before even glimpsing the two gates!"
The dark Yuugi rolled the die between his fingers, a smile tugging at his lips. It was not the victorious smirk he was used to wearing when he played the dark games, assured of victory. It was a small, soft smile that would have felt more at home on Yuugi's face. It was an accepting smile.
"We will each roll our die," he said, bowing his head and readjusting his stance to keep from toppling over, "anyone whose top number is exactly half of their bottom number wins. Losers will die. Cheaters will die."
"And winners?" shouted one statue, the one that had threatened he and Yuugi both with the king's dagger.
The dark Yuugi suppressed an equally dark chuckle. "Winners can have whatever they want," he said, not bothering to look up.
With all the strength he could muster, the other Yuugi tossed his die straight into the air. He watched his fate tumble upwards, dimly hearing the screams of the trespassers: those played fairly realizing their mistake, and those that tried to cheat realized that they couldn't before they crumbled into nothing. He did not need to watch; he knew they were all assured destruction, assured loss.
After all, he thought with a small hint of regret, he had devised an impossible game. They were all guaranteed failure.
The bottom of one was six, two matched five, and three matched four: there was no perfect half.
He watched each side of his die catch the light as it rotated, and he thought, how odd that the dice that had bound me here would set me free, and he thought, I wonder if I will meet aibou at the gates?
But as the room continued shaking around him as the die arced into its decent, he thought, I wish that I would not. Closing his eyes, he thought, I wish that my death could somehow save him. Even if I won, I would choose death, if it meant his happiness.
And, as he heard the clatter of his landing die, the final toss, he thought, Even though I love him, I would not wish to be with him, if he could be happy. If I can give my life for him, I will.
As it clattered and bounced across the floor, a remnant of a former name thought, I'm sorry.
Everything within the darker Yuugi's heart's room came to a gentle halt; the ceiling no longer cracked, the ground no longer shook, and the die had ceased its roll.
He thought, I'm so—
The dark Yuugi scowled. Why would something go—
—at the two gates? He hadn't cheated, so he should be forced to trial, to have his heart weighed. What would go—
The dark Yuugi's eyes opened hesitatingly, and he was bewildered. He was still within his heart's room, empty now of those ancient trespassers. Why had he not gone with them?
He turned, slowly, to the source of the noise, not daring to hope, but unable to smother the—
Uncaring for the reasons, the dark Yuugi lunged and stumbled for the Pharaoh's sarcophagus, shoving at the lid with weak arms that could barely budge the lid more than a couple centimeters. He sagged to his knees, his fingers scraping between the lid and the edge through the pathetic gap he had made, scarcely an inch.
It was enough.
Warm, but equally weak fingers brushed against his own.
He couldn't even keep his eyes open – he had never felt more exhausted in memory, and even though the ground was rough and uneven against his knees (if this were the real world, he thought with a laugh, he'd probably get an infection from how much dirt was clogging into his open wounds), and his body ached from the position, he would not have moved even if he wasn't hoping for something miraculous.
But since he was, the silence was eternal and nearly unbearable.
Unbearable, until he heard a very quiet, "always."
The other Yuugi gave a quiet, choking laugh that would have turned into sobs if he'd had the strength for it. He interlaced his fingers with the ringed ones still within the sarcophagus. "It is really you?" he whispered, pressing his forehead against the side of the box.
There was a groan, and the lid shifted open a little more. "Mostly," said Yuugi, his voice louder and clearer now, "but I'm still… I still know that I'm the Pharaoh. I remember that more than I remember being Yuugi."
The other Yuugi frowned, even though his heartbeat was erratic and giddy. "We won't have to fight again, will we?"
Another groan of the stone on stone. "No, definitely not. Are they gone?"
The other Yuugi nodded, scraping his forehead on the box, before remembering that Yuugi (his Yuugi! Who was alive! And not dead! he choked down a sob at the realization) could not see the gesture. "Yes. They should be. But…"
Another shove of the lid. "But what?"
"But… why am I still here? The game is over…"
There was a final shove, and the other Yuugi looked up blearily at his Yuugi, still dressed in the Pharaoh's ornaments but still unmistakably his aibou. Yuugi nearly tumbled out of the sarcophagus, but since most of his toppling was onto the other Yuugi, he could not hope to complain. The other Yuugi shivered in the sudden press of heat against his bare chest, and without thought he wrapped his arms tightly around Yuugi, wrapping both of them within his bloody dress-shirt and Yuugi's bestowed cloak.
"Why wouldn't you be here?" asked Yuugi, encircling his arms around the other's chest beneath all the clothing, the heat of Yuugi's skin and the metal on his arms making the other Yuugi's breath hitch dangerously.
The other Yuugi pulled his partner against him tighter, pressing his forehead against Yuugi's shoulder. "It was an impossible game. I made sure that it was an impossible game! I should be dead!"
"Well, you're not," said Yuugi, sternly, his nails digging into the other Yuugi's back. "And neither am I, at that." There was a pause, and Yuugi added, softer, "is that… is that why you tried making the game impossible? Did you think I was—?"
The other Yuugi nodded against Yuugi's shoulder, his body shaking. "You were coughing blood," he said, his voice shaking and Yuugi's shoulder becoming increasingly wet, "you were babbling and coughing blood and then everything broke and you were gone and it was J-J-J-Joun-n-nouchi all over again and—"
Yuugi's hold on the other's body tightened, his ringed hands rubbing comforting circles into the other's back. "Shh. It's okay now, other me. I'm all right. You're here, I'm here. We're together, and we're probably not dead. It's over."
They spent several minutes, or hours, or years curled there, the other Yuugi babbling apologies and endearments, his words only broken by the reverent kisses he pressed into Yuugi's warm, living body; Yuugi echoed most of these, his sorrow calmer but no less true. After a while, their words faded away, and they sat together in silence for a long while after that.
Slowly, Yuugi pulled his arms away from the other Yuugi, not pulling out of the embrace, and tentatively pressed his fingers against the golden crown encircling his forehead. The other Yuugi watched as, with protracted movements, Yuugi carefully pushed the crown up, up, off his forehead and past his spiked, oddly sweet-smelling hair. When at last the crown cleared his body, Yuugi's body shuddered, and his body lurched as if tripping in a dream. Bringing his arms back down, holding the crown now near to his chest, Yuugi choked out a shaking laugh.
"It's gone," he whispered, smiling, pressing his bare forehead against the other's, grinning. "It's gone, it's gone—"
"What's gone, aibou?" the other Yuugi whispered, combing his fingers through Yuugi's blond fringe softly.
"The Pharaoh. His memories. They're—they're not in my head any more. I… I remember that I had them, once, but the memories themselves are… I'm just me, again."
The other Yuugi leaned forward and kissed Yuugi's lips softly. "I'm glad. I'm so glad. Aibou…"
Yuugi closed his eyes, and pushed the crown against the other Yuugi's chest. Startled, the other Yuugi cupped his hands over the crown, and Yuugi let go; with marked confusion, he looked up.
"You said you couldn't remember anything from before I solved the Puzzle," Yuugi whispered, lowering his gaze, "so these… they must have been your memories. Your name. They're all there."
The dark Yuugi stared down at the circle of metal in his hands, touching briefly the golden serpent and the emblazoned eye like that on their Millennium Puzzle. Biting his lip, the dark Yuugi lifted the crown.
He threw it across the room like a Frisbee, and the gold clattered and skittered across the dust-covered floor, out of sight.
"You forgot who I was," said the other Yuugi sternly, glaring into the dark and damaged room near to where he threw the crown; "You had lost all recollection of me until… until I gave you your own name back. I c-can't, I w-won't risk the same thing happening to me." Shaking, the other Yuugi turned his gaze back to Yuugi's dark eyes, and he shook his head. "I'd… I'd much rather be the other you. If… if you'll still have me?"
Yuugi wiped a hand over his mouth and nose, sniffling, and he laughed. "Are you kidding? I wouldn't let you leave at this point!"
Yuugi kissed him.
And the other Yuugi was suddenly very, very glad he had won an impossible game.
Pulling away slowly, Yuugi struggled to get to his feet. "Let's get out of here. We're going to develop asthma or something if we stay here in all this dust."
Yuugi tried pulling his other self to his feet, but they were both so fatigued that they stumbled and crashed into the side of the sarcophagus, and both were giddy with laughter. Yuugi pressed another kiss to the other Yuugi's face.
"At this point," Yuugi said with a quiet laugh, "I kinda want to offer you 'yay, you're my hero!' sex, but—"
The other Yuugi looked slightly horrified. "Now?! Aibou, we can't even stand up straight."
Yuugi nodded, looping his arm across the other's shoulders. "I know. Maybe later."
The other Yuugi nearly choked at that, but he too looped an arm over Yuugi's shoulders, and they slowly began walking forward. Their steps were hesitant, and uneven, trying to find a rhythm that would prevent them both from falling. Their footprints trailed in the dust and debris, and once outside the dark Yuugi's heart's room they traveled through a calm and abiding Puzzle. Finally, after ages of fatigued traveling, they crossed through the doorway to Yuugi's heart's room, the door closing behind them.
And as that door clicked shut, one lone die in the center of the Pyramid of God toppled from its precarious balance on one tip, and disintegrated into ash.
The dead king ascends and appears
forever and forever.